Honey Moon Vineyard Rose Brut 2011

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I promised you some more bubbles before the new year kicked in and I’m only just managing to squeeze this in. Appalling form but I suppose that at this time of year it’s to be expected (unless I were one of those people who wrote blog posts months in advance and scheduled them all … maybe one day!).

A few weeks back we were out for dinner vaguely near Belair Fine Wines when Andy suggested we drop in to have a look. While having a little wander, my eyes lighted on these Honey Moon bubbles. I am a HUGE fan of the Honey Moon Shiraz and Pinot Noir so I was keen to try this out.

The Honey Moon wines aren’t cheap – they all (bar the still rosé) seem to hover between $40 and $50 so you may need to save them for special occasions. When it comes to bubbles, in my opinion, ‘special occasion’ is generally ‘day with a “y” in it’!

After the experience of both this and another rosé sparkling, I really think these are wines I am going to have to drink more often because I’ve really enjoyed them, perhaps a little bit above and beyond white bubbles.

This wine is predominantly Pinot Noir – just 13% Chardonnay. The wine is also disgorged on demand – on the side of the bottle it notes that it was disgorged for Belair Fine Wines in September 2014. The theory is that while the wine rests on the yeast lees it remains fresh, vibrant and young and takes on aged characteristics much more slowly Once disgorged, the ‘regular’ sparkling wine ageing process kicks in. Indeed, Bollinger, one of Champagne’s well-known houses, has trademarked ‘RD’ (neatly, ‘recently disgorged’ in English but really ‘récemment dégorgé’ in French), which it uses on one of its (more) premium wines.

Another good thing about this wine is that it arrives in your hands topped with a crown seal. You won’t have to spend time messing with the muselet and lacerating your hands and then breaking the Ming vases when the cork explodes out. Just locate the bottle opener and you’re good to go. I really wish that more sparkling wine came under crown seal – after all, it is what most of these wines are sealed with while they’re ageing, AND it’s easy to open.

So – ticks all round for this wine. If you can find it – it’s definitely worth investing in.

The wine

Salmon pink in colour, with a reasonably pronounced nose showing strawberries and cream, a hint of talciness and citrus.

On the palate, the mousse is incredibly fine and mouth filling. The citrus character is a little more dominant and I suspect it is beefed up by the wine’s excellent, and very persistent, acidity. But this wine is all about strawberries and cream and mixed red berries.

Delicious.

Honey Moon Vineyard Rosé Brut, purchased from Belair Fine Wines for $45
Crown seal.
12.5% abv.

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Jansz Vintage Cuvee 2010

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After doing a relatively good job of keeping up weekly posts I’ve dropped into an unplanned hiatus. I blame (in part) the fact that some contractors near home cut through a big chunk of telecommunications cable, leaving us without phone or internet for over a week. Of course, if you’re kind that excuses just one week (sort of) …

Anyway, ’tis the season to be jolly and drink bubbly so I’ve got a couple of sparkling reviews lined up for you. I’ve decided to start with this, the Jansz Vintage Cuvée 2010, in part because it was a sample and I do try to review samples promptly but also because Jansz’s NV offering is such a well known wine. I suspect many people will not even be aware of the other wines in this range.

You may be aware that a vintage sparkling wine (or Champagne) is made from grapes from a single vintage (that is, the grapes are all picked in one year, the year that appears on the bottle). This means that you should see variation in the wine between one vintage and the next (whereas with a non-vintage – NV – wine it is likely to follow a consistent house style). Vintage wines are often (necessarily) made in smaller quantities and this is reflected in their price. Indeed, in France, Champagne producers are obliged to age the wines for longer so this increases the price further.

This wine has had four and a half years ageing on the yeast lees so you should see plenty of yeast character in the wine. It is 51% Pinot Noir and 49% Chardonnay.

The wine

Pale gold in the glass, the nose is quite pronounced and shows apple and citrus, some smoke and spice and even verges towards a talcy character. There are, unsurprisingly, yeasty notes.

In the mouth, the mousse is beautifully fine and mouth-filling – straight away you feel like you’ve got a mouth full of teensy-tiny bubbles. The wine is very apple-y, with green apple skin but also some good yeast and brioche characters. The acidity is good (always essential in sparkling wine – it’s what makes it refreshing!) and the wine has good length.

This wine is lovely and would work really well with seafood – think oysters, scallops, prawns – fresh and not messed with too much! For me the highlights were the lovely mouthfeel – the explosion of fine bubbles – and the extra complexity.

