Monday, November 17, 2014

Bill Crappsley celebrates 50 years of winemaking

Bill Crappsley is one of the great winemaker warriors of Western Australia.  He celebrated 50 years of winemaking this year, and added a third medal to his previous recognitions in 1999 (the George Mulgrue Award) and 2007 (the Di Cullen Award), both recognising his services to the Western Australian wine industry.  Now he has received the Jack Mann Memorial Medal, again celebrating his long – and continuing – winemaking career, with Plan B!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hilltops winery Moppity Vineyards

Hilltops winery Moppity Vineyards has never been backwards when it comes to announcing its wine show successes and other critical acclaim.  But I have to admit its performance in the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge was amazing.  392 wines were entered in this year’s 20th Anniversary Challenge, retail prices for the wines going as high as $300 a bottle, and many over $100.  During this 20-year period, only seven wineries have had two wines in the top 10 (including Hardys, Grant Burge, Wirra Wirra and Kilikanoon), but this year Moppity had three wines in the top 10, all gold medal winners, two of the wines vying for the Trophy for Best Wine.  In the outcome, the 2013 Reserve (rrp $70) pushed the 2013 Eclipse (rrp $120) into second place.

Moppity’s show record with its five shiraz wines from the 2013 Hilltops vintage have put beyond doubt their quality.  That record is as follows:

2013 Eclipse Shiraz (rrp $120)
2 Trophies, 8 gold medals
2013 Reserve Shiraz (rrp $70)
1 Trophy, 3 gold medals

2013 Estate Shiraz (rrp $30)
3 gold medals

2013 Lock & Key Reserve Shiraz (rrp $25)
6 gold medals

2013 Lock & Key Shiraz (rrp $20)

3 gold medals (including 97 point gold and equal runner up to the eventual Jimmy Watson Trophy Winner (SC Pannell Syrah), Royal Melbourne Wine Show 2013)

Tony Walker and his latest release "Vintage Tasmania: The complete book of Tasmanian wine"

Tony Walker spent two years researching the history of Tasmanian wine from 1823 through to the present day for his Masters Degree from the University of Tasmania.  The 280-page, full colour book, Vintage Tasmania: The complete book of Tasmanian wine, is the outcome of his painstaking and original research.  I was asked to write an introduction to the book, and, having read it from cover to cover, was delighted to do so.  Rather than paraphrase that introduction, it follows verbatim:

This marvelous book is the culmination of a massive amount of original research on the 19th and second half of the 20th centuries, and extensive interviews with the key players in the Tasmanian wine industry of today. It shuts the door on any further book for several decades to come simply because there is nothing more to say.

It’s rare to talk of a non-fiction work as a page-turner, but this is one such. For not only is Tony Walker a researcher, and commentator, he is a skilled writer. If anyone doubts that, simply read Chapter 4: The Bernacchi Experiment. It adds a further dimension to the book – Walker’s wry sense of humour.

The genesis of the book was a thesis exploring the reasons why wine growing and making failed until the vinous torch was lit of Jean and Cecile Miguet in 1956, 130 years after Bartholomew Broughton made the first wine for sale in 1826. Put another way, the Tasmanian wine industry of today is the most vibrant in Australia, pulsating with success, and with virtually unlimited potential. What has changed so dramatically in such a short period of time?

Walker lays this all out in totally convincing fashion, aided by his understanding of wine in general. I have been a frequent visitor to Tasmania as a flyfisherman since Lake Pedder was filled, and as a wine show judge since 1991, co-chairing the Tasmanian Wines Show since that year, when 45 wines were entered, compared to 449 in 2014. I have hung up my judge’s wig, but the prospect of fishing is still attractive.

I also fulfilled a longheld ambition to be involved in making a Tasmanian Pinot Noir under the Coldstream Hills banner, and would love to make more. The problem is that Tasmania is the only region in Australia with a structural deficit of grapes, as a Federal politician or economist might describe it.

Brown Brothers’ acquisition of Tamar Ridge for a reported $30 million; the purchase of the White Hills Vineyard from Brown Brothers by Treasury Wine Estates; the House of Arras/Bay of Fires ownership by Accolade; and the purchase of the Parish Vineyard by the Hill-Smith Family Vineyards/Yalumba demonstrate the arrival of the Big End of Town in the Tasmanian industry. And this is only the beginning of what will be a golden period for and of Tasmania.

And so back to this book. Its design, printing and illustrations are impeccable. Its inclusion of the Regional Wine Routes is another important part of Tasmania today and tomorrow. Which leads me to Horace Greeley who famously wrote of America 150 years ago ‘Go west, young man, go west’. For Australia, it is a case of ‘Go south, young man, go south’.

The book will become available from the end of November, with reasonably wide distribution in Tasmania, but restricted access on the mainland.  Thus, Tony’s website – – will be the most effective way of purchasing it, at an rrp of $49.95 freight free.  Orders can be placed from November 15 onwards, and it goes without saying, I encourage everyone with an interest in wine – and, in particular, its history – to buy the book.  You will not be disappointed, nor will anyone who may receive it as a Christmas present.

