Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Australian Wines (With a Little Help From California)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

From high-end vineyard-designated bottles to entry-level offerings, California winemakers are teaming up with Australian growers and vintners in a series of intercontinental projects — and some of the results are impressive.

First off, we have a duo of delicious reds from Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard. This project brings together Australian winemaker Charlie Seppelt (whose family owns Seppeltsfield), and Napa winemaker Chris Carpenter, who makes some stellar Napa Cabernet for Cardinale, La Jota and Mt. Brave. Dating back to 1971, fruit from this vineyard has found its way into Clarendon Hills and the iconic Penfold’s Grange. These two wines retail for around $75 a pop, but they pack loads of depth, complexity and cellar potential.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have a new project from Jacob’s Creek called Two Lands. Long known for their inexpensive, simple, fruity regional blends, this Aussie powerhouse has teamed up with Ehren Jordan, winemaker at California’s Failla — hence the “Two Lands” moniker. The fruit is sourced from a wide array of vineyard sites, including Padthaway, Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills. I found this partnership interesting and unexpected, but at $14 a bottle, they’re putting out some good quality wines. I could see these wines faring well on by-the-glass lists, or they could serve as a good stepping stone for those just starting their Australian wine explorations.  

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2012 Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Shiraz “Brooks Road” - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $75
Initially tight on the nose, but it opens up to show lots of violets and roses on top of currant and blackberry jam. Gets deeper and more elegant with air, showing dark roast coffee, menthol and loam. Full and rich on the palate with firm tannins but surprisingly bright acid. Tart red and black currants, blueberries, accented by cola, earth, graphite and coffee. Complex notes of sweet herbs, cocoa powder and black olive juice come out with time. Bold with plenty of power for the cellar, but impressive in its youthful elegance. A gorgeous young Shiraz, but I’d love to bury this bottle for fifteen years and see what sort of awesomeness comes out. (94 points)

2012 Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon “Trueman” - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $75
Aromas of tart currants and loam, a deep and driven aromatic approach with some sweet cola to accent the cigar and chewing tobacco. It really needs time to open up though. Full-bodied with firm tannins but they’re refined and, like the Shiraz, the moderate acid helps keep this refreshing Rich but tart currants, plums, blackberry jam, this is a complex and attractive Cabernet, oozing with generosity but fresh and elegant. Accents of sweet herbs, loam and mint chocolate chip add complexity. Long finish, with lots of toasted nut and coffee elements. A gorgeous wine that I’d bury for ten years without thinking twice. Includes 5% Merlot. (92 points)

2014 Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Two Lands - Australia
SRP: $14
Bright yellow with hint of green color. Smells equal parts zesty and tropical, like lime and lemon drizzled over mango and papaya, topped with honey. Clean and fresh on the palate with lively acid and generously creamy yellow apple and white peach fruit. Notes of hazelnut and honey butter, but not too much, the wine maintains a fresh vibe. Not very complex, but good, middle-of-the-road style with broad appeal. (86 points)

2013 Jacob’s Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Two Lands - Australia
SRP: $14
Medium ruby color. Smells of dark currants, plums, blackberries, smooth coffee and vanilla, some loam and rose petal notes. Fine, easy-drinking tannins, moderate acid, a fresh and bright approach, smooth and easy to drink. Actually shows a bit of complexity with loam, dusty soil, notes of mocha, sweet cocoa and cedar. Fun stuff. (85 points)

2014 Jacob’s Creek Pinot Grigio Two Lands - Australia
SRP: $14
Light straw color, hint of spritz in the glass. Aromas of white peach, honeysuckle, cherry blossom and lemon zest. On the palate, it’s light and bright and clean, with lively acid. The lemon and white peach fruit is light and uncomplicated. A crisp wine but not much else going on except for some white flower and cucumber water notes. (82 points)

2013 Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Two Lands - Australia
SRP: $14
Medium purple color. Gushing plums and black cherries on the nose, some baked fig elements, mocha and sweet cola. Decent tannic structure, medium acid, the black cherry, dark plum and blackberry fruit is ripe but not overly so. Shows hints of charcoal, loam, toasted almonds and sweet coffee. Some of the oak tastes a bit harsh. Juicy and fun, not complex, lacking a bit of excitement. (83 points)

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