Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cloudy Bay 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

What future for Marlborough sauvignon blanc? Is it losing its caché? Does it need to change its style, or is it in danger of discounting itself out of the premium market? In the case of brand leader Cloudy Bay, the wine that began the global savalanche almost 30 years ago, the answers are "no", "no" and "no". Ignore sommeliers who turn up their noses at the variety. Good wine is good wine regardless of fashion. There is a reason why the world loved Kiwi savvy blanc; it was bright, different, vivacious and fun. This remains a terrific wine - one that I paired the other day with some turkey. Winner. Give this another whirl, you may just be surprised at how much you enjoy it. $36. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Xanadu 2015 Chardonnay

One of the finest chardonnays I have tasted this year - and very reasonably priced given several excellent vintages in a row. Everything here is beautifully balanced, perfectly poised. Premium Margaret River fruit has been given whole-bunch treatment, wild ferment and lees stirring in quality French oak by consistent winemaker Glenn Goodall, but no malo, so it maintains shiny acid along with stone fruit allied to lively citrus notes. It is an impressively structured wine, elegant and fine with just the merest nutty hints. I'm happy to score this 95/100. $37.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Kooyong 2014 Pinot Noir

World-class pinot noir for under $50? Snap it up. Much better than most entry-level village Burgundies and Central Otago stars and certainly more affordable. This is a stunning wine that ticks all the pinot boxes with intense red berry fruit, forest floor earthiness, gamey/mushroom notes and a sinewy tannin structure. I am a bit late getting to this one and you may need to search around but I note it is still for sale on the Kooyong website so I'd get on board asap. I was going to give this 93/100 on tasting but upped that to 94 after drinking. Excellent. $48. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Even Keel 2016 Pinot Gris

Winemaker Sam Coverdale is producing some excellent Mornington Peninsula wines under both the Polperro and Even Keel labels. While this is labelled as gris, rather than grigio, I found the 2015 Polperro release much more in the gris spectrum than this younger wine, which has an appealing vibrancy and freshness with a crisp acid finish in the Italian grigio style. Wild yeast ferment, malo and barrel ageing add complexity but the bright natural acid and ripe pear and zingy citrus zest notes make this extremely refreshing. Well worth 93/100. $29.   

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Bremerton 2014 Lagrein

We sample an awful lof wines each week, but this one struck a chord with its drinkability; my wife opted to sip on this three nights in succession. While a lot of wine drinkers might not be familiar with the Italian wine variety lagrein it is growing in popularity in Australia and this Langhorne Creek version has plummy, chocolate and earthy notes along with exemplary balance. It is extremely food friendly. Lagrein is a grape variety native to the South Tyrol in northern Italy and is a descendant of teroldego, syrah and pinot noir, among other varieties. It dates back to the 17th century. This new release is quite powerful but with the structure to match. Well worth seeking out, but you might need to contact the Bremerton cellar door. $24.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mount Horrocks 2016 Watervale Riesling

The sample bottle, from which I was just pouring occasional sips, is mysteriously empty. "How the hell did that happen?" I ask myself. Only one answer; it was so darn delicious that I drank the entire bottle without noticing. I don't advise anyone to follow my lead, but I can assure you this rarely happens at Chez Dobbin. A couple of glasses of most wines are more than enough. It is a tribute to the winemaking skills of Stephanie Toole that it happened. This is an estate-grown, single-vineyard riesling from riesling heartland in Watervale, Clare Valley. Certified organic, it is a classic Clare riesling, aromatic with vibrant lemon and grapefruit pithiness, linear, slatey and with brilliant acid. It is also delicate and ethereal. No wonder it evaporated. Grab a case for Christmas drinking pleasure. I'll give it 96 points. $35.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

