Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir 2006

Kooyong’s Massale Pinot has two things immediately going for it: it is reasonably priced and classily packaged (I do like the Kooyong label design, generally). I saw this on a restaurant wine list the other day and had to give it a go. A piercing nose of sappy red fruits, minerality and a touch of oak. The palate shows good intensity from entry onwards, although this intensity is counterbalanced by an overall delicacy and lightness of touch. The wine’s acid structure is quite prominent, and this adds zip to the wine’s middle palate of sour red fruits, hints of sous-bois, perhaps some sweet nutty spice and minerality. The fruit character is bright and clear, and elegantly savoury. Mouthfeel is very fresh indeed, thanks to that acid, and the finish shows slightly grainy tannins that are noticeable but well-balanced.This wine is elegant and “adult”, although not especially complex. I found that it responded extremely well to food (creamy pasta), so for full enjoyment, one is well advised to try this with, not as, a meal. KooyongPrice: $A28Closure: DiamDate tasted: April 2008


In lieu of a proper post, here are some quick notes on four wines I’ve had this week:Mitchell Riesling 2002 [Clare Valley]: Although this was once the Penguin Wine of the Year [if memory serves me right], it isn’t holding up particularly well. If there’s ever a criticism I’ve had of Clare riesling in general, it’s that it’s too stingy with the residual sugar. Six years after harvest, there’s little left to love: some kero on the nose, acidity still very much present, something like lime, and… that’s it. I was seriously tempted to add a bit of simple syrup in hopes of a Frankenmosel but decided against it. I still have half a case, so here’s hoping this either improves or I learn to like it better.Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2002 [Clare Valley]: This is, I’d think, probably about as good as Australian riesling gets [it’s either this, Grosset, or Steingarten, I suppose]. Six years on, the nose was strangely absent both straight out of the fridge and after warming up a bit. Eventually, I think I smelled something like hay or dust on a lightbulb. In the mouth, however, this wine is an absolute delight: so light it’s barely even there, ethereal, stony, citral… fantastic.DEWN Gonzo Pinot Gris 2005 [Bonny Doon Vineyard]: If you’re teaching a class in wine faults and need to show your students with reduction smells like… grab a bottle of this. Smells like someone dumped a load of sulfur in a barn stall. Ugh.Bonny Doon Ca’ del Solo Muscat 2006: If you’re going to drink a muscat, and if you’ve decided against Moscato d’Asti because you can’t stand bubbles or want more alcohol in your wine, then this is probably one of the best bottles you’ll be able to find. Truly beautiful stuff: all orange blossom and jasmine perfume, beautifully balanced, not sweet, and a lovely greenish yellow in the glass. Highly recommended.


While the other half is enduring a regrettable alcohol-free period, I have been scouring the cellar for inexpensive tid-bits that I had hoped would generate enough interest to write up. Alas, no mixed success so far, although the experience does highlight how much one’s impressions of a wine can change over time.
I purchased a few bottles of the Seppelt Chalambar 2005 a little while ago after tasting it once and finding it sufficiently delicious. My second bottle, consumed last night (and around six months after the first) was not nearly so interesting. It was generous enough, and distinctive in character, but I found it unattractively blurred and thus utterly unrewarding to contemplate as anything other than a tasty quaffer. Perhaps I was in a bad mood, as it’s not a bad wine by any means. Or perhaps it was a dud bottle.By contrast, the Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2006 has never tasted so good as it did the other night. The last few tastings of this wine (a personal favourite) have been ever so slightly disappointing, as I have found the wine to be lacking in clarity and ever so clumsy. Although it still feels like a gangly teenager, on the basis of my latest tasting it may yet achieve a more harmonious maturity. An intense blast of purple jubes, licorice allsorts and pepper on both nose and palate characterises this wine, which is of significant flavour density. The structure is not quite resolved, with acid sticking out a bit, and tannins feeling a little chunkier than one would like. But my experience of this label is that it drinks best with several years’ age on it, so it’s certainly heading in the right direction. Good drinking.

Tyrrell's 4 Acres Shiraz 2006

I presented the 2005 4 Acres at a dinner with Chris last year, where it promptly stole the limelight from a table full of desirable labels we had both brought to the party, as much for its difference as its objective quality. It was like essence of Hunter Shiraz, quirkily different from “Australian Shiraz” as well as singular in the context of its own regional style. The 2006 is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because it shows a clear relationship with its Vat 9 sibling of the same vintage, perhaps indicating the degree to which vintage conditions shine through with these wines.

A bit of sulfur suppressing significant aroma at first, but lifting after an hour or so to show deep, rich smells of red fruit, eucalyptus and some regional stink. There’s also faint oak influence that adds richness and depth rather than anything especially “primary.” It’s a beguiling aroma, and quite complex.

Entry shows good impact and flavour intensity from the tip of the tongue onwards. There’s a lovely fanning out of flavour with this wine and, by the time the mid-palate arrives, the mouth is awash with intense, quality fruit. More red fruit and dirt here, mostly savoury but with edges of sweetness. As with the Vat 9, there’s a slightly plummy, very ripe fruit note. I think it works better in the context of this wine, though, because overall the 4 Acres is a lighter and more charming wine than the Vat 9, and can carry this idiosyncratic flavour profile more easily. The wine’s structure seems evenly split between prominent yet balanced acidity and velvety, mouth filling tannins. Mouthfeel is correspondingly bright and substantial. Nice, focused line through the after palate and finish.

