Wrattonbully may not yet have the high profile of nearby Coonawarra, but it is producing some outstanding fruit for labels like Smith & Hooper, part of the Hill-Smith Family Vineyards/Yalumba empire. This has a lot more going on than many of its Australian merlot rivals, the terra rossa soil producing flavoursome and vibrant red wines. This is a hand-picked, single-vineyard wine full of the youthful vigour of a yearling colt. There is a freshness here with briary, bright berry and dark chocolate flavours to the fore with apparently minimal oak. It is such a pity that a wine that shines in its youth is bottled under notoriously fallible cork, although the sample bottle was fine. The RRP here is in the high twenties but I've seen this wine on special for a few dollars less. At that price you'd snap it up. $27. www.smithandhooper.com.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
A quietly impressive Barossa shiraz from former Penfolds chief winemaker John Duval, a fourth generation vigneron now making wines under his own label. Duval no longer has the promotional firepower he used to have in his three decades at Penfolds, but his wines are always stylish and good value. Made from old, low-yielding vines in Marananga, Eden Valley, Ebenezer and Krondorf, this stands out for its classic full-bodied depth of flavour and balance, with almost 18 months in French oak acting as counterpoint to the high-quality fruit and the Eden Valley component adding elegance. A wine that's drinking well now but has the poise and structure to cellar well for 15 years of more. $50. www.johnduvalwines.com.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
I'm hugely impressed by the estate-grown and -bottled Ocean Eight wines that Michael Aylward is producing on the Mornington Peninsula. The Aylward family has a track record, of course, having helped found regional benchmark Kooyong, but the Ocean Eight wines stand out for their purity and fruit intensity. This is very much in the mould of Chablis with lime and grapefuit zest flavours to the fore, slatey minerality and impressive acid backbone. It is drinking very well as a young wine, too, and would be a perfect partner for oysters or a char-grilled lobster. Excellent, but made in small quantities, so it is the quick and the wineless. $50. www.oceaneight.com.au.
Friday, July 3, 2015
An impressive range of wines in outstanding colour-coded packaging. Jason Schwarz defines Meta as “an abstraction from a well-known concept” and this fruit-driven, assertive grenache is certainly made in a different style to many of its Barossa siblings. Made from 80-year-old vines, this is the punk, naughty boy version of grape variety that has been somewhat moribund. Hand-picked, 70% whole-bunch fermented, wild yeasts, unfiltered and unfined, this is a raw (Schwarz calls it crunchy), but very appealing, expression of an under-rated variety. Ripe, juicy, spicy and maybe just a little gangly in its youth, this is a barrel load of fun. $35. www.schwarzwineco.com.au.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Flowstone is the new venture of Margaret River winemaker Stuart Pym, who has over 30 years of experience at the likes of Devil's Lair and Stella Bella, and his friend and business partner Phil Giglia. This is an absolutely outstanding cabernet, made in tiny quantities. It has received 100% new oak, but such is quality of the fruit that the wine tastes absolutely seamless (and I hate over-oaked wines). This is a concentrated - but food-friendly - wine that is in the zone; like a McGrath fast ball, or a Federer forehand. There is plenty of flavour here, but the power is retrained. It comes for a very good vintage and has dark berry/chocolate and spice to the fore. There is soft mouthfeel, excellent tannin structure and intensity and it is drinking beautifully right now. I'll score this 96/100. $75. www.flowstonewines.com.
Friday, June 19, 2015
Either I've been asleep at the wheel, or the wines from Eden Hall have been flying under the radar a little. I was extremely impressed by their two new-release 2015 rieslings, a slightly more refined reserve version that's considerably more expensive (but probably worth it), and this everyday drinking version that's a fast bowler's dream. Think persistent line and length and you are on the right track. This is is very pure, refreshing; textbook Eden Valley riesling attributes to the fore. Lean but delicious, And who are Eden Hall? Well, David and Mardi Hall have been growing grapes at Avon Brae in the high country of the Eden Valley for almost two decades and sell most of their fruit to some of the biggest names in the game. Their limited-release wines are smartly packaged and colour coded. Their white wines are made by Christa Deans (of Rolf Binder) and the reds by Kym Teusner. Oh, and they badly need to update their website. $22. www.edenhall.com.au.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
To all those who question the appeal of Hunter Valley shiraz, I present Exhibit One; a superbly composed wine from Iain Riggs and his talented team at Brokenwood. In truth. though, this wine is not about the winemaking, it is about the vineyard, a patch of dirt that has proved itself over decades. Made from 45-year-old vines and coming from a stellar Hunter vintage, this is sharper than a banker's suit, smoother than a salesman's patter. Lifted and brambly, it offers a delightful melange of savoury notes, dark fruit, well-integrated oak and terrific tannin structure. Graveyard traditionally cellars for a couple of decades or more but this looks very smart on release. 95/100 for this one. $200. www.brokenwood.com.au.