David Hook 2015 Shiraz

Looking for a terrific midweek wine, or something inexpensive to accompany the weekend barbecue? This is one well worth looking out for. Soft and full of flavour, it is widely available for under $20. For the 2015 vintage, winemaker Hook has blended fruit from his own Pothana vineyard in the Hunter Valley with grapes from the Central Ranges (outside Mudgee). He's onto a winner with a medium-bodied, fruit-driven red that has only a smidgen of oak character. Think sweet berries and hints of Asian spice. Drink now and pair with gourmet sausages or hamburgers. A bargain for $18.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Howard Park 2015 Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon

Take arguably Australia's best region for cabernet sauvignon, throw in one of the best winemakers in the west in Janice McDonald, and add the mighty resources of the Howard Park label and you have one of the best sub-$30 cabernets in the land. Made from fruit grown in the warmer northern reaches of Margaret River, this has traditional cabernet characteristics of dark berry and intense currant flavours, some mild herbal hints and has impressive chewy tannin structure after 18 months maturing in quality French oak. All in all, rather scrumptious and one for lovers of classic styles. I'd pair this with a lamb en croute, or maybe some mature English cheddar. A winner at $28.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mount Avoca 2015 Limited-Release Sangiovese

What a pleasant surprise this wine was. First, I had no idea that Mount Avoca had any sangiovese planted in its vineyards in the Victorian Pyrenees, and I certainly had no idea it would produce a wine as impressive as this. This is a very good take on the classic red grape of Tuscany, impressively balanced with medium-bodied savoury fruit and soft tannin structure. The fruit is impressive and the oak treatment, using older barrels only, adds structure without being intrusive. This is extremely food friendly and would pair with a chicken casserole or with rich tomato-based dishes. Just lovely. $45.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Freeman 2016 Rondo Rondinella Rosé

Brian Freeman grows a wide number of grape varieties on his property outside Young, in the New South Wales Hilltops region, but his passion is Italian grapes, particularly rondinella (a northern Italian grape used in the wines of Valpolicella), which he blends with corvina in a red table wine he calls Secco, as well as for this wine, one of Australia's best savoury rosés. Freeman describes this as "salmon-hued, spicy and refreshing". It is certainly deliciously drinkable in the style of the Veneto, and extremely food friendly. A very good choice for an early-evening tipple on the back porch, or for serving, lightly chilled, with an antipasti plate. $20.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Bremerton 2016 Betty&Lu Sauvignon Blanc

There is a lot of disdain for sauvignon blanc among wine industry insiders, but it is easy to see why it is such an appealing variety for members of the public. This is a very good example of fresh, zingy and affordable savvy blanc - made by the Willson sisters, Rebecca and Lucy (aka Betty and Lu) at Langhorne Creek in South Australia. If you enjoy wines with bright, tropical fruit salad freshness, lively acidity and plenty of length, then this is an ideal summer quaffer for you. Pure and refreshing, this can be partnered with everything from a chicken sandwich to a seafood platter. Great value, too. $17. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Angove 2015 Long Row Shiraz

You don't get much for a tenner nowadays. Maybe a sandwich and a pack of crisps at the local, or perhaps a glass of something pretty average at the bar. How the Angove family manage to put out a bottle of this drinkability at a bargain basement price is something of a mystery, but also something that wine drinkers on a tight budget should celebrate. This the perfect midweek drink; a clean, bright and fresh fruit-driven red from the Riverland with plenty of flavour. There's red and black fruit, hints of pepper and minimal oak influence. It would be terrific with a grilled sausage sandwich, a cheeseburger and chips, or a slice of pizza. At $20 you'd say it doesn't stand out from the crowd. But at $10 it's a ripper.   

Friday, October 7, 2016

Shottesbrooke 2014 Merlot

There are only a handful of Australian merlots that I consider to be of exemplary quality - and this new release from Hamish Maguire at Shottesbrooke in McLaren Vale is firmly in that top echelon. This is flavoursome and medium-bodied with customary sweet/soft merlot fruit but alongside some texture, fine tannins and black cherry/spice interest. Estate-grown grapes provide a freshness and vibrancy on the plush palate that makes this immediately appealing - while its sub-$20 price tag marks it as a wine that over-delivers when it comes to value. You can find it at Dan Murphy's stores. $20.   

