Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wines of the week - March 22nd

This week we focus on some wines that are high in acidity, and while they are all capable of being enjoyed in their youth, they are all built to outlast many red wines.

Lanson Champagne Gold Label Brut 1996

The Lanson Champagne house was founded in 1760 by François Delamotte, eventually changing its name to Lanson in 1837. The late 20th century saw a number of ownership changes, before the eventual creation of Lanson-BCC in 2006, under the control of Bruno Paillard (see October 20th). A rare case purchase of Champagne for me, I've been enjoying this wine for around seven years now, and remain astonished at how youthful it can seem.A bottle at Xmas was quite spiky with bracingly fresh acidity, but this bottle, from a friend's cellar, was considerably more friendly and enjoyable. There was still plenty of acidity and citrus notes, but rounded out by some biscuit and nutty characters that provided a tremendously elegant and refreshing champagne. Hopefully with a few more years in the cellar, my last bottles will end up in such a happy place.

Domaine Huet Clos de Bourg Sec 2009

A few months ago I had Huet's Haut-Lieu 2009, and I've been looking forward to trying the Clos de Bourg ever since. The wine didn't disappoint, although it is still very youthful. There's a slightly sweet attack, but the acidity quickly tames that and the wine finishes dry with good length for a young Vouvray. Shows honey, citrus and minerality characters in abundance, but will only get better in the coming years.

Didier Dagueneau Silex 2004

An early contender for my white wine of the year, this was a reminder of how great a loss Didier Dagueneau's untimely death was back in 2008. For those used to the passionfruit bombs of New World Sauvignon Blancs, it would be hard to reconcile the Silex as being the same grape, although it's almost a world away from run of the mill Pouilly-Fume too. The nose displays lots of grapefruit with some underlying herbaceous characters, while the palate shows great complexity, with grapefruit, lime and melon competing with a tremendous mineral intensity. The mouth feel is rich and powerful for a white wine with so much acidity and focus. Not cheap, but worth he occasional splurge.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Wines of the week - March 15th

This week I'm highlighting three wines from a Sicilian wine dinner on Monday. See here for the full write-up at the DeadReds website. The wine industry in Sicily has recently been going through some major upheavals, with plummeting grape prices and huge vine pulls, but increasing quality will hopefully help mitigate reduced quantity. Obviously there will be some winners and losers as things shake out.

Gulfi Nerobaronj 2005

Ragusa-based Gulfi bottle a series of individual cru Nero d’Avolas, each showcasing their own terroir. The Nerobaronj is where the winery believes the “lively tartness of Nero d’Avola is its clearest”, and thus is a good match for food with a bit of fat content. At the dinner it was successfully paired with seared tuna. There was plenty of intense fruit underpinning some earthy complexity which came together well in an enjoyably rustic kind of way.

Palari Faro 2006

This elegant wine is from the tiny Faro DOC in Messina, and is a habitual Tre Biccheri achiever in Gambero Rosso’s Italian wine guide. It is a blend of the idigenous grapes Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera and Acitana. Extremely well made, it encompasses berry and black fruit with licorice and dried herbs, before a long, smooth finish. Well worth seeking out, but not cheap.

De Bartoli Superiore Oro ‘Vigna La Miccia’ 

The last glass of the night was the unfashionable - but surely due for a turn in the spotlight - Sicilian drink, Marsala. This was serious sipping stuff, in the form of a De Bartoli Superiore Oro ‘Vigna La Miccia’. Interesting and enjoyable, quite dry and with oxidised characters, it’s closer to Sherry than my revered sweeter Australian stickies, but I could have easily been persuaded to have a second with another Cannolo. It wasn't to be that night, but it won't be long.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wines of the week - March 8th

The wine world might look look like a big place, but it can be surprisingly small. It doesn't take six degrees of separation to get from a Walla Walla Viognier to an Adelaide red with a twist.

