Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Pinot Gris 2007

I can’t find a region marked on the label, but the Mount Langi Ghiran website suggests grapes for the 2008 version are Grampians in origin, so I’ll presume the same applies here. If I’m right, this is the first Pinot Gris from the Grampians I have tried. And hey, it’s bloody good, better than a swag of local (and imported) expressions of this grape I’ve tasted in the past. 

There’s some definite age on the nose, very attractive in fact, with a sense of delicate caramel overlaying still-vibrant pear fruit. There are some savoury complexities too, a little funky and certainly very interesting. Overall, expressive, flavoursome and shapely, which is not always the case with the variety, and certainly welcome news to this taster.
Oh, I should stop writing as if I’m drinking this Gris under duress, as if somehow the only value it has is its defiance of the plebeian tendencies of the variety — quite simply, this is a very tasty wine, and one I’m very pleased to be consuming right now. On the palate, a sophisticated mouthfeel that is equal parts zingy acid, phenolic texture and luxurious slipperiness. Really well judged. Flavours are of more caramel, pear, perhaps peachier stonefruit too, plus attractive dessert-like spice. Quite complex, akin to a reasonably worked Chardonnay in this respect, yet quaffable too. Dies a bit on the after palate and finish, but that just serves to prompt another mouthful, so all is forgiven.
A very convincing expression of this variety. 

Mount Langi Ghiran
Price: $A21.85
Closure: Stelvin

Monte Xanic Malbec Limited Edtiion 2006

Unctuous and richly spicy at first, the nose of this wine reveals itself in short order to be more than that. There’s a fleeting sweetness, a hint of acidity, and then a full-on reveal of rich red fruits. At other times, there’s a dusty, dry spiciness that reminds me of things in the back of the spice cabinet that haven’t been opened in a while: something along the lines of allspice, bay leaf, and nutmeg.

Wonderfully complex, the initial impression is of simple, generous fruit, but then tannins sweep in at once to announce the serious intent of this bottle. These are quickly joined by sweet-leaf dried tobacco notes accompanied by just a hint of well-toasted barrel spice; then, it slowly, slowly, slowly fades into a ridiculously lengthy finish of slippery tannin, dark plummy fruit, and a hint of rosewater.

Delicious in ways that Malbec often isn’t, to me this is another example of how good Mexican wine can be. The climate in Baja California works well for grapes that thrive at greater levels of ripeness, and yet it has been judiciously harvested here, giving you the fullness of a New World wine and yet all of the spice and complexity of the Old. If anything, this reminds me greatly of some of the French producers in Argentina such as Lindaflor; the overall result is intoxicating, sophisticated, and just plain delightful.

Monte Xanic
Price: MXN 438 (US $34)
Closure: Cork

Champbrulé Brut NV

I flew to Mexico City yesterday for the first time in 25 years: I’m spending a week here on vacation with friends and family. Walking around after the afternoon thundershowers, I thought I’d see if I could buy some Mexican wine. Thankfully, the locals were incredibly friendly and pointed me towards a small wines and spirits only shop two blocks from my apartment that was filled to the roof (literally) with the kind of international wine selection you’d expect in any world class city: Champagne, Chablis, Rioja, Brunello, all of the world’s greatest hits. I was hoping to find some of Freixenet’s Mexican wines, but all they had was their Spanish wines. I asked in terrible Spanish if they had any Mexican sparkling wines… and yes, they found two wines in stock. They fetched it from the top shelf, dusted it off, sold it to me, and here’s what I remember about it from last night:

This appears to be traditionally vinified with second fermentation in the bottle. Beautifully packaged, with all of things you’d expect (perforated foil, custom printed cage, etc.), it appears to have been produced by something called Wine Products of Tijuana, which to my American ears isn’t appetizing. However, the wine itself is most definitely appetizing, with a fine, persistent bead and appealing yellow color. There’s not too much by way of smells, here, alas, but that’s no problem as the wine is eminently drinkable, full in the mouth, and (thankfully) no more residual sugar than any other wine in this class. This is a well crafted wine and can definitely hold its own with any American wine in this price range; to me, this is even slightly preferable to Korbel thanks to its restraint with regard to sweetness levels. I’d buy it again.

Devil's Lair Chardonnay 2007

There’s a pork roast in the oven, to be accompanied by a variety of roasted vegetables (including parsnip, which I adore) and this wine. A few sips before the food is ready, though.

The nose is misleading me at first, because it seems full of oatmeal, cream, hints of caramel and other signs of manipulation, suggesting a wine dominated by winemaking artifact. Give it a a few swirls, then, to bring clean, grapefruity aromas to the fore. There’s actually a lot going on here, including a rather sharp note that I’m having trouble describing but for which I shall use the word “herbal” (in a thyme-like manner), via sea water. It’s darned expressive, helped by what is an altogether piercing aroma profile.
The palate is similarly complex, and what I like most is how its overt caramel and oat flavours don’t in any way equal flab or a lack of shape. In fact, this is a taut, tightly controlled wine from start to finish. A really elegant entry into the mouth, with flavour that builds smoothly to a middle palate of decent intensity. The fruit flavour is firmly in the grapefruit spectrum, with a bit of white nectarine poking its head in. I like the slippery mouthfeel here, which is an interesting foil to the firm acid structure. As the wine relaxes into its after palate, the more worked flavour profile begins to dominate, with really delicious sharp caramel and mealy elements, along with a harder thread that seems part oak, part acid-derived to me (its character is almost metallic or briney with a sappy quality too). Quite a long, soft finish.
This is a heap of wine for the money. For mine, I’d prefer a slightly less aggressive, hard profile, but perhaps time will take care of that. Really nice Chardonnay.

