Archives for July, 2011

Royal Queensland Wine Show: The winners

The Royal Queensland Wine Show 2011 in July produced a host of trophy, gold, silver and bronze medal winners from Queensland-based wineries.

I went along to the exhibitors’ morning tasting to see what enlightenment there was. This is Queensland largest and most influential wine show for the year.

Here I have chosen to review the wines of the two trophy winners.

The trophy for most successful Wine Exhibitor went to the Eukey Road producer, Symphony Hill Wines, in Ballandean and collected by principal Ewen McPherson. His winemaker, Michael Hayes, had won him a gold and six bronze medals.

GOLD: Symphony Hill Reserve Gewurztraminer 2010 Granite Belt; 12.6% (USD 27.50); +++++; has pale colour and a voluminous nose, spice and lavender, heady stuff typical of traminer with punch as this has, taste is composed and long, spiced, dry and enlivening. Grapes are sourced from a high elevation New England vineyard.

RQWS Symphony Hill Reserve Gewurztraminer 2010

BRONZE: Symphony Hill Reserve Pinot Gris 2010 Granite Belt; 12.6% (USD 33); +++; brassy colour which is normal, lots of pear and nice crunch, medium to full body, good flavour.

RQWS Symphony Hill Reserve Pinot Gris 2010

BRONZE: Symphony Hill Reserve Viognier 2009 Granite Belt; 14.9%; (USD 33); ++++; intense green, this is wild, it is heady with viognier highlights-florals, ginger, spice, brute power of the ripeness, and tasting it just reinforces the powerful bitter tangerine and oil flavours, big wine, drink with rich foods.

RQWS Symphony Hill Reserve Viognier 2009

BRONZE: Symphony Hill Reserve Verdelho 2010 Granite Belt; 13.9%; (USD 27.50); +++; is good greens, big punchy papaya aroma, and a full flavoured palate, grapefruit, a clean whisp of flavour and a good lasting impression.

RQWS Symphony Hill Reserve Verdelho 2010

Symphony Hill also took bronzes with two reds: Reserve Shiraz Viognier 2009 and Reserve Petit Verdot 2009.

The Corrigan Scudamore-Smith Trophy for the best Queensland wine of the RQWS, judged by all interstate and international judges (11) was awarded to Ravens Croft Chardonnay 2009 from Stanthorpe.

RQWS Corrigan Scudamore-Smith Trophy Ravens Croft Chardonnay 2009

GOLD: Ravens Croft Chardonnay 2009; Granite Belt; 13% (USD 33); +++++; fab pale colour, nose complete, some funk, complex mix of smoke, funk, citrus rolled into one, palate not obvious in fruit plumpness (at this level that is a fault), lots of derived flavours from the bottle, then lots of minerality and mild dryness. Good drink.

Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator

Rhone, Burgundy: Judge drinks after dark

The just-concluded Royal Queensland Wine Show brought together 1998 wines to be judged from around Australia. It was the first show of the 2011 season (completes with RAS Sydney next February).

And there were 12 judges (four panels of three tasting) plus the chief judge, Hungerford Hill consultant Phillip John.

After dark it was the turn of the judges to do some tasting over dinner with the main event convened by Phillip. About three weeks before, an email arrives with your allocated style (two bottles).

This year mine was Chablis so it had to be a Grand Cru of course, only the best to share. It turned out that the night’s major drinking was to centre around chardonnay, Rhone varietals and a little cabernet sauvignon.

The chardonnays got off to great start with my wine, Chablis Les Clos (Fevre) 2008; 13% (USD 114); +++1/2; this wine will take decades to come around, from the high acid year of 2008, pale, austere nose (no evidence of malo-lactic), cleverly concealed oak, racy, minerally to the third degree.

Chablis Les Clos (Fevre) 2008

Next in the bracket an equally exciting Burgundy, Meursault Les Genevieres (Henri Boillot) 2007; 13% (USD 174); ++++; compact nose not giving much away, palate just lovely, juicy then dry from oak, but not oaky, long and interesting flavours, touch of funk then linear acidity, pretty full wine.

Meursault Les Genevieres (Boillot) 2007

Last was Lilydale Chardonnay 2008; 13.0% (USD 27); ++++; really on the mark as modern Australian stuff, pale, funk there, little oak and mainly complexity, a good dose of character, the palate a little peachy to give us the forward flavoured fruit but after that-excellent. And look at the price, what a steal.

A second bracket of chardonnay was even more beguiling. First was Brookland Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2004; 14.5% (USD 76); now tiring, going into the neutral flavour territory, oak still there but not a great deal more. Probably closed under cork.

Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay 2004; 14.5% (USD 90); +++; was not in good shape, the colour was simply advanced so the wine looked awkward, it has a punchy and slippery palate, and I thought I was drinking viognier. A big wine, but discussion around the table pointed to an old-fashioned habit of skin-contacting grapes at the crush-no longer done at the pointy end of chardonnay crafting.

