A light hearted insight into wine with no agenda other than to sniff out wine stories which capture the imagination… follow The Nose…

01/12/2018

Touch Me Not

 

‘No touch’ winemaking is a new one for The Nose. Give me a penny for the number of times I’ve heard the expression ‘hands off winemaking’ & I’d be a rich woman… and seriously, Andrew Nielsen means it. Touch for Andrew results in tannic structure, which is not something he wants. He is chasing the aromatic complexity of Pinot.

“Tannins are not the guarantor of age-ability, but acidity” says Andrew. “You can play with whole cluster. I looked for sites with good acidity – real acidity, not acidity by picking early.” 

Before setting is sights on Burgundy terroir, from which fresh acid wines flow aplenty, Andrew, a hearty, robust Australian, clearly born for making and imbibing wine, was working for The Economist. In 1996, an epiphany changed everything. “I had a bottle of Clos de la Roche Dujac, which blew my mind.” He left the office, and spent the next five years globe trotting, gleaning knowledge and getting some experience working in wineries including Felton Road in New Zealand. 

Final stop was Savigny-Lès-Beaune working for the late and very kind Patrick Bize at Domaine Bize. “Patrick had twenty-one hectares and it was here I saw that in just fifty meters could make a huge difference, even in a small village, not known for great terroir differences. I wanted to make wines which show that difference; to show the character of a single vineyard.” 

“Savigny-Lès Beaune, Fournaux (the village section) was the vineyard which inspired me to make Grapin. I spend the most time on this wine, as it is close to my heart. It tells the story of one place, as it is next to three villages – Aloxe, Pernard and Savigny.”

No Touch

Really? The man looks as though he’d relish some robust tannin structure in his wine, but not a bit of it. The Savigny is typical in being largely untouched by foot, pichou or for that matter pump. 

“We have two to three people working at the beginning of the sorting table, selecting the awesome bunches (these are put into cases and go in last so they are at the top of the tank) and the rest stay on the table to be sorted and de-stemmed. In 2013 we had just 5% whole cluster; in 2017 it was about 30%; and in 2018, we have 70%.” 

 

He puts the de-stemmed fruit at the bottom and fills up the tanks to the top so there is no head space and leaves them to do their stuff.

“There is no extraction and when it is dry – at a density of 995 – we crush grapes – maybe over two or three days. The tannins are quite square in this vineyard, so we are careful with them. I see the wine as just a vehicle for the aroma. I am looking for aromatic complexity, not structure.” 

Andrew and his wife Emma began their winemaking adventure in a garage in Savigny… more by default than design. They have since moved to the old town in Beaune, opposite the Hotel de Ville. Emma had warned me, “We’ve really grown out of our premises, but we have such great ferments here, we can’t leave!” 

Yes, well, my goodness they are bulging at the seams and there’s not much give in a medieval town. When I arrived Emma was deep in a concrete tank, one of three that shore up the back of a decidedly small space for a winery. All credit to them, they have shoehorned a surprising number of tanks and some drop dead gorgeous Stockinger (Austrian) fudres into their mini winery. And centre of all is a basket press, which was ghoulishly dripping in red wine when I pitched up at the end of harvest. Small space apart, the Nose was in aquiver with envy. A basket press indeed! 

Everything is single vineyard

Andrew and Emma seem to work principally with young growers… youngsters who have recently taken over from parents. The typical parent in this scenario would have sold to negotiants and been more interested in producing quantity, than quality. 

Andrew says, “I present it to them as their chance to experiment and I am often asking them to do less work –  less hedging and no turning of the soil after versaison. I want the growers to buy into the idea of single vineyard, and for them to want to take their vines to the next level. My ‘red lines’ – well that would be no pesticides and no herbicides. I want them to work as close as possible to a living soil. That is a key to bright, mineral wine.” 

 

Putting aside the vineyard for a moment, in full appreciation of the fact that everything of any worth stems from here, I was rather taken by Andrew’s cut and thrust approach in the winery. No helicopter parenting of wines here.  

