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

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

Tyrrell's Vat 5 NVC Shiraz 2003

Having last tasted this wine in 2008, I felt it was high time to crack another bottle and see how it’s tracking. The short answer is: very well indeed.

The nose is a little muted, though some encouragement via swirling releases dense, liquerous fruit aromas that suggest dark plums and black berries. What’s especially gratifying, though, is a sense of definite bottle age that runs through every aroma, adding complexity and decaying elegance. Tobacco, leather, earth; this is just so regional.

The nose’s casual whisperings give way to a full-throttle expression of Hunter Shiraz on the palate, packed with density, impact and, happily, freshness. This is absolutely in the zone for my taste: it doesn’t want for primary fruit and structure, yet the tertiary notes are in full flower too. Flavours span a wide range: minerals, dark berries, earth leather, spice, tobacco. Structure remains firm and highly textural, slightly rough acid giving the line flow and sparkle, silty tannins contributing volume and texture.

As per my previous note, this is in some respects an atypical Hunter Shiraz, lacking the measured body and fleet flavours of some. But it’s a compelling view into the region in its own right and shows how great this style can be at the seasonal extremes. I’m thoroughly enjoying this.

Price: $A30
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Trawling back through the Full Pour archives, I see I never wrote this up on release, which was rather remiss of me. This wine brought me back to Wynns Black Label, and I remember enjoying its generosity and correctness at the time. Tasting it again now, the impression remains one of correctness and regional character.

The nose is immediately varietal, showing oodles of the (to me) deliciously leafy side of Coonawarra Cabernet, if also a tad too much oak to be considered totally balanced at this point. Beyond this, a surge of clean cassis emerges through the aroma profile along with an edge of blackberries, edging past fully ripe into jammy territory. Not distractingly so, though; just enough to suggest a fairly generous interpretation of this regional style.

The palate resists outsize scale, instead remaining fairly linear. Flavour registers early on entry, dark fruits cascading over the tongue towards a mellifluous middle palate that sings briefly before fine, chalky tannins assert themselves. This isn’t even close to being a fully resolved wine, which befits the style but also means tannin freaks, like me, will still find plenty to enjoy here, even after several years of bottle age. The after palate continues in this structured vein, fruit compressed somewhat as a result, before a lengthy, oak-driven finish rounds off the line. Clean, sinewy, restrained; this is Cabernet very much in the classic mould, a hint of extra-ripe fruit the only question mark over its form.

Very, very good.

Price: $A30
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Johnson's Block Shiraz Cabernet 2003

This wine ticks so many boxes. It’s a single vineyard bottling (tick) celebrating an ostensibly remarkable site (tick) full of old vines (tick) in a classic region that is on the comeback (tick). It’s also a quintessentially Australian blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon (tick). What could go wrong?

The answer is: something, but I’m not exactly sure what. It’s not that it’s unenjoyable; I’m finishing the bottle as I type. But I’m feeling unsatisfied somehow, as if the intent behind the wine is mismatched with what ended up in the bottle, promising a level of interest and sophistication that just isn’t there.

Perhaps I should just focus on what’s in my glass. It’s my second night with this wine. The first was characterised by a sweetness of fruit that was, frankly, unbalanced with respect to the oak character and marginalised savoury complexity. After being open for a while, it’s showing to greater advantage. The nose strikes me as heavily influenced by the Cabernet component, with a distinct leafiness sitting atop cedar oak and deep berry fruit. It is composed and just restrained enough to create tension and some mystery.

The palate, thankfully, is calmer in fruit character than yesterday, though still deeply sweet in profile. Bright red fruit has been replaced by a compote of darker berries doused in vanilla cream oak. In contrast to the nose, the Shiraz appears dominant on the palate, contributing generous blackberry jam fruit flavour. The oak is borderline overdone for my taste, though I must admit it appears of high quality and is delicious in its own right. I’m missing a sense of detail and complexity, and the wine is bludgeoning me a little with its density and flavour profile. Thankfully, a sweep of acidity livens up the after palate, in conjunction with well-structured, abundant tannins. I’m sure one could leave this wine alone for a few more years yet if so inclined. In fact, I suspect that’s the ticket to greater interest. Perhaps those with greater exposure to old Coonawarra wines can chime in here.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate
Price: $A35
Closure: Cork

Tintara Reserve Shiraz 2003

I’m a sucker for McLaren Vale Shiraz, and tend to prefer its flavour profile to some other nearby regions. There often seems a thread of bitter chocolate running through the most typical wines that meshes well with a what is frequently a dark fruit flavour profile. Yes, I declare a decided preference for this style, and it’s gratifying to have an especially good example in front of me now.

Really complex aromas of cocoa, fresh plums and freshly harvested root vegetables (pulled out by the stalks). There’s also smoky oak of the high quality kind. The smells are great, but what impresses me most is the nose’s density and coherence. It’s akin to the highest quality drapery; luxurious, textured and totally seamless. A bit of bottle age too, as much a mellow glow as any particular aroma.

