Tuesday, August 29, 2006

2003 Bordeaux En Primeur

I got a call from Stewart Plant, from The Wine Emporium, the other day saying that my 2003 Bordeaux en-primeur wines had arrived and had been packed up.

I have been looking forward to this for some time and already can't wait for my 2004s to arrive this time next year. I must remember to place my 2005 order - it should have been in a month or two ago.

My order consisted of a number of Chateau Pontet-Canet (Pauillac), Chateau Grand-Puy-
Lacoste (Pauillac) and Chateau Branaire-Ducru (St Julien).

Imagine my disappointment when I went to the Wine Journal to look up my
Grand-Puy-Lacoste (5th growth) only to find they didn't review the 2003 vintage. However, I did find a review by Robert Parker, who said "Dark ruby/purple-tinged with notes of pure cassis, tobacco leaf, spice box, and some background minreal characteristics, the wine is medium bodied, revealing good ripeness, sweetness, and overall fine balance with relateively low acidity and ripe tannin. Anticipated maturity 2008-2017. Score - 89-91 points" (tasted April 2004). I note it is only 13.4% alcohol.

I have enjoyed my previous Pontet-Canets (5th growth), the 1995 and 2001. Robert Parker rated the 2003 at 92-94 in 2004 and dropped by one to 91-93 in 2005. Wine Spectator said "Very concentrated nose of blackberries, licorice and smole, turning to flowers. Full bodied, very rich and powerful with massive tannins, but it finishes sweet and ripe. This is muscular, but then it turns to crushed fruit. Superseductive. Best Pontet I have ever tasted. 95-100 points" Steve Tanzer reated it 91-94 and Quarin 90-91. I am really looking forward to this wine but with an expected maturity 2012-2030 I will have to wait a while.

I have never tried a Ch Branaire-Ducru and took some of these on faith. The Wine Journal had this to say:
"I thought this was a seriously good Brainaire. As with so many Saint Julien wines there was little on the nose. But the palate is lovely - very restrained, well-knit with a touch of black coffee intermingled with those black fruits. Good grip on the finish. Superb wine. Long aging potential. (21/25) Tasted again after bottling at the UGC in Oct-05. The nose is still very backward, with blackberry and tobacco. Good definition and freshness. The palate has crisp acdity with notes of black fruits and tar. Quite muscular and good persistency. This has medium/long-term potential. (20/25) "

Robert Park rated it 91-94, Steve Tanzer 90-93 whilst others had it 88-91. Quite a wide range of scores from the experts 88-94. It will be interesting to try this 4th Growth - expected maturity 2009-2020 - as it was significantly less expensive than the other two 5th growths but rated just as well.

I just love getting new wines and it is moderately disappointing/annoying to have to lay them down for a few years. Oh well, I will just have to by a few more guzzlers to make the time go faster.

Has anyone tasted any of these yet?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

August is almost over. Time to celebrate? Thanks Tyrrells!!

I think I have mentioned somewhere, either in a post or a comment, that August is our biggest month of the year at the office. The audits (we don't do a lot of them - but they are painful and draining) are almost complete and the tax and consulting work is rolling in. (I only do audits because I can't stand the excitement of accounting and did not have the personality to become an undertaker.) It is a great month for our business and I love it - however I am still always glad when it is over. This year will be no exception. As usual, at the end of August, I feel I am almost hitting the E on the guage and am in dire need of rejuvenation.

Realising this, the better-half (God love her) arranged for a special dinner last night (Friday). We always try to have a nice dinner on Friday night that we can both look forward to. It certainly helps me to get through the week. We make sure the kids are in bed before we sit down to dinner, drink wine, talk and relax. This tempered somewhat on the weekends when I have to work Saturday but it still doen't stop me from looking forward to Friday nights.

Last night she prepared a mustard and lemon encrusted roast eye fillet with baked veggies. The meat was superb.

What to drink with it?? I had no idea and didn't spend much time considering it but went to Shelf 3 of the Kitchener Wine Cabinet (Shelf 1 and 2 holds the really good stuff - Grange etc) and picked up the first bottle I layed my hands on - a 1997 Tyrrells Vat 9 Shiraz (Hunter Valley).

I had almost forgotten about these. I bought 6 some years ago and still hadn't touched them. I thought it would be a good test to see how they were going, erspecially as the label says the wine will develop further in the bottle until about 2007.

