Tag Archives: Australia

Wine Notes from Oz – October 2005

Don’t know if many of these will hit the shelves in Ireland, but if they do there are some goodies worth seeking out.
The first batch come from the Riverland, the engine room of Australia’s wine industry therefore not Jack White territory. Nevertheless, amid the big boys there are some boutique producers getting to grips with unusual (for Oz) varieties such as Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Barbera. The interest in Petit Verdot in this region is massive. of course ‘the little green thing’ has its heart and home in Bordeaux where, in good years it adds complexity, elegance and a slightly spicy lift to the produce of many chateaux. In poor years the damn thing doesn’t ripen at all. So unlike ‘the weed’ (as one Aussie winemaker described it to me) Merlot it highly heat-tolerant, important in this low lying sun-baked region.

HOW TO READ ERNIE’S RATINGS
18-20: Unmissable.
15-17: Stylish wine, some excitement.
13-14: Decent drinking.
10-12: Reliable & value for money.
8-9: You may like it, I didn’t.
Under 8: Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Long Row Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (Angove’s)
Angove’s used to be represented in Ireland by O’Brien’s. They make some fabulous brandies and pretty passable wines. This one, from old vines grown on narrow T-trellises had good depth and a nice weight of clean citric fruit. Personally I thought it didn’t have quite enough acidity to keep things interesting but I should say I was in a minority of one.
Rating 13/20

Kingston Estate Verdelho 2005
Liked this one! Lovely perfumed, waxy nose with a little lime lift coming in on the back end. Quite a substantial wine with, on the palate, apples giving way to an apricot tinge and a long, mellow finish. Easy drinking and at 12.5 ABV, not falling over stuff.
Rating 15/20

Hardy’s Stamps Rose 2005
In the UK this sells for 4.99 so I suppose it’s a 9 euro-odd wine. If so, it’s a bargain. A 60/40 blend of Grenache and Shiraz, cold fermented with an aromatic yeast it was smartly put together with a wealth of strawberry fruit lingering on the palate to quite a refined dry finish.
Rating 14.5/20

Pennyfield Petit Verdot 2003
Low yield – 7-8 tonnes per hectare, basket pressed. Some goes into new oak, some into older barrels, a split of French and American. Critics were split too, some felt the American oak was a tad overwhelming. personally I thought it was lovely with a voiolently herbal nose, touch of beeswax in there and a good weight of plummy fruit and a whiff of black pepper. Acid balance was spot on so the 14.7 ABV wasn’t at all apparent. Loved the lingering finish too.
Rating 16.5/20

Southern Secret Petit Verdot 2004
Of the two, this was the critics’ choice, ‘cept mine. It announced its presence with an impressive herbal nose, then, on the palate, red berry fruit giving way to blackberries and currants. I thought there were some dark caramel tones in there that spoiled the finish but no one else ran with this. Therefore, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and lifted it into the ‘interesting’ category.
Rating 15/20

Omerstown Shiraz 2004
Fragrant nose, good weight of sweet fruit, maybe slightly cloying on the palate, long finish. Definitely better with food. The overall impression was this wine is something of a Penfold’s Koonunga Hill clone.
Rating 13.5/20

McGuigan Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Minty, herbal nose, entirely in charcater with the variety. 85% riveraldn fruit with a dollop of Barossa to beef it up. A very smart well-made commercial wine that punched above it’s weight, selling as it does in Oz for $6.50.
rating 14/20

Nissen Hut Fortified Mataro 2004
All the character of a great port, for bobbins prices! If this wine ever appears in Ireland I will snap some up. I look at my tasting notes and I’d only written one word “Yes!!!”

2005 SAUVIGNON BLANC

Sauv B is the signature variety of Adelaide Hills, probably Australia’s Marlborough. Tim Knappstein, perhaps the doyen of the region, summed it up nicely when he introduced the tasting “Sauvignon Blanc makes simple wine. It’s really made in the vineyard. All the winemaker can do it not mess up too badly what was made in the vineyard.”
All the wines were screwcapped.

