Archive for ‘Australia’

December 23, 2021

Penfolds Bin 29 Kalimna Shiraz, 2018

Christmas card from 1972. Seriously.

And so it goes, another year unfolds.

From the cellar: A Wine Spectator top 100 from 2020 (#41 in fact), gifted under the tree last Christmas, this lay in our own cellar an additional year. I mean not since 1972, but still.

2021, the year so many of us gave up (on travel, on shopping, on eating out, on socialization) left us (as in the us writing this blog) spending too much on wine.  I am not going to write that with any passion except to say if there was a simple positive in 2021 it was drinking well.

The best meal out last year, Pluvio in Ucluelet, offered both Puy and a Jura white by the glass; I think a reflective kudos for having such iconic and food friendly bottles on the pour.  And although Wine Spectator lauds the 38 page wine list at the Pointe/Wickanninish down the way, the Wick has a woefully inadequate by the glass listing.  I write that only in passing; wine in restaurants is exceedingly grotesque: entry level plonk at $40 a bottle.

We devoured the Bin 28. It actually drank better with food than as a sipper. It’s an elegant and perhaps restrained Shiraz, on the one hand typical of Oz Shiraz, and on the other hand reinvented.  Some of the crude, crash and burn (pepper and smoke and heat) of the varietal are cooled off like chocolate ganache oozing over a black forest cake.  We simply couldn’t get all the notes of critical acclaim (cola, hazelnut brittle, cannoli with vanilla custard—I mean perhaps, but gosh, it’s a great bottle of wine but sweet cannoli?  I mean give it a rest precious…). Yes. We are heathens. But we drink well. Cheers, Happy Holidays.

Price: Gifted.  But the 2019 is available for $50.

Market Liquidity: An exquisite wine.  But, you know, #41 in our top 100.  Just joking.  Just half joking.

To close the year on a positive note, non-wine related, without sarcasm, I recommend the (gone viral and much replicated) Drukair or Bhutan airlines version of Jerusalema.  (Yes, everyone and their dog has done it, including Air Transat [!], but Bhutan knocked it out of the park.)  It will put a smile on your face, no “cup of cheer” required.

My 90 year old mother’s Christmas tree, 2021. What a sight!
September 14, 2021

Chateau Villegly Minervois, 2018 & Mitolo Jester Shiraz, 2018

Thud and plunk.  Epic fail of the pointsters.

Let’s start with the Robert Parker 90 pointer, the Oz red.  Heavy as lead.  What a walloping clunk of everyday red.  We were expecting a fruit forward, peppery Shiraz with a touch of black currant.  But it was less than full bodied, rather one-note, and really not complementary (to a not very spicy and lovely chicken chili). 

Then there’s this average, virtually generic red recommended by James Suckling.  If you poke around online you’ll see it was selected for Air France Business Class, but I guess the contract was cancelled due to the pandemic.  Maybe at 39,000 feet it would have the legs to stand up in the stratosphere.  But back here on earth it’s a tad inconsequential.

Let’s be fair: Both are drinkable, truthfully nothing much wrong with either, but there’s nothing much right either.  And both are hugely forgettable.  There is basic red a plenty in the BC government system, it’s unfortunate that the gold seals on a few bottles put a focus on something just not that much better than those without a gold seal.

There’s a spot-on random online review of the Minervois that finishes “…a lingering hint of pepper adds some interest to the fruit-fueled finish.”  Some interest.  Exactly.  Some.  That’s about as generous as I think you can be.  88 points tops.  Although not a direct comparison, we were sipping a young, robust Syrah from Clos de Soleil the same week, and it just delivered so much satisfaction.

There’s very much a “pop song hit” to both these wines, something of the moment, a catchy tune that fades into the backdrop. 

Price: Minervois around $20 (if not discounted on a bulk buy) at private stores, the Mitolo less than $25 in Ontario, over $30 in BC.

Market Liquidity: What were the lyrics to Blurred Lines?  Oh right, I’ve forgotten already.

Boldly Basic. Where Pointsters Fear to Tread

October 20, 2020

Majella Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015

So here’s an upbeat Coonawarra Cab Sauv. All that slang for stimulants — black mollies, black beauty, bling bling, blue devil — that’s going to hit you first.

And, first sip this is a wow, wow, wow.  A high point pointster wowza.  But you know what?  On the last sip, it’s good, not wow, just good.  And I wonder if the pointsters drank a comparative sip or nursed a bottle over the course of an evening?  Because there’s a significant difference between professional tasters and people who drink wine: People who drink wine don’t buy wine to have a taste.  They buy wine to drink it.

All right, so there you go, this is a huge points winner, many plaudits, it’s got balance and then some, it could be Simone Bile’s Olympic Beam master class.  And it oozes plum, red, juicy, sloppy, overripe plum.  It’s a delicacy on the approach but something about it ends up too much, too rich, and like a slice of layer cake that’s got the proportion of icing to cake in excess, this wine ultimately satisfies but misses; it’s a bronze, not a gold.

Price: $40 something, but rare in Vancouver; the base model “Musician” however, a much less interesting red, is on the corner at every liquor outlet.

Market Liquidity: It will impress, but even Pacino in Scarface was, you know, over the top.

August 13, 2020

Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz, 2016

Gosh, for a blog that brags about being anti-pointster, we sure do seem on a point-driven jag.  92 it is.

Is it good wine?  Yes.  Is it good Shiraz? Yes; fruity, licorice, earthy, “all the usuals” if you will.  Truly, a typical and satisfying Oz Shiraz.  But: Is it ludicrously over the top alcoholic?  Yes, oh god yes.  14.9% but with the wine version of a humidex it could be Port.  There is something Hummer-ish about it’s headstrong attack and something equally leaden about the finish.  Demonstrative and then some.  Delicious, just a little weighted down.  It’s a one off for us.

Price: An extremely reasonably $27 at BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: Think Great Expectations (as opposed to A Christmas Carol; both “92-point stories,” one just able to be bright and light and satisfying without the slog).

July 29, 2020

Peter Lehman Margaret, Limited Release Barossa Semillon, 2012

Peter Lehman Margaret, Limited Release Barossa Semillon, 2012

This should be an absolute find.  An eight-year-old Semillon, under $30, at 11% alcohol.  Did anyone say patio sipper?  Semillon holds up to fish, cured meats, cheese.  It’s a workhorse white.  Or it should be.

 

We found it wanting.  The beeswax and minerality clashed rather than melded, the dryness made us pucker, the citrus was jarring.

 

The label says it is the pinnacle expression of this classic varietal.  Methinks some people in Bordeaux might take exception.

 

What’s the old Seinfeld joke about the Ford LTD?  “Limited.  The only thing limited about the LTD was how many they could sell.”

 

Price: An extremely reasonable $28 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: It has limited appeal.

April 28, 2020

Cape Mentelle Shiraz Cabernet, 2017

Cape Mentelle Shiraz Cabernet, 2017

Well here’s a blast from the past.  Remember when BC Liquor carried Cape Mentelle?  No, I bet you don’t, because it’s been about a decade.  Their workhorse Sem Sauv Bl blend was one of those relatively inexpensive everyday whites of much utility.  We miss it.

 

This is not their finest moment.  And they do have some fine moments (which of course will cost you).  But it’s a lovely change this perky red from Western Australia, perhaps a little surprising how much sweet and how little mouth feel it has, tending to veer away from the typical leathery Oz Shiraz, despite 60% Shiraz to 40% Cab Sauv.

 

Quite decent, all things considered, screw top, not over the top pricey, pleasantly light even at 14.5% alcohol.

 

Price: $30 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: Like a nice find at a garage sale.

January 4, 2020

Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz, 2017

Torbreck Woodcutter's Shiraz, 2017

Another gift from Santa.  I must have been a very good boy in 2019.

 

We are doubly familiar with the less expensive Grenache-Shiraz, easy to source, easy to drink, although have never bothered to post a review.  The Woodcutter’s Shiraz, a top 100 2019 wine over at the Wine Spectator (with the 93 point bottle neck seal to prove it…) is harder to find, more expensive, and like our recent post on vintage Rioja, worth every last penny vis-a-vis the prohibitive cost of BC “flagship” reds.

 

The colour is charcoal, the flavour notes teeter on a broad spectrum, between tar (meaning dark and mysterious, woodsy) and cherry jubilee (meaning fruity and rich, creamy, velvet).  The 15% alcohol is I suppose par for the course, certainly over at the Spectator, but this lovely sipper is not top heavy.  There is a faint whisker of syrup in the richness, however the layered flavour notes never cease to surprise.  Halfway though you may come across a palate tangent of cedar frond.  A most impressive gift wine.

 

Price: Gifted, but around $38 at BC Liquor, here and there.

 

Market Liquidity: Delectable, if a tad decadent for us.

August 23, 2019

Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013

Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013

Great to return to a wine you loved and find you still love it.  Pretty much everything we liked and wrote about from a cellared bottle here, from a vintage a few years back, still stands.  Coconut, chocolate, cherry, delectable through and through.  Luscious and then some.  Score.  At the end of the bottle you will feel like you’ve bench pressed 220.

 

Do you know you can score this for $30 in a private wine store?  Then get 10% off if you buy six?  And be paying less for a miraculous red than an everyday BC white?  It’s a miracle.  It’s a shame, but it’s a miracle. Oh Margaret River, marry me.

 

Price: See above.

 

Market Liquidity: Yes, it is a miracle.

May 30, 2019

Teusner “The Gentleman” Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014.

Kenwood's Wilder Diamond AKA Tony

Our dog died.  A friend brought round a decent bottle of wine for us to remember him by.  But drinking just wasn’t on the agenda. Then, a few weeks later, we sat down and opened the gift.  Wow.  This was EGOT good.  Gobs and gobs of acidity but what the aficionados refer to as juicy or attractive acidity.  Flavour notes deeper than a Welsh coal mine.  Delicate, exquisite, it begged to be sipped.  Slowly.  Little nips like fine Sherry.  While it beat the band with dinner it shone, aurora borealis shone, as a sipper. 

Price: Around $40 at private wine stores but even so hard to source.

Market Liquidity: Shows up the fraud of so many BC reds at this price point.

Teusner “The Gentleman” Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014.

March 16, 2019

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay, 2014

There was a time when Wolf Blass defined good taste in wine.  And that time was three decades ago.  And, for me, I can even define it further: 1984 in Sydney when WB was both affordable and astonishingly good.  But now?  Talk about retro blast from the past.

 

This is a totally pleasurable Chardonnay, no strikes against it.  For the person who wants a wine, year after year, to taste pretty much the same, within a very, very narrow range of differentiation, Wolf Blass rules the southern hemisphere.  Perhaps only Beringer comes close with this sort of equilibrium.  But isn’t part of the pleasure of drinking wine that difference vintage to vintage, that variability?  If it is, I suggest you move on.

 

Glass half full: Class act.  Glass half empty: Next. Quickly.

 

Price: Regularly $25, on sale for $20, so extremely good value.

 

Market Liquidity: Like an 80s playlist.