Sorrenberg Chardonnay 2008

Dinner with family in Melbourne on Friday evening was enhanced by the provision of this bottle. Thanks to my cousin Travis — who continues the Coldrey line as far as an obsession with wine is concerned — for his generosity in supplying all the evening’s drinks. My first Sorrenberg Chardonnay and I’m favourably impressed.
A powerful, worked style that, in the first instance, is most notable for the richness of its fruit flavours. Nectarine, fig and some grapefruit all intermingle within an aroma that also throws a range of caramel and oatmeal notes. There’s significant complexity and scale, but the confident, seductive aromas themselves are what draw me to this wine.
The palate follows through on all aspects of the nose, showing a forthright, complex range of flavours. Good presence and consistency along the entire line. A couple of points, then. Firstly, this isn’t a wine for those fixated on the current vogue for lean Chardonnay styles. The lushness and luxe inherent to the fruit and style are quite contrary to a more minerally, austere expression of Chardonnay. And that’s OK. Secondly, this is a wine to sip and savour, not necessarily to drink in large volumes. Certainly, I helped my dinner companions to finish our bottle with ease. But as I drank more, a cracked toffee note through the back palate became slightly dominant, pushing fruit and savoury characters out of the way to the detriment of the wine’s overall balance. Still, a minor quibble over what is an impressive wine of some beauty.Sorrenberg
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift


A few more random tastings, on the whole very pleasant indeed. The first two were consumed at Brisbane’s 5th Element wine bar, which is not a bad place to soak up both the afternoon breeze and a few nice wines. Prices are as per the venue’s list – do the usual adjustment to determine approximate retail.
Flaxman Riesling 2008 ($A44, restaurant list)
Showing some nascent signs of bottle age (a bit of toast, mostly), this is a wonderfully gentle drink. Unlike the driven, juicy 2009, this wine is a laid back expression of Eden Valley Riesling, with pastel fruit colours and a precise presence in the mouth. This wine reminded me of feathers and clouds and everything that suggests delicate beauty. Will no doubt continue to age, but I’m glad I caught it as a relative youngster.
By Farr Saignee 2008 ($A44, restaurant list)
How interesting. In terms of how this wine drinks, as opposed to what it tastes like, it reminds me most strongly of Chardonnay. Like a worked Chardonnay style, this wine is all about texture, mouthfeel and presence. On the nose, creamy notes alongside fresh berries. There’s nothing overty fruity about this wine, though; rather, the berry notes present as evasive, almost hidden. The palate is full of winemaking in the most positive sense; it’s quite unexpected, blending a creamy, mealy mouthfeel and flavour with fresh fruit; all totally dry and well balanced. A really exciting style.
Kreglinger Vintage Brut 2003 ($A40, retail)
Had trouble with this one. I found this a heavy style, with a lumpen presence in the mouth and little of the fleet delicacy I enjoy with sparkling wine. It’s undeniably flavoursome, and the dosage seems more or less well-judged (perhaps a bit high for me). But it never takes flight through the middle palate, and seems to get stuck half way, the fruit being too broad to maintain movement and flow.

Bloodwood Chardonnay 2009

Not a lot of tasting (as opposed to drinking) these last few days. Tonight, while dinner is cooking, I thought I’d give this wine a go. It arrived during the week from the indefatigable David Cumming, who does PR for many Central Ranges wineries. My experience of recent wines from this zone has been variable, but this bottle is getting more and more interesting as I swirl.

