Yarra Yering Pinot Noir 2006

Happily, I have found myself drinking well of late. The lead-up to Christmas affords many opportunities to open those special bottles, and I am availing myself of every opportunity to do so. Last night, I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with friends and we sampled a range of wines, all of which were excellent. This stood out as the wine that changed the most with air.

When it was first poured, it smelled musty and closed, and I worried a little for the condition of our bottle. That worry was entirely misplaced; this soon blossomed into a stunning wine. One thing good wine can do is constantly change in the glass, providing a great ride for the drinker. This seemed to shift a bit every time I smelled it, aromas sliding around as if constantly forming and reforming. First, blowing off the residue of its life in bottle and becoming sweeter, cleaner and less awkward. Then showing meaty notes alongside its relaxed red fruits, some minerality too, one element folding into another and producing something new before for my next smell.

In the mouth, outstanding coherence and line. Once settled, the palate was a seamless expression of dark berries, minerals, toast, meat and a myriad other notes. Bottle age is beginning to make a contribution too, easing the wine into a relaxed phase of its life and adding truffled leather notes. While the flavour profile is delicious, for me this wine’s most notable features are its detail and balance, traits that allow flavours to be heard without having to jostle for attention. I felt drawn into this wine and tasting it was an exercise in looking more closely.Very fine wine.

Yarra Yering
Price: $A148 (wine list)
Closure: Cork
Source: Other

Clos des Lambrays tasting

I recently attended a tasting of Clos des Lambrays with a selection of vintages spanning 1990 to 2010. Thierry Brouin, longtime oenologist at Domaine des Lambrays, was a charming (though jetlagged) host and humbly provided a view of the domaine’s history and its evolution under his stewardship. This was my first time tasting Clos des Lambrays and I can’t think of a better crash course.

Clos des Lambrays 1990
Defiantly tertiary with a range of old red wine aromas: mushroom, leather, spice. Despite this development, it retains a vibrancy of aroma and is certainly not past it. In the mouth, light bodied with a seamless line, this tastes saucy in the brown sense. A light dusting of tannin arches over an elegant finish. There is still lively acid and freshness. Charming.

Clos des Lambrays 1993
Noticeably more full than the 1990, this wine’s stylings are more masculine and chunky. The flavour profile is quite developed but with an underlying fruit weight missing from the older wine and a sense of minerality that underlines the fruit. Structurally, a bigger, more prominent wine, with more tannins and less exposed acid. At first this dipped through the after palate but some swirling saw that right.

Clos des Lambrays 1995
A really distinctive aroma that shows a pine needle (Thierry suggested camphor) note missing from the other vintages tasted. Light, fresh, with bit more primary fruit, this also came across slightly closed. In the mouth, more masculine than expected with dark berries and a litheness of line, perhaps a bit simple but hugely drinkable and attractive.

Clos des Lambrays 1999
This has a heavy brow, much more inclined to brood than any of its older siblings in this tasting. Dark fruit notes dominate an aroma that is the first of the tasting to seem mostly primary in character. In the mouth, very structured, tannins still prominent and drying, great concentration of dark berry fruit. Oak is also a noticeable influence.

Clos des Lambrays 2006
Very primary, this shows a lighter shade of fruit, spiced oak, heaps of minerality and a slightly raw vibe. The aroma is heady, oak-influenced and quite intoxicating. Exciting. The palate unfolds with cherry essence, vanilla, luxurious richness and chewy density in a framework of powdery tannins. This is fresh, structured and was quite my favourite wine of the tasting.  I wish I had some in my cellar.

Clos des Lambrays 2008
There was quite a bit of burned rubber on opening that never quite blew off, though it did become less prominent after about fifteen minutes of swirling. Once past this, there’s a light, red fruited aroma profile that is pretty and delicate. On the palate, fleet of foot, fruit seeming sweeter here and red rather than black in character. Not sure if this is typical.

