Monday, 19 December 2011

Wine Recommendation

Alamos Mendoza Malbec 2010

The Americans are going mad for Argentinian Malbec at the moment, so for this one to be around at £7.99 probably means someone at Majestic's buying department got themselves a bit of a steal.

If you're like me and leave all your Christmas shopping until the last minute this is one to grab as a good solid wine that should keep things flowing over the Christmas period. Since it's not too overt a new-world fruit bomb this is one that can be enjoyed by everyone, even in the five minutes between Friday and Tuesday that they're not eating!

Expect lots of soft, autumnal black fruit on the nose, a faint whiff of bonfires. It's medium bodied with black cherry and blackberry all backed up with a faint tarriness and supple tannins.

£7.99 from Majestic

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Thought of the Day

It occurred to me this afternoon, while I was supposed to be busy doing something else, that books and Pinot Noir have a similarly alluring aroma to them.

This applies to both the new; the freshly opened lively new world Pinot or the sometimes medicinal, clean print smells of a book you've just bought, and the old; the more illusive, the reassuring atmosphere created by old books in a library or the leafy humus and farmyard aromas of a a mature wine.

I'm sure this can't be a coincidence, even if it's entirely psychological.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A+ Wine Day, The Red Wines

This is just to finish off things with regard to last week's tasting at Australia House with my pick of the reds.

Flight 6: Pinot Noir (6)
I picked the Yarra Valley Innocent Bystander 2010 from this bunch. Not necessarily because it was the best wine, but because I thought that at £12.99 (on the list, through a search it's £11.95 from Wine Direct) it was really keenly priced. It's full of exuberant fruit as you might expect, bursting with cherry and strawberry, but with an underlying spicy complexity that marks it out as a more serious wine. Most of the rest in the flight were £20+, which puts them into the realms of some pretty serious Burgundian/Central Otagan wines, and I didn't think they represented that good value for money. Certainly if you like the your Pinot on the pongy side, only one, the De Bortoli 'Reserve Release' 2006 fitted the bill.

Flight 7: Shiraz (8)
The best of the Shiraz flight was indicative of a shift in focus for Australia's signature grape. the First Drop 'Mother's Milk' Barossa 2009 as made from fruit selected fruit from two vineyard areas at different altitudes, resulting in a delightfully aromatic complexity with really fresh fruit flavours. Lacy Tannins create a pleasant texture, with a touch of spice and absolutely no hard edges. £16 from Harvey Nichols. This would make a great wine for the Christmas dinner table. There's enough fruit for it to be a crowd-pleaser but it's not too aggressive - and definitely not from Old School Barossa wine making.

Flight 8: Shiraz blends (3)
For me the Turkey Flat 'Butchers Block' Shiraz Grenache Mourvédre 2009 Barossa Valley showed the sweetness of the Grenache well, nicely balancing with the alcohol. The Mourvédre provided a certain earthiness. A well-thought out use of different fruit and considerate blending. (£10.95 from Formulawine).
For all the talk on the day of the wine revolution taking place in Australia, it was interesting that this was one of the wines which seemed to reflect the terroir the most - remains to be seen if the quest for 'regionality' results in less of a focus on single-variety wines.

Flight 9: Cabernet Sauvignon (6)
I agreed with Tim Atkin and Nick Stock on this one, the Hollick Coonawarra 2009 is a superb wine, and a bargain at £16.65 from Slurp. This is what modern Australia can do best, power with elegance, and nothing overdone - plenty of fresh blackcurrant fruit as you might expect, but without the sometimes overpowering eucalyptus leafiness that can be off-putting at times, and with silky smooth ripe tannins.

Flight 10: Fortified Wine (4)
OK, not red wines but worth a mention was the powerfully spicy, dried fruit Rutherglen Muscat from Stanton & Killeen - £12.40 from Slurp. Having said that if you're into sticky sweet dessert wines this style is well worth a try in whatever form you find it - treat yourself!

