A Guide to Our Competition Wines - The Reds
As many of you will know, I recently put together a selection of 26 hand-picked wines for our Grapes & Lager competition. Now that I’ve told you about the Sparkling Wines and the White Wines, it’s time to get to our final category - the Red Wines.
To find out more about the wines being given away in our competition - and which are valued at over $1100 - see this third segment of our 3-part series.
The Wine Guy
The first of our red wines is the Narkoojee Reserve Pinot Noir, and I fell in love with it at the first drop. The guy who distributes these in Victoria is responsible for distributing to Granite Hills, and this is where I first tasted it. The Narkoojee Reserve Pinot is from Gippsland in Victoria, and I couldn't believe how well balanced it was for such a young Pinot Noir and a reserve wine when I first tasted it. But it just had so much flavour, so much of those red bramble Pinot Noir sort of savoury fruit characters in it that you just want to keep drinking it. It's really nice to see an Aussie Pinot that has those flavours, and being so soft and well balanced, it’s simply a lovely and elegant wine. It's also one of the best I've had from Australia in a long time; I was blown away by its quality.
As it's a reserve wine, it's not that cheap at $40.00 a bottle. But it's something I had to throw in here, just to show people how we can make pretty good Pinot Noir.
I had to throw this in here, as I only recently had this wine. This is sort of at the other end of the spectrum to the previous pinot noir, as with this one you’ve got a $15.00 bottle that over-delivers in quality and flavour. It’s beyond belief that it can be as cheap as it is for a wine this good.
Pinot Noir can be challenging to grow, but this wine shows how it should be done. This Carmele Recas Calusari is richer and fuller than you'll find with other Pinot Noirs that you get out of Europe, and it also shows those great Pinot Noir characters and nuances that sometimes you don’t taste in cheap Pinot Noir. It's got the red fruit and those brambly, savoury characters in it that make it so well balanced. And it's such a drinkable Pinot Noir that every time I drink this or show people, they love it. The thing that's blown me away with Recaș as a producer is there's an honesty in their wine. The wines are fresh, clean and well made, and at $15.00 a bottle you can’t go wrong.
This is one of Australia's iconic red wines. I had an opportunity to taste all the 2012 reds late last year, and in my expert opinion 2012 was a stunning vintage in the Yarra Valley. This wine just blew me away. We'd actually tasted quite a few wines during that weekend with other Yarra Valley producers, and the 2012 Yarra Yerring reds were quite amazing. I'm just so happy to actually get access to this wine and put it in here. I think it'll blow people away once they get a chance to try it, because it's so well-made.
This wine is kind of Bordeaux-esque in style, very well made and savoury with a lovely fruit flavour. This is one of our more expensive selections at $90.00 a bottle, but it’s well worth it.
This Niuc Blatina Kvalitento 2012 is what we are all about, surprising our members and introducing wines that most would never have thought to try unless you travel or have family from there. This part of the world has been producing wine for many years, however due to the lack of access and (to be truthful) the quality of the wine in the recent past, these wines haven’t been exposed to the rest of the world. But now it’s changing, and considering how many early immigrants from the former Yugoslavia have been involved in the inception of the Australian wine industry, it’s about time we looked at these wines. Vinogradi Nuic is a family owned winery located in the little village of Crnopod, in southwestern Herzegovina, where the family planted 35 hectares of vines in 2004. Blatina is an indigenous variety, and has similar fruit characteristics to Cabernet Franc, nice and plummy - almost fruit cake! It is also rich with velvety tannins, and blended with Alicante Bouchet (similar to Grenache). You should really enjoy this wine - it’s interesting and well made. I had my first bottle with an aged cheddar, and it was a perfect match.
This wine went out in our last Taster’s Pack, and we got some great feedback. And at only $24.00 a bottle, this is a great wine at not too an expensive price.
Giuseppe Mascarello is an iconic producer from Italy, and is probably regarded in the top 10 producers from this country. They are very old school at this vineyard, and use traditional ways to make their wine - primarily through open vat fermentation and old barrell aging. Langhe Freisa is actually a variety that is unique to Piedmont, and it's sort of Nebbiolo-like in style. It's medium-bodied. It's got quite a high tannin structure, but it's a very pretty, aromatic, smokey, earthy-flavored wine. They grow these vines around their Monprivato Vineyard, which is their top Barolo. The vines go completely around in a circle, forming a type of fence to Monprivato.
They only make a very, very small amount of this wine, but when I was given a bottle of the 2009 vineyard last year I fell in love with it. It's like Barolos, like Nebbiolo, but just a little bit softer and rounder and not as high in tannin or as powerful. It's something people wouldn't see very often, especially from such an iconic producer of the region. And at $40 a bottle, it's a great price to get hold of something from Giuseppe, one of the very top winemakers in Italy.
I love putting John Trevelen's wines up, and particularly this wine. There's not a lot of the 2009 left in real terms, and there's not a lot of producers in Australia that make good merlot, but he's probably regarded in the top 5 or 10. His wines are quite powerful for what people expect merlot to be, and they can be quite big and full flavoured. And, typically, merlot from Bordeaux is quite big and powerful and high tannin structure.
I put it in there mainly because it's so well made. It comes off minimum 30-year-old merlot vines in the Great Southern, and he's been making this for a long time. This wine’s from 2009, so it's got six years in the bottle. There's not a lot of Australian reds now that have five years in the bottle, let alone six. And this wine's just got to the stage now where it's got beautiful fruit concentration, lots of power, but it's just starting to show all those lovely, savoury characters that aged Merlot can get. Now it’s hitting the stage where it has softened, and has those lovely, savoury characters in it. What I really like about Trevelen Farms wines and all these wines he makes, is that they all have this sort of underlying old-school, savoury European-ness to them about them. This is a great one to bring out with friends at just $20.00 a bottle, so you won’t mind sharing!
