Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dec 12 2016

Penfolds Grange 2012 and Penfolds St Henri 2013 – Make the list of the 20 most “extraordinary”red wines in Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate

Posted on December 12, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Lists of top wines published by Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate always grab headlines. The 2012 Penfolds Grange was featured on The Wine Advocate’s top 20 most “extraordinary” red wines, a list created from wines tasted in the bumper October issue that covered top drops from the USA, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Australia and Greece. It shared company with the 2013 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz.

Reviewer Lisa Perrotti-Brown said that the “2012 Grange and the 2013 St. Henri are right up there with the very best vintages of these wines ever made.”

Given the accolades almost all vintages of the St Henri regularly receive from top Australian and international wine reviewers, I’m impressed that you can continue to find the current vintage for less than $100. (We have the 2012 vintage listed on the Cellarit Wine Market for $89.99). Perrotti-Brown agrees, making the following observation: “St. Henri is where the smart money is these days. The 2013 is right up there in terms of quality with the gorgeous 2010. No, it’s not cheap, but I do believe it thus far remains fairly priced at a fraction of the cost of Grange. An extraordinary wine in its own right, the St. Henri 2012 should reward the patient and cellar for many, many years.”

Of course, each release of Penfolds Grange tests new price points, but given the average price of the Chateau Latour 2012, also on the list, was $2,888 a bottle, you have to keep the price tag for Australia’s most famous wine in perspective!

Here’s Perrotti-Brown’s stunning 99 point review of the 2012 vintage:

The 2012 Grange comes from just two sub-regions of South Australia this year: Barossa Valley (the majority) and McLaren Vale. This makes a lot of sense since 2012 was a cracking year in both Read the rest

Nov 11 2015

Masterclass: Billy Button and Mayford Wines – Putting the Alpine Valleys Region on the Map

Posted on November 11, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Two very talented winemakers, Jo Marsh of Billy Button and Eleana Anderson of Mayford, are neighbours and good friends in the beautiful Alpine Valleys wine region, an area that covers the foothills of the Victorian alps and borders with King Valley to the west and Beechworth to the north. Last week the pair shared the stage at a very interesting masterclass at Different Drop in Pyrmont.

We were welcomed with a glass of the 2015 Billy Button ‘The Torment’ Riesling (King Valley) on arrival. This is the only wine from Jo’s extensive range made with fruit not sourced from the Alpine Valleys.

Jo MarshJo said that she couldn’t resist the opportunity to put her own stamp on one of her favourite varieties when offered a parcel of grapes from an excellent well-established vineyard in King Valley’s Whitlands.

Fermented with indigenous yeasts, the juice was given time on full solids to add texture and flinty, savoury notes to the wine. But the fuller bodied style didn’t detract from the pristine citrus flavoured fruit, which was buoyed by a laser-like acidity. An unusual style of riesling and one of my favourite wines of the night.

Another highlight was the 2015 Billy Button ‘The Feisty’ Friulano.  Jo explained that she first came across friulano, a grape that originates from the Friuli-Venezie-Giulia region of North-East Italy, when she took up the position of Head winemaker at Feathertop, one of the Alpine Valleys oldest wineries. (Jo was previously head winemaker at Seppelt.)

 

Billy Button range

‘The Feisty’ Friulano is made in a style which also lends texture and complexity to a very fruity variety. Approximately two-thirds of the wine, for example, was barrel fermented in old French oak. When the 2014 inaugural vintage of this wine was released it attracted a number of standout reviews.… Read the rest

Apr 04 2015

The Dynamic Wineries of Santorini

Posted on April 04, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Ironically the dire state of Greek economy has actually helped spur a renaissance in Greek’s most prestigious wine region – the picturesque Cycladic island of Santorini, about 250 km southeast of Athens.

Markos Kafouros, president of Santo Wines, a wine cooperative of about 1,000 active small growers, told the Wine Spectator’s Kim Marcus that “Because of the economic crisis, a lot of young people are cultivating grapes.” (Greek Revival: A modernizing wine industry lights the way in this ancient land by Kim Marcus, Wine Spectator, 15 November 2014)

Further encouraged by the growing demand for Greek wines in the capital of Athens and beyond, Santorini is now producing a high number of consistently well-made wines.

