Tag: Jancis Robinson

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

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

May 05 2012

Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir: A Profound Expression of a Very Special Terroir

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

In his review of the Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir 2010 The Wine Front’s Mike Bennie sets the scene: “One of those holy grail sites in the Australian wine landscape – half of one hectare, quartz riddled, sits the right way for sun, angels sing, dogs howl, a single dove rests with the weight of a feather, precariously on a vine, as a rainbow arcs across the sky and a unicorn appears. That kind of thing.” (The Wine Front, 13 September 2011)

Bennie’s description of Bindi’s Block 5 vineyard in the Macedon ranges reminded me of that famous photo of Burgundy’s Romanée-Conti vineyard with the old stone Cross on the vineyard wall. The Romanée-Conti vineyard originally belonged to the Abbey of Saint Vivant, and the medieval monks approached their vineyard lands as almost hallowed ground, believing each individual vineyard site was a unique expression of God’s handiwork.

Oh, the romance and mystique of the single vineyard! Bindi’s Block 5 is up there with Henschke’s Hill of Grace as one of Australia’s most famous vineyard sites. And just as the wine from Romanée-Conti vineyard is different in character from its neighbour across the road, La Tâche, according to Bindi’s winemaker Michael Dhillon, the wine from Block 5 is “always darker in fruit expression and immediately more spicy and earthy than [Bindi’s] Original Vineyard. It is less immediately perfumed and has more tannin and fruit power. The wines from this vineyard require more bottle ageing to develop the same suppleness and delicacy as the Original Vineyard but even in their youth these wines are more profound.” Yes, the analogy to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti does indeed seem apt.

In her review of the 2009 vintage of Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir, Jancis Robinson remarked that “you’d be thrilled by this … Read the rest

Apr 04 2012

Australian Chardonnay: New style creates excitement on the world stage!

Posted on April 04, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a recent article in Purple Pages, British wine critic Jancis Robinson stated that “Chardonnay is arguably the varietal that Australia is best at currently. At least, to palates raised on wines produced outside Australia, particularly European wines.” She notes that many new examples of Australian chardonnay are tighter and leaner than they used to be, and in Europe these wines are filling a gap left by people avoiding White Burgundy because of the yet unsolved problem of premature oxidation. (Fine Australian Chardonnays rated blind 18 Apr 2012 by Jancis Robinson (For more information on the issue of premature oxidation of Burgundian wines, see A Few Interesting Facts about Burgundy: Masterclass with Burghound Allen Meadows, Cellarit Wine Blog, 13 March 2012)

On a recent visit to Australia, the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman also picked up on the trend towards what he describes as chardonnays with less alcohol, less obvious oak, more savoury flavours and smoother textures from wild ferments and ageing on less. “Prevailing opinion suggests,” he remarked after meeting with Australian winemakers, wine writers and sommeliers, “that an emerging style modeled more on white Burgundy may supersede Australia’s reputation for making broad, big-fruit Chardonnays.” 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)

Neither critic, however, was dismissive of the depth, power and elegance of the best examples of the older style of Australian chardonnay. Robinson singled out “unashamedly full-on wines” like the Giaconda Chardonnay 2008 and the Hunter Valley’s Harkham Aziza’s Chardonnay 2011 as highlights of a recent tasting of 35 Australian chardonnays. Harvey Steiman was rhapsodic about a recent vintage of Devil’s Lair from the Margaret River, which displayed “rich fruit – pineapple, pear, tropical fruits – layered … Read the rest

Aug 08 2011

Billecart-Salmon Champagne: All about “Finesse, balance and elegance”

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

According to the Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni, Billecart-Salmon makes Champagnes that are all about “timeless elegance,” “crystalline purity” and “supreme balance.”

“Finesse, balance and elegance” is in fact the tag line of Billecart-Salmon, an independent medium-sized Champagne house based in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ that is still run by the descendents of the original 1818 founders Nicolas Francois Billecart and his wife Elisabeth Salmon.

Champagne Billecarte-Salmon produces around 1.7 million bottles annually from fruit sourced from approximately 200 hectares of vineyards in Champagne. More than half the vineyards are in the hands of independent growers, with whom Billecart-Salmon has worked for several generations.

