Tuesday, 29 May 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Starve Dog Lane’s McLaren Vale ‘crossbred’ Ibrido

ONE FOR LUNCH: Another interesting blend is Starve Dog Lane’s new McLaren Vale ‘crossbred’ Ibrido, five European-origin wines brought together into a drop that’s beautifully mouth-filling with sour cherry, dark chocolate and roasted coffee bean flavours, biscuity tannins and good acid.

The Mediterranean-like climate of McLaren Vale is ideally suited to the varieties in this wine: tempranillo that originally hailed from Spain, nebbiolo, sangiovese and barbera from Italy, and shiraz from France.

Good buying at $24.99 to match with grilled lamb loin chops, baby lentils and roasted capsicums.

SHAW THING OUT OF ORANGE

ICONIC Philip Shaw has released an interesting new blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon under his own name, bringing to a half-dozen the range of wines he’s now produced from the Koomooloo Vineyard he established at Orange in the NSW Central West in 1988.

The Philip Shaw No 17 from the 2005 vintage reflects what he believes the Orange region is unique for in offering wine lovers: fleshy, friendly-style wines with flavours not found in other parts of Australia, possessing long complex flavours and soft tannins with length of flavour.

He’s also proud of what he calls “the purity of that flavour” in his 2005 No 17 Merlot Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon, which like his other wines shows the care that goes both into vines and fruit: as well as hand-picking, he uses a hand-sorting table before crushing to remove leaves and other impurities that could otherwise impact on fruit flavours.

The merlot in this blend has given the wine silkiness of mouth feel, the cabernet sauvignon depth and intensity, and the cabernet franc helped bring it all together into a nicely complex wine.

Pay $26.99 to go with meaty pasta dishes or strong-flavoured hard cheeses.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: De Bortoli 2005 Vat 4 Petit Verdot

ONE FOR LUNCH: Innovative Riverina makers, De Bortoli never cease to surprise with some of their more unusual bottlings, the latest being a gutsy 2005 Vat 4 Petit Verdot for when you’re planning on feeding the man meat – it’s value you’ll find hard to beat at just $9.99 with a rare steak off the barbie.

With Petit Verdot’s history rooted in the Bordeaux region of France, this De Bortoli version’s full-bodied with driving plum and spice flavours and toasty oak characters; we’d suggest decantering to let the wine breath a bit before drinking – and at the price, don’t look past putting a few away in the cellar as its showing a good two or three more years development potential.

KIWI IMPORT FOR THE SUNDAY ROAST

A more-ish new release just making its appearance on our liquor store shelves is New Zealand’s 2006 Secret Stone Marlborough Pinot Noir, and it’s quickly being snapped up by those with a penchant for the variety.

Its launch in Australia follows the runaway success of the Secret Stone label’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that hit our market in 2004, a success that’s prompted the company to now release both a 2005 Chardonnay and the 2006 Pinot Noir here in the hope they’ll repeat the Sauvignon Blanc’s good fortune.

The Pinot Noir was sourced totally from the Marlborough region near the top of New Zealand’s South Island, a premier cool climate region that whilst enjoying long sunshine hours, has quite low average maximum temperatures in summer, and cool nights that allow grapes to ripen slowly and retain many fruit characters that can sometimes be lost at higher temperatures.

It’s a rich, soft, dark-fruit flavoured wine, with the fruit characteristics coming through in the obvious cherry on the nose, and sweet oak.

Well-priced at $19.99, there’s no better way to enjoy this New Zealand drop than with another New Zealand staple, a good Sunday lamb roast.

Monday, 14 May 2007

SOMETHING DIFFERENT: You can’t buy it, but we liked this story

Earlier this year tiny Queensland maker Crane Wines in the South Burnett Region had 300kg of fruit left over from some exceptional shiraz vines, and knew mechanical crushing would ‘trash’ such a small amount.

So part-time cellar-hand Caitlin Sparks went back to winemaking’s roots and foot-pressed it in a large tub – stomping the equivalent of an 8km (5-mile) walk to produce 100 litres of wine that’s been labelled Five Mile Shiraz; it’ll be divided amongst Caitlin and the cellar team when deemed ready for drinking.

WHAT YOU DON’T DO THAT COUNTS

WEST Australian maker Evans & Tate is justifiably hailing the success of its two “new generation” Single Vineyard Chardonnays, but rather than trumpeting what their winemaking team did to create these wines, they’re trumpeting what they didn’t do.

“These wines – a 2005 Stellar Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay and a 2005 Wildberry Springs Estate Chardonnay – represent the beginning of a new era for our winery,” says Senior Winemaker, Richard Rowe. “It goes back to 2002 when we launched ‘The Chardonnay Project’ to identify specific plant, soil, growing and production variables that could be combined to produce Australia’s best Chardonnay out of Margaret River.

In essence this meant that by using minimal winemaking intervention, Richard Rowe and his team allowed the vineyards to determine the quality of the resultant fruit and thus the wines, while still reflecting the commitment and dedication of the winemaking and viticultural teams.

The inaugural wines represent two of the eleven vineyards in the Project, and were made in tiny quantities from fruit from the Wilyabrup Region, with each reflecting the individual varietal characters of their specific terroir.

Pay $44.95 for each and enjoy with a special-reason lobster thermidor or a seafood and shellfish platter.

Monday, 7 May 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Wolf Blass 2005 Grey Label

WOLF Blass made his first Grey Label wines thirty-two years ago, and ever since the company has retained the same philosophy: select the best fruit from the vintage to create rich, full wines that are immediately drinkable on release – but will continue to develop with careful cellaring.

The just-released 2005 Grey Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon lives up to the Grey Label reputation, coming from a vintage that was ideal for producing full-flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon. This one’s soft, rich and elegant with subtle oak, integrated tannins and has rich berry aromas with notes of eucalypt, mint, spices and chocolate; pay $40 and enjoy with barbecued lamb fillets and char-grilled vegetables.

I DO IT MY WAY…

ANDREW Margan of the Hunter Valley’s Margan Famil Winegrowers is not a believer in slavishly following market trends: he makes wines that he wants to drink, and from the way sales are going they’re obviously wines that plenty of others want to drink too.

And what’s particularly interestingly is that Andrew makes his wines only from vines grown on the red soils of Broke Fordwich, reasoning that these result in wines of greater richness and with more mid-palate than from fruit grown in nearby Pokolbin.

To get enough land for this exercise, Andrew has gradually pieced back together the old Broke Lindemans vineyards that had been broken up over the years, and last year also took over the adjoining Saxonvale Vineyard as well, giving him nearly 120ha (300 acres) of 40 year old vines on red soil.

One of the more interesting of his wines is a Barbera off vines from cuttings from the original Carlo Corino vineyard at Mudgee; the just-released 2005 has lovely aromas of herbs, berries and earthy characters that are reflected in the rich, ripe and juicy palate, which in turn is followed by typical long savoury tannins.

Being of Italian heritage – it’s grown extensively throughout the country’s Piedmont region – Barbera is a great food wine: match this one at $25 a bottle with pasta or herbed tomato sauce dishes.

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