As well as the cooperative, Santorini is home to a dozen small independent wineries. Around 14 per cent (approximately 3,200 acres) of the island is under vine. The focus is definitely on realising the potential of Santorini’s indigenous grape varieties, which in addition to the flagship white variety assyrtico, include aidini and athiri and the red grape variety of mavrotragano. In recent years, some of the larger producers have started exporting up two-thirds of their production.

 

HatzidakisSantorini winemakers credit winemaker Yiannis Boutaris, originally of Boutari, with the birth of modern winemaking on the island.

According to the Wine Spectator’s Robert Camuto, in the late 1980s Boutaris introduced earlier harvests, pneumatic presses and longer, cooler fermentations. These techniques allowed winemakers to move away from high alcohol, sweet styles to the dry, fresh and minerally-laced assyrtico whites that have captured the attention of the world’s top critics. (Discovering Santorini by Robert Camuto, Wine Spectator, 15 November 2014)

Today, other top wineries like Estate Argyros, Hatzidakis Wines and Domaine Sigalas are continuing to innovate in order to bring out the best in Santorini’s … Read the rest

Aug 08 2014

Tasmanian Sparkling: The Art of Creating a Signature Style

Posted on August 08, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Tasmania Unbottled Sparkling Masterclass with Huon Hooke

This week I had the good fortune to attend the Tasmania Unbottled Masterclass on sparkling wine. Moderated by wine critic Huon Hooke, the session provided some wonderful insights into how Tasmania’s leading winemakers create their signature sparkling styles.

Non Vintage is really Multi Vintage

Jansz’s head winemaker Natalie Fryar opened her remarks by stating that the term “non vintage” (NV) is a bit of a misnomer. She believes that “multi vintage” is a better adjective for describing a winery’s house style. Non vintage sparklings are typically the product of the current vintage with the addition of reserve wines from previous vintages to preserve a consistent style from year to year.

Because most sparkling wines are made in cool climates where the weather is often unpredictable, consistency of fruit quality and quantity from one vintage to the next is never guaranteed. Fryar referred to cool climate as a high risk/high return proposition. In other words, when the weather cooperates, the results in the vineyard can be spectacular, but when it doesn’t you need a back up plan!

Cork closure helps the tertiary characters in sparkling to develop

Pirie NVOne of the most interesting aspects of the session was a discussion about the influence of cork on the development of a sparkling wine. Acclaimed veteran winemaker Ed Carr of the House of Arras talked about the wine’s primary, secondary and tertiary characters to illustrate his point about the importance of cork.

As you may expect, primary characters in the wine like purity of flavours, citrus elements and vibrant acidity are created by the fruit, which is why so much emphasis is placed on bringing out the best in the fruit in the vineyard. The development of secondary characters like toasty aromas of brioche and almond … Read the rest

May 05 2014

4 Wines Elevated to Exceptional Category in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VI

Posted on May 05, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Every five years wine auction house Langton’s updates its Classification of Australian Wine. To be considered, a wine must have 10 vintages behind it so that its track record and reputation, both of which are measured through market presence, consistency, volume of demand and price realisations, can be properly assessed.

The 6th and most recent classification, announced this month, includes 139 wines. Only 34 wines were included in the inaugural classification of 1990, so the impressive number of wines on the current list can be read as a testament to the growing maturity and prestige of the Australian wine market.

The four wines new to the ‘Exceptional’ category are:

Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz, Clare Valley, South Australia

Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, Eden Valley, South Australia

Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia

Seppeltsfield 100 Year Old Para Vintage Tawny Port, Barossa Valley

The Seppeltsfield 100 Year Old Para Vintage Tawny Port joins the Classification for the first time and at its highest ranking. Langton’s describes it as “extraordinarily rare and magnificent to drink”, representing “the essence of Australian wine heritage in a bottle.”

Seppeltsfield Wines is the only winery in the world to have significant stocks of wine laid down in consecutive vintages over 100 years.  Produced from mataro, shiraz and grenache grapes, the wine was aged in 500 litre casks (puncheon) for 100 years in the original 1878 Centennial Cellar. The first vintage was released in 1978, and the 1908, 1909, 1910 and 1913 vintages have all received perfect 100 point scores from the Wine Advocate. Here’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown’s review of the 1913 vintage:

Very deep brown with a green rim, the 1913 Para 100 Year Old Tawny (tasted direct from barrel) presents a beautiful walnut and treacle nose laced Read the rest

Feb 02 2014

Best’s Great Western Dolcetto – Australia’s next Italian varietal star?

