A new year for Full Pour

Seeing as it’s the season of good tidings and joy, I thought I’d give Full Pour the gift of more modern software and, if you can see this post, it means I’ve been successful in my efforts. Hopefully, migrating the site to WordPress will mean easier commenting, a more readable format and generally more awesomeness.

As ever, the site remains more about words than “look,” though I hope over the coming weeks and months it will gradually evolve in structure and appearance. In particular, I’m working my way through older posts to ensure correct formatting. Stay tuned for further tweaks.

A very happy new year to you all!

Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV

Disgorged 04/2012.

A photograph of soil underpinned by chalk on this wine’s label certainly makes the point; Laherte Frères positions as a grower-maker wishing to express terroir in its Champagnes. As part of this, dosages are low and, in the case of this wine, zero. To compensate, fruit is allowed to ripen further than is customary.

This technique comes through clearly on the nose, which communicates an impression of slightly candied citrus one might mistake for added sugar. It’s certainly not a bone dry experience, all technicalities aside. On the nose, quite pretty and citrus-driven, with undercurrents of baked bread and overtones of florals. Moderately complex and willfully refreshing.

The palate is lively and fresh, showing a level of effervescence that, for my taste, is a little over the top. A strong line of grapefruit juice drives down the line and, as with the nose, it shows fruit sweetness that is both fun and a bit simple. Some savoury complexities edge in but this is a fruit-forward expression of Champagne. Acid is firm and zingy. As such, it’s a highly appropriate celebration style and one I’d be happy to serve to a mixed crowd looking for something a bit different. For my tastes, though, I’d like to see more finesse.

Laherte Frères
Price: $A60
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Best’s Old Vine Pinot Meunier 2010

I have a slight obsession with still Pinot Meunier. I try to taste every example I can, which isn’t hard as I’m only aware of a couple of producers in Australia who pursue this Pinot Noir mutation as a single varietal. Best’s has two in its range, one from young vines and this, from some of the oldest Pinot Meunier vines known to exist (planted in 1869). I think part of my fascination comes from the knowledge that many legendary Great Western table wines had a significant amount of Pinot Meunier in them, and yet today the variety has almost disappeared from the table.

To this bottling, then. The aroma is expressive and sweetly-fruited, with caramel-edged red berries sitting underneath mixed spice and a herbal twang. There’s a lot going on aromatically, though its profile tends towards ease and approachability rather than density or forbidding seriousness. Layers keep building in the glass, with a fresh sappiness adding vitality as well as a savoury edge.

The palate is similarly approachable and shows tension between sweet, cuddly fruit and a spiced, sappy edge. Structurally the wine is more driven by acid than tannin, neither of which, however, are especially strident. Consequently, the wine is allowed to swell on the mid-palate, and its fruit really shines at this point. The after palate and finish are more savoury and spiced, and what tannins there are descend on the finish, adding textural interest as well as a nice, dry end to the wine’s line.

This wine flips between ease and angularity, fun and seriousness. I can’t quite figure it out, yet at the same time am enjoying it tremendously.

Best’s Wines
Price: $A60
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Mitchell Harris Sauvignon Blanc Fumé 2012

Given the dominance of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in Australia, it’s a brave producer who attempts something truly different. With this label, Mitchell Harris offers a true alternative to the floridly aromatic Kiwi style. Winemaking includes wild yeasts and oak maturation. The end result is a restrained, elegant Sauvignon Blanc.

The aroma shows hints of varietal character in the form of light gooseberry and nettle. The dominant aroma is a sort of slatey understatement, like a blanket of minerality under which fruit is bound. Mostly, though, it’s notable for how quiet it is, preferring to slowly release aromas than throw them in your face. Like a slow strip tease.

And as one might imagine of a stripper, there’s luridness too, with Sauvignon Blanc’s neon-and-fake-tan flavours very much present. Yet even in the mouth, it’s a slow burn of a wine, very fresh, but more sea spray than fruit juice; the varietal’s hallmark acid kicks in from mid-palate onwards. Despite the understated flavour profile, there’s actually significant intensity, and this wine shows greater persistence than one ordinarily might expect.

Sauvignon Blanc for grown ups.

Mitchell Harris
Price: $A22.95
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Mitchell Harris Mataro Grenache Shiraz 2011

There’s all sorts of chatter about 2011 in certain parts of Australia. There’s no doubt some good wines have emerged out of challenging conditions, but it’s equally true that some wines show the difficulties of the vintage. As a drinker, I’m sometimes interested in tasting the latter wines, because they are instructive and, at their best, can be differently enjoyable from those made in better years.

This wine, from boutique Victorian producer Mitchell Harris, shows a clean simplicity that, while ruling it out of contention as a wine worthy of extended contemplation, indicates a genuine and skilful attempt to make the most of the season’s challenges. On the nose, a meaty, peppery, nougat-like, red fruited aroma profile, which expresses as a series of loosely connected smells rather than something seamless and integrated. There’s a sharpness to the pepper note that I quite like, but the whole lacks definition and a coherent narrative.

In the mouth, a burst of red fruits, somewhat confected in character, along with more meat and leafy greens. It’s not especially intense, and it lacks a bit in texture. Its attractive flavours seem in search of a structure through which to express themselves, and this relative lack of form makes the wine drink as more of a quaffer than something especially demanding.

John Harris is a highly skilled winemaker, and expectations of this producer are high. In absolute terms, this wine may disappoint, but to craft something simple and attractive from a difficult year isn’t something to take for granted, and I look forward to subsequent vintages of this wine so I can better understand what Mitchell Harris is aiming for with this label.

Mitchell Harris
Price: $A26.95
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

J.L. Vergnon Brut Conversation NV

A blanc de blancs made from Grand Cru fruit, this is one of a series of reasonably priced grower Champagnes I’ve been having of late, and one of the tastiest, too. Fruit comes from three villages — Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Avize — and the wine spends three years on lees.

The mousse is quite coarse and dissipates quickly, leaving behind an enthusiastic bead. The aromas are very much in the yeast/bread/brioche spectrum, sweet and pungent, leading into soft, pastel fruit notes. Fruit is in the citrus spectrum, and is delicately pretty.

The palate shows a wonderfully soft, creamy mouthfeel, with fine acid and well damped spritz. Flavours are again in the citrus spectrum, grapefruit mostly, with mellow peel notes, quite rounded and soft. If I’ve a criticism, it’s that fruit becomes a little blunt here, losing its lightness of touch and showing too much relaxation. Some may find this broadness delicious. Dosage seems right to me, with some sweetness evident but nothing over the top. Flavours are persistent and complex enough, especially through the after palate, where there are hints of honey alongside fresher fruit notes. A delicate finish.

With the exception of slightly too broad a countenance through its mid-palate, this is a fine and delicious wine.

J.L. Vergnon
Price: $A50
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Dowie Doole Scarce Earth Shiraz 2010

One of the more interesting recent wine initiatives is McLaren Vale’s Scarce Earth project, a region-wide effort to systematically highlight the character of specific plots within the region. It’s also a clever marketing idea, rebranding the Vale in a somewhat Burgundian mould; very much on trend.

This wine, from producer Dowie Doole, is drawn from the 74 Block of the California Road vineyard. Dowie Doole already releases a single vineyard California Road bottling, so this wine reprensents an even more specific look at a certain patch of McLaren Vale dirt. What’s immediately striking about the aroma is its savouriness. This smells of dirt roads, red fruits, vanilla and brown spice. It’s sinewy and adult and, in its refusal to yield to comfort, strikes me as somewhat Italianate. There’s oak here, and it plays an important part in the wine’s aroma, but it never smoothes over the fruit’s natural rusticity, so enhances rather than subverts its savouriness.

The palate is medium bodied and expressive, lobbing acid texture onto the tongue from entry onwards. Fruit swells a little on the middle palate, though the wine’s acid remains firm. There’s a lot of flavours here, from plum skins to spice by way of some leaf and snapped twig. The wine keeps coming back to a light, juicy berry note, which anchors the flavour profile and allows it to explore its earthier inclinations. Dusty tannins dry the finish. There’s something anti-fashion about the way this tastes; it eschews anything remotely slick-tasting and revels in its angles, textures and moderate weight.

An idiosyncratic wine, perhaps inevitably so given its conceptual origins. I think it will benefit from a bit of time in bottle, as it remains edgy, structurally. I love its character, though, and it’s wonderful to find an expression of McLaren Vale Shiraz that is so joyously old-fashioned. This is a fantasy version of your grandfather’s McLaren Vale dry red and, to one of our most historic wine regions, I can’t pay a higher compliment.

Dowie Doole
Price: $A45
Closure: Diam
Source: Sample

Silvano Bolmida Barolo Bussia 2003

I often feel describing the textural experience of a wine is especially difficult. Whereas one can trot out a range of analogues when describing a wine’s flavour profile, capturing the nuances of a particular tannin profile, or the quality of a wine’s acid, strikes me as much harder. It’s especially frustrating when faced with a wine like this, whose tannins are very much a highlight and one of its chief pleasures.

Growing conditions leading up to the 2003 harvest in Piedmont were hot and dry, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this wine. Happily, I found it excellent, showing no stressed flavours or unbalanced structure. In fact, it’s an elegant wine, with all the perfume one craves from this varietal.  The flavour profile is typical, with heady rose, citrus peel and red berries. There’s a wildness to the way this smells and tastes that recalls the sweetness of a field on a hot summer’s day.

Flavour aside, though, I just love the tannins here. From mid-palate onwards, texture starts creeping over the tongue, drying the mouth with a light but firm hand, becoming more noticeable as the line progresses. These are abundant tannins yet, somehow, they possess a lightness of touch, a delicacy, that allows them to remain in balance with the rest of the wine. I tasted this again and again, enjoying its rough hand caress my tongue.

What a sensual pleasure, this; as much about touch as taste.

Silvano Bolmida
Price: $A164 (wine list)
Closure: Cork
Source: Other

Shaw and Smith M3 Chardonnay 2010

The other day, I found myself expressing the view that above all else, a wine should be delicious. Yet, tasting this wine, I feel that delicious flavours aren’t enough. There needs to be a sense of composition, a narrative, something overarching within which a wine’s flavours can be situated.

There’s no doubt this wine smells delicious; its aromas are those of a heavily worked wine, with oatmeal and cream pushing past fruit notes to take a primary role. These key notes are thick and prominent, communicating richness and signalling full, generous flavours.

The palate is where this wine’s story begins to falter. Flavours are, from beginning to end, quite delicious. Alongside mealy, caramel notes there is a strikingly fresh shot of grapefruit, tingling with sharpness and precision. It’s so crystaline that it seems to wander in from another wine, one that’s altogether less broad in flavour profile. And so the wine flips between heavy and light, neither side illuminating the other so much as coexisting in an uneasy truce. Each element would be lovely in the right wine, but as a composition the whole lacks finesse and balance.

Unusually for this label, a wine that doesn’t repay too much thought. I wonder if the sharpness of its fruit will subside, which I feel would be to the wine’s advantage.

Shaw and Smith
Price: $A77 (wine list)
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Other