De Bortoli Yarra Valley La Bohème Act Two Dry Pinot Rosé 2010

Act Two in my own De Bortoli 2010 rosé notes, having yesterday tasted the Estate edition. This is altogether less fine a wine, but to my mind meets a different need. A few bucks cheaper too.

The nose is slightly feral, with firmly savoury fruit and a wildly aromatic bent that some dry rosés can show. I tend to like such aroma profiles and don’t mind some vulgarity, though here there’s enough density to temper the sharper aromas. With some time and a bit of air, some cuddlier aromas begin to emerge; slightly simple red fruit flavours and a bit of sap. All in all, an interesting nose.

The palate is less chiselled and precise than the Estate wine. It place of the latter’s clear delineation of flavours, this wine shows robust, more softly generous fruit and bouncy texture. Although there are some sweet raspberries lurking in there, the dominant flavours are again savoury in character. My main criticism of this wine is that its flavours lack definition; each thread blurs into the next and compromises an overall impression of freshness. Acid provides bubbly texture through the after palate in particular, while flavours take off in a crushed leaf and fresh red berry direction.

This seems to be De Bortoli’s interpretation of an accessible rosé style. Like the Estate wine, it emphasises savouriness and texture, but offers a less sophisticated and in many respects more accessible flavour profile.

De Bortoli
Price: $A18
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Pinot Noir Rosé 2010

The back label parenthetically describes this wine as “pale and dry.” They’re not kidding. This is a daring wine and one that may defy many drinkers’ expectations of rosé.

A very pale salmon colour, this gives off a range of angular, fragrant aromas. Peach skins, light plum juice, minerals, pink flowers. This is far from a sweet style, yet there’s a hint of icing sugar peeping out from amongst all the straight-faced seriousness that is making me smile. It’s a cheeky nod to rosé’s typical function as a refreshing, accessible drink, and here it works to draw you in past what might be a forbidding level of savouriness. Overall, the aroma is moderately expressive, neither too flouncy nor irritatingly reticent.

The palate, however, shows a degree of power that isn’t really suggested by the nose.This is a serious wine, to be sure. There’s a nice fleshy fullness in the mouth that accentuates red fruit and rosehip notes, and which is balanced out by tart, firm acid. Structurally, this wine is full of interest and I especially like the hit of chalky, dry texture through the after palate. This dimension is so enjoyable that I’m prompted to wonder whether a more extreme approach to texture, with additional lees work or even some barrel action, would yield an even more interesting style. No matter, there’s lots of satisfaction here. Good drive through the line and a very satisfying, lightly candied finish.

Fascinating wine.

De Bortoli
Price: $A24
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

De Bortoli Gulf Station Pinot Noir 2008

I feel truly ungrateful. A few days ago, this bottle was purchased for the very reasonable sum of $A16.15 at my local Dan Murphy. In the scheme of things, that’s not a lot to pay for a bottle of wine, let alone a bottle of Australian Pinot, a sub-species that, until recently, was difficult to obtain for under $A25 or so. And, to jump to the end, this is a very sound wine, tasty and clean, with confidently expressed varietal character. Hence a niggling sense of ungratefulness as I reflect that, as good as this is, there are others in its price range that may be even better. Truly, we are spoiled.

Give this a bit of time in the glass, and firm aromas of spice, plum and a little beetroot, plus some stalkiness perhaps, start wafting aloft. It’s totally varietal and quite elegant, holding back an overt sense of fruitiness in order to express more subtle pleasures. There’s a point to be made here about the chosen style and price point, and one shouldn’t underestimate De Bortoli’s obvious conviction to produce a stylish wine at a price point where many consumers might expect obvious delights. 
In the mouth, a textural pleasure with much more tannin than expected and fairly bright acidity too. Structurally, this means business. Flavour takes a little while to build on the tongue, and seems held in check for now by that rather imposing tannin/acid framework. Nonetheless, there’s a clear sense of ripe, plummy fruit on the middle palate, along with more stalk-like influence and a bit of sweetly spiced oak. Medium bodied, the whole seems poised and balanced. If I’ve a criticism, it relates to a lack of intensity that, for me, needs to be at the next level to match the ambitions expressed elsewhere on the palate. A nice, sweetly fruited after palate and quite a long finish to boot. 
If given the choice, I would drink a Hoddles Creek wine in preference to this, the latter being of the same region and variety, and only a couple of bucks extra. By comparison, this wine feels slightly calculated, perhaps too much of a sweet talker. But, frankly, I’d never turn it down if I were offered a glass, because it just tastes so good.

