Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Works - Doesn't Work

Some wines just work.  The producer is right.  The style is right.  And when all is done, it tastes just right.  Others don’t give you the same feeling.  The producer may be a god one.  The style of wine is something you normally like.  But somehow, it just doesn’t fit together well, and the taste doesn’t hit the spot, or just feels wrong.

Donnhoff has always been one of our favourite German producers.  This Nahe name is well known for its accessible Kabinetts, its eich Spatlesen, and if you’re lucky sensational Auslese and above.  These wines have never let SWMBO or myself down in any way.  Recently, we’ve tried some of their Trocken wines, and they too are superb. It seems Donnhoff can do no wrong.

Robert Weil in the Rheingau is just as highly regarded.  Their Trocken wines are now seen as top flight, and SWMBO and I have enjoyed many of these.  They have a subtle power and balance.  As with most producers in the main regions, they’ve made the Pradikat classified wines, and still do.
Our day with The Young One and Jo-Lo was to be enhanced with wines from these two producers.  The 2016 Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett was indeed superb.  Beautifully fine yet with a positive heart and line.  Deliciously succulent citrus fruits with florals and a touch of minerals, with perfect acid balance for the sweetness.  Exquisite drinking at this level, that just works.  But then the 2016 Robert Weil Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Spatlese shocked us.  Sure it was richer as it should be at the Spatlese level, but the fruit smelt and tasted savoury.  Not oxidised or sour, but certainly off-putting.  There were florals and honey, but the savouriness pervaded.  This was not enjoyable, and it did not work, so we moved to a red.  SWMBO and the I-Spy Man reported the wine to have been much better the next night.  In fact it must have been good, as they finished the bottle, so I didn’t see it again….  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Tribute Wine

A tribute wine had better be good, otherwise the winemaker is doing a disservice.  I’m sure it doesn’t happen very often, or it’s the best that can be made in the circumstances, but some tribute wines can disappoint.  And it’s a pity.

However, the team at Palliser Estate in Martinborough made the perfect tribute wine to their founding director, Richard Riddiford, who passed away two years ago to the day.  Richard was an imposing man for many, as he did not tolerate fools, and spoke directly.  His intentions were always clear, and he was forthright in expressing them.  That’s why Palliser Estate is one of the most financially stable wineries in the country, and why Martinborough as a region and New Zealand as a wine producing country is recognised throughout the world.
Richard was a Chardonnay man in his time, so it was fitting for the winemaking team to make the best possible Chardonnay from Richard’s last vintage, 2016.  The Palliser Estate ‘The Great Riddler’ Martinborough Chardonnay 2016 is about as good as it gets.  The wine is stunningly rich with layered aromas and flavours of ripe stonefruit and tropical fruits, with mealy detail, gorgeous creamy barrel-ferment textures, and perfectly judged oaking.  The wine has immense presence, yet is seamless in the mouth.  It is powerful, but refined.  It invites you for another glass of decadence, and almost satisfies, so you need another.  It was a two barrique selection from a very, very good year, and already a good portion of the 500 bottles have gone.
I am so pleased to have tasted and drunk it.  I thought of my association with Richard Riddiford, as no doubt as anyone would, who’d be sipping on this wine. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Pioneer and Visionary

I suspect most of us in the wine game see the words ‘Pioneer’ and ‘Visionary’ used so much that their meaning is lost nowadays.  That’s marketing for you.  But every once in a while you come across people who truly are pioneers or visionaries.  If they’re alive, they still have their initial enthusiasm, and always humble.  If they have passed away, they have become stuff of legends, are remain highly respected.  The next generation following on from these pioneers and visionaries often carry on the dream with the same exuberance, but in reality there aren’t many of the children that quite do their forebears justice.

The Taylor family in the Clare Valley is one of these multi-generational inspired groups that seem to continue the earlier work with great fervour.  In fact, I’d say that the current generation are more active than ever and believe more fully in the original inspiration.  The Taylor family were Sydney wine merchants who partnered with the Clare Valley Co-operative in 1950 to make the Chateau Clare label.  It was Bill Taylor who purchased land to establish their family winegrowing estate in the Clare Valley, and the rest is history, as they say.

