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Fine wines from the new world: Bibendum 'new releases' tasting
Bibendum Fine Wine From the New World, New Releases Tasting
Monday 16th October 2000, Home House, London

This was a frustrating tasting. On the one hand, the range of wines on offer was top-notch and fairly extensive. On the other hand, it was one of the most crowded tastings I've recently attended, and so getting a pour or reaching a spittoon was often problematic. Worse still, the staff who were pouring were commonly dishing out such tiny pours that in some cases it simply wasn't possible to evaluate the wines. Anyway, despite these gripes, I did manage to try some of the wines before I gave up and went home. Here are my impressions. (Prices are given per case in bond ex VAT.)

First, a couple of wines from Hunter Valley boutique producer, Glenguin. I'm a big fan of the Glenguin reds, after tasting them on my visit to the Hunter in March 2000.

Glenguin Pokolbin Shiraz 1999, Hunter Valley, Australia (£105)
From a single vineyard in Pokolbin. Deep purple colour, this is intense, powerful stuff that is currently quite tannic and astringent. Should be really tasty in a few years time. This replaces the 'individual vineyard' bottling, which was so impressive in 1998 (I bought a six pack).

Glenguin Aristea Shiraz 1998, Hunter Valley, Australia (£235)
A new premium wine from Glenguin made only in the best years (there was none in 1999 and 2000). Only 120 cases made. This has a lovely tight-knit nose with exotic fruit and new oak. It's huge, rich, bold and tannic but still well balanced. Impressive stuff. Very good/excellent, and well worth the money.

Tahbilk Shiraz 1994
Lively, spicy nose. Rich and tannic, this is evolving quite nicely. Medium bodied. Very good.

Crabtree is a new producer from the Clare Valley in South Australia, making inexpensive, easy-drinking wines. They're OK.

Robert Crabtree Watervale Riesling 2000, Clare Valley (£55)
Bright, fruity wine with lively citrus fruit. Quite simple on the palate with citrussy fruit, and just a touch of residual sugar. OK/good.

Robert Crabtree Semillon 1998, Clare Valley (£55)
Interesting smoky nose. Lean and citrussy on palate. Good.

Robert Crabtree Grenache Rosé 1999, Clare Valley (£55)
Bright cherry flavours on the palate. A nice but slightly confected style.

Robert Crabtree Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Clare Valley (£65)
Ripe, fruity nose. Lovely, fruit-forward style. Very good in a bright, modern style.

Robert Crabtree Shiraz 1998, Clare Valley (£65)
Another, lively, fruit-forward red wine, showing bright, cherryish fruit. A good glugger, but perhaps a touch simple.

Huia is a good quality producer from Marlborough in New Zealand; just a couple of wines on show here, but I liked them both.

Huia Chardonnay 1999, Marlborough (£60)
Ripe fruit and toasty oak on the nose. Quite pleasant and savoury; may evolve nicely. A very good new world Chardonnay.

Huia Marlborough Brut (£50)
This is a full-flavoured fizz with a rich bready nose. It's fresh and full with good acidity and lots of bubbles. Very good new world fizz.

Jim Barry makes one of Australia's most highly regarded Shirazes in the Armagh. This sells itself, but the importers are now working hard to shift the MacRae Wood Shiraz, which is made in larger quantities.

Jim Barry MacRae Wood Shiraz 1997, Clare Valley (£70 for 6)
This has a forward nose of ripe fruit and new oak. It's an approachable style, with a full but accessible palate with tamed tannins and sweet fruit. Very good +

Jim Barry The Armagh 1997, Clare Valley (£175 for 6)
Deep red/black colour. Concentrated, woody nose with exotic fruit notes. On the palate it is dense and concentrated: rounded with complex fruit and firm tannins. Needs a bit of time. Impressive, but perhaps a little in the shadow of the exceptional 1996. Very good/excellent.

From Yalumba, a couple of heavyweights.

Yalumba Signature Shiraz 1996 (£80 for 6)
A dense red/black wine, this is in a full, oaky, blockbuster style. It's quite tannic, too. Very good.

Yalumba Octavius 1996 (£160 for 6)
Opaque red/black colour. This has a sweet, exotic, menthol nose. On the palate it is concentrated with very ripe, super-sweet fruit. Lots of oak, lots of everything. Very good+, but avoid if you don't like this full-on style.

Peter Lehmann is one of the most well known figures in the Barossa, but he has attracted quite a bit of criticism for the amount of oak he gives his wines. These wines are impressive in their own way, but they aren't shy and subtle.

