Browsing the archives for the Australia tag

Varietal Voyage No.20 – 2007 d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viogner

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Varietal Voyage

Our second syrah is an Australian shiraz.  Yes, syrah and shiraz are the the same grape.  Even though there are many theories, nobody really knows where the name shiraz (rhymes with pizazz) came from.  So, in the Aussie spirit (and for the sake of simplicity) we’ll stick with shiraz for this post!  When in Rome…

d’Arenberg has made wine in Australia for almost one hundred years.  The winery was founded by Joseph Osborn in 1912, but the d’Arenberg name didn’t come about until Francis d’Arenberg Osborn created his own label in 1959 to honor his mother, Frances Helena d’Arenberg.  Now, in the fourth generation of family ownership, they are guided by Francis’ son, Chester d’Arenberg Osborn as chief winemaker and viticulturist.

The 2007 Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viognier ($20) comes from d’Arenberg’s Osborn Estate in the heart of South Australia’s McLaren Vale.  Brought to Australia in the 1830′s it has become the most popular grape down under.  McLaren Vale has a warm, Mediterranean climate, perfect conditions for heat-loving shiraz.  The soils in this area are a mixed bag of terra rosa, chalk, with sandy or clay loam depending where you are in the valley. Viognier, a white grape that also thrives in this climate, is a variety that has made its way from the Rhône valley and is growing in popularity around the world.  Viognier, with its peachy tropical fruit aromas,  is often added to the wine to boost the aromatics of the shiraz/syrah.

In the glass this young shiraz has a lovely ruby color with intense aromas of stone fruits, blackberries and black cherries.  After a short time, tobacco and cedary cigar box aromas unveiled themselves.  Spicy, dark cherry flavors and subtle amounts of blueberries and plums are balanced with mouthwatering acidity.  This medium-bodied shiraz has a soft, tannic edge that finishes off quickly and cleanly so it won’t overpower your palate.  We paired this with a hearty pizza and the Italian spices really helped accentuate the soft tannins in the wine.  I can see this going really well with a grilled burger or steak.

2007 d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viogner ($20)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Midwest Wine School Experience – WSET Intermediate Level – Class 8

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Midwest Wine School Experience

The final class of the WSET Intermediate Level course was this past Wednesday.  After a short review of the past seven week’s, Jessica Bell led a lively discussion on the topic of fortified wines and spirits.

Fortified wines and spirits represent an extremely wide range of products so we could only cover a very small subset of this genre.  Jessica put together a variety of sherries, ports and spirits, including a French Armagnac and a Scottish whiskey to give us a broad base for comparison.

Fortified wines like sherries and ports are made by adding neutral grape spirits to the wine either before or after the wines fermentation is complete.  In the case of sherry, grape spirits are added after fermentation as stopped, so the wines are usually dry, but there are also numerous sweet versions.  Ports, on the other hand, are always sweet because the fermentation process is stopped before all of the sugar is converted to alcohol.  The grape spirits kill the yeast and boost the alcohol to around 20%.

Sherries are produced in the Spain, primarily in the regions of Jerez de la Frontera and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.  The processes used to create this wines are deliberately oxidative, exposing the wine to air, giving the wines are wonderful nutty character.

Traditionally and legally, Ports must come from Portugal, around the city of Oporto.  However there are numerous examples being produced around the world in a similar manner.  Many of these fortified wines are called “port” so it can be a little confusing when navigating through your local wine shop.  To make matters more confusing, there are numerous types of port raging from ruby to tawny, vintage to late bottled vintage (LBV), traditional late bottled vintage to modern late bottled vintage.  Each of these wines has a very different flavor profile and should be served differently.

Spirits are completely different than fortified wines and are made in most parts of the world.  They are distilled rather than fermented and can be made from almost anything that contains sugar, so grapes are not necessary (except in the case of grape-based spirits like Cognac and Armagnac, to name a few).  Spirits have a higher alcohol content, usually in the range of 40%.  There are so many types of spirits that it would be impossible to list or discuss them all here.  The Armagnac that Jessica selected was a good example of a grape-based spirit from France made from grape varieties like ugni blanc, colombard, folle blanche, and baco.  The single malt scotch whiskey was an excellent example of a grain-based (barley) spirit from the Scottish highlands of Speyside.

Admittedly this was a very short introduction to fortified wines and spirits, but it gave us a good foundation for future study.

