Monday, October 31, 2011

Wines of the Week - October 13th

This week we feature an Australian Riesling from the Eden Valley, and a couple of reds from recent tastings, one featuring some value wines from Bordeaux's 1995 vintage, and the other a look back at some great Zinfandels from Martinelli.

Rolf Binder Eden Valley Riesling 'Highness' 2010

The white wines at the winery formerly known as Veritas, are made by the late Rolf Binder senior's daughter Christa Deans and she continues to carve out a solid reputation in her own right with a series of excellent whites. While her brother Rolf may get many of the headlines for his Rhone-variety reds, Christa has also done remarkably well, especially with Semillon. However, the Riesling shouldn't be overlooked, and the 2010 was very good drinking with a little sweetness balancing out the high acidity. Probably a little muted a year on now, it still has some lovely lime and floral characters that suggests it will be OK to drink over the next year before it shuts down further. So either drink soonish or wait for its re-emergence around 2017.   

Château de Fieuzal 1995

It was a good selection of wines that were tasted on the night, but this was my pick of the crop out of the 1995 Bordeaux on offer. Belying its lowly price tag, this Pessac-Leognan Cabernet-dominant blend showed plenty of character, and although probably at its peak right now, I would expect that it will be fine to enjoy over the next five years at least.

Martinelli Zinfandel Jackass Vineyard 2002

Martinelli make a number of Zinfandels, including the Jackass Vineyard, and we tasted a number from the middle of Helen Turley's period at the winery, as well as one of the 'Giuseppe and Luisa'. This was the youngest of the four Jackass Vineyard vintages we tried on the night, and it probably benefited from that, although even the oldest (1998) was still a pleasure to drink. The 2002 remains a very large full-bodied wine, but it's 16.5% alcohol doesn't really show, especially if the wine isn't allowed to get too warm. It's certainly very ripe and rich, but it doesn't really stray into Port-territory, remaining a very hedonistic and pleasurable drink.  

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Wines of the Week - October 6th

There was a long list of things to like about being back in Italy in summer, but one pleasure I don't want to understate is the mark-up, or lack thereof, on wines in restaurants, especially for mature wines. In Australia and the USA, too often aged, premium wines tend to experience exponential mark-up, meaning that they are priced well beyond typical drinking for most of us. Not so in Italy, and all of these wines were enjoyed for around $100, or better.

Le Macchiole Paleo 1997

This Bolgheri Cabernet was awarded three glasses back in the 2001 edition of Gambero Rosso, and as its youthful attractiveness and potential has turned into mature realisation, its a very classy package. The nose still offers red fruit and black cherry, while the palate is a beautiful evolved mouthfull with some spicy characters joining the cherry, before finishing long and smooth with well integrated tannins.     

Tenuta Fontodi Flaccianello 2007

One of my favourite wines a decade ago, a series of triumphant vintages and high ratings pushed this wine into special occasion status. Considerably more affordable on its home turf, I took the opportunity to try this in Siena, suspecting that it may still be too young, but determined to see if it was worth the high prices and scores in the US. I wasn't disappointed, although its best days are undoubtedly ahead of it. This is a 100% Sangiovese Super-Tuscan, given at least 18 months of new French oak. Red and black fruit dominate, along with the oak, at this stage, but there are elements of coffee and chocolate already showing and fantastic mouthfeel and balance. Hope I get a chance to drink it again in three years time.

Rocca delle Macie Roccato 1999  

I mentioned this winery a couple of weeks ago when I talked about some of my favourite whites of the trip, and this was another excellent, very affordable wine - in this case awarded three glasses by Gambero Rosso back in their 2003 edition. It can be bought from the cellar door, almost as though it was the current release...wish that happened more often. This wine was a lovely mature blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet, drinking at its peak now. Made in a fairly international style, but still offering some clues as to the place of origin.  

Previous week.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wines of the Week - September 29th

Following on from last week's discussion of some of the white wine highlights from our recent trip to Italy, this week looks at the reds.

Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico del Vulture 2007  

One of the leading wineries in Campania, this Sorbo Serpico based producer puts out a fine collection of whites, headed by the fantastic Fiano di Avellino Pietracalda, but also produce some interesting and delicious reds. The 2007 Aglianico del Vulture, is as the name suggests, made from the ancient Aglianico grape, and grown in the Vulture region of  neighbouring Basilicata. It is a robust, full bodied red, with plenty of red berry fruit and an attractive earth quality. Very enjoyable, and a good accompaniment to grilled meat.