There was a strong eucalyptus (?), mint(?),earthy, spicy nose to the wine. It was a medium red in colour and the palate was tightly structured with firm tannins, balanced acid and a smooth, moderately long finish and exhibited spicy fruit. This wine is drinking beautifully! YUM!!

My overall rating was 90-92/100

Scoring the individual components we (I say 'we' because the better-half assisted with the review) came up with 18.5/20

Only 5 bottles left and - only five days left in August???? Naaah! Don't even think it!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Vale Len Evans OBE (1931-2006)

I did not know Len Evans personally but I have heard him speak and I have certainly read a lot of stuff he has written. Even though I did not know him I feel a sense of loss at his passing yesterday. Some called him the Godfather of the Australian Wine Industry.

I don't know enough about him so I have copied the following piece about Len from the
Winepros site - he will be sorely missed in Australia and, I am sure, around the world.

Len Evans was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1982 for his services to the wine industry and charity, and the AO (Order of Australia) in 1999 for his continued work in those fields.

He was the first regular wine columnist in Australia (1962), wrote the first major encyclopedia of Australian Wine (1973) was the founding director of The Australian Wine Bureau. (1965)Since 1982 he has been President of The Australian Wine Foundation, (1990-1996) Chairman of Wine Australia '96, has continued to write, lecture and broadcast on numerous occasions and has been a leader in the export drive. During the '80s he was the first Australian to be asked to address the biggest event of its kind in the world, the Wine Spectator Wine Experience in New York. This led to two further invitations, which further led to being made Master of Ceremonies for the event a role he has continued to fill. He is the only non-American to be part of the annual personnel of the event. He has also been prominent in other countries, most notably the U.K, where, as in the U.S.A, he has represented Australia rather than his own companies.

He has been a member of the Qantas selection panel for 35 years and Chairman of it for 30. Having judged all major wine shows in Australia before 1982, (acting as Chairman of R.A.S Sydney since 1977) Evans went on to become Chairman of the National Wine Show in Canberra (1982-90), Chairman of Adelaide (1987-90) the Hunter Wine Show (1994 - ) and remaining Chairman of Sydney. During this time the Australian Show system became the envy of wine industries of the world. Above all else, he has been instrumental in helping lift the standard of wine show judging to its present pre-eminence in the world.

Evans was Chairman of Rothbury Wines since its foundation in 1969, and Petaluma since 1978. He remained Chairman of Petaluma until 1992, during which time it went from a 500 case company to one making 80,000 cases, establishing a worldwide reputation. He was Chairman of Rothbury Wines till 1996, which went from a 10,000 case company in 1972 to one of 650,000 cases in 1996, employing over 200 persons.He has been Chairman of Evans Wine Company since 1996, Evans Family Wines from 1980 and Tower Estate since its conception in 1998.

Since 1957 Evans has supported fund-raising drives for charity on hundreds of occasions. Typically, in 1987 he accepted an invitation to help a function founded by Australian Associated Press (AAP) to raise money for the St Vincent's Leukaemia Unit. This led to a further call in 1988 and from that date he became involved on an annual basis. In 1993, it was renamed the "AAP Len Evans Financial Markets Day" after raising $1,000,000 in 1992. The event has raised $10,000,000 in 14 years, and many charities, including the original, have benefited greatly. Evans has personally organised many of the events, lots, cellars and collections which have become a feature of the annual auction which he conducts, as well as donating the wine for the sponsor's lunch and the actual event.

1969 Epicurean Award for services to the Wine & Food Industry. 1982 Charles Heidseick Award for Wine Writing1986 Personalitee de l'Annee, Paris (Oenology section - Gastronomy)1992 RAS Sydney Medal for Outstanding Contribution 1993 Chevalier de l'Ordre Merite Agricole (French Government)1995 SMH Food Guide Award for Professional Excellence1995 1st Life Member of the Society Of Wine Educators1995 NSW Award for Outstanding Contribution to the NSW Wine Industry1995 Elected Member of the College of Patrons of the Australian Wine Industry.1996 Restaurant Association Hall of Fame1997 'Decanter' Magazine - International Award for"MAN OF THE YEAR"1998 Graham Gregory Award1999 Awarded AO - Appointment as a Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Penfold's Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 1998

I apologise for the tardiness of my posting. In my office at least August is traditionally our biggest month of the year and it has been hard to find time to do anything but work. A few coincidences have given me the time to write this short piece.

Firstly, after the biggest week in our office's history I came down with a bad headcold. Secondly, a good friend decided to have his wedding on a Tuesday (yesterday) at a small mountain hideaway. Thirdly, today is a public holiday in Brisbane and if I hadn't been (1) recovering from the cold and (2) recovering from a huge day and night yesterday, I would have gone into the office today to catch up on some work.

The wedding we went to was a magical event. The ceremony was held on a rotunda that was out in the middle of a small mountain lake. Just a beautiful setting. This was followed by High Tea (consisting of tea, coffee, cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches) whilst the happy couple had their photographs taken. To entertain the guests during this period a magician came around and performed at the various tables scattered on the verandah of this Tudor styled manor in the mountains. There was also an artist whose job it was to caricature every guest on the one big sheet of paper to present framed to the bride and groom.

The dinner, held in the dining room, of what was a very English style pub, was a great event. We were entertained throughout the meal by 3 actors playing Manuel, Basil Fawlty and Sybil Fawlty (of Fawlty Towers fame - that John Cleese made famous). They served dinner, in character, and had everyone in stitches. The food was wonderful served with 3 good wines. A 1996 Grosset Chardonnay, 1998 Petaluma Chardonnay and a 1997 Penfold's Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz.

But I digress - on to the wine review. The better half and I drank the 1998 Penfold's Bin 389 on 30 July 2006 and I can't recall the occasion and why I chose this wine. However I suspect that it had something to do with tasting the 1998 Bin 407 and wanting to see how the 389's were going.

The wine had BIG berry and blackfruit aromas (maybe even blackcurrents). I was still very dark, dark red with maybe a touch of purple (but I might have been wishing that into the wine but the lighting is not the best in our dining room at home and I remember doing the tasting notes there).

There is no mistaking that this wine is full bodied with big berry taste, plenty of tannins and good acid. It is smooth but powerful and obviously will last another 6-10 years. I hope I am right on this as I still have around 14 bottles left.

I loved this wine but interestingly it doesn't seem to scream 'Barossa', or any other place for that matter. This is something I am only starting to become aware, of in a limited way, recently.

On an overall rating I gave it 93-96/100

and scoring the individual attributes


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Yarra Yarra Dinner - Restaurant II (Brisbane)

As mentioned in an earlier post, the better half and I ventured out (with wine-buddy and lawyer extraordinaire Lynton and his beautiful wife Lisa) to the remarkable Restaurant II in Brisbane to an event put on by Yarra Yarra Vineyards and in conjunction with The Wine Emporium.

What a spectacular wine-filled evening!! It was hosted by wine maker and owner of Yarra Yarra, Mr Ian MacLean (pictured below) who was celebrating his classification by Langton's. We were extremely fortunate to be seated at the head table and enjoyed the company of Ian for the evening.

Pre-dinner we tasted the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillons of 1999 and 2003 with small leek and goat's cheese tartlets.

The main event was the vertical tasting of 10 vintages of The Yarra Yarra Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from 1993 to 2003. The numerically astute amongst you will realise that this is 11 vintages, however there was no 1996 made as the vintage was too wet to allow a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon to be made.

What a great test of a wine and a wine maker! 10 consecutive vintages all tasted at the same time.

The first 'flight' consisted of the 1993, 1994 and 1995 vintages tasted with pan-seared scallops and a seaweed risotto. Ian maintained his favourite was the 1993 but I have to say the 1995 was drinking particularly well and was my pick of the three. The amazing thing was that all three still had plenty of good strong acid (in balance) and there was definitely some time left in the wines. All three, but particularly the 1993, were reasonably tightly structured and very elegant. I started to score the wines on the 20 point scale and 100 point scale but was too slow and was missing most of the conversation so gave it away after 1993 (didn't even finish that one properly). But I did manage to jot down my some impressions and overall scores on the first three wines, incidentally matching their years.