The third generation of Taylors have given tribute to Bill Taylor in making ‘The Visionary’ Cabernet Sauvignon and recently ‘The Pioneer’ Shiraz.  These are the very best wines that Taylors can make.  The fruit comes from the best parcels in their Clare Valley Estate.  And then it’s a rigorous barrel selection process.  Clearly the barrels with the best fruit make it, but also, the selection team have a nose and palate out for the special qualities of the Vicard coopered French oak.  After a couple of vintages of these wines, I believe I can see what they are seeking out – ethereal beauty!
The 2013 Taylors ‘The Pioneer’ Clare Valley Shiraz 2013 is superb Shiraz with ripe dark and black berried fruits, black plums, Oriental spices, black pepper and pervasive but ethereal oak.  Exoticism for sure.  Beautifully refined on palate, silky even, but make no mistake, there’s plenty of structure.  The fruit richness grows and blossoms, and merges with the oak layering perfectly.  Sheer opulence, exoticism, lusciousness, power with incredible finesse.  I’d be scoring this wine as perfection.  This is only the second release of this label.

What a great comparison of varietal expression was made by having the 2013 Taylors ‘The Visionary’ Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Almost as dark as ‘The Pioneer’, this had intensity depth and a concentration that was up a level.  Then that blackcurranty and cassis edge.  Herbs, mint, but none of the menthol and eucalypt that can accompany the true Cabernet character.  The beautiful ethereal and exotic oak was also there.  To me personally, not quite as a perfect match as it was with the fruit in ‘The Pioneer’.  A little more acidity and a little more firmness.  Cabernet Sauvignon is of course, Taylors signature variety.

As usual, at this level, it’s a matter of personal preference as to which is best.  You can tell I went for the Shiraz. SWMBO voted for the Cabernet.  We shared the wines with the Bassinet Babes, and again a split decision.  One thing was clear to us, these wines were true to and worthy of the labels 'Pioneer' and 'Visionary'.      

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


There are many opportunities to look at pairs of wines which are in essence made identically, varying in maybe only one factor.  It’s how winemakers work in singling out important variable which affect the outcome of the wines they make.  For the consumer, it’s a wonderful exercise in learning more – maybe not quite as focussed as the winemaker, but nevertheless an enjoyable step upwards in the path of wine knowledge.
We had the opportunity to compare vinous twins with the 2015 Sons of Eden ‘Romulus’ Barossa Valley Old Wine Shiraz and 2015 Sons of Eden ‘Remus’ Eden Valley Old Vine Shiraz 2015.  These are among the best wines from Cory Ryan and Simon Cowham who have done wonderful things with specially selected parcels of fruit in the Barossa and Eden Valleys where they cut their teeth in winemaking and viticulture respectively.  Interestingly enough the wines are named after the twins who founded Rome after being suckled and raised by wolves, as legend has it.  Romulus was the stronger and more forceful sibling, and Remus the more refined; Romulus eventually killing Remus.

Cory and Simon have named these twin wines after these mythical twins.  The Romulus is old vine Barossa fruit, 60-80+ y.o., fermented to 14.5% alc. and aged 20 months in French oak, whereas the Remus is old vin Eden Valley fruit, the vine maybe not so old at 50+ years, fermented to 14.5% alc. and aged 22 months in French oak.  The biggest difference is the fruit origin, the Remus from a higher elevation, thus cooler and slower ripening with finer soils.  The 2 months extra oaking is relatively insignificant.  The wines show their regional provenance.  The Romulus the bigger and more powerful wine with blacker fruits, greater ripeness, more richness and structure.  I loved this.  The Remus with more filigree, aromatics, finer textures, fresher mouthfeel, a little eucalypt, but sill very Shiraz,  SWMBO loved this.  As usual, at this level, both wines are great, and it’s a matter of personal preference which one you like the most.