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Australia v. France


jrufusj
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AUSTRALIA V. FRANCE - Tokyo American Club (1/21/2005)

This is an annual event pitting one country's wines against those of another. This time it was Australia versus France. Five pairs of wines...varietally matched. Group voting determines the winner.

Welcome Wine

  • 1995 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Brut Millésimé - France, Champagne
    From Magnum
    Bright, light straw yellow. Restrained small mousse. Giving very little on nose...varietal chardonnay aroma, slight wite fruit, pretty unexpressive. Tight, light mouthfeel with acid more evident than mousse. More munier/noir on palate...apple, white plum, a little creaminess in texture. Somehow slightly cloying despite being dry.

Flight One -- Sauv Blanc/Sem

  • 2001 Cullen Wines - Australia, Western Australia, Margaret River
    Light, light yellow...very bright...almost white at rim. Aggressive sauvignon character on nose...simple varietal aromas, with bright freshness and generic white fruit. With time, tart greenberry and floral come out on nose. Alcohol and white pepper very evident in finish (in the chimney).
    My WOTF.
  • 2003 Château Carbonnieux Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Slightly deeper in color, but similar to previous. Much more restrained on nose (no greenberry/cat pee), but with a little smokiness. Rounder in mouth with relatively short finish. Flavor impact mostly in front of mouth and waxy. Oak is slightly intrusive, covering any fruit on nose.
    Group WOTF.

Flight Two -- Chardonnay

With crab terrine and pan-seared scallop

  • 2002 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet
    Bright yellow...solid to rim...clearly viscous. On pouring, nose gives nothing. On first sip, oak immediately evident and dominating fruit. Amazingly long finish, though, that turns to malo/butter and apple. Good acid, full but not heavy body. Oak quickly recedes on palate to reveal the fruit. With a few mintes in glass, mineral and a little toast on nose, along with a tad of fruit trying to come through. A lot there, but tight and closed right now.
    Personal WOTF, WhWOTN.
  • 2001 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay Art Series - Australia, Western Australia, Margaret River
    Slightly lighter than previous, with a little less viscosity and a little less brilliabce. Much more toast, butter on nose. Rounder, more giving with more tropical fruit character. With time, the oak steps up and starts to dominate the fruit. Maybe better with a few years for the oak to integrate????
    Group WOTF.

Flight Three -- Pinot

  • 2003 Paringa Estate Pinot Noir Reserve - Australia, Victoria, Mornington Peninsula
    Rich, red ink, young. Spicy fruit aroma -- major toasty oak (American??). Could be syrah if I didn't know better. Oak on palate with big rich red fruits -- plums and such. Good nose, good taste, but it ain't elegant -- a baby shiraz. After an hour, oak is ahead of the fruit.
  • 1996 Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny
    Slightly orangey but still relatively young. Just starting to show age. BURGUNDY NOSE -- sous-bois/animalle/leather. Definitely better right now on nose than palate. New oak oversteps the fruit, but good acidity comes through to make it lively -- with bright cherry fruit. Good while to go -- too much iak, but the fruit and acid hold it up. With time (1 hour) gaminess gone from nose -- relatively shut down -- but with great complex, exploding palate.
    Personal WOTF; Group WOTF

Flight Four -- Syrah

With lamb chops and mashed potatoes

  • 2000 Bernard Chave Hermitage - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Deep, inky color, absolutely solid to rim. Mild hit of leatheriness (a la Coudelet) turning quickly to a little spice and pepper. Very much closed down I think...but clearly with a lot more to come. Palate is pper and slightly drying tannins and plum and berry. Tannins come out and shut down fruit with more time. This note doesn't read very well but this was really good. Rich fruit hiding behind the tannin and a nose that revolves among leather and a little game and the spice and primary fruit...getting stronger the longer it is open. As palate closes, nose opens. Wait 8-10 years or more...this will be amazing.
    Personal WOTF, WOTN.
  • 2002 Torbreck The Factor - Australia, South Australia, Barossa Valley
    Deeper, inkier. Absolutely dense looking. Lots of wood on nose, licorice, candied fruit. Very, very primary!! Viscous and sweet and jammy on palate. Chocolate in both feel and flavor. Lots of fun! With food??? Don't know. Way, way young. Rich berry fruit, tannin coming out on finish, but not in any aggressive way. Needs the tannin to cut through the rich sweet fruit.

Flight Five -- Cab, et. al.

  • 1999 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon - Australia, Western Australia, Margaret River
    Young deep purple...solid...surprising reddish color at edge. Cedary, cassis nose. Immediately seems to be the Bordeaux -- nose settles down and becomes restrained after a little time. Fruit is sweet berry. Damn good wine and a tough competitor to its flight opponent.
    Group WOTF.
  • 1996 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Young healthy purple -- no age showing. Nose incredibly closed at first...seems like water...with time some slightly dusty cassis comes out, along with the cigar box/ pencil/etc...With a little more time, a nice sweetness on the nose. On the palate, this one is clearly the French one. A little tannic and dry, but with the acid and cherry and breadth on the finish to be the winner.
    Personal WOTF.

As inconclusive as can be!

(1) Flight by flight, it was tied at 2 1/2 to 2 1/2 for the group.

(2) On total votes across all wines, Australia won it.

(3) The formal tiebreaker was the WOTN vote. The Chave was group WOTN, but -- interestingly enough -- only tied with the Torbreck within its flight. Go figure!

I was 5 for 5 in picking country of origin, but that was hardly an achievement as this was a pretty easy exercise. The wines were miles apart. Only tough one was the cab pairing -- and the finish made that pair clear.

Posted from CellarTracker!

Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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AUSTRALIA V. FRANCE - Tokyo American Club (1/21/2005)

[*]2003 Paringa Estate Pinot Noir Reserve - Australia, Victoria, Mornington Peninsula

Rich, red ink, young. Spicy fruit aroma -- major toasty oak (American??). Could be syrah if I didn't know better. Oak on palate with big rich red fruits -- plums and such. Good nose, good taste, but it ain't elegant -- a baby shiraz. After an hour, oak is ahead of the fruit.

[*]1996 Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny

Slightly orangey but still relatively young. Just starting to show age. BURGUNDY NOSE -- sous-bois/animalle/leather. Definitely better right now on nose than palate. New oak oversteps the fruit, but good acidity comes through to make it lively -- with bright cherry fruit. Good while to go -- too much iak, but the fruit and acid hold it up. With time (1 hour) gaminess gone from nose -- relatively shut down -- but with great complex, exploding palate.

Personal WOTF; Group WOTF

Flight Four -- Syrah

Disregarding putting a 2003 oz pinot against a 1996 burgundy, would have liked to have seen a NZ pinot up against the CM - as you know NZ is really the 8th state of Australia :biggrin: plus they know how to make excellent red burgundies.

Nice set of wines nevertheless - the leuwin estate chard will be a beautiful wine in 5 years.

Cheers

Paul

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Interesting but agree with Paul (but take it further) that none of the wines are of the same age. The closest is I suppose flight 2 but even then there is 18 months difference.

Also with flight 2 there is a big mistake. While Australians might make chardonnays, Dom Leflaive do not make a chardonnay they make a Puligny Montrachet.

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Disregarding putting a 2003 oz pinot against a 1996 burgundy, would have liked to have seen a NZ pinot  up against the CM - as you know NZ is really the 8th state of Australia  :biggrin:  plus they know how to make excellent red burgundies.

Nice set of wines nevertheless - the leuwin estate chard will be a beautiful wine in 5 years.

Cheers

Paul

Interesting but agree with Paul (but take it further) that none of the wines are of the same age. The closest is I suppose flight 2 but even then there is 18 months difference.

Also with flight 2 there is a big mistake. While Australians might make chardonnays, Dom Leflaive do not make a chardonnay they make a Puligny Montrachet.

I usually post my tasting notes on three different fora. Most often, a post will generate comment or discussion on one of the fora, but not on the others. Seems to be random which place gets comments. This set of notes, however, has generated discussion on all fora and the theme of the discussion has been pretty similar -- an unbalanced competition because of age issues.

In one place, the gist of the discussion was that the French wines were all too young and likely to be closed down tight -- thus, unfair advantage to Australia. In the other, the response was that age should not be an excuse, as the Aussies were too young as well.

I generally hate to repost something I've written somewhere else, but down below is a (slightly edited) copy of my response on another board. It takes the wines one by one and discusses how they were showing and where they might go.

The unusual age and style matches were a function of the way the event was organized. Two members of the club's wine committee were chosen as "champions", one for each country. Each champion was then given the charge to select five wines of the stipulated grape varieties that were locally available, within a defined budget, and that they thought would best compete. Hence, the choices made by each champion produced some unusual matches.

I'm interested to see how the Leeuwin will develop. I won a bottle of the Leeuwin at the tasting and am planning to put it away for a while. Though I much prefer the Puligny, the Leeuwin was certainly a good wine.

Sorry for (all too usual for me) long post,

Jim

Agree with you...all but one of the wines were too young for current drinking.

I'm not a great fan of white Graves, but I think the Carbonnieux would have shown a hell of a lot better with 5-7 years on it.

The Cullen is, I think, at its best now. I'm afraid that with much more time on it, it would have lost its aggressive Pouilly-like character that makes it so appealing. Maybe the alcohol/pepper will tone down and a little rounding out will be good, but I'd vote for drinking it now.

The Puligny was a complete baby. I haven't quite figured the 2002 vintage out yet. Compared to other good vintages, I think it's perhaps a little more forward, but not enough to make me worry. I've had a few '86s recently that were still stunning. But the '94s are really starting to come apart. Both were pretty approachable when young. I don't know which way this will go, but I'm betting more like '86. I'd be happy to sock away a case of the village Leflaive until 2015 and maybe check in on it in about 2010 just to make sure all is well.

The Leeuwin is a lot more forward, ripe in style, but it could still use 3-4 years for the oak to integrate. It's a burst of fun when first poured, but within 30 minutes, the oak overtakes the fruit.

I don't know what to think of the Aussie pinot from Paringa. I really didn't like it, though it was fine and sound in every way. I have no idea where it will go with time, because I seldom drink similar wines and have never bought a bunch to follow over time.

Rion is not my favorite producer, but this wine showed pretty well. Prevailing opinion was that it was completely ready. I agree that it is far from closed down, but following its evolution in the glass leads me to believe it would be helped by another 3-5 years...maybe more.

The Chave was indeed infanticide. Nothing more to say about that except to acknowledge that I can understand how people enjoy drinking this young. My preference runs very strongly to mature wines and secondary character and such. I was stunned by this wine in terms of where it can go. But I do have to admit that it was simply a lot of fun to drink as an infant, too.

Okay...what about the Torbreck? There was so much richness, sweetness, chocolate and such...hard to know where it is going. Though I've got a lot of admiration for the commitment that goes into producing such concentration in the vineyard and extraction in the winery without falling completely out of balance, this is not a wine I am likely ever to buy. I'm not sure I'd ever look for it to transform the way the Chambolle or Puligny or Hermitage or St. Julien would, but I do have a sense that it might just all come together in a more sculpted way. I'd

love to taste it in 3-4 years, but it'll have to be someone else's bottle.

I really, really liked the Moss Wood. I'll have to chase down their pinot, as you recommended. To my mind, this was the best value wine of the night. It was enjoyable to drink now, but I suspect it could also benefit greatly from 6-8 years. I didn't vote for it, because the Ducru moved ahead at the end, but this was my favorite of all the Aussies.

The Ducru was way, way closed. It eventually opened enough to show that those guys made a great wine in 1996, but it also has encouraged me to keep my hands off all '96s except for the satellites.

I enjoyed the event. It gave me a chance to check in on some wines I would never open on my own at this age. Nice datapoints. However, it was a little frustrating to watch people picking the Leeuwin over the Leflaive when the Leflaive was just shut tight. The Leflaive was head and shoulders better.

Hey, I can't bitch. Someone else did the work to organize it. I just came along for the ride.

Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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