Yellow Tail Chardonnay 2015

Some wines are refined and well-behaved.  Others are a bold mouthful of flavors sometimes striking out in unexpected directions.  Still others are one-dimensional and boring.  Then you have what I’ll call the pinballers that bounce around on your taste buds like a rabbit with it’s tail on fire.  The last was my experience with this white from down under.

Oenophilogical_YellowTailChardonnay2015Winemaker: Yellow Tail
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2015
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $5.99

Notes: In the glass this Aussie Chardonnay was a pretty light shade of gold.  Scents that rose from the glass were pineapple, oak and pepper.  Alcohol was at 13% in this medium-bodied wine.  Acidity was moving toward high, and there was a definite sense of viscosity on the tongue.  I thought it was an unsophisticated white with flavors of sweet pineapple, grass, oak, and a note of hot peppers.  It is, of course, a very inexpensive bottle of wine.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so critical.

Lindeman’s Pinot Noir 2015

What to drink as accompaniment to a turkey burger at home?  If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you may note that turkey burgers are pretty common in my home.  They’re easy and quick to make and have less of the cholestrol-upping fats that doctors and dieticians keep telling us are bad for longevity.  Not that I don’t splurge on a beef burger once in awhile.

homemade_hamburger

On one particular evening, this Australian Pinot Noir won the toss to pair with a turkey burger.  After all, if Pinot Noir goes so well with Thanksgiving turkey ….  Of course, the right beverage may also depend on what condiments you plan on adding to the turkey burger.  That night I wasn’t in an especially adventurous mood, so I wasn’t expecting any great disturbances in the flavor force on my palate.

Winemaker: Lindeman’s
Wine: Bin 99
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2015
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $5.99

Notes: The Bin 99 was light-bodied with good acidity.  I thought tannins were around medium while alcohol clocked in at 13.5%.  Regarding flavors, I tasted strawberry, green bell pepper, and black pepper along with bitter brambles.  Fairly simple but ok for the task at hand.

Lindeman’s Shiraz 2015

With a name like Lindeman, I though for sure the founder of this winery would be from continental Europe – Germany, Holland, Switzerland, etc.  Not so!  Turns out Dr. Henry Lindeman was from jolly old England.  He did get his interest in winemaking from travels on the continent.  But then in the 1840s (at the age of 32, if my math is correct) he packed up and moved to Australia’s Hunter Valley where he planted grapes on a property he called Cawarra.  Interestingly enough, all did not go smoothly for him.  The winery tells us in their online history that Cawarra was burned by an arsonist in 1850.  Even so, Dr. Lindeman was determined in his love of wine and winemaking.  After the fire, he worked for three years as a doctor in nearby gold mines to save up enough money to restart and rebuild the vineyard.  Which he did!

Oenophilogical_LindemansShiraz2015Winemaker:  Lindeman’s
Wine:  Bin 50
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $5.00

Notes:  The bouquet or nose on this Shiraz was unexpectedly faint with light scents of pine, berries and spice.  Contrary to it’s bouquet, the color was a deep, dark burgundy.  It had decent acidity and gentle tannins with a medium heft on the tongue.  Speaking of the tongue, flavors I found included dark fruit, pine, paint thinner, some tar and ash.  Although lacking structure, here is a cheap red that isn’t the quintessential fruit punch in a bottle.  It needs time to breathe.  So, go ahead and decant it 15 minutes to half an hour before you plan on serving it.  With oxidation, the ash, tar and especially paint thinner recede some, allowing the dark plum and currant to share the spotlight.  Not a fancy or subtle wine, this seems a good candidate to serve with a casual meat dish such as flank steak or even a burger.

Benefactor Cellars Chardonnay

It’s never too early to begin planning ahead for the fall holiday season.  I know some of you have already begun to think about holiday presents!  But before we get to the big November and December holidays, there is one we mustn’t forget – Halloween.

Now, Halloween isn’t really a big foodie holiday – unless you consider candy to be a food group.  On second thought, maybe it IS a food group….  Setting that debate aside, Halloween is definitely a holiday for fun and frolick, parties, costumes and trick-or-treating.  If you’re planning a bash to celebrate All Hallows Eve, you may want to give this Australian Chardonnay consideration.  Although I personally lean toward more red wines in the autumn and winter, you will no doubt have guests who want a glass of white wine.  And this selection from Benefactor Cellars has the perfect label for celebrating Halloween.

