Friday, 31 October 2014

Lark Hill Riesling 2014

Jasmine.  At least, that's what seems to come to mind when I taste a riesling from the Canberra region.  Since a tasting of several vintages of Canberra riesling some years ago with Tim Kirk, when Clonakilla was still only almost famous, I have find myself partial to the potential of this region with the riesling grape.  This example from Lark Hill seems more or less a vin de garde, with aromatics of lemon, yellow grapefruit and that floral edge.  The palate is framed by high acidity and its medium length finish is a firm and youthful expression of lemon and yellow grapefruit.  A good riesling for the cellar.

Rating: Good, Abv: tba, Price: $35, Source: sample, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2014

Monday, 27 October 2014

Tahbilk Shiraz 2012

Tahbilk's shiraz from the 2012 vintage resembles a lighter style of a Heathcote wine.  I thought this a rather odd thought, until of course recalling that there's only approximately 50 kilometres between the two regions.  There's a deep intensity of colour with this shiraz, with aromatics that remind of red meat, plums and plenty of dried spice - for the latter, think clumsy attempt to access the back of the cupboard resulting in spice bottles falling over in unison.  The palate is balanced with medium length, and nuances of earth and spice.  There's some anise characters too on the nose and palate.  Overall, this is pleasant drinking.

Rating: Good, Abv: 13.7%, Price: $25.70, Source: sample, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2014

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Lark Hill Shiraz Viognier 2013

This is a very good shiraz viognier release from Lark Hill, certainly the most complete rendition of this Canberra region speciality that I have tasted from this producer.  Deeply coloured, it has aromatics of cherry, red plum and plum skins intermingled with some raspberry and earth characters.  There's long length and depth on the palate, with some peppery characters emerging with air.  Should this description prove insufficiently alluring, I have miscommunicated.  One to buy.

Rating: Very Good, Abv: tba, Price: $30, Source: sample, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2014

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Wine writing styles

There's a good article by English wine writer Hugh Johnson entitled Wine Writing Since Waugh in the most recent edition of The World of Fine Wine.  What's interesting is that it in effect categorises different styles of wine writing, without necessarily passing judgement on which is best, most effective or most interesting. Or perhaps just doing so in a rather English way.

The styles identified include:

Identifying human qualities in wines

A leading adherent of this style was André Simon, a Frenchman writing in England in the first part of the twentieth century.   Hugh notes:
"He was the champion of the anthropomorphism, not hesitating to find human qualities in wine (a skill now sadly and wrongly disparaged) ... Nor did he scruple to make analogies between wines and trees, or painters, or anything that his reader, he felt, could summon to mind more readily than a flavour.  "This Chablis had the grace of the silver willow, the claret the majesty of the purple beech, but as for the port ... there is no tree, with its roots in common clay".
Whether this style charms or repels is a personal preference.  Personally, I don't find it a particularly informative style in a factual sense, yet it manages to disarm and communicate a memorable message.  Which is to say it can be effective, although the object of description could equally have been a bird, rather than a glass of wine.

Short form analytical descriptions of wine

Hugh observes that short form analytical descriptions of wine became popular from the 1970s.  A leading adherent here is Michael Broadbent MW.  Hugh notes:
"Broadbent's published notes, and his calm analytical style, became an industry norm.  Professionals work methodically through a wine's attributes: Its colour, bouquet, taste, and aftertaste.  In 2000, Château Margaux 1966 ... is "medium deep, a lovely colour; nose low-keyed but harmonious, good fruit, slow to open up; medium sweetness and body, rich, good fruit, grip and balance, its sustaining tannins and acidity under control".
This style appeals to me personally - it's fairly clear what's in the glass, even if I rather wish that Michael would add a few more sentences to his succinct summaries, for the simple reason that I am interested in what he has to say.

Long form analytical descriptions of wine

This style captures longer form analytical descriptions of a wine's appearance, aromatics, flavour and finish.  It encapsulates the fruit, nut and vegetable analogies which were popularised from the 1980s and variously revered and parodied.  A leading adherent here is Robert Parker.  Hugh notes:
"Cherries, berries, smoke, leather, lead pencil, chocolate, cedar, vanillin, underbrush, spice, peach, herbs, jam in gobs and oodles ooze from the wine right to its long, lusty finish.  Many emulate him, very few succeed.  His secret is his energy and commitment, the sheer joy of wine and lust for life, that make his words flow and create conversation."
This style is what I would suggest is more or less now quite normal.  I agree with Hugh that not all write with the same energy, but the underlying concept, that a wine's aromatics, flavour and finish can be described analytically and by analogy to known flavours, remains firmly in favour and I think quite logical.  Sure, it risks not been stunningly interesting or engaging when applied to hundreds of wines.  But certainly there's method and communication of a wine's attributes that is in the Broadbent tradition.

Poetic and literary styles

All wine writers have their own particular nuances, but here Hugh is referring to what I might loosely call the "Andrew Jefford" school of wine writing style.  In Hugh's words:
"A new sort of literary gumption arrived on the scene with Andrew Jefford, a powerful blend of science and poetry.  Here is a writer who does his interviews, delves deep into motives and methods, and then lets fly with whatever imagery he finds winging by.  "There was little flesh on the bones, but here was bloom on the cheeks"; "The sober, dark, bitter-edged beauty of ambition and intensity, or the hilarious, quenching beauty of the boisterously drinkable"; "Rumblingly deep"; and "powdery, sweet-blossom purity" are poetic, not descriptive.  A wine that "leans on the wind and strains at the leash" is not one you'd recognise - but don't you want to taste it?"
I find this style actually has rather a lot in common with the first category above - the André Simon style.  It could equally describe something that isn't wine.  For example, the same descriptions could describe orange juice or whisky.  Therefore, I would agree it isn't strictly informative in a factual sense.  Yet, it is certainly communicative and conveys a sense of wonder.  To me, the other side of the coin is that it risks appearing a little forced at times, particularly if applied to a large group of wines where one presumes that only so many wines might be described as hilarious, boisterous or rumbling.  Grouping wines using such descriptions would appear more difficult still.