Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Night of Mostly Australian Wine

On Friday night I got together with some old-school wine buddies and we popped some bottles. My friend J and I had some Australian wines we wanted to open, and some wines from other regions inevitably got thrown in as well. I'm by no means a big collector of Australian wines, but I do like to poke around and fine unique wines. There actually is a lot of diversity, and I enjoy exploring them. Some of these wines shed more light on an issue I've been curious about for a long time: the ageability of Australian wines.

2010 Domanine Bonnet-Huteau Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Les Laures - France, Loire Valley, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
I just love this vintage and this producer. This particular bottling spends extended time on the less, a year, giving it an aroma of buttercream. There's also this lovely mineral and lemon aroma. The palate is pure, bright and full of intense minerals. The focus is superb. The nervy edge of the acid and minerals combines with the creaminess from the sur lie aging to provide a full experience. The finish shows a lot of acid, leaving you salivating. Absolutely delicious, and I'd love to drink this with scallops. (90 pts.)

2008 O'Leary Walker Riesling - Australia, South Australia, Polish Hill River
I really enjoyed this riesling. It starts off with a real smoke and peanut aroma, but that fades away and white peach and minerals take its place. The palate has just a bit of a spritz, with tangy acid, but it's also quite full of peach and slate flavors. I was impressed by the minerality, which borders on austere. I really think this wine needs another few years in the bottle to show its stuff. There was a bit of honey that came out on the finish, but other than that it was a leaner, more mineral-driven riesling. On the second day it seemed even more focused and steely. (89 pts.)

2011 Château des Baumelles Bandol Rosé - France, Provence, Bandol
I really liked the 2010 of this, and the 2011 is very good as well, albeit a bit riper. Pink copper colored. Fresh aromas of grapefruit, melon rind and lemon zest. Tangy acid blends with ripe cherry and strawberry fruit. Fresh grapefruit on the finish. The added ripeness of the 2011 vintage hasn't taken much away from the acid and focus. (88 pts.)

2009 Juan Manuel Burgos Avan Ribera del Duero "Nacimiento" - Spain, Ribera del Duero
Hedonistic nose of currant jam, toast and fig paste. The palate is jammy and toasty, but somehow still balanced. Lots of creamy fruit and lush tannins. It's definitely a Ribera del Duero, but it seems to have more complexity and sexiness, as opposed to overbearing fruit and oak. This is such a great value at about $20, and I'm glad Peter Weygandt brought this wine in, because it will surely be a popular one. (89 pts.)

2008 Becker Estate Pinot Noir - Germany, Pfalz
This was one of two blind-tasted wine of the evening. Light cherry color in the glass. The aromas are brisk and fresh, full of cranberry and rhubarb, also some beef broth. The palate shows fresh acid, mixed in with a flavor that reminds me of tart cranberries. There's a lot of spice and bite (white pepper, rhubarb, green pepper) to this wine, which I like. I was happy to see it was a German pinot, because my experience with German pinots hasn't been that great. Very pleasant stuff. I thought this was a 2004 Burgundy, or possibly a more Old World styled Oregon pinot. Forty-eight hours later it smoothed out a lot and showed a bit more of a balance between fruit and non-fruit flavors. It became elegant and more expressive, leading me to think this is several years from its peak. (87 pts.)

2005 Giant Steps Pinot Noir Sexton Vineyard - Australia, Victoria, Yarra Valley
Second blind-tasted wine of the night. Light red color with a bit of tawny as well. This wine looks fifteen years old, and I was surprised to learn it was only seven. Pickles and sweet cherries on the nose, but it changed with hours open and showed more savory aromas. Tangy acid on the palate, fresh fruit as well, but there are still some tannins. Flavors of pickles, stewed cherries and red plums, along with a hint of cola. It's really interesting, quite complex, and very balanced at 13.4% alcohol. I liked the creamy feel of this wine more than the other pinot noir in the tasting. I tried it again 48 hours later and it was starting to show lots more savory beef broth aromas along with sweet red cherry. On day three, the tannins smoothed out and the wine became much silkier. (90 pts.)

1998 Virgin Hills - Australia, Victoria, Macedon Ranges
This Bordeaux blend was really interesting in a lot of ways, but ultimately not very good. Cloudy ruby color in the glass. What a bizzare and complex nose: dead ringer for Ukrainian borscht, as well as mustard seed and garlic. I kept waiting and searching for the fruit, but it remained elusive. The palate shows soft tannins and medium acid. It has a silky mouthfeel, but the weird flavors take over: garlic salt, chewing tobacco, charcoal and - finally! - a hint of cranberry fruit. This is a seriously nerdy wine. Drinking it was a fun academic experience, but this is not the kind of wine you'd drink two glasses of. I scored it 80 points because it reminds me of the borscht I always ate in Kyiv, but most people would despise this wine. (80 pts.)

2001 Majella Shiraz - Australia, South Australia, Coonawarra
Bold purple color in the glass. Dense and mysterious nose at first, but it opened up to show lots of red plums and cherries. The palate has firm tannins, dense fruit and a real sense of purity. This was the most "Australian" of the group, showing those plummy, cocoa-powder and smoky oak aspects. It's really held together well though, and age has started to bring out flavors of beef jerky and charcoal, which linger on the finish. (90 pts.)

2004 Hentley Farm Shiraz "The Beauty" - Australia, South Australia, Barossa Valley
Very dark purple color in the glass. Aromas of faulty, moldy, old cork. On the palate, the wine is corked beyond all recognition. Damn, I was expecting big things from this wine. I've seen other reviews of this specific bottle being corked, and that's really concerning. Maybe the winery needs a new cork provider. Boo! (FLAWED)

2009 Domaine Daniel et Denis Alary Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne "La Brunote" - France, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne
Dark purple colored. Brooding nose of smoky black fruit. Bold, gritty tannins on the palate with fresh black fruit. I really like this now but its quite compact and I'm sure it will improve for another few years. (89 pts.)

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