Tag Archives: Petit Verdot

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.

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!!!”


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

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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Bordeaux For Beginners

Appellations d’Origine Controlée, to give them their full title, operate at 4 levels:
Generic regional AC – Bordeaux, covers red, white, rosé and sparklers from the region.
Slightly posher is Bordeaux Superior – to achieve this a grower has to squeeze out an extra half per cent alcohol.
Specific regional AC cover large areas Entre-deux-Mers, Premieres Côtes de Bordeaux, Haut Médoc for exmple.
Village ACs – Within a few of the regions a few of the notable villages have their own AC, e.g. St-Estèphe, Margaux, Sauternes.
Blending of Bordeaux wines from their consituent varieties.
Barrique (Bordelaise)
The famous 225l Bordeaux barrel that had replaced the unwieldy 900l Tonneau by the end of the 18th century. Today the word is in use world-wide.
Impressive city on the Garonne river on France’s West Coast. Total area under vines around 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) with around 12,500 producers. Centre of a huge wine trade, rising to pre-eminence in 1152 when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet, later King of England as Henry II.
Northernmost area of Bordeaux where wine is part of the mixed agrarian economy. Drink Bertinerie and Haut-Bertinerie, leave the rest alone.
Charming name for the broker who interfaces between the grower and the négotiant for a small commission. Another profit centre in the chain.
Don’t look for any castles (the literal translation). Châteaux are sometimes palatial mansions like Margaux, Lafite, Bécheville, Cos d’Estournel. More often they are simple farmhouses. Some wine estates bearing the prefix ‘Château…’ have no house at all.
Côtes de Bourg
Area of some potential on the right bank of the Dordogne where it flows into the Gironde. Good earthy wines but Bourg growers need to modernise and invest if they are to rise above the mundane.
1855 Classification
The earliest attempt to introduce a pecking order (based on market price) and subsequently revised. Important to remember it was limited to the Médoc.
Entre-deux-Mers Beguiling white and red wine area between the Dordogne and the Garonne. Gorgeous landscape but much of the wine is only of average quality and marketed under the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur labels
Neologism for smart, small-scale producers making fruit-forward wines for early-drinking or good ones for a niche market. Some have been elevated to cult status. Many started in St-Emilion where land was relatively cheap.
Grape varieties All Bordeaux wines are blends. Principally Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc for reds and Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillion for whites. Others such as Malbec, Petit Verdot, Muscadelle and Columbard crop up in small quantities to do a specific job.
Graves & Pessac-Leognan
In the north, a bank of gravel now encroached upon by the suburbs of Bordeaux, disintegrating in the South into sand and clay amid pine forests, meadows and orchards. Produces both red (including legendary Haut-Brion) and white wines. Classified in 1953 and 1959.
A monotonously flat, undistinguished-looking strip of land adjacent to the left bank of the Garonne, that hosts many of the greatest red wines of the world. To view the Médoc is to wonder why. The answer: soil, climate, tradition, all play a part. Incorporates the villages and communes of Margaux, Moulis and Listrac, St-Julien, Pauillac, St-Estèphe, Haut-Médoc and Médoc.
Negotiant (négoce)
There are 400 of them. French term for a merchant, many of whom in Bordeaux own châteaux. According to the CIVB brochure these guys have “a role of regulators with power to smooth the fluctuation prices that can be so harmful to the market” – hmm… we wonder! Some offer a technical service to poorer growers and are frequently abused by the same for bumping up prices. Not so all-powerful as in Burgundy but nevertheless an integral element in the Bordeaux wine trade that inhibits buying direct.
Noble Rot
An amazing process. The grapes shrivel after botrytis spores latch onto and weaken the skin. Farewell water content, hello high sugar, glycerol and acidity. The grapes eventually reach a ‘roasted’, totally shrivelled stage at which point they are carefully harvested and used, in Sauternes, to make dessert wines of explosive concentration.
Other Classifications
Graves had to wait until 1953 for reds and 1959 for whites. St.Emilion’s is revised every ten years. Pomerol has none.The Crus Bourgeois of the Médoc had a revision in 2003 and some are still whingeing.
Tiny, 7.5 sq mile, area NE of Libourne where Merlot is King. Rich, soft-centred wine exemplified by Ch. Pétrus, greatest and most expensive red wine in the world.
Tourist gem town SE of Bordeaux with many vineyards that restore your faith in picturesque sites. Here Cabernet Franc, called locally Bouchet, thrives on the limestone slopes. Best wines are Chx.Ausonne and Cheval Blanc.
Sauternes and Barsac
Another area classified in 1855, for its luscious sweet wines of which d’Yquem is foremost. Until recently when they have staged something of a comeback Sauternes were ludicrously underpriced. Sémillon is the main grape employed.

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