The next wine is one that I've only really tried in the last three months, Dornfelder from Germany. It's an indigenous variety that has been cloned from different indigenous varieties over the years. The Germans and the Austrians have been very prolific in doing a lot of cross germination of grape varieties for a long time, and this is quite a popular style in Germany and Europe. This particular wine is a Pinot/Gamay-esque sort of style of wine, but it doesn't have the savoury characters of Pinot. Instead, it has really intense fruits of the forest in it. There's a little bit of brambly-ness, but there's some nice sour cherry and a really beautiful, clean acidity on the finish. It's a lovely, easy drinking light to medium-bodied red. Again, this wine has probably been one of the highlights of the last six months for me, and everybody I've shown it to has really enjoyed it.
There's been a lot of cheap Dornfelder here, but not of this amazing quality. And at $22, it's a damn good drink for that.
The next one is an iconic Australian wine. Barossa Shiraz - every red drinker has to try one of these. This Bogan Shiraz is from an excellent Australian producer who has been in the industry for 150 years. As an old vine, this wine is big and delicious in taste. I'll be honest with you, I'm not usually a big fan of most Australian Shiraz, but what I like about what Kaesler do is that they're big in flavour, but there's also an underlying elegance to them, particularly in their ultra-premium reds or their premium reds. They've got power, but it's done so well that it’s not overwhelming. This wine reminds me of what Barossa reds used to be like 15-20 years ago, before all the alcohol took over and high concentration of sugar, fruit sugar from the grapes and all that. It's a classic Aussie Shiraz with lots of flavour. It's got alcohol, but it just doesn't seem alcoholic like some of the other stuff that's being made in Australia at the moment.
For $50.00 a bottle it’s not usually something you’d bring out just for a drink on your own after work, but if you’re looking for a delicious, smooth-bodied shiraz then you can’t go wrong with this wine.
Cascabel is owned by an American guy and a Spanish woman who currently live in Australia, and she's a winemaker from Spain. What Cascabel does really well is make Spanish varieties, and most of all they look Spanish. The challenge with Tempranillo in Australia - like Nebbiolo to some extent, and sometimes Sangiovese - is our temperature and our climate. And sometimes when winemakers in Australia try to grow varieties in the wrong region or subregion, then it will result in a somewhat dry red rather than a fruity red. But Cascabel grows all Spanish varieties well, and this is their Joven (what they call Joven is young Tempranillo). It hasn't spent a lot of time in oak, so it's designed to drink while it’s young and fresh. It's got all those lovely, intense Tempranillo sort of flavours, and then you've got a bit of tar and rose in the background. I think when you look at their wines, McLaren Vale seem to do these sort of varieties very well. But I found it interesting to throw into our prize a wine that isn't Spanish, but looks - and tastes! - like a really good example of a Spanish variety. This wine generally retails at $22.00 a bottle.
Well, this next wine has been one of my favourite reds for a long time. I'm a big fan of the producer, and they’re the oldest producer in Austria - they're 900 years old! I tasted this wine for the first time in about 2009, and it was actually the 2008 vintage at the time (which wasn't a great vintage). But I was really interested in the variety, as I didn't know it very well at the time. St Laurent has been said to be indigenous to Austria, but there are some people who believe that it could possibly have come from Bordeaux. However, they have yet to be able to link these possibilities. The 2011 vintage was a fantastic year for this wine in Vienna; it’s an interesting wine to describe because you can’t relate it to another variety.
There are some lovely herbal characters on the nose of this wine, and visually you can see a lot of rich, red fruit characters in there. When tasting there are underlying intense fruit notes, particularly cherry and even sour cherry underneath. It’s one of those red wines that people when they first taste it, they go, “I don’t really like lighter reds or medium-bodied reds.” Then, you get this hint of sour cherry, the acidity in there at the end of it, and you go, “Wow.” It’s one of my most favourite red wines I’ve drunk over the last ten years.
Most people that I show this wine to are surprised because it’s not that well known in Australia, but they still really enjoy it. This wine will set you back around $40.00 a bottle.
I’ve left one of the best to last. Nada Fiorenzo Barbaresco from Piedmonte is a very small producer. I fell in love with these wines when they first were brought into Australia last year by a very good friend who brings in Giuseppe Mascarello, but was asked by Mascarello himself to bring these wines in. In fact, this producer supplies people like Mascarello with their fruit. This is a family owned producer but mainly as growers, after the father passed away following years in the industry, his sons took over. The reason for this is that they knew they had very good quality fruit on their vineyard, and so eventually decided to begin making their own wine under their own label. And even though the older generations of their family didn’t really want them to do it, they’ve stuck to their guns. Most people who know Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmonte, they say, Barolo is the masculine side of Nebbiolo, and Barbaresco is the feminine side of Nebbiolo.
These guys have a pretty good reputation, particularly their Rombone, and this particular wine is probably one of the most masculine Barbarescos I’ve tried. It’s quite powerful, quite full, quite rich, quite tannic. It’s also from the 2010 vintage, and they’re saying it’s probably the best vintage in Italy since 1997, if not in the last 20 to 30 years. In fact, they’re saying 2010 right across Italy, so it’s really good to be able to throw in a wine from that vintage and particularly from that region. We’ve only just, got this wine in, and that’s why it hasn’t sold out yet (as most of our 2010 Italian vintages have!). And this wine is particularly great for our winner, as it usually retails at $120.00 a bottle.