Category Archives: Wine Styles

Aug 08 2011

Sparkling Shiraz: Australia’s unique take on Bubbly!

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

Australia has made a few significant contributions to the world of wine: the shiraz cabernet/cabernet shiraz blend, the stelvin screw cap and a new take on bubbly with the sparkling shiraz.

While most people tend to drink sparkling wines as an aperitif, the spicy aromas, fine beading and complex flavours of sparkling shiraz make it a perfect accompaniment with dinner.

Seppelt’s Great Western Winery in Victoria has been making sparkling shiraz almost continuously since the 1890s. The highly rated Seppelt Show Sparkling Shiraz is made from 60+ year old grapes from the St. Peter’s and Imperial vineyards, using the traditional methodé Champenoise.  After a break in production, the 1982 Seppelt Show Sparkling Burgundy (as it was then known) was relaunched in 1990. Today, renowned wine critic James Halliday rates Seppelt’s as the best producer of Australian sparkling shiraz. (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2011)

 

 

Peter Lehmann released its first sparkling shiraz in 1999. It was made from the 1994 vintage and spent five years cellaring in the bottle on tirage. Halliday awarded 94 points to the Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz 2005. Sourced from small Barossa Valley vineyards, including one owned by Peter and Margaret Lehmann, chief winemaker Andrew Wigan, who created the wine for Peter Lehmann, offered the following tasting notes:

Beautifully deep in colour with a persistent fine bead. The nose is an enticing melange of chocolate, dark cherry, hints of spice, a touch of vanilla. A beautifully integrated and fully harmonious wine offering an explosion of flavour balanced by the complexity resulting from its time in the bottle. (Seppelt website)

Wild Duck Creek makes the dry style, non vintage Sparkling Duck Sparkling Shiraz NV every three vintages. Only 1200 bottles of the wine are produced from a 50% blend of … Read the rest

Jul 07 2011

Aussie Wine Icons: Clarendon Hills Astralis Syrah

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

You don’t usually hear “big” and “graceful” in the same sentence when reading a review of a McLaren Vale shiraz, but here’s the Wine Spectator’s opinion of the 2006 Clarendon Hills Astralis Syrah:

A big wine, but amazingly supple, graceful and pure, offering cascades of wild blueberry, black cherry and plum fruit that play against spices such as cardamom, clove and black pepper. It’s all seamlessly integrated with fine tannins and enough creamy oak to complete the picture. Syrah. Drink now through 2020. (Harvey Steiman, The Wine Spectator, 15 October 2008)

The Astralis is the flagship wine of Roman Bratasiuk’s Clarendon Hills. When the influential wine critic Robert Parker first tasted the Clarendon Hills wines in 1994, he became an immediate devotee, and his enthusiasm for the wines has only continued to grow.  After a vertical tasting in 2001, Parker remarked: “If Penfolds Grange has been the most legendary wine in Australia, my instincts suggest that in the future, if any wine surpasses Grange, it will be made by Roman Bratasiuk of Clarendon Hills in McLaren Vale.” (Vertical Tasting of Clarendon Hills, Wine Advocate, June 2001)

A number of Australia’s best winemakers benchmark their wines against the great ‘Old World’ examples. Bratasiuk’s style of wines has always been informed by his profound appreciation of the very best French wines.* He was one of the first winemakers to use only French oak – the Astralis spends 18 months in 50% new and 50% seasoned, tightly grained French oak barrels.

Planted in 1920, the Astralis vineyard is on a 45 degree ascending slope. It faces due-east and has a top soil layer of pebble-ridden clay and subsoil layer of pure ironstone. The vineyards are no longer trellised and the wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Astralis, like all … Read the rest

Jul 07 2011

Buy Wine Ideas: Boutique Barossa Shiraz on the Cellarit Wine Market

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

Some of my friends are wary of buying the big, rich, full-bodied style of shiraz that is typically associated with the Barossa region. They are afraid that the typically high alcohol levels will dominate the taste of the wine. But as the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown explained in a recent article on Greenock Creek’s sublime 2004 Roennfeldt Road Shiraz, alcohol is not an issue if the wine is in balance: “you need serious flavor concentration and a firm backbone of ripe tannins with a good amount of natural acid (and judicious use of the added kind if necessary) to pull it off – and that’s rare.” Greenock Creek Roennfeldt Road 2004s by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Wine Advocate March 2011

Indeed! But when the balance is right, few wines can match the complexity of aromas and depth of flavours of Barossa shiraz, especially the best examples, which are typically made from the grapes of 100+ year old vines.  In my opinion, they are the perfect accompaniment to a hearty winter’s meal of osso bucco or succulent roast duck.

