1. Studying for the upcoming Master of Wine exams continues at pace. I have resisted posting on some more obscure wines, a Canadian cabernet franc ice wine comes to mind here, but I must say it has been a brilliant and broadening experience.
2. Wine Geelong was kind enough to get in touch with me to republish an article I wrote some years ago for wine magazine Alquimie on the Geelong wine region. You can now read it here: https://winegeelong.com.au/history/.
3. You may have seen that I recently updated the website platform of grapeobserver.com. Specifically I moved it over to WordPress which, looking at the results, is something I should have done along time ago. It has made the website more secure, searchable and presentable on multiple platforms. And frankly it’s easier to use. Please let me know if you spot anything awry.
This is a very good pinot noir from Bannockburn in Geelong. In the glass, it has a stemmy aroma (there’s 40% whole bunch in use), with twigs, meat and rhubarb undertones. The palate is between medium and full bodied, with a viscous texture, long length, fresh acidity and some appealing bacon and cherry fruit flavours. Ready to drink now, this should nonetheless improve with a few years in the cellar. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $50+.
I’ve been having a close look recently at vine density. From the simple and incorrect dogma that denser plantings are better (in fact, this holds it would seem only in some circumstances), it is fascinating to read the various studies. At its simplest, for any given area of land, vine density refers to how many vines are planted in that area. However, the actual position is more complex than this and requires consideration of the size of the “intra row” space between vines within a row and the “inter row” spacing of vines between rows. Variation of density is important because it influences other vine growth variables (vine growth itself is a function of soil, rootstock, scion, trellis, shoot density and vine density) such as shoot density and shading. The reasons for variation in vine density are various, including cultural, historical factors and legal requirements in some places, and it can impact quality, yields and costs.
In Australia, vine densities vary but historically have been lower than the “old world” for various reasons. But generalisations are just that, and for the contrary, this is a photo I took a few years ago of very close planted vineyards outside of Geelong at Bannockburn. It’s funny how even though only a few years ago, I have so many more questions looking at a simple picture than I ever did standing in the vineyard at the time.
This is a delicious Bourgogne from Domaine de Bellene. Before I get to the wine, I took away a few of observations from it. First, pinot noir from Burgundy frequently resembles a different grape variety to the vast majority of pinot noirs I taste in Australia. This is not intended as a slight upon Australian pinot noir, of which there are some outstanding examples. It’s just a personal observation, and it is particularly so when I taste these wines blind. The closest match I see in terms of Australian pinot noir styles can be some from Geelong and Gippsland, which happens to correspond with my two favourite local pinot noir regions.
Second, if you can find a good producer, there is value to be had in Burgundy with lesser appellations. Burgundy can be awfully expensive in Australia due to our wine taxation system and the Bourgogne appellation sits at the bottom of the pyramid; yet in the right hands such as Domaine de Bellene in this case deliciousness is possible.
The third (and I promise final!) observation is that the back label of this wine is a wealth of information and is laid out spectacularly well. We quickly learn the average age of the vines is 66 years, vine density is 10,000 feet per hectare, the exposition of the vines is south-south-east, indigenous yeasts were used and the grapes handpicked. In the winery, we equally rapidly learn there’s been no fining, but filtration has been used, and the wine has been aged in oak. This is a lot of really useful information, simply conveyed, while still leaving room for a tribute to the winemaker’s father. Outstanding and so much better than reading the often found generic tasting note that sounds like it’s been written by a copywriter.
The wine itself? It has raspberry, earth and sour cherry aromatics. The palate is textured with chalky and taut tannins, and provides a whole lot of interest for this modest price point and appellation. A yes from me. Rating: Good to Very Good Read more: www.domainedebellene.com
I liked this producer’s riesling (see my review here), so it makes a great deal of sense that I also liked this wine too, which is a blend of riesling (76%) and pinot gris (24%). Labelled as a “crisp dry white” from the Geelong region, the wine in the bottle proves to be exactly that. Nectarine, lemon, a dry palate and good length on the finish make this a lovely and balanced find at $20.
Smartly labelled, this is a sound rosé from Austins & Co in the Geelong region. Aromatics of strawberry and nectarine kernels. The palate reminds of florals with more or less neutral flavours, a viscous texture and seemed a little loose.
Soils matter for pinot noir, and in Geelong, there are a number of soil types. The Scotchmans Hill pinot noir tasted here is grown (as far as I can tell) on the Bellarine Peninsula east of Geelong on volcanic soils of black clay with a basalt subsoil. Mt Moriac is on the other side of the Bellarine to the west of Geelong, and its soils are black self mulching clays with pockets of volcanic ash soils. In terms of Mt Moriac Estate itself, I couldn’t find out much about it so it can remain a mystery. Both wines are fairly simple affairs.
Scotchman’s Hill Pinot Noir 2013 This struck me as having been made from very ripe pinot noir fruit. Cherry aromatics that burst from the glass. The palate is dry, and the impression is youthful, bright and fruit driven. Not the most complex pinot noir in the world, but very pleasant.
Mt Moriac Estate Pinot Noir 2012 Its aromatics were a little more interesting than the Scotchman’s Hill, with notes of cherry and stems. Cloudy in the glass, the palate takes on a rather four square impression of cherries. Enjoyable, but simple.
From the Geelong region, this chardonnay from the 2014 vintage has aromatics of nectarine, lemon and nuts. The palate reminds principally of just picked grapefruit and lemon with medium length and very firm acidity. A bit too firm for me.
Austin’s from the Moorabool Valley in Geelong is a winery I have not tasted a lot from, and this riesling is a very good start. It’s situated at Sutherlands Creek on the other side of Bannockburn, and will see me shortly delve into the history books to find out a bit more about it. The 2015 riesling tasted here is very cool climate in expression. Stones and green apple aromatics yield to a fresh palate with notes of apple, lime zest and a youthful petillance. Fresh and agreeably high in acidity, this is a good riesling.
I think pinot noir from parts of the Geelong region can have an “x factor” that others lack. Perhaps it’s the outcrops of limestone subsoils, the plots of volcanic soils, the region’s long history with the grape, the low rainfall or perhaps it’s just me. Lethbridge are a very good producer located just outside of Bannockburn (well, outside Lethbridge actually, but you get the point). This pinot noir is a sinewy rendition of the grape. Its aromatics remind of bacon, meat, earth, blood, old cedar and smoke. The palate has balanced, relatively full bodied in expression, leaving you wanting that bit more. Enjoyable drinking. Good