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03.25.2010

Some Initial Tastes from Australia

victory.jpgAs many of you know, I'm currently tasting my way around Australia. I spent my first three days visiting the Yarra Valley, Beechworth, Heathcote, and the King Valley in the Victoria region surrounding Melbourne. I'm currently finishing up a couple of days in the McLaren Vale outside of Adelaide, and will soon be on my way to the Barossa to complete my tour of South Australia.

The weather has been spectacular, the people I've met, fantastic, and the wines, well, that's more complicated. I've had some ordinary, unremarkable, and downright lousy wines. But I've also had some wines that have totally redefined my understanding of what Australian wine is, and can be. I'll be writing some reviews of a few of the producers that have totally blown my mind, and sharing my thoughts on their wines in the coming days (how's that for tantalizing?!).

The first half of my trip has been jam-packed with almost no downtime for blogging. I'm just now stealing a couple of uninterrupted hours to do a little blogging. In addition to tasting wines at individual wineries I've also had a chance to do some sit-down tastings of a range of different wines from different wine regions, and so to begin my Australian coverage, I thought I'd share my thoughts on a number of the random wines I've tasted so far, from many different regions. These are wines that I've had at dinners, group tastings, or just at the kindness of strangers.

WHITE / SPARKLING WINES

2008 Shaw and Smith "M3" Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells beautifully of lemon zest and cold cream with hints of herbal qualities. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful, stony mineral quality with lemon curd and cold cream touched with sourdough toast with butter. Perfectly balanced and really gorgeous, this is an exceptionally well made wine, and one of the better Chardonnays I've had from Australia. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30. Click to buy.

2009 Yangarra Roussanne, McLaren Vale
Light gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of crisp fuji apples and lemongrass. In the mouth the wine is super silky with bright fuji apple, lemon curd, and spicy lemongrass notes that linger in a very fine finish. Fantastically balanced acidity and really juicy fruit make this a really delicious wine. Score: around 9. Cost: $22.Click to buy.

2005 Pipers Brook "Vineyard Reserve" Chardonnay, Tasmania
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and lemon curd. In the mouth it is zingy and bright with juicy tropical fruit and lemon curd flavors. Wonderful pineapple notes emerge on the finish. Nicely balanced with just the faintest touch of oak and its vanilla scent make this a really pleasurable wine to drink. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2007 Cullen "Kevin John" Chardonnay, Margaret River
Light yellow green in the glass, this wine has a nose of fresh marijuana resin. In the mouth it is wonderfully delicate and balanced with floral qualities and light mineral aspects. Lemon and that nice resin quality. This is not a powerful Chardonnay but one of finesse and individuality. Score: around 9. Cost: $75.Click to buy.

2008 Moorabool Estate "Paradise IV" Chardonnay, Geelong (Batesford)
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of wet chalkboard and buttered sourdough bread with a distinct phosphate/match head aroma. In the mouth it offers lemon curd and chalk flavors with a lemon juice and a slightly saline aspect. Airy finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2009 Spring Seed Wine Co "Four O'Clock" Chardonnay, McLaren Vale
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of lemon curd and cold cream. In the mouth it is silky and smooth with unripe pear and lemon curd flavors. Softer acids give this wine a delicate feee. Vinified in steel with no oak aging, the wine was left for an extended time on the lees. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2005 Jansz "Cuvee Pipers" Sparkling Wine, Tasmania
Light gold in color with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of honey baked apples. In the mouth the wine tastes of fuji apples and sourdough bread with a light honeyed character that remains on the finish. Score: around 8.5.

2007 Vasse Felix "Heytesbury" Chardonnay, Margaret River
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of cold cream, phosphorous (match head) and grapefruit. In the mouth the wine is juicy with lemon and yellow grapefruit citrus flavors, a nice minerality, and a pungency that again evokes struck matches and that lingers in the finish with the grapefruit. Score: around 8.5.

2009 Coal Valley Vineyard Chardonnay, Tasmania
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest and cold cream. In the mouth the wine is nicely textured with flavors of lemon and cream with hints of green apple. Slightly less acid than I would like, and ultimately a little simple. Score: between 8 and 8.5.

NV Pirie Sparkling Wine, Tasmania
Light greenish-gold in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine has a nose of yeasty, ripe golden delicious apples. In the mouth it is tart and crisp with golden apple and fuji apple flavors with a light toastiness on the finish. Score: between 8 and 8.5.

