Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

A+ Australia, Coonawarra Masterclass – the wines

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

The Masterclass at Australia House, London on 31 January with Anthony Rose and Justin Knock MW provided a wonderful opportunity to taste a range of the region’s very best wines. For my report on the masterclass see    Here are my tasting notes along with a recommended UK retail price for each wine. The characteristics of the region – especially juicy acidity, with quite firm tannins and intense fruit flavours are apparent in almost every wine.

Hollick, Ravesnswood Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (£45)

Very deep coloured, with an aroma of concentrated, sweet, cassis fruit, with a slightly minty pyrozene edge. Very crisp acidity, fresh, crunchy blackcurrant fruit.

Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (£17)

Very sweetly ripe fruit, again cassis. In the mouth it is very fresh and almost mineral, with a long herby and mineral finish. The only fault is a slightly heavy hand with the oaking – (French and Russian)

Jacob’s Creek, St. Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 (£27)

Very deep coloured. Ripe, leafy eucalyptus aromas – complex and spicy. The palate shows very juicy, fresh acidity with blackcurrant fruit and firm tannins.

Lindeman’s Limestone Ridge Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (£35)

The Shiraz is 70% of the blend. It was aged in hogsheads rather than barriques. Creamy, rich aromas of chocolaty fruit – dark and concentrated; then sweetly ripe and chocolaty in the mouth – real intensity, supported by chewy tannins.

Parker Coonawarra Estate, First Growth, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2006 (£45)

Merlot makes up 30% of the blend. Very creamy black fruit aromas – cassis. The palate is huge and concentrated, with very fresh acidity, firm tannins and 15% alcohol.

Petaluma Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2008 (£25)

Fragrant and complex with spicy notes, then big and juicy, with firm tannins and spicy oak.

Balnaves of Coonawarra, The Tally, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (£81.99)

Very complex, but also very rich and very spicy – quite evolved aromas. In the mouth it showed lots of structure: big, tannic and chewy and very long. Despite the evolved aromas, one to put down and forget about for at least a decade?

Katnook Estate, Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 (£59.99)

Deep, with a very creamy, intense aroma of chocolaty fruit. Even more intense in the mouth, supported by very chucky firm tannins and new oak. In fact this wine was in part ‘double oaked’ – aged in 60% new oak for 15 months, then 77% new oak for 19 months – a real Odyssey.

Majella, The Malleea Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, 2008 (£39.99)

Cabernet 55%/ Shiraz 45%. A finer, more elegant, plummy, chocolate aroma, then in the mouth, big, rich but balanced by juicy acidity. It was partially barrel-fermented.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate, John Riddoch, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 (£55)

Deep and concentrated, it has a classis sweet cassis nose then in the mouth, fresh, juicy fruit with real concentration.

Aussie Cabernet – a bit of a disappointment

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I have been pondering over my  notes from a selection of fourteen Australian Cabernet’s tasted  ‘blind’ at last month’s London trade tasting.  I was disappointed that so many wines seemed show little fruit freshness. There was plenty of extract, shed loads of tannin and no little alcohol, and often quite a lot of acidity, but finesse and elegance was hard to find. Too many didn’t seem balanced. With the exception of one wine (see below) price didn’t seem to make much difference. One of the most impressive wines, was was of the least expensive: d’Ahrenberg ‘The High Trellis’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from McLaren Vale (rrp £11.99), imported by Bibendum.  Qute deep and concentrated, it did, however, display some freshness along with a silky texture. One wine stood out: Henschk’es ‘Cyril Henschke’ 2004 from the Eden Val.  Although surprisingly brown-coloured, it had balance, complexity and elegance, though its sweet berry fruit flavour seemed more mature than it actually was. It ought to have  shown well, it’s rrp is £70 (imported by Enotria).

Was I just having an off day? I don’t think so – I was greatly impressed by some other wines in show, especially a parallel ‘blind’ flight of Semillon.

Aussie reds – impressive but …

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

‘Australia’s First Families of Wine’ with its emphasis on the people behind the labels  is a clever approach to marketing.

The twelve happy families include some very big players indeed. They each selected a representative wine to accompany their press release in the UK. Most of them were very good indeed, and the distinctive top whites from Henschke, Tyrrell’s, McWilliams and Tahbilk prompted me to write a longer piece for The Journal (Jan 8). These dry whites, along with Campbell’s stunning Rutherglen Liqueur Muscat are all true Aussie originals. And the dry wines, especially two superb Hunter Valley Sémillons, are refreshingly low in alcohol. Great.

I found the red wines a little less attractive.  Every one was certainly every one packed with flavour, but some have a huge level of alcohol. The biggest wines remind me of one of those larger than life individuals, who with a rather over-inflated ego bursts into a party and insists on being the centre of attention. The noble exception to this is Brown Brother’s ‘Patricia’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, which has a comparatively modest abv of 13.5% and both freshness and elegance of fruit – ripe, black and spicy – or at least, that’s the impression I gained through a bottle slightly tainted by TCA (£22.99 from www.everywine.co.uk ).  Yalumba, ‘The Scribbler’ 2007 – a Cabernet/Shiraz blend is another success and also 13.5 abv. With creamy black fruit and nice hints of cherry and spice, it too has a freshness of fruit and is good value (£9.99 at Oddbins). Wakefield Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 at 14 abv, with cassis, licorice and more sweet, black fruit is probably the hottest bargain of the bunch at Majestic’s special offer price of £6.49 (until the end of the month when it reverts to £8.49).

Jim Barry’s, Clare Valley  ‘The McRae Wood’ Shiraz 2005 is an alcoholic monster at 15.5abv (£9.99 at Majestic).  It’s hugely concentrated and jammy with a liberal dusting of pepper and almost as much toasty oak. There is black cherry fruit too, but it has a struggle to emerge from all the seasoning.  d’Arenburg ‘d’Arry’s Original’ Shiraz/Grenache 2006 (14.5 abv) is also peppery, but has much more obviously fresh fruit – plum and maybe loganberry – and is quite chewy (£9.95 from the Wine Society). Howard Park ‘Leston’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (£14.99 from www.bibendum-wine.co.uk ) is another, big 14.5 abv, black fruit-dominated, mouth-filler, but it has a distinct minty edge and surprisingly crisp, almost malic acidity (did they suppress the malo?).

I’ve tried the last red wine in the bunch, de Bertoli Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2007 (around £16.99 at Oddbins)  a couple of times in recent weeks and come up with rather different notes. Is it one of those wines that really benefits from being in the ‘right’ kind of glass? Certainly, when I popped it into a big round Pinot Noir glass it was far more velvety than in an ISO, when it seemed to have rather leathery tannins. Or maybe I drank one on a ‘root day’ and the other on a ‘flower day’. I must check – I’m having a lot of fun playing with ‘When Wine Tastes Best: A Biodynamic Calendar for Wine Drinkers’ by Maria and Matthias Thun (Flors Books, £3.99). I don’t believe a word of it – yet.