Seven Hills Columbia Valley Viognier 2010
Fourth generation farmer Casey McLellan runs one of the oldest wineries in Washington's Walla Walla region, consistently turning out high quality reds from a number of different sites throughout the region, with a focus on Bordeaux varietals. However, when it comes to whites it's not Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, but Alsace varietals Pinot Gris and Riesling, as well as Viognier from the Rhone that can be found in the downtown Walla Walla tasting room. The 2010 Viognier, made from Columbia Valley fruit, shows nice restraint, avoiding heat and overt floral characters, with spicy notes mingling with pear and peach, before a lovely smooth finish. 

Salomon-Undhof Grüner Veltliner Hochterrassen 2010

There's a link to a different Seven Hills with this wine - based in Austria's Niederosterreich region, Salomon-Undhof's owners are Bert and Gertrud Salomon. Lovers of Australian reds, they founded Salomon Estate in South Australia in 1995, before combining it with running Salomon-Undhof in 2002. Long before they were racking up frequent flyer miles, Bert's great-great uncle Johann Nepomuk Hinteröcker headed to South Australia in 1866, and spent three years at the Seven Hills mission and winery in the Clare Valley. Back to the the name suggests, this Grüner is grown on high terraces in Stein and Krems. Inviting citrus and pear aromas give way to a more spicy palate, with a refreshing acidity making it an ideal wine for spring picnics. Excellent value at $15.

S.C. Pannell Pronto Tinto 2008

Blends such as these may become an important feature of the Australian wine world as producers seek to overcome a feeling of ho-hum amongst consumers worn down by a procession of well made but too familiar Shiraz and Cabernets. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Mourvèdre. There's nothing new in the GSM part, but the introduction of Portuguese hero Touriga Nacional gives it a significant kick along, holding back the ripe red and black fruit characters to allow some dried flower and herb characters to add complexity and interest. Try this, and probably his other reds as well. Stephen Pannell clearly learnt a few tricks in his time in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Barolo.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wines of the week - March 1st

This week, a Piedmont white, an Australian Shiraz as comfortable and affordable as an old pair of slippers, and a wine that looks like it might have had its bottle designed by Prince on a difficult day.

Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2009

Bruno Giacosa has been a revered figure in Piedmont for longer than many winemakers have been alive. This wine was made in the year he turned 80, and he's now been running his winery for over 50 years. His reputation has been forged by his amazing Barolo and Barbaresco wines, which these days are mostly made with estate-grown grapes. Way back, he was able to source enough of the best fruit to buy grapes in from growers, but in the early '80s Giacosa started acquiring vineyards.That's not to say he doesn't still buy grapes or make white wines, and the Arneis here is still made from grapes bought from farmers in Roero with which the winery has longstanding relationships. The wine itself has some lovely aromatics, with some quite ripe aromas and flavours, but plenty of crisp acidity, a touch of minerality, and a delicate pear character, keeps it very fresh and lively.

Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz 1996

Even by the standards of recent years this was a bargain purchase. Listed at a price probably considerably less than a quarter of what a Sydney restaurant would charge, I've gone back to the New York retailer to snap up a second helping. Maybe I should just ring them and lift the lot. A beautiful wine from a stunning vintage, this is, as the name suggests, classic Clare Shiraz, and it's drinking at its mature peak. Goodf enough to hold another five years without trouble, but I doubt they have enough to last me that far. Very round and soft now for a South Australian Shiraz, this wine still has plenty of vibrant red fruit character, and a lovely, long smooth finish.

Telmo Rodríguez Toro Gago 2007

This is another wine from Wine Spectator's Top 100, following on from some December reviews. Compañía de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez are making some sleek and stylish wines from across Spain - and that's just the packaging. In this case, the wine is also pretty sleek and stylish, made from 100% Tinto de Toro, otherwise known as Tempranillo. The region of Toro has taken off in recent years, boosted by the success of Ribero del Duero, further to the east. The Gago - or should I just call it 'g' - exhibits plenty of ripe fruit, but restrained by enough acidity to keep it fresh, while complemented by some cocoa and mineral notes. Good drinking now and over the next five years, but not one for the purists.

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