A strong element of minerality, aided perhaps by some sulfur, dominates the nose, followed closely by flowers and quite complex fruit notes. The fruit edges towards stonefruit, with some pithy grapefruit too. It’s quite a savoury aroma profile, challenging even, and evolves to show a hint of baked goods. The elements show a discordant relationship, never resolving cleanly, but constantly exchanging meaningful glances. 
The palate, initially, seemed simple and slippery, with straightforward white peach fruit. It has quickly become complex and savoury, though, and to me a lot more interesting. The entry is quite flavoursome yet gentle too; fruit flavours seem to glide towards the middle palate on satin sheets. And if that sounds a bit tacky, it is, or at least threatens to be, until one realises on the middle palate there is a range of quite adult flavours on offer, and the mouthfeel has become more textured too. Rocks get thrown together as the wine edges towards the back palate, where a floral lift takes flavours towards a subtle, glowing finish of good length. Oak seems subliminal, winemaking equally simple. I feel like I’m tasting the fruit, and I like it.

Bloodwood Wines
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Offcuts: cheap reds

I’ve been slowly accumulating cheap red wines — mostly samples — so thought I’d sit down to a few this evening. In a sense, I enjoy the challenge of tasting inexpensive wines, as they prompt an adjustment not only of one’s expectations, but one’s understanding of the role of wine. I like to think the intent behind such wines is to add a bit of luxury to a weeknight meal, something that is too often a purely functional ritual of nourishment.

What annoys me, though, are wines that seem cynically made, either to a price point or a certain stylistic formula (generically sweet fruit, obvious oak, confected flavours) that shows an intolerable degree of contempt for the consumer’s tastes. Luckily, I found a couple of good’uns this time around.
Kirrihill Clare Valley Shiraz 2008 ($A14.99, sample)
A pretty good effort. At first, quite reticent, with little expressiveness on either nose or palate. It ends up being quite flavoursome, though, with a fair dose of regionality to boot. The nose shows sweet and savoury berries, some pepper and rather lumpy, coffeed oak. There’s a nice vegetal lift too, which seems to me quite regional. The palate shows robust, unrefined flavours and just a touch of generically sweet fruit, along with rough, toasty oak. Quite outrageously tannic and textured for a wine at this price point. The whole is pretty rough and ready, but undeniably generous. It doesn’t fall headlong into an incredibly depressing confectionary fruit flavour, nor into or a dumbing down of the wine’s regional character. Honest and fun.
Mike Press Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2008 ($A10, gift)
A very generous aroma, with plenty of blackberry fruit and lashings of vanillan oak; just what the doctor ordered, really. There’s a slight lift to the aroma too, perhaps from the oak character and a little volatility? In any case, it works well. There’s a nice brambly edge to the fruit too, which adds some welcome complexity and character. The palate is easygoing, and very much in line with the nose. There’s plenty of berries and plums, a hint of pepper, and an oak volume that seems better judged than in previous vintages. The whole seems a bit formless, but I’m not going to complain too much at this price point. Good fruit and exceptionally well-judged styling. 

Santa Carolina Carignan 2008

Um, wow. Garishly purple in a peculiarly children’s-television kind of way, I can easily imagine Nomi Malone shoplifting some of this at a Sephora in Las Vegas. However, the way the wine smells is a hundred and eighty degrees away from its look: strangely dark, slightly peppery, with a nearly pickled, shoe-polished, venison meat pie edge to it, it’s a wonderfully seductive, complex wine of the sort you generally don’t associate with carignane.Delightfully immature, the wine doesn’t seem like it’s time to integrate itself just yet: there’s an initial impression of candied red fruits that quickly swaps itself out to reveal dusty wood shop shelves, somewhat clunky acidity (that thankfully keeps it all in check), and a thick, fat outro that slides by on groovy, tannic rails towards a long, gentle finish redolent of unfashionable hard candies and earthy, loamy sweetness with suggestions of forest flowers – it almost reminds me of the taste of oxalis that grows near California redwoods, with an almost citric tang combined with that rich, dark, earthy fruit.This is frankly insanely delicious – I wish I had some Parmesan cheese to eat with it, but alas, I don’t. If more wineries made carignane like this, I suspect more people would drink it. Then again, outside of California and Chile, I’m not sure there are a lot of winegrowers who take the trouble to grow it well.Santa Carolina
Price: CLP 6900
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Printhie Mount Canobolas Collection Shiraz Viognier 2008

