Groom Sauvignon Blanc 2008

James Halliday thinks this is the best sauvignon blanc in Australia.Sadly, it smells mostly of kraft paper, banana peels, and girls’ Olsen Twins perfume – there’s a strange, plastic-y fake fruit smell here that is somewhat unsettling. Acidity is good, but the mouthfeel is somewhat strange – it reminds me of cheap ice cream with an overdose of carrageenan –  and the finish is reminiscent of cheap imitation almond extract and the taste left in your mouth after playing a wax paper comb for too long at summer camp.Honestly, I don’t get this wine. Sauvignon blanc isn’t riesling: if needs something other than itself in the bottle unless it’s grown in Sancerre or Marlborough, I reckon. What could have been an elegant wine is undone by the lack of oak or other winemaker input that would have attenuated the inherently boring characteristics of the grape; I don’t think that this terroir is enough in and of itself to create a wine of interest. Yes, there are absolutely brilliant wines from the Adelaide Hills, but in my experience they tend to be chardonnays which benefit from some creative input on the part of the winemaker. The fruit is good; I’d just like to see something more complex than what’s in this bottle.Groom
Price: $13
Closure: Cork

Yalumba FDW[7c] Chardonnay 2007

I wonder what sort of feedback Yalumba gets regarding the nomenclature? It’s all satisfyingly boutique in effect, though word of mouth marketing may result in some hilarity. But hey, it worked for me. Purely for the name, I remember tasting the 2005 vintage at cellar door with Chris, and being seriously impressed; for some reason I’ve not sought out another bottle since then. So much wine, so little time (and money). 

Classy nose; some sulphur, some lees-derived aromas, some watercolour stonefruit and honeydew melon, and some other things that are too fleeting to capture in words. It’s quite funky overall, and seems reasonably manipulated within the context of its style, which is fine and tight. For me, it’s treading a fine line regarding the struck match aromas; one sniff seems balanced, the next just that bit too astringent. Very much a matter of taste.
In the mouth, a complex, savoury experience. The mouthfeel is really interesting, seeming to alternate between luscious and sharp, like cutting into a ripe peach with a cleaver. Mostly savoury on entry, it really kicks up a gear on the middle palate, which shows decent complexity and hints of the cushioned generosity that is the point of some Chardonnay styles; not here, though. Before the word “flab” can even begin to form in one’s mind, we’re whisked away to a lean after palate that introduces an interesting hint of vegetal, almost stalky flavour. A very long finish rounds things off well.
An intellectual wine, and an expression of Chardonnay that I find somewhat lacking in easy sensual pleasure. That’s not a criticism per se; in fact, it marks this wine as one of the more important essays in contemporary Australian Chardonnay style. 

Price: $A23.75
Closure: Stelvin

d'Arenberg The Feral Fox Pinot Noir 2007

Not much gives this away as Pinot Noir except, perhaps, its colour and a hint of animalé on the nose. I tasted this blind and picked it as a commercial Shiraz blend, perhaps with a bit of Mataro. There’s straightforward red fruit and a good deal of sweet, vanilla and spice oak. Perhaps a bit of funky stalk? Nothing too challenging, though.

Mike Press Wines Shiraz 2006

Another outrageously cheap wine from Mike Press in the Adelaide Hills. As with some other Mike Press reds, this seemed a bit oaky on initial release, but it’s drinking really well at the moment.Rich black pepper and dark fruits on the nose. Lively and with good depth, if not great complexity. On entry, quite mouthfilling and quickly flavoursome. The wine funnels generously to the mid-palate, whereupon it washes the mouth with fruit flavour. Medium to full bodied, there are further notes of spicy black pepper and blackberry. These two notes are dominant, but vanilla oak props up the flavour profile and adds extra interest, and there’s a slightly herbal edge to the palate that is distinctive and tasty. Not a hint of confectionery; in fact, the wine’s fruit flavour is nicely three-dimensional. The wine’s structure is assertive enough to match the its dense fruit flavour. There’s a nice interplay of fine acid and ripe, dry tannins. Really quite satisfying length.An attractive wine that packs a lot of flavour into its asking price. It’s not a wine you need to work especially hard at which, let’s face it, is sometimes a most welcome thing.Mike Press WinesPrice: $A8.34 ($100/dozen)Closure: StelvinDate tasted: April 2007

Ngeringa J.E. Pinot Noir 2005

The third of Ngeringa’s current release “J.E.” wines tasted here at Full Pour (Chardonnay and Shiraz previously, and positively, reviewed). This wine is made of grapes grown using biodynamic techniques. There’s a lot of hype around biodynamic producers lately, and I don’t hold an opinion as to the inherent superiority (or otherwise) of this approach. For me, it’s all about what’s in the bottle. A lovely bright colour, garnet, not terribly dense. Clean yet funky (if that makes sense) aromas of cherry, rhubarb/beetroot and deep spice. Perhaps a little reduction too, but this blows off quickly. Expressive and reasonably complex, it’s a nose that shows some bright character but suggests deeper layers of fruit as well. A lovely entry that balances silkiness with fine, firm acidity. It flows with focused line through to the mid-palate. Medium bodied, this wine shows sour red fruit and veg with good depth, plus a firm structure that keeps the wine shapely and alive. Tannins are especially notable for their ripe deliciousness. Slight falloff through the after-palate, but a sappy note persists well on the finish.A really nice Pinot. The fruit is generous, but it’s far from a fruit bomb, with the sort of sophisticated structure that rewards sipping, not gulping. I think balance is a key word here; for me, all the elements cohere and complement well. Super value.NgeringaPrice: $A25Closure: StelvinDate tasted: April 2008

Mike Press Wines Pinot Noir 2004

It’s not often I leave a sub-$10 wine overnight, and overnight again, to see how it evolves. But this wine has prompted me to do so, with most pleasing results.I’ve had this one a few times with, I admit, mixed impressions at first. My first bottle seemed a little murky, structurally, lacking the purity I often associate with Pinot Noir, especially New World styles. It was also showing a heavy, oak-driven flavour profile. Whilst this wine is not, and will never be, a bright cherry fruit bomb, time will help to clarify its flavour components and structure.So what does it smell and taste like? At first, a whole mix of flavours, not terribly well delineated, generous, a little “dark.” After a day, it was as if a veil had lifted, revealing clean and somewhat brighter (though still deep) fruit flavour, along with definite earthiness, some musk, and perhaps a little lift. The entry is pleasantly lively, with some acid tingling the tip of the tongue as flavour introduces itself towards the mid-palate. Fruit flavour is mostly dark berry in character, and is accompanied by more earth and sous-bois. Oak is relegated to a supporting role now, and it’s astonishing how much this aspect of the wine has stepped back over the last six months. Mouthfeel is quite lovely, mixing the aforementioned acidic freshness with fine, powdery tannins of the mouth coating variety. It’s definitely tending towards a “dry red” style but, if you’re open to this, will be a pleasing wine in its own right. The after-palate and finish show good line and persistence.At just over $A8 per bottle, I’m astonished this wine is drinkable, let alone stylish and expressive of personality. Mike Press WinesPrice: $A8.34 ($100/dozen)Closure: StelvinDate tasted: April 2008

Petaluma Croser 2005

People drink sparkling wine for all sorts of reasons, and it seems even those who don’t like wine will go for a glass of bubbly on occasion. Personally, I often enjoy sparkling wine as an aperitif; perhaps its most common use. Dinner the other evening saw a bottle of Croser opened as we awaited our entrées. A fairly aggressive mousse and persistent, fine bead. On the nose, sprightly aromas of cut apple and citrus, with a hint of baked good complexity. So far so good. In the mouth, it becomes evident how fruit-driven this wine is, and I guess whether you like it will depend on how you like your sparking wine. Round, full fruit flavours of apple and citrus occupy the wine’s entry and mid-palate, before structure starts to take over and slim the wine down towards the after palate. OK finish. I haven’t had Croser for a while, but remember it being a leaner wine in its youth. It’s certainly lively in the mouth, and very approachable, but without much complexity at the moment.For my taste, it’s a simple wine, lacking the sort of savoury excitement I enjoy in other sparklers. I’m not sure it worked terribly well as an aperitif either, given the fullness of its fruit profile. Drink this one with your food, not before it.PetalumaPrice: $A35Closure: CorkDate tasted: March 2008

Mike Press Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

I tasted this wine a few months ago and it was a bit raw and disjointed. A little time has been kind, and this wine is showing better now. For anyone not attuned to the the value priced end of the market, Mike Press Wines is an Adelaide Hills producer and makes a range of very inexpensive wines from Estate grapes. Not only has a few months helped this wine to settle, but a few minutes (ok, a couple of hours) in the glass has also enhanced the attractiveness of its expression. At first, it was a little bright and aggressive in flavour. Towards the end of the bottle, its profile has deepened and gained richness. So do let it sit for a while, or decant if you wish. Once you have done so, you will observe aromas of deep, clean berry fruit along with Cabernet dustiness. There is perhaps the slightest hint of foliage in there too, though it’s not nearly as prominent as in some Cabernets. The nose is slightly reticent and lacking in impact, but what’s there is attractive.Entry is gentle without any great rush of flavour or structure. Rather, the wine slips to the middle palate and it is here that some real intensity of flavour registers. Round, ripe Cabernet fruit of good depth is the primary feature, assisted by a little stalkiness and some sappy notes, perhaps oak derived. The fruit has a simple, sweet dimension that verges on the confected for my taste, but it’s only an edge to the otherwise attractive fruit character. Acid is relatively prominent and provides freshness and a nicely textured layer to the otherwise slippery mouthfeel. Subtle chocolate and coffee notes become more prominent as the wine moves through the after palate towards a lightly drying finish. This is a cracking wine, and at the price it’s a no-brainer for weekday quaffing and more contemplative moments alike. It’s a particularly good food wine thanks to that acid. I’m not sure whether it’s the style of Cabernet I would choose to drink all the time, but if you like the style, I doubt you could find a better value wine.Mike Press WinesPrice: $A10Closure: StelvinDate tasted: January 2008

Mike Press Wines Merlot 2005

It’s late on Saturday night, I’ve raided the cellar looking for something to keep me company as I settle down to relax and watch a DVD. Hmm, Merlot, that sounds good. I’ve been meaning to try the Mike Press version, relatively hyped as it has been in online discussion fora and wine press. So: how good can $A10 Merlot be?

The answer is: pretty bloody good. Lifted nose of black fruits and leafiness, along with supporting caramel/mocha oak. Not explosive, but balanced and elegant. The wine slides smoothly into the mouth, whereupon flavours of black fruit and olive build and spread over the tongue. This isn’t a fruit bomb, although the fruit is delicious and ripe. Rather, there’s a nice dialogue between fruit, savoury flavours, somewhat resiny oak and a firm acid/tannin structure, all within a medium bodied palate. The wine’s line is quite focused. Finish is puckeringly tannic, but not unapproachable, and of decent length.

In absolute terms, this is a good to excellent wine that shows varietal character and a sense of style. The oak is sticking out a bit much for me at the moment, but that’s a matter of taste as much as anything else. For the price, I just don’t see what else one could ask for. I’m off to pour myself another glass.

Mike Press Wines
Price: $A120/dozen
Closure: Stelvin
Tasted: November 2007