De Bortoli Windy Peak Pinot Noir 2007

More quaffers for me, including this one, which is a ridiculously cheap Pinot Noir. Already two things in its favour as far as I’m concerned. Grapes are from various regions in Victoria, including the Yarra and King Valleys.
Perfumed, lively nose showing strawberry-like red fruits and perhaps a little stalk. I’m not going to kid you and say there’s any significant complexity, but the fruit is varietal, clean and tasty. The light to medium bodied palate is surprisingly generous, with only a slight hint of the flavour dilution that marks this wine as a budget offering. Fruit flavour itself is attractive, with a delicious sourness adding itself to the simple red fruits observed on the nose. Again there’s slight stalkiness and well balanced acid to keep things moving. Mouthfeel is a highlight; it’s delicately textural without ever becoming coarse. The wine’s finish is light on tannin and of adequate length. If there’s any oak here, I couldn’t taste it.
I’m chuffed that $12 buys a Pinot of clearly varietal character, cleverly made in a style that rewards immediate consumption with food. We had this with salmon, and the combination was rewarding, the fish bringing the wine’s brighter flavours to the fore.
De BortoliPrice: $A12Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Tulloch Verdelho 2006

The things that make a successful quaffing wine can be quite different from those that make a wine rewarding to sip contemplatively. This wine is a case in point. We cracked it open last night to share amongst a group of people who just wanted some wine to go with food.

On the nose, there are aromas of tropical-ish fruit (perhaps some banana too) and a more astringent, herbal edge. It has impact (in that the flavours register easily upon sniffing) but is not a wine that dominates the moment. The palate is quite generous, surprisingly full in body, and shows a similar spectrum of fruit flavours as the nose, along with exceptionally well judged phenolics that contribute texture, freshness and the impression of astringent fresh herbs. It’s not a refined wine, but the very coarseness of each element is what makes this wine so easy to drink. It’s not a wine you have to work hard at, it gives what it has easily, and it’s balanced to encourage another sip, then another…

To return to my starting point, a good quaffer will often fly slightly “under the radar” insofar as it doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but that’s what makes one so good to drink. This wine is generous and tasty, whilst completely avoiding all the pitfalls of cheap wine — cloyingly simple flavours, lack of intensity, strange flavours, unbalanced structure (lack of or too much), etc. Great BBQ wine.

Price: $A14
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: December 2007

Montes Merlot 2005

I suppose I was tempting fate by opening a cheapy after all the super Kiwi wines I’ve been having of late. However, one (or at least I) can’t drink at the $50 price point every day, so cheapies I must. We’re lucky in Australia to have a large range of reasonably priced wines that are far superior to industrial swill, so it has been reasonable to expect in the last few years that $15 or so will yield a wine of character and interest. So what does that amount of money buy one from Chile?

On the basis of this wine, a whole lot of DMS and not much else. On the nose, rather characterless with that signature DMS note of ultra blackcurrant flip-flopping with tinned corn (thankfully no two day old raw mussels). The entry is slippery and introduces a palate with more blackcurrant juice in the context of a mouthfeel that is all about smoothness. But it’s not tannin or acid smoothless, it’s actually a lack of these things that creates an almost watery effect. Certainly easy to drink, and for those challenged by a perceived “harshness” in most red wines might enjoy the ease of this wine. There are some sweet oak characters too, subtle and well judged in terms of what this wine is. Tannins start to creep in a little on the finish, but it’s nothing too harsh and doesn’t begin to challenge any other aspect of this wine.

So, what to think? Certainly, I found this wine boring to the extent of wondering what is its point. Reading the back label, the wine is described as an “elegant and refined wine with a marked fruitiness almost irresistible to Merlot lovers.” And yes, it has a “marked fruitiness” (if we accept the super blackcurrant juice flavour as fruit driven) that is inoffensive and very easy to drink. To be honest, though, there are a lot of local wines that are of considerably greater interest to this at a similar price point. 

Price: $A10
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: December 2007

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2006

A single vineyard wine made from Martinborough grapes, made by a Hawkes Bay based winery. At cellar door, this wine smelled a bit one dimensional and fruit bright, but the other half latched on to it and suggested we get another bottle for more leisurely consumption. I’m glad I listened!A lightfooted nose of significant complexity, moving through an attractive spectrum of flavours. Bright red fruits (strawberry/cherry-like), stalk, earth, freshly baked things, a bit of vanilla, etc. There’s a lot in there, and it coheres well. The palate is similarly dextrous, and of good intensity despite being of light to medium body. Entry is slippery and fresh, leading to a middle palate full of bright flavour and interest. A good dose of acidity keeps things lively and adds impact to the wine’s flavour profile. I’ve sat with the wine all evening and it has reached a point of excellent balance between flavour components. Lots of bright fruit, but equally prominent minerality and herbal astringency, with subtle oak adding another dimension. Flavour extends well into the after palate, and the finish sings with very fine tannins and acidity. What a lovely wine. It’s both delicate and powerful, with a most attractive flavour profile. Craggy RangePrice: $NZ50Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Black Barn Malbec 2005

Black Barn has an interesting range of wines, including some that are unusual in the context of Hawkes Bay producers. This wine, a straight Malbec, is one of them (they also do a Sangiovese and straight Cabernet Franc in addition to a wide range of other red and white wines). I tried this at cellar door and it seemed promising at the time, so I picked up a bottle for more thorough tasting later on. Captivating, expressive nose of dried flowers (of similar character to Gimblett Gravels Syrah, though this wine is from a different sub-region in Hawkes Bay), sweet jammy Malbec fruit, some oak, some stalk/foliage. Complex without being forbidding. The entry is smooth and tactile; the point at which fruit flavour hits the tongue is quite palpable. Full bodied middle plalate is full of intensely sweet fruit, more savoury dried flowers, and toasty oak. The wine’s line continues strongly through the palate and rises a little during the after palate, creating a nice lift of flavour. The finish is characterised by fine, chocolate-like tannins that extend the wine’s flavour most satisfyingly.What a fun wine. There’s nothing super sophisticated about this number, but it’s full of flavour, shows good complexity, has character and is ready to drink right now. What’s not to like?Black BarnPrice: $NZ35Closure: DiamDate tasted: December 2007

Black Barn Pinot Gris 2007

The other half is quite fond of Pinot Gris and that keeps me in the tasting loop as far as this variety is concerned. It’s quite fashionable to knock Gris as unworthy but, occasionally, a wine does stand out. They are the exceptions that prove the rule, perhaps.Quite a rich colour, hay-like verging on golden. A subtle nose of pear, apple skins, some vanilla oak and bitterness. The palate is big but strangely flavourless. Initially, the entry ushers in similar fruit flavours as seen on the nose. On the middle palate, however, phenolic bitterness becomes quite prominent and persists until an after palate and finish that display alcohol heat (14%).These combine to mask the attractive, varietal fruit flavour and transform the wine into a rather coarse experience. Time in glass didn’t assist with the wine’s balance. I think this wine might be best accompanied by something summery and rustic in flavour — Caesar salad, perhaps.Black BarnPrice: $NZ20Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2006

I tasted another Te Mata Chardonnay, the Woodthorpe Vineyard wine, a couple of weeks ago and was quite impressed. So I picked up Te Mata’s premium Chardonnay eagerly at cellar door, and today had the chance to open it for a drink. Nice wine to finish off Christmas Day, I reckon.Youthful, pale hay colour, good clarity. The nose is quite tight, with some yeasty characters along with zingy citrus and some nutty oak. Balanced and subtle, with flavours showing excellent integration. The wine’s entry is very fresh due to prominent acidity, and marks the start of a very structured, driven line that shoots right down the middle of the tongue. The middle palate shows an array of flavours ranging from cooler climate Chardonnay fruit to yeasty/creamy characters and nutty/spicy oak. Fruit flavour is moderately intense and of good complexity. As with the Woodthorpe, the wine is really well balanced, each element contributing an appropriate amount of flavour and structure to the wine. Unlike the Woodthorpe, the Elston is much more structural, at least at this stage. This translates to an impression of astringency and suggests the wine might drink well in a couple of years’ time. An impressive wine that is all about harmony rather than impact and scale. Drink this with a creamy pasta dish and leave some in the bottle to ponder through the evening. Good value for what it is.Te Mata EstatePrice: $NZ37.20Closure: DiamDate tasted: December 2007

Unison Vineyard Rosé 2006

Another wine from Unison that we tasted (and purchased) at cellar door. It seems everyone is producing a rosé nowadays, and it’s curious to watch the influence of fashion on wine production, especially regarding a wine style that has gone from terminally daggy to hip in the space of a very few years. Unison is quick to point out that its rosé is made from grapes of the same quality as the used in rest of its range, not inferior grapes as may be the case with other producers. The proof is in the pudding, of course.
A bright, almost lurid rose petal colour, good clarity, fun to look at. The nose is surprisingly complex and contains elements of bright red fruit, some peppery spice, and fresh flowers. It’s not a superficial flavour profile, and the wine hints at a depth of flavour that doesn’t always present in rosé styles.
Entry is bright and ushers in a palate of quite generous body. The flavour profile is fun and friendly but also possesses a savoury aspect that adds sophistication to this wine. It’s totally dry but full of fruit flavour, such that there’s the impression of sweetness and weight without residual sugar. Good acidity, not overdone, keeps things fresh in the mouth. Tannins are pretty subliminal on the finish, and it’s not the longest wine around.
This is a good wine to haul out if you want a rosé with some sophistication to serve with, say, paella.
Unison VineyardPrice: $NZ24Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007