Wendouree Cabernet Malbec 2011

Aside from an older vintage of its delightful Zibibbo Muscat of Alexandria, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never properly written up a Wendouree wine on Full Pour, despite having drunk many over the years. Time to fix that.

This, from the legendarily difficulty 2011 vintage in South Australia, represents my favourite Clare Valley regional blend. Interestingly, growing conditions have resulted in a wine that’s far more approachable and coherent than many a young Wendouree I’ve tasted. There can, indeed, be an upside to these things. The aroma’s expressiveness provides a first clue to the wine’s relative accessibility, yet it’s the aromas themselves I find enveloping and transportive. Instantly, I’m walking home from school in the suburbs, the pavement hot underfoot, each nature strip a mini-oasis of cool, gum trees releasing a gentle aroma into the air, the occasional kick of dust and tar from a driveway. Indeed, this is vivid and spacious and, somehow, so Australian.

The palate’s moderate weight suits its highly aromatic countenance well. Those famous Wendouree tannins do make an appearance, but less so than usual, and with less density and impact overall. The focus here, rather, is on fluidity of movement and complete transparency of flavour. This is so pretty, and so gentle, one goes to it willingly and is amply rewarded with bright fruit flavours, tanbark textures and a general sense of elegant ease. Some may find the acid strident; I welcome its sizzle and vivacity. Certainly, fruit flavours are intense enough to provide balance. The finish isn’t especially long, but what’s there provides a coherent closure to the wine’s line.

This would be a sensational lunchtime claret.

Price: $A55
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Alkoomi Cabernets 2011

I lingered a little in Frankland River last May. Of all the sub-regions in Great Southern, this felt the most isolated and pastoral and, in being so, made flesh what I had until that point only been able to imagine about the region. To drive from Manjimup to Frankland River is in some ways to travel into the vastness of Australian agricultural life. Magnificent forests of impossibly tall trees give way to farmland that, in its cultivation, shows another side of the landscape’s beauty. I’d say it’s a pity it’s so isolated, but that isolation is an integral part of Frankland River’s appeal. To know you’re hours from a city of any significance makes the experience of being there so much more vivid.

I sometimes wonder about the challenge of marketing Great Southern wines. It’s as if the region’s remoteness translates to an equally remote connection those of us on the east coast feel for the producers who toil there. In any case, even a cursory taste of the region’s wines is sufficient to demonstrate this vast region, with its varied sub-regions, is capable of wines of exceptional quality. I had great visits with Alkoomi and Frankland Estate while in the sub-region, and was lucky to spend some time with Alkoomi’s winemaker Andrew Cherry when I popped in on a Sunday. Lots of wines impressed, but this particular wine stood out not just for its taste but for the value on offer.

It’s a real Bordeaux blend, this one, with all fruit harvested from the estate’s vineyard in quite a warm year. The aroma is thick with purple and black berries, and the floral lift I associate with Petit Verdot in particular. There are darker edges too, of damp twig and black spice, that add depth and savouriness to the aroma. What marks this, perhaps, as a wine of value is a certain lack of definition, of delineation between notes, that means the aroma tends to blurriness. Nonetheless, a nice wine to smell.

The palate tells a similar story. Berry flavour floods the mouth and is of a quality and character that far transcends its price point. This wine has especially good continuity down its line, with no unseemly peaks or troughs. It’s medium bodied and fresh-tasting, with ripe tannins that tighten the after palate and introduce a welcome textural dimension. As with the nose, flavours tend to blur into one another, and the wine lacks the sort of precise articulation one sees at higher price points.

Still, a real bargain at $18 and a great taste of Frankland River Cabernets.

Price: $A18
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Georges Vigouroux Les Comtes Cahors Malbec 2011

I’m not quite sure what I’m expecting from these inexpensive supermarket-sourced wines, but perhaps it shouldn’t be a complete surprise when I come away disappointed. To the extent that I opened this bottle with any sense of hope at all, it quickly diminished on seeing stubby plastic cork. Not a good start.

