Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tahbilk 2009 Riesling

Having invested in a vertical six pack of Tahbilk Riesling to compare and contrast with the Gold Medal and Trophy winning the 2010 Everyday Drinking Riesling, the two bottles of the 2010 Riesling managed to sneak past without generating a tasting note. Pleasant enough drinking, as I recall, but not exactly the sort of thing that has you running out in search of a box, if you catch my drift.

I'd described the 2010 Everyday Drinking Riesling in these terms:
It may well be Riesling, Jim, but it's not quite Riesling as we've come to know and love it… While initial exposure to the 2010 Everyday Drinking Riesling failed to produce what I've come to expect in a Riesling, as an everyday drinking glass over lunch it works perfectly well. with lively acid and plenty of zing.

Rangoon Lime Chicken seemed an obvious candidate for something in the Riesling line, so a bottle of this one emerged from the fridge.

Tahbilk 2009 Riesling (4* $13) Clear varietal notes on the nose and across the palate without the more pronounced acid you find in the higher end Clare and Eden Valley Rieslings, but smooth and well rounded and an almost ideal everyday drinking style at the price. A definite value for money freight free candidate for a reorder when the time comes assuming stocks have lasted (currently a Wine Club Web Special, so may not last long).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pfeiffer 2010 Viognier

It's probably going a bit far to describe Viognier as an alternative variety these days (particularly noting a recent reference on one of the wine blogs I follow to the V weed) but it's hardly mainstream either.

Given the possibility that the name originates from the Roman pronunciation of the via Gehennae, or road to Hell, and the variety's reputation for being difficult to grow and susceptible to  powdery mildew, it'll be interesting to see how the '11 Viogniers shape up after the trials and tribulations of this year's vintage which mightn't have quite been the road to hell (particularly now that the statistics are in) but definitely shares a nearby postcode.

We're not, however, looking at this year's model here, and with a late ripening variety that needs to be picked at the right time since the fruit flavours arrive in a rush at the end of the ripening process you'd want to be getting things right, wouldn't you?

Pfeiffer 2010 Viognier (4* $25 C2 $22.50) My research notes suggest that when the grower gets it right deep yellow grapes produce wine high in alcohol with a strong perfume. While 13.2% isn't all that high, the aromatics were definitely there on the nose (peaches and stone fruits, touch of spice) with the apricots coming out across the palate. This Wine Club only number, nicely textured and hitting the right spot when it came to accompanying my favourite roast chook could, once again have been rounded up, but one suspects it'll be all gone by the time the Gamay order goes in.

Pfeiffer 2009 Chardonnay

It takes a while to work through these things, but we've got to the point where there was just this one and a 2010 Viognier left out of the Autumn Pfeiffer C2 Club offering. Either would've gone with tonight's roast chicken, but I thought that the Chardonnay might be a better match for last night's Rangoon Lime Chicken, so that was the way it went.

If I wasn't looking at boxes on the floor where boxes oughtn't be, I might have been tempted by the Winter Pack they're offering in the C3 option:

2009 Pfeiffer Marsanne
2010 Pfeiffer Winemakers Selection Malbec (2 bottles)
2005 Pfeiffer Christopher's VP
2006 Pfeiffer Chardonnay Museum Release
2009 Pfeiffer Carlyle Shiraz (2 bottles) Museum Release
2008 Pfeiffer Merlot Museum Release
2006 Pfeiffer Cabernet Sauvignon Museum Release
2008 Pfeiffer Shiraz Museum Release
1992 Pfeiffer Shiraz Cabernet Museum Release
1992 Pfeiffer Christopher's VP Museum Release

But, as stated, there's a slight surfeit in the LHoC at the moment, and I'm looking seriously at an order from Cullens in the near future, so something's got to give. The order needed to go in by Bastille Day, so....

Pfeiffer 2009 Chardonnay (4* $18.50 C2 $16.65) Straw green, nose noticeably subdued at first (note to self: don't taste straight out of the fridge) but across the palate worked rather nicely in the lighter tightly wound New Oz style and had me tossing up between ratings, but eventually rounded down rather than up. Already gone from the website (they're currently offering the '10) and given imminent orders I doubt I'll be looking in that direction in the near future.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fermoy Estate 2010 Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc

Truth, Jimbo remarked on yesterday's morning walk, is stranger than fiction. We were talking music rather than wine at that particular juncture, which may have prompted my Or, to borrow the name of a Robert Wyatt album, Ruth is stranger than Richard. Jimbo has a brother named Richard, though I'm not sure whether his circle of acquaintances is a Ruth-less or Ruth-free zone.

This morning's brisk stroll around the Front Beach, however, returned to the subject of wine, and, predictably, given the fact that we wandered around impressions of Sauvignon Blanc with and without the addition of Semillon, that truth is stranger than fiction bit kicked in again, prompted by two items I sighted yesterday and cited in the course of the stroll.

