Category Archives: Wine Purchases

New Wine – April/May 2012

We recently restocked the wine rack with some new and exciting releases from France and Australia.  There’s been a lot of movement around releases from Victorian producer Yarra Yering, with several tasting nights being held in Brisbane and Melbourne.

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Unable to attend, we instead have acquired two bottles from this well respected Yarra Valley producer.  They are the 2006 ‘Underhill’ Shiraz and the 2004 ‘Dry Red No.1’.  Both wines have received excellent reviews.

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We also added a bottle of Montrachet from the famed Burgundy region’s Côte d’Or in France, from maker Louis Latour, a 2008 Puligny-Montrachet.  We look forward to using some ridiculously large Montrachet glasses to taste this intriguing wine.

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Additionally, and always on the lookout for some surprises, we picked up a bottle from Bordeaux (specifically the Saint Julien appellation in the Medoc) – a 2008 Chateau Lalande-Borie which, if it bears any resemblance to the more famous Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande should be quite a treat.

More on the Saint Julien appellation, courtesy of wine-searcher.com (an excellent online price searching facility for wine collectors) which has recently had a huge facelift:

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Saint-Julien is a small but important appellation of the Haut-Medoc district of Bordeaux in south-western France. Its reputation is based on its status as a reliable source of consistently elegant, age-worthy wines.

Sandwiched between the more famous appellations of Pauillac and Margaux, Saint-Julien is sometimes unfairly overlooked because it does not have a first-growth chateau. Pauillac has three of the five Medoc first growths and Margaux has one. The 1855 classification of the Medoc chateaux which cast these judgments in stone has remained unchanged since it was first published, except for the promotion of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild to Premier Grand Cru classe in 1973.

Saint-Julien makes up for its lack of first-growth chateaux by being home to 11 classed growths, which generate three-quarters of the appellation’s output. Five of these are highly rated second growths: Chateaux Leoville Las Cases, Leoville Poyferre, Leoville Barton, Gruaud-Larose and Ducru-Beaucaillou. The first three were once a single estate, which would have been extremely large for its time.

Almost every acre of the Saint-Julien commune is covered with vines, except for a strip about 1640ft (500m) wide on the silted banks of the Gironde estuary to the west. The chateaux which own them can be split into two neat groups: those around the village of Saint-Julien-Beychevelle and those around the village of Beychevelle. These two similarly named villages are only 1.5 miles (2km) apart, which illustrates the smallness of scale that operates in the Medoc. In fact, the vineyards in the north of Saint-Julien back directly onto the vineyards of Chateau Latour in Pauillac, yet the wines they produce are different in both status and style.

Created in 1936 – like so many Bordeaux wine regulations – the appellation laws for Saint-Julien state that its wines must be made from grapes grown in the commune of Saint-Julien Beychevelle, or very specific parts of the communes of Cussac and Saint-Laurent. The document lists the plots (parcelles) eligible for the title.

The grapes permitted for use here are Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenere, Petit Verdot and Malbec. They must come from vineyards planted to a minimum density of 6500 plants per hectare (2631 per acre), with specified vine-management techniques.

Saint-Julien is bordered to the west by the Saint-Laurent commune, whose wines are eligible only for the wider Haut-Medoc appellation. An example of the effect of this can be found in Saint-Laurent’s Chateau Belgrave. It lies just a few hundred meters from Chateau Lagrange, which can claim the valuable Saint-Julien name, yet Chateau Belgrave cannot.
As is the case with many other prestigious Bordeaux appellations, national and foreign investment is common in Saint-Julien. Chateaux here are owned by a combination of wealthy individuals and international companies.

Vintage Wine!

Vintage

Recently, at auction, Aussie Wine Guy won four bottles of vintage Australian wine.  The four bottles proved to be a mixed bag in terms of condition, only time will tell if (at $20.50 per bottle) it was a sound purchase or not.

The four bottles were as follows:

1966 E.S Dennis, Bin 60, McLaren Vale, Dry Red (Hermitage)

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Bottle Condition

Label is in brilliant condition, no tearing, stains or discolouration.  Hard to observe the cork due to the capsule (foil at top of bottle), will remove it and take additional pictures to determine if there has been any seepage.

Turning the bottle onto the side, there is no increase in bubbles, and no liquid escapes.  The bottle is in excellent condition – even amazing – for a bottle from 1966.  Chances are high that the bottle is good.  Liquid level is a tad lower than we’d like, but seems within normal parameters.

Cork

Stripping back the foil (capsule) from the top of the bottle revealed a fairly bleak outcome for the cork.  There was a slight build up of crust, but no complete indication of seepage.  Given the situation, I managed to remove the cork without corking the bottle (a very difficult task) as the cork was only offering slight resistance to the corkscrew.

We managed to remove the cork in three parts, and found that the cork had managed to maintain a seal!  We double decanted the wine into a Riedel decanter, stripping out the sediment (which was numerous and very fine.

Outcome

The decanter has been left to breath, but an initial tasting reveal the wine has not gone off, in fact there was only the slightest traces of vinegar/high acidity.  It’ll need a lot longer to breathe before a realistic tasting can take place – the wine is well over forty years old.  It’s, frankly, a miracle that it still lives!

1970 Hardy’s, Nottage Hill, Claret

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Bottle Condition

This bottle, by far, is in the worst condition.  Label is fairly mangled (as can be seen), the cork is partially exposed and crusty.  When the bottle was placed sideways into a wine rack, there was minor seepage (meaning the seal has been breached).

This bottle also had the worst ullage (distance between cork and level of the wine) of the four bottles, indicating that there is a very high likelihood that the cork has been compromised.  Capsule was partially torn, cork exposed.

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Cork

Shot.  The cork was unable to retain a seal and, as a result, seepage and air contaminated the bottle.  We were unable to cleanly remove the cork, so we corked it and double decanted the wine.  Unfortunately, the effects of the loss of seal from the cork had caused the wine t turn to vinegar.

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Outcome

Down the sink.  Which is a shame because the wine had all the hallmarks of a superb red, there were still heavy and lasting traces of tannins, oak and red currants.  The bouquet was quite pungent (even considering the seepage) and heavy, much like the 1976 Grange we opened several years ago.

Note: Another bottle of this is selling here in much better condition for $74.95!

1970, Southern Vale Wines, Private Bin 34, Cabernet-Shiraz

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Bottle Condition

A second bottle from 1970, second best of the four wines.  Bottle appears to be in decent condition, label is a bit scuffed but more or less intact.  Hard to determine if there are any problems with the cork – will need to remove packaging and observe the cork condition.

Liquid level (ullage) looks good (coming in just under the neck of the bottle, above the shoulder).  Depending on the state of the cork, this could be a salvageable wine, even though it is over 40 years old… who knows for sure?

Cork

Stripping back the foil revealed that the cork is intact!  The foil (capsule) was in much better condition than the previous two bottles, and has remained in decent condition.  What luck!!

Outcome

Shelved to be reviewed later.

1979 Chateau Tahbilk, Cabernet Sauvignon

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Bottle Condition

Bottle is in excellent condition – best of the four, label is slightly marked, but whole.  The ullage is right where it should be, and the mouth of the bottle looks brand new.  Definitely no signs of wear and tear, or seepage, this bottle could be the best of the bunch.

Cork

Revealing the cork by stripping back the foil revealed a fully intact cork.  No signs of seepage and plenty of resistance when tested.

Outcome

Shelved to be reviewed later.

Wine Tasting Notes

Check back for updated notes as we uncork these four bottles, in the hopes that they have survived intact!  This will be must-read stuff!