There were some absolutely outstanding wines in this tasting held in Auckland on May 13, but also some very so-so efforts. In the whites, the stars shone over Western Australia with the Cape Mentelle Semillon Sauvignon and the Vasse Felix Chardonnay two wines I thought outstanding. I recommend the Yalumba 'Y' Series Riesling as fantastic drinking right now. Generally the cheaper priced reds were reflective of their price / quality ratio but there are two very good under $20 reds that I recommend. Look at the d'Arenberg Stump Jump and the ever-reliable Peter Lehman Clancy's. Most drinkable award goes to Jim Barry Cabernet Sauvignon 2000. There were some disappointments in the upper price range, however. It was interesting tasting the big range of Yalumba reds and seeing the jump in quality in the $29 and over priced wines.
White Wine Tasting Notes - in alphabetical order.
Cape Mentelle Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2001 (Western Australia)
Quite rich peasy, mealy, hay apricot, lemon and orange. Masses of flavour that comes in layers. Subtle use of oak gives complexity and richness. Quite a fabulous full-bodied that offer good drinking with or without food. Think dried fruits, pineapple, cheese. Possibly the best wine of this blend from Australia. $24.
d'Arenberg The Olive Grove Chardonnay 1999 (McLaren Vale, South Australia)
Distinctively typical Aussie style. Warm, mealy, fig-like fruit, subtle oak and spice. Nice and drinkable. $19.
Heggies Chardonnay 2000
Gold colour. A powerful wine and everyone else is raving over it but it is too over the top for me with its overpowering creamy malolactic treatment and the fruit which to me seems quite sour. $29.
Peter Lehman Semillon 2001 (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
Fairly dry with citrus and stonefruit flavours. Quite lifted, very clean and refreshing in the mouth with a nice twist of warm mealy lemon on the finish. Seems like a cross between a riesling and unoaked chardonnay to me today. $16.
Pewsey Vale Riesling 2001 (Eden Valley, South Australia)
Peach blossom and lime aromas. Fairly dry but some 'pretty' sweet fruit in there too. Dry finish. Classic Aussie style in its youth and would be best letting it develop over the next few years. $20.
Redbank Long Paddock Chardonnay 2001
Fairly simply easy drinking refreshing style with citrus and nectarine fruit
flavours and a touch of herbs too. Very little oak influence, if any. $15.
Redbank 'Sunday Morning Pinot Gris 2001 (King Valley, Victoria)
Very dry, lemon, nutty flavours with a hint of oak. $19.
Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2000 (Western Australia)
Simply outstanding. The most impressive chardonnay in the room and possibly the most impressive Aussie chardonnay I've tasted in a long time. Full on rich mealy scents. Toasty flavour with grilled peach and melon. Long and flavoursome with spicy oak and good acidy giving a lifted finish. This is a wine I could definitely drink now but there's all the signs that this wine will age well too. $26.
Yalumba 'Y' Series Riesling 2001 (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
This is the wine to drink while waiting for the Pewsey Vale to develop.
Fragrantly aromatic with honeysuckle and lime aromas. Juicy, spritzy, zesty riesling with loads of flavour. Lovely citrus profile with a touch of orang and ginger on the grainy texture while honey linger on the full-on very long finish. Fantastic value at $16.
Yalumba 'Y' Series Viognier 2001
A fully aromatic wine with apricot and peach scents. Oily and nutty in the mouth with apricot and apple flavours, a touch of honey and a touch of herbs. It's quite sweet on the aftertaste and it seems to me the acid drops out and makes the finish a bit flabby. This is a wine that has had plenty of positive press but I can't help remembering how good the Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2001 (tasted in Aus) is and I can't wait for that to arrive on the NZ market. Then the people who have raved about this wine will have to come up with more superlatives. Nevertheless this is a good price for an introduction to Australian viognier and I recommend accompanying it with food. $17.
Yalumba Barossa Chardonnay 2000
Oily style of chardonnay with plenty of melon, a hint of pineapple. But it has a hard finish and doesn't really do it for me. $17.
Red Wine Tasting Notes - in alphabetical order.
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Merlot "Trinders Vineyard" 1999 (Western Australia)
Brett character overpowers - to me this was sour, leathery and medicinal with a 'bandaid' character.
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 (Western Australia)
Brett character again, but not as overpowering as in the Trinder.
d'Arenberg Stump Jump Grenache Shiraz 1999 (McLaren Vale, South Australia)
A rich sweet spicy wine with vanillin oak, creamy blackberry, plum and liquorice. Will be very appealing at this price point. What more do you need for after work drinkies? $15.
d'Arenberg d'Arry's Original Shiraz-Grenache 1999 (McLaren Vale, South Australia)
Pepper, licorice and vanillin spices, fine tannins, good oak, sweet berry fruit and then more licorice, which lingers. Classy wine that offers excellent value for money. $26
d'Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 1999 (McLaren Vale, South Australia)
Tighter style of wine than the 'Original' with more olive-like flavours. But then the much-needed sweet fruit takes over. Powerful finish with a touch of mint. $29.
Henschke Keyneton Estate (Shiraz Cabernet Malbec) 1998
Very dry at first. Pretty spicy. A meaty dense wine, a touch of mint and a hint of brett and olive on the finish. $50..
Jim Barry Clare Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (Clare Valley, South Australia)
Sweet minty blackcurrant aromas. Really yummy sweet forward fruit in the mouth. So so drinkable, the contents will disappear in no time. Watch the clothes. They may come off. $26
Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz 1999 (Clare Valley, South Australia)
This is very good. There's very fine tannin and again sweet fruit with a nice chocolate raisin complexity that lingers well. $40.
Peter Lehmann Clancy's Red 2000 (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
Loads of blackcurrant and vanillin oak. Another really value packed wine with loads of flavours $19.
Peter Lehmann Grenache 2000 (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
Light coloured rosey red. A fragrant and spicy wine that fills out with fruitcake flavours. $16.
Peter Lehmann Shiraz 2000 (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
Huge big black wine with lots of spicy fruit and flavour, good berry fruit, creamy oak and a minty finish. An ever reliable shiraz, consistently good from year to year. $27.
Peter Lehmann Mentor 1997 (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
A blend of CS, Malbec, Shiraz and Merlot. Wondrous, spicy, sweet shiraz and vanillin oak aromas, CS dominates the flavours in the mouth with its lifted blackcurrant fruit, then the pepper of the shiraz kicks in. Wonderfully creamy on the rich finish. I fell, however, it needs time for the cabernet component to soften and integrate. $52.
Redback Long Paddock Shiraz Cabernet 2000
A lifted, light style with plum fruit, cinnamon and spice, cloves, etc. but lacks complexity. $15.
Redbank Fighting Flat Shiraz 2000
Marmite aromas. Very tight and dense in the mouth. There's a hint of mint over blackberry and spice and a nice fruit sweetness that emerges on the finish, but would have like it to be more generous upfront. $19.
Rockford Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
A very spicy cabernet. Deep dark spicy oak and so tight at this stage I cannot really see any fruit definition at first. This wine needs time and it starts to evolve on the after taste. I take another sip and, yes, there are the classic cabernet flavours of blackcurrant and mint along with nuts and chocolate. A wine for the patient or for those with a turning decanter. $28.
Rockford Moppa Springs Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro 1998 (South Australia)
This is the one to pass away the time while you are waiting for the 1998 cabernet to open up. Opulent creamy oak aromas. Juicy flavours with sweet spicy fruit and a hot chilli pepper character. Raisins too. Very approachable with class. $35.
Rymill Shiraz 1997
Biscuity berry aromas and meaty biscuity fruit. Can't get excited at all. $31.
Rymill Merlot Cabernet (CS/CF) 1999
Warmly textured wine with spice, blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. But just so-so in some of the company today. $24.
Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot 2000 (Western Australia)
Blackcurrant aromas and spicy upfront blackcurrant fruit that linger deliciously with vanillin oak. Very good. I liked this
Vasse Felix Shiraz 2000 (Western Australia)
Dense dark coloured shiraz. An opulent full-bodied rich shiraz with dark plum and blackberries.
Yalumba 'Y' Series Merlot 2000 (South Australia)
Sweet plummy fruit with a touch of cinnamon spice. $16.
Yalumba 'Y' Series Shiraz 2000 (South Australia)
Simple style. No faults just not exciting. $16
Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache 1999 (South Australia)
Rubber bands on the nose (to me an indicator of hot climate). A lightly coloured wine with light and spicy fruit. $20.
Yalumba Barossa Shiraz 1999 (South Australia)
Raspberry and spice aromas. Dark, minty, olive, meaty style at first but on the second mouthful the creaminess appears. The raspberry is just perhaps a tad stalky in its nature. $20.
Yalumba Barossa Cabernet Shiraz 1999(South Australia)
Minty aromas and minty blackcurrant spicy flavours on vanillin oak. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in the lifted wine with its juicy sweet finish. $20.
Yalumba 'D' Black Methode Traditionelle 1996 (South Australia)
Full-on aromas of spicy red berry fruit on cedary oak in this blend of CS and Shiraz.. Hot spicy frothy mousse fills the mouth with bubbles. It's a yeasty style with hints of marmite and olive and quite dry tannins but the rich sweet black shiraz fruit wins through while the ripe blackcurrant flavours of cabernet linger. $29.
Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 1997 (South Australia)
Creamy aromas and lovely creamy spicy fruit in the mouth with beautiful integration of blackberry, oak and soft firm tannins. Spicy oak on the finish with lingering creamy oak and hints of chocolate. Very good. $40.
Yalumba The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 (South Australia)
Mocha and vanilla aromas. Very dry and tight in the mouth but there's sweet creamy berry fruit and biscuity flavours. Loads of potential. $40.
Yalumba Mawson's Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 1998 (South Australia)
Spicy berry oak aromas. Very ripe and mellow berry flavours, somewhat creamy. Hints of a stalkiness, no I think that is tobacco and cigar complexities. Then a wave of pure ribena. Great vinosity. Needs time. $29.
Yalumba Clocktower (5 year old) Tawny Port
Dark gold amber. Sweet raisin scents. Honeyed raisin fruit in palate with a savoury nutty salty drying finish. A sweet and savour appealing style to the masses. $17.
Yalumba Directors Special Tawny (8 year old) Port
Similar colour to the Clocktower but sweeter and more opulent in the aroma department. Rich honey savoury dry nutty style with a nice savoury twist to the finish. $20.
Yalumba Galway Pipe Very Old Tawny (15 Year Old) Port
© Sue Courtney. May 2002
Deeper colour than the other two, and greeny hues to the rims. Quite rich raisiny flavours and again a dry nutty savoury finish. Very full and flavoursome. $39.