Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 1999

It’s been a surprisingly restrained Christmas chez Coldrey; numbers of both people and wine are slightly down on last year, so I’ve made it out the other side with my liver relatively intact. Of the bottles we did open, a theme seemed to emerge, that being old Australian white wines.

This was one of them. It’s been a few years since I had a bottle, and I see from my last note there’s been some variation in the condition of each bottle. Happily, this one was in excellent condition, sealed by a tight, clean cork. Considering I paid about $12 for it, it’s ageing remarkably well, gaining some additional flavours and softening ever so slightly in mouthfeel. It’s not, however, gaining intensity and, if this wine disappoints at all, it’s due to an impression of slightly dilute fruit. Aged notes, attractive as they are, haven’t yet filled in the gaps, and I don’t know if they ever will.

Even as one notes this about the wine, it remains a nice example of the style, with a set of flavours that is absolutely typical and an acid line that grants focus and precision to the palate. Honey and toast are in evidence and sit alongside primary fruit, with hints of the lovely waxy flavour and mouthfeel lovers of these wines crave. It’s pretty, light and starting to glow with bottle age. Bottles in good condition could no doubt be left for several more years.

McWilliams Mount Pleasant
Price: $A12
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Bloodwood Chardonnay 2010

I like it when wines surprise me, whether it’s a matter of quality or, as with this wine, by showing unexpected dimensions that lift it beyond what I initially believe it to be. This wine, from relatively old vines in the Orange region, is one of two produced by Bloodwood. The other, labelled Schubert, seems intended to be the more outré in style (I’ve not tasted it).

Orange tends to cool climate due to the elevation of its vineyards, so it’s no surprise the aroma here is in a fairly restrained mode, with white rather than yellow stonefruit and aromas tending towards taut flintiness. It’s firmly fruit-driven, though, and quite straightforward as a result.

The palate is what surprises me about this wine. On the basis of the nose, I expected a straightforward flavour profile and equally simple mouthfeel, but this really takes off, texturally. On entry, it slips and slides with stonefruit, but from the mid-palate onwards a nice, raspy mouthfeel creeps in, along with a corresponding tightening of flavour profile, such that the wine ends up expressing tangy aniseed and a sea spray freshness alongside its bright fruit. That salty-sweet tang echoes the addictive qualities of something like Dutch licorice and strikes me quite distinctive. It’s a nice story on the palate and helps this wine to be both more refreshing and more delicious.

Price: $A27
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Collector Reserve Shiraz 2006

Looking back over my notes, I first tasted this in 2008, and again in 2009 with Chris. What’s striking about the glass in front of me now is how little it has changed from, in particular, my initial encounter.

This is still massively primary on the nose, the density of fruit I noted back in 2008 remaining a feature of the aroma profile, as is its just-out-of-the-gate freshness. Rich red and black fruits, pepper and other spices, firm oak; this certainly has the spice of a cooler climate wine along with the assertiveness and rich depth of a warmer climate one. Part of me feels this is Australia’s sweet spot in contemporary Shiraz – wines that show the ripeness and generosity of fruit achieved in our classic styles combined with the sort of spice and meatiness colder weather can bring. Best of both worlds, in a way.

In the mouth, still spicy and dominated by dense, muscular berry fruit. As I originally noted, this isn’t a wine of subtlety, but it never feels caricatured to me, always retaining a sappy, spicy edge to counterbalance its rich fruit. Here on the palate I’m getting a greater contribution from bottle age, with some lightly leathery flavours edging in and adding a sheen to the wine’s primary flavours. I previously suggested this wine was soft in acid, but on this tasting I’m getting good structure, both acid and tannin, which is keeping the wine brisk and firm. The after palate is perhaps starting to lose some fruit weight now, signalling the wine’s future as an altogether mellower experience.

If anything, this wine plays it a bit safe. It’s perfectly formed in its way, yet I wish it showed a wilder streak, something to lift it above being the excellent wine it already is and turn it into something truly memorable.

Price: $A46
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Topper’s Mountain Tempranillo 2010

They’re an interesting bunch at Topper’s Mountain. Working in a — to put it kindly — low profile region, this estate produces a vast array of wines that start at familiar and end at unique (I’m not aware of any other spontaneously and barrel fermented Petit Mansengs being made in Australia, though I’m sure my knowledgeable readership will correct me if I’m wrong). Indeed, there seems to be plenty of experimentation going on, and the quality can be high.

