Category Archives: Wine Regions

Nov 11 2011

Wynns Coonawarra Estate: A Back to the Future Approach to Quality Improvement!

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

Coonawarra, with its famed terra rossa soil on a prized limestone base, has been recognised for decades as one of the world’s best regions for producing cabernet sauvignon. But understanding how to optimise the terroir to produce the best quality fruit has not always been easy.  Coonawarra cabernet sauvignons of the 1980s and 1990s, for example, were often criticised for being too herbal or green in character. Paradoxically, as wine critic Huon Hooke explains, they often tasted herbaceous and overripe at the same time! (Coonawarra on the March by Huon Hooke, HuonHOOKE.com)

The dynamic team at Wynns Coonawarra Estate, led by Chief Winemaker Sue Hodder and Regional Vineyard Manager Allen Jenkins, realised that getting on top of the quality issue meant taking a close look at what was happening in the vineyard.  And the way they approached the problem was interesting because it highlighted the benefits of marrying the latest vineyard management technologies with a return to some old fashioned, traditional practices like hand-pruning and hand-harvesting.

Inspired by the pure, ripe fruit flavours of Wynns cabernet sauvignons from the 1960s, Hodder knew that they needed to bring the older vineyards back into balance. Minimal pruning or imprecise machine pruning was replaced with focused hand-pruning that got rid of the dead wood and positioned the vines for more even fruit ripening. In some cases, radical surgery was required with some vines being chainsawed half way down their roots. (Who dares Wynns by Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 August 2010)

Sophisticated techniques such as bud dissection analysis have made it possible to predict the next year’s crop load from the current harvest. Consequently, when yields are predicted to be high, the vines are bunch-thinned to improve fruit quality and lower the yields. Other high tech tools like near infrared aerial photography have made it possible to map vegetation density in the vineyard and determine how soil variation affects the ripening period. Consequently,  even in a single vineyard, the fruit may be picked at different times and only when it is perfectly ripe… [Read More]

Oct 10 2011

A Weekend Discovering the Wines and Food of Orange: Day 2

Posted on October 10, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Day two began with coffee and breakfast at Benson’s Cafe (the best place for coffee in Orange!) and a trip out to Ross Hill. We were greeted by father and son team Peter and James Robson, who took us on a tour of their immaculately kept winery (originally an old apple packing shed), and poured us samples of almost the entire Ross Hill range.

While not certified organic, Peter and James believe that minimising the use of commercial preparations in the vineyard is key to expressing the unique characteristics of their special terroir… [Read More]

Oct 10 2011

Masterclass with New Zealand’s Escarpment and Quartz Reef

Posted on October 10, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

On Wednesday night I attended a masterclass hosted by two of New Zealand’s leading winemarkers: Larry McKenna of Martinborough’s Escarpment and Rudi Bauer of Central Otago’s Quartz Reef. Organised by nzwineonline.com.au and held at the very picturesque Coast restaurant in Cockle Bay, the evening proved a wonderful opportunity to sample pinot noir from the two most acclaimed wine regions for the variety in New Zealand.

Both winemakers have drawn on Burgundy for inspiration for their pinot noir… [Read More]

Sep 09 2011

Jansz Tasmania: The Poor Man’s Krug!

Posted on September 09, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

At the Tasmania Unbottled tasting I bumped into a friend who’s in charge of buying wine for his wine society. I really value his opinion, and he thought the pick of the show was the Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvée 2006. I also thought this sparkling was a standout. It was a deliciously textural wine with a finely beaded mousse and a vibrant complex nose of citrus, biscuits, honeysuckle and toasted almonds.

I’m always excited when my impression of a wine is confirmed by a seasoned critic… [Read More]

Sep 09 2011

Aussie Wine Icons: Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay

Posted on September 09, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

“Possibly Australia’s greatest modern wine”… “Australia’s finest chardonnay” … “One of the very best chardonnays in the world outside Burgundy.”

Wow!  And that’s just a few examples of the excitement the Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay has generated since the release of the first 1986 vintage in 1987!

Giaconda is a small winery in the foothills and within sight of the Victorian Alps, just outside the town of Beechworth in northern Victoria. It is run by Rick Kinzbrunner, who was named Qantas/Australian Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year in 2003,.. [Read More]

Sep 09 2011

Tasmania Unbottled: Showcasing Regionally Expressive Wines

Posted on September 09, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Yesterday I attended Tasmania Unbottled 2011 at Dockside in Cockle Bay Sydney. Sam Stosur’s US Open win and the warm sunny weather had put me in a great mood and this positive frame-of-mind was only enhanced by the wonderful wines on show! Of course, I should know by now that three hours was not long enough to properly appreciate 150 wines from 28 top-flight producers, especially when most of the vineyard owners and winemakers are on hand to talk you through the tastings! Anyway, here’s just a taste of some of the great wines I sampled… [Read More]

Sep 09 2011

Wine of the Week: Katnook Estate Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon – A Wine to Benchmark against a Top Bordeaux!

Posted on September 09, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In his review of the Katnook Estate Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker asks, “Is this Australia’s answer to a top-class Pauillac?

The luxury 1992 Odyssey (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) is Katnook Estate’s top cuvee. The wine spends 30 months in French oak, and comes across as a serious Bordeaux look-alike. The dark ruby/purple color is saturated to the rim. The nose offers up reticent but promising aromas of cigar box, cedar, fruit cake, black currant, and toasty notes. In the mouth,.. [Read More]

Aug 08 2011

Billecart-Salmon Champagne: All about “Finesse, balance and elegance”

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

According to the Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni, Billecart-Salmon makes Champagnes that are all about “timeless elegance,” “crystalline purity” and “supreme balance.”

“Finesse, balance and elegance” is in fact the tag line of Billecart-Salmon, an independent medium-sized Champagne house based in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ that is still run by the descendents of the original 1818 founders Nicolas Francois Billecart and his wife Elisabeth Salmon.

Champagne Billecarte-Salmon produces around 1.7 million bottles annually from fruit sourced from approximately 200 hectares of vineyards in Champagne… [Read More]

Aug 08 2011

Wine of the Week: Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Merlot 2004

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Like Edens Valley’s Irvine Wines, Margaret River’s Moss Wood is another Australian winery that has demonstrated its mastery in making first-class merlot and cabernet merlot blends. (See Cellar Picks: Don’t Overlook Australian Merlot, Cellarit Blog, 20 August 2011)

In 2000, Moss Wood’s Keith Mugford purchased the 6.36 hectare Ribbon Vale vineyard in Wilyabrup, the Margaret River sub-region responsible for the area’s best table wines. The vineyard’s gravel-loam soil over clay subsoil is surprisingly similar to the prized terroir of the right bank Bordeaux appellation of Pomerol,.. [Read More]

Aug 08 2011

Bollinger: A Remarkable Champagne for almost all occasions!

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Bollinger is the only Champagne that can compete with Dom Perignon for star billing in a James Bond film.  To date, it has appeared in five films compared to Dom Perignon’s seven!

No doubt, the consummate marketer Lily Bollinger, who up until her death in 1977 tirelessy travelled the world promoting the brand, would be pleased that her Champagne is a favourite of one of the world’s most sophisticated and stylish spies!

Of course, Lily herself didn’t shy away from the limelight… [Read More]