“No sulphur. here,” says Andrew. “Indigenous yeast and lots of solids; a basket press; no deboubage – hyper-oxidise the juice, as I want to the bitterness to fall out… we’re not nasty enough with our Chardonnay.  (Many aren’t). “I’m looking for texture. For Chardonnay we are very lucky here in Burgundy. We do not have to choose between minerality and ripeness – lots of places do both… being a negociant I can make my decision. So I’m looking for later ripening sites which hold their acidity. I want richness, but drive. The yeast is so amazing here, we are dry in two weeks after going into barrel, which keeps the brightness as the yeast not producing glycerol as they’re not struggling.” 

“We use plenty of solids” says Andrew. I like this. The whites have body, as well as tannic bite from the whole bunch basket press.

In the lead photo you can see the basket press behind Andrew which they use for both red and white and is responsible for the slightly phenolic character – a touch of tannin – in the whites. 

There is plenty of density to the palate of the whites, the richness of the terroir, the use of plenty of solids and a savoury tannic bite.“We press hard… up to 2 bar and a long press – one turning – so with one turning so almost like a vertical press and no sulphur.”

Sulphur

There is a lot of talk about sulphur in Burgundy at the moment. I’d says it’s pretty much the latest obsession. Using less of it that is. It’s an old story. Whites have suffered from pre-mature oxidation. Why? A mixture of things including over reductive wine making, too much sulphur and pneumatic presses… protective parenting if you like. An old story maybe, but pretty upsetting if you open an expensive bottle of white Burgundy, from a famous domaine, and find it’s headed over the hill, leaving you bereft of the expected expression of terroir… or indeed of anything at all.   

Andrew explains his approach. “I wait ‘till the wine wakes up in the spring and is going towards oxidative… all this time it’s unprotected and it’s good for them. He doesn’t hold with nutrients either – no DAP – he might use lees from another tank, but as he says, “the wines have to work.”

There is one late addition of sulphur. Just one dose, rather than little by little. None at the press and so just one dose in March – 3-4g/l depending on the barrel.

The whites are bottled with 15-25ppm free sulphur. So only one dose of sulphur unless at bottling it is 8ppm which will need adjusting. He is bottling the reds with free sulphur of 10-15ppm.

The approach here is practical and quite earthy and robust. For example the Savigny-Les Beaune, Blanc was not at a good moment to be tasted. They had a few issues settling it. “We took all the lees from the others and put it in the wine and that settled it. Works – good as you need less fining. Lees are great for settling, great for bitterness or a struggling ferment.”

Oak: “All the new wood is on the Macon – to rise it out.” 

 

Beaujolais

While Andrew is focusing on lesser known appellations in the Côte de Beaune, or at least under-rated ones, he has also stretched south to the Beaujolais to bring Gamay into his fold.    

“It’s great to be part of the Beaujolais renaissance,” he says. “Take Régnié. It’s an old Georges Duboeuf vineyard and it’s just great to bring it back to life – now there are bees and butterflies – we are surrounded by domaines doing bio-dynamics.” 

The Beaujolais-Village Nature is fermented in concrete tanks. They pick some fruit to make a small ferment – taking a good look at it under the microscope to make sure it’s nice yeast at play and not something unpleasant. “We do have some not so nice stuff .. and there’s brett in this cellar,” Andrew admits. This ‘starter mix’ goes into the bottom of the tank and the remaining 95% of the harvest tops it up to rather more than full, so that when the top slides on, there should be no headspace. 

“We press it off before half of the sugar is done – no piegage – so most of the fermentation is off skins, as not much done in the tank. In January we go through all the barrels and anything nice goes into bottle – so this bit has had no sulphur – and the rest can go back and has some sulphur and a later bottling. The sulphur does change the palate. Wines without sulphur are livelier.”

 

Cru Beaujolais:

Beaujolais, Saint-Amour: This is less well known than many cru Beaujolais – you guessed it – most of it is sold on the 14th’ February along with a terrible three course meal. Like many a Valentine’s date – this is a ‘one off for Andrew. He’s flirted with Saint Amour because he couldn’t get a date this year with Feurie. She was laid low with an attack of frost. 

