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Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on La Place: the verdict

To date, only a handful of fine wine producers from Australia, New Zealanda and South Africa have released on La Place, however this year marks the debut of Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz and New Zealand’s Craggy Range’s Le Sol and Aroha cuvées. db’s Bordeaux correspondent Colin Hay gives his tasting notes of the wines.

New Zealand releases

New Zealand releases Vintage Region 1st release? Rating
Craggy Range Aroha 2021 Martinsborough Yes 94
Craggy Range Le Sol 2021 Hawke’s Bay Yes 95

Aroha Craggy Range 2021 (Te Muna Road, Martinborough, New Zealand; 100% Pinot Noir; a final yield of 25 hl/ha; aged in French oak barrels, 30% of which were new; pH 3.69; 13.5% alcohol). From the Māori word for love. The second release of this wine. Subtle and delicate on the nose, but with a pleasing sense of vertical lift. Crisp, crunchy plump raspberry and red stone fruits, wild thyme, girolles and white tuffle and a hint of wood smoke. Also, fresh buttered corn seared in a pan and a little toasted brioche; a touch of espresso coffee too and roasted walnut shell. Very soft and gracious on the attack with ultra-fine grained, juicy but substantial tannins. Fresh and with plenty of sapidity, accentuated by the slightly ferrous and distinctly saline minerality. Long and nicely delineated on the finish. Impressive. 94.

Craggy Range Le Sol 2021 (Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand; 100% Syrah; a final yield of 28 hl/ha; aged in French oak barrels, 32% of which were new; pH 3.62; 13% alcohol). Named in tribute to the sheer quality of its famous Gimblett Gravels terroir. The second release of this wine. Lithe, plump and plush on the palate and wonderfully expressive of its pure Syrah on the nose, this is my first experience with this wine and I’m very impressed. I love the rocky minerality here, the assorted crushed black, red and green peppercorn notes, the intense dark berry fruit (boysenberry, bramble and mulberry) and that gamey animal meatiness so redolent of top Syrah. If this were from France, it would be from Cornas. The tannins are sweet, soft and enveloping and they structure the slow gently contoured evolution of the wine over the palate. Very fine, almost delicate and brilliantly understated. 95.

Australian releases

Australian releases Vintage Region 1st release? Rating
Wynns John Riddoch 2020 Coonawarra No 95
Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz 2019 Clare Valley No 94
Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 Margaret River No 96
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 2018 Barossa Valley Yes 95

Wynns John Riddoch 2020 (Coonawarra; 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% alcohol). Very pure and intense cassis on the nose. Cordite too. Kalamata olives. Walnut shell. This is pure, bright and fresh. I like the precision. This is well-structured and fine if a little monotone in its purity and just a touch sweet on the finish. A vin de garde of considerable potential and with quite a volume of tannin still to resolve. 95.

Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz 2019 (Clare Valley; 100% Shiraz; 14.1% alcohol). From old-vine Shiraz – most of it over 50 years of age now. Slightly volatile and a little reductive on the nose. Saline and distinctly ferrous in its minerality. Big, ripe, plump and meaty – with a mix of game and charcuterie notes accompanied by plenty of exotic spices. Punchy. Yet more lithe, limpid – even crystalline – in the mid-palate than you might imagine. Needs time; a bit of a bruiser; and strangely volatile on the finish at this stage. 94.

Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (Margaret River; 97% Cabernet Sauvignon; 3% Malbec; 13.5% alcohol). Quite oaky. Pomegranate and darker berry fruits. A little resinous note too. Interesting and distinctive – and distinctly aerial. I find this full of interest and personality. Gracious. Fluid and floaty. Long and elegant. Sapid and almost delicate on the slowly tapering finish. 96.

Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 2018 (Barossa Valley; 100% old vine Shiraz; aged in 100 litre French and American oak octaves; 14.5% alcohol). The oak is more restrained than you might imagine – this is, after all, named after the wood in which the wine is matured for nearly 2 years. Bright, fresh, quite lifted and both spicy but also crisp and enticingly herb-tinged. A little vanilla, cinnamon and clove, but also garrigue notes accompanying the baked plum, red cherry and plump red berry fruit. A second tasting reveals more black raspberry notes. Soft, fine-grained tannins and an immediately pleasing sense of tension between the richness and opulence of the fruit and the acidity and tannic grip which both contribute to draw the wine back to the spine as it evolves and stretches itself out over the palate. That gives this an impressive sense of structure, revealing its aging potential. Sapid and fresh on the finish. 95.

Australian releases (white)

Vintage Region New? Rating
Giaconda Chardonnay* 2021 Victoria, Australia Yes NYT
Cloudburst Chardonnay 2021 Margaret River No 96

* – an exclusivity of J. P. Moueix

Giaconda Chardonnay 2021 (Beechworth, Victoria; 100% Chardonnay; pH 3.22; a final yield of 35 hl/ha; from a terroir of gravel over clay in the foothills of the Victorian Alps; a total production of just 1000 cases; aged for 12 months in oak barrels, 30% of which were new; 13.5% alcohol – though the technical sheet says 14%). A wine likely to bring a (suitably enigmatic) smile to the face of even the most tight-lipped of wine-lovers. This is stunningly impressive and utterly beguiling in its combination of intensity, density and concentration, on the one hand, and yet radiant purity, luminosity and rapier-like purity on the other. Candlewax, saffron, cordite, hazelnut shell and a flinty minerality (a somewhat explosive combination) enrobe the bitingly fresh apple peel, citrus, yuzu and peach notes. Viscous in texture, yet lithe, fluid and dynamic, I find this vibrant and vivid. The oak is already fantastically well integrated and the sense of tension here is visceral – electrostatic, even. It’s a little like conducting a tasting whilst attached to a Van de Graaf generator! Stunning – almost literally – and with very considerable aging potential. Quite simply the best southern hemisphere Chardonnay I have ever tasted. 100.

Cloudburst Chardonnay 2021 (Margaret River; 100% Chardonnay; 13.5% alcohol; biodynamically farmed and from a tiny vineyard of just 1.25 hectares). Fresh and lifted with quite a lot of sweet, vanilla-tinged oak at first – this is very young and will need a little more time in bottle. Matchstick and flint. Explosive. Cordite. A touch of oregano and sage, camomile; more blood orange with aeration and the vanilla and oak taper a little into the background revealing more of the fruit complexity. White melon. Pear. Mimosa and orange blossom. Fresh, lifted, but rich and although rich and concentrated this is neither heavy nor heady. Nice freshness on the finish with the arrival of yuzu and grapefruit confit, the acidity cutting the richness very effectively and releasing a plume of sapidity as it does so. 96.

South African releases

South African releases Vintage Region 1st release? Rating
Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2020 Coastal Region No 95

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2020 (Constantia, South Africa; 100% Muscat de Frontignan; 13.5% alcohol). This is wonderfully pure, clean, bright and fresh. Apricot and honey, apple crumble, poached pears, poire Belle Hélène, tarte tatin and a little butterscotch. Charmingly moreish, wonderfully fresh despite its impressive density, concentration and viscosity. 95.

A note on the tasting notes 

All of the following wines were tasted either in Bordeaux at the offices of the courtiers or négociants bringing these wines to the international market, at the property itself, or in Paris or in London, or from samples sent directly from the property – and, in many cases, multiple times.

As regular readers will know, I am the Bordeaux and la place de Bordeaux correspondent of The Drinks Business. My specialism is Bordeaux, in particular, and northern Europe (especially Piedmont and Tuscany), secondarily. This should perhaps be born in mind when it comes to my tasting notes for other regions with which I am less familiar and which I encounter primarily through la place. My notes, as ever, are those of an enthusiast and a wine-lover and, for these regions above all, they are best read as such.

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