Bass Phillip Village Pinot Noir 2005

I really do try to be a sympathetic partner, but I find myself involuntarily laughing when, on opening an unusual wine, my other half has a dramatically negative reaction, sometimes declaring a wine horrible and utterly undrinkable. “Oh really, what don’t you like about it?” I usually ask, knowing I’ll get back an amusingly colourful rant. Granted, he has an extremely low tolerance for things not to his taste (not a bad thing) which, when combined with my forgiveness of odd flavours and wine faults, means we have these conversations more frequently than one might expect. And so it was when we opened this wine a couple of nights ago.

Without wanting to suggest I’ve tasted an extensive range, ever since Chris and I shared a magical moment or two over a bottle of Tetsuya’s house red (a Bass Phillip Pinot made especially), I’ve had a soft spot for Phillip Jones’s wines. This one is testing my loyalty, though. Tasted from the same bottle two days apart, my experience is mixed. On the first night, a masculine wine full of robust, sour berry fruit and stalky, in fact almost twiggy, flavour. Although eliciting the aforementioned “yuk” from my partner, I really enjoyed the robust character and almost brutish force of the flavour profile. Granted, there seemed to be all sorts of weird flavours in there too, quite indescribable and frankly not quite “right.”

Two days on and those odd flavours have won the battle. On the nose, a really odd smell that reminds me of rancid deep fryer fat, mixed with crunchy red berries, freshly ground black pepper and horse hair. Not exactly your clean, New World Pinot Noir. The palate continues this oddness, with flavours of paté on Melba toast, potato chips and utterly delicious sour fruit. And that’s the thing with this wine. It’s not right in the head, yet I keep coming back to it, fascinated by its combination of strange and compelling flavours. Flavour profile aside, it is structured really well, with good movement through the mouth and a well balanced interplay of acid and tannin.

I wouldn’t recommend this wine to a stranger, but I would share it with a friend.

Bass Phillip
Price: $A35
Closure: Cork

Campo Viejo Reserva 2004

Finally, here’s the second part of my tasting notes for tonight. It took me a few minutes to decide what to do with the Campo Viejo Crianza 2006 – at first, I thought I could merely cork the bottle, sit it outside on the sidewalk, and – to paraphrase Mao – let a thousand unintended pregnancies bloom, but that would of course have been grossly irresponsible of me. Down the sink it went; yes, I did recycle.Now, on to this wine. My first thought on opening the bottle was simple “Oh, wait, this is a real wine.” I know, how haughty of me, but really: this didn’t smell of simple berries and fruit. This wine smells of, well, wine. There’s almost a hazelnut or roasted-coffee-biscotti note around the edge of it; it seems clear to me that this wine has seen a fair whack of oak. There’s also a lingering hint of some of the same vanilla berry notes from the regular version of the wine, but in a very tastefully restrained manner: it’s the difference between Versailles before and after Jeff Koons. What it really smells like, though, is proper Rioja: this reminds me of random bottles of Spanish wines happily drunk on holiday in Madrid with friends a few years back. What fruit there is is fastidiously framed by a hint of sourness, appetizing woody-coffee notes, and a sense of place. In short, whatever went missing from the crianza is here in the reserva.Taste-wise, there’s a brief, soft opening of gentle fruit that fairly rapidly fans out into an elegant, lacy interplay between reasonable, appetizing acidity, something like gentle earth, restrained berry fruits, soft vanillic effects, and then it all rides out quietly on somber, toasty oak. It’s the acidity that really ties the glass together, though; without it, this would be too soft, too easy. The overall effect is of eating delicious cake with a short espresso, I reckon; you get both the vanilla cherry pie and the upright tannins – but not too much, because then this wine wouldn’t really be Spanish.The most impressive thing here is to me the remarkable lightness of this wine. Compare to New World wines, this just doesn’t go as far down the tonal register, which makes it a refreshing change from the usual. This also means (I think) that this is another one to pair with sausages or grilled meats: it would work wonders. For me, it’s doing just fine with simple spaghetti bolognese, but it could have been so much more.Finally, I feel compelled to publicly wonder about something that utterly baffles me: this wine is selling for just $10 at The Wine Exchange in Orange, California. How can this be? If the cheap version of this is $9, why is this only a buck more and – more interestingly – why is it so much better?Disclaimer: I didn’t spend my own money on this bottle, but I also didn’t agree to anything.Campo Viejo
Price: $10
Closure: Cork

