Wednesday, December 22, 2010
To paraphrase the old Kenny Rogers song: "You've got to know when to hold 'em; know when to drink 'em." And that's where you are likely to run into trouble with this wine. The top-of-the-range Taylors riesling is a delightful drink in its youth with attractive floral aromas and pristine fruit with citrus nuances. The trouble is, though, that this is also a wine that cellars superbly. A recent tasting of the still youthful but brilliantly maturing 2007 vintage confirmed its potential over the next decade. The best solution: Buy at least two bottles. Enjoy one and put one away. $40.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Hamish and Kate Laurie at Deviation Road have been making some very fine wines from the Adelaide Hills for a couple of years now - I have several enthusiastic tasting notes that have not made it into print. This new release blew me away, however. It's definitely one of Australia's best pinots gris while not being without the freshness and crispness of the grigio style. The fruit was picked at two different levels of ripeness and partial barrel fermentation has added complexity, although the wine is definitely fruit driven. Think crisp, waxy pears and beguiling textures. $25.
If you are looking for a darn good drink that won't break the bank over the holiday period you won't go far wrong with this fresh and appealing blend of Adelaide Hills savagnin, arneis and pinot gris. Along with citrus and apple blossom aromas, there's plenty of character on the palate (with lemon zest and lanolin to the fore), the wine is nicely balanced, food-friendly and relatively low in alcohol at 12%. It is a great summer quaffer, a good match for barbecued seafood, and the price is defintely right. www.patritti.com.au. $12.50.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Grenache is just so untrendy right now as a stand-alone varietal which is both bad news and good news. The bad news is it can be hard to track down good grenaches, the good news is that when you do find one the price is likely to be right - and this is a really impressive wine for the price. Made by Corey Ryan and Kym Teusner, it is a rich, opulent red made from 60+ years old vines that was created using minimalist winemaking techniques. This wine really is all about the fruit. It's a juicy, spicy number, vibrant and in your face, but never over the top. A great choice for a summer barbecue with the cricket on the radio. $18.
Monday, December 6, 2010
The recent 'Rose Revolution' tastings held across Australia were designed to promote awareness of the new style of savoury, textural, dry rosés, which are a million miles away from the old fairy floss styles and far food friendlier. Steve Webber and Leanne de Bortoli were prime movers behind the movement and, as luck would have it, one of their salmon/rust pink rosés came out in front of 24 other new wave rosés I tasted with a group of wine lovers that evening. Made from Yarra Valley pinot noir with just a hint of pinot gris added, this is a sensationally good wine for the price. Aromatic, savoury, spicy, pale and bone dry it was a terrific companion for Lebanese nibbles and dips.$18.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Glenn James-Pritchard spent 15 years as a winemaker with Southcorp/Foster's/Treasury Wine Estates before leaving to focus on his own wine label, Ducks in a Row, which allows him to specialise in lesser-known varieties like fiano, vermentino and this muscular and intense mataro (also known as mourvedre). Made from McLaren Vale fruit from 60-year-old vines, this is quite an imposing wine; uncompromisingly dark and inky with rich black/blue berry and currant fruit flavours and a tannin structure that suggests it will cellar for a minimum of decade, perhaps much longer. Love the colourful Mirka Mora label, too. www.ducksinarow.com.au. $60.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Several small winemakers have grouped together to retail small batches of boutique wines that are sold - like cleanskins - without details of the producer appearing on the label. That means buyers get great value for money (the wines are all a tenner each) but need to buy in bulk. Among the stars in the first release of Hidden Talent wines are this juicy/savoury/peppery medium-bodied shiraz from Heathcote in Victoria and a 2009 Clare Valley Riesling Edition #1. Both are terrific wines for the price. Available online only at www.hiddentalentwines.com. $10.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Move over Clare Valley; step aside Eden Valley. Mount Barker in West Australia's south west is fast emerging as a serious producer of high quality rieslings. An oustanding single vineyard wine from the edge of the Prongorup Ranges, this has gloriously welcoming floral aromas and searingly intense lemon and lime flavours on a palate that is both beautifully fresh and perfectly balanced. This is a wine for sipping and savouring; an elegant supermodel. $33.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
If you are looking at Australian cabernet sauvignon for under $15 you are generally looking at quaffing wines that while not causing any offence are equally likely not to create any excitement. Here's an exception to that rule; a very well-made blend of fruit from the Limestone Coast and Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia that while offering considerable grunt on the palate (fruit cake, dark chocolate, spearmint) also has quite a bit of elegance with oak nicely measured and impressive length and structure. You could do a lot worse, but probably won't do much better for $14.
Monday, November 1, 2010
I've known Stuart "Donny" Gregor since he was a copy boy at the Daily Telegraph a quarter of a decade ago (he made a darn fine coffee). Since then he's morphed into a wine writer of repute and now owns one of Australia's leading wine PR agencies. He, along with Cameron Mackenzie and Kate Goodman, are also the trio behind the Donny Goodmac label (a combination of their names). While I could be accused of bias, I honestly found this a terrific wine, superior to the shiraz and an excellent example of cool-climate Yarra cabernet with elegance, restraint (not seomthing usually associated with Mr Gregor) and immense potential. You'll find blackberry, cedar and mint characters but the wine has knitted together so seamlessly what you really get is a great drink. www.donnygoodmac.com.au. $32.
Friday, October 22, 2010
An unusual blend of sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc from Devil's Lair chief winemaker Oliver Crawford, who is doing some very good things in Margaret River. The tropical fruit characters of the sauvignon prove a good foil for the acidity and green apple flavours of the chenin blanc. While intended as a "drink young" style it also has enough backbone to cellar for a year or two as it is still quite taut and tart. Enjoy this well chilled with grilled sardines or roast pork and crackling $25.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
The 2007 edition of this classy Margaret River chardonnay went on a medal rampage and quickly sold out. Hence the 2008 is in the marketplace a little earlier than usual - and in reduced quantities following a difficult vintage that saw yields dramatically down. It's quite a big, bold wine in a chardonnay spectrum that has swung dramatically towards tight, minerally styles but it has more than enough panache to hold its own against more elegant rivals with its assertive stone-fruit characters, nutty and toasty nuances and a tight acid finish. A wine of structure and complexity that's a bit of a throwback but no less worthy for that. $35.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Who would have expected to find a vineyard in the Blue Mountains? And who would have considered the possibility it would produce an outstanding riesling? Not me, that's for sure. On a recent visit I stumbled across DryRidge Estate, which is tucked away off the scenic Six Foot Track in the delightful Megalong Valley and has an emininetly suitable micro-climate. Grower Bob Tyrrell (no relation to the Hunter Tyrrells) has his wine made by talented Canowindra-based Frenchman Chris Derrez. It ticks all the dry riesling boxes with citrus aromas, zingy lemon and lime on the palate and plenty of minerality and zesty acid. The perfect wine for an options game, or for enjoying with grilled sardines and other seafood dishes. www.dryridge.com.au. $22.50.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
It is no wonder sangiovese is growing in popularity in Australia. Bright fruit and savoury notes make the Tuscan grape extremely food-friendly. This is made from McLaren Vale fruit from a difficult hot year, but weighs in at just 13.7% alcohol. It's a blend of 90% sangiovese with 10% merlot added for softness and mouthfeel. You'll find succulent dark berry characters, hints of olives and spice and some down and dirty earthiness (a good thing). It's medium-bodied with great tannin structure and would be terrific paired with rich pasta dishes, or a real Italian pizza. Available online at www.innocentbystander.com.au/order_gsib.php $20.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Mike Press is a winemaker who has been around the block a couple of times and now makes wines under his own label that represent phenomenal value for money at $150 for a case. This is a lovely fresh wine made from Adelaide Hills fruit with dark berry flavours and a good dollop of spicy oak. There are some nice textures and it’s well balanced – ridiculously good for the price really. The only problem is it might be hard to track down, but you can order it from www.mikepresswines.com.au. Get together with a couple of friends, order a dozen and plan a party. $12.50.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Canberra region has started to establish a reputation for fine, long-lived rieslings – and the pioneer of the movement was Ken Helm, who has long been a believer in the grape’s immense potential in the district and has been making fine wines from riesling for 34 years. Low in alcohol at just 11.5%, this is a stunning wine with brilliant structure. It has a floral bouquet, lifted citrusy palate and beautifully balanced clean acid finish. $28.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Victorian Supreme Court judge Kevin Bell and has lawyer partner Tricia Byrnes only make three wines at their Balnarring winery on the Mornington Peninsula – all of them pinot noirs of outstanding quality and reflections of their terroir. This is simply stunning; dark and earthy, complex and plush. Almost Burgundian, it’s one of those wines that seems to evaporate in the glass. But you'd better be quick. Availability is as limited as the distribution. www.hurleyvineyard.com.au $60.