For a start yesterday's Wine Companion newsletter had Mr Halliday describing the 1.62 million tonne 2011 grape harvest as  unexpected and profoundly shocking.

I'd been rash enough to opine that we might be looking at the end of the current grape glut, thanks to a mixture of factors including floods, mildew and botrytis in almost every region around eastern Australia. Talking to Steve Doyle at Bloodwood I was told he was one of the few producers in Orange who'd been able to pick anything at all, and I'd heard a similar report from Ken Helm outside Canberra, yet here we are with a crop that's nearly 25% bigger than the quantity needed, and, to quote Mr Halliday, it is certain that the extra 300 000 tonnes were very poor quality grapes sold for a song and destined for the bulk market.

Strange. We've got a glut, so we ensure that the situation remains in place by harvesting large quantities of crap grapes for the already over-catered for lower end of the market.

I've also noted that calls for a floor price for alcohol to counter, among other things, binge drinking in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory are greeted with claims that a steep increase in the price of a five litre goonbag would remove one of the few pleasures available to the Australian age pensioner.

Strange. We have an on-going health disaster in the Territory largely fuelled by the availability of vast quantities of industrially-produced ethanol but we can't do anything about it because of the impact on our pensioners, who deserve a far better deal than they're currently getting.

Based on the Carbon Tax debate, one would have thought that the extra revenue from a floor price (I'm assuming that this would be achieved by changing the way alcohol sales are taxed) could have been evenly split between expenditure on indigenous health and raising the age pension to the point where the elderly, who definitely deserve it, could afford to buy semi-decent quality bottled wine.

Then there was the article in the Sydney Morning Herald linked from the Daily Wine News that suggests that they're selling 3.4 million cases of Sauvignon Blanc per year in this country, and most of that seems to be sourced from New Zealand, where producers seem to be (and I'm quoting from the Australian Tax Office website here) entitled to a rebate of 29% of the selling price of the wine. There's more on the same subject here.

I'm not an expert on these things but it looks awfully like we've got a continuing glut due to sales of cheap imported wine that attracts what amounts to a subsidy. Strange.

Those matters might explain why I'm able to buy something like this rather good Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc for $7.50 (the '09 back in February) or  $10.85 (the '10 in an end of financial year sale).

Fermoy Estate 2010 Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc (4.5* $22 Sale $10.85) Another crystal clear pale straw number with bright aromatics that are a bit closer to the hay and curt grass end of the spectrum than I recall from the '09, this one hits the palate with sharpish varietal character, a balanced acidity and a tinge of sugar that rounds into a lengthy finish. Under my five point scale, 4.5* means I really need to buy this, while 4* equates to I should buy this, but with eleven bottles left in the box I don't need to buy any more, do I? On the other hand 4.5 means I'll be looking very closely at the '11, n'est ce pas?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fermoy Estate 2010 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

My tasting note for the Fermoy Estate 2009 Yallingup Vineyards Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc that I reprised from back in March concluded with Will be looking very closely at the 2010, and while $10 freight free is a slightly higher impost that the $7.50 including freight I paid for the '09 there was no way I'd be bypassing this one at the price..

A perusal of the back label suggests a cancelled order that would have been heading Stateside....

Fermoy Estate 2010 The Partnership Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (4/5 $20 Sale $10) Green tinges in the glass, the regulation tropical fruit and citrus nose that goes with the regional blend, this 55/45 combo hits the palate nicely balanced, with the same tangy complexity and lengthy finish as noted in the '09. Maybe not quite as impressive as the last one, though that may well be a reflection on the accompanying meal rather than the wine itself. I'm inclined to round things down rather than up, and reserve the right to ratchet the rating up to 4.5 after a later sample.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fermoy Estate 2008 Margaret River Merlot

Call it impatience if you like, but after sampling the Cab Merlot last night and having consulted my (admittedly brief) tasting notes from the Western odyssey it should come as no surprise to learn that I was following up with a sample from the case of 2008 Merlot that comprised one-quarter of the shipment.

My note from the Friday morning visit to Fermoy read:
(4.5* $30) Medium-bodied fragrant complex style that's very much the way Merlot should be but often isn't.

Under those circumstances you'd be looking to verify first impressions, wouldn't you?

When I made the order the game plan involved disposing of half of the Cab Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and SSB through the Merry Frockster, but as things turned out he only made off with a dozen, with the possibility of returning for half a dozen of the Sauvignon Blanc.

I'm hoping that the Merlot's slightly out of his price range.

