Thursday, December 31, 2015

Avoiding Storms

Taking refuge in a port to avoid a storm is a safe thing to do.  SWMBO and I aren’t too sure if that is good advice if the port is the liquid type!  The get-together yielded two bottles of port, owned by Lazza, the same wine, kept in storage by Hazza for a few years, and he’d been waiting for the time to broach them.  There were only 7 of us, one a young person and one not drinking much, so one bottle should have been enough.  But we weren’t going anywhere, as we were in a safe haven, so Lazza opened one, which we drank, then the other, which we also drank.  Hmmm….

The port was 1977 Graham’s Vintage Port.  Two bottles of.  A top vintage, but aren’t they all?  And a top house, in the ‘sweeter’ style.  First bottle, getting some tawny hues to the colour.  Quite elegant in expression and proportion.  A little bottle stink needed to blow off.  Then lighter red fruit aromas and flavours with some nutty, tawny-like notes.  Quite silky smooth, and superior spirit, with its finesse.  The sweetness quite in check and in balance.  Not bad, and got more delicious as the decanter emptied.  Drinking well now, and seeming mature, with some more secondary development possible.  Maybe a little more complexity too.  We thought it a tad ‘not as great as it could be’.  Second bottle a darker, deeper and fuller colour.  More volume and density on the nose, and palate.  The fruitiness still prominent, and only beginning to show secondary nuttiness.  Soft textures and extraction, and wonderfully integrated tannins, spirit and acid to the fruit.  A more complete wine with freshness, fruit and youth on its side.  This would mature with much more interest and layers, had we not broached it.  It felt it could have been more of the classic we all expected.  It would have aged another couple of decades nicely, as does good VP does. 
As they say, there are only great bottles.  Bottle variation becomes more of an issue with bottle age.  As noted above, two bottles stored in the same place for the same time.  From the same box, purchased at the same time.  Interestingly, cork No. 1 came out in pieces.  Cork No. 2 fell into the bottle with a lightish push.  Go figure?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Era's End

We see the world changing as it turns, evolving with the fads, fashions, needs and requirements.  It results in survival, and the wine world is no different.  Wine styles adapt and change to what are new norms, and invariably they are better norms.  The big, solid, hearty, dense and super-ripe Barossa red saw its era end over a decade ago, as the makers realised that thick, soupy, solid reds were losing ground to elegance, freshness and accessibility.  With the transition, they’ve managed to retain the expression of place and the wines still grow in complexity, but they are lighter on their feet and more enjoyable, and easier to finish a bottle.

It was fascinating to see a wine of the old era demonstrate exactly the benefits of progress.  I’m not taking anything away from the 1996 Yalumba ‘Signature’ Barossa Cabernet/ShirazIn its time, it was the bee’s knees.  A great growing season and vintage.  One of the vey best.  Beautifully ripened fruit lending great richness and extract.  The wine just superbly put together, the best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz in approx. equal portions, given lovely oaking.  The result a complete wine in every sense, and one that could and will last for decades. 
But here, tonight, in this current time, almost an anachronism.  A drink of the past.  Hazza raised his eyebrows with a querying “what do you think of that?”  We were on the same wavelength.  It was a great wine, but in today’s context, too big, too dense, too ripe, too soft, too concentrated.  It was recognised as great wine.  But the seam of freshness and elegance that we crave just wasn’t, and never will be in it.  It’s interesting how the greatest Aussie red, Penfolds ‘Grange’ has remained big and stoically the same style it has always been.  But the sweetness and vitality that most of the other big reds just miss out on has kept its classic style alive today.  Today’s Yalumba ‘Signature’ has moved towards sweeter fruit, fresher acid and that balance that lifts the palate, rather than swamp it.  The 2012 is a marvel.  Evolution is truly knife-edge stuff.  One style keeps on going, others fall by the wayside.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fresh and Still Funky

We have this impression that modern wines are properly clean and fresh, and they should be devoid of faults.  True, especially in the commercial sense.  But the more wise and wily talk about the best wines having a hint of corruption, just to add that edge of intrigue and naughtiness, and to put the wines just slightly out of perfect balance, so they have the tension to get and maintain one’s attention.  The best of the fresh, clean and modern still retain a hint of funkiness that can make them great.

Hazza brought along one such wine. Tthe 2010 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah.  A very modern interpretation of Syrah.  In fact generally clean as a whistle and super sleek with refined tannin and texture.  One could almost say slippery.  And oh so wonderful fruit.  Beautifully ripe black fruits seamlessly melded with florals and complexed by iron-earth and minerals.  The acidity perfect.  Syrah at its purest but with the terroir of the Gimblett Gravels and the regionality of Hawke’s Bay.  But….wait for it….the most subtle emergence and fading of something a little grubby.  Well, grubby is a little too strong.  Funky is too strong.  That suggestion of corruption – yes.  This wine captured our palates and imagination, taking beyond modern Syrah from the Gimblett and Hawke’s Bay.  Maybe a little closer to the Rhone, but not there either.  Wonderful stuff!   

