I don’t normally hang out in the city on the weekends, but happened to be studying for my Graduate DIploma in Corporate Governance at work on Saturday morning. So I was only too happy to accept an invitation from a mate at work to attend a tasting at Mezzo restaurant, in Little Bourke Street.
The tasting started at midday and there were 7 producers exhibiting. Most were from the Yarra Valley, but a couple further afield: Red Hill on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula and the Bellarine Peninsula, on the west side of Port Phillip Bay, near Geelong.
The tasting tables were set up in a circle, surrounding the bar in the middle of the restaurant. So we started with a white circuit. We tried mainly chardonnay but also tried a fairly Loire-style Sauvignon Blanc and a 100% Rousanne. No stand out wines I’m afraid, and the cheapest was still $26, so no great value for money either.
On the plus side, all of the exhibitors were friendly, eager to talk about their wines and most importantly, gave generous pours!
On the red circuit we discovered some lovely Pinot Noirs indeed. Best value wine of the day was definitely the Rob Hall 2013 Pinot Noir. At $26 a bottle, this wine was full of rich red berry flavour. I’ve since checked out Rob’s website, which is well worth having a look at, particularly his explanation of how he came to put his name on the label.
Speaking of labels, his was the best label too. Clean, clear and free of clutter. Nice.
http://robhallwine.com.au/

Also worth a mention is the Oakdene Bellarine Peninsula Pinot Noir. Densely coloured and flavoured, it had a bit more oak influence than the Rob Hall, and a touch more complexity. A well made and enjoyable wine. At $31 a bottle, it was ok value for money, but had it been $25, then I’d have bought a few bottles.

P1040098Fine and rare wines nowadays tend to be consumed by the increasingly privileged few: rich Chinese, (I suspect none of whom actually know much about wine – it’s more of a status thing), bankers and maybe the odd wine journalist, in the right place at the right time.

For us lowly masses, we must make do with more affordable wines, and occasionally we get the chance to try something truly amazing. Easter 2013 was one such pleasure for an exclusive group of Corks and their wags in central Victoria, at T. We were lucky enough to open a bottle of Morgan Vineyards Pinot Noir 2001. Without exaggeration, one of the finest Pinot Noirs I’ve been lucky enough to taste.

By way of background, Morgan Vineyards, in Seville, Victoria (Yarra Valley), was established in around 1984 by Rog. Rog had the foresight to plant Pinot Noir, amongst the Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot. Initial Pinot prototypes were extremely encouraging, including Rog’s infamous 1998 vintage – very Yarra Valley in style, but simply awesome – and the label a simple font in inkjet without graphics.

The 2000 vintage was Rog’s finest (in Cork and brother Cork’s opinions), but the 2001 was a photo-finish for second. Completely French in style, massively complex, delicate and elegant in appearance and palate, perfectly balanced, fruity and spicy. There are now only 3 bottles of the 2001 left in existence. Readers of this blog may recall Cork is critical of high priced wines that do not offer good value for money, such as a couple of central Victorian producers that sell their “reserve” wines for $60 when I think they should be more like $20. But Rog went to the opposite extreme, charging about $25 for the 2001, which I think could have commanded $300 a bottle and cult status to boot.

So Mr Harry Hindsight always got it right, and it’s now way too late to make any more of the stuff, given Rog and A sold the property in 2009. D’oh! But those three remaining bottles are priceless, and when Corks drinks them, always in the company of people he cares about, it’s one brief foray into the world of the super-rich enjoying the finest and rarest wines in the world.

P1050162

Hola Amigos.

Cork and the Ps went to a guided tour and tasting at Enrique Mendoza wines, one of the top 30 wine producers in Spain, by quality.

The tour commenced in the vineyard where we learnt about the natural treatment of the vines by this family owned business. We then learnt some about the wine making process, and their use of French oak. I was not surprised to learn that French oak barrels that cost Aussie winemakers $5,000 apiece are a more affordable EUR1,000 in Spain. It is well known that EVERYTHING in Australia costs more, and I’m not just referring to Ms Gillard’s taxes.

EM have a very old world outlook in their wine making, including the use of cork. We were treated to a slightly evangelical briefing on the importance of using cork over other, more recent technologies, like screw-cap. Mummy P stirred it up a little by asking about screw-cap, but there was no point arguing about it.