“I use the Chauvet method. By which Andrew means he puts into concrete tank at 10-12 degrees. “No pied de cuve… no juicing. So a slower ferment – 21 days fermentation and press at 1010 (rather then 1050 as with the Beaujolais). In the last few percentages of alcohol you get the softer tannins – most is intra-cellar fermentation and the MLF is done on skins when there is still some sugar. Chauvet was no a hipster he was a chemist. He experimented with so many things and in 1972 he developed this method…this is pure Chauvet. Any technology he did not have, we do not use. This is for the perfume. Aged in Stockinger 3000litre.”

In keeping with the winemaking the packaging might raise a few eyebrows. Wine in kegs – and why not? “The Beaujolais & Macon taste as they do in tank. It makes sense,” says Andrew. In London you can find these in kegs in Clipstone, Magpie…”

Andrew and Emma represent their own wines – selling to many restaurants as well as private clients. For examples Santenay, Gravières is list by the trendy Clove Club in Shoreditch as well as traditional fine dining places such as Le Manoir Quart Saisons and plenty of places in Paris too.

Right now for some wines. 

 

White Wines

 

Macon

This is from Azé, a West facing slope, on limestone with no clay and it ripens late. It is the last parcel to come into the winery and Andrew remarks that it keeps its acidity well. Harvest in Maconnais was the 10-12th September here. 

“We ferment it mainly in barrels – a little in tank last year (2017) given the lack of barrels. In January we decide what to bottle, while some continues ageing to June or July. We also make a Tête de Cuvée which is our favourite barrel or barrels – the sizes range from 300 to 600 is the biggest…”

A lovely richness on the nose. On the palate it is ripe and rounded, but there is a hint of tannin and a firm stony dry minerality on the finish. I like the touch of grip. 

“We don’t fight the terroir – we accept that macon makes rich wine.” 

 

*Saint Aubin, En l’Ebaupin

“Very cold air here – late ripening. My vines next to Pierre Yves Colin’s. En l’Ebaupin is a long and sloping vineyard. At the top there are white soils – bit like like Murgers des Dent de Chien soil and at the bottom more Chassagne-like soils and we have a cross section of the different soils. 3 to 4 rows.”

Pretty floral nose with the palate showing light citrus with some white peach coming in behind. It is quite tense and certainly straight and has a saline minerality. There are also notes of white flowers and a slightly minty hint. Very pretty. Score 15

The Saint Aubin sits on gross lees – no racking or bâtonnage. It came up (from the cellar) in mid July and settles for 4 weeks and has a very light filtration not to have lees. It has a minty note to it. “The minty hint is maybe the stem contact & the saline character is from the no sulphur ageing,” says Andrew.  

 

Santenay, Gravières

“One of the first plantings of white in Santenay. It was all red 30 years ago and this domaine I get the fruit from recognised the potential of white. They saw the white soil and thought, ‘why are we not planting in white?’ It’s just below the windmill – so on the Chassagne side of the village. It’s their third year of conversation to organic and if they want to do this then that’s fine by me – but I just want smart work.”

Rich aroma with yellow peach. The palate is rounded and ripe. Medium full and generous, but after the fruity rich mid palate it does have minerality – a salty mineral bite.

“In the first two years I was fighting that it is a big wine. I was using no new wood and fewer solids – then I decided to go with it.” One 1 year old barrels and one 5 year old of 500l. 

 

Santenay, Gravières 2016

This is rich, smooth and generous. More unctuous than the 2017. The minerality is glossier  & encased in fruit. This has evolving very nicely – maybe the low sulphur regime makes it come around more quickly. Score 16.5

“A much richer vintage for whites” remarks Andrew.

 

*Beaune, Grèves

This is mid slope and a parcel of old vines next to Bouchard’s L’Enfant Jesus. “A grower was retiring and his kids were not interested so the fruit went ta Chassagne domaine, but there was little interest for him to do another white. He kept the red and I get the white. 30-50 years old plantings and it’s our biggest bruiser of a wine.”

