Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2005

What with a couple of Barossa Grenache/Shiraz blends under my belt in the last few days, I thought it was time to return to the source with this reasonably priced wine. For a large production wine, the Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge seems to attract its fair share of enthusiasts’ attention. It has a reputation for over-delivering at its price point, and of responding well to some bottle age.

I tasted over two nights, as it was somewhat impenetrable initially and remained so through the first evening. Tonight, it’s still quite dense and brooding, but is revealing enough of its character to facilitate enjoyment and, more pertinently for me, explication. A nose that is both floral and inky, with black fruits, some very ripe black pepper and prickly, appealing minerality or perhaps tar. It’s all very tight and coiled, yet seems to me well balanced (for what it is).

The palate initially promises more generosity, and in a sense delivers this, but fundamentally remains quite tight. Wisps of sweet black fruit escape the wine’s predominantly savoury flavour profile before being dragged back into a mêlée of tar, pepper and puckeringly dry tannin. Before the tannin takes over, though, a silky smooth mouthfeel briefly registers and promises fine textural development. Flavour is reassuringly intense, and the structure seems especially well sorted, with good continuity throughout the wine’s line, and a lengthy, dry finish.

Despite its youth, I’m enjoying the quality and elusiveness of this wine and am contemplating the purchase of a few bottles to cellar over the medium (to perhaps long?) term. I want to see what unfolds with the persuasiveness of time.

E. Guigal
Price: $A19
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: October 2008

Grand Cru d'Antsirabe Cuvée Rouge Viala

[This wine was drunk as a special birthday wine whilst on vacation in Madagascar earlier this month. I may have mistyped the name – I still haven’t found the picture I took of the label, so bear with me for now if I got it wrong!]

On the way into Antananarivo from the airport at Ivato, I somehow convinced our tour guide to stop the bus at a Jumbo hypermarket so that we could do some souvenir shopping. Unbelievably, there was an absolutely humongous wine selection available, so I grabbed the most expensive bottle of Madagascan wine I could find, hoping that it would turn out to be OK. Having already spent a week in country at the time, I’d drunk enough Madagascan wine to know that it was pretty dire, ranging from absolutely undrinkable (Ch. Verger) to not entirely awful if you were already kind of pissed on beer (Clos Malaza).

Anyhow, for just over £3, you can buy a bottle of Grand Cru d’Antsirabe’s very finest red wine, which is produced from 80+ year old vines growing a few hours south of Antananarivo, the capital. Here are the tasting notes I took at the time:

Very fruity on the nose, more at Hawaiian Punch than wine. A hint of camphor or perhaps allspice. With some time, fine wild strawberries. Thin with a nasty green edge… slightly tannic, astringent finish. Sort of a white pepper edge. Better as you drink it. “Kind of like a Beaujolais that’s gone off” – this from Jeremy, one of the Englishmen who made up the bulk of our tour group (we were the only Americans). Really, this isn’t bad. Quite an accomplishment to have made a wine of this quality given the circumstances.

After we finished the bottle, it was kind of fun to note that the bottle was as thin and light as bottles used to be back in the days of the USSR. I wonder where they bought the bottles? The cork itself was a short, but high quality agglomerate cork. The label was, well, ugly, surprisingly so given that the “regular’ Grand Cru d’Antsirabe bottles don’t look half bad (we had one with dinner at the Hotel de France in Tana later on that week).

All in all, this stuff was like a cheap Beaujolais and really not too bad. Still, if you’re going to Madagascar, don’t expect delicious local wines. Try the beer. Three Horses Beer Light isn’t bad.

Grand Cru d’Antsirabe
Price: 10,800 Madagascar ariary, or about $6.50 US
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: October 2008

Teusner Joshua 2007

Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz but no oak. This Barossa wine is made from old vine fruit in a fresh, approachable style. Tradition meets fast food, you might say, but in a good way.

Penetrating nose that, initially, is all about sweet red fruit, but that quickly gains complexity and savouriness. It ends up being a fresh, somewhat sharp amalgam of fruit, spice and something akin to fennel. Slightly feral or meaty, too. There’s an impression of good detail as well as some fruit depth to back up what is quite a bright aroma profile.