1993 = 90-93/100 (fresh young leather aroma, maybe a bit herbacious? tannins very gentle but I was unsure of how tight and narrow the flavours seemed - maybe it is this wine has better structure than most I am used to)
1994 = 94/100 (good acid - the better half's pick of the three)
1995 = 95/100 (tannins still noticeably present but gentle)

The second flight of wines were the 1997, 1998 and 1999 which we had with veal fillet on a polenta base and with porcini mushrooms. Now we were talking some really serious wines with some improvement left in them. My pick for drinking well now was the 1997. Ian said the 1997 tended to polarise people - Halliday loved it but Jeremy Oliver didn't. He said he thought that of the three it had the least amount of time left. Ian's pick was the 1998, which was an elegant but powerful wine. I though it definitely had the greatest potential for longevity and improvement of the three. (On memory alone I would rate the 1997 at 96/100 and the 1998 at 97/100)

The last flight of wines was the 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. Amazing! The 2000 was sensational, luscious and elegant - a 97/100 or maybe even a 98. We had the wines with lightly seared wagyu beef, carrot, parsnip and baby onions. The 2001 had an amazing intensity of flavour - more so than any of the other wines. When I said this Ian told me that the 2001 vintage was the hotest on record for them and the grapes that resulted where absolutely tiny - about the size of currents (but not shrivelled). He told me that the 2001 had rated all over the place and he felt it was generally misunderstood and that all it needed was a good deal more bottle age. I honestly cannot recall the 2002 that well (because we also had some of his 2000 merlot in there somewhere) and all I remember about the 2003 was the same fine structure and elegance.

What an amazing body of work for the wine maker. He told me he was never embarrassed to show any of them anywhere. Ian was extremely down to earth and took our amateurish comments and questions with good humour and freely shared his knowledge and experience.

I hope I have done the wines justice as towards the latter end of the evening I couldn't recall which wine was which of the last flight - especially as some glasses were topped up and others weren't. What a great night!!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Penfold's Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

This wine has 13.5% alcohol and is made from grapes from a variety of regions. It is dark red with noticeable legs. There was a slight sediment. The nose exuded strong blackcurrents and burnt toast. The better-half said she could smell toast and vegemite.

The flavours were still big and full bodied and there were plenty of tannins to go around. I wonder if the tannins at the end were bigger than the flavour.

This wine will last another 6-8 years and it will be interesting to see if the flavours develop, or whether it is just a case of the tannins softening, over time. I hope it is the former as I still have 11 left.

I gave it an overall rating of 90-94/100

When I rated the wine on its individual characteristics, I came up with
18 - 18.5/20

I apologise for the range thing happening but, as I have said before, it is a confidence thing. Because I usually taste alone I sometimes seem to talk myself into and out of various notes. Did this happen to any of you at the beginning??

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Syrah 2004

I bought a case of this on the strength of GW's recent tasting notes . Despite what GW had written, I saw his high score and saw Shiraz and I think subliminally I expected something totally different to what I got. On drinking I was not dissapointed, in fact I was blown away! Even though I had read the tasting notes a few times I was still surprised.

I prepared a joint from a rib roast, seasoned in salt, pepper, garlic and chopped thyme - pan seared for 3 minutes on each side and placed into 250C oven for 15 minutes (sorry no photos).

I made a simple mash potato (no milk or butter) by mashing with a fork with some added parmesan cheese and two raw eggs (they cook in the hot potato). This becomes a very creamy potato - yum!!!

I then used the pan the meat was seared in to fry some garlic and mushrooms, which were then removed. Turn the heat way down and add some butter to the pan and when melted, gradually and carefully add 2-3 tablespoons of plain flour (one at a time and mix carefully with a roux spoon so mixture doesn't become gluggy). Then add stock, a little at a time and mix vigorously so that mixture does not become gluggy. When mixture is good gravy thickness add mushroom and garlic and juices back in with a dash of red wine.

The wine has 14% alcohol, but you do not notice. I found a floral nose with earthy undertones and maybe a hint of butter (is this oak as there was no evidence of butter on the palate??) and even the slightest hint of fresh cigar smell. It is medium to full bodied with the same earthy undertones on the palate, with blackfruits. The was great intensity of flavour and good length. The finish is superb with gentle tannins. Don't expect the gob smacking big fruit flavours and huge tannins of some of the better known shiraz. Put simply this wine has a real elegance to it - I love it.

I know my tasting notes are totally different to GW's, in fact you would think they are different wines, however I can only write it the way I see it (or smell it). If there has been an error made by either one of us, I think you can safely assume it will be mine!!

I gave this wine on an overall score of


and when I rated each of the components I came up with


The reason for the range on the component rating is because I vacillated between 2.5 and 3 (out of 3) for palate - intensity.

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