Hahndorf Hill
Mineral bite on the nose, slightly herbaceous. on the palate, chiefly green apples with a little hint of raisin fruit. Good length, interesting wine.
Rating 14.5/20

Longview
citric notes, some balsam and a little tobacco on the nose. Gooseberry and stone fruit on the palate, plus a whack of citrus.
Good long clean finish.
Rating 13.5/20

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September 2005 Wines

Peppoli 2002, Chianti Classico e16.49
OB, SQ, Cana (Mullingar), RED, Harvest (Galway) Rating 15.5/20
A mid-ranger from the prolific and aristocratic house of Antinori, Peppoli’s sheer restraint may come as a surprise to those more used to swaggering new world reds and maybe all the better for it. The vanillins aren’t overdone thanks to the big Slovenian oak botti wherein the wine is matured and tannins in the 2002 were resolving nicely. 10% finds its way into American oak barrels to lend character to the finish. Nice kit, sort of ‘posh easy-drinking’ (that’s a compliment).

McPherson Basilisk Shiraz Mourvedre
O’Brien’s. e.12.99 Rating 14/20
We found this wine on a 2 for 20 promotion which might now be over (That’s the trouble with a monthly mag!) It’s a fairly big hitter, with a whack of sweet plummy fruit from the ‘Raybans and factor 40’ Shiraz, my take is it really needs the dark notes of the Mourvedre to keep things together. It also needs food. Hard going on its own, it combined beautifully with a rib of beef.
No vintage on the label, I’d guess 2002. David?

Nugan Manuka Grove Durif 2003 e15.99 SuperValu Rating 15.5/20
Durif is a black grape, originally a selection of the little known Peloursin, propagated by a Doctor Durif in SE France back in the 1880s. It has all but died out in its native land but instead found a home in California (as Petite Syrah) and in Victoria and New South Wales where it makes dense, porty full-flavoured wines with ‘earthy’ appeal that make a refreshing change from Cabernet and Syrah. We owe this fine single vineyard version to Darren Owers, Australia’s Young Wine Maker of the Year 2004. It stood up particularly well to a leg of Gary Crocker’s organic lamb swathed in rosemary, smoked garlic and sea salt. A saved dash to deglaze the roasting tin did the gravy no harm.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC 2004 Marchetti e10.65 Wines Direct, Mullingar Rating 14.5/20
Verdicchio, classic white wine of Italy’s Marche, has been through hard times what with its largest producer coming up with a bottle that positively screams ‘kitsch!’ plus idiosyncratic oenology that put the wine out of tune with the times. On holiday in the region last year I was pleased to note that the modern style, of which this is a decent example, was drier, cleaner and altogether less demanding. Racy, lemony acidity makes the Marchetti version a perfect non-serious cold white for a warm night. Enjoy it, while the weather lasts.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2001 & 2002. OB, Redmonds, & selected independents e38.00 rating 16/20 (2001)18/20 (2002)
Two New Zealand makers have always been considered leaders of the pack when it comes to this sensuous but temperamental variety. One is Felton Road, the other Ata Rangi whose main Pinot Noir clone is said to have been imported illegally from France back in the ‘70s. The 2001 is distinctly Burgundian in tone with both dessert and morello cherries in evidence, backed by aromas of fading violets. While undeniably classy it is showing substantial garnet tints and ought to be drunk within the next twelvemonth. The 2002, altogether a more confident production, is starting to add truffly notes to the gage plums, red cherries, dark chocolate and vanilla I recorded at a tasting earlier this year. It should hold up a lot longer than its sibling but is lovely as of now. Double decant, serve at around 16° and you and your friends are on a winner.

Bauget-Jouette Grande Reserve NV around e45 BWR, BN9, CAR Rating 15/20
Champagne falls into 3 categories, well, two if you discount cheap’n’nasty. There’s the suave, subtle, elegant style favoured by wine critics, successful stockbrokers and lady fashionistas who believe it won’t muck up their diet; and the uber weighty, fruit-centric ‘glass-that-cheers’, beloved of those who’ve gained promotion, been left a small legacy or won a palimony suit. Bauget-Jouette Grande Reserve, big, bouncy, bountiful, is firmly in the latter category. Thanks probably to a big dollop of Pinot Meunier it doesn’t do subtle; what it does do is make you feel the world’s a better place.

Domaine des Martinelles Crozes Hermitage White 2003 e15.99
The Celtic Whisky Shop, Dawson Street, Dublin 2 Rating 16/20 You shrugged off Chardonnay ages ago but now you are getting bored with NZ Sauv B and you’ve tried it but you’re not yet ready for Riesling. Where to go next? Northern Rhône’s the answer, with this engaging Marsanne-Rousanne shandy from a small producer whose reputation grows steadily. Hints of peach and apricot overlaid with nougat flavours and enough acidity to keep things interesting; enjoy in its own right or as a stepping stone to the same producer’s utterly brilliant Hermitage Blanc if you’ve got e42.99 to shell out.

Maison Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Vielles Vignes ‘La Maison Dieu’ 2002 . Celtic Whisky Shop, Dawson Street e15.99 Rating 16/20
Time was when a party was a function to which you took your bottle of Algerian rouge, parked it on the kitchen table then set out to find where the host kept his Lynch Bages. Nowadays we like to take something we’d be happy to drink ourselves. This red, from the eclectic collection assembled by the hardworking Ali Alpine is a Pommard tastealike from the brilliant 2002 vintage, black dessert cherries merge with raspberries and redcurrants in massive concentration. Joyous, singing wine, a treat, try and keep it away from the other guests.

Unité Chardonnay 2003 Selected independents e10.99 Rating 14/20
“You’re not gonna believe this, guys. Burgundy with a twist. See, it’s screw capped and, hey, there’s more – the grape variety is listed on the label!” Once the amazement dissipates your friends will be struck by the fact that this is actually quite good gear. Well worth the asking price with more than a splash of ripe, clean, non-cloying fruit. Don’t expect PC Chablis or cut-price Meursault. This is simply honest reliable drinking, light years better than most of the identikit new world tropical fruit buckets, for around the same outlay.

Chateau Saint Florin 2004 Bordeaux Rosé. EnoWine, Monkstown e10.95 Rating 13.5
Crisp, fragrant, delicate rosé. Abundant raspberry fruit makes this wine total pleasure on a warm afternoon; no food needed. Deftly sidesteps the bubblegum flavours that trip up so many budget rosés. Chill to a degree or so lower than you’d normally cool a white wine, open and pour, put your feet up, enjoy.

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Wine Notes June/July 2005

Craggy Range Te Muna Rd Sauvignon Blanc 2004 15.50 16.5/20
Smart as paint bristlingly mineral Sauvignon Blanc with heavyweight apple and citrus fruit framed by the gravelly aftertaste. Distinctive, interesting, hugely enjoyable Cloudy Bay chaser.
Redmond’s Ranelagh,Claudios Georges St Arcade, Thomas’s Foxrock

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2002 c28.99 18.5/20
Hard to imagine that this sensuous, serious wine was made from grapes from vines only a couple of years old! Rich, fragrant, decidedly Bordeaux-busting Merlot made with love and care. Violets, mint and herbs on the nose and subtle silky fruit on the palate plus that star-spangled magic powder aftertaste that copperfastens the authenticity. I could drink this every night.
CGA; BN9; GEL; Bradleys, Cork; RED; LYN

Château de Bastet Côtes du Rhône 2003, ‘St. Nelly’. e11.50 13/20
More organic/biodynamic wine from the sure-footed Mary Pawle. It was only after I’d given this wine a private road test that I noticed it in this month’s tasting. Unabashed, either I got it wrong or I got a much better bottle than the panel! Delicate, beguiling and not too bucolic or ‘in your face’. Excellent value, too.
SQ; CHC; LCS; QCC

Oaky Toasty 2003 Bordeaux Blend enot yet available 13/20
Hard on the heels of a stelvinned white Burgundy, of which more anon, came this further example of La Nouvelle France. A bottle that could hold Cologne or posh olive oil; brash, funky labelling and a cosy back label, revealing that this wine was casked in AMERICAN oak. Well, Bordeaux’s Grange it ain’t but it was well-made quaffable stuff, loaded with vanilla, herbs and ripe fruit. I await the price with interest.

