Si Vintners ‘Lello’ Chardonnay 2012

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Orange Chardonnay from Margs. Not even joking. It’s orange and it’s from Margs.

It’s the colour of a barley sugar from extended skin contact. Will shock you if you don’t know what you’re getting, so don’t order it blindly. Or do. Just be warned; it’s not a buttery ol’ skool fatboy nor a ‘Chablis-esque’ wateracidbomb.

It’s not ‘varietal’ but it got me thinking; is our definition of the word based only upon white varietal wine that’s mostly made without skin contact and from red varietal wine made with skin contact? If more Chardonnay was made with this degree of skin contact, would I consider this wine varietally representative? I don’t know.

Anyways, it’s beaming with a gorgeous tangerine and orange (Fanta!) scent that’s tailed by limestone and the faintest of peach aromas. Lush, but with tartness. Ruby grapefruit and some acetic acid is there in the mouth.Texture without tannin. Looooong. If you’re a believer in length being an indicator of a quality wine, and this doesn’t make your grade, then, well, you’re a lost cause. It’s a prime candidate for the argument that natural, skin contact whites can be as valid as, well, Margaret River Chardonnay.

Excellent / 92 points

Price: $50

Source: Taste

Closure: Screwcap

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Michel Lynch Bordeaux Rouge 2011

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Bargain Bordeaux. You don’t hear that very often. No fancy appellations needed here. Just good, honest wine. A blend of left and right bank Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Some youthful vanillin oak, then a sniff of tobacco, pencil shavings, dark chocolate, boysenberry, fennel and Dutch licorice, of which the latter can also be found on the palate. Complex, as you can probably guess from my notes.

The segue from nose to palate is seamless, but the youthful, firm tannins jump in to finish. Pretty good to drink now, even better in a year, and probably will jump a notch or two in three years.

Good / 88+ points

Price: $25

Closure: Cork

Source: Retail

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Jauma ‘Pet Nat’ Chenin Blanc 2013

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The method: Pétillant Naturels are made by bottling a wine that hasn’t finished fermentation and allowing it to finish its fermentation in bottle, which creates a sparkling wine from the Carbon Dioxide remaining in solution. No sugar or liqueur is added unlike the Methode Champenoise style of sparkling. Cloudy and unfiltered.

This sparkling is yeasty and nutty to smell, with some preserved lemon aromas poking though. Some aldehyde and VA wine faults for the trainspotters/nitpickers/archaic. A spicy and textural palate gives flavours of ginger, Tequila, green apple, bread and lemon squash. It’s mildly salty too which keeps the tastebuds salivating. It has two breeds of bubbles – there’s the initial charge of the sorts of bubbles you’d expect from a $25 fizz, but also an ultrafine, but sluggish, Krug-on-Valium bead that seems to emanate directly on the yeast sediment in the bottom of my glass.

This wine opened up after 90 minutes of being open, so it might even be worth gently decanting. Yeah, it’s not brilliant but neither is it something you’ll just quaff and forget about.

89 points / Good

Closure: Crown Seal

Price: $25

Source: Retail

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Russian Standard Gold Vodka

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I hardly ever drink Vodka, unless I get a bottle of this, in which case, it’s gone within a week. It’s made with an addition of ginseng, but in reality, it’s just a superior version of the regular Russian Standard for about $3 more. The label is also so shiny, you can’t read it under bright lights.

I believe it’s made with wheat. Winter wheat, if that makes a difference to something that’s distilled multiple times. A bit like saying ‘I love my haircut, even though I always wear this hat’. Oh, wait…

There’s a caramel edge to the nose of this. Again, I don’t know where that comes from. Pretty neutral and fresh to smell. A touch of spearmint and cream on the palate, where all the action lies. It’s smooth and the flavour does linger. Served from the freezer, it’s very easy to drink neat but doesn’t feel like you’re dumbing it down by doing so either.

Apart from Wyborowa and the bison grass flavoured Zubrowka, there’s not much else in the way of cheap Vodka that I will bother with. Good stuff.

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Price: $38

Source: Retail

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Ampel Tasmanian Pinot Noir 2012

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This one from Sydney distributor Vinous has got to be one of my favourite label designs. The Pinot Gris is great too. Not often you get to mention a pink map of Tassie without getting into trouble.

Mostly unfiltered, so cloudy. Upfront oak at this stage. It’s toasty and spicy to begin with. All about the red fruits with succulent glacé cherries, strawberries and redcurrants dominant on the nose and palate. Cherry cola on the finish, along with very mild tannins. A nod toward entry level Bourgogne in style with 30% whole bunch inclusion and use of oak. Give it a bit of time tucked away, if you happen to buy a few bottles.

It’s more interesting than a lot of Tasmanian Pinot Noir, whilst being a relatively simple wine; something that just heightens its drinkability. I’d choose this over a lot of $30-50 Tasmanian Pinot Noir because, firstly, it’s cheaper and secondly, it has a point of difference. Definitely a wine that I can heartily recommend to those looking for good, modestly priced Pinot Noir. Aren’t we all?

Good – Very Good / 90 points

Price: $25

Source: Tasting

Closure: Screwcap

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Markowitsch Blaufränkisch 2011

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A simple combination of blueberry, black pepper and capsicum aromas. Sort of smells like a Shiraz Cabernet actually. Rubber and a hint of strawberry.

It’s medium bodied and fruit forward, and shows blackberry and dusty tones on the palate. Not particularly lengthy but should please the average Australian palate. Not much to say. Decent wine and varietal in nature. Proper good schnitzelwein.

88 points / Good – Very Good

Price $30

Source: Retail

Closure: Cork

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Domaine Cornu Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2011

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Not the correct bottle image and not much info on the winery available. Imported by Pure Fine Wines.

The Domaine Cornu is a family-run operation. Alexandre is a fourth generation winemaker, taking over from Claude Cornu. The Domaine is located between Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune, in a little village of the Hautes Côtes, three kilometres from Ladoix Serrigny, which allows us to have “terroirs” which are very diverse and distinct. The Domaine spreads out over 19 Ha of vines with no less than fourteen different appellations, and pays particular attention to the environment, organic products, a moderate used of chemicals and mechanical care of the soil so as to leave a healthy soil to our descendants. The wines are vinified following the traditional method.

Big ripe strawberries tucked under a blanket of apparent whole bunch influence that smells of smoky, grilled green peppers. Continues onto the palate where dark cherries and young, stem tannins join the flow. Reasonably chewy and with commanding posture and length, finishing a bit creamy.

Love drinking this. A good departure from local Pinot and it’s reasonably priced. Should show more symmetry with another two years bottle age.

Very Good / 92+ points

Closure: DIAM

Source: Tasting

Price $50

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Brash Higgins ‘ZBO’ Zibibbo 2013

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On the winemaking process of this very limited wine, the following says it all, really. Except for the fact that Zibibbo, or Muscat of Alexandria, is also known as Fruity Lexia in Australia. Only 660 bottles made.

The BH ‘ZBO’ was one of the surprises of 2013. Grower, friend and viticulturist, Ashley Ratcliff, planted the seed about perhaps using some of his 70-year-old bush vine zibibbo from his Ricca Terra Farms in the sunny Riverland. Making a white in amphora, it was vital to use grapes that showed promise to create intrigue with longer skin contact, and this fragrant member of the Muscat family definitely fit the bill.
A 12-hour trip from HQ in the Vale in early March to collect one and a half tons of handpicked grapes in the town of Barmera set the tone for the wild adventure to come. After collecting the fruit and swerving down the M20 in an exhilarating white knuckle drive, I arrived back at base at night and quickly destemmed the golf ball sized, bronze fruit into waiting amphorae. A wild ferment ensued, and as the grapes broke down, I hand plunged the caps twice daily until the skins sank 16 days later.
The skins, seeds and juice remained covered in situ for five months. We siphoned the ‘free run’ off and combined it with the pressings for a further four months ageing in four-year-old French barriques, racked only before bottling. No fining or filtration was used, 20ppm of free SO2 was added at bottling.

Please, drink this at a temperature just colder than you’d serve a Pinot Noir, i.e maybe 30 minutes in the fridge from room temperature. It’s yellow and not as cloudy or orange as you’d anticipate from the winemaking. Very aromatic, but not floral like I expected it to be. Instead, aromas of peach and apricot nectar are quite assertive, and there’s a note of lemongrass, almost citronella, combined with some macadamia and an unexpected flinty reductive smell that seemed to dissipate with air. You get salinity straight away on the palate, without it being a salty, faulty wine. Works in its favour completely. Some more apricot and perhaps some lime to taste. It’s dry and textural, but the key point is that the phenolics are perfectly judged and it’s not at all bitter.

When do you drink it? Well, it’s probably best suited to be consumed as an aperitif. Food is not really needed, but in saying that, it’s probably more versatile than you’d expect from a Fruity Lexia. It’s certainly got a Fino like umami quality and moreishness, but plenty of fruit and tang as well. Without doubt, it’s one of Australia’s best in its class. It must be said that it’s still not going to please everyone. My partner hated it and described it as medicinal. There you go. One of those wines again. I’d really just suggest that if natural, orange/skin contact whites are your thing, then you’ll love it.

Outstanding / 94 points

Closure: Screwcap

Source: Retail

Price: $44

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Bodega Classica ‘Hacienda Lopez de Haro’ Rioja Crianza 2010

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This is 90% Tempranillo with 7% Garnacha and 3% Graciano making up the difference. Sleeps for 18 months in French and American oak. Imported to WA by Spanish Terroir.

Blue to black fruit spectrum with blueberries, blackberries and mulberries showing. Some pie crust, tobacco and cinnamon matches nicely with that fruit. A tad of dust, roast meat and drip coffee finishes of the nose nicely. Moving on to the palate, there’s a greater concentration than the nose suggests, but also a light touch.

I can’t believe I’m typing this but it reminds me of the wood of a cricket bat. One that you’ve smashed a bunch of berries with and then dipped it in cola. I don’t think they even play cricket in Spain. Some sweet fruit that turns slightly bitter after swallowing. It’s dusty too, though perhaps not as dusty as my cricket bat must be after 15 or so years of not being used.

I think it would suit roast lamb or beef as well as burgers, maybe also some pumpkin couscous or the like. It’s a pretty complex wine for its price. Bit of a crowd pleaser too, I’d imagine.

Very Good / 91 points

Closure: DIAM

Source: Retail

Price: $30

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Domaine de l’Octovin Trousseau Les Corvées 2012

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This is probably the most polarising and weirdest wine I’ve tasted. It made me smile – grin even -  and was far more memorable than so many other wines. It’s one of those wines that brings together so many different aspects, whether those are ‘faults’ or features, well, that’s up to you. But I consider wines like this to be in a completely different class to say, a clean, sturdy Cape Mentelle Cabernet or classic Bouchard white Burgundy. Yes, it has some characters that are classically undesirable, but as a whole, I found it to be pleasantly mad.

Biodynamic and made from Trousseau (or Bastardo if you’re Portuguese). There’s even some growing in Geographe, WA.

Only 9.8% alcohol, making it fall short of the Arbois appelation and just a Vin de France. 0.2% more would have pushed it over the line, but, would that have made it a better wine?

Is it a Rosé? No. Is a red wine? Sort of. It’s got a rusty, cloudy red colour and is very light and pale. Smells Bretty – cowpat is the first thing that springs to mind. There’s a high note of orange peel too. The wine has a high acidity as well as some density. It tastes of watermelon rind and pith, roses, rhubarb. And on top of that, there’s a clear note of buttered popcorn, which is a diacetyl ‘fault’. Slightly smoky too. Yes, that’s an odd combination of flavours.

It’s enigmatic, and completely dividing, but it made me want to drink the whole thing on my own. Others at the table had mixed opinions: one said that it was the most horrible wine they’ve ever tasted, and others enjoyed its bold personality. If you do find some, try it with food.

I can’t do anything but rate this highly since I enjoyed it so much. At a wine show, it’d barely get 70 points and would be the talking point afterwards. Thanks to Rachael for sharing this rare treat!

Excellent / 93 points

Closure: Cork

Price: $44

Source: Shared at dinner

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