The tasting was excellent. Six wines (a chardonnay followed by 5 reds) plus a sticky, each accompanied by a variety of cheeses, salami and bread sticks. The sticky was accompanied by chocolate. There was a group of Swedish ladies on the tour and Cork couldn’t help but notice they didn’t seem to dig the cheese too much. But they virtually demolished the chocolates as soon as they were put on the table.

The wines were very good too. I was surprised that the wines were mainly international varieties – I was expecting a range of Iberian curiosities – but they were well crafted, balanced and compared with the ubiquitously overpriced wines of Australia, outright cheap!

For me, their best wine was “a very unusual blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz” which was fruity, complex and long. There was plenty of new French oak, but the wine was vintage 2009 so the 4 years’ bottle age had no doubt settled it down nicely. How much was this wonderful wine? Eight euros ($10). I know of at least two central Victorian wineries that pass off similar, but inferior wines under their “reserve” labels for $60!

P1050172

P1050019P1040967

Corks has been the guest of his long time mate, Slay. Slay got married to Sasha in 2011 and received some fine wines from various well-wishers for their wedding. Slay kindly opened one such of these wines last Sunday night: Lebanon’s finest and most well-known (well, for those who are not from Lebanon) wine, Chateau Mussar.

I’d never tried Chateau Musar before and was really looking forward to it, particularly because it was in magnum, and being vintage 2004, had a good 9 years’ bottle age under its belt. Chateau Musar red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault. The wine was lovely. Silky smooth mouth feel and still full of fruit. I reckon it could easily have lasted another 10 years. Among the red berry and darker forest fruits was spice and soft tannin. A very good wine indeed.

The Corks have recently visited London as part of a UK / Spain holiday to catch up with friends and family. London is a wonderful and exciting city, perhaps second only to New York as the “capital city of the world”.

It’s been about 2 years since I’ve been in London, and it’s remarkable how quickly you forget the details. How do you get to High Street Kensington or Paddington by the tube? Where does the 176 bus take you to? So when I went into a Waitrose to buy some wine for a catch up at Mandy’s house, I’d forgotten about the range of wines available, sorted by country. While the range of wines at the Beckenham Junction Waitrose is not as good as say, the Waitrose in Canary Wharf, there was still a competent range from France, Spain, Italy, USA, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. Oh, and South America too. I don’t think many other places in the world routinely stock wines from such a wide range of countries, as does the UK. I’ve personally observed in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal wines only from those countries and you’d be hard pressed to get a Margaret River Cabernet or even a Marlborough Sauv Blanc.

So Cork purchased something from Saint Joseph in Northern Rhone. I’d heard StJ wines are cheaper than the more esteemed villages, but almost as good. So value for money, worth giving a go, particularly because the wine was GBP11 reduced from GBP14. Corks likes a bargain. The wine was rubbish – thin, astringent and lacking depth of fruit or complexity. That’s not to say all wines from StJ are rubbish I’m sure, but this was no good.

I also purchased a Burgundy from Beaune. I prefer the wines further south in the Cotes de Nuits, which I think are fruitier, but was keen to give a Beaune a go. This was a wine by Laboure-Roi Cote De Beaune Villages 2010.

Upon opening, the wine it was bright ruby red in colour and clear. Some red berry fruit on the nose, but not giving away much. So far, no problem. But a wine is for drinking, so in the mouth it was disappointing. Thin, short and lacking fruit. There was not much complexity or anything more to describe. At around GBP11 it was never going to be thrilling, but could have been drinkable. Just as well there’s lots more wine out there. Until next time.

P1050116

Anyone familiar with Cork’s wine preferences will be well aware he is a big fan of Chardonnay. Corks orders it all the time at restaurants, at least as a starter in anticipation of the reds. But even for a hardened Chardonnay drinker, sticking solely to Chardonnay can get a bit boring.

So it was a real pleasure the other day to be introduced to an Australian produced Fiano – Rosemount Estate “Nursery Project” Fiano 2011. The label indicates the powers that be at Rosemount are encouraging their people to experiment with different varieties, and I’m all for it. I’ve had Fiano before, but only in Italy where it is common. So it was with some curiosity to try this one from Langhorne Creek, South Australia.

In the glass it is crystal clear, bright and light gold in colour, with a hint of pink about it. The nose has some citrus and melon, but predominantly granny smith apples. The wine tastes great too – acidic, but a vague touch of sweetness balances it out. Grapefruit, pawpaw and more apples. When the glass warms up as the volume inside goes down, there is some aniseed.

