Domaine Ninot Rully La Barre 2007

I’ve tasted one previous vintage of this label, the 2005, and at the time came away with mixed feelings. On the one hand, a cheap way to taste some Burgundy goodness, on the other a rather underwhelming experience in absolute terms. So how’s this more recent vintage, then?

Once some funky sulphur blows off, the nose strongly suggests a degree of oxidation; there’s as much honey as there is vanilla ice cream and ripe papaya fruit. The 2005 had a similar mix of flavours, but (from memory at least) this is a more exuberant wine, tilting more definitely towards a drink-now balance of oxidative versus fresh flavours. It’s quite attractive, really, if somewhat simple, and much more expressive than I remember the 2005 to have been. Presuming these flavours are a result of oxidative handling, it’s a bold style to chase.

The palate is generous in scale, with rather lazy honey flavours accompanied by browned apple and melon fruit. The oxidative flavours are a little distracting at this point, though lively acid keeps things more or less in check. Mouthfeel moves through a few stages, from lightly textured on entry through voluptuous on the middle palate and sharp-ish through the finish. It’s all quite fun and drinkable, yet I’m not feeling entirely satisfied with the sophistication (or lack thereof) of the flavour profile, especially at this price point, and compared to local wines.

Domaine Ninot
Price: $A30
Closure: Synthetic cork
Source: Retail

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz 2007

This label, long iconic, has caused an even greater sensation of late, the 2008 vintage having recently been named the Penguin Wine Guide’s wine of the year. I was therefore surprised and happy to see this wine — which was made in extremely limited quantities due, I believe, to frost damage — on a restaurant wine list this week, sporting a relatively small markup. I promptly ordered a bottle and had it decanted an hour or so prior to drinking.

Some of my wine writing colleagues have expressed quite negative reactions to the Langi style, and I can certainly see why. This is a full-throttle wine, quite undeterred by the notion that Grampians Shiraz ought to represent restrained, medium bodied elegance. There are lashings of oak immediately evident on the nose, and these dirty spice flavours combine with regional plum fruit to create a dark, dense aroma profile. This is the Grampians on steroids, all ultra-plum and squishy blackberries, dark spice and wet wood.

The palate is quite acidic, showing plum flesh, brown spice and pepper (black and white). Lots of flavours and good typicité, then. Stylistically, this is dense and muscular to the point of being slightly clumsy, and it’s here that some drinkers may come unstuck. Does this level of density, of oak and of raw power speak of the Grampians? Or does this wine represent a distortion of its region, a twisting of terroir into something barely recognisable? One thing’s for sure, the quality of the fruit here is superb. It’s clear from this and previous vintages tasted the Langi Ghiran site is capable of producing fruit with the most wonderful flavour and structure. Tannins are raw, raspy, completely fabulous and in need of a while more to settle. Whether they will calm in line with fruit flavours remains to be seen; I’ve tasted older Langis that have aged beautifully, and others whose oak has clearly outlived the fruit. No matter; it’s good to drink now with a good decant and appropriate food.

A real statement wine. I rather liked it.

Mount Langi Ghiran
Price: $A98 (wine list)
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Taltarni Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Balance is one of those elusive concepts in wine that’s difficult to defend because, to my mind, there’s a continuum in which a wine style can exist, and the point of imbalance on that continuum is pegged differently by different drinkers. 

This wine’s an interesting example of what I mean. I’m not averse to some green flavours in Cabernet. In fact, I’m probably one of the few people who have semi-fond memories of some green-ish Coonawarra Cabernets from the 1990s. But there’s a point at which the green stops being challenging and angular and stylish and becomes simply unpleasant. Does this wine cross that line? I’m not sure. It certainly did on initial opening, offering clearly unripe notes and raw, puckery tannins as proof. Curiously, it also showed the most seductive, plush fruit aromas that created an interesting push-pull aesthetic.
On day two, the wine is tiring a little, but also evolving to show more complex fruit and spice influences on the aroma, and deliciously tart orange-juice like notes on the palate. The green, curiously, has receded a little, dragging the wine back into the land of characterful balance. Tannins are better behaved, though ultimately still a bit aggressive, and it’s here the wine’s questionable astringency remains most present. Overall, though, there’s a sense of honest regionality with this wine that I am enjoying, despite the rough edges.
I also have a 2008 vintage in the pile and will taste it with interest.

Price: $A35
Closure: Cork
Source: Sample

Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay 2007

Chardonnay, let alone Hunter Chardonnay, is hardly at the vanguard of vinous fashion, so one could be forgiven for greeting this Scarborough wine a shrug. It pays to remember, though, the Hunter has a special place in the history of Australian Chardonnay, and continues to be the home of two of Australia’s more sought after peaches: the Lake’s Folly white and Tyrrell’s Vat 47. Scarborough is something of a Chardonnay specialist, having earned an enviable reputation for this varietal, so I approached this wine with high expectations.

