This is a resoundingly delicious wine from Claude Dugat. From Lavaux-Saint-Jacques, the biggest of the Gevrey-Chambertin premier cru vineyards at 9.53 hectares and situated immediately south of Clos Saint-Jacques, the wine is quite deeply coloured (for pinot noir) and opens to aromatics of blackcurrants, fruit and violets. The palate has fantastic length, with fresh acidity, tannins and great fruit. This wine can be approached now, but should evolve and improve with a decade in the cellar. Rating: Outstanding. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $300+. Website: na. Tasted: October 2018.
Described as a “white pinot”, I had assumed the wine inside would be a pinot blanc. In fact, putting to one side the clonal aspect*, it is a pinot noir that has spent a short time on skins, in a rosé style, and a good one at that. In the glass, the wine is a pale salmon in colour, with aromas of strawberries. The palate is dry with a fullish body, fresh acidity and a stoney, mineral substructure and gentle, savoury strawberry fruit. Good length on the finish confirms this as a good wine, that is ready to drink now. Rating: Good. Abv: 13.1%. Price: $26. Website: www.curlyflat.com. Source: Sample.
* Pinot blanc is a mutation of pinot gris, itself a mutation of pinot noir.
I’m yet to taste a poor Robert Chevillon wine. This is another outstanding one, this time from Nuits-Saint-Georges and the premier cru appellation of Les Cailles. Les Cailles is a 7.11 hectare plot and is directly north of Les Saint-Georges, the greatest climat in Nuits-Saint-Georges. It is said to be subtle, feminine and have softer fruit flavours. In the glass, the 2006 vintage of Chevillon’s Les Cailles, has rich aromas of blackcurrant. The palate is full bodied with hints of licorice, the finish long and the acidity towards high. This is a delicious wine that can be approached now, or safely cellared for a further decade. Rating: Very Good to Outstanding. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $200+. Website: www.domainerobertchevillon.fr
If you are looking for more information on every Burgundy appellation, the Bourgogne Wines website is excellent. The link is here. Clos du Roi is one of the more commonly declared lieux-dits of Corton Grand Cru in the Côte de Beaune. And here’s an example with 25 years of age on it. From Domaine Thomas-Moillard, the wine has a light to medium colour, with tawny edges towards the rim. It opens to aromas of sweet fruit, game, licorice, tertiary tea leaves and old cedar. The palate is earthy, with high acidity and mid range length and is in a light style. This is certainly ready to drink and a tertiary expression of pinot noir that is enjoyable, but ultimately past its best. Rating: Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: na. Website: na
Thousand Candles was launched in the Yarra Valley with a lot of hype, an on trend ethos of site expression, a stellar price ($100) and some gushing reviews. I think some of those reviewers might be a bit embarrassed now. 2011 was the first vintage of Thousand Candles and it’s an unorthodox blend of 92% syrah, 6% pinot noir and 2% sauvignon blanc. 2011 is a poor red vintage in the Yarra Valley, so this must be factored in. In the glass, the wine has quite an unusual aroma that reminds of mushroom (not things like mushrooms, actual mushrooms), earth, red berries, leather, damp rosemary, grass and tinned peas. The contribution of the sauvignon blanc and the whole bunch fermentation is undeniable, though ultimately, I found these characters more grating than enjoyable, as the tinned pea and the damp whole bunch aromas simply overwhelmed. The palate is better. It’s delicate, with medium length and a nice silky balance to it, but seems to lack intensity of fruit expression and is unexpectedly light and simple, a victim of the vintage. It certainly appears to have reached its drinking window. Indeed, I wouldn’t keep this wine much longer. Overall, this is a disappointing wine, that promises much and delivers more smoke than fire. Rating: Acceptable to Good. Abv: not recorded. Price: $100+. Website: www.thousandcandles.com.au.
The new Langtons classification (classification VII) of Australian wine was released last week. It is stated to measure the performance of wines in an open market, with the condition of entry being 10 vintages and a track record in the secondary market. The list has been prepared for many years now, and is prepared by Langtons, a company that forms part of an Australian supermarket conglomerate. You can read it here.
It’s actually a pretty interesting list, even though it is easy to cynical about lists and since it’s wine, everyone has a view. The facts are it captures many, perhaps almost all, of Australia’s great wines and helps provide an easy reference point to quality Australian wine for expert and new comer alike. I think it therefore is of use.
In this post, I wanted to sift through the list to see what has changed, as that is potentially of interest in spotting trends. So, I am going to look at the promotions, demotions and departures. The latter two have seemingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly at least from producers, attracted little comment that I have seen. Here’s what I found.
Promotions at the top level (exceptional)
At the top level, there is only one move, a new entrant. The new wine is Best’s Thomson Family Great Western Shiraz. I have tasted this wine on few occasions, but it is a very good wine. There are many outstanding wines at this level. I do think though that Grange and Hill of Grace remain above most of them.
Promotions at second level (outstanding)
At the next level, twelve wines were promoted:
1 Best’s Bin 0 Great Western Shiraz
2 By Farr Sangreal Pinot Noir, Geelong
3 Charles Melton Nine Popes Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre, Barossa Valley
4 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz, McLaren Vale
5 Henschke Euphonium Shiraz Cabernet Merlot, Barossa Valley
6 Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet, Great Southern
7 Langmeil 1843 Shiraz, Barossa Valley
8 Leeuwin Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
9 Seppeltsfield Para Liqueur Port, Barossa Valley
10 Yalumba Signature Cabernet Shiraz, Barossa
11 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 Cabernet, Yarra Valley
12 Yeringberg Cabernet, Yarra Valley
These promotions are from quite a mix of regions and styles, with five wines from the Barossa and three wines from around Melbourne, namely the Yarra Valley and Geelong. But it is a strong list. I haven’t encountered a couple – Howard Park’s wine and the Seppeltsfield fortified specifically. Leeuwin’s cabernet sauvignon has improved over the years.
Promotions at the third level (excellent)
At the next level, twelve wines also have been promoted:
1 Cullen Wines Kevin John Chardonnay, Margaret River
2 Deep Woods Estate Reserve Cabernet, Margaret River
3 Hentley Farm Clos Otto Shiraz, Barossa Valley
4 Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley
5 Kooyong Haven Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula
6 Oakridge 864 Chardonnay, Yarra Valley
7 Oliver’s Taranga Reserve Shiraz, McLaren Vale
8 Vass Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay, Margaret River
9 Wine by Farr Tout Pres Pinot Noir, Geelong
10 Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
11 Yabby Lake Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula
12 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 2 Shiraz, Yarra Valley
I have tasted most, but not all, of these wines. Of the twelve, interestingly ten are from the Margaret River and the wine regions around Melbourne. A couple of wines here will be on a higher trajectory, with Oakridge’s 864 chardonnay the most obvious example.
Now, my spreadsheet was tested by trying to track the various movements, so if there is an error here or anywhere else in this post let me know. These are the wines that have been moved down a level:
1 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
2 Chambers Muscat, Rutherglen
3 Chambers Topaque, Rutherglen
4 Crawford River Riesling, Western Victoria
5 Dalwhinnie Eagle Shiraz, Pyrenees
6 De Bortoli Noble One, New South Wales
7 Glaetzer Amon Ra Shiraz, Barossa Valley
8 Grosset Springvale Riesling, Clare Valley
9 Majella Malleea Cabernet, Coonawarra
10 McWilliams Lovedale Semillon, Hunter Valley
11 Noon Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale
12 Paringa Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula
13 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz, Western Victoria
14 Wynns Michael Shiraz, Coonawarra
15 Yalumba Octavius Shiraz, Barossa
This group is a bit of a mixed bag, but they all remain in the classification, so really, it is not that the wines have all suddenly undergone some misfortune. I will return to this shortly, as first I want to mention the wines left out of this classification. They are:
1 Bannockburn Serre Pinot Noir, Geelong
2 Greenock Creek RR Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley
3 Wolf Blass Platinum Shiraz, South Australia
4 Coldstream Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley
5 Katnook Prodigy Shiraz, Coonawarra
6 Lake’s Folly Chardonnay, Hunter Valley
7 Lindemans Shiraz Cabernet, Coonawarra
8 Paringa Shiraz, Mornington Peninsula
9 Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling, Clare Valley
10 Primo Estate Joseph, South Australia
11 Rolf Binder Shiraz, Barossa Valley
12 Sally’s Paddock Cabernet, Pyrenees
13 Savaterre Chardonnay, Beechworth
14 Wantirna Amelia Cabernet blend, Yarra Valley
15 Wild Duck Creek Estate Springflat Shiraz, Heathcote
This is a very interesting list. It would appear to reflect changing styles (rich and bold styles to more elegant), some declining fortunes and perhaps declining interest in a couple of cases.
You can slice and dice these a number of ways to work out trends, but it is interesting to look at which grape varieties and regions had the most net promotions and demotions. Here’s what I found, using a very simple method of promotions minus demotions for grape varieties and regions:
Pinot Noir, net +2
Cabernet sauvignon & cabernet first blends, net +1
Chardonnay, net +1
Shiraz & shiraz first blends, net -2
Riesling, net -3
Margaret River, net +4
Yarra Valley, net +3
Barossa Valley, net +2
Coonawarra, net -4
This is just one means of looking at this information, and wine is notoriously diverse. However, in terms of grape varieties, this may very tentatively suggest that pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet blends are grape varieties on the up, and riesling and perhaps shiraz is not. There is a lot of movement in shiraz both up and down and a lot of shiraz on the list, so I am slow to draw strong conclusions on shiraz, but it is net down.
The funny thing is that this more or less accords with what I anticipated might be seen, except for the cabernet blends. The pinot noir charge is led by the established wine regions around Melbourne – the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Geelong. Tasmania has not yet seen its day, although I think it is coming.
In terms of movements in regions, the Margaret River, the Yarra Valley and the Barossa lead the pack for net promotions. Coonawarra has seen the most demotions. Again, these are not particular surprises. If tentative observations may be made, and there seems no reason not to make them, perhaps it is that the Yarra Valley appears to be rising with more serious producers than ever and the Margaret River has become Australia’s benchmark region for cabernet sauvignon. And Coonawarra, well, I think it could be so much more than it is. Perhaps that is a post for another day.
Pale in colour, this Mornington Peninsula pinot noir – the entry level offering from Ten Minutes by Tractor – opens to aromas of wild herbs and redcurrant. The palate is medium bodied with fresh chalky tannins and acidity, and good length on the finish. This is great value at $34 and is Burgundian in styling. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 13%. Price: $34. Source: Sample.
A first wine for me from this producer, and a good one. Lucinda Estate in South Gippsland have fashioned a wonderful pinot noir here from the 2015 vintage. It has a very evocative aroma reminding of black currant, game and bacon. The palate has prodigious length, good counterbalancing acidity and delicious red fruit flavours. This is an outstanding wine that can be approached now. Rating: Outstanding. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $50+ Source: Sample.
This is an excellent pinot noir release from Curly Flat. It unfurls in the glass to reveal an aroma of redcurrant, florals in general and roses in particular. The palate is terrifically balanced with long length and its viscosity balanced by fresh acidity. This wine has a Burgundian sensibility, and can be approached now. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 13.7%. Price: $50+. Source: Sample.
This is Toolangi’s most interesting pinot noir yet. From Dixon’s Creek, it opens to a wonderfully Burgundian aroma of rhubarb, blackcurrants and earth. The palate is viscous and has good length. A very enjoyable wine that can be approached now. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 13.8%. Price: $38. Source: Sample.