Category Archives: New Release – Wine Reviews

Piper Heidsieck Champagne

Piper Heidsieck Champagne

Barry Weinman: 19th December 2019

My favourite Champagne over the last few years has been Charles Heidsieck’s Brut Reserve.

Yes, this is a superb Champagne, but it also has something to do with the fact that it has been served routinely on Singapore Airlines in Business Class.

I travel extensively for work and at the end of a long week, the Charles Heidsieck is one of life’s small pleasures

There are a number of other airlines serving quality Champagnes.  Qatar for example provides a drinking treat, with the elegant (and food friendly) Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé, whilst Emirates serves the ever-reliable Veuve Clicquot on Perth flights.

In recent times, Piper Heidsieck has also started to appear on more airline wine lists. Initially, I thought this was purely a cost cutting measure, given that Piper is one of the more affordable Champagnes on the market, but two recent tastings have changed my perceptions on this.

At the start of last week, I sat down with Benoit Collard to taste through the range. From the NV through to the Rare, the wines were uniformly excellent.

But wines always taste better when trying them with the producer, so at the end of the week, we put the Cuvée Brut and the 2008 Vintage into a blind sparkling wine/Champagne tasting and the wines showed brilliantly.

Ownership of Piper and its sister house Charles Heidsieck changed in 2011, and this seems to have coincided with a subtle refinement in the style. Piper has become drier and finer, with greater intensity of fruit.

The arrival of a new Chef de Caves in 2018 has reinforced the focus on refinement.

Luckily for consumers prices have not changed, making the wines a tremendous bargain. With the NV on sale for as low as $40, this is a no-brainer for the office Christmas party. For me though, the greatest value sits with the Vintage which is available in the big box retailers for around $80.

The excellent 2008 vintage is still available, with the equally good 2012 also starting to appear on the shelf. The 2008 is just hitting its drinking window and is more approachable right now than the brilliant (if reserved) 2008 Veuve Clicquot.

If you pop in to the Weinman house over the holidays, don’t be surprised if you are offered a glass of the 2008.

Enjoy!

Reviewed:

Piper HeidsieckCuvée Brut – NV (18/20pts – $62). Creamy and textured, with gentle floral peach, apple and nectarine fruit notes. I was impressed by the length of flavours and the finesse of the finish.  With a dosage 9.5gm/l, this feels quite dry. The use of 18% reserve wine in this blend has had a noticeable impact on complexity. Great aperitif and brilliant value.

Piper HeidsieckEssentiel – Cuvée Reserve – NV. ($75). Complex autolysis characters on the nose, with obvious bread dough and fresh brioche characters. The richness of the fruit is a defining feature on the palate. This is quite rich, with increased density and weight. The low 5gm/l dosage gives this extra brut status, but the balance is spot on (18% reserve wine. 2012 base wine. Disgorged June 2017).

Piper HeidsieckVintage – 2008 ($90). From an excellent vintage, the last stocks of this wine are in the shops now. Opens with gentle toasted nut notes, but there are still hints of pretty, fresh fruit. Excellent intensity, mouthfeel and texture, with fine acidity adding balance and drive. Not as concentrated as the best of this vintage, but great value drinking.

Piper Heidsieck – Rare – 2002. (18.8/20pts – $300). The intensity and complexity of the nose is impressive indeed. The palate is so intense and fine, yet with subtle power and great depth of flavours. The persistence is a stand out, with the flavours lingering for seemingly minutes. A superb wine and an excellent Christmas gift. From the eight best parcels of fruit of the vintage. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. This is only the eighth vintage of the Rare produced since 1976.

Charles Heidsieck – Brut Reserve – NV (18.6/20pts – $95). Delicate fruit, with subtle toast/autolysis characters that hints at bread dough and toast. The palate is fine and elegant, yet with a seemingly endless cascade of flavours and textures. The tremendous depth and complexity results from the inclusion of 40% reserve wines (average age 10 years). One of my favourite non vintage Champagnes.