Campo Viejo Crianza 2006

Much to my surprise, I found myself accepting free samples of wine from a certain publicly traded French drinks behemoth. Why? Simple: I figured what the heck; if the wine sucked, I’d have fun complaining in a really boring, Adbusters-esque way about corporate wine blah blah blah. But if it was good… then what? In a world filled with small, struggling producers that produce original, interesting wines in this price range, do we really need one more review saying anything good about wines that are presumably produced in unspeakable quantities and then drunk in cruise ships and indifferent hotel restaurants the world over?The short answer is yes. Not everyone has the access to a wide range of indie wine shops that we have here in California; not everyone lives in a state that allows direct shipping. In many places in North America, you either get it from the liquor board shop or you don’t get it at all. And in places that really don’t drink “fine wine” (leaving aside the discussion of what exactly that is for now), then all you’re going to get is “industrial wine” – so why shouldn’t you be aware of the good stuff?First off: a disclaimer. Full Pour’s review policy is simple: you can send us free wine, but we don’t promise we’ll review it. And if we do review it, we don’t promise we’ll publish the review. And if we do publish our review, we don’t promise it’s going to be a good one.OK, that’s out of the way. How is this $9 wine courtesy of Behemoth French Industrial Producer?The nose offers up super friendly, inviting, warm red berry aromas. It smells better than any strawberry rhubarb pie I’ve ever baked, at any rate. There’s also a kind of woodsy perfume there as well, just a hint of something like candied oak. Not too bad.Sadly, however, once you get some of this in your mouth, it all falls apart. Dang it, I was hoping to like this wine so that I could say yes, sometimes the big guys get it right… just not this time. Everything here seems loose, unstructured, out of focus: it’s a bit flabby, perhaps even just a tiny bit sweet, with an unpleasant raw acidity sneaking in to bust up the party the second it wobbles to a start. The overall effect is frankly unpleasant: it tastes cheap, unfinished. The one good thing I will say, though, is that the tannic structure of the wine is just fine, keeping some kind of firm hold on the whole endeavor.So what to do with this wine? The tannins suggest it needs meat; the rest of it suggests it needs to be obscured by something else; I’m thinking heavy barbecue smoke would do the job just fine. If you’re somewhere where you can get funky, indie bottles of unknown French reds, then go for it. If, however, your choice is between this and [yellow tail], then I’d say go with the Campo Viejo – it’s in the same price range but has a little bit more interest. Otherwise, though, can you remember the last time you drank a Coors? No? Well, it might be time to start over again…Campo Viejo
Price: $9
Closure: Cork

Domaine du Poujol Proteus 2007

One long sniff and suddenly it’s 1979. I’m at a Thom McAn store, stuck waiting for a salesman to fetch out a series of increasingly dire shoes from the stockroom that I’m told will look great at church.This is a fairly complex nose; it’s not just throwback ’70s shoe leather, but also something slightly sour and candied, something pruny and animal, something very much like red berries and tar paper. On the whole, the effect is something on the order of unspeakably naff English candies that no one’s seen since the introduction of the EU: very old fashioned, somewhat unsettling, and (one hopes) ultimately very delicious once you can wrap your head around it.Somewhat shakily thin and nervous in the mouth, the impression I get here is that of an unusually ripe year that’s produced a slightly top-heavy version of what I imagine is normally a leaner, more mineral wine. There’s a huge amount of extract here, staining the sides of my glass with visibly gritty purple; there’s a slightly silty chunkiness in the mouth as well that is quite frankly awesome. Ultimately, what this wine reminds me of is a New World wine made with Robert Parker fans in mind: it’s quite good, no hidden surprises, rich and smooth and tasty.Thing is, though, if you give it a bit more time in the glass and pay more careful attention, there’s a very correct French wine hiding in here as well. There’s a wonderful slight sourness, an edge of minerality, a long finish that seems perfectly designed to be enjoyed with a sharp cheese. Tannins are in full effect, giving rise to the infamous ‘Who put socks on my teeth’ effect – and yet they’re very fine and graciously textured, something to be more feared than enjoyed.This seems to be a week for gateway wines: if you have a friend who professes to only like rich, full New World reds, try a bottle of this. Spend the evening sharing it with your friend. Serve them excellent cheese. Slowly (read: as you both become drunk) draw their attention to the acidity, the minerals, the tannins, the sourness. If I’m right, they’ll be a fan by the end of the evening, no doubt about it.Domaine de Poujol
Price: $10
Closure: Cork