What James is drinking - 2002 Salon

Arguably the most elite of all the elite Champagnes, with an annual production of 5000 dozen bottles to satisfy a thirsty world. Made from 100% Grand Cru vines at Le Mesnil, the wine was disgorged progressively over 2013 and ‘14. It does not undergo mlf, and at no time does oak feature in the elevage. The bouquet is exceptionally powerful, with a cross-cut of pure citrus and white peach on the one hand, creamy brioche and spice on the other; the palate has amazing length and focus, immaculate balance, and a farewell of yellow fruit, spice and lingering acidity. The $850-$950 price tag should not deter those looking for an ultimate experience. Cru Wines (T 02 8069 6974) handles the east coast distribution and Fine Wine Wholesalers (T 08 9314 7133) looks after WA, through fine wine retailers, restaurants and to the odd private collector. This is the 38th vintage of Salon, and, for the first time, a few magnums have made their way into the country. You will have to be quick, however. 

Vale Doug Crittenden 1923-2014

My friendship with Doug Crittenden began in the late 1960s when, on an annual foray to the Melbourne Cup (with friends from Sydney), we visited his Toorak grocery and wine store to buy wines that were simply not available in Sydney. One thing led to another, and he was one of the first members of the Single Bottle Club initiated by Len Evans in 1977.

Although I may not have the details exactly right, I remember Doug being apprehended by water police for not wearing a life jacket while on his sail board. When they asked him for his date of birth he said ‘’23’, to which the response was ‘Smartarse. I don’t want your age, I simply want to know when you were born.’ This incident occurred in the 1980s when Doug was in his 60s.

He had an encylopedic knowledge of the great wines of the world, but was also one of the most enterprising retailers in Australia, persuading Penfolds to sell him (with his labels) experimental vintages of what became Bin 389. More importantly still, he had a great sense of humour and joie de vivre, never taking himself or wine too seriously. His zest for life lasted for many decades, and I feel a keen sense of personal loss.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Len Evans Tutorial - Friday

The Tutorial finished on Friday in the same way as ever: a blind tasting of seven Red Burgundies from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.  The Scholars first had to nominate the vintage, and, once this was done, the vintage was disclosed.  Armed with this knowledge, they ad to guess the order in which they had been poured. Their scores were then tallied, and while they still had wine in their glasses, the correct order was revealed:

Vintage: 2010

Grands Echézeaux
La Tâche

Len Evans Tutorial - Thursday

A great tasting of Pinot Noirs/Red Burgundies started the day’s judging class on Thursday, with many great wines, Burgundy with seven gold medals (see key below), Australia five, New Zealand and Oregon one each. As with the Chardonnays, the cork issue struck Burgundy, most notably the 2009 de Vogue Musigny, oxidised and bretty – normally a superb wine, likewise the 2011 Mongeard Mugneret Grands Echezeaux.
  1. 2002 Domaine De la Romanée Conti Echezeaux GC (Flagey-Echezeaux) - 95
  2. 2006 Curly Flat (Macedon Ranges) - 93
  3. 2006 Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard (Marlbourough) - 92
  4. 2007 Maude Mt Maude Family Vineyard (Central Otago) - 95
  5. 2007 Bindi Original Vineyard (Macedon Ranges) - 91
  6. 2008 Domaine de la Romanée Conti Richebourg  GC (0osne-Romanée) - 96
  7. 2008 Mondillo (Central Otago) - 91
  8. 2009 Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze GC (Gevrey- Chambertin) - 96
  9. 2009 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Vieilles Vignes GC (Chambolle-Musigny) - 83
  10. 2009 Domaine Hudelot Noellat Romanée-Saint-Vivant GC (Vosne-Romanée) - 95
  11. 2010 Ata Rangi (Martinborough) - 93
  12. 2010 Dawson and James (Derwent Valley) - 95
  13. 2010 Domaine Confuron Cotetidot Charmes Chambertin GC ( Gevery-Chambertin) - 89
  14. 2010 Elk Cove Roosevelt (Williamette Valley) - 95
  15. 2010 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Grands Echezeaux GC (Flagey-Echezeaux) - 96
  16. 2010 Domaine de la Vougeraie Bonnes-Mares GC (Chambolle-Musigny) - 95
  17. 2010 Kusuda (Martinborough) - 94
  18. 2010 Charteris Winter Vineyard (Central Otago) - 94
  19. 2011 Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin GC (Gevrey-Chambertin) - 85
  20. 2011 Domaine Mommessin Clos de Tart GC (Morey –Saint-Denis) - 93
  21. 2011 Beaux Freres The Vineyard (Williamette Valley) - 89
  22. 2011 Domaine Dujac Clos Saint-Denis GC (Morey –Saint-Denis) - 95
  23. 2012 Coldstream Hills Reserve (Yarra Valley) - 95
  24. 2012 Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve (Huon Valley) - 93
  25. 2012 Mount Mary (Yarra Valley) - 92
  26. 2012 Yabby Lake Single Block Release Block 1 (Mornington Peninsula) - 95
  27. 2012 Giant Steps Applejack Vineyard (Yarra Valley) - 95
  28. 2012 Felton Road Block 5 (Bannockburn) - 94
  29. 2012 Circe Hillcrest Road Vineyard (Mornington Peninsula) - 89
  30. 2012 Farrside by Farr (Geelong) - 95

