Simple pallets, Seriously

September 2007 Archive

Vanilla or Honey-smelling armpits anyone?
Some of you might have come across several media releases of a study out of the US looking into smell perception, correlating the pleasantness of a particular odour with genetic variation. The reports say the results of the study have been published online in Nature, but as of today, I have yet to see it, and a search of the senior author Andreas Keller from Rockefeller University, NY doesn't pick up any online release of the article. Here's a link to the ABC's report and here's a link to the UK Telegraph newspaper article by Roger Highfield, their science editor. I don't know who wrote the former article, but the ABC's version did hold a tad more scientific sense (presentation-wise) than the latter which pushed the boundries of interpretive science somewhat by expressing that there is now 'hard evidence that people smell the world differently because of their genes.'. In my opinion, this is yet another example of over-interpreting and overselling the results of the study to the general public and the masses who aren't too familiar with science literature (then again, that's media doing what media does best isn't it?).

The study setup involved about 400 participants and recorded how they reacted to smelling over 60 smells. Of that many smells, one was androstenone, a chemical present in human sweat. While the majority reported its smell as being foul, a small sample of participants were perceived the smell quite differently, some even claiming a hint of honey or vanilla. Now I haven't read the proper research publication yet, but I'm curious as to the sex %s of this participating group as it's very well documented that males and females perceive an identical smell different. Could there have been more females reporting androstenone as having a slightly pleasant inclination than males? This would be a very important point to investigate.

The next part of the study involved investigating the gene that encodes the olfactory receptor OR7D4 which has been shown to activated by androstenone. By genetic sequencing, it was found that those who reported androstenone as pleasant smelling expressed a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). That implies that they express a receptor with a slight variation in it's makeup due to a different genetic letter.

Now, before we get carried away, it is important to make very clear that these findings should only be restricted to the discussion of androstenone olfactory perception, i.e. a specific hormone chemical which is physiologically possibly entirely different from the actions of odourant molecules. While we can extrapolate the implications of these findings to suggest that it is possible that every odour is perceived different by different people due to different genetics, until the time comes that an olfactory cue is definitively paired to a SNP, broad over-generalisation of the current findings is completely wrong. From an evolutionary perspective, essential odours (I can't cite one, but perhaps burning wood for example) would have been vital for the survival of man, in which case one would expect that the gene encoding for that burnt smell (assuming that there is one specific gene encoding for a receptor that detects burnt wood smell) would be conserved as those who thought burning wood was the most perfumed and attractive odour would be burnt to death by now.

So for the Telegraph's 'wine buff' Jonathan Ray to comment that there is scientific proof that wine lovers talk rubbish, well, it's rubbish really. There is no scientific proof that the nuances wineos pick up in their glass activate specific olfactory receptors which in turn are expressed with genetic variations within the human population.

Right, after all that.. let's all get back to sniffing cassis, anise, dark chocolate and violets shall we?

Tuesday 18th September 2007
I got an email from Matthew Moate, director of the e-tailer Squashedgrape, inquiring into my possible interest in reviewing a new label from the Barossa. I was happy to do so and Ali Rezaian, director of Six Gates ( sent me a bottle of their  maiden release. For the sake of impartiality, I have to declare that I have no commercial interested in either company. The 2004 Majnun is made from grapes off the 6 Gates vineyard which is located in the southern region of the Barossa (Lyndoch, BV). The soil is mainly red clay over perforated line, with a gentle northerly slope. Winemaking is by Daniel Eggleton and involves primary fermentation in close tanks with 7 days of skin contact before maturation in a combination of French and American oak barrels for 2.5 years. The final product weighs in at 13.5%alc and a tiny production of 220 cases. RRP $22, currently available through the Squashedgrape website at $15 (After tasting, I did suggest that the 2004 should be retailed for $15-17). There was no 2005 vintage, but a 2006 and 2007 will be released and I've been told that the 2006 will be a sturdier wine than the 2004.

Six Gates Majnun Shiraz 2004, Barossa Valley: Deep, murky purple colour. Soft nose of a hot summer's day, dark ripe berries with hints of anise and crushed granite. But there's a touch of alcohol that jarrs the nose. Quite smooth going into the mouth, with clear plum flavours on the mid palate. I think flavour-wise, it's a relative lightweight, and I feel that this could be bigger and bolder. A big wine does not mean a brute and can still retain elements of elegance. There is room to pack in more tannins, to give it a more robust structure. Up to this point, it's a good drink and it was in the aftertaste that left me disappointed as it was weak and left me with an empty feel. 86/100.

