22nd February 2009: Casual Italians
A great accompaniment to our bbq'd chops and lamb rosemary sausages
on a warm summer's day by the lake, causal Italians are the drink of choice
at a time of faltering sales of big price-tagged wines mirroring the growth
charts of the world economies. Even attempts at moderately discounting
pre-arrivals haven't swayed the average wine consumer and Australian
merchants should be sweating the difficult times ahead with yet another
drought-affected vintage in Victoria and South Australia (where January
rainfall was 0.4mm!).
Pasquale Pelissero is a boutique operation located in Neive,
Barbaresco and produces ~1200 cases off 4 hectares of vineyard. From it's
first release in 1974, this family owned winery has passed from father to
daughter and persists in its organic philosophy while maintaining an ever
increasing quality slope in their wines.
Pasquale Pelissero Dolcetto d'Alba Crosa 2007
$20. Fruity aromas, primarily dark cherry with a touch of spice, rich red
fruit flavours on the pallet backed by ripe tannins. There is a moderate
level of acidity in this one, offering it a 'crisp' edge and the fruit
flavours manage to keep it together going into the finish. Best served
slightly chilled. 88/100. Tasted Feb 2009.
Pasquale Pelissero Barbaresco Bricco San Giuliano 2005
$50. This is a simple, straight-forward drink with sweet, red cherry perfume
tagging onto a similarly vibrant red fruit core. There is good balance of
the rich fruit with dry and smoky tannins. This is certainly one to cellar,
but I'm not sure when it will reveal it's true self; more importantly, how
much fruit will be left by then? Let's give it 5 years. 91/100. Tasted Feb
Pico Maccario is located in Mombaruzzo, Piedmont and the
Rose Shield is held aloft by by brothers Pico and Vitaliana Maccario who
inherited a healthy 70 hectares of vineyard from their grandfather. Pico
oversees the winemaking duties while also dedicated to the modernisation of
the operation, continual expansion and the study of new and old clones. This
is the largest sole ownership in the region and boasts 55 hectares of
Maccario 'Lavignone' Barbera d'Asti 2006
$30. From 5-year old vines, this light and simple drink has a nose of
Japanese cherry blossom tea, with clean, pure fruit flavours packed into a
medium-bodied texture. A decent level of acidity holds it together, there
are no layers to wrap yourself into. What you taste is what you get. 88/100.
Tasted Feb 2009.
Maccario 'Tre Roveri' Barbera d'Asti 2004
$40. From 60-year old vines and aged for 12months in French oak barrels of
varying size. This is on a completely different level to the Lavignone.
There is an added dimension, aromas of dark red fruit, rose talc powder,
cherry oak-like liquor. Quite high in acidity which holds the pure fruit
flavours together without the tannins taking off any shine on the finish.
Very good quality for this price, nice with grilled herb chicken. 91-92/100.
Tasted Feb 2009.
23rd February 2009: Southern Egyptians, Pyramid Valley (New Zealand)
European summer sun-baked Americans slashing through acres of
Marlborough vineyards and producing articulate wines showcasing the concept
of terroir. Mike Weersing has even thrown up a challenge to the
fuller-styled Hunters by offering a lovely single-block Semillon dripping in
style and personality. An establishment that has earned praise from Jancis Robinson
MW and Matt Kramer (WS), this is certainly one to keep on eye on, although
at their current price tags, more value can be sought elsewhere.
Pyramid Valley Kerner Pinot Blanc 2007, Marlborough NZ
$45-55. Cropped at 3.8 tonnes/acre, this 550 case production is from a small
site in the Waihopai Valley. Hand-picked and whole bunch pressed, this
underwent fermentation by indigenous yeasts for 13months in old French
barriques and puncheons. Pale gold in colour, nose of candied orange, clove
and baked apricot with a touch of burn. Rich fruit, fleshy and rounded on
the tongue to finish, an off-dry wine. Nice. 89/100.
Pyramid Valley Hille Semillon 2007, Marlborough NZ
$45-55. 450 cases produced. From the stony soils of the Brancott Valley, this
was cropped to 3.2 tonnes/acre and hand-picked over 4 passes. Whole bunch
pressed, 13 months of fermentation by indigenous yeasts in 50% new French
oak 500 litre puncheons. 95% Semillon with 5% sauvignon blanc. Straw yellow,
nose of fresh herbs, chervil, fennel, preserved lemon. Persistent flavours
of lemon curd. 89+/100.