Getting to the Point

Getting to the Point

Barry Weinman: 25th November 2019

When rating and reviewing wines, there are a number of points systems in use globally. This includes scoring wines out of 5, 20 or 100. On top of this some reviewers use a “star” system, whilst wine shows use gold, silver and bronze medals to demonstrate different levels of quality

For decades, the 20-point system was the default, having been developed by the University of California in the 1950s. However in recent years, the 100-point scale has become something of the default, having been popularised by Robert Parker, the USA’s most influential wine critic.

The problem with these scales is that only the top end of the scale has any relevance. A score below 15/20 or 85/100 indicates a wine that has nothing to recommend it or is faulty.

So in reality, the 20-point scale is a score out of five, whilst the 100-point scale is a score out of 15. But giving a wine a score of 2/5 or 5/15 does not sound very good, whereas 17/20 or 90/100 sounds a lot better, even though they would be, in effect saying the same thing.

The advantage of the 20-point scale for me however, is the ability to use decimal places to differentiate between two wines. The difference between 18.5 and 18.7 is very small in absolute terms, yet it shows a clear preference for one of the wines.

Using the 100-point scale would see both of these wines scoring 95 if using the Decanter conversion chart. https://www.decanter.com

Reviewed

Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – (Gold Capsule) 2018 – (18+/20pts – $39). The pretty floral fruit is a delight and sits over a core of white peach and nectarine. Continues on the palate, with medium weight fruit, and excellent complexity from the oak and lees work. Overall, a fairly restrained style that will suit food well.

Deep Woods – Chardonnay – Reserve       2018 (18.7/20pts – $55). Wow, a majestic nose reminiscent of fine White Burgundy. Perfume, minerals, stone fruit, hints of curry leaf all collide on the nose. The palate is creamy and textured, with precise fruit flooding the mid-palate. Fine acidity and oak add depth on the close. Wonderful now – 5 years. Five trophies to date!

Howard Park – Chardonnay – Allingham – 2018 (18.6/20 – $89). Taut and restrained, but with serious fruit and power sitting in the wings. Long, fine and elegant, persistent fruit on the palate. This is subtle and refined, though needs a few years for the fruit to unwind. Opens in the glass, revealing pretty peach and floral notes and a near seamless finish.

Juniper Estate – Chardonnay – Juniper Crossing – 2018 (17.9/20pts – $25). Amazing value here, given the depth and intensity of fruit, as well as the quality winemaking (oak pared back to allow the fruit to shine). Great drinking now with a haloumi salad or simply grilled chicken.

Credaro

Credaro

Barry Weinman: 28th November 2019

Credaro may not be a household name here in Perth, but the Credaro family is well known in the Margaret River region. In 1922, the family emigrated from Italy and established a farm in Carbanup, in the northern part of the region and have been there ever since.

Having grown grapes and made wine from a small vineyard on the property for many years, the family established their first commercial vineyard in 1988.

With a focus primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Shiraz, Credaro built a reputation for supplying quality grapes to a number of producers in the region.

In 1999, the family almost doubled the size of their grape growing business, with the purchase of a 37-hectare nearby property that had established vineyard.

Subsequent purchases have resulted in the family owning seven vineyards across the region, totalling an impressive 140 hectares.

Given the size of the vineyard holdings, supplying grapes is clearly still a key part of the business, but in 2009, the family took the plunge and started the Credaro winery and brand. All wines are made on site, with Trent Kelly being the chief winemaker since 2017.

Given their access to high quality fruit, it should be no surprise that the wines are good. But I was surprised at just how good they were.

Tasted in line-ups including some of Margaret River’s best producers, the wines showed very well indeed. The 1000 Crowns Chardonnay and Cabernet were standouts, ably supported by the more approachable Kinship range.

Reviewed

Credaro – Chardonnay – 1000 Crowns – 2018 (18.6/20pts – $65). Whilst initially taut and restrained, this opens up to show stone fruit, pineapple and citrus notes. The finish is complex and creamy, aided by supple barrel ferment and lees notes. Brilliant balance a highlight. Now – 10 years. Spent 8 months is French oak (30% new), with wild ferment and regular battonage.

Credaro – Chardonnay – Kinship – 2018 (18/20pts – $35). Whilst not as dense as the 1000 Crowns, this is a very complete wine. Fine and elegant fruit has been expertly managed in the winery, resulting in a supple, approachable, wine that is fresh and fruit driven, with excellent length of flavours. The quality fruit and supple winemaking has resulted in an excellent drinking wine.

Credaro – Cabernet Sauvignon – 1000 Crowns – 2017 (18.5/20pts – $85). I love the fruit here: Redcurrant, with a hint of cassis. This remarkably polished wine is vibrant and approachable. Tucked away in the background though, there is serious oak, tannins and structure, the latent power palpable. A superb wine.

Credaro – Cabernet Sauvignon – Kinship – 2018 (18/20pts – $35). This has serious fruit on the nose. Quite dense, powerful and compact, with eucalyptus and blackcurrant notes. The palate is firm, though the blueberry fruit has enough depth to shine. Polished enough to drink now with a good steak, but definitely age-worthy.

Grenache and Grenache blends at Fox Creek in McLaren Vale

Grenache and Grenache blends at Fox Creek in McLaren Vale

Brendan Jansen MW: 28th November 2019

A Grenache masterclass at the Master of Wine (MW) seminar took us to Fox Creek Winery in McLaren Vale. We were hosted by Marketing Manager James Carman and Winemaker Ben Tanzer.

A stimulating discussion around the (slow but sure) growth of Grenache as a variety of interest, and the special place McLaren Vale holds in that story, followed. The tasting highlighted the range of terroirs in the Vale – with varying soils, altitudes, temperature ranges – and how these affect flavour profiles. We also saw the effects of vintage variation and the impact such variation has on each year’s blend.

Most fascinating was tasting samples of 2019 Grenache from varying locations in the Vale. The Blewitt Springs site – at higher altitude and on sandy soils, gave rise to a lighter, floral aromatic Grenache, and as Ben described, “sandy” tannins. Vines were 90 years old! The Grenache from around McLaren Vale itself, on darker soils, gave rise to more sinew and darker fruit. The bush vines here were also 97 years old!

Around Willunga, with the vines on alluvial clay, there was again a different expression, still pretty but with more sour fruit. From the Sellicks vineyard site, there was a wonderful combination of sweet fruit and super structure.

We had a chance to try 100% Shiraz samples and 100% Mourvedre samples, to understand how they contribute to a GSM blend.

Look out for these wines – at RRP $37 for the Limited Release Grenache, and $27 for the GSM, they’re a steal.

The Lenswood subregion in the Adelaide Hills

The Lenswood subregion in the Adelaide Hills

Brendan Jansen MW: 25th November 2019

A day trip to the Adelaide Hills as part of the MW seminar culminated in a tasting and lunch at Anderson Hill winery. Producers from the newly defined subregion gathered to enlighten us about the benefits and rationale of naming their subregion, and to outline specific characteristics of the area.

At a higher altitude than most of the Adelaide Hills, it is the only named subregion in the Adelaide Hills other than Piccadilly. Discussion touched upon the pros and cons of introducing a subregional brand to the Adelaide Hills brand, and whether the classification was for the benefit of consumers or producers.

The wine intelligentsia from other South Australian regions have long recognised the cooler region as unique, with Pikes (from the Clare) and Henschke (Eden Valley) having vineyards in the area. In the case of Pike, it was a partnership with the Joyce family resulting in the Pike and Joyce label. Henschke have been in the area for 18 vintages.