This shows a cuddlier side of Tempranillo. It’s not all savouriness and structure; instead, we get cherry fruit, cola and spice. There’s a lightfooted generosity to the aroma that I like and, although it’s not especially complex, its flavours are well delineated. Oak makes a slightly spiky contribution.

In the mouth it’s less coherent than it smells, with a few elements jutting out. Acid jangles a bit and collides with a rather voluminous, fruit-driven mid-palate. I wish for more evenly textured tannin to counterbalance the wine’s slippery fruit and complement its savoury flavours. But I’m nit-picking. Mostly, this shoots a nice dollop of flavour onto the tongue, with plenty of red fruit, spice and oak. It’s generous but only medium-bodied and generally easygoing, so shouldn’t overwhelm food.

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

Lake’s Folly Cabernet 1992

I was lucky enough to depart from my time at Lake’s Folly with a wonderful selection of older wines of the estate. This is my first dip into that stash, and what an excellent start to the exploration.

At first, this gives a shockingly young impression; primary fruit ringing clearly, pure red berries at the core of a seductive aroma profile that has become quite elaborate with bottle age. Turned earth, second hand books, mushroom, spice. It’s seamless and savoury and changeable with air, shifting its emphasis this way and that, never becoming a comprehensively old wine to smell, though its tertiary life looms heavily.

In the mouth, bright with purple flowers, red fruits and acid, light to medium bodied, savouriness creeping in from all sides. Although this remains structured, it has the mellowness of an older red wine, with a silky smooth mouthfeel and an easy flow down the line. Sweet tannins are still abundant and fine, blanketing the after palate and adding persistence to the wine’s line. As old wines will sometimes do, this started to slowly fall apart after a couple of hours, acid poking out a bit more, fruit weight diminishing.

Wines like this are why I don’t score.

Lake’s Folly
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Lindemans Bin 9003 Hunter Valley Shiraz 1995

I tasted this alongside the Tyrrell’s 4 Acres from 2006 and, although the younger wine provided more satisfaction, it was nice to see two distinctively regional expressions of Shiraz at different points in their lives.

On the nose, intensely tertiary notes of leather, sweat, spice and the sort of fruit that has become liqueur-like moments before it vanishes altogether. The aroma profile reminds me of how confronting older wines can be; while completely sound, this smells so odd, so unlike one’s idea of wine, that it may well send some drinkers fleeing to the nearest bottle of Pepperjack Shiraz. I love, though, the distinctively leathery notes this wine throws from the glass.

The palate is harder work because it has lost just slightly too much fruit through the after palate to mask its (still quite prominent) acid. There’s still pleasure here, though. I especially like its flow through the mouth. Up front, surprisingly fleshy, with leathery, spiced flavours and that residual dark berry fruit. The mid palate shows some purity before it begins to fall apart through the after palate. Flavours aren’t perfectly integrated, and there’s some oak that, for me, sticks out a bit. But this is an old wine, on its last legs really, and one oughtn’t be too impatient with its imperfections.

A gentle pleasure.

Lindemans Wines
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2004

I recently spent an afternoon with the iconoclastic Peter Hall and his McGuigan winemaking team, pestering them with all sorts of questions and getting much back in return, including this bottle of wine to taste. This particular Bin 9000 was awarded Best Semillon in the Universe (I may have the name of the award slightly wrong) so I was naturally curious to taste it.

One comes at these things with a set of expectations, in this case that it would be a high octane style in the manner of Lovedale or Vat 1. Refreshingly, it’s an approachable wine in the context of Hunter Semillon, with a softness of mouthfeel and prettiness of flavour that strikes me as highly commercial. The nose shows gentle evolution, with typical aromas of honey and wax in addition to primary fruit, which is gently lemon-like in character. The whole is soft, caressing rather than slapping.

The palate echos these impressions with an ultra-clean, gently evolved flavour profile and the sort of acid structure that might win more fans to the style than not. Does this represent a hard line in Hunter Semillon? Hardly; it does, though, show typicité of flavour and a cuddly attitude without resorting to an obviousness of approach (residual sugar, and so on). Mouthfeel is showing signs of thickening and developing a waxiness that lovers of this style will relish.

Perhaps not one for purists, but the bottle, shared with friends, disappeared alarmingly fast, which perhaps speaks for itself.

Note: some quick research reveals the prize awarded to this wine at the International Wine & Spirit Competition was in fact that of International Semillon Trophy.