Clos des Lambrays 2009
This seemed a favourite amongst the group and I can understand why. Very dense and dark on the nose, but expressive too, and almost a little rustic in its lilt. In the mouth, prickly mineral acid, coffee spiced oak and dark fruit. Also a meaty, umami-esque edge. Quite tannic in a surprisingly loose-knit way, and with very juicy acid, this is screaming for more time, though it’s already reasonably generous. Thierry suggested this vintage clearly expresses the Clos des Lambrays terroir.

Clos des Lambrays 2010
Very tight for now. Even so, there’s great purity of fruit on the nose, along with nougat oak and a dose of adolescent brooding. In the mouth, structure is predictably raw, acid sizzling away and tannin equally firm, flavours tending as much towards coffee oak as dark fruit. Quite hard to assess but, despite its youth, seems of beautiful form and line to me, perhaps more refined, if less obviously characterful, than the 2009. I liked this very much.

Château Musar 2000

Quite a wine. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I approached this, my first Musar, and the overriding impression I’m left with is of a lovely Bordeaux crossed with something completely foreign. It’s a vibrant, rough wine, hewn of distressed leather and sweat, revelling in its imperfections. The aroma shows cigar box, snapped twig and leather, very expressive and dusty in the Cabernet manner, but lacking the poise one might expect of a fine Bordeaux. That, though, is very much part of the wine’s charm, and its wildness contributes to its presence.

The palate delivers dense flavour onto the tongue and its persistence makes sense of a chaotic flavour profile. This fairly attacks the palate with flavour, fruit stubbornly adhering to the tongue. While drinking this wine, I was reminded of old leather goods, noisy markets and desert heat, images that suggest the disorientation of travel. Tannin structure is fine and reminds one that this is, in fact, a really good wine. Generous, messy and quite delicious.

This was tasted alongside a 2000 Lake’s Folly Cabernet whose refinement of form really showed up the Musar. No matter; I kept coming back to this so that it might let me linger in its heady world a bit longer.

Château Musar
Price: $N/A
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 1985

The bottle is indeed very pretty.

To the wine’s appearance first, there’s little mousse apparent on pouring and a reticent bead thereafter; this certainly looks an aged wine. Colour is honey-gold with a pleasing richness of hue. Immediately a range of tertiary notes emerge from the glass, including a prominent browned apple note that is the clearest sign of age. The influence of oxidation isn’t overwhelming, though, and beneath it there is a complex aroma profile of citrus, mushroom, bread and an attractive nuttiness. Certainly one to smell at length.

The palate is surprisingly fresh, with good spritz in evidence and a fascinating tension between still-firm acid and a decidedly tertiary flavour profile. Cut apple is less obvious in the mouth, and the wine’s butterscotch note takes centre stage from the middle palate onwards. It’s rich and unctuous, mouthcoating in intensity and impressive in length, all the while freshened and firmed by spritz and acid. The elegance of its finish is especially fine, and I love the way caramel lingers on the tongue, becoming softer and a mere echo of itself some time after swallowing.

A nice start to an evening’s entertainment.

Price: $N/A
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Offcuts: as we approach Christmas

Although drinking season is upon us, I’ve been remiss in my note taking. No matter, the more interesting wines recently consumed tasted linger in my memory and are noted below.

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2012
To describe our dry Riesling styles as precise is a cliché, but more importantly it misses the point; the joy of this wine is in how its precision serves the most exuberant of flavour profiles. It’s expressively floral and shows a poise in the mouth that is surprising in such a young Riesling. Excellent.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2009
I tasted this alongside a 2006 Pierre Amiot Clos de la Roche. Although the Burgundy showed greater complexity, this shone for the purity of its fruit and in some respects was the more delicious wine. Pure plum fruit, minerality, sap and a seamless line. Texture is especially fresh and fine. This is a wine of great sophistication.

Ridge Geyserville 2007
I love the Geyserville for its familiarity as much as anything else, so smelling this gave me much pleasure despite it seeming less focused than some vintages I remember. No matter; typical Zinfandel fruit cake and spice, cut with other purer fruit notes. Not too big in the mouth, this delivers lazy satisfaction and the cuddliest of flavours. A chesterfield lounge of a red wine.

Traversa Sori Ciabot Barbaresco 2007
I’m looking forward to my next bottle of this, as the first went down much too quickly. This has the sort of funky complexity I look for with this style; it’s not overtly challenging but has edges of savoury herbs alongside sweetly floral fruit, nuts and spice. It’s quite a flirtatious flavour profile. Structure is a highlight, the tannins fine and long. Not a blockbuster, but so pleasurable.

Clayfield Grampians Shiraz 2006
In the last few days I’ve tasted a few Clayfield wines; this one as well as the two 2010 premiums. The younger wines are somewhat unsettled and in need of air and patience, while the 2006 is starting to drink beautifully. Oak, often a feature of young Clayfield wines, has folded right back into the fruit, adding further dimensions to the fruit’s already spiced flavour profile. It’s prickly and bold and expressive.

Tyrrells 4 Acres Shiraz 2007
My first tasting since its release. This has barely moved in that time except to show a slight mellowing of acid. The flavour profile remains primary, which is in no way a bad thing. The wine’s depth of flavour was very much in evidence on this tasting, as was its fundamental prettiness and the seamlessness of its line. It remains a subtle, balanced wine that will provide rich rewards to those who grant it the benefit of patience.

Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2006

I attended a satisfying dinner on Friday evening where the wines were wide ranging and the table’s reactions diverse. I was interested to note the styles that appealed in such a setting. They were invariably forward and aromatic, with fruit flavours that were clearer and more readily identifiable. No surprise there, but I was left wondering about quieter wines that don’t offer such immediate gratification but which can, when contemplated solo, provide tremendous pleasure.

This is one such wine. Not an exalted label by any means, but it’s a whole lot of good things — expressively aromatic, well fruited, evenly structured. Yet it lacks a hook, something immediate and excitable, which would make me fear for its fate in a large line-up of wines. No matter; tonight, it’s the only wine on my table and I’m pleased to consider it at length.

The aroma shows definite tertiary characters which gives a mellow gloss to underlying fruit aromas. Dark berries and some snapped twig swirl at its base, while a range of other smells build on each other. It shares a gene with the sort of exotically spiced blend that might be encountered in a tea house. Here, spice is a link between fruit, oak and bottle age.

In the mouth, a sensuous wine; its structure caresses the tongue as dense fruit coasts above. The weight of its flavours edges on ponderous but detail and definition are sufficient to keep the wine from cloying. I especially like the integration of flavours, from dark berry to aromatic orange peel to leather; this ultimately tastes like a single, complex note. Structure is present, with acid in particular carrying the wine’s movement. The after palate is relaxed and the finish decent.

$30 is a bit extravagant for regular drinking, but if I had the means, my quaffing wines would be like this: humble, quiet and perfectly formed.

Marqués de Murrieta
Price: $A30
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Matison Wines The Kirk Pinot Noir 2010

Some wines taste a bit wild, and I don’t use that word as a euphemism for faulty. These are the wines that leap from the glass with abandon and offer aromas that suggest the forest floor, freshly picked wildflowers and other, not-quite-tamed scents. While not always appropriate, I’ve always appreciated Pinot Noir that shows this character, and feel it can be a great red carpet to Pinot’s often heady show.

This is one such wild Pinot. The aroma offers a mix of slightly feral vegetal aromatics and fresh fruits of the forest. It’s sappy, pithy and shows sensitive oak input. The overall profile is high toned and chaotic, but for me its vibrancy outweighs any lack of composure.

The palate shows a similar flavour profile, with quite masculine, blocky fruit flavours and some forest floor. Structure is firm and attractive, acid juicy and tannins fun and a bit unpredictable in profile. Although it lacks some intensity, this is a charismatic wine in the mouth.

Not a wine of great refinement, but it is compelling and fresh and I like it a lot.