De Bortoli
Price: $A16.15
Closure: Stelvin

Hoddles Creek Chardonnay 2008

This wine smells and tastes like a pomelo. I know this because I was shopping at my local market this morning and one particular stall was selling nothing but enormous, yellow pomelos. I tasted one and would have bought some if my plaid Nanna basket on wheels were not already filled with other goodies. Wikipedia accurately describes pomelos as tasting like “sweet, mild grapefruit.” Pomelo. Like typing it, like saying it. 

I like tasting it too, but there are some other smells and flavours here as well. Spicy, toasty oak, for starters, evident on both nose and palate and needing some time to integrate further into the wine’s flavour profile. Maybe some white nectarine-like flavours, softening the pomelo and adding a bit of lusciousness. It’s all varietal and all there.
What I like most about this wine, though, are its bones. Even as a young’un, this packs a real punch, especially in the mouth, with fresh flavours that show inviting immediacy and impressive intensity. There’s a particularly good tangy sourness to the flavour profile that is absolutely mouthwatering, in the way a Sao with butter and Vegemite can be mouthwatering. A tight line straight through the mouth leads to a finish that vibrates with citrus fruit and lovely oak. 
It’s so very young right now and, although it’s tasty (and a great accompaniment to sardines on toast), I’ll be leaving my stash alone for a few months (if not years) to flesh out. Should be outstanding at the right moment.

Hoddles Creek
Price: $A18
Closure: Stelvin

Mountain X Hunter Shiraz 2007

13.2% alcohol by volume. Not 13%, not 13.5%; the precision of this advertised measurement makes a discreet point.

The qualities of this wine bring any shortcomings of its 2006 sibling into relief and, although a wine deserves to be evaluated on its own merits, I can’t help but make the comparison. The 2006 remains a beautiful wine, yet this improves on it in almost all respects and seems a remarkable progression from the first release. It’s a more mature wine, in the sense that it shows a level of stylistic coherence and poise not quite achieved before: the Pinot component more integrated with the whole, the oak’s expression quite different, the intensity and density of flavour better matched. As with the best wines, this shows as a whole, achieved piece. Of course, it has a fantastic Hunter vintage on its side, too.

Lacking the outré impact and wildness of its predecessor, this wine throws a much denser aroma from the glass. There are notes of black pepper, vibrant dark plum, brighter raspberry-like fruit, earthy minerality and some heady, whole bunch influences. I can’t really tell where the Pinot ends and the Shiraz begins, which I mean as the greatest compliment, as this suggests well-judged and executed blending. The aroma’s depth impresses me most of all, the kind of depth that indicates beautifully, completely ripened fruit. And somewhere in my mind, a figure of 13.2% hovers.

A firm, calm entry introduces the palate. Finely acidic, juicy flavours bubble up and begin to flood the mouth towards the middle palate. There’s an array of notes here, starting with an orange-juice-like flavour (!) and ending up at spicy black pepper, stopping on the way to pick a few wild blackberries and fall into a patch of dusty brambles. It’s at once bright, shapely, generous and firm, ushered along by a carpet of acidity and sweet tannins that seem to come from nowhere. There’s an edginess to the structure that hints some short term bottle age, at least, will be beneficial; not surprising considering this isn’t yet released. The wine seems an altogether less oak-driven style than the 2006, which creates less immediate plushness but, ironically, an impression of greater ageability. In terms of character, too, the oak is quite different, with no nougat in sight, in its place a rather more subtle sheen of sap and cedar. A notably long, sustained finish closes each mouthful on a high note. And still it hovers, the question of how such an obviously, joyously ripe Shiraz can clock in at 13.2% abv. There’s a touch of magic about this wine and, to apologists for the Hunter, perhaps a bit of quiet pride too. The point is well made.

Along with the Tyrrell’s 4 Acres, this is the most complete 2007 Hunter Shiraz I have tasted so far.

Mountain X
Price: $A30
Closure: Diam
Source: Sample

Mountain X Hunter Shiraz 2006

Despite having published a series of turgid articles (1, 2, 3, 4) arguing precisely the opposite, I think there’s something deeply authentic about Australian wines that are a blend of material from several regions. For a start, many of our great winemakers (Roger Warren, Max Schubert, Maurice O’Shea and Colin Preece, for starters) often used this approach. It remains a part of our industry to this day, arguably representing the mainstream.

The intent is often to create a better wine than can be crafted from any one constituent component. For example, I’ve read that Colin Preece used to sometimes include some rich, ripe Rutherglen red in his elegantly spicy Great Western material to create a superior end result. There are many such examples, Grange being the most obvious and enduring. So one could pursuasively argue that a multi-regional blend vibrates with the sort of authenticity that can’t be achieved by simply doing it the way they do in, say, Burgundy. Perhaps this is the Australian way.