Neil Ellis Elgin Chardonnay 2007

Disturbingly bright in the glass, there’s something unappetizing about the color of this wine; this isn’t a color I usually see in a glass – only in a plastic cup. There’s also something too-clean, stripped about it; it has that harsh, fluorescent-lit indifference of well-filtered wines.Thankfully, the nose is spot on and entirely correct. It smells like gloriously manipulated New World chardonnay at its finest; there are funky autolyzed yeast characteristics along with just a whiff of just-struck matches. The only thing I don’t really smell is fruit: if there is any, it’s Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit along with a sort of coriander-lemongrass note that’s very much off hiding somewhere behind the lees.Wonderfully tart in the mouth, the fruit is at first ironically the only thing I notice here, a brief citrus burst of sun that quickly mutates into something slightly more tropical – pineapple, almost? – and then it’s all quickly restrained by a sly two-pronged attack of creamy vanilla oak and rich, lees-y texture. It all ends on an oddly muted, somewhat soft, almost mineral note with the crisp acidity hanging around slightly like a faded halo.Do I like this wine? To be honest, not particularly: it seems to me to be not worked enough to really inspire me – and yet it’s also not straightforward enough to be enjoyed as a simple, refreshing wine. Instead, it seems to me to be trying to have it both ways – bright, simple fruit framed by heavily manipulated winemakery (winemachinations?) – and it just doesn’t work, at least not for me. If you’re trying to wean someone off of unoaked chardonnay, though, there might be enough awakened intrigue here to lead them down the path to richer, more messed-with styles, however.Neil Ellis
Price: $18
Closure: Stelvin

Clayfield Grampians Shiraz 2005

Reading others’ tasting notes helps me to learn — about wine, sure, but more often about a particular point of view. No death of the Author for me; as much as I buy into the idea that wine stands alone, there’s a huge amount of interest in understanding how its aesthetics are shaped by those who practice the craft of wine writing. For one thing, wine writers inevitably hone in on one or other aspect of wine, and this resonates not only in terms of how a particular wine has been perceived, but more interestingly in terms of how wine in general ought to be regarded.

The obvious example is the “fruit salad” approach to tasting notes. We’ve all read them; notes that consist exclusively of a list of smell and taste analogues associated with a wine’s nose and palate, as if the pleasure of wine could ever be captured so reductively. I’m prompted to ask: are the various flavours present in wine its primary pleasure? I can’t deny they form a huge part of it, but (and here we begin to get to the point) I’m smelling and tasting the 2005 Clayfield Shiraz tonight and flavours couldn’t be further from my mind.
What’s striking about this wine is its architecture (if you will forgive my semantic preciousness). Volume, density, texture, presence, thickness, flow, viscosity, impact. The flavour profile itself is identifiably Grampians Shiraz, though certainly a large scale expression of this classic regional style. The nose is immediately full and expressive. Volume is the key word here — it’s like the Spinal Tap amplifier turned all the way up to eleven. The fact that its aroma profile is squarely in the cool climate mode comes as something of a shock. Blackberry brambles, plum and pepper in spades. It has such presence and immediacy. 
The palate is in no way a letdown after this promising start. There is plenty of flavour for starters, very much in line with the aroma. But what’s striking are, again, the architectural elements. The tannins are truly remarkable. At first forbidding, with some time in the glass they begin to melt like chocolate in the mouth, transforming from blocky and solid to a more velvet textural expression, all the while retaining a dry, slightly bitter (as in Angostura) finish. At the same time, a silky viscosity causes the wine to swell sensuously on the middle palate.  The label says 15% abv and perhaps this shows, yet I don’t see perceptible alcohol as a fault a priori. Here, it adds to this wine’s sense of elegant debauchery, like a party guest not quite hiding the fact that they’re snorting a line of coke. Or something. 
Fabulous wine. 

