Main Ridge Pinot Meunier 2012

This proved a bright spark in amongst a line-up of significantly more assertive wines, including some impressive Chardonnays and a full-throttle Barbaresco. In its own way, it provided just as much pleasure.

To be sure, this lacks the immediate distinctiveness of Pinot Noir from the same region, and as a consequence comes across with less panache. The aroma is full of spice, squashed red fruit and more savoury components, and shows good articulation and clarity. There’s a transparency without simplicity that I like about how this smells, and the aromas are clearly apart from many other wines, even if they don’t take an especially eccentric route.

The palate is light and delicious. As with the nose, spice takes centre stage and thickly overlays bright red fruit and some sappy notes. I like how this sits in the mouth; there’s good fullness of flavour through the mid-palate, even as the wine struggles to achieve anything beyond moderate weight. If there’s a flaw in its construction, it’s length; this is fairly short in terms of fruit, though I note spice does provide an echo of continuity through the finish.

Within Main Ridge Estate’s portfolio, this is clearly the odd one out varietally, but I’m grateful to Nat White for continuing to produce one of the few straight Pinot Meuniers in Australia. This quiet wine is a refreshing pause in amongst so many Mornington Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays vying for one’s attention.

Main Ridge Estate
Price: $A65
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Blue Poles Reserve Merlot 2011

Time to check in on the new release of one of Australia’s few deadly serious renditions of Merlot.

This always tends to savouriness, and the 2011 vintage is no exception. On opening, firm aromas of char, black olive, charcuterie and bitumen. There’s a sappy freshness that underlines these robust notes, giving the aroma a sweet tension that bounces between hard and soft. I like the contrasts, and it’s so beautiful to smell an Australian Merlot that has been made with angularity and savouriness in mind. Keeping in mind this is a very young wine — not yet released in fact — it’s somewhat churlish to note the oak aromas are ever-so-slightly prominent right now, but nothing that suggests any fundamental imbalance.

The palate is as uncompromising as the nose suggests. Structurally abundant, this is a fairly firm experience right now, driven by fine tannins and a firm yet well-integrated acid line. Flavours hit the tongue with impact and clarity, and it’s here the wine’s red fruit is most in evidence, gliding through the mid-palate with a certain elegance. The after palate is quite high toned and edgy at the moment, attributes I suspect will become less apparent as the wine ages. A particularly fine finish closes the line on a positive note.

History with this label suggests some medium term cellaring will bring substantial benefits, and I’d be giving any bottles a rest before tucking in. Though young, it’s a wine that shows fundamental balance and satisfying savouriness.

Update: day two and the wine is opening up nicely. Its fruit has stepped forward and is showing a sweeter countenance, making the wine somewhat easier to approach.

Blue Poles Vineyard
Price: $A40
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Eloquesta A Boy with Fruit No. 1 NV

With his previous releases, Stuart Olsen with his Eloquesta label skirted the edges of eccentricity, but this release blasts through any vestigial sense of convention. Hipster-bait to be sure, this non-vintage mixed black blend (along with some Viognier) is, so declares the press release, more about region and winemaker than variety.

As an aside, how nice to see a producer acknowledge that, yes, people do play a role in winegrowing, and not just as impossibly romanticised shepherds of Nature’s Will as grapes make their way into the bottle.

No, this is a celebration of the winemaker, and it’s a good argument for placing an interesting person at the centre of a wine project. I’ve not had an opportunity to talk with Stuart Olsen aside from the occasional online interaction, but clearly there’s a curious, exploratory mind at work, even if some of the ideas being juggled (harvesting “in line with the lunar cycle”) are less interesting to me than others.

In the end, we judge these ideas through the wine produced, and I’m happy to note this is a very distinctive, enjoyable wine. It wears its eccentricity on its sleeve, and this smells notably unlike the mainstream. Its aroma is deeply fruited and forward, with a sappy edge and a general air of savouriness that underline the fruit and take it into less familiar territory. There’s an interplay of fresh, vibrant fruit, nougat oak and aldehydic cocoa powder that, for me, strikes a good balance.

The palate is very supple and establishes this as a wine that drinks well right now. It’s very giving, with a relaxed acid line that allows the mid-palate some expansiveness, perhaps at the expense of some tension and precision. Flavours are, again, an interesting mix of freshness and age, just as successful as on the nose, but with the added attraction of ripe, rather plush tannins through the after palate. Not a wine of great impact, perhaps, but drinkability is high, and the flavours are most distinctive.

I really like what’s happening with this label and I look forward to more.

Eloquesta by Stuart Olsen
Price: $A28
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Blue Poles Shiraz 2011

It appears I’ve not reviewed a Blue Poles Shiraz before, despite having tasted several. Time to fix that with this 2011 vintage release.

The fine folks here at Full Pour have never made any pretence to objectivity, and I’m certainly not going to buck that trend now. The fact is, I’m not a huge fan of what Margaret River does to Shiraz. That’s a massive generalisation, to be sure, but over the years I’ve learned to expect a middle-of-the-road expression of this variety, neither truly cool climate in style nor embracingly warm, such that it ends up occupying a middle ground that satisfies few of my urges.