Oenophilogical_BenefactorChardonnay2013Winemaker:  Benefactor Cellars
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This Aussie Chardonnay was pale yellow in color with a perfumey bouquet.  At 13.2% alcohol, it had good acidity.  Surprisingly, the Benefactor Cellars was light-bodied in the continental style.  On the palate I found a fairly simple, straight-forward flavor profile consisting of citrus with toasty oak notes.  I’d say this is not a selection for the wine connoisseurs, but I think it could work for a casual celebration where the focus was on friends and costumes rather than on the food and drink.

Yellow Tail Shiraz 2015

These Casella wines are everywhere in my area.  I can find them just about anywhere I can buy wine.  And I see them at a lot of house parties, too.  Maybe that’s because they are so easy to find.  Maybe that’s because they are so easy on the wallet.  Or maybe it’s because folks like their approachability.  That’s definitely a term I would use for this Shiraz – approachable.  It even says so on the label!

You may have noticed that I have strayed from using my usual photo style for this post.  Instead, I’m trying a slightly more artistic (I think) treatment in an effort to add a little more fun and interest to my posts.  I hope you can still recognize the label sufficiently to be able to pick it out at a store.  Everything is basically the same except the coloring.

Winemaker:  Yellow Tail
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $6.99

Notes:  It was an easy-drinking wine.  Medium-bodied with a smooth feel across the palate, it had good acidity and 13% alcohol.  Flavors were not overly complex – largely dark cherry and ripe red plum fruit, some vanilla, a dash of pepper, a tad of bitter woodiness as the light tannins kicked in.

McWilliam’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

What do you sip to help you wine down from a busy Saint Patrick’s Day?  I’m not talking about a day spent celebrating dear old Paddy, but a long day at the grindstone after which you are in no shape to play bar games into the wee hours!  Well, how about popping the cork on a bottle of something from another island nation but round the other side of the globe for a quieter celebration at home?

Winemaker:  McWilliam’s
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $12.99

Notes:   In the glass this Australian Cab was a deep dark red – almost murky.  The bouquet was quite loud with scents of dark berries, oak, menthol and earth.  Acidity was good, the body was medium, and I felt the tannins were medium as well.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  On the tongue I tasted plenty of oak, menthol (at times minty), dark cherry, tea leaf and tar.  Fun stuff, but the flavors are not well integrated at all.  Perhaps it needs some cellaring.  Even so, this McWilliam’s Cab was an acceptably decent wine experience for the $8.99 sale price I paid for the bottle.

[Brief Aside: My spell check tells me cellaring is not a word. Ha!]

Presswork Shiraz 2011

The Barossa Valley is well known as a major wine producing region in Australia.  It is particularly (but not exclusively) known for it’s production of red wines.  In fact, one of Australia’s most famous wines – Penfolds Grange – contains a large proportion of Barossa Shiraz.  With so much potential, then, I was keen to give this Presswork bottle a try.  After all, reading a label can give you plenty of information, but it can’t tell you what’s truly important — if you like this wine.  That only your taste buds can tell you.

Winemaker:  Presswork
Varietal: Shiraz
Vintage:  2011
Appellation: Barossa Valley, Australia
Price: $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The Presswork was a very deep ruby color in the glass.  In the bouquet I found scents of tangy berries, earth and a touch of cola.  Acidity was good, the body was light, and tannins were gentle.  Alcohol was at 13.8%.  Flavors I found included pepper, cherry, cola, some eucalyptus and a hint of chocolate cake on the finish.  Despite that chocolate cake (because who doesn’t like chocolate cake), I thought this Australian pleasant but lacking in body and overall oomph.

A Naming Convention For My Wine

There are times when I find the “name game” in wine labeling just a bit frustrating.  That’s because there are a number of varietals that are known by numerous titles.  At times it just feels like folks are trying to make things hard to suss out.  I can appreciate that much of it may stem from long-held, local traditions, but it still feels a bit like secret code sometimes.  On the other hand, there are instances when a naming convention provides important information about what a person may reasonably expect from the wine they’re choosing.  Shiraz v. Syrah is just that.