Peter Lehmann Mentor 1996, Barossa (£70 for 6)
Purple/black wine of stunning concentration. Exotic, rich, sweet nose. On the palate it is soupy and ripe, with firm tannins. Perhaps just a little too much of everything? Very good.

Peter Lehmann Eight Songs Shiraz 1996, Barossa (£155 for 8)
Deep red colour. Semi-restrained spicy nose. Ripe and oaky on the palate. Rich, slightly herby and sweet. Very good but too oaky for my palate.

Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 1995 (£90 for 6)
Deep red colour, this is concentrated with a nice menthol-laced nose. Rich, dry and spicy on the palate, this is quite oaky but is still balanced. Very good+

From the D'Arenberg stable, I tried just the 1998 Dead Arm.

D'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 1998, McLaren Vale (£75 for 6)
Deep purple colour, this is a concentrated wine. It’s big, with intense sweet fruit. Firm, tannic structure. Not as soft and approachable as previous releases, but may age very well. Very good+

Wines from the USA
I had some pretty mixed experiences with the USA wines on show. In general, the conclusion I came to is that these are vastly over-priced for the quality on offer. Because of the tightly packed crowds round each table, I got quickly bored waiting my turn for pours, hence the rather patchy coverage here.

Elyse were showing what were overall a fairly uninspiring bunch of Zinfandels. Perhaps they'll improve with some bottle age, but then again Zinfandel usually doesn't.

Elyse Nero Misto Zinfandel 1998, Napa, USA (£90)
Attractive smoky nose with a herby edge. Light on palate with moderate tannins. OK but simple. Good

Elyse Sierra Foothills Zinfandel 1998, Napa, USA (£105)
Light coloured with a smoky cherry-laced nose. Acidic palate with some earthy notes. OK but a bit dull.

Elyse Coeur du Val Zinfandel 1998, Napa, USA (£115)
Cherry-laced nose and cherry fruit on palate. Light and a little peppery. OK but dull.

Elyse Howell Mountain Zinfandel 1998, Napa, USA (£135)
Ripe cherry and raspberry nose. Soft, chocolatey, cherryish fruit on palate. Good (but still a bit dull).

Next, a couple of expensive US Pinot Noirs. The Oregon wine is the better of the two.

WH Smith Pinot Noir Hellenthal 1998, Sonoma, USA (£360)
Light red colour. It is quite simple and spicy with some structure to it and soft fruit. Good and not without interest, but just look at that price. I'd take a decent premier cru Burgundy over this any day.

Beaux Frères Pinot Noir 1998, Oregon, USA (about £400?)
Extremely sought after wine from the property part-owned by Robert Parker, the influential wine critic. This is a deep cherry red colour. It is firm, lean and tannic and currently quite closed, but potentially with a very bright future ahead of it. Again, absurdly expensive. Good/very good.

Corison Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, Napa (£240)
Concentrated, ripe fruit on the nose; tannic palate; full but a bit dull.

Duxoup Syrah 1998, Sonoma (£115)
Light, fruity red with an esteric character. Disappointingly light.

Chalone Chenin Blanc 1999, Soledad, Central Coast (£110)
Light, modern nose, but concentrated fruit on the palate. Very good, and interesting white. Bit pricey though.

Chalone Pinot Blanc 1999, Soledad, Central Coast (£120)
Ripe and full flavoured white wine with a touch of sweetness on the palate and some complexity. Good/very good.

Andrew Murray Enchante White 1999, Santa Barbara (£110)
Exotic, ripe, sweet nose showing flowers, melon and herbs. Full textured and flavoured on the palate, this is an impressive effort. Very good/excellent

Andrew Murray Viognier 1999, Santa Barbara (£120)
This is a disappointing effort: it has an over-the-top nose, and is rich, ripe and a touch oxidised. I'd say it was flawed, but I don't know whether this is just a fault with the bottle that was being poured from as the Bibendum chap pouring showed no interest whatsoever in opening another bottle to check. It's an odd attitude to take if you are selling the stuff.

Andrew Murray Syrah Les Coteaux 1998, Santa Barbara (£130)
This is an interesting, mid-weight, pungent wine with bright fruit and some complexity. A little too fruit-forward now, the hope is that this will gain interest with time in the bottle. Very good.

Andrew Murray Syrah Roasted Slope 1998, Santa Barbara (£158)
Lovely herby nose, with an attractive funkiness. Tannic and youthful on the palate, this is a nice wine with an interesting future ahead of it. Very good+

Viader Proprietary Red 1998, Howell Mountain (£155)
Full, soft, ripe and concentrated. Very good. How brief and uninformative can a tasting note be?

Contact details
Bibendum Wine
113 Regents Park Road
London NW1 8UR

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