Day 3 at the Landmark Tutorial
Yesterday - day 3 of the Landmark Tutorial - was a bit different.
We began with a session on Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and blends thereof. I can understand why Semillon was included, because Hunter Semillon is one of Australia's unique, and great, wine styles.
But Sauvignon isn't. With the honorable exception of Michael Hill Smith's Adelaide Hills Sauvignon, Australia doesn't do all that well with this variety. The Sem/Sauvs from Western Australia are OK, but they're never great, and some of them have too much methoxy character.
Favourite wines of the tasting? Tyrrels Vat 1 1998 is a beautiful wine, and Peter Lehmann's Margaret Semillon 2002 - from the Barossa - is also thrilling. The Braemore Semillon 2008 is a young Hunter wine that will become a classic with 15 years' bottle age.
Rob Mann (above) then led a session on Cabernet Sauvignon. Normal service is resumed: these were pretty fantastic wines. Mount Mary Quintets 05 rocked in a very restrained, almost Burgundian fashion. From Margaret River, we had Howard Park Abercrombie 05, Cape Mentelle 05, Woodlands 'Colin' 05 and Sandalford Prendiville 05. Very impressive bunch, with the Woodlands shading it for me.
Then a ringer: Mouton Rothschild 2005. Now had this been an Australian wine, we'd have dismissed it for being overoaked. Lots of chocolate and coffee oak here, with very firm tannins and a bit of brett? It's not an enjoyable drink at the moment. There's probably a great Pauillac waiting to emerge in time.
From Coonawarra we had Parker Terra Rossa First Growth 2005 - big and burly, and split opinions - and Majella 'The Malleea' 2005. Henschke Cyril 05 was concentrated, lush and very smooth, and Wendouree Cab Malbec 05 was really unique and quite beguiling. We finished off with the Reynella 05 and Penfolds Cellar Reserve Cab 05.
Then it was on the bus and off to Yalumba for a spot of lunch, and a tasting of alternative varieties, presented by Louisa Rose (above) and Max Allen (below). The tasting was held in a remarkable and beautiful room that was previously an enormous wax-lined cement storage tank (pictured top of page). We looked at 20 different wines chosen by Max and Louisa, showcasing some of the progress made by alternative varieties in Australia.
It was a patchy tasting. There were some really good wines, but also some average wines, and a few poor ones. I think they call this 'a work in progress'. Highlights? Louisa's Yalumba Virgilius Viognier 2008 is world class. Dal Zotto's Arneis 2008 is a really unique and beautifully expressive wine. R Wines Mod Gamay 2008 is made with no additions (not even SO2 at bottling) and is fresh and sappy, with some rhubarb character, but also lovely sweet cherry fruit. Peter Godden's Arrivo Lunga Macerazione Nebbiolo 2006 was the wine of the tasting for me: the first truly stunning Nebbiolo I've seen from outside Piedmont, with incredible tannic structure. And I mustn't forget the lovely Boireann Tannat 2005 from Queensland's Granite Belt. The lowlights? Castagna's Viognier 2006 was oxidized and Coriole's Fiano 2008 had lots of VA. Hewitson's Old Garden Mourvedre 2002 was tired and dried out.
Then dinner. We enjoyed some really lovely wines. Julian Castagna presented some of his reds, and I loved the Castagna Genesis Syrah 2002 and the 2005 Un Segreto Sangiovese Shiraz, which were beautifully expressive, complex wines. Vanya Cullen showed us the truly beautiful 2007 Cullen Mangan, with lovely vivid fruit and good structure. Ngeringa Syrah 2006 from the Adeliade Hills was really elegant and Burgundian, even, and Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir 2007 successfully combined intensity and elegance. I was also really taken by the Lethbridge Kabinett Riesling 2007, which showed thrilling acidity and a brilliant limey, spicy intensity - in an off-dry, very Germanic style.
It was a great end to a thought-provoking day. Oh, and Max told us that it was a root day here in the southern hemisphere...