Madfish may be the second label of Howard Park, but there is absolutely nothing second-rate about wines like this stonkingly good Margaret River cabernet. With blackcurrant, brambly berry and dried herb characters, and a good dash of Fench oak maturation, this come together beautifully. It is fleshy, supple and medium bodied and has that indefinable quality that means one glass is simply not enough. A really lovely wine for around $30.
Rollo Crittenden of Crittenden Estate, named Young Gun winemaker for 2010, crafts a number of excellent wines in the Spanish style. This is a lovely blend of tempranillo, mataro and grenache that is bright and spicy with sweet, plush fruit on the palate and hints of earthiness. This has drinkability with a capital D, is versatile with food and great value for money. $30.
There are some hugely exciting chardonnays coming out of Margaret River right now. Recent releases from Cullen, Brookland Valley, Rosabrook and Bunkers are among those to impress but what this has on its side is the fact it's simply great value for money. Clockwork is a new venture for Yukich family, who also operate Oakover Wines in the Swan Valley. This is soft and delightfully easy to drink with melon, peach and citrus flavours, the merest hint of oak and nice refreshing acidity. It's low in alcohol at 12.5% and a darn good quaffer for $20.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I'm not a huge fan of Australian merlots generally (we got some dud clones early on) but I really enjoyed this one from winemaker Wayne Stehbens, who has the midas touch with this fickle grape. Unlike many of its siblings this has plenty of character with bold black and red berry flavours in the front row, balanced oak in the second row and soft tannin structure. I really enjoyed the different layers of flavour in the mouth and the assertiveness from a variety that's so often soft and wimpy. Top marks for food friendliness, too. $40.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
The 2007 Derwent Estate Chardonnay was awarded the trophy for best Chardonnay at the 2010 Tasmanian Wine Show - but I'm convinced the 2008 is least as good. The grapes are of proven quality - in the past they've been used in Penfolds' flagship Yattarna. This is a searingly good wine which was brilliant with a spicy roast chicken dish. It has a beguiling combination of assertiveness and delicacy on the palate with citrus and pear notes, French oak used as a mere sideshow, just 13% alcohol, bright acid and real purity. Yet another stunning Tassie chardonnay. www.derwentestate.com.au. $33.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Campbell Mattinson is one of Australia's best young wine writers and I count him as a friend - but this early foray into wine production wouldn't get a mention from me if he hadn't produced a stellar drop. Made from fruit grown in the Hilltops region - an affordable source of top-notch red grapes - this is a shiraz cabernet blend with dark berry characters and hints of spice. It's medium-bodied, dreadfully easy to drink (what my wife calls a wine with an evaporation problem) and would partner brilliantly with rich winter stews. Take a look at one of the best back labels you'd hope to find and snap up a case. This is ludicrously good value for $15. www.jackmattinsons.com.au.