Friday 14th September 2007
Off to the Barossa tomorrow! Couple of burgs for now.

Robert Sirugue & ses enfants 2005 Bourgogne Rouge, Vosne-Romanee, Cote D'or: Dark ruby colour with a fresh vibrant nose of red berries, cherry and a light brown meat sauce with a hint of blackcurrant menthol. Velvety feel into the mouth, nice touch of spiciness, chewy tannins for now but will soften up over the next 7-8 years. Decent finish, but still lacking a bit on the aftertaste. 87-88/100.

Digioia-Royer 2005 Bourgogne Rouge, Chambolle-Musigny, Cote D'or: Dark crimson in colour, nose icey fresh spring water, damp morning mushroom forest with stong brooding red fruit. This is a young wine, chewy tannins present but lots of fruity flavours with white cherry with slight hint of ripening yellow-fleshed plum. Soft aftertaste. 89/100.

Wednesday 12th September 2007
Notes from the past Saturday's PWS tasting featuring the latest releases from Grosset and the 2005s from Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt.

Grosset Springvale Watervale Riesling 2007: $31-37. A new label for this year, reflecting the move to a single vineyard product. Such a youthful and refreshing nose! Fragrance of citrus, with notes of lime and lemon and white flowers. Lean, dryish structure is in balance with the clean bold flavours of citrus fruit and finishes with a long satisfying aftertaste. Certainly one to be enjoyed right now. 91-92/100.
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2007: $37-44. The more famous single vineyard riesling from Grosset. I think this is the 27th vintage. Lighter nose than the Springvale Watervale. It's more subtle and it's diluted or weak. This has less fruitiness in the nose, and packs more earthy stone, mineral notes. Citrus, zest flavours wrapped in an astute, tight structure with good level of acidity. Dry finish that doesn't let up. 91-93/100.
Grosset Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007: 32/27. A blend of semillon from the Clare Valley and sauv blanc from Adelaide Hills. Rich nose primarily contributed by the sauv blanc, notes of gooseberries and maybe passionfruit? The Semillon adds some meat to drink, giving it some level of succulence. Residual mineality lingers in the finish. 91-92/100.

Graacher Troken 2005: $30-35. 86-87/100.
Wiltinger Trocken 2005: $30-35. 86-87/100.
Scharzhofberger Spatlese Trocken 2005: $59-70. 89/100.
Josephshofer Spatlese Trocken 2005: $63-75. 90-91/100.
Piesporter Goldtropfchen Kabinett 2005: $47-56. 91/100.
Josephshofer Spatlese 2004: $55-65. 92-93/100.
Scharzhofberger Auslese Long Gold Cap 2005 (375ml): $97-115. 90-91/100.

Tuesday 11th September 2007
I haven't been to the Fed Sq Vic wine regions showcase series in well over a year because of what I'd term 'bore wines'. Most of the regions really didn't distinguish themselves, didn't have enough character and personality that spoke out to the consumer. Basically stuff you'd get for $10 at Safeway Liquor. Well, I got hassled to check out this Sept's display which featured Goulburn, Strathbogie ranges and Nagambie lakes. It wasn't the occasion to write notes, not even short ones, so I've only got my scores listed. I surprised myself by the end by picking the Murchison Riesling as the best wine of the night, and purchasing a 2000 Tahbilk Marsanne. Both whites, and if you didn't already know, the colour scheme of this page should give you a clue as to where my vino inclinations lie!!

Elgo Estate Wines (Strathbogie Ranges)
Allira Riesling 2006: $13, from 5-9 yo vines, fruity nose, mineraly finish. 87/100.
Allira Chardonnay 2005: $13, buttery nose, slight coconut tinge, fruity flavours, smooth soft drink. 88/100.
Allira Shiraz 2006: $13, 85-86/100.
Elgo Estate Riesling 2004: $22, from 35 yo vines, fruity nose, grassy finish. 86/100.
Elgo Estate Chardonnay 2004: $22, from 35yo vines, nose of sautéed butter, fruity flavours but palate don't match the nose. 88/100.
Elgo Estate Pinot Noir Rose 2004: $18. 87/100.
Elgo Estate Pinot Noir 2004: $22. 86/100.

Maygars Hill (Strathbogie Ranges)
Reserve Shiraz 2004: $32. 86-87/100.
Reserve Shiraz 2005: $32. 87-88/100.