Fermoy Estate 2008 Margaret River Merlot (4.5* $30 Sale $15) There's a dash of Shiraz in there as well but at 95% varietal Merlot this bright fragrant medium bodied style works a treat with complexity that runs from the nose right across the palate. Varietal plums and berries in gentle abundance, a nice balance of oak and tannin that delivers a lengthy finish and pleasurable drinking.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fermoy Estate 2008 Yallingup Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

There are times when you find yourself scratching the noggin and wondering what happened to that stuff you know you've got here somewhere but isn't where it ought to be. I was sure that I'd filed everything from the winery side of the Western Australia trip last year in separate folders in the filing cabinet, but when I went checking a minor detail there was no sign of a folder dedicated to material from Fermoy Estate.

There should, by rights, be a scribbled page of notes that produced the tasting notes and impressions noted here, but I was hoping for a price list or something similar that would verify that the wine I'd assessed as a bit young but had things in place to improve with age had the words Yallingup Vineyard on the label. Assuming it did, ten months or so has seen things fall into place rather nicely.

There are plenty of places to visit when you're wandering around Margaret River, even if you've decided to limit yourself to the places James Halliday has allocated five stars, and the decision to add Fermoy Estate to the list was partly based on Mr Halliday's rating, partly prompted by an assessment that they were happy to keep a relatively low profile, however difficult that may be given the quality of the wines and partly by the establishment's proximity to Cullen Wines on a day where the itinerary was centred around a tasting and lunch at Cullens before hitting the road to head back towards Perth.

Getting orders in to everywhere you want to buy from is rather tricky when you've got an extensive list of places you want to buy from, limited storage space and a diplomatic need to limit the number of cases in front of the wine rack.

There are, however, some offers you can't refuse, and dozens of the Fermoy 2009 Yallingup Vineyards Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc and 2009 Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc for $180 all-up including $30 freight was too good to miss, given the fact that Hallidayy had rated both at the 93 mark. I hadn't been quite so taken with a 4/5 rating, but then again at $7.50 a bottle you can afford to take a punt and prove yourself wrong.

In any case (actually, in both cases) I thought that the wines would go down well with the Merry frockster's lady friend, so a we'll go halves arrangement was fairly easy to negotiate.

Suffice it to say she liked them enough to save them for special occasions, so that when the end of the financial year offer from Fermoy had what looked like the 2010 equivalents a phone call was enough to ensure we were backing up for a restocking exercise.

You can't start on the whites until you can get 'em into the fridge, so I thought a good starting point this time around would be the...

Fermoy Estate 2008 Yallingup Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (4.5* $20, sale $10) Dark red with purple notes in the glass, subtly pronounced cabernet character on the nose with some plummy merlot in there as well, berry flavours across the palate with ripe firmly rounded tannins and a lingering finish this 70% cabernet blend hit the spot rather nicely and left me regretting the fact that I only ended up with half a dozen. Somehow I doubt that I'll be able to reorder at the sale price.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kaesler 2010 Reid's Rasp Barossa Valley Shiraz

It mightn't be enough to persuade Hughesy to change his mind about The Wine Society, but it's enough to prompt second thoughts.

Joining The Wine Society was one of the first things I did after I moved in to the Little House of Concrete, and for quite a while thereafter TWS was the source for much of the wine that's passed over the front door mat, but times change and priorities get reassessed, and the first thing to go was the regular tasting dozen that supplied the basis of the everyday drinking.

Freight free wine clubs and mailing list offers from places we'd visited on trips to Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, however, provided plenty of alternative sources for both everyday and special occasion drinking.

With a list of places I'm looking to buy from that has sneaked past the two dozen mark, with several others I'd like to add to the list if it was actually possible to do it...

NSW (5): Bloodwood, Helm, Clonakilla, Lark Hill, Lerida Estate
Victoria (4): Tahbilk, Pfeiffer, Baileys of Glenrowan, Brown Brothers (and I'd like to add Dal Zotto, Stanton & Killeen, Chambers and Sam Miranda)
Tasmania (1): Brook Eden
South Australia (9): Rockford, Thorn-Clarke, Grosset, Jim Barry, Pikes, Paulett, kilikanoon, Olssens of Watervale, Mitchell (and Crabtree, Seppeltsfield, Knappstein and Neagles Rock)
Western Australia (7): Lenton Brae, Leeuwin Estate, Voyager Estate, Fermoy Estate, Hay Shed Hill, Stella Bella, Cullen (and Woodlands, Vasse Felix and Cape Mentelle)

and a notional limit of thirty-something dozen a year something had to give, it's quite likely that the TWS Shiraz of the Year dozen is going to have to get the flick.

The tipping point, as it turns out, is the $250/year minimum spend that defines you as an active member of TWS, and while the Shiraz of the Year dozen (it's actually labelled Best in Society) has delivered
Grant Burge 2005 Ethel Nancy Shiraz
Wyndham Estate George Wyndham 2004 Shiraz
Jacobs Creek 2006 Limited Release Shiraz
Mount Langhi Ghiran 2004 Cliff Edge Shiraz

over the past five years, $203.88 isn't quite $250, and while it'd be easy enough to grab another dozen of somthing and pay $7 for freight, that dozen  is a dozen out of thirty-something that I can't buy from….

