To Cork or Not

It’s been a while since I last opened a corked bottle of wine, and then there were two in two days. One was an Australian pinot noir from 2009, the other a Tuscan red from 2012, and it would be fair to say I was as disappointed in both instances.

Both wines were bought with the express intent to cellar and both were being opened years after purchase to see how they were progressing. Both had what appeared to be premium corks and other than being tainted looked in pristine physical condition. That both wines were only mildly corked made it even more disappointing, as on opening each bottle there was a hint of what would have been the intense fruit and fragrance of each wine.

When it comes to corked wines, there is always that instant where you hope the wine is in fact OK and you seek to apportion blame elsewhere – hayfever or sniffles interrupting your otherwise clear olfactory sensors, maybe it’s just a funky waft or some reductive characters which will blow off after allowing the wine to breathe? Ever hopeful, it usually doesn’t take long for confirmation, as once exposed the wine is either stripped completely of its fruit, or the cork taint intensity increases.

Unlucky to cop two in as many days, but then again maybe I was lucky as prior to this it was at least 12 moths since I opened a corked wine. Then again, the number of wines opened in the past 12 months that were sealed with a cork was a significant minority. Thankfully, there are other bottles of each of these wines to look forward to. Hopefully they will not be corked – but somehow once one bottle is tainted it seems to increase the risk that others from the same 6-pack/dozen/etc from the same maker may be unlucky enough to be sealed with a cork from the same infected batch.

While some wineries/winemakers make a conscious decision to seal some (or all) wine with screwcap some still persist sealing with cork. Where this is done, and the best possible cork is used, some forgiveness can be extended. However, not all wines can be sealed with the best quality, premium corks and I can’t remember the last time I opened a tainted wine that was not sealed with a cork!

Frankland Estate

I can recall the first time I tasted Frankland Estate‘s Isolation Ridge Riesling, and since then have looked forward to tasting each next vintage on release. Certainly there has been vintage variation, but generally over the past eight or so years this single-vineyard wine from the Great Southern area has only continued to improve. The recently released 2016 is probably the best yet showing intensity, purity and complexity. Like it’s earlier vintage siblings, it will age gracefully for those patient enough.

While I’ve come to expect the Isolation Ridge Riesling will show its pedigree on release, surprisingly this was not what impressed me most the the current releases from this winery. It was the general quality of all wines right across board: from the Rocky Gully range to the Estate wines, and the single vineyards. On top of that, the packaging is also first class (I’ve always liked the simple, earthy abstract element to the Rocky Gully labels).

Also impressive is that all the wines are well balanced in terms of price to quality, and if anything they all err on the side of good value irrespective of price. And the best value at the moment seems to be the pigeon-pair of the Estate Chardonnay and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – both from the 2015 vintage, and both very good wines.

Champagne Dumangin

We were privileged to host Gilles Dumangin, the fifth generation winemaker at Champagne house Dumangin J. Fils, for an invitation only pre-Xmas tasting of the following selection:

  • Dumangin La Cuvee 17 NV
  • Dumangin L’Extra Brut NV
  • Dumangin Le Rose NV
  • Dumangin Le Vintage 2004
  • Dumangin Single Vineyard Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2006

It was a quality tasting with all wines punching well above their price points. Of interest was the personal favourites selected by attendees with a good spread across the range – testament to the overall high quality standards of the house.

For me the pick was the Le Vintage 2004, but on what was a beautiful sunny and warm Saturday afternoon the Le Rose NV was in great form and an instant inclusion on the house drinking list. All wines from the tasting will be included as standard Winecall offerings (if interested please email to

En Primeur 2015 and Family Celebrations

Recently keeping a keen eye on the Bordeaux En Primeur 2015 vintage releases, family celebrations providing an insight into the 1998 vintage 18 years on (some entering their peak drinking window, some still need more time in the cellar), Champagne (but particularly vintage and blanc de blancs), quaffing the Calabria Private Bin range, trying not to open the 2010 Barolo’s (but amazed at how approachable these wines are despite their youth), dipping into the cellar (2005 Rieslings and Chardonnays with 5 to 10 years age), and enjoying reds from the Douro, Portugal.

Three wines to build a meal around::
Dumangin Le Vintage 1er Cru 2004;
Castello di Pomino Benefizio Riserva Chardonnay 2012; and
Quinto do Vallado VALLADO Douro Tinto 2010.

As always, happy drinking!

Riesling Downunder, Trait-d-Union, Tre Bicchieri …

The first half of 2015 has included some lovely wine highlights including Riesling DownUnder , Trait-d-Union, and Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri tastings (all February 2015), a visit to Australia from Alvaro Palacios – Decanter UK’s Wine Man of the Year 2015  and hosting a wine tour to the Yarra Valley (both April 2015), assisting two wineloving customers re-build their wine cellars, and drinking from the wonderful Zalto glasses.

By way of general observation, Australian wine appears to have benefitted from a string of strong vintages (2012, 2013 and 2014), Barolo from the 2010 vintage look to be very good to outstanding with many of the 2010s approachable and enjoyable in their youth (while still capable of being cellared for years to come), and all the current releases from Alvaro Palacios’ three wineries.

As usual there’s also been plenty of beautiful wines to taste and drink. Some of the many wine highlights so far include:

– tasting the Champagnes of Jacques Selosse and La Closerie;

– two cracking 2011 chardonnays from Margaret River (Leeuwin Estate Art Series and Voyager Estate);

– Beaujolais from the 2013 vintage (including Pierre Chermette (Vissoux) Vieilles Vignes Beaujolais 2013 and Janin’s Clos du Tremblay Moulin-a-Vent 2013);

Mac Forbes‘ rieslings notably the RS7 Riesling 2014 and from his experimental batch series, the EB10 Ginger Rizz Riesling 2014;

– Palacios Remondo Propiedad 2010, Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita 2012, and DJP La Faraona 2012; and

– the ‘tre bicchieiri’ Le Monde Friuli Pinot Bianco 2013.

As always, happy drinking!

Xmas 2014

Summer, Xmas and New Year celebrations, and for many some down time and a holiday break. Hard to think of a better opportunity for some champagne and other sparkling wines. Langlois-Chateau Cremant Brut de Loire NV would have to be one of the best value sparkling wines available, and I always relish the opportunity to open a bottle (or two) of champagne. So far this year over various Xmas celebrations there have been a few including Laurent-Perrier Brut Rose NV, and Krug Vintage 2000, and I will be looking forward to some Marc Hebrart Cuvee Prestige 1er Cru NV to bring in the new year.

For whites riesling is still the first choice (Muller-Catoir’s Gutswein 2013 and Mitchell Museum Release Riesling 2005), but there are also some lovely chardonnays around (Trapeze Chardonnay 2013, and the outstanding Mount Mary Chardonnay 2012).

And there’s always rose: Capcanes Rosat de Garnacha 2013, Spinifex Rose 2014, Verget de Sud Meditterannee 2013 and Pittacum Tre Obispos 2012.