The third was a revelation: Puligny-Montrachet (Leflaive) 2006; 13% (USD 133.50); +++1/2; heady, complex, pristine, pale, compact, drying out yes, but just a lovely palate, bright, talcy and drinkable (with the slipper lobster and mussel brawn).

Puligny-Montrachet (LeFlaive) 2006

The reds were even more exciting. The two Rhone-type brackets were killers.

Hermitage (Tardier Laurent) 2003; 14% (USD 126); +++1/2; great for such a stewy hot year, bristling with layers of flavour and substance, still tannic but a little juicy/porty too, fab shiraz.

Cotes du Rhone Chateau de Fonsalette (Rayas) Reserve 2002; 14% (USD 51); ++++1/2; outstanding; grenache based, rest cinsaut and shiraz, massive flavour but a contained palate, obvious warm region tastes of leather, licorice and stewed plum, a gem to drink.

The third was another gem; Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Pierre Usseglio)2008; 14.5% (USD 32.50); ++++; a big bold wine, still purple, very overt fruit as a grenache based blend, the rest, cinsaut, shiraz, mourvedre ; lovely close knit fruit and tannin, streams all over the palate with balance. Great.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Usseglio) 2008

Red bracket two was mixed: Stephen John Watervale Shiraz 2000; 14%; +++; now mature, browning, a big, bonoxy single vineyard shiraz with slippery mouth feel, little varietal definition but a great mature Clare Valley wine, nice to taste.

The standout was Gigondas (Domaine des Espiers) 2009; 14.5% (USD 34.75); ++++; fragrant and fruit saturated grenache on the nose, not the boiled sweets-type we find in Australia (Barossa Valley et al); just violets and red flowers, lovely wine made with care and little oak use which now shows (six months), the softest and fruitiest palate one could find. Take a while to locate a grenache/shiraz its parallel.

Gigondas (Espiers) 2009

Eileen Hardy 2005 McLaren Vale ; 14% (USD 88); +++; now smelling mature, lots of oak work which shows up with some oiliness, chunky and drying palate plus lots of rich jam flavours, looks to be tailing off and in need of earlier drinking. However expect it to surprise and hold for another decade. Have tasted smarter vintages such as 1998, 1999 and 2002.

Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator

SwirlSniffSpit: Unlikely wine group

SwirlSniffSpit @ Era Bistro

This week I attended the monthly gathering of SwirlSniffSpit (SSS), a loose group of Brisbane-based tasting tweeps who gather monthly at Era Bistro Brisbane.

The subject of the night was Shiraz – all were Australian save one from across the ditch. All were served in pairs with mini themes. Tweets went out continuously as each set of wines were assessed then drunk.

Great Western, Victoria featured strongly.

Bests Bin No 1 Shiraz 2009 (USD 27); 14.5%; +++1/2; rich nose of both oaks (American and French); has come together more since the Bests tweetup early in the year; just great flavour around a chunky, juicy palate-rare for a cool area wine.

Bests Bin 1 2009

Bests No 0 Shiraz 2008 (USD 65); 14.5%; ++++; great violet colour, cherry aromas then cedar, sexy sweet, lots of barrel ferment bits, long flavours, chunky oak at present but streamlined texture, drink 2018-2023!

Bests Bin 0 2008

A pair of Queenslanders figured too.

Pyramids Road Shiraz 2009, Granite Belt (USD 32.50); 13.5%; +++; has great violet colour, really stands out, intense spice, flavour gamey and the fruit is sweet, spicy palate with silkiness and subtlety, lovely drink with purity.

Barambah First Grid Shiraz 2008, South Burnett (USD 31.50) is made by this author-was happy to see the SSS’s enjoy the wine in this context; it tasted well with the emphatic aspect being savouriness, which I pointed out to the group, and this being caused by extended aging on lees.

Barambah First Grid 2008

There were a couple of Victorians.

The Story Sableux Shiraz 2009, Grampians (USD 48.75); 14%; +++1/2; has lots of oak work; barrel ferment, some feral notes which are chic, syrupy texture from ripeness, flavour power, choc, mint fruit flavours which stay in the mind. Big stuff from a cool site.

De Bortoli Syrah 2008, Yarra Valley (USD 34.75); 14%; ++++; despite its brown colour (the heat wave year), lots of spice and interesting funk, loads of palate spice and more obvious savouriness, again that lees technique making the wine more drinkable. A terrific drinking sensation.

Then there were a pair from Western Australia.

Vinedrops The Collection Shiraz 2009, Margaret River (USD 21.75); 13.4%; +++; nice aromas, oak cedar from high toned barrels; and a lovely silky palate, very easy to swallow too, impressive.

Plantagenet Shiraz 2008 Mount Barker (USD 48.75); 14.2%; +++; spicy, earthy, forest floor nose, some reduction from the screw cap; now drying out where the oak shows, considerable acid, very soft.

The mixed bag comprised a Hunter and a Kiwi.

De Iullis Steven Vineyard Shiraz 2009, Hunter Valley (USD 43.50); 13%; +++1/2; was great, lots of warm, red fruits, some feral smells to give it character, a composed palate, leanness yet poise, clean and drying.

Te Mata Bullnose Syrah 2009, Hawkes Bay (USD 28.50); 13.5%; +++; simply smelt pretty, flower aromatics, nice currants too, the palate high acid or that effect, a soft, fine and silky swallow results. These styles capture some drinkers-an ultra-cool climate for shiraz where the conditions allow it to ripen.

The final pair were South Australians.

Murray Street Vineyard Greenock Shiraz 2006, Barossa (USD 59.75); 15%; +++; chocolate fruit, lots of oomph and burning alcohol, twitches the nose, now drying yet a very compact palate of flavour and intensity. Not as big as it smells but aging.

Gemtree Obsidian Shiraz 2008, McLaren Vale (USD 65); 14.5%; +++; big and juicy, the super ripe/dead fruit style; big all over and climbing out of the glass, lots of powdery oak from the tannin structure, syrupy texture effects from the high ripeness and winemaking approach. Wine for heroes.

Thought records!

Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator

Pinot in the US: Big numbers

Late in 2009, I spent time travelling in the USA: it was a wine and food-lead tour so we found a few restaurants. Some were reviewed.

On the subject of pinot noir; every by-the-glass smooch which had Oregon as the state of origin just kept on getting the ticks.

There was the odd Californian but most seemed too muscular for the dishes and food genres we tried; Oregonians finished with minerality and fineness while the Californians gave out tannin, sweetness and high-toned oak.

So to recount if that was still the case, local Brisbane, Queensland restaurateur from Two Small Rooms -Peter Willumsen – threw a dinner tasting which heralded some US pinot.

First starter was a porcini tart. The pair of starting wines selected were the Oregons: because they are expected to be leaner and more friendly towards a simple tart of mixed mushrooms, deliberately meant to make the dish fungal, just as the variety can be.

Cristom Sommers Reserve 2007; Willamette Valley, Oregon, (USD 90); 13.9%; +++1/2; looked good with its lightish colour which means pinot colour, smells of sap and mushroom, but it is stalk city (winemaker practice of including grape stalks in the making), oodles of whole bunch ferment smells so there was a lot of winemaking going on, and it is 44 months old; so a monster made and staying like that for a while.

Pinot in tights. Has 53% new oak, native yeast used.

Scott Paul La Paulee 2006; Willamette Valley, Oregon, (USD 84); 13.9%; ++++; deep colour which gets a bit alarming! But ok, big stuff, lots of oak chunk and char from barrel, done over with many winemaking ideas, though the notes say only 20% oak and ten months aging. The wine has plenty of volume yet no restraint, in the red berry mould, sweet black fruits too, so the palate flows on with lots of texture and length, be it the chunky style.

Pinot always means earing duck so Peter W did not let us down with the next flavours: grimaud duck breast, pinked, Spanish onion as a tarte, duck liver as a parfait and jus gras. This is pinot pressure.

Clos du Val 2007; Carneros, (USD 30); 13.5%; +++; fairly plain nose, sappy not bright, has a mineral palate, very soft and pushing out the acidity towards the shrill end, but very much in the composed, light textured end of the pinot market with lots of approachability. 12, 384 bottles made.

Clos du Val Carneros 2007

It’s partner Kistler Cuvee Catherine Occidental Station Vineyard 2005; Sonoma Coast, (USD 150); 14.1%; +++1/2; a massive nose of chocolate, questioning how this related to pinot, palate, big, big, big, sweet and rich and leathery, a lumberjacks’ drink to really top the subtle sweets of duck flesh.

Kistler Cuvee Catherine Occidental Station Sonoma Coast 2005

The last pair of Donums were supplied by Two Small Rooms owner Peter Willumsen’s brother who works at the company in 24520 Ramal Road, Sonoma.

Pairing was with Milly Hill lamb rump, semolina dumplings, sherry braised shallots and pink peppercorn sauce. The sauce drew the lamb protein and wine flavours together.

Donum 2007; Russian River, (USD 65); 14.4%; ++++; has heaps of colour, a great nose integrating oak and fruits, then lots of texture and forest floor aromas which transport into flavours, solid wine but a little mouth hot.

Donum Russian River 2007

Donum 2007; Carneros, (USD 65); 14.4%; ++++; was speaking to the dinner table in aromatic tones, very floral as pinot is sometimes, lots of winework (soaking before ferment), long barrel age flavours, lots of oak dryness and extra tannin, finishing hot.

Donum West Slope Carneros 2007

In the end, my traveller’s feelings stay the same; Oregon pinot can be fine yet also very boisterous, Californian generally are brutally big with the odd gem (finer wine); in this tasting it was the Clos du Val.

Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator

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