Simple palates, Seriously

September 2009 Archive

26th September 2009
Looking back at the 2009 Young Guns of Wine awards held one month ago and tasting through most of the wines at PWS then, it was great to see consistency in the "older" stalwarts  but refreshing to see new faces emerge onto the scene. Heemskerk (named after the lead ship of one Abel Tasman who circumnavigated the island) was established in 1975 and is now part of the Foster's Group with the very lovely Anna Pooley holding the reins of winemaking responsibilities.

Heemskerk 2008 Coal Valley Chardonnay, Tasmania
$50. Fruit for this wine comes from a single Tolpuddle vineyard with 20-year old vines  in the Coal Valley. Planted on the higher elevation of a slope of silt on clay with an Eastern facing, cool inland winds play a part in the slow, even ripening of Chardonnay grapes on this site. Whole bunch pressed and fermented in French oak, the wine is somewhat complex with a generous nose containing young lemon and melon with a sprinkle of quartz. It's fresh tasting with rich, crisp acidity and citrus flavours. An excellent finish to boot. Released in Nov09. Drink 2-5 years. 92/100.

Heemskerk 2008 Derwent Valley Pinot Noir, Tasmania
$55. The Lowestoft vineyard is located north of Hobart on the edge of the Derwent (Celtic for clear water) estuary which is unfortunately having a couple of environmental issues of its own. This wine gives the sensation of a moss carpeted forest floor with flowers. Lovely, fresh ripening red berries with even tannins that is in balance with the overall weight of the wine. Good finish, have this over the next 5-7 years. 91/100.

23rd September 2009
It is widely agreed that 2007 has emerged as a great vintage for the Margaret River region and as the tasting notes continue to hit the press, you can bank on it, stamp it and print it. 
The name of Fraser Gallop was added to the growing list of Aussie winners at the 2009 Decanter World Wine Awards by taking out the Red Bordeaux Varietal over £10 earlier this year. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (so labelled despite 12% of the wine being a blend of other varietals) is tremendous value at $25 and is an easy recommendation for a case for keeps. You can still pick it up from WineStar or Nick's.

Fraser Gallop 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, WA

$25. Lovely black plum colour with a dense perfume of sweet cedar oak and smoky blackcurrant topped with whiffs of pencil shavings and cigars. I also picked out a sense of savoury juices of a fat beef steak. This is primarily a CS but there is petit verdot (5%), cabernet franc (4%) and malbec (3%). The texture is silky smooth and you are greeted with an immediate flush of tingling, spicy plum flavours. A robust wine with firm tannins that fade out for plum jam flavours to kick back. That ended a little too soon for me although the aftertaste does linger around very nicely on the back palate. This is certainly a good wine that is drinking very well now and will do so over the next 5 years. 91/100. *I have revised my notes (rating and estimate aging potential) after following this wine over 3 days*

17th September 2009
There's been an interesting report of Australian Vintage yanking its support for the future direction of Wine Australia. Ok, not the most imaginative and captivating of names, but we should clarify the identity and importance of both companies for the continually putting Australia's name out there. Australian Vintage is a company that has generated $288 million (figures released on 26/08/2009) by putting labels such McGuigan, Nepenthe, Tempus Two (and yes, Passion Pop) onto the shelves of bottle-Os in the UK, USA and Canada. Admittedly not the most prominent of labels locally, but they have held the Aussie flag high recently with the Nepenthe 2007 Ithaca Chardonnay winning Decanter's Best Chardonnay above £10 while Neil McGuigan picked up IWC's International White Winemaker of the Year.

In the other corner, Wine Australia is a branch of the Australian Government's Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation and is facilitating a strategic re-think of the brand with a project titled 'Wine Australia: Directions to 2025'. It's certainly good that the government is attempting to get involved in the industry at a time when Australian wines have lost a significant slice of the market to the up-and-coming wine-producing regions South America and South Africa.

So the whole argument is akin to the DOC vs. DOCG fistfight in Italy a couple of decades ago. WA wants to inject a new breath of air in the marketing of Australian wines by pushing the whole regionality-edge which is nothing new if you follow your French wines. But the tiny problem is that without stringent regulation, this approach comes without the actual guarantee or assurance that the wines will be of high quality and we might be churning out very generic wines. AV is in favour of improving the general quality of exported Australian wines while maintaining price competitiveness. There are merits to both strategies and in a perfect world, we'd be seeing a combination of both. I believe that quality can be found in wines that reflect the unique properties of the subregions (see Dan Standish) but in general, these are produced in tiny volumes and the grapes cost a bundle and consequently the bottles cost a bunch. BUT, if the government is willing to offer a substantial subsidy for growers to maintain small vineyards under the best growing practices so that the fruit is of tip-top quality, then winemakers will be able to turn these into stellar wines at lower prices. Additionally, the government has to design a system to assist winemakers in the export process and perhaps even offer additional (tax?) incentives to small volume winemakers to make the push overseas.

15th September 2009
isn't just one more little fish thrown in a big pond. Wayne Ahrens has joined up to the boutique cause of putting the essence of the earth into our wine glasses. I sincerely hope consumers are gradually waking up and rejecting ghostly 'wines' that are void of soul. It's not surprising that manufacturing wine by fermenting and blending millions of litres strips the product of any personality reflective of the climate, the land and growing culture. The Smallfry line-up is all about small parcels of land, careful growing practices and the truest reflection of the vine. Overall the prices are very fair for the quality and I recommend their companionship for sunny weekends. Also take note that Wayne has opened a cellar door in Angaston.

Smallfry 2009 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
$15. I was surprised with the availability and existence of Barossan Sauvignon Blanc. Wayne shared that this blend was a request of a Queensland distributor. Early picking of the SB fruit brought out the soft greenish notes that added a zing to weightiness imparted by the Semillon. Overall, this has fresh grassy and rich lemon flavours that gives a slight impression of a Fume. Drink within 2 years. 88/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2008 Eden Valley Riesling
$18, 200 cases produced, 11.5% alc. A riesling that is young, fruit forward. Sweet lime juice is how I'd describe this, yet it's not soft and not simple like the low cost kabinetts. It's certainly richer and the flavour profile is broader with talcy minerality on the mid-palate. Yet, I'd like to see abit more firmness and acidity in this. Drink 2-3 years and if you're the daring sort, maybe 5 even? 88/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2009 Barossa Valley Riesling
$18, 110 cases produced, 11.0% alc. A style that's closer to my heart. You can taste the residual sugars in this simple yet pleasing wine. This is sweeter than the Eden Valley Riesling and to me, is slightly more complex with the lime, citrus buds and a touch of rose. 88/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2008 Barossa Valley Semillon
$18, 175 cases produced, 11.5% alc. This is a good early-summer drink. It's fresh, focussed and offers a lot without the need for thought. Notes of fresh lanolin with sweet fruit built on firm acidity. There is a hint of the 25% new oak treatment but the malolactic acid fades out fast. Drink over the next 2 years. 88-89/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2009 Eden Valley Rosť
$18, 120 cases produced, 11.8% alc. A blend of 80% cabernet and 20% grenache. The Cabernet saw 18 hours of cold skin contact before full yeast ferment which was combined with wild yeast fermented old vine Grenache. A good colour on this easy, food-appropriate (think sizzled pork & cumin/fennel seed sausages) drink. The primary fruit characteristics are easily picked up with aromatics from the grenache and blackcurrant flavours from the CS. One for Spring Carnival's pre-lunch nibbles. 87/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2009 Tempranillo Garnacha Joven
$20, 110 cases produced, 13.5% alc. Slightly reductive, interesting layered aromatic profile with burnt earth, medium-heavy fruit but with a floral hint. An easy drink with well-integrated tannins, the finish is slightly short. Unoaked and true expression of the land in the fruit. Comparable to the philosophy behind Tobreck's Juveniles and Teusner's Joshua. 87/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2007 Barossa Valley GSM
$28, 150 cases produced, 15.0% alc. Black cherry compote but a touch of alcohol on the nose. Linear, ripe dark fruit with a hint of savouriness and bitterness. The sensation of sweet spice comes through but the fruit doesn't stand out enough for me. 88/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2007 Eden Valley Red Blend
$28, 80 cases produced, 14.5% alc. A blend of 40% Cab Sauv, 30% Cab Franc, 20% Merlot and Petit Verdot 10%. A lovely Bordelais composition but with a heavier feel. Soft tannins envelope the small dark berries with the Cab Franc and Merlot both offering the weight and spice elements. The finish is a touch short for me, but a pleasing wine no doubt. Drink 2-3 years. 88-89/100.  Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2007 Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
$28, 113 cases produced, 14.0% alc. Red currents stomped into black berries with a touch of oak spice. A simple wine that is true expression of the vine, this wine is young and fleshy but the tannins, as unassuming as they are, need a little bit more time to get fully integrated. Keep 2-3 years, drink 5-7. 90/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2007 Barossa Valley Shiraz
$28, 90 cases produced, 14.5% alc. Amazing black colour, this is a robust wine with notes of fresh, soft christmas fruit cake with a touch of blackberries and plum skins. Rich dark fruit flavours with silky tannins that are propped with a spicy zing at the end. There is potential for this one to be enjoyed over the next 5-10 years. 93/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2007 Barossa Valley Grenache
$28, 50 cases made, 16.0% alc. This dark ruby coloured medium-bodied wine is fruit-forward with light, red fruit aromatics and ripening raspberry flavours. Good wine for the up-coming BBQ season. 88/100. Tasted July 2009.

Smallfry 2008 Late Harvest Riesling
$15, 50 cases made, 12.5% alc. From cordon cut vines, Sweet spice and stewed pear on the nose with a hint of uncooked flour/bread. This is closer to the muscat de venise style but appears slightly flat to me as I would have liked to have seen more acidity in this. A decent light dessert wine nonetheless. 88/100. Tasted July 2009.

6th September 2009
Chestnut Hill 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Mt Burnett, VIC
Soft lemon talc and citrus notes with a straight forward, yet intense lemon/mandarin flavours with a high level of acidity. Rich finish with a hint of pith. Drink up. 88/100.

St Claire 2007 Block 2 Sauvignon Blanc, NZ
Sweet yellow capsicum, white peach an damp cut morning lawn. Developed, zingy flavours that are rich while the acids are kept in check. Well-balanced with a lingering finish. Drink by 2010. 91-92/100.

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