Here are a few highlights at various prices points of spectacular Barossa shiraz from boutique winemakers that are currently listed on the wine market. I’ve noted the alcohol percentages on the label when available – surprisingly not a high as you might think!

Kalleske Greenock Basket Pressed Shiraz 2003 $48

The Kalleske family have been farming and growing grapes since 1853 near the village of Greenock. Since the first wine release in 2004, Kalleske has rapidly gained a reputation for producing top-quality hand crafted wines from its 120 acre vineyard where the oldest vines date back to 1875. The vineyard is low yielding with grapes grown organically and biodynamically.

The Kalleske Greenock Basket Press Shiraz 2003 is a single vineyard wine sourced from … Read the rest

Jun 06 2011

Aussie Wine Icons: Torbreck RunRig

Posted on June 06, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

My teenage daughters are big fans of Australia’s Master Chef. They came home giddy with excitement after Neil Perry made a surprise visit to their school – autographed photographs in hand!

I think the adults of this world would equally enjoy (and learn a lot) from an Australia’s Master Winemaker series. Top of my list of real “Master Winemakers” to invite on the show would undoubtedly be Dave Powell of Torbreck. The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown hit the nail on the head with her description of what makes his Torbreck wines so unique:

…what makes these wines stand amongst some of the world’s most special wines is not their supreme plots of land, or their inclusion of fruit of 100 year+ vines or their minimal intervention winemaking.  These factors are all a minimum standard for Torbreck.  The exemplary features of the wines stem from Dave’s relentless efforts, uncompromising winemaking vision and pig-headed stubbornness not to conform. (Torbreck’s David Powell, eRobertParker.com, December 2008)

Hailed by Robert Parker as “Australia’s answer to Marcel Guigal’s Côte Rôtie La Mouline,” the inaugural 1995 vintage of the RunRig Shiraz was a revelation on many fronts. (Wine Advocate #117 June 1998)

It was one of the first of a new generation of  wines to demonstrate the sensational fruit depth and concentration that could be extracted from Australia’s dry-grown old vines. Like its top Côte Rôtie counterparts, the RunRig included some viognier (around 5%) – the fabulously aromatic white wine grape that subtly lifts and extends the aroma and flavour profile of the wine when blended with shiraz.

But Powell married the elegance of the Côte Rôtie style with the richness and power of Hermitage – another great red wine from the Rhône region. The result is a superbly structured, deeply hued, full … Read the rest

Jun 06 2011

Australian Pinot Noir: Coming into its Own!

Posted on June 06, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

A couple of decades ago, few believed that making great pinot noir outside of Burgundy was possible. Today Burgundy still holds the mantle for the most complex, elegant and sometimes ethereal expressions of pinot noir, but most people would agree that New World competitors are catching up.

To date, much of the limelight has been hogged by New World producers in New Zealand and Oregon. Last year, Craggy Range, for example,  picked up the prestigious ‘Wine of Show’ trophy in the 2010 Tri Nations Wine Challenge with their 2008 Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir from Martinborough. (Typically only the best wines from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are submitted to the highly respected Tri Nations competition.)

But what about the profile of Australia pinot noir?  Well, given that only 2.6 per cent of land under vine in Australia is devoted to pinot noir, it has probably already garnered a good deal more attention and respect than expected over the past decade.

The paucity of pinot noir plantings in Australia is due to a number of factors. First of all, no-one would argue that it isn’t one of the most challenging varieties in the world to grow. Correct site selection is absolutely essential (see Burgundy: Its about the Terroir), and the dedication of a patient, talented winemaker is almost an equal first. For these reasons, only brave, risk-taking smaller producers have typically been game to embrace the pinot noir challenge.

One of the pioneer of Australian pinot noir, Gary Farr of Geelong’s By Farr, has certainly demonstrated that when the right ingredients come together, the results can be outstanding. The well drained, low fertility soils over limestone of his hillside vineyards could have been lifted right out of Burgundy. Gary spent 13 vintages at Burgundy’s Domaine DujacRead the rest

Jun 06 2011

The Macedon Ranges: Small in Quantity but Big in Quality!

