Tag: Gary Walsh

Nov 11 2012

The Coming of Age of Rosé Champagne: Vintage Cellars Double Bay Champagne Gala 2012

Posted on November 11, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Wine critics’ opinions of rosé Champagne vary widely. Last year Jancis Robinson MW made the following comment: “My tastings suggest that a huge proportion of rosé champagne is a fairly cynical product that does not have any special positive attributes but merely ticks the visual box (sometimes only just) of being pink. In fact I would go so far as to say that the average quality of pink champagne is lower than that of the average white champagne, despite it being more expensive.” (Rosé champagne – the missing ingredient, JancisRobinson.com, 3 September 2011)

The Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni has a far rosier (excuse the pun!) opinion of rosé Champagne. In a recent video showcasing grower Champagnes, Galloni commented that the addition of still red wine can bring “amplitude and warmth” to Champagne and metaphorically compared it to a “baritone voice that fills out the concert hall.” (Grower Champagnes – Part 1, by Antonio Galloni, eRobertParker.com, 8 October 2012)

Over the past decade, consumers certainly seemed to have developed a taste for pink. Imports of rosé Champagne to the UK, for example, have more than doubled in the last decade and it now constitutes 8.5% of all Champagne exports.

If last Wednesday’s Vintage Cellars Double Bay Champagne Gala is any guide, the world’s top Champagne houses are definitely committed to making very fine examples of rosé Champagne. Vintage and non vintage rosé Champagnes were on show from Billecart- Salmon, Bollinger,  Dom Pérignon, Laurent-Perrier, Moët & Chandon, G.H. Mumm, Pol Roger and Veuve Clicquot.

 

Typically, the NV rosé Champagnes command a 30 to 50% price premium above the non rosé bottlings. Why the price differentiation you may ask? Well it turns out that the Champagne houses have had to make … Read the rest

Aug 08 2012

Cool Climate Chardonnay: 3 Great Examples from Australia and New Zealand

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

If you’re still in the ‘anything but chardonnay’ camp, a look at a few very fine examples of the new style of cool climate chardonnay from Australia and New Zealand are likely to change your mind!

As winemaker Andrew Pirie reminded the audience at the Tasmania Unbottled masterclass, chardonnay, the white  wine variety of Burgundy, is actually a cool-climate grape that can be very expressive of its terroir when sensitively handled in the vineyard and winery.

A recent tasting, organised by Single Vineyard Sellers and held at the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney, provided ample evidence that chardonnay can create wines that are balanced, refreshing, complex and elegant.  At a chardonnay  masterclass, winemakers Paddy Borthwick of Paddy Borthwick Winery in Wairarapa, New Zealand, James Kellie of Harewood Estate in the Great Southern and Becca Duffy of Holm Oak in Tamar Ridge guided us through a comparative tasting of their most recent releases.

What was abundantly clear from their comments was that getting the best out of chardonnay from a cool climate is hard work, requiring deft handling both in the vineyard and the winery!

The Borthwick vineyard is located in Wairarapa,  just north of Martinborough at the southern end of the North Island. The chardonnay vines, a mix of four different clones, are around 15 years old. Here the rainfall is low and the free-draining, stony alluvial soils encourage the vines to dig deep for sufficient nutrients and water. Borthwick explained that a flock of sheep are let loose in the vineyard to pluck off the vine leaves so the grape clusters receive more sun exposure – a practice that in this cool, fairly dry climate encourages more flavour concentration in the grapes.

The Paddy Borthwick Chardonnay 2010 is a beautifully structured wine with complex aromas of nectarine 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

Aug 08 2011

The Pros and Cons of Decanting Wine

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

I recently discussed the growing trend of decanting Champagne – even the vintage, expensive stuff! (see The Benefits of Decanting Champagne! Cellarit Blog, 24 August 2011). And as a regular reader of The Wine Front reviews by Campbell Mattinson and Gary Walsh, I’ve noticed that they often come back to a wine a day or two after first opening it. In Mattinson’s review of the Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Merlot 2004, for example, he commented that: “The longer it sat in the glass, the juicier and lengthier it became – and it drank better on day two.” (Wine of the Week: Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Merlot 2004, Cellarit Blog, 25 August 2011).

