Tag: The Wine Front

Jun 06 2016

Do you write wine reviews?

Posted on June 06, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Don’t know about you, but I never book accommodation without checking reviews on Tripadvisor or buy a book without having a look at what people are saying about it on Goodreads. But I can’t say that I’m very good about checking consumer reviews on wine. And I’m starting to wonder why not?

I’m in the fortunate position of being able to attend quite a few wine related events where I meet lots of interesting wine lovers, many of whom possess a staggering amount of knowledge about wine. Perhaps, we have a general reluctance to broadcast our thoughts about a great wine we’ve discovered because we fear others might snap it up and (oh no!) encourage the producer to jack up the price!

winefront-logo-grey-BLUE1But a recent article by Huon Hooke in The Real Review, Winemaker criticises paid wine reviews, has got me thinking about whether consumer reviews should play a greater role in our wine purchasing decisions? Hooke mentions that winemaker Michael Glover, previously Bannockburn’s famed winemaker, and now working at Mahana in the Nelson Region, has taken a stand against the practice of ‘paid for’ reviews. He wants greater transparency for wine consumers. As Hooke notes, the practice of paying for a good review is fortunately not as prevalent in Australia as it is in New Zealand, but it should worry us nonetheless.

As a subscriber to quite a wine review websites, I am very impressed by the integrity of Australia’s top wine critics. Hooke recently teamed up with wine critic Bob Campbell MW to create The Real Review Alliance, which they describe “an alliance to promote and differentiate our approach to wine reviews.”  Tellingly, they are “taking a stand for even-handed, transparent, ethical and independent reviewing.”

The team at The Wine Front, led by Campbell … Read the rest

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

Jul 07 2012

Wine of the Week: Kalleske Greenock Basket Press Shiraz 2003 – the new Rockford!

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

In his review of the Kalleske Greenock Basket Press Shiraz 2003, Campbell Mattinson of The Wine Front referred to Kalleske as the “new Rockford:”

If the first set of Kalleske red releases were good, this release has an element of paydirt about it. From a not-so-great vintage, the statement stands true: Kalleske, from a wine quality viewpoint, is the new Rockford.

The wine it’s got a brooding, dark, slightly volatile nose, which when you sink your mouth into it seems fitting. The palate is weighty, brooding, black and intense, with chewy, strong, muscular tannins and a sandy, stony, minerally draw through the finish. Graphite, vanilla, licorice and chocolate – they have a part here, but as little more than a background echo. It’s the dry, stony finish that’s a killer. This is high quality, special-patch-of-dirt-stuff. It is a powerful wine with intense flavours of dark rose, licorice, cocoa and sweet tobacco supported by fine ripe tannins. A wine with a strong backbone and a long finish that will cellar for a long time. 94 points. (The Wine Front 1 January 2005)

The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker concurred with Mattinson’s high praise for the wine.  After tasting a barrel sample, Parker remarked that “the 2003 Shiraz Greenock appears to be a virtually perfect wine. If it makes it into the bottle with minimal clarification, it will be one of the leading candidates for Barossa’s “Shiraz of the Vintage” in 2003.” (Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #155 October 2004)

The Kalleske family have been farming and growing grapes since 1853 near the village of Greenock. In the early 2000s seventh generation member and winemaker Troy Kalleske joined forces with his brother Tony to start making wine under the family’s own label. Troy and Tony’s parents John and Lorraine have been tending the vineyards … 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

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

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

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

Apr 04 2012

De Bortoli Highlights Regional Focus of the Windy Peak Range

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

Over the past 20 years dozens of new Australian wine regions have been discovered, and many of these regions are now flourishing. Just look, for example, at the success of wines from Orange, Geelong, the Great Southern and the Canberra District. Even within regions winemakers are becoming far more attuned to the nuances of terroir and how subtle differences can influence the character of the wine.

Consumers are also becoming more terroir savvy. I have friends who say they prefer the tropical fruit flavours and crisp acidity of Orange sauvignon blanc, for example, even if they can’t recall exactly which wines they’ve tried.

Family-run De Bortoli, one of Australia’s best independent producers, has re-labeled its entry level Windy Peak brand, and now the region where the wine is made is clearly displayed on the label. De Bortoli owns substantial vineyards in the Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley, King Valley, the Riverina and even has a vineyard in Marlborough, New Zealand.

The move to include the region on the Windy Peak label looks like smart marketing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s recognition that even the budget-minded consumer is becoming more discerning about where and how a wine is made. Secondly, it highlights that Windy Peak is a quality product sourced from De Bortoli’s own vineyards. (Unlike some of those wines I’ve seen from the so-called critter brands – you know, the ones with the cute little marsupials on the label – that vaguely state that the wine is from ‘south eastern Australia’!)

De Bortoli launched the new label for the Windy Peak range at a luncheon in Sydney at Matt Moran’s and Peter Sullivan’s new Woollahra venture Chiswick. The setting reminded me of a stylish but comfortable Southern Highlands home. Our room overlooked a beautiful lawn and a … Read the rest