Posted on June 06, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Some friends of ours recently gave us a bottle of the superb Bindi Pyrette Heathcote Shiraz 2009. According to James Halliday “only a skilled pinot maker [ie. Michael Dhillon] could induce Heathcote to provide such an elegant shiraz.” (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2011)

Indeed! Along with Curly Flat, Bindi is one of the icons of Victoria’s Macedon Ranges, the coolest wine region on Australia’s mainland. These two wineries have established the Macedon Ranges as one of the best sources in the country for pinot noir and chardonnay. The intensely aromatic yet elegant Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir is rated as “Outstanding” in Langton’s 2010 Classification of Australian Wine V, and the Curly Flat Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are both critically acclaimed, regularly featuring on the wine lists of Sydney’s and Melbourne’s very best restaurants.

The Macedon Ranges, the highest and coolest of the five wine regions surrounding Melbourne, is home to mountains and forests alternating with open, windswept slopes. It’s an unforgiving place where exact site selection is critical. The best sites are north facing to catch the last rays of autumn sunlight and are protected from the worst of the wind and the spring frosts. The well-draining, quartz riddled, grey sandy loam soil that overlays a clay base is ideal for varieties like chardonnay and pinot noir, which perform best when their roots are forced to dig deep to survive.  In most years moderate rainfall typically guarantees a long growing season but also naturally keep yields low. Consequently, most of the 40 or so vineyards in the region are small, family-run businesses.

Granite Hills and Hanging Rock Winery, two of the oldest wineries in the region, have also highlighted the region’s potential for sparkling wines. John Ellis, who founded Hanging Rock in 1982 with his … Read the rest

May 05 2011

Château Latour: The Epitome of Great Bordeaux

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

This Thursday evening I’m attending a very special tasting of classic Bordeaux wines at Wine Vault in Artarmon. Sponsored by Bordeaux Shippers, our host for the evening is The Wine Front’s Gary Walsh. Thursday’s session is sold out, but I believe tickets may still be available for a second session on Thursday 2 June.

One of the highlights of a very special lineup is the Château Latour 2001. It sells for around $1,000 a bottle, so I’m sure Thursday night will be one of my only chances to sample this great wine. In preparation I thought I would do a little research on one of the world’s most acclaimed drops. While most of us probably can’t entertain the possibility of buying a bottle of Latour, Margaux, Lafite, Mouton or Haut-Brion, these First Growths are the benchmarks for style, character and status, informing the aspirations and direction of some of their best New World competitors, who typically make wines a little gentler on the hip pocket!

Château Latour is one of Bordeaux’s five original First Growth (Premier Cru). Its elevation to First Growth status dates back to the 1855 Bordeaux Wine Official Classification that was done ahead of International Exhibition in Paris. But as early as 1787, one of the world’s greatest connoisseurs of wine, then minister to France, Thomas Jefferson, deemed La Tour de Ségur a vineyard of first quality.

Situated on the banks of the Gironde estuary, Château Latour is at the very southeastern tip of the commune of Pauillac in the Médoc region of Bordeaux. Here 78 hectares are under vine, but only the best grapes from the oldest vines of the 47 hectares surrounding the Chateau, known as L’Enclos, can be used in the production of the Grand Vin. Since 1966 the Latour has also produced … Read the rest

May 05 2011

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: The Quintessential Expression of Terroir

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you really want to understand how even small nuances in terroir can create wines with very distinct personalities, the wines of Burgundy’s most famous and revered estate, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), are perhaps the most telling examples.

DRC either owns outright or has an interest in six of the Grands Cru vineyards of Vosne-Romanée. These vineyards either adjoin or are closely located to each other and some are very small. The most celebrated of them all, La Romanée-Conti, is less than five acres.

Positioned mid-slope above La Romanée-St-Vivant, the well-drained soil of La Romanée-Conti is stonier, shallower and poorer than the lower sited La Romanée-St-Vivant. Of course, both of these vineyards are endowed with the signature, highly prized soil of the Cote d’Or – a mixture of silt and scree over layers of marlstone and clay on a base of calcium-rich limestone. But the slight differences in soil type, orientation and elevation of the different vineyards impart unique and authentic characteristics to the wine.

According to esteemed British wine critic Hugh Johnson, La Romanée-Conti is the quintessential expression of pinot noir. It is exotically perfumed, richly nuanced, concentrated and complex with perfect balance. La Romanée-St-Vivant is slightly lighter and more elegant in style than La Romanée-Conti. La Tâche, also owned entirely by DRC and just across the road from La Romanée-Conti, is earthier and more muscular than its siblings. (Hugh Johnson, Editor and Hubrecht Duijker, Touring in Wine Country: Burgundy)

DRC is one of the largest landholders in Burgundy, having assembled around 62 acres of vineyards over 140 years. The Domaine was formally established in 1942 and is jointly owned by two families, Leroy and de Villaine.

Under the direction of Aubert de Villaine, the estate has worked tirelessly to improve the vineyards so the subtle differences … Read the rest

May 05 2011

Tasting Highlights: From New Zealand to the South of France

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Cellarit Wine Blog took a bit of a hiatus over the Easter break due to family and other pressing work commitments. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have time to sample some great wines! Here are a few that recently impressed.

My love affair with New Zealand pinot noir continues. The best that I’ve tasted recently have a bit of age and a hint of that savoury earthiness that I think probably all the best makers of pinot noir strive for. A couple of highlights:

Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir 2007

Te Kairanga was one of Martinborough’s founding vineyards. Martinborough is at the foot of the South Island where the soils of the ancient river “Martinborough” terraces and the climatic conditions are remarkably similar to Burgundy. In less than thirty years, Martinborough has established an enviable reputation as one of the world’s best places to grow pinot noir, with Ata Rangi and Dry River, for example, attaining world class reputations.

Gary Walsh of The Wine Front scored the Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir 2007 90 points:  “Has an attractive earthy beetroot character, dry herbs, rose oil and plum/cherry fruit with a good clip of quality oak. It’s fresh and medium bodied with an attractive Chinotto like bitterness and a good finish. It’s a style I like and one I enjoyed drinking – interesting and not too fruity.” (The Wine Front, 31 March 2010). Also affordable!  Vaucluse Cellars, where I bought my bottle, has this wine for a mixed case price of $28 a bottle.

 

Amisfield Pinot Noir 2007

I tried the Amisfield Pinot Noir 2007 at a friend’s home. They are passionate wine collectors, who obviously know what they’re doing! This wine was superb.  A slightly riper style than the Te Kairanga Runholder but … Read the rest

Apr 04 2011

Grüner Veltliner: An exciting new trend in Australian whites

Posted on April 04, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a recent article in the Australian Financial Review, wine writer Tim White talked about alternatives to sauvignon blanc. (When sauvignon blanc just won’t do, The Australian Financial Review, 21-23 January 2011). Not surprisingly, riesling and chardonnay topped the top-five list among sommeliers, winemakers and retailers. And of the alternative varieties, three grape varieties stood out: chenin blanc, viognier and grüner veltliner.

Grüner veltliner appeared on my radar when I was researching the Canberra District and its growing reputation for fine riesling. According to James Halliday, in Austria grüner veltliner is grown in all the same regions as riesling. Now two excellent biodynamic wineries, Lark Hill and Hahndorf Hill Winery, from two of the great riesling regions in Australia – the Canberra District and the Adelaide Hills respectively – are demonstrating grüner veltliner’s potential in Australia.

In 2009 Lark Hill released the first grüner veltliner in Australia. It was made from a tiny amount of fruit from their original plantings in 2005. It was very well reviewed, including a 94/100 from James Hallliday:

At long last, a Grüner Veltliner to write about… It is strongly varietal, with a waft of white pepper on the bouquet adding complexity to the fig and ripe pear fruit; best of all is the texture and mouthfeel. Lark Hill is certified Biodynamic – an holistic farming practice established by Rudolph Steiner in Austria in the late 1920’s – so it brings a lovely synergy to produce this classic Austrian variety from the home of Biodynamics. (James Halliday, 2011 Wine Companion)

Lark Hill just pipped Hahndorf Hill Winery to the post with the first release of grüner veltliner in Australia. Hahndorf Hill’s debut vintage was released in 2010, four years after the winery had imported from Austria three different clones of the … Read the rest