I’m not sure what to prefer: a cheap Madiran with a semblance of regionality but little sensual satisfaction, or this, a much more generous wine whose style, unfortunately, tends towards the generic. On pouring, it certainly looks the goods, showing a very dark hue and significant density of colour. Aromatically, my first impression is of sweet, vanilla oak that smothers aromas of sweet red fruit. The most obvious oak aromas blow off, though, and the wine ends up quite well balanced, if simple and a bit characterless.

Sweet red fruit is the name of the game on the palate and, for those who enjoy the Malbec flavour profile, this is an inexpensive way to get a fix. It’s medium bodied with a flash of fruit on the mid-palate and a generally disjointed set of components. A bit of acid here, some oak there, a tap of tannin brining up the rear. Very clean and bright, overall.

Not a bad weekday red for distracted drinkers.

Georges Vigouroux
Price: £8.99
Closure: Synthetic cork
Source: Retail

Woodlands Margaret 2011

A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot and 14% Malbec.

This, like the 2011 Cullen Kevin John I wrote about yesterday, changed a lot over the course of my time with it. Unlike the Chardonnay, however, its evolution was entirely positive.

At first, I thought I might have wasted the $45 this cost me, as the wine I poured bore little resemblance to the deliciousness I had tasted at cellar door and on which basis I made my purchase. Masses of bright, sweet fruit — varietal enough but completely overwhelming — shot off in one direction while oak and structure scurried away separately, like friends who have just fallen out over who might be the prettiest of all. Hanging over the whole, like a toxic cloud, that unpleasant, faintly doughy malolactic fermentation smell, hammering one last nail into the coffin of a wine I was ready to write off as an unfortunate product of its warm vintage.

But what a dramatic difference on day two. After a bit of time and air, savouriness returns to this wine with a smack, and with it vastly improved integration of its elements. No doughy smells, either; indeed, this is squeaky clean. With a diminution of fruit volume, the wine’s elegance steps forward, a dusty note overlaying fresh mulberry fruit and snapped twig on the nose, brown spices and oak making a contribution, perhaps not quite as connected as they might be with more time, but nonetheless still very much part of the wine. The palate is medium bodied and, despite generous fruit, elegant, with abundant, fine tannins setting over the after palate and firm acid throughout. I was dissatisfied with the 2007 vintage due to its, for my taste, perversely light weight; the 2011 seems a more balanced wine in this regard.

I do feel this has been released very early and, hopefully, with a bit more time in bottle it will present better on opening. As it is now, be sure to give it plenty of air before any serious contemplation.

Price: $A45
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Tabla Numero Uno 2008

Just for grins, click here to see where this wine was grown – it’s about as far off of the beaten path as you can get in North America. I had to zoom out at least half a dozen times (in Google Maps) before I had even the vaguest idea where in Mexico these grapes were grown: turns out it’s Zacatecas, a relatively obscure state south of Coahuila, which is where the first winery in the New World was constructed all the way back in 1597.

The vineyard is 2,057 meters above sea level, which would probably explain how it’s at possible, and why this is a moderate 12.2 pct. alcohol, which is very low for anywhere in North America. But let’s skip all of the geography and technical details and jump straight to the wine.

It’s a lovely, deep, rich, dark red wine; it isn’t lacking for color. It gets immediately interesting on the nose; at first, I thought I smelled sweet, dusty fruit; after a few minutes, it changed to a slightly sweeter, incredibly unusual nose with a tinge of mulberry and something approaching volatile acidity. More than anything, though, it smells of damp earth, coffee, soft red fruits, and fig paste.The taste of the wine is a surprise, but only briefly; with Malbec, I’m preconditioned to expect more alcohol, so the initial approach of the wine seemed disappointing: it’s not a monster, so you don’t get the thickness the alcohol lends. It does fill out rapidly after that, though, with a fairly rich, thick midpalate accented by sweet, dusty notes but again with that charming coffee-like, smoky note that I’m guessing is strictly from oak. The finish sings on for a good half a minute, alternately sweet and savory, and often with a wonderfully intriguing oakiness, but only just. On the down side, there’s a very slight, only occasionally noticeable component that seems faulty, but I can’t say exactly what it is (I’m thinking volatile acidity, but I’m just not sure). In short, it’s not factory wine.

If I had to compare this wine to anything, it would be to an imaginary Beaujolais that had been aged in lightly toasted oak barrels; I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like this. It almost reminds me of some of the lesser known southern French wines like Cotes du Marmandais, but what really stands out here is the impressive length of the wine, going on as it does.