We were treated to a selection of excellent wines, in varying styles. Below are just a few that caught my eye:

Henschke Blanc de Noir MD (mature disgorged) MV (multi vintage):

Made in the transfer method with a cache of wines from 18 vintages going into the blend, this wine was impressive for its complexity. RRP $60 17.5/20 points

Turon Wines Chardonnay 2018

Sleek, slender but not corseted, wild ferment, 20% new oak, partial malolactic. What a delightful wine! Watch out for this winemaker  – his reputation is already burgeoning. RRP $35 18.5/20 pts

Golding Wines La Francesca Savagnin 2014

A really interesting wine, one of those “we thought it was Albarino” plantings but made into a delicious, complex semi-aromatic wine. RRP $25 17.5/20 pts

            Golding Wines Ombre Gamay 2019

Fresh, juicy, crunchy even, would blow any Beaujolais out of the water.

RRP $35 18/20

            Anderson Hill Art Series Pinot Noir 2016 “Down She Goes”

A mix of funky, earthy elements with sweet fruit. Ticks all the Pinot boxes. RRP ~$35 17.5/20 pts

Pike and Joyce WJJ Pinot Noir 2018

Subdued to start, but grows. At this price point, why go to Burgundy? RRP ~$65 18/20 pts

Turon Wines Pinot Noir 2019

Bright cherry nose, clean with silky tannin structure and a savoury, anise edge. 30% whole bunches, wild yeasts, nine months in barrel, 20% new. RRP~$35. Watch out for this release. 18.5/20 pts

Buy West – Buy Best.

Buy West – Buy Best.

Barry Weinman: 25th November 2019

This article first appeared in the Western Suburbs Weekly on the 22nd November 2019

In James Halliday’s Top 100 wines, a remarkable 27% of the wines reviewed came from Western Australia. South Australia was next best with 25%. To put these figures into perspective, Western Australia accounts for only 5% of all of Australia’s wine, whereas South Australia produces 50%.

As expected, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon shone. Western Australian wines contributed six of the eight Cabernet in the top 100, with five of these from Margaret River. With Chardonnay, Western Australia contributed nine of the 14 in the Top 100 (seven from Margaret River, two from Great Southern).

Additionally, four of Halliday’s ten Rieslings came from the Great Southern (from only 1% of the nation’s vineyards), the same number as South Australia!

This success is also reflected in national wine shows. In 2019, six capital city wine shows have announced their results. Remarkably, Western Australia wines have won the Trophy for Best Cabernet in every show.

Even more remarkably, Xanadu accounted for five, as well as the coveted 2018 Jimmy Watson Trophy. In 2019, the DJL has two trophies, the 2017 Estate four, and the 2016 Stevens Road three. That the Estate can be bought for as little as $30 is hard to believe.

Western Australia also won five out of seven best Cabernet trophies in 2014, 2015, 2017 & 2018, and all seven in 2016!

Of course, statistics do not tell the full story. Many of Australia’s greatest producers do not enter wine shows (Penfolds, Leeuwin Estate, Cullen, & Yarra Yering etc).

Yet there is no denying the brilliance of Western Australian wines.

Reviewed

Shingleback – Cabernet Sauvignon – Red Knot – 2018 (17/20pts – $15) Ripe, plummy fruit that is fresh, youthful and vibrant, but not overly complex. Soft tannins and balancing acidity support a gentle finish. Not overly typical, but a good BBQ red.  Along with the excellent Shiraz, this is a bargain given that Dan Murphy’s will discount this to around $12.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – DJL – 2017 (17.8/20pts – $25) Lithe and fresh, with bright redcurrant/ blueberry fruit. The palate has fine tannins and supple texturing oak that provides balance and allow the fruit to shine. Lacks the ultimate depth of the best, but fine drinking given the price. Trophy for best Cabernet at Perth.

Plantagenet – Cabernet Sauvignon – Aquitaine – 2017 (18,3/20pts – $45). Plantagenet is surely one of the most underrated wineries in Western Australia. This is dense and inky, yet supple enough to drink now. The savoury oak adds texture and depth, without constraining the excellent fruit. Structured and cellar-worthy, so food is a must if drunk now.