Sunday, October 2, 2016

De Bortoli 2016 Bella Riva Pinot Grigio

Summer is on the way, and many drinkers will be searching for an affordable white wine for warm weather enjoyment and serious thirst quenching. This vivacious King Valley wine from the talented De Bortoli Yarra Valley team ticks a whole lot of boxes. It is made in the Italian grigio style, crisp and fresh and ready to enjoy, lively, aromatic and, to steal a line from the back label, "perky". Think ripe pear fruit flavours, texture and some refreshing acidity. Great with seafoods or seasonal salads, and seriously good value. $16.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Samuel's Gorge 2015 Graciano

I'd been hearing great things about the wines being made by Justin McNamara at Samuel's Gorge in McLaren Vale and lo and behold a box of samples arrived on my doorstep completely unsolicited - and without tasting notes. All four wines were excellent (I now understand why there is such a buzz about Samuel's ) but for me, this juicy, savoury graciano just edged out more familiar varieties in shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. I love the mosaic label, which, just like the wine shows a lot of attention to detail. Graciano is a Spanish red wine grape that is grown primarily in Rioja and it thrives in warm climates. I loved the combination of sweet fruit and earthiness that this wine displays. $40.    

Tahbilk 2016 Marsanne

Tahbilk are the undisputed heavyweight champions of marsanne production in Australia, producing cellar-worthy examples vintage after vintage. What I liked most about this wine, however, was not how well it will age, but how brilliantly floral and appealing it is in its youth. Marsanne is grape from the Northern Rhone in France that is often blended, but here it shines as a stand-alone varietal. The grape was first planted in Victoria in the 1860s and Tahbilk has vines which date back to 1927 and are some of the oldest in the world. This is vibrant, citrusy, herbal and minerally and so drinkable right now that I would defy convention and drink it all this summer. $19.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Claymore 2015 Superstition Reserve Riesling

Claymore might not be one of the big names of the Clare Valley, but it is a rapidly-growing business that regularly over-delivers. This is the first reserve riesling that Claymore has produced and the clever touch of consultant winemaker Kerri Thompson is evident. It is a very attractive wine that shimmers in its youth. Think aromatics of fresh-cut flowers and citrus, fresh lemon, lime and green apple notes with flinty minerality and driving acid. It is a wine of great length, delicious right now but also a good cellaring prospect. A classic Watervale wine with delicacy but a strong core; imagine a vinous ballerina. A wine of this purity would pair well with a Vietnamese salad, or fresh seafood. $28.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Yalumba 2013 The Scribbler

A classic Australian red blend of 59% cabernet sauvignon and 41% shiraz that offers sophisticated David Jones drinking at a K-Mart price. Yalumba wines are generally outstanding value and this is no exception, with big and bold Barossa intensity allied to excellent balance. There's fruit power, sure, some quality oak, absolutely, hints of mocha and spice, as expected, but the whole package comes together brilliantly resulting in a wine that is at once powerful but controlled. You don't often find that in the 20 buck price range. Affordable quality. $22. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Domaine Roche-Audran 2014 Cotes du Rhone

What a bargain this is: seriously good certified biodynamic Cotes du Rhone from a respected producer for under $30 a bottle. Made from a blend of grenache, carignan and syrah grown at Buisson, near Vaison la Romaine, by Vincent Rochette, this is wild-fermented and then spends six months in concrete tanks before bottling. The combination of red fruits, brambly characters and savoury notes makes it extremely food friendly. Take the beautiful balance, length and sheer drinkability and you have a wine of style and poise. $28. Imported by DiscoverVin.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Oxford Landing Estates 2016 Chardonnay