Definitely a step up in the sparkling wine stakes and if you’re going to splash out over Christmas then this is worth a look. While the RRP is $46.95 the chances are that if you do some research you will find it more cheaply. I spotted it at under $40 – a very compelling price point.

And props to the marketing people for the “méthode tasmanoise” strapline!

Jansz Vintage Cuvée 2010, sample. RRP $46.95.
Cork (standard sparkling wine closure).
12.5% abv.

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Deviation Road Pinot Gris 2015

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Hmmm, I see that I’ve actually only reviewed two Pinot Gris (although one of those was the 2014 Deviation Road wine) and already I find myself thinking “I must find something interesting and different to say about the grape”.

To that end, I turn to Wine Grapes and I hope I’ll find a titbit that is as interesting to others as it is to me. Perhaps not – because the more obscure the wine trivia, the more exciting I find it. But bear with me, because I’ll follow it with some words about a lovely wine.

Pinot Gris is a colour mutation of Pinot Noir and has something of a muddled history in Europe. While generally considered a white wine grape, its colour is variable and can be quite dark – even, apparently, as dark at Pinot Noir. For the most part, if you stick with the idea that it’s a pinky grey (the grape, not the wine – the wine is usually very pale!), you’re on the right track.

Unsurprisingly, for anyone who has suffered one too many pub Pinot Grigios, while it is grown throughout Europe, the largest plantings are in Italy. It is also found in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. Wrapping up the rest of the world, a tiny amount is grown in South Africa and … (and this is the really exciting wine geek fact!) Japan.

I’m an unashamed fan of the Deviation Road wines in general, and last summer the 2014 Pinot Gris was a definite highlight and this wine kicks those same goals. Yes, you can go out and buy cheaper Pinot Gris (and probably even cheaper Pinot Grigio!) but with Christmas around the corner, you should treat yourself to a bottle which you pop in the fridge and keep ready for a hot evening.

The wine

Pale straw in colour. The nose is quite pronounced and shows some rich oiliness as well as fresh pear, pear drops and even more super ripe pears.

In the mouth those pear and pear drop characters show up but there’s also refreshing lemon (and good acidity) and lemon pith for added texture. The finish could almost be described as savoury.

The wine smells, tastes and feels lovely.  For me, this wine ticks the boxes of being both interesting and delicious, all in the one package.

Deviation Road Pinot Gris, sample. RRP $28.
Screwcap.
12.5% abv.

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Taylors Winemaker’s Project Clare Valley Shiraz 2012

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A second wine from the TWP series of wines. Almost a month ago I wrote about the Viognier so now it’s the turn of the Shiraz.

Clare Valley Shiraz is quite a ‘thing’ and one which sits all too firmly in the shade of the much lauded, and generally excellent value, Rieslings. As the region is cooler than the more Shiraz-famous Barossa you do see a considerable difference in style. Think of the Barossa wines as the bubbly, bright, out-going but perhaps ever so slightly in-your-face counterpart to Clare’s quieter wines, more thoughtful perhaps, a slightly more elegant or understated dresser. They can be different wines for different occasions and I generally find that those who loves the fullness of a Barossa Shiraz find cooler climate wines more difficult to deal with.

Personally, I have a bit of a thing for cool(er) climate Shiraz so wines from Clare are often right up my street and I’ve been lucky enough to taste some stellar wines with some reasonably serious age on them.

Of course, this wine is a current release and something of a baby. In this respect, it looks very approachable and I reckon that dyed in the wool ‘big’ Shiraz drinkers will be quite happy. In that respect, I think it’s an excellent introduction to Clare Valley Shiraz and should open plenty of punters’ eyes to Clare’s offerings other than Riesling.

The wine

In the glass, intensely purple. The nose is pronounced and comes across as a little hot. It is all about plums, fruit cake, sweet spice, licorice and dark chocolate.

The palate very much reflects the nose: tonnes of fresh fruit – plums and blackberries – along with some vanilla which didn’t show up on the nose. It does also seem a bit hot here too – but, interestingly, this heat really backs off give some time in the glass, so I wonder if decanting this wine (with a good splosh to get some air through it) would be worth the effort.

The wine is well balanced, with some reasonable acidity and very soft tannins and reasonable length.

Initially I had some misgivings about the heat of the wine but time in the glass really sorted that out. The wine has plenty of oomph, so it will work well with a range of food – particularly barbecue over summer.

And on that note, I’d also like to draw your attention to a new Taylor’s campaign/initiative regarding wine service temperature, Better By Degrees. With red wines, in particular, should not be served at ambient temperature when it’s 43 degrees in the shade.

Taylors Winemaker’s Project Clare Valley Shiraz, sample. RRP $25. Again, a cellar door exclusive so online may be your best bet.
Screwcap.
14.0% abv.

 

 

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Royal Adelaide Wine Show – Media Tasting

2015-11-04_10-34-08Hard at work … (thank you to Francis Wong for this photo)

The Royal Adelaide Wine Show (or RAWS, for the sake of sanity) wrapped up at the beginning of October.

After the best part of a week of solid tasting and general hard work on the part of the judges, the Showground doors were flung open to a small group of media. 

Nick Ryan, Matthew Jukes and Michael Brajkovich MW talked us through the wine show process and then let us loose on a bracket of Chardonnay and a bracket of Shiraz.

Wine shows (and, indeed, scoring in general) can be a little controversial – because obviously how a wine looks at any moment in time is highly subjective. At a show, in an attempt to even this out, wines are judged by panels and gold medal winning wines are looked at more than once.

If you spend enough time around wine geeks, you’ll realise that it doesn’t take long for everyone’s preferences to more or less fall in line. Wines that can be a tough sell in the retail market are often beloved of professionals and hardened enthusiasts. Yep – there’s a reason why Riesling is so cheap (thank goodness) – it’s not the darling of consumers.

We tasted two flights of six wines (Chardonnay and Shiraz) – and in advance we were told that there were three gold medal winning wines (including the trophy), one silver, one bronze and an also-ran.

While wines (at the Adelaide Show) are scored on a 20 point scale, in reality only 10 of those points are used. Wines scoring 18.5 and above are gold, 17 – 18.5 results in silver and 15.5 – 17 a bronze. Below 15, no medal is awarded. About 5% of wines are awarded a gold medal and approximately 50% get a medal of some type.

Your average, drinkable, clean, but otherwise unremarkable wine will score around 15 – so in order to be awarded any kind of medal a wine does have to be a bit special.

chardyChardonnay for elevenses? Don’t mind if I do!

We started with the 2013 Chardonnays – a class of originally around 50 wines before moving on to the 2014 Shiraz – originally around 180 wines! Shiraz REALLY dominates at the Adelaide show … I can’t imagine why!

What I found most fascinating about this exercise was where the ‘amateurs’ and the ‘professionals’ diverged. This was most evident in the Shiraz class where, for me, the ‘also ran’ stuck out like a sore thumb. And I mean REALLY stuck out. However, while I picked it I also knew that it was representative of a style of wine that is also very popular and I wasn’t surprised at all that the room was split.

Many of us did score it down but just as many people loved it and scored it highly. I’d scored it a 15 – out of medal contention – but after a chat with Matthew Jukes revised that score down to a 13. He said that with a wine such as this, he would always score it down because there could well be someone on the panel who, for whatever reason, scores it surprisingly highly. When the average of the panel’s scores is taken, your 15 might be just enough to bump it up into bronze medal territory. There you go – strategic scoring is not just for reality tv!

This was a great morning – it is always interesting to learn about wine and taste something new. And of course, meeting Matthew Jukes and Michael Brajkovich MW and talking wine with them was a real treat*. I loved that this was a small group – it meant that it was intimate and friendly and everyone got a chance to have some input without feeling any more intimidated than you might do with an MW in the room!

It was especially interesting because the next day I attended the RAWS lunch and got to taste a whole lot more medal winning wine – not all of which was my cup of tea! I think it’s so important to remember that wine is about so much more than a score or a medal. As this session showed, everyone’s taste is different.

* Not saying that seeing Nick wasn’t a treat – it’s just that he’s based in Adelaide and not hard to find at wine events! :D

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Pewsey Vale Prima Riesling 2015

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I am not a woman who turns her nose up at some residual sugar (RS, if you want wine-geek talk) in a wine.

This doesn’t mean I get excited by a run of the mill Moscato, or an overly sweet and confected rosé or indeed any wine which has been crafted with the 18-24 ladies in mind.

But RS can be such a clever and beautiful thing in wine and I, for one, am so happy that the Riesling pendulum is regaining some equilibrium. Yes, those austere, limey Clare Valley Rieslings are lovely in their vaguely terrifying way (I say that affectionately) but leave a touch of sugar in the wine and it can transform what is in your glass.

It’s not surprising I am a fan of German Rieslings and many of the Australian Rieslings which are embracing this (the RieslingFreak No 8 is a standout on this front). The Pewsey Vale Prima has been at the vanguard of what is hopefully a trend.