In the mouth, lots of flavour quickly delivered to the taste buds. The entry shows quite bright, almost aggressive acidity that builds as the wine moves through the palate. Although there are fairly relaxed tannins down the line, structurally this wine revolves around its acid. It provides sizzle and good flow, but also balances out the wine’s considerable fruit sweetness to the extent that one’s overall impression is of a savoury flavour profile. Crunchy red fruits, herb and aniseed all vye for attention here. It’s almost medicinal in a Dr Pepper sort of way, and some hints of dried fruits also emerge. A nice crescendo of intensity that peaks at the middle palate. If there’s a fairly sudden drop-off on the after palate, that’s ok, because all that acidity and bright fruit verges on abrasive, especially without food. It continues in this more subdued, plummy key and delivers a pretty decent finish, with perhaps the slightest glow of alcohol heat.

A good food style that’s certainly a lively drink. Try it with pasta or a robustly flavoured meat dish. Wines like this often strike me as “picnic” wines in that I can well imagine drinking it in accompaniment to bread, cheese and charcuterie.

Price: $A24.70
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: October 2008

Marc Brédif Vouvray 2006

In an effort to distract myself from market woes, corporate reorganisations and general predictions of gloom and doom, I have this evening turned to my most reliable companions, cheese and wine. To be specific, a goat’s cheese omelet and Loire Chenin Blanc. I’ve been drinking older Chenins lately so it’s nice to consume a fresher example.

Pale hue, watery almost, excellent clarity. The nose is pungently fruity, showing a combination of pineapple and fig-like fruit, along with a good streak of savoury minerality. The latter, savoury aspect shows a hint of sulfur, ending up smelling as much of gunpowder as anything else. Enough with the obscure descriptors, though; there’s balance, richness, some complexity. I’ve been smelling this wine for a good two hours and am still enjoying each sniff. It’s a lot more forward than the 2005 version and, in a perverse way, I miss the evasiveness of the earlier vintage.

In the mouth, the richness of the aroma translates to some residual sweetness and relatively straightforward fruit character. Fine acidity and a certain fullness of body are most striking on entry. Minerality soon emerges along with rich fig/pear fruit. Good balance between sweetness, savoury notes and acidity. The wine comes alive from the mid palate onwards, with a characteristic Loire-like mix of floral delicacy and richer, baked pie flavours. Very long finish.

Overall, this wine seems less structured and textural than the 2005, and hence more approachable and generous in its youth. I don’t have enough experience to know how this particular vintage will age, but suggest its softer acidity encourages immediate consumption. Excellent value.

Marc Brédif
Price: $A25.65
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: October 2008

Tyrrell's Vat 9 Shiraz 2005

The cellar is well stocked with Tyrrell’s wines and a fair few make it through to this site. I can’t think of too many producers in the Hunter Valley with an equivalent portfolio of fine wines. It probably shouldn’t matter, but there’s also a lovely connection one feels when drinking the wine of an historic producer (or region). I guess that’s why retro labels live on and, in some cases, are enjoying a resurgence in (presumed) prestige.

None of which has much to do with the liquid in the bottle. Thankfully, it’s rather good. After tasting a few new release 2007 Tyrrell’s reds lately, I gave in to the urge to try a recent back vintage of the Vat 9. As an aside, I was at Dan’s the other day and saw bottles of the 2006 on sale. Didn’t this used to have more time in bottle prior to release?

A pungent, forthright nose that has changed considerably through the evening. It started off quite stinky, with perhaps some sulfur in addition to strong regional dirt and a dash of tart cherry fruit. Two hours later, there are cooked meats, almonds and more savoury red fruits, slightly liqueur-like in character. It’s like Chianti via Burgundy, but with freshly turned soil that’s all Hunter. Good detail.

A flavoursome entry that shows consistent line from nose to palate. There’s an edginess here, which is a function of structure tilted firmly towards acid. Not to suggest there are no tannins; in fact, they are a highlight, being fine, ripe and sweetly rich. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The fruit character, as per the nose, is quite liqueur like in its intensity and (contradictorily) its tart sweetness. Very much in the cherry spectrum, without the plummy depth of the 2006 and 2007 models, the fruit shows excellent complexity. Medium bodied, this wine seems to throw itself at all corners of the mouth with the intention of sticking around as long as possible. Acid sizzles along through the after palate, with a seamless segue into the aforementioned tannins. A long, long finish.

Bloody nice wine. The 2007 version is probably better, but I like this one for its transparency and detail. A fabulous wine with food. I’m going to leave the rest of my stash for a few years before retasting.

Price: $A30
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: October 2008

Plantagenet Eros 2007

A rosé style made from predominantly Merlot grapes. First, a word of warning: I served this wine quite cold, in accompaniment to an Indian curry. Whoops. Not an experience I’m keen to repeat, and not entirely the fault of the wine.