21 years of Mark Messenger at Juniper Estate

More than a coming of age – 21 years of Mark Messenger at Juniper Estate

Brendan Jansen MW: 20th November 2019

Brendan Jansen & Mark Messenger (Credit: John Jens)

What a privilege to have been included in a small select group of wine writers and experts to celebrate Mark Messenger’s 21 years at Juniper Estate. For the tasting, Mark whetted our appetite with a young and old example each of Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz, before we embarked on the mammoth vertical tasting comprising 21 vintages of the Juniper Estate Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon (minus the 2006, when the fruit didn’t come up to scratch).

A few general points before I run through a (necessarily) succinct review of the wines:

  1. Vintage variation occurs and matters in Margaret River. Never mind the notion of the region being moderately warm each year, and of Australian wines being all “sunshine in a bottle”…. We were able to see quite clearly the influence of cooler overall vintages, the scourge of rain at harvest, and relatedly, the importance of care in the vineyard to mitigate these changes.
  2. Mark’s nine years at Cape Mentelle before he joined Juniper Estate shows, with the early wines in particular showing the structure derived from extraction typical of older Cape Mentelle Cabernets. What Mark has managed to do, however, is to bring the fruit to the fore: Mark’s red wines always have both fruit and tannins in generous proportion, and in balance.
  3. As vine age and Mark’s knowledge of the vineyard and site (can I say terroir?) have increased, so has he honed his winemaking to suit. New oak influence is dialled back in recent vintages. Picking times have changed, sometimes with two or three passes per vintage.

Here is the list of the Cabernets tasted:

1999 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Aged, tertiary characters evident, reminiscent of an old Claret. Cork closure

2000 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Balanced but weight affected by rain at harvest.

2001 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: One of the wines of the tasting – structure, varietal character, power.

2002 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: More linear and even tighter than the 2001, reflecting a sunny but cooler year.

2003 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Another one of the wines of the tasting – powerful and rich – a sleeper…

2004 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Varietally faithful, mid weight cabernet, whose structure offers a long life ahead – and the by-now routine use of screw cap will no doubt assist.

2005 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Subtle with excellent drive to a persistent finish.

2007 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Polished wine. Fruit structure and a long life ahead – repetitive but true!

2008 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Another wine with amazing potential. Use of a sorting table for the first time. A baby, and still closed.

2009 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Perfectly in its drinking window, the wine I most wanted to drink that day. Everything perfectly in place, tannins silky…

2010 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Dignified, aristocratic even, reflecting the warm year. Mark took a month of blending to finalise the finished product!

2011 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Big, juicy, ripe, with the signature fruit and structure.

2012 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: All class. An infant. Fruit, power and structure.

2013 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Closed, but like a chrysalis waiting to turn into a butterfly.

2014 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Another baby, with excellent potential.

2015 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: The power of the fruit and the tannins is hard to fathom, and even harder to describe

2016 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Mark described this wine as dark, brooding and concentrated – very apt.

2017 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: A touch lighter tone to fruit and aromatics, reflecting the cooler vintage.

My faves?

Splitting hairs, but…. 2001, 2003, 2008, 2012 and 2015. With the option of drinking the 2009 tonight!

Riesling: No Longer The Bridesmaid?

Riesling: No Longer The Bridesmaid?*

Barry Weinman: 5th October 2019

Riesling has been the perennial bridesmaid of the Australian wine scene. Capable of breathtaking beauty, but routinely overlooked in favour of more overt wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and complex, approachable Chardonnay.

For as long as I can remember, experts have been extolling the virtues of Riesling, but it has remained steadfastly out of fashion with the average wine drinker. Perception about what a Riesling should taste like is at the heart of the problem.