Pyramid Valley Orton Gewurztraminer 2007, Hawkes Bay NZ
$50-60. 230 cases produced. 30-year old vines on a 1 acre heavy clay site
yielding 3 tonnes of fruit that were sadly uprooted after this final
vintage. Whole bunch pressed, 7 months of indigenous yeast fermentation in
20% new French oak. Broad, expansive notes of rose musk and cardamom, a
moderate 14% alc and a touch lower in acidity renders this lean on flavours.
Pyramid Valley Eaton Family Pinot Noir 2007, Marlborough NZ
$80-95. 850 cases produced. From the dense clay soils of the Omaka Valley,
close planted on a steep North facing slope and cropped at 2.4 tonnes/acre.
Hand-picked, 85% destemmed, initial 5-7 days of soak followed by 27 day
cuvaison. 15 months on lees in 33% new French barriques. Light ruby colour,
notes of cherry and nutmeg spice but low on fruit and light-weight tannins.
14.2% alc. The last of this label as the site has been sold off. 87/100.
Pyramid Valley Calvert Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007, Central Otago NZ
$85-100. 140 cases produced. A biodynamic site in Bannockburn sitting on
schist and quartz sand that produced only 0.7 tonnes/acre due to poor
weather at flowering. 85% destemmed, 5-6 days of soak and 27 cuvaison. 15
months on lees in 33% new French barriques and bottled unfined and
unfiltered on the winter equinox June 2008. Darker than the Eaton PN, ruby
with a shade of black with blackberry, blackcurrant and iris. Rounded fruit
core in the mouth, quite layered, primarily black fruit, ripe blackcurrant
and a touch of black pepper. 91-92/100.
Pyramid Valley Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2006, North Canterbury NZ
$125-150. 60 cases produced. A 1.7 acre clay-limestone, east facing site
with 6-year old vines cropped at 1 tonne/acre. 100% destemmed, 20 months on
lees in 33% new French barriques. An odd colour, earthy swill with a shade
of ruby. Nose of red currants, musky spice, smoke and wild fur. Deep
flavours of wild red fruit and toasted spice stirred into an earthy brew.
Held together delicately despite the robust characteristics. Would present a
decent challenge to the top 1er crus of Burgundy. 93-94/100.
Pyramid Valley Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2006, North Canterbury NZ
$125-150. 30 cases produced. 1.5 acres of 6-year old vines, north facing on
denser, shallower clay-limestone soils less in clay and active lime than the
Angel Flower. Made in the same way as the Angel Flower to bring out the
differences of the two wines. Dark ruby colour, light touch of cherry,
perfumed wood and raspberry. A red fruit core with sweet spice that persists
with a touch of tannins to prop it up during the soft, lingering finish.
Pyramid Valley Riverbrook Riesling 2007, Marlborough NZ
$40-50. 280 cases produced. Cropped at 3.5 tonnes/acre, vines planted on
silt-bound gravel site were hand-picked in 2 passes to obtain fruit of
different ripeness. 85% was clean, small berry, loose bunches which were
fermented nearly dry. The remaining 15% was late-picked to allow the growth
of noble rot. 9 months of dry fermentation and 13 months ferment for the
botrytis-affected fruit. Relatively low in alcohol, 12.5% with 20g/L of
residual sugar. Very faint, white gold-like colour, notes of pink guava,
pineapple and a hint of oil. Light and not luscious, slightly dry and a good
accompaniment to fresh figs. 88/100.
Pyramid Valley Lebecca Riesling 2007, Marlborough NZ
$40-50. 350 cases produced. Vines planted in deep, silted gravel ground in Rapaura, cropped at 3.7 tonnes/acre. Ripe clean golden fruit not affected by
botrytis. Hand-picked and whole bunch pressed, with light settling.
Fermentation ended at 5 months and allowed to sit on lees for a further 8
months. 11% alc with 34g/L residual sugar. Pale white gold in colour, floral
notes mingled with pear, apple and waxy talc. Sweet, yet balanced with light
fresh fruit flavours and a pleasing finish. 90/100.
Six Gates Majnun Shiraz 2006, Barossa
$23, 1000 cases produced. The 2006 release is a great improvement over the
inaugural 2004. Fruit sourced from Patch 4 of the Six Gates vineyard
underwent open ferment followed by 26 months in oak. A deep, black ruby
colour, good dark spice and plum aromas with a touch of menthol. A balanced
fruit load with the fruit and peppery flavours smoothening out very well,
backed by robust toasty tannins. This should develop nicely over the next
3-5 years, and will be interesting to follow-up. 91/100. Tasted Oct 08.