Fattoria Nittardi Chianti Classico Casanuova di Nittardi 2008

The Casanuova di Nittardi is one of those wines that are distinctive for their artists' labels. As with any series, some are better than others, and the 2008 certainly wouldn't be my top choice. (The series can be seen here, with some images such as '86 and '90 perhaps not safe for work.) However, the 2008 wine is a winner, offering some pretty aromatics, with floral notes mingling with red fruit aromas, while the full-bodied palate is well balanced and delicious, with light tannins smoothing the way to an agreeable finish.

Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Castello di Fonterutoli 2007  

The Mazzei family have owned this historic winery for over 500 years, and that counts for a lot, even in such a historic region. The restaurant, on the little hill overlooking the cellar door on the other side of the road, is well worth seeking out for a very pleasant lunch. The 2007 edition (note the labal changed from this vintage) of Fonterutoli's flagship wine is also well worth seeking out, although its day of drinking is probably best postponed. That said, it is still very drinkable now, especially if you have time to let it sit in the decanter first. With time, the nose develops, showing plum and dried berries, while the well-rounded palate is a harmonious blend of ripe fruit and tart cherry, with the structure to suggest this will be better in around 4-5 years.   

Previous week.

Wines of the Week - September 22nd

Over the next few weeks I'm going to take the opportunity to comment on some of my favourite wines for our recent trip to Italy. We spent two weeks in Tuscany and Campania, and although I could limit myself to the wines from those regions, as that was mostly what we drank, I won't just list the three best Fiano's...perhaps another time. Next week we will look at the reds.

Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino Radici 2010 

This winery produces a strong line up of value wines, headlined by the Taurasi Radici reds. However, their whites are also very impressive, none more so than this Fiano. The 2009 was highly reagrded in the Gambero Rosso guide, and the 2010 surely will be as well. The nose has a lovely blend of citrus and tropical fruits, which gives way to a beautifully balanced palate, showing complexity and a lovely mouthfeel with a long minerally finish.

Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Forberg Riserva 2007

 I picked up this wine in the first wine shop I walked into, as I have long been an admirer of this Alto Adige winery. Their whites in particular, are frequently exquisite, and age very well. The Pinot Bianco Forberg Riserva 2007 is a beautifully complex wine, with a distinctive mineral and smoky nature, adding to the fruit and yeasty characteristics.   

Rocca delle Macie Vernaccia di San Gimignano '10  

Perhaps not the trendiest winery, but across a large range they make some excellent wines, both affordable and available. The 2010 Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a great follow up to the excellent value-for-money '09, offering white fruit, lemon and minerality, on a light, lively frame. Unlike some wines of this style, it finishes with a well-balanced cleanliness that makes it an enjoyable wine all round. 

Previous week.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wines of the Week - September 15th

Albert Bichot Meursault Domaine du Pavillon 2007

It's easy to pay a lot of money for wines from Burgundy, but the trick is in finding good value wines while you're waiting for your wealthier friends to open up their top bottles. A leading village wine from a renowned producer in a great vintage is a handy place to start, and so this wine proves. The winery provides an abundance of material on their wines, so you can see in-depth details here. Suffice to say, it is a very pleasant wine - take care not to serve too cold or you'll lose some of the delicate pear and floral nose - that can be enjoyed over the next three years or so.  

Vina Von Siebenthal Carmenere Gran Reserva 2007

Another excellent value offering from Von Siebenthal, this single vineyard Carmenere (along with 15% Cabernet) packs plenty of punch for around $15. Very rich and full-bodied, it has enough restraint to remain balanced and enjoyable with a range of foods, while providing plenty of pleasure for those just having a drink. The winery is based in Chile's Aconcagua Valley, with the Carmenere grown in the sandy, stony soils of the hills above the plain.

Prieuré de Montézargues Tavel 2010

 There was no shortage of Rosé floating around here over Summer, and this was one of the best. The winery is owned by the Richard family, who also own one of my favourite Chateauneuf-du-Pape wineries, Château La Nerthe. This is a complex blend, primarily of (red and white) Grenache and Cinsault. Combining strawberry, cherry and some dried-flower characters, this wine has plenty of attraction while finishing dry enough to prevent it from getting cloying.

Previous week.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wines of the Week - September 8th

This week, we have three Italians, showcasing a Tuscan blend, an ancient white, and a Piemonte Dolcetto.

Barone Ricasoli Casalferro 2006

Although I should know better, I couldn’t resist an early peak at this now five year old  Super Tuscan. A blend of Sangiovese (70%) and Merlot (30%), the wine spends 18 months in French oak and is definitely a modern style Chianti wine. It had a while in the decanter, but could have done with longer as it continued to improve in the glass over the evening. The oak is prominent on the nose, along with berry and floral characters. The palate is a mixture of sour cherry and cranberry, with a little earth and chocolate peeking through. Nice structure and mouthfell, I’ll be doing my best to enjoy my remaining bottles over the next five years or so.