In its native Germany, where the grapes are grown in a very cold climate, Rieslings have traditionally ranged from off-dry to sweet, with the precise acidity providing the perfect counterpoint to the sugar, leaving the palate refreshed.

In years gone by, Australian Riesling (often sold in casks and made from anything but Riesling) was insipid swill, made sweet, but without the acidity to provide balance. Unfortunately, this reputation stuck, despite many years of excellent wine being produce in regions such as Clare Valley.

Fast-forward 20 years and the situation has evolved significantly. The best Australian Rieslings have become ever finer, with Great Southern wineries now vying with the great South Australian producers for the title of Australia’s best. Leading the vanguard are producers such as Singlefile, Howard Park and Castle Rock all capable of producing great wines. Another is Cherubino, who has consistently produced exquisite wines.

But traditional SA producers have not stood still, with Grosset still staking a claim as Australia’s greatest producer.

Fine, dry and elegant, these are wines that are redefining just how good Australian Riesling can be. Now it is over to you to try them…

Reviewed.

Grosset – Riesling – Polish Hill – 2019 (18.8/20pts – $60). Beautiful perfumed fruit, with floral and lime juice highlights. There is even a touch of aromatics reminiscent of a fine gin. The palate shows all of this, yet it is remarkably fine, restrained and elegant, with great length, persistence and near seamless palate transition. Exceptional.

Cherubino – Riesling – Great Southern – 2019 (18.5/20pts – $35). The floral aromatics are a highlight here with musk and gentle herb highlights. The pristine fruit is seamless and near ethereal, showing great depth. The mouth-feel is a highlight, with the elegant fruit perfectly balanced by the lemon-like acidity. Now – 10 years.

O’Leary Walker – Riesling – Polish Hill River – 2018 (18/20pts – $25). Steely, powerful and austere compared to the Grosset, this is a more traditional with lemon zest acidity defining the finish. There is excellent fruit tucked in behind the structure, but this needs years to hit its peak.

* This article first appeared in the Western Suburbs Weekly

The Institute of Masters of Wine – Annual Claret Tasting – 2015 Vintage

The Institute of Masters of WineAnnual Claret Tasting2015 Vintage

Brendan Jansen MW: 10th December 2019

Each year, the Institute’s Bordeaux tasting is one of the most anticipated and well-attended tasting events on the calendar. The Institute holds Claret tastings in the USA and Australia annually also, but the event in Vintner’s Hall in London is arguably the biggest. Again, the event was sold out this year.

Being in London for the Annual MW Awards Ceremony, I decided to undertake the blind tasting this year, an option that has been offered in recent years. All 91 wines were masked, and grouped as follows:

  • Pauillac,
  • Saint-Julien,
  • Saint-Estéphe,
  • Pomerol,
  • Saint-Emilion,
  • Margaux,
  • Haut-Médoc,
  • Pessac-Léognan, and
  • Sauternes & Barsac.

The vintage notes provided by Charles Taylor MW were helpful, but I attempted not to be too influenced by them, allowing each wine to show its merits. In summary, however, the earlier ripening Merlot of the Right bank did better, both as the Right bank received less rain, and because of the earlier picking before the rains. Wines from the Left bank did less well, though in areas with well-draining gravelly soils, the effects of the higher than average rainfall were mitigated against. Thus Margaux, Saint Julien and Pauillac were expected to perform better than Saint Estéphe and the northern Medoc. The sweet wines of Sauternes were expected to be rich and ripe, and certainly did not fail to please.

