I am nearing the end of an instructional and entertaining visit to the vineyards of McLaren Vale, South Australia. The Vale lies south of Adelaide, has a breezy, maritime climate, and the majority variety in its vineyards is Shiraz. I have been the International Judge at the McLaren Vale Wine Show, an event that runs over two and a half days. There is definite potential for this region to become better known in future years, and there are encouraging moves such as a series of six sub-regions - McLaren Vale, McLaren Flat, Blewitt Springs, for instance, to be created - a sort of mini appellation network. This is very reasonable, given the diverse soils and rock sub-strata here. A precise map logging the geology is in preparation, and there are definite signs that a good amount of the growers see the need to make more precise, less blockbuster, "me-too" wines. I have also been impressed by the pure Grenache wines I have encountered. A full Report will follow in the future.
For lovers of mature Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I would also remind you of the very extensive look at the 1998 vintage posted recently under RECENT TASTINGS. I will be in the Rhône in the next few weeks to see some of the first vat samples of 2009, and to take a good look at how the 2008s are faring.
Meanwhile, I apologise for the weird encryption, a grown-up word for gobbledygook, on some domaines, which is a result of recent changes on the site. These are being attended to, and the domaines affected will be back in full shortly.
JEAN-LUC COLOMBO: not a great month of October 2009 for the free-wheeling Wunderkid of Cornas. See Goings-On.
CORNAS, cheval mascot, alert: Cornas travelled to the west of Ireland for a very winnable 2 mile steeplechase on 11 October, and was made favourite for the contest. He jumped like a tiger for the first 5 or 6 fences, but unfortunately his pilot asked him to be too bold and to jump too extravagantly at a back straight fence and he took a crashing fall. Very happily, he and the rider seemed OK after the race. Back to the drawing board for our Cheval Mascot, thus. A bit like Cornas, the wine - never really the King at the Rhône Annual Ball, despite good mentions by the cognoscenti and off-beats. Team Cornas have had to stick to the Guinness, but it is now called la bière des chuteurs, not la bière des vainqueurs, as it used to be termed during my days in the Cameroun, West Africa. Don`t say that out loud, by the way.
the last crop is being picked, and the scene is set for a very good vintage. It was predicted here, it`s all in writing. If only I could back winners using these forecasting methods! Rain on 16 September was a fantastic boon for the growers, since the vines had started to seize up, with sugar levels rising, but tannic maturity not following. Reports also emphasize a loss of crop that is severe in places such as Gigondas, and overall quantity is well down on "normal" years - the last one of those was 2007. In the meantime, the fruity charms of the best 2008s are coming through, acting as a welcome easy drinking pause between what will be considered to be two very good vintages. Recent Additions: a long and winding report on 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape - 10+ years on - has been posted under RECENT TASTINGS. I set the scene at the time of the vintage so there is a full context surrounding the behaviour of the wines as they mature. See GOINGS-ON for other recent additions, which include the now complete report on 2007 NORTHERN RHONE.