Yes, this is about as obscure as it gets – I found this wine in a small shop in Mexicali, the capital of Baja California, yesterday (and wound up in secondary inspection at Customs because I didn’t realize that the state of California only allows residents to return with one liter of any kind of alcoholic beverages… oops) – but this is worth seeking out for anyone who’s interested in what you can do in new winegrowing areas with traditional grapes. Of all the Malbecs I’ve had, this isn’t as immediately delicious as, say, most midrange Argentine malbecs, but the Zacatecan expression of the grape is pretty damn interesting. Of course, this is probably too much money to pay for what you’re getting here – you could have a mind-blowing Argentine malbec for about the same amount – but you’ll never have tasted a wine like this before.

Viñedos Santa Elena
Price: $32
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Viña Cobos Felino Malbec 2008

Obviously still a young pup – the purple is so purple that it could even give Grimace a run for his money – the nose smells mostly of serious oak with well-tended Mendoza fruit, a very nouveau-riche kind of smell that smells more like a lifestyle candle from Pottery Barn – nay, scratch that, probably something from Theo Fennell – you know the drill: expensive, a little generic, best drunk with a French manicure or cufflinks. Hm.There’s also a bit of smoky-sweet, lifted cheery red fruit here, which is very appealing. Thankfully, there’s good acidity that hits you before anything else does, keeping things moving right along to a lovely, broad, mouth-filling midpalate that offers up toasted coffee, plums, and finely grained tannins. It all finishes slowly, very slowly, definitely quite young, not insanely complex, but with great finesse and subtlety.The wine I’d most like to compare this to would be Michel Rolland’s Clos de los Siete, which is sold at a similar price range, but which is grown, I believe, a bit further to the south towards Lujan de Cuyo. The difference between the two is subtle but important: Clos is fatter, richer, more Parker; the Felino is nervier, racier, less plush, more Robinson. There’s actual space to think about it between all of the notes that must be hit; there’s an elegance and modesty here mixed in with the obligatory new oak and full ripeness. Honestly, it’s damn good for what it is and good value to boot. Recommended.Viña Cobos
Price: $16
Closure: Cork

Monte Xanic Malbec Limited Edtiion 2006

Unctuous and richly spicy at first, the nose of this wine reveals itself in short order to be more than that. There’s a fleeting sweetness, a hint of acidity, and then a full-on reveal of rich red fruits. At other times, there’s a dusty, dry spiciness that reminds me of things in the back of the spice cabinet that haven’t been opened in a while: something along the lines of allspice, bay leaf, and nutmeg.

Wonderfully complex, the initial impression is of simple, generous fruit, but then tannins sweep in at once to announce the serious intent of this bottle. These are quickly joined by sweet-leaf dried tobacco notes accompanied by just a hint of well-toasted barrel spice; then, it slowly, slowly, slowly fades into a ridiculously lengthy finish of slippery tannin, dark plummy fruit, and a hint of rosewater.

Delicious in ways that Malbec often isn’t, to me this is another example of how good Mexican wine can be. The climate in Baja California works well for grapes that thrive at greater levels of ripeness, and yet it has been judiciously harvested here, giving you the fullness of a New World wine and yet all of the spice and complexity of the Old. If anything, this reminds me greatly of some of the French producers in Argentina such as Lindaflor; the overall result is intoxicating, sophisticated, and just plain delightful.