Wine writers are often obsessed by what is new and exciting. We are looking for the next big thing; an unusual grape variety, undiscovered region or a winemaker doing something different. Consumers, however, are usually driven by price and value concerns, and are happy with a brand they have tried before and enjoyed. Oxford Landing's 2016 white wines fit the bill to a tee; they are bright, fresh, reliable and great value. I enjoyed both the sauvignon blanc and this stone-fruit flavoured, lightly-oaked chardy. Think wild yeast ferments, malolactic fermentation to add creaminess and winery practices that mean it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Great drinking for under a tenner. $9.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sandalford 2015 Estate Reserve Chardonnay

This certainly has a wow! factor. It is a classic modern Australian chardonnay, beautifully balanced, that can sometimes be found around the traps for under $25 - remarkable value. It is unmistakably youthful chardonnay, but without all the arms and legs often found in such young wines. It is made from 100 % estate-grown, old-vine Margaret River fruit. Free-run juice was given full barrel fermentation in a mix of new and one-year-old Burgundian barriques and was left on its lees for eight months. The end result is a wine that is complex and nutty but with classy stone fruity characters and brisk citrusy acid on the finish leading the way. Delicious. $30.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Tar & Roses 2015 Heathcote Sangiovese

The Tuscan grape sangiovese has moved from curiosity to mainstream over the past decade and is much loved by Australian drinkers keen for a savoury note to their red wines. This has earthy and herbal hints, dark fruit flavours and a stern tannin structure, opening up when given some air. The sweet black cherry fruit is aided and abetted by smoky oak that does not intrude. Very food friendly, this would work well in partnership with char-grilled lamb cutlets, or perhaps a veal schnitzel. Good work from veteran former Mitchelton winemaker Don Lewis and winemaking colleague Narelle King. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

O'Leary Walker 2016 Polish Hill River Riesling

David O'Leary and Nick Walker are masters of consistency when it comes to producing outstanding Clare Valley rieslings at exceptionally reasonable prices - and the 2016 vintage is no different. The Polish Hill wine just edged its Watervale sibling this time around; it has wonderful purity and perhaps a tad more cool-climate elegance. You'll find classic floral and citrus notes, intense minerality and crisp, but not intrusive, acid. Pair this with pan-fried flathead. Ready to go. Right this minute. $25.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Oliver's Taranga 2016 Vermentino

The 2016 vintage was remarkable at Oliver's Taranga in McLaren Vale because it was the year Rosemary the sheep had triplets. It was also the year that sixth-generation vigneron Corinna Wright absolutely nailed all three of her wines made from "new" varieties; fiano, vermentino and a rosé made from the Spanish grape mencia. It has generally be thought that fiano is superior to vermentino on this terroir, but 2016 was the vintage vermentino shone. This is fresh, vibrant and crisp with citrus and faint Asian herb notes. Worth putting away until the warmer months when it will star alongside King George whiting or any seafood or poultry dishes with a hint of spice. Dangerously drinkable. $25.   

Friday, July 22, 2016

d'Arenberg 2015 The Noble Prankster

Chester Osborn, the Prankster, and his winemaking team at d'Arenberg in McLaren Vale make no fewer than four dessert wines; all subtly different and great value for $20. And, as is always the case, Osborn is not afraid to ignore the usual winemaking parameters  Chardonnay, for instance, is rarely used to make dessert wines but here it has been blended with both semillon and viognier to produce a classic "sticky" with the ripe citrus nose of botrytis and a palate of florals, marmalade and sweet ginger. A delicious dessert in a glass on its own, this would also pair with anything from a lemon tart to tart blue cheese. $20.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

McGuigan 2014 The Shortlist GSM

A deft hand has created this very attractive blend of Barossa grenache, shiraz and mourvedre. It has, as you'd expect; generous, even bold, fruit, with a good splash of spice and well-integrated new and one-year-old French oak. There's some smart packaging here and a very smart wine, too; rich and mouth-filling but nicely controlled. I get the feeling that McGuigan wines of this calibre are more appreciated overseas than in Australia - which is a pity. This is well worth trying. $28.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Oakdene 2015 Ly Ly Pinot Gris

Over the past couple of years, the wines from Oakdene on the Bellarine Peninsula outside Geelong have been very much on my radar for their consistency of quality. This pinot gris, 100% barrel fermented and then matured for eight months in mainly older French barriques, is a case in point. It is offers a lot of pleasure for not a lot of money, is a very good take on the gris style and is extremely food friendly. It is a single vineyard wine with plenty of palate interest without obscuring the stone fruit/tropical characters. Elegant, lively and dry but essentially unchallenging, this would be a lovely drink on the back porch, served lightly chilled with hors d'oeuvres. $28.    

Friday, July 1, 2016

Vickery 2016 Eden Valley Riesling

There is no grape variety that offers better value for money in Australia than riesling; which particularly shines in the Clare and Eden valleys of South Australia. Phil Lehmann, talented son of the late Peter Lehmann, makes excellent examples in both regions under the Vickery label, which pays tribute to arguably Australia's greatest-ever riesling maker, John Vickery, who is a consultant in the making of these wines, The 2016 releases are both excellent, but for me the Eden Valley wine just edged out the Watervale example, although it was a photo finish. It is slightly rounder, maybe a little more adult, while retaining the essential citrus and acid elements. Just lovely. $23.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Amato Vino 2014 Teroldego

It would be easy to be flippant and say this is one of the best teroldegos in the country; it is also one of the only teroldegos, of course, with the Italian variety from Trentino and Alto Adige in northern Italy still very much a "new" variety in Australia. Teroldego is known for its savoury and tarry notes and this is on track stylistically; a very good wine in any company from the experimental label of Brad Wehr, the West Australian who is best known for his Wine by Brad releases. This Margaret River wine is a big step up in complexity and interest. It is a dark, intense wine full of mouthfeel: and it blossoms with food. $40.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Brokenwood 2014 Graveyard Shiraz

One of the Hunter's benchmark reds; this new release is arguably the finest Graveyard release over four decades. From a classic Hunter red vintage, it is is a wine of impeccable balance, medium-bodied in the regional style and made using older large-format French oak. Think suppleness, spice and structure. It is a wine that will cellar brilliantly. Great work from the winemaking team of Iain Riggs, Simon Steele and Stuart Hordern. And for those on more modest budgets, the 2014 Brokenwood Hunter Valley Shiraz retails for around $50 and is also a ripper. $250.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Comyns & Co 2016 Merlot Rosé

Inspired by talented winemaker Scott Comyns' time spent working in the south of France, this is one of four debut releases from the 2016 vintage under the new Comyns & Co label. Comyns has worked at Tempus Two, Pepper Tree and Briar Ridge but has branched out on his own for this range; which is made at the Andrew Thomas winery in the Hunter Valley, where Comyns also now works. The label designs - by Comyns' artist brother Angus - hint at the irreverent style of the wines; easy-to-drink and fun. This is made from merlot and is savoury and dry in the Provencal style. A label to watch out for. $28.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Levantine Hill 2014 Colleen's Paddock Pinot Noir

I am an unashamed admirer of the success that Elias Jreissati, winemaker Paul Bridgeman and the team at Levantine Hill have enjoyed in such a short period of time. They hit the ground running in a bid to make benchmark wines and this, the inaugural release of the single-site Colleen's Paddock Pinot Noir, is a definite sign they are on the right track. It is, quite simply, a delicious cool-climate Yarra Valley pinot noir. Named after Jreissati's wife, it is an almost impossibly silky, superbly savoury pinot that just oozes class. There is a lot going on here, but it also has immediate drinkability. Try a bottle to mark a special occasion. $200.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Vasse Felix 2014 Filius Cabernet Sauvignon

The Vasse Felix cabernets are Australian classics, benchmark Margaret River wines at the very pinnacle of what Australia can do. Now the Vasse Felix Heytesbury and Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon, current release 2013, have a baby brother in the 2014 Filius Cabernet Sauvignon. Designed as a more approachable, less-demanding sibling this offers immediate drinking pleasure at a very reasonable price. It still has the great fruit and savoury notes but without the structure that sometimes demands years in the cellar. I loved this wine, which also has a smidgen of malbec and petit verdot in the mix, for its fruit forwardness (nearly all the oak used is older barrels) inkiness, balance and value. The recommended retail price seems ludicrously low. Great work from winemaker Virginia Willcock. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Margan 2016 Albarino

