Kent Rasmussen Sousão

There’s a curious class of wines that just smell grapey – not particularly like wine. At first, this wine seems like one of those; it’s a rich, fruity smell that smells just fine, if not particularly sophisticated. The nose is odd: there’s something vaguely volatile there, not bad though, and just a whiff of something unripe, almost like a New Zealand merlot with that faint hint of capsicum (green bell pepper). It’s weirdly like unripe tropical fruit of some kind – I’m thinking green papaya salad. Don’t misunderstand: it’s not “wrong” or “bad” – it’s just really different.Hugely tannic and wildly acidic, my first thought after having a sip was “bad idea.” It’s fairly hot, not particularly flavorful, and taste something like burned coffee grounds mixed with overripe papaya. The trick seems to be to not take such a big sip; with less in the mouth, it’s somewhat more palatable – but even so, I am decidedly not a fan of this wine, alas. Sure, there’s some pleasure in trying to suss out what components of Port derive from this, but otherwise? There’s probably a reason you don’t see varietal wines from this grape.Kent Rasmussen
Price: $20
Closure: Cork

Alan McCorkindale Cuvée Rosé 2002

There’s something about incredibly naff labels on fairly spendy bottles of wine that catches my eye, every time. This bottle is from a Glengarry wine shop in a snobby suburb of Auckland somewhere east of the harbor; I picked it up on the way back to the airport last month. Given that today is St Valentine’s day, pink sparkling wine is a categorical imperative, so here we are.Sure, the label looks like a near-sighted librarian threw it together in Microsoft Word after a hell of a bender the day before, but what’s in the bottle is impressive. A dark onionskin color with a somewhat anemic bead, the nose is very much that of a proper red wine and is at first somewhat jarring. However, paying careful attention reaps rewards: there is definitely a lessy note thanks to extended maturation on the lees, and there’s that telltale fine aroma of brioche that marks this as a superior wine.Rich and full in the mouth, balanced by wonderfully refreshing acidity, the first impression I get is of freshly sliced Bosc pears, which seems incongrous with the, well, pinkness of the wine. Stepping back for a minute, the effect is of crushed roses in a forgotten corner of a spice market; then again, roses do have a spiciness inherent to them, so I’m probably just being overly enthustiastic here. All put together, this wine is mesmerizing; the bead may not be noticeable, but it provides a certain fullness in the mouth which is charming and rare. Add the spices, fresh pears, and rosy notes and I’m certain that no person in the world would prefer a box of chocolates to this bottle of wine. Delicious.Alan McCorkindale
Price: NZ $50 (appx.)
Closure: Cork

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2005

The best thing about being an unpaid blogger is that sometimes you don’t have to review the wine – you just have to drink it – and that’s what I’m about to do: put down the laptop and enjoy this bottle of wine.This is the best Cigare I’ve had yet. Rich, smooth, and yet not strictly Californian, it’s got minerality, a savory tannic edge, and is just damn good.Back to the bottle. I promise to write a real tasting note next time.Bonny Doon Vineyard
Price: $30
Closure: Stelvin

McWilliam's Barwang Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

I picked this up for a song at a local bottlo in the Lockyer Valley. Not terribly promising provenance, to be sure. But it’s drinking really well right now, so I guess this particular bottle hasn’t had too hard a life.

Calm, poised aromas of ripe foliage squished between the pages of old leather-bound books, cedar, vanilla custard, clean blackcurrant juice. A little volatile. It’s ageing especially well in terms of aroma profile, I think, although you’d need to be partial to a fairly high degree of oak influence to fully enjoy it.

Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir 2005

There’s not much to do in Te Anau, New Zealand, on the night of your very quiet wedding except hunt down a nice restaurant and order the flashest-looking bottle on the list. So it was that I ended up drinking this very wine a couple of years ago. I’ve since tried it a couple of times (most recently in New Zealand with Chris) and it continues to provide enjoyment. Wine’s funny like that; it can be as much about the circumstance as anything else, and often I give in to this subjectivity.

