Drinking Outside The Box

With Simon Woods – wine for people who have a life

First Taste August 2009 Week 1

Flametree and Kalgan River – two newcomers from Western Australia

My uncle, at the time a doctor in Bunbury, once sent us some a postcard of the whaling station at Albany in Western Australia – certainly made a change from Donald McGill’s plump ladies and skinny men, but I have to say it didn’t hang around on the mantelpiece for too long. Albany is also where one winemaker told me that he and his crew used to come fishing when they were able to take a decent break during vintage. ‘We used to sit there on the beach with a slab of beer just taking in the sun – shit, once we even caught a fish…’

And Albany is also the nearest town of any size to the Kalgan River winery in the Great Southern. Have to confess that I’ve never heard of it before auswineonline.co.uk asked if they could send me a few bottles to try. How could I say no? So here goes…

Kalgan Riesling Kalgan Shiraz Viog

2008 Riesling (£11.50)
This is on the rich side of Aussie Riesling, quite full and almost tropical in style, with a touch of dolly mixture to the finish (a character I find in many Rieslings from the region). It feels just off-dry, but it also feels like one of those wines whose youthful plumpness and ripeness on first tasting masks some hidden depths. Plush peach and pineapple flavours are reined in with citrus acidity – wouldn’t be surprised to see this coming across as a drier wine in a couple of years, nor to see it still going strong five years beyond that. But lacks the bite and precision of the best Rieslings. B(+)

2008 Rosé (£11.50)
Made from Cabernet Sauvignon, and it has some of the leafy blackcurrant Cab notes on the nose. This is like the juice from a tin of strawberries, maybe with a dab of acidity to freshen it up, but again, it feels like there’s some RS (residual sugar) in there somewhere. Overall an easy drinking, undemanding pink. C+

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (£12)
Rich, smoky style, with some leafy greenness in the background, but it’s herbal rather than herbaceous. It’s quite soft and lush in texture, with rounded blackcurrant and blackberry flavours, a tinge of mint/eucalyptus, and a finish that combines that leafy/tobacco edge with some warmer, ripe vanilla notes. Would prefer a little more grip perhaps,  S-

2007 Shiraz Viognier (£16)
The Shiraz Viognier blend actually makes some sense in the cooler reaches of southern WA, as opposed to in some of the warmer parts of Oz, where adding blobby Viognier to already plump Shiraz is a bit like have cream AND custard. I think the here treatment has been overdone – this weighs in at 14.7% alcohol, why is there a need for Viognier in such a ripe wine? I get the perfume of Shiraz, but then this rather clunk ripe peachy edge intrudes and takes over. Will it mellow with time? Not sure, but I’m going to give it a few hours of benefit of the doubt… Well it’s evolved better than the Flametree Shiraz (see below) but I still have to question the wisdom of the Viognier. The fragrant herb and pepper edge is good; the rather simple peach melba edge not so good. B+

Flametree, Margaret River
Also from auswineonline, Flametree is another WA newbie to me – no surprise since the winery was only completed just in time for the 2007 vintages. But already it’s been included in James Halliday’s list of ‘Top 10 new Australian wineries’, with its 2007 Cabernet Merlot winning the coveted Jimmy Watson Trophy last year. And having just taken on major Bordeaux nut Cliff Royle, formerly of Voyager Estate, clearly this an estate going places. So just how good are the current releases?

Flametree Chard Flametree CS

2008 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (£10.50)
Typical catty green pepper nose, with the exuberant gooseberry of the Sauvignon rubbing shoulders with the citrus and pear pungency of the Semillon and creating seafood-friendly music. Have to confess it’s not a style I love, but this is better balanced and more rounded than most. B+

2007 Chardonnay (£12.50)
Quite classy modern Chardonnay, ripe but laid-back fruit, oak showing some toast but never turning to caricature, and rich but not too gloopy fruit. I’d like a little more citrussy grip, as there’s something that comes over a little fudge-like, but I’m going to give this a chance to calm down as the finish suggests it could improve… Later:- it’s still tasty, but hasn’t evolved into a stunna – but a nice drink all the same. S-

2008 Cabernet/Merlot (£12.50)
Showing lots of Tigger-like bounciness on first opening, with some greenness but also some wonderfully pure blackcurrant flesh too. Remember first coming across this flavour in Aussie wines some time in the late 1980s in a Cab from a Geelong winery called Mount Anakie – can’t remember tasting anything from there since, but it’s stuck in my memory. Don’t think the wines ever made it here, or I would probably have done an ‘Anakie in the UK’ piece… But back to the wine. It’s calming down by the minute, and that bounce is giving way to more subtle, supple flavours. With further time open, it doesn’t change all that much, but that pure blackcurrant edge is very attractive. S

2007 Shiraz, Frankland River
Interesting that they’ve chosen to do their Shiraz not from Margaret River but from Frankland. There’s a punchy peppery edge that bodes well, but then this massive sweet edge kicks in, not from actual sugar but from alcohol – streuth, it’s 15.6%! I thought such wines were now passé. So I’ll be very interested to see whether it calms down. Certainly on current form, it’s just OTT. Later… there’s still that pleasant peppery edge, but overall this is just too big for its own good, with the finish coming across as rather simple and jammy. B(+)

Three wines from Castel del Remei, Costers del Segre, Spain

Oda Blanc Gotim Bru Cervoles

Oda Blanc 2007 (£12 Byrnes)
A barrel-fermented blend of Chardonnay and Macabeo (aka Viura), this comes across as retro-style Aussie Chardonnay – think circa 1992, when the winemakers didn’t hesitate in flaunting the oak – blended with modern white Rioja. The toast, vanilla, peach, citrus and greengage flavours aren’t the most subtle, but ultimately it’s a rather tasty wine. B+

Gotim Bru 2006 (£8.99 Byrnes)
Tempranillo, Cabernet, Merlot and Grenache are here bundled together in a herby, almost minty red, with gentle currant and baked berry flesh. As with the white, what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in honest flavour. B(+)

Cérvoles Negre 2006 (£20 D Byrne, Handford Wines)
The same varieties as the Gotim Bru, there’s a slightly horsey/bandage-y brett edge that dominates on first opening, but with time, the sweet plump fruit begins to get the upper hand, and a more feral, earthier side emerges. Even so, I’m not convinced this is great wine – it’s too ripe and polished, and I want a little more soul. S-

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CocaCoca I Fitó Negre 2006, Montsant, Spain (contact Astrum Wine Cellars– it’s €23 in Spain)
If you don’t know Montsant, the appellation surrounds the more famous Priorat almost in the form of a plump horseshoe, and the grapes are much the same mix of ancient (Carignan and Garnatxa) and modern (Cab Sauv, Merlot and Syrah). This, the first release from brothers Toni and Miquel Coca I Fitó, is a blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 20% Carignan. It’s a big boy, and is all the better for having been opened 24 hours. The yapping puppy enthusiasm has calmed down, leaving a more profound wine that sets rich plum, berry and raisin flavours against iron-rich minerality, with a balsamic edge to the finish. I used to think wines like this would benefit from age, but my experience with Priorat suggests that they’re at their best in their youth. The tannins are ripe, the fruit is fresh and – providing you give it time to open up – the more interesting minerally edges are already in evidence. Why wait? S(+)

Two from Portugal

Arco 1 Portal-1

Arco do Esporão 2008, Alentejo (£9.99 Waitrose)
Depending on whom you consult for advice, this is either a blend of…
1) Aragones (Tempranillo), Trincadeira and Castelão
2) Aragónez, Trincadeira, Castelão, Syrah, Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet
3) Syrah, Aragonez and Touriga Nacional ***
Whatever it is, it’s an intense, bold red to serve to fans of Aussie Shiraz, ripe and toasty with an edge of vanilla, and with a dark chocolatey side to the ripe black fruit. B(+)
*** Just had confirmation that this is the correct version

Quinta do Portal Douro Reserva 2007 (£13.50 Wineman, Hennings, Great Western Wine, Edward Sheldon, Charles Steevenson, Halifax Wine Co, Stratfords, Hanging Ditch)
I’ve often found the Portal reds a bit too polished for their own good, but this blend of 40% Touriga Nacional, 40% Tinta Roriz (also Tempranillo) and 20% Touriga Franca is a more interesting and spicy beast. Notes of fresh herbs, white pepper and coal tar add interest to the black cherry and blackcurrant fruit, while the finish is given freshness by grippy tannins and fresh acidity. Good wine. S(-)

Two more wines from the Cumulus stable

Climbing SB Climbing Pink

Climbing is the middle tier of wines from Cumulus – the levels run Rolling, Climbing and at the top Cumulus, all from estate vineyards in Orange, New South Wales.

Climbing Sauvignon Blanc 2008, News South Wales, Australia (~£10-£11 no UK stockists yet)
Clean, waxy, grassy style, this has some pungent richness to it, more in the Bordeaux than the NZ style, although the lemon jelly edge to the finish betrays its origins. But overall a good drink, managing to be just on the right side of rich with enough zest to back up the quite ample flesh. B

Climbing Pink 2009, News South Wales, Australia (£10.99 www.mollybrownswinelist.co.uk)
A punchy glass of bouncy red fruit, this reminds me of the juice you used to get in tins of plums – now when did you last see one of those? What it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in exuberant gluggability. B+

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Some of the wines I tasted for a forthcoming issue of Square Meal Lifestyle

Grüner Veltliner

JS GV Eichinger Pfaffl GV

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Grüner Veltliner 2008, Traisental (£6.99 Sainsbury’s)
Bully to Sainsbury’s for putting this on the shelf, and for picking such a delightful wine from the talented young Markus Huber. This Grüner at its lightest and liveliest, with citrus bite and a sprightly, peppery finish. B+

Weingut Eichinger Grüner Veltliner Strasse Hasel 2008, Kamptal, Austria (£10.65 Armit)
Starts off in quite exotic fashion, but then reveals its high cheekbones, with fresh grapefruit flesh, a white pepper edge and a lithe yet spicy, minerally finish. Delicious. S(-)

Pfaffl Hundsleiten Grüner Veltliner 2007, Niederosterreich (£12.95 Tanners)
A richer, peachier style than the previous two, and showing a hint of maturity from the extra year of age. However, this is still very much alive and kicking, with that core of citrus and mineral to maintain interest. S-

Cabernet Franc

Grignon CF Saumur S-C La Croix

Alain Grignon Cabernet Franc Vin de Pays d’Oc 2008, France (£6.99 Majestic)
I like the leafy black fruit flavours, but there’s none of the perfumed elegance, and with some rather confected candy-like note, it ends up being just a bit simple and jammy. C

Domaine de la Paleine Saumur Rouge 2007, Loire, France (£8.70 Tanners)
A refreshing red, with an earthy currant, berry and tobacco flavour plus and intriguing smoky/floral edge to the finish. B(+)

Domaine de la Croix de Chaintres Saumur Champigny 2007, Loire, France (£9.49 Waitrose)
Rich, ripe, gentle and quite full-bodied, this has weight and the classic leafy blackcurrant perfume, lovely grippy fruit, some sweet smoky vanilla (maybe a touch of new oak?), really classy wine, refreshing yet fulsome. S-

Southern Rhône reds

Plan de Dieu Pegovino Ch9

Charmasson Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages 2007 (£7.99 Majestic)
Sweet, rich, ripe, very forward juicy style, but slightly too Ribena-like, with a jammy but reduced edge, this also has a slightly stale edge on the finish that isn’t all that great. C+

Laurence Feraud ‘Pegovino’ Côtes du Rhône Villages 2005 (£8.99 Majestic)
Laurence Feraud runs Domaine Pégaü, one of the top estates of Châteauneuf, so it’s no surprise that this is classy wine, with gentle relaxed plummy fruit, typical southern herbs and a refined minerally finish. S-

Pavillon du Château Beauchêne Côtes du Rhône 2007 (£8.25 Private Cellar)
This is a lovely, almost chillable red, with a fragrant, tangy orange peel edge adding interest to the spicy red berry and pomegranate flavours (sadly its big brother, the Premier Terroir 2006 @ £10.95, was badly corked). B+

Château Beauchêne Châteauneuf du Pape Vignoble la Serrière 2004 (£17.70 Private Cellar)
This starts off in dumb and brooding fashion, then emerges to show deep, spicy plum and berry flavours, hints of tar and herbs, and a slightly roasted edge and some dusty minerality to the finish. Very classy, but needs time to show its true colours – so decant it or keep it. S

Tesco CdR Tesco Vacq Tesco Gigondas

Tesco Côtes du Rhône Villages Réserve 2007 (~£6)
This is Ronseal wine with knobs on, doing exactly what it should do and more, delivering a bright mouthful of brawny, brambly fruit, adding in some herbs and finishing with some spicy licorice edges. Maybe a touch jammy, but it’s hard not to like it. B(+)

Tesco Vacqueyras 2005 (~£8)
Ripe, meaty style, with some fresh spice to it too, honest grippy berry and blackcurrant, with a finish that manages to be hearty yet refreshing. B+

Tesco Gigondas 2005 (~£12)
Bandages and horse blankets – there’s an OK wine in here somewhere, but the brettanomyces just smothers it. Have been banging on for years to a local wine group about brett in wines, and when I showed them this (along with the corked Beauchêne above) the following evening, most of them finally ‘got’ it. 0

Joncier Brunel Grenache Brunel CdR

Domaine du Joncier Lirac (£9.99 Waitrose)
Blogged about this earlier this year (here), and it’s just as good now, with that meaty, spicy, earthy edge adding some class and putting a lid on the exuberant strawberry jam flavours. And it’s still a pup. S-

Domaine André Brunel Grenache Vin de Pays de Vaucluse 2007 (£6.70 Armit)
Golly this is good. Heady and herby but never too brash, with a perfumed underbelly and a minerally streak adding extra layers to the blue fruit flavours (blueberries, wimberries, dark plums that sort of thing, if blue fruit is a bit obscure). Buy it by the case and guzzle with gusto (and decent sausages) over the next couple of years. S(-)

Domaine André Brunel Côtes-du-Rhône Sommelongue 2007 (£11.55 Armit)
Another winner from Châteauneuf maestro Brunel. where the Grenache (above) is gutsy and forward, this is similarly potent but currently more reluctant to come out to play. But all the elements are in place, juicy, earthy dark fruit, herbs and spice, tannins and acidity, and a finish that says ‘come back when I’m ready – I’ll make it worth your while.’ S

Oloroso

Tanners Oloroso Wait Oloroso Tesc Oloroso

Tanners Dry Oloroso Sherry, Hidalgo (£9.50)
Rich burnt cake and sugar, raisins and nuts, there’s a gentle severity to this, almost a creamy edge, good but maybe lacks that scalp-itching intensity of the top wines. S-

Waitrose Solera Jerezana Dry Oloroso Sherry, Lustau (£7.99)
Gentler and a touch sweeter than the Tanners wine, this is fleshy and intense with a soft raisin and walnut tang. Like all these olorosos, a bargain, especially as the bottle will keep for a few weeks once opened B+

Tesco 12 year old Dry Oloroso Sherry, Hidalgo (£6.99/half litre selected Tesco)
Older, more intense and quite superb sherry, with pungent, nutty, dried fruit in abundance, and a bracing iodine-like quality that almost makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Tesco come in for some flak on occasion, but this is just seriously good wine. G-

.

Rioja conundrum

Vendema

Gran Vendema Rioja Gran Reserva 2002 (£11.99 or Buy 2 bottles save £10 = £6.99 Majestic)
An intriguing wine. It’s from 2002, and there’s certainly some of the green edge of this rather soggy vintage. But whereas typical Gran Reserva at 6 years old is showing some vanilla-like maturity, this – maybe because of the cooler vintage – still feels fairly young and lively, with the 2 years in American oak adding the sweetness that was missing in the first place. The result is a really rather tasty wine, not with the come-hither edge of typical Gran Reserva, but with more of an earthy, leafy Bordeaux-like feel. As for the producer, the label doesn’t give much away, but not too much Internet research reveals that it may or may not be from M__ de C__. B+

Constellation parcel at Majestic

Tigress Music Room Mary Le Bow

Notes on three of the wines currently in Majestic’s offer on some New World Wines from Constellation.

Bay of Fires Tigress Chardonnay 2004 (RRP ~£12, Majestic price £5.99)
Rich but crisp, with a honeyed edge, showing some nutty, leesy edges, and plush peach and pear flavours. Could use a little more finesse and structure, but still a good drink. B(+)

Flagstone Music Room Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (RRP £14.99, Majestic price £5.99)
Ripe, rich, earthy coffee aromas, some of the leafy black fruit edges of Cabernet, powerful but not aggressively so, with oak in evidence but not in dominance, this is solid, ageworthy wine, like its creator Bruce Jack, certainly on the burly side, but with much of interest to say for itself. S-

Flagstone Mary-le-Bow Red 2006 (RRP £17.99, Majestic price £6.99)
This Bordeaux blend, pepped up with a dollop of Shiraz, is less in-yer-face than the Music Room, even though it weighs in a higher alcohol (14.5% rather than 14%), and has this succulent, savoury, almost meaty Rhône-like texture, with the fruit never looking too forceful, just confident and plummy. Some of the power does come through on the finish, but overall, this is an extremely classy wine which again should age well. S(+)

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