Tim Atkin summed up by saying he was more optimistic than he had ever been about Australian wine. Some of these wines are definitely at the forefront of disproving some of the old Aussie wine myths - and most enjoyable for it.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A+ Wine Day, The White Wines

Having written a post the other day about Australia Wine's One Day Wine School I thought I'd write up some thoughts on the wines themselves.

There was close to fifty wines throughout the course of the afternoon, and so what I thought I'd do is just pick out some of my personal highlights, the best of the flights - along with any other interesting comments that were made at the time.

Flight 1: Sparkling Wine (2)
Both the Jansz 'Premium Cuvée' and the Brown Brothers Brut  'Méthode Traditionelle' were excellent, very little to choose between the two, and either one will be far superior to any bargain basement Christmas Champagne deals you'll find in supermarkets this month. Personally I preferred the elegance of the Jansz but I'd happily drink either.

Flight 2: Semillon (3)
I love Semillon, but perhaps with more bottle age than was shown here, although I'd imagine older examples are going to be particularly hard to get hold of. The best of these was the oldest, a 2003 'Vat 1' from Tyrell's in the Hunter Valley. It had mellowed out with the couple more years it had on the other two; pithy, delicate and flinty. A superb apéritif. £25 from Majestic.

Flight 3: Viognier (3)
The first glimpse of d'Arenberg's distinctive red stripe, and an old favourite, the 'Last Ditch' Viognier, 2008 vintage. Generous stone fruit and smokiness, by contrast with the Yalumba Eden Valley 2010 which had much more classic honey , orange blossom and floral notes. Couldn't choose between those two. £9.95 from Wine Direct and £12.10 from Slurp Wines.

Flight 4: Riesling (6)
Things were starting to get into less-charted waters here, a flight of six Aussie Rieslings? Well if these couldn't showcase the differences in the regions, what could? There was a few interesting wines in this lot. I thought the Ferngrove 'Cossack' Great Southern 2010 (£14.65 from Slurp) was great if you like a leaner, steely, petrolly style of Riesling. It's still young and somewhat austere, and like the Mitchell Wines 'Watervale' 2010 it would be interesting to see how they'd pan out with age. The Watervale had more floral and lime notes, classic Clare. Long way to travel to try this since it's available where I used to work at Weavers in Nottingham, £13.50.
Also of interest was the 'mesh' Eden Valley 2009, a collaborative effort between two winemakers who vinify separate wines from the same parcels of fruit (hence the name). I actually thought this was the best of the bunch, although I could see Nick Stock's point about wanting to try both of the wines to see what the winemakers did with the original fruit. Lots of lime cheesecake, where often I find Aussie Riesling to be a bit overpowering on the lime cordial stakes this had a lovely, almost chalky, creaminess which took the edge off. £16.60 from Slurp.

Flight 5: Chardonnay (9)
I've not done a great job of finding favourites so far, and given this is the biggest flight, I failed to do so here. Report of the death of Australian Chardonnay, crushed to death under a mountain of new oak, have been greatly exaggerated. But if you've survived this long then I narrowed it down to a pick of one from each of the three areas (there was three wines from each region).
The first group was from the Mornington Peninsula, the best of which I thought was the Ocean Eight 'Verve' 2010 which had just a touch of reductive matchstick aroma and a good chalky minerality (struggled to find this one, although apparently it's imported by Hallowed Grounds, expect to pay around £24).
The de Bortoli Yarra 2008, a former Jancis Robinson wine of the week, and again a tricky one to get hold of, had much more peachy fruit and was a more rounded style. According to the listing I was given it is a Wine Society line but they list the 2006 at £13.50, not this vintage.
Finally the Adelaide Hills 2009 from Shaw and Smith was beautifully aromatic, with lots of mellow fruit and a gorgeous supple mouth-feel and texture. (£24 from Majestic).

Plenty of food for thought there I hope. I'll return with some reds when I get a chance.