Monday, December 28, 2015

Cruising for a Brunello Bruising

The big Tuscan wine is Brunello di Montalcino – Sangiovese at its greatest or ‘grossest’.  Getting together with Lazza, Cazza, Hazza, Sazza and SWMBO you’d think certain wines would turn up – such as Pinot Noir and Burgundy.  But not so.  Instead there were two Brunellos.  Not Riservas, mind you, but still the genuine articles to be able to make a good comparison.  Tasting the two together, it was hard to find the commonality.  If you were playing wine options, or were a WSET student, you’d be on a cruising for a bruising
The 2008 Frescobaldi ‘CastelGiocondo’ Brunello di Montalcino was thoroughly modern in its message.  Dark red colour at its heart, maybe a little black too, but with a touch of garnet.  Full nd immediately fruity on the nose, with ripe red cherry and berry fruit, savoury and sweet.  Lazza and Hazza noted the prune-like super-ripeness.  On the palate full and rounded, but with structure. Still up-front in style though.  Thoroughly appealing and an accessible wine with immediacy and consistency.  It got a tick of approval, despite the sweetness and warmth, and though its ‘Brunello-ness’ was hard to see.

The 2007 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Annata was a different beast.  Almost animal and the initial impressions were not great.  TCA?  No, but bottle-stink for ure.  Garnet red, fading with bricking and some vivid orange.  Tight and elegant, but slowing building to show its tight and concentrated core on nose and palate.  Savoury, dried herb, earth, game and bitter cherries.  Euro-funky for sure.  Building in structure, grip, and plenty of acid freshness on the palate.  This got better and better.  True blue Brunello became the conclusion.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Realising Two Riesling Faces

There’s the dry, full-bodied, structured and winemaker complex, food-oriented style of Riesling, and the sugar-graded levels of quality defined style of Riesling which go up the pradikat system from Kabinett to Auslese and beyond, these being high in sugar and acidity, and low in alcohol.  They’re great with Asian fare and sipping on their own, whereas the dry wines are substantial in structure to eat with.  Both styles claim the historical provenance of being the original model, but it doesn’t matter nowadays, as any savvy Riesling drinker accepts both.

Starting with the 2013 Robert Weil Kiedrich Grafenberg GG Riesling from the Rheingau, a wine of great vinosity, in the riper style, yet soft-textured with perfect acid integration.  Plenty of weight and body, and seamless complexities of earth, terroir and winemaker inputs.  You wouldn’t quite guess 13.0% alc.  Structure, extract, lees, all there, lending wonderful presence, and nothing out of place.  I thought it could have been a bit more ‘out there’, but when you’re this good, you don’t need to be!

Then onto the 2013 Ansgar Clusserath Trittenheimer Apotheke RieslingSpatlese from the big bend in the Mosel.  Rich, sweet, luscious and unctuous.  Amazing yellow fruits and honied notes, with real depth and density.  But there’s a lightness of the feet around the edges, and that searing acid cut perfect to balance the sugar.  Delicious sipping, and in reality, just as easy to drink with a range of food on the table.  At 8.0% alc, it should have been a light-weight, but not the case.


Growers Up

Festive times bring out festival bottles, and SWMBO and I caught up with the Lazza, Cazza and Hazza, plus Sazza!  There must be some Aussies in that lot!  We’ve all been party people at some time of our lives, and we all eventually grow up, and show our true personalities.

Two Champers gave an analogy.  The first was NV Pierre Peters Champagne ‘Grand Cru’ Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, from Mesnil of course.  This grower has quite the reputation now, and it’s the amount of reserve wine that gives the house style of a core of savoury intensity and complexity.  For a Blanc de Blancs and a Mesnil, quite full-bodied and grunty in dimension, but still underneath it all the acid zest, lifted florals and citrus and earthy minerality.  Not only has this producer grown in stature, but the market has grown to see it too.

It initially seemed odd to follow it with the NV Taittinger ‘Folies de la Marquetterie’ Champagne.  Single vineyard, high proportion of Chardonnay, as is the house style.  Much finer in proportion, and a degree and more of finesse and elegance.  Great intensity, yet refined, and a sheer beauty that stood out from the size of the previous wine.  It is fantastic to see the great houses explore these more individual bottlings, this not really new now.  A sign of maturity and growth.