Karra Yerta Sparkling Shiraz NV

It’s Christmas day and I’m taking time out between preparing lunch and relaxing to note my reaction to this wine, just opened and to be consumed with the main meal (in my case, confit of duck). 

A joyous gush of mousse, quite electric in its vibrancy and pleasingly voluminous. I can’t help smiling at the lurid purple of many sparkling Shiraz wines; this one had me grinning like the Cheshire Cat. This isn’t a tits-out style, though. The nose is subtle, showing spice, tart blackberries, a hint of fortified wine, some aged characters and a general impression of complexity combined with fresh berry juice. 
The palate is equally measured, showing real elegance despite the fizz. Mercifully, it’s not a sweet wine; in fact, the savouriness of the flavour profile combined with chalky, abundant tannins creates quite the opposite impression. It’s all quite intense; more blackberries, spice and various oak-derived flavours mix on the middle palate. Riding above it all is a clean juiciness that smoothes over the wine’s sophisticated framework, ensuring you could just as easily linger over each sip as slam it down fast, per your mood or the occasion. 
Very glad to have the opportunity to taste this wine on a special day of the year; I believe only twenty cases exist. Make haste. And Merry Christmas to you all.

Karra Yerta Wines
Price: $A35
Closure: Crown seal
Source: Sample

Lapostolle Casa Merlot 2007

This wine is all kinds of lovely. It smells of black olives, tapenade, oregano, lemon myrtle, smoke, and red fruits. It’s all rather complex, with a real sense of style. It tastes expensive: very bright acidity working in tandem with a sort of thick, almost yeasty body with smoky barrel notes and a fine sweetness finishing on a firmly tannic note. It’s almost as if there were such a thing as sugar-glazed black peppercorns: it’s all rich smoky sweetness, absolutely lovely. The finish really does coat your mouth with tannin, though, so if you’re drinking some of this, it would really, really help to have some steak handy.I drank a couple of New World wines last week – a $25 bottle from Napa and a $25 bottle from Mendoza – and although both of them had rich, round fruit and high alcohol, they weren’t anywhere near as pleasing as this wine is. I’m sensing not only restraint in the alcohol department but also a willingness to avoid industrial yeasts and simple, primary fruit flavors. This winery makes a wine this complex look easy. Lapostolle

Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Undurraga Sibaris Reserva Especial – Carménère 2007

I visited this winery this morning – more on that in later post – and noticed that they were entirely sold out of this one particular wine, which I figured for a good omen.At first, this wine smelled like bacon-wrapped dates to me. It’s definitely Carménère, no doubt about it: kind of a smoky, dark wine, nearly black in color, with a suggestion of sweet caramel. There’s also a possibly unattractive note here, slightly sulfurous, but not enough to make a real difference, at least not to me. All in all, it smells pretty darn good. As a drink, though, this is unfortunately not as good as the other Carménère I’ve tried so far: compared to the Miguel Torres wine at the same price, it’s slightly smoother, with less acidity; as a result, it seems just a bit less interesting. There’s a kick of tannin at the end and some definite charred barrel notes, but it just doesn’t quite work for me – I would have added more acid to the must for sure, hoping to give it more of a balance between the sweet fruit and smoky barrel notes. As it stands, though, it’s just fine – no wonder it’s sold out – and certainly good value. Undurraga
Price: $9
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Viña Morandé Terrarum-Reserva Pinot Grigio 2008

As with the Lapostolle from yesterday, there’s a slight bit of residual CO2 here – is this a Chilean stylistic decision?  Rich straw yellow (no hint of pink that I can tell), the wine smells of fresh Granny Smith apples and musk. Brightly acidic, and yet slightly flabby at the same time somehow, the texture is good but the flavor isn’t much to speak of, blandly appetizing but not memorable. However, it is clean, bright, and well made, which is a real achievement at this price point. I imagine that Tesco could sell containers of this stuff in the UK if they wanted to: it’s the perfect thing to go with a curry on a summer’s afternoon.Viña Morandé
Price: $6
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Casa Lapostolle Sémillon Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay 2007

Yesterday, I met up with an old friend in Viña del Mar, and much to my surprise he delivered a stunningly beautiful wedding present: Chilean wine, palm syrup, peaches, and chocolates. Wonderful stuff – and now my task is to drink at least four bottles of the wine over the next 48 hours because if I don’t I’ll have so much luggage that I can’t board the flight to Calama on Wednesday. Yikes! Thankfully, this is going to be a very easy task.There appears to be a very, very light carbonation to the wine; at the bottom of the glass are tiny bubbles (if you’re a Don Ho fan, feel free to sing along about now) and there’s a very light spritziness on the tongue. The color is bright and clean; it’s only on the nose where it gets interesting. It’s a very savory wine, reminding me more of good Burgundy than white Bordeaux somehow, with a very slight sulfury note mixed in with yeasty bread and an appealing lemony note. My favorite thing about this wine is the slippery, rich, full palate that is wonderfully textural and mouthfilling; there’s a slight spiciness to the finish with sprightly acidity as well.  It may have smelled like Burgundy, but it’s definitely more like a white Graves, wet stones and pastry cooked with lemon rind and cream, but also that spiciness that really makes it special.All in all this is good stuff (and to me personally, it’s also a reminder to stop drinking single varietal wines all of the time; blends like this seem much more complex and interesting, don’t they?). Thanks, Felipe, for the bottle – I’m looking forward to the next ones! Lapostolle
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Pig in the House Shiraz 2008

An organic (certified) wine from the Cowra region; 440 cases made. Quite a few producers in this region seem to be pursuing an organic and/or biodynamic approach. Probably not a bad way to define a winemaking community at the moment. I remember only a few years ago organic wines seemed to be held in distinctly low regard.

This is an entirely fruit-driven style that seems designed for immediate, unpretentious pleasure, and in this goal it succeeds admirably. The nose shows expressive dark plums and raspberries, some brambles and just a hint of spice. The fruit seems sweet, and verges on confectionary, but in this context works well. 
In the mouth, a big rush of fruit flavour. The entry is very flavoursome, with dark berries and a sense of immediacy that speaks of freshness and the happy bursting of blueberries. Things only get fresher and fruitier towards the middle palate, though at this point one also realises there are some chocolate-like tannins that are quite assertive and which certainly hold things together. The fruit, again, almost expresses that industrial confectionary edge, but pulls back just in time. Berries and chocolate sauce on the after palate, before a surprisingly long finish of slightly rustic dryness.
A straightforward, attractive wine that seems ideally suited to easy drinking. I’d prefer a lower price, but there’s no doubting this is a fun, well-made wine.

Pig in the House
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc can, on the surface, seem quite uniform in style, notwithstanding some notable exceptions. That it’s one of the most recognisable wines has much to do, I’m sure, with its success. It also causes me to wonder: if I were going to make such a wine, what would I be aiming for? Would I seek to out-Marlborough other wines, with even more up-front regional character? Or would I seek to tone down the style, maximising inoffensiveness and, presumably, appeal?

This wine’s answer is to combine the obviousness of the style with a few tricks to enhance drinkability. It certainly doesn’t hide its origins; on the nose, there’s enough pricky herbaceousness and gooseberry tartness to declare immediately what it is. But it pulls back from engaging a truly vulgar expression of the style. Whether you warm to this will depend very much on your affection for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc; what’s evident, though, is the smart line drawn here; it’s not too much of any one thing and, given the style, that’s impressive.
The palate confirms the approach suggested by the nose, and in particular shows a sense of weight, if not overt residual sugar, that helps the package slip down oh-so-easily. On entry, lively acidity and passionfruit flavour promise satisfaction. The mid-palate is where the slippery, unexpectedly viscous mouthfeel appears, taming the wine’s acidity and helping flavours to show greater generosity. The after palate and finish thin out as one might expect, though there’s a trace of intensely aromatic passionfruit on the finish that is quite persistent. 
A smart wine with a clear purpose.

Mud House
Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

The Scholium Project Dulcissima Camilla 2007

What if he’s right?Once again: this does not smell like wine. This does not smell like Sancerre, Quincy, or anything else. I’m not even sure it’s sauvignon blanc, but I think it’s the most likely candidate. (Thankfully, the Google backs me up on this one; nothing like a search engine to give me at least the illusion of cred.) When I smell this, it smells like a head shop, like obscure herbs Thomas Keller grows out back for his restaurant, like wine that’s flirting with oxidation, and suddenly, briefly, like Marlborough sauvignon blanc, but not grassy, not tropical.Viscous, creamy, rich, and yet with a spicy, peppery acidity that underpins the long finish reminiscent of cloves and spiced bread, this is an utterly delicious drink, more a dessert wine (in the sense that it’s big enough all by itself, perhaps so big it wouldn’t work well with food) than something to drink with dinner. It’s not sweet, though, so if you’re more a fan of cheese than chocolate after dinner, this might be what you’re looking for.When I taste a wine like this, I wonder about the winemaker (Abe Schoener in this case). He’s doing everything wrong – growing the wrong grape in the wrong place, leaving too much alcohol in the wine, right? – and yet the outcome is wonderfully very much itself. Could it be the secret to New World wines is to ignore tradition entirely, strike out on your own, and hope that in one or two hundred years we know what grows well here, what styles suit our land best? Given this wine, I think that might just be the case.the scholium project
Price: $28
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Kabinett Riesling 2007

There’s something uniquely intimidating about German wine labels. 

Then again, this wine requires very little translation – it speaks quite clearly all on its own. This has to be one of the most drinkable — indeed sloshable — wines I’ve had this year. Half the bottle is gone and I’ve only just started to write this note. Thank goodness it’s only 8% abv.
The nose is complex and slightly prickly, with a fruit character akin to very delicate marmalade. There’s a minerality that, as odd as this might seem, comes across as fluffy, perhaps even sparkly. It’s expressive in a confident but measured way, like someone who knows just how much to project their voice at a social gathering. Very sniffable, and it’s evolving slowly as it sits in the glass.
Not that it gets much of an opportunity to sit there; it’s so very inviting. The entry is relatively full and fruit-driven, suggesting a level of sweetness that threatens, for a moment, to overwhelm. But almost immediately, the wine finds its balance, ultra-fine acidity rising to temper the residual sugar, minerality a natural foil to flavours of fine lime marmalade. Indeed, the way this wine seems to exude delicacy while retaining fullness of weight and flavour is tantalising. The after palate especially possess a lightness of movement through to the finish that is both fascinating and pleasurable, encouraging the next sip.
This can probably take a bit of age, but I’m going to drink mine young. Delicious.

Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken
Price: $A40
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail


River Park Rosé 2009 ($A19, sample)

Nice art nouveau style label design (by a local art teacher, I believe), complemented by a wine of reasonably deep hue and density, not far from some lighter reds in appearance. I’m not 100% confident of the varietal mix here; the winery’s website suggests Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown on the estate, and my assumption is this wine is made from estate fruit. In any case, it’s one of those strikingly savoury, aromatic rosé styles, with decadent flowers and raspberry fruit on the nose. The palate, though it continues in this vein, also presents a degree of residual sugar that, for me, fights against the fruit’s naturally savoury inclinations. So, while it’s quite flavoursome and has some charisma in the mouth, it lacks the incisiveness that I think it might achieve as a drier style. Love the nose, though.
Lazy Ballerina Primadonna Shiraz Viognier 2006 ($NA, gift)
This really deserves a full entry, as it’s a lovely wine. I opened it the other night on a whim and it has proved, over the course of three evenings, to be a most sympathetic companion. An inviting nose that shows little Viognier influence bar a particularly expressive character and a floral lilt. Otherwise, it’s all McLaren Vale Shiraz – bold, plush, enveloping. The palate adds an extra dimension to this ride in the form of soft, velvet tannins and a cushion-like presence. The whole wine is built for comfort, a heated waterbed of a wine, and one which doesn’t entirely escape the vulgarity associated with my chosen metaphor. With something this good, though, who cares? Drink now, drink often.
Domaine aux Moines Savennières-Roche aux Moines 1995 ($NA, gift)
I enjoyed this wine after a truly appalling day at work, and it lifted my mood considerably. This is the third bottle I’ve enjoyed of this vintage, and also the freshest. The aroma shows some honeyed, almost sherry-like notes amongst complexities like baked honey biscuits and that peculiar fairy floss note I associate with Loire Chenin. The palate is wonderfully complex, driven by minerals and apple juice, contradictorily full yet nimble. Opulent and elegant in the manner of outmoded estate jewellery.  It turns on a dime several times, and is a textural delight. Also impressively long. What a fascinating wine.