Holidays leave little time for blogging and, interestingly, for drinking too. However, a few items have been consumed along the way so far, brief impressions of which follow.

Continuing on my supermarket wine odyssey for a moment, I had a bottle of ASDA’s 2009 Montagne Saint-Emilion (£6) last night. there are precious few details on the bottle as to it provenance, but the wine itself turned out to be very drinkable, slightly simple and confected red fruit flavours forming an appropriately light layer atop a well balanced platform of acid and tannin. A really nice bistro-style wine that I could happily throw back by the carafe-full at lunch.

Rather more spectacular was a bottle of Morris Grant Liqueur Tokay NV ($A35). Morris’s house style is typically fuller and sweeter than other Rutherglen producers, and this wine was a powerhouse of coffee, tea-leaf and toffee flavours. Incredible length and drive, exciting intensity, complex flavours. Not the most elegant Tokay I’ve ever had but oh-so satisfying.&

I wasn’t, and am still not, sure what to make of a bottle of 2005 Glaetzer Godolphin (£30), more from a stylistic perspective than a quality one. There’s no doubt in my mind this is the wine it sets out to be, with gobs of dense fruit and oak on both nose and palate. The fruit’s character is typically Barossan too, with the kind of warm juiciness fans of this region will value highly. If it’s not my cup of tea, being a little garrulous and brutish as a style, then perhaps that’s simply my loss.


A few wines over the weekend; brief impressions follow.

Starting with the best of a decent bunch, a 2006 Crawford River Riesling totally wowed me on Friday evening. It’s ageing slowly and superbly; nuances of toast and honey starting to intrude on thrilling, precise citrus, floral and mineral flavours. In the mouth, a clean thrust of green apple acid and dry phenolic texture, not ultra-fine so much as perfectly rough. Surely this and Seppelt’s Drumborg label are all we need to proclaim Henty one of our very best regions for this most intellectual of white varietals.

A 1990 St Hugo Cabernet did not fare so well. The bottle was in good condition, and the nose promised heady aged characters, but I’m afraid to say that, for my taste, the oak has taken too prominent a role, unbalancing and ultimately overpowering what are correct, umami-infused aged Cabernet notes. It’s great oak for sure, there’s just too much of it at this point.

I found a glass of the 2008 Clyde Park Chardonnay provocative, if not totally convincing. It’s a heavily worked style, with funky aromas sitting alongside plenty of oak and tight Chardonnay fruit. In the mouth, complex and somewhat cacophonous. I have a soft spot for worked Chardonnay, but this seems to fall between stools; the fruit did not strike me as ideally suited to this treatment.

A 2008 Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz demonstrates the best and worst of a certain winemaking context (large company, large scale, quality end of the market). This is so well made and regional in character that on first sniff I was tempted to start waxing lyrical. Yet a few minutes with this wine reveals a level of calculated perfection that is, ultimately, unattractive. This is a fashion model of a wine; perfectly put together but kind of faceless and not half as interesting as someone with a few well-placed flaws. Still, very solid and, in a sense, critic-proof.

Lastly, the 2005 Zema Family Selection Cabernet. This is self-evidently a good wine, with powerful fruit and clean winemaking. So why wasn’t I bowled over? There’s something about the scale of this wine that seems outsize to me. The fruit is so ripe, the mouthfeel so full, the oak so present. Clearly, some will go nuts for this style, and in a different mood I might too. But I was eating a nice steak and wanting a Cabernet with structure and a measure of elegance. This was simply de trop. Perhaps as much my fault as the wine’s.

Offcuts: miscellaneous French wines

On Thursday evening, I tasted a range of French wines imported by Black Pearl Epicure. Most haven’t been seen in Australia before. Interestingly, the tasting was arranged for Brisbane’s wine bloggers and tweeters. So, as you might imagine, there was some furious mobile phone action as we tasted.

While I feel the wines showed unevenly, they are consistently well-priced and interesting in provenance. These were my favourites on the night.

