jamie goode's wine blog

Friday, January 15, 2010

Houghton The Bandit Shiraz Tempranillo

Very impressed by this. It's a western Australian red by Houghton, the 2008 Bandit Tempranillo Shiraz (75%/25% in favour of Shiraz). Lovely vibrant, primary berry fruits with great definition and freshness, as well as a hint of spice and a bit of structure. Beautifully poised between the sweet fruit and the fresh savouriness, without any hint of jamminess. Quite food friendly and with oak playing a background, supporting role at most. It will soon be available at £8.99 from Ocado.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

New world Chardonnay: Chilean Chablis, Australian Burgundy

Perhaps a slightly naughty title, but here are two fabulous new world Chardonnays, one very much in the style of Chablis, and one in the style of a Puligny Montrachet. Chardonnay's star is waning (can stars wane, or just the moon?), but I think that it's a serious grape variety and deserves a bit more respect.

Maycas del Limari Unoaked Chardonnay 2007 Limari Valley, Chile
Fresh, focused and fruity with gentle nutty notes on the nose. Concentrated and bright with nice minerality and lemon and grapefruit notes. This is stylish and reminds me of a dense Chablis. Long minerally finish. 89/100

Howard Park Chardonnay 2007 Great Southern, Western Australia
Barrel fermented with natural yeasts. Very fine, fresh, taut toasty nose with lemony freshness and hints of figgy richness. The palate is concentrated, fresh and intense with high acidity, taut lemony fruit and lovely toasty richness. It has a cool-climate feel to it. Sophisticated and refined, this is like a modern-styled Puligny Montrachet. Give this 3-5 years and it will be fascinating. 91/100

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two fantastic Syrahs from Great Southern

Great Southern is a region in Western Australia. As the name suggests, it's in the south of the state, and it's one of Australia's coolest wine regions. These two Syrahs are very cool-climate in style, and they're fantastic.

Both wines are made with fruit from the same vineyard by winemaker Andrew Hoadley. This is what he has to say about La Ciornia, which is under his personal wine label La Violetta:

'The inspiration for La Ciornia comes from my time spent working in Barbaresco in Piedmont 2002-2003. The local Piedmontese varieties (the well-known Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, and obscurities such as Freisa, Grignolino, Pelaverga) encompass the extremes of red winemaking (in terms of site expression, colour, tannin, aromatics, acidity, using oxygen constructively, etc) so you need to think creatively and have a steady nerve to get the results. Also, being an important culinary centre, most often the focus is on how the wines will function in context with food - rather than aiming for maximum ripeness/fruitiness/extract. When I first came to Denmark and tasted the extraordinary 2007 Kalgan River shiraz in barrel, I immediately had the desire to get hold of some fruit from that vineyard and see what I could do with it, aiming for a slightly divergent style - a shiraz that my Piedmontese friends would love to drink - relatively strict and unadorned, expressing the vineyard character.'

Kalgan River Shiraz Viognier 2008 Great Southern, Western Australia
14.5% alcohol, hand-picked. Very fresh and peppery with vibrant dark cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruit, together with a savoury olive streak. This shows lovely peppery cool climate Syrah character, as well as having some rich fruitiness. Youthful, quite serious, with some structure. 92/100 (£16 auswineonline.co.uk)

La Violetta ‘La Ciornia’ Shiraz 2008 Great Southern, Western Australia
14% alcohol. Very fresh and bright: almost Burgundian in its style. Subtly meaty with sweet cherry and red berry fruit, as well as some restrained spicy notes. Quite rich, but overall more red fruits than black with good acidity and a peppery edge. Pure, primary and vibrant with brightness and freshness. I think this will be sensational in a few years (and would therefore get a higher rating), although it’s still impressive in this primary state. 91/100 (£23 auswineonline.co.uk)

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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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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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Saturday, April 05, 2008

New world Syrah with an old world feel

Sometimes living in England is a bit crap. It's April. Spring should be well underway. But after a lovely day yesterday, today was utterly nasty. I took older son and RTL for a walk along the river Crane while younger son was playing cricket on Twickenham green, and despite wearing my newly acquired, snazzy Terrazas hunting top (over an Achaval Ferrer polo shirt), I was freezing.