Fulsome apricot aroma. It is generous upfront onto the palate. This is no doubt an opulent wine with good depth underscored with a straight minerality…I like straight and assertive finish. Under the depth of texture, there is tension. Score 17.95. 

“This is in older barrels – 3 and a 5 year old barrels, so this creaminess is all terroir. We use the oldest wood on this.” 

 

Red Wines

 

Beaujolais-Villages, Nature

“It’s on a slope… actually a better aspect then the neighbouring part of Fleurie which is rather flatter. The young grower has just got his land and is now renovating the soil. We want to encourage good growing. I pay more, but I am asking for more work here. I want higher canopies and less hedging. Concrete and whole cluster – old style, wood aged.”

This is super juicy and fruity. Very fresh, almost like a fermenting wine still. Raspberry fruits with  a soft texture and a fresh finish. Very slurp-able.  

 

Beaujolais, Saint Amour 

Violets for the aroma. Blackberry fruit and flowers on the palate… very juicy with gorgeous fruit There is a spicy floral and minty note at the end. I like this. What a delich wine..

 

Savigny-Les-Beaune, Aux Fournau 

Village and premier cru, but this is in the village section below and is next to Chandon de Briailles’s vineyards.

Deep red fruit aroma. This is full, juicy and generous. Despite the talk of ‘no touch’ there is a punch to the tannins and muscularity to the palate… but that’s Fourneaux. There is raspberry fruit here – crunchy fruit, herbal freshness at the end, which is I assume, from the whole bunch. Score 15.5

 

Beaune, Boucherottes

“Another underrated vineyard. Here I wanted to find a young grower taking over from his dad… It’s not got the deep clay of Pommard – more Beaune fruit. 

It’s a very red soil and yet lots of big rocks limestone – more of a loam..very good drainage. Light soil.  A shit ton of iron here, yet white stones too.”

“I do a bit more pigeage here – the last 3 or 4 days on skins just to release the sugar, so I don’t get a stuck ferment.”

Very intense fruity nose with lush blackberry and hedgerow fruit. This is aromatic on the palate too. Floral and fresh. 70% whole cluster. This soft and juicy wine is very inviting …it has svelte tannins, ripe and pure on the finish. Very floral. Score 17.85

 

To purchase

Join their mailing list. The 2017s are available  en-primeur so the wine is not yet bottled. A 25% discount on retail price is offered for these early sales.  You can taste the 2017 vintage in London in January.

 

02/11/2018

Calling all Pinot Pioneers

another sunrise, Maresh Vineyard

In Oregon you can buy an acre of bare land suitable for growing grapes for $10,000. In the Côte de Nuits in Burgundy that’s the price in Euros  you’d pay for grapes sufficient to make one barrel of good 1er cru in the Côte de Nuits. An acre in production – a mature vineyard – will set you back $20-25,000, pushing up to $65,000 for the very best quality in the Williamette Valley. Why is this interesting? Well it means Oregon is still a place for pioneers. People with more passion than pounds.

When David Adelsheim came to Oregon in 1971 he no choice other than to plant a vineyard. Today’s budding winemaker can bypass the farming and get starting on making and selling wine for there are plenty of grapes for sale. Thirty new wineries open a year, reflecting the buzz of activity here.

This is a place of small producers. Only 1% of wine made in the US comes from Oregon. It’s a land for the artisanal producer, be it for wine or beer.

Maybe it’s my love of Pinot Noir and it’s certainly my interest in terroir that keeps me very interested in this region. 62% of Oregon is planted with Pinot Noir and 70% in the Williamette Valley – epicentre of pinot production. David Adelsheim was one of the trail blazers in the Seventies. “We wanted to make great wine and so we planted three great grape varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Riesling was often made with residual sugar so was not taken seriously, while Chardonnay had already established a style in Napa and Sonoma and we couldn’t compete with that full-on style, but Pinot Noir had yet to find an identity.”