Domaine Vincent Paris Saint Joseph 2008 ($40)

A huge black pepper nose with underlying red fruit and meat. Just so typical and vibrant, and perhaps difficult to unpack for those with a firm preference towards warmer climate expressions of Shiraz. This, though, is right up my alley. The palate is quite tannic for now, light to medium bodied with a juicy and bright entry. Red fruits are joined by brambles and mulberries through the middle palate. I like the structure here; it’s robust without feeling forced or heavy. Just a great drinking wine with heaps of character. Good value too.

Domaine Les Aphillanthes Cuvée des Galets Côtes du Rhône 2007 ($33)

Lincoln Scott, of GrapeScott fame, was also in attendance and rightly pointed out this wine’s rather prune-ish flavour profile. Normally I would find such fruit character questionable, but in this wine I read it as a positive, cranberry-ish note that meshes well with the dried herbs and musk also on offer. Overall, a very savoury experience. The palate shows dried red fruits, heavily smoked bacon and nice tannins in a mid-weight package. A nice, characterful wine that should provide a point of difference for most local drinkers.

Domaine Grand Veneur Lirac 2007 ($35)

A bruiser of a wine in some respects, clocking in at 15% abv. But it works for me. An aroma profile that is wild in the most positive sense, with clean fruit, brambles and other complexities, all wonderfully expressive. The medium bodied palate is perhaps less outré than the nose leads one to expect, but is nonetheless clean, dark and full of tasty plum fruit. Good thrust through the finish, with nice herbal tannins.

Gevrey-Chambertin par Mark Haisma 2007 ($65)

I struggled to taste anything of this wine on the night, owing to its unfortunate position as the wine tasted just after two Champagnes. I could tell its mouthfeel was particularly supple, but that’s about it. So I took the remains of the bottle home with me to retaste.

As one might expect from a Village-level wine, this isn’t great Burgundy, but there’s a lot to enjoy here. It’s funky for starters, something I often enjoy with Pinot but which seems to appear less and less, in local wines at least. There are minerals, light red fruits and savoury complexities on the nose and, although it lacks some depth, it’s all very fun to smell.

The palate is incredibly soft and supple, emphasising the sensual side of Pinot. The wine’s density of flavour, though light, is consistent along the line, and within this rather feathery experience there’s enough complexity to keep things interesting. Perhaps the wine lacks some vitality, the sort of lively punch that doesn’t imply brutality so much as enthusiasm. Nice loose-knit tannins through the finish.


My life and this blog have not coincided as much as I would have liked over the past week, which isn’t to say I haven’t tasted some nice wines. It’s been more about enjoyment than critique, though, with no detailed notes taken. Hence, the following impressions are broadly evocative rather than precisely descriptive.

Mesh Riesling 2009 ($A30, retail)

One of those astonishingly austere Rieslings we do so well in Australia. This is the archetypal dry Eden wine, completely focused and unswerving in its progression over the palate. Flavours at this stage are typically straightforward, mostly lemon-lime and flint on both the nose and palate. It lacks the floral lift one sometimes sees, expressing instead a sense of muscularity and power. Intense flavour and acidity in the mouth, this is almost too much to drink on its own. I’d pair it carefully with food now or just leave it alone for a decade.

Shaw and Smith M3 Chardonnay 2008 ($A45, retail)

This label usually impresses me with its sense of poise and balance while still showing a fair bit of winemaking. At the very least, it proves Chardonnay doesn’t have to be either/or in character. This is a good M3, with plenty of tight white peach flesh and mealiness, nicely textured in the mouth and sensible in proportion. The oak is used exceptionally well, I think, adding some subtle spice and warmth (emotional, not physical) to the flavour profile. It just tastes very right and is immediately complex. This is the dinner party guest who manages to do and say all the right things. No need to wait for it to settle.

Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2006 ($A65, retail)

This, by contrast, isn’t ready to drink (without a good decant, anyway). Quality isn’t in question, though, and what impresses me most at this stage is the wine’s immediate, unforgiving power. It’s like a punch in the mouth with a feather, mixing light bodied styling with quite brutal acidity and a detailed, etched flavour profile of red fruits, cedar, sap and general pinosity. Fabulous length. Despite its muscularity, there’s something alluring and seductive about it too; feminine, but in an angular, slightly severe mode. I can’t quite pin it down, but I love it just the same, and smile at the thought of how it might fill out in time (say, four to five years). Fascinating wine.

Offcuts: dinner and three wines


Chris’s partner, Dan, is in town. It’s been over a year since I last saw Dan and, aside from a little more grey, he is happily the same as ever. Last night, we decided to have dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant called Libertine. It’s in the newish Barracks complex in town; one of those upmarket developments with a cinema, wine shop, gourmet ice creamery and several restaurants. All of life’s inner city essentials in one handy location. 
The restaurant itself has an attractive ambience, with glowing chandelier-laden décor. Food-wise, it was consistent on the night, a pumpkin curry the unlikely highlight of the meal. The wine list is well-selected and diverse, and we chose three different wines to accompany our leisurely dinner. Prices are from the list via my memory. 
Domaine Pichot Coteau de la Biche 2005 ($A62, restaurant list)
A sec Vouvray, this went very well with our entrées of chicken paté, kingfish sashimi and scallops. Quite full aromas of stewed apple and pear, tending towards the odd, sweet prickliness of fairy floss that I seem to find a bit in Vouvray. In the mouth, generous and fresh, with more smashed apples and an edge of pineapple giving way to a lightly textural after palate and soft finish. Great acidity that is the primary contributor to its food-friendliness. This is drinking well but could happily sit in a cellar for years to come.
Eldridge Estate Gamay 2008 ($A50, restaurant list)
This makes a compelling case for Mornington Peninsula Gamay; perhaps fortunate as it may well be the only one made. Simple to start, flavours presenting similarly to the dreaded dry red Pinot style. It really took off about half an hour in, with attractive spiced complexity overlaying detailed, balanced red cherry fruit. Expressive on both nose and palate, there’s real vitality to this wine’s flavour profile, and it shows sophistication without sacrificing an ounce of deliciousness. Weight and texture are both well-judged; again, a good food style and one that went with both curry and full-flavoured pork belly. A great house red for the well-heeled.
Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling 2009 ($A12/glass, restaurant list)
We were quite lucky on the food and wine matching front; this went well with pear tarte tatin. Pure indulgence; ultra-clean flavours of preserved citrus, ripe tropical fruits and flowers, elegant in the mouth, with brilliantly balanced acidity. It’s sweet yet fresh, opulent yet shapely. Finally, a dessert wine with manners — an exercise in vinous propriety.


A few more random tastings, on the whole very pleasant indeed. The first two were consumed at Brisbane’s 5th Element wine bar, which is not a bad place to soak up both the afternoon breeze and a few nice wines. Prices are as per the venue’s list – do the usual adjustment to determine approximate retail.
Flaxman Riesling 2008 ($A44, restaurant list)
Showing some nascent signs of bottle age (a bit of toast, mostly), this is a wonderfully gentle drink. Unlike the driven, juicy 2009, this wine is a laid back expression of Eden Valley Riesling, with pastel fruit colours and a precise presence in the mouth. This wine reminded me of feathers and clouds and everything that suggests delicate beauty. Will no doubt continue to age, but I’m glad I caught it as a relative youngster.
By Farr Saignee 2008 ($A44, restaurant list)
How interesting. In terms of how this wine drinks, as opposed to what it tastes like, it reminds me most strongly of Chardonnay. Like a worked Chardonnay style, this wine is all about texture, mouthfeel and presence. On the nose, creamy notes alongside fresh berries. There’s nothing overty fruity about this wine, though; rather, the berry notes present as evasive, almost hidden. The palate is full of winemaking in the most positive sense; it’s quite unexpected, blending a creamy, mealy mouthfeel and flavour with fresh fruit; all totally dry and well balanced. A really exciting style.
Kreglinger Vintage Brut 2003 ($A40, retail)
Had trouble with this one. I found this a heavy style, with a lumpen presence in the mouth and little of the fleet delicacy I enjoy with sparkling wine. It’s undeniably flavoursome, and the dosage seems more or less well-judged (perhaps a bit high for me). But it never takes flight through the middle palate, and seems to get stuck half way, the fruit being too broad to maintain movement and flow.