There was an almighty fuss a few years back when it was discovered that the "albarino" planted in Australia (and being marketed as such), was, in fact, a totally unrelated grape called savagnin from the Jura region of France. Now a few albarino vines (the real thing from Spain) are actually producing fruit and this debut offering is a very good example, released as part of Hunter Valley winery Margan's 20th-birthday Breaking Ground releases. This has lively, bright acid, spice notes and bright tropical fruit flavours. It is looking good as a new release and should probably be enjoyed as a young 'un.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Torbreck 2014 The Struie

The name Torbreck may immediately conjure up images of dense red wines that need decades in the cellar - but not all wines from this Barossa producer are made in the same vein. The Cuvée Juveniles is always fresh and juicy and this impressive shiraz combines fruit from both the Barossa and Eden valleys - with the higher-altitude fruit adding elegance and grace to marry with the Barossa power. Expect an appealing, lifted bouquet, dark fruit with spice and deli notes, restrained French oak and great persistence on the palate. This is drinking well in its youth but will, like all Torbrecks, mature impressively. Unfined, unfiltered and extremely good drinking. $49.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sileni 2013 The Circle Semillon

Now here is a surprise. New Zealand is certainly not known for it semillons but this outstanding wine from Hawke's Bay stood out from the pack at a recent tasting of aromatic whites. At three years of age it has lost its youthful verbosity but retained its citrus and tropical fruit flavours. This is artfully constructed, still fresh, with lovely balance and poise. It is textural and interesting and would be terrific paired with grilled white fish dishes, or a simple roast chicken. $25.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Blue Pyrenees 2013 Section 1 Shiraz

Formerly known as Blue Pyrenees Reserve Shiraz, this classic cool-climate wine is now named after the single block from which the vast majority of the fruit is sourced from the estate vineyard each year. This was one of my favourites from last weekend's excellent Grampians Grape Escape; powerful but controlled. It contains tiny portions of viognier and cabernet sauvignon to add lift and brightness but its core is rich shiraz from 40-year-old vines. French and American oak is used for seasoning and the end result is a dark, plummy, medium-weight wine with a potpourri of spice elements that will cellar well for a decade or more. I'll give it 95 points - which makes it great value. $36.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mount Horrocks 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Stephanie Toole steps up to the plate and bang, it's gone. A home run with all three of her 2014 Clare Valley reds. I really enjoyed the shiraz, loved to the Nero d'Avola and was blown away by this cabernet sauvignon. Ms Toole is truly in the zone right now with her Australian certified organic reds reflecting an excellent vintage. This is a delightfully stylish wine with dark cassis notes and well-integrated French oak, along with assertive tannins. It is drinking brilliantly right now, vibrant and juicy, but has the architecture to cellar for a decade or more. If you are drinking it now, pair with something rich like a rabbit casserole. I'm happy to score this 96/100. $40.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hoddles Creek 2015 Chardonnay

Who needs Chablis when you have Australian chardonnays of exquisite quality such as this new Yarra Valley release at such ridiculously low prices? Hoddles Creek winemaker Franco d'Anna is Mr Consistency when it comes to cool-climate chardonnay (and pinot noir) and this is quite simply ridiculously good value for the price. It is lean and clean, brisk and refreshing with grapefruit acid notes, Granny Smith, flinty minerality and lots of length. "It made itself this year," says the modest d'Anna, who crafted this with zero additions. Brilliant drinking - and no doubt soon to be sold out. $21. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Zema Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

This is an absolute winner if you are looking for a high-quality cabernet sauvignon for under $30. It comes from one of the most reliable producers in Coonawarra, spent 14 months in oak, has three years of bottle age