12.0% alcohol to be loudly applauded.

Retails for $24. Recommended.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Rosie turned 3 recently and a big group of close and extended Corks were in Hawthorn to celebrate. The wines brought along by guests, as well as those provided by the host, were:

1. Moet e Chandon Non Vintage Brut

2. Wolf Blass Reisling (not sure of vintage, but most likely recent)

3. Scotchmans Hill Geelong Pinot Noir (ibid re vintage)

4. Balgownie Bendigo Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

5. Rosemount Shiraz 1994

Then later, just as Corks was leaving, a Tahbilk Marsanne 2003 was cracked, unfortunately as Corks was walking out the door.

A brief comment on each:

1. As regular readers to Cork Talk will know, Corks doesn’t really like sparkling wines of any type, so a tasting glass worth of the Moet was the order. The usual biscuity flavours that are so cliche with wine writers describing Champers. I’d prefer to say it was thoroughly cleansing in the mouth = no wonder sparkling wines are aperitifs. Very nice indeed, but let’s get it over with so we can move on to the stills…

2. The Reisling was lemony and limy, but with a hint of spritz (how many wines have I sent back with a spritz). Enjoyable nonetheless.

3. Scotchman’s Hill was really good indeed. Clear and clean red berry fruit and elegant tannins. Very enjoyable indeed. $30 a bottle at Dan Murphy’s. Was hoping it would be cheaper and even better value for money (like their Chardonnay), but still worth it.

4. The suprise gem of the day. Rich and fruity, but somehow restrained and not at all jammy. The tannin was seamless. Perfect balance. Dense cassis. Elegant and exceptionally good for the $30 or so paid at cellar door.

5. The Rosemount was interesting and a real treat to drink. With 18 years’ bottle age, it had developed a slight funky old wine smell and taste, but still had good fruit and a silky mouthfeel.

It’s Corks’ birthdee next. He’s had a fair few of them, but still gets excited about the celebratory wines. Hmmm, I wonder what we’ll have. Stay tuned…

 

 

Saturday evening was predominantly a beer night (Carlton Draught is my preferred beer quoff) in front of the Hawks v Crows Australian Rules Football game on TV. My team, the Hawks, managed to scrape over the line and will play the Sydney Swans in the grand final fight next Saturday for 2012 Premiership glory.

The last time the Hawks played in the grand final was in September 2008 against the formidable Geelong Cats. Corks was in London at the time and got up at 5am to watch the game live on tv. With Lady P and another mad keen Hawks supporter present, Corks opened a wonderful, non vintage, sparkling white by Jansz – the Premium Cuvee.

Jansz are from Tamar Valley, Tasmania, in the far south of Australia. They have a reputation for producing outstanding quality sparkling wines at very reasonable prices. Compared with Champagne, they are even better value for money. Their Premium Cuvee is about $25 a bottle and their vintage around $35.

I was a little distracted during the game to give careful consideration of the wine, however it was a wine of elegance and balance, and a great alternative to expensive Champagne.

Another bottle of Jansz is a certainty for the game next Saturday.

 

Not a huge amount of wine action recently as Corks has been having a few beers instead. I’ve recently discovered a new offering from Harcourt Valley Winery: Harcourt Valley American Pale Ale. A great beer brewed offsite but according to a recipe developed by HVW. It’s about 4.5% alcohol and is crisp and clean in flavour. Comes in 330ml bottles, smartly packaged in dark glass with HVW’s distinctive grey/black labels.

Have had another bottle of the Tar & Roses Pinot Grigio and was delighted to see that it delivered again. I’ve written about this wine before with lots of good things to say, but often a second try of a wine can result in disappointment. I’m glad to say the pears and apples and aniceed were back, refreshing acidity with a hint of sweetness. At under $17 per bottle from Dan Murphy’s, this is one of the best value for money wines I’ve written about on this blog.

The highlight of recent wine drinking has been the Medhurst Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. I received half a dozen from Mrs Corks a few years ago and given it is a special occasion wine, I haven’t opened on since March 2011 (refer to previous post 28/3/11).

A recent weekend with brother Corks and his family at our country place in central Victoria was as special occasion as necessary to crack it open. Rich, deep plum in colour; dark berry fruit and spice, leather and mocha on the nose, the mouthfeel was silky smooth, the fruit still with plenty of life, and restrained tannin. There’s easily another 5 years in the Medhurst. A five star wine if you can get it.