What pleasure in familiarity! It’s like Central Otago in a glass, sweet/sour plum, vanilla oak and ripe tomato leaf enthusiastically leaping from the glass. There’s a bit of peat-like funk that I don’t remember in this wine, and I put it down to the very beginnings of bottle age. The palate is where things are developing more noticeably. Firstly, texture. Mount Difficulty Pinot tends to be quite roughly acidic in youth, and although there’s still abundant acid, it has transformed from sandpaper to plush velvet. Hence, the wine feels full and weighty in the mouth, fruit flavour gorgeously unlocked. Not one for lovers of delicate Pinot, this wine is a full throttle expression of Central Otago fruit, generous and savoury, with ripe vegetal complexities and a cough syrup-like note. After a swell on the middle palate, there’s only marginally less presence on the after palate, and the finish is of good length. Is the finish a bit hot? Or is the oak a tad raw? Perhaps, but I’m not fussed, it’s just so tasty.
It’s a shame I don’t have more of this, as I think it has a good few years’ life left. I’d like to taste it again in perhaps two or three years’ time, as I suspect it will be truly luxurious at that point.

Mount Difficulty
Price: $A50
Closure: Stelvin

Château de Tracy Pouilly-Fumé 2002

It’s Sunday afternoon and the storms keep threatening to hit, but never quite do. Still, the air is thick with humidity and the smell of imminent rain, and it’s moments like this where I tend to reach for something in white. If it’s pungently aromatic, then so much the better.

Golden colour, pretty and showing signs of bottle age. A really striking nose, intoxicatingly rich with aromas of honey, tropical fruit and a little flint. There’s also a sour floral dimension that reminds me of the smell you get when you shake a flowering weed. Sharp, astringent, yet oddly pretty. Taken as a whole, it reads as a dessert wine with considerable edginess.

In fact, it’s a dry wine that tightens considerably on the palate. Immediate, intense flavour on the tongue as the wine enters the mouth. Acidity provides immediate textural interest and accentuates the wine’s fruit flavours early. In fact, this wine’s acidity is worth a few more words. Sauvignon Blanc-based wines often have quite aggressive acidity, which can be fun, but here it’s on an altogether more sophisticated plane. If one were to consider a wine’s acid visually, this wine would show a straight line from left to right, fine and firm and absolutely mouthwatering. Fruit weight gathers steam and, by the mid palate, there’s a gorgeous richness washing through the mouth. More honey and sharp tropical fruits, with a sideline of minerality that blends well into the acid structure. The sweetness of fruit and bottle age resonates through the after palate and continues well into the finish. A slight bitterness here is the only element that disrupts an otherwise harmoniously balanced flavour profile.

This is surely drinking at its peak, with a range of youthful and bottle aged characters existing in complementary fashion. I love this expression of Sauvignon Blanc and would happily drink this as an aperitif or with smoked salmon canapes.

Château de Tracy
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: November 2008

Yalumba The Menzies 1999

I opened this bottle a week ago tonight – and immediately though “ugh, something is seriously wrong with this bottle.” I recorked it, put it in the fridge, and forgot about it until Thursday, at which point I took it back out of the fridge, stashed it behind the toaster, and forgot about it again. Tonight, seven days later, I finally thought “well, I should brave another taste before throwing it out.”  Good thing I did.I don’t know what changed in a week or why the chill-and-warm cycle should have helped, but this wine finally tastes good. There’s still just a flash of that strange, off-putting note on the nose, but at this point I can at least pretend it’s some kind of Australian mintiness, something particularly Coonawarra here. Underneath that is a rich, woody sort of reek peeking its nose around the corner; it’s simultaneously surprisingly youthful, but with flashes of unsuspected age here and there.Texturally, this wine is absolutely perfect to me: full bodied, nicely supported by lingeringly grippy tannins, ending on a very solid woody note that lingers for a while. The overall effect is of very earthy cigar box and pencil shavings: not much rich primary fruit left but all of the body has been left behind to duke it out with well judged oak.Given that it’s been beat up so much over a week and still drinks so nicely, I think the best thing to do would have been to decant this thing at least an hour before drinking. Sadly, this was my last bottle so I won’t get a chance to do so, but trust me: this wine ain’t dead yet.Yalumba
Price: $30
Closure: Cork

Back on deck

After an interesting few days stewarding at the Sydney Royal Wine Show, I’m back and hope to get some more notes up soon.

Watching the judging process was illuminating in all sorts of ways, and humbling with respect to my own efforts here. Certainly, I’m reminded that I’ve an enormous amount still to learn. There is, I hope, a corresondingly enormous amount for me to enjoy too.