This afternoon we went over to Purley for the 40th birthday celebrations of a good friend, Michael, which meant we met up with a whole bunch of chums from when we were first married and living in south London. It was a fantastic event, with sumo wrestling, gladiators and a 'strongest man' competition. This involved various activities such as tossing the caber, welly throwing, and running a course carrying large rocks. The large rocks bit was the toughest test. You had to run to the end of the course and back carrying sequentially heavier rocks. The first and second were quite heavy, but the third was enormous and weighed as much as a small family car. I was in no danger of winning, but I was quite proud to have completed the course - it took about ten minutes to recover afterwards, and I still feel a bit weak now.

So, to the serious business of drinking wine. Two Syrahs tonight. Both from the new world. But both with a bit of old world style and freshness. In these days of £1 = Euro 1.25, it's reassuring that the new world isn't just pumping out big, super-ripe, obvious reds.

Howard Park Leston Shiraz 2005 Margaret River, Australia
Vibrant red/purple colour. The nose is distinctly Australian, with some mint, eucalyptus and tarry spiciness, along with sweet red and black fruits. The palate shows lovely freshness, with tight dark fruit and good acidity, along with well integrated oak. A really fresh, juicy style of Shiraz with real precision – I reckon this will age well. It’s a classically Australian style, but with more freshness and focus than most. I reckon this will be peaking in five years but good for 10 more. 91/100 (£14.50 Bibendum) 04/08

The Aurora Vineyard Syrah 2006 Bendigo, Central Otago, New Zealand
A beautiful cool-climate expression of Syrah. It has a really lovely white pepper and spice definition to the raspberry and dark cherry fruit, with an almost Burgundian elegance and freshness. There’s lovely purity to the fruit here, which is ripe and dark with great natural acidity. Real elegance here: it seems nicely poised between the new and old worlds in style. Not a big, dense, showy sort of wine, but utterly compelling – it reminds me of the best of the Gimblett Gravel Syrahs in style. Bendigo is a warm subdistrict of Central Otago, which explains why they’ve been able to make this wine from somewhere you wouldn’t expect to excel with Syrah. 92/100 (£16.99 http://www.hellionwines.com/) 04/08

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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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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back to London after what seems a very long time away. It’s been a great trip. The family holiday worked better than I thought it might: you never quite know how good a destination is going to be until you get there, I guess. Margaret River was fantastic: good wine, good food (in places) and all in proximity to some stunning beaches. If it were a couple of hours nearer Perth, it would be perfect – and probably totally overrun with tourists.

The third segment, Exmouth, was quite different, but utterly magical. Yes, the town itself is …how can I put this dimplomatically…a bit frontier-like. But it’s OK. What thrills is the natural setting, and the stunning Ningaloo Reef, in its unspoilt glory. Turquoise Bay is perhaps the best beach I’ve experienced.

And Singapore, segments one and four, is a place I enjoy. I’ve been here quite a bit over the last few years, and although it’s not somewhere I’d travel to without an ulterior motive – it’s not really a holiday destination in its own right – it has got a lot going for it. Yesterday I had a free afternoon and spent it swimming and then wandering through the botanic gardens (pictured). By this time there was a humid, broody presence in the air, with distant thunderstorms that later became much less distant, soaking us on our way out to dinner. We ate at Ah Hoi's in the Traders Hotel, near Orchard Road, which impressed for its nicely presented food and rather causal setting.

Now feeling fresher than I should, approaching lunchtime after getting in at six this morning.

Aside: what is it with the French and lunchtime? Just phoned Yvon Mau (a big, commercial producer in Bordeaux) for a quote, only to be greeted with some canned music and an announcement that they are closed for two hours, from 12-2 pm each day, so call back later, punk! [Well, I added the last bit]. How do these guys do business?

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Thursday, April 19, 2007


So here we are in Perth. We've got a room all together in the Mercure right in the centre, and as I type Fiona and I have just dined on Pad Thai and Singapore Noodles from a takeaway, washed down with the crisp, precise Evans and Tate Classic White 2006 Margaret River and Madfish Premium Red 2004, which is spicy with nice blackcurranty definition and an almost European savouriness. The boys have also dined (I won't say what their takeaway was), and are watching Charlotte's Web. I finally have my laptop connected for the first time in a week.

Tomorrow we have half a day to explore Perth before heading back to Singapore. Then Fiona has the fun task of returning home with the boys, while I stay on to edit a conference on bird flu. I've enjoyed my time in Australia. I could live here, you know. It would be great to make ageworthy, more European styled wines in Australia, which I think has some fantastic terroirs. I reckon a Margaret River Malbec would be a good place to start.


Fizz on the beach

Today we leave for Perth. On our last beach/reef day we celebrated by lunching with some Seaview Brut de Brut on the sand. It tasted great, but just about anything would in such a setting.

I guess six days is long enough here, although I wouldn't mind staying another week. I've exhausted the dining and wine options in this town: there's whaler's (the best), a Pizza joint and a Chinese, plus an unappealing restaurant at one of the resorts. The Liqour stores (supermarkets don't stock booze) have a very small range: last night we had a Lindemans Riesling that was OK and a Blue Pyrenees Shiraz that was also OK. Commercial Aussie wine is consistent n'all, but it loses its allure pretty quickly if that's all there is to choose from.

We'll have about half a day to explore Perth before setting off for the homeward leg.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Turtles and dolphins

Four days of perfectly blue skies, burning sun and a beautiful underwater world, and at last I feel I've adjusted to the heat and pace of life up here in Exmouth.

Yesterday we had a couple of lovely surprises. The first was a chance to swim with a turtle. Fiona spotted him first, and we spent a priveliged fifteen minutes following him as he (or she? I'm not good at sexing these things, although I'm told it is easy) happily munched on green stuff and then came up for air. The second was being visited in the shallows by a couple of dolphins.

With dinner, a nice fresh Hardys Sir James fizz, at Whalers, which is the best restaurant in town. Today is our last full day here.
I'll report in detail when we hit Singapore.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Underwater world

For the last few days we've been in Exmouth, 1300 km north of Perth. It's pretty remote up here: basically, it's where the outback meets the sea. The town is tiny and functional; the weather mid-30s centigrade, cloudless blue skies and relentless sun. The big attraction here is underwater - the Ningaloo reef, part of the Cape Range National Park.

So we get up, have a quick breakfast and drive for half an hour around the cape to Turquoise Bay, one of the many pristine beaches here. Despite the fact that it's a peak time, there aren't many people around. Just a few metres off the beach the reef begins. Easy snorkelling even for the kids. The underwater world that is revealed is simply stunning. Fish of all shapes, sizes and colours; rays; starfish; sea slugs; octopus. We'll be doing the same again today. Pictured are a mummy emu and five babys walking next to the road.

Food and drink: not much to report on. Margaret River SBS (Sauvignon Blanc Semillon) is perfect with freshly caught local fish. I also had an interesting pair of reds from Hardys: NPA, which stands for no preservatives added. Who'd have thought it? A big Aussie wine company making vins sans soufre. I need to find out more about this.

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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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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Travels ahead

Just trying to tie up some loose ends before embarking on a trip to Singapore (above), Western Australia and then Singapore again. The first segment will be a family holiday, with a few days of serious wine work in Margaret River the sole business angle (but, if truth be known, I find my job as relaxing as a holiday when it comes to visiting wine regions).

I'm looking forward to introducing my family to Singapore, a place I enjoy visiting - I've been three times in the last three years. It's just such an easy place to hang out. On returning to Singapore at the end of the Western Australia leg, I'll without the family - this time I'll be wearing my science editor hat, attending a really interesting conference on SARS and avian flu, from which I'll be producing a book.

While I'm travelling over the next couple of weeks the blog will be maintained, but there may be periods of radio silence - it all depends on the internet access and time I have available. One of the great joys of travelling is the freedom from the daily routine, and the different perspective that this often brings.

As an aside: if anyone reading is in Singapore and fancies some sort of mini-wine-nut dinner, I'm currently free on 21,22 and 23 April in the evenings. It's always nice to meet new people.

As another aside, the hotel I'm staying in (the Orchard Parade) has the indescribable evil of a Manchester United-themed bar. As a City fan, I find this excruciating.

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