Friday, January 29, 2016

Luxurious World Beater Wittmann

We all want to taste and enjoy the best wines in the world, and often too.  But it doesn’t quite happen like that.  Most of them are just too expensive, and most are rare and difficult to source.  Thank goodness and our lucky stars that we’ve had our fair share of some of the world’s great wines; not as many as many other people, but enough to know.  Then there’s the subjective and stylistic element.  Sure the wine is superb, but it might not suit our taste, and we simply just don’t like drinking it.

Not so the 2013 Wittmann Westhofen Kirchspiel GG Riesling Trocken.  It had the big tick from the Queen of Wine, Jancis Robinson herself, with a hefty 19.0/20.  We’ve enjoyed Wittmann wines many times in the past, from some of the more ‘lowly’, and also some of the best tiered in what they are trying to show – dry Riesling from top sites.  But this wine was utterly spectacular from first sniff and first sip.  It was a treat for SWMBO and the I-Spy Man.  We need to treat ourselves every once in a while, and this was it.  Gorgeously ripe and decadent with layers of exotic fruits and flowers, blooming to show layers and detail.  On the palate dry, but simultaneously rich.  Incredible weight and mouthfilling presence, but still with a lightness of foot and a degree of elegance and finesse.  The acidity behind the richness to keep it poised.  And so smooth, flowing and unctuous.  Did it show the terroir with the site’s limestone influence?  It was difficult to say, as we had no other wine to compare with, and my memory wasn’t locked in to compare with what I’d tasted previously.  In the final analysis, it didn’t matter to analyse it.  We just luxuriated ourselves with it.  A truly world-class wine.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

St Laurent Specialist

We have a particular interest in the St Laurent variety, but in reality don’t profess any true or deep expertise.  It’s just that SWMBO works with it in her vast portfolio.  We get to taste one man’s interpretation of it every year, and we do try to taste as many other examples made here, and especially from Austria.  The ones made here capture the fruitiness of the variety, but don’t have the more interesting flavours, or the textures in the right (?) balance.  But having said that, a number of the real McCoys have been spoilt by brettanomyces.  Which is better?  It’s subjective.

However, a 2009 Pittnauer St Laurent ‘Alte Reben’ from the Burgenland changed our minds in favour of the genuine article.  Gerhard Pittnauer is a specialist with it, and also makes top end Pinot Noir, and his vineyards are biodynamic.  This is a single site wine from old vines, and aged 18 months in large oak, so it leaves the fruit as the hero.  The funky label suggests what this wine is all about.  Dark coloured, a little age showing, but with an intense and complex amalgam of dark red and black fruits along with herbal elements.  The wine is firm and intense, with well-judged structure.  It isn’t firm, but has an accessibility too.  The flavours are savoury and interesting, but also rich and sweet, though with restraint. There’s a hint of game and mineral detail, and nothing to spoil it as with a number of its compatriots.  A wine to admire indeed.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Three Decade Wonder

Riesling can age decades, as numerous examples from all over the wold show.  We’re a little less confident in New Zealand, as our wines tend to be precocious, though some bottlings of Riesling can seem to go well over the 10 year mark.  I’ve tasted some 15-20 years old that are still extremely good, but three decades may be pushing it?  Some people who keep cellars of New Zealand wines report that there are many examples of all sorts of varieties and styles that can keep very well, well into the three decade mark and beyond.

So we approached the 1986 Montana Marlborough Rhine Riesling with both a sense of positive anticipation as well as trepidation.  There was little ullage, though we could see it was more orange in colour through the green glass.  We chose the two pronged ‘Ah So’ cork extractor in case the cork was fragile.  It came out with a little more effort than expected, as it was still firm, and not fully soaked.  On pouring, it was indeed orange, but with clarity.  No madeirisation, and no real oxidation, though there were oxidative nuances.  Fully developed and beyond its best for sure, but still fruity, without being dried out and skeletal.  Medium in sweetness, with flavours of caramel, honey, apples, toast, and with burnished florals.  It was appealing, quite wondrously so, considering our trepidation.  Broad, dense and flabbyish in flavour, the acidity kept it alive and lively in mouthfeel.  Sure the flavours were tending unctuous in the more negative way, but you could make allowances.  SWMBO was impressed, and we all enjoyed tasting and dinking it.  The wine didn’t fade much in the glass at all, though we tired of drinking a tired wine.      

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Generosity in 2010

It must be more than co-incidental that wines end up being served and tasted in pairs.  And often the wines share a similarity when their provenance can be so different.  Such was the case at dinner with the AllyHelly couple and the I-Spy Man.  SWMBO and I put up the white, and the couple brought along the red.  Sure, the wines came from the same country and same vintage, but from regions miles and miles apart, with different soils, aspect etc.  They shared the trait of generosity.