Is this even important? Surely, what’s in the glass is all that matters. Well, yes and no; to me at any rate. I’m not of the “wine is just a drink” school. I believe intent matters. And I think the degree to which a wine engages (or disengages) from a certain winemaking tradition should be considered. None of that changes what’s in the bottle, but wine exists in a context and, when I taste it, the purely sensual experience intersects all these things.

Perhaps I should apologise to the creators of this wine, Gary Walsh and Campbell Mattinson, for not getting straight to the point. But, in a sense, this is the point. Well-known wine writers, Messrs Walsh and Mattinson have ostensibly created the Mountain X label not only to produce something very tasty, but to explicitly draw on various Australian winemaking traditions.

This may be the first seriously postmodern wine that I’m aware of, at least locally. The name recalls O’Shea’s naming conventions. It’s a blend of Hunter Valley and Yarra Valley wine. And it’s a blend of Shiraz and Pinot Noir varieties. Hardly anyone does Shiraz/Pinot blends any more; it’s certifiably niche, and yet fits naturally into the history of the Hunter Valley. Even the outdated nomenclature of Hunter Burgundy suggests it. So neat on so many levels.

Indeed, the conceptual side would threaten to overwhelm the wine if it weren’t deliciously, obviously good. And it’s so good, fully justifying its existence to those who just want to drink a quality wine. The nose for starters. First impressions are of expressively funky brambles and stalk, fully ripe and strongly suggestive of the Pinot component. There’s also what I presume is an oak influence, sweetly malty and nougat-like, not too assertive in volume or aggressive in flavour. Then, some mellow berry fruit, straddling sweet and savoury. This is such a relaxed aroma profile, one that gently glows in the glass and calls you back not with a shout but with a sweetly harmonised tune.

This quiet sophistication carries through to the palate. All the obvious markers of quality are here — intensity, length, complex flavour — as they are in thousands of other wines. What’s fascinating about this wine is the flavour profile. As with the nose, it’s quite funky but not in a dirty way. In fact, this wine is a great example of how to achieve character without resorting to questionable flavours. I’m not sure I can tease it apart, but I’ll give it a go. A strong thread of sour cherry. A small amount of intensely sweet, positively confectionery fruit (sort of like Redskins, but of course in a clever adult sort of way). Brambles. Nougat. I’m not sure I’m communicating things accurately (or completely, as it’s quite complex) but suffice it to say it’s coherent and attractive. Structurally, this is acid-driven, though delicately so, such that it’s not forbidding in any way. Body is medium, with a sprightly mouthfeel that also manages to feel luxurious. The finish echoes the very beginning, with ripe, stalk-like flavours freshening the palate as sweet fruit lingers like an echo somewhere up high.

Performance art in a bottle. Serve it to non-wine nerds and enjoy both the wine and a quietly smug chuckle.

Mountain X
Price: $A30
Closure: Diam
Source: Sample

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Chardonnay 2006

It’s had a little while to settle in the bottle, so I’m keen to see how this wine is tracking now that it has just been superseded by a newer vintage. It’s funny, the ongoing race a next, maybe even better, vintage. Sometimes I feel the pleasures of a recently past vintage can get lost in amongst the latest and greatest.

Clean, intense aromas of vanilla and white peach. A lovely nose, really, even though it’s not the last word in complexity. What it does have is finesse and balance, which are certainly their own rewards. Although fresh and crisp, the palate shows notable generosity of fruit flavour. There are savoury elements, most obviously spiced oak and perhaps some steeliness, but this wine is currently about delicious and intense Chardonnay fruit. Acid is a highlight. It’s consistent and firm through the palate’s line, creating emphasis by underlining the fruit flavour rather than shouting over the top of it. Barrel ferment characters are especially well judged, adding complexity and richness without heaviness. A nice shot of clean fruit up through the after palate leads to a finish of satisfying length. An interesting textural dimension asserts itself in the latter half of the palate.

A really excellent wine to enjoy now with food. I had mine with a Chicko roll and could not have been happier. Great value for money.

