Thursday, September 12, 2019

An Australian Selection. Six of the Best.

Liberty Wines. An Australian Selection

Giant Steps Yarra Valley LDR 2017, 13%, Ely Wine Store Maynooth,
LDR? It means light dry red.

Mid ruby is the colour of this LDR. LDR? It means light dry red. This one’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah (more or less fifty fifty) and is “an exciting new addition to the Yarra Valley range from 2017”. If you like  Beaujolais you’ll love this, I was told, and I’m happy to confirm. Not an exact replica of the French wine - that was hardly ever the objective - but in terms of lightness, juiciness and structure, they could well be cousins.

Red berries feature in the aromas, a touch of pepper too. Sweet ripe fruit and that pepper again on the palate, juicy and lively, with subtle tannins and a long finish, excellent structure for such a light wine. An easy quaffer, fresh and aromatic, and light of course. Just the job for the rest of the Indian summer. Very Highly Recommended.

The blend is not new in Australia and was, decades ago, prominent in the Hunter Valley. It faded but has in recent years made a comeback in the Hunter and is now on the rise in the Yarra and in other Australian regions also from Tasmania to the Clare Valley. You’ll even find one in the Yellow Tail collection. More on the blend here by Max Allen.

These wines are produced, under Chief Winemaker Steve Flamsteed, with wild ferments, gravity-flow winemaking techniques, and minimal fining and filtration. This approach produces highly expressive wines, true to the regional characteristics of the Yarra Valley. The Giant Steps Yarra Valley range also includes Chardonnay, Rosé, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

Cullen Wilyabrup Margaret River “Amber” 2017, 12.3%, Baggot Street Wines, €39.99
Sauvignon Blanc like never before. 

Looking at the orange colour, you expect it to be sweet. But it’s the exact opposite.  This is the kind of wine we’ve come to expect from the likes of Pheasant’s Tears from Georgia (Italy too, eg La Stoppa’s Ageno) but this comes from Western Australia and, yes, they have used amphora, stainless steel and oak too though.

They being the Cullens whose winery in Wilyabrup was one of the first in Margaret River when it started in 1971. It has always been a pioneer, especially on its journey to being verified biodynamic (2004) and also to being Carbon Neutral (2006).

The general idea behind orange wines is to make a white wine like a red, fermented on the skins. It is complex, with lemon, kumquat, orange blossom and hints of honey. Textured and concentrated on the palate with great length and persistence, with a gentle saltiness at the finish.

And so it is. Like the name says, it is amber, more or less, in colour. Aromas with strong citrusy elements and the light scent of honey. Complex and concentrated fruit on the palate and then that long finish. Did I get a touch of grass there? Maybe I did, but this is Sauvignon Blanc like never before. 

Cullens reckon it will pair well with a wide variety of food; we were thinking here that it could be great with scallops. Wouldn’t it be interesting to try those scallops with this and a regular Sauvignon Blanc at the same time!

For all the intense colour and complex aromas and hints of honey, this rich and elegant wine is definitely dry with something close to a tannic finish (you notice it as your lips dry!).Very Highly Recommended and a must try. There will be more of these coming down the line.

Cullens tell us that the grapes were left on skins and fermented partially before being pressed. The length of skin contact with the must ranged from two days to one month depending on the grape/parcel. The fruit was fermented in different vessels: open-top fermentation tanks, closed tanks as well as amphora which explains the many layers and complexity in this wine. 79% of the wine spent four months in new Tonnellerie Bordelaise and Louis Latour oak barrels.

“Winemaking is now in the hands of Vanya Cullen, daughter of the founders; she is possessed of an extraordinarily good palate. It is impossible to single out any particular wine from the top echelon; all are superb.” – James Halliday

Willunga 100 Grenache Rosé McLaren Vale 2018, 14%, Baggot Street Wine, Grapevine, Jus de Vine,, JJ O’Driscolls €18.99

The winery tells us fruit (100% Grenache) for this McLaren Vale rosé is sourced from 60-year old bush vines, which gives the wine “beautiful concentration and its classic strawberry and red cherry aromas”. Not too many rosés have that kind of provenance and, according to Wine Atlas of Australia, “the region makes the best Grenache in Australia”. Indeed, the focus in the Willunga 100 vineyard is very much on Grenache.