Devil’s Lair
Price: $A28.95
Closure: Stelvin

Luca Syrah Laborde Double Select 2006

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for anyone to be using a bottle this heavy: to do so is just rude. It makes it harder to hold and pour, more expensive to ship, and of course there’s the whole doing right by Mother Earth thing to consider. Worst of all, buying this wine will make you feel like a total prat. After all, what idiot wants to be seen buying the biggest, heaviest, most ostentatious bottle in the shop? Please.On to the wine. Shortly after opening the bottle, I noticed that I had a huge sticky smear of something all over my left hand (I’m a southpaw). Yuck. I retrieved the cork from the garbage and sure enough, there’s a bunch of sticky, gooey mass at the end of the cork and smeared up the side of it. I haven’t had the pleasure of this experience before; I trust the wine is OK and that this is just an one-off, a production oddity.The nose is curiously slight: if Vosges made a chocolate bar called “Gentlemen’s Dark Chocolate with Cedar,” then this is what it would smell like. Oak oak oak and oak… and yet, there’s a pleasant, fleeting floral sourness hiding in there somewhere too. Still, I don’t get a real sense of place, just a sense of cash flow: this wine smells like money.Amazingly purple-y youthful, the wine looks ravishing. Tasting it, though, leaves me a bit less a-flutter: it seems just a bit insubstantial in the mouth at first, quickly hiding behind massive woody tannin and finishing on a slightly sweet note, again managing to taste more expensive than anything else.In short, this is a wine for a hedge fund manager with a penchant for bling. This wine would be absolutely perfect with a steak dinner at the finest steakhouse in town: I’m thinking El Gaucho in Seattle would sell cases of this to Microsoft marketeers dining prospective clients in town to visit the Executive Briefing Center. Drinking it on its own is a bit of a chore, rather like gargling with lavender water and sawdust, but add a fine cut of meat and even a cigar and now you’re talking serious money.Luca
Price: $20
Closure: Cork

Dowie Doole Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

The third of three current release Dowie Doole reds tasted (also tasted: 2007 Shiraz and 2008 Merlot). This is the most interesting for me personally, as I strongly prefer cooler climate expressions of Cabernet. Yet, ironically, this is perhaps my favourite of the three; it’s strongly regional and quite delicious. 

A very expressive nose of ripe red plums, light cocoa and tea leaves, along with a bit of spicy oak. It’s one of those wines you can smell from across the room, and its character becomes more interesting and subtle as you approach, rather than simply becoming louder. The aroma profile is a bit blunt perhaps, lacking in elegance and shape. But it’s hard to argue with something that smells this good.
On the palate, lots of everything: fruit, oak, texture. It’s not a heavy wine, just generous, with good flow through the mouth. Flavours are of more ripe plums (perhaps slightly stewed), spicy vanilla oak and some chocolate, though less than on the nose. There’s herbaciousness too, though unlike the dusty leaf of a cooler climate wine, this expresses as sun-scorched, once-luxurious foliage. An especially tasty, sour finish of plum skins and sweet tannin. 
I was going to say that you have to like the style, but I don’t especially, yet I still find this quite convincing. Just drink it.

Dowie Doole
Price: $A21
Closure: Stelvin

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2002

Six months too late to call it spring cleaning, I found three bottles of this hidden in the bedroom closet last weekend. Oops. Talk about suboptimal cellaring conditions: nearly 80 degrees in there all summer long. I decanted it, set the decanter in an ice bath to cool it off a bit, and waited an hour before drinking: I hope that mitigated any damage I did as best I could.There’s a visual texture to the wine that’s unusual: there’s a blackly rich core of fruit in the glass, thinning out to a less intimidating rim at the edge of the glass. Better yet, there’s a suggestion of particulate matter, with bits stuck to the sides of the glass; presumably, more of the same in the wine itself lends it all an impression of body and richness. I have no idea why, but the older I get, the happier I am when my wines have a certain look of, well, relation to the world of the natural. I don’t like wines filtered to a glossy smoothness; I want to be reminded that they were grown in dirt and raised in wood.At first, the nose is off-putting, smelling sweet, strangely sweet, the sweetness of blackcurrant jam. It’s only temporary, though: wait half an hour at least and its true nature will out. There seems to be an overall level of Brett here that teeters between “ugh, no thanks” and “OK, I can deal with this”; harsh patent medicines duel with roasted smoky notes, and no one comes out on top. Ultimately, the off notes mostly win out, which is a disappointment in the extreme; the quick flashes of roast coffee and bacon fat are there all too briefly before being one-upped by slightly metallic aromas of the medicine cabinet.Still, there’s enough interest here to make me want to finish (just) a (single) glass before tossing the rest of the bottle and waiting another year or two to try one of the six bottles remaining. The texture is beautiful, a rich, solid mass that glides forward on lovely, smooth tannins into a long, silky finish that most wines would kill for. Ultimately, though, the strange qualities of the wine carry the day, and you’re left wondering what happened – I remember this wine being profoundly beautiful five years ago, but I’m just not feeling the love right now. Sadly, the warm cellaring spot probably didn’t help matters. Oh well. Clonakilla
Price: $20
Closure: Cork

