Joseph Drouhin Vero Pinot Noir 2005

Medium red in color, almost cloudy, and smelling like strawberries in potting soil, this wine comes across more Oregon than Burgundy… but giving it some air brings out a distinct sour cherry candy note that really does seem more Old World than New.Body-wise, this is fairly big for a Pinot with moderate acidity (nothing too scary), some nice grippy tannins on the finish, and a fairly decent oaky flavor that matches nicely with the rich red fruits. All in all, this seems like it’s designed to blend potentially otherwise not saleable lots of pedestrian red Burgundy into what turns out to be a pretty decent bottle of wine at the price. I don’t really get a sense of place here, but what I do get is a lovely red wine that’s aching to be drunk with salmon or Serrano ham. Delicious.DrouhinPrice: US $19.99Closure: Cork [crumbly, low quality cork]Date tasted: April 2008

Lake's Folly Cabernets 2005

Anyone not familiar with Max Lake’s writings on food and wine is well advised to acquaint themselves with his rather extensive bibliography. He is a gourmand of the finest sort; an unashamed sensualist who is not afraid to deeply question the sources of his pleasure. It’s been a while now since Mr Lake sold the Lake’s Folly winery to Peter Fogarty, and the wines have been made for some time not by the Lakes but by Rodney Kempe. No matter — the grapes are the same and the general approach remains constant.

The 2005 Cabernets is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 11% Merlot and 8% Shiraz.A dense, dark colour, with bright flashes of purple and red. The nose presents a delightfully inscrutable aroma profile. Inscrutable because it is deep beyond immediate perception, yet offers tantalising glimpses of ripe fruit, dried flowers, meatiness and high quality oak. As with the best wines, it knows more than you do.

From entry onwards, fruit of the highest quality coats the tongue, spreading flavour that is both intense and of satisfying density. It unfolds in a focused line, widening steadily towards the mid-palate. Acid provides most of the structure through the entry and mid-palate, but it’s a subtle acidity, fine and subservient to the density of the fruit. Medium bodied, this wine is as much Hunter Valley as it is Cabernet, and its character will feel like coming home to enthusiasts of this region. Others, though, may lament its tendency towards regionality, perhaps at the expense of overt varietal character. Personally, I love it. The after palate remains focused, while lightening a little in tone. Impressively long finish, as velvet tannins coat the mouth with intensely sweet berry flavour.

Wine is an intersection of region, producer and consumer, at its best when these elements are positively aligned. I could drink this every day, so well does it match my idea of good wine.

Lake’s Folly
Price: $A50
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: April 2008

Solms-Delta Lekkerwijn Rosé 2006

At first sniff, I thought I’d happened across an egregiously overpriced South African version of white zin: this wine smelled simple and fruity, that’s it. Turns out I was wrong: it was just too cold to smell like anything. After a few minutes’ reprieve from the fridge, the smell turned to something like flowers that smell like meat in order to attract insects: florid, yeah, but also very, very meaty. Overall, it’s something like bacon that’s sitting in front of an open window in the countryside; very odd. It almost smells like Malbec, but there’s a definite uplift to the nose.Anyhow: the wine is rich and full in the mouth, starting on a generic red berry note and then quickly resolving to an almost oily, honyed sort of feel combined with black pepper and cherry. There’s good freshness here, a bit of residual sugar, and a lovely aftertaste of strawberries and cream that persists well.All in all, this is an odd one: I don’t know of anything like this from the States, Europe, or Australia. It’s not cheap, but it’s distinctive enough to be good value. Solms-DeltaPrice: US $17.99Closure: CorkDate tasted: April 2007

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

Domaine Pierre Amiot et Fils Morey-Saint-Denis 2005

On a bit of a Pinot run of late, mostly Australasian. Here’s a change of pace, then; a Village-level wine from the Morey-Saint-Denis appellation of Burgundy, vintage 2005. Some good complexity on the nose: there are notes of cherry, candied citrus peel, musk and something a little more herbal and funky. The wine’s entry is remarkable — texturally bright and acidic, it’s only until the wine is almost at mid-palate that you realise your tongue has started to sing with flavour from the tip onwards, a sort of delayed reaction. Light to medium bodied, there’s significant structure here, mostly acid driven, but with loose-knit and slightly grainy tannins too. There’s also good intensity of flavour, which mirrors that on the nose but jumps up a register in brightness thanks to the acid. The wine’s line becomes broader as it moves through the after palate. Decent length.This wine is pretty edgy at the moment, but the fruit’s intensity shines through and promises better balance in time. I suspect the lower registers will fill out. Quite a distinctive flavour profile, and right now one for lovers of higher toned Pinot Noir.Domaine Pierre Amiot et FilsPrice: $A42Closure: CorkDate tasted: April 2008

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

Rockford "Basket Press" Shiraz 2001

My partner had one sniff of this and said “Is this Port?” I had one sniff of that and said “Is that that crushed ants thing I’ve heard people talk about?” In short, this doesn’t smell at all like most red wines: there’s something different. There’s almost a varnish characteristic there as well; not unpleasant, but definitely not “correct” (if Yellow Tail ever shipped with that smell, they’d lose market share overnight).The color is a lovely cloudy ruby, not as dark as you see in Barossa Valley shiraz; it’s more reminiscent of Gallo Hearty Burgundy or canned sangria than anything. I’m not saying that pejoratively, by the way – it really is about that same soft, red velvet cupcake shade of red, and it’s beautiful.In the mouth, this is a medium to heavy bodied wine with a surprising line: at first, grilled toast, red berries, spice; then, it quickly moves on to a mid-palate sensation I can’t describe quite yet, and then it fans out into a soft, gentle, seemingly tannin-free finish that’s all black cherries. All the while there’s that same off note that presents itself on the nose, but I honestly don’t mind it; it makes it different than other wines, and I’m fine with that. There’s also good supporting acidity here, so even if the tannin seems to have gone missing somewhere between San Diego and South Australia, I don’t mind a bit.All in all, this is a rare treat for me. When my parents retired in 1998, they joined the Peace Corps and found themselves stationed in Moldova, a small Eastern European nation that used to be the great wine producing center of the USSR. Given the lack of any kind of modern technology there, most of their wines had similar characteristics to this one. Me, I find this styles to be utterly compelling and a welcome break from the everything’s fine school of winemakingthat’s the norm.If most wines are CDs, this one is vinyl.RockfordPrice: US $22 (tenth)Closure: Technical cork (!)Date tasted: April 2008

Domaine Gautheron Chablis 2005

I enjoy Chablis but don’t tend to drink it very much. Strange, as it’s both a very flexible style and generally excellent value. Well, there’s no time like the present to remedy such situations, so here we have a Chablis from the 2005 vintage, a year perhaps better known for reds than whites in this part of the world. Aromas of talc and flint, with hints of austere nectarine. Utter typicité, and quite lovely if you enjoy this style. The wine’s entry shows sophisticated texture, as it is both finely acidic and mouth filling. A cool, fresh mouthfeel, very focussed. Flavour becomes the primary element within the mid-palate, and it is very much in line with the nose: flint and tight stone fruit. Complexity and intensity are not especially remarkable, but the wine’s line is hard to fault. The after palate emphasises minerality and pushes strongly into a finish of powdery phenolics and quite good length.A pure, if somewhat simple, wine that delivers a good dose of Chablis character. It’s a good food wine (try it with chicken salad) and also works as an aperitif. Very good value.Domaine GautheronPrice: $A28Closure: CorkDate tasted: April 2008

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2004

Perhaps I’m just especially jaded this evening, but after cracking open the bottle and giving it a quick sniff, I thought yeah, it’s that grapefruit-lime rind-citron-whatever thing again. Of course, a second later I realized that that’s exactly the point: riesling generally doesn’t smell like this coming from anywhere else in the world. There’s beeswax and honey, fine talc and stoniness, and no aged characters in general at this point; the wine’s four years old, but it smells entirely fresh. OK, there could be a tiny bit of kero there, but that’s probably just residual dust from last autumn’s wildfires still hanging around the lounge. Finally, there’s just the barest hint of ripe peach there as well, fleeting and somehow atypical for Clare riesling, but distinctive all the same.Wow, this is acidic as hell when you finally get to have a taste, and there’s the suggestion of fruitiness there, but it’s here that you begin to realize that this sweet young thing ain’t sweet no more (with apologies to Mudhoney): it’s all veering away from youthful exuberant fruitiness and into something else more austere, restrained, different. It’s acidic enough to make me scrunch my face up a bit, but it works fine; there isn’t acidity on the exit, only on the entry; once the wine’s gone, you’re left with a lingering finish of lime salt caramels (somehow) and a sense of dry smoothness; it does go on for quite some time, which is remarkable.Like perhaps every great wine, the reason I broke out smiling after five minutes was simple: there’s an entire narrative shoehorned into a single liquid here. It doesn’t smell like it tastes. It doesn’t finish as it begins. As the wine begins, you think you’ve seen it all before, but then it begins shifting underneath your feet, taking you to a few unexpected places before gently fading into the end of the day.If you give yourself enough time, you could probably suss out a dozen different narrative threads here: the smoothness of French caramel, the crack of a fresh Bearss lime, the chalky comfort of talc, the hint of peach, the sea. Of course, what’s amazing here is that you can’t ever pin it down; this, after all, is what you’re paying so much for, and it’s entirely worth it.GrossetPrice: US $32Closure: StelvinDate tasted: April 2008

Peregrine Pinot Noir 2006

For those visiting the Central Otago region, do drop by Peregrine’s cellar door, as much for the spectacular setting and architecture as the wines. I enjoyed a wide range of wines when there last year, but right now we have the key label in its portfolio: the Pinot Noir.

This wine, made from fruit of the Cromwell Basin (Northburn) and Gibbston Valley sub-regions, makes an interesting stylistic comparison with well known wines from the Bannockburn sub-region (specifically, the 2006 Mount Difficulty and Felton Road Pinots previously tasted here at Full Pour). On the nose, this wine is a detailed, perfumed wine of impressive complexity. There are notes of bright sour plum, spice, sap, sausage and citrus mixed into a well integrated flavour profile. It’s a delicate nose, and if I were to compare it with the Bannockburn Pinots, I would say this wine shows greater finesse and complexity, perhaps at the expense of outright impact.

Initially, I found the palate to be structurally overwhelming, with prominent acidity and tannins washing away any substantial trace of fruit flavour. Some vigorous swirling, though, has helped to rebalance the palate, and through the evening it has become more drinkable, if still highly structured. Acidity and bright fruit weave in and out of each other on entry, creating a very focussed first impression. As the wine moves to the mid-palate, it remains quite driven in its line, but the fruit relaxes somewhat to express hints of sweetness amongst the primarily savoury, sour flavour profile. There’s a lot going on here, flavour-wise, with more sour plum and spice, plus a strong mineral streak. The flavour continues to build towards the after palate, where a clean, attractive burst of red fruit presents, before velvet tannins whisk the wine away to a lengthy finish.

Frankly, this wine isn’t ready to drink now and, as excited as I am about it, I should note that its best days are ahead of it. Having made that point, this is an excellent wine that has enormous potential to become superb with a few years in bottle. It’s already complex, and just needs time for its structure to soften and let the fruit emerge from its cage. One that’s worth waiting for (and excellent value).

Price: $NZ39
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: April 2008