Cumulus Climbing Chardonnay 2006

I’m not terribly familiar with wines from the Orange region in NSW, but there’s no time like the present to become acquainted with new friends. I picked up this bottle on the way home as accompaniment for chicken salad.The aroma of this wine reminds me in a strange way of moderately aged Hunter Semillon. It’s an intense yet subtle nose that wafts out of the glass slowly. A mix of white stone fruit (more stone than fruit) and some astringent greenness, a bit like honeydew without the sugar. There’s also a pleasingly offbeat nuttiness that reminds me of roasted pine nuts. Entry is quite powerful, with intense and slightly clingy fruit flavour coating the tongue from the tip onwards. Although it’s a lively, acidic wine, the emphasis is on forward cool-climate Chardonnay fruit and some nutty oak. Flavour is generous, yet it’s a focused wine that retains its shape through the palate. The after palate emphasises nutty, caramel oak as it moves to a decent finish. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, especially not those who favour a more worked, broad Chardonnay style. But for me, it’s a characterful wine that goes well with food or on its own. Good value. I should also mention the label, which is stylishly individual and always stands out in the retail lineup.Cumulus WinesPrice: $A18Closure: StelvinDate tasted: February 2008

Domaine Ninot Chaponnière Rully 2005

A village-level wine from Rully in the Côte Chalonnaise. This is another “value” Burgundy from a lesser appellation and, at $A25 a bottle, this wine sits within an increasingly crowded price bracket of local Pinot Noirs. A pretty, bright ruby colour, sparkling and clear. Initially, the nose smelled of spicy, toasty oak and not much else. With time, it settled into a more balanced expression of lifted red fruits, oak and some savouriness. Not terribly complex, and slightly New Worldy to my taste. The palate is marked by a notable astringence that comes across as a sourness of flavour profile. Entry is quite lively, with bright flavours and fresh acidity. Mid-palate is medium bodied and brings the wine’s sourness into full focus, although there are subtle tannins and enough intensity of fruit flavour to prevent the wine from being totally one-dimensional. There’s a slightly animal note in there, but overall no great complexity. A nice lift of flavour through the after palate lightens the flavour profile to a sappier, freshly fruited note, before a decent finish sees the wine off in some style.This isn’t a world-beater by any means, and there are probably (conventionally) better local Pinots for the price. But it’s well made and just different enough to keep things interesting. Again, how to put a price on difference?Domaine NinotPrice: $A25Closure: CorkDate tasted: February 2008

Domaine Anne et Hervé Sigaut Les Noirots 1er Cru Chambolle-Musigny 2005

Onwards with the Burgundy 2005 tastings, and here we have a 1er Cru wine from Chambolle-Musigny. A pretty ruby colour, slight haze. This wine’s aromas has proven elusive and changeable through my tasting experience. At first yeasty with strawberries and cream, then morphing to a raspberry liqueur sort of expression, finally (the morning after) ending up firmly in savoury territory, with mineral and sous-bois notes running underneath vanilla spice and delicate fruit. Although it is an expressive nose, it is complex and subtle and almost evasive. The palate has gone through an equally interesting evolution. Entry is striking, with acidity and sappy red fruits registering quickly on the palate. At first, the mid-palate was mouthfilling, light to medium bodied, with intense flavours and bright freshness. Over time, the wine has gained complexity and lost some of its hedonistic edge. Its flavour profile is quite savoury and intense, but delicate too. I love the acid structure of this wine, which provides a clearly delineated flow for each flavour component and which I can almost “visualise.” Good line through the after palate, with a finely drying finish of decent length. Although there’s a lot in this wine, it feels unresolved to me, as if it needs some time to make up its mind what it wants to be. I’ll allow my remaining bottles that luxury. Domaine Anne et Hervé SigautPrice: $A65Closure: CorkDate tasted: February 2008

Mount Pleasant Philip Shiraz 2005

What with all the Burgundies lately, I thought it might be amusingly ironic to taste what used to be known as Hunter Burgundy — made from Shiraz grapes, of course. Philip is usually a reliable choice in that it generally displays good typicité within the context of the vintage — no mean feat at this price point. 2005 being a good vintage in the Hunter for red wines, I was keen to try this one.And, I must admit, I was rather disappointed at first. Although Hunter character was present, the wine was swamped with a spirity, fortified edge that more or less obliterated any nuance of fruit character, and created an overblown, filling-yet-hollow mouthfeel of little textural interest. I had almost decided not to write it up, but left half the bottle to retaste the following day, just to be sure.It’s remarkably better after a good night’s airing. Although it hasn’t magically transformed into a different wine, it has a sense of balance that was not present on opening. Good Hunter savouriness alongside sweet yet subtle red fruits on the nose. There’s a bit of oak in there too; sweet but not overwhelming. The palate shows the most marked improvement, with a noticeable diminution in portiness, which has the effect of bringing the fruit into focus, and allowing the wine’s delicious, savoury tannins their proper place. It’s Hunter, but on a large scale: medium verging on full bodied, the alcohol still noticeable (though not all-consuming), denser flavours than one might expect. In the end, a good wine and excellent value. Despite the wine’s dimensions, it retains the elegance and softness of good Hunter Shiraz, so should please fans of the style.McWilliams Mount PleasantPrice: $A13Closure: StelvinDate tasted: February 208

Gnadenfrei Estate "The Waldemar" 1999

I began by peeling wax off in tiny flakes, trying to get to the cork, before I remembered that I probably should’ve just attacked with the corkscrew, which worked a treat. The bottle signed a quick whiff of nail polish remover, which dissipated quickly; the cork seemed in relatively good shape for an oldish bottle like this, still intact (albeit well stained).The color of the wine is definitely old: decrepit, even, a mouldering shade of dark rust brown, not particularly appealing (but then again I’m American, right, so I’m never supposed to drink wine that’s any older than a year or two, right?). The nose is, well, old. Really old. It smells like smoked meat (think Montréal) with a side order of truffles and old shoe leather. Overall, it kind of seems like a one-note wonder at this point, and I’m wondering if I was a fool to buy this (more on why later on). In the mouth, it’s surprisingly full-bodied for such an old wine, but the taste is not particularly attractive, tasting of not much more than “old wine” with no complexity. The finish is a bit better, though, with fairly fresh red fruits, a bit of sourness, and a fairly long finish of tobacco leaves with a sweetish edge to it.To be absolutely honest, I’m not sure how to feel about this wine. Is this normal? Is this the kind of thing the English drink and enjoy? I think I’m going to set this aside for a few hours and come back to it later on to see if it’s become something that I innately enjoy; as it is now, it seems more an intellectual exercise than something I’m going to drink with my supper.Gnadenfrei EstatePrice: US $19.95Closure: CorkDate tasted: February 2008—I first heard of Gnadenfrei back in 2001, when the local bottle shop (K&L Wines) carried this exact wine. At the time, I was working for Netscape Communications Corp., and I had a coworker by the name of Waldemar, so I always thought it’d be a hoot to give him a bottle of this. I didn’t – I wasn’t even sure if he drank wine – but I did have the pleasure of visiting Gnadenfrei in October 2002. The experience was entirely unlike any other Barossa winery I visited: Malcolm Seppelt himself poured the wine, rambled on about importing to Pennsylvania, and his wife was upstairs with more tourists. It was decidedly odd, standing there in that dingy basement drinking wines I didn’t know much about at the time.—Even coming back to this wine thirty minutes later, it’s very much improved, and I think I’m almost enjoying it now. If anything, it’s a welcome antidote to the drink-me-now 16% Barossa reds we get in these parts; there’s a definite oddness to this bottle that makes it stand out.

Tyrrell's Vat 1 2007

Having tasted a couple of other current vintage Private Bin whites in previous weeks, I was interested to see how the flagship Vat 1 fared in 2007. The Belford and Stevens wines seemed broader and more approachable than usual. Very pale with excellent clarity. The nose is an interesting mixture of high toned, almost powdery citrus fruit with waxed pears and more generous tropical notes. Good complexity. It’s quite expressive and certainly attractive; whether it’s especially “typical” is another question. The entry is gentle and builds, both structurally and in terms of intensity, towards the mid-palate. Here we have a forward mix of lemon/lime notes with hints of the tropical fruit shown on the nose. Acidity is certainly lively and it provides really good flow through the palate, but stops short of the sort of searingly intense structure seen in Hunter Semillons of a more classical bent. Flavour extends well into the after palate, and the wine’s length is extremely impressive.Rather than criticise this wine for what it isn’t, I’ll celebrate its pleasures: here we have an approachable, sophisticated young wine of good structure and length. As it sat in the glass, I could detect hints of the honeyed pleasure to come, but I’d say this is a medium term cellaring proposition at most — nothing should stop you enjoying this wine now.Tyrrell’sPrice: $A35Closure: StelvinDate tasted: February 2008

Krinklewood Verdelho 2007

I seem to end up drinking more Hunter Verdelho than I intend to, partly because they are often keenly priced and, well, there. This one is no exception, and has the added advantage of originating from a biodynamic vineyard. Straightforward, juicy fruit salad aromas with the faintest hint of herbal astringency on the nose. There’s no significant complexity but there’s sufficient volume, which is the point with a wine like this. The entry is immediately flavoursome, with more Verdelho fruit salad riding a slightly slippery, glycerol influenced mouthfeel through to a generous, flavoursome middle palate. Acidity is gentle but present enough to add some firmness to the wine’s otherwise easygoing palate. Unlike many Verdelhos, this wine shows well controlled phenolic bitterness — enough to cleanse the palate without disrupting the sweeter fruit notes. A nice lift of slightly medicinal flavour characterises the finish, and the wine has decent length, tapering slowly to a close.This is the nicest Verdelho I’ve had in a while. Its combination of mouthfilling flavour and perfectly balanced bitterness is delicious and fun. Drinks well and is great value.KrinklewoodPrice: $A16Closure: StelvinDate tasted: February 2008

Domaine Trapet Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Ostréa 2005

A village-level wine whose name apparently has something to do with the oyster shells found in and around its source vineyards.Piercing, complex and focused aroma profile comprising elements of cherry/plum, red fruits and a lovely stalky/sappiness. It’s just delightful to smell this wine and, although it has remained relatively static over the last couple of hours, its inherent complexity carries it well, and I’m continuing to enjoy each sniff very much. There’s some underlying oak that plays a well judged supporting role.Straight from the bottle, this wine tasted a little thin and bright on the palate, but it did not take long (thirty minutes at most) for the fruit to fill in. Entry is rich and flavoursome, introducing not only ripe fruit but the two key pleasures of this wine: structure and texture. No doubt there are gorgeous, ripe fruits and what appears to be whole bunch complexity here, but with each sip I keep coming back to the clearly defined acid framework and the powdery phenolics (including fine, ripe tannins) that create significant textural interest on the tongue. For all the fruit ripeness, it’s only a medium bodied wine, yet full of intensity and flavour. The after palate shows good line, but there’s a sudden drop as the finish kicks in, somewhat mitigated by the fact that this slightly subdued finish possesses more than satisfactory length.This is my kind of wine, and is drinking better now than some of the other 2005 Burgundies I’ve tasted recently. Elegant and alluring. I’d like to see it with a couple of years on it, though, primarily to experience the wine’s texture as it softens.Domaine Trapet Père et FilsPrice: $A66Closure: CorkDate tasted: February 2008

Skillogalee Chardonnay 2005

I don’t remember trying a Chardonnay when I was last at cellar door, but the empty bottle in the recycling bin proves there is indeed one in the Skillogalee range. According to the winery’s web site, there were 400 cases made from 1ha of mature (25 year old) vines. The nose is a throwback to the (some might say bad) old days of quite generously oaked Chardonnay, expressing as it does a whack of spicy, slightly varnishy oak ahead of more subtle Chardonnay fruit. I sat with the wine all evening and the oak continued to show prominently and ahead of any fruit-derived aroma. The palate is a continuation of this theme, with spicy, smoky and broad oak dominating reticent Chardonnay fruit of the yellow peach variety. I’m not opposed to a more worked style of Chardonnay that uses oak as a key flavour component, but a certain intensity of fruit needs to be present to provide balance, and I didn’t feel it was quite there in this wine. There’s some buttery richness that is, I presume, derived from malo, and acid is pretty soft. Finish is unremarkable.I wasn’t super impressed with this wine, as I kept wishing the fruit would step up more assertively to the oak treatment. As it is, a wine for lovers of spicy oak rather than Chardonnay fruit.SkillogaleeCost: $A20Closure: StelvinDate tasted: February 2008

Jacques Cacheux & Fils Vosne-Romanée Aux Réas 2005

Onwards with the Burgundy tastings. Here we have a village level wine from Vosne-Romanée.On pouring, I thought this wine was faulty, so funky were some of the smells emerging from glass. But it wasn’t — it’s just on the wilder side of Pinot, and perhaps all the better for it. Complex aromas of pepper, stalk, sous-bois and bright red strawberry fruit intermingle on the nose, but these descriptors may give false impression of my certainty — it’s a subtle, changeable nose that has evolved a fair bit through the evening. Quite expressive and beautifully perfumed.When I first sipped the wine, I found the acid overwhelmingly assertive. This subsided after an hour or so to reveal a still-bright but more balanced palate. Entry is lively and immediate, with acidity registering, followed quickly by sweet, plummy red fruit. Complexity builds towards the middle palate, where notes of pepper and spice become quite prominent. There are also smoky, meaty edges to the flavour profile, as well as a bit of vanilla oak. I wouldn’t call this a “clean” wine, but it’s funky and interesting in the most positive way. Body is medium, as is intensity. The wine continues well through the after palate, with a slightly confected note emerging towards the back of the mouth, lingering on through a finish of good length. I must say, I do like this wine a lot. It has changed a fair amount through the evening, gaining weight and body whilst not losing its fundamentally bright profile. I enjoy the slightly wild flavours too — squeaky clean fruit bombs can get boring after a while. There’s definitely a few years in this wine yet, but if you must drink now, do decant for a couple of hours, or at least sip slowly.Jacques Cacheux & FilsPrice: $A55Closure: CorkDate tasted: February 2008