Monday, July 26, 2010
What an exceptional wine this is for the price. Winemakers Clive Otto and Kate Morgan have used all the tricks in the book; barrel fermentation, wild yeast, time on lees and battonage, but the high quality fruit also shines through. This is a complex but elegant wine - always a difficult trick to pull off. It's beautifully structured and well balanced, with flinty minerality, citrus elements and nuttiness all coming together in a most appealing package. A class act, quite Burgundian in style, and a fabulous food wine. $30.
Friday, July 16, 2010
The team behind Langhorne Creek winery Zonte's Footstep are not afraid to push the boundaries and they've come up with a winner here; one of Australia's most appealing viogniers for well under 20 bucks. Along with the customary apricot characters of viognier you'll also discover flavours of citrus peel, juicy pear and nectarine and Asian spice, some crisp acidity and plenty of oomph. This wine is anything but shy but it does offer that great intangible; drinkability. Pair it with anything from gnocchi to fish and chips. $18.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Robin Day was once chief winemaker for Orlando. Today he's downsized to a small vineyard at Mount Crawford, on the cool fringe of the Barossa, making "seriously good cool-climate wines" in boutique quantities. Day is experimenting with varieties like lagrein, saperavi and garganega, a white Italian grape that is used in the classic Italian wines from Soave. This is a distinctively dry white with plenty of palate intensity on the melon/white pear/straw side of the flavour spectrum. It's downright delicious. Don't expect any help from the back label, however. Day writes: "Years of writing descriptions for back labels have left me convinced that this energy is more gainfully employed in growing grapes and making wine." $20.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
John Harris, formerly of Domaine Chandon and now the winemaker for Mount Avoca in the Pyrenees region of Victoria, also makes tiny parcels of wine under the Mitchell Harris label. There are only 100 cases of this beautifully textured wine, so you'll need to be quick off the mark if you wish to snap any up. Low in alcohol at 12%, this is a very modern Australian style of savvy blanc, made using wild yeast fermentation and oak maturation, it has restrained citrus and tropical fruit flavours but also excellent backbone and length. A wine for savouring. $19.95. www.mitchellharris.com.au
Monday, June 28, 2010
St Henri is often an unsung hero when it comes to Penfolds' range of premium reds but there's no chance of the 2006 being overlooked - it's an absolute ripper. It's a gloriously out-there wine in which pure fruit flavours are the focus, with oak influence negligible. It has bright, concentrated fruit flavours on the blueberry side of the spectrum, some light spice elements, lovely length on the palate and plenty of weight, while being beautifully balanced. It's drinking superbly right now (our bottled seemed to miraculously evaporate) but this is a proven cellaring prospect. Australian shiraz doesn't get much better. $90.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The Italian grape vermentino is creating quite a buzz in Australia with the late-ripening variety, which hails from Liguria, Sardinia and Corsica, producing fragrant, crisp and dry whites which are perfect for enjoying in their first bloom of youth. De Bortoli Hunter Valley and Trentham Estate have also enjoyed success with the grape and this is a really lovely wine made from fruit grown at Willunga in southern McLaren Vale that's ideal for enjoying chilled. Its minerality, acidity and dryness make it an attractive partner for seafood and spicy dishes. $24.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Vanya Cullen is an extraordinarily talented winemaker and her top-of-the-range red is always eagerly awaited. This is biodynamic and beautiful; elegant and complex but not at all green and stalky. It’s a million miles away from most Australian reds in style with just 12.5% alcohol, but I like it a lot. If I’d been told it was from a left bank Bordeaux producer from a goodish year I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. If you enjoy big Barossa reds this cabernet merlot won’t thrill you, but if you favour reds that are stylish, medium-bodied and intriguing then you’ll be captivated. And it will almost certainly cellar well for a decade or two. Treat yourself. $105.
Monday, June 7, 2010
A lot of Australian viogniers are, how shall I put this gently, overtly apricoty. They can resemble canned apricot juice - and not in a good way. Not so this excellent viognier from the Adelaide Hills, which can be considerable cooler than the grape's Rhone home. The nose is white peach and spice, the palate pleasantly rounded thanks to barrel fermentation and with elegant peach and pear flavours with hints of Asian spices and nuttiness. It's a bit like a carnvial in your mouth. There's no doubt this is one of the most accomplished, and interesting, Aussie viogniers I've tried. $25.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Bunkers is a new name to me but both the chardonnay and The Box tempranillo from this Margaret River winery offer excellent value for money - and are made by the reliable Brian Fletcher. Named after one of the region's famous surf breaks, the wine is fruit-driven with melon and fig aromas and rich stone-fruit flavours on the dry palate. There's oak in evidence, but it is largely in the background with the brightness and freshness of the fruit definitely dominant. Not too complex, not too rounded, this is a really lovely drink that's seriously good at its price point. $18.
Monday, May 24, 2010
I'm a huge fan of Tasmanian pinots noir - and the first 09s from the Tamar Valley, which are just starting to creep into the marketplace, seem to tick all the right boxes. For a start, this is genuinely varietal when so many of its mainland counterparts are generic dry reds. That said, it's quite a big wine, richly textured with dark red berry flavours alongside Asian spices, soft tannins, French oak in balance and delightful savoury characters. It's young and assertive and very appealing. $34.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
My first reaction when I tried this wine was "it tastes expensive". I was wrong about that, as it happens, but all the more impressed. This is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, mataro and shiraz made for Whistler Wines by the very talented Troy Kalleske. It's medium bodied with characteristic Barossa aromas of dark berries and mint. Luscious sweet fruit, think black plums, dominates the palate which has intensity and soft tannins. A versatile food wine and extremely good value for around $18.
Monday, May 10, 2010
White wines do not come any crisper, fresher and more enticing than this - which was released before many other wineries had even completed their 2010 harvest. Put aside prejudices again sauvignon blanc for a moment and judge this wine on its merits. Made from Adelaide Hills fruit (arguably Australia's best region for sauvignon blanc) it has vibrant citrus and tropical fruit characters and delightfully zingy acidity. It's a million miles away in style from its herbaceous Kiwi counterparts. I can't remember the last time I guzzled an entire bottle of sauvignon, but this one just disappeared. Team it with grilled sardines or pan-fried flathead fillets. $22.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Tim Kirk is much better known for his reds than his rieslings - and this has been out in the marketplace for several months, but it is so enticing that I feel the need to wax lyrical before it has completely sold out. This has floral/herbal aromas with delightful freshness and purity on the palate, which is zingy and zesty with citrus and stone fruit flavours to the fore. Brilliant. $26.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
From the winemaking team at Chapman Grove in Margaret River comes this stunningly good chardonnay. A single vinyard wine fermented in French oak barrels, this is a chardy with all the bells and whistles. It is beautifully developed and ready to be enjoyed thanks to layer upon layer of flavours. There's great white stone-fruit characters with hints of nuts and toast adding complexity. A beautiful wine made in the Burgundian style - it would be sensational with a roast pork loin. $50.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Kathleen Quealy is an exceptionally talented winemaker who crafts fine wines for several labels on the Mornington Peninsula. This is a pinot for those who like their wines on the bolder side of the spectrum. It's from a warm year, which is reflected in the intense dark cassis fruit flavours, but it also has lovely balance, with hinuts of earthiness and oak in the background but playing a key role. My wife fell in love with this instantly - I took time to come around but was eventually captivated as well. $35.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
This was one of my favourite wines from a recent trip to Canowindra and Orange in the Central West of NSW - and it's all the more meritorious because it follows in the footsteps of the much-awarded 2007 shiraz, which is all but sold out. Winemakers Chris Derrez and Tom Ward have got it right again with a wine that has excellent complexity but is also very easy to drink. Dark berries and spice characters are prominent and this has already won a gold medal at the Royal Sydney Wine Show. Excellent value for $20.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