The nose is fresh and clean, showing aromas of butter, peach, a little bit of minerality, perhaps a herbal twang and some smokey toast. Complex, then, but its buttery balance speaks more of enjoyment than analysis. I like that the oak is subdued, the wine appearing to rely more on fruit character and other forms of winemaking input (some lees work, I suspect) to achieve its aroma profile.

The palate takes a step up in expressiveness, being quite rich and full-flavoured. Entry is strikingly flavoursome, a nice spectrum of peach, citrus and butter notes caressing the tongue and paving the way for a middle palate that is quite flooded with fruit. The flavours are very clean at this point, showing good definition and shape, supported by easygoing acidity. I feel this wine’s textural dimension, though, isn’t quite balanced, being too reticent and consequently somewhat overwhelmed by the fullness of the fruit flavour. I’d like to feel a bit more mealiness on my tongue on the mid-palate, which would add more sophistication to the palate structure. The after palate does offer a bit more in this regard, and this helps carry the wine through a finish that seemed a bit hot to me.

Lovely fruit here, made in a gloriously unfashionable style that I admit to enjoying more often than not. It’s not over the top, simply generous and warm. Very well priced.

Price: $A21
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Mulyan Cowra Shiraz 2007

It must be a Mulyan thing; the reaction I’m having to this wine is quite similar to that I experienced when tasting the 07 Block 9 Shiraz Viognier: fascination mixed with a sense of the wine sitting out on a limb in terms of correctness. I may be completely off the mark, but my first impression was “stuck ferment”, though I hasten to add the offending aromas have blown off to reveal a much cleaner wine. Certainly, if you try this wine, give it a chance to show the positive side of its character.

The nose is peppery and meaty, with ripe blackberries wedged into the spaces that remain. Pretty classic cool climate Shiraz aromas, in fact, though certainly on the wilder side, with less floral spice and more meat than some. There’s something masculine, almost brutal, about this aroma profile, but whatever one might think of the styling, my feeling is there’s an intent and sophistication here that sits well above the wine’s $20 price point.

The palate is nicely textured, with well integrated acidity and loose knit tannins that run most of the wine’s length. Entry is positive and fruit-driven, flavours becoming more complex towards the middle palate. This is a medium bodied wine, showing moderately intense flavours in the context of an edgy, slightly aggressive architecture. A bright after palate is full of blackberries and pepper steak. The finish is reasonable.

It’s impossible to dismiss this wine, despite that it comes across as over-eager and lacking the poise one might wish for. In some ways, it has me stumped. But I simply can’t discount it. Well worth trying, especially at the price.

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

Thomas DJV Shiraz 2007

I bought some of this ages ago on the strength of some writeups but this is the first time I’ve sat down to taste it. What interested me about this wine — and it was a sufficient hook to prompt me to buy untasted — was a stated intent to create an “old school” Hunter red, lighter in body and acidified courtesy of Semillon rather than tartaric acid from a packet. All this by one of the hottest producers in the Hunter Valley, a region whose wines I enjoy beyond reasonable measure.

The nose is fleet yet intense, with floral notes, crunchy red berries, nutty caramel oak and a light dash of regional red dirt. A hint of minerality too? Perhaps. This is an elegant aroma profile in all respects, not battering the senses but rather suggesting its character slowly, building complexity as it speaks.

The palate does that wonderful Pinot-like trick of combining fabulous impact and intensity with deceptively light structure and body. Anyone who tends to mistake weight for substance should have sip of this wine. Entry is quite tingly, with bright red fruits and assertive acidity winding around each other towards the middle palate, where the flavours open out a bit. There’s a curiously juicy green streak here — green in the sense of flower stalks and the sap of succulents — that creates a really fresh overlay to more red fruit and dirt. The tannin-derived texture is fabulous, being light and loose yet even at the same time. Intense flavours ride right through the after palate and finish.

What a curious wine; it seems so modest in its styling, yet shows all the hallmarks of quality: complexity, intensity, persistence. Surely one to follow.

Thomas Wines
Price: $A35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Blue Poles Allouran 2007

Ever since I comprehensively fucked up my student wine earlier this year, I’ve had a fondness for Cabernet Franc. While crushing the grapes by hand, I smelled the most distinctively peppery aroma, fresh and sharp, that I recognised from wines consumed in the past but had never smelled with quite that combination of purity and deliciousness.

Pleasingly, this wine, though a Merlot-dominant blend, captures some of that distinctive Franc aroma. To my nose, the Franc component is quite evident. That mélange of of pepper and sweetly roasted red capsicum, both sharp and pretty, sits atop deeper Merlot aromas and some powdery vanilla oak. This wine smells highly integrated, so it’s a little misleading to describe it in terms of separate notes; aromas melt into one another with pleasure. Overall, there’s a fresh liveliness to this wine’s aroma that is really attractive.

