Curly Flat Chardonnay 2008

The temptation here is to begin a long, intricate, stupefying rant about Chardonnay styles and how, arguably, some Chardonnays are more equal than others. In the interests of retaining at least some of my readership, though, I will simply comment that this wine gives ample ammunition to those Chardonnay enthusiasts who feel a worked, White Burgundy style may just be le dernier mot.

The nose is a little friend made of fruit, wrapped in a prickly, woolen jumper. Firm white peach and peach skin, mostly, with the faintest hint of rich, fine pineapple syrup. It’s all very expressive and striking, even before you really give it the time it deserves. Especially distinctive is a thread of light, powdery charcoal. There’s plenty going on, but it’s also poised, such that one has the impression of a calm, ripple-free surface under which currents flow and mix with slippery ease.

There’s a mix of plump stonefruit, caramel and rich pastry on the palate whose closest relation seems to be a particularly fine tarte tatin. Lest this suggest a cloying richness that isn’t there, I should add that a run of ultra-fine acid, gathering steam through the middle and after palates, ensures this is altogether fresher and livelier than a baked dessert. There are many other flavours — herbs, citrus peel, aniseed, flink, oak, orange juice — such that there’s plenty to see, taste and touch. Excellent continuity of line and briskness over the tongue. This will age a treat, I reckon, hopefully becoming a bit more relaxed and comfortable with its fundamentally warm, soft flavour profile.

Utterly delicious Chardonnay.

Curly Flat
Price: $A42
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Tyrrell's Old Patch Shiraz 2009

I got my Tyrrell’s mailer the other day advertising the 2010 Private Bin reds. It reminded me that I hadn’t yet tasted the 09 Old Patch, so I made a point of pulling it out at the first opportunity. The 2007 Old Patch was a dense, somewhat forbidding wine on release, so I was pleased to see this present much more expressively, even after being open for only a short while. Two days on, it has flowered more completely, allowing this wine’s essential contradiction — a muscular flavour profile combined with a delicacy of structure and weight — to become clear.

The nose is perhaps best described as cubist, presenting both sharp graphite and iron filings with pungent florals and crisp cranberry fruit, clearly dimensioned and drawn with considerable detail. The oak is subtle and feels old, more nougat and peanuts than spice and coffee. Some regional dirt rounds out the aroma profile.

The palate is only medium bodied with a firm structure based on a line of driving, orange juice acid. There’s no much point dissecting flavour components as such; the wine tastes whole, seamless and well-textured,  with impeccable balance. What it’s not is sensational, and it would be easy to underestimate what this brings in terms of quality and longevity. But in its own way, this is as impressive, if not more so, than the 2007, trading outright power for a rare elegance and clarity.

How it will age is both a little curious and tremendously exciting; I’d love to see this in twenty years’ time. Perhaps I’ll make it my mission to do so.

Price: $A45
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Yelland & Papps Devote Old Vine Grenache 2009

This is the third vintage of this wine I’ve tasted, and I do believe it’s getting better with each iteration. Looking back over my notes, the 2008 was a significant advance over the 2007. The current vintage is again a really good expression of Barossa Grenache, notable for the way it balances typically sweet fruit with a range of sappy, savoury notes.

The nose is clean and highly expressive, showing sharp snapped succulent and fresh red fruit, coffee, brown spice and charry oak. The fruit and oak influences are very well balanced, fruit presenting first then relaxing into complex, subtle, pleasingly rustic barrel-derived notes. It’s both warm and fresh at the same time, sort of like wearing the warmest, wooliest jumper you own on a crisp, early Spring day.

The palate is true to the nose in both flavour profile and balance, starting early and sustaining fruit presence along most of its line. There’s a core of clean, medicinal fruit around which a range of other flavours gather, some fruit and some from oak. Reasonable intensity (Yelland & Papps wines never seem to want to be powerhouses, even the upper labels), medium weight, nice drive. A bit of heat, but I expect that from this style of wine. The only disappointment here is a simplistic texture that is just a bit too pumped up and slippery for its own good. I’d like to see more tannin texture and dimensionality. It’s a small niggle, though.

Very nice, strongly regional Grenache.

Yelland & Papps
Price: $A32
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Leasingham Bin 61 Shiraz 2008

I have fond memories of this label and its stablemate, the Bin 56 Cabernet Malbec. For years, they exemplified the sort of great value, regional, age-worthy red that drinkers on a budget tend to gravitate towards. Hence, I have enjoyed many vintages of this, both as a new release and as an aged wine. It’s been a while since I tasted it regularly, though, so was pleased to see it arrive in the mail and curious to understand what today’s Bin 61 is like.

I certainly don’t remember it being quite as approachable as this. One of the things I like about Clare reds is their ruggedness, usually expressed through a heap of oak and the sort of genuine, yet coarse, fruit flavour profile that suggests a slightly embarrassing, but lovable, relation. This wine retains a significant oak influence, expressing mostly chocolate notes and some dark spice, as well as hints of the vegetal, dark fruit character that seems typical of this region. There’s a sheen, though, a sense of polish that rubs out the splinters and smooths the fruit’s edgier side, making the whole thing very drinkable as a young wine.

The palate continues in this vein, with a dense burst of sweet fruit on the middle palate the dominant element. According to the press release that accompanied this sample, the Schobers vineyard, from which some of the fruit for this wine was sourced, contributes to this fuller, sweeter fruit aspect. I’ll have to take Constellation’s word for it, not being intimately familiar with the character of individual Clare vineyards; what’s undeniable is the sweet, clean fruit that flows with each sip. Some might wish for more restraint, a greater tannin influence, an edgier profile. Certainly, I remember the Bin 61 being a more structured style than this. However, on its own terms, this is a very well-made wine with plenty of commercial appeal. At a decent discount off retail, you could do a lot worse.

Price: $A26
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample


A fair bit of tasting over the past week, though not much blogging. Here are some highlights.

The 2009 Christian Moreau Chablis AC strikes me as a lovely wine and considerably more pure than a 1er Cru from the same producer tasted the same evening. The palate structure in particular is excellent, with good flow through the mouth and impeccable balance. Not overly intense, but nicely put together. Fruit flavours firmly in the grapefruit spectrum. At the opposite end of the Chardonnay spectrum is the 2008 Eldridge Estate from the Mornington Peninsula. Quite powerful with honeydew melon, cream and funk on the nose, plus a few grilled nuts and some spice for good measure. Palate is quite big and full, not necessarily very refined, but certainly a lot of fun. Plenty of minerality on the palate and an almost-dashing silhouette, assaulted here and there by lumpy, fleshy fruit. I really enjoyed this.

Also providing a lot of pleasure is Fraser Gallop’s 2009 Estate Chardonnay. Fabulous drive and line with a good deal of intense peach and grapefruit. Despite its scale, the fruit is contained within a firmly articulated structure, so it’s never blousy. Nice minerality, nice texture, all finished with a twist of bitters towards the finish and a squeeze of orange juice acid. Nice wine.

From Mount Barker comes another excellent wine, this time from Forest Hill Estate. Its 2009 Chardonnay is a super-tight style, with the sort of nose that bristles and rears up as you approach it. Lovely detail, minerals, stink. The palate is ultra-focused and powerful, lots of complexity without being overwhelming in any way. To be critical, it’s all perhaps a bit hard, though that’s a matter of taste.

If the Forest Hill displayed some Riesling-like character, the 2001 Karra Yerta Riesling shows us all how it’s done. Never released (made instead for private consumption), I was fortunate enough to taste this through the week. At ten years of age, this is a mere pup, with utterly searing acid and typically pastel fruit notes both highlights. Not much to say other than this is definitive Eden Riesling and will go at least another ten years, if not longer. To be so lucky as to have a bottle in my cellar.

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Just the other day, I was reflecting on the nature of quality and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, on how to tease apart a bunch of wines whose obviousness of style tends to cause them to be lumped into a single, undifferentiated lump (I’m just as guilty as the next wine writer on this count). Along comes this wine to provide some answers.

It really is excellent. I’ve always liked Dog Point wines and feel they are especially sophisticated expressions of their regional styles. And it’s sophistication that immediately lifts this wine above any number of others. It’s complex, aromatically, with honey and grass and capsicum and gooseberry and, well, you get the idea. Typicité in spades, then; what’s rarer is how this almost magically balances each element and has them weave in and out of the overall profile, all with the most beguilingly supple liveliness. It’s what separates a great dancer from a merely good one, such nuance and seamless transition between attitudes. A pleasure to smell.

The palate is in no way a let down. Crisp and quite minerally, it again shows amazing complexity for such a simply made style. Here, I’m reminded of the best Rieslings and the way they can at times possess an infinite, fractal-like depth of flavour; do we underestimate this varietal? The more vulgar aspects are kept in check, but not through any artificiality in the vineyard or winery designed to pull back the style; there are no extremes here at all. An intriguing, slightly candied finish rides what has become by this stage a drying, chalky mouthfeel.

Dog Point
Price: $A11/glass
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Clayfield Massif Shiraz 2009

Regular readers will know that at Full Pour we can embrace a more subjective approach as, at times, the most vivid way of communicating a particular wine’s pleasures. Even so, the reaction prompted in me by this wine is sufficiently extreme that it has pushed me towards one of my ultimate, if perverse, ambitions: to write a tasting note without describing the wine at all. I hasten to add that I won’t seek to achieve that ambition with this piece; if nothing else, Simon Clayfield’s 2009 Massif deserves a full account in conventional terms, and I’m committed to giving it at least that. Yet even starting down that path with this wine is hopelessly, frustratingly inadequate, because what matters most here is its personality.

Like a good friend who remains appealing despite thorough familiarity, this wine enters the room, sits right down next to you, issues a warm hug and leans back to chat. Talk starts, an accelerating cascade of comment and counterpoint, creating a dialogue that makes time seem irrelevant. Needless to say, trying to explain this in terms of the wine’s highly spiced, peppery aroma, its liquefied plum fruit, its ingratiating flow over the tongue, will never do. Perhaps its truly Grampians character gets a bit closer, but something that’s simply recognisable doesn’t necessarily imbue it with the sort of magnetism I’m seeing in this wine. I think what gets me here is the way in which each element is expressed; it’s not the words being said, it’s the tone, the rhythm, the harmonics that flow in, around and under each expression. Things that don’t consciously register but which nonetheless are full of meaning.

So that this wine has a complex flavour profile, including marvelously rich soy sauce, intense spice, mellifluous plum, is fine but insufficient by way of explanation. Like a fabulous raconteur, it takes what it has, which may be conventional when viewed in conventional terms, and transforms the experience of it into something special, purely through a sense of style, attractive flair, well timed vulgarity. And just as it would be difficult to fall in love with a page of printed words, but easy with an idea, so this wine is tugging firmly at my emotions, not my intellect. I encourage you to spend some time in its company.

Clayfield Wines
Price: $A30
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Lock & Key Shiraz 2009

I really like Hilltops Shiraz; at its best, it has a flavour profile that I can only describe as “purple.” Vivid, slightly vulgar, yet soft at the same time. It strikes a nice halfway point between a pure cool climate attitude and the lushness of our warm climate styles, combining a dose of hedonism with the serious angularity of pepper and spice. Happily, this very affordable wine shows great typicité.

The nose has a notably deep aroma profile that shows layers of pepper, brown spice and squishy base of plush, dark fruit. Totally purple. This is the kind of aroma that dismisses complexity as an objective, because what’s there, though straightforward, is so attractive. I don’t mean to undersell this as some sort of dumb but pretty quaffing wine (though it could fill that role admirably, if only on the basis of its price).

The palate is quite breathtakingly structured, though whether its acid is fully integrated is a question mark for me. In any case, there’s a good rush of dense fruit flavour on entry, tickled around the edges by white pepper and crushed leaf. Things move into a more composed, almost elegant place through the after palate, where the wine thins out a little and delivers more complexity of flavour, including an intriguing medicinal note. A bit of hardness through the finish.

I reckon this is a great weeknight wine, much smarter and more identifiably regional than a lot of wines at this price point. Nice.

Price: $A14.99
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Kirrihill Tullymore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

They’re hardly fashionable, but I do like a good Clare Valley red now and then. Back in the day, and like many wine lovers of my generation I suppose, I cut my teeth on well-priced Clare reds from makers like Annie’s Lane. As a consequence, I have a soft spot for the somewhat rustic character a lot of reds from this region can show. Here we have a single vineyard wine, well priced at $19, from maker Kirrihill.

The nose is gentle and clean, with aromas of old nougat oak, blackcurrant, crushed leaf and some pencil shavings. It’s not especially complex, but it is well integrated and, in profile, quite pretty. It’s also a bit wan, and I wish it had just a bit more bite, less polish, more sex. As it is, the aroma is tentative and too softly-spoken.

The palate is a bit more satisfying thanks to a really attractive mouthfeel that modulates between loose knit tannins and a line of crunchy acid, tossing the wine into various corners of the mouth with a nice sense of liveliness. Flavours take a while to gather steam, peaking on the middle palate with a burst of bright red fruit and sweet oak. Though it’s not a big wine, it feels generous and warm, giving everything it’s got to the drinker.

Not a bad wine then, showing decent character on the palate in particular.

Price: $A19
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Given the recognisable — some might say obvious — character of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, trying to establish a hierarchy of quality is more difficult than it can be with other wine styles. Once a wine has passed the threshold test of “yes, it taste like what it is,” nuances of balance and emphasis arguably play a disproportionately large role in sorting the best from the rest. As an aside, they’re also terribly difficult wines to write about, not least because I can’t think of any wine style that discourages analytical tasting more vigorously than this.

Loaded with that baggage, I taste the Mud House Sauvignon Blanc tonight, and note initially that it stresses the capsicum and cut grass (methoxypyrazines) aspects more than some. The aroma profile is stridently, though not forbiddingly, tilted towards green notes, backed up by typically passionfruit-laden fruit and a hint of citrus peel too. Absolutely of its style, if more lively and aggressive than some.

The palate is predictably abundant of acid and sharp of flavour; these are, after all, the characters that make this style so successful. Again, it treads a fine line between zingy and flat-out harsh, falling back onto the right side in the end, and mercifully avoiding the sort of crass accessibility that inevitably involves noticeable residual sugar. Indeed, this is a well-judged wine, unafraid to indulge the more controversial aspects of this varietal without becoming a caricature of itself. Big entry, brisk mid-palate, a smidgeon of length, plenty of lively flavour and structure. There’s no complexity to speak of, but nor is there any pretension.

It certainly won’t convert anyone to the style, but lovers of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc needn’t hesitate.

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