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Australian, French, US and German wines

by Tom Cannavan, 02/99

This was a double blind tasting of wines, Old World and New. I found the first two whites from Australia very atypical of the grape varieties, though they are both quite serious and very well made. The second pair, of New World/Old World Chardonnays, were distinguishable - just - though a white Burgundy boasting 14% alcohol really clouded the issue. I also found it quite straightforward to distinguish New World from Old in the reds, though again these are all fairly "internationally" styled wines: the Claret quite big, luscious and minty, the Australians showing a little more earthiness and structure. It was interesting (and I thought a little bit sad) to see how few people had anything good to say about the German wine. Unfortunately this example was made with heavy-handed quantities of sulphur. A fault I know, and initially very off-putting, but once that had blown off it turned out to be a nicely balanced, fruity and pretty good Riesling.

Grosset (Australia) Watervale Riesling 1998 - £9.99
Medium gold with a distinct green tinge. Luscious on the nose, full of peach and apricot fruit, alcohol and a little oak? Weighty on the palate. Lots of alcohol. Round, buttery flavours with a nutty dryness too. Good acidity. Long and a little bit foursquare. Probably needs time. Alsace Pinot Blanc? Californian Oaked Viognier?
I ruled out Riesling quite quickly on this - for me it lacked the decisive, pin-point character of a good Riesling, 13.5% alcohol helps explain it, but it might well need time.

Grosset (Australia) Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc 1998 - £8.99
Medium straw-gold. Distinctive lychee and leafy, gooseberry nose. Quite rich and alcoholic. Flavourful, with peachy fruit and a sharply acidic edge. Strong grapefruit flavours in the finish. Long and pure, this again needs time. Must be a New Zealand Sauvignon with that lychee/gooseberry/grapefruit profile - though it is a rather heavy-weight style.

Ferret (Burgundy) Pouilly-Fuissé "Les Clos" 1995 - £17.49
Very bright yellow-gold. Nose is initially all toasted, charred oak with strong buttery aromas. Chardonnay. Palate has lots of cool, melon and peach fruit that is fine and full. A nutty flavour too. There is good acidity that is well integrated (but noticeable) and the finish is just a little short. Good.

Mer et Soleil (California) Chardonnay 1996 - £16.99
Slightly deeper, golden colour. Another beautiful Chardonnay nose with toast, nuts, butter, sweet-oak and aromatic, Jack Daniels notes. More restrained on the palate, which is classy with brioche flavours and loads of fruit. An orange acidity asserts in the finish and there is a load of alcohol, but it has good length and is nicely chewy. New World I'd say.
I've tasted previous vintages of this and it seems a little more heavily-oaked and not quite so refined.

Elderton (Australia) Merlot 1996 - £14.99
Very dark blackish-red, dense with ruby on rim. Minty, high-toned nose of blackcurrant and coffee. Grippy on the palate though, with loads of oak and alcohol, chewy, ripe tannins and plenty of stewed, plummy fruit. Blueberry notes too. Intense, and lemony acidity sharpens the finish. Quite long, quite nice. An Australian "Bordeaux blend" - cabernet/merlot?

Château La Pointe (Pomerol) 1995 - £19.99
Darker, more vivid purple-black. Opaque to rim. Nose is darkly hued with cedar, blackcurrant and plums. Palate is grippy again - lots of tannins, high acidity. This tends to mask some cool, restrained fruit. Rather backward. There is fruit and structure there, but the finish is a little short and acidic. May not improve. Minor Bordeaux from '96?

Wirra Wirra (Australia) "The Angelus" Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 - £14.49
Very dark, dense, purple-black. Again minty, high-toned, basil-leaf aromas. Australian again - this is so distinctive. Ripe and chocolaty with rich mulberry fruit, mocha-coffee. Round, spicy oak and soft tannins. Long and luxurious fruit, but slightly high acidity that mars the finish. Good though and should come together. Cabernet/Shiraz blend?

Matthews (Washington State) Yakima Valley Red 1996 - £22.99
Darker still and more purple. Aromatic, clean and estery with super-ripe minty notes. Vaguely medicinal tastes on the palate, chewy and extracted with blueberry and mulberry fruit. Rather one-dimensional. Very pure and clean though, with good length, but overall a little hollow and soulless. Guess at Californian.

Karl Heidrich (Mittelrhein, Germany) Riesling Auslese 1997 - £11.99 for 50cls
Medium greenish gold colour. Rather sulphurous nose. Blows off with a minute of constant agitation. Quite a dark liquorice edge - is that just remnants of the sulphur? Lovely cool, melon and apricot fruit with sweet pineapple, syrupy notes. Acidity is there, but maybe not quite enough. This is German Riesling, probably an Auslese. Gets better over 15 minutes in the glass. Still a touch flabby, but good overall balance of fruit/sweetness/acidity. Pleasant aperitif wine of some complexity.
Flawed, not worth £12 per 50cl on this evidence, but given 5 years it might just blossom into something special.