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.
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.
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.
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