Ever since Shiraz Viognier blends became popular in Australia, a very few years ago really, it seems to me producers have been struggling with how (perhaps even why) to tackle this style. The biggest problem, for me at any rate, is too evident a Viognier influence, turning what would ideally be a feminine, elegant wine into something caricatured, almost cartoonish, with overt apricot flavours and an unattractively pumped up mouthfeel. I’m making all sorts of problematic assumptions about style, of course, but that has been my honest reaction over a few years of tasting local Shiraz Viogniers. So I tend to approach them with some trepidation.

This wine let me down at first. Apricot aromas dominate slightly reticent spicy Shiraz and create a sweet, exaggerated aroma profile akin to a forced smile. The apricot never entirely settles into the fabric of the wine, but it does recede sufficiently with some swirling to allow meaty, white peppery berries to step forward and share the spotlight. There’s also some well judged ice cream oak to add complexity. 
The palate is replay of the nose’s evolution over the short term. Starting too sweet and slippery, it becomes much more savoury after an hour of air. Entry is cheeky, with a thread of red fruit sliding along the tongue towards a middle palate that remains tight, but adds an array of peppery, savoury flavours. Weight is light to medium bodied, with a focused architecture and brisk movement along the line. Intensity is only moderate, and the overall impression is one of lithe elegance rather than power. A textured, slightly raspy after palate that emphasises pricklier aspects of the flavour profile, with just a bit of fruit sweetness to keep things friendly. Good length.
Not entirely resolved as a wine, but there’s plenty to enjoy, and it’s nice to taste a premium label that takes a measured, subtle approach to style. Elegant packaging.

Price: $A35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample


The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($A16.99, sample)

Notable for pushing sub-regionality in a region and variety renowned for its distinctiveness (and, hence, tendency to homogeneity), I found this wine an extreme expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I’m an occasional fan of this style, especially when in the mood for something outrageously vulgar (more often than I care to admit). But the austerity of this wine pushes the boundaries of drinkability for me. Sweaty, herbaceous aromas cut through with hints of passionfruit and gooseberry. The palate is ultra-dry and searingly acidic. Ultra-varietal, to be sure, but challenging in its purity.
Lightband Brightwater Pinot Noir 2007 ($A25, sample)
Another Kiwi wine, this time from Nelson at the top of the South island. Slightly dull colour here, ruby red with orange at the rim. Certainly not a show pony, visually. The nose is very promising, with expressive spiced cherries against light caramel. Not complex but very characterful. The palate seems a bit light on, with streaks of acidity creating a slight impression of harshness. Starts off well, with quite fleshy fruit, but slims through the mid palate as it heads towards coarse grained tannins and a bit of alcohol heat. The flavour, while distinctive, lacks depth, though I wonder if it needs a few months in the bottle to fill out further? 
Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz 2008 ($A30, sample)
Seriously regional aromas of earth, boysenberry, flint and cocoa powder. It’s deep and powerful, mostly savoury and very attractive. It’s a very masculine aroma, like stubble on a cheek, wild and strong. The palate is, as hoped, equally dense with powerful fruit, seeming to stain the insides of the mouth (or so I like to imagine). More sweet boysenberries and tasty oak, plus a bunch of savoury complexities. Architecturally, it’s a bit formless and seems to bellyflop onto the tongue rather than place its feet with any sort of precision. Still, it’s hard to argue with so much great flavour, so best to approach this wine wearing a hedonist’s, not an intellectual’s, cap.

Atlas 429° Shiraz 2008

Some wines make you work, taking their time to emerge and show true character. Other wines reach out to you with an aroma that sings with freshness and vitality, like a chatty first date with whom you just know you’ll get along. Like that first date, appearances can be deceptive in the long term, but there’s no denying the enjoyment to be had in first conversations. To be sure, I tasted this over two days.

This wine has the most attractive fruit note immediately on pouring; it’s all blackberries and plums, rather liquerous in expression yet redolent of freshness at the same time. Some aniseed and mocha complexities sit in the background at first, very much secondary to the juicy fruit. This does rebalance quite quickly, and the hedonist in me was almost slightly disappointed to observe various notes come into better balance after some lazy swirling. 
The palate is a surprise, in that it’s quite restrained. Entry is quiet, showing some grainy texture and a savoury, mineral note. The middle palate brings Summer berries back into the mix, along with oak that is part bubble gum and part milk coffee. It’s medium bodied and quite savoury, with brisk movement through the mouth. Tannins were quite prominent at first but have settled into a better place, still abundant but not so forbidding. To be critical, this lacks some drive and punch in the mouth, and I’d like to see an ounce more presence to match the headiness of the nose. Pretty delicious all the same.

Atlas Wines
Price: $A35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Second Nature Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2008

It’s probably counter productive to go to the gym then pick up McDonalds on the way home. And yet, here I am, pleased to report my Mighty Angus went down superbly, well accompanied by this reasonably priced McLaren Vale blend. I’m a firm believer even the humblest meal can be a bit special, and that the right wine is often the key. But then, I’ve been known to match wine with Chicko rolls, so trust me at your peril.

What one really needs in this situation is a wine that stands up to the, at times, coarse flavours of fast food – those salty, greasy, perhaps sweet components that make the experience so enjoyable. This wine responds to those challenges with a firm, robust flavour profile and sufficient structure to combat the excesses of a burger, without sacrificing the soft luxury of an easy drinking red wine. On the nose, rather non-specific but expressive red and black berry fruits, a hint of brambly vegetation and some supportive bubble gum oak. It’s far from complex; what makes it work is its sense of harmony and composure. It’s “just right.” 
The palate is refreshingly acidic while retaining good body and presence in the mouth. Entry is textural and quite lively, leading to a middle palate that shows a fruit-driven flavour profile. Mixed berries mostly, with a lick of latte and some crushed leaves, all moderate in intensity. Again, quite straightforward, easy, and drinkable. There’s no shred of the confectionary flavours that can plague lower priced red wines. Oak lifts the after palate to a dry finish that shows some dried fruit characters alongside the structural elements. 
Not a wine of sophistication or complexity, but really fun and drinkable nonetheless. Sort of like my Mighty Angus. A good match.

Dowie Doole
Price: $A18
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Ishtar Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre 2008

Really curious flavour profile here. Looking back over my notes, I found the 2006‘s fruit character quite sweet, though tempered by spice and meatiness. This wine, all other things being equal, presents a rebalanced set of flavours, tilting further towards savouriness, though retaining hints of the fun, playful Grenache fruit of its predecessor. I like it.

The nose takes some time to blossom. When it does, it shows quite complex aromas of malt, cough syrup, red fruit and twigs. I found it a little confronting at first. I suppose it’s not the kind of aroma profile one expects in a sub-$20 wine, possessing considerable character and feeling somehow risky. Does it all come together? I’m not sure. It’s certainly fun to smell. It will probably polarise drinkers too, perhaps alienating those who prefer a straighter set of aromas. 
The palate retains the moderate intensity of the 2006, while reflecting the complexity of the aroma. Entry is subtle, ushering in little bombs of sweet fruit on the mid-palate, framed by sappy, meaty flavours and underpinned by a softly viscous mouthfeel. This is a light to medium bodied wine, brightly flavoured, unapologetically funky. The after palate is savoury, with medicinal flavours over the top of pepper steak. Finish is sappy and astringent.
A cubist rendition of Barossa GSM. 
Update: another unexpected trait for a wine of this modest price — it tastes even better on day two. Markedly better balance and integration of flavours. A really pleasant surprise!

Balthazar of the Barossa
Price: $A19.50
Closure: Other
Source: Sample