Quality reports from USA, Canada & Australia

Enobites. Com, February, Marc Hinton

After my first trip down under, I returned home wondering why the really good high quality wines I had consumed while I was in Australia were not available on our retail shelves or offered on restaurant wine lists here in the United States. Sure we have vast amounts of shelf space devoted to Australian brands at various price points, but unless you know a good local store who specializes in regional Australian wines or you have a Total Wine (or some other beverage) megastore, there are not many choices $20 and above. Full article

Tasman Commentaries, February, Chuck Hayward

Australia has been blessed with a surfeit of great wine writers. There’s plenty of them, each with their own voice. Some may be more professorial, others like news reporters. But taken as a whole, reading about Australian wine from the perspective of the country’s writers is reflective of the wine industry’s strength.

One of my favorites is Philip White, a highly opinionated writer based out of Adelaide. Whitey, as he known in Australia (and to distinguish him from Tim White, another critic who also rarely hides his demeanor), does not suffer fools gladly. Bureaucrats, politicians and blowhards are all in his line of fire. Yet he has unrestrained passion for wine and the people who make up the industry, both present and more importantly, the past. His blog, Drinkster, is must reading for those who want to read wine writing at its fiery best.

A recent post, however, brought me to a crossroads. In it, Philip decried inviting members of the trade from other countries to participate as guest judges in Australian wine shows. As he says: Full article

Washington Post, 18 February, Dave McIntyre

This week, take a virtual trip to Australia with three outstanding wines that represent that country’s new voice in wine.

Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Tasmania, Australia, US$60

It’s priced like a high-end white Burgundy, and it delivers. This is an amazing chardonnay: electric with firm, lively acidity that’s softened just enough by flavors of apples, pears, lemon curd and spice. There’s enough oak to make its presence known, yet it stays in the background. The wine finishes long and delicious. The Tolpuddle pinot noir is also fascinating, spicy and aromatic.

Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2014, Adelaide Hills, Australia, US$31

Boysenberry, raspberry and cranberry flavors abound in this wine, along with a hint of minty eucalyptus on the finish, but don’t expect the jammy style of shiraz that was popular a decade or more ago. This wine is elegant and quick on its feet. Two days after opening, it was even more delicious.

Vinaceous Wines Right Reverend V Shiraz 2014, Mount Barker, Western Australia, US$22

This seemed almost skeletal at first, as though all its flesh had been stripped away in search of a new style of shiraz. What’s left is tasty, with boysenberry and raspberry fruit, hints of earth, limestone and a whiff of a wood fire in the distance on a cold, starry night. It gets better the next day, and it should age well for several years

Grape Expectations 18 February Max Crus (Simon Hughes)

At some point in the week these reviews and article will appear in The Daily Examiner (Grafton), Border Mail (Albury), Rotary Down Under (National) and Australian Petroleum Marketer News (National) 

Reviews for

Patrick of Coonawarra Joanna (Wrattonbully) Shiraz, 2012, $49 (to be released in March, so this is a scoop). Naturally people named Joanna will gravitate towards this, so gravitate towards them if you can. Lovely way to make new friends and drink lovely red. 9.2/10.

Patrick of Coonawarra Botrytis Riesling 2010, $50. There’s probably a newer version, but it’s worth the wait, and the fancy packaging makes a great gift or carry bag afterwards. 9.1/10.

Cook’s Lot Allotment No.333 Riesling, 2016, $30. This sits on a funny part of the riesling spectrum that I didn’t realise was even there, it’s quite gris/grigio-like without the bitter aftertaste. 8.8/10.

Cook’s Lot Iconique Barrique (Orange) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Bottle No.0333), $50. Unique technique clique, boutique, iconique barrique, with mystique. Magnifique! Get in the queue. 9.5/10.

Windowrie The Mill Orange Sauvignon Blanc, 2015, $18. There is something about Orange sav, much like there is about Susan. Subtle yet smart, and slightly special. 8.8/10.

Windowrie The Mill Central Ranges Verdelho, 2015, $18. Just the thing to enjoy over a discussion about John Stuart Mill. If that doesn’t convince you, you need to get out more, or maybe stay in more? 8.4/10.

Globe & Mail (Canada), 22 February, Beppi Crosariol

Here’s a riddle: It yields some of the world’s finest and most expensive white wines yet this French grape enjoys greater name recognition in Australia than in France or anywhere else. What is it? Full article 

The Wine Spector, 21 February, Matt Kramer

I then moved on to Australia. As is well-known, the Aussies have gotten the stuffing knocked out of them in the U.S. market. The reasons are sufficient for a column unto itself, but the key point is that right now Australian wines can be bargains. So I looked for two of my favorite regions: Hunter Valley and Margaret River.

Truth to tell, I wasn’t expecting success. The best wines in both places are expensive. The word on their quality is out. Still, you never know. Good thing I looked.

Try this: How about a really luscious, beautifully made (my shorthand for “no apparent oak”) Margaret River–grown red wine blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for $11 a bottle?

If I had tasted Amelia Park Trellis Cabernet Merlot Margaret River 2013 blind, I would have guessed (wrongly) that it was a supremely ripe Loire Valley red of really fine quality, as it displays the sort of crisp acidity and lovely flavor definition that Loire reds can offer, but is riper-tasting than many Loire wines. (A really good blind taster would then have concluded that such ripeness indicated that it couldn’t likely be Loire Valley and moved on to a better-educated guess.)

Did I buy a case? What do you think?

The other Aussie winner, much to my delight, was a Hunter Valley Sémillon. I love these wines, which are austere, high-acidity crisp whites that when young can be as tightly furled as a freshly-cut calla lily but over time—five years, 10 years or even more—blossom into minerally wonders that you might confuse with a great Chablis. The good ones aren’t cheap. The poor ones are thin and lifeless.

Knowing this, you can imagine how happy I was to come upon a superb Hunter Valley Sémillon from a producer I’d never heard of, even though I’ve been to Hunter Valley (which is a three-hour drive north of Sydney) several times. Silkman Sémillon Hunter Valley 2015 just barely made the cut at $20 a bottle, but what a deal.

Silkman is a husband-and-wife operation—Liz Silkman is the winemaker—who both have day jobs at Shaun Silkman’s father’s winery, First Creek Wines, where he is the production manager and she is chief winemaker. Their own Silkman label first began in 2013.

Silkman Sémillon Hunter Valley 2015 is exceptional wine: dense, redolent of lemons and stones and buoyed by the signature acidic crispness of this very particular wine. It’s one of the best Hunter Sémillons I’ve had. (Bought a case? You betcha.)


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