Plunkett Fowles (Strathbogie Ranges)
Plunkett Blackwood Ridge Pinot Noir 2005: $16.95. 87-88/100.
Plunkett Blackwood Ridge Shiraz 2004: $16.95. 86/100.
Plunkett Reserve Shiraz 2004: $39.95. 87/100.

Baarrooka Wines (Strathbogie Ranges)
Shiraz 2002: $25. 84-85/100.
Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2002: $25. 87-88/100.

David Traeger (Nagambie Lakes)
Shiraz 2002: $29. 86/100.
Cabernet Merlot 2006: $29. 88/100.

Mitchelton Wines (Nagambie Lakes)
Viognier 2006: $20. 86/100.
Chardonnay 2006: $20. Weak nose, fruity finish. 87-88/100.
Mitchelton Airstrip 2004: $26. Blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. Very interesting full-bodied white. 88/100.
Mitchelton Crescent 2002: $26. SMG blend. 87/100.
Mitchelton shiraz 2005: $20. 87/100.
Mitchelton Parish 2004: $30. 87/100.
Print Series Shiraz 2002: $49. 87-88/100.

Tahbilk Winery (Nagambie Lakes)
Tahbilk Marsanne 2006: $12. Nose of orange/ tinned peaches. Citrus, lemony tang finish. Light. 88/100.
Dalfarras Viognier.Pinot Gris 2006: $13. 88/100.
Tahbilk Marsanne 2000: $17. 89/100.
Tahbilk Shiraz 2004: $16. Very young. 87/100.
Tahbilk 1860 shiraz 2002: Greenish, clear nose. Flavours of red fruit, spice and white pepper. 88-89/100.

Buller View Wines (Upper Goulburn)
Rose 2007: made from merlot. Colour of rose syrup but weak nose. very sweet. 87/100.
Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2006: $18. 88/100.

Lost Valley Winery (Upper Goulburn)
Cortese 2006: $32. First time tasting this Piedmonte white variety. Only winery outside of Italy to produce Cortese. 89/100.
Thousand Hills Shiraz 2004: $34. 86/100.

Rees Miller Estate (Upper Goulburn)
Thousand Hills Reserve Shiraz 2004: Tannic. 87/100.
Thousand Hills Reserve Shiraz 2006: $35. 89/100.
Cotton's Pinch Reserve Merlot 2006: $25.
Wilhelmina Pinot Noir 2004: $18. Too tannic. 85-86/100.

Tallarook Wines (Upper Goulburn)
Roussanne 2006: $27.50. 87/100.
Marsanne 2004: $27.50. Interesting nose. 87/100.
Chardonnay 2005: 86-87/100.
Shiraz Viognier 2004: $25. 86/100.

Cape Horn Vineyard (Goulburn Valley)
Marsanne 2007: $18. 87-88/100.
Shiraz 2004: $20. 86/100.
Durif 2003: $20. 87/100.
Late Picked Marsanne 2005: $18. Sugar levels not high enough. 87/100.

Gentle Annie Wines (Goulburn Valley)
Shiraz 2003: $25. 89/100.
Shiraz Cabernet Blend 2003: $25. 87/100.

Murchison Wines @ Longleat (Goulburn Valley)
Murchison Riesling 2004: $20. Big nose of petroleum. Lean structure, but good level of fruitiness. Good finish. 90-91/100.
Murchison Shiraz 2005: $18.50. 86/100.

Silver Wings (Goulburn Valley)
Vincenzo Old Vines Mourvedre Shiraz 2004: $25. From 50yo vines. 89-90/100.

Thursday 6th September 2007
I've been rather busy lately so the writeups have been slow coming. Here's the third and last exhibit at the Wines to Dine for expo. A popular Barossan entity, Grant Burge is known for producing interesting GSM blends and powerful shiraz.
Grant Burge 'The Holy Trinity' Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2002: 12 months in barrel, bottled and stored before release. Dark, earthy colour. Perfumed nosed, savoury red currants with a touch of pepper. But given the lovely nose, the flavour is rather on the light side. 88-89/100.
Grant Burge 'Abednego' Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre 2003: Richer, more vibrant earthy notes than the Holy Trinity. Flavours of red berries and plum. Tannins are softish, not overpowering. Good aftertaste. 89/100.
Grant Burge 'Meshach' Shiraz 2002: 4 years on oak, not surprising that there is a massive load of tannins on the mouth, but accompanied by lots of fruit. One for the long term. 89-90/100.
Grant Burge 'Filsell' Shiraz 2005: Lovely perfumed nose of purple flowers and red currants. Tannins are youthful, chewy but the fruit flavours are a touch overwhelmed at the moment. Needs more time to come together, retaste in 3-4 years. 91-92/100.
Grant Burge 'Balthasar' Shiraz Viognier 2003: lots of viognier in this one, just under 20% so that's similar to the Cote Rotie style of wines. Nose is nice, perfumed. Flavours are spicy, sweet plum fruit with a hint of oak. Spicy, plum finish. 88-89/100.