So let’s say you have a passion for Pinot Noir. You’d love to make some wine. You don’t have a few million quid to edge your way onto the Côte d’Or, even were land available. Why might you chose Oregon? Pinot Noir is a capricious grape. It is grown in California, but it’s a trifle hot… climate and wine. While Oregon is a relatively cool climate. It’s no co-incidence that the most of the outside investment in the region comes from Burgundy.

Oregon has some similarities with Burgundy and differences from California. Let’s start with the climate. Oregon has similar ‘northerly’ light to Burgundy because of the latitude. It has the same number of light units, as opposed to heat units (clearly more of these). On the 21st June the sun goes down in Oregon at 10pm, while it is 30 minutes later in California. Bud break will start earlier in California. The fruit is still ripening in September in Oregon while a Californian September it is warmer and the season shorter. This makes for jammier fruit in California and fresher fruit in Williamette. The ripening season is less like Burgundy – it’s 80-81 degrees in through July and August in Williamette, but they do rein back with quite a strong diurnal – a drop of 20 degrees at night.

IMG_1365

The vineyards are protected between mountains – the Cascades to the East and the Coastal range to the west. Various winds slow down the ripening process. A particularly cold wind blows through the Van Duzer Corridor in the late afternoon, extending the end of the growing season. This wind wine, whistling through a gap in the mountains from the Pacific Ocean, should not to be confused with the fog that rolls in from the ocean in California… bringing the threat of humidity and disease in its wake. There is another warmer wind that comes down the Columbia River Gorge.

Of course Oregon does not have the same rainfall pattern as Burgundy. They have similar annual quantity, but It rains year round in Burgundy – don’t I know it, while Oregon the three summer months are dry as a bone. Despite this, very few mature vineyards in the Williamette valley are irrigated. If you are to the East or South you will have to put in the pipework, but in the Pinot ‘sweet spot’ apparently not.

https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-39782852-137083370199-1-original

And now to the soils. The bottom of the valley is off limits – great for blueberries, hazelnuts and hops, but far too fertile for vitis vinifera. The vineyards are planted on the lower slopes up to 700-800ft. These days people are starting to plant higher – at 900-1000 ft in the pursuit of better acidity. As for the soils type, it can be divided into three – marine sedimentary, volcanic and loess.

In brief – oldest first – the marine sedimentary soil is unsurprisingly derived from land under the ocean originating some 25-50 million years ago.

Volcanic comes from a massive lava flow (17-23 million years ago) 2 km deep which flowed to the ocean. Eroded over millions of years this has left a red soil – notable in the Dundee Hills. Volcanic soils tend to be quite fertile.

The loess is the windswept silt of the foothills and covers basalt (volcanic). The wines will be very different if the basalt has this loess covering.

There is also the Misoula Flood soil – a sort of bath rim left from multiple floods at the end of the last ice age from a huge lake in Montana which forced its way down the Columbia River Gorge bringing a whole bunch of stuff with it.

You may have spotted the obvious in this soil summary – it shares little or nothing with the calcareous marls of Burgundy. Where is the limestone and clay? Ain’t any. The pH of the soil in Oregon is quite acidic – you can add lime, but it leaches out. But as it happens Pinot Noir is quite happy on these soils, seemingly more finicky about climate than soil. And of course Pinot Noir is an aristocratic variety which will transmit the character of that soil, whatever that might be. Only when it gets too hot does have a melt down and… well, it turns to jam.

Point is – Oregon offers plenty of possibilities for terroir wine. At the moment Oregon is still discovering its terroir. The Willamette Valley AVA has been subdivided into six more specific AVAs, each with a variety of soils and aspects. There is plenty to be explored as a wine drinker or indeed as a winemaker…

Momtazi Vineyard harvest 2014.Kelley Fox

The lovely Momtazi vineyard in the McMinnville Foothills AVA where the talented Kelly Fox makes her wines (next month’s blog).

Now let’s get the Nose in a glass

These are from 2014. 2014 was a warm vintage. In September the temperature reached 27-28 degrees resulting in rounded and approachable wines. 2015 was not quite so ripe. In September the temperature decreased to 25-26 degrees producing somewhat more restrained wine. In 2016 the temperature also dropped in September.