This was the very first wine I used in a WSET course when I needed an off dry Riesling. Before ‘off dry Rieslings’ attempted their moment in the sun. It is consistent – consistently good. I’m a fan.

Riesling ages beautifully, dry or not. But the off dry Rieslings have the added bonus of being very light on the alcohol. Yeast converts sugar to alcohol. The grape juice has all that sugar in it. If you ferment it all out – you have a dry wine with higher alcohol. Don’t ferment it out and the chances are you have a slightly lower alcohol wine. This baby comes in at just 9.5% alcohol with ~ 25g/L of residual sugar.

Given the human tongue starts to detect sugar around 4g/L that’s quite a lot for our tongues to deal with so the wine needs to have some serious acidity otherwise we’ll feel like we’re drinking golden syrup. And, of course, acidity is what Riesling does well.

Can you tell how excited Riesling makes me?!

The wine

Very pale in the glass with a reasonably, but not excessively, pronounced nose. Very typical Riesling – rosewater, Turkish delight, honeysuckle with some lemon/lime in the background. Super appealing.

To describe this wine in one word, the word we choose is ‘sherberty’. Whether that is an actual word is irrelevant, as it captures the awesome combination of acidity and sugar we find in the wine. It’s a combination of crisp green apple, that green apple skin, some slices of that apple that have had a good dunking in lemon and lime juices. This all means that the sugar is not immediately apparent or overt. The mouth feel is amazing and the wine has great length.

My wine tasting note does actually include the words ‘absolutely delicious’ and ‘bloody excellent’.

$26 a bottle. I don’t get it. I really do not get why Riesling is never the ‘it’ drink. I don’t get why people pay the same money (or even more) for wines that are less exciting.

Anyway, I suppose that is a good thing – Riesling stays ludicrously cheap and there is always a hefty supply of it (much of it in my cellar).

Pewsey Vale Prima Riesling, sample. RRP $26.
Screwcap.
9.5% abv.

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Taylors Winemaker’s Project Clare Valley Viognier 2014

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As I’ve documented elsewhere, Viognier and I have a difficult relationship. I hated it, I fell in love with Condrieu, I fell out of love with the price tag and I have had fleeting dalliances ever since.

Viognier’s now on the WSET Level 2 tasting list so I’m forced to feign a more regular interest in this grape. It also meant that I approached this wine with an academic, as well as a personal, interest.

The grape is picky, low yielding and temperamental in the hands of the winemaker which means that it’s not hugely widely grown. It’s natural home is the northern Rhône in France (you’ll find it solo as a white wine most famously in Condrieu and Ch Grillet) and it’s grown in a few pockets worldwide, including Australia.

The wine

In the glass, a distinct mid-gold colour. On first glance, this wine stands itself apart from wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris/Grigio.

The nose is actually quite subtle for a Viognier, but it is still noticeably dominated by apricot. In this wine’s case, it is dried apricot, backed up with the fresh fruit and a touch of spice.

The palate shows even more dried apricot and a slightly bitter apricot kernel finish. The acidity is not bad but a bit of extra zing does not go astray and I recommend serving this wine reasonably well chilled – that seems to liven things up quite a bit. The wine does have really lovely weight and mouth feel.

Because this wine does not show off the overt fresh apricot that is really typical of Viognier it will be an excellent introduction to the wine, or re-introduction for someone who thinks they don’t like Viognier. On day 2 it actually was drinking pretty well although the alcohol stuck out a bit more.

The fact this wine is a little lighter on the apricot than many Viogniers means it is a less difficult food match. Because of the wine’s weight I’d avoid any very light or neutral foods but I imagine it would work well with chicken and fish like salmon or tuna (particularly if they’ve been pan fried or even bqqed). Think salmon with a miso and sesame glaze and you may be heading on the right track.

Taylors Winemaker’s Project Clare Valley Viognier, sample, RRP $25 (listed as a cellar door exclusive)
Screwcap.
12.5% abv.

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Deviation Road Altair Rose Brut NV

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I do not receive so many samples that the novelty has worn off and one of my favourite packages to receive comes from lovely Adelaide Hills winery, Deviation Road.

I am still yet to visit the cellar door (I feel like I may have already written this earlier this year) which I feel is terribly remiss of me. But I do champion these wines and the Loftia (the winery’s vintage white sparkling) makes a regular appearance in my classes.

