CH'NG Poh Tiong's column: Zuo Wang
Three weeks ago, I visited one of my favourite New World regions, Margaret River.
The purpose was to taste Bordeaux blends –whites and reds – for my second Margaret River Report.
This annual report was started in 2013 (when I focused on the 2010 and 2009 reds). The report ensures I stay in touch with a region I first visited 30 years ago in the 1980s.
At that time, my parents had a home in Lesmurdie, a suburb outside Perth. The house was at the top of a modest hill. As a result, we were treated to some stunning sunsets that looked like huge fireballs.
In summer temperatures often reached 40 degrees Celsius and higher. One year, my father forgot he had left a thick rubber hose on the ground. It was so hot that a few days later, half of the hose melted into the cement surface.
By contrast, Margaret River is usually considerably cooler - about 5 degrees lower - than Perth. I assure you it’s not only humans who like it that way because the grapes are feeling fresher too.
This as with last year, the wines I tasted for the Margaret River Report are of the same vintage or vintages. This is very important because the wines reveal the peculiar characteristics of that one year or years. This sort of ‘horizontal’ tasting/s helps us understand the conditions of the vintage/s.
The wines were blind-tasted. To qualify as Bordeaux whites, they could be 100% Sauvignon Blanc; 100% Semillon; or, a blend of those two grapes (as far as I know, no one grows Muscadelle in Margaret River).
WEATHER REPORT FOR 2013 & 2012
In 2013, yields for both whites and reds were down between 5% and 15 % when compared to the bumper harvest in 2012 especially for the whites. The 2013 white Bordeaux blends are relatively riper and rounder than those of 2012 which have a more taut line of acidity. Both vintages are very enjoyable and are as delicious as aperitif as they are with food.
The colour of 2013 and 2012 range from very pale straw to straw, often with a green tinge still noticeable. Although 2012 is a year older, often the colour is even more pale than 2013.
Here are the top wines (out of thirty-five 2013s and fifteen 2012s).
I use a 5-star rating system:
* I use a 5-star rating system:
WHITE BORDEAUX BLENDS - 2013
Evoi Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013
Green citrus/hint of asparagus and nutmegs. Lovely viscosity. Nice texture. Hint of oak that is very delicately, expertly handled. Dash of battonage. Reminds of a very good Pessac-Leognan.
Cullen Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013
Vanilla on the nose. Green/yellow citrus and young pineapple. The oak and structure dominant at the moment. Quite dry on the finish. Pessac-Leognan-like.
Churchview Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013
Grapefruit and spring onion (the lower white portion) spicy. More grassy and edgy than many other 2013s. Sancerre-like rather than reminding of Graves or Pessac-Leognan. Lovely line of acidity. Purity. Medium-plus bodied. Classy.
Flying Fish Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013
Grapefruit/limes/lemons. Lovely line of fruit and acidity. Tight. Balanced. Long. Fine.
Hamelin Bay Five Ashes Vineyard Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Green and yellow citrus and spring onion-ish spicy. Silky freshness and elegantly viscous. Tightness and structure. Hint of oak. Medium-plus-ish bodied.
Coward & Black Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Limes and green pineapples. Very tight and very fresh. Drive, energy and line. Purity. Intensity and long finish. Structure and freshness. Very balanced.
Rosily Vineyard Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Green citrus, spring onion spicy and hint of nutmegs. Structure. Tightness. Viscosity. Intensity. Very balanced. Pessac-Leognan like.
Stella Bella Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Viscosity, oak and battonage. Structure quite in front at the moment and also a bit tight but the fruit is all there. About full-bodied. Pessac-Leognan-like.
Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013 –
Some reduction. Spring-onion (the white part) spicy and green citrus. Good intensity of fruit. About full-bodied.
Lenton Brae Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 –
Citrus and green pineapples on the nose and palate. Roundish acidity. Soft viscosity. Balanced. Well made.
Deep Woods Ivory Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 -
Whiff of reduction/sulphur. Lovely green citrus fruit and balancing freshness. Medium-plus-ish bodied with good intensity.
Laurance of Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 -
Ripe-ish citrus and spring onion spicy. Textural. Smooth. Elegant. Medium-plus-ish bodied.
Karri Bindi Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 -
Whiff of vanilla. Hint of battonage. Ripe citrus and spiced. Pessac-Leognan-like. Grip of structure at the end that is a touch dry and austere. Medium-plus bodied.
WHITE BORDEAUX BLENDS - 2012
Butler Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Reductive/sulphur. Green/yellow citrus and white spring onion spicy. Still a bit tight. Fine, delicate and elegant.
Cowaramup Wines Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012
Green citrus including limes and grapefruit. Vivacity. Lovely long line of fruit and acidity.
Higher Plane Sauvignon Blanc 2012 -
Pineapples, flint, spice and asparagus. A touch evolved. But with freshness and structure. Almost full-bodied.
Peccavi Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012 –
A bit reductive. Lemony and limes. Spring onion (the green and white parts) spicy. Very fresh and very youthful.
Xanadu Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012 –
Green citrus and tinglingly fresh. White spring onion spicy. Nicely balanced.
Happs Three Hills Eva Marie 2012 -
Green citrus and grapefruit. Intensity of fruit. Still a bit tight at the moment. Good length. Very balanced.
Fraser Gallop Estate Parterre Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 -
Citrus and spice. Drive and energy in the fruit. A very fine line of acidity. A bit tight at the moment.
Voyager Estate ‘Tom Price’ Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 -
Green citrus and whiff of oak. Lean, tight and a bit tucked-in at the moment. Lovely balance. Medium-plus-ish bodied.
Evans & Tate Metricup Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 -
Reductive. Tight, fresh with green/yellow citrus. The tenacious acidity reinforces for this – and almost all the other wines of the vintage – that 2012 is of a vin de garde quality, namely that the wines will continue to evolve and improve with time.
Margaret River produced white Bordeaux blends of a very high quality in 2013 and 2012 which will continue to improve with time. Personally, I think 2012 will outpace 2013 in the longer term. It would be very interesting and enlightening to re-taste the two vintages side by side in another three to five years (and in the case of the very top wines up to 10 years’ time).
A lawyer by training, CH’NG Poh Tiong also holds a Postgraduate Certificate with Distinction in Chinese Art from the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London. He is an Honorary Ambassador of TEFAF – The European Fine Art Fair – Maastricht. CH'NG works principally as a wine journalist and is publisher of The Wine Review, the oldest wine publication in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and China since 1991.
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