The palate shows genuine elegance. A rush of dark plum fruit flavour on entry, with some high toned pepper providing some light to the fruit’s shade. The mid palate shows some nervy acidity that provides tight focus to the line. Indeed, this wine has a way to go yet before it allows itself deep relaxation. The flavours, though tending towards a slight simplicity in the plum spectrum, are very well matched and balanced. Oak character is sympathetic to the fruit and interlocks with its flavours like a lover’s hands. The after palate shows the most sucrosité of any point along the line. The finish is decent, not thinning out until the last moments of its presence on the tongue.

Nice wine, exceptional value.

Blue Poles Vineyard
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Schloss Lieser Niederberg Helden Riesling Spätlese 2007

I chilled this wine in preparation for last night’s salmon dinner, but we didn’t get around to drinking it. So it came out tonight instead, was asked to partner chicken, and did so with aplomb.

It had to blow off a fair bit of sulfur first, mind you. Quite prickly and stinky for a few minutes, leading to a much cleaner, rather candied expression of yellow fruits and citrus, along with a hint of cheese. There’s a nice streak of savouriness too, minerality I guess, that cuts through the rich fruit aromas. It’s not exactly slick; rather, it’s a dressed up country cousin of a wine — attractive and neat, but roundly wholesome too.
Great presence in the mouth.  Entry is quite tingly and full-flavoured, leading to a middle palate of significant proportions and generous intensity. There’s a degree of formlessness to the fruit flavours, which detracts a little from the precision of other components like the firmish acidity and mineral edginess. A chalky mouthfeel tightens the after palate, cleaning up a slight excess of sweetness and laziness of form, before a nice long finish fades slowly on the tongue.
Not bad at all, then. I like the interplay of sweet, almost crackly fruit with adult savouriness and delicious texture. A touch more focus would make this even better.

Schloss Lieser
Price: $A49.95
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Reinhold Haart Piesport Goldtröpfchen Kabinett 2007

I’ve been a bit slow in tasting my stash of 2007 German Rieslings so, this evening, as I enjoy the company of a great friend, I have opened this Kabinett-level wine from the Mosel. 

Opulent richness on the nose, beyond what one might expect for this ripeness level, along with some prickly sulfur and a hint of minerality. Fruit aromas are in the apricot spectrum and lack the vibrant freshness of brand new Riesling; to be expected, perhaps, given the age of the wine. I’m swirling this wine vigorously as I feel it will benefit from some air; a decant wouldn’t be out of the question. There’s an intriguing savouriness to the aroma profile that is becoming more prominent as the wine sits in glass; it’s somewhere between pebbles and the smell of juicy, smashed weeds. 
In the mouth, full-flavoured without being overly intense. The entry sneaks up on you, building towards a rather bling middle palate full of slightly simple apricot and rich lemons. There’s a broadness to the flavours and structure that isn’t entirely attractive, though there’s plenty of flavour, so one always has a lot to latch on to. Minerality takes over through the after palate, and the flavour profile becomes a lot dryer towards the nicely textured finish. Unremarkable length.
I wish this wine were more focused and that flavours showed greater detail; as it is, a very pleasant off-dry white.

Reinhold Haart
Price: $A46.95
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2007

Tension is an underexplored dimension of wine that, in some respects, goes against the grain of conventional aesthetics. Balance, harmony and elegance are all buzzwords of significant currency, dictating a serene, classical conception of beauty that, I’ll admit, often holds a lot of appeal for me.

I also like Italian horror films from the 1970s. And Sandra Bernhard’s lips. And Michel Houellebecq’s politics. All angular, difficult things that, on some level, fill me with a sense of beauty. Lately, I find myself wondering on a regular basis whether a wine that is less than composed in its structure and flow can be equally, perhaps even more, beautiful than one which is perfectly built. I know the answer is “of course it can;” articulating why is more challenging.

In some respects, this wine is all over the place. Its flavour profile leaps from sulfur to rich, aromatic fruit to crystalline minerality. Its mouthfeel lurches from spritz to unctuousness to chiselled dryness. Yet, somehow, it all comes together in the most exciting, delicious way. The aroma shows slightly blunt sulfur, the dull ache of carbonated mineral water, tart marmalade and, strangely, the smell of white pepper. It’s a question mark of a nose, darting this way and that. It’s also subtly alluring, redolent of the smell of spice markets that I suspect have only ever existed in the pages of books.

The palate is a rollercoaster ride. Spritz registers on entry, cutting through what becomes a rich expression of Riesling fruit on the middle palate. Mango skins and lime juice, mostly. It’s delicious, if sweet, and begins to cloy just as a swell of minerality rises to temper any excess of residual sugar. I have been sipping this wine all evening, and have not remotely tired of the contrasting interplay between sweet fruit and dry flintiness. It’s one of the hardest things to get right with off-dry Riesling styles, and this wine makes it seem just effortful enough to help one appreciate the achievement. A lovely, long finish.

I see this wine as a contest of sorts, between elements that clash and come together not to cancel each other out, but to give rise through conflict to something quite lovely. It’s fabulous.

Willi Schaefer
Price: $A42
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail