Equipo Navazos La Bota de Manzanilla 42

The art of preceding a meal with fortified wine is need of revival.

To be fair, I don’t often drink fino sherry, but every time I do, I feel I ought to indulge more often. This wine was served in the context of a tasting and placed against an Australian fino from Seppeltsfield. Although the local wine was flavoursome and refreshing, this is on quite another level.

Overtly complex, this is a wine of outstanding finesse in the context of a wine style that can be fairly pungent. Classic aromas of nuts and sea spray combine with notes that are so far from table wine they seem to reside in alien terrain — this is the pleasure of fino styles and for those with a taste for these wines (like me) there’s simply no substitute.

In the mouth, tremendous verve and impact. It’s not a heavy wine and moves through the palate with good articulation, fanning its flavours across the tongue with precision. There are a great many things going on in terms of flavour profile, a mix of aldehydic and fresh points that recalls avant garde fragrance as much as wine. As good an aperitif as this would make, it also screams for food that might match its piquancy.

Excellent wine.

Equipo Navazos
Price: $A67
Closure: Cork
Source: Sample

Robert Stein Riesling 2012

I’ve not tasted a Robert Stein Riesling before, and this aroused my interest immediately for two reasons. Firstly, its price positions it amongst the more expensive Rieslings in the country. Secondly, its winemaker Jacob Stein has worked the vintage in Germany on several occasions, so it’s reasonable to expect some influence may have crept into the approach with this wine.

Thankfully, this isn’t Mudgee forced into the Mosel, and yet it’s far from Riesling in the classically pristine, dry Australian form too. The aromatics, firstly, are infused with a mix of high toned florals and much richer, more savoury notes that move from lime pulp to paw paw. It’s a slightly twisted version of a bath bomb, with quite piercing aromas that never settle into entirely comfortable territory.

The palate has good weight and impact, with a decent amount of acid that is offset by some apparent sweetness. There’s also a thread of textural phenolics that runs through the after palate, adding a chalky mouthfeel and contributing to the wine’s apparent structure. I particularly like the purity of the mid-palate’s fruit, where a burst of citrus shines clearly before the wine moves through its more textural dimensions. While this doesn’t strike me as an austere wine, its acid and phenolics may prove challenging for some drinkers accustomed to more straightforward expressions of this variety. Having said that, the J.J. Prüm I had the other day was vastly more acidic and less approachable than this.

For my part, I think it’s great producers are fiddling a bit with Riesling in Australia, creating wines with different profiles and characters. While the purity of our mainstream styles can be wonderful, I’ve got plenty of time for things like this too.

Robert Stein
Price: $A40
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Cherubino Porongurup Riesling 2012

I had an interesting conversation with a friend today about regional styles and things that might be considered “traditional” or “typical” of a region. At the very least, such ideas are problematic and mutable, and perhaps not very useful, yet they are tenacious. I think regional stereotypes appeal to our need to create taxonomies and to contain things within easily understood boxes, and it’s true that stylistic threads which run through wine regions aren’t always without foundation. Yet with as many exceptions as there are examples, are we better advised to discuss stylistic typicité with some caution?

For example, Great Southern Rieslings have a reputation for austerity, and it’s true that some show both a finer countenance and more pronounced acid than some Clare and Eden Valley wines, for example. For me, though, this doesn’t automatically translate to a forbidding character; indeed, I find the particular aromas and flavours expressed by many wines of this region to have a deliciousness that encourages generous drinking, even as young wines. The regional stereotype of searingly acidic wines that demand cellar time might have been earned by a few bottles over time, but it does a disservice to many beautiful wines too.

This wine demonstrates my point. It’s completely dry, with nice acid (pH of 2.97 and TA of 7.8 g/L) and a flavour profile that’s more about florals and lime oil than anything pulpy or juicy. Yet in the mouth in particular it’s a wine that flows with ease, spreading fine flavour across the tongue even as it maintains good movement. The mid-palate is almost weighty but kept on track thanks to some attractive texture through the after palate. The wine rested on lees for several months post-fermentation, and this accounts for some savoury, reductive notes that lightly brush across the nose and palate. If anything, I’m wishing for a slightly more vivacious, etched experience here, and the wine borders on relaxation at times.

