Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 2002

A controversial wine. This benchmark Australian label in its 2002 incarnation was savaged by some prominent critics on release, then appeared at an enormous discount at retail. I picked up a couple out of curiosity and whacked them in the cellar. Here’s a first taste.

There’s a curious duality on the nose. First, hints of sweet dark fruit and sweeter oak. Second, an astringent, funky character that is hard to pin down but that exists somewhere between green bean and hot tar. For all that, it’s quite aromatic.
The palate is revealing, as it more strongly contrasts sweet fruit against powerfully astringent, somewhat bitter flavours. Just full of contradictions, this wine. There’s definitely some ripe, black fruit in there. It’s emphemeral, though, and hence teases the palate without providing a sense of closure or completeness. Instead, the wine is somewhat dominated by apparently unripe notes and bitter coffee grounds. It’s all slightly dirty and quite out of keeping with my understanding of style and balance. Some sweet vanilla oak sneaks into the after palate, and the finish is quite long.
I left a little in glass overnight and it calmed somewhat, but with this diminution of difficult flavours came an overall dullness that is no compensation. I should note, though, that we finished the bottle between us, and it’s ironic that a wine about which I have so many questions can still be oddly drinkable. The other half certainly liked it more than I, so maybe it’s just not my style. 
Price: $A20
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: July 2008

Helm Premium Riesling 2005

Some time ago, a lovely visit to the Helm cellar door resulted in the purchase of this wine amongst other things. Interestingly, Helm’s top Riesling isn’t made from estate fruit, but rather from that of a nearby grower who is reputedly fastidious in his viticultural craft. On release, I remember this wine as a tight, floral/powdery/slate type of Riesling, and one that struck me at the time as designed for cellaring. Time to check on its progress.

Youthful colour that doesn’t betray any significant change through bottle age. The nose is similar to what I remember, with aromas of flowers, talc and so on. There is, however, a fullness to the aroma that seems new and reminds me of spicy, lightly tropical fruit. Quite pretty. The palate shows greater intensity than anticipated and confirms the nascent development of this wine. Clean, lemon flavour registers soon after entry and becomes richer towards the mid-palate. Although acid provides adequate shape, it’s relaxed enough to enable a generous flow of flavour over the tongue that widens along the line. A hint of honey and an interesting savoury edge become more prominent on the after palate and create an impression of rich, spicy preserved lemon. Excellent drive through to the finish, where a sweetly floral note, combined with delicious sourness, lingers on for quite some time.

Clonakilla Riesling 2003

I retrieved a mini-vertical of Clonakilla Rieslings from storage recently, and have already tasted the 2002. Here, now, is the 2003, of which I have several bottles but no recollection of tasting on release. A poor memory of one’s own wine collection is more advantageous than it sounds, as it allows for the wonderful experience of discovery multiple times per wine. Now that’s value.

Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 1999

Bottle variation has been an unfortunate hallmark of the lesser Mount Pleasant wines, something the use of Stelvin closures may ameliorate. This 1999 Semillon, though, is bottled under old-fashioned cork, and my experience of it has been up and down. The last bottle, opened perhaps two weeks ago, was dumb and lifeless. I thought I’d try my luck again tonight, and I think this bottle is more representative of the wine’s quality and character.

Lovely golden colour. The nose was initially a bit muted, with a little prickly sulfur. Closer to room temperature, and the wine is showing a range of elegant aromas, such as beeswax and a lightly herbal astringency, perhaps some buttery softness too. Still quite fresh at nearly ten years of age. The palate shows remnants of the spritzy acidity often observed in young Semillon, but this soon gives way to a waxy, slippery mouthfeel that lovers of aged Hunter Semillon will no doubt adore. This wine’s line is akin to a wedge that starts tight and widens progressively through to an expansive finish. On the way, classic notes of sweet honey and lanolin caress the tongue, along with some citrus-like reminders of youth. There are also hints of caramel and butter, and in some respects one could be forgiven for thinking this is a Chardonnay. Palate weight also accumulates towards the after palate, to the point where it’s really quite mouthfilling and almost chewy. Good length.

This wine is just starting to show at its best and, although not the most complex or most intense, shows brilliant typicité. Bloody good value.

Mount Pleasant
Price: $A12
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: July 2008

Lindemans Pyrus 1998

On release, I liked this wine more than its siblings, the St George and Limestone Ridge. I can’t remember why, exactly, so this tasting is a good opportunity to find out whether it’s as special as I remember. The colour is garnet with some bricking at the edges. The nose is a classic mixture of tobacco, vanilla oak, dark fruit and a bloom of aged influences expressed as sweet leather and mushroom. Assertive, seductive and lush, despite the abundance of savoury notes. The palate shows some surprises. Youthful red and black fruits register first on entry, followed by a series of more savoury elements, such as leaf and leathery notes. These add complexity to the core of sweet fruit, though never quite dominate it. A remarkably persistent intensity of flavour kicks in towards the mid-palate and dominates one’s sense of the wine from that point onwards. This is a very assertive wine; fruit and delicately sweet aged characters attach themselves to the tongue aided by a blanket of fine tannins. These flavours stay attached through the after palate, and it’s only towards the finish that other influences, such as sappy oak, start to displace them. Length is very impressive.Interesting wine, this one. Initially, I was super impressed with its intensity and impact, but realised after a while that these qualities mask a certain one-dimensionality to the flavour profile. It’s still a good wine, just not the most elegant style, or perhaps it’s not at an ideal stage of development. I wonder, too, whether the fruit character hints at DMS. If you have some, wait a little longer. I suspect if the fruit recedes a further notch or two, it will be more rewarding to drink.LindemansPrice: $A50Closure: CorkDate tasted: July 2008 

Mount Pleasant Old Paddock & Old Hill Shiraz 1996

There’s something about wines that are potentially great: when you get them in the glass, no matter of time spent sniffing and thinking seems to offer so much as a suggestion as to what exactly this wine is supposed to be. Most wines offer easy clues: raspberry motor oil? Congratulations, you’ve just bought a high octane Barossa shiraz? Your grandmother’s toilet soap mixed in with Hawaiian Punch? Congratulation, you just bought a trendy Shiraz Viognier that someone hurried to market in the early 2000s.And this wine? I’m stumped. Is that earth? Dried dates, perhaps? No. Something like nail varnish and vetiver? No, that’s not it either. It’s definitely old – as I poured it into the glass, its color was hesitant, shy, unwilling to assert itself. Cloves and camphor? That might be more correct… at any rate, there is still some kind of primary fruit hanging on for dear life here, combined with somewhat “off” (yet likeable!) notes of dirt and sharpness.Surprisingly rich in the mouth,  it still defies easy description; this isn’t really like any wine I know. There’s something here which reminds me of a discontinued chocolate sampler left over from last season’s Valentine’s Day shopping: the tiniest bit musty with a fruitiness of confectionarial trends long since past. There’s almost a horehound medicinal aspect here too, but not really; menthol, perhaps, but more of a folk remedy than cheap chewing gum additives. There’s absolutely lovely viscosity here as well; the feel is surprising and welcoming; there’s also a curiously high-pitched tangential note that enter early on and remains for some time. Finally, there still seems to be some sweet, woody character here that still supports it all.So: I’m not sure what the heck to say about this wine other than it is strange, strange in the best possible way. Everything they teach you in wine school turns out to be wrong in this one case: you can’t grow grapes in such a terrible climate, you shouldn’t age New World wines that long, you name it. But what we have here, ultimately, is (I think) terroir, plain and simple. Somehow, the local pioneers sussed that the Hunter Valley does in fact produce phenomenally good wines – wines that are in fact better than good as they’re entirely sui generis. And that’s no small achievement.Mount PleasantPrice: No idea (this was a present from Julian); Wine Searcher says about A$42 for the current releaseClosure: CorkDate tasted: July 2008

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2002

A fascinating counterpoint to its Watervale sibling, this wine would be a great education for those drinkers who think of Australian wine as a terroir-free zone. I’m not sure it would turn any drinkers on to Riesling, though. That sounds like a put-down, but it’s reflective merely of style, not quality. For those converts among us, it’s pure pleasure.A delicate, wispy nose that presents a riot of high toned aromas. There are florals, minerality, slate, etc. The tiniest hint of toast also registers and it’s the only element that indicates the six years that have passed between vintage and this tasting. Compared to the Watervale, this is a much more restrained wine, no less complex, but different nonetheless. With some time in glass, rounder fruit notes also emerge, yet the overall profile remains lithe and chiselled. On entry, bright, ultra-fine acidity freshens the palate and ushers beautifully delineated flavours onto the mid-palate. There’s more slate and mineral, hints of powdery lime blossom, and some edges of honey too, all showing excellent intensity despite the ultra-light palate weight. It’s elusive in a way, both structured and ephemeral, like a puff of smoke that shows unexpected geometry before spiralling into the sky. Fruit gains weight on the after palate, and the finish sings with mineral and honey in equal measure. So, so elegant. It’s a wine that screams quality, but is considerably more intellectual an experience than the Watervale. Reading Chris’s earlier note, I concur with his description minus the petrol, which I’m not getting from this bottle. This is just starting to age, and I’m going to leave my next tasting for another two to three years.GrossetPrice: $A40Closure: StelvinDate tasted: July 2008