jamie goode's wine blog

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another lovely Australian Cabernet: Howard Park

Continuing my mini-obsession with Aussie Cabernet, here's a brilliant one from Margaret River producer Howard Park. It's from the Wilyabrub sub region.

Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Margaret River
18 months in French oak; 14% alcohol. Elegant, bright sweet berry and blackcurrant nose with some gravelly, minerally notes adding a savoury dimension. Sweet but spicy, minerally palate with elegant midweight berry fruits. Beautifully proportioned, showing great balance between the fruit and the oak, and with lovely earthy, savoury undertones. A beautiful wine. 92/100 (£14.99 Bibendum)

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Impressive Cab Merlot from Margaret River

Continuing with the Aussie Cab theme, here's a really delicious Margaret River Cabernet Merlot from a producer I'd never heard of before. I suppose this is excusable: Flametree are new kids on the block, and the previous vintage of this wine was their first - it ended up winning the prestigious Jimmy Watson trophy. Flametree wines are being brought into the UK by new online retailer Auswineonline.co.uk.

Flametree Cabernet Merlot 2008 Margaret River
Vibrant aromatic nose with gravelly-edged sweet blackcurrant fruit, and some attractive floral notes. The fresh, bright palate shows sweet blackcurrant and stewed plum fruit with a hint of richness and more of that gravelly character. There's quite a bit of tannic structure here. It's a fresh, perfumed, midweight style with a lovely expressive personality. Very Margaret River in style. 91/100 (£12.50 http://www.auswineonline.co.uk/)

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Two more Aussie Cabernets

Following on from my post on the Parker Terra Rossa Cabernet a few days ago, here's a note on another couple of good efforts.

Suckfizzle Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Margaret River, Australia
14% alcohol. A really delicious, expressive Cabernet. The nose shows sweet yet fresh blackcurrant fruit, with attractive aromatics and a hint of earth/gravel savouriness. The palate shows good concentration of beautifully balanced dark fruits and savoury, smooth, tannic structure. There’s a really nice fusion of sweet fruit with the spicy, gravelly, savoury notes. Pretty serious stuff. 92/100 (the image above is from the label - a foot with angel's wings treading grapes - nice)

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Release 2005 Coonawarra, Australia
14.5% alcohol. A stylish, dark, ripe Cabernet with sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit complemented by some spicy oak. There’s a hint of mint here, as well as some tarry, olive-like notes. Very ripe, but still well defined, with no evidence of greenness. Quite savoury, and beginning to develop some softer, more complex evolved notes, although this has a long way to develop, I reckon. 90/100

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Friday, May 09, 2008

First barbie of the year, with three lovely Aussies

Just about to fire up the first barbie of the year, as I sit outside and write this blog entry. It will be for a ribeye steak, and to pair with it I have three delicious wines from Margaret River, Western Australia. They're all from Vasse Felix, one of the producers I didn't visit on my trip, this time last year.

It is my honestly held opinion that Margaret River is a serious wine region. It rocks. There's something about the best reds from here: they're ripe and intense, but they're also well balanced and well defined. You wouldn't mistake a Margaret River Cabernet-based wine for a classed-growth (at least, not in their youth), but there's a seriousness here. It's not quite best-of-old-world seriousness, but it's getting close.

But before I get to the wines, I have to log the fact that I'm a warm-climate sort of person. I love, more than almost anything else, to be able to sit outside in the evening at the end of a hot day. Yes, the cosy fireside has an appeal of its own in winter, but it doesn't come close to sitting outside, preferably surrounded by natural beauty, as the sun begins to dip. I also love eating al fresco at night (if it's possible to eat al fresco in the evening).

Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot 2005 Margaret River
Lovely expressive well-balanced nose showing elegant blackberry and dark cherry fruit. The palate is ripe with lovely freshness to the sweet, berryish blackcurrant fruit, which is backed up by spicy tannins. Delicious stuff, with freshness, ripeness and balance. A delicious, expressive Margaret River red in quite an elegant style. 91/100 (£10.50 Majestic, Tanners, Christopher Piper)

Vasse Felix Shiraz 2005 Margaret River
Weighing in at 15% alcohol, this is a dense, deep coloured red with a nose that shows sweet dark fruits, but which is tight wound and spicy, too. The palate is sweet and dense with ripe, intense blackberry fruit and some firm spicy tannins providing a counter for this sweet, lush fruit. There's also a bit of a chocolatey, coffee-ish richness. Pretty serious stuff. 92/100 (£10.50 Hennings, Hailsham Cellars, Cambridge Wine Merchants)

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Margaret River
This spends 18 months in French oak. An intense, sweet ripe nose showing blackcurrant fruit with some lovely earthy, chalky, spiciness and lush intensity. The palate is sweetly fruited with lovely depth and a really attractive minerality. A refined, fresh Cabernet of real depth, this has good medium term ageing potential. Intense but balanced. 94/100 (£14.50 Hailsham Cellars, Selfridges, Direct Wines)

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Some serious Aussie wines

Remarkable tasting today, titled 'Landmark Australia', held by Wine Australia at Australia House in the Strand. Despite an encounter with a doorman who lacked any people skills whatsoever (I was strongly ticked off for being early), it was a fantastic event. The idea was to showcase Australia's 'proud and exceptional history of fine wine'. There's one thing you have to admire the Aussies for, and that's their self-belief. When this comes to wine this is exemplified by their show system, where judgements are made with a degree of certainty and confidence that worries me slightly. Still, the show system has undoubtedly helped in the pursuit of quality (or, at least, a self-sustaining Aussie-centric perception of quality), even though it may have stifled innovation to a degree in the past.

Michael Hill-Smith led the tasting, in conjunction with Paul Henry of Wine Australia. [Hill-Smith comes across as a smart but rather bullish Aussie; I suspect you wouldn't want to disagree with him.] The first part was a sit-down tasting with 17 specially chosen wines, showcasing the best of Australia's fine wine offering. Afterwards, we were treated to a further 26 wines on self-pour, with a long lunch where we got a chance to drink any of these 43 wines that took our fancy.

I came away really enthused by many of the wines. There were lots of really stunning bottles, one after the other. In fact, I was taken by surprise: I follow Aussie wine quite closely, and I guess this familiarity had made me forget just how good the best wines are. It was also great to be able to drink as well as taste - it gives you a bit more of a chance to get to know the wines.

Some highlights:

Tyrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay 1998 Hunter - a big, massive Chardonnay that's unashamedly Australian, but which at 10 years old is ageing beautifully. 94/100

Jim Barry The Florita Riesling 2007 Clare - wow, this is good: pure, rich, focused limey fruit with great balance. 94/100

Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 Coonawarra - it was hard to believe this wine is already 12 years old. Fantastically concentrated, complex and fresh with lovely purity of fruit. A real classic. 96/100

Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot 2005 Margaret River - a thrilling wine that's still tight and youthful. Concentrated ripe, dense fruit with great precision and real potential for further development. 94/100

Hardys Eileen Hardy Shiraz 1999 - Distinctive, classically styled Aussie Shiraz that's ageing beautifully - sweet fruit and nice spiciness, with great integration of ripe, sweet fruit and oak. 94/100

Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2004 Barossa - much better than I was anticipating with beautifully dense, pure dark fruits. Fruit is the dominant feature here. 94/100

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz 2004 Grampians - utterly brilliant cool-climate Shiraz with a fresh white pepper nose and lovely purity and lushness to the well defined, precise fruit. Thrilling. 96/100

Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 2005 Hunter - stunningly good: fresh, focused and well defined, with massive potential for future development. 95/100

Wild Duck Creek Estate Duck Muck 2004 Heathcote - crazy stuff, with 16.5% alcohol and incredibly rich, porty fruit. But it's actually in balance and is thoroughly delicious. A guilty pleasure. 94/100

Mitolo Serpico Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 McLaren Vale - incredible stuff, with a lovely rich, spicy mid palate and fresh, sweet, slightly leafy blackcurrant fruit. 94/100

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Margaret River - thrillingly intense Cabernet that's taut and brooding at the moment, but it's a serious wine with a long life ahead of it. 95/100

Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2006 Adelaide Hills - cool climate Syrah with a peppery edge to the beautifully fresh, well defined red fruits. Fantastic stuff. 94/100

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Friday, September 14, 2007

A chat with David Hohnen

Fiona has been away for a couple of days, which has left me in charge of domestic duties. It takes a lot of work managing a household with two kids. More than I'd realized, because a lot of it goes on behind the scenes. I'm just about managing to get everything done, except for the cleaning and tidying up...

Today, in between the school runs, I managed to get into town to interview David Hohnen (pictured). I'd met David a couple of times before, most recently on my Margaret River trip in April.

With Cape Mentelle he was one of the four pioneers who established Margaret River as a premium wine region, almost 40 years ago. In the 1980s he founded Cloudy Bay in New Zealand's Marlborough region. In 2003 he left to do his own thing, and with his brother-in-law Murray McHenry formed McHenry Hohnen, a new winery at the southern end of the Margaret River region. David is now a full-time farmer (sheep and a few pigs), but is still involved at vintage time. He's left the operation in the capable hands of daughter Freya.

I like what Freya and David are doing, and the style that the wines are made in. They're a bit European, with lovely definition. I'll be publishing the interview soon; it was a good chat. For now, you can check out an interview of David by Jeni Port in the The Age.
There's also some good stuff on the McHenry Hohnen website.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Cullen tasting

Had a good tasting and lunch with Vanya Cullen. She's gone biodynamic, which is pretty rare still in Australia, even though in Europe there are perhaps 200 estates certified (that's just a guess...) and many more who do bits and pieces of biodynamics, or are in conversion. Have the wines improved as a result? Vanya thinks so. I can't comment, because I've never tasted more than a handful of older wines. The current releases are fantastic, though: wines with real interest and complexity, and which are potentially long lived.

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Margaret River

Just checking in from Perth airport, en route to Exmouth. We've had a wonderful few days in the Margaret River region - I squeezed in two full days of winery visits, all of which proved very successful. I can't remember a trip where I had such a high strike rate of exceptional visits, including Leeuwin, Moss Wood, Cullens, McHenry Hohnen, Cape Mentelle, Xanadu, Howard Park, Fermoy (hope I haven't left any out).
The great thing about Margaret River is that it's just 10 minutes from fantastic beaches, and you don't have to compromise on the wine at all: I've tasted some really world class wines here. More later. For now, a picture of one of the Moss Wood vineyards. What can you tell me about this picture?

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