Peachy pink is the colour (agreed, eventually). Delicate aromatics, reminiscent of a cut cantaloupe melon rather than the expected strawberry and cherry. But there are certainly strawberry flavours on the fresh and lovely palate, quite a viscous mouthfeel as well. All in all a gorgeous and fairly dry drop all the way through to the fresh finish. You’ll find it hard to better this one. Highly Recommended.

Willunga 100 Grenache McLaren Vale 2016, 14.5%, Willunga 100 Grenache McLaren Vale 2016
Ely Wine Bar, Fallon & Byrne Wine Cellar Retail Wine, Jus de Vine, O Briens Wine Off Licence, Finian Sweeney,, JJO’Driscolls €18.99
Grenache from "a fantastic year"

2016 is considered to be a fantastic year for McLaren Vale, especially for Grenache. Again the fruit for this one comes from old bush vines. It is indeed an excellent wine, succulent and complex, and Very Highly Recommended

Mid ruby is the colour. Aromas of rich and ripe red and darker fruit. And the palate too is rich, warm and somewhat spicy. Fresh and supple; silky tannins play a role, as the hot summer and the influence of the oak combine in a pleasant and lingering finish. Willunga 100 may not have made it onto the pages of Wine Atlas of Australia but it gets its own page in my book. Chalk it down.

The wine was matured using a combination of older French oak barrel and steel tanks to preserve the purity of fruit, while adding complexity and mid-palate richness. Following maturation, the wine is blended and bottled under screw-cap to maintain freshness and ensure longevity.

Plantagenet  Three Lions Chardonnay Great Southern (Western Australia) 2017, 13.2%,  
64 Wine,, Cinnamon Cottage, €20.99
Cool nights. Cool Wine!

A combination of winemaking techniques* and the effects of the cooling night time breeze from the southern ocean climate results in a Chardonnay that is complex and yet fruit driven with an acidity that delivers great persistence and a hint of minerality. You read that on the label. 

The vineyard, in Mount Barker (a sub region of the Great Southern you see on the label), is a few hours east of the better known Margaret River and is particularly noted for its Riesling.

Colour of this unoaked Chardonnay is light yellow with green tints. Peach and blossom in the pleasant delicate aromas. A surprisingly strong attack, fruit-driven (lime, lemon), with cool and lively acidity in tandem; finish is lip-smacking and persistent. 

Plantagenet - the winery is named after a shire established by early English settlers - is now a self-sufficient winery. All their wines are now being made from estate fruit and this label showcases this fruit. As well as this Highly Recommended Chardonnay, you'll find Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet/Merlot. 

Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling Clare Valley 2018, 11.5%, The Corkscrew (previous vintage)
James Redmond & Sons,, €29.99
Sweet. And Special from Stephanie.

This intensely sweet wine is one of the best. Yet one may well ask what the hell is Cordon Cut! Here’s the answer, from the source: The underlying principle of this special wine is that the canes are completely severed and the bunches of grapes are left hanging on the vine. This causes them to shrivel like raisins, naturally concentrating the flavour.

Pour it from its neat very slim half-bottle and you’ll note it is pale to mid gold in the glass. Floral and citrus (lemon, lime) in the aromas, quite intense. On the palate, it is exquisite, clean and precise, definitely sweet (Cordon Cut also concentrates the sugars) though not of the sticky cloying type, lots of sweet fruit juice at play though, yet beautifully harmonious with a persistent and pleasing finish, particularly on a disappointing showery August Bank Holiday evening. 

A dessert wine but you won’t really need one with this. Produced from single-vineyard low-yielding Riesling vines, this is Very Highly Recommended.

Sourced entirely from her organic Watervale vineyard, this is Stephanie Toole’s 26th vintage of this outstanding dessert wine. This, from an an outstanding vintage, is one of the great Australian wines. By the way, Mount Horrocks are also noted for their Semillon, Shiraz, Cabernet Merlot and Riesling, all first-class wines according to Wine Atlas.

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