Elk Cove Vineyards, Five Mountain Pinot Noir 2014

This comes from the Chehalem Mountain AVA, from loess – a windblown silt.
Expressive dark cherry aroma with some roasted red pepper notes. Satin texture up front, more crunch behind. Very pinot. It is vibrant and has slight austerity.

Chehalem, Ridgecrest vineyards Pinot Noir 2014

This is from Ribbon Ridge AVA. The soil is marine sediment
Blueberry fruits and some floral notes, possibly from the whole bunch. Ripe, but relatively light bodied, leaner frame. Rather elegant. The tannins are firm and fine. There is red and black currant fruit on the palate. Quite high toned sweetly fruited with nicely balanced freshness.

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Laurene Pinot Noir 2014

This is from the Dundee Hills AVA and is from volcanic soil.
Full fruit driven wine. Quite a dense fruit aroma. Full rich, ripe palate. Juicy. Good depth. Richer and bolder tannins. I like the energy. Quite full and punchy.

It is easy to take too much from the grapes from the Dundee Hills. I’m told you have to be pretty restrained with the extraction.

Cristom Vineyards, Eileen vineyards Pinot Noir 2014

This is from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA and Volcanic soils. If I understand rightly this is higher on the slope, as it is in the south of the Williamette wherer it is slightly warmer. The soils are not as deep as in Dundee Hills.
Rich red cherry aroma with a touch of liquorice. Plenty of soft, silky tannins. Good depth and concentration. Ripe, sweet fruit, rounded, but not heavy. I like the balance and the energy.

Eola-Amity AVA is cooled by the wind comes across the coastal range. This dries the berries and gives this sweetness. I understand that the fruit is much less forthcoming from this area and over-extraction is not an issue. This has 50% whole cluster.

Sniffing out a general impression.

The two wines from the volcanic soils seemed to me to share a certain energy – punchy Drouhin and energy in Cristom – but that could be the farming. They are more obviously fruity. There is some thought that the volcanic soils give more red fruit and the loess and marine sediment more black. Not sure about that. The sedimentary and loess soils seem to make slightly leaner and more austere wines, while the volcanic gave richness and more obvious sweetness.

David Adelsheim sneaked a Chardonnay in at the end of the tasting. His 2016 Adelsheim Chardonnay. This came from a sedimentary soil in Ribbon Ridge and it had a notably salty finish.

Nose in the dark:

From tasting just four wines, the nose cannot deduce too much. This would require an extensive tasting to pinpoint the character of specific terroir and this is precisely what the region’s winemakers are now doing as they seek to understand the diversity within each AVA.

It took Burgundy many hundreds of years to do this, but these guys are wasting no time.

06/10/2018

Galloping through the Golds.

IMG_0245

The Nose braved a blustery day in London to attend the Australia Day Tastings in the bowels of of building in the City. With no natural light it seemed an unlikely place to taste wines with such a sunny disposition. At such an amorphous tasting with hundreds of wines begging, where to start? A cramped side room offered a ‘cut to the chase’ approach with ‘Gold Medals Wine.’

There were 60 bottles of wine; a pick and mix of 20 wines a piece from the winners of the 2017 IWC, DWWA, and IWSC.

I started with Hunter Semillon, reassuringly familiar and well mannered. Mount Pleasant ‘Lovedale’ Hunter Valley Semillon is a benchmark wine. The 2011 was intense with the typically waxy character, slightly savoury apple notes and a fresh and powerful finish. Also from 2011 I particularly liked Brokenwood ‘ILR Reserve’ which is somewhat more fruity with lemony and kiwi.

IMG_0231

I’ve always enjoyed Hunter Semillon for its odd combination of lean but mouth filling substance and the complexity which comes with age. They have modest alcohol of around 11% and no lack of freshness. Clearly in this hot climate Semillion has to be quickly snaffled from the vine to achieve this level of reserve. In other parts of Australia it’s picked riper.