Hard to believe then that the jury is still out on the value of decanting wine!

In fact, oenologist and Burgundy specialist Professor Emil Peynaud is completely against the idea. He argues that prolonged exposure to oxygen actually diffuses and dissipates more aroma compounds than it stimulates. Better just to pour the wine from the bottle directly into a wine glass and swirl before drinking. (The Australian Wine Encyclopedia by James Halliday, 2009: Hardie Grant Books)

In the days before wine was bottled without filtering or fining, decanting was useful because it helped to separate the clear wine from the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Today, sedimentation can still be an issue for older bottles, but if the wine is very fragile too much exposure to oxygen may cause it to fall apart.

Decanting can soften the tannins in young tannic wines like cabernet sauvigon and shiraz, but how it actually does this is also a matter for debate! Oxidation may just alter the perception of sulfites or other compounds in the wine, making the tannins seem softer.

In any event, serving … 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

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

Feb 02 2011

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon: Art in a Bottle

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

Leeuwin Estate is one of the icon wineries of the Margaret River. Its Art Series Chardonnay is considered on the best in country, but the Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon is also winning high praise from critics and consumers alike.

Of course, when it comes to the Art Series, opening the bottle to taste the ‘art’ inside is not a decision you make lightly. The idea of tossing the empty bottle with its distinctive one-of-a-kind art label into the recycling bin almost seems like a crime. Leeuwin Estate commissions paintings  from leading contemporary Australian artists for each vintage of the Art Series and some of the finest artists in the country, including John Olsen, Clifton Pugh and Imants Tillers, have contributed superb labels over the years.

The current 2005 vintage of the Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon certainly lives up to its quality label. It has the distinctive nose that is characteristic of the best Margaret River vintages: wonderful aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, plum and liquorice complemented by beautifully integrated aromas of new French oak. The palate of sweet and lush fruit is balanced by high acidity and fine-grained tannins, creating an elegant and balanced wine with a long finish.

In the style of a fine Bordeaux: petit verdot, malbec and merlot are typically added in varying proportions to add structure, colour, mid-palate richness, softness and complexity, the wine is designed to age. Gary Walsh of the Wine Front gives the 2005 vintage a drinking window of between 2015 and 2030. (The Wine Front, 5 August 2010)

In 1972 the legendary Californian winemaker Robert Mondavi identified the future site of Leeuwin Estate and then worked as a consultant with Leeuwin Estate founders Denis and Tricia Horgan to establish the vineyard and winery – the first commercial vintage was released in … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Vasse Felix Heytesbury: In the Style of the Finest Bordeaux Blends

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

As I mentioned in my previous post, Vasse Felix, established in 1967, is the oldest commercial winery in the Margaret River. Interestingly, Kevin and Diana Cullen, who planted their experimental vineyards a year earlier than Vasse Felix, helped Tom Cullity acquire the 8 acre Wilyabrup estate that forms the core of the Vasse Felix holdings today. The site, with its gravelly loam, well drained soil and cool sea breezes (Vasse Felix is only 4 km from the coast) is considered ideal for growing cabernet sauvignon grapes in particular.

The winery was bought by the Holmes a Court family in 1987 and Virginia Willcock has been directing the winemaking operations for the the last four years. The cabernet, malbec and shiraz from the original vineyard planted in 1967 are still producing beautiful and consistent fruit. Dry irrigated, Willcock’s describes these old vines as having a distinctive peppy leaf character. Both the cabernet and malbec are used in the winery’s top wine, the Heytesbury red blend.