A few general impressions:

  • Nothing beats a blind tasting. All bets are off, and no preconceived notions apply. Receiving the crib sheet at the end was humbling.
  • Many of the usual suspects, all household names, did well (in my books) and their quality level justifies their renown. See specifics below.
  • Right bank wines were far more alcoholic, with levels up to 15% and 15.5% alcohol not infrequently encountered. Often this was accompanied by over-extraction and heavy oak handling. Some, it must be said, were more balanced.
  • There is a general “de-Parkerisation” of the wines of Bordeaux, and indeed, when a heavily oaked and bolder wine appeared in the lineup, it clearly stood out.
  • Pauillac and Saint Julien did well, but Margaux was a veritable star on the Left bank.
  • Right bank wines from both Saint Emilion and Pomerol were expressive and many built for the long haul. The wines with better overall balance appealed most.
  • A few lesser-known Chateaux showed really well, and I hope to highlight them in the (necessarily brief) notes below. I have used the QPR designation – quality price ratio – to signpost them! As you will see below, Margaux offers excellent buying this vintage.

A note on tasting order: many chose to taste the wines in order of 1-91. Others, I noted, did not. I decided to taste all Left bank wines first, going in the following order: Pauillac, Saint Julien, Saint-Estéphe, Haut-Médoc, Pessac Léognan, Margaux. I then went to the Right bank with Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. I tasted the First Growths next, before pausing for Sauternes and Barsac (ending with d’Yquem).

My picks:

Pauillac – Overall impression – this group was fresh, fleshy, not over-oaked, with ripe (not green) tannins and very approachable.

  • Ch Pontet-Canet – first bottle was tainted but replacement showed remarkable depth. 18/20pts
  • Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – wonderful – superb depth and complexity. High quality oak. 18.5/20pts
  • Ch Haut-Bages Liberal – classic claret. Everything perfectly in place. 18+/20pts QPR

Saint-Julien – Overall impression – as Pauillac, but a little lighter.

  • Ch Leoville-Las Cases – rich complex, balanced and long. 18+/20pts
  • Ch Leoville Barton – high quality oak, polished wine – huge aging potential. 18.5+/20pts
  • Ch Lagrange – nose closed and not that inviting, but palate very pleasing indeed. 17.5+/20pts QPR

Saint-Estéphe

  • Ch Lafon-Rochet – oak, fruit and tannins all in good balance. 17.5/20pts QPR
  • Ch Montrose – superb depth to fruit. Best of St-Estéphe. 18.5/20pts
  • Ch Cos D’Estournel  – perfume ?from oak, tight, tannic, elegant mouthfeel. One for a very long haul. 18.5/20pts

Haut-Médoc

  • Ch Cantemerle – well-balanced and accessible. One for earlier drinking 17.5/20pts QPR

Pessac Léognan

  • Ch Smith Haut Lafitte – Very closed and tight but with potential. 17/20pts
  • Ch Haut-Bailly – aging potential but unyielding at present. 17/20pts

Margaux – Overall impression – generally superb…! Offers great value.

  • Ch Rauzan-Ségla – perfumed, textured, persistent. One of the best of the tasting. 18.5++/20pts
  • Ch Pouget – heavily oaked but has the fruit to carry it if you like this style. 17.5+/20pts QPR
  • Ch Kirwan – lovely depth to nose and palate, in many ways un-Margaux-like, but brilliant nonetheless. 18.5/20pts QPR
  • Ch Ferriere – more classic Margaux perfume, lithe palate, deft oak treatment. Aging potential also. 18.5/20pts QPR
  • Ch Desmirail – lighter tone to fruit but overall polished . 17.5+/20pts QPR
  • Ch Brane-Cantenac – all round excellence, serious, hedonistic even, with a long life ahead. 18.5+/20pts QPR
  • Ch Boyd-Cantenac – oak again more evident but fruit and tannins there in support. Lay it down. 18/20pts QPR

Saint Emilion – Overall impression – I was a touch disappointed given the hype. Wines as a whole were very tannic, and tight, appealing to classical palates.

