Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sangiovese at the 2011 AAVWS #1

Class 15A of the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show (AAVWS) covered 2010 and 2011 sangiovese. In much of the country, 2011 was not a good vintage for sangiovese, with fruit suffering under the disease pressures of cool and wet. But 2010 was a different story, many regions having a break from heatwave, drought, frost and other difficult conditions.

This was a small class of 14 entries. Some wines definitely needed more time to come up (like the 2010 Vigna Cantina), but my general impression of the class was poor. From what I saw under show conditions, the wines I would buy were:
- 2010 Chalk Hill sangiovese (McLaren Vale, stainless steel, then large-format old oak), which took a bronze from the judges
- 2010 Coriole sangiovese (McLaren Vale, strong showing, well worth a gold medal, which it received)
- 2010 Watershed Premium Wines 'Senses' sangiovese (Margaret River, the other gold medal awarded).

It is useful to look at the prices as well as the regions here. The Coriole has a $25 rrp but will often retail at about $20 a bottle if you look. The Chalk Hill is a $22 rrp. $25 for the Watershed. These wines can hit a good balance of quality and price point - something I still think is a fundamental problem with quite a bit of Australian sangiovese. Of the three, the Chalk Hill could afford to dial the 15.5% alcohol back, but did not really show distorting heat that much. The Watershed made me think I need to have a closer look at Italian varieties coming out of WA (the Juniper Estate Tempranillo extending that case into Spain).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fiano & Malaysian food

A quick note on a surprising match (for me). Dinner for a birthday last night at Abel's Kopi Tiam restaurant in Manuka. Walking over from the bus, I go past Vintage Cellars and decide to duck in. Let's not dwell on the service, but I notice a bottle in the chill cabinet of the 2010 Fox Gordon Adelaide Hills Fiano for less than a $20 and decide to take it to dinner, along with the 2007 Lazy Ballerina McLaren Vale shiraz viognier from David Hook I was already lugging.

A large-ish group, so a banquet was the plan. Fried squid in spice, a good chicken satay, fresh roti, lots of vegetables, rich noodles, a chicken curry, beef rendang & rice... The fiano did a surprisingly good job against everything other than the rendang. The fleshy, candied-lemon texture and flavours, plus a touch of phonolic grip, all worked well with the moderately spiced food.

So, Fiano and Malaysian food. Worth a try, I think.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Vigna Cantina 2010 Sangiovese (Barossa Valley)

Here is a wine that requires a bit of time to show itself (and to get its measure). Vigna Cantina is the 'Italian' label of Torzi Matthews, with the range also including a good old-vine trebbiano. The Barossa has some older-vine sangiovese to work with, including on sandier soils that can help balance out the vines at sensible cropping levels. Some of the vines Penfolds have used for their Cellar Reserve Sangiovese were experimental Kalimna plantings put in in 1982. Apparently, there are a few early trial wines made that never saw external release... Wonder what they were (or are) like?

But back to Vigna Cantina. These vines, at Moppa Springs and Koonunga Hill in the Barossa, come in at 15 years of age and are cropped moderately (2.5kg per vine). Winemaking choices are similar to the 2009 version of this wine (reviewed here) - whole berries, 30% whole bunch, wild yeasts, small open ferments, basket pressed and taken to bottle unfiltered.

The wine itself shows a good balance of fruit character, acid and light, burring tannins, but needs time in the decanter or glass to come up (a couple of years in the cellar could work too). As a pop-and-pour, it can look a touch under-fruited, with a note of something lifted, almost volatile. Perhaps as a result of the wild yeast ferment, this lifted character (not VA for me) can be a bit distracting, but with time the purple and red fruits well up nicely to balance things out. A good wine, straddling the categories of sangiovese and Barossan dry red, and decent drinking with time and grilled meats. Sensible alcohol a further plus.

Sample, $22 recommended retail price, screwcap, 13.5% alcohol. Winery website here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Umani Ronchi 2008 Casal di Serra Vecchie Vigne Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore

This wine is the unoaked but 'serious' older vines verdicchio from Umani Ronchi. While it shows the work, especially in skin & pressing derived phenolics and a drying, chalky finish, it is a satisfying drink. Brought in by Trembath & Taylor, this needs to be served a bit warmer than a full chill to give the fruit a fair chance at expression. The acid profile is all lemon with length and structure delivered by the phenolics & a lick of skin tannin. While the acid suggests chardonnay, the nose and the palate say this is something different. At the recommended retail price of $45, this is worth a look if you have an interest in seeing 'serious' treatment of Italian white grapes. Personally, I prefer verdicchio more directly expressed and focussed on refreshment rather than complexity, but this did drink well with a barbecued pork fillet, roast baby capsicum, couscous and a green salad.
Cork, 14% alcohol.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show 2011

For three days last week I was a steward at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, held each year at the beginning of November in Mildura. It was a good thing to do, giving me an insight into how a (good) wine show runs that you don't get as an exhibitor, punter or observer.

I'll do a few posts focusing on different aspects of the show and the results, but to start off, here are a couple of general comments:
  1. The quality of the alternative whites, including the 2011 vintage, surprised me. The 'other whites' class (Class 10 - other white varieties or blends) had 11 of 19 entries take a medal (including a bronze for the 2011 Quarry Hill North Block savagnin sav blanc blend). It was the strongest of the classes I tasted through from the steward's table.
  2. The judges liked the sangiovese classes a lot more than I did. Not much there I would be prepared to pay full tote for. But a couple of good wines that I'll write about later.
  3. The quality of organisation for the show is evident in the excellent presentation of the results, including the capacity to drill back into wine-specific information. See here for an example. One step further would be to publish the summary judges' comments for each wine, along with the summary of entry.
  4. Having tasted all 24 of the straight savagnin wines in Class 5 (a class awarded a solitary bronze medal), I think the judges might have missed some decent wines (such as the 2011 Tscharke 'Girl Talk') that have done well with other reviewers and in other shows. This class and the white rhones really needed to be served with some chill on them, rather than at a Mildura room temperature. Room to do better here, I think, as tricky as the logistics can be.
  5. The 2011 Scott Fiano from the Adelaide Hills is excellent - well-deserving of the gongs it collected, including Best White Italian Varietal and Best White Wine. I reviewed the 2010 of this back in January here and mentioned this was a producer to watch, something this show's results confirm.
  6. The 'Steward's Choice Award' (a packing room prize), clearly the best nod to get from the whole show, went to the 2010 Greenstone Colorino. My pick for the prize, it was, looking even better than my earlier quick look at the Bibendum roadshow. It will get a proper review, with food, sharpish.
All in all, a great wine show experience. Well-organised and well-run, with a good mix of judges from different backgrounds and viewpoints. Knocked the edges off some of my wine show cynicism too, which is good.