Terredora di Paolo Greco di Tufo Loggia della Serra 2009

The Terredora winery, based in Campania, makes a wide range of wines including this excellent single vineyard white from the Greco bianco grape. Apparently named for its introduction by Greek colonists nearly 3000 years ago, along with its preferred locations around the town of Tufo, the grape can produce aromatic yet weighty wines showing a nice mineral streak. Terredora have produced a winner here, with a well balanced wine marrying a backbone of acidity, good palate weight with stone fruit and a dry, almost nutty finish.

Giovanni Manzone Dolcetto d'Alba Le Serra 2008

The winery's website might suggest they're on the modern side in Piemonte, but perhaps it is Giovanni Manzone's son, Mauro, who is responsible for the very flash internet site. Giovanni is well known as a respecter of the region's history, going so far as to make a small production run of a white from the rare Rossese Bianco grape. The Dolcetto from the La Serra vineyard has plenty of old school about it too, with some tar and violet aromatics, plenty of structure and weight, and a slightly grippy finish. Definitely a wine to take you into winter, rather than a slightly chilled summer red.

Previous week.

Wines of the Week - September 1st

A favourite Aussie red, a superb Italian white, and a value German Riesling...

Petaluma Coonawarra 2007

Predominately a Cabernet-Merlot blend, this iconic Australian red made by winemaker Andrew Hardy also incorporates some Shiraz and Petit Verdot. Still showing a youthful purple in the glass, the nose is surprisingly soft, balancing the oak with plenty of ripe fruit, showing its 37% Merlot, as well as characteristic Coonawarra mint. The Petit Verdot adds some attractive floral notes. A well balanced pleasurable wine already, this should evolve nicely over the next 5-10 years.

Pievalta Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2010

Marche-based Pievalta has been owned by Barone Pizzini for some years now, and the fruits of the professional, biodynamic approach of the parent is paying off handsomely. The 2009 version of this wine garnered three glasses from Gamberro Rosso, and the 2010 is another excellent interpretation. Already showing some elegant complexity to accompany its floral characteristics, this well structured 100% Verdicchio should continue to develop nicely in the next couple of years.

J. Baumer Rheingau Riesling 2009

Originally established by Joachim Bäumer, the winery has been owned by the Ress family for over 50 years, and this wine is produced by local growers under contract to the owners. The quality is great for the price, and offers plenty of pleasure on a warm afternoon. Plenty of acidity, with lime dominating the citrus flavours, and some underlying peach ripeness providing enough sweetness to make for easy sipping.  

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Wines of the Week - August 25th

Last days of Summer...Italian Sauvignon Blanc, a Rosé from France and a German Riesling..

Venica & Venica Collio Sauvignon ‘Ronco del Cerò’ 2009

The Venica & Venica winery dates back to 1930, when the current owners’ grandfather, Daniele, started what has become one of Friuli Venezia Giulia’s shining lights under the direction of brothers Gianni and Giorgio. This wine is a stainless-steel fermented 100% Sauvignon Blanc from seven different vineyards, and takes its name from the hill originally purchased by Daniele. A complex Sauvignon Blanc - very enjoyable in the tail-end of summer but will drink well for some time - the subtle aromas of passion fruit and gooseberries are complemented by spice notes.

Domaine de l'Abbaye Cotes de Provence Rosé Clôs Beylesse 2010

With a wife who loves a good Rosé in hot weather, summer brought a veritable swathe of light reds my way over summer. Some may have been enjoyable at the time, but didn’t necessarily warrant a return visit, but that can not be said of the Clos Beylesse.  Unusually contained in a striking blue bottle, it catches the eye, even if it doesn’t scream Rosé. Accordingly, the wine is far more subtle than many of the sweet pinks floating around, its pale-pink colouring setting the scene for a decidedly elegant and balanced palate, yet with a pleasantly floral nose. 
Bassermann-Jordan Riesling QbA Trocken 2009

Based in Deidesheim, the Basserman-Jordan wine estate has been a family-run enterprise for nearly 300 years. Their 2009 dry (trocken) Riesling is a lovely pale lemon with noticeable small carbon-dioxide bubbles in the glass. Pronounced aromatics, dominated by ripe peach, with subtle floral notes. The palate starts out quite dry, but with a slight balancing sweetness on the finish. Medium-high acidity with slightly prominent alcohol leading to a more full-bodied style of dry Riesling, with flavours of green apple and peach. A good wine for the price, it offers plenty of enjoyment. Best for current drinking.