That's a pity because this years Best in Society Shiraz is, to borrow Danny from Wine Week's terminology, a table-lifter, and it's only a year and a bit old...

Kaesler 2010 Reid's Rasp Barossa Valley/Clare Valley Shiraz (4.5* $16.99) Vibrant crimson with purple tones, soft rounded aromatic peppery elements on the nose that follow through across the palate and linger pleasantly, it will be interesting to see how this one handles a few years bottle age if I can restrain myself from wolfing the rest of the box down. There's a rounded plummy complexity that generates plenty of interest in the mouth, creating a rather enjoyable drinking experience. Can't see stocks of this lasting too long at The Wine Society so I expect that reordering won't be possible.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Voyager Estate 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

While it would have been interesting to have left the last survivor of this dozen for the warmer weather that's probably just around the corner a combination of a surfeit of Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc, SBS and SSB blends along with a severe case of cases on the floor in front of the wine rack meant that this one was a prime candidate for Operation Room in the Rack.

Voyager Estate 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (4.5/5 $24) One of the best examples of the standard Margaret River white blend I came across when we visited reduced to $18 and freight free was a no-brainer in October last year, and it's a minor miracle this last survivor has lasted eight and a half months in the rack. Pale straw colour, regulation elements present on the nose, with fresh zingy acidity balanced in with the fruit on the palate and a gentle, textured almost understated rounded finish made for a great drink, and prompt a mental memo to scour the horizon for the 2010. 93 from Halliday.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Olssens of Watervale 2006 The Second Six

They don't make 'em like that any more. They can't get the wood, y'know.

Or, I suspect, in this case the Carmenère.

I've written elsewhere about the circumstances that brought us to the Olssens of Watervale cellar door, but it's worth reiterating that the drive is the sort of thing that's likely to deter any but the most determined traveller.

The continued absence of a website seems almost inexplicable in the twenty-first century and it took a while for an order to go in, but given the fact that a consultation with Mr Halliday's tome revealed a range that largely sat in the $20-$30 bracket and was consistently rated in the 93-94 range I was always going to get there eventually.

The highlight of the visit to the cellar door was my encounter with The Olssen Six, one of the few examples of a Bordeaux blend to feature all six of the classic Bordeaux varieties. There are others that go close - the Cullen Diana Madeline being one notable example - but four out of six or five out of six ain't six out of six. You're not going to get that perfect six unless you can lay your hands on some Carmenère, and it seems, from what I can gather, that there are a mere half-dozen or so vineyards in Australia where the variety is grown.

I've still got five bottles of The Six lurking in the cellar fridge with the next rendezvous with one pencilled in for some time around 2014. My note from the bottle we sampled in October 2010 reads:

Olssens of Watervale 2006 The Olssen Six (5/5 $60) Possibly unique blend of  Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenère and Petit Verdot. From the first whiff there's a considerable Wow! factor. Intense, focussed, layered and elegant, a wine to savour at length and leisure.

At around $30 cheaper, its little brother doesn't have quite the same depth but there's plenty on offer here as well.

Olssens of Watervale 2006 The Second Six (4.5/5 $28) Deeply red in the glass, with complex notes across the nose and an acrobatic balance of red and black fruits across the palate this doesn't pack quite the same punch as its sibling but comes across as well weighted with a pleasing depth of flavour and a lengthy finish which, again, encourages the drinker to take some time over the end of the bottle.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Leeuwin Estate 2008 Art Series Riesling

 The predictable end of financial year stock clearance offers haven't exactly been flowing into the Little House of Concrete, but the impending arrival of a couple of cases from Fermoy Estate to join recent deliveries from Tahbilk, Baileys and The Wine Society means that we need to concentrate on getting things out of the wine rack to make room for what's sitting on the floor in front of it. The easiest way to do that, of course, is to clear out some of the wines that are there in multiples, but last night's dinner needed something in a Riesling and this one was, conveniently in the bar fridge, so…

Leeuwin Estate 2008 Art Series Riesling (4.5* $22) After a couple of younger Rieslings from other regions where the citrus notes were far more pronounced the relatively restrained nose and the semi-aged notes across the palate (that hydrocarbon element's there again, but lurking below the surface rather than muscling its way to prominence) made a rather pleasant change. In the mouth it sat comfortably in between the citrusy zing of a young Riesling and the overt developed characters you find in the aged versions. There's a tendency to see that transition from youth to maturity as leaving a void that detracts from the drinking experience, but there was, I thought, plenty going on here. Thankfully, there's still another bottle to go.