Offcuts: cheap reds

I’ve been slowly accumulating cheap red wines — mostly samples — so thought I’d sit down to a few this evening. In a sense, I enjoy the challenge of tasting inexpensive wines, as they prompt an adjustment not only of one’s expectations, but one’s understanding of the role of wine. I like to think the intent behind such wines is to add a bit of luxury to a weeknight meal, something that is too often a purely functional ritual of nourishment.

What annoys me, though, are wines that seem cynically made, either to a price point or a certain stylistic formula (generically sweet fruit, obvious oak, confected flavours) that shows an intolerable degree of contempt for the consumer’s tastes. Luckily, I found a couple of good’uns this time around.
Kirrihill Clare Valley Shiraz 2008 ($A14.99, sample)
A pretty good effort. At first, quite reticent, with little expressiveness on either nose or palate. It ends up being quite flavoursome, though, with a fair dose of regionality to boot. The nose shows sweet and savoury berries, some pepper and rather lumpy, coffeed oak. There’s a nice vegetal lift too, which seems to me quite regional. The palate shows robust, unrefined flavours and just a touch of generically sweet fruit, along with rough, toasty oak. Quite outrageously tannic and textured for a wine at this price point. The whole is pretty rough and ready, but undeniably generous. It doesn’t fall headlong into an incredibly depressing confectionary fruit flavour, nor into or a dumbing down of the wine’s regional character. Honest and fun.
Mike Press Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2008 ($A10, gift)
A very generous aroma, with plenty of blackberry fruit and lashings of vanillan oak; just what the doctor ordered, really. There’s a slight lift to the aroma too, perhaps from the oak character and a little volatility? In any case, it works well. There’s a nice brambly edge to the fruit too, which adds some welcome complexity and character. The palate is easygoing, and very much in line with the nose. There’s plenty of berries and plums, a hint of pepper, and an oak volume that seems better judged than in previous vintages. The whole seems a bit formless, but I’m not going to complain too much at this price point. Good fruit and exceptionally well-judged styling. 


The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($A16.99, sample)

Notable for pushing sub-regionality in a region and variety renowned for its distinctiveness (and, hence, tendency to homogeneity), I found this wine an extreme expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I’m an occasional fan of this style, especially when in the mood for something outrageously vulgar (more often than I care to admit). But the austerity of this wine pushes the boundaries of drinkability for me. Sweaty, herbaceous aromas cut through with hints of passionfruit and gooseberry. The palate is ultra-dry and searingly acidic. Ultra-varietal, to be sure, but challenging in its purity.
Lightband Brightwater Pinot Noir 2007 ($A25, sample)
Another Kiwi wine, this time from Nelson at the top of the South island. Slightly dull colour here, ruby red with orange at the rim. Certainly not a show pony, visually. The nose is very promising, with expressive spiced cherries against light caramel. Not complex but very characterful. The palate seems a bit light on, with streaks of acidity creating a slight impression of harshness. Starts off well, with quite fleshy fruit, but slims through the mid palate as it heads towards coarse grained tannins and a bit of alcohol heat. The flavour, while distinctive, lacks depth, though I wonder if it needs a few months in the bottle to fill out further? 
Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz 2008 ($A30, sample)
Seriously regional aromas of earth, boysenberry, flint and cocoa powder. It’s deep and powerful, mostly savoury and very attractive. It’s a very masculine aroma, like stubble on a cheek, wild and strong. The palate is, as hoped, equally dense with powerful fruit, seeming to stain the insides of the mouth (or so I like to imagine). More sweet boysenberries and tasty oak, plus a bunch of savoury complexities. Architecturally, it’s a bit formless and seems to bellyflop onto the tongue rather than place its feet with any sort of precision. Still, it’s hard to argue with so much great flavour, so best to approach this wine wearing a hedonist’s, not an intellectual’s, cap.


A few glasses consumed over the past few nights. Very casual drinking; vintages mostly, shamefully, not observed. The best of them was a small pour of Crawford River Nektar. I wouldn’t call this wine elegant, but it’s fascinating for its structure and flavour profile nonetheless. Opulent and perfumed on entry, it proceeds down a sweet path before a range of crystalline flavours fan out through the middle palate. It then turns wonderfully dry, flinty almost, and quite textured through the after palate and finish. Very refreshing, complex and flavoursome, and quite excellent with tiramisu.
By contrast, a glass of the Dal Zotto Arneis seemeda bit tired. Still crunchy and relatively crisp thanks to some bouncy acidity, the flavour profile nonetheless came across as ever so slightly oxidised. Perhaps the bottle had been sitting out a while. There was enough here, though, to suggest a pleasant, full-flavoured white in the right circumstances.
From Gippsland comes the 2008 Narkoojee Pinot Noir. Pinot’s one of those varietals that, to my taste, doesn’t wear a confectionary flavour profile well, seeming to cheapen quickly. This treads a fine line, with a robust, quite characterful entry turning to simpler, rounder boiled lollies through the mid-palate, though it retains a pleasant rusticity to the end. There’s enough complexity here to sustain some interest but, unlike a few years ago, my expectations at this price point ($20 retail) have risen to desire a level of finesse not present here.


Frog Rock Rosé 2009 ($A15, sample)

A Mudgee rosé made from Merlot. Alas, not my preferred style of rosé. The nose is quite restrained, with muted aromas of dried cranberries, undergrowth and sweet basil, curiously attractive but lacking the level of expressiveness I would have liked to see. In the mouth, I’m not convinced by the balance of residual sugar and intensity, the former being too high and the latter too low. The acid also seems restrained, such that I find this wine lacks the essential quality of refreshment I seek in a rosé. The back palate is a little dryer than the mid-palate, which seems to tighten the latter part of the wine’s line to good effect.

I’m not sure if I’ve been let down by the wine or my expectations of it; it’s certainly clean and would no doubt taste good at cellar door after a hard day’s sampling.

Tahbilk Chardonnay 2008 ($A15, sample)

Fruit seems on the riper side, with a nose of Golden Queen peaches and a savoury, almost minerally, note too. It’s pretty rich and nostril-filling, if not overly refined. That savouriness translates on the palate as a steely, slightly hard acidity that seems at odds with what is quite plush stonefruit. If the two halves never quite meet in the middle, they nevertheless achieve a wine of decent flavour and refreshment. In particular, the wine moves quite briskly through the mouth, retaining liveliness while offering decent weight and generosity too. I’m liking this more and more as it sits in the glass. A bit jingly jangly, but in the end not bad at all.

Charles Melton Nine Popes 1996 ($NA, retail)

After a moment of mustiness passes, masses of tobacco and sweet, pure fruit. Indeed, this seems to be drinking well at the moment. I last had a bottle of this over two years ago, and at the time I remember thinking it still relatively primary in some respects. And although there’s plenty of fruit left, the wine seems more resolved than at last tasting, with a cleaner mouthfeel and greater complexity. Lots of savouriness whirls around that core of brilliant red fruit which, while simple on its own terms, is a nice foil to leather-like bottle age and general maturity. Very enjoyable.

Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2005 ($NA, gift)

Wow, a big mouthful of complex Pinot. This wine has a lot of impact and is a dense, chewy expression of the variety. A fair bit of chocolate oak, but the fruit’s character and intensity make the wine, showing a range of moods from mineral and sous-bois through to dense plum. So it’s not the most subtle wine; sometimes, a big smack in the face is exactly what I need. Quite a masculine style while retaining sufficient Pinot elegance throughout. Yum.