Category Archives: Wine Varieties

Oct 10 2011

Krug: The World’s Most Expensive Champagnes

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

When Krug released its single-vineyard Clos d’Ambonnay Champagne 1995 in 2008, it caused a sensation. The 100% blanc de noirs, made entirely from pinot noir grapes, became the world’s most expensive Champagne – retailing for around $US 3000 a bottle.

At the time Krug justified the whopping price tag by noting that in comparison with other prestige wines from top estates, the prices for the very best Champagnes were too cheap. Comparatively, the retail price of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s La Romanée-Conti, for example, was up to $US4,300. (Eric Asimov, Effervescent Prices, The New York Times 29 February 2008)

Rarity, perhaps more than quality and reputation, is the main influencer on price. The Clos D’Ambonnay is even rarer than Krug’s other single vineyard offering, the Clos du Mesnil Blanc des Blancs, which normally retails for around $US800, and is also among the world’s highest priced Champagnes.

Clos refers to the fact that the vineyard is entirely ‘closed’ or walled. The Clos du Mesnil is only 1.84 hectares with the Clos d’Ambonnay being less than a third of that size. In a cold region like Champagne, where hail and wind are common hazards, the walls help retain the heat and to some extent protect the vines from the elements. Within the walls, the vines are meticulously tended. The Clos du Mesnil, for example, is farmed and vinified in five or six separate parcels with only the best included in the final assemblage.

So what do these extraordinary wines taste like? Recently the Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni attended a complete vertical tasting of the Clos du Mesnil and the Clos d’Ambonnay. Certainly his notes reflect how vintage can affect the character of the wine. The Clos du Mesnil 1989, for example, was from a warmer vintage than the 1989 and  consequently a bigger, fatter wine than the 1988, “caressing the palate with layers of expansive fruit…yet preserving fabulous minerality and freshness.” Superlatives like multi-dimensional, pure, fresh, harmonious,  superb balance, breathtaking elegance and extraordinary finesse were commonly used to describe all of the vintages!.. [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

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

Cellar Picks: Don’t Overlook Australian Merlot!

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

The right bank Bordeaux appellations of Pomerol and St Emilion have built their reputations on merlot dominant wines. Pomerol’s Château Pétrus, for example, is regarded as the penultimate expression of merlot and is one of the world’s most expensive wines. (See Château Pétrus 1990: Is it worth the price?, Cellarit Wine Blog, 11 August 2011)

But what about Australian merlot? I don’t think too many people would have trouble naming Australia’s top shiraz, cabernet sauvignon or even pinot noir wines, but can you name our top merlots?.. [Read More]

Aug 08 2011

Wine of the Week: Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz

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

In his post, Tasting Australian History: Six decades with Peter Lehmann (Wine Spectator 12 October 2010), wine critic Harvey Steiman talks about a recent  tasting of the 1996 Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz. As Steiman notes, 1996 was the best vintage of the 1990s for Barossa Shiraz and this wine certainly didn’t disappoint:

astonishing suppleness, depth and power. Gorgeous stuff, it showed spicy cherry and blackberry flavors that glowed through polished tannins. Has power without excess weight, and it feels like it can go on for decades... [Read More]

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… [Read More]