Monte Xanic
Price: MXN 438 (US $34)
Closure: Cork

Luca Syrah Laborde Double Select 2006

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for anyone to be using a bottle this heavy: to do so is just rude. It makes it harder to hold and pour, more expensive to ship, and of course there’s the whole doing right by Mother Earth thing to consider. Worst of all, buying this wine will make you feel like a total prat. After all, what idiot wants to be seen buying the biggest, heaviest, most ostentatious bottle in the shop? Please.On to the wine. Shortly after opening the bottle, I noticed that I had a huge sticky smear of something all over my left hand (I’m a southpaw). Yuck. I retrieved the cork from the garbage and sure enough, there’s a bunch of sticky, gooey mass at the end of the cork and smeared up the side of it. I haven’t had the pleasure of this experience before; I trust the wine is OK and that this is just an one-off, a production oddity.The nose is curiously slight: if Vosges made a chocolate bar called “Gentlemen’s Dark Chocolate with Cedar,” then this is what it would smell like. Oak oak oak and oak… and yet, there’s a pleasant, fleeting floral sourness hiding in there somewhere too. Still, I don’t get a real sense of place, just a sense of cash flow: this wine smells like money.Amazingly purple-y youthful, the wine looks ravishing. Tasting it, though, leaves me a bit less a-flutter: it seems just a bit insubstantial in the mouth at first, quickly hiding behind massive woody tannin and finishing on a slightly sweet note, again managing to taste more expensive than anything else.In short, this is a wine for a hedge fund manager with a penchant for bling. This wine would be absolutely perfect with a steak dinner at the finest steakhouse in town: I’m thinking El Gaucho in Seattle would sell cases of this to Microsoft marketeers dining prospective clients in town to visit the Executive Briefing Center. Drinking it on its own is a bit of a chore, rather like gargling with lavender water and sawdust, but add a fine cut of meat and even a cigar and now you’re talking serious money.Luca
Price: $20
Closure: Cork

Bleasdale Malbec 2005

There aren’t too many straight Malbecs made in Australia, although the variety continues to appear in many blends, sometimes as a regional specialty (as with Cabernet Sauvignon in the Clare Valley, for example). Chris’s partner Dan is something of a Malbec enthusiast, so it is in his honour that I taste this wine tonight. 

Awfully grand intro for a $A15 wine, no? Yet this is full of interest and tasty to boot. The nose shows a nice array of aromas, including slightly jammy red and black fruits, dense brambles baking in hot Summer sun, mint lollies and what seems like rather raw oak, vanillan and sappy in equal measure. Somehow, it strikes the same pose as an Italian pastoral art movie from the 70s; rough around the edges yet vividly sensual, all in slightly porno-like soft focus. I’ve never compared wine to an adult movie before, so this must be doing something right. 
In the mouth, a big rush of Langhorne Creek goodness. It’s just as minty as the aroma, which is to say noticeably so without being offensive, and more importantly has the generous rush of flavour that seems to characterise this region’s red wines. Bang; immediately on entry there’s rich fruit flavour, a little baked perhaps, plus a lively mouthfeel that owes its character to a decent whack of acidity. This acidity isn’t that well integrated but, given the style of wine, its robustness works acceptably well. Intensity of flavour remains decent throughout, never peaking or troughing at any stage, nor scaling any particular heights. The acid-driven after palate brings a slightly medicinal edge to the flavour profile, before a nice long finish of red fruits and fine, dry tannins. 
Totally unsophisticated, totally enjoyable. Not a bad companion to the consolations of another Monday evening. 

Price: $A15
Closure: Stelvin

Cavas de Weinert Gran Vino 2002

Gorgeous, rich pretty cherry black in the glass, you could almost mistake this for raspberry sauce gone missing from your cheesecake. However, trepidation sets in on the nose: there’s a slightly raspy note promising difficult acidity, a somewhat off-putting charred, smoky note, and just the briefest hint of a curious sweetness I generally associate with yeasts that may or may not be intentional. Very strange.Round and full at first if somewhat unstructured, it quickly resolves into a clunky, tannic finsh that leaves you with that tell-tale did I just accidentally lick a hamster? feeling. Again, the odd yeastiness is briefly here and there, just not consistently; I wish I could better describe what it is what I’m feeling here, but it’s (to my mind) very much a marker of New World winemaking. Over time and with additional air, however, the wine does open up a bit, turning into cherry coffee tincture with chewy tannins.Ultimately, I suspect that there’s a very, very low level of TCA contamination here, which would account for the odd, fleeting, yeasty-sweet off notes, I suspect. Sometimes this wine taste like a serious contender for well-judged, nicely ripe New World Bordeaux; sometimes, it tends more towards telltale wet cardboard. It’s a shame I don’t have another bottle to compare against this one; for now I’ll chalk this bottle up in the ‘might be good but I don’t think I can honestly judge it’ category.Bodega y Cavas de Weinert
Price: $20
Closure: Cork