I’m a bit slow on the uptake with this (Halliday’s top 100 was released a few weeks ago). But it was nice to see Joseph making an appearance. I haven’t had one of these since I started this blog, but the last one I had (maybe 8 months ago) was pretty darn good. An excellent example of sparkling red, unique enough in it’s own right, and complex enough to make the biggest sparkling red doubter take notice.
Monthly Archives: November 2011
Winery: Bleasdale (The Potts Family)
Region: Langhorne Creek, SA
The Bleasdale is the best value sparkling shiraz. Ever.
(Well, perhaps only until I review to Oomoo which I got super cheap).
So you wouldn’t be surprised to find it’s a dark cherry purple-red, and held to light looks like mulberry cordial. It’s smells a bit like the D’arenberg Peppermint Paddock; port, berries and leather, all of which are warmly welcomed. It has a very fine effervescence that is well-suited to it’s medium-body.
It’s porty (not too much so), with tart berries and sour cherry, with a sweetness to start, which morphs to off-dry as the tannins begin to grip. Let the chill wane a bit if you prefer the sweeter and jammier presence to come to the fore.
Well-worthy of a higher price tag, this sparkling shiraz is dangerously good. Prima facie, it’s dark, foreboding, and certainly not salubrious, though the longer you go with it, a certain humour begins to subvert that theme. 4/5.
Breaking Bad is my favourite show on television (you can catch it on Showtime and ABC2 in Australia). The central premise is this (from Wikipedia):
Set and produced in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Breaking Bad is the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a struggling high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with advanced lung cancer at the beginning of the series. He turns to a life of crime, producing and selling methamphetamine with a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), with the aim of securing his family’s financial future before he dies.
It’s bleak. It’s dark. It’s also, for anyone with a sense of gallows humour, utterly hilarious.
BB has deservedly received widespread critical acclaim. The writing, cinematography, directing and acting are sublime. For those who haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil anything, but the personal trajectory of Walter White across the seasons (the show is about the enter it’s fifth and final season) is arguably as close-to-a-perfectly written and executed character exposition that’s been filmed for television. Ever.
BB is also a fine example of why American made-for-cable TV drama is far and away the current top purveyor of sophisticated popular entertainment. Incidentally, I suspect in this particular instance part of it’s appeal (to me, at least) is that an otherwise ‘over the top’ scenario is actually made remarkably plausible by the institutional failures in American political economy (i.e. health care system, poorly funded education, the war on drugs) that underpin the show. This aspect is probably a conversation for another day; I will, however, add that none of these institutional factors are laboured in the show, nor are the characters and their decisions playing out some kind of morality play, and that’s a very subtle form of genius at work.
Not in the mood? I had the Hay Shed Hill Margaret River 2009 Shiraz Tempranillo at my In-laws’ house over dinner with them and my wife. I picked some up a week or two later for under $15. And for that price, it’s great value. Plump and juicy with a bit of spice. Yummy.
(NB I had toyed with the idea that a blend like this could be made into sparkling wine).
90 points from Halliday, 4/5 from Taste.com.au and an “Excellent Value. Highly Recommended” from Winewise. I concur!
Style: Sparkling Red
There’s always a danger in making pre-emptive judgements. Doing so has burned me before. I went to this bottle trying, in vain, to suppress my judgemental self; a side of me that eventually enveloped my consciousness, so much so that I had begun to pre-prepare a crude and harsh – if derivative – video-link review to convey my assumed reaction:
But no, I should write a full review. Test my assumptions, and see if they’d experience vindication.
Red has a fairly light body; the incandescent glow of a soon-to-be-replaced light-globe pushed effortlessly through the glass like sun to watered-down Cottee’s. Next-to-no bubbles sat on the cherry/purple iridescence. The nose had light floral tones, with a faint whiff of kerosene – yes, I did just write that – and a hint on mintiness; reasonably pleasant.
But what are we without taste?
Y’know how orange juice tastes after you brush your teeth? Red tastes like that. Or at the very least chemically and artificial. Red doesn’t deserve a second glass 1/5.
See also: WTF is going on with this Sparkling wine tasting at Choice?!
NB: I really want to do a big blind taste-testing session of the wines I’ve already reviewed to see if I suffer from price and packaging discrimination. I can’t for the life of me imagine that ‘Red’ is worthy of a silver medal, as per the above Choice ‘expert ranking’!
