Tag: HuonHooke.com

Jul 07 2012

Woodlands ‘Margaret’: Sharing the Pedestal with the World’s Top Bordeaux Blends

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

Australian wines don’t often feature on the cover of the prestigious British wine magazine Decanter. So to see the Woodlands ‘Margaret’  grace the cover of the May edition, and to be placed in the company of the acclaimed Ridge Monte Bello from Santa Cruz and Pomeral’s celebrated Château Clinet, is a good sign of the high regard the rest of the world has for Australian Bordeaux blends. Indeed, in the introduction to the feature article, ‘New World classics to cellar,” Stephen Spurrier writes that “The banks of the Gironde aren’t the only places to find quality, ageworthy Bordeaux blends. The US, Australia, Argentina and Chile are all worthy of a spot in any collector’s cellar.”

Huon Hooke, who wrote the section on the Australian wines, states upfront that “Historically, Australia has made a better fist of pure Cabernet Sauvignon than it has Bordeaux-style Cabernet blends.” But he highlights some stand-out wines that prove the exception to the rule: Cullen’s Diana Madeline and Vasse Felix’s Heytesbury from the Margaret River, Mount Mary QuintetYarra Yering’s Dry Red No. 1, Wantirna Estate’s Amelia and Hannah blends and Yeringberg’s five way blend Yerinberg from the Yarra, and the Hunter Valley’s Lake’s Folly Cabernets.

While the Woodlands ‘Margaret’, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec, may not have the stature of Hooke’s top picks, it would undoubtedly be included on a slightly longer list of Australia’s best Bordeaux blends. And Hooke’s observation that “still today, most Australian wineries that produce both pure Cabernet Sauvignon and a Bordeaux blend – usually a Cabernet Melot – reserve their best Cabernet grapes for the pure wine, age it in better oak for longer, and sell it a higher price, often with extra bottle age,” certainly rings true for the Woodlands range. Its … Read the rest

May 05 2012

Reviews for Penfolds Grange 2007

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

Reviews for the Penfolds Grange 2007 are starting to trickle in. As you may recall, the 2006 Grange was a stellar vintage. Andrew Caillard MW of Langton’s gave the wine a perfect score of 100 points, rating the 2006 Grange as the best vintage since 2004.

2006 was always going to be a hard act to follow, especially since the 2007 vintage was plagued by drought, high summer temperatures and severe frosts early in the growing season. Of course, only the best quality fruit is used for the Grange, and Penfolds has the luxury of being able to source prime material from different sites and regions. The 2007 is a blend of 97 per cent shiraz and 3 per cent cabernet sauvignon.

Grange is definitely not a wine designed to be imbibed upon release, and early reviews and scores are often revised as the wine ages. As the influential American wine critic Robert Parker commented, Grange is a wine that ages at a “glacial pace.” His Wine Advocate regularly re-tastes the wine at 3-7 year intervals, updating reviews and, most importantly, the crucial point scores.

Usually point scores and reviews for Grange tend to improve as the wine ages, but sometimes they dip and then come up again. Like a great Bordeaux, some vintages of Grange have a propensity to ‘close down’ and then ‘re-emerge’ after several more years of cellaring.

The Wine Advocate’s reviews of the celebrated 1990 Grange, for example, are a case in point. (Incidentally, this was the vintage that was named ‘Red Wine of the Year’ by the Wine Spectator magazine in 1995 – the first time it chose a wine outside of France or California!)

In his 1995 review of the 1990 vintage, Parker remarked that “The 1990 is the greatest, most complete and richest … Read the rest

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 … Read the rest