Sunday 2nd September 2007

I was pleasantly surprised to see the wonderful winemaker from Fox Creek Chris Dix managing the pouring duties at Wines to Dine For. I haven't purchased much of their stuff over the years, but recently quite enjoyed their Reserve shiraz. Let's see how they're coming along with their latest releases.

Fox Creek 'Red Baron' Shiraz 2006: $17, a great quaffer offering excellent value for money. Forward nose of plums, spice and oaky notes. Slightly dryish style, lot of red berry flavours, plums and spice. The tannins are soft, good aftertaste. 90-91/100.
Fox Creek 'Duet' Cabernet Merlot 2005: prominent cabernet characteristics softened by the merlot and forward presence of tannins from the merlot. Good finish. 90-91/100.
Fox Creek 'JSM' Shiraz Cabernet Franc 2004
: 75% shiraz, 15 cab franc and the rest cab sauv. Soft nose of vanillin oak and dark red berries. Medium-bodied with flavours of red currants and raspberries. Good aftertaste and well rounded. 90/100.

Fox Creek 'Short Row' Shiraz 2005: Clean, primary fruit. Needs time to settle down this one.. primary characteristics suggest that this is open to tweaking? Plummy flavours, spicy with tannins showing through into a dryish finish. Will be worth checking up in 1-2 years. 90/100.
Fox Creek Reserve Merlot 2005: Only 400 cases of this, made from the first 18 blocks of vines. Muted yet present nose. Rich dark plum flavours, velvety tannins are front and centre which present as firm and a chewy finish in the aftertaste. 90/100.
Fox Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: Typical green, herbish nose of CS. Dry on the mouth, tannins need to soften with age before revisiting this in about 5 years. Soft finish though. 87/100.
Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz 2005: Soft perfumed nose of vanillin oak and plum. Rounded in the mouth. Plum flavours and tannins are in balance, finishing of softly. 90-91/100.
Fox Creek 'Vixen' Sparkling Shiraz Cabernet NV: Medium-full bodied sparkling with lots of fruity flavours hiding behind the dark colour of the drink. Good cleanser. 88/100.

Saturday 1st September 2007
News from the recent Coonawarra road show, as the suits sneak out of their CBD offices to loiter outside the doors of the Melbourne Town Hall with strange old retirees and sweaty round men on the evening of 23rd August. It was a long night and as hard as I tried with the mighty biro, I didn't last till the last bell was rung and last crowds driven out. Thankfully, there was no stumbling upon my exit, the extra steps were expended on the backtrack to return my glass but that was too difficult so I stuck it into my bag. The prime wines were dispensed of rather quickly and my consolation is I did have a swig at the ones that I knew I had to taste. 49 wines in all, my note taking trailed off towards the end of the evening, and the creation of the 200-point scale quickly evolved as 0.5 point differentials started to emerge. I'll take my time to write up my notes, and I think the Majella wines are a good start.
Majella Melody Rose 2007: a blend of 92% shiraz, 8 % cab sauv. Deep reddish colour with nose of sweet rose. Full of flavour, this is no skinny rose and leaves you with a tingling aftertaste. 90/100.
Majella Musician 2006: Oh! So young, with chalky tannins overwhelming my mouth. Medium-bodied, spicy plum flavours but fades off. 89/100.
Majella Shiraz 2006: Bruce Gregory reckons this is their best shiraz yet. Vibrant, swirly red currant notes with youthful tannins. Lovely red fruit flavours, and I'm sure but, watermelon? Good finish. 88-89/100.
Majella Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: Colour of blood plum juice. Nose of sweet herbs and greens. Full of plum flavours and cinnamon. The tannins are still young and quite upfront. Nice finish. 91/100.
Majella Malleea 2004: Lovely nose of lilacs and yellow flowers. Elegant, medium-bodied wine. Sweet touch, light subtle plum flavours mixed with red currants and blackberries. Soft touch of tannins, satisfying aftertaste. 93+/100.


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