Tempus Two Zenith Hunter Semillon is typical in being fermented at a low temperature to retain the fruit and aromatics. The 2010 was is delicious, quite rounded and nicely fresh, while the 2004 with its mellow toasty notes with hints of honey and hay demonstrates Hunter Semillon’s capacity to become rather more interesting with a few years under it’s belt. You’ll notice these Semillon have some age. Typical Hunter Semillion with its nice dry finish has a youthful awkwardness, unlike riper picked Semillon. They need patience and a decent budget. These older vintages are priced to reflect the old adage that time is money.

Snuggled up to the last Semillon came a short flight of Riesling. The residual sugar on the finish make these very accessible. The Nose quivered…Riesling is such an aromatically enticing grape. It’s very happy in the Clare and Eden Valleys. These are cooler climate areas by Australian standards, but the profile could not be more different than their elegant German counterparts. Expect a rounder body, alcohol at around 12-12.5, sweeter acidity and a certain grunt.

IMG_0243

The excellent Pikes ‘Traditionale’ Clare Valley Riesling 2016 shows this body and balance. There is nothing nervous about these Riesling. McGuigan ‘Shortlist’ Eden Valley Riesling 2008 is powerful and assured. It has a gravelly grip cut with lime-like acidity and shows its age in the oily, parmesan aromas. the Nose was enjoying herself. What’s not to like about these ‘overt’ Riesling. Some share the capacity to age as the more restrained Semillon. I’ve enjoyed some very old vintages of Clare Valley Riesling under screw-cap, whereas Australian Chardonnay just does not hang together in the same way.

I swilled and spat my way though a few Chardonnays… blond and boring and expensive… until I hit a Viognier. Well this brought me up short. All peaches and cream; rich, unctuous even. Yalumba ‘Viognier’ Eden Valley Viognier 2016 is textbook varietal. Impressive although I would not be able to drink more than a soupçon.

And then I caught sight of the next wines, two lonely bottles of Pinot Noir, both from Tasmania. I was skeptical having trotted around Tasmania some 17 years ago looking for Pinot Noir for the importer for whom I was working and I found the tastings interesting, but a little odd. Varietal flavours were slightly askew.

These two gold medal offerings were better than the Pinot Noir I recall tasting yesteryear. Burgundy they are not, but they are decent New World Pinot. Josef Chromy Tasmania Pinot Noir 2015 is fresh, fruit driven youthful wine with crunchy tannins. Rather pleasant, but fairly simple for £23.99. On the the other hand Dalrymple Tasmania Pinot Noir seemed really quite evolved for 2015. If you want to fast forward to forest floor and somewhat feral characters, this might be one for you.

Next up – Shiraz. Well if the Burgundy varietals are a little shaky Shiraz is where Australia should excel. The Nose was looking forward to inhaling the sweaty saddle of a Hunter Shiraz and was disappointed find no such olfactory delights on offer.

Instead I was swept off to the Yarra Valley with the 2014 Estate Shiraz from Levantine Hills which is aged in 500litre barrels. This was showing a touch of development on the nose which was rich with dark chocolate and prunes and belied a more elegant and lighter palate which had suede soft tannins and a fresh finish.

The tannins on McWilliams Wines ‘1877’ Hilltops Shiraz were a bit more robust and I liked the grip which countered the sweet fruit. It was very satisfying. It was hand plunged for two weeks and matured in 35% new French oak puncheons, balanced with one to four year old puncheons and hogsheads.

Moving on to the Adelaide Hills, Bird in Hand ‘Nest Egg’ 2014 was a bit heavy handed for me. If you like lots of expensive new oak enveloping ripe fruit, it could be just your thing, but the Nose found it too flashy and rather pricey at an ambitious £64.50.

The most elegant of the bunch was Kilikanoon ‘Oracle’ Clare Valley Shiraz 2013. There was some respite in the elegance and lift of this fresher tasting Shiraz. the Nose was finding the rich density of Shiraz a tad overwhelming and the tasting had yet to stray from the ‘cool climate’ areas of Oz.

