jamie goode's wine blog

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A very important wine: 1999 AWRI Trial Semillon

Really pleased to get a chance to try this wine, because it's an important one.

It's the Clare Valley Semillon 1999, made by Kerri Thompson at Leasingham, which was the wine used in the now famous Australian Wine Research Institute Closures Trial. In this trial, the same wine was bottled using fourteen different closures, including this one - the tin/saran-lined screwcap.

The significance of this trial? In the years that followed, the different bottles were repeatedly analysed by sensory and analytic methods. The results showed that the different closures resulted in very different wines, largely because of their differing oxygen transmission levels.

Those with the synthetic closures available at the time oxidised quite quickly. In comparison, the screwcap-sealed wines stayed fresher for much longer, although some low level struck flint/burnt rubber reduction notes were detected on sensory analysis.

Opponents of screwcaps used this 'reduction' to bash screwcaps, which otherwise seemed to be doing the best job of all the closures. But consider this: when the trial was begun, virtually no Australian wines were screwcap sealed; now the vast majority of them are.

So, some 10 years and eight months after bottling, how does this wine look? It's a full yellow colour, with a minerally, flinty edge to the attractive honeysuckle and citrus fruit nose. The palate has a lovely focused fruit quality to it with pithy citrus fruit and a hint of grapefruit. There are also some subtle toasty notes. Very attractive and amazingly fresh for a 10 year old Clare Semillon.

The reduction? If you look for it you can find it, in terms of the struck match character and a slight hardness on the palate. But it's nowhere close to being a fault. I doubt any of the other bottles in the trial that aren't sealed with a tin/saran-lined screwcap are still drinkable.

Geeky note: this is one of the old fashioned screwcaps without the BVS finish (noticeable around the rim); this was introduced later to make the seal more robust. (Pictured.)

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Clare Valley: two good-uns from Mitchell

A few years back Andrew and Jane Mitchell kindly let me stay for a couple of nights at their home, when I visited the Clare Valley (see report here). I missed Andrew on a recent trip he made to the UK, but he left a couple of wines for me to try. These are pretty impressive: a pair of high-end, late-release wines under the McNicol label.

Mitchell McNicol Riesling 2005 Clare Valley
Intense, limey nose with some richer honey and tropical fruit notes. It's quite mineralic, too. The palate is bold and rich with limey, spicy intensity, good concentration, and a lovely minerality. Dry but rich, with wonderful depth of flavour. Clare Valley at its best. 92/100

Mitchell McNicol Shiraz 2001 Clare Valley
Evolving really nicely with a focused nose of sweet blackberry fruit, with some rich tarry notes and a mineral dimension. The palate shows nice balance between the sweet dark fruit and the almost salty, spicy structure. Good concentration with good supporting oak. 91/100 (£15.50 Haynes, Hanson & Clark)

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Stunning Aussie Riesling

I'm on the Riesling trail at the moment. Here's a brilliant Australian Riesling from the Clare Valley that's utterly delicious, with a nice elegance coupled with limey intensity.

Skillogalee Trevarrick Riesling 2008 Clare Valley
11% alcohol, sealed with a Vino Lok. 250 cases made. Amazing stuff: bracing, limey, minerally and quite fine, with lovely elegance to the intense fruit. Thereís a floral edge to the aromatics, as well as a pithy, citrussy depth. Itís one of the very best dry Australian Rieslings Iíve had, with lovely precision, purity and elegance. 93/100 (UK agent: Enotria)

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Monday, January 05, 2009

A new Aussie classic

A new wine this - and it looks set to become an Aussie Classic. A really serious, intense, yet well balanced Cabernet Sauvignon from the Clare Valley. I really like the Clare Valley. You have to take your hat off to a region that makes great Cabernet Sauvignon and great Riesling.

Jim Barry The Benbournie Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Clare Valley, South Australia
From a 70 acre vineyard planted in 1964, aged in new American oak for 14 months. This is a serious effort. Wonderfully dense of earthy, spicy blackcurrant fruit, with that almost oily blackcurrant bud character. The palate is dense with spicy, slightly medicinal blackcurrant fruit as well as a cedary woodiness. There's lovely intensity here, but all the flavours meld together well to form a serious wine with real focus and concentration. 93/100

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cold medicine: Clare Valley Cabernet

I hate colds. They're a severe problem when you are supposed to be assessing wines profesionally, because they mess with your sense of smell. They don't eliminate it altogether, but you end up grasping at smells that would otherwise come more easily. A bit like looking through a dirty window.

Or trying to see through the windscreen when it's raining and your windscreen wipers are broken, as once happened to Fiona and I just after we were married. My faithful old sky blue (C'mon City) Vauxhall Astra with 130 000 miles on the clock had a windscreen wiper motor failure. Before it was fixed, we carried on driving it when the forecast was clear - until one drive from Wallington (where we lived) to Cheam (where Fiona's folks lived), when we were caught out. It's only a short drive, but it started raining, and so we had to keep stopping to clean the windscreen manually. Not recommended.

I have about 60% normal olfactory function today, I'm guessing. So I turn to a wine I have a few bottles of, which I've tasted before. It's the Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Clare Valley (known as 'Taylors' in Australia). I bought quite a few bottles at the ludicrously cheap price of £5.99 at Majestic when it was on offer after having tasted it in Australia in April 2007, and it's a serious ageworthy red with lovely dense blackcurranty fruit and savoury spicy structure. Despite its 14.5% alcohol it's really well balanced, and I think that the origin of the fruit is the key. I really rate the Clare Valley as a source of serious red wines. Unlike many South Australian wine regions, Cabernet does as well in the Clare as Shiraz does (Coonawarra is similar in this regard - well, actually, there Cabernet is better than Shiraz).
Even with a cold, this Clare Cabernet is utterly delicious. I have four bottles left, and I'm going to cellar them for a few more years. They're sealed with screwcaps (tin/saran liner) so it will be interesting to see how they do.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Meeting Dr Pirie

It has been an odd sort of day. Left home this morning in driving rain; returned this evening under blue skies.

I spent some time at a portfolio tasting for large agency Stratfords. Had a nice chat with Adam Eggins, chief winemaker at Taylors in the Clare Valley (known over here as Wakefield). Adam's a smart, tecchie sort of guy who makes some really nice wines.

Then I met with Dr Andrew Pirie (pictured), someone I'd wanted to speak to for a while. Many years ago, Pirie did a really interesting PhD on viticulture, and then founded Piper's Brook in Tasmania. After a break, he's now back in Tasmania working on his own venture, and also as chief executive of Tamar Ridge.

Pirie is currently working on a book about terroir. It sounds like it will be a really serious effort - if not the last word on what we know about the science of what makes grapes grow best, then something pretty close. I'm looking forward to it, but he doesn't think it will be finished for a couple of years yet.
For more on Pirie and his wines, see www.pirietasmania.com.au

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Hotel du Vin, Cheltenham

Stayed last night in Cheltenham at the Hotel du Vin, where I'm blogging live from. Verdict? A little mixed. The hotel has only been open since July, and it is sort of part travelodge, part luxury hotel in feel - some bits of the decor really work, some bits (most notably the carpets and coridoors and public areas) feel low budget. All the rooms are named after wines (ours is Hush Heath, the makers of the UK's finest pink sparkling wines), but the maze of coridoors and lack of numbering system makes it impossible to navigate. We kept running into guests who were hopelessly lost, as we were.

We arrived quite late and decided to have food in our room with a DVD. The food, and service, is great - you get the impression from the buzzy bistro (and the 'metal' in the parking lot) that the restaurant is 'happening'. I had a brilliant done ribeye which I washed down with a bottle of Jim Barry's Coverdrive Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. I'd opted for this because of my current interest in the Clare Valley - turns out that it's a Coonawarra/Clare blend. Very nice, dark and intense, and doesn't show the 15% alcohol too much.

Now we're off to have a look round Cheltenham and find some breakfast.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bargain alert!

Read about it here first! One of the bargains of the year! OK, I'm slightly overstating my case, but there's a wine that I highly recommend at a very affordable price that has just come into Majestic (http://www.majestic.co.uk/). I've bought 8 bottles (12 of anything seems a bit much, especially given the fact that there is never a shortage of wine at home).

It's a wine that I tasted twice some months ago and which I gave exactly the same score to, 91, both times. It's a serious effort.

It's the Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Clare Valley, which is £7.99 a bottle in Majestic, but if you buy more than one the price dips down to under £6, which is silly for such a good wine. In Australia the winery is known as Taylors, but for legal reasons they had to change this for the UK market (I'm guessing that this is because there is a well known Port house under the same name). Pictured is a bottle that I enjoyed in April in Australia, showing a typo on the screwcap skirt. I don't know whether this has been corrected for the Wakefield version, which is exactly the same wine.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Chardonnay, Shiraz and Airfix

It's been an easy family day here chez Goode. And we don't have all that many of those. On this blog, I'm probably guilty of painting a picture of domestic bliss. But, like many families, I suspect, we have lots of struggles. [Indeed, one of the reasons why we probably have so many, and also one of the reasons why I don't post pictures of my children here, or name them, is because they are both adopted.] It's probably because of all the struggles that the times where we function as a normal family are all the sweeter. You've no idea how much pleasure a day out without serious conflict can bring us...

Having said this, things have been good of late. Since our day at Duxford, reported below, the boys have been crazy about Airfix models models. As someone who grew up on airfix models, I'm very pleased about this, and I've been happy to assist them, bathing in a warm glow of nostalgia as I sniff the heady aroma of enamel paint, polystyrene cement and white spirits. In this age of the playstation (I'm not knocking it - how we would have loved to have a playstation in our day - it would have killed a lot of boredom), doing something physical like assembling model kits has a sort of moral premium over the virtual world of electronic gaming.

The boys are currently working hard on various projects, including a Gnat, a Stuker, a Hawker Hunter, an M24 tank and a forward command post (whatever that is). A little militaristic, I agree, but then I did spend most of my childhood immersed in guns, tanks, planes and battleships without turning out to be at all violent (except on the football pitch). I think you grow up to realize the waste, sadness and tragedy of war - but you can still admire the Spitfire, Lancaster and B29 as fine aeroplanes.

Back to wine. Two Aussies tonight. The first, which is pictured, took me by surprise a little. I was expecting Hardy's Winemaker's Parcel Chardonnay 2005 to be commercial crap. But when I tasted it, I was really impressed by its balance. Then I looked more carefully at the label: it's from Padthaway, in South Australia. The terroir is the difference: in this case, red/brown loam over limestone, and a relatively cool climate. A great region for Chardonnay, and the soil has made this wine, which shows nice nuttiness, really good fruit, and a hint of almost Burgundian cabbagey reduction, which adds complexity. The big company, Hardy's, has done well here - this is a really nice Chardonnay.

The second wine is another which shows the benefit of a really good vineyard site. The vineyard in question? Jim Barry's Lodge Hill in the Clare Valley, and its the 2005 Shiraz. From several recent experiences, I'm beginning to think that the Clare Valley is a special place for red wine. Note follows:

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2005 Clare Valley
(Natural cork closure) Very deep coloured. Wonderful fruit purity here, despite the 15% alcohol which means that in the EU this wine has to be labelled 'special late harvested'. Ripe, sweet nose with lovely lush red and black fruits, but it's still alive and fresh. Not at all dead. The palate has pure, vivid spicy fruit with lovely focus, backed up by some tannic structure that keeps it savoury. There's a bit of alcoholic heat here, adding sweetness and bitterness at the same time, but that's my only negative on what is a lovely, intense, fruit-driven wine. 92/100

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