Dindima Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2005

Interesting wine on paper, this. It’s a new release wine yet, at five years of age, relatively old to be so. Not that this is a bad thing; one could argue a lot of red wines are released way too young. Still, it does raise interesting questions even before tasting around style and intent. To the wine, then.

Decidedly herbaceous. Not breathtakingly so, and whether you will find its piercing cut grass and mulch notes objectionable will likely depend on your tolerance for Bordeaux blends on the leaner, greener side of things. There are also aromas of (slightly too much) vanilla and and dark, concentrated fruits, sort of cherry-like but deeper than this descriptor suggests. 
The palate shows considerable tannin and I suspect this is one reason why the wine has been held back for release. Entry is lean and slippery, and the middle palate does not build much in terms of volume. There’s an intense, focused streak of fruit right down the middle of the line; this feels pretty austere. Chalky tannins build through the middle and after palates, I question whether they are fully ripe; like the nose, it’s all a bit edgy without being completely over the top. Quite a long finish, all told.
A marginal wine that I suspect will divide drinkers. I like its brightness and focus, but acknowledge it will be a bit too lean for some.

Price: $A35
Closure: Diam
Source: Sample

Flaxman Shiraz 2005

In response to my write-up of the 2007 Shiraz, Colin Sheppard of Flaxman Wines very kindly sent me a bottle each of the 2005 and 2006 versions so I could compare the site and its wine across vintages. After having tasted all three, and quite apart from notions of quality, one thing I can confirm is this wine’s transparency.

This one, from 2005, is my firm favourite. The nose is slightly muted but terribly rewarding once you find your way in; there are aromas of fresh, damp earth, plum skins, crushed granite and ripened twigs. In short, it’s complex, dark, etched and very adult, but with a core of plum fruit that issues a seductive call to taste. There are oak flavours in there too, in a gently nutty, nougat mode, very much secondary and well-integrated. I’m not getting a lot of age on the nose, though admittedly I never tasted this on release.
The palate is quite full in presence and volume, though this strikes me above all else as an elegant wine, despite its dimensions (and 15% abv). This is mostly due to a flavour profile that is precise and delicate, with a firm streak of minerality that cuts through juicy plums and tart skins. The whole is linear and direct in terms of how it moves through the mouth, with steadily increasing complexity and less fruit influence through the back palate and finish. 
If you have some of this in your cellar, consider yourself lucky.

Flaxman Wines
Price: $NA
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Castagna Un Segreto 2005

A Sangiovese Shiraz blend from Beechworth.

This wine raised a lot of questions for me – on the role of blending, on whether a wine is worth ageing, on what is value for money. It also had quite a few of the answers once I came to terms with it. 
For me, on the basis of this wine and a couple of others (notably the much cheaper Pizzini), Shiraz and Sangiovese are undoubtedly synergistic companions. The way aromas intertwine on the nose here is very exciting. Orange peel, almond meal, tonka bean – it all begins to smell rather like a Guerlain concoction before a big hit of nougat and vanilla oak reminds me it’s for drinking, not just smelling. 
The palate is sinewy and intricate, with an array of sensational, intense flavours. Black pepper, dried cherries, unfolding ferns, dark fruit. The fruit character reminds me of the strange little dried things my grandmother used to hide inside dumplings on Chinese New Year – savoury, dehydrated and intensely juicy at the same time. This seems designed to age in that its flavours hint at the sort of complexities that will develop with some time in bottle without yet possessing any such notes. Quite the opposite of a sweetly fruited wine whose vibe might contest developed flavours. Medium bodied, the structure is particularly sophisticated, with acidity blending beautifully into fabric of the wine, and chalky tannins providing textural counterpoint through the after palate.
An intellectual, strong, elegantly masculine wine. Classical sculpture and proportion. Just lovely.

Price: $NA
Closure: Diam
Source: Gift

Karra Yerta Barossa Shiraz 2005

My acquaintance with Marie Linke of Karra Yerta Wines has been rewarding in all sorts of ways; it has provided me insights into the world of the boutique micro-producer, into the trials associated with just getting your wine out there in the public eye, into the challenges of juggling family and work life. And, not least, it has provided me with the opportunity to taste wonderful wines, borne of passion and commitment to regional tradition. My view is producers such as Karra Yerta are the backbone of the industry, providing a philosophical base around which trends and companies may come and go.

Case in point: this wine. It’s identifiably Barossan in character, with that luscious, irresistibly drink now fruit character starting to come up against some more adult, bottle-aged aromas. So, it’s very much in transition. I sometimes read that as a mark of disinterest, but that’s kind of like saying teenagers aren’t interesting because they’re neither children nor adults. Surely there’s a particular fascination in the confluence and clash of nascent maturity? That’s what I’m seeing in this wine’s aroma. 
The palate is full of flavour in a characterful way. An interesting counterpoint to this wine was a 2006 Penfolds Bin 407 I tasted just the other day. I didn’t write it up because it was pristine, perfect, clean, and faceless. This is precisely the opposite; it’s tangibly textured, imprinted with imperfection in the most positive manner; from entry through finish, a dense wave of regional fruit, roughed up by an edge of earthy, spiced humanity that puts corporate swill to shame. This isn’t trying to win medals, it’s simply a reflection of its place and maker, and is utterly worthwhile for precisely this reason.
Perhaps not much of a tasting note, then, but, one hell of a worthwhile experience to taste. Highly recommended.

Karra Yerta Wines
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Undurraga Altazor 2005

Altazor.jpgI’m jealous that Chris was able to visit this winery on his recent trip to Chile. Fortunately for me, the local distributor is a colleague of mine, and it was this connection that led to being able to taste Undurraga’s premium wine, the Altazor. 

Being half Asian, I appreciate the spectacle of ostentatious vulgarity as its own form of style. Hence, I am attracted to the packaging here. The bottle itself is weighty, with an obscenely deep punt, but what makes it for me is the unapologetically gold labelling, medallion-like in its glittering assertiveness. How can one fail to enjoy a wine so presented?
I thought it was corked at first, but the slightly corky smell faded and turned into raw oak and a curious tobacco note that reminded me of Carménère. No surprise, then, to know this wine, while predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, has a percentage of that characterful lost grape of Bordeaux. On the nose, crushed leaves, complex berry fruit — purple and red in character — and perhaps slightly jammy. I found the aroma to change throughout my experience of this wine, constantly shifting and evolving in an attractive way.
The palate is strikingly intense, yet only medium bodied, the combination of which establishes its intent as decidedly European. The fruit is pure, driven and attractive, varietal yet at the same time characterful, with an earthy, distinctively leafy edge. The attack is substantial and full, tapering slightly to medium and after palates of more elegant proportions. The finish powers through, extending to considerable length, with fruit and sweet, slightly uneven tannins carrying the can. There’s a particularly intriguing note of minerality on the finish, really striking and beautiful. Everything about this wine speaks of quality.
If you’re going to do a premium label, this isn’t a bad approach. It’s powerful and balanced, made in a classic mould, but with its own identity too. 

Price: $A80
Closure: Cork
Source: Sample

Domaine du Prieuré Savigny-les-Beaune Vieilles Vignes 2005

I tasted this inexpensive red Burgundy a few months ago at a dinner party, and remember enjoying it. Last night, I had the opportunity to taste it at leisure, so am able to provide more concrete impressions.

Nice, savoury expression of Pinot Noir. The nose shows dark aromas of sous-bois and only a hint of the beetroot-rhubarb fruit that can dominate some New World Pinot styles. There’s perhaps a bit of rubbery reduction too, which blows off after some of air. As with a number of other wines I’ve tasted lately, I’m interested in the tension between sweet, seductive fruit and savouriness or even a degree of challenging funkiness. It seems an especially difficult thing to pull off successfully, but I like watching wines (and winemakers) try.
The palate seems quite resolved and approachable. It shows a similar balance of sweet and savoury to the nose, and is moderately intense. What I like most about it its sense of balance and easygoing drinkability, which it achieves without being at all simple. In fact, given its price and provenance, it’s surprisingly sophisticated, with well integrated flavours and a finely textural mouthfeel that helps it to cut through food (ok, take-away pizza) one may not naturally pair with this kind of wine. 
A very drinkable, well-priced Pinot, ready now. Quite sophisticated too.

Domaine du Prieuré
Price: $A25
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Grampians Estate Rutherford Sparkling Shiraz 2005

I shared this with colleagues over dinner on Monday evening, so my recollections of the moment are as much social as vinous. Still, this wine went down easily and accompanied our Indian meal rather well. 

An extremely vigorous mousse, almost as aggressive as Diet Coke when poured into a fresh glass. As an aside, are there any more wonderful sights in wine than sparkling Shiraz as it fizzes and foams on pouring? There’s something gloriously vulgar about the purple mousse, profoundly unnatural yet appealing. It reminds me of Christmas, somehow. But back to the wine; a nose that seems even-tempered, recalling a still wine more than a sparkling one. It’s blackberried and plummed in equal measure, all sprinkled with dark spice.
The palate shows me why some of the best sparkling Shiraz wines come from the Grampians, home of the style and long renowned for its elegant, medium bodied Shiraz-based table wines. Sparkling red wines, especially at the low end, can tend towards too much sweetness, with a rough structure and obvious fruit. This, by contrast, showcases its moderate body and relatively subtle effervescence, creating an impression of elegance and style rather than skirt-raising good times. A nice, lively spritz on entry, followed by a middle palate that shows great balance between savoury spice and fruit sweetness, between spritz and linearity. It’s all quite restrained, really, almost quiet, which only serves to highlight the tasty, if simple, flavour profile. The whisper of a middle palate surges again through the after palate and finish.
I wouldn’t call it a great wine, but the elegance of its palate weight and structure really impresses, and turns what can be a neon style into something subtle and alluring.

Grampians Estate
Price: $A45
Closure: Crown seal
Source: Retail

Curly Flat Chardonnay 2005

There’s a lot of chatter about how out of favour Chardonnay has become, and I’m reminded in all this of the difference between fashion and style. Good wines will always find an audience, even if the size of that audience fluctuates based on what’s hot at any given time. The focus must remain on wines that draw out the best of their underlying fruit, and which retain an authenticity of style that transcends the fashionable buzz of the day. I can only speak for myself, of course, but the truth underlying each wine is what I crave most each time I open a bottle, and what disappoints me the most when it is absent.

I mention all this because the wine in front of me defies a few trends. As a fairly worked Chardonnay, it goes contrary to the trend towards “Chablis style” Chardonnay wines that, marketing material would have one believe, are the true antidote to a decade of flabby, butterscotch monsters. To the wine itself: the nose is pleasingly complex, with curious crushed leaf notes alongside white and yellow stonefruit, almond meal, Weet-Bix and vanilla. It all comes together really well, and seems to smell of itself rather than as a collection of components.
The palate is powerful and shapely, with especially notable intensity of flavour. On entry, immediate peaches and cream flavour, along with slightly rough acidity and a savoury almond note that runs the length of the palate. The middle plate evolves some further fruit sweetness and a bit of caramel delight, too. Mouthfeel is rounded and generous. It’s here that things threaten to become slightly simple, because of the dominance of the fruit character (verging on pineapple) and the influence of some winemaking choices. The after palate, though, draws in a whole bunch of baked goods to add to the flavour profile, and this tempers the still-sweet fruit to a satisfactory extent. The finish is beautifully nutty and long.
Exceptional Chardonnay drinking well right now. You can keep your faux Chablis. 

Curly Flat
Price: $NA
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Balthazar Shiraz 2005


There are few things in art, and indeed life, more tantalising than a mistaken first impression.
The bottle in front of me is festooned with gold stickers (much more so than in the accompanying photograph); so much bling threatens to overwhelm a striking label design. To certain weary enthusiasts (that’s me), it might also signal an unsubtle, “show” style.  So its true character, when revealed, comes as a surprise. Indeed, what is remarkable about this wine is its powerful intimacy. It draws you in quietly, peeling itself back one translucent layer at a time, until you’re lost in its grasp.
I was advised by this wine’s mother to give it a good hour and a half of air before attempting serious evaluation. In fact, I left it overnight to breathe, and feel on day two its expression is close to complete. At first, a nose that is all mocha oak and deep, ripe plums. It’s complex yet utterly restrained from flowing as it ought. A couple of hours later, the aroma profile is wider and more expressive, though still deeply coiled and suggestive of untold generosity. Finally, a day on, there’s some freedom, structured yet moving without restraint, a multi-coloured kimono of aroma. Black fruit, complex spice, hot sun on brambles, some vanilla. It’s all quality, with good integration and poise, yet it’s subdued and subtle, in a positive sense. There’s no yelling, just sweet harmony and rhythm.
The palate is equally seductive, and it’s difficult to tease each element apart.  Flavours are in line with the nose, though a successful balance between sweet and savoury fruit is more evident here. There’s a voluptuous slipperiness to the mouthfeel that is also notable. On entry, inky fruit and coffee grounds create a dark flavour profile that carries through to the middle palate. Here, it lightens a little, red fruit and plums emerging alongside orange juice acidity and brown spice. There’s a lot going on. The after palate is positively fruit driven, and very clean in presentation. It sustains the momentum of the front palate through to a musky, powerfully soft finish of ultra-ripe tannins and sweet fruit.
What a lovely wine. It’s striking and intense and all of those good things, yet somehow manages to communicate with understatement. A most intriguing, satisfying wine.

Balthazar of the Barossa
Price: $A50
Closure: Procork

Bleasdale Malbec 2005

There aren’t too many straight Malbecs made in Australia, although the variety continues to appear in many blends, sometimes as a regional specialty (as with Cabernet Sauvignon in the Clare Valley, for example). Chris’s partner Dan is something of a Malbec enthusiast, so it is in his honour that I taste this wine tonight. 

Awfully grand intro for a $A15 wine, no? Yet this is full of interest and tasty to boot. The nose shows a nice array of aromas, including slightly jammy red and black fruits, dense brambles baking in hot Summer sun, mint lollies and what seems like rather raw oak, vanillan and sappy in equal measure. Somehow, it strikes the same pose as an Italian pastoral art movie from the 70s; rough around the edges yet vividly sensual, all in slightly porno-like soft focus. I’ve never compared wine to an adult movie before, so this must be doing something right. 
In the mouth, a big rush of Langhorne Creek goodness. It’s just as minty as the aroma, which is to say noticeably so without being offensive, and more importantly has the generous rush of flavour that seems to characterise this region’s red wines. Bang; immediately on entry there’s rich fruit flavour, a little baked perhaps, plus a lively mouthfeel that owes its character to a decent whack of acidity. This acidity isn’t that well integrated but, given the style of wine, its robustness works acceptably well. Intensity of flavour remains decent throughout, never peaking or troughing at any stage, nor scaling any particular heights. The acid-driven after palate brings a slightly medicinal edge to the flavour profile, before a nice long finish of red fruits and fine, dry tannins. 
Totally unsophisticated, totally enjoyable. Not a bad companion to the consolations of another Monday evening. 

Price: $A15
Closure: Stelvin