Thomas Girgensohn's Australian Wine Reviews - and Beyond
I am a very interested amateur wine taster and drinker. I have collected wine since 1983 and hold a 1500 bottle wine collection of mainly red Australian wine, but also some wine from France, Italy and other countries. A blog of new and mature wine reviews for the discerning wine consumer.
Stephen Pannell is sometimes described as a winemaking genius. However, I find his approach quite straightforward - nothing genial about it. By contrast the label might fit Abel Gibson, the young winemaker of Ruggabellus. He started out by crafting four red wines, all different proportions of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre. He used whole bunches and other interesting techniques to good effect, all this out of a small garage. His father Rob Gibson, who introduced the famous grape grading system for Penfolds, was not always pleased with his son's ideas.
Gibson has now turned to white, or shall I say orange wines. I am reviewing here he 2016 Ruggabellus Sallio.
The Sallio is a blend of Semillon, Riesling and Muscat. The grapes have spent time on skins, some a few days, some weeks. The colour of the wine is a fairly ugly orange/brown. However, this is a much more interesting wine than the orange wine from COS, which I reviewed recently.
The dominant flavours are citrus and orange peel, obviously driven by the skin contact. There is also ginger. The mouthfeel is big and chalky. The finish is slightly bitter. This clearly is an interesting and different wine.
I am rating it well for its personality, but the overwhelming taste of dried fruit and peel is not to my liking. Score: 92/0
When one discusses the top 5 alternative winemakers, Cos would always feature. To test the quality of this órange' wine, I put the 2014 Cos Pithos Bianco away for a few years. The wine comes from Sicily, in a bulky, short bottle, and is based on the Grecanico grape.
This wine offers little fruit flavour. There are hints of candied orange and dried apricot, but the main feature of this wine, which is orange in colour, should be the texture. In my view, it does not offer as much interest as Roussanne/Marsanne blends. However, the structure is holding up well. It is just not a very interesting wine. A good food pairing could be eggplant.
2008 was a year still in drought, after the very dry 2007 in the Barossa. It is said that Hill of Grace comes into its own after 10 years, but should I be worried, given this could be quite a ripe wine? But then I took confidence from the very old vines. They are so old because they have survived harsh conditions before.
Notice the Vino-Lok glass stopper
When I opened the wine, I got a little bit worried, though. The dark violet colour was tinged with orange/brown. This would be interesting. I need not have been concerned. On the palate, the wine delivered its typical flavours: dark plum, kirsch, aniseed and five spice. There is no other wine in Australia which expresses the terroir as distinctly as Hill of Grace. Oak was noticeable in a support role, and the tannins were incredibly smooth and silky.
The mouthfeel of this wine was quite big, but very layered. The beautiful texture was well balanced with savoury notes. The flavours went on and on at the back of the palate and on the finish; beautiful.
This is a 10-20 year wine, not a Grange 30-50 year stayer, but it delivers everything it needs to deliver now.
The famous Henschke winery is now a pretty substantial winery with 36 (!) different wines. They have four major vineyards: Hill of Grace, Mount Edelstone, and the Eden Valley vineyard, all in the Eden Valley, and the Lenswood vineyard in the Adelaide Hills. A couple of days ago, I tasted a number of the new releases. Following are some general impressions.
The white wines were all from the Eden Valley vineyard. They were from 2017 the Peggy's Hill Riesling, the Julius Riesling and the Percival's Mill Gruner Veltliner. Then there was the museum's release 2005 Julius Riesling. I found these wines quite Germanic in style. They deliver a broader mouthfeel than, say, Rieslings from the Clare Valley. Lime and floral flavours dominate the Rieslings, with the Julius more intense in style. The 2005 had expected toasted characters on the palate. I did not find the Gruner Veltliner true to varietal character, maybe a work in progress.
Of the medium priced reds, I enjoyed the 2016 Stone Jar Tempranillo. It attacks with very fresh red cherry fruit. This is a vibrant wine, very crisp and balanced. The 2015 Johann's Garden GMS is 70% Grenache, and the raspberry fruit shines through. There is spice as well in this easy drinking wine. The workhorse, the 2014 Keyneton Euphonium was a surprise. This is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc is a minor component, but it dominated the palate with its spicy and forest fruit character.
Then came three premium priced Shirazes. They were a real revelation. The first two were from the excellent 2015 vintage. The Wheelwright Shiraz from the cool Eden Valley vineyard is a new wine, but the vines are actually 50 years old. And what a wine this is. Elegant and super delicious with bright and pure fruits of the whole spectrum (red, blue and black). The tannins are silky. This wine moves seamlessly along the palate. The spices are sweet rather than sharp, and the finish is long. The Tappa Pass is from three vineyards across the ridge near Light Pass in the Barossa Valley. The fruit is darker and more concentrated and ripe, but the wine is not heavy. Dried fruit and wood mellow the character of this very drinkable and smooth wine.
The 2013 Mount Edelstone is from a very dry vintage and was released later than usual, in fact after the 2014. This is an intense, quite dense wine, showing off the typical character of this wine: dark plum, blackberry, olive, aniseed, mocca and pepper. It is immediately recognizable, and despite the concentration and strong tannins is well balanced and not overwhelming.
Overall, the red Henschke wines have evolved over the last decade from intense wines to wines with beautiful purity of fruit, elegant and still retaining the expected power.