Tuck's Ridge Pinot Noir 1998 Rating: 85 Best drinking: 1999–2003
Price: $25 Drink with: Grilled Atlantic salmon
Background Produced from 10 hectares of estate plantings and released in two modes: the cheaper and simpler Altera, and the more complex varietal wine.
Tasting note Light to medium red-purple; the bouquet is soft, moderately intense but with quite complex plum and forest aromas. Tasted in March 1999, the palate was still evolving and on the light side, though having good flavour.
Paringa Estate Chardonnay 1997 Rating: 89 Best drinking: 1999–2003
Price: $30 Drink with: Pan-fried veal with abalone mushrooms
Produced entirely from half a hectare of estate plantings, and 100 per cent barrel-fermented in 100 per cent new Vosges and Allier French oak
barriques of the highest quality. Typically, 10 per cent (and no more) is taken through malolactic fermentation, and the wine spends almost a year on yeast lees before bottling. The style is opulent and concentrated.
Tasting note Medium yellow-green; a solid bouquet with substantial oak and what appear to be slightly burnt aromas, but which may simply be derived from the oak, is followed by a full-bodied wine, showing its 14 degrees alcohol, with ripe melon, peach and fig fruit. Overall, fractionally heavy in the mouth.
Cambewarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 Rating: 88 Best drinking: 2001–2005 Price: $29 Drink with: Illabo lamb
Half a hectare of estate plantings produced the first vintage in 1996. The wine is matured in French oak, and shows excellent varietal character. The '96 won a gold medal at the 1997 Cowra Wine Show, then going on to win the trophy for Best Table Wine in the Small Producers classes at the 1998 Royal Sydney Wine Show, an exceptional achievement for Cambewarra Estate and the Shoalhaven region.
Youthful purple-red; the bouquet is likewise youthful with cassis/blackberry fruit and minimal oak. The palate is quite attractive, with cassis and mint fruit followed by a soft finish. Not as callow or unmade as the bouquet suggests.
Simply the best
Domaine Chandon Cuvée 2000 1994 Rating: 96 Best drinking: 2000–2000
Price: $29.90 Drink with: Fireworks
A special release made from 100 per cent Pinot Noir (this, I must say, a
surprise) laid down in 1994 to celebrate the millennium, and given three and a half years on yeast lees. It has thus also been given extended cork age, something that the former managing director of Domaine Chandon, Dr Tony Jordan, firmly believes to be necessary.
Pale straw-pink; aromas of strawberry and faintly earthy notes intermingle with bready autolysis characters on the bouquet. The palate is incredibly intense and long, with a lingering finish. A great success.
Copyright © 1999 HarperCollinsPublishers / James Halliday
1997 Wildwood Wild Margaret River Pinot Noir 83
1997 Wimbaliri Chardonnay 78
1996 Wimbaliri Chardonnay 82
1997 Wimbaliri Pinot Noir 76
1996 Wimbaliri Cabernet Merlot 79
1995 Wimbaliri Cabernet Merlot 75
Hangovers and Cures
I don't know about others, but a sure sign of an impending hangover is going to bed feeling so wonderfully well that a precautionary dose of Berocca and Disprin in a very large glass of water seems unnecessary. The prophylactic effect of this prescription is undoubted, but there is now another contender on the market. Drink Ease is a homoeopathic product which (like the Berocca and Disprin) is to be taken with a large glass of water at bed time after drinking, repeating every four hours if necessary. Drink Ease comes in packets of 30 tablets, sufficient for 15 indulgence experiences or 10 over-indulgent events. I hasten to add that I have not yet occasioned to test the product, which is available from health food shops, pharmacies, liquor outlets and specialty stores at a recommended retail price of $11.95 (or 80 cents per hangover).
Garry Crittenden of Dromana Estate has never been hesitant about stirring the pot. In a recent letter, he writes: "Now don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against a good bottle of Pinot Grigio. It's just that I don't see too many being made in Australia at the moment. It seems to me that Pinot Gris is in danger of becoming an eminence gris; a schizophrenic transnational unsure of whether it hails from Alsace or Italy."