The 2010 Olivier Leflaive Chassagne Montrachet 1er ‘Clos Saint Martin’ was obtained after a tasting from the Olivier Leflaive stable.  I thought the Puligny 1er Cru finer, but this more flavoursome, but a bit coarser, but then it was significantly cheaper.  This night, it was deliciously up-front, rounded and sweet-fruited, with white and yellow stonefruits, nuts and complexing flinty lees and sulphides in the background.  There was no trace of rusticity, and if anything, it was modern and nearly New Worldly!  This went down a treat, as often the tautness and delicacy of white burgundy can leave you a bit disappointed.

By nature the wines of the Rhone Valley are generous.  It’s that abundant sunshine and warmth, especially in the south.  The 2010 Domaine Giraud ‘Grenaches de Pierre’ Chateauneuf-du-Pape captured that with its black-red colour and super sweet and luxurious, supercharged dark raspberry and black berried fruits.  The ripeness is clear, the wine almost has porty notes, but it is Grenache pushed to its edge.  Unctuous and viscous, no doubt some of the textures from 100 y.o. vines, and underneath it plenty of alcohol power.  The label says 15.0% alc.  It may be understated.  Then the complex detail of garrigue, florals and a touch of jam.  Deliciousness and power.  Generosity, but style, if somewhat a caricature of Chateaueuf at its boldest.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Beauty in Brundlmayer

We just can’t stop drinking the wines from Brundlmayer.  They are just so refined in style, true elegance and fully expressive of site and terroir.  Everytime we open one to share, our guests eith are very aware of the quality, or become new converts.

The Roadsters were visiting, and as a start to the evening, SWMBO and I put a couple of choices in front of them.  His eyes lit up when he saw the 2013 Brundlmayer Zobinger Heiligenstein 1OTW Riesling ‘Alte Reben’ Kamptal DAC Reserve.  He’d recently stood in the vineyard and knew abut the soils and aspect, and what made it special.  Indeed it was special.  Not particularly big in size, more medium-scales, but perfectly formed.  Gorgeous citrussy fruit with a hint of the exotic, and minerality in spades.  The acidity perfect too, balancing what might be 6 or 7 to 10 g/L RS.  13.0% alc, but far more elegant than that figure suggested.  This just intensified as the bottle got lower and lower.  It must be the old vines.  And so easy to sip on.  So beautiful.  So Brundlmayer.   

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best Bargain

There are a number of candidates for the best ‘classical’ wine bargains in the world.  Sherry and port, the fortifieds are out of fashion now, mainly because of their higher alcoholic content.  Immediately after these must be Sauternes.  These can be truly among the world’s greatest sweet wines, along with German and Tokay wine, says accepted wisdom.  Who am I to argue?

With The Roaders here and a number of lovely wines which they provided all finished, SWMBO and I could only bring out a Sauternes to see off the evening.  The 2007 Ch. Suduiraut Sauternes was perfect for the purpose.  A quiet and small glass of something deliciously decadent.  This in 375 ml bottle, so just enough for a sip for the four of us.  Light golden, the bouquet initially quite lifted, but unveiling layer upon layer of richness, with toffee and caramel, along with wild honey.  The Roadette said beeswax.  Honey and lanolin also.  The palate the same flavours, with and unctuous texture, but enough acid cut to keep it from cloying.  Nectar of course, but with power and strength.  Sure it was a little bottle, but it satisfied in every way.  A very good vintage, and with a future ahead of it.  We must get some more!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Brace of Burgundy

The Roaders came to visit.  We visited them over a year ago, so it was a long overdue get-together.  They are burgundy wine nuts, so of course they shared a brace of bottles with some bottle age on them, and from a pretty good vintage.  One white and one red, and both faring differently, of course.

The 2005 J-P & B Droin Chablis 1er ‘Vaillons’ was full and broad with a voluminous bouquet and mouthfilling palate.  Now a bit oft, and quite rounded, the flavours were strong in presence, but the classical flint.  Is this sea-shell limestone and terroir?  Or winemaker input with lees contact now beginning to grow and possibly swamp the fruit?  Maybe both.  It polarised us, some liking the wine, others not so keen.  I was in the former group, after all the wine is a decade in age now, and such breath and roundness is to be expected.  What about the crisp Chablis expression?  Not there for me, and the loss of the zingy freshness of Chablis of old seems to be symptomatic of climate change, some say.

Much more mysterious was the 2005 Tollot-Beaut Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru, served blind.  SWMBO and I were on the same page: Cote de Beaune rather than Cote de Nuits, and Corton over Volnay and Pommard.  We didn’t know who made it, and SWMBO was correct on the vintage of 2005, I guessed 1999.  Some browning, but very elegant, with some secondary, savoury complexities.  Beautifully fine acidity, and the tannins growing on the palate to show its class and grand cru status.  There’s no hurry with this one, for sure.  We were all happy with this…

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bundling Gruner from Brundlmayer

What do you do when you visit people who give you wine?  Give them some wine back, of course.  We ventured over the hill to visit Lazza and Kava, who plied us with plenty of wines from barrels.  It was a real treat, so we found it easy to share some different wines with them.
There’s a group of Austrian vineyards that are being single out as particularly good.  Besides the Kamptal DAC Reserve classification, top producer Brundlmayer has sites with the 1OTW moniker, these being Premier Cru vineyards.  It was fun and eye-opening to be able to try two.  The 2013 Brundlmayer Kammerner ‘Lamm’ 1OTW Gruner Veltliner DAC Reserve instantly surprised with its exotic tropical fruit aroma, revealing wonderfully aromatic pineapple and yellow stonefruit notes.  Quite dry on palate, the fruit lusciousness made it seem sweet and decadent.  This just unfolded richness and layers of flavour, building in refined textures.  A hint of oak emerged.  The mouthfeel of the wine took over as the focus.  Finishing dry but with exotic nuances, this was an eye-opener for us.   

Then the 2013 Brundlmayer Langenloiser ‘Kaferberg’ 1OTW Gruner Veltliner DAC Reserve.  A different beast to the Lamm, showing the influence of the site and its soils.  A full, stronger and bolder wine with oxidative handling, still exotic stonefruits, but nutty notes, and more textural and fuller and firmer in palate presence.  Not only nutty, but with herbal notes as well as the exotic fruits.  Laters of complex interactions here.  I suspect the ‘Lamm’ would entice the drinker and the ‘Kaferberg’ draw in the winemaker.  However, we were fascinated by both.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Rustic and Tertiary

We’ve been holding onto a wine to share with The Young One for a number of years.  No, it’s not the year of his birth, or anything particularly special, except the label shares his name, and the wine has been highly rated.  The Young One now resides in another city, but he came home for a few days, and it was appropriate to bring out the bottle, open it and share it.

The 1998 Oliver’s Taranga McLaren Vale Shiraz was made from old vines, and by all accounts was a typical McLaren Vale fruit bomb with sweetness and ripeness.  That was in its younger days of course.  Now with nearly two decades on it, it could be assumed to have developed somewhat.  And it had.  Still very dark in colour, but now with brick and orange, the wine opened with immense volume and presence on the nose and palate.  The initial fruit expression was of ripe dark red and black plums with liquorice and chocolate.  This was a good start.  Very sweet and ripe on the palate, and again promising for it.  Then slowly, but surely the tertiary characters became more prominent.  Savoury and cooked fruits entwined with earth and undergrowth.  What was rich and lush began turning into soupy.  What was plush began to move into coarse, funky and then grubby.  This wasn’t decrepit by any means, but it became rustic.  The wine had its supporters for sure, but SWMBO and I became less than enamoured, even though it bore The Young One’s name.  The Young One, ever so diplomatic, said he thought it interesting in a good way.  Bless him.       

Monday, January 4, 2016

Youthfully Firm

The 2014 vintage in Germany is yet another good one, say all the official press releases.  We all know how positive these reports ‘must’ be.  Some do mention the rainy period before harvest, and the more accurate reports say early varieties and those who waited for the grapes to fully ripen after the wet weather were successful.  Experience counts for loads, so Donnhoff in the Nahe could be expected to have smart results no matter what.  It’s ‘who’ that counts, as always.

After the previous post on the ‘harder’ nature of the 2014 Donnhoff Grauburgunder Trocken, we needed to remind ourselves of the Donnhoff wines as we’ve come to know them, as I feared that styles could change, especially with the embracing of dry German wine expression.  So it was a good excuse to open the 2014 Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese.  SWMBO was delighted, as we do love the ‘traditional’ pradikat wines made by Donnhoff.   With the wine served a little too cold, my first impression was “oh no, very firm!”  But as the wine warmed up, it unveiled much more of its personality.  Beautifullly aromatic floral, lime, stonefruit and honeysuckle flavours, growing in intensity and richness as the bottle went down.  It was painfully obvious this was opened 5 years or a decade too early.  Still tightly bound, and the potential array of flavours still locked up.  Yet this was delicious, even at this youthfully firm stage.  Texturally fine-grained and indeed soft.  Not hard.  The tightness, firmness and harder nature of the Grauburgunder and this Spatlese could be vintage related?  And/or youthful in nature.  We are still immensely respectful of this producer.