‘Vinifera’ Gamay 2004, Touraine AC e16.50 16/20
Henry Marionnet is perhaps the finest Touraine producer and this lovely Gamay, made amazingly from ungrafted vines (how brave is that?), is the sort of wine you could give to a visiting Martian and expect him to return enchanted. Vibrant, rich cherry flavours, so enjoyable and, of it’s kind, unique
Le Caveau, kilkenny

Château de la Negly La Cote, Coteau du Languedoc AC 2003 e12.45 17/20
Grapes from old Carignan vines married to an equivalent quantity of prime Grenache, this stellar wine would eat the face off 9 out of every 10 Châteauneuf du Papes we’ve come across lately. Great meaty whack of fruit augmented by wrinkly black olive overtones and a whiff of clean white pepper. So enjoyable.
LE CAVEAU, Kilkenny

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru AC ‘Morgeot’ Viellle Vignes 2001 e41.50 19/20
The rise-and-rise of Vincent Girardin continues! Normally I wouldn’t dream of featuring a wine this pricey and esoteric but I just had to tell you about the trippy experience which I see from my notes involved ‘the feeling of sitting in a lemon grove eating freshly-cooked pork crackling’. And that’s only the nose! Huge WOW factor in this wine.
LE CAVEAU, KILKENNY

Thelema Ed’s Reserve 2003, SA e21.95 15/20
Gyles Webb was in Europe when we called at his Stellenbosch estate. But we did meet his wife Barbara and her mum Ed – possibly the only mother-in-law ever to have a wine created in her honour! And what a good wine too. Barrel-fermented Chardonnay in a brisk, non-cloying style. At the price, the poor man’s Hamilton Russell and that’s by no means a put down.
VJ/OTG/GEL/GIB

Domaine de Saint-Lannes 2002 Cotes de Gascogne e8.99 14/20
Another example of O’Brien’s new-found ability to unearth delicious wines from hitherto unregarded corners of France. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat it yields dark brambly fruits with cinnamon and coriander notes and at a nowadays modest 12% ABV it’s as easy on the head as it is on the wallet

Champagne Duval-Leroy ‘La Fleur de Champagne’
e34-35 17/20
With a platoon of relatives arriving from foreign parts the last month has been a bit of a Champfest. Cream and quality biscuits, almonds, hazelnuts and clean fruit, everybody loved this one.
SELECTED INDEPENDENTS

Dry, delicate, delicious with only the faintest high octane whiff by way of signposting the variety, Speckled House Riesling 2001 hails from Australia’s Adelaide Hills. Weighing in at a stripling 10.5% ABV, it won’t have you on your ear while exuding charm and class in every mouthful. The 2002, tasted on Australia Day was just as good. It’s available from the excellent Inis Wines – Tel: (074) 954 2940 and from good independents, guide price e19.49. Rating 16.5/20.

‘Delicate’ is not a word that describes the Paul Osika 2001 Heathcote Shiraz from Victoria. This big, bouncing boyo tips the scales at a colossal 15% ABV. Yet it proved once again that, if the winemaker is skilled enough, particularly with New World Shiraz, humungus alcohol levels are no bar to enjoyment. It has to be said that the two old friends who shared this bottle with me had no sense that the wine was so pokey. Me, I loved it. Karwig Wines (021) 437 2864, around e26. Rating 17.5/20.

From what could prove to be one of the landmark tastings of 2005. Argenina’s Cafayete, the region of origin. has the benefit of high altitude and hence a long ripening season, so this Cabernet, aged a year in new French oak, is not the usual New World blackcurrant fool, it’s a proper wine, subtle and understated with the tannins resolving nicely and all the leather, spice and other tricky bits you can handle. A tasting begged two questions: (a) Why can’t the New World make Cabernet with this much character and restraint? And (b) Why can’t the French give you Cabernet anywhere near as good as this for anything approaching the money? Michel Torino Don David Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, around a heartwarming e12 from Mitchells and good independents (importers Classic Drinks, a new company, appropriately enough from The City of Culture – 021 451 0066). Rating 16/20

Not that the French are sat on their butt smoking Gitanes. A deal of hard work by the guys from Mouton-Rothschild (and a tad more Semillon in the blend) has placed Mouton Cadet Blanc 2003 a lot more class, placing it firmly in the Good Value table. For about e12 it’s more than a match for many of the New World fruitgum fests. Widely available. Rating 13/20

Now for the Holy Grail, drinkable wine for e6.99. At amazing new “that’ll do nicely” contemporary wine palace Eno in Monkstown, Co Dublin, I found Zohak Mendoza the name – the red’s a rough party quaffer, the Chardonnay, in contrast, is quite polished. Rating, Red 10.5/20, White 12.5 I believe it’s a one-off, though, so step on it.

Going upscale, I encountered a lemon-refreshing Piemonte white, San Silverno 2002 that certainly won’t disappoint at e9.99. Rating 13.5/20. In the same emporium, surprise, surprise, I came across a well stylish Italian Pinot Noir. There is a middle path between a bag of over-ripe Southern soft fruit and the vapid offerings of Burgundy in a bad year and these guys have found it. At e29 I won’t be drinking it every night but Bressan Fruili Pinot Nero 2000 will make a pleasing occasional treat. Rating 16.5/20.

I love vertical tastings. Recently we sampled 6 vintages of Zuccardi Q Tempranillo from Argentina. The diversity was immense: the ‘97 all spice, cracked white pepper, morello cherry and orange peel; ‘98, more fragrant, apple and bramble hints coming through; my favourite, the 2000, a broad-shouldered muscular, developed wine of great length. Worth grabbing a few bottles of the hefty 2002 and putting them aside, especially as the suggested rrp of around e18.99 looks a king-size bargain. rating 17/20.

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Aussie Rules?