Points conversion key:
85-89 Bronze
90-94 Silver
95-99 Gold

The afternoon Riesling Masterclass was pure pleasure, the Bordeaux Masterclass sheer heel. The ludicrous extraction, high alcohol, dead fruit, and mouth-ripping tannins (compounded by brettanomyces in several instances) came from left field. These wines are priced from $350 to $3300 retails (except for wines 1 ($100) and 2 ($150)). The 2009 vintage caused controversy, most saying St Emilion did far better than Pomerol, and some stratospheric points awarded. The two wines to offer the hope of some drinking pleasure down the track were Chateau Ausone ($3300) and Chateau Cheval Blanc ($2500). It’s a lot of money to spend on a hope.

The Riesling Masterclass wines were:
  1. 2013 Pikes The Merle Reserve Riesling (Clare Valley)
  2. 2013 Stargazer Riesling (Derwent valley)
  3. 2013 Howard Park Riesling (Great Southern)
  4. 2013 Harewood Estate Reserve Riesling (Denmark)
  5. 2012 Paulett Wines Antonia Riesling (Polish Hill)
  6. 2013 Crawford River Riesling (Henty)
  7. 2013 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling (Polish Hill)
  8. 2012 KT Peglids Watervale Riesling (Watervale)
  9. 2011 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Kabinett (Mosel)
  10. 2011 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Spatlese (Mosel)
  11. 2011 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Auslese (Mosel)
  12. 2012 Joh. Jos Prum Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett (Mosel)
  13. 2012 Joh. Jos Prum Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett (Mosel)
  14. 2012 Joh. Jos Prum Riesling Kabinett (Mosel)
  15. 2009 Domaine Weinbach Faller Kaysersberg Riesling Schlossberg Cuvee St Catherine L'Inedit Grand Cru (Schlossberg)

The Bordeaux Masterclass wines were:
  1. 2009     Château Monbousquet (St-Èmillion)
  2. 2009     Château Bellevue (St-Èmillion)
  3. 2009     Château Bellevue Mondotte (St-Èmillion)
  4. 2009     Château Figeac (St-Èmillion)
  5. 2009     Château Canon (St-Èmillion)
  6. 2009     Château Mondotte (St-Èmillion)
  7. 2009     Château Valandraud (St-Èmillion)
  8. 2009     Château Angelus (St-Èmillion)
  9. 2009     Château Ausone (St-Èmillion)
  10. 2009     Château Cheval Blanc (St-Èmillion)
  11. 2009     Château Pavie (St-Èmillion)
The day ended with the following wines, and matched with the menu below:
Pre-Dinner Options
  1. 1966 St Ursula Goldener Oktober Rheinhessen (Rheinhessen)
  2. 1968 Bernkastel Bernkasteler Schlossberg Mosel (Mosel)

Dry White
  1. 2012 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay (Mornington Peninsula)
  2. 2012 Penfolds Bin 12A Chardonnay (Tasmania)
  3. 2012 Giaconda Chardonnay (Beechworth)
  4. 2012 Seville Estate Reserve Chardonnay (Yarra Valley)
  5. 2012 Brokenwood Indigo Vineyard Chardonnay (Beechworth)
  6. 2012 Heemskerk Coal River Chardonnay (Tasmania)

Dry Red
  1. 1995 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Richebourg Grand Cru (Vosne-Romanée)
  2. 1996 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Richebourg Grand Cru (Vosne-Romanée)
  3. 2008 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Richebourg Grand Cru (Vosne-Romanée)
  4. 2009 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Richebourg Grand Cru (Vosne-Romanée)
  5. 2010 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Richebourg Grand Cru (Vosne-Romanée)
  6. 2011 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Richebourg Grand Cru (Vosne-Romanée)
  7. 2012 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Richebourg Grand Cru (Vosne-Romanée)

Dry Red
  1. 1986 Chateau Cheval Blanc (St-Emilion)
  2. 1986 Lindemans St George (Coonawarra)
  3. 1986 Chateau Lafite (Pauillac)
  4. 1986 Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Limited Release (Coonawarra)
  5. 1986 Chateau Cos d’Estournel

  1. 1945 Chateau de la Guimoniere Coteaux du Layon Chaume (Loire)
  2. 1938 Chateau d’Yquem (Sauternes)

Sweet Bracket
  1. 1976 Erbacher Honigberg Riesling Beerenauslese (Rheingau)
  2. 1966 Yalumba Private Bin Sauternes (Barossa Valley)
  3. 1944 Chateau Filhot (Sauternes)
1st Entrée
Twice Baked Gruyere Cheese Soufflé, with fresh chervil

2nd Entrée
Roasted Fillet of Murray Cod, with baby red radish, pea puree, pea shoots and fresh peas

Braised Lamb Shanks, with creamy polenta, capsicum relish, aioli and gremolata

Caramelised Pineapple and Passionfruit Crème Brulee Napoleon

Holy Goat La Luna (Sutton Grange, Victoria)