May/June is one of the peak periods for samples arriving at Casa Graham, with new-release reds and barrel-aged whites from the previous harvest (ie 2022) all landing on the doorstep. Mostly, this is a very good thing (I love seeing new wines), but what is always entertaining is the non-wine/drinks things that turn up as well.
Sometimes this paraphernalia is entirely welcome (Dom Torzi sends olives, and they are magnificent), but sometimes, it’s just random shit (like the wines packed in a carry-on suitcase last year).
In this month’s ‘straight to landfill’ award for things I had a Loire regional PR campaign send two bottles of ok cheap wines (the Sauv Blanc is reviewed below), in a large gift basket, with a multi-coloured Loire branded mousepad nestled under the wines.
In what world would a cheap mousepad make me more enthused about the Loire? And the basket? Why? When 10-15 dozen samples turn up, it’s just another thing to throw away. I’d prefer a plain cardboard box (and never styrofoam) plus a shitload more information on the wines (with contact information for everyone involved – PR contact, winemaker, everyone).
Anyway, first-world rant over; let’s talk about a few fresh and drinkable white wines on the tasting bench.
Colmar Estate Reserve Riesling 2022
I rather like the white wines from Orange’s Colmar Estate, and this Reserve Riesling bottling is excellent. Lots of promise for Orange as a Riesling region FWIW. This is a powerhouse too – a grapefruity, lemony thing with this dense, dry, cool clime palate. Stylewise, I kept thinking about Kamptal or early picked Alsace Riesling (but with more lemon rather than the Alsace appley fruit characters). The effortless power of this Colmar with a combo of concentrated citrus and yet crunch too. I was impressed. Best drinking: nowish. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12%, $55. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Barristers Block India Chardonnay 2022
This slips into the ‘fresh and drinkable’ theme because it’s very much a gentle, lighter Adelaide Hills Chardonnay (and it’s Chardonnay May). I like the nose here, with its custard and lime nuances suggesting layers of flavour. But underneath it’s a soda water-light Chardonnay with just-ripe nectarine fruit – a rather filigreed style that feels almost too light touch. Best drinking: from next year. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $?. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Briar Ridge Dairy Hill Semillon 2022
Briar Ridge’s Semillon typically packs in a bit more power compared to other local brethren, and it usually makes for more approachability when young. This ’22 feels rather drinkable now too – lemongrass, Meyer lemon, with more mid-palate width to it compared to some taut ’22 Hunter Sem. I don’t mind this as a drink, even if it doesn’t scream ‘Hunter classicness’ and it’s plenty long enough too. Best drinking: I don’t mind this now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 11.8%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Higher Plane ‘Sun Dips Low’ Fiano 2022
From Higher Plane’s new range of affordable, unconventional Margaret River styles. Lo-fi winemaking marks the range with fun packaging. I like! This is Margaret River Fiano that spent seven days on skins before it was racked off and fermented in barrel. TA 3.31 pH 3.31 if you want numbers. Golden apricot sunrise hits you straight up on the nose. Bang! It’s a big burst of opulence, with some skin contact lanolin wildness hitting up against that lemon pith. Chunky, boldly fruit forward and essence-of-Fiano golden honeysuckle palate gets a bit phenolic to finish, but man, is it fun and bold. I like this Fiano a heap. Best drinking: now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $29. Would I buy it? Yes.
Soumah Equilibrio Chardonnay 2022
The top dog in the Soumah Chardonnay range. All Hexham Vineyard fruit (in the parish of Gruyere), but a best-barrels blend. What’s working against this is age – it feels just bottled. Fine, nutty clay and grey stone nose, then some banana and cream esters. It tastes finessed, but maybe overly so, and that banana cream palate is a bit monotone. I can appreciate the white flower and lemon delicacy and purity but complexity is a long way off – it all feels a bit light and fleeting right now. Best drinking: much later. This is going to need two years for drinkability to flesh out. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 13%, $82. Would I buy it? A bit rich for me, but I’d go a glass.
Soumah Pinot Grigio 2022
There aren’t many local Grigio that I’d recommend, but this is an exception – a fleshy, yet sufficiently crisp Yarra Grigio with plump pear juice fanning out into textural width. It tastes of creamed pears with judicious acidity, reminding that Grigio doesn’t need to taste like acidic pear water. I like. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Hahndorf Hill Brother Nature Field Blend 2022
From a plot of 12 different white varieties co-fermented. Twelve! The only thing missing here is some ripe fruit – it’s just too lean. Pretty though. Delicate, crisp and lively style of green apple lime and citrus. It’s a nice snappy white, but you can’t pick any variety, and it’s ultimately a smidgen underdone. Give us more Larry! Best drinking: nowish, I guess. I had it open in the fridge, and three days later it had barely budged. It might be worth a bottle in the cellar to see what happens. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12%, $39. Would I buy it? A glass.
Heirloom Vineyards Assen’s Fortalice Chardonnay 2022
From a single vineyard in Charleston, this is another example of a Chardonnay that sure is fresh, but too firm because of it. Light straw green colour and a super delicate style. White nectarine, a flinty edge to the palate and super refined, to the point of underpowered. Crisp and slightly sour lemon citrus to finish as well. Acid-driven, it could do with a bit more swagger, but no doubt the cool and delicate mode. That acidity gets a bit hard after a while, though. Best drinking: a year in the bottle won’t hurt. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.5%, $60. Would I buy it? Probably not.
Higher Plane ‘Three’s Company’ Field Blend 2022
More fun form Higher Plane. Margaret River Verdejo, Fiano & Sauvignon Blanc. Several different picks, so not a true field blend. The final mix is 68% Fiano, 30% Verdejo & 2% Sauvignon Blanc. Notably, the Verdejo was wild fermented and spent five days on skins. The blend spent five months in older oak. TA 5g/L. pH 3.35 for context. Quite a mouthful of sweaty pear and gooseberry fruit, then a palate that gets phenolic and firm quickly. There is lots going on here, though – nutty passionfruit juiciness, then a tight and phenolic finish. I like the length of flavour and the volume, even if the flavours tend into tinned fruit with some cheesiness. Best drinking: right now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $29. Would I buy it? A glass.
Pierre Brévin La Planchelière Sauvignon Blanc 2021
Generic Loire Sauvignon Blanc but ultimately quite representative of the regional style and good value. Lemongrass, asparagus with good intensity on nose and palate. There’s a bit of a sour asparagus thing here, but the plump palate is actually quite convincing if not wildly serious. Best drinking: nowish. 16.8/20, 89/100. 11.5%, $19.99. Would I buy it? A glass.
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