As with many Cherubino wines I’ve tasted of late, this isn’t structured to prevent immediate enjoyment, even as it suggests some medium term cellaring.

Update: day two and the wine’s singing even more clearly. If anything, its balance has improved after being open a while.

Cherubino Wines
Price: $35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Willi Schaefer Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2009

It’s fun travelling through the vineyards in this part of the world because, despite a recent consolidation of holdings, parcels can still be quite small. Each is discretely but clearly signposted with the name of the vineyard owner, so to walk around Wehlener Sonnenuhr, for example, is to see a roll call of famous names: J.J. Prüm, S.A. Prüm, Willi Schafer, and so on. Joy for the wine geek.

From a vintage that yielded fuller wines comes this rather buxom Spätlese from Graach-based producer Willi Schaefer. Despite a striking richness of fruit, this has more than a whiff of Wehlener Sonnenuhr minerality, chiselling both nose and palate with angles of slate and savouriness. Fruit is very much in a tropical spectrum, with mango and paw paw alongside tauter notes of citrus and orange blossom. This requires a good deal of balancing acid in the mouth, and this wine’s particular trick is that it constantly threatens to spill out of its dress while never quite doing so. Mineral flavours are key — shapewear to the fruit’s love handles — consistently pulling the wine back into some semblance of line.

This is rather rich for a Spätlese and I wouldn’t be surprised if the fruit that went into it could have been classified riper. While I can certainly appreciate the flavours and generosity on offer, my personal tastes lean towards a tauter line with, perhaps, a bit more acid and texture. Still, undeniably sophisticated and delicious.

Willi Schaefer
Price: N/A
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

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

Gilligan Roussanne Marsanne 2013

It’s interesting to watch Australian winemakers grapple with white Rhône varieties. Tahbilk’s prototypical, straightforward approach to its Marsanne is just one of many options, and it’s fun to see everything from predominantly textural styles right through to worked, voluptuous wines. This wine falls mostly into the latter camp.

I was most remiss in not writing up the 2012 vintage of this wine; it was a taut, linear expression of these varieties and one that was very much to my taste. This swings in a slightly different direction. Firstly, it’s packed with flavour. There’s an abundance of honeysuckle and beeswax, very ripe and plush in character. Pricklier edges pervade the aroma but never distort its fundamentally generous, round shape.

In the mouth, strikingly full and mouthfilling. It has good intensity of flavour and, despite its volume, is quite sprightly in the mouth. The mid-palate is quite fleshy and fruit-sweet, leading to a tauter after palate that shows some herbal influences. Texture transitions here to a lightly raspy phase before the wine finishes on a beautifully clean, floral note.

While I enjoyed the 2012’s uncompromising palate structure, this wine is rather more approachable and should win friends more easily. In any case, a delicious expression of these confounding varieties.

Note: the same disclaimers I mentioned in my review of the current Gilligan red apply here, too.

Gilligan Wines
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

Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese 2012

There’s an exuberance to some Riesling styles of which one should quickly take advantage. Then there’s this sort of Riesling, one that screams to be left alone for a while and, if forced out of its bottle now, will kick and scream its way into your mouth. In fact, the bottle I had last night was pretty much all arms and legs, gangly to the point of awkwardness. Yet the components are there and, even during the course of our all-too-brief encounter, it improved considerably.

As I suggested at some length in my note on the 2008 edition, this is a wine style that succeeds or fails on its fine balance, as well as on the tension between lusciousness of fruit and taut minerality. While the 2012 is a bit awkward on entry, clumsy on its mid-palate transition and strident through its after palate, it’s clearly a wine of inherent balance and exciting contrasts. There’s an impactful thrust of almost tropical fruit at the front of the palate, enlivened by a hint of CO2 spritz. This fullness is abruptly whisked away from the mid-palate onwards by a searing cut of finely textured acid. This end of the wine fascinates me most. A streak of savoury minerality (accompanied for now by a noticeable whiff of sulfur) is inseparable from fine phenolics and even, bubbly acid. Granted, this textural component isn’t yet fully integrated with the wine’s fruit and residual sugar swell, but I’m sure it will come together with some time.

Awkward for now. Still, a delicious wine and one that promises so much down the track.

J.J. Prüm
Price: $96
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail