The lottery of old wine. Chris tasted this a couple of years ago and, it appears, was unlucky enough to encounter a Brett-affected bottle. I can see a very low level of the taint here too, but I’m not finding it in any way distracting, which leaves all the beautiful, interesting aspects of the wine noted by Chris firmly intact. This is a fascinating wine.
Despite being a $20 wine that’s coming up for ten years of age, and one that was pretty approachable on release as well, this doesn’t strike me as overly developed. It’s showing bottle age, for sure, but the nose remains thick with dark, savoury fruit in addition to rich spice and cedar oak. It’s such a dense aroma, luxurious and almost tactile in its detail and texture.
The palate’s most impressive dimension is definitely its mouthful and structure, which Chris describes well in his note and which strikes me as hitting an ideal balance between shape and flow. Some wines articulate cleanly but tend towards nerviness, others sacrifice precision for easy movement; this just gets it right. Flavours are dark and full, combining black berry fruits with tobacco, brown spice, quite glossy oak and a range of aged notes that bubble to the surface on the middle and after palates. The finish resonates with spice and oak, and goes on for a good long time.
I really like Hilltops Shiraz; at its best, it has a flavour profile that I can only describe as “purple.” Vivid, slightly vulgar, yet soft at the same time. It strikes a nice halfway point between a pure cool climate attitude and the lushness of our warm climate styles, combining a dose of hedonism with the serious angularity of pepper and spice. Happily, this very affordable wine shows great typicité.
The nose has a notably deep aroma profile that shows layers of pepper, brown spice and squishy base of plush, dark fruit. Totally purple. This is the kind of aroma that dismisses complexity as an objective, because what’s there, though straightforward, is so attractive. I don’t mean to undersell this as some sort of dumb but pretty quaffing wine (though it could fill that role admirably, if only on the basis of its price).
The palate is quite breathtakingly structured, though whether its acid is fully integrated is a question mark for me. In any case, there’s a good rush of dense fruit flavour on entry, tickled around the edges by white pepper and crushed leaf. Things move into a more composed, almost elegant place through the after palate, where the wine thins out a little and delivers more complexity of flavour, including an intriguing medicinal note. A bit of hardness through the finish.
I reckon this is a great weeknight wine, much smarter and more identifiably regional than a lot of wines at this price point. Nice.
I was a big fan of the 2008 Moppity Reserve Shiraz. This is the standard Shiraz and, at less than half the cost of the reserve wine, it would be wrong to impose the sort of lofty expectations one might reasonably hold of a $60 wine. Still, as I opened the bottle I was hoping for good things.
My initial impression of the nose was of overripe, prune-like fruit. Happily, this has largely faded into a much more pleasing aroma profile of fresh plum skins, hot blackberries, flowers, spice and dust. Complex, varietal and more than a bit angular, this isn’t a plush expression of Shiraz so much as one that emphasises the variety’s ability to be simultaneously sharp and juicy. It’s a disconcerting start, though, and the lesson here is to give this wine a bit of time to open up.
The palate is bright, having an acid-driven structure and only moderate weight. Good attack on entry, tingling with acid before red fruits creep across the tongue. The middle palate is highly textured and pretty aggressive, showcasing acid and uneven, chalky tannins more than lightly juicy fruit. Even more than the nose, the palate needs a good deal of time to calm and allow its flavour to work its way past all that structure. I don’t have any experience with this label and how it ages, so I’m not sure how the acid will contribute to the whole over the medium term. The after palate is savoury and more fruit forward, and the finish is light but long.
A very interesting wine, rather too young to fully enjoy right now. I wish the acid were less strident, but perhaps a little time in bottle will see to this.
This is quite a wine. After a few days of tasting fundamentally uninteresting commercial styles, one sniff of this reminded me of what wine can be, of how it can fill a room and one’s senses with individualism and character.
Which probably means some people will hate it, and those likely to disapprove are those with an aversion to spicy, cooler climate Shiraz styles of the sort Australia does so well but is so little known for. This wine, from Hilltops in New South Wales, is a full-on pepper attack at first, each twist of the grinder revealing blackberry brambles, snapped twig and all sorts of other wild, meaty aromas that are about as far from Barossa Shiraz as you can get. It’s sharp and complex and neatly avoids any sense of out-and-out aggressiveness.
The palate is both light and powerful. What stands out most for me is the way each flavour wraps around the others while remaining quite distinct; this gives the wine a sinewy, taut character that is quite thrilling. Entry is spiced and red fruited in equal measure, the flavour profile being entirely savoury and the acid prominent. While the middle palate remains light to medium bodied, there’s a good deal of flavour and its sharp, spiced profile gives the wine satisfying impact. The after palate shows some plush plum fruit alongside twigs and spice (and a hint of vanilla ice cream oak), while the finish is both delicate and long. The acid needs a little time to settle, I think, as it’s currently quite assertive, something the sharp flavour profile does not mask. Tannins are drying and loose-knit.
Still an infant, but bloody impressive nonetheless. I’ll be fascinated to revisit this in a few years’ time.
Prickles of green and brown, red and black. The aroma wraps spice and flesh in the skin of a fruit that is equal parts familiar and fictitious, not-quite-plum in its tart angularity, almost-blackberry in its brambly heat. This wine throws the sort of abstract aroma profile I associate more with fine fragrance than wine, something that approaches real life through a lens of artifice and construction. Yet it’s so earthy too, redolent of dirt roads and rough bark and things you feel as much as see. And it’s beautiful to smell.
The palate rushes at you with surprising, and surprisingly relaxed, fruit. This is the fruit of overripe plums, not baked or stressed so much as juicy to the point of bursting. It would be almost Barossa-like if not for the vibrantly purple-fruited Hilltops character that, after some air, emerges powerfully from a background of subtle oak, spice and structure. There’s certainly enough acid and tannin, the latter chunky and textural in character. This is all quite savoury and in its sense of integrity reminds me of home made preserves, baked things and slow cooking. Its finish caresses my tongue and reminds me that wine is for drinking — most days if you’re lucky — and that no critical endeavour will ever cause me to lose my enjoyment of the drink.
All this without even touching on this wine’s maker, its back label, the blend, its name, its price, the intent so clearly on display. I figured it best to just describe the wine, in order to do everything else justice. I’ll be buying a dozen, and I suggest you do too.
Mountain X Price: $A15 Closure: Stelvin Source: Gift
Seems I had a similar reaction to last year’s model. I thought it terribly spicy, perhaps more so than usual, yet here I am with the 2008, inhaling a veritable pepper grinder of aroma. Perhaps it’s a function of youth; I confess to having drunk more of this wine with a few years’ age on it than at release. Whatever, it’s nice to be surprised year after year.
The aroma is quite wild, with pepper and spice and a herbal character akin to fragrant aniseed; think Thai basil. It’s also a bit meaty, and I can imagine some people reacting really negatively towards this wine for its forthright, savoury character. I’ve always enjoyed the Hilltops label, though, and this is certainly feeding that enjoyment. As it gets some air, the purple berry fruit aromas are peeking out a bit more, though it remains a spice-dominant aroma profile.
The palate is really well-weighted. On entry, more black pepper and herbs, before some berries start to bubble up through the middle palate. I like the Hilltops Shiraz character; I always think of purple fruit when I taste it, though I’m not sure that’s terribly helpful to anyone but my nagging inner voice. There’s a simplicity to the fruit character, though, that — when combined with moderate intensity of flavour — is a little disappointing. Structurally the wine comes across as almost easygoing, at least until ripe, abundant tannins start to caress the tongue through the after palate. A clean, acceptably long finish.
Delicious wine if you like the style. I just wish it sustained its complexity better through the entire line.
Over the past several weeks I’ve gone through nearly a case of the 2001 and 2002 vintages of this wine, none of which was particularly good or drinkable; I fear it had either gone bad in transit to North America or else was suffering from a brettanomyces infection of some degree. After one too many bottles, opened and not much drunk, of strange, mousy, Band-Aid-y shiraz, I gave up, gave away the last few bottles, and glumly realized that I still have a few cases of this wine from 2003, 2004, and 2005. After opening this bottle, though, I feel much better about the situation.At first, the smell of this wine could be mistaken for one of those gargantuan bath cubes that elderly German women seem to love so much, with hints of eucalyptus and sweet, chalky dirt. The color’s still a vibrant, youthful purple; it doesn’t smell particularly aged (which is a wonderful thing to me after the disappointment of the ’01 and ’02). There’s a suggestion of sweet, smoky, bacon-wrapped prunes here too: it smells rich and wonderfully Christmas-y.The taste of the wine is an elegant, shocking contrast to the smell of it. Instead of a fat, blowsy, American-via-South Australia shiraz, you get a lean, nervy, racy, well-acided syrah with supple dusty tannins and a finish that goes on for an age. It’s the sort of wine you’d expect Kermit Lynch to import: strong enough for a New World hedonistic-jammy-fruit enthusiast, but elegant enough for Alice Feiring too. The overall impression is of restraint, of a wine that could just have easily gone the way of Barwang shiraz but instead decide to stop halfway. There is beauty in restraint, after all.Clonakilla Price: $20 Closure: Cork Source: Retail
Six months too late to call it spring cleaning, I found three bottles of this hidden in the bedroom closet last weekend. Oops. Talk about suboptimal cellaring conditions: nearly 80 degrees in there all summer long. I decanted it, set the decanter in an ice bath to cool it off a bit, and waited an hour before drinking: I hope that mitigated any damage I did as best I could.There’s a visual texture to the wine that’s unusual: there’s a blackly rich core of fruit in the glass, thinning out to a less intimidating rim at the edge of the glass. Better yet, there’s a suggestion of particulate matter, with bits stuck to the sides of the glass; presumably, more of the same in the wine itself lends it all an impression of body and richness. I have no idea why, but the older I get, the happier I am when my wines have a certain look of, well, relation to the world of the natural. I don’t like wines filtered to a glossy smoothness; I want to be reminded that they were grown in dirt and raised in wood.At first, the nose is off-putting, smelling sweet, strangely sweet, the sweetness of blackcurrant jam. It’s only temporary, though: wait half an hour at least and its true nature will out. There seems to be an overall level of Brett here that teeters between “ugh, no thanks” and “OK, I can deal with this”; harsh patent medicines duel with roasted smoky notes, and no one comes out on top. Ultimately, the off notes mostly win out, which is a disappointment in the extreme; the quick flashes of roast coffee and bacon fat are there all too briefly before being one-upped by slightly metallic aromas of the medicine cabinet.Still, there’s enough interest here to make me want to finish (just) a (single) glass before tossing the rest of the bottle and waiting another year or two to try one of the six bottles remaining. The texture is beautiful, a rich, solid mass that glides forward on lovely, smooth tannins into a long, silky finish that most wines would kill for. Ultimately, though, the strange qualities of the wine carry the day, and you’re left wondering what happened – I remember this wine being profoundly beautiful five years ago, but I’m just not feeling the love right now. Sadly, the warm cellaring spot probably didn’t help matters. Oh well. Clonakilla Price: $20 Closure: Cork
It’s especially satisfying to follow a label over time and observe how it varies with each vintage. Sometimes an especially good vintage will show extra depth, or unusual complexity, or a particularly intense perfume, all the while retaining an essential consistency with its siblings. There’s no doubt this is an excellent Hilltops, and it shows the trademark fruit density and character that I look forward to every year. But there’s a powerful something “extra” in this release — an almost flamboyant spiciness that is present both on the nose and palate — that has me smiling tonight.
Smelling this wine is like inhaling the potpourri jar on the coffee table in front of your grandmother’s overstuffed, slightly faded floral lounge. I trust that experience isn’t unique to me.
I picked this up for a song at a local bottlo in the Lockyer Valley. Not terribly promising provenance, to be sure. But it’s drinking really well right now, so I guess this particular bottle hasn’t had too hard a life.
Calm, poised aromas of ripe foliage squished between the pages of old leather-bound books, cedar, vanilla custard, clean blackcurrant juice. A little volatile. It’s ageing especially well in terms of aroma profile, I think, although you’d need to be partial to a fairly high degree of oak influence to fully enjoy it.