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.

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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.

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.

Penfolds Shiraz Cabernet 2011

A little serendipity can go a long way.  Just the other day I was on my way to the gym … Yes, I sometimes exercise more than my drinking arm.  lol  Anyway, I was walking past Trader Joe’s on my way to the gym, so I decided to just drop in even though I didn’t need anything.  Just a spur of the moment kind of thing.  Of course, I went to the wine section to browse where I came upon a display of this Penfolds selection.  Intrigued, I picked up a bottle and stood there mulling over the fact that I was looking at a Penfolds wine for $3.99 and thinking, “What gives?”  That’s when a helpful staffer walked past and told me that he had tried it when it first came in.  The next day, he bought a case.  With that for a recommendation, I nabbed one.  Before you ask, I did go to the gym afterward – with my purchase tucked away in my backpack.

Oenophilogical_PenfoldsShirazCabWS2011Winemaker:  Penfolds
Wine: Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz Cabernet
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage:  2011
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $3.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This Aussie blend is made up of 77% Shiraz and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The color was a translucent (i.e. not cloudy) dark burgundy.  The nose held aromas of pepper, earth, cedar, and dark berries.  The body of this wine was medium with a nice, interesting roundness to it on the tongue.  Acidity was fairly high but not what I’d call “racy,” and alcohol was at 13.5%.  Tannins were medium – a definite presence yet not biting.  For flavors this very budget-friendly red brought me primarily pepper, black cherry, and oak.  As it wound down, the finish had more pepper, some boysenberry and a tart green flavor I couldn’t quite nail down (lemon grass is close but just not quite right).  Overall I’d say this is a great value.  I’m not sure why this is priced at $3.99, but that won’t stop me from going back to get more.  I hope they have plenty in stock.  Planning an informal party soon?  Run on out and snap up some of this.  Sure, it’s relatively straightforward as red wines go, but it’s completely drinkable and head and shoulders above most of the wines I’ve had at this price point.  I’ll have to thank that helpful TJ staff person, too.