Not that you, valued reader, are required to feel the same way. Indeed, for lovers of the regional idiom, this is a cracking quaffer, full of red fruited generosity and a hint of spice. There’s nary a bump along the way here, save for some acid that has yet to integrate and which ends up seeming slightly orange juicy through the after palate. But it fits within the overall briskness of the wine, all crunchy cranberries and strawberry tops, privileging freshness above complexity, movement above weight. As such, it’s a good lunch style and one that should pair with a wide range of food. In this, it reminds me of many light Italian styles.

A light, bright pop of a wine. Style aside, this would be vastly more interesting to order off a list than yet another large volume Shiraz blend of the sort that exists with depressing regularity at this price point.

Blue Poles Vineyard
Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Olek Bondonio Langhe Nebbiolo 2011

Wandering around Roostock earlier this year, a rather dashing fellow caught my eye. Placed next to the irrepressible Brad Hickey, his stall was poorly attended, so I took the opportunity to taste through the range.

The man turned out to be Olek Bondonio, Piedmontese producer of a small range of reds, some made of the usual suspects (Nebbiolo, Barbera) others showcasing less common varieties (for example, Grignolino). On tasting, what they shared was an honest deliciousness that instantly won me over. I wasted no time in placing an order.

I decanted this the first evening and tasted it over two nights. It has benefited from as much time as I’ve been able to give it. Initially bound up with tannin and the sort of flavour profile that makes one wonder whether there was any fruit used in the making of the wine at all, this has opened up to become a classically proportioned wine, albeit one that exists almost entirely in a savoury dimension. The nose smells more like essential oils than fruit, perfumed in a decorative rather than nutritive way. So much the better as far as I’m concerned; it’s a very pretty aroma, redolent of flowers and spice and undergrowth.

The palate is certainly more yielding than it was when I first opened the bottle, but remains a satisfyingly tannic experience. It’s only light to medium bodied but shows good power and intensity of flavour. There are pure savoury fruits at its core, brown and red in character, while a range of less straightforward notes play at the edges. It’s quite rustic, really, and I don’t use that term as a euphemism for anything faulty, rather as an indication of the transparency and straightforwardness of the wine. A very clean, lingering finish practically begs for another taste.

This isn’t the last word in complexity or sophistication, but what’s here is honest. A delicious wine.

Olek Bondonio
Price: $50
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Domaine Pierre Amiot et Fils Grand Cru Clos de la Roche 2010

Opening bottles too soon was a bit of a theme this past weekend, and with this Burgundy I bring you the second of three tales of vinfanticide (the third bottle was a 2010 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay — talk about tight). Unlike the Prüm I wrote about a couple of days ago, though, this opened up relatively quickly and provided more immediate drinking pleasure.

On opening, a high toned splat of a wine, with gorgeously specific savoury aromas of beetroot and flowers mixing with a streak of minerality and a good deal of oak. With a bit of air, this opens out somewhat but the wine’s character is fundamentally fine and light.

Structurally, this was much too firm initially, a hard palate structure giving admirable drive but obscuring some flavours. As with the nose, though, this opened up after half an hour or so of swirling, shedding its acidic stridency and softening to reveal a sophisticated, luscious mouthfeel. While it’s not a wine to convert lovers of McLaren Vale Shiraz to Pinot, this strikes me as everything that’s good about the grape in its most classical expression – light, intense, precise, focused. Everything’s here and I suspect it will be a thing of beauty in a few years’ time.

If drinking now, be patient. It’s worth a bit of glass time.

Domaine Piere Amiot et Fils
Price: $130
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz 2010

Langi is a curious beast in the context of Grampians Shiraz. Its site is notably apart from the bulk of the region’s vineyards, clustered as they are around Great Western, Rhymney, Moyston and Ararat. This comes through in the wines too, but what’s perhaps even more interesting is the difference between sites within the estate vineyard. The Cliff Edge is quite a different beast from the flagship label, and I’ve often found it a wine that’s easier to love. I’m revisiting this wine some time after first having tasted it, and was fortunate enough to have a glass of the 2012 in front of me at the same time. The differences are striking, as are the similarities.

Over the course of several hours, this changed quite a few times, going from a notably stalky wine on both nose and palate to something almost shockingly approachable, redolent of sweet licorice allsorts and brown spice. Initially, a certain astringency of tannin pinches the after palate, truncating the wine’s line compared to the significantly less constricted 2012. It was interesting to watch the wines even out somewhat; while the 2012 flows freely down its line right from the start, this takes its time to open out, eventually reaching a liquidity of palate structure that I find seductive.

