Other white and red, plus sweet and fortified
This is the second of several Key Review of Wine reports I will dispatch in January and February. After that they will settle down to one perhaps two a week.
The issue has been the increase in samples for review I receive combined with the lack of space in each weeks’ Key Report to publish all the reviews.
The outpouring in January/February will be a cleansing of all the reviews I have written but not published in 2016.
Other whites, other reds? It’s a disparaging term. The official word seems to be alternative as in the Alternative Wine Show. But to me alternative is also disparaging.
Emerging could be a better description as many are ancient varieties emerging in the Australia viticultural landscape.
Viognier has been recorded since the late 18th century but is probably older than that. It almost became extinct in the 1960s but has made an amazing comeback. According to Varietal Wines by James Halliday, there is around 1200 hectares in Australia. Yalumba is the leading domestic producer but Halliday says there are over 500 grower/producers across Australia.
As far as I’m aware in the 1980s the only Fiano in Australia was held at the CSIRO collection at Merbein Victoria. Apparently there are now 88 hectares across Australia. Sources say it’s been around since Roman times but that is hard to prove. In Wine Grapes by Robinson, Harding & Vouillamoz it’s reported the first written mention was in the late 13th century. It’s a wonderful grape and looks to be doing well in all the regions it has been planted.
A longer term Australian resident is gewürztraminer. Up until recent years I remained unimpressed with the Australian gewürztraminer’s that came my way. My thinking being New Zealand had the edge and both a very long way behind Alsace. I’m pleased to say the wines have improved and my view has changed.
Arneis is yet another grape that was almost lost in the 1960s. Its home is Piemonte, North West Italy. It appears a bugger of a grape to grow but outside of Italy has found a home in Australia which now boasts 153 hectares around a 10th of total world plantings.
In Italy arneis was often referred to as white nebbiolo because it was planted amongst nebbiolo, said to be a distraction for birds who would eat them before the later ripping nebbiolo. Nebbiolo gets a lot of media attention in Australia but there is only 108 hectares planted, less than arneis which hardly makes the news.
Halliday says sangoversie has been in Australia since the 1970s and Dr Allan Antcliff writing in 1996 says, it was found in Mudgee in, “odd vines under the name cannaiolo.” It appears it’s entry is somewhat obscured. It could well have come in via an Italian immigrant smuggling cuttings in a suitcase. Its not until recent years it come to prominence and the wines have moved from dull to interesting.
Halliday says there are just 718 hectares of Lagrein planted worldwide with a minuscule 17 ha in Australia. I have tasted Lagrein from three producers and have been impressed with all.
Australian wines made from tempranillo are on the increase and like many of these newer varieties to these shoes is finding a ready and welcoming home. It can be rounded and soft or spicy and full of zip. I think Australian winemakers are going to have a lot of fun with this grape in the next decade resulting in some very fine wines.
Cabernet Franc is hardly a newbie to Australia but it’s rarely made as a single varietal wine, its strength being a component to cabernet sauvignon and merlot in Bordeaux style blends.
The Australian home Durif is North East Victoria around the town of Rutherglen. The one reviewed below comes from the Adelaide Hills. Durif has a rustic edge to it and the wines are normally black ink dark, high in alcohol and rustic.
An incredible range reviewed below, plenty to explore and extend your enjoyment of wine.
Mount Avoca ‘Estate Range’ Pyrenees Viognier 2015: It’s lighter on the nose than many viognier’s but its still viognier, it’s also tighter but again still viognier, I think the variety has a future in the region, a mean 92 now but I think more to come over the next year pricy for some at $34 but those into wine will think it worth it.
Berton Vineyards ‘Winemakers Reserve’ Fiano 2016: No defined region apart from SEA, fresh hay nose, soft on entry but flavours come one after another as the wine skips across the palate, acid still high and the wine was unsettled when tasted (December) but I think this will settle within the next three months, the acid keeping the wine down at 90 but I feel more points will come and good value at $14
Three Ponds Hunter Valley Fiano 2016: Tight structure and acid on the high side but its due to youth it’s a flower waiting to blossom, which it will, my guess around end of February or into March so a mean 91 now with at least two more points to come maybe three and a good price at $25
Geoff Hardy ‘Hand Crafted’ Adelaide Hills Fiano 2016: The nose, for me was a mix of hay and bush/tree blossom of some sort I couldn’t place, there is a faint herbal edge to the taste which lifts what I found to be an apricot character, still developing but should drink well someway into 2017, 92 points now, more to come and worth $25
Flowstone Margaret River Gewurztraminer 2014: The nose is pure gewürztraminer spice this transfers to the mouth but oak creeps in and mars the fruit, it’s a pity but this is blemish keeps the points down to 90 and the price at $32 more than I would want to pay
Geoff Hardy ‘Hand Crafted’ Adelaide Hills Arneis 2016: An Italian grape that almost became extinct, thankfully it didn’t and thankfully it has found its way to Australia. I find the nose intriguing, a hint of biscuit and peach, in the mouth it slowly comes alive. Flavours are faint but many, slithering and slipping around each other, short on the finish but good wine 93 points and worth $25
Dromana Estate White 1 2016: (No website) A pinot gris/Gewürztraminer field blend that is different but interesting the spice of Gewürztraminer toned down by the gris, can’t knock it as it works and went well with a plate of dips chees meats etc. 92 points price I think around $25
Berton Vineyard Riverina Botrytis Semillon 2015: A light style but balanced all along the journey 93 points and $17 for half bottle is very good value
Huntington Estate Late Harvest Semillon 2015: So very light, dancing across the palate yet leaving intense drops of flavour, a beauty indeed 95 points , its pricey at $36 half bottle but for those into the style worth it, to others not
d’Arenberg ‘The Noble Mud Pie’ 2015: A viognier arneis blend which is unusual, but it works, the flavours are both complex and simple as the journey progresses. In parts of the mouth it’s just rich such as honey flavoured but move it on and candid sweets/ Turkish delight nuances come into play. The backbone is acidity which ties the flavours together, quite an experience 95 points and good value at $20 half bottle.
d’Arenberg ‘The Wrinkled’ McLaren Vale Riesling 2015: It’s gorgeous and heading to super gorgeous, ripe and luscious but with plenty of acid to back it up, still developing so I suggest drink ice cold and allow the rich texture to give the pleasure 94 points
d’Arenberg ‘Prankster’ McLaren Vale Chardonnay-Semillon-Viognier 2015: Three varieties juggling for attention and none dominant, what does happen and delightfully so is a flavour profile all its own, it had a sherbet like effect sucking the cheeks inwards but in a delightful way 95 points and well worth $20 for a half
Mount Avoca ‘Limited Release’ Pyrenees Nebbiolo 2015: Its all nebbiolo, dry yet intriguing, it looks light but the power is there as are the savory, meaty flavours, its very good wine and shows the grape has a place in Australia, 94 points but I think expensive at $60
Mount Avoca ‘Limited Release’ Pyrenees Sangiovese 2015: I hate coping out but this wine didn’t gel with me, there was something disjointed about it, maybe it was me on the day as it had good points along the way and was no way poor, so 91 points and maybe more to come pricy at $47.50
D’Sas ‘Valentino’ Heathcote Sangiovese 2015: Good sour cherry flavours dance around the mouth as the wine travels across the palate, it seems light at first but there is strength there to back up the fruit 94 points top price at $40 but worth it for some
Mount Avoca ‘Limited Release’ Pyrenees Lagrein 2015: Lovely nose of truffle and all things forest floor, the savory character carries on to the palate, this is a wine on the wild side, made for adults and those into dark pleasures 96 points and worth the $46 asked.
Geoff Hardy ‘Hand Crafted’ limestone Coast-Adelaide Hills Lagrein 2015: Not black but red magic, it intrigued me on each step of its journey, in general I enjoy lagrein but this one had more, greater depth and complexity it requires some concentration but rewards the drinker admirably 94 points and well worth $30
Geoff Hardy ‘Hand Crafted’ Southern Fleurieu Cabernet Franc 2015: There is not a lot of straight cabernet franc produced in Australia, this works well. There is a greenness but it’s so light it lifts the fruit, an austere wine but not sharp, 93 points OK price at $30
Geoff Hardy ‘Hand Crafted’ Adelaide Hills Durif 2015: It was tasted on a very hot day and appeared course and forthright, put in the fridge for a while it became much more approachable although retained the rustic edge to be found in the variety, 92 points and pushing price at $30
Star Lane ‘Quattro Vitigni’ Beechworth 2014: The four varietals (quattro vitigni) are sangiovese, nebbiolo, merlot and shiraz, a true Italian/ French blend made in Australia although the two French origin grapes are in the minority. The savoury characters of the Italian grapes come across clearly on the nose. The richer shiraz and merlot soften it on the palate but fortunately do not smother the earthy richness of the Italians. It has an edge that means when taken to the table it works very well, we drank it with a bowl of stir fry pork and vegies, wonderful; 93 points and a bargain at $15
La Bliss Adelaide Hills Tempranillo 2014: Racy, spicy, full of joy to taste and a pleasure to drink, in the heat of an Australian summer tastes better is cooled 93 points and very good value at $22
Grant Burge 20 year old Tawny: Green tinge radiating out from, red brown center the nose is to die for and the sensation across the palate almost kills with exotic even erotic pleasure. The 20 years is an average age so some material is much older, 95 points it’s priced at $85 on the Grant Burge website
Grant Burge 10 year old Tawny: A little less green on the rim and not as intense on the nose as the 20 year old. I found it superior to the 20 year old softer and not so pungent I accept the argument that could be personal taste but from a tasting aspect it had more balance and elegance At $30 I think it a very good price 96 points
Hardy’s Rare Tawny: An average age of 25 years, green edge on light brown center, fruitcake nose but with a hint of oak, oak comes through on the palate but its within bounds (just) lots of upfront fruit on the journey and lingering finish, 94 points and top of the price range at $100