Their top cuvee, the vintage Blanc de Noirs Le Clos Saint-Hilaire is from a family-owned one hectare vineyard of pinot noir that was planted in 1964. Typically, the fruit is fermented at relatively low temperatures to preserve freshness and fruit identity – primary fermentation can take up to six weeks!  The wine may or may not undergo a malolactic fermentation depending on vintage, and in some years no dosage is added to the wine in order to preserve its acidity. Admired for the freshness of its fruit and its delicate, complex aromas, each bottle is numbered and usually no more than 7,000 are made in only top years.

The Cuvée Nicolas Francois Billecart, a blend of 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay, is a more exuberant wine than the Le Clos Saint-Hilaire. Depending on vintage a small percentage of the wine, typically around 20 percent, is aged in French oak barrels. In 1999, the Cuvée Nicolas-Francois Billecart 1959 was voted Champagne of the Millennium at a blind tasting of 150 of the finest 20th century champagnes.

The House’s non-vintage Champagnes, which make up about 60 percent of production, are also very highly regarded. British wine … Read the rest

Feb 02 2011

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon: A World Class Wine

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

In 2007 a bottle from the inaugural 1973 vintage of the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon (only 250 cases were made) sold at Langton’s for a record $2,301!

Perhaps not surprising for a wine that is widely considered the benchmark Margaret River cabernet sauvignon and a standout on the world stage. Jancis Robinson reported that the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 was the pick of the night at a blind tasting of eleven 2001 Bordeaux style blend wines organised for 36 wine lovers at the 2008 World Economic Forum. It beat some pretty serious competition, including the Napa Valley’s famed Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate and even Chateau Lafite! (Jancis Robinson MW on the Davos Tasting, JancisRobinson.com reprinted in Moss Wood, Late Autumn News, Issue 66, May 2008)

In my previous post, Margaret River: Australia’s Answer to Bordeaux?, I mentioned that the Margaret River experiences far less vintage variation than Bordeaux due to more reliable weather patterns. But I don’t want you to think that vintage isn’t important or that Margaret River winemakers don’t face serious challenges in the vineyards that require considerable skill and management.

In a very interesting interview with the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin, Keith Mugford, who has co-owned Moss Wood with his wife Clare since 1985 and first started making wine for Moss Wood back in 1978, singled out the following years as the best vintages: 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 1996, 2001 and 2005. He explained that these were the years that the wines obtain “mulberry and black fruits, cigar and a touch of leafiness.” Cool years, such as the 1982, 1987, 2002 and 2006 vintages, produced wines with a fine texture, less concentration and according to Mugford a ‘gritty astringency’. Hot years, which include the 1976, 2000 and 2007 vintages, have a ‘sumptuous generosity’ … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Urban Encroachment Threatens McLaren Vale

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s most renowned wine regions. Clarendon Hills, d’Arenberg, Fox Creek, Noon Winery, Mitolo Wines, Hardys, Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards and Wirra Wirra are just few of the celebrated wineries to have cellar doors in McLaren Vale.

You may have seen in the press that influential wine critics James Halliday and Jancis Robinson have voiced their disapproval to a development proposal that would see the construction of  a shopping mall and large housing estate on prime vineyard land in the area. (Jancis Robinson joins fight against McLaren Vale development by Rebecca Gibb, Decanter.com 6 October 2010. Wine critic joins Seaford Heights fight by Sarah Garvis, Southern Times Messenger 28 September 2010)

Ironically, no vineyards are currently planted on the proposed 170 ha Seaford Heights development site even though a geological study has shown that the land has some of the most suitable soils for viticulture in the whole region – a combination of 650 million-year-old sandstone and silt.

The local government of the city of Onkaparinga has rejected the planning proposal, labelling the land as “rural” rather than “residential”, and handed it over to the South Australian Development and Planning Minister Paul Holloway, who will make a decision in mid-October as to whether or not the proposal is worth pursuing.

As McLaren Vale is only 45 minutes from the centre of Adelaide, it risks becoming a victim of urban sprawl. Like many other Australian capital cities, Adelaide is looking at ways to accommodate significant population growth. A report just released by the State’s Housing and Employment Land Supply Program advocates increasing Adelaide’s population by 560,000 people by 2040 and opening up new development areas to house them. (Major development timetable announced for Adelaide by Planning Minister Paul Holloway by Daniel Wills, Hannah Silverman, Adelaide … Read the rest