Quite a deep colour; one might mistake it for a light red rather than a rosé. On the nose, somewhat reticent aromas of strawberry and herb. It’s nicely savoury but lacks the sort of outré character that I (guiltily) enjoy in a rosé. The palate is livelier, with more light strawberry fruit and herbal overtones. There’s some astringency here, initially driven by acid but carried forward on fine tannin. This aspect of the wine is less than satisfying because, although its structure is quite prominent, the wine lacks a sense of freshness, perhaps due in part to a certain lack of intensity of fruit flavour. Although generally in fear of gratuitous residual sugar, I wonder if this wine might benefit from a less austere approach in the winery. Certainly, it lacks stuffing and, in a style that is often all about effortless enjoyment, I’m having to work fairly hard to get flavour from it. A nice lift kicks in towards the after palate and brings some aniseed-like flavour to the finish.

I’m not sure where this wine sits in the scheme of things. On the one hand, its savouriness demands more concentration than fruit-driven, breezy rosé styles. On the other, it lacks the attributes of a truly fine wine: intensity, balanced structure, complex flavour.

Price: $A14.25
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: October 2009

Glaetzer Wallace Shiraz Grenache 2006

Barossa Valley reds aren’t terribly well represented in my cellar (or, by extension, in my posts to this blog), about which I feel vaguely irresponsible. It’s one of our classic red wine regions, after all, and the fact that I don’t often feel like drinking its wines probably says more about my lack of discernment than anything else. No matter — tonight I’m cooking a spicy pasta dish, and a fruit-driven red wine will be (I hope) just the ticket. Hence this Shiraz/Grenache blend.

Before I describe the wine, I must say a word in favour of the packaging, which is distinctive and classy. A nice alternative to retro/euro labels without descending into tackiness. An intense, pungent nose of baked clay/earth and spice. It smells like a hot Summer’s day, and I’d like to think the fruit experienced a fair few along its journey towards this bottle. There’s also a slightly volatile vanilla note and, of course, a whack of jammy red fruit. Somewhat complex, commendably regional and expressive of real personality.

Good line from nose to mouth, with a clean, immediate continuation of the aroma’s baked earth and fruit notes. The wine is lighter in body than I expected, and more acidic, all of which subverts an abortive expectation of this as a lazy fruit bomb. Not at all. Flavour is certainly generous, but there’s too much spice, earth and structure to allow complete relaxation in the mouth. It’s lively and bright, with acid and loose-knit tannins creating an almost crunchy mouthfeel. There is more red fruit and vanilla here, along with nut/bark-like spice notes. I wish there were a notch more intensity at the mid-palate. Good drive through the lifted after palate, with nary a dip or dodge along the way to a decent finish.

Good balance, complexity and distinctiveness, but little of the depth and three dimensionality of better wines. I admire such a strong sense of style in a wine at this price point, even if this means the wine will be necessarily (and happily) divisive. Lovers of Barossa reds needn’t hesitate.

Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: October 2008


Aside from a couple of bretty Loire reds, not many new wines have been consumed of late. Instead, lots of retasting, mostly quite pleasant. A highlight has been the 2007 Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon. If anything, I enjoyed my second tasting more than the first, as it showed tighter, with a firmer line and yet more exuberantly powdery aromatics. It has excellent complexity for a young Semillon as well as great purity of flavour. I note the 2008 Semillons are out now and am curious to try them.

On a meta front, I keep finding awesome new (to me) Australian wine blogs. Not only do we have the monumentally re-envigorated Winefront, there’s also GrapeScott, the Oz Wine Review, Drinkster/Drankster, etc. Then there are ongoing favourites like the Wino-sapien. Rather an embarrasment of riches, I think. I’m glad to mention these blogs here, partly because our new theme doesn’t yet have a links page, but mostly because it’s interesting to reflect on where local wine blogging is “at” vis-a-vis the established wine press. Quality is certainly variable but, at their best, our blogs offer a range of perspectives and a democratic immediacy that doesn’t exist in other media. There are also a range of attractive, identifiable personalities on display, a phenomenon that should ensure the durability of these voices over the longer term.

I observed a similar dynamic almost ten years ago when political and current affairs blogging became widespread. Blogging is now quite accepted (and acceptable) in that realm, and I suspect the line between old and new will also blur in our rather more specialised niche.

In the meantime, I’ll keep drinking and writing about it.