With the 2007 vintage, the Heytesbury moved towards a more typical Bordeaux style blend: 72 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 15 per cent malbec and 13 per cent petit verdot. The fruit for the Heytesbury is hand picked and after the initial fermentation the wine is drained to oak and basket pressed. All batches are vinified separately and following 18 months maturation in the finest French oak barriques, (92 per cent new) each batch undergoes a rigorous appraisal process to identify the best performing barrels for the final blend.

Lisa Perrotti-Brown of The Wine Advocate awarded the 2007 vintage 92 points:

Possessing a very deep garnet purple color, it’s scented of ripe blackberry and crushed blueberries with some graphite, coffee grounds, cedar and a faint whiff of thyme. Big and fruity in the mouth with refreshing Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Jacob’s Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet: The 2010 Great Australian Red!

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

Jacob’s Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet 2005 was the winner of The Great Australian Red competition in 2010 and also took out the trophy for the Best Shiraz-Dominant blend.

The competition, which was launched in 2006 by UK wine writer Matthew Jukes and Australian wine writer Tyson Stelzer, is a unique wine show because it focuses exclusively on Australian blends of cabernet and shiraz. It has a very rigorous format – the scores of all 13 judges are counted against every wine in the show, and the judges include some of best winemakers in the country. Winemaker judges for the 2010 show were Brian Walsh (Yalumba; Chair of Judges), Jeffrey Grosset (Grosset Wines), Toby Barlow (St Hallett), Michael Fragos (Chapel Hill), Tash Mooney (Fox Gordon), Kym Teusner (Teusner Wines), Joch Bosworth (Battle of Bosworth) and Katie MacAulay (Lion Nathan).

From a commercial perspective, Jacob’s Creek put the shiraz cabernet blend on the map when it introduced the budget priced Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet to UK consumers in the mid 1980s. As a young Aussie expat living in London on a very limited budget in 1985, this great value (ie. cheap) and very drinkable Aussie blend was welcome news to my friends and I. We snapped it up along with thousands of others, making the brand the UK’s top seller.

The Jacob’s Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet is, of course, at the other end of the spectrum to the budget blend. The most recent 2008 vintage retails for around $75 versus $11.50 for the Jacob’s Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet. But by all accounts the extra dollars for the Johann are well worth it.

Named after Johann Gramp, the pioneer of Orlando Wines,  the Johann is Orlando’s flagship wine. It’s produced only from the highest quality shiraz and cabernet  vineyards in South Australia, with … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Wolf Blass Black Label: Still Setting the Benchmark for Red Blended Wine

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

Wolf Blass Black Label, a cabernet shiraz blend, has won the coveted Jimmy Watson Trophy four times. The first win was back in 1974 and given to the Wolf Blass Wines Dry Claret 1973, the very first vintage of the wine. Wolf Blass Wines Dry Claret went on to pick up consecutive trophies for the 1974 and 1975 vintages. Twenty-three years later, when the wine had been relabled as Wolf Blass Black Label, the 1998 vintage scored the Jimmy Watson Trophy for an unprecedented fourth time.

Today, the wine is still being lauded as one of Australia’s great expressions of the uniquely Australian cabernet shiraz blend. The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown singled out Wolf Blass Black Label as a highlight of the cabernet shiraz blends presented at last September’s Wine Australia Landmark Tutorial:

Six of the fourteen wines that were presented to us were Cabernet / Shiraz blends. Amongst the most impressive examples were the Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet / Shirazes from 1987 and 2006. I thought these two wines most clearly demonstrated how well these grapes can complement one another in the South Australian context, with Cabernet lending structural backbone and freshness of flavor profile and acidity when combined with Shiraz’s voluptuous richness. (Shiraz and The Great Australian Blend – Landmark Tutorial Day 2 by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, eRobertParker.com, January 2011)

The Black Label Cabernet Shiraz is the benchmark of Wolf Blass’s red wine portfolio. According to the winery, up to 800 different parcels of fruit, typically from super premium Langhorne Creek and Barossa vineyards, are classified (numerous times from vine to post maturation) and the best possible final blend is then constructed. The components of the blend spend a total of 24 months in new and old French and American oak before blending and bottling, … Read the rest