  • Ch Trotte Vieille – opulent and ripe but not overly so. 18/20pts
  • Ch Figeac – powerful fruit and tannins 18+/20pts
  • Ch Cap de Mourlin – Classic nose and palate. Could so easily have hailed from the Left bank. 18.5/20pts QPR
  • Ch Belair-Monange – power crept up on me. Shows great potential 18/20pts

Pomerol – Overall impression – some wines were too big for my liking, and I tended to favour those with alcohol levels 13.5-14.5%

  • Ch Petit-Village – lovely ripeness matched with textured mouthfeel and good length 18.5/20pts
  • Ch La Fleur-Petrus – this is a big wine, and classically merlot. Oak treatment is generous, in keeping. 17.5/20pts
  • Ch Gazin – big and bold but not too brash. Complex and persistent. 18/20pts
  • Ch Beauregard – deep, unctuous and complex. 18.5+/20pts QPR

Sauternes & Barsac – Overall impression – a wonderful way to cap the tasting. Best of the lot were ripe without being cloying. Those that maintained subtlety and linearity were most attractive.

  • Clos Haut Peyraguey – superb all round, balanced with no heat. 18/20pts QPR
  • Ch Guiraud – subtle, long and complex. 18.5/20pts QPR
  • Ch Doisy Daene – reductive to start but potential evident. 18/20pts
  • Ch Coutet – the greatest palate length and reach. Subtle balance. 18.5/20pts QPR
  • Ch Climens – again, superb length and balance. 18/20pts

A note on my points – I mark out of 20, and if the points I have given seem high, it is because I have spared you the 15s and 16s.

I have chosen not to write about or point the First Growths – they were not tasted blind, but stood apart for their length and sheer power. Suffice to say, they were difficult to separate.

Brendan Jansen MW

Nov 2019

Tasmania’s Terroir

Brendan Jansen MW: 10th October 2019

Attempting to come to grips with Tasmania’s terroir diversity…

…with a little help from Shane Holloway and Fran Austin of Delamere wines

My recent visit to Tasmania was my first, and not wanting to bite off more of the Apple Isle than I could chew, I limited my winery visits to the Pipers River area and the south around Hobart and the Coal River Valley. I was immediately struck by the diversity of terroirs, even those in very close geographical proximity, and foremost among my inquiry was an attempt to make sense of the Tasmanian wine geography.

I do not pretend to have done so by any means, but discussions with winemakers on my travels, and especially with Shane Holloway and Fran Austin of Delamere Wines, went a long way to filling in some knowledge gaps.

A few broad strokes are possible – the West coast, and North-western parts of the island receive far more rainfall than in the south. The West coast is thus better suited to dairy farming than viticulture. The South is much drier, and Hobart is second only to Adelaide as the driest capital city in Australia.

Winds from the Antarctic south have a cooling effect, but even the theoretically warmer northerly winds are cooled coming over Bass Strait, so that not much warmth is added until the winds pick up heat over land heading further south of the island. The result is a much higher diurnal temperature variation in the South compared to the North. Tasmanian wine regions do not easily fall within continental/maritime climatic distinctions…!

Thereafter, things become even more complicated. Soils are all ancient, but can vary over short distances. In the Pipers River area, for example, soils are iron-rich and have a high clay content with the ability to hold water. Vines are dry grown at Delamere, and vine roots are pushed deep down. In drier years, these vines continue to do well. Soils in the neighbouring Tamar Valley are far sandier. The Tamar Valley is sheltered from Westerly winds, leading to a warmer, shorter ripening season. Shane and Fran explained that picking in Pipers River can be up to two weeks later for sparkling base wines, and four weeks later for table wines, than the Tamar Valley.

Soil variation over short distances was also showcased by the two single vineyards of Pooley estate. Both in the southern Coal River Valley, the Cooinda vineyard has sandy loams and sandy clay loams over impervious clay, while the Butcher’s Hill vineyard has dolerite and black vertosols over sandstone. The result is a much more perfumed and elegant Chambolle-styled Pinot Noir from Cooinda, and a more sinewy, structured Gevrey-styled Pinot Noir from Butcher’s Hill.

There are still gaping holes in my knowledge of the topography and climate of Tasmania – and I would welcome any comments on this article. Another visit to Tasmania beckons!