Posted on February 02, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Today more and more Australian wineries are producing Italian red varieties. Consumers now have the opportunity to buy very good Australian examples of sangiovese and nebbiolo, for example, and often the best compare favourably with even the finest Italian Chiantis, Barolos and Barbarecos.

Dolcetto has been slower to capture the wine lover’s imagination in Australia and in its north-western Italian home of Piemonte. Commonly referred to in Italy as a workhorse grape because it produces easy-drinking reds, in the mountainous slopes of Piemonte dolcetto ripens much earlier than the more fickle nebbiolo and barbera. Consequently, it is usually relegated to non-prime positions in the vineyards, and not given the same level of care as its more noble cousins.

But evidence seems to be mounting that dolcetto’s fortunes may be about to change. About five years ago, for example, Dolcetto di Dogliani, an appellation just south of Piemonte’s Montforte d’Alba, was elevated to DOCG, which is Italy’s highest quality designation. (Dolcetto – Piemonte’s next star? by Walter Speller, 14 July 2010, JancisRobinson.com)

And, if the quality of Victoria’s Best’s Great Western Dolcetto is any indication, the profile of the variety should improve in Australia as well!

Recently a very knowledgeable wine connoisseur introduced me to the Best’s Great Western Dolcetto 2009 . It had an aromatic nose of red crushed fruits, violets and rose petals tinged with savoury notes, and on the palate the bright cherry fruits were herb-tinged and displayed the variety’s distinctive drying spur of tannin. It worked beautifully with our Italian food.

Interestingly, a portion of  the Best’s Dolcetto is made from 12 rows of original vines first planted by the winery’s founder Heny Best in the late 1860s, with the rest coming from 1971 plantings grown from cuttings of the originals.

Wine critic James Halliday has … Read the rest

Nov 11 2011

A Few Interesting Facts about French Champagne

Posted on November 11, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

With the festive season fast approaching, many of us are thinking about stocking up on French Champagne. And why not? The soaring Australian dollar has made Champagne a lot more affordable, and the selection of fine Champagnes available in Australia has never been better.

Champagne is synonymous with celebration and sparkling wine is undoubtedly the most famous style of wine in the world. So popular, in fact, that less than one in 12 bottles of sparkling wine sold each year is actually a bottle of French Champagne!

Brilliant marketing on the part of the big Champagne Houses has been very influential in giving Champagne and sparkling wine in general almost universal appeal. In the 19th century Madame Clicquot of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, for example, successfully promoted her Champagne to the Russian imperial court, and before too long other famous houses were cashing in on royal connections to promote their Champagnes to the burgeoning middle classes and women in particular.

But the enduring seductiveness of Champagne is not just a product of clever marketing spin. Here are just a few reasons why Champagne is unique and special:

Terroir

Only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region can be called Champagne. The region was strictly defined in 1927 and is divided into 319 Champagne villages, which are graded for their grape-growing potential. The grading determines the price of the grapes with only 17 villages having grand cru status.

Champagne grapes are the most expensive in the world. Premier crus are sold at 90 and 98 per cent of the maximum price commanded by the grand crus.

Ownership of vineyard land is strictly controlled and 90 per cent of all Champagne grapes are grown by more than 20,000 small holders, whose average vineyard is just two hectares or five acres. They sell their … Read the rest

Jul 07 2011

Buy Wine Ideas: Aged Australian Riesling – Beautiful Expressions of Terroir

Posted on July 07, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

As the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman notes “Australia makes a unique style of Riesling that shows off the lovely stone fruit character of the grape, often weaving in floral, citrus and mineral flavors, hanging them all on a dry frame.” (Tasting Highlights: Australian Riesling by Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 23 February 2005)

Australia’s reputation as a great producer of dry riesling was forged in the 1980s and 90s with the emergence of wonderful rieslings from the Clare and Eden Valley, produced by top names including Grosset, Henschke, Annie’s Lane Jim Barry, Tim Adams, Petaluma and Pewsey Vale. But in recent years, excellent riesling has also been made in Victoria (Crawford River, Jasper Hill), the Great Southern region of Western Australia (Larry Cherubino, Howard Park, Abbey Creek Vineyard) and the Canberra District (Helm Wines, Clonakilla).