RED WINES

2005 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier, Canberra
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has wonderful black pepper and cherry aromas. In the mouth it is beautifully bright and supple with cassis, cherry and black pepper flavors. Woody, earthy tannins linger for a long while. Delicious. Layers of complexity emerge under closer attention, and a light coarseness to how they are all packaged leaves this wine conveying a feeling of honesty. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. Click to buy.

2006 Wirra Wirra "RSW" Shiraz, McLaren Vale
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright black cherry and blackberries. In the mouth it is juicy and bright with black cherry and hints of cedar. Great acidity and a light briary character linger with faint tannins in the finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. Click to buy.

2009 Mitolo "Serpico" Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale
Made entirely from grapes dried in the style of Amarone. Dark garnet in the glass this wine has a nose of dried black cherry and chocolate. In the mouth wonderfully aggressive tannins wrap around black cherry and chocolate flavors with notes of leather that linger in the finish. Intense and interesting. And for being made from dried grapes, quite bright. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. Click to buy.

2007 Wirra Wirra "Woodhenge" Shiraz, McLaren Vale
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine has a nose of blackberry and cocoa powder, with bright cassis aromas. In the mouth it is juicy and lush with red cherry and blackberry flavors and a cedar woodiness that also includes an orange peel aroma in the finish. Moderate tannins. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2009 Mitolo "Jester" Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale
For this unusual wine, roughly 20% of the fruit has been vinified "amarone style, where the grapes are dried on straw mats before crushing and fermentation. A bright medium-to-dark ruby in color, the wine possesses aromas that include candied redcurrant and cinnamon welded to a bright cherry cordial aroma. In the mouth it offers bright cherry with a slightly candied aspect and faint leathery tannins. Nice juicy finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2008 Stefano Lubiana Estate Pinot Noir, Tasmania
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine has a nose of black cherry and plum aromas. In the mouth it is bright with black cherry fruit and cranberry and a wonderful silky texture. Faint brown sugar qualities with light tannins emerge on the finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2008 Cherubino Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
Dark garnet in the glass this wine has a nose of graphite and black cherry aromas. In the mouth it is smooth and velvety with powdery tannins that wrap around black cherry and lightly vegetal flavors that morph to a hint of menthol and chocolate in the finish. Nicely rounded and integrated, this is a very competently made wine. Would be more dynamic with a little more acidity I think. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2008 Flametree Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of black cherry and eucalyptus. In the mouth it is rich with stewed black cherries and light tobacco flavors that lean towards a woody cedar note on the finish. The wine has a high-toned quality on the finish that leaves the wine off balance. Score: around 8.5.

2006 Pooley Pinot Noir, Tasmania
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine has a nose of evergreen boughs and raspberry fruit. In the mouth the wine offers somewhat candied raspberry and green herbal notes with a very faint tannic structure and notes of anise on the finish. Very interesting character but somehow not fully put together. Score: around 8.5.

2007 Battle of Bosworth "White Boar" Shiraz, McLaren Vale
This wine is made from organic shiraz grapes left to dry on the vine for about 18 days before picking. Dark garnet in the glass, the wine has a perfumed nose of candied cherry. In the mouth it is bright and aromatic with a cherry cordial and black licorice flavor touched with a woody bitter chocolate note on the finish. Tannins are restrained. Score: around 8.5.

2005 Rudderless GSM Blend, McLaren Vale
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose that has a vaguely marijuana character. In the mouth the wine feels soft and velvety with cassis and blackberry flavors. A wonderful note of woodsmoke emerges on the finish. Leathery tannins. Score: around 8.5.

2007 Wirra Wirra "Catapult" Shiraz Viognier, McLaren Vale
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of black cherry, vanilla, and caramel. In the mouth it is rich with stewed black cherry and brown sugar flavors. Faint tannins linger in a moderate finish. Score: around 8.5.

2007 Cascabel Monastrell, McLaren Vale
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of cassis and what I can best describe as a campfire extinguished with water. In the mouth it is leathery with tannins that both taste and feel of supple suede. Flavors of mulberry and cassis dominate, with a sense of smokiness on the finish. Decent acidity keeps the rustic qualities from being abrasive. Interesting wine. Score: around 8.5.

