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Arboreal Ken

Ken Forrester 2009 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Of all the chenins I tasted in South Africa (and I tasted a lot), this was the most exciting. Not in this exact form or vintage, but in the form of an older bottle pulled as an apology for their being out of the sought-after botrytized version from this same winery. The excitement came because in a few short years the wine had veered sharply in a Loire-ward direction, developing wax, quinine, and chalk notes that I hadn’t seen in anyone else’s chenins. Now, to be fair, I didn’t taste many more with any age whatsoever, but as the two dominant methods of chenin blanc production in the country are fresh-’n’-fruity-’n’-cheap or “seriously” oaked (a terrible idea, I might add, though Ken Forrester’s “FMC” version is the least offensive of the offensive lot), I certainly don’t expect to see it very often. That said, after I tasted and liked the aged version, I realized I hadn’t paid much attention to its younger form.

So here it is, and I’ve encountered it a lot since that visit to Stellenbosch. I wouldn’t say it’s clear that there’s a bright and complex future for the wine from its initial notions, but one can at least see how that future develops. There’s a restraint and subtlety to the wine not often found in the area’s chenin blancs (or white wines in general), a fine structure, and – I think this is where the key difference lies – a gravelly texture to the wine that I think heralds the organoleptic minerality to come. It’s very appealing in its youth, but I think youthful guzzling is what the same winery’s “Petit” bottling is for. Put this one away for a while. I think you won’t regret it, if past performance is any indicator. (8/11)

I Felton itch

Felton Road 2007 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – I don’t know if the expanding range of single-site pinots being produced at Felton Road are changing the nature of the basic wine or not, but it seems a little simpler than I remember. Simpler, but fuller, so there’s a tradeoff in both good and less good ways. Here is the more familiar plum, beet, orange peel of the Central Otago, without the poise that the entire range used to show, but with more generosity. It’s quite tasty, whatever the circumstances of its birth. (8/11)

The middle of the back

Mittelbach 2010 Zweigelt Rosé (Lower Austria) – Rose petal, tart wild strawberry not entirely free of greenness, blushing hues and tones. And yet, icy despite the blush. Simple, with stirrings of prettiness. (7/11)


Costières & Soleil “Sélectionné par Laurence Féraud” 2009 Vin de Table “Plan Pégau” (Rhône) – Even more structured and manly than usual, which makes me wonder if the non-Rhône-traditional grape component of this wine has been upped. Dusty, a bit tarry, and hazy with blackened fruit. The ideal match might be mastodon. (7/11)

Ernie Bock

Dr. Fischer 2008 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling 01 09 (Saar) – Incredibly dull. There’s an initial tinge of reduction, but when that passes – which it does fairly easily – there’s just nothing aside from riesling generalities and Germanic assumptions. Perhaps a bad bottle? I’ve had few outstanding wines from this house, of late, but I’ve rarely had one that was just so void. (7/11)

The Forrester for the treeser

Ken Forrester “Petit” 2009 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Sunfruit, sweet white peach, smooth-textured and round. Such a pretty little wine, ideal for crowds (especially crowds on a budget). (7/11)

Nier or far

GA Schneider 2007 Niersteiner Riesling 03 08 (Rheinhessen) – Premature encreamulation. Short and gasaholic. And…scene. (7/11)

Rabbit-proof wine

Rabbit Ranch 2007 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Powerfully-concentrated neutron fruit, jammy and over-polished. Just too much. Those who insist that “wine is all about fruit, because grapes are fruit” will find all the mindless onanism here that they could ever want. (7/11)


Petaluma 2006 Riesling Hanlin Hill (Clare Valley) – A little reduced, but this dissipates after a reasonable amount of time, lifting the haze over limestone and green grapefruit. Sharp and very – perhaps overly – present, with an acid tongue (in more than one sense of the phrase). Good, if unduly biting. (6/11)

Taking leave of

Sainsbury’s Cabernet Sauvignon (Valle Central) – Why the language switch for the appellation between this and the sauvignon blanc, I don’t know. I’m sure some focus group, somewhere, knows the answer. Sweet green pepper, synthetic and sticky fruit. I rarely think the cabernets are ideal candidates for cellar-dwelling price points, and sauvignon even less so than franc. This wine demonstrates why. An underripe festival of pyrazines would be one thing, but to add the sticky, plastic sugar element just to make things “more palatable” is triply wretched. No bargain at any cost. (3/11)