28 October 2009

Leeuwin Estate 2003 Art Series Chardonnay

If I'm honest, which I sometimes am, then I have to admit that until I visited the Margaret River, I hated chardonnay. Truly detested it. Wouldn't have poured it down the drain in case a cockroach had the misfortune of drowning in it. It just wasn't my cup of Tetley's.

Then my epiphany arrived. I accidentally tried one at Wills Domain, and it was good. I intentionally tasted one at Ashbrook, and it was better. And after that, I was ordering it straight up on the rocks at every cellar door I visited. Most were excellent. Some, like Leeuwin and Vasse Felix, were exceptional.

The regional influence is huge. If you haven't tried a Margy chardy, you really should forget about all that Kath and Kim ignominy and go West for a little tipple. Certainly though, you should try it without ice-cubes. And preferably, not from a silver bag.

Of course, at $80-odd, we can't all (and certainly I can't) stump up for the Leeuwin every day of the week. I was therefore enormously pleased to see a good friend unholster one from his cooler bag at the weekend.

The first thing you notice is that it is the effulgent colour of clarified butter. More yellow than a cowardly canary singing Coldplay, it overflows with a galaxy of stars that seem to be shining just for you.

The body is visibly thick and creamy. The nose, brilliantly lively and vibrant. And at this price (for 750mls no less!), I could happily dab a little on my wife instead of perfume and then take her (and what is left of the bottle) out for a nice steak dinner.

Since this wine is a bit of a rock-star, it will not surprise you that many critics have apparently discovered an entire orchard of fruit somewhere in the glass. Me? I only get lemon, honey, and maybe warm, buttery toast - but that is more than enough. It builds as you swill it in your mouth, and delivers a deliciously long and tannic pucker in the swallow. It is utterly and unctuously, scrumptious.

I usually don't "get" art. But I sure as hell get the Art Series.

Rating: 9
Drink with: Buttery fried scallops
Price: $80+

22 October 2009

Ninth Island 2008 Pinot Noir

This week, we’re travelling south for a taste of the Tamar Valley in Tassie.

Now, as we know, Taswegians are best known for sleeping with their sisters, mass murder, and their contribution to anatomical cartography. But they also manage to make some pretty decent wines – the cooler climate lending itself to quality Pinots and Rieslings.

And the Ninth Island 2008 Pinot Noir is certainly a great little drop. Although, the label is perhaps a touch unfortunate – depicting, as it does, either the invasion of the First Fleet or a flotilla of asylum seekers.

Splashed in the glass, the colour is light and bright, and manages to show off a pleasing piece of leg.

The nose is interesting. To start with, it reeked of public swimming pool – of urine, cloaked in chlorine. Happily though, it soon settled down and opened up remarkably to display a wonderfully fragrant punnet of blueberry goodness.

When it hits your mouth, all your dreams are made of strawberry lemonade. A Turkish delight with a delicate dusting of icing sugar. Full. Smooth. Wonderful length, but uncomplicated and stunningly easy to drink.

Down a glass or two and a delicious warmth flows though you - like floating into Elysium on a parachute of heroin and diazepam.

At a shade over $30, it's spectacular value for a Pinot this good.

By design, it is not intended for lengthy cellaring – so drink it young. And drink it often.

Rating: 8
Drink with: Your best cousin
Price: $32

14 October 2009

Craggy Range 2007 Gimblett Gravels Merlot

As there are now quite a few Kiwi readers (although that may well change after this week), I thought we should head across the ditch. To the big En-Zed. Shabang-a-bang. Call it whatever you like. (To assist our vowel-challenged cuzzy-bros, a translation is available here.)

Craggy Range cellar door sits under the incredibly picturesque Te Mata peak (ie the Craggy Range) in the Hawkes Bay region of NZ. The mountains are magnificent. The rivers run an outrageous shade of azure. And the sheep are so fluffy, they look just about ready to up and float away.

The vineyards of Craggy Range sit on the banks of the Tukituki River, and benefit from a pedological phenomenon known locally as the Gimblett Gravels. The stoney soils have proved to be New Zealand’s answer to the famous Bordeaux terroir - the loose stones holding the spring-time heat, and facilitating the early ripening of the fruit. The overall result is rich, slightly sweet reds, that are low in acidity.

Craggy has an extensive range (many more expensive than this Merlot), and I urge you to give them a try. But the Craggy Gimblett Gravels Merlot sits mid-range and is a cracker.

It sits lucently in the glass, rimmed by a halo of blushing, rubescent glory. It smacks of a cinnamon donut, dunked in a double espresso. And gee whiz, this girl’s got legs – and, boy, does she know how to use them.

In the mouth it is so thick and rich, you could well stick a knife in it and spread it on toast. It is smooth, silky, full of fruit, and quite simply sweet-as, Bro.

I usually like to drink merlot with nice, fresh pasta. But given this merlot’s provenance, it would be a travesty not to team it with some lovely, lamby shanks.

They say it will last ten years in the cellar. I say, good luck!

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: NZ's national emblem
Price: $40

Cruggy Range 2007 Gumblett Grivels Merlot

Iz there are now quite a few Kiwi readers (although thit may wool change ifter thus week), I thought we should hid icross tha dutch. To tha bug Un-Zud. Shabung-a-bung. Call ut whutever you like. (Hang on – across the dutch would be Ozzie. Where all the clivver people are. Hmmm, I can’t wait to go to Ozzie one day – but I’ll have to git swumming lissons first!)

Cruggy Range cellar door suts under tha uncridubly pucturisque Te Mata peak (ie the Cruggy Range) un the Hawkes Bay region of NZ. Tha mountains are mugnufisunt. Tha ruvers run in outrageous shade ov azure. Ind the sheep are so flooffy, they luk just about riddy to oop ind float away.

Tha vineyards of Cruggy Range sut on the bunks of the Tukituki Ruvver, ind binnyfut frum a pidologucal phunomenon known locally iz the Gumblutt Grivels. The stoney soils hiv proved to be New Zulland’s inswer to tha famous Cardboard terror (wutivver thut uz) - tha loose stones holding tha sprung-time heat, and fusulitating tha early ripening of tha fruit. Tha overall rissult is for rutch, slightly sweet rids, thit are low un assuduty.

Cruggy hiv in ixtensuv range (minny more ixpensuv thin thus Merlot), ind I urge you to guv thim a try. But tha Cruggy Gumblutt Grivels Merlot suts mud-range and uz a cracker.

Ut suts lucintly un the glass, rummed by a halo of blushing, rubescint glory. Ut smucks of a sunnamon donut, dunked un a double isprisso. And gee whuz, thus girl’s gut ligs – ind, boy, duz she know how to use thim.

Un tha mouth ut uz so thuck and rutch, you could will stuck a knife un ut and sprid it on toast. Ut uz smooth, sulky, full of fruit, ind quite sumply sweet-as, (cuzzy) Bro.

I usually like to drunk merlot with nice (choice), frish pasta. But guvven thus merlot’s provenunce, ut would be a trivusty not to team ut with some lovely, lamby shinks (hmmmm Baaa-bara, show us your shinks).

They say ut wool last tin years un the cellar. I say, good luck!

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: Lamb
Price: A$40

07 October 2009

Penfolds 2006 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz

As it is likely to be my last chance for some time, I took the opportunity this week to get properly rugby-league drunk. Although perhaps not quite Fevola-drunk.

And the culprit that led me to into vinous temptation was the latest incarnation of Baby Grange – Penfolds’ Bin 389.

The colour is sublime and gives you a pleasing glimpse of the good things to follow. The nose is a grandiloquent array of rich choclatey, vanillin intensity that invites you to dive right in.

So we did. We drank quickly, and copiously. The first bottle tasted just splendid – not too fruity, and brimming with earthy, velvety warmth that was as moreish as a tube of Pringles. I don’t really remember the second bottle.

At the start of the evening, our waitress had a face like a truffle pig - or Jessica Schipper. By the end of the meal, she’d undergone three courses of plastic surgery and coloured her hair. Alternatively, we may have been so annoying that they allocated us a new waitress sometime after the main course.

Whatever. The 389 made it better, and so I liked it.

On a more serious note, it has a depth of character and intensity that means it should live for a long time. Drink one now, and keep another one under the stairs in case of emergency – like, say, when your mother-in-law moves in...

If you look really hard, you can sometimes pick this up for better than $40 a bottle, which makes me happy. If you are in London, I am told you can pick it up for 13 quid, which makes me mad.

Rating: 9
Drink with: Smashed crabs
Price: $40 ($60 rrp – but retail is for suckers)