More than any other white wine, the best rieslings benefit from bottle age. Some will last 25 to 50 years! Over time, the primary fruit flavours are complemented by toasty, honeyed tones and accented by a waxy, minerally range of flavours that impart a richness and taste complexity not evident when the wine is in its youth.

In 2000, the Clare Valley riesling producers became the first in the world to bottle their rieslings under screwcaps. (Now almost all of Australia’s white wines are bottled under screwcap). By all accounts these wines have aged beautifully, with the screwcap protecting the freshness and delicacy of the wine.

Another hallmark of riesling is its ability to transmit its terroir. Well-made riesling distinctly expresses the characteristics of its place. At Grosset’s Spingvale vineyard, for example, rich red soil over limestone produces sturdy vines, big berries, chunky bunches and a lime green … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Last Friday NZ Wine Online hosted a Sauvignon Blanc Master Class at the Royal Automobile Club in Sydney. I always enjoy evenings when the winemakers are on hand to discuss the wine, so I listened with great interest to winemakers John Hancock from Trinity Hill of the North Island’s Hawkes Bay region and Glenn Thomas from Tupari Wines, which is situated in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough in the north of the South Island.

Of the nine wines we tasted that evening most were from the Marlborough region. Understandable, given that Marlborough is the one region of the world that seems to have taken the noble grape of the Loire and Bordeaux and made it its own. In her book Educating Peter, The Wall Street Journal’s wine writer Lettie Teague argues that Marlborough sauvignon blanc and in particular the iconic Cloudy Bay expression of the style “actually changed the way people thought about Sauvignon Blanc and the way winemakers approached the grape too…From California to South Africa, even in the Loire Valley, the home of Sauvignon Blanc, I’ve seen wine lists that feature ‘New Zealand-style’ Sancerres.”

Interestingly, the Hawkes Bay offering, the Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2010, is made more in the understated or restrained style of Sancerre, with citrus, melon and stone fruit flavours accented with Sancerre-like mineral notes. The wine spent extended time on lees to give it more body or texture, and the warmer climate of the Hawkes Bay region creates a wine that is slighly lower in both acidity and alcohol than its typical Marlborough peers.

Both Hancock and Thomas talked about the innovations taking place in New Zealand sauvignon blanc. While many of the wines displayed the familiar characteristics of bright fruity aromatics with zesty citrus and tropical fruit flavours … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Yalumba The Signature: Celebrating Tradition, Culture & The Best of Vintage

Posted on February 02, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a sense, Yalumba’s The Signature, a cabernet sauvignon/shiraz blend first released in 1962,  reads like a history of the winery. Each vintage is named in honour of an employee or person who has made a significant contribution to culture and traditions of the company.

The Signature itself holds a very special place not only in the history of Yalumba but in the winemaking history of Australia.  As the winery notes, “In a market largely obsessed with single-varietal wines, Yalumba has remained steadfast in its commitment to that most Australian of wine styles, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz blend.”

Director of Winemaking Brian Walsh is in fact so enthusiastic about the style that a number of years ago he convinced the prestigious Royal Adelaide Wine Show to add cabernet/shiraz and shiraz/cabernet blends as a separate class. Together with The Great Australian Red – a wine competition exclusively limited to Australian examples of the blend,  these shows are lifting the profile of this unique Australian wine style.

The Signature is a consistently high scoring wine. Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate scored the 2002 vintage 96+ points, and The Wine Spectator awarded the 2005 vintage 92 points. Here’s Harvey Steiman’s glowing review:Smooth, velvety and beautifully focused to show the depth of ripe currant, blackberry, grilled meat and smoke notes that don’t quit on the long, deftly balanced finish. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Drink now through 2015.” (Tasting Note, The Wine Spectator, 30 September 2009).

I have a friend who absolutely raves about the quality and value for money of The Signature. It typically sells for around 30 per cent less than its similarly regarded peers. I think the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown had a point when she remarked that “Yalumba’s top wines should not be overlooked … Read the rest