Just as Red didn’t deserve a second glass, Sex and the City: The Movie didn’t deserve a sequel (and the show didn’t deserve a film series spin-off, but I digress). But, like Sex and the City, if you’re drinking Red (for pleasure), then taste is of no import or pertinence to you.
Sex and the City 2
Credit to Shannon Ford for the pairing suggestion.
My wife (the aforementioned Shannon) and I dared each other to watch this, partly for the purpose of vindicating our assumption (and that of some reviewers) that the film would tacitly glorify its smug, materialistic, and hedonistic protagonists. But we were in for so much more! And by more, I mean it’s quite anti-feminist and racist.
There’s a tendency of some reviewers to misconstrue this as a feminist text, and some mistakenly assume that the film’s detractors are simply acting on misogyny. In reality, the core reason to loathe the non-satirical portrayal of the main characters is quite removed from gender: these are shit, self-absorbed people being shit and self-absorbed.
Sadly, the core ‘value’ of materialism and self-absorption is largely targeted at a certain female demographic for whom empathy with the Sex and the City characters is present and cultivated. And Yellowglen focus hard on this demographic. Think I’m joking?
Then check out Yellowglen’s “Bubbly Girls” page. The gist is captured in the video below:
Not in the mood? Equally insipid beer with equally horrible ads perhaps? Or you can heed my warning and not try anything mentioned in this review.
Winery: Grant Burge
Region: Barossa Valley and Coonawarra, South Australia
We’d only had the Grant Burge Sparkling Shiraz Cabernet once before, on an incredibly hot day at a restaurant in Broken Hill on our way to the Flinders Ranges and the Clare Valley. After spending the day walking around – something we quite enjoyed, but found exhausting – we had a bottle of red in the hotel before heading to the restaurant.
The reason for that intro is that, under those conditions – the exceptional heat, alcohol consumed already – we had the GB and said to ourselves “never again”: it was too damn rich! Thus, I’m glad that I began writing this blog, as I’ve revisited the GB and enjoyed it alot more second time around.
It is still a VERY rich sparkling red, comparable to the Majella Sparkling. Full-bodied and a deep maroon-purple, with plenty of fruit, berries and aniseed in the aroma. Unsurprisingly, much the richness comes from the vintage port that has been added after disgorgement: a blessing, as the wine becomes more complex as a result, but it pushes the envelope for tolerable levels of portiness.
Drink this one slowly. 3.5/5
Creep by Radiohead. I was really irked by this song when it was played (mainly by my friends) ad nauseum through the early to mid 90’s but eventually came to like it after a few years and after encountering epitextual evidence about it’s writing and production. Really, it’s a dumb song, but I eventually came ’round to appreciating it for what it was.
Creep by Richard Cheese
Oh, and incidentally OK Computer is about the only Radiohead album I genuinely like.
Not in the mood? OK, so not quite an alternative, but rather a comparison. Majella’s Musician Cabernet Shiraz is widely considered a ripper for the price (usually between $15 and $18). The reaction I had to it paralleled the first and second times around with the Grant Burge above (I was given 3 bottles so I couldn’t let them go to waste!). For whatever reason, there was something too rich for me first time, but second time around it was OK. It seems to be consistently good value year-to-year, so no particular vintage being recommended here, though I’m almost certain I had the 2010.
Minoh Cabernet Ale.
Some of these are being tracked down for curiosity (h/t Richard Green). Low expectations though 😉
Region: Grampians, Victoria
We drank the Silverband a week or so after we had the Seppelt ‘Original’ Sparkling Shiraz, and this one, on balance, is a better wine. In saying that, I mean it’s not as sweet than the ‘Original’, and also a little more complex. Nevertheless, the enjoyment we got from it was approximately the same.
Silverband is a dark maroon-purple, medium-full body, and has a nice continual effervescence. There’s alot of fruit on the palate, and tastes like there’s something fortified in there (I’m unsure if port was used in the liquering after disgorgement). Quite a good balance between the fruit and the dryness; and if you prefer an earthy, spicy, dry sparkling shiraz, I’d recommend this over the ‘Original’.
Overall, a really solid sparkling shiraz! 3.5/5
The Silverband is the drier, darker cousin of the Original in the Seppelt line. Similarly, Super (2010) is the drier, darker (and better) thematic cousin to the hit film Kick-Ass (2010), however it will probably never get quite the coverage and widespread acclaim as Original.