De Bortoli
Price: $A23.75
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: October 2008

William Downie Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2006

Clad in equally stylish packaging, this wine is the Yarra Valley sibling to William Downie’s Mornington Peninsula Pinot tasted earlier at Full Pour. I really enjoyed the latter wine, especially after some extended breathing, and I enjoy what Mr Downie is doing with Pinot; that is, allowing regionality to speak for itself without attempt at imposing a sense of homogeneity. This is winemaking without ego, and it’s what I drink wine for.Deep but not especially dense colour, mixtures of orange and red and purple (and nowhere near as gaudy as that sounds). The nose is a riot of aromas from first pouring, and only improves with air. Instantly a deeper, darker wine than the Mornington Peninsula label, there are notes of turkish delight, ripe plum, bubble gum, sweet spice and other goodness, even a hint of sous-bois. Expressive and complex but with a sense of poise too, despite its generosity. Palate is equally fascinating, though perhaps a little unexpectedly controlled after the nose. The fruit’s depth and ripeness is certainly confirmed here. Entry is alive and sufficiently (though not overly) acidic, with a nice focused flow over the tongue. Flavour drives a tight line to the middle palate, where things settle and relax a little. The wine, interestingly, shoots off in a few directions at this point, with a high toned fruit lift on the one hand, and a foundation of ripe plum on the other, not at odds, but instead indicative of excellent definition and structure. Grainy tannins emerge quite late in the palate and help dark fruit flavour to reverberate through a very lengthy, impressive finish.There’s a lot going on with this wine, and its complexity will surely increase with time. If you can keep your hands off it. The fact is, it is fabulous right now, with its ultra-delicious flavour profile and approachable structure. Now or later, it’s a win-win. William DowniePrice: $A40Closure: DiamDate tasted: June 2008

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Pinot Noir 2005

One of the many joys of wine is to revisit a label that, for whatever reason, sticks in the mind from a previous tasting. The experience is akin to renewing an acquaintance. Will there still be a dialogue, hopefully even more mature and satisfying? Or does elapsed time mean increased distance without corresponding fondness? It’s this unknown that creates a pleasant frisson of anticipation when I check a bottle out of the cellar for repeat tasting. This De Bortoli stood out from the pack when I worked my way through a range of new release Pinot Noirs a while back. I clicked with its assertiveness and sense of style, so promptly purchased a few for later consumption. Pale orange-red in the deceptively dilute Pinot manner. If a barnyard could slap one in the face, it would smell (and perhaps feel) like this wine’s nose. It’s willfully funky and expressive and all those good things that Pinot can be. Red fruit with a touch of musk is there but takes a back seat to all the sappy, savoury aromas that waft from the glass. It’s still very primary and high toned. As nice as the nose is, the light to medium bodied palate is a step up and shows unexpected structure and intensity. Sizzly yet fine acidity hits the tongue and spreads widely towards the middle palate. Although the acid is prominent and creates a bright flavour profile, it’s not a forbidding acidity, and the wine shows a contradictory relaxation in the mouth. Bright, sour red fruits, rhubarb, citrus peel, sappy vegetal characters, beguiling complexity, good flow and consistency of line. There’s a lot to like here. A delicious after palate whose fruit fades just as slightly grainy tannins and yet more acidity transform the finish into a primarily textural experience. This wine has hardly budged in the last year or so and, as mouthwatering as it is right now, should fill out with at least a couple of years in bottle. I’ll be eager to reacquaint myself with it again, and again.Update: three days of air, and the wine is only now starting to evolve. This one’s got years ahead of it. De BortoliPrice: $A25Closure: StelvinDate tasted: June 2008

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2006

Two steps up from the Windy Peak Pinot Noir is this number, made from Estate grapes in the Yarra Valley. The 2005 vintage was excellent, so I snapped this one up to try this evening. A bright ruby, transparent, moderate density. The nose is controlled and delivers a hit of red fruits, both sweet and savoury, plus some minerals, sap and oak. Some good complexity, and just a hint of prettiness. It smells astringent, somehow, and this impression is confirmed on the palate. This light to medium bodied wine enters the mouth with good impact, both acid and sour fruit flavour registering immediately on the tongue. Intense, fresh red fruits mix with sappy flavours on the middle palate, mostly savoury in character but with edges of sweetness, in the same way that some Chinese teas register a delightful sweetness at the very edges of their flavour profile. The wine is well textured, due mostly to its acid, which is assertive without being lumpy or disjointed. The after palate does thin a bit, riding a wave of acid towards a finish that persists with good length.The structure of this wine, especially its acidity, suggest it may drink better in a few years’ time, when it has attained better balance. For now, though, it is a fresh, sophisticated wine of good complexity and notable texture that will match well with food. We had ours with gourmet pizza, to good effect.Update: I left it overnight and revisited a glass the next morning (spitting of course). The fruit opened up a notch, revealing additional layers of rhubarb-like flavour, and there is a spicier, custardy dimension too. It’s still very tight and structured, though. There’s definitely some life in this wine.De BortoliPrice: $A25Closure: StelvinDate tasted: February 2008