McGuigan Wines
Price: $NA
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Lake’s Folly Hill Block Chardonnay 2011

After a fun day of work at Lake’s Folly, on the spur of the moment we opened all four of the Estate’s Chardonnays from 2011 and 2012. I took this one home for further, leisurely tasting with dinner.

It must have been interesting and somewhat daunting to contemplate introducing a new Chardonnay into the Lake’s Folly range, given the renown the traditional label has accumulated over the years. The only thing that would make sense is a different expression of the vineyard, a wine that says something new but that remains fundamentally connected to the Estate. It seems to me that’s what this wine represents and, while it’s a delicious wine in its own right, it becomes even more interesting in context.

While the traditional label is linear and powerful, with an emphasis on length and drive, this tilts the balance towards complexity of flavour. Clearly, there’s more input from the winemaker here, and the range of notes in the aroma profile is noticeably wider, the flavours themselves more opulent in tone. There’s a edge to this wine too, flavour-wise, that takes it into much funkier territory, with hints of leesy cheese and general savouriness. Despite this — and comparative tasting draws this out — this remains highly identifiable as Lake’s Folly Chardonnay, with the same purity of fruit and relative restraint.

The palate is both rounded and quite textural, and its delicate raspiness accelerates through the back palate where a lovely twist of herbal, gin-and-tonic bitterness cleanses the palate. In form, the wine is quite up-front, with less overt drive through the after palate than the regular wine. Acid is fresh and firm, and the palate structure is never less than shapely.

Given the task at hand, an excellent performance and a new insight into an historic vineyard.

Note: I’m currently assisting the winery during the 2013 vintage.

Lake’s Folly
Price: $70
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Mount Pleasant OP&OH Shiraz 2002

I’m off on a big adventure, one which I hope to write about soon and at some length. For now, suffice to say that my first stop is the Hunter Valley and, one day after leaving Brisbane, I’ve already hit a bit of a snag. Along with many others I’m sure, I am cut off by flood waters and being forced to stay put, in my case in the Thora Valley. This is highly bearable, I might add, due to the excellent company I am enjoying, as well as a constant flow of good food and wine. Being stranded has never felt so luxurious, I bet.

This wine was consumed last night in the midst of howling winds and relentless rain. How ironic that it evoked nothing less than than the turned red earth in which its vines were grown, only five hours south of here by car, and in conditions far more pleasing than those we’re currently experiencing. This is a good old(ish) Hunter, with aromas of earth, leather, red fruits and some oak. Old red wines seem to acquire a mellowness along with their tertiary flavours, and this is starting to smell settled, comfortable and luxurious.

The palate has a mouth-coating quality that places flavours on the tongue evenly and persistently. Very much a repeat of the nose’s profile, this wine’s flavours are well integrated and showing a range of tertiary notes alongside primary fruit and oak. It strikes me as old-fashioned in style, showing a level of rusticity (not a euphemism for any sort of bacterial spoilage, by the way) that I find appealing. I also feel it needs more time to become truly distinctive and suspect it will drink even better as a fully mature style. Still, there’s a lot to enjoy right now in its regional flavours and beautiful mouthfeel. Tannins in particular are delicious and fine.

Hunter Valley, I hope to see you soon.

McWilliams Mount Pleasant
Price: N/A
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Matison Wines The Kirk Pinot Noir 2010

Some wines taste a bit wild, and I don’t use that word as a euphemism for faulty. These are the wines that leap from the glass with abandon and offer aromas that suggest the forest floor, freshly picked wildflowers and other, not-quite-tamed scents. While not always appropriate, I’ve always appreciated Pinot Noir that shows this character, and feel it can be a great red carpet to Pinot’s often heady show.

This is one such wild Pinot. The aroma offers a mix of slightly feral vegetal aromatics and fresh fruits of the forest. It’s sappy, pithy and shows sensitive oak input. The overall profile is high toned and chaotic, but for me its vibrancy outweighs any lack of composure.

The palate shows a similar flavour profile, with quite masculine, blocky fruit flavours and some forest floor. Structure is firm and attractive, acid juicy and tannins fun and a bit unpredictable in profile. Although it lacks some intensity, this is a charismatic wine in the mouth.

Not a wine of great refinement, but it is compelling and fresh and I like it a lot.

Matison Wines
Price: $A35
Closure: Diam
Source: Sample