Dowie Doole Chenin Blanc 2012

Dowie Doole is, somewhat daringly, a Chenin Blanc specialist when it comes to white wines. This isn’t entirely without precedent in the McLaren Vale, but remains unusual by any measure. This label, the standard Chenin, has evolved over the past few vintages to the point where it far outstrips its price tag in quality terms. Each year seems to bring greater nuance, more complexity, tighter stylistic focus; the current release continues this line.

It can be hard to know what to expect from Chenin, so divergent are the styles that can be crafted from this fickle, homesick grape. Dowie Doole takes its inspiration from Loire models, emphasising the varietal’s tension between apple fruit and nervy, mineral acid. Hence, although the nose promises some lusciousness of character, there’s an underlying savouriness, quite prickly and vivacious, that, for me, is the true feature of this wine. The aroma profile moves between apple flesh, the barest hint of tropical fruit, and the smell of rain on hot rocks. Unsettling and beautiful.

The palate delivers what the aroma suggests; a deceptively fruit-forward entry gives way to a much more complex, sweet-savoury middle palate, supported by deliciously vibrant acidity. I’d love to think Sauvignon Blanc is a gateway drug to this sort of wine, something equally refreshing but with an altogether more unusual flavour profile. The after palate sings with savouriness and apple skins, before a clean, fresh finish enlivens the mouth.

I can’t quite believe this is only $16 retail. It would be value at twice the price and strikes me as the best Dowie Doole Chenin Blanc (excluding the fascinating Tintookie wines) I’ve yet tasted.

Dowie Doole
Price: $A16
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Offcuts: Blue Poles dinner

Wine dinners aren’t something I make a habit of; at least, not those run by producers. It’s not an in principle objection – I simply prefer, most of the time, a wider range of wines with dinner than might be offered by a single maker. The temptation of back vintages and verticals, however, can be strong, as can the promise of highly amusing company. Mark Gifford from Blue Poles Vineyard is most certainly that, so it was with pleasure that I attended the recent Blue Poles dinner in Brisbane.

The boutique producer’s dilemma must seem intractable at times: what to produce? How to get noticed? Whose attention to court? I won’t venture to suggest I have any answers, but I know I respond to a focused portfolio that communicates identity and intent rather than a wide range of wines that, together, lack coherence. Although it contains a highly drinkable Viognier and Shiraz, the Blue Poles portfolio stands out for its beautiful, uncompromising Bordeaux-inspired wines, as well as a quirky Teroldego.

Dinner was the first time I have tasted all the Blue Poles Reserve Merlots side by side, and they really do justify the praise I and many other wine writers have given them. The 2007 is by far the richest of the three and is starting to show an aged character that meshes superbly with its primary fruit. Very Bordeaux-like, this one, and quite mouthfilling. The 2008 and 2010 are both very tight, still, and it took about half an hour of swirling to coax from the 2010 more than the aroma of iron filings. When it did start to unfold, I felt it was the most precise wine of the three. The way it lands in the mouth, articulating its flavours with such clarity, is truly impressive. They keep getting better, these Merlots and, although there isn’t a great deal of competition, they are surely amongst the best of this varietal made in Australia.

The Allouran, a Merlot Cabernet Franc blend, is a lighter wine, less masculine than the straight Merlot. Both the 2007 and 2008 seem quite primary, with fresh fruit and bright, acid-driven structures. I can see these being overlooked in favour of the Merlot, but for my taste their flavour profiles show a light and shade that is subtle and attractive. Quite unforced as a style.

There was some discussion regarding the clear influence exerted by Bordeaux on these wines. Blue Poles has never been shy of admitting this stylistic lineage, and is far from the only producer to explicitly claim Old World wines as a starting point. However, what is emerging from the portfolio over time is a coherence on its own terms. These wines don’t taste like imitations of something else, despite strong nods to classic models. I look forward to further releases and the ongoing conversation between style and terroir.

The new release Teroldego is a fascinating interpretation of the “drink now” red wine. What often typifies this category of wine is a simplicity and fruit-forwardness the Teroldego almost entirely lacks. Its argument, rather, is one of chewy tannin, charismatic masculinity and an apparent absence of fruit. To be sure, dark berry fruit underlines the flavour profile, but it’s so joyously secondary that one is drawn immediately to other aspects of the wine. Despite this, it’s highly drinkable, a term not often associated with primarily structural wines. A contradiction, then, in all sorts of ways, and one I look forward to drinking again.

Domaine Rapet Père et Fils Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes 2005

After a rather poor run of white Burgundies, I was half expecting this to be oxidised, corked or both. Happily, and despite a rather spongy cork, this is in excellent condition. In fact, its fruit is remarkably vibrant and is a real feature of this wine.

Primary fruit, though, isn’t the first impression this wine makes. Rather, a mix of aromas deriving from winemaker input emerge from the glass first, and I let out a little cheer for highly interventionist winemaking when I gave it a good sniff. Chardonnay is, let’s face it, often ripe for a bit of rough handling, and styles like this justify such treatment. Nougat, caramel, oats, cream. It’s a tight aroma despite the range of notes, and I like how its aromas feel packed into a small space, jostling for attention, a little rambunctious perhaps but in their own way disciplined. Fruit is there, pushing through; when it breaks out, I see crisp grapefruit and hints of fuller white stone fruit.

The palate’s acid structure echoes the coiled aroma and complements the character of the fruit. Here, as with the nose, the vibe is complex and fresh at the same time. Again, there are caramel, nuts, nougat and citrus fruit, wrapped in a savouriness that sings of acid minerality. Texture is a comparative let-down, and I feel a wine with this sort of flavour profile and structure deserves more textural interest. As it is, a slippery, full, somewhat one-dimentional mouthfeel. It’s not a ruinous feature, though; there’s more than enough flavour interest and intensity to make this wine a very enjoyable one.

Good value wine.

Domaine Rapet Père et Fils
Price: $A30
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Dowie Doole Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

I have it in my mind that I’m not very fond of Cabernet Sauvignon from places like the Barossa Valley and the McLaren Vale, a notion that seems of late to be in regular friction with the truth. Indeed, I keep coming across rather tasty examples of these styles.

It’s rather a pleasant task to change one’s mind when faced with a wine like this. I’ve been loving many 2010 McLaren Vale reds that have crossed my path, and this is no exception. Yet this is more surprising than most, because it sits at a price point that is one step above an inexpensive quaffer, a position that can yield disappointingly populist styles.

There’s a striking degree of elegance to the aroma: bright fruit, angular red capsicum, varietal dust. Not at all the simple drinker I thought it might be, but never losing the ease that is a hallmark of this maker’s wines. There’s not a lick of industrial winemaking in the way this smells. I feel a direct connection to the vineyard that’s rare at any price point, let alone in a red costing $25.

The palate is beautifully weighted – not too heavy, not insubstantial, acid-driven yet with a smattering of drying tannins. The flavour profile is clear and fresh, vibrant red fruit winding around more savoury varietal notes and light touch oak. Intensity is moderate, as is density of fruit. It’s not often Cabernet tastes casual, but this does. Its trick, though, is in being all these things — drinkable, approachable, inviting — without ever being dumb. Everything in moderation seems here to add up to a most attractive wine, and I sense straightforwardness and honesty in every drop.

This isn’t a $60 wine masquerading as something cheaper, but it never uses its affordability as an excuse either. Very much a Dowie Doole wine.

Dowie Doole
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2010

An inevitable companion to the Polish Hill. I’m having an easier time with this wine and, as I imagine it was on release, this is the more accessible, friendlier style.

Sometimes, I feel that we value difficulty in wine — if it’s a bit challenging, then it must be more sophisticated, more adult. This is far from a facile wine, but its approachability does beg the question: of two lovely Rieslings, which might be better, and why? Conventional wisdom often suggests the Polish Hill’s delicacy and finesse should win, and I have some sympathy for that view. But this is just plain fun to drink, while retaining the complexity and sophistication that rewards contemplative drinking. It’s just got more meat on its bones, and more swing in its backside. Not bad things.

The aroma’s thick, slightly juicy citrus character embrace hints of bottle age where the Polish Hill’s icy figure seemed to regard them with horror. This aroma is, if not luxurious, then at least harmonious: pulpy lemon and honey, micro herbs and sunlight soap. It’s just plain fun to smell, even though I’m even more excited to revisit it again in a few years’ time.

The palate structure is beautifully balanced – a clever interplay of chalky texture, fine acid and weighty fruit. These three sides take turns on top as the wine moves down the tongue, coating the mouth with intense flavour while freshening the palate at the same time. I like the savouriness of the after palate and finish very much; it’s quite herbal and grippy. So nice to see a Riesling that celebrates texture as much as pure fruit. My only criticism is a slight heaviness at the front of the mouth, as if the lusciousness of the fruit momentarily breaks out of the wine’s structure, only to be pulled right back again.

Delicious Riesling and yet another example — as if it were required — of our great way with this grape.

Price: $35 (ish)
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2010

I never tasted this on release, which is a shame. Pure laziness; I bought some fairly quickly, but it lay dormant in wine storage until recently. Working backwards from how it tastes now, I can imagine how it was as a newborn — powdery, angular, mineral. These sides of the wine are still very much in evidence, but age is making its contribution too. The result is, shall we say, transitional.

And a little odd, too. It’s easy to relax lazily into the idea that wine ought to, and always does, taste coherent in terms of its array of flavours. This goes with that goes with this; wine as a mid-priced women’s clothing store. This wine, though, shakes me out of my stupor, because its flavours clash and produce dissonance, tension, even ugliness. Uncompromising signs of youth bump up against prickly tertiary notes that want to be softer but aren’t capable of fullness, not yet.

The palate is where this wine’s future most clearly expresses itself. After the aggressive interplay of the aroma, the palate allows darts of sweet honey to weave in and out of what remains a bright, savoury, testy flavour profile. This promise of fullness softens the hardest edges and coats them in nectar, like golden syrup on ice. One eventually bites into the ice, of course, but the sweetness lingers and its promise is tantalising. The wine’s sophisticated, chalky texture provides appropriately adult support.

I’ll try this again in two or three years’ time.

Price: $A40 (ish)
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Tyrrell's Vat 9 Shiraz 2006

The last few days have been spent blowing my nose, coughing and generally moping about. One of the boring things about being sick is that one can’t really enjoy much of anything, so all the spare time that results tends to go to waste. I still feel under the weather, but I thought I’d open a familiar wine, one that I’ve tasted twice before, to see if it might lift my spirits. Just one small glass, you understand.

I’d forgotten the richness these drought-era Hunters possess, and this wine is a potent reminder of how vintage conditions allowed a concentrated, almost liquerous expression of Shiraz to come forth. On opening, I was a little overwhelmed and thought the wine too much, too dense and too monolithic. That has changed fairly quickly, though, and the region’s typicité is very much in evidence here. This is simply a bigger version of the style. With a bit of air and swirling, the wall of liqueur breaks down into a variety of flavour components, some speaking of the heat of the year, others showing delicious freshness and vivacity. Tertiary flavours are starting to creep in, but these are very much in the background, and the wine retains large volumes of primary fruit. It’s interesting that the latest Tyrrell’s mailer suggests this is now a “mature style, drinking well.” I agree with the latter, but am not so sure of the former.

The palate’s luxe meshes well with the relatively rich flavour profile that flows coherently from the nose. Structurally, this is quite relaxed, though possessing abundant tannins, fine and velvet-like. Acid, often a hallmark of Hunter Shiraz, seems muted at first, but is very present; the wine’s density masks it at first. Flavours are of red fruits and leather, earth and gentle spice. So typical, so correct. Also quite nuanced, though it can be hard, at times, to see past the wine’s power. A lovely, even line leads through to a finish that sings with soft fruit.

This is a gorgeous wine in all sorts of ways – its sensuality, its transparency, its truth. I raise a glass to those of us with some in our cellars.

Price: $A32
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Nothing should have changed

Dear readers,

We’ve just migrated Full Pour to a new hosting account, which should increase the site’s performance and general awesomeness. Nothing should have changed otherwise, but if you do notice strange behaviour, please drop me a line!

I’m struggling with a cold at the moment, so tasting hasn’t been on the agenda. Hope to be back into it soon, though.


Offcuts: one bottle at a time

Friday evening saw a reconvening of Brisbane’s own single bottle dinner, the first of which I wrote about back in May. Quite by chance, August’s line-up was considerably more eclectic, and I must eat my words regarding Cabernet: the wine that caused the greatest stir was clearly a 1996 Stonyridge Larose.

But first to some of the earlier wines, which also provided much pleasure. A fruit-shy, breathtakingly acidic 2010 Domaine Belluard Vin de Savoie Blanc Gringet Le Feu ushered us into the evening. Quite a mouthful of a name, so lucky for us it was first up. This wine showed a range of delicate fruit notes in a higher toned, floral spectrum. I felt it lost a bit through the after palate, perhaps a function of the acid seeming to truncate the fruit’s expression. In need of some time, maybe?

This was an idiosyncratic lead-in to perhaps two of the most conventional wines of the evening: a 2009 Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Les Chaillets Vieilles Vignes and a 2007 Domaine Dublere Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chaumées, the latter of which was my contribution. Both wines were lovely. The Condrieu was full of Viognier goodness – apricots and paw paw, mostly. I particularly enjoyed the mouthfeel of this wine. The Burgundy was all about drive and power, perhaps at the expense of some finesse, but still an impressive wine. It evolved particularly quickly in the glass.

A novelty bottle-oaked Riesling was followed by a considerably more conventional, quite delicious 2002 Annie’s Lane Copper Trail Riesling. There was some debate regarding the fruit’s intensity and whether it will outlast the wine’s structure, but for my taste this is drinking quite well now, as some aged notes are beginning to express wihtin the context of a soft, still quite primary flavour profile. A gentle, pastel wine with a fresh acid kick.

A couple of unusual reds were next, being a 2006 The Gran Cruor Syrah and a 2007 Domaine Duseigneur Antares Grenache blend from Lirac. I found the latter a bit straightforward and I think it suffered from following the Syrah. I was deeply intrigued by the Priorat’s unusual development, driven by fruit that seemed sun-kissed to the point of dessication. Not normally a compliment, perhaps, but I found the flavours attractive and moreish.

The Stonyridge was next and it just blew everything else away, as far as I’m concerned. Concentrated soy sauce and umami flavours, a luscious tannin structure and the sort of deep intensity that fills the mouth with each taste. This is a long way from Bordeaux but the style struck me as deeply coherent. Loved it and was grateful to have had the opportunity to taste it.

Ordinarily, the next wine, a 1994 Wendouree Cabernet Sauvignon, would be expected to hit some heights, and indeed it did, though in quite a different style from the Kiwi wine. This was Clare rusticity all the way, a choc-mint aroma profile leading into a wine that is both rough-hewn and quite perfect in form. I especially enjoyed the palate structure’s suppleness. It lacked the scale and luxe of the Stonyrise, but in its relatively austere way was a beautiful wine.

It’s a bit tough towards the end of these evenings to maintain focus, so a Dutschke Sun Dried Shiraz liqueur was perfect. Ridiculously rich in a slutty, rather than noble, way, this completely overshadowed our dessert and, for a dinner whose focus was a celebration of wine, I’m glad it did.