WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

17 December 2017

Shiraz: Australia (and France)

According to Wine Australia, their country boasts around 40,000 hectares of Shiraz - Syrah under vine which means 25% of overall plantings. And here's another fascinating titbit for you: apparently rotundone, a chemical compound found in black pepper among other things is the same one found in Shiraz giving the wines that renowned spicy peppery character, but about 20% of people aren't able to detect and taste it. So now you know. Over to the wines then: discover five very different and worthwhile Shirazes below coming from South Australia, Victoria and Canberra. And a bonus one from the south of France (much better value too).

Old vine Shiraz in Barossa by Wine Australia.
Rabbit & Spaghetti Shiraz 2015 Adam Barton / Atlas Wines, Clare Valley (14.5% abv) - One of a series of Shirazes (also Barossa, McLaren, Adelaide 'super zone') made for the innovative on-liner Naked Wines 'supporting independent winemakers blah blah', this is a delicious classic mixing ripe dark berry fruit with spice, submerged oak and supple tannin texture finishing with a controlled bit of oomph. £14/£18 UK.

Magpie Estate Tight Cluster Sparkling Shiraz 2012, Barossa - Woah! This one-off oddball sparkling red was made 'still' and oak aged before undergoing 13 months bottle fermentation and lees ageing (adding some fortified Shiraz wine as dosage!). Maturing savoury leather notes mingled with seductive dark chocolate flavours and fizzy of course. Only in Aus. £19.99 Boutinot Wines.

Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Grampians Shiraz 2014, Victoria - From vineyards planted at 240 metres altitude, these guys have been making consistently exciting Shiraz for years and years. Rich and spicy, concentrated and powerful with lovely tannins, nicely integrated oak combined with lush savoury flavours vs well-balanced grip and punch to finish. Very tasty. £18.49 Bibendum PLB.

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2015, Canberra - Planted at 650 metres on the Great Dividing Range, where I'm told they sometimes have frost problems! Quite oaky to start with minty peppery undertones, savoury meaty characters too with firm and smoky palate nuanced by wild dark berries and violets, grainy yet rounded tannins. Good although fairly expensive: £25 Liberty Wines.

Langmeil Orphan Bank Shiraz 2013, Barossa - The name comes from them shifting old vines from the original vineyard to a new site, which 'mostly worked' apparently. Wow, big Barossa style. Dark and peppery, firm and powerful yet rounded, floral dark berries and chocolate merge with nice meaty notes, concentrated commanding finish. Woof, a classic with lots going on despite its full-on-ness. £44 Robb Brothers.

Wild-card 'Shiraz' from elsewhere:
Castelmaure Corbières 2015, Languedoc. Delicious example, made by the leading, wild middle-of-nowhere co-op winery Cave d'Embres et Castelmaure in conjunction with family mega-group Jeanjean, of the kind of red the French should be getting more of on our shelves. Actually a Syrah, Grenache and Carignan blend (with 14% abv), this deftly mixes up sunny spicy and herby fruit with fairly soft tannins, concentration and nice 'purity' too. £9 Tesco.

Some previous words (this year) on Syrah, Shiraz and Australia:
www.winewriting.com/2017/04/classic-australia
www.winewriting.com/2017/03/syrah-shiraz-wines-of-moment

06 December 2017

Pinot Noir: Australia, California, France, Hungary

Vineyard in Tasmania by Wine Australia

California
Scott Peterson ROX Pinot Noir 2015 Sonoma Coast - Silky smooth Pinot with plenty of aromatic 'sweet and savoury' fruit, touches of vanilla oak but not overdone, nice supple tannins and 'lightness' despite its big 14.5% abv weight. £19.99/£14.99 Naked Wines $29.99/$17.99.

Australia
Apparently Pinot Noir was among the very first varieties to be planted in Australia, but it was only really in the 1990s onwards that the variety gained momentum with the arrival of new clones and the planting of cooler sites. These two would be pretty typical of this.
Crittenden 'Peninsula' Pinot Noir 2016 Mornington Peninsula, Victoria - Lovely perfumed Pinot nose and palate, elegant but with intense 'sweet/savoury' fruit, quite powerful yet soft and silky with fresh acidity; very nice delicate pure style, fair class. £21.25 Fields, Morris, Verdin.
Stargazer Pinot Noir 2016 Tasmania - Planted in 2002 with a Swiss clone of Pinot (as you do). Light colour, closed up at first with herbal hints, turning to sweeter cherry fruit, fresh acidity and a touch of weightier texture on the palate, floral and tight finish; aromas develop with aeration. Good potential although dear @ £35, Enotria & Coe.

France
'Wild card' red Burgundy: you wouldn't expect anything too exciting from Burgundy for £5.99, but this Lidl special is easy-drinking and not bad at all:
Coteaux Bourguignons Pinot Noir 2015 (12.5% abv) - Fairly light with distinct cherry Pinot aromas and soft fruity palate.

Hungary
More wild cards, this time some Pinot rosés discovered and enjoyed on holiday last summer in Hungary:
Törley Pinot Noir Rosé Száraz (= dry) 2016 Etyek-Budai (12.5% abv) - Tasty juicy and crisp with aromatic red fruits and creamier finish. 699 HUF = about £2 or $2.65 (taxes on wine must be low in Hungary).
Takler Pinot Noir Rozé 2016 Szekszárdi region (12.5% abv) - richer coloured and textured rosé with plenty of fruit. 360 HUF per 100ml glass in the Pár Pendégló Panzió restaurant in Sárospatak.
Siller Pinot Noir Rosé Száraz 2015 (12.5% abv) - similar style to above, very nice.

05 December 2017

Chardonnay: France, Australia, South Africa


Continuing the varietal 'wines of the moment' theme (last time it was Riesling), Chardonnay is having a minor resurrection or holding its own at least - once so fashionable then eclipsed by Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio - which is a good thing as it's much more versatile style-wise than either of those two grape varieties (peachy, citrus, tropical, oaky, oatmeal, buttery, mineral, something for everyone...). According to Wine Australia: "Chardonnay is Australia's number one selling variety in the UK off-premise market," although admittedly "the best growth" is for "other whites," such as PG and SB... Here are three pairs of recommended Chardys from three countries in different styles and stores.

Burgundy

Macon-Villages 2016 Gonter Nivelon (12.5% abv) - One of their posher Christmas special bin selection, this is a lovely example mixing ripe juicy fruit with yeasty edges and freshness too. £7.99 Lidl UK.
La Manufacture Chablis 2015 Benjamin Laroche (12.5% abv) - Tasty classic style Chabbers with nice pure fruit and lightly creamy vs crisp finish. Naked Wines £19.99 UK / $29.99 US (without the Angels' discount).

South Africa

Bellingham Chardonnay 2015 Stellenbosch (13.5% abv) - Well-made barrel-fermented Chardy but not overtly oaky, with buttery hazelnut flavours, attractive palate weight and balanced finish. £11/£9 on offer Tesco.
Mount Rozier Peacock Chardonnay 2016 Western Cape (13.5% abv) - Very good-value un-oaked style with tropical fruit and refreshing bite £7 Sainsbury's.

Australia

Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2013 Margaret River, WA - Buttery and forward with light yeast-lees and toast, quite rich yet elegant, drinking well now. £21.99 Justerini & Brooks.
Luke Lambert Chardonnay 2016 Yarra Valley, Victoria - Wilder-edged and cider-y 'natural' style nose with pretty intense, crisp lees-y mouth-feel vs light buttery flavours. Different. £24 Indigo Wines.

Next up: Pinot Noir and Shiraz...