I really love this wine, and I admit I’m biased towards its style. But it’s an easy wine to fall for and, despite its sophistication, I imagine wine novices would easily recognise the quality of this wine’s fruit, as well as its superb balance. If anything, it’s a more “complete” wine than the 2005, and I’ve a feeling it’s only showing the tip of the iceberg in terms of what it might become in a few years’ time. I’ll be waiting with anticipation.

Price: $A30
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: April 2008

J. Hofstätter Lagrein 2005

The distinct sourness on the nose here is your first indication that this isn’t a New World wine. The smoke and minerals on the nose are appetizing; the wine is a lovely, dark, inky color and offers up somewhat jammy blackberry fruit as well. Somewhat alarmingly, there also appears to be a fair amount of residual sulfur dioxide that sneaks in from time to time; it’s kind of an off note, but it isn’t too prominent and fades into the background easily enough.In the mouth, the wine seems a bit thin… OK, compared to California red wine, it is perhaps a bit thin, but this is more properly described as elegant. There’s a real fullness of fruit here along with a sort of menthol edge, fading out into a gentle finish with hints of pine resin, peppercorn, and cedar. The sourness makes a return as well, but it’s well integrated into the overall line here. The softness of the finish is also a bit surprising, but also apparently quite typical for this grape variety (I had to look it up; this is the first lagrein I’ve ever tasted).Oddly enough, this wine tastes green to me; if most red wines are red, this one is somehow green. It’s not a capsicum/bell pepper green, but rather woodruff or basil. It’s intriguing and a welcome change from your ordinary Friday night bottle of wine.J. HofstätterPrice: US $16.95Closure: CorkDate tasted: April 2008

Taylors Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

It must be slightly nerve-wracking for producers known for their “excellent value for money” wines. When wine lovers sniff out a bargain, it’s easy to take for granted that a wine will, year after year, deliver a level of quality above its price point. It’s almost as if one waits for the reality to hit (as it has in the past with countless labels). Taylors, though, seems to maintain a good line in value Clare Valley wines, and their Cabernet Sauvignon is known as perhaps their greatest bargain. I read, I think over at Winefront, that it’s Australia’s biggest selling Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Here’s the 2006 version. A lovely, expressive nose of cassis and leafiness (or is it gravel?), with a dash of powdery vanilla for good measure. It’s instantly varietal and generous, if quite ripe. Entry is flavoursome and focused, with a nice line starting from the tip of the tongue and widening through to the mid-palate. The wine’s physical presence down the centre of the tongue is tight, yet this never creates an impression of being lean or intellectual. Rather, the flavour profile shows quite ripe cassis and blackberry alongside generous yet delicious vanilla oak. Body is medium to full. The wine’s structure is assertive, with acid tingling the tongue at the same time as powdery, slightly chunky tannins fill the mouth. I’m quite sure the wine could take some ageing, as it has not deteriorated significantly in the two days since I opened it. There’s a diminution of body as the wine moves through the after-palate, but this thinning is compensated by the wine’s decent, dry finish.I bought this wine for $15 and I’m glad to say that it remains a great bargain. A delicious wine that should satisfy any craving for flavoursome, generous Cabernet.TaylorsPrice: $A15Closure: StelvinDate tasted: April 2008

Rosemount Estate Epicurean Collection GSM Grenache – Syrah – Mourvédre 2002

Although I’ve never wandered out into Scottish bogs to cut peat for a crofter’s fire, I imagine it might smell something like this wine does: dark, loamy, and sweet at the same time. There’s definitely more than a hint of animalics here; it’s got that kind of sweetness on the nose that reminds me of more than a few perfumes [e.g. Comme des Garçons 2 Man]. There’s kind of a high-toned flare [flair?] to it as well; it isn’t all heavy, funky; there’s also an uplift to the perfume which rounds it off nicely.Color-wise, this wine looks like Bandol more than anything else; it doesn’t appear particularly old at this point, and the rim isn’t especially watery. There’s a bit of onionskin browning there, sure, but it could fool you into thinking that this wine is younger than it is.In the mouth, there’s a short burst of sweetness immediately checked by firm, dusty tannins; the flavor makes a sharp turn upwards to something like carrots or root vegetables (no kidding!), before flattening out into a fairly long, soft finish with good acidity. All in all, it feels like there’s an awful lot going on here; there are also some cedary notes as well as a Vegemite-on-raspberry effect.I’d hazard a guess that this will will still be drinking well a decade from now, but I’m far from an expert in these matters. If anything, it’s beautiful right now and highly recommended (especially at the US importer’s clearance pricing).Rosemount EstatePrice: US $9.99Closure: CorkDate tasted: April 2008Note: The label actually says GSM, but I was amused by its Web site nomenclature, reproduced above. C’mon… Epicurean Collection? Give me a break!

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2006

I really don’t know what to say about this wine. It smells like Pinot Noir, more or less… and I’m at a loss for descriptors past that point. There seems to be some kind of weird spritziness on the tongue, and I find myself wondering if there’s been a small refermentation in bottle as well; there’s an odd, yeasty note that’s unattractive and it mostly tastes of pizza dough that someone dropped in a wax cup of strawberry Kool-Aid at the end of a children’s birthday party.Fifteen minutes after pouring, there’s kind of a foamy, frothy ring around the wine as it sits in my glass. It’s not very attractive. Here’s a snapshot:With additional time and air, this wine is about as far from good pinot noir as it gets. It’s medium bodied, atypically so for Pinot. The wine is heavy, dull, flabby, and overripe. There is no finish. There is no excuse for shipping this wine overseas; it should have been consumed as sangria, preferably in Nelson.Thankfully, our street’s recyclables are being picked up by the city overnight. I don’t want to have to look at this bottle in the morning and be reminded of my mistake.Villa MariaPrice: US $17.99Closure: 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