Clayfield Wines
Price: $A45
Closure: Stelvin

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2002

If memory serves correctly, this is the fourth bottle of this wine I’ve drunk. The first I enjoyed in Perth in September 2002; the second a few years ago in Seattle, the third in March of 2008, and now it’s time to revisit it again. Julian had a bottle last July; I wrote about it last March, and here we are again.Impossibly light, this wine reminds me of goose fat, smoking autumn leaves, rose petals that have lost their sweetness, tarragon, and hay. What fruit there is stone: peach and apricot, slightly dried. A sip of this is revelation: it’s rich, thick, full, wonderfully situated in the mouth. A swallow thins it all out, leaving gentle talc, an amazingly length finish of minerals and pale honeys, full acidity that leaves your mouth watering for more, more, more. The closest wine this comes to (for me, at any rate) is vintage Champagne; there’s almost the same order of toastiness here which I find surprising and entrancing. This wine has moved emphatically beyond the lime-soaked babe I remember from 2002 and into an entirely other world: this is dead serious and tastes like it should have cost the earth, which it thankfully didn’t.There’s no sweetness here to speak of but is there light? Yes, abundantly so.[Postscript: I didn’t read Julian’s note until after writing this one – and yes, Julian, I don’t detect any petrol here at all. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that earlier note last year – I suppose I was just being lazy in describing the wine, going not with what I actually perceived but instead cribbing from the default Aged Aussie Riesling note. My apologies.]Grosset
Price: $26
Closure: Cork

Leasingham Bin 61 Shiraz 2002

For me, the worst thing about being a wino is probably the dilemma of choosing something to drink while you’re on your own. My partner should’ve been here for dinner tonight, but United Airlines declared his plane broken – something to do with the electrics – so he’s stuck in Chicago for the night leaving me with a simple question: what to drink with some leftover pork tenderloin, green beans, shallots, and mushrooms?This wine seems to do the trick just nicely: it’s not so expensive that I feel bad for not sharing – and more importantly, it worked wonders with the savory accidental broth left behind from the food. Thank you, Waitrose, for your lemon myrtle whatever; it really made the sauce.Even seven years past harvest the wine seems Barney purple, exuberant and fruity. The nose is classic Aussie shiraz, rich fruitcake, more cleavage than is proper, overripe plums stewed with cloves. There’s just a hint of something medicinal there, too – almost Russian aftershave that is never worn, simply drunk, with suggestions of woodland herbs used to make it all taste a little bit less like alcoholic poverty.I digress: this really is lovely and very much itself. I’m glad no one is asking me if this is like a Côte-Rôtie or a Hermitage or some other Old World wine: this is living proof that we’re doing just fine on our own in the New World, thank you. Yes, I suspect there’s a praiseworthy assist from a French fôret somewhere, but that’s certainly allowed, isn’t it?Wonderfully full and chunky in the mouth – I am somehow reminded of Wynona Judd here – the fruit still doesn’t seem perfectly integrated with the oak; of course, it doesn’t really matter. The impression to me is of visting a natural history museum: drinking this wine is like examining the rings of a California redwood or looking at geologic strata deposited over time. The line, such as it is, is parallel: fine, gentle, nervy acidity at the top; rich damson fruit with a hint of bottle age in the middle; at the bottom, fully resolved tannins grounded in dark loam. As wines go, this one is polychordal: it’s a neat trick and one the winemakers really should be immensely proud of. It’s a delight to drink, especially with the pork and beans.Leasingham
Price: $15
Closure: Cork

Domaine Rapet Père et Fils Pernand 1er Cru En Caradeux 2000

The aroma is fresh, smelling of baked things, almonds, goat’s cheese, coriander, minerality. It’s an intriguing mix of potentially rich notes within an architecture of lean elegance. There’s so much going on in the glass, yet it remains controlled. Very classy and, frankly, bloody nice to smell.

In the mouth, a rush of flavour that is truly satisfying. The attack is gentle and persuasive, taking a smoothly textural angle at first before fruit flavour begins to well up. Suddenly, a big wash of apple pie, delicate yellow peaches and mealy nuttiness fills the middle palate. Fabulous complexity that shifts and darts about constantly (even more so with food). Structurally, the acid is plentiful enough to contain such richness within a curvaceous yet taut figure. The after palate lifts beautifully, showing white flowers and a savoury kick. A nice, long, lingering finish.

What a fabulously drinkable wine, and likely to remain so for some years. Like a fascinating conversation with someone utterly hot.

Domaine Rapet Père et Fils
Price: $A60
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail