Hahndorf Hill Winery Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Rosé 2012

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Hahndorf Hill Winery Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Rosé 2012

Hahndorf Hill Winery Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Rosé 2012

The only rules for this site are the ones I set, and they’re to do with the wines featured.  I pick the wines, I pay for them, and I drink them.   The Czar from was given to me by The Vinsomniac, but in truth it was a fair swap for what I thought was an interesting bottle that I sent his way.  I was not obligated to do so, but I decided to write about it because it was interesting.  Today’s wine is the result of another swap, whereby I passed along a bottle of a favourite South African wine and was more than repaid with some extremely interesting wine from a local producer.  And again, while I’m under no obligation to write about this wine, I can’t help myself because it is so interesting.  With that, I give you this Hahndorf Hill Winery Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Rosé 2012.

Hahndorf Hill Winery is based in the Adelaide Hills and has made a name for itself with some alternative varieties, as well as quality wines from more conventional grapes.  There were Blaufränkisch vines growing when Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson took over the property, and they embraced the Austrian theme by planting Grüner Veltliner.  For more details, see the write-up of their Shiraz 2007 from last year.  The rule on this site is that I only write about a given producer once in a year, but I’m pleased that with the New Year I can now revisit some of my favourites.

I wrote a bit about Zweigelt last January and I’m pleased to have another look at the grape.  Even with varieties I’ve tasted before, I’ve recently had a bit more to say about them with the release of Wine Grapes.  Rare varieties are of particular interest to me, and as I’ve looked up grapes such as Ondenc and Petit Meslier, invariably in the entry will be listed the one or two producers in Australia.  As of right now, the entry for Zweigelt needs to be updated, as this wine is the first vintage of the first Zweigelt vines in Australia.

Zweigelt is primarily associated with Austria, where it is the most widely planted red grape.  It is a German crossing, which I wrote about with respect to the CedarCreek Ehrenfelser.  It originated in 1922, the offspring of Blaufränkisch and St-Laurent.  In addition to the plantings I mentioned previously in Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan, it’s also found in eastern Europe and British Columbia.  One of its synonyms is Rotburger, but it shouldn’t be confused with Rotberger, another German crossing but unrelated.

First vintages are tricky, as it’s difficult to know what to expect.  Zweigelt is typically used in Austria in the production of robust reds.  However, given the uncertain nature of first vintages, making a rosé instead may have been a canny move rather than ending up with a red wine that didn’t live up to varietal expectations.  The grapes for this wine were grown on Shiraz vines that were grafted over with Zweigelt, though with clippings now available there’s potential for fresh plantings as well.  I hope they will produce a red wine in the future.

The Adelaide Hills region is well known to readers of this blog, and now having covered the grape and producer, it’s time to take a look at the wine in the glass.

This wine is clear and bright, with a medium pink colour and a fairly viscous film inside the glass when swirled, but it didn’t really break into legs.  On the nose it’s clean and youthful with medium intensity and notes of red cherries, plums, red currants, a little white pepper, and a hint of beeswax.  On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium plus alcohol, medium minus body, medium plus intensity, no noticeable tannins, and a medium plus length.  There are notes of black cherries, a little lemon, strawberries, and some white pepper on the finish.

This is a very good wine.  It’s young and fruity, but it’s not sweet and there are some notes of zest and spice.  It’s nicely balanced in terms of acidity, intensity and alcohol, with a fairly high level of concentration.  It seems slightly warmer than the 13% ABV on the label, but there is some leeway allowed.  There’s good typicity in terms of the fruit profile, and it’s light on the palate as befits a young rosé.  Finally, while it’s certainly good to observe a wine’s colour, it isn’t usually something that I care about one way or the other, but it has to be said that it is an especially pleasing shade of pink.

Finally, the disclaimers:  First, I did receive this wine as part of a swap, but I came out ahead by at least a bottle.  That said, it’s not a sample – more that I encountered generosity that would have been rude to refuse.  Second, Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson are two charming gentlemen I hold in high regard.  While I won’t write about wines from my employer or my wife’s employer, it would be silly not to write about a wine just because I know and like the people who made it.  To sum it up, I’m writing about a bottle which came into my possession under very favourable terms and was produced by people I like.  However, I’m writing about this wine under no obligation, and my assessment of the wine is based on what’s in the glass, not my relationship with the producers.

Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2010

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Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto D.O.C. 2010

Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto D.O.C. 2010

It’s the first Monday after the Christmas and New Year holidays and I want to proclaim that standard service is now resuming.  I have a queue full of wines and notes, so it should be simply a matter of switching from holiday mode to work mode.  These reviews aren’t going to write themselves, right?  While I’m feeling somewhat bleary from both the holidays and the heat (over 100°F/40°C here) this is just the wine to get me through the transition, Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2010.

Coming up on the anniversary of the infamous WSET Diploma Unit 3 Exam which I managed somehow to pass last January, it’s a good time to reflect on how little I actually know about wine, in particular with respect to what I should know.  For instance, within the syllabus for North East Italy there is a link to an OCW entry for Bardolino which describes the geography, the grapes grown and the style of wines produced.  Sadly, my reaction when I first encountered this wine was “I’ve never heard of that.”

Had I been a better student, I would have recalled that Bardolino is a region within the Veneto.  It is best known for light red wines, typically made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, which are grown on a large plain to the east of Lake Garda.  The soils are fairly fertile, made up of fine gravel and silt, especially in the southern end of the region.  The climate is mild and moderated by the proximity to the lake.  As with many Italian denominaziones, there is the greater Bardolino region as well as a core Classico area which has slightly more stringent requirements (an extra 1% ABV and a year of ageing) though the differentiation is more to do with a relatively recent expansion than with an appreciable quality difference.  The Bardolino Superiore DOCG, on the other hand, does represent a step up.  Rosé wine has its own DOC called Bardolino Chiaretto, and there is a corresponding Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante DOC for sparkling rosé wine.

While three grapes are grown in the region, this wine only makes use of Corvina and Rondinella, and as this if the first time I’ve covered a wine made of either, they’re both worth a mention.  Corvina, or Corvina Veronese as it is officially called in Wine Grapes, and Rondinella are not only both red grapes native to the area around Verona, but are in fact related, with Corvina believed to be a parent of Rondinella.  Both are used, along with Molinara, in the light, red blends of Valpolicella and Bardolino, and Corvina may be used on its own in Garda DOC wines. Of the two, Corvina is generally regarded as being a higher quality grape, though Rondinella produces higher yields.  Neither is widely cultivated outside of North East Italy, though Freeman Vineyards in New South Wales apparently has plantings of both and uses them, by way of a prune dehydrator, to make an concentrated wine in the style of Amarone (which obviously I must now seek out).

Azienda Agricola Benazzoli Fulvio is a relatively young company but with family roots going back four generations.  The family business was established in Trentino after World War II and as it grew it passed from father to son to grandson over the decades that followed.  In 2009 two of the founders’ granddaughters, Claudia and Giulia with qualifications in winemaking and viticulture respectively, established the Benazzoli brand in Bardolino and bottled their first vintage.  Their holdings are comprised of 28HA of Corvina and Rondinella vines, from which they produce Bardolino, Chiaretto and Chiaretto Spumante, all DOC.  They also produce a Veneto IGT Pinot Grigio.

In the glass this wine is clear and bright with quick thick legs and a medium plus salmon colour.  On the nose it’s clean and youthful with medium intensity and notes of strawberries, vanilla, peaches, and bananas – real smoothie material.  On the palate it’s dry with medium acidity, medium plus body, medium intensity, medium minus alcohol, medium minus tannins and medium plus length.  There are notes of strawberries, raspberries, banana, and little hint of tart cranberries.

This is a good wine.  The fruit notes on the nose had me worried there might be some residual sugar but a sip banished such thoughts.  It has slightly more weight on the palate than I might have expected given that it’s light in terms of alcohol and tannins, but it gives it a nice texture.  And while I don’t generally care so much about a wine’s colour, this one is a particularly pleasing shade of pink.

Gray Monk Estate Winery Rotberger 2010

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Gray Monk Estate Winery Rotberger 2010

Gray Monk Estate Winery Rotberger 2010

I’ve made it no secret that I value rarity when it comes to grape varieties.  When people speak of rare wines, they most typically mean wines that are very exclusive because they are incredibly expensive.  While that may mean it’s rare that you get to drink any, if you have the budget it’s not actually difficult to get your hands on such wines, and there’s no shortage of people happy to sell them to you.  When it comes to grapes however, the type of rarity I value is more a factor of availability, which is at times disconnected from price.  Sometimes grapes are rare because they are unfashionable, while others lack demand because they are simply unfamiliar.  Today’s wine is firmly in the second camp, the Gray Monk Estate Winery Rotberger 2010.

I had never encountered Rotberger, not even as the name of a grape variety, prior to seeing this bottle on a shelf near Vancouver in September, and with good reason.  It is quite possibly the rarest grape I’ve covered, with roughly 16HA of vines planted in Germany, another 3HA in Canada and a few in Italy but not enough to show up on the most recent vine census.  For scale, there’s over 10 times as much of yesterday’s obscure grape, Maréchal Foch, planted worldwide.  Or put another way, the rarefied vineyards of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are just over 25HA and therefore larger than the total global plantings of Rotberger.

Rotberger, as you may have guessed from the name, is a German crossing.  Developed in Geisenheim in 1928 by Heinrich Birk, it is the product of Schiava Grossa (also known as Trollinger) and Riesling, making it a sibling of Kerner.  Some more information about German crossings can be found in the write up of the Kabminye Kerner.  In the vineyard, it is vigorous and provides high yields of red grapes, which in turn produce light, fruity wine, frequently rosé or sparkling.  Its name is easily confused with Rotburger, another name for Zweigelt, an Austrian cross of different parents.

As with yesterday, we’re in the now familiar territory of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada, so for more information about the region please have a look at the posts for the neighbouring JoieFarm Reserve Chardonnay and the Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery Auxerrois.

The roots of Gray Monk Estate Winery go back to the earliest days of viticulture in the Okanagan Valley.  Hugo Peter first moved to the area in search of an agricultural retirement and was followed by his daughter Trudy and her husband George Heiss.  George and Trudy established the vineyard in 1972 and a winery a decade later.  With three sons, George, Steven and Robert, they’ve expanded production and the winery such that until just recently they were the largest VQA winery in British Columbia, and they have a fourth generation starting to pitch in.

Their wines are spread across three lines.  There are three Latitude 50 wines, entry level red and white blends based on colour and a Gamay rosé.  The Odyssey wines are classic varieties and blends at a higher price point, including sparklers and a Merlot-based fortified wine.  In the middle though is where it gets interesting for fans of alternative varietals with the Estate wines.  In addition to the conventional Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling in white and Gamay Noir, Merlot and Pinot Noir in red, they offer Ehrenfelser, Gewürztraminer, Kerner, Pinot Auxerrous, and Siegerrebe in white and this rosé Rotberger.  They also produce a white fortified wine made from Orange Muscat and Muscat Canelli .

In the glass this wine is clear and bright with a medium minus ruby colour and a slow film when swirled that breaks into thick tears eventually.  On the nose it’s clean and youthful with notes of peach, strawberries, and sweet spice.  On the palate it’s dry, with medium acidity, medium minus body, medium plus intensity, hint of tannins but very filmy, medium alcohol, and a medium length.  There are notes of strawberry, some mild black pepper, watered down cranberries, vanilla, some stem green notes.

I’ll rate this wine as a solid good.  I want it to be a bit more interesting but the flavours are somewhat indistinct, so after I’ve taken a sip it’s challenging to pick out what I just tasted.  However, it’s well balanced and has some mild complexity so it’s certainly more than just acceptable.  I have no idea as to varietal typicity, but it’s pleasant and refreshing which is most of what I want out of a rosé, and therefore I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to somewhat who wants to try something rare.  And if you can’t get a hold of any, there’s always the more widely planted DRC.

Artadi Artazuri Rosada Garnacha 2010

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Artazuri Garnacha 2010

Artazuri Garnacha 2010

Since most people visiting this site are from the Northern Hemisphere, a quick update about how things are going Down Under:  it’s getting cold.  I dug out some cashmere earlier this week and expect to be wrapped in some form of the same for the next five months.  And sadly, that means this Artadi Artazuri Rosada Garnacha 2010 is likely the last rosé you’ll see on these pages for a while.

Just to decode the name, Artadi is the producer, Artazuri is the name of this line of their wines from around Artazu in Navarra, Spain, Rosada is the Spanish term for what is known as rosé in English, and Garnacha is another name for the grape that is more commonly called Grenache in English.

Working backwards from that, this is the first varietal Grenache/Garnacha in this blog, which seems like a bit of an oversight.  Then again, I didn’t have a straight Shiraz/Syrah until this week, and I live within spitting distance of Barossa.  I do like Grenache, and while these days I’d probably put a half dozen other red varieties ahead of it on my list of wines I like, I first encountered it in a red Châteauneuf-du-Pape and it’s held a special place in my heart ever since.  I remember being at a tasting of barrel samples which were almost exclusively Shiraz and coming across a winemaker who was offering Grenache instead.  I was so impressed I ended up buying a case of his wines at auction the next day.

I did mention Grenache when I wrote about Télégramme but it was before the exam and my brain was so much of a muddle that I didn’t cover the basics.  If you just say “Grenache” you’re generally talking about the red grape of that name, but in fact it’s a family of grapes like Pinot, so there are actually three grapes: Grenache Noir, Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc.  Its origin is not entirely clear – both Spain and France have claims, and it continues to be popular in both countries, as well as throughout the New World.  It is made into varietal wines, but at least as often found as part of a blend, be it in Rioja with Tempranillo, in the southern Rhône with dozens of blending partners, or in Australia with Shiraz and Mourvèdre.

It buds early and ripens somewhat late, requiring a long growing season.  Fortunately, it does well in warm, dry areas where it can get just that.  The downside for some though is that over such a long ripening period the sugar levels, and resulting alcohol levels, can easily top 15%, particularly with the use of efficient cultivated yeasts.  As with so many grapes, control of cropping levels can result in better quality wine.  With thin, relatively pale skins, it often produces somewhat pale wine, though older vines, like the hundred year old vines in Barossa, can produce very concentrated and deeply coloured wines.  The vines themselves are noteworthy in that they’re more upright and solid than most, and so are both suited to bush vines and able to withstand strong winds such as the Mistral of the Rhône.

While I’ve covered a few rosé wines in the past, I’m not sure I’ve addressed any of the winemaking required to produce such a wine.  Most juice from grapes is clear, and so white wine is typically produced from juice that is pressed, and then separated from the skins, thus remaining close to colourless.  Red wine is made from juice that is still in contact with the skins, often but not always crushed, and the juice becomes coloured through contact with the skins.  Rosé is typically made with red grapes which are crushed and kept in contact with their skins for some short amount of time, depending on the desired colour.  Then typically the grapes and skins are pressed, with the resulting pink juice being fermented into wine.  In some cases, such as with this wine, a method known as saignée is employed where some amount of pink juice is drawn off to be made into rosé while the remaining must (grape juice and skins) is made into red wine with a higher ratio of skins to juice, resulting in more concentrated colour and tannins.

Navarra is a region in the northeast of Spain where the country narrows toward the border with France.  The climate is influenced by both the Atlantic Ocean (Bay of Biscay in fact) and the Mediterranean Sea.  The summers are hot and dry, while the winters are cold and humid.  Grenache, or Garnacha as it is locally known, is the dominant grape, though plantings of Tempranillo are on the rise.  Some white wines are produced though they account for less than a tenth of production, with red and rosé wine being the norm.  The soil is reddish brown limestone and calcareous clay which is generally considered very poor as far as normal fertility considerations go, though for those who prefer to see vines suffer, it’s ideal for growing grapes.

Artadi Viñedos & Vinos is a modern producer making wine in a number of regions of northern Spain.  They produce two Grenache based red wines in addition to this rosé in Navarra, two primarily Monastrell wines in Alicante, and a handful of reds in Rioja including a single vineyard wine.  Founded in 1985, they are a mix of traditional, organic vineyard management with modern winemaking.  They began production in Navarra in 1996 and have a mix of low yielding, 70 to 90 year old, free standing, head-pruned vines and 5-15 year old trellised vines.  They use no chemical presicides or herbicides, nor do they irrigate.

This wine is a lovely colour – a medium plus pink, tending toward orange-red, with slow thin legs when swirled.  On the nose it’s strawberry and cranberry, with medium minus intensity and at a youthful stage of development.  On the palate it has notes of red fruit and cummin spice, some honeycomb, with a bit of peach and lime.  It is dry with medium acidity, no real tannins, medium intensity, medium minus length, medium alcohol, and medium body.

This is a good wine.  It’s certainly fun, from the lovely colour to the delicious complexity of fruit flavours.  The peach notes caught me off guard but in a good way.  It’s a shame I won’t be looking for another rosé for some time to come most likely, but I do keep telling myself that a summer spent drinking my way across Spain would be a summer well spent.

Rimauresq Cru Classé Côtes de Provence 2009

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Rimauresq Cru Classé Côtes de Provence 2009

Rimauresq Cru Classé Côtes de Provence 2009

The weather is holding, but only just, so today may have been the last window in which to have a glass of rosé at lunch, so that’s exactly what I did, with the Rimauresq Cru Classé Côtes de Provence 2009.

While never attracting the attention or high prices of some of France’s more prestigious regions, the wines of Provence are well worth exploring.  The region itself in the south of France is made of up eight major AOCs, with today’s, Côtes de Provence, being the largest.  The area has been home to vines at least since it was colonized by the Greeks, and possibly further back still.

The climate is Mediterranean, obviously influenced by the namesake to the south, with temperate winters and warm to hot summers with little rain during the growing season.  The mistral, perhaps better known for its influence on the Rhone, also comes into play in Provence, providing cooling relief in hot summers and allowing rain to dry quickly, precluding some rot and disease pressure.

Soils in Côtes de Provence can vary considerably, as the region is both discontinuous, and covers a large area.  There are patches under the AOC just north  and east of Marseille, a patch just north of Nice, an island or two, but the bulk of the appellation is between Toulon and Cannes from the coast though some 30 km inland.  Broadly, schist and quarts are more commonly found near the sea, with clay and sandstone being more typical inland.

In terms of grapes, there are several sources that state at least 13 varieties are permitted within Côtes de Provence AOC, though I can only find 12:  Syrah, Carignan, Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Tibouren, Pécoui Touar (Calitor), and Barbaroux (Barbarossa) as red grapes and Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Rolle (Vermentino), and Sémillon as whites.  Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the region, though I can’t determine if it is within the AOC or as a vin de pays.  As elsewhere, there are efforts to replace Carignan vines with more nobles varieties such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In terms of wines of Côtes de Provence AOC, reds and white are certainly produced, but the rosés are the lion’s share.  In reds and rosés, Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Tibouren must make up 70% of the blend.  While much of the local winemaking can be described as traditional, there have been inroads of more modern techniquest such as temperature controlled fermentation and experiments with rosés and oak.

This wine in particular is a blend of roughly similar parts Tibouren, Grenache and Cinsault, though in other vintages it has also included a small amount of Syrah.  Something of a Provençal icon, Tibouren is worth covering.  Jancis Robinson describes the contribution it makes to the rosés or Provence as the “scent of the garrigue” which left me scratching my head and consulting Wikipedia.  Garrigue is in fact a term used for a type of terrain that I would describe as characterized by shrubs and low bushes, and such land in Provence is made up of lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme, and juniper, as well as some a few plants that don’t make it into the spice rack.  So I’m guessing it’s something akin to “forest floor” but you need to replace “forest” with “shrubland”.

While Tibouren is synonymous with Provence, it is not very widely planted, with only 450 HA under vine in the 20,000 HA total area.  The grapes themselves are thin skinned and ripen early in direct sunlight, early ripening.  The high quality of the wine they can produce is offset by the difficulty is poses in the vineyard.  Highly susceptible coulure, or poor fruit set, which is compounded by the mistral, yields can vary greatly vintage to vintage.  As a result, it is largely cultivated only by producers of high quality wines, and often bottled as a varietal.

Rimauresq is a Cru Classé producer based midway between Nice and Marseille, and it takes its name from the Real Mauresque, a river running through its vineyards.  The Cru Classé is a designation based on a selection made in 1947 and after some years of researching the candidates, 23 domains were awarded the classification in 1955 (100 years after Bordeaux’s more famous classification).  Its vines are at an altitude of between 140 and 190 meters and are on a north facing slope, which exposes them to mistral, but provides shade and therefore a longer ripening period.  Their soil has both the quartz and sandstone qualities that place them roughly in the middle of the appellation.  They grow Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan for their red wines, Rolle (Vermentino) and Ugni Blanc for their whites, and Cincault, Mourvèdre and TIbouren for their rosés.

This wine was made using hand picked fruit (whole bunches) with several hours of skin contact in cold maceration, and then cold stabalized for two to three weeks prior to fermentation.  Post-fermentation, it was left on lees and underwent regular batonage.  It did not undergo malolactic fermentation, nor see any oak.

In the glass, this wine was a lovely pale salmon colour.  On the nose were elements of peach and apricot, sour strawberries.  The palate was dry, with marked acidity, and notes of vanilla, white pepper, cream, and sandalwood.  It had a good length clean finish.

This was a very nice wine, though I admit, I’m letting the side down a bit with this tasting note.  It was a by the glass wine at the start of a lovely meal, and I didn’t initially intend to write it up until I realized how much I liked it.  I’ll have to go back and have another glass (or share a bottle) to update this note.  For now though, if there is any sunshine in your part of the world, this wine is well worth a taste.

Jim Barry The Nancy 2006

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Jim Barry The Nancy 2006

Jim Barry The Nancy 2006

We had a party a few weeks back and ended up with a bunch of bottles brought by friends, including a decent Riesling and a very nice Fiano.  We also ended up with a few bottles of sparkling wine.  Sparkling wine around our house is a bit tricky, in that we only tend to open it on special occasions.  So right now we have three bottles of bubbles waiting for such an occasion, but rather than just letting them accumulate we decided that opening a bottle of sparkling wine can be it’s own occasion, which brings us to Jim Barry The Nancy 2006.

First off, I have to say that this is not a wine I would have been likely to buy on my own.  The combination of the colour, the clear bottle, the crown cap, and the absence of any information about the wine on the labels is typically aimed at a different target market.  That said, not only was there nothing wrong with this wine, but in fact it was quite nice.  Unfortunately, I don’t know that I’m going to have as much to say about the region, grapes and company as I would ordinarily prefer, but I still think this is worth describing.

Jim Barry Wines is a family run business, one of the foremost wine companies in the Clare Valley, where the eponymous founder has a historic role in the modernization of the region.  Like so many prominent figures in Australian wine, he studied at Roseworthy, and was the 17th qualified winemaker to graduate, and the first to work in the Clare Valley in 1946.  He worked in Clare, first with the Clarevale Co-operative (where he met Nancy, who went on to become his wife shortly thereafter and whose name graces this bottle), and then with Taylors, while also building up a set of his own vineyard holdings which now exceed 200 hectares.  He passed away in 2004 but the business is carried on through his family, in particularly Peter James Barry and Nancy.  With holdings throughout Clare, they have produce at least 15 different wines, primarily based on Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, with some Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Malbec, and this Pinot Noir thrown into the mix.  Their flagship wine is “The Armagh”, a Shiraz that is among the most sought after in Australia according to Langton’s who put it in their “Outstanding” category.

I’ve talked a bit about the Clare Valley, and rather than further discuss soils and climate, here’s a fun fact.  The Clare Valley was settled largely by the Irish, and there is an area named Armagh, after Armagh of County Armagh in what is now Northern Ireland.  (Clare itself is another county in the Republic of Ireland.)  The Jim Barry flagship is named in honor of the Irish settlers of 1849.  This is in marked contrast to the Barossa Valley, geographically close, but with prominent German roots.  It might have been easier to keep straight if they had swapped, and the Germany has settled the area in which great Riesling is grown, but nevermind.  If you’re in South Australia and want to know which area, find a church.  If it’s Catholic, you’re in the Clare Valley.  If it’s Lutheran, you’re in the Barossa Valley.  If it’s been converted into a nightclub, you’re in Adelaide.

As far as grapes go, this is a straight Pinot Noir sparkling rosé.  At some point, I’ll talk about the different ways to make rosé, probably the next time I cover a pink sparkler because they have their own special rules, but this is not a wine about which we need to think too technically.

This wine is all about the drinking.  I know that sounds a bit naff, but this was made by Peter James Barry for his mother Nancy, not as a stunning technical achievement, but as something he thought she would enjoy drinking with her friends as they played their weekly card games.  The notes are not about how the wine was made, but about Nancy herself.

In the glass, it is just as you see it through the bottle – pretty.  I put it somewhere between pink and salmon, while the official tasting notes call it salmon pink.  Fair enough.  It has big, fast moving bubbles.  On the nose it’s quite delicate – patisserie, a little biscuit (but not big, serious Champagne biscuit), and some strawberries.  On the palate, it is more lemon and green apple, with the strawberries playing a much smaller role.  There’s a hint of sweetness – not a sweet style, but just a hint.  The acidity is good – mild for a sparkler, but more than you would typically get from a non-sparkling rosé.  Crisp is how I could describe it.

This is not the most serious sparkling wine you’re likely to encounter this year, but that’s obvious even before the crown cap is off.  But I think this wine is a success in that it hits the mark brilliantly in terms of being a light, refreshing sparkling wine that’s very easy to drink.  It’s completely unpretentious.  The bubbles suggest that it was not made in a strict traditional method, as does the price, but I wouldn’t hold that against it.  While I enjoy drinking serious, indeed sometimes challenging sparkling wines, this one was very good at the less serious end of the spectrum.  And if my mother were after a glass of bubbles, I think she’d enjoy this much more than a wine I’d normally buy.

Ross Gower Pinot Noir Brut 2007

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Ross Gower Pinot Noir Brut 2007

Ross Gower Pinot Noir Brut 2007

At the tasting the other night, we tried 19 wines in total, all sparkling, and generally all very good to excellent.  With 19 wines though, I hope I can be forgiven for not writing up a detailed note about each region, the grapes used, the producer and the wine itself.  I love drinking and writing, but I have my limits.  So instead, I’m going to go into a bit more detail on one of the wines.

I think Ross Gower Pinot Noir Brut 2007 is worthy of a bit more attention.  It gets to my love of the novel and obscure, which is also why I brought it to the tasting.  The Champagnes are popular and well distributed enough that they’re likely available anywhere in the world, and I just recently wrote about an Australian sparkler, so that leaves me to choose between the English sparkling wines from Nytimber or this Cap Classique.  I hope to write about Nytimber at some point, as English sparklers are an interesting and relatively new phenomenon, but Cap Classique is at least as rare in these parts, and since I was the one who brought it to the tasting, having carried it here from South Africa, I can’t let this opportunity go to waste.

So, this is a wine of South Africa.  The very first post of this blog was about a South African wine, and while I’ve only been to South Africa a couple of times, I’m very fond of it as a country and as a country of origin for some very interesting wines.  Unfortunately, while they’re very easy to find in places where locals consume more wine than they produce, such as London, South African wines aren’t as common around here, and in fact there are precious few that make it to our fair shores.  South Africa is generally considered a New World wine region, but it’s a bit more complicated than that in that wine has been produced there since the 17th century, with a dessert wine from near Cape Town,  Vin de Constance, internationally regarded as a particularly fine wine at that time.

The complete history of wine in South Africa is beyond the scope of this simple blog, but suffice it to say that in recent history the wine was not internationally widely available nor well regarded during the Apartheid era.  However, over the last twenty years things have been changing rapidly for the better.  International markets opened, investments were made in viticultural and oenological technology, and flying winemakers brought international expertise into the local industry.  South Africa has much in common with Chile and Argentina, in that land and labour costs are relatively low, certainly compared with Europe.  French barrels and European presses cost the same pretty much everywhere, so South Africa enjoys the competitive advantage found in much of the New World.  However, generally speaking they don’t have the history/prestige that can command the high prices of their Old World rivals, so their wines, particularly their quality wines, can often be very good value.

Elgin is a region within South Africa I have not visited, but looking at the map I’m fairly certain I drove through parts of it while travelling between Franschhoek where I was staying and Hermanus where I visited a few Walker Bay wineries.  I’ve seen it described as the coolest wine region of South Africa, and for those people who haven’t been there and who think of South Africa as a warm country, I have one word:  penguins.  OK, so not in Elgin, but not far.  Elgin is more properly known as Elgin Valley, and it’s a plateau bordered by mountains, about 10km from the ocean.  It has an altitude of 300 metres, with cold, wet winters, and cool sea breezes in the summer.  Shale is the soil type most often referenced with regard to the region.

Pinot Noir is the sole grape in this wine, and it has a long history in sparkling wine.  As one of the three cornerstone grapes of Champagne (along with a few other minor grapes often overlooked), it does well in cool climates, and like most red grapes has pale flesh and clear juice (unlike the Saperavi I recently tried).  I’ve written about Pinot Noir enough that there isn’t a whole lot more I can say, other than that there are a few excellent Pinot Noirs from South Africa, with two neighbours just outside of Elgin toward Hermanus, Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson, producing two of the best.

A quick note about the winemaking – this is a Méthode Cap Classique.  If something is Champagne, it means it is from Champagne and conforms to a certain set of requirements in terms of which grapes are used, how they are grown, harvested, what yields are permitted, how the grapes are pressed, fermented, aged, bottled, what have you.  It’s much more than just a region – it’s a whole set of rules, but with the name Champagne comes a great brand and expectations of a certain quality level from the product.  The winemaking method used is termed méthode traditionnelle, and while no one outside of Champagne can call their wine Champagne, they are free to use that term if they conform to the required techniques.

South Africa went one step better, in my humble opinion, in that they came up with their own term to describe sparkling wine from South Africa which conforms to the méthode traditionnelle, and have branded it Méthode Cap Classique.  Many other countries fumble with saying sparkling wine and then having to also specify which country, but Cap Classique speaks to both country and method.

Ross Gower, the producer, passed away in 2010 between when this wine was made and when it was enjoyed, but the business is still in the family and his two sons are carrying on in his place.  He was educated in winemaking in South Africa, but worked in the wine trade in Germany and New Zealand.  He returned to South Africa and was recruited to recreate the Vin de Constance I mentioned at the top, which had disappeared as a product.  He set up his own company in 2003 and Ross Gower the company has a range of seven wines, with this sparkler, two reds, a rosé and three whites.

As to this wine, I must apologize for the photo.  This wine has a beautiful color, but I didn’t get around to the photographs until after it had been poured to everyone at the tasting.  It’s a very pale rosé, but not pink.  It’s in the salmon to onion skin range, which the winery describes as “eye of the partridge”.  I have not been eye to eye with a partridge, but it’s quite lovely.

On the nose were classic yeasty and biscuity notes, but underpinned with some citrus and a hint of strawberry.  I have to admit though that I tend to pick up red fruit characters from rosé and from Pinot Noir based wines even when they’re not there.  On the palate the citrus character came to the fore, with zingy acidity.  While this is a sparkling wine with no dosage, the fruit was still strong enough to balance out the acidity without requiring sweetening.  A very nice wine, and I wish I had another few bottles.

 

Pittnauer Rosé 2010

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Pittnauer Rosé 2010

Pittnauer Rosé 2010

Another Sunday lunch and a bit of a break from studying for the WSET Diploma Unit 3 exam, in particular getting away from Burgundy where my heads been for the past day.  Today at lunch, I found something that’s most unusual, at least in this part of the world, that I had to have a glass and to write it up.

So Austria – beautiful country, produces some excellent and unique wines.  When I think of Austria with regard to wine, Grüner Veltliner is the first grape to spring to mind.  In Austria it can be crisp and refreshing, with fantastic minerality.  When it comes to reds, Blaufränkisch is the best known, with spicy cherries and red berries at the fore.  The thing is, while Austria has a fantastic wine ambassador in the form of Willi Klinger (who taught our section on Austria), Austrian wine is not on as many wine lists as perhaps it should be.  Part of it is that the two most popular varieties are not grown very widely outside of Austria, and so they’re unfamiliar to most people.  However, within the wine trade, Grüner Veltliner in particular is well loved.  I know winery not far from here that has both Grüner Veltliner and Blaufränkisch vines, and I’ve love to see it grow in popularity.

Anyway, I saw this Pittnauer Rosé 2010  on the wine list at lunch today by the glass and I had to give it a try.  It’s made by Gerhard Pittnauer in the Burgenland region of Austria, which is in the east of the country along the border with Hungary.  I’d never had an Austrian rosé, so I couldn’t say no.  It had a lovely pale colour and I was assured it was a dry style.  And while it was certainly refreshing, unfortunately there wasn’t a whole lot to it.

Whenever I have a rosé in a glass in front of me, I’m expecting there to be some red fruit flavours, usually strawberries or cherries, and that wouldn’t have been out of place as this wine is made from Blaufränkisch.  However, the nose gave very little away.  I did get some fruit, though it was more citrus and a bit of peach.  However, it was so light that I had a hard time making it out.  On the palate it was the same – similar flavours, what there were of them.  The acidity was great, but unfortunately there just wasn’t much else.

Appearance

Clear and bright with a pale salmon colour. Very slow legs.

Nose

Clean, medium-minus intensity, youthful. Peach, lime, strawberry, cherry,

Palate

Dry, medium plus acidity, medium body, no tannins, medium alcohol, medium-minus flavour intensity, medium-minus length. Lemongrass, sour cherry, lime, peach finish.

Conclusions

Acceptable quality. A nice bit of acid that went well with a spicy dish, but not much else. Neither complex nor intense, more the type of curiosity I can rarely resist, but in this case not especially rewarding. Does not exhibit Blaufränkisch.  Drink now as it in unlikely to improve and the freshness will vanish.