Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Catch the Wave, October 17, 2012

There's been a dearth of Vintages tastings this year, so I was all over this one - Catch the Wave, described as new sophisticated wines from 40 top Australian producers at a casual, waterfront tasting event. I was looking forward to really wrapping my mind around what Australian wines were, outside of Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, and more importantly, to see if there were going to be any surprises beyond that stereotypical Aussie style of wine.

Sadly, there were no surprises - not with the red wines at least.

The reds, whether a varietal shiraz, some blend of grenache/shiraz/mourvèdre, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, or pinot noir were all utterly devoid of character. Certainly sticking to that Australian style of nuked fruit (wayyy past overripe), high alcohol, no structure, no acid ... simply flaccid, boring, completely uniform wines. They didn't really need to name the varietal - a simple "Australian Red" label would have sufficed. And that's either indicative of the Australian palate preference, or a really sad lowering of expectations about what red wine should be among New World wine drinkers. Judging by the prices some of these wineries are charging, dead wines obviously still hold some kind of appeal.

But it wasn't all gloom and doom. The chardonnays were wonderful. Many possessing great balance and finesse, and if not showing a degree of complexity, then at least showing a certain charm. Acid, ladies and gentlemen. It doesn't matter WHAT wine you're talking about - it's the acid that's the most important determinant of complexity, ageability, and drinkability.

Overall, the event was a lot of fun. Great venue, at Corus, right on Toronto's waterfront. I was with 6 other friends, a few who had never been to one of these tastings before. Going with a large group does mean that I can't be so intense about tasting everything - but it was fun to hang out a bit, relax, and taste together. Notes below, by region. Apologies if the shiraz notes are similar to each other, each more curt than the next.

Canberra District | New South Wales

2010 Clonakilla O'riada Shiraz: cooked fruit, really nothing here

Sunbury | Victoria

2010 Galli Estate Winery Camelback Chardonnay: buttery, rich, obvious chardonnay; focused palate, very good indeed

Yarra Valley | Victoria

2011 Oakridge Wines Over The Shoulder Chardonnay: slightly closed, leesy, citrus fruit, fresh lean palate, good energy
2010 De Bortoli Wines Gulf Station Chardonnay: bit tight, lean and closed, some leesy quality on the palate
2010 Oakridge Wines Pinot Noir: overripe, jammy, what's the point?!
NV De Bortoli Wines Deen Vat 10 Pinot Noir: delicate, but even then it's ripe and to the Aussie style

Mornington Peninsula | Victoria

2010 Stonier Wines Chardonnay: open nose, good richness, young at the moment, showing some bitterness on the finish
NV Yabby Lake Vineyard Cooralook Pinot Gris: soft and pleasant
2010 Yabby Lake Vineyard Single Vineyard Chardonnay: focused nose, leesy, some oak, but no palate
2010 Stonier Wines Pinot Noir: nondescript, an overripe mess
2009 De Bortoli Wines Riorret Merricks Grove Vineyard Pinot Noir: quite a delicate nose, good fruit, linear, slightly smokey

Nagambie Lakes | Victoria

2008 Takbilk Cabernet Sauvignon: good freshness, alcohol comes up, but good fruit and structure
2006 Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon: deeper, darker fruit, alcohol rises, dense palate, good texture

Strathbogie Ranges | Victoria

2011 Fowles Wine Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Wild Ferment Chardonnay: quite sweet fruit, leesy, good thing the name is interesting

New South Wales

2008 De Bortoli Wines Noble One Botrytis Semillon: good acid, apricots, much more like an old, slightly oxidized icewine than any Sauternes

Margaret River | Western Australia

2011 Fraser Gallop Estate Chardonnay: yes, the region I was most looking forward to; fresh, quite subtle, oak comes up on palate, elegant and very young, some bitterness on the finish

South Australia

2011 Yalumba Organic Viognier: soft fruit, pleasant, a good fruity wine that goes down easy
2009 Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay: oak and all that, big chardonnay but focused on the palate

Adelaide Hills | South Australia

2009 Hardys Heritage Reserve Bin Chardonnay: leesy, down the line fruit, obvious chardonnay

Eden Valley | South Australia

2006 Peter Lehmann Wines Wigan Riesling: petrol, oily nose, that old fashioned New World style; if you tell me it's riesling, I'll believe you, but what's the point?!

Barossa Valley | South Australia

2006 Massena The Eleventh Hour Shiraz: jammy, rich, that soft fruit, from 100 year old vines
2008 First Drop Wines Fat of the Land Ebenezer Shiraz: rich and ripe, big fruit but otherwise balanced, dried on palate
2010 First Drop Wines Half & Half Shiraz/Monastrell: ripe, slightly overdone, but palate tightens up
2010 First Drop Wines Pinot Tempranillo: jammy, no varietal character
2008 Langmeil Winery Blacksmith Cabernet Sauvignon: super ripe, soft, but pleasant
2009 Langmeil Winery The Fifth Wave Grenache: overdone, macerated, hollow middle on the palate
2008 Henschke Wines Tappa Pass Vineyard Selection Shiraz: ripe, almost immediately forgettable; and you pay $112 for the privilege
2008 Henschke Wines Mount Edelstone Vineyard Shiraz: high alcohol, jammy, nondescript, macerated, almost like a burnt aroma; will cost you $119 for the pleasure
2009 Rusden Wines Black Guts Shiraz: at $99, nothing but alcohol and macerated fruit, forgettable
2009 Teusner Wines Avatar GSM: that southern French blend, alcohol on the nose, dried out fruit, some juiciness on the palate though

McLaren Vale | South Australia

2010 Paxton Vineyards AAA Shiraz/Grenache: some reduction here, ripe fruit underneath, but otherwise nondescript; awkward
2008 Pirramimma Wines Old Bush Vine Grenache: good focus, complex, earthy fruit, but overtly sweet palate destroys its charm
NV Pirramimma Wines Petit Verdot: a biodynamic vineyard, fat and all but showing better focus on the palate
2009 Mollydooker Wines The Maitre D' Cabernet Sauvignon: harder, ripe fruit, almost slightly stemmy, but overdone and completely macerated on the palate
2010 Mollydooker Wines Carnival of Love Shiraz: overdone palate, jammy palate, very cooked and boring at $99
2009 Mollydooker Wines Velvet Glove Shiraz: the most shocking wine of the tasting at $211; soft, jammy, overdone, limp, dead; everything a red wine shouldn't be


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