Consulting the Wikipedia Page on the subject of the Syrah grape and Syrah wine we find “As a general rule, most Australian and South African wines are labelled Shiraz, and most European wines (from such regions where varietal labelling is practiced) are labelled Syrah. In other countries, practices vary and winemakers (or wine marketers) sometimes choose either Syrah or Shiraz to signify a stylistic difference in the wine they have made. “Syrah”-labelled wines are sometimes thought to be more similar to classic Northern Rhône reds; presumably more elegant, tannic, smoke-flavoured and restrained with respect to their fruit component. “Shiraz”-labelled wines, on the other hand, would then be more similar to archetypical Australian or other New World examples; presumably made from riper berries, more fruit-driven, higher in alcohol, less obviously tannic, peppery rather than smokey, usually more easily approached when young, and possibly slightly sweetish in impression.

Having seen but never tried a Little Penguin wine, the question remaining for me was, “Is the Little Penguin selection exemplary of this Shiraz v. Syrah delineation?”  Well …

Winemaker:  The Little Penguin
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $6.99

Notes:  The color of this medium-bodied Shiraz was dark ruby.  On the nose I found pepper, spice, berries and damp earth.  It showed good acidity and a certain “coat-the-tongue” quotient that was reflected in very present legs on the glass.  Tannins were moderate, and alcohol was at 13.5%.  Flavors for me were straightforward and engaging, including plentiful oak, pepper, plum and tea leaf.  I’d call it a simple, casual wine that would be fine with some take-out pizza.

And, yes, I think the use of Shiraz on the label followed the convention nicely.

Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet 2012

No experiment is valid without a control.  Right?  Something to compare the experiment’s results to.  So after having tried that Penfolds Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz Cab that I happened upon recently, I decided to grab another Australian blend of the same grape varietals for a comparison.  Admittedly, they aren’t from the same vintage and the wines aren’t blended in the same percentages.  Not exactly a true scientific method.  Still, I was curious.

Winemaker:  Jacob’s Creek
Wine: Shiraz Cabernet
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $6.99

Notes:  Jacob’s Creek has blended 56% Shiraz and 44% Cabernet Sauvignon for this selection.  Color was a … drum roll, please … dark garnet.  OK, no real surprise there.  The bouquet?  Well, it held aromas of earth, mushroom, eucalyptus and dark plum.  Body – medium; acidity – fairly high; tannins – medium with an aggressive attack (some use the term grippy); alcohol – 13.9%.  Flavors?  Yes.  LOL  No, seriously, the major player on the palate was oak.  It’s what hit me first and kept on coming.  In addition there were plum and pepper with hints of cocoa and bitter coffee bean on the finish.  Bottom line – it was OK, but I would have enjoyed it more had it not been for the preponderance of oak.  Of course, that’s based on my own personal preferences.  You may enjoy the starring role that oak plays at the Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabaret – I mean, Cabernet.  Then again, maybe this is a wine that needs a little time in the bottle for the flavors to balance out.

Rosemount Merlot 2012

Although it may seem like I’m on an Australian kick, it isn’t on purpose.  I’ve just run into some good deals lately on wines from down under.  This time I ran across a sale on Rosemount Estate.  I’ve been acquainted with Rosemount Estate wines for some years now, having first tried their Shiraz because it was receiving high praise from many of the critics.  And I have to say that I did enjoy the bottles of Rosemount Shiraz I had.  Rather than trying to revisit old memories this time, though, I decided to branch out and see how they handle Merlot.

Winemaker:  Rosemount Estate
Varietal: Merlot
Vintage:  2012
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $10.70

Notes:  The color of this Aussie was a deep, dark red.  It held scents of berries, earth and camphor in the bouquet.  Acidity leaned toward the high side.  The body was light as were the tannins, and alcohol was at 13.5%.  On the tongue there was a core of cherry at the outset which brightened with oxidation to a young blueberry flavor.  In addition, I tasted cedar, hints of herbals and a racy hot pepper on the finish.  Not a tremendously complex wine, but just fine.  Perhaps just about the right value at the sale price I paid of $6.99.