Given that Dromana Estate is part of the Mornington Peninsula establishment, and that this region has gone close to making Pinot Gris its own, the obvious question is what is Crittenden on about?
The answer is Arneis, and if that means nothing to you, join the club, for this is one of the more obscure of the one thousand or so grape varieties to be found in Italy. The bible on such matters, Jancis Robinson's Vines, Grapes and Wines, mentions it in an inset box in the 'other wine varieties - Italy' section, along with such exotica as Erbaluce, Favorita, Bosco of Liguria, Buonamico, Pigalo, Rollo, etc, etc.
But she does manage to interpolate two brief sentences about Arneis, which "has been saved from near extinction by a local (Piedmontese) appreciation of the international demand for dry white wines. It produces full-bodied wines with crispness and a distinctive flavour that Victor Hazan likens to ripe pears."
Among those locals who appreciate the wine is the distinguished journalist Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food Movement, based in Bra, bang slap in the middle of Piedmont. He was in Australia recently to celebrate the establishment of the first Australian chapter of the movement in Melbourne over a suitably leisurely dinner at Langton's (the coffee arrived well after midnight).
The 1999 Garry Crittenden Arneis was one of a cavalcade of wines served during the excellent degustation dinner. Gary himself wasn't at that dinner, but I was. Garry writes: "I'm told that Petrini .... was astonished at what he calls its 'authenticity'". In fact he went even further, saying that the moment he got back to Bra he would advise the local growers to pull up stakes (and vines) and move to the Mornington Peninsula.
Crittenden acted on a hunch when he planted three rows (or 500 vines) at Dromana Estate in 1996. He says that until September 1993 he had never heard of the variety, but was served a bottle at the Ristorante Belvedere in La Morra, one of the gastronomic treasures of Italy and with incomparable panoramic views of Piedmont.
Notwithstanding his like for the many bottles of Arneis he tasted in Italy, he found that on analysis the acidity was low at only moderate alcohol levels. He reasoned the much cooler climate of the Peninsula might help boost acid levels (he was right), but also discovered why Arneis in Piedmontese dialect means 'little bugger'; it has proved very difficult to train on the Scott Henry trellis he favours.
And the wine? Well, it doesn't have overmuch aroma, but the palate is very good, with considerable length and persistence, even if the flavours are closer to nashi pear rather than ripe pears. Its the only wine in the i range to come from the Peninsula, and for the time being is sold only through the cellar door (telephone 03 5987 3800).
Garry has planted an additional two acres on the other side of the Peninsula, and will eventually produce 400 to 500 dozen cases a year, at which level it should find its way onto restaurant lists and top-end retailers via distributors Tucker Seabrook.
NICKS WINE MERCHANTS - VINTAGE DIRECT EMAIL NEWSLETTER
ISSUE No. 22
SPECIAL METHODE CHAMPENOISE EDITION
10-12 Jackson Court East Doncaster Victoria 3109 Australia.
Phone: 613 9848 1153 Fax: 613 9848 4422
THE STORY OF CHAMPAGNE
Champagne is synonymous with success, celebration, good times, special events and pure
indulgence, but the causal connection between Champagne and these special events needs to
be established, because it was not always the case. The monk Dom Perignon is credited with
having invented Champagne, although some authorities dispute this and maintain that it was
invented earlier and probably in England. Whatever the truth, it first appeared in France
around 1670, at the time that Dom Perignon became a cellarer at Hautvillers. The new
sparkling wine was not a big hit at first and it was generally considered that "effervescence is
only merit in a petit vin and belongs rightly to beer, chocolate and whipped cream." It was
also referred to as the "devils wine". Now, by any standard that is a P.R. campaign that's
going to take some effort to turn around. From hell fire to heavenly sparkling stars that is
quite a repositioning effort. The invention of Champagne was off to a slow marketing start. It
was developed at the end of Louis XIV's reign, which was hardly the right time to launch this
novelty drink. The splendour of Versailles was on the wane, and the popping of Champagne
corks would have scandalized the ailing king and his pious mistress.
