Thursday, April 19, 2012

Some Wine Talk

We drink a fair bit of wine, mostly with meals.
According to my doctor, who is 'on my case' about my cholesterol levels, maybe I drink too much. But that's another story.
The more regular of my readers will have noticed that I list our yearly tipples on the blog side bar with our one to five star rating.
Generally what we drink is rated three star which to us means an enjoyable fault free wine, showing varietal and regional characters which we would be pleased to buy again.
We occasionally have a two or four star with the former put on our 'not again' list and the latter on the 'yes, more please' list.
A five comes along very seldom.
A one star is usually a 'tipper' and goes down the sink after a mouthful or two. Thankfully there are not too many of those. I think there has been one minus 1 star which didn't warrant tasting. One sniff was enough for it to be disposed of.
It is a sad fact of life that four and particularly five star wines are more expensive than we normally budget for.
Our preferred price range is $12-$18 for whites and $15-$25 for reds. Occasionally we get access to some 'bargains' eg. three star $12 reds which is a bonus. Then again we have tasted some expensive (to us) wines that you wonder what all the fuss is about.
Lately we have been lucky enough to score a brace of fours and one five so I thought I might share some more details of those. They are all Australian wines so overseas readers might have some difficulty sourcing them if they were interested in a tasting.

Yering Station Yarra Valley Shiraz Viognier 2008

Shiraz is the most widely planted red grape variety in Australia (46% of total red).
It is sold as a straight varietal, a blend with other red grapes eg. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache or a combination of those and, even more uniquely Australian, as a sparkling red wine.
Recently there has been a trend to blend Shiraz with a small amount (5%) of the white wine grape, Viognier.
This comes from the Cote Rotie Appellation of the northern Rhone Valley where it is customary to add a small proportion of Viognier to enhance the scent of their Syrah (Shiraz) wine.
Yering Station is a Yarra Valley winery who produces such a blend.
The 2008 is a classic young intense Shiraz Viognier, fragrantly perfumed with loads of dark fruits, spice, pepper, blackberry and violets.
The palate is intense with lots of flavour and fruit showing off the typical Shiraz Viognier characters and just the right amount of French oak. The finish is very long.
I am not really a Shiraz fan but this blend could make me a convert. I have ordered more.
Great with a big hunk of bar-b-q'd medium rare red meat.

Pikes 'The Merle' Clare Valley Riesling 2011

Riesling is a very under rated wine in Australia. I think the reason is the very sweet wines that were marketed under this 'label' for decades.
But Riesling styles have changed and wines from the best cool climate growing areas eg. Clare Valley, Eden Valley and Tasmania are fine, delicate. intensely fragrant and flavoured wines.
Hints of citrus, honeysuckle, blossoms, green apple and mineral are common. With their high acidity and low alcohol, the wines retain a freshness which many other varieties lack. Oak is never used.
Others from slightly warmer areas eg.Barossa, Padthaway and Coonawarra are full flavoured and fruity.
High quality, well structured Rieslings from the Clare and Eden Valley can have considerable longevity and can develop into appealing honeyed and toasty styles.
Pikes is a Clare Valley winery. I have been buying their 'Traditonale' Riesling and some clean skin Riesling from them since our visit there in 2010.
The daughter bought me a bottle of their top of the range "The Merle" for Christmas.
Delicate citrus notes of lemon/lime/grapefruit with a hint of the regional slatiness evident on the nose. The palate was delicate, subtle and dry with vibrant lemon/lime flavours built around a slate/mineral acidity that provided length and texture to the wine.
I couldn't get on the phone quick enough to order some more (after consulting with my 'bank manager' of course!)
Goes with any seafood and especially shellfish.

Coldstream Hills Reserve Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010

Pinot Noir is regarded as the prince of red grapes and is the red wine of Burgundy as well as a component of Champagne.
But who can afford a Burgundy these days, even the Bourgogne or Village?
We have to go looking for other sources so our search concentrates on Australia and New Zealand.
Even then, it is very difficult to get a really good one at our budget level.
Good Pinot Noir depends on the clone chosen (there are many), climate (it likes cool), the terroir (soil type, slope, drainage, aspect) as well as skilful viticulture (yield control, bunch exposure) and wine making (harvest techniques, whole bunch inclusion, fermentation temperature, oak treatment).
"Getting it all right" costs money and that is passed onto the consumer.
Occasionally we break away from the one dimensional 'cheapies' and Coldstream Hills from the Yarra Valley is one that impressed.
The nose had ripe plum and cherry characters enhanced by gamey notes (missing in the 'cheapies') and a hint of aniseed.
Barrel fermentation has provided additional complexity to the wine.
The 2010 is medium bodied in style with the ripe fruit characters of plum, cherry and gamey notes, predicted by the nose, coming through on the palate and staying with great length together with the fine grained tannins.
The Coldstream Hills tasting notes say "Deep, rich and brooding, the wine demonstrates the power and finesse of Pinot Noir"
I cannot disagree.
Goes with roast lamb or baked salmon or by itself with some good cheese.

T'Gallant 'Grace' Pinot Grigio 2011

Pinot Grigio (Italy) or Pinot Gris (France) is said to be a white mutation of Pinot Noir.
In Australia, both names are used to differentiate between two wine styles produced from the same grape.
Grigio is used for the more austere, lighter, simpler Italian style, Gris for the more complex, full bodied and rich French style.
T'Gallant on the Mornington Peninsula was the the first winery in Australia to seriously pursue the potential of this grape and makes both styles.
I like the dry crispness of 'Grace' (maybe memories of long summer evenings in piazzas in Umbria).
The nose has a freshly cut apple aroma with a bit of lavender and nuts thrown in.
The palate continues with the apple and pears and even a slightly herbal undertone. The crisp acidity creates texture and length.
Great with pork or chicken dishes.

Margan Hunter Valley Semillon 2011

Some may think I have neglected New South Wales in this list but, no.
I grew up on Hunter Valley wines. Semillon is the signature white wine of the region.
It basically comes in three styles; young, aging and aged.
I am not a fan of the latter two but the aged is famous world wide. This variety can ' live' up to 20 plus years old increasing in complexity with a biscuity, malty, honey and toasty richness as it matures.
When young, Hunter Valley Semillon is zesty and bright with positive lemon / lime aromas and flavours, hints of honey and mineral, and a delicate racy acidity onto the finish.

It is seldom, if ever, wooded and is normally low in alcohol between 10.5% & 11.5% although some producers have increased that level with some success.
Margan make my style of Semillon. The 2011 is outstanding with a 12.5% alcohol giving the wine just that extra bit of body without overpowering the fruit.
This is one wine easily drunk by itself.

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