Australia: this week’s A+ wines
This week has had a bit of an Aussie focus with Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting, Jacobs Creek’s release of their new single-region reserve range, Australian specialist Liberty Wines’ portfolio tasting, the annual Wine Australia Australia trade tasting and the launch of Hallowed Ground, a “membership club” for boutique Australiasian producers. Phew!
To borrow from Wine Australia’s new consumer campaign, A+ Australian Wine (see here for details), there were plenty of ticks in my tasting booklets and here are some of my A+ wines from this week, tasting notes to follow:
Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting
This annual blind tasting hosted by one of Mornington Peninsula’s pioneers, Stonier, entered the Aussie calendar in 2000 but only made its London debut on Monday. It was a lot of fun and I learned a good deal too, if nothing else, how Pinot Noir excites particularly strong (and diverse) opinion!
The variety accounts for almost half the peninsula’s plantings and I’m a big fan of the region’s Pinot Noirs (Chardonnay and Pinot Gris too). For now I’ll simply reveal that, on my table, across two flights, each of 6 wines, our top wines were split equally between Burgundy and Australia. I’ll publish my notes on this tasting and the Landmark Pinot Noir Masterclass very soon.
Liberty have an enviable portfolio of Australian producers, so lots of highlights. First up the Redfin range created by Liberty in conjunction with winemaker Tim James. Priced between £6.99-7.99 it offers a good deal more nuance and texture than most at this price point – I particularly liked the Adelaide Hills/McLaren Vale Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2010.
Since John Durham (ex-Cape Mentelle) joined Plantagenet in Great Southern, the quality of the red wines in particular seems to have soared. Omrah Pinot Noir 2009, Omrah being the junior label, was very good indeed and I’m told that this vintage will see the first release of the Plantagenet Pinot Noir since 2003, such was the quality of the fruit. Only 150 cases mind. The 2008 Plantagenet Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz both looked very fine indeed – bright and precise. I showed the also excellent 2007 Cabernet only last week and it’s starting to open up. Both Cabernets are worth stashing away for a decade if you can resist them. Also from Western Australia, Cullen Wines’ unique Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot blend Mangan looks very fine in 2009, with plenty of life and lift and a lovely vinous quality. No Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2008 on show, apparently it’s all sold out and I haven’t even tasted it yet!
In South Australia, Stephanie Toole of Mount Horrocks and Jeffrey Grosset’s Clare Valley Rieslings entranced as always. The crystalline Mount Horrocks 2009 Riesling just soars while Grosset’s younger 2010 Rieslings were both very tight knit bit marvellously chiselled with minerals, a sense of dry extract. And I’m still loving his thirst quenching 2010 Off-Dry Riesling since my first taste last September. From neighbouring Eden Valley, Zar Brook’s Dandelion Vineyards Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling shows good texture and interest for £11.99 and the foregoing wine’s skins, which are co-fermented with Shiraz, make for a tight yet layered red in Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz/Riesling 2008, also modestly priced at £11.99.
From Adelaide Hills, Shaw & Smith’s 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and 09 M3 Chardonnay were suitably poised and showing very well. Charles Melton’s sumptuous Nine Popes 2008 contrasted with his finer, very pure Grains of Paradise Barossa Valley Shiraz 2008. Also from the Barossa John Duval unleases his first white Rhone blend, Plexus 2010 – admirably fresh and precise it weighed in at just 13% abv. As for his reds, the polished Eligo 2008 stood out for its lovely saturation of fruits. Another white surprise came in the form of Mitolo’s Jester McLaren Vale Vermentino 2010, with its fresh cut herbs to nose and palate – just 10% abv too.
Further east and on the outre grape trail, William Downie won points for having a go with Petit Manseng but it was just a touch sugary for me. However, his 2008 Gippsland Pinot Noir impressed and, from the Yarra and round abouts for £9.99, Innocent Bystander Chardonnay 2009 delivered plenty of interest and intensity. A good juicy, lively Pinot Gris (2009) too. From New South Wales, the sensual Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2009 radiated beauty and class.
Australia Trade Tasting
Gippsland is a huge region whose Pinot Noir credentials were founded by Phillip Jones who established Bass Phillip in 1979. William (Bill) Downie is doing sterling work to raise the region’s profile and I was interested to taste the wines of Bellvale, also located in Gippsland ten minutes from Bass Phillip. The well structured, savoury Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs did not disappoint.
Sticking with Pinot Noir, Tasmania had a cracking Pinot Noir vintage in 2009 and Tamar Ridge’s Devils Corner and Kayena Vineyard showed beautiful fruit, flowers and tannin, the latter with more spice and sous bois. As always, Mornington Peninsula producer Ten Minutes by Tractor impressed and 09 was a hit vintage here too, witness the dark-fruited but exuberant and spicy 10X Pinot Noir 2009. Crittenden Estate’s 2009 Pinot Noir combined terrific floral lift with earthier beetroot. As for Ten by Tractor’s single vineyard wines, the McCuthcheon and Wallis single vineyards may be only ten minutes apart by tractor but the 2008 Pinot Noirs articulated the different sites and clones most eloquently. Moss Wood’s very good second vintage of their Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir from 2009 is a significant step up on the 2008. And finally, on Pinot Noir, my pick of the bunch of the new Jacobs Creek Reserve range is its savoury, textured Adelaide Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2008.
Staying in Mornington Peninsula but moving on to Chardonnay, Ten by Tractor’s McCutcheon Chardonnay 2008 has opened out since I tasted it in Mornington Peninsula in September – it’s a Burgundy beater. From the cooler 2009 vintage Yabby Lake’s Red Claw Chardonnay had plenty of lemon pips zip while the well-defined but fleshier Stonier Chardonnay 2009 showed white peach. And while I liked Crittenden Estate’s relatively funky, savoury style of Chardonnays, of their whites, the fresh’n spicy, textured Pinot Gris showed lots of class.
Having just interviewed Yalumba’s Chief winemaker, Louisa Rose, for an article in The Drinks Business which touched upon her involvement with TempraNeo, a collective of Australian Tempranillo makers inspired by the variety, I thought I ought to taste Running with Bulls Tempranillo 2009, I’m told the only red wine Louisa makes in the Yalumba portfolio. A cracker it is too, animated, fleshy and not at all overworked. And to finish with a red, Woodlands Cabernet Merlot 2009 underscored Margaret River’s hat trick of excellent vintages with its long, seamless delivery of floral, cedar and cassis notes.
After my autumnal travels down under, good to see another great Hunter Valley Semillon, Tower Estate 2010, reach these shores and, from Mornington Peninsula, Hallowed Ground members include Paringa Estate and Ocean Eight. Paringa Estate’s Estate Pinot Gris 2009, Pinot Noir 2009 and Shiraz 2008 all stood out, as did Ocean Eight’s 2008 perfumed Pinot Noir and Verve Chardonnay 2008, its oyster shell notes a vivid evocation of my visit (reported here).