Dowie Doole Shiraz 2007

I’ve tasted all three current release Dowie Doole reds in the “standard” range, though this is only the second note I’ve posted (Cabernet to come soon). There’s a definite family resemblance at work in the way the fruit is expressed in these wines that makes this trio of labels variations on a theme. Though they show different flavour profiles, they are all primary, fresh wines of attractive vibrancy.

If anything, this Shiraz is a better drink now proposition than the Merlot. There’s an immediate burst of fruit on the nose, along with some spice, vanilla coffee and something darker and more savoury (a bit like licorice or some other tangy delight). It shows easy balance between each element; this is very natural-smelling, apparently free of strain or artifice. Over time, the aroma grows more expressive and even spicier.
In the mouth, I found the fruit flavours too simple at first (verging on confectionary), until the wine had spent half an hour in the glass. After this short rest, a more nuanced range of flavours emerged, without sacrificing a core of playful red and black berries. On entry, a good tingle of acidity that carries chocolate and berries through to the middle palate. This wine fills the mouth with ease so that, although it is only medium bodied, its drinks in some respects like a wine of larger dimensions. A good burst of clean fruit and spice on the middle palate. Though I suspect oak contributes significantly to the overall flavour profile, the fruit is always discernible in the mix. An easy after palate and soft, lightly drying finish round things off. 
Personally, I marginally prefer the Merlot to this wine, as it shows a bit more sophistication and bit less confectionary fruit. But you can’t go wrong with either as a tasty quaffer. This is a satisfying, delicious wine.

Dowie Doole
Price: $A21
Closure: Stelvin

Bleasdale Malbec 2005

There aren’t too many straight Malbecs made in Australia, although the variety continues to appear in many blends, sometimes as a regional specialty (as with Cabernet Sauvignon in the Clare Valley, for example). Chris’s partner Dan is something of a Malbec enthusiast, so it is in his honour that I taste this wine tonight. 

Awfully grand intro for a $A15 wine, no? Yet this is full of interest and tasty to boot. The nose shows a nice array of aromas, including slightly jammy red and black fruits, dense brambles baking in hot Summer sun, mint lollies and what seems like rather raw oak, vanillan and sappy in equal measure. Somehow, it strikes the same pose as an Italian pastoral art movie from the 70s; rough around the edges yet vividly sensual, all in slightly porno-like soft focus. I’ve never compared wine to an adult movie before, so this must be doing something right. 
In the mouth, a big rush of Langhorne Creek goodness. It’s just as minty as the aroma, which is to say noticeably so without being offensive, and more importantly has the generous rush of flavour that seems to characterise this region’s red wines. Bang; immediately on entry there’s rich fruit flavour, a little baked perhaps, plus a lively mouthfeel that owes its character to a decent whack of acidity. This acidity isn’t that well integrated but, given the style of wine, its robustness works acceptably well. Intensity of flavour remains decent throughout, never peaking or troughing at any stage, nor scaling any particular heights. The acid-driven after palate brings a slightly medicinal edge to the flavour profile, before a nice long finish of red fruits and fine, dry tannins. 
Totally unsophisticated, totally enjoyable. Not a bad companion to the consolations of another Monday evening. 

Price: $A15
Closure: Stelvin

Blue Poles Hopping Stone Tempranillo 2007

The second Blue Poles Vineyard wine to be tasted at Full Pour and, like the first, a thought-provoking little number. 

A complex nose that balances spice and sweet fruit with aplomb. There’s a nice vibe to the aroma, with cherry-like fruit and very well-balanced chocolate and nougat oak, plus a light blanket of brown spice and a shake of pepper. There’s a lot going on, but the overall impression is of juicy straightforwardness, in the same way a good steak seems to express a world of flavour while remaining a single ingredient.
In the mouth, a lovely mix of fruit, spice and quite assertive tannin. More cherries squish on the tongue with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, plus some slightly leafy notes.  Some cedar-like oak, though very much in the background, contributes a bit of spine to the flavour profile. I like the structure here; the tannins are abundant and almost chalky, quite delicious in fact, and the acid is lively and fine, providing a lovely blanket on which all the other elements can rest. Overall, the wine is medium bodied and shoots for elegance above density or sheer power. Very good length, which may grow more impressive as the wine ages and its structure allows the fruit to flow more freely.
This is an extremely convincing expression of Tempranillo that makes a great case for this combination of region and variety.

Blue Poles Vineyard
Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin