“An inherent ability to make everything sound so damn appealing!”
Written by Peter Robinson
Artwork by James Benn
With any wines that we choose to list, follows the task of writing a tasting note. There are a lot of critic’s tasting notes from wine reviews that are a valuable source of information and give great guidance but we also value the importance of our own views on the wines. We have found from a lot of customer feedback that Stu’s scores and tasting notes are as, if not more valued than the critic’s notes, a fact that we are increasingly realising the importance of. Additionally, some of the critic’s notes may have been made when the wine was young and as we have a vast portfolio of mature vintages, it is also important to update them. See Kay Brothers Amery Cab 2004, Schubert Goose Yard Block Shiraz 2006, Shirvington Estate 2007 and Pertaringa Over The Top Shiraz 2001 for recent updates.
To get several views of the same wine is also key as tasting is, to a certain degree, fairly subjective. All of our palates, including our customer's may be sensitive to different components in the wine, so Magda and I will sometimes give supporting notes to the wines.
Magda has a far more poetic grasp of the English language than I, something that I am a little envious of if truth be told. I remain in the world of the WSET Diploma where you are taught to taste with a completely systematic approach, objectively listing the level of each individual component in the wine; acidity, body, tannin etc. etc. resulting in an incredibly boring tasting note that would not make enjoyable reading on the website. The core fact remains that they have to be accurate and whoever’s note it is, there will always be consistency between them. Stu has an incredible grasp of both wine language and acceptable poetic licence coupled with an unapparelled knowledge of the industry to draw references from. His style is incredibly thorough,
covering every element of the wine, noting each flavour and aroma, describing mouthfeel, structure, oak influence with detailed information of the wine’s technicalities as well as an inherent ability to make everything sound so damn appealing! Just read the following example of Stu’s note on Chanin Wines Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay 2014 and you’ll see what I mean. Also note that he recommends decanting for a white wine.
99 points - Stuart McCloskey "Almost a repeat of my introduction from the 2013 vintage - “In short, this is one of the most astonishing Chardonnays which I have enjoyed for many years”, however the 2014 just eclipses the stunning 2013. A difficult wine to describe as superlatives do little, if any justice. Incredibly graceful, almost a weightless elegance, feminine, magnificently detailed bouquet which expresses minerality like no other US chardonnay. The palate is developing all the time with a core of minerality. Presently, this is a wine that is all about finesse and elegance, as flavours will develop with a little more bottle age. Utterly magnificent! (Please decant)."
"The style of writing is different but the key facts remain the same"
Magda and I tasted the Wild Duck Roussanne 2017 together but individually made separate notes. The style of writing is different but the key facts remain the same, the flavours and aromas being mirrored in both. We both noted the freshness, texture and combination of stone fruits and floral aromas, but Magda’s style is far more conversational.The wine was tasted in the same type of glass (Zalto Universal) accounting for the similarities.
How our writing styles differ...
"I was extremely excited to see Wild Duck’s expansion on to Southern Rhône varietals, which personally I would love to see more of in Australia. Simultaneously, I quickly came to worry that my increasing anticipation of receiving & sampling their pure Roussanne will raise the bar a tad too high. Absolute nonsense! Wonderful perfume of honeysuckle, stone fruit, fennel & gentle wild flowers pouring out of the glass put an instant smile on my face. The flavours are beautifully knitted together with bracing white nectarine and fresh apricots, giving a wonderful balance of acidity and ripeness. No hard edges, no disproportions, but a seamless flow of creamy and well-rounded textures. The overall sense of harmony is superb and every sip brings plenty of joy."
"What a delight! For some reason I was expecting a wine to be a little chewy but it’s so vibrant and pretty. The purity of fruit on the nose is exquisite giving a light perfume of nectarine and white peach with a touch of blossom. There is some background flint from the barrel fermentation that plays a perfectly placed supporting role. The palate is so fresh with great acidity giving a mineral backbone to the ripe stone fruits creating a silky texture, assisted by some time on lees. Very impressed."
A WSET Diploma tasting note of this
wine would read as follows:
“The wine is pale lemon showing legs and tears. It has medium plus intensity aromas that are predominantly primary, giving stone fruit (nectarine and white peach), floral aromas (honeysuckle and white blossom) with some secondary aromas of flint from oak influence. The wine is dry with medium plus acidity, a medium minus body, high alcohol and pronounced flavours of mineral, stone fruit (peach, apricot, nectarine) floral flavours (honeysuckle, blossom) with a long finish”.
That’s a fairly basic example but you get the idea, pretty boring!
The most important thing to keep in mind when making a tasting note is that it’s accurate. Adding experiences that are specific to you which evoke a memory of a smell or taste will not be the same to anyone else. “Skipping through spring meadows as a child” sounds lovely enough but gives no actual indication as to the precise flavours of the wine. It is important to stick to fruit profiles such as black or red fruits – blackcurrant is a very typical flavour description of Cabernet Sauvignon, red cherry, strawberry or cranberry can be indicative of light, fresh Pinot Noirs, the Glaetzer Dixon Avance Pinot is a great example of this. Herbaceous characters such as asparagus or grass can be classic flavours of Sauvignon Blanc, try the Dog Points. Citrus and orchard fruits for cooler climate Chardonnays or stone fruits – nectarine, peach apricot for warm climate. The list goes on but this knowledge is crucial when it comes to accurately describing wine and blind tasting. Oak influence has classic flavours of vanilla, butterscotch, flint, smoke or sweet spice depending on the age of the barrel, type of oak, length of time spent aging, whether it’s oak fermented or so on. Signs of maturity can show in the form of aromas of cigar box, tobacco, dried fruits such as figs and prunes, liquorice or candied cherry to name a few, and these developed flavours will vary depending on the grape variety. The Zalto Glasses will accentuate these specific flavour characters so the right glass will help enhance these aromas.
"The right glassware can elevate any wine to another level, add value to any bottle... and make an already outstanding wine something unforgettable."
We’d love to hear some of your tasting notes of our wines so feel free to email some in or review the wines on the website. I’m sure there are many budding wine writers amongst you so drop us a line or two and we may well use them.
The following two tasting notes for Kay Brothers Amery Cabernet 2004 were both written with several years between them but remain very similar. The fruit flavours of blackcurrant with cedar are both very indicative of Cab, especially a northern Medoc style with cigar-box and tobacco leaf indicating that the wine has age.
Stuart McCloskey - 94 Points "A 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged several years in wood. Pleasing Pauillac-like nose of black currants, cedar wood, tobacco leaf, and spice box. The combination of eucalypt and blackberry/mulberry fruits are in complete harmony with the sweet cigar-box characters and ripe, juicy tannins. A sensational steal and profoundly brilliant at this price!"
Peter Robinson "An unmistakable cabernet nose of almost sweet blackcurrant hits immediately. Cedar, pen ink and more earth notes come forth as the wine opens up in the glass offering an abundantly Claret nose. The palate is more savoury and offers less concentration, the development in bottle more notable as the tannins have softened and the initial fruit punch has mellowed sliding down the palate effortlessly. So easy to drink, nothing is challenging, the wine is drinking beautifully now." Tasted 27th January 2018
Before joining the Vinorium, there was one tasting note that, above all has never made me want to buy a bottle of wine more. Stu’s note on the Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 shot the wine to the very top of my wish list and I’m trying my best to manufacture an occasion to open one. I believe Greg MS and winemaker at Gramercy found Stu’s review, loved it and posted it on his website for all to see.
100 Points - Stuart McCloskey
"Wow what a bouquet – This is such a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon which reminds me of a top Pauillac - Château Pontet Canet / Latour come to mind. The aromas soar from the glass - Exotic, seductive with vibrant scents of cassis, blackcurrants, graphite and cedar. I detect a little menthol in the background. The palate is rich and coats every facet. The filigree framework of tannins are seamless and support the wine beautifully. There’s a beguiling sense of purity which is something rarely seen. The finesse, poise and focus is quite extraordinary. Overall, the wine is effortless with layer upon layer of perfectly ripe fruit. The complexity builds with time in the decanter and I cannot wait to come back to this wine over the next decade or two. I cannot see how this utterly majestic wine could possibly improve therefore, I have no alternative but concede perfection and add it to my legends list... "
How does the choice of glassware
affect our perception?
It is absolutely paramount to choose the right glassware for a wine like this and we do insist on this fact. The correct glass can elevate wine to another level, add value to any bottle, show complexity in a seemingly simple wine and make an already outstanding wine something unforgettable. The right glassware is not just to make drinking a glass a more enjoyable experience but we see it as an essential investment for anyone wanting to get the most pleasure possible out of a bottle of wine. The glasses are designed to emphasize specific aromas, furthering a wine’s complexity and overall drinking experience. It doesn’t have to be a different glass for every wine, we find that the Zalto Bordeaux is very good at enhancing several wines.
We noted with our previous wine of the week, the Muddy Water Chardonnay how the wine showed itself to be different depending on the glass used.
One glass would reveal the gentle oak notes of vanilla that are subtly in the wine and bring forward aromas of riper fruit, another glass would highlight the citrus, mineral and saline quality in the wine.
Decanting is also important, especially with a wine like Gramercy Cellars. With very old wines, it is not essential and can often be counterproductive, but with younger wines it helps to enhance the wine, providing a larger surface area in contact with the air, helping to open up the delicate bouquet. Wines will soften with time in the decanter, any slight youthful tension will mellow allowing the wine's true personality to come forth, the fruit, the oak, all the wines subtleties and complexities. An hour or two in a decanter does so much to improve the drinking experience of a wine, and anyone who hasn’t done this will be very surprised. Couple this with good quality, appropriate glassware and any wine will be upgraded. An investment that will completely change your appreciation of wine.
The most important upgrade to any wine collection and the overall drinking experience simply comes down to glassware...
The Zalto range of glassware are beautifully crafted, mouth blown, crystal glasses that are designed to enhance the specific characteristics of different wines. Incredibly light but also strong, Zalto glasses are by far and away the very best glasses to improve any bottle of wine. It is not essential to have an entire range of glassware for every different wine, just two or three different glasses will cover the entire spectrum.
For weightier style reds we recommend the Zalto Bordeaux glass, probably our most widely used glass when tasting in house, this glass is great for many different wines. The large bowl helping aerate and soften tannins whilst accentuating the wines depth and concentration. The Bordeaux glass is the ideal choice for Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Bordeaux or Rhone style blends and many other red wines. Surprisingly, it is also the glass of choice for oaked Chardonnay, the shape of the bowl accentuating the balance of ripe fruits and oak.
£32.95 per glass
For all Pinot Noirs we recommend the Zalto Burgundy glass, designed almost specifically for Pinot’s delicate aromas. The aromas of Pinot Noir are often the most delicate, but when revealed can be the most enticing and pretty. The Zalto Burgundy glass is the widest of all the Zalto glasses providing the largest surface area of wine. This allows for rapid aeration, revealing all of Pinot Noir’s delicate spice, herb, floral, earth and berry aromas to be maximized. The narrower rim holding these aromas for an unparalleled experience of Pinot Noir’s elegant subtleties. Zalto Burgundy is also very good for Nebbiolo, especially Barolo.
£32.95 per glass
For richer, oaked Sauvignon Blancs such as The Fuder, white Graves or Semillon/Sauvignon blends and also for young and non-vintage Champagne we recommend Zalto Universal. However, the Zalto Universal is a very good all-rounder, designed for all types of wines but may not maximize the potential of certain wine as much as the Bordeaux or Burgundy glass.
£32.00 per glass
Zalto White Wine glass is perfect for crisp, vibrant, dry whites, aged Champagne such as 2007/08 House of Arras Vintage and 2003 Late Disgorged. The glass is superb for many different types of white wines which do not need much aeration, the shape of the glass is focussed on the precision of the aromas. The Zalto White Wine glass covers many varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Viognier, unoaked Sauvignons or Chardonnays.
£32.00 per glass
Brilliant for Sauternes, Barsac and all types of Dessert wine . Although several Champagne style wines work very well in other glasses such as The Universal Glass, the Zalto Champagne Glass is perfect for all types of sparkling wine and great for those who prefer the traditional flute.
£32.50 per glass