The Elitist Review editorial team dropped by this annual trade tasting organised by Wine Australia, the venue being the rather swish Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. We didn’t taste so many of the wines, partly because we had a lunch engagement to get to, but mostly because there were epic quantities of piss-boring, industrially produced wine aimed at the enjoyment-impoverished and the tight of wallet. So, what caught our attention?
There was clearly one stand-out producer who made wonderful, personality filled wines in a beautiful style that few other Australians can manage: Mac Forbes. [link2post id=”258″]I reported on one of their wines just over a week ago[/link2post] and it was a delight to try some more. His Riesling was really compelling with great acidity and lots of charming fruit; really tasty stuff. I liked the fact that the front label gives the amount of residual sugar in the wine (if only they’d do this in Alsace). The single vineyard Pinot Noir wines, especially the 2008s, were probably the best range of Australian Pinots I’ve tasted. I love their low alcohol and beguiling restraint. Lots of fruit, for sure, but these elegant little beauties were more about purity of expression rather than being fruit bombs that blow your head off at the first sniff. Clark Foyster Wines are the agent in the UK, so go to their website and order vast amounts of these lovely wines! Even the most expensive of the Pinot single vineyards, the Woori Yallock 2008, is undoubtedly worth every penny.
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An old favourite producer, Moss Wood, also had some good wines on show. These were only enhanced by being served by the owner’s quite lovely daughter; she was a charmer, alright. The Semillon seemed a good, weighty example with a really pleasing backbone of acidity; it’ll age surprisingly well for a inexpensive wine. Their Chardonnay was reasonably fat, but with its good acidity it never seemed over-blown or heavy, this was definitely a classy Chardonnay which was still recognisably Australian. I have a bit of a soft-spot for Moss Wood Cabernet and the 2006 vintage was a really top example of the wine. We are told the ripening time for the grapes was longer than any in Moss Wood’s previous history and this, we are informed, is why the wine has such a depth of complexity. I think ‘depth of complexity’ might be over-selling it a tad, but I liked the impressive tannic structure that seemed balanced with the ripe fruit and quite unusually high acid levels.
[image image_id=”2447″] Old favourites continued to provide the quality kit. The mighty and oft recommended Tim Adams had some new wines on show which I had not tasted before. His Riesling Reserve 2008 was a delicate entity of purity and exquisite attractiveness. Not very alcoholic, but its refinement… oh its refinement… A 2009 Pinot Gris was also on offer which had a pleasing opulent fruitiness, but thanks to its great acidity it seemed totally balanced and extremely drinkable. A top wine for the price. It appears the Cabernet I used to recommend to anyone who wanted a bargain but quality wine has become Cabernet Malbec, we tasted the 2006 vintage. It is still a winner, maybe a bit more rigorous than previous vintages with a good interplay between big tannins, fine acid and piles of fruit when you drink it. We have tried The Fergus, Clare Valley Shiraz and The Aberfeldy so many times we didn’t re-try them, instead we moved on to a new red wine for us: Tempranillo Reserve. This demonstrated that even brilliant winemakers cannot do everything right: it was utterly, horribly disgusting.
A few more Rieslings sucked us in. Mesh Eden Valley Riesling 2007 was fresh and focussed as ever; a really affordable Riesling that is an enlivening, vigorous pleasure to drink. Then we tried Jeffrey Grosset’s two 2009 Clare Valley vineyard-designated Rieslings, Springvale and Polish Hill. As usual, these were piercing, riveting wines that screamed with frightening acid-levels and exploded with vivacious citrus fruit. Perhaps it was because these wines were being served at such a young age that they seemed fruitier than normal, the citrus fruit was very primary. They seemed the best two examples of these wines I have tried.
I shall pass over the mundane and simply pedestrian wines we sampled, and there were too many, and move onto spewing invective about the actively nasty filth we mistakenly tried. Some of the most repulsive white wines I have ever been misfortunate enough not to have avoided tasting came from Leeuwin Estate. When sniffing the Art Series Riesling 2008 I just about managed to empty my mind of the over-whelming revulsion long enough to wonder whether making insecticide really was an art. It smelled like the Platonic ideal of fly spray. What fruit was there was really confected and this, together with the pronounced Raid characters, just wanted to make me cry and wail asking what terrible crime I had committed to have to stomach such an abominable wine. I don’t actually know what insecticide tastes like, but I’d wager Art Series Riesling is pretty close to the most vigorously toxic kind. The Prelude Chardonnay was a melange of confected fruit and clumsy oak; no balance, harmony or charm, too much like sucking a charred plank coated with foam-banana sweets. Vile. Then came the ‘ooh fancy!’ Art Series Chardonnay 2007, retailing for an impressive £47 a bottle. For this princely sum you’d get a boringly overblown Chardonnay with an expensive but awkward and inept oak treatment that just smacks you on the nose and palate with its aggressive, unhinged character. The palate had no redeeming features, being too oaky with strangely contrived fruit flavours and no hint of length or complexity. What a pile of horribleness for so much money.
Finally I want to roundly abuse a particular style of Pinot that some people in hot climates make. My examples of this style are made in the supposedly cool climate region of the Mornington Peninsula by the producer Ten Minutes by Tractor. We tried their 2008 ‘10x’ Pinot Noir which is a blend of grapes from their three vineyards and two 2007 single vineyard Pinot Noirs. They were such travesties of the noble Pinot grape that Ten Minutes should be first up against the wall when the aesthetic revolution comes. All these three wines were really hot and alcoholic, seeming quite unbalanced because of this. But, because the poor Pinot had been left to bake in the sun for too long the only characters that remained were utterly ghastly HP Sauce and Bovril-like qualities. These can often be found in Pinot Noir that has been left to roast on the vine far too long and Ten Minutes by Tractor had clearly got their technique of ruining Pinot down to a fine art. If you can imagine, oh I am not sure I want to, a mix of one third Bovril, one third HP Sauce and one third vodka then you would have the perfect recipe for overblown Pinot that would be terribly, shamefully close to these offerings. I hated them.
Still, the good wines were good and I don’t have to try the bad ones any more today. Many thanks to the UK arm of Wine Australia for organising this event.