Tuesday, May 8, 2007

RSVP Tasting: Australia with a side of Island Pinot

Wine Jacob’s Creek Shiraz 2004
From South-Eastern Australia
Price $14.56 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 14%

A big wine that aims for an international style had the berry-identifying types in the crowd hopping up and down: big, jammy, forward fruit (but not much else); strawberry jam with hints of smoke and pepper; noticeable alcohol. A short finish one taster described as ‘tart’ and a peculiar dryness leading to speculation about winemaker acidulation. A fruit-bomb for the masses, though the consensus was that the wine was unstructured and ham-handed.

Wine Jacob’s Creek Shiraz 2005
From South-East Australia
Price $14.56 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 14%

Less on the nose even than the ’04, but a much better wine nonetheless: more tannin, better balance, fruit better integrated into the whole. (Better winemaking, rather than better grapes—their technique caught up to their ambition.) Makes the ‘04 taste cloying—and unlike the ’04, you might want to drink this one with food. At this price, good competition for Ol’ Yeller Tail.

Wine Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2004
From South Australia
Price $22.17 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 14.5%

Casts a wider geographical net for its grapes than its little brother and comes up with a wine that’s a step more elevated in most respects: Fruit is as big as the regular ’04 but with an extra element or two; friendlier tannins (although the wine could use a couple of years more in the bottle) and more obvious Shiraz overtones. Great nose—I spent a lot of time with mine in the glass. Similar in many ways to the kind of thing the Gallo of Sonoma line of wines gives you: high on quality; low on individuality. Well-made, but it could have been made anywhere.

Wine Memsie Waterwheel 2004
From Victoria, Australia
Price $19.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 15%
Shiraz-Cabernet-Malbec combination packs a wallop, but with surprising grace and footwork; a bit like discovering that Sylvester Stallone has learned to tap-dance. Gobs of fruit for the berry-spotters; alcohol is not at all overpowering and nicely integrated. In the words of the group’s Philosophy grad: ‘a hot kiss at the end of a wet fist.’

Wine Waterwheel Shiraz
From Victoria, Australia
Price $24.99 (Distributor List)
Alcohol Content 15.5%
Hot alcohol; big but one-dimensional; coming at the far end of a tasting it may simply have scored a TKO over intimidated palates. Robert Parker wants you to buy this ‘by the caseload’; if you’re tough enough to carry a case on your back up the Coquihalla highway from Hope to Merritt, you may be tough enough to love this.

Wine Primo Estate Shiraz-Sangiovese 2002
From McLaren Vale, Australia
Alcohol Content 14.0%
Interesting, if a bit Frankensteinian: one taster thought the two competing grapes don’t feel as subtly dovetailed as they might have been in an analogous Italian experiment (La moglie di Frankenstein).

Sidebar: Island Pinots (Part 1)

Thrust into the midst of this tasting as a sort of seventh-inning stretch were the following intriguing trio of BC Pinots. They turned out to be wines that turned heads: people hung around after the main body of the tasting had finished, and polished these ones off.

Wine Garry Oaks Pinot Noir 2004
From Salt Spring Island, BC
Price $25.46 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 12.5%
Nose was fleeting at first but opened up nicely in 40 minutes to a classic pre-steroid new-world Pinot aroma. Sweet-yet-dry, cherry-pitted flavor on the attack moved on to a subtly smoky middle, and an elegantly persuasive finale. (One taster’s naming it an old-world style can possibly written off to over-enthusiasm, and interpreted instead as the wine’s thankful absence of the usual new-world muscle-and-pretense.) Yummy.

Wine Salt Spring Island Pinot Noir 2004
From Salt Spring Island BC
Price $21.89 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.0%
A more immediately emphatic nose than that of the above wine brought enthusiastic (though not universal) claims of barnyard or forest-floor notes on the nose; but the sense of the soil is certainly part-and-parcel of the overall flavor. Intelligent mix of subtle oak and smoke nicely in balance with acid and fruit; elegant structure. A sophisticated effort for which the group’s eminance grise, in his best analytic form, summed up the group consensus: ‘I think this wine is swell.’ At 22 bucks, the best buy of the tasting as well.

Wine Orofino Pinot Noir 2005
From Similkameen Valley, BC
Price $31.89 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.1%
A harvest of 2 tons/acre, aged 17 months in a 50/50 mixture of new and not-new French oak, produces a vigorous nose that you keep returning to the glass to sample. Bigger and more tannic than the Salt Spring or Garry Oaks, this Pinot throws its weight around enthusiastically without actually beating you up; one taster even referred to it as ‘polished’, although the (very user-friendly) acid may be just a wee bit too intense for that. This stands to get better with some time in the bottle. Pricey, though.

1 comment:

Melva said...

Well written article.