In 1715, Philippe, Duc d'Orleans became Regent of France. Louis XV was only five years old, but almost instantly Royalty and the Court started popping Champagne corks. France embarked upon one of the
most frivolous, extravagant and rip-roaring decades in its history. The Palais Royal, the
residence of the Regent, was filled with gay roues and fast young women. The pursuit of
pleasure was the main aim of all classes of society. The new drink was scarce and only
Royalty and people of exceptional influence could procure the real stuff. Just perfect market
positioning! Champagne had firmly positioned itself with exclusivity, Royalty and good times.
Its relative scarcity ensured that the price was high and thus reserved for special occasions.
Its connections with the lustful French Court would ensure that it would remain the preferred
drink of the highrollers, a situation that seems to have persisted into the 1980's with
customers like Christopher Skase and Alan Bond, consuming cases of Bollinger, Krug and
Dom Perignon. It was a time when 10 case sales of top bubbly were made before lunch and
consumed that afternoon. It was corporate indulgence on a Grand Scale.
Madame Lily Bollinger did much to immortalize the drink, and create the justification for
Champagne being regarded as an essential necessity of life. "I drink it when I'm happy and
when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it
obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it,
unless I'm thirsty."
The Millenium of the year 2000, or 2001 more correctly, will be the first time in history that
the change of a Millenium has been toasted with Champagne. We are witness to the greatest
sparkling party of the Galaxy, as exciting as the birth of a new star, an extraordinary time to
be alive. Millions and millions of Champagne corks popping all night, froth and bubble
lasting long into the night. A truly extraordinary moment, filled with all sorts of expectations
and mystery. This is living in exciting times indeed!
The millenium is also a time for some serious contemplation - particularly about the human
psyche and its ability to turn on other humans in the most callous of ways. If there be but one
wish, one prayer, let us then pray at the dawn of the new Millenium that mankind has learnt
one thing - to love and respect all life. A simple prayer and hopefully not an impossible one.
Peace, love and health.
DOMAINE CHANDON - A NEW BEGINNING
N/V CHANDON BRUT
Region: Cool climate vineyards throughout Australia.
Domaine Chandon was established in the Yarra Valley in 1985 as a part of Moet &
Chandons expansion into the global wine market. In part the expansion was fuelled by the
limitations imposed upon Champagne producers from expanding in France. The Domaine
Chandon story started back in 1984, when John Wright, the president of Domaine Chandon
California visited Australia and recognised the enormous potential for growing premium
sparkling base wines. The Australian sparkling wine production has certainly become much
more sophisticated since the early 1980's. One of the great success stories was the launch of
Yellowglen, and the use of top quality 'Champagne' grapes for the production of sparkling
wine. Today, the traditional grape varieties of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier
are used for the production of quality sparkling, however, it is surprising to learn that even
today less than 10% of the 3 million dozen of Australian sparkling wine consumed is made
from those varieties. In the early years, trials were made from grapes grown at Coonawarra
and Mt Macedon, before the company decided to establish its facilities in the Yarra Valley.
From a modest start of 6000 cases in 1986, Domaine Chandon is now producing 75,000
cases in 1999 and aims to reach a target of 225,000 in the year 2004. The launch of the N/V
Chandon will certainly ensure that this target is reached. The Chandon Brut is being rolled
out with considerable fanfare and in plenty of time for the Millennium celebrations. The
parent company Moet & Chandon, have renamed the brand, simply as Chandon, as part of
their global re positioning strategy. The company has vineyards in France, California,
Brazil, Argentina and Spain.
Wine maker Wayne Donaldson has developed a superb new bubbly that will worry the life out
of its competitors. Not only is the quality a quantum step up from other mid priced methode
champenoise, but the complexity that one expects from much higher prized sparkling wines is
also quite evident.
Tasting Notes: Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and sourced from up to 40
different cool climate vineyards throughout Australia. Bright pale straw colour, excellent
mousse, quite persistent when first poured. Fine bead. Superb lifted nose with hints of fig,
biscuit and distinct yeast autolysis. Creamy texture on the palate, with again flavours of
biscuit, fig and nut persisting. Excellent length, clean finish with long yeasty fig aftertaste. A
great affordable new Australian 'Champagne!'
$17.99 each or $210.00 per dozen
1996 CHANDON VINTAGE BRUT
Region: Coonawarra, Pemberton, Yarra Valley, Victoria.
