May 21, 2004

Notes from the Wine Tasting

I made notes on the wines I tried last night and thought I'd share them for those who might care about these sorts of things. It was a tasting of Australian wines. I was not overwhelmingly impressed.

Preliminarily, I deplore the trend in wine making to amp up the alcohol content in wines. I blame the Wine Spectator and their ilk. When your wine is going to be tasted in a group of 200, you need it to pack more of a punch to have it stand out and one way to do that is to push the alcohol content higher. So, when I saw a Wine Spectator rating in the 90's on any of wines I tasted last night, I went back to check the alcohol percentages. I favor the French view, that reds should not exceed a range of 12.5% to 13.5% of alcohol. Otherwise, it seems to me, that first taste is akin to pure, raw alcohol and I find that to be unpleasant.

I tasted the wines by taking several glasses at a time within a style to make my own flights so that I could compare within styles and still try to evaluate them on their own merits. Except for the whites, where I just had one glass.

First remarks: Please note that each wine was fruity yet pretentious, they all pulled my pants down and mocked me. They made me feel like a little schoolgirl in the first full bloom of freshness. With that out of the way, on to the tastings.

(G# means Glass #).

Chardonnay, Stonehaven "Reserve", Padthaway, 1999 ($35): produced by Australia's biggest wine producer, the Wine Enthusiast said: "Peach and vanilla aromas and flavors take the lead, with buttered popcorn and alcoholic warmth. . ." My view: it was merely ok. That was all I wrote about it.


Cabernet Sauvignon:
G1: Barton Vale, "The Lazarus", Eden Valley, 2001 ($65)
G2: Yalumba, Clare Valley, 1999 ($32)

I tasted them in that order. G1 here, my notes say, was too fruity and had no depth. The overwhelming impression was berry fruit, mostly blackberry. It was intense and stayed throughout the finish, even overlaying the tannins at the end. It had no balance but a big mouth feel. G2 had better balance and less fruit but was thinner and had less of a big presence in the mouth. I tasted apples in this one. Overall, I liked neither very much.

Shiraz (or Syrah):
G1: Reilly's "Stolen Block, Clare Valley, 2001 ($40)
G2: Brown Brothers "Patricia" Reserve, Victoria, 2000 ($30)

G1 got a 92 from Robert Parker who called it "sensational and stunningly proportioned". I disagree. This was, not a surprise here, 15% alcohol. The first taste was raw alcohol and then the fruit comes through afterwards. The fruit was not worth waiting for. G2 had a 14.3% alcohol content and consequently, to me, had better balance with more fruit and was pleasingly dry. I give the nod to G2 here as the better tasting wine.

The Blends:
G1: Haan "Wilhelmus", Barossa Valley, 1999 (1.5L) ($40) (40% Cab, 28% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc with a bit of Malbec and Petit Verdot)
G2: Turkey Flat "Butchers Block", Barossa Valley 2001 ($30) (44% Mataro, 36% Shiraz, 20% Grenache)
G3: Keasler "Avignon", Barossa Valley, 2002 ($30) (58% Grenache, 31% Shiraz, 9% Mouvedre and 2% Viognier)

My favorites were here. Of course, by this time I'd had a fair amount to drink and probably had my taste dulled by the high alcohol content of some of the other wines. G1, at 13.5%, was spicy with a lively mouth feel. It had good fruit and was still dry. I liked it. G2, at 14.5%, was dense, thick and chewy. Parker gave this one a 91 and I'm inclined to agree. G3, at 15%, was surprisingly yummy to me, although I might have been numbed at this point by all the alcohol. It was supposed to be a Rhone style wine but it lacked the spiciness I associate with Rhone wines. Still, it was really jammy with a punch of fruit that tasted like sunshine in a bottle. I liked it a lot. I think that I choose G2 as my favorite here. It was interesting to try three wines, from the same valley, from different years, with different grape makeups and see if I could discern anything from the location. I was probably too drunk at this point to know, but I think that they all had a lot of body and great fruit.

I ordered a French Burgundy, 13.5%, to go with dinner ($55). I wanted to compare it to the Aussie wines generally and, in the opinion of everyone at the table, it was superior to everything we drank at the tasting. It was just a better wine with better balance.

I still prefer the French wines to the Australians I tried last night. All in all, though, it was a lot of fun.

Hope I didn't bore anyone who managed to get this far.

Posted by Random Penseur at May 21, 2004 09:52 AM
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