I did feel vaguely bad about tasting this wine on my own, as I know that it is a favourite of a friend of mine. But, I do find that if I don’t look at samples sharpish they end up waiting quite a while for their turn on the tasting bench. Plus, it’s been a hot weekend and we’d had a big sushi dinner, and sparkling rosé seemed like just the biscuit … (let’s be honest, that’s the real reason).

The wine

Pale salmon pink in colour. The nose shows off vibrant strawberries and cream, with a zip of citrus and touch of yeastiness.

On the palate the wine comes across as bone dry – the accompanying notes say that the dosage is 9g/L but the excellent acidity means that you don’t really pick this up. The strawberries and cream are there, cut with fresh lemon juice and the wine has a pleasant, almost savoury, finish which has good length.

I don’t drink a lot of sparkling rosé (maybe I need to address this) so I can’t benchmark this wine against anything I’ve recently tasted.

However, against my general tasting background (and I taste/try/drink a reasonable amount) this wine stacks up very favourably. The strawberries and cream character is both very pleasant and what I have come to expect from a pink sparkling. With an rrp of $32 a bottle, this also delivers sound value. It is 50:50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which accounts for the very attractive (and necessary, in my opinion) citrus. 24 months on lees delivers the savoury complexity. It’s lovely that a lot of this (inherently interesting) wine making chit chat shows up in the wine.

Yet again, Kate and Hamish Laurie deliver the goods.

Deviation Road Altair, sample. RRP $32.
Cork.
12.5% abv.

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Matthieu Barret Billes Noires Cornas 2007

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A wine from my most recent WSET Level 2 class and one that I bought insanely cheaply at auction (yes, there are still auction bargains to be had). The bottle noticeably big and heavy. The label sparse but sophisticated. The whole thing screams class (bar the rather clumsy back label put there by the importer).

Cornas is a northern Rhône appellation so the wine is Shiraz based. In fact, it is solely Shiraz (no white grapes are permitted, unlike some of Cornas’s northern Rhône neighbours, such as Côte Rôtie or even Hermitage) and the appellation itself consists of just 90 ha.

When I lived in the UK and drinking wines from this part of the world was not such a luxury, people would quite routinely proffer the opinion that Cornas could represent far better value for money than some other appellations in this region. Of course, here in Australia our options are sadly limited and were you to walk into a bottle shop and be able to buy this wine, it would set you back around $200. Not my definition of “good value” …

As I bought this at auction, opening the bottle was even more fraught than usual and I held my breath, fingers crossed that the wine would be neither corked nor overtly bretty.

Thankfully it was neither. The wine received a resounding thumbs up in class and I loved it. My caveat here is that I am rather partial to this style of Shiraz so, as with any wine, especially one with age, your mileage may vary.

The wine

In the glass, very deep and still quite ruby in colour, so not showing its age quite as much as I expected.

The nose was quite pronounced, and the black pepper which you’d expect to see on a cool climate Shiraz is indeed there. There is also black fruit, licorice and anise. Everything looks promising.

On the palate, it delivers: the black pepper, blackberry and licorice are all there, accompanied by chocolate and cedar. There’s acidity and fine tannins with good length and altogether drinkable. It is, to use the most technical wine term available, yummy.

To the super sensitive there may be an argument that this wine showed a little teensy tiny bit of brett. Not in quantities to bother me.

I am just saddened that when I bought it there was just the one bottle for sale.

Matthieu Barret, purchased at auction.
Cork.
13.0% abv.

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Quick Taste: Oxford Landing Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2015

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I confess – I drink very little Sauvignon Blanc. I have grown very tired of the identikit cat pee style of wine that New Zealand mastered and marketed so successfully that now everyone wants to make it.

Everyone bar the French, bien sûr.

So imagine my surprise when, on opening this bottle of wine and expecting the worst (that is, more of the same) I was faced with something completely different and yet still identifiably Sauvignon Blanc.

Rather than focussing on those pungent herbaceous characters this wine is much more restrained and shows off pineapple and passionfruit. It’s approachable, easy drinking and perfectly clean and correct with enough refreshing acidity to make you come back for me.

The best part is that this wine retails around the $9. Yes, that’s right. Just $9.

I think this is absolutely banging value and this is a wine I would not hesitate to buy as summer rolls around.

Also note its relatively low alcohol content.

(I also tried the Pinot Grigio in the same line. It didn’t excite me quite as much but it’s another wine that represents good value for money.)

Oxford Landing Estates, sample. RRP $8.99.
Screwcap.
10.5% abv

 

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