Matison Wines
Price: $A35
Closure: Diam
Source: Sample

Hoddles Creek 1er Pinot Blanc 2012

My rough notes on this wine contain the phrase “fruit-backward,” not something one might often observe of a young aromatic white from Australia. Which, of course, makes it a lot more interesting, especially as it’s clearly a wine made with skill and intent. Suffice to say, one smell and my curiosity was aroused.

The aroma is dry, powdery, floral, tight and flinty. That ought to give you a fair idea of its vibe, but it’s a lot more fun than the austere descriptors might suggest. There is fruit, buried under a pretty unyielding aroma profile, and it’s pithy and high toned when it does peek out.

The palate shows really unusual tension between a fruit character I can only describe as grapey and the sort of insistent savouriness that never quite feels comfortable. The fruit gives this wine a fundamental juiciness but it keeps bouncing up against a mealiness that seems to dovetail into assertive texture, which itself seems inseparable from some pretty fierce acid. I particularly like the textural dimensions and feel they make an excellent accompaniment to food that might be too rich for other aromatic styles. Intense, driven and probably in its least interesting phase of existence.

In context, a singular style, but much more than a curio.

Hoddles Creek Estate
Price: $A40
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Domaine Alain Chavy Bourgogne 2010

In some ways, the styling of affordable wines is just as interesting to me as the achievements of great, no-holds-barred labels. It’s a mantra nowadays that with great fruit, the wine “just makes itself;” even allowing for hyperbole, that does suggest there may be a bit more thought required to make average grapes into wine that’s both accessible and enjoyable.

One option is to make the sorts of cheerfully anonymous wines that, I admit, have their place in the industry and in many peoples’ lives. Another is this – a clearly artisanal wine from a small producer in Puligny-Montrachet that comes in at, given the context, a decent price.

The approach here is one of moderation. The fruit that went into this wine seems of modest quality – it’s too sweet-edged and simply flavoured to be truly fine. But it’s clean, and the winemaking that surrounds it has given it enough counterpoint to frame it with graceful appropriateness. The aroma mixes bright, bouncy fruit with overlays of mealiness. The fruit, at first, showed a slightly distressing pineapple character, but that has mostly blown off and settled to a still-bright but more attractive melon note. There’s no complexity to speak of, but it’s a delicate, polite aroma that knows its boundaries and works well within them.

The palate is fresh and flavoursome, with moderately intense waxed lemon fruit and oatmeal. Here again the fruit edges towards a confectionary vibe and is held in check by savouriness that seems winemaker-led. The fact that it’s not overly driven works in its favour; there’s nothing outsize about this wine, and that means its limitations as well as its strengths are modest. A nice creamy after palate leads through to a finish that is fresh and juicy, with only a hint of sweetness marring the flavour profile. Acid is fine. Serving this wine on the cool side helps to temper the fruit’s more vulgar tendencies.

Some wines seem to squander their potential; this makes the most of its humble beginnings. Nothing more than cheap Chardonnay, really, but a little marvel of styling nonetheless, and attractive for its honesty.

Domaine Alain Chavy
Price: $A18
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Le Domaine du Père Caboche Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Élisabeth Chambellan 2003

A little oxidised, but still in good-enough condition to taste and enjoy. I must admit, I have little experience with Châteauneuf-du-Pape whites, so was quite curious to taste this. I can see no evidence of this label on the producer’s site, which suggests it is no longer made. Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can further enlighten us.

The nose definitely shows some bottle age, with honey alongside a crisp biscuit note and beeswax. There was some discussion at the tasting bench regarding what type of biscuit the wine’s aroma most resembles; consensus was Milk Coffee. Fruit isn’t represented much within the aroma profile, but the array of notes feels complete in its own right.

The palate shows a structure that remains alive with acid and texture. Again, there isn’t much fleshy fruit of note, but a gentle spiciness joins honey and biscuit to create an attractive flavour profile, only slightly marred by oxidiation. The wine has good thrust through the palate and decent length. It’s weighty and surprisingly fresh-feeling.

A pristine bottle would be a lot of fun; even this was pleasurable and interesting.

Le Domaine du Père Caboche
Price: $N/A
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift