Sulphur in wine discussion

I have had many heated discussions with winemakers on this subject and insisted my pinots were produced with minimal sulphur added. In most vintages we used 50% or less of the normal prescribed amount.  We never uncounted a problem.

According to Huon Hooke “Interestingly, Ponsot uses minimal sulfur dioxide and in fact, the 2013 Corton-Charlemagne grand cru that we tasted had had no added SO2. (in The Real Review).

Source: Ponsot’s seal of approval – The Real Review

The Climats, terroirs of Burgundy – UNESCO World Heritage Centre


The climats of Burgundy in Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune have now been declared ” sites. There are over 1200 climats in Burgundy and the ones with UNESCO status are predominantly Pinot Noir.

In order to evaluate nominated locations, UNESCO uses a set of ten cultural and natural criteria. Nominated sites must meet at least one of these criteria in order to gain UNESCO’s recognition. In Burgundy’s case, the climats and terroirs met two of UNESCO’s criteria: ‘exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition’ and ‘outstanding example of traditional human settlement representative of a culture.’ Burgundy’s outstanding vineyards are of historical significance have been established in the High Middle Ages and, of course, produce some of the finest wines in the world.
Gaining UNESCO World Heritage Site status should be celebrated but so far Burgundy has been fairly quite about the honour. Nations work for years undertaking their submissions and the UNESCO seal of approval is good for both the conservation and tourism sectors!

UNESCO areas in Burgundy:

The climates are precisely delimited vineyard parcels on the slopes of the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune south of the city of Dijon. They differ from one another due to specific natural conditions (geology and exposure) as well as vine types and have been shaped by human cultivation. Over time they came to be recognized by the wine they produce. This cultural landscape consists of two parts. Firstly, the vineyards and associated production units including villages and the town of Beaune, which together represent the commercial dimension of the production system. The second part includes the historic centre of Dijon, which embodies the political regulatory impetus that gave birth to the climatssystem. The site is an outstanding example of grape cultivation and wine production developed since the High Middle Ages.

Source: The Climats, terroirs of Burgundy – UNESCO World Heritage Centre


Tolpuddle 2014 Pinot Noir (Tasmania, Australia)

Tolpuddle - 1

Tolpuddle Vineyard was established in 1988 on a property in Southern Tasmania near Richmond. It was planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines, facing north-east on gentle slopes. The soil is sandy and well drained ensuring deep roots and well-balanced vines producing grapes of great flavour and intensity. Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW purchased the vineyard in 2011 from the original owners and have put an expert team together to look after the unique terroir and winemaking with the goal of establishing Tolpuddle Vineyard as one of Australia’s great single vineyards. The wine is expertly crafted by winemaker Adam Wadewitz. My notes from tasting the 2014 vintage follow:

Excellent ruby colour with fine clarity;

The perfume is explosive with red fruits, smokey spice and savoury forest notes that captivate the senses. There has been only one Australian pinot, in my experience, that has reached these giddy heights in terms of olfactory experience and that was some of the early Mt.Mary pinot made by the late Dr John Middleton.

The wine is beautifully balanced, bright and pure, supple yet powerful with red berries, dark cherry and plum fruit. Sufficient acid as a framework to hold the fruit in place and ensure graceful ageing, complexity provided by stems (whole bunch influence), tarry well handled oak and gossamer fine tannins. The flavours go on and on providing an amazing experience from start to finish.

Tolpuddle’s greatest virtues are its balance, length, amazing nose and purity of palate….yes, it has it all!

Curious about the name? It took the name from the Tolpuddle Martyrs: English convicts transported to Tasmania for forming an agricultural union. The leader of the Martyrs, George Loveless, served some of his sentence working on a property near Richmond, part of which is now Tolpuddle Vineyard.


Tolpuddle - 1 (1)

Warramunda Pinot Noir 2013 (Yarra Valley, Victoria)

WarramundaWarramunda Pinot Noir 2013 comes from the Warramunda Estate located in the Coldstream area of the Yarra Valley, Victoria. Deep ruby red colour with a rim of purple; the nose shows nice berry fruits laced with some smoky charcuterie notes. The palate is medium weight dominated by dark berry fruits, with good acid backing and a dry, savoury finish. Nice soft tannins, moderate length and balance. An attractive pinot which would match a variety of dishes, especially duck confit.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2013 (Martinborough, NZ)

Ata Rangi label

Beautiful clear ruby appearance and a lifted, almost perfumed nose with bramble, black cherry and some savoury, earthy and wet gravel notes.

The impeccable sweet fruit on the palate mirroring the fruit aromas on the nose. There is a slight dip (not a hole!) in the back of the palate but I expect this to fill out over time. A seamless experience with the perfectly ripe fruit integrated with fine tannins and acid. Already showing some complexity but this will develop further. I expect that the complexity and finish owes much to the use of whole bunches and stems including firm, tightly wound finish with some tarry and spicy notes of cloves, star anise and dried herbs.

A beautiful pinot noir filled with anticipation of more to come as it develops and gracefully ages. This is a wine to keep and will reward cellaring up to 10 years or more.

Ata Rangi pinot noir

Bass Phillip (Gippsland, Victoria, Australia)

Bass Phillip

This week I had the privilege of visiting the Bass Phillip winery and spending four enthralling, informative and sensory-expanding hours with winemaker Phillip Jones. I was very excited but a little apprehensive because he is an icon of the Australian wine industry with a big reputation. It is very easy for people to put labels on Phillip and he has endured many over the years – cantankerous, mad, idiosyncratic, unconventional, eccentric! The wine press seemed to have changed their labels on him more recently with international recognition, accolades and perfect scores.

I have known Phillip professionally for some time, and have found him to be generous, knowledgeable about all wine subjects, passionate and humble. I might just qualify – passionate. I once heard Sam Neil say “try to avoid using the word “passion.” As in, “a passion for Pinot.” It is overused, and should, in my opinion, be reserved for the heightened emotion between two people that usually results in the discarding of trousers.” In the case of Phillip Jones, I am struggling to find another more appropriate word and the time he spent with us during our recent visit clearly illustrated his passion for wine as well as his generosity. During our visit he only made a few succinct comments on his own wines preferring to to say rather laconically but with a wry smile; “it’s a drink!” as we savoured some sublime wines. I assumed this to be a typical Australian understatement but it also tells something of his humility. When pressed, Phillip admitted that he was proud of his achievements in creating such beautiful and highly praised wines. And so he should be!

Phillip Jones sometimes gets caught up in controversy but he is not a crusader and is incredibly generous in sharing his knowledge and approach. I have several winemaker friends who will attest to this. He is a exponent of many techniques now called “natural” winemaking and could indeed claim to have invented natural winemaking. He has a research science and consulting background. and his approach is grounded in well thought-out scientific logic.

In the past his wines have been accused of inconsistency and he readily admits he has learnt more about his site and winemaking over time. However, I feel what others have characterised as inconsistency is more that his wines truly reflect the seasons and rather than winemaking inconsistency. This variability in his wines which was evident in our tasting is exciting and reflects his non-interventional approach to winemaking. Consistency is boring! I find this approach far better than manipulation by fining and adding acid or tannins.

His emphasis in making wine is clearly on the vineyard – he “grows wine”. In 2002, he introduced Biodynamic techniques which Phillip attributes as a major factor in the success of his wines. All vineyards have different ‘terroir’ and you could argue that Phillip’s sites are unique and that in itself accounts for his outstanding wines. But what else makes Phillip’s pinots different from most (not all) other Australian pinots? He employs a high density of plantings, high natural acidity, biodynamic practices and organic sprays. In the winery, he uses gentle destemming, minimises pumping, uses wild yeast for primary fermentation, uses the best oak (sometimes up to 100% new oak), does not filter or add acid or tannins. Of course, there are other Australian winemakers who make pinot using similar practices but few do so with Phillip’s level of commitment and dedication. Everything Phillip does is for a reason that he has thought through in depth. His hard work and dedication are evident everywhere. He is not just managing all the processes in the vineyard and winery – he is intimately involved and hands-on at every level. These wines may truly reflect the vineyard terroir but he has brought them to life.

Much has been written about Phillip Jones and his wines and I don’t want to repeat the excellent coverage available from so many including Robert Parker, Lisa Perrotta-Brown, James Halliday, Huon Hooke and others. I also wouldn’t be doing the wines justice to try and offer tasting notes on the dozen or so bottles that Phillip allowed us to taste so here are a few brief observations with an emphasis on the yet to be released 2013 wines:

2013 Crown Prince – deep crimson colour, aromatic, rich, linear palate, some grip and acid enough to ensure ageing, flavours characterised by raspberry and very dark cherry. This is incredibly young wine for a Bass Philip and will only improve over the next 8-10 years. Brilliant. Crown Prince is a relatively entry level wine for Bass Phillip but the quality of this wine belies its place in the line-up.
2011 Crown Prince – lighter in colour, obviously unfiltered, brick red, slightly reductive element, flavours of blueberry, blackberry, coffee grinds. Well structured to age with ample acid – tongue smacking, drying, still rich and mouth filling almost a contradiction. Can visualise a earthy forest floor element developing.
2013 Bass Phillip Premium – opulent, broad middle palate but with good acid structure and tannins. Roasted Coffee aromas. Flavours of blueberries, blackberry and cherry with oak char, spice and mineral notes. Tannins so fine as to be almost transparent. Beautifully structured and built for age. Needs time. Nice mid-palate fullness and persistence.
2013 Bin 17K “The Backyard”. This is a prodigy – an amazingly complex and intense wine which is extraordinary given it comes from relatively young vines. The “Backyard” is a 1ha block is just behind the winery at Bass Phillip Estate and in close proximity to the Reserve and Premium blocks. At 17,000 vines per acre it is very closely planted and possibly one of the closest vine plantings in Australia. Phillip says the close planting accounts for the early maturation of the vines and the wine balance. It’s a dark, intense pinot and typically fits the iron fist in a velvet glove description, brooding, mineral, earthiness, bramble fruits and dark chocolate. This will be a fascinating wine to follow as it ages and to sample from future vintages.

Younger Bass Phillip wines have a slightly reductive tautness with typically high acid, at the same time as being rich, broad and expansive with great length. I think these characteristics point to the trademark longevity of the wine which develop wonderful aged “Burgundian” characteristics over time. I was impressed with the 2013 wines which are definitely going to be highly sought after and deserving of pride of place in any good pinot cellar.

Red Wine (contains a compound that) may be helpful in preventing and treating cancer.

Red Wine (contains a compound that) may be helpful in preventing and treating cancer.

Over indulging in alcohol, is likely to increase your risk of certain cancers, but a University of Colorado team explains how a compound in red wine maybe useful in fighting cancers. A recent study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology shows that although alcohol has been linked as a risk factor for head and neck cancer, resveratrol — a compound found in red wine and grape skins — may be useful in treating cancers.

The mice in this experiment had cancer tumors, but when chemical compounds found in red wine were administered into the rodents’ bodies, their tumors decreased in size and the growth of new ones was minimised. These findings could lead to nontoxic options in cancer treatment down the road. It is unlikely that normal quantities of resveratrol in wine can make a difference in terms of cancer protection. However, it is worth noting that Pinot Noir has one of the highest levels of resveratrol of all wine varieties. A study published in 1995 in the “American Journal of Enology and Viticulture” compared various wines from around the world and found that pinot noir wines had the highest content of resveratrol regardless of country of origin. I was involved in a benchmarking study comparing pinot noir grapes/wine produced in the Mornington Peninsula with those coming from the Yarra Valley.  This demonstrated the regional, as well as sub-regional variations in resveratrol. Incidentally, my grapes and wine had the highest levels in the study however I can’t claim any credit or have any explanation for why some vineyards have higher levels that others. 

Silverwood pinot noir

Josef Chromy 2013 pinot noir (Tasmania, Australia)

Josef Chrome PN13I had the pleasure of drinking the Josef Chromy 2013 pinot noir from Tasmania last night with friends over a meal. It matched well with a variety of dishes we sampled including calamari with vietnamese salad, grilled snapper and waygu dumplings. This is a great food wine and I could see it equally complementing pork (asian style), duck or poultry.

This wine needs time to breath – it developed nicely after 45 mins. and here is what unfolded:

Appearance – Bright attractive mid cherry red in the glass.

nose – abundant red berries, blue berries, violets and cinnamon.

palate – red berry and ripe cherry, touch of toasty notes from oak, overall a linear experience.

Outstanding texture and silken tannins. Opulent, soft and round mouth feel and good balance, excellent persistence – hallmarks of a great pinot
I would happily cellar this beauty for 5 years and enjoy on special occassions.

Tassie vines