What unites both these wines is a particularly attractive flavour profile that drips of dark fruit, spice, florals and lusciousness. While some differences in winemaking between the 2010 and 2012 are evident, the character of the fruit sings clearly and unites the two wines. I’ll save the debate on how best a winemaker can illuminate the special qualities of the fruit he or she works with for another time. The upshot here is that it’s a fucking delicious wine.

Mount Langi Ghiran
Price: $A30
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Cherubino Shiraz 2009

Stylistically, this occupies a middle ground between the Acacia and Riversdale Shirazes I tasted recently (although this wine is from an earlier vintage than either of those two). It has suggestions of the Acacia’s palate weight while channeling the Riversdale’s almost brutal savouriness and sinewy palate structure. Interestingly, the 2010 and 2011 vintages of this wine come from the Acacia and Riversdale vineyards respectively, whereas the vineyard source here isn’t specified (on the Cherubino Web site at any rate).

It’s also quite fascinating, because it’s a wine that, over several hours of contemplative tasting, never entirely yielded to me. It’s not a matter of being somehow unresolved; this is drinking quite well, really. Its style, though, with a focus on muscular savouriness, is one that can’t help but dodge easy deliciousness. I wondered at one point whether a wine style that keeps insisting on its form and sophistication at the expense of much else takes the idea too far; whether some fruit might have been brought further forward to provide a way in, and whether its noticeable reduction might have been dialled back at bit. But, in the end, I’m glad of its balance, and I enjoy the way it insists the drinker rise a little in his seat to taste.

It’s a wine that shows great tannin, and its relatively high — by mainstream Australian standards — pH of 3.9 came as something of a surprise when I looked up the technical data. Not forcing it down to a more textbook level, though, shows great winemaking judgement, because the wine’s palate structure is fantastic as is, and a brighter streak of acid might destroy the dark, dense way this moves through the mid-palate in particular. Fruit weaves in and out of this rope-like architecture, occasionally swelling to a point stopping just short of generosity, then folding back into the dark fabric of the wine. Oak, though present, seems to work at the level of density and mouthfeel rather than adding any obvious sweetness or overt flavour.

It’s been good to taste a few Frankland River Shirazes of late. It has confirmed my view that this region, and its neighbours in Great Southern, is capable of producing some of the most distinctive, challenging and sophisticated Shiraz in Australia.

Cherubino Wines
Price: $65
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Gilligan Shiraz Mourvèdre Grenache 2012

In this slippery world of wine writers’ ethics, best to begin with a few disclaimers. Leigh Gilligan, proprietor of Gilligan Wines, is:

  1. a McLaren Vale legend;
  2. a friend; and
  3. a partner in Dowie Doole, the winery with whom I did vintage last year.

That said, I had no involvement in the making of this wine and approach it, as usual, with the perspective of a curious onlooker. I’ve tasted previous vintages of this label and have always found it a surprisingly sophisticated, savoury interpretation of the GSM blend. This continues in that line and, to my palate, is the best release so far.

The aroma is as much McLaren Vale as anything else: rich plums of liquerous intensity, fairly generous oak and a fluidity of character that is the hallmark of this region’s delicious red wines. Indeed, the Vale’s tendency to impart a round, angle-less character to its reds is one of the things I like most about this region, and it’s in full evidence here. There’s a savoury depth, though, that becomes quite striking with some swirling and glass time. Having worked with Shiraz from the Old Rifle Range vineyard, I know it tends towards a dark savouriness with overtones of aniseed. Mourvèdre, too, makes a noticeably meaty contribution to the aroma, such that the whole ends up much darker and more adult than it first seems.

The palate gives more of the same, a rush of fruit onto the mid-palate its most notable feature. It’s all so easy, one could overlook the fact that there’s some good complexity of flavour at work, with licorice allsorts playing alongside vegetal Mourvèdre and some bright red Grenache fruit. I like that it’s both plush and quite savoury, and that its tannins are chalky and fine, just prominent enough to lightly dry the finish.

There’s an honesty at work here — a connection both to region and varietal composition — that translates to a generous, delicious wine. Truly a wine for drinking.

Gilligan Wines
Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet et Fils Bourgogne Rouge 2010

I’m getting old.

The last time I tasted this label was a few years ago when the 2005 was current. Re-reading my earlier note, much might apply to this wine save for a firmer acid structure, not surprising considering vintage conditions. The same light (and quite pleasing) colour, slightly confected red fruits and general air of simplicity. There are a few savoury angles too — a hint of undergrowth, some snapped twig, the suggestion of a child running through a favourite patch of forest — that add interest, although one would never accuse this wine of being overly complex.

This wine begs the question: what’s the point? As an Australian drinker with access to — at last — a selection of great local Pinots at reasonable prices, what’s the value of a cheap Burgundy that isn’t any great shakes in the distinctiveness department? I suppose this proves, at the very least, that small French producers can make technically sound wines at a reasonable price point, which hasn’t always been something to be taken for granted. Otherwise, as pleasant as this is, it lacks dimensions of character and intensity that might elevate it beyond an easy weeknight drink.

Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet et Fils
Price: $A23
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail