For no particular reason, I haven’t tried a De Bortoli Noble One for years. The 2009 vintage here is a particularly welcome return to this label, with an impression of crispness and purity that suggests that it remains in good hands. Fruit continues to be sourced from the Riverina, and apricots and honey feature aromatically and on the palate. The finish is balanced with good length, and cloying notes are eschewed. This is a very good Noble One release and is recommended.
Here’s a wine called Calabria, varietally labelled as aglianico, yet it comes from the Riverina in Australia, not Italy. Got it? It’s a challenging grape variety, is aglianico. Max Allen praises the variety heavily in The Future Makers (2010, Hardie Grant) saying “I am very excited by the potential of this southern Italian red grape in Australia … Early Australian examples are encouragingly earthy, tannic and robust“. I think the grape’s abundant acidity is a fair addition to this roll-call. I like the idea that producers in the hot inland regions of Australia such as the Riverina are looking at some of the more interesting Italian varietals that may be well suited to their climates, and capable of producing premium table wines while retaining their acidity. The proof as always though is in the tasting.
Which then leads me to the wine. On the one hand, we have a wine that displays the varietal charms of aglianico well, and is sold at $15 too, so it’s hard to be too fussy. It is a deeply saturated colour somewhere between purple and ruby. On the nose, there are plums, pulp from plums, baked fruit, spices, stones, grape skins, raw meat and grass. So quite interesting at this price point. On the other hand, the elevated acidity that runs through the palate and envelopes the fruit, and is typical of the variety, will not be for everyone, and I found it personally challenging. An interesting wine for the price. 84 points.
Westend Estate is a producer situated in Griffiths in New South Wales, and sourced the fruit for this cabernet sauvignon from the hot inland Riverina wine region. The Riverina is perhaps best known for its bulk wine rather than its premium labels, and cabernet perhaps is more suited to cooler regions, but this wine proves the exception. It presented itself near black in colour, with an aroma of dark olives, spices, black fruits, blackcurrants – aromas which improved with time in the glass. On the palate, it had a medium level of persistence, with black fruits and pleasant acidity. This wine was really quite good. Moreover, it seemed to have that level of stuffing and fruit quality to suggest it might age for 5 years or so too, possibly longer. At $20, it is extremely good value. 88-89 points.
De Bortoli were pioneer producers of botyritis semillon from the Riverina region, and the sheer quality (and affordability (and ageability for that matter)) of the “Noble One” wines continues to shine. How did the ’92 stack up (now 19 years old)? Well, first of all, its colour was amazing: almost a deep brown muscat like colour, yet not near oxidised on the palate. Aromas of caramel and, excitingly (for lovers of aged Sauternes), marmalade eeked from the glass. Flavours of sweet nectarines were supported by amazing length and acidity. What impressed me most though was simply the freshness of this wine. It left the palate refreshed, rather than weighed down by any of the cloying stickiness that sometimes occurs with some botrytis semillons. More please. 98 points (8.2/10)
Price: around $25 (current vintage)
Would I buy it having tasted it? Yes
For a somewhat humble label, something very right happened with this wine in 2002. It is made from semillon, and packs a solid 225g/litre of residual sugar. But, it is not cloying. Instead, it has an aroma (and taste) of luscious apricots. It would not be embarrassed were it in the company of the more famous De Bortoli Noble One. 89-90 points (7.4-7.5/10)
Price: about $15
Would I buy it having tasted it? Yes
An aroma of pungent botrytis, and palate with noticeable acidity and sweetness. A sound choice. 84 to 85 points.
An aroma of spices and light red fruits. A pleasant, balanced palate with nice acidity and red fruit. 84 to 85 points.
This fairly low priced wine had an aroma of red fruits, and a simple palate reminiscent of a basic Vin de Pays D’Oc. 80 points.
It was rather interesting tasting one of Australia’s most famous dessert wines against a “clean skin” of the same variety. Although I do not usually support “clean skin” wines since you do not know what you are getting, and I like to support individual producers who are doing interesting things, this particular clean skin was certainly not embarrassed by its esteemed company.
De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon (Australia)
A rather rich nose, with an intense, and well structured, fragrance of apricots. A palate with length, apricots, sweet nectarines and sugary caramel. Very good. 90 points.
Dan Murphy’s Private Bin Botrytis Semillon (Australia)
An aroma of light nectarines and apricot kernels. A similar palate. Behind, but not far behind, the “Noble One” at one third of the price. 86 points.