Archive for the ‘Margaret River’ category

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2006

March 1, 2009

On a recent trip to Margaret River I’ve been confronted again with the boom of new wineries and cellar doors. Along with the fortunes made in mining, a lot of those places have been there for a while, especially at the northern end of the Wilyabrup area, but this time I suddenly became aware of the scale of developments. In the battle of egos big is the keyword, with oversized buildings, golden statues, water features and the ever compulsory cast iron gates.  To me it all seems unnecessary, especially in an otherwise unspoiled region like Margaret River where less is generally so much more beautiful. The comparison with the region’s Chardonnays is never far away, as the personality of these wines is often expressed through excessive oak, alcohol and lees stirring. Fortunately an increasing number of winemakers moves away from this style, allowing fruit, site and vintage speak for themselves. The Cape Mentelle Chardonnay is a perfect example with lower alcohol, well handled, restrained use of oak, and fresh, clean and crisp fruit. Sure, this cool vintage has helped to craft a leaner wine, although I also believe in a well chosen approach to style. It has all resulted in a clear, light straw coloured wine with aromas of lemon, grapefruit, white peach, melon and subtle notes of vanilla, nutty and spicy oak preceding detailed and precise flavors that are build on a well balanced base of barrel ferment characters and natural acidity. This wine clearly shows how Australian Chardonnays can still be appealing without showy muscles and weight. 92 points

Source: LVMH  Price: $43  Drink: Now-2012



Cullen “Kevin John” Chardonnay 2006

September 3, 2008

Spring is in the air and clear blue skies quickly make me forget about winter. Although, somehow I had to think about the summer of 2005-2006 with its extremely cool temperatures. I’ll never forget the drizzle at Fernhook Falls on New Years Eve. Later in 2006 it turned out the weather had been so cool that Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grown in the most southern parts of WA had failed to ripen fully. But a difficult vintage for red wines turned out to be a great one for whites. Especially the Chardonnays show magnificent concentration of flavours and high natural acidity across the board, with the better ones from Margaret River being truly outstanding. Whether its the bio-dynamic approach, the pedigree of the fruit, restrained wine making or a combination of this all, the Chardonnays from Cullen always possess a certain naturalness making it one of the regions best. Light yellow in colour, intense aromas of citrusfruit and melon are underpinned by subtle oak and barrel derived characters. This is all repeated on a palate that is tight, elegant, focused and pure with ample acid and a superb creamy mouthfeel. Although I prefer to drink Chardonnays relatively young, I would cellar this wine for another year before looking at it again. 93 points.

Source: Red + White  Price: $79.99  Drink: Now-2011+


A selection of Australian Chardonnays

June 10, 2008

No grape is more versatile than Chardonnay. Climatically diverse regions produce unique fruit that can be moulded into various styles. In relatively small areas as Chablis and the Côte d’Or it even comes down to single vineyards, where minute details as soil and exposition determine whether a wine can be labelled as a Cru or not. Despite the differences in quality or winemaking, a certain convergence can still be seen: Meursault tastes like Meursault, St-Aubin and Puligny-Montrachet like a Côte du Beaune.

When I had a line-up of six premium Chardonnays from WA a while ago, it seemed to me that – without doubting the quality of the fruit – the winemaker clearly ruled within the limits set by the raw materials and (more often) the market: styles generally get leaner, tighter and more defined. I did the same exercise again with Pierro’s Dr. Michael Peterkin, this time with some of Australia’s best. Not worrying too much about regionality this time, I looked at them as individual wines telling their own story.

The Bindi Quartz Chardonnay was one of my favourites and after the majestic 2005 I finally had a look at the 2006 edition. Bright, clear and yellow straw in the glass the nose displayed intense and rich characters of nectarine, white peach and citrus fruit, following through on a palate that showed more restraint with its usual tightly focused, mineral acidity.

From the tiny Wantirna Estate Vineyard in the Yarra Valley comes the 2006 Isabella Chardonnay. All work in this in 1963 planted vineyard in done manually while the overall oenological philosophy tends to be rather traditional. The resulting wines are therefore of very high quality, fully reflecting the potential of the fruit as is shown by this yellow straw Chardonnay. Initially very shy on the nose, the wine opens up nicely with some time in the glass, presenting intense melon, lemon and nectarine fruit following through on a palate that is elegantly marked by barrel fermentation and lees stirring.

Every great wine starts in the vineyard, so does the 2005 Pierro Chardonnay from our host. Thoughtful site selection, high-density planting, balanced canopy management, hand-picking and even irrigation are part of Dr. Peterkin’s repertoire. The expression of the winemaker himself is what this wine really stands out for though, a textbook example of how the variety can be manipulated to express itself to a maximum without losing its sense of place. Nuts, lees, stone fruit, melon, grapefruit and vanilla are just a few of the aromas that greet you on the nose while frequent bâttonage, 100% malolactic fermentation and barrel ageing have left their mark on the palate. Hedonistic buttery roundness with underlying taut acidity show the balancing act between fruit and winemaking is perfectly executed.

The yellow gold coloured 2005 Giaconda Chardonnay elaborates on the same theme although this effort from Kinzbrunner is as precise a wine can get. Incredibly intense on the nose aromas of melon, apple, pear, citrus, stone fruit and spice follow through on a powerful palate showing astonishing intensity, depth and length. In one word phenomenal.

Leeuwin Estate must be one of Margaret River’s major tourist attractions judged by the sheer number of people visiting the excellent cellar door, restaurant, art gallery and annual concert. Brilliant marketing from the region’s biggest winery that produces an overall solid range of wines. But Leeuwin Estate has got a super-sub called Block 20, one distinct parcel forming the backbone of the ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay. The pedigree of the fruit always shines through in a wine that is marked by one year lees contact and entirely new oak. It’s therefore no surprise that this wine needs time to flesh out in the bottle before it unveils its full potential. The 2005 Leeuwin Estate “Art Series” Chardonnay proves no exception to this rule as I’ve tasted this wine three times since its release, gradually showing more coherence and complexity. The light golden wine delivers the most intense aromas pears, apples, peaches, figs, nuts and spicy oak with an equal monumental concentration of flavours on a powerful and long palate. Again, your patience will be repaid.

From the King of Terroir himself comes the 2003 Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay, a wine that stood out by its golden colour,  unfortunately betraying its forward characters of ripe fruit and toasty, honeyed characters that became more obvious over some time in the glass. Despite triggering an interesting discussion on the amount of free sulphur dioxide after bottling the wine left me disappointed. Regarding the tightness of Croser’s 2005 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay it’s unlikely this would be the style intended.   

Great White Blends from Margaret River

January 13, 2008

In the short break from Christmas to New Year I have been relaxing in Margaret River. From the magnificant Karri trees in the Boranup forest to the ever present Indian Ocean, this region is stuningly beautiful. The biggest bonus is the vineyards planted on the most suitable sites where cool seabreezes moderate the overall warm growing conditions. Grapes from those sites are able to produces wines of good ripeness but also of grace and elegance. One of the best styles of this region is the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend, either in the unwooded and fruit-driven mould or in the more subtle and serious way with the full spectrum of winemaking techniques as barrel fermentation and lees contact showing off in the wines. There is no doubt that 35 years after the planting of the first vines winemakers fully understand the virtues of specific sites, resulting in delicious wines that reflect their terroir. With the current hot summer days and fresh seafood on the Webber I’ve decided to line up a few of my favourites.  

img_3991.jpgThe 2007 Moss Wood Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is made from grapes grown in the fully mature Ribbon Vale Vineyard in the centre of the Wilyabrup sub-region. As a blend of 65% Semillon and 35% Sauvignon Blanc this wine shows typical aromas of hay, gooseberry, passionfruit and mango on the nose while fermentation in stainless steel tanks and minimal lees stirring leaves a succulent and uncomplicated palate that perfectly combines the lively tropical fruit and herbaceousness of the Sauvignon Blanc with the fresh citrus flavours of the Semillon. Sure, the emphasize is laid on primary fruit but this wine has enough texture and length to lift it out of the ordinary (90 points).

img_3984.jpgThe 2007 The Yard made by WA’s rising star Larry Cherubino is another perfect example of Wilyabrup Semillon Sauvignon Blanc. Crafted of grapes from the only 10 years-old Pedestal vineyard this wine shows a perfect combination between high quality fruit and immaculate winemaking. Partial fermentation in new French oak barrels for 4 months adds complextity and structure to a wine with subtle tropical fruit, herb, straw and citrus on the nose. The parcel of Semillon (83%) is clearly dominant adding a strong twist of lemon to a palate with a soft and mineral texture. A clearly more elegant and refined style with a long, intense and dry finish (93 points).

img_3979.jpgAn astonishing match between winery and vineyard is demonstrated by the 2005 Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. The grapes from one of Margaret River’s best and oldest vineyards have undergone the full spectrum of winemaking techniques including the use of wild yeasts, malolactic fermentation and barrel maturation, resulting in a wine of great texture and complextity balanced by intense flavours of tropical fruit and citrussy acid towards a persistant finish. A hint of regional herbaciousness tells you this cracker is from Margaret River instead of Bordeaux (95 points).

img_3988.jpgThe in 1995 planted Mangan vineyard is source of the 2006 Mangan Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. Biodynamically grown parcels of Sauvignon Blanc (60%) and Semillon (40%) are used to craft a magnificent wine of immense intensity and purity. Lovely lemon, grapefruit, white flowers and a hint of oak on the nose lead to a perfectly balanced palate where tangy lemon, passionfruit, herbal and spicy flavours are framed by a delicate minerally texture towards a long and lingering finish. This is a truly impressive wine and a benchmark for the style. Drink it now or over the next 5 to 10 years (95 points). 

Cape Mentelle Marsanne Roussanne 2006

August 1, 2007

img_2996.jpgI tasted this wine twice last week at separate occasions, first at a comparative tasting with Margaret River pioneer David Hohnen who planted those varieties at Cape Mentelle in 1970, a day later with winemaker Rob Mann. David makes his own white Rhône-style blend now, the outstanding 3Amigos Marsanne Chardonnay Roussanne, while Rob looks very well after his precious legacy by creating this wine in the typical Cape Mentelle mould. Composed of 87% Marsanne and 13% Roussanne this yellow-straw wine shows ripe pear, lucious honey and mineral aromas on the nose. The same characters mark the palate that is rich, unctuous and textural as a result from barrel fermentation and regular lees stirring. The wine finishes in style with refreshing acidity and some characterful phenolics. A lovely wine that’s even better with food. 91 points.

Source: Winery sample/Cellar Door Only  Drink: Now-2010


McHenry Hohnen Tiger Country 2005

June 16, 2007

img_3027.jpgIt is true that good and interesting wine is made through creativity and innovation, characteristics that certainly apply to this wine from McHenry Hohnen vintners. Where a straight Cabernet Sauvignon or blend of the traditional Bordeaux varieties would have been the region’s natural choice, the Tiger Country combines Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The combination between the first and the last is not uncommon – in Spain anyway – but it is the addition of the Petit Verdot that makes it all pretty unique. What is truly remarkable about this wine is the complexity that has been brought about with the use of such different varieties while the whole is kept in perfect balance. Pure chocolate, earthy aromas, red berries, floral and spicy notes contribute to a highly interesting nose. The palate opens like one would expect of a varietal Tempranillo, round and soft, but the more grippy tannins and overt acidity of the Petit Verdot and the Cabernet Sauvignon quickly take over and add power and complexity to the wine. This beautifuly structured wine is an experimental benchmark and offers a completely different drinking experience. Keep your eyes open for more wines of this interesting producer. 91 points.

Source: MGM Wine  Price: $33  Drink: Now-2012