Langhorne Creek Area Red Blend 2003

Only this afternoon I was listening to Max Allen’s Crush podcasts, which briefly discuss various Australian wine regions in Mr Allen’s typically fanciful style. The episode on Langhorne Creek discusses at some length the relative invisibility of this South Australian region, although plantings there are extensive. Fortuitously, I came across this wine when rummaging through the “cellar” at home. Not only is it a Langhorne Creek wine, but (according to the back label, anyway) is made expressly to showcase the region’s qualities. “Created” by Cellarmasters but made at Bleasdale, the wine was assembled from several growers’ grapes;

Château Pierre-Bise Chaume 1er Cru des Coteaux du Layon 2003

Curiously, I believe this appellation no longer “exists,” having been redefined out of existence by the INAO. Of course on anything but a technical level that is a ridiculousness; wines from this area now go by the “Chaume” label, pure and simple. At least, I think so…

This is a sweet wine made from the Chenin Blanc grape. Yes, I’m still tasting Loire Chenins. I’m kind of addicted to them at this stage, and happily so, as there’s nothing remotely like them from a local perspective. This one shows a rich golden hue, suggesting some development or at least a degree of lusciousness. The nose is forthright and inviting, with notes of pineapple, passionfruit and enough edgy flint to keep things from becoming too easy. Some complexity, with honeyed notes contributing to the overall profile.

On the palate, an explosive continuation of tropical fruit is most noticeable, but the mouthfeel and associated structure is what gets me. There’s a nice interplay between fine acidity and considerable viscosity that helps the wine to appear both fresh and rich at the same time. The flavour profile turns to citrussy sourness on the after palate, before a long, herb-tinged finish.

Nice wine. Unlike some dry Chenin-based wines, this one tends towards opulence rather than intellectuality, without sacrificing character and a measure of complexity too.

Château Pierre-Bise
Price: $NA (500mL)
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: September 2008

Tyrrell's Vat 5 NVC Shiraz 2003

This label seemed to disappear from the Tyrrell’s portfolio after the 2004 vintage. I recall reading something about damage to the NVC vineyard, but the details escape me. In any case, I have enjoyed it on numerous occasions, and the vineyard seems to impart an earthiness that’s quite regional and perhaps even more prominent than in some other Hunter wines.

A forthright, savoury nose of wet earth, cooked meat, an iodine-like note and concentrated, slightly stressed fruit. It’s deep and dark, and bulkier than many of its regional siblings. In the mouth, intriguing despite dimensions that extend towards clumsiness. Savoury berry fruits flood the mouth on entry, and are joined on the mid-palate by assertive minerality and an equally assertive, astringent mouthfeel. Despite the benefit of a few years in bottle, this wine is still vibrantly primary, with rustic acidity and chunky tannins key to its current balance. The after palate and finish are puckeringly dry.

To be critical, the fruit is slightly dead tasting, and the overall impression is one of heft rather than elegance. Still, it’s a clear view into vintage conditions and perhaps all the more interesting for it. In fact, if you ever find yourself facing a bottle of the 2003 and 2004 NVC Shiraz, they provide a great insight into how vintage conditions can influence a wine’s character. Personally, I loved the 2004 wine. Not a renowned red wine vintage in the Hunter by any means, 2004 nevertheless gave birth to a light, funky, elegant NVC Shiraz. I wish I had more bottles of it.

Price: $A30
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: September 2008

Moss Wood Semillon 2003

One from the cellar.

Shy nose with hints of cream, astringent herb, grapefruit and a touch of tropical richness too. I’m smelling an aged dimension to the aroma profile in the form of light toastiness, but it’s still quite primary. A pretty, complex whisper of a nose.

The palate shows greater generosity. A cool, crisp entry that bristles with fresh acid texture. You’d never know this wine had already spent several years in bottle. Steely acidity carries astringent citrus flavours through the mid-palate without significant pause. Here, mouthfeel shows a softer, creamier face, without subverting the wine’s significant structure. Intensity is quite impressive, and there’s some complexity of flavour too, although it’s all quite austere in profile and, consequently, challenging to describe in terms other than “flint” or “mineral.” A pleasant lift through the after palate precedes a long, clean finish. It’s in these last stages that some fruit weight finally appears, and it is of the grapefruit and citrus pith variety.

The last bottle I tried, perhaps two years ago, showed quite differently. It was more generous, softer and quite luscious, and the winemaking treatment (battonage, etc) was clearly evident. I wonder if this wine is going through a phase, or perhaps there’s some bottle variation at play? On the basis of this example, I’d be looking to check on its progress in two to three years’ time. I don’t have a lot of experience with this label, though, so others’ insights are welcome.

Moss Wood
: $A30
: Stelvin
Date tasted
: September 2008