Wednesday, 28 January 2015

d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2006

In a small vinous gesture to Australia's national day, it seemed appropriate to open a good Australian wine from the cellar.  In this case, d'Arenberg's The Dead Arm shiraz from the 2006 vintage was the inaugural choice.  Unsurprisingly, for a benchmark McLaren Vale wine it did not disappoint.

The Dead Arm 06's nose is complex, with expressions of vanilla, coconut, earth, gravel, sweet plums, roasted meat and coffee, and that fine red berry peppery character so typical of the region.  Crushed ants came to mind.  The vanilla and coconut oak characters are not overdone, and the roasted characters are more evident with time in the glass.  The palate is soft and warm, almost surprisingly accessible, with a core of ripe and deep red and blackberry fruit supplemented by licorice and rich old leather characters. The length on the palate is deep and vivid, and its most convincing feature.

Overall, this is plainly a very good vintage of the Dead Arm and I would suggest that it has entered its drinking window.

Rating: Very Good, Abv: 14.5%, Price: $60s, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2015

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Heartland Shiraz 2012

First, a brief comment, and then the wine, which is a good one.  This wine is from Langhorne Creek in South Australia.  Langhorne Creek is to me a wine region that appears on labels, overtures are sometimes made as to the typicity of its terroirs in terms of what's in the bottle, yet I don't quite feel that its terroir is given the recognition and exploration it deserves.  In this sense, the overtures can resemble study notes with headings, but no text beneath.

In terms of location, Langhorne Creek sits south east of Adelaide on the northern shores of Lake Alexandrina, inland from the Southern Ocean.  The region is warm, albeit cooled by southerly winds.  Rainfall is sparse (with long term rainfall of the region of only around 300mm) and irrigation is routinely practiced.  The soils are mostly fertile, deep, alluvial sandy loams, and the topography is mostly flat.  Salinity appears an issue.  It also appears primarily the domain of large company mechanised viticulture, with approximately 6,000 hectares planted to vines.  From an international point of view, these are facts more akin to a bulk wine producing region, than a fine wine region.  Yet, the region can produce very good wine, and has a long history of doing just that.  Terroir is a complicated master.

Heartland is made by Ben Glaetzer, and its website reveals it to be a blend of shiraz from Langhorne Creek (86%) and the Limestone Coast (14%).  I thought the wine was pretty good, and was particularly pleased that the oak was well handled, allowing the fruit to sing in an unforced way.  This is a juicy wine with aromatics of licorice, ripe plums and blackberry.  The palate is tasty, with ripe, fruit driven flavours of plum and blackberry.  A great value wine.

Rating: Good, Abv: 14.7%, Price: $18, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2015

1. Wine Australia:
2. J Halliday, The Australian Wine Encyclopaedia (Hardie Grant, 2009).
3. Langhorne Creek Wine Region:

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Leconfield Merlot 2012

I've had some good Coonawarra merlots over the years, and so am willing to chance from time to time what is at first blush is an ostensibly unpromising combination.  I've said this before, but merlot in Australia appears to be a grape variety that few have the desire or will to push to its best.

Lest expectations build, let me puncture them in this case.  This particular release from Leconfield
is neat and tidy or tidy and neat if you are familiar with the literature I currently read, perfectly pleasant and yet unremarkable.  Its aromatics remind of red berries, spear mint and chocolate.  The palate is four square - that lovely English expression for solid but unremarkable - with dry tannins that are nonetheless ripe and expressions of red plums.  Well made overall.

Rating: Acceptable to Good, Abv: 14%, Price: ~$20,Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2015

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Bream Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010

From the picturesque east coast of Tasmania, Bream Creek Vineyard is a producer that I stumble across from time to time, this time at a bin end sale.  Having recalled an excellent bottle of Bream Creek Vineyard pinot noir some years ago, vintage unrecorded and whose grace and memory have improved in the telling, this bottle more or less found its own way to the counter.

The results in the glass of the 2010 pinot noir are good.  Its aromatics are restrained, even a little herbal, with notes reminding of leaf, tomato bush, wood spice and earthy overtones.  The palate changes course though, leading away from unripe characters, and instead there are neatly threaded reminders of savoury cherry and cedar, and a medium length finish.   While not corresponding to memory, this is nonetheless a stylish pinot noir.

Rating: Good, Abv: 13.7%, Price: $30, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2015

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Lark Hill Viognier 2014

Viognier works in the Canberra District.  It avoids, in good hands such as those of Lark Hill, the oily and flabby characters that it can take on elsewhere.  Clonakilla opened my eyes to the potential of viognier in the region, and Lark Hill continues to affirm it here with another good viognier release at a much gentler price.  Grown biodynamically, part of the grapes are fermented in old oak with wild yeasts.  In the glass, there are aromatics of soft apricot, talc, stone and white nectarine.   The palate has a balance and harmony to it, with good length on the finish.  This is a very fresh style of viognier that appeals.

Rating: Good to Very Good, Abv: 12%, Price: $25, Source: sample, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2015