Tag: Tyson Stelzer

Nov 11 2013

Taittinger Champagne: Few can compete in terms of value and cachet!

Posted on November 11, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Taittinger’s Australian distributor, McWilliam’s Wines, recently hosted a dinner to showcase the Taittinger Champagne range in the splendid dining room of the Sydney’s Pullman Quay Grand overlooking the Harbour Bridge. Champagne expert Tyson Stelzer was on hand to talk about the historic Champagne House – the 6th largest in Champagne and one of the few remaining independent, family-owned and managed estates.

Apart from the excellent selection of Taittinger non-vintage and vintage Champagnes, matched beautifully to a four course menu, Stelzer’s superb commentary on Taittinger and Champagne, in general, made for a truly memorable evening.



Stelzer’s most recent edition of The Champagne Guide 2014 – 2015 has been winning rave reviews. The Sydney Morning Herald’s wine critic Huon Hooke described it as perhaps “the most useful book ever written on France’s prestige sparkling wine, Champagne.” (Champagne tour de force: The best guide to Champagne ever written turns out to be the work of an Aussie from Brissie, Good Food, SMH, 15 October 2013.)

Taittinger chalk cavesHere are a few reasons why, according to Stelzer, Taittinger deserves to be considered one of the very best Champagne houses in the world:

  • Taittinger’s flagship wine, the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs may not have the profile of illustrious peers like Moet et Chandon’s Dom Perignon or Veuve Cliquot’s La Grande Dame, but Champagne connoisseurs generally regard this 100% chardonnay wine as one of the best and most age worthy wines in Champagne. We were extremely fortunate to enjoy the spectacular 2002 vintage, sourced from the best grand crus vineyards in the Côte des Blanc and disgorged in February 2012 after more than a decade under lees in Taittinger’s vast cold Roman built chalk caves in Reims.
  • The excellent value Taittinger Brut Reserve NV is essentially a vintage wine, and
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Aug 08 2012

Captain Barossa: A Winning Formula for Growers!

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

The winemaker with the acumen behind the Captain Barossa venture is a mystery man. As Tyson Stelzer reports in a very interesting article for the most recent edition of Gourmet Traveller Wine, Captain Barossa has deliberately decided to keep a low profile because he wants to focus attention away from the winemaker and onto the ‘real heroes’ – the Barossa growers and their vineyards. (Saluting the Captain by Tyson Stelzer, Gourmet Traveller Wine, August/September 2012)

Captain Barossa believes the growers have never received the recognition or financial compensation they deserve. Certainly in recent years, a confluence of circumstances, including the world-wide wine glut, the GFC and the high Aussie dollar, haven’t made life easy for growers.

Committed to giving the growers a fair go, Captain Barossa pays $3,000 per tonne for top quality fruit, which is more than twice the going rate. But more than altruism is at play in Captain Barossa’s desire to keep his growers happy. As he told Stelzer, “My core belief is that great wine demands great fruit and paying good prices allows [the growers] to keep the cropping levels low, invest in best practice and produce better fruit.”

To date, four independent growers are part of the Captain Barossa venture, and the names of their vineyards are all prominently featured on the labels: De Fazio, Greenock (Angelo De Fazio); AK, Konnunga (Andy Kalleske); Elytra, Eden Valley (Phil and Sarah Lehmann) and Mackenzie, Williamstown (James and Islay Mackenzie).

Most of the vignerons come from winemaking or grape growing families. Their stories on the Captain Barossa website are fun to read, reflecting both passion and respect not just for their vineyards but for the surrounding environment in general. Phil and Sarah Lehmann, for example, released 3000+ Bubas bison dung beetles into the vineyard to naturally … 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

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. British wine critic Matthew Jukes said that the 2006 Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvée was the finest offering from this specialist producer to date. Tyson Stelzer, author of the Champagne Guide 2011, referred to the Premium Vintage Rosé 2007, which I also enjoyed, as a poor man’s Krug Rosé. (Matthew Jukes, 100 Best Australian Wines – 2011)

The comparison to one of the greatest names in Champagne seems apt given that Jansz was originally launched in 1986 as a specialist sparkling producer by Graham Wiltshire and Bill Fesq of the Tamar Valley’s Heemskerk Winery and the famous Champagne House of Louis Roederer. The head of Louis Roederer, Jean-Claude Rouzard, was personally involved in establishing the vineyard, planting it with the classic varieties of chardonnay and pinot noir. Today Jansz is owned by Yalumba’s Hill Smith family, and since 2001 Natalie Fryar has served as Winemaker.

Heemskerk and Louis Roederer were the first to recognise that the ultra-cool climate of Northern Tasmania’s Tamar Valley was ideal for growing grapes for sparkling wines. The maritime influence of Bass Strait keeps temperatures low and creates enough humidity for a long and gentle ripening period, enabling the wines to develop intense, delicate and refined flavours and a lingering, mouthwatering juicy acidity that is essential … Read the rest

Dec 12 2010

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: Top Producers Create an Exciting Alternative Style!

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

A few years ago, I helped a friend, a superb amateur chef and wine connoisseur, prepare a gourmet charity dinner for ten. He chose the Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2007 to complement his signature dish of roasted garlic prawns with a slow roasted giant gourmet cherry tomato.

Last Friday night, different friends also chose a New Zealand sauvignon blanc to complement another wonderful roasted prawn dish. This time the wine of choice was the Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2004 and it was served with roasted prawns in a delicious chilli and sauvignon blanc sauce – a dish inspired by our friends’ recent travels in Spain.

I was absolutely mesmerised by the Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc. So different from any other sauvignon blanc I had ever tried. Full bodied with beautifully balanced and integrated oak, I wasn’t even sure at first that I was drinking sauvignon blanc!

Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc is one of a number of high quality New Zealand wines that exemplify an alternative style of sauvignon blanc. If you’re bored with the immensely popular fruity style of sauvignon blanc or even prefer chardonnay, then a wine like Te Koko with its complex, creamy palate of delicate citrus fruits and nutty, savoury overtones will very likely change your opinion of the variety.

The name Te Koko is the original Maori name for Cloudy Bay, and it seems particularly apt given that in 1991 Te Koko was the winery’s first experiment with the use of indigenous yeasts.

Today, the wine is not released until three years after the initial fermentation to allow time for all of the components to be fully integrated. After a slow ‘natural’ (wild yeasts) barrel fermentation (only 10 per cent new French oak), a spontaneous malolactic fermentation is allowed … Read the rest