The Paxton vineyards in McLaren Vale are farmed using biodynamic principles and the wines certainly shimmer with bright fruit. This is made from old vines and is a lovely shiny wine with appealing spicy dark berry characters, minimal oak and a delightfully silkly palate. Despite being the product of a warm year, the alcohol is relatively restrained at 14% thanks to the fruit having been picked early. Available from Dan Murphy's stores and a very good buy for $20.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
There are many good judges who believe Julian Castagna’s shiraz rosé from Beechworth in Victoria is the best in Australia. I wouldn't argue. It has an attractive fresh nose with plenty of character and texture on the palate. You’ll discover a kaleidoscope of flavours from tangy citrus and stone fruits through to savoury dark cherries. A serious rosé this one. Enjoy with a mezze plate. $38.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I'm a sucker for dry Clare rieslings - and there were plenty of them from the excellent 2009 vintage. This is fresh and fruit-driven; more Germanic in style than most Clare rieslings with a lovely floral nose. That said, there is still plenty of zingy acidity and lashings of green apple and citrus on the palate, but less minerality than you might expect. This would be brilliant with Thai or Vietnamese cuisine. $20.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Balance is the key to this superb Coonawarra cabernet, which is glorious, even in its youth. You'll find lashings of dark berry fruit here with French oak aiding and abetting but not intruding. There are hints of mint and spice but also plenty of richness and mouthfeel - a consequence of the warm vintage. While this will develop beautifully for a decade or more, it is already elegant and eminently drinkable. I'd pair it with a rack of lamb. $30.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Bin 389 is one of Australia's vinous treasures. Created by Max Schubert, who also made the early Granges, it is sometimes decribed as "baby Grange" because components of the wine are matured in barrels that held the previous vintage of Australia's most famous red. This is a stunning 389, tightly-focussed with bright dark fruits, immaculately integrated oak and ripe tannins. A wine of complexity and structure that will certainly repay cellaring - although it would be superb right now with a roasted lamb, goat or venison. $65.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
What a fun wine this Western Australian rosé is; from the zingy fruit on the palate – which finishes quite dry – to the pop art label. There are fresh strawberries and cream flavours, hints of spice, and cleansing acid. Fresh and lively, this is a terrific little wine for picnics or parties. $17.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Adam Foster is the sommelier at the Lake House in Daylesford, one of regional Australia's most outstanding restaurants. He's also a winemaker of considerable ability, as is underlined by this impressive shiraz made from fruit grown at Heathcote in central Victoria. It's a powerful and expressive wine with toasty oak prominent but also shows some restraint - not an easy trick to pull off. Fabulous drinking even in its youth. $50.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Not Orange County - Oakey Creek. Andrew Thomas is the master of Hunter semillon, both with wines designed for drinking young - like this one - and those made for ageing. This has just 12.3% alcohol, fresh, zingy citrus flavours, searing minerality and refreshing acid. Chill this, pair it with some oysters or prawns and you won't go far wrong. $23.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
There are few wines better suited to the Australian lifestyle than the Spanish varietal tempranillo. This fruit-driven number from the King Valley in Victoria is soft, smooth and terrifically easy to drink. It can even be chilled a little on hot summer days. It's a bright, cheerful wine with oak playing an almost subliminal role and it would be great with a barbecue, or with pasta and pizza dishes. A wine for enjoying rather than analysing. Terrific value at $18.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Balance is the key to this beautifully-made wine - one that demonstrates precisely why chardonnay is on the way back. Barrel-fermented and matured in 40% new oak, it has all the bells and whistles but it is the quality fruit that shines through with pear and grapefruit flavours to the fore. A wine of purity and finesse that has much in common with some of the great white wines of Burgundy. $42.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Barossa Valley producers Elderton certainly hit a rich vein of form with their 2006 reds; the estate shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot all earned high marks from me. This is the Ashmead family's reserve cabernet from the same vintage. It spent almost two years in French oak and was then given further time to mature in bottle. Blackcurrant and plum favours are most obvious on the palate of a stunning red that's notable for its plushness and richness. One for the cellar. $90.