Domaine Chandon have undergone an international name change - the 'Domaine' gets the
bullet and reinvents itself as part of the global portfolios of wineries that are known as
Domaine Chandon chase complexity at all costs and with the 1996 Vintage Brut fruit was
sourced from 42 different cool climate vineyards throughout Australia. Made from the
Classic blend of 51% Pinot Noir, 48% Chardonnay and 1% Pinot Meunier this methode
champenoise has spent two years on yeast lees further adding to its complexity.
Tasting Notes: 1996 was a cool vintage which caused considerably difficult times for table
wine producers but was exceptional for sparkling wine base, providing that right balance of
fruit and acidity. Deep golden straw colour, showing considerable bottle development.
Pronounced aromas of biscuit, yeast lees, toasted honey and cashews. If you long for a yeasty
nose then this wine certainly delivers plenty of it. Rich creamy palate texture, with very fine
and persistent palate and aftertaste. Perfect balance and crisp acid finish. Although showing
considerable bottle development, the wine can easily take another 3-4 years of cellaring.
$24.99 each or $294.00 per dozen
AUSTRALIAN & NEW ZEALAND METHODE CHAMPENOISE
1993 FLEUR D’LYS VINTAGE CHARDONNAY PINOT NOIR
Region: Various cool climate vineyards of Australia.
A superb aged Methode Champenoise that has won a gold medal in Canberra and
Rutherglen. The wine has spent four years on yeast lees which has resulted in a methode
champenoise of extraordinary complexity and richness for the price. Whilst admitting to
being made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the label, the wine also has a small percentage
of Pinot Meunier. The fruit was sourced from cool climate vineyard regions including Yarra
Valley, Strathbogie Ranges, Drumborg and Coonawarra. Bright deep straw colour showing
the impact of several years bottle development. The wine pours well with a burst of fine
bubbles and creamy white mousse, however, the bead dissipates quickly. The palate certainly
rescues this misdemeanour with superb toasted yeast, grapefruit, nut and biscuit flavours.
Mouthfilling with superb creamy texture. Excellent weight, length and persistence of flavour.
Clean crisp acidity and long toasted nut and yeast lees aftertaste. Cellar a further 3-4 years.
An absolute bargain at this price.
$11.99 each or $138.00 per dozen
N/V TATACHILLA PINOT NOIR BRUT
Region: McLaren Vale, South Australia.
Tatachilla made a great impression when they launched their 'Bluestone Brut' onto the
market several years ago. It offered quality, flavour and affordability, even though it was not
made entirely from the 'Champagne' family of grapes. The current release is a much more
serious product, and made entirely from Pinot Noir, thus providing the wine with its
delightful damask / salmon pink colour. Whole, hand picked bunches of grapes were gently
pressed by a state of the art 'Bucher Champagne press' thus giving the wine its great subtle
character. Fine profuse bead with creamy mousse. The nose displays the delightful aroma of
strawberries, biscuit and cream. The palate does not disappoint and delivers a tingle to the
mouth that is reminiscent of strawberry sherbet quietly exploding on the palate. Creamy
texture, with crisp acidity followed by yeast, strawberry, citrus aftertaste. Excellent value for
$12.99 each or $150.00 per dozen
N/V GRANT BURGE PINOT NOIR CHARDONNAY BRUT
Region: Barossa Valley, South Australia.
A newly re packaged Methode Champenoise and at its price point, very impressive. Bright
pale straw colour followed by very fine and very persistent bead. Excellent nose with distinct
yeast autolysis and a hint of grapefruit and citrus. Full bodied creamy palate, excellent
finesse followed by persistent biscuit, yeast flavours and crisp acid finish. Great everyday
$14.99 each or $174.00 per dozen
1995 SEAVIEW BLANC DE BLANCS
Region: McLaren Vale, South Australia.
An excellent aperitif style. Bright pale straw colour with fine, profuse bead. Delicate
aromas of nut, yeast, autolysis and biscuits. On the palate citrus and grapefruit
flavours are enhanced by a crisp acid backbone and followed by long yeasty, nut and
grapefruit aftertaste. Awarded two trophies to date.
$14.99 each or $179.88 per dozen
N/V SELAKS BRUT METHODE TRADITIONELLE
Region: Marlborough, New Zealand.
Selaks has established an International reputation for its Sauvignon Blanc, being both
excellent in value and quality. The Methode Traditionelle (The French don't like it being
called Methode Champenoise) is a full bodied sparkling wine with very pronounced yeast
autolysis character. Made from a blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, the wine
has had a mimimum of 24 months on lees and is only disgorged upon demand. Pale straw
colour - showing some developed characters - pronounced yeast autolysis nose which carries
through to the finish. Full bodied, slightly oxidized style. Clean crisp acid finish.
$14.99 each or $179.88 per dozen
N/V DEUTZ MARLBOROUGH CUVEE
Region: Marlborough, New Zealand.
Montana has had a long association with Champagne Deutz and after years of very good
New Zealand Methode Champenoise, comes an absolute classic. This Methode Champenoise
is so good that it could be mistaken for the real thing. Fine delicate profuse bead. The nose is
a delight with lots of yeast autolysis character. The palate has remarkable length and finesse
- with creamy yeasty flavours persisting - the acidity is perfect to the fruit. Wonderful balance
and long aftertaste. Outstanding value!
$17.99 each or $210.00 per dozen
N/V BLUE PYRENEES RESERVE BRUT
Region: Avoca, Victoria.
The yellow label Blue Pyrenees has come of age and delivers excellent value and flavour.
Fine profuse bead with good creamy mousse. The nose is excellent. Pronounced yeast
autoylsis aromas give the wine a real 'French' aroma - hardly surprising when one recalls
that winemaker Vincent Gere is a Frenchman after all! The palate displays finesse and a
combination of yeasty, biscuit flavours and creamy texture. Excellent depth and persistence,
perfect acidity with long creamy yeast aftertaste.
$17.99 each or $210.00 per dozen
1996 PADTHAWAY ESTATE ELIZA PINOT NOIR CHARDONNAY BRUT
Region: Padthaway, South Australia.
A blend of 85% Pinot Noir, 12% Chardonnay and 3% Pinot Meunier. This is the pick of the
Padthaway Estate wines although there is no reason why the table wines should not be of this
quality. The colour is pale straw and reflects the gentle pressing and minimal skin contact
that is behind this wine. This is an aperitif style with delicate aromas of strawberry, biscuit
and yeast lees with a subtle oak and nut finish. The refined elegance is continued onto the
palate. Flavours of biscuit and yeast lees are gracefully married to oak and a creamy texture,
with a hint of grapefruit emerging which follows through onto the aftertaste. Excellent length
and persistence. Cellar 3-4 years.
$19.99 each or $228.00 per dozen
Region: Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia.
This is a very creamy style of methode champenoise. Made from a blend of 58% Chardonnay,
40% Pinot Noir and 2% Pinot Meunier the wine spent 24 months on yeast lees. Pale straw
colour, fine bead. Refined nose with aromas of nut and yeast dominant, followed by a hint of
pear and citrus. Refined palate structure with an almost 'double cream' texture. Very fine
concentrated flavour, persistent with nutty, yeast lees dominant, excellent balance followed by
a long creamy yeast aftertaste. Cellar 2-3 years.
$19.99 each or $234.00 per dozen
N/V BILLECART SALMON RESERVE 2000 BRUT CHAMPAGNE
Region: Mareuil-Sur-ay, France.
Billecart Salmon has long been a favourite of ours - it's a delicate refined style, making it the
perfect aperitif wine. The 2000 Reserve is in fact N/V Billecart Salmon with a commemorative
label and it's as good and reliable as ever. Bright pale straw colour, fine, profuse bead with
excellent mousse. Delightful sophisticated aromas of yeast autolysis, biscuit and grapefruit
emerge. The palate structure is refined, delicate, yet at the same time forceful and persistent.
Mouthfilling flavours of biscuit, cashew and yeast lees fill the palate and linger long into the
aftertaste, followed by a hint of grapefruit. Superb creamy texture and perfect balance
between the fruit and acidity. Great Health for 2000 and beyond, the rest will follow!
$49.99 each or $588.00 per dozen