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Wines of Australia tasting 07/01


An opportunity to taste through some new vintages of old favourites and a few new release wines. This event was organised by the Australian Wine Bureau. Many wine commentators are starting to ask questions about Australian wine: specifically if over-production and "factory" techniques are starting to produce wines that are too formulaic, and not of the same high quality as when they first hit our shores in the 1980s. In some ways, I think this is a case of familiarity breeding contempt. By and large the wines offer much the same guaranteed delicious fruit and full-body that they always did; the very things that made them so popular with the wine-consuming public.

I picked and chose my way around this massive tasting, selecting wines that I thought would be particularly interesting, based either on past experience, their reputation, or because they promised something a bit different. I wasn't at the tasting with a specific mission to judge against the background described above, but all the same I have to say that I found plenty to delight in this selection: not only well-made wines, but a whole spectrum of flavours and styles. You will note that I didn't taste much £4.99 supermarket Shiraz and Chardonnay, which is the area under most scrutiny from the cynics.

Prices (where known) are given in pounds sterling, approximately 5GBP=7.50USD. The tasting was not blind.

White

Simon Hackett Semillon 1998 - £6.49
Powerful, fresh lemon and lime nose with rich, toffeed nuances. Lovely mouth-filling fruit, lots of buttery succulence but very sharply defined by tingling lemon acidity. Very good. (for stockists call Australian wineries 01780 55810)

Brown Brothers Sauvignon Blanc 2000 - £6.99
Very attractive tropically sweet nose with some fine grassy, nettly leafiness. The palate is roundly fruited and quite fine with lots of bright, crunchy citrus fruit and real bite. Very good. (for stockists call Brown Brothers UK 01628 776446)

Brown Brothers Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc/Pinot Grigio 2000
Crisp citrus nose but also sweet with a peachy, downy quality. Good body, plenty of pure, sweet and lingering fruit. Very good.

Brown Brothers Pinot Grigio 2000 - £6.99
Like the wine above, just released by Brown Brothers in the UK. This is a beauty, with a really appealing nose of crisp, clean, bursting fruit and a subtle weight of buttery, lanolin richness. Palate shows more of the same in a very expressive, pure format. Long and delicious, around £6.99.

Grant Burge Late Picked Muscat 'Lily Farm' 1999 - £5.50
Nose is beautifully fresh and summery with floral notes and juicy apple fruit. The palate is just off-dry, and is very fine with crunchy orchard fruits and some peachy nuances. This is delightful stuff. (for stockists call EuroWorld 0141 649 3735)

Grant Burge Dry Riesling 'Thorn' 1999 - £8.00
Fine nose, polished, limey and fresh with burgeoning notes of petrol and wax and a little herbal note. The palate has a good weight of fruit and plenty of body, with lip-smacking mineral acidity over apple and citrus fruit. Crunchy, ripe and very good.

Hollick Estate Chardonnay 1998 - £8.49
Very appealing nose of Burgundian, charry French oak, hints of whisky barrel over melon and peach fruit. Fine pear and white fruit flavours on the palate and a very seamless meshing of citrus acidity into a long, mellow but well-defined finish. Very good. (Great Grog Co. 0131 444 2332)

Petaluma Riesling 1997
The 2000 vintage was listed, but the 1997 was what was on tasting and what a treat! Mature, nutty nose, elegant with floral overtones and lots of oatmeally, rich fruit. On the palate good grapefruit and orange flavours cut by lime fruit and acidity, but very long, pure and stylish. Very good indeed. (for stockists contact Mentzendorff 020 7840 3600)

Petaluma Chardonnay 1999
As always, a very Burgundian nose with gentle toast, coffee, honey, a touch of cabbage and plenty of sweet peach and apricot fruit, with hints of nuttiness. On the palate there is plenty of sweet, mouth-filling fruit flooding over the palate, quite chewy and viscous, but very long and classy. Very good indeed.

Mount Langi Ghiran Riesling 1999 - £9.25
Charming, delicious wine with a fragrant nose of citrus, wax, summer flowers and a hint of thick, honey and lime jelly. Palate is crisp and full of rapier-like clean fruit. Lovely stuff. (for stockists contact Villeneuve 01721 722500).

Mount Langi Ghiran Pinot Gris 2000 - £10.99
A gorgeous wine with an oily, unctuous richness on the nose and lots of fine, ripe, crunchy white peach and pear fruit on the palate. Shimmering acidity and good length. Very good indeed.

Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling 2000 - £11.99
In a stelvin screwcap, this has a sherbet and mineral nose with a purity of lime fruit. Very bright and focused, it is crisp and fresh, really quite steely on the palate, but beautifully delineated and hinting at an underlying richness that will evolve over many years in bottle. Very good indeed. (for stockists contact Villeneuve 01721 722500).

Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Clare Valley Riesling 2000 - £13.99
An old favourite which I've raved about many times in previous vintages. Fine nose; unctuously sweet with a dripping weight of honey, ripe nectarine, lime and oily sweetness. Terrific palate with limpid, pure white fruit and lime fruit, and delicate balance of sweetness and acidity in a full-bodied format and superb purity into a long, distinguished finish. Excellent.

Red

Charles Melton 'Rose of Virginia' 2000 - £10.99
This light red Grenache/Cabernet blend has a very punchy nose, layered with tea, smoke, spice but mostly sweet, crunchy red berry fruit. The palate offers more of the same, with a clean finish and good acidity. Very good. (for stockists contact Villeneuve 01721 722500).

Charles Melton Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 - £20.99
Sweet and super-ripe profile of mint, berries, cassis and eucalyptus. Very thick and rich fruit fills the palate with no edges, just smooth layer upon layer of ripe tannins and black fruits, though a gentle acidity keeps it savoury and fresh. Very good indeed/Excellent.

Haselgrove Shiraz 'Picture Series' 1998 - £9.99
Spice, toffee and toast nose with creamy berries and thick, fat fruit. There is a currant and dried-fruit dustiness to the palate, earthy with chocolate and plum undertones, a silky texture and good length. Very good. (for stockists contact Villeneuve 01721 722500).

Haselgrove Pinot Noir 'Plantaganet' 1998
Big, bold, charry new oak nose. Rather over-powering Pinot stinky fruit: a bit dank, a bit vegetal but some sweet raspberry pushes through. Powerful, full-bodied full-on fruit style and good length. Good/very good.

Haselgrove Cabernet Sauvignon 'H Series' 1998 - £23.99
This is another very big hitter, with a nose that is layered with mineral-tinged blue and black fruits and toasty oak. Wonderfully smooth and glycerine-rich palate, this has a structured feel to the fruit and tannin balance, with good acidity and a savoury depth that adds interest to sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Very good indeed.

Simon Hackett Shiraz 'Anthony's Reserve' 1998 - £11.50
Sweet, dark dried fruit quality: Chinese dried plums and a chocolate richness beneath charcoal and sweet blackberry fruit. Palate has plenty of ripe black fruits with a nice sour edge keeping the character savoury in a medium-bodied format with silky texture. Good length. Very good.

Simon Hackett Cabernet Sauvignon 'Foggo Road' 1998 - £11.99
Much more restrained nose: tight, sweet and rich with a seam of blackcurrant. On the palate very savoury with lots of bite from firm tannins and crisp acidity. Dry and smooth, this is firm but really classy stuff. Very good.

d'Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon 'Coppermine Road' 1998 - £17.50
This has a dry, savoury, beautifully honed nose of cassis with touches of black plum and leather. The palate is dry and savoury with a tobacco character and plenty of spice backing up sweet, rich fruit. Very nice tannic structure, silky and integrated into a long finish. Very good indeed. (for stockists contact Bibendum 020 7692 2700)

d'Arenberg Shiraz 'Dead Arm' 1998 - £17.50
Really rich, bold, spice-driven aromatics over masses of crunchy mulberry fruit, deep black plums and chocolate bittersweet flavour. Palate shows plenty of richness and depth, layered with fruit and good concentration, though there's a slightly awkward stripe of tannins at present. Better in a year or two.

Hollick Pinot Noir 1998 - £8.99
This has a reserved but distinctive Pinot nose with some coffee-bean oak over soft, creamy strawberry fruit. On the palate quite rich and sweet, with more strawberry and ripe raspberry fruit. Not terribly complex, but balanced and delicious drinking. Very good.

Trentham Estate Shiraz 'Wilgha' 1998 - £13.99
Wonderfully juicy and silky with lots of quite sophisticated, sleek black fruit and a layering of toasty oak. This is all about creamy, dense, glossy blackcurrant fruit and deep mulberry richness, with medium to full body and a nicely-balanced finish. Decent length, and very good. (Great Grog Co. 0131 444 2332)

Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz 1998 - £20.50
Great concentration immediately evident and a profile that is quite compact and muscular, with tight, chunky, rich fruit that follows through powerfully onto the palate. Very full and chewy, a spicy power forges into the finish, but the fruit is finely honed and savoury. Impressive and very good indeed.

Mount Langi Ghiran Cabernet Sauvignon 'Joanna' 1998 - £14.99
Fine, rich nose that is dense and charcoally with dry, blackcurrant fruit and a cedary element. The palate has tongue-coating tannins and powdery black fruit, notes of toffee, cream and fudge into the finish and plenty of sweet fruit. Balanced by good acidity, this needs a little time but is very impressive. Very good indeed.