The similarities between Super and Kick-Ass are obvious, but any charges of plagiarism on one film or the other are fatuous:
(from Wikipedia): Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar defended Super in light of accusations that it was copying his work with, “People have said to me, ‘oh my God, he’s ripping off Kick-Ass,’ because it’s coming out one year later, but James was doing this when I was doing Kick-Ass as well. Both projects were coming together at exactly the same time.” Millar went on to screen Super at his Kapow! comic convention in London. Gunn responded to the controversy with, “It sucks on the one hand and then on the other hand, who gives a shit? There are 4,000 bank heist movies. We can have five superheroes-without-powers movies”, referring to Defendor, Hero at Large and Special, in addition to Kick-Ass and Super.
[Warning: Super is a very dark and violent comedy. Viewer discretion advised!]
Super is a greatly under-appreciated film, but it’s perfect to sit down with an under-appreciated style of sparkling Australian wine.
Not in the mood? Murray’s Wild Thing Imperial Stout. You’ll see a lot of recommendations for Murray’s in the ‘Alternative’ sections of my reviews. This is because one of (if not the) finest brewers in Australia, Shaun Sherlock, is at the helm, and as such Murray’s are at the forefront of Australian craft brewing. I’m exceptionally luck to have a Murray’s in Manly.
I’ll let the Murray beer bio do the talking on this one… it’s all true:Murray’s ‘Wild Thing’ Imperial Stout was inspired by the great stouts favoured by the Russian Imperial Court. A massive, intense drinking experience. The colour is black. Totally black. The heart of darkness. Impossible to see through even when held up to the light – nothing insipid about this beer. Aromas of strong dark chocolate, a little fruitiness from the hops and yeast and some rumminess from the alcohol. The flavour is an intense hit of mocha – bitter dark chocolate bordering on coffee. Some malt sweetness but an aggressive hop bitterness and roast grain bite to balance. And then there’s the mouthfeel… Full bodied is an understatement. Massive mouth-fillling malt that almost overwhelms, before the freight train of the bitterness from the hops and the roast acidity kicks in to clean up the palate.
In lieu of my upcoming review of the Seppelt Silverband Grampians Sparkling Shiraz, which was crown sealed, I had another thought bubble today.
Philip White writes about “Australia’s love affair with the screwcap“; the increasing dominance of the screwcap as the main form of bottle enclosure, as opposed to cork (n.b after many cork failures, I’m a fan of the screwcap in still wines). My thoughts naturally carried over the use of cork and crown seals in sparkling shiraz.
Sparkling shiraz is still largely sealed by cork, at least seemingly at a ratio of 4:1, despite how often the crown seal is used during production (note the Tuesner video; Tuesner also prefer crown for final packaging too).
Is this because the ‘pop’ of the cork is symbolic of sparkling wine’s festive spirit, and thus producers keep it for semiotic, rather then production, reasons?
Or is there a production argument? None other than Accolade (née Constellation) fizz guru Ed Carr defends the cork in this article inspired by a disappointing cork failure:
According to Ed, “Cork closure and maturation under cork has a positive organoleptic effect and gives the wine additional complexity and character, hence we now use sparkling corks made by the new technologies which have an exceptionally low failure rate.A crown seal is an inert closure and as such the incidence of cork taint will be avoided, but conversely the wine will not develop the attractive characteristics of cork age. In tasting trials comparing cork and crown closures we have always found the former to be ranked significantly higher.”
When I asked for an elaboration on the “new technologies” here is the (short version) of the answer.
1. Reduction of initial contamination of the raw cork;
2. Improved boiling techniques, eg smaller batch sizes
3. Washing and /or steam distillation of sparkling cork granulate and discs
4. Introduction of strict QA programs using GC/MS to analyse for TCA at all stages of production.”
These technologies are not used by all cork suppliers and they usually come at an extra cost. Hardy’s carefully selects its suppliers based on continued performance and quality.”
The full text of Ric’s article is worth a read as a discussion point, though I’m not necessarily advocating all his commentary.
I do however suspect that crown seals will become the main choice of producers over the coming years, but I see this as much as a course of inevitability, as one led by taint / leakage / taste (either for/against) arguments.
UPDATE: 1 point to inevitability…
UPDATE 2: I was saving this link for a links-only post, but it’s related to this discussion. Check out Zorks over at Chris Plummer’s Australian Wine Journal.