Tag: Beechworth

Golden Ball là-bas Chardonnay 2012

This Golden Ball chardonnay seems more complex and perhaps less stylistically polarising than my previous encounter with their chardonnay in an earlier vintage (2010).  You can read that review here.  The 2012 vintage has aromatics of cedar, nectarine and pineapple.  The palate is balanced with characters of cedar and nectarines, lovely fresh acidity and a long finish.  There’s a lot to like here.

Rating: Very Good
Abv: 13%
Price: $40-$50
Vendors and website: http://goldenball.com.au
Tasted: 2015

Sorrenberg Gamay 2012

Sorrenberg from Beechworth in northern Victoria fashion a good gamay, in my humble opinion.  A medium intensity ruby colour in the glass, it has light aromatics of plum skins, earth, dried herbs, blackberry and a little cedar seasoning.  The palate has fine grained soft tannins, medium body and flavours reminding of earth and plum skins.  The finish is towards medium length, and there’s a touch of bitterness.  This is an interesting and good gamey from Sorrenberg, that will reward drinking now.  Good

Abv: 13.3%
Price: $43
Source: sample
Vendors: Check http://www.wine-searcher.com/
Website: http://www.sorrenberg.com
Tasted: 2013
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Langtons Classification Tasting: September 2013

The Langtons auction house classification tasting has quickly become one of the “must attend” tastings on the Australian wine calendar.  The Langtons classification is a ranking of 123 of Australia’s best wines in the categories “exceptional”, “outstanding”, “excellent” and “distinguished”.  To make the grade, the wine must have at least 10 vintages, and a judgement is formed (by Langtons) as to track record and reputation measured through market presence, consistency, volume of demand and price.  There are few Australian wines of repute that are not on this list.

The tasting involves taking a glass and wending your way through the melee of Australian wineries pouring their classified wines (generously, I might add) into said glass.  To have the benchmark wines of Australia (think Penfolds Grange, Hensche Hill of Grace, Bass Phillip Pinot Noir, among others) all  freely available within metres of each other makes for an extraordinary event.

To follow are my impressions of the wines tasted.  I have not offered gradings on the basis that in a huge tasting such as this, out of a single glass, it seemed more accurate to note down impressions and glimpses, rather than a serious study of each wine.

My wine of the night:

Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir 2010, Gippsland
I don’t often say this, but wow.  And wow again.  Aromatics of game, smoked meats, cherry and dried herbs.  On the palate, opulent cherry, long length and game and bacon characters at the edges.  The obsessive Phillip Jones at Bass Phillip has nailed this wine.  Simply outstanding, and the wine of the night.

Three wines of great interest:

Penfolds Grange 2007, South Australia
I preferred this to the 2008 Grange.  Similar aromatics to the 2008, except with dried herbs more evident.  On the palate, the length was long and the balance and depth of plum fruit outstanding.  A complete and outstanding wine.

Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 2008, Yarra Valley

Very left bank Bordeaux like, with medium intensity aromatics of blackcurrant and cedar.  Very likeable.  On the palate, blackcurrant, a touch of leather and medium to long length.  Impressive.

Penfolds Grange 2008, South Australia
This is the fabled “100 point” Wine Advocate wine.  It attracted much public interest – whether it was because it received 100 points, or was simply because it was “a Grange”, is probably moot.  A medium to pronounced intensity saturated purple in colour.  Aromatics of vanilla, plum, cedar, black brooding mulberry.  The palate has medium to long length, with plums and a touch of stalk, and yet is full flavoured with the dash of cabernet sauvignon used to good effect.  A little more austere than expected.  Needs time.

And many more wines of interest:

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 2008, Clare Valley
Aromatics of dried tea leaves, ripe plums and a medium intensity expression.  The palate is soft and plush, with between medium and long length, and plum flavours dominant.  I found this wine quite attractive already, with the expression almost merlot like.

Henschke Hill of Grace 2005, Eden Valley
Bottled under screwcap.  Unusually for someone writing about wine in Australia, I am a screwcap agnostic.  This particular Hill of Grace has some odd aromatics that might be attributable to its screwcap closure, as its expression is quite reductive, with strong notes of herbs and asparagus.  The palate though is outstanding, with long length and lovely plum and Christmas cake flavours that run deep.

Yalumba Signature Cabernet Shiraz 2009, Barossa Valley
Aromatics with a touch of menthol, bay leaf and blackberry.  The palate sees licorice, aniseed, black olives and unresolved chalky tannins.

Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir 2010, Macedon Ranges
Bramble, stalk and cherry aromas in an alluring expression.  Restrained cedar.  On the palate, medium length, maybe a little more, and flavours reminding of stones and cherry.  The palate seems intermingled with a mineral edge with acidity at the sides.  A good wine, maybe even impressive.

Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir 2000, Macedon Ranges
From jeroboam.  Now, I don’t say that too often.  Its aromatics are of game, smoked bacon, receding cherry, spice, dried thyme and herbs.  Quite complex really.  The palate has supple resolved tannins, and a quite ripe expression of cherry.

Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2008, Margaret River
Quite austere aromatics of capsicum, bay leaf and blackberry.  The palate tastes youthful, with some plushness, medium to long length, bay leaf, and quite savoury.  A good wine.

Jasper Hill Emily’s Paddock Shiraz Cabernet Franc 2006, Heathcote
Aromatics of pepper and peppermint.  The palate is brooding, with notes of mulberry, plum, dried herbs, “Heathcote” peppermint and medium to long length.  Of interest.

Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz 2006, Heathcote
Quite muted in expression, with plum notes.  A structured palate with perhaps bitter tannins and plums to the fore.

Cullen Diana Madeline 2011, Margaret River
Dried herb, blackberry and some unexpectedly bright fruit by way of aromatics.  On the palate, bay leaf, blackberry and fine tannins.  Good without being outstanding.

Domaine A Cabernet 2006, Tasmania
Aromatics of mushroom, earth, leather and game.  Some brett?  A Bordeaux like expression of blackcurrant and dried herbs on the palate.

Dalwhinnie Eagle Series Shiraz 2010, Pyrenees
Aromatics of plums and dried herbs.   High acid on the palate, and seemed to thin out a little.  But otherwise pleasant.

Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet 2010, Coonawarra
Licorice, iron and blackcurrant aromatics.  On the palate, medium length – maybe a bit more, with notes of blackberry and licorice.  This is an intense but closed wine at this point in time.

Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz 2009, Barossa Valley
I’ve said this before, but what’s with South Australian wine labels?  Aromatics of bright red juby fruit.  The palate also speaks of red juby fruit and medium to long length.  The wine felt quite taut and pulled against the edges, reminding of a southern Rhone blend.

Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir 2008, Gippsland
Aromatics of dried herbs, cherry and thyme, presenting in a restrained fashion.  Smoke, cedar, cherry and spice.  This is a good pinot noir, but the 2010 is stunning.

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernet 2010, Margaret River
Austere aromatics of bay leaf, cedar and blackcurrant.  The palate reminds of French oak, cloves, blackcurrant, and is structured and closed with medium to long length.  Early days.

Clarendon Hills Australis Shiraz 2008, Barossa Valley
Fruity aromatics of ripe plum.  The palate is all about primary fruit purity showing plums with long length and full flavour.  It’s a bit obvious in what it does but it nails the brief.

Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2010, Barossa Valley
Thyme, dried herbs by way of aromatics.  The palate has medium to long length and a dense plummy expression.  A bit broody at this point, but certainly fruit driven.


Yarra Yarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Yarra Valley
Aromatics of leather and blackcurrant.  A leathery palate, with soft pleasant blackcurrants.  Brett?

Balnaves The Tally Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Coonawarra
Ripe blackberries by way of aroma.  On the palate, medium to long length, structure and firm tannins.  Of interest, but too young to drink.

Wild Duck Creek Springflat Shiraz 2011, Heathcote
My question as to why Heathcote’s star didn’t to me appear to be shining quite as brightly as it should be was parried away with denial.  Aromatics of peppermint, plums. The palate shows eucalyptus, peppermint, plum, high acid and some structure.

Giaconda Shiraz 2010, Beechworth
Aromatics of clipped herbs and cloves.  Quite pungent green/herbal aromatics.  On the palate, this is a mean, lean and green shiraz.

Disclosure: I attended this tasting as a guest of Langtons.

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An exercise in "un" terroir in Beechworth

I recently had the good fortune to be served blind three chardonnays from Beechworth, all from the same year (2010), and all sourced from the same mature vineyard (Smith’s vineyard) situated outside of Beechworth.  The thing about blind tasting is it is just that – prejudices and biases are not able to take root – and the results were fascinating.  Why?  Unexpectedly, each wine was completely different.

This is quite a remarkable conclusion if you subscribe to the theory of terroir – that wines should (a normative proposition …) taste of the grapes grown in a particular place and at a particular time.  With these wines, it seemed difficult to fathom that they could have been from the same vineyard.  In fact, they could have been from different countries as far as I could tell.

This leaves some open questions about the concept of terroir.  Plainly, and this may upset some, it has some limits.  My theory is that while terroir can play a role by delivering up grapes of a particular character, this role may not be a dominant one in all circumstances.  Based on this group of wines, it may not even be that important in particular cases.  In this case, it seems likely that it is our winemakers rather than their soil and climate that are the true heroes.  And the thing is, I’m not entirely sure that is a bad thing when the resulting wines are good – which they were in this case.  My inclination and gut feeling is to let a good wine prevail over its origins.

So what were the three wines?  The first was A Rodda’s Chardonnay 2010, made by Adrian Rodda.  The second was the Fighting Gully Road Chardonnay 2010 made by Adrian Rodda and Mark Walpole.  The third was the Golden Ball La Bas Chardonnay 2010 made by James McLaurin.  Interestingly, the exercise finished with the Giaconda Chardonnay 2010 served blind.  Remarkably, in a day of revelations, and as if to prove the merits of blind tasting, it showed the least impressively of the set.

A Rodda Chardonnay 2010 Abv 13%, $40
I understand that this wine didn’t undergo a malolactic fermentation, and the grapes were picked at lower sugar levels than the others.  A pale intensity lemon in colour.  Its aromatics are developing and pronounced in intensity with initial notes of musk and sherbet candy settling to reveal ripe peach, lemon and cedar.  The palate is dry with medium(+) acid, full body, medium(+) length, and flavours of peach, lemon citrus and a bit of heated spice.  Reminding of a Corton Charlamagne, this is a very good quality wine due to its long length and balance in fruit flavours, and is a style I very much enjoy.  Very Good

Fighting Gully Chardonnay 2010 Abv 13%, $32
A pale intensity gold in colour, this wine has a medium(-) intensity aroma, that is developing, of cedar, ripe white nectarines, some lemon citrus, stones and gun flint.  The palate is dry with medium to medium(+) acidity, full body and lemon citrus and cedar flavours.  It is very balanced in expression and has long length.  This is a near outstanding quality wine due to its very long length and purity of fruit expression, and a smash hit.  Very Good to Outstanding

Golden Ball Chardonnay 2010 Abv 13%, low $40s

I understand that this wine did undergo full malolactic fermentation, and was from grapes picked the latest of this group.  This showed in the wine.  A pale intensity lemon in colour, it has developing aromatics of stones, cedar wood, nectarines, lemon citrus, (what I will call) fly spray and vanilla.  The palate is dry with medium(-) acid, a fair lick of vanilla and butter and has probably the longest length of the three wines.  Somewhat older fashioned in style, its long length demonstrates its very high quality.  Its overt buttery character means that it will polarise personal preferences more than the other wines – and I personally prefer a less buttery style, but I still think its character is very good indeed.  Good

And finally, for good measure, here are my thoughts on the Giaconda Chardonnay from 2010.  Giaconda is of course the benchmark wine of the region, and I have had a number of superlative wines from them.

Giaconda Chardonnay 2010 Abv 13%. $120s
The room went a bit silent when this wine was revealed.  In my opinion, it appeared a wine overcome by (Sommelier types please look away now) its screwcap closure.  A pale intensity lemon in colour, it had an aroma dominated by gun flint, with a touch of cedar and lemon citrus fighting through after quite some time in the glass.  The gunflint was very persistent however and refused to go away.  The palate had an oily texture, with notes of apricot, butter and spices.  It had a bitter edge too, seemingly a bit over extracted, and the alcohol seemed to jar on my palate.  Perhaps with more time in the glass, things would have come together to achieve balance.  For the price, I would have expected that.  But sometimes, you can’t wait forever, and not knowing the price or producer, it was not possible to unconsciously grant any graces.  Acceptable to Good

Castagna Sauvage Syrah 2007

Castagna is a very highly regarded producer from Beechworth in northern Victoria at an altitude of 500 metres and has garned praise from many in the know and is generally regarded as a rising star.  The vines are grown biodynamically, the vineyard hand pruned, the fruit hand-picked, the yields low.  All things that an ambitious winery might consider being done, are being done.  Now generally I would say a few more words here about how good the wine is, and you might read on for a bit and make up your own mind.  The story here though takes an unfortunate turn.  The wine had a certain unpleasant character that I could not initially put my finger on.  My thoughts “live”:

An aroma of pepper, ooh a quite strong note of tinned green peppercorns and then, no wait, an acrid character.  Really?  Smoke?  No, perhaps it’s earth – give it the benefit of the doubt.  Nope – smoke, and there it is again on the palate, though offset by some baked plummy fruit and supple medium length.  Why would Vue de Monde, one of Melbourne’s finest restaurants, a candidate for the finest, serve it?  Why would Castagna, an up and coming producer, sell it?  I must be wrong, or at least have different tastes.

And then a colleague, sitting at a different table, quietly informed me of his same conclusion carrying an already replaced glass with a 2008 vintage in it (same producer, possibly a different label though).  And then another person.  So, be it smoke, or something else, something was not quite right on the night.  Now, I have searched in vain for further information about the 2007 vintage for Castagna, or a review of this wine.  The best I can do is this: Langtons describes 2007 thus for Beechworth pinot noir:

The earliest harvest on record finishing in late February. It was also a bloody difficult year with the Australian trifecta of frost, drought and fire. A heavy frost on the 25th September caused severe damage. A second frost followed on the 9th of October but caused little further grief. A third frost reduced the harvest even further. This was followed by drought conditions throughout late spring and summer. Mild to hot weather accelerated budburst and ripening, but yields are down. Bush fire smoke damage is a widespread problem, but this will be entirely vineyard specific. Worse, the Pinot crop was very small. Giaconda has brought in fruit from Bannockburn and the Yarra Valley. Savaterre fared better. Many wines were not made. 4/10

Disappointing.  75 points.

Price: $45 (current vintage)
Website: http://castagna.com.au/