This brings us to the end of this course.  It was a great experience that reinforced many of the things I already new, but opened my eyes to how much more there is to learn!  If you want to learn about wine and and taste many examples from around the world, I would definitely recommend this course.  Our final exam is next week.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Wines and Spirits Tasted (Class 8):

  1. Pedro Romero Fino Sherry (Jerez, Spain)
  2. Lustau Dry Amontillado Sherry (Jerez, Spain)
  3. Smith Woodhouse 10-Year Tawny Port (Oporto, Portugal)
  4. Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (Southeast Australia)
  5. Château du Tariquet VSOP Armagnac (Armagnac, France)
  6. Balvenie Doublewood 12-Year Single Malt Scotch (Speyside, Highlands)

Varietal Voyage No.12 – 2008 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier

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Varietal Voyage

Alas, we’ve come to the final white wine on our varietal voyage.  The third viognier on the list comes from Yalumba in South Australia’s Eden Valley. Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery. Founded in 1849, Samuel Smith started with just 30 acres of land near Angaston. He named this small parcel “Yalumba” – the aboriginal word for “all the land around.”  One hundred thirty one years later Yalumba planted 3 acres of viognier in the Barossa Valley, the first commercial plantings of this variety in Australia.  Curiously, the Eden Valley region, shown on the label, is an eastern extension of the Barossa Valley. They now have access to over 70 acres of viognier from a range of regions, giving the winemakers the ability to select the best qualities of each area. The Eden Valley viognier is just one of the 5 viognier based wines that Yalumba produces.  The others are the Y Series, Virgilius (Yalumba’s outstanding benchmark viognier), and 2 sweet dessert-style viogner’s.

For this particular wine, our opinions were split.  Sue was not all that impressed with the selection, on the other hand, I found it to be quite enjoyable. It’s moments like these that illustrate how subjective the wine tasting process can be. Each person’s palate is differnet and the way we perceive aromas and flavors varies tremendously.  What is important is it to try new wines and to form your own opinions.  This is the only way to find out what you really like.  As long as you get to try new things and enjoy the experience, that is all that really matters.

With that said, this is my review.  As mentioned earlier, I found this wine to be quite good.  Emanating from its golden yellow color is a bouquet full of rich peach and apricot mixed with peppery spices.  Flavors range from succulent peach and melon at the start to luscious apricot and citrus laced with spice throughout the long finish.  In addition, there are complex, creamy notes of honey and toasted biscuits (from 10 months resting on lees) that tie it all together.

2008 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier ($19)

Well that’s it for our twelve white wines.  Now we go over to the dark side to experience twelve red wines from around world.  Next up Cabernet Sauvignon!

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Shingleback “Black Bubbles” Sparkling Shiraz

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Tasting Note

Several months ago I learned about sparkling shiraz from a friend. The concept seemed interesting, so I filed it away in that dark place somewhere between my ears for future reference. As luck would have it, I spotted a bottle of Shingleback “Black Bubbles” Sparkling Shiraz at the Grapes & Tastes, the new wine shop that just opened in Cedarburg.

Shingleback Winery, in Australia’s McLaren Vale, produces many different wines, but Black Bubbles is their only sparkler. The winemakers at Shingleback blend together several vintages of shiraz to create a fruit-forward wine with relative complexity.

I brought this bottle to Thanksgiving dinner with my parents, where we enjoyed it as an aperitif. The first thing we noticed were the aromas of blackberries carried by the bubbles. The bubbles weren’t quite black, but definitely on the deep purple side of the spectrum. Very ripe, sweet flavors of blackberries and currants balanced well with its mild acidity. The spicy character and soft tannins of the shiraz really came through in the finish. Make sure to keep it well chilled. We noticed the flavors begin to fall flat as it warms up.

Not bad for the first sparkling shiraz I’ve tried. This is an easy drinking wine, perfect for a summer barbecue or a nice pairing to a sweet chocolate dessert.

Shingleback “Black Bubbles” Sparkling Shiraz ($30) 

Varietal Voyage No.8 – 2007 Trevor Jones Virgin Chardonnay

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Varietal Voyage

The next Chardonnay on our list comes from Australia’s Barossa Valley (pronounced “Bar-ah-sa”). The Barossa Valley is located in southern Australia about 30 miles northeast of Adelaide, this is Aussies’ version of the Napa Valley. This region produces almost half of all the Australian wines. Trevor Jones Winery, part of Kellermeister Wines, is in the town of Lyndoch at the southern tip of the Barossa Valley. The valley’s hot, dry climate is perfect for growing intensely ripe Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache, but it also produces some very good Semillon and Chardonnay.

The 2007 Virgin Chardonnay is unlike many traditional Chardonnays. As the name suggests, this “virgin” chardonnay is made completely without the influence of any oak. Many Chardonnays are fermented in oak tanks and or aged in oak barrels. For some people the use of too much oak overwhelms the natural fruit flavors of the grapes with strong overtones of toasty vanilla. In response, many producers are making wines that limit the amount of oak they use or forego its use completely.

This Virgin vintage was thoroughly enjoyable. For its young age it has a surprising golden yellow color tinted slightly green. The absence of oak is immediately evident, which allows the natural fruit character to shine through. Aromas and flavors of stone fruits (peaches and apricots) permeate the wine with some tropical fruits mixed in for good measure. Nutty, herbal notes may be a sign of some time spent on it lees. It has a rich buttery mouth feel that comes along with the judicious use of malolactic fermentation, a process that converts tart-tasting malic acid (think green apples) to lactic acid (think milk or butter), not uncommon for Chardonnay. With all of this complexity it ends with a clean finish that begs you to take another sip!

2007 Trevor Jones Virgin Chardonnay ($18)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…