Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen 2011

I picked this up at my local Dan Murphy while shopping for cheap stemware. Of course, I wasn’t going to buy any wine, so I choose to see the two table wines and two fortifieds I inevitably ended up purchasing as a nice and well-deserved gift to me.

This Grüner is varietal if nothing else. Masses of white pepper is the first impression on the nose, backed up by slightly dull citrus flesh and some decaying florals. I wouldn’t call it the sharpest aroma profile, and I am left wanting a bit more freshness, but it’s rich and characterful nonetheless. The nicest thing about the aroma is its dimensionality – the aromas seem to traverse a full spectrum of frequencies from low to high.

The palate shows good weight and richness while carrying the aroma’s suggested flavours through without skipping a beat. I especially like a touch of phenolic grip on the after palate and a lightly sandpaper-like texture. Structurally, this is reasonably well supported without being too edgy. A bit of extra acid wouldn’t go astray, really, and might add freshness to a flavour profile that, like the aroma, tends towards the dull. It improves in the glass, gaining layers of subtlety with air. The finish is clean and dry.

I suppose this delivers a decent hit of Grüner but, in some ways, it only hints at what’s possible.

Domäne Wachau
Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Mudgee Gold 2009

Some wines are awarded seven gold medals if they’re lucky. This wine, on the other hand, is comprised of seven gold medal winning wines. From the PR, I take it this wine is a blend of seven wines, at the time unfinished and only one year old, that were awarded gold medals at the Mudgee Wine Show. Contributing producers are Andrew Harris Vineyards, Broombee Organic Wines, Burnbrae Winery, Frog Rock Wines, Queens Pinch Vineyard, Robert Oatley Vineyards and Robert Stein Winery.

There’s a good deal of richness on the nose, with quite dense aromas of black fruit emerging alongside an impression of moist earth and brown spice. Dark, manly and quite brooding, this also has a raw, sappy edge. There are some additional complexities too — a bit of mushroom, some blueberries. Quite a bit going on, then, even if it’s not the sort of wine one could describe as detailed, owing to its extroverted blanket of aromas.

The palate is a precise echo of the nose, with a range of dark, thick fruit notes running alongside earthiness and a sharp acid line. The acid feels quite disconnected from the fruit weight at the moment; perhaps this will integrate with some more time. There’s no shortage of impact and intensity at all; this is a forthright wine that sits at the fuller end of the stylistic spectrum. I’m impressed that such weight comes with only 13.5% ABV, and that there is good freshness of fruit evident. I wish for a bit more light and shade, but I think that’s more a stylistic preference on my part. I admit, this isn’t my preferred style of wine.

Nonetheless, some high quality material in this wine for sure. It’s more than simply a curio.

Seven contributing wineries
Price: $A60
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Eldridge Estate PTG 2012

Language is rarely as tortured as it can be in the hands of wine enthusiasts. I suppose this happens in any field, but one of the more interesting features of language in wine appreciation is the evolution of subtext. Drinkability is a particularly interesting word in this regard; for me, to describe a wine as highly drinkable is an entirely positive thing. And yet drinkability is often code for a simple quaffer, something not worth much thought or respect. As if good wines are somehow above being drunk.

So when I suggest Eldridge Estate’s latest PTG is outrageously drinkable, please take a moment to erase all subtextual baggage. I mean drinkable in the most positive, forthright way — this is a wine that fairly leaps down the throat.

And not because it’s simple or dumbed down, either. Here, drinkability is a matter of style. As you can probably infer from the age of it, this is released as a young wine and, to my palate, is designed to be drunk fresh. There’s an acid sourness to the wine that may sound like a negative but which, in fact, is the key to its moreishness. Flavours are bold, with prickly herbs and spice, bright red fruit, some meaty depth. Tannins are loose knit and well managed. So it’s not subtle, but who wants subtlety in a wine like this? No, this is about vitality and verve and, most of all, food.

Quite a brilliant early drinking red style and, on the strength of this, something other Mornington makers may well wish to consider.

Eldridge Estate
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Clonakilla wine dinner

At a certain point during the evening, quite a few wines in, Tim Kirk took flight. Talk of poetry and music filled the air, gestures became broader and more animated, and I’d like to think those of us who were present were a little, or perhaps more than a little, swept up in the passion of the moment. While a winemaker’s enthusiasm doesn’t inevitably translate to the finished wine, there’s something addictively glorious about seeing someone’s inner life blossom so charmingly before your eyes. As it happens, the excellence of the evening’s wines justified every moment of Tim’s rhetoric.

I don’t make a habit of attending wine dinners, but I jumped at the chance to taste a bunch of Clonakilla’s key styles in mini verticals. Bookended by a glass each of the current Viognier Nouveau and a pretty Auslese style Riesling, three vintages each of the Riesling, Cabernet Merlot and Shiraz Viognier were presented. There was not a bad wine amongst them, although inevitably the room was split on which version of each — newborn, young adult, fading groover — was drinking best on the night.

Brief impressions follow.

Clonakilla Riesling 2012
Primarily floral on the nose and clearly a very young wine. Aromatics are all high toned powdery goodness. The palate is surprisingly generous, showing more weight than I expected. A cut apple flavour suggests oxidative treatment? Nicely textured too.

Clonakilla Riesling 2005
My pick of the Rieslings, this shows clear primary and tertiary characters. The acid remains prominent, contributing a fantastic texture to the palate. Delicious.

Clonakilla Riesling 2002
Flavours are quite developed and the wine has transitioned from edgy youngster to mellow sage. It’s far from falling apart, but it is most certainly starting to glow with age. A very beautiful wine. I’m very happy to have some in my cellar.

Clonakilla Ballinderry 2011
Bright, slightly raw aromas of red fruit and tobacco pre-empt a palate that is acid-driven and still settling. Too young to drink without a very good airing, this nonetheless showed some pure, attractive flavours.

Clonakilla Ballinderry 2005
Another amazing 2005. Considerably more stuffing than the 2011, this showed delicious umami flavours in addition to its plush berries. Tannins a highlight, with texture generally feeling bright and attractive.

Clonakilla Cabernet Merlot 1997
All about umami. At this stage, texture has softened considerably, with the wine showing less palate weight and impact than the 2005. Tannins still present and drying, however.

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2011
Fine black pepper, blueberry fruit and spice. So put together, but fruit a bit simple at this early stage.

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2005
A step up in complexity and subtle textures, this feels strongly shaped in the mouth. Plenty of blue fruit and a multitude of other flavours besides. Lovely.

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2002
Holding on without any struggles, this still tastes young, with rich chocolate notes over spice and primary berry fruit. The tannin structure is still firm and a real feature. A slight whiff of game not distracting.

Oakvale Limited Release Reserve Chardonnay 2011

Consider this note an alert to lovers of old school Hunter Chardonnay, for what we have here is a proudly rich wine of the sort that has become quite outmoded but for which, I suspect, many have affection. I include myself in that group.

Immediately the aroma signals this wine’s stylistic bent. The two main influences here are ripe nectarine and oak. There’s a range of flavours positioned alongside these core notes, but the wine keeps coming back to luscious, sweet, undeniably oak-rich aromas. Interestingly, the edges are most alluring; there are hints of herb, mandarin peel, spice and more.

The palate is predictably lush and mouthfilling. In particular, the wine’s slippery, almost gooey texture stands out for its total lack of edges. This is a wine that places no barriers between itself and your stomach. Flavours are again centered on ripe stonefruit and oak, with a collection of subdued complexities crowding around the edges. The overall effect is quite sweet. Despite its silicone mouthfeel, there’s plenty of acid to prop up the palate, though I wish it exerted more influence on the wine’s texture to give it a sense of light and shade. As it is, a fairly single minded experience.

No great finesse or detail here, but it carries an undeniable hit of Chardonnay flavour.

Price: $A40
Closure: Diam
Source: Sample

Oakvale Single Vineyard Shiraz 2011

Stylish packaging, this one. I’ve never visited, but going by its website this producer looks to benefit from an exceptionally pretty cellar door, one that befits the history of the winery and the quality of its vineyard holdings (Stevens Vineyard, anyone?).

I first tasted this yesterday but felt it quite swamped with oak. Nice oak, mind, but it crept over deliciously regional Hunter fruit and assaulted every corner of the flavour profile with vanilla and cedar. A day has seen it subside, even as the fruit has itself undergone some changes. The nose is now pretty and soft-focus, edges of earthy prickle smoothed over by a more luscious collection of aromas, including better balanced but still noticeable oak. For my taste, it lacks definition and incisiveness, though it is undoubtedly correct and regional.

The palate, so oak dominant yesterday, has changed much the same as the aroma, now a more relaxed version of itself. It is medium bodied and quite fresh, with deceptively bright acid holding the wine together, structurally. I like the intensity of the fruit and the way it hits the tongue without heaviness. Berry flavours are relatively simple, a touch confected and end up tasting a bit flat. Loose knit, blocky tannins are a chewy influence through the lengthy finish.

There are certainly elements to admire in this wine; I just wish it were more detailed and a tad more sophisticated in flavour profile.

Price: $A45
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Lowe Tinja Preservative Free White 2012

One becomes so jaded. As soon as I saw this wine’s label, I immediately assumed its preservative free status was some kind of spin, a claim at natural wine status perhaps, or a cynical attempt at niche marketing. Shame on me — it turns out the winemaker is himself sensitive to sulfur dioxide and makes this wine for those similarly afflicted. As someone who erupts into fits of coughing when faced with too much sulfur, that’s an intent I can relate to.

The wine itself is a blend of Chardonnay and Verdelho. It’s quite low in alcohol (10% ABV) and shows considerable spritz when poured. Although ostensibly a still table wine, the dissolved carbon dioxide exerts a significant influence over the experience of this wine, its nose prickling with savouriness and its palate enlivening the tongue even if it doesn’t exactly flood the tastebuds with flavour. The overall impression is one of neutral freshness and crisp acid. Crucially with a wine such as this, there are no faults, but nor is there much personality.

It seems the purpose of this wine is simply to provide fresh, easy drinking to those with an aversion to sulfur dioxide. In this it succeeds admirably.

Lowe Wines
Price: $A20
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Chapel Hill il Vescovo Tempranillo 2011

From where I sit, Tempranillo is neatly slotting into the role of “alternative red varietal of choice at $25 and under.” Catchy, no?

And as I contemplate an alternate career in marketing, I will note some impressions of this Chapel Hill Tempranillo. It hails from the McLaren Vale, which has churned out a few good examples of this varietal lately. There’s something about the seemingly inevitable generosity of this region’s reds that gives Tempranillo some flesh to hang on its muscle and angles. Is this Tempranillo-lite, in the manner of a lot of early Australian Sangiovese? Perhaps, but this tastes right to me in a way a plump version of Chianti never did.

The aroma is dark and dusty, with the sort of spice profile and sense of snapped twig that I strongly associate with the grape. It’s varietal, then, if cuddly as well. What’s especially nice about the way this smells is that it’s challenging enough to separate it from a vast number of zero friction red wines at this price point. Given the difficulties of the vintage, I’m pretty impressed with how resolved this smells.

The palate also shows an interplay of flesh and fundamentally angular flavour. It’s dark and earthy, with savoury fruit taking a back seat to roasted spice and what I can only describe as tanbark. It’s a very difficult flavour profile to put into words, but what’s more significant to me is how it is such a great food wine. Indeed, I’m tucking into a lamb shank as I type, and the wine’s self-effacing structure and underplayed complexity help it fill the accompanist’s role with aplomb.

How nice to find a wine that isn’t intent on taking centre stage.

Chapel Hill
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2010

Earlier in the week, I hurriedly tasted the current releases of Tapanappa’s three single vineyard wines. All are worthy and exciting but I was especially drawn to this one. I have been looking forward to spending a bit more quality time with it.

I’ve had some pretty strong reactions against some Australian Chardonnays over the past few years that have seemed, to me, stylistically forced. The swing against our now-reviled broader styles perhaps inevitably went hard, and on many occasions the new wave of Chardonnays seemed to me more a matter of fashion than a deeper engagement with variety and site. Interestingly, Tapanappa’s philosophy of wine is centered on the idea of distinguished sites, sites whose terroirs perfectly marry with the grape variety to which they are planted. Not a new idea, to be sure, but one that is pursued with some purity by this producer and one that, in theory, should cut through stylistic fashion. Is there a single truth of a particular terroir and variety? I’m not sure I know the answer…

Although this falls into the category of richer, more worked wines, it has a delicacy and clarity of expression that defies its weight and complexity.  The aroma is full of distinct notes, tending towards savoury and taut yet underpinned by luscious stonefruit and caramel. It’s rich and nimble at the same time, perhaps a function of its youth (and, dare I say, the screwcap closure). Oak is present in a floral, vanillan thread that weaves in and out of the fruit flavours. There’s a lot going on here.

The palate, as with the nose, is a balance of nervous vitality and muscle. Again, complex in terms of flavour profile, moving from savoury lees notes through a range of stonefruit and citrus to beautifully balanced butterscotch and caramel. The architecture of the wine is most impressive: its flavours are clear and distinct, and sit within a large scale frame that exists without heaviness. Here’s a wine that shows the full range of winemaking input without it ever overwhelming the essential qualities of its fruit. One can indeed have one’s cake and eat it too.

Cracking wine.

Price: $A75
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Topper’s Mountain Red Earth Child 2009

Despite a seemingly never ending quest to communicate a “sense of place,” it’s remarkable how few vignerons in Australia put site ahead of variety. The privileging of varietal wines comes at the expense of the idea that site is best expressed through a mix of varieties. This is not a new idea, nor is it completely absent from Australian wine, but it remains rare.

This, then, stands out like the proverbial dog’s balls. Let me count the ways in which it differs from the mainstream: it’s a wine of New England, with nary a grape variety listed on the (front) label and, when one discovers what varieties are in it, there’s an unlikely mix of Petit Verdot, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Tannat. Sui generis.

This is as close to blind tasting as I’ve come without, you know, actually tasting blind. I had no idea what to expect, but the aroma’s absence of expressive fruit still came as something of a surprise. This is a dark, muscular, somewhat closed nose at present. There are hints of black berry fruit, spice, snapped twig and baked goods. I find it somewhat inscrutable, in fact, which is no bad thing. There’s certainly enough density, complexity and coherence to hint at significant potential.

The palate is similarly intriguing and fiercely structured. Both acid and tannin are prominent, which isn’t surprising given the presence of Barbera and Tannat in the mix. The same dark, savoury fruit flavour profile seen on the nose is very much present here, but it runs underneath the wine’s structural framework for now, like a bubbling underground stream. Again, density is a feature and, without any experience of this label, I suggest a bit of age will be kind to it. The after palate is the most generous moment in the wine’s line, where fruit is allowed to bulge slightly before tightening again in a highly structured finish.

A brave, and in many ways successful, wine.

Update: day 2 and the wine is opening up in the most interesting ways. It has become quite floral, with rose petal and Turkish Delight distinct notes on the nose. Fascinating.

Topper’s Mountain
Price: $A38
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample