Tag: Wine Spectator

Dec 12 2012

50 Wines to Try in 2013: No. 3 Chateau Pontet-Canet – A Brilliant Biodynamic Bordeaux

Posted on December 12, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

You wouldn’t normally think that Château Pontet-Canet, a fifth-growth chateaux in Bordeaux, would be one of the leading examples of what the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker describes as “profound evolution in quality” in Bordeaux over the past 30 years.

Since proprietor Alfred Tesseron took over the 200 acre Pauillac estate from his father in 1997, he has ushered in a series of innovations in both viticultural and winemaking practices that have led to a remarkable lift in the quality of his wines. Of the 2009 vintage, for example, Robert Parker remarked that it was “A wine of irrefutable purity, laser-like precision, colossal weight and richness, and sensational freshness, this is a tour de force in winemaking that is capable of lasting 50 or more years.”  (Wine Advocate #199 February 2012)

Granted, 2009 was a spectacular vintage, but Parker’s 100 point score was by no means a fluke. The wine has earned ratings of 93 or higher in both Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator tastings since 2000.

Château Pontet-Canet is a neighbour to plots owned by illustrious first-growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Latour. Tesseron told the Wine Spectator’s Jo Cooke that “Every morning…we wake up and say, ‘We are a fifth-growth surrounded by first-growths, so we have to do better.’ We want to get as close as we can to the quality of our neighbors.” (Climbing the Pyramid: Alfred Tesseron is raising quality at Bordeaux’s Pontet-Canet by Jo Cooke, Wine Spectator, 30 April 2008).

Tesseron has made significant investments in both the vineyards and the cellar to achieve his lofty goal. Pontet-Canet was one of the first Bordeaux estates to eschew the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Since 2007 both the vineyard and winery have been biodynamic.

At times the natural approach to vineyard management has presented … Read the rest

Aug 08 2012

Kilikanoon: Exceptional Wine and Music Making go hand-in-hand!

Posted on August 08, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Having previously worked in the arts, I’m always intrigued by stories of people who have made the transition from one art to another. Nathan Waks, executive director and proprietor of Kilikanoon, used to be the Principal Cellist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. But by all accounts, he is having just as much fun promoting Kilikanoon overseas, and still occasionally playing the cello to  appreciative audiences at Kilikanoon promotional dinners!

Not that he needs to put on much of a show to sell the Kilikanoon portfolio. You may have read that Kilikanoon was recently named Winery of the Year 2013 by James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion. The Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman also recently included Kilikanoon in his list of “Australian Wineries to Put on Your Radar,” noting that “this long-standing, family-owned Clare Valley winery builds remarkable elegance into its range of rich, complex and expressive shiraz bottlings from both Clare and Barossa.” (Australian Wineries to Put on Your Radar by Harvey Steiman Wine Spectator 31 July 2012)

 

 

 

Founder and chief winemaker Kevin Mitchell is very much a wine man. His father, Mort Mitchell, planted and still tends Kilikanoon’s Golden Hillside suite of contiguous vinyards, including Mort’s Block, which is home to Kilikanoon’s flagship wines such as the Oracle Shiraz and the Mort’s Reserve Riesling. After completing his wine studies in 1992, Kevin gained extensive wine making experience both in Australia and the United States before purchasing the Kilikanoon property in 1997.

Thirteen of Kilikanoon’s wines received 94 points or higher in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion 2013. While the emphasis is on shiraz, Kilikanoon also makes an excellent range of cabernet sauvignon, greanche. riesling and semillon.

The focus is on making wines with strong regional and varietal definition, an approach that has won the … Read the rest

Jul 07 2012

5 Reasons to Collect Wine: Collectors Share their Opinions

Posted on July 07, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Have you ever scanned a restaurant wine list and noticed that a bottle you have in your cellar is on the list for two or three times what you paid for it?

Many collectors I know love BYO restaurants for this very reason. They can share a special bottle with friends over a wonderful meal without breaking the bank.

Here’s a few other reasons why, for some at least, building a bit of a wine collection is a lot of fun!

1. Well Made Wines are Designed to be Aged

I had the privilege recently of enjoying a bottle of Penfolds Grange 1975 and a bottle of Lindemans Limestone Ridge Shiraz Cabernet 1991. In my mind, nothing quite compares with the bouquet and taste of aged wines when imbibed at or close to their peak. In both of these wines the tannins had completely lost their original bitter sensation and were seamlessly integrated into wines that still displayed some primary fruit characteristics and had lots of body, depth and texture.

Bill Daley, former wine critic of the Chicago Tribune, said that “watching and tasting a wine go through its life cycle is one of the joys of wine collecting.” He recommends making notes as you taste the wine during its different stages of development. (How to Collect Wine by Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 29 September 2010)

2. Collecting Wine can Encourage Self Exploration 

Making a decision to start a cellar often stirs people into being more proactive about educating themselves about wine. Campbell Mattinson says that “cellaring wine can be a kind of self exploration.”

Many collectors report that over the years, as they experiment with new wines, their tastes change, and their wine collections move in new and often unexpected directions. A willingness to try new things … Read the rest

Jul 07 2012

Château Cheval Blanc: An Irresistibly Alluring Cabernet Franc Blend

Posted on July 07, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

For me, Julia Harding’s captivating review of a barrel sample of the sublime 2011 vintage of Château Cheval Blanc explains the irresistible allure of this famous St Émilion blend for the past 150 years:

Deep dark cherry crimson. Delicately floral and fruity, so subtle but gently aromatic. A touch of oak sweetness and spice but very restrained. Very very fine grained, you can feel the tannins but they melt across the palate. There’s intensity but it’s so TENDER. It’s dark-fruited rather than savoury. There’s minerality in both taste and texture. Fabulous way to start a day’s tasting. (Julia Harding MW, JancisRobinson.com, 24 April 2012)

Cheval Blanc and its smaller, but equally famous peer, Château Ausone, are the only two wines in St Émilion to be rated “A” Premier Grand Cru Classé.  The St Émilion  classification system is unusual, because unlike the more famous Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855,  it calls for the wines to be reviewed every ten years. Since it was first introduced in 1955, Cheval Blanc has always maintained its top ranking.

In the second half of the 19th century and for most of the 20th, the 41 hectare estate, which borders the Pomerol appellation, was owned by the Laussac-Forcaud family. They were responsible for the legendary 1921 and 1947 vintages – in 2010 a rare Imperial bottle (6 litres) of the latter sold for a record-breaking $US304,375!

The wine has always been an almost 50/50 blend of cabernet franc and merlot, and is aged in 100% new oak for a minimum of 18 months. The terroir, a mix of gravel over clay (40%), deep gravel (40%), and sand over clay (20%), is considered ideal for cultivating both grapes.

In 1998 the property was sold to Bernald Arnault of the luxury goods group LVMH and Belgium’s … Read the rest

Jul 07 2012

Can you guess how many Australian wines have been awarded 100 ‘Parker Points’?

Posted on July 07, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Wine Scores: What they’re all About?

Before I reveal the magic number, a few observations about wine scores. British wine critic Jancis Robinson MW, who uses a 20 point scale, has commented that she’s “not a great fan of the conjunction of numbers and wine. Once numbers are involved, it is all too easy to reduce wine to a financial commodity rather than keep its precious status as a uniquely stimulating source of sensual pleasure and conviviality.”

Robert Parker Jr invented the 100 point scale for wine

Her view is definitely not shared by Robert Parker Jr, the inventor of the ubiquitous 100 point scale, which was based on the American standardised high school grading system because it was familiar and easy to understand. On his website Parker emphatically states: “While some have suggested that scoring is not well suited to a beverage that has been romantically extolled for centuries, wine is no different from any consumer product. There are specific standards of quality that full-time wine professionals recognize, and there are benchmark wines against which others can be judged.”

While he goes on to say “that the numerical ratings are utilized only to enhance and complement the thorough tasting notes, which are my primary means of communicating my judgments to you,” he acknowledges that “scoring permits rapid communication of information to expert and novice alike.”

The Importance of Wine Scores

Indeed! Parker’s Wine Advocate, together with other influential publications like the Wine Spectator and James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion, which both followed Parker’s lead in embracing the 100 point wine scoring system, have been enormously important in broadening appeal and appreciation for fine wine over the past 30 years. And for Australian wines to be awarded high scores, especially when judged against the world’s best, proved a … Read the rest

Jun 06 2012

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2010 – “A New Wave of Chardonnay”

Posted on June 06, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a recent article on Australian chardonnay, the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman commented that when it comes to a preferred style of chardonnay, most people “want grace and elegance, but they want it to come with plenty of flavor and real charm.” (Action in Australian Chardonnay: New styles modeled on Burgundy make it the buzz of the country now by Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 2 December 2011)

The multi-award winning Vasse Felix Heystesbury Chardonnay 2010 is certainly a very fine example of the style of chardonnay Steiman so succinctly describes. In the tasting notes, Vasse Felix’s Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock remarked that the palate of the 2010 vintage “exhibits that wonderful and rare quality: power with restraint.” In other words, it delivers what most people would consider the hallmarks of a great chardonnay:

A dramatic and powerful nose that is constantly evolving in the glass. Amongst the descriptors are sublime fragrant citron and baby pineapple, while wild notes of lamb’s fat and struck flint provide a beguiling complexity that lift the floral and spice fruit perfume and frame a stunning Heytesbury Chardonnay nose.

Palate. Super fine, textured and succulent with impeccable balance and poise driven by seamless natural acidity. Juicy white nectarine and preserved lemon puree form a strong fruit core which is embellished with flavours of spicy oak, lanolin and flint. (Vasse Felix tasting notes)

The 2010 Heytesbury Chardonnay is in fact Vasse Felix’s most awarded wine to date. The wine has picked up an unprecedented eight trophies from the top wine shows in the country, including the Royal Adelaide Wine Show, where it won the coveted top prize, “Most Outstanding Red or White Wine in Show.”

In many respects the 2010 vintage represents the most recent incarnation of a style of chardonnay that Willcock has been developing and … Read the rest

Jun 06 2012

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvigon: Taking Margaret River Cabernet in a New Direction

Posted on June 06, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In the June/July 2011 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine, wine critic Nick Bulleid MW offered the following summary of the general style of Margaret River cabernet sauvignon:

Stylistically I see Margaret River cabernet at its best as intensely varietal, with blackcurrant and other dark fruits plus hints of capsicum and herbal overtones often describes as “bay leaf” or “seaweed”. While some drinkers weaned on cabernet from hotter areas regard capsicum and leaf characters as under-ripe, I disagree: they an essential part of high quality cabernet, with one proviso – that the tannins are ripe. Margaret River cabernet certainly has firm tannins in its youth, but they should be evenly mouth-coating and not grasp you around your lips and then reappear as a green, bitter finish. (Captivating Cabernet by Nick Bulleid MW, Gourmet Traveller Wine, June/July 2011)

Rob Mann, chief winemaker at Cape Mentelle, may not necessarily concur with Bulleid’s assessment of the attractiveness of herbal characters in Margaret River cabernet. Since joining Cape Mentelle in 2005, he has made significant changes both in the vineyard and the winery to minimise the herbaceous notes in the winery’s flagship cabernet sauvignon. As he told the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman back in 2007:  “The strong herbal, capsicum (bell pepper), bordering on eucalyptus and menthol flavors, is accepted in Australia as a regional trait. I want minimize that and go for ripe, more classical berry flavors.” (Getting the Green Out in Margaret River by Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 18 October 2007)

 

 

Working with viculturist Ashley Wood, Mann has introduced new imported clones and rootstocks to create a broader spectrum of flavours in the wines, replanted vineyards at closer density to improve the flavour intensity of the grapes, and minimised as much as possible the use of artificial fertilisers.

In … Read the rest

Jun 06 2012

BVE E & E Black Pepper Shiraz: A Great Name for an Outstanding Shiraz

Posted on June 06, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

I have always liked the name of the Barossa Valley Estate E & E Black Pepper Shiraz. As you are no doubt aware, most wines are usually named after the region or vineyard from which they originate or perhaps an illustrious individual or a dear relative. The BVE E & E Black Pepper Shiraz is one of the few wines I can think of with a name that actually evokes its aroma/flavour. Although I should note that E & E stands for Elmore and Elaine, the original old-vine shiraz blocks that were the core of the early vintages and are still part of the blend.

Black pepper, of course, is a very attractive aromatic or flavour characteristic of shiraz. It is usually associated with cool-climate shiraz, but many distinguished shiraz wines from the warmer regions of Barossa and McLaren Vale also have a peppery note.

Fruit for the E & E Black Pepper Shiraz is a blend from vineyards in northeast Barossa where the vines are at least 60 years old. The vineyards are owned by Barossa Valley Estate – originally a grower’s cooperative set up in 1984 by 80 third and fourth generation Barossa growers. In the face of declining demand for their shiraz grapes at the time, the growers decided to join forces to produce their own wines. Last year, the growers repurchased Constelllation Wines 50% equity state in the business and once again the Estate is 100% grower-owned.

Harvey Steiman of the Wine Spectator has long been an admirer of BVE’s flagship wine.

...E&E has a distinctive personality. The flavors run toward dark fruits, often cherry and plum, with noticeable floral and spice notes, including licorice and, yes, black pepper. The texture in the best vintages is plush, but it seldom gets overwhelmingly alcoholic or Read the rest

May 05 2012

Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: A Perrenial Favourite

Posted on May 05, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

This week is so far shaping up to be all about Victorian wine. On Saturday night, we had friends for dinner and opened a magnum of the Wild Duck Creek Estate Shiraz Reserve 2003. It was absolutely sensational. Delicious ripe fruit flavours wrapped in a very balanced, medium body package with superbly integrated tannins, still firm but softened a bit from bottle age. I’m sure the wine could easily handle another five to ten years in the cellar.

Last night I enjoyed another Heathcote shiraz – a wine I wasn’t familiar with, the Syrahmi Climat 2009.  Like 2003, 2009 was a dry, hot vintage in Heathcote. Adam Foster, who makes the Syrahmi range, sourced the grapes for the Climat from the Mt Camel Ranges, 45km north of the Heathcote township. It’s a wonderfully aromatic wine with well defined fruit flavours and fine tannins. Foster opted for a 60% whole bunch fermentation – a technique commonly used in France’s Rhone Valley to enhance the fragrance of their shiraz.

I was lucky to receive a sample of the Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. I’ve always been a big fan of Balgownie’s wines, and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 certainly didn’t disappoint.

Fruit for the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the 33 hectare Bendigo vineyard, situated on a gentle slope overlooking Myer’s Creek at Maiden Gully. Here the alluvial clay soils and continental climate provide ideal conditions for low yields and a long ripening period, which helps to create wines of intense flavours and great ageing potential. Originally founded in 1969 by pioneer winemaker Stuart Anderson, since 1999 the estate has been owned by brothers Des and Rod Forrester, who have expanded the winery and added another vineyard in the Yarra Valley.

The Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman has commented … Read the rest

May 05 2012

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz: Still the Benchmark for Cool Climate Shiraz

Posted on May 05, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Today Mount Langi Ghiran, Seppelt Wines and Best’s Wines released a “Greats of the Grampians” Trio Pack.  The pack  includes a bottle of Best’s Bin O Great Western Shiraz 2010 (rrp $75), a bottle of the Mount Langi Ghiraz Langi Shiraz 2009 (rrp $95) and a bottle of the Seppelt St Peters Shiraz 2008 (rrp $75). It is available online for $199 from Best’s Wines.

Showcasing the distinctive character of cool climate shiraz from Victoria’s Grampians region, the pack honours the late Trevor Mast – the winemaker responsible for creating the benchmark Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz, and, as Tyson Stelzer of the Wine Spectator observed, “a visionary decades before “cool-climate” became a buzzword in Australian wine.” (Before acquiring Mount Langi Ghiran in 1987, Mast worked for both Seppelt and Best’s) (Trevor Mast, Australian Wine Pioneer, Dies at 63 Winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran showed how outstanding cool-climate Aussie Shiraz could be by Tyson Stelzer, Wine Spectator, 14 March 2012)

Mast’s defining vintage was the Mount Langi Ghiraz Langi Shiraz 1989. With its spicy, pepper infused and floral characters, crisp texture and fine boned tannins, the wine quickly attracted international attention. In 1996, with only eight vintages behind it, the 1994 Mount Langin Ghiran Langi Shiraz graced the front cover of the Wine Spectator, sharing the stage with the iconic Penfolds Grange and Henschke’s Mount Eldestone Shiraz! ( Innovative and infectious ‘whiz-kid’ of wine industry by Ineke Mast and Gordon Gebbie, The Age, 16 April 2012)

Apparently Mast went out on a limb with his 1989 vintage. In a very wet season, he kept his nerve and left the grapes on the vine during the rain. After the vineyard dried out, he was able to pick perfectly ripened shiraz, producing an exceptional wine in what was generally … Read the rest