Certain subversive elements in the Irish wine biz threatened to turn up at Croke Park for the Australia Day Tasting clad in rugby jerseys and football shirts of the non-Gaelic variety but, for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Perhaps as well, for there’s no doubt that ‘Croker’ is a superb venue for what’s become an annual shindig, one we wouldn’t want to put in jeopardy.
For the critic, the event provides a valuable opportunity to assess current trends in the Australian Wine Industry; to get a handle on progress over the last twelve months; and to find wines that you haven’t tasted before. This year’s event performed well on all three counts.
Trendwise, there’s no doubt that Verdelho is making a bid to become ‘Australia’s Sauvignon Blanc’. Grown in cool climates – the Loire, New Zealand’s South Island – Sauvignon has an appealing lemon acidity and mineral zip that refreshes drinkers as quick as if they’d stood naked under a waterfall. From a warm locale it can be cloying, even sickly, and its appeal fades faster than a e5 pair of jeans. I’ve never waxed lyrical, or anything like, over an Aussie Sauvignon Blanc. Nepenthe, from Adelaide Hills is about as good as it gets, in my opinion. Verdelho, in contrast, offers winemakers the opportunity to deliver a pleasant easy-drinking alternative to budget Chardonnay, whilst at the same time enabling them to side-step the trap of making alcoholic fruit salad. If you haven’t tried Aussie Verdelho, Houghton’s, from WA, and probably the progenitor of the species, is the one to start with.
Australians, of course, are the world’s prime marketeers of wine, role models for the rest. Therefore an essential element in the tasting is to check out the ‘brands’, the household names which they’ve taught us to buy instead of Château Unpronounceable and its ilk. This will probably get me assassinated, but it has to be said: the quality of those brands at entry level or just above has stagnated. The challenge of competing with the ‘New New World’ seems to be taking its toll. This isn’t just an Australian problem by the way – some of the base level stuff coming out of California (which has now displaced France as the 2nd top importer into the UK) is truly gruesome. From this criticism I will exempt Hardy’s Nottage Hill whose quality is consistently impressive right across the range.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of what the Australians do with Shiraz and in this respect the Croke Park tasting did not disappoint. Initially, I made for the d’Arenberg and Penfolds stands because between them these guys have forgotten more about Shiraz than many have learned. They present a fascinating contrast in style – D’Arry’s, a cross between European sophistication and Down Under exuberance; Penfold’s, all balance and subtlety, rampant fruit kept in check by very smart winemaking. What later became evident was that distinct regional styles have emerged – big, bruising Barossa that starts to throw punches the minute it comes out of the bottle (Peter Lehmann); feminine, sweet-fruited McLaren Vale; the lean, laconic Westerner – exemplified by Plantagenet’s classy Mt. Barker. There are still ones that don’t fit the pattern – Brokenwood from Hunter Valley, a compromise between the first two styles; the self-consciously European Capel Vale; restrained Setanta ‘Cuchulain’ from Adelaide Hills and St. Andrews from the Clare Valley. ‘Find of the show’ was La Testa 2000 from McLaren Vale. I wasn’t alone on this one; many people were talking about a Grange competitor at less than half the price but they were rather missing the point. La Testa is a wizard Shiraz, capable of being judged on its own merits; made from premium fruit, aged in top-dollar French oak and cuddled and fussed over by a guy who really knows what he’s doing. Like The Armagh, like Hill of Grace, what good purpose does comparison serve? Setanta and La Testa are distributed by Inis Wines of Burtonport, Donegal and anyone who hasn’t browsed their exciting little portfolio is missing a treat.
Best budget wines by a mile were the Gnangara Shiraz and Chardonnay from Evans & Tate in WA which I found on the Clada Group stand. While we’re on the subject of Chard, it was good to find that the Aussies seem to be listening at last. There are less tropical fruit stalls around than ever before and even Rosemount Show Reserve, flag-waver for the old big-and-buttery style, while still pretty uncompromising seemed somehow leaner, more lemony. The Aussies are struggling a bit with entry-level Chardonnay, frequently putting dollops of Semillon or Sauvignon in to keep acidity levels up. I really don’t think it’s the answer.
Other highlights? Two superb 2003 Rieslings, Watervale and Polish Hills adjacent to Clare Valley I think. The Watervale in particular was hard as nails, needing putting away for a year or two but the class was overt. The Evans & Tate Margaret River Chardonnay was as pleasing as when I last tasted it in situ. Château Reynella’s version impressed too. A very smart Shiraz-Mourvèdre in the McPherson Basilisk range was complemented by a genuinely exciting Marsanne-Viognier. I sampled an elegantly restrained Cabernet made in Coonawarrra by Balnaves, a name new to me. Pinot Noir did not have a great presence; Tamar Ridge from Tasmania was among the best.. Brown Brothers were full of interest as usual – loved their Barbera, not very Piedmontese but great food wine, I thought.
Were I to chose a ‘Best of Show’ – an invidious task – the Polish Hills Riesling would have come very close, as would the La Testa Shiraz. But, when push came to shove, a blend of sense, sensibility and sentiment took over.
Di Cullen who died in March last year was a pioneer of Margaret River winemaking and fervent advocate of Bordeaux grape varieties. Though she handed over the reins to talented daughter Vanya in the late ‘80s, Di retained daily involvement with the wines and what great wines they are. The Cullen production is always a byword for class and the 2001 Cabernet/Merlot is no exception; glorious aromatics, complex flavours, mellifluous mouthfeel, stonking length; altogether, bliss in a bottle. Vanya has bestowed the soubriquet ‘Diana Madeline’ on this, their flagship. What an ‘in memoriam’ for mum it is. The spirit of Di Cullen lives on.

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GUBU IV Good/Unlovable/Brilliant/Undrinkable

January 17th ushered in the Year of The Monkey which we celebrated with a Chinese Banquet chez moi, cooked by the esteemed Chung Yin who formulates all those tangy and entirely authentic Chinese sauces for Sharwoods. Chung is an amazing guy, a great chef too and produced a menu to die for including duck, beef, succulent scallops, fat muscly king prawns and a whole steamed sea bass, not to mention a dessert.
I’ll put the recipes on stove slave as soon as I have them to hand.
Six of us consumed all the above, plus ten wines (but not necessarily in the order listed below) viz:-

Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 1999, Alsace.
Lovely, beautifully bottle aged wine of some style and class. I’d like to get some more of this.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rich Reserve 1996
An older style of Champagne, a last minute dosage giving a richly sumptuous brew that you couldn’t call sweet, more lush and decadent. I could have drunk this all through the meal.

Springfield Estate Methode Ancienne Chardonnay 2002
Thank god I’ve got another bottle, I want to let it lie. Impressive now, I suspect there’s bags of keeping in this fullsome eminently stylish and beautifully balanced Chard. One of the superstars of a stellar evening. One guest said “If you’d told me this was 70 quidsworth of Puligny Montrachet I wouldn’t have demurred!”

Vasse Felix 2002 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River W.Aust
A hard act to follow, the Methode Ancienne, but this buttery expansive Aussie from one of WA’s best producers held up nicely.

Nepenthe Pinot Gris 2002
Decent , different drinking with some (American?) barrel age lending a touch of distinction. A bit lost by this stage, but would have made a very decent warm up – alternative to the Trimbach above

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose
Very decent gear, flavoursome, dry, crisp, slight tayberry fruit flavours with a little herby kick. I like these guys.

Cordoba Crescendo 2000 Helderberg, Stellenbosch SA
A brilliantly balanced Bordeaux Blend varying from year to year but always majoring on Cabernet Franc, another huge hit on the night. Complex, intense figgy fruit, herbal and flowering current fragrance, lovely powdery aftertaste, massive length, everything you could wish for in a wine and for the price charged (well under e20) fantastic value for money.

Albet Y Noya Col Leccio 1999 Penedes Spain
Brilliant stuff from Spain’s kings of organic wine. Mint on the nose, blackcurrant, plums and all sorts of nice things on the palate and again, huge length.

Penfolds Bin 389 Shiraz/Cabernet 1997
The “baby Grange”, always a class act, a darling of a red wine from the guys who’ve forgotten more about Shiraz than most New World wine makers know. Elegant, dark, brooding, plummy with black coffee overtones and a fine white pepper nose this is one joyful wine.

Villa Maria Pinot Noir 2000
Middle of the road NZ Pinot. Clear evidence that they are getting to grips with this difficult grape the French call “The Black Bitch.” Some way to go before it gets desirable, though. For me, Felton Road leads by miles.

Also tasted recently

Springfield Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc 2003
I seem to keep plugging this but with every bottle I drink it seems to shout “World Class” in fact Springfield are making some of the best wines to come out of South Africa so I’m entirerly unabashed. Pristine SB, with that killer so-refreshing mineral zip – for me you can keep most of the Kiwi gooseberryfests if I could drink this. Bloody brilliant and only e15-ish a bottle.

Nugan Third Generation Chardonnay 2002. South East Australia.
Decent stuff, quite civilized for Aussie. Nice melon notes without diving into mango & pineapple overload. This should do very well for SuperValu

Nepenthe Pinot Gris 2000
Like the above only more so, mellowed with two year’s extra bottle age. Lovely stuff, deep gold, honeyed, subtle, great melon and marzipan flavour

Gigondas Laurus 1999 Gabriel Meffre – first bottle of this I’ve had since GUBU II so maybe time for a bit of a rethink as it’s mellowing out nicely, plummy and dark morello flavours, good long finish and still quite a bit of keeping in there.

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