2004 Stoney Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of green herbs and bright cherry fruit. In the mouth it has a powerful nicoise olive character that is backed with black cherry fruit, but most dominantly olive. Lightly leathery tannins and soft acidity round out the package. Distinctive but somewhat odd in its powerful olive-ness. Score: between 8 and 8.5.

Comments (11)

Robbie C. wrote:
03.26.10 at 6:56 AM

the tasting notes look great! I'm envious of your trip.

Have you figured out what Winestate magazine is yet? It's pretty big in Australia and they do a great job reviewing wines.

Enjoy yourself! It looks like the weather is great (from your picture).

Jake wrote:
03.26.10 at 11:28 AM

Great trip! I like hearing your perceptions. Don't forget to try the Clare Valley Rieslings. Jacob's Creek, Grosset, and others. Some are very dry & earthy & extracted, others with dry but with a great sense of stone-fruits..

allison wrote:
03.26.10 at 11:29 AM

Looks like you weren't overly impressed with the Yarra either.

Fred Swan wrote:
03.26.10 at 7:03 PM

Interesting selection of wines. Based on your itinerary and the origin of many of these wines, I'm guessing you're doing a lot of tasting from wines that brought in to events, restaurants or conference rooms rather than mostly at wineries. Margaret River is a fair piece from Victoria and even South Australia.

It's also interesting to see how many of these wines are from fairly new labels. There are quite a few "old timers" that make excellent wine there but don't export huge quantities. I hope you get to try some of those too. Of course, Shaw and Smith, Vasse Felix and Wirra Wirra fall into that category.

I've had the good fortune to visit upwards of 80 Australian wineries in person. Even with that number, I was able to be very selective and all but a handful had at least a couple of wines that were very good.

BTW, many of the wines age quite nicely. I hope you have an opportunity to try some old stuff too. And not just the Shiraz, or even reds, necessarily.

Alder Yarrow wrote:
03.27.10 at 12:55 AM

Allison,

I haven't listed my stuff from the Yarra yet. I had some fantastic wines there.

allison wrote:
03.27.10 at 5:27 PM

Ah well - I remember tasting at about 10 places and was pleased with the result at 20% of it. However, I'm tasting with my personal interests at heart - not the interest of the wine in mind (i.e. my respect for it is much less than yours). Again - I'm super jealous and wish I could be there tasting...or just visiting. Hope you have a blast! i'll be purchasing from your notes just as a trip down memory lane.

Cliff wrote:
03.28.10 at 4:19 PM

Alder, Thanks for all the coverage and notes! We will be following behind you -- we are from Miami, Florida and will be visiting Yarra, Barossa and Mclaren Vale in early May. Your notes are invaluable and we will hold you responsible for unsightly spending on our part!

Ross wrote:
03.28.10 at 5:07 PM

It would be a shame not to visit the Mornington Peninsula while in Melbourne. It's south of Melbourne (therefore cooler) while Yarra Valley is north so some nice Pinot's in particluar and Chardonnays at Paringa Estate, Kooyong and Stonier, not to mention superb food at restaurant wineries such as Montalto, Ten Minutes by Tractor and Willow Creek

Marie Linke wrote:
03.28.10 at 10:42 PM

Hi Alder
I hope that you are enjoying your visit. I note that you are in the Barossa at the moment, and have just finished sampling some of the finest that the Eden Valley wineries have to offer. I was meant to attend but couldn't make it so look forward to reading your thoughts on the wines you tasted today. Most curious as to what you thought of not only our riesling, but others from the region as we are all very proud of the fine products to come from this wonderful area:)
Cheers, Marie

douglas neal wrote:
03.29.10 at 3:35 PM

Hi Alder,

Thanks for reviewing my Chardonnay - Paradise IV 2008. You must have had Julian's last bottle. I too see the slight salty - tangy character in the wine - it comes from the limestone that appears about 4 to 5 feet under the granitic top soil. If you are in Melbourne you are more than welcome to visit us in the Moorabool Valley, Geelong that is home to some fine small proucers: Lethbridge, Bannockburn, By Farr and Farr Rising

Mark Wiseman wrote:
03.29.10 at 7:32 PM

Nice selection,
I served you at the wineunderground bar last weekend, good to hear your views on SA wines.

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