And so with some trepidation I poured from a heavy bottle – Pertaringa ‘The Yeoman’ McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015. This is warm climate wine with some seriously ripe fruit and 14.5% alcohol. Very compact and dense. It is closed, but has no lack of potential for ageing.

Patritti JPB Single Vineyard 2015 McLaren Vale Shiraz is another bruiser, weighing in at 15%. It’s a massive wine, powerful and muscular.

Moving to the Barrossa to encounter a bizarre bunch of gold medalists; some that seemed too sweet, some a bit sloppy and others a bit green. However I liked Casella Wines ‘1919’ Barossa Shiraz 2013 which had rather attractive, slightly dusty tannins and was not too sweet.

 

IMG_0248

Whereas Wolf Bass ‘Estates of the Barossa’ Moculta Barossa Shiraz 2012 has a succulent rich and inky depth of fruit. The wine carried this off with some aplomb, but I would be carried away on a stretcher if I actually drank it. Wine for those of a stouter constitution than I.

For something a little less pricey Peter Lehmann turned out a perfectly decent Barossa Shiraz “The Barossan.’ Lighter on palate and purse.

I have nothing much to say about the Cabernet Sauvignon. I didn’t like them.

At this point I would have gratefully cleansed my palate with gold medal fizz, but there was none to be had. The bottles were nose down in the cooling bucket. The English nose is just too polite. I had left them to last and much scoffing had taken place. There was precious little left of the sweet wine too.. although a young helper rustled a few bottles from under the table.

De Bertoli, ‘Show Liqueur’ Riverina Muscat NV was a worthy winner of the Decanter Best Value Sweet Fortified wine. Chocolate with a hint of charcoal and well worth sixteen quid. You’d have to cough up £53 for Stanton and Killeen, Grand Rutherglen Muscat Petits Grains NV but it is super yummy – coffee and caramel, sweet and juicy with a bitter edge of burnt sugar.

In for a penny, in for a pound – All Saints Estate, Grand Rutherglen Muscat Petits Grains NV hit the palate with 18% alcohol (think port) and the nose was closing in on her limit. This was essence of raisin – the most concentrated raisin you could imagine, layered with caramel, roasted nuts and figs to boot. My word!

Talking about pennies – pennies wont buy you much of a gold medal wine. Many were priced over £40, £50 and even £70. Big wines and big prices… my departing impression was of rich reds in heavy bottles; of wines bred for show.

 

Roll call of wines, stockists and prices

Mount Pleasant ‘Lovedale’ Hunter Valley Semillon £35
Brokenwood ‘ILR Reserve’ Hunter Valley Semillon 2011 – Negociants UK £39
Tempus Two Zenith Hunter Semillon 2010 and 2004 Importer Australian Vintage
Pikes ‘Traditionale’ Clare Valley Riesling 2016 Seckford Wines £18.75
McGuigan ‘Shortlist’ Eden Valley Riesling 2008. Liberty Wine PAO
Yalumba ‘Viognier’ Eden Valley Viognier 2016 £15.99
Josef Chromy Tasmania Pinot Noir 2015 Bibendum £23.99
Dalrymple Tasmania Pinot Noir 2015 – Negociants £29.99
Levantinne Hill ‘Estate’ Yarra Valley Shiraz 2014 seeking distribution [email protected]
McWilliams Wines ‘1877’ Hilltops Shiraz 2014 Enotria and Coe £37.50
Adelaide Hills Bird in Hand ‘Nest Egg’ 2014 £64
Kilikanoon ‘Oracle’Clare Valley Shiraz 2013 Mentzendorff & Co. £52
Patritti JPB Single Vineyard 2015 McLaren Vale Shiraz HAwkview Agency. POA
Casella Wines 1919 Barossa Shiraz 2013 Casella Wines £75
Wolf Bass ‘Estates of the Barossa Moculta Barossa Shiraz 2012 Wine Treasury Estates
De Bertoli ‘Show Liqueur’ Riverina Muscat NV. North South Wines. £15.99

Click here for more blogs