Tasting Notes - from Gippsland to 'White Grange'

By Jancis Robinson
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In the sixth part of our series covering Jancis Robinson's tasting notes on The New Australian 250, she travels the nation again, ending up with Penfold's 'White Grange'.

The majority of these notes were taken at the Australia Day tasting at the Emirates Arsenal stadium in London in 2008, but they are supplemented by notes on the more distinctive Australian wines.

Narkooje, Lily Grace Chardonnay 2006 Gippsland 16 Drink 2008-09
Narkooje means ‘place of flowers’. All wines tasted were made from the estate’s own fruit though they do also make a Shiraz from bought-in fruit. The Lily Grace was produced from the estate’s younger Chardonnay vines. Fresh ripe melon fruit and some citrus character. Straightforward. 
Narkooje, Reserve Chardonnay 2006 Gippsland 17+ Drink 2008-10
Older vines (c 30 yrs) and new French oak. Has similar melon frehness as the Lily Grace but also an intense toasty oak overlay. Savoury thanks to the oak, long and silky. Oak rather dominant at the moment. 
Narkooje, Athelstan Merlot 2004 Gippsland
16.5 Drink 2008-10
Attractive herbal aromas promising much but it finishes slightly abruptly. 
Narkooje Pinot Noir 2006 Gippsland 16+ Drink 20
Intense strawberry fruit on the nose but a little bit tough/oaky on the palate, though it may well soften, hence the plus.
Narkooje Cabernet 2005 Gippsland 17- Drink 2008-11
Savoury edged cassis and eucalyptus, then rich and savoury on the palate. Firm, deep but rounded tannins. Although the acidity is fresh, the sweetness of the fruit is a little cloying at the very end. 
O’Leary Walker, Polish Hill River Riesling 2007 Clare Valley 16.5 Drink 2009-12
.Tight, tense and powdery – grown on gravel and slate. 
O’Leary Walker, Watervale Riesling 2005 Clare Valley 15 Drink 2006-08
The nose was fresh but the fruit seemed to be fading fast. 
O’Leary Walker Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Adelaide Hills 15.5 Drink 2008-10
Lean, clean, a bit reductive and could do with just a tad more fruit in the middle.
O’Leary Walker Pinot Noir 2007 Adelaide Hills  15.5 Drink 2008-10
Quite simple and lolly flavoured. No obvious oak, just light, fresh fruit.
O’Leary Walker Shiraz 2005 Clare Valley/McLaren Vale
16 Drink 2008-11
70% Clare, and very glossy Clare fruit in this with a certain inky chew on the finish yet lots of luscious fruit in the middle. Toasty and fair value.
O’Leary Walker, Claire Reserve Shiraz 2004 Clare Valley 17 Drink 2009-14
Names after O’Leary’s mother Claire not a misprint. 115 year-old vines and just 200 cases made. Sweet, dense, perfumed with a little dryness on the finish. Very long, clean and rich – their version of Hardy’s classic Château Reynella. 
Outlook Hill Pinot Gris 2007 Yarra Valley 16.5 Drink 2008-09
The Outlook Hill property was bought by Peter and Lydia Snow in 2000; 5.3 hectares on poor soils. Delicate, slightly floral. Fresh, pure, clean and well priced.
Outlook Hill Chardonnay 2006 Yarra Valley 15.5 Drink 2008-10
Overwhelmingly toasty. It’s fresh but I’m not sure if the fruit will outlast the oak. A bit pricey.
Outlook Hill Pinot Noir 2006 Yarra Valley 16 Drink 2008-10
20% new oak. Pure, delicate red fruit aromas, even a little floral. Nice varietal character, just-firm tannins. Finishes slightly tough at the moment. 
Outlook Hill, Reserve Cabernet/Merlot 2005 Yarra Valley 16.5 Drink 2008-11
80/20 blend. Oak-aged, some new. Rich, ripe with eucalyptus hints. Firm, rich and chewy. A nice mouthful, with underlying freshness. Plenty of juicy fruit and just the right amount of tannic grip. 
Outlook Hill, Rock Garden Merlot 2007 Yarra Valley 15.5 Drink 2008-09
Less successful than the Cabernet/Merlot blend – fruit is sweet but also rather herbaceous.
SC Pannell Nebbiolo 2005 Adelaide Hills 16.5 Drink 2009-12?
Chief red winemaker at Hardy’s for 10 years before setting out on his own. This is the first vintage of the Nebbiolo. Savoury, perfumed nose and gentle red fruit flavours – distinctively Nebbiolo, as are the firm but refined tannins which are beginning to soften. Definitely needs food (and a bit more time in bottle) and a very good first go at this variety. Not sure how it will age.
SC Pannell Shiraz/Grenache 2005 McLaren Vale 17 Drink 2008-10
Sweetly smoky cherry fruit. Very accomplished and good length.
SC Pannell Shiraz 2005 McLaren Vale 17 Drink 2008-11
Ripe but not overly sweet. Tight, firm and correct but lacks just a bit of excitement.
Parri Estate Viognier/Chardonnay 2006 Southern Fleurieu 16.5 Drink 2008-09
Established in 1998 on an 82-acre vineyard between Mt Compass and Victor Harbour on the Fleurieu Peninsula at 260 m above sea level in this cool maritime region. They also have 14 acres in McLaren Vale. Winemaker Linda Domas. I didn’t unfortunately taste their top of the range Pankarra wines. This was 55% Vioginer, 45% Chardonnay. Peachy and aromatic on the nose but then dry and more lightweight than I expected on the palate. Lingering nevertheless. 
Parri Esate Shiraz/Viognier 2005 Southern Fleurieu 17- Drink 2008-10
5% Viognier co-fermented. Malolactic in barrel and then 15 months in a mix of new and used hogsheads (300 litres). Noticeably gamey, plus some toasty oak and a touch of perfume. All built round a well-proportioned frame of tannins and acidity. Stands out for its more meaty style at this youngish stage so not sure how well it will age – hence the minus. 
Parri Estate, Salmon Brut 2005 Southern Fleurieu 16+ Drink 2008-09
Named after its pale salmon colour. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. Pretty good, and only the second vintage. 18 months on lees and this shows in both aroma and texture. Clean, pure, tightly formed and dry (only 4 g/l residual sugar in the final wine). GV for a bottle fermented sparkler.
Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2006 Tumbarumba 16 Drink 2008-09
It may seem strange to list just two Chardonnays under the name of this Australian giant, so famous for its reds, but they just happen to be the only current releases I have tasted recently, and two wines which eloquently demonstrate the rapidity with which Australia's winemakers react to shifts in consumer taste. Here’s a new wine from one of New South Wales’s newer cool climate regions which grows fruit for the likes of Yattarna below and some other top Australian Chardonnays. This particular vintage is clearly made from cool climate fruit but seems to depend a little bit too heavily on lees stirring for its milky character. Its sweetness is also a little bit obvious but it’s definitely a departure from what some people still regard as stereotypical ‘big’ Australian Chardonnay.
Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2004 Australia 17 Drink 2009-12
All sorts of cool climate ingredients, incuding some fruit from Tumbarumba (see above) presumably went into this flagship ‘white Grange’ from Penfolds. It is finer and more complex and drier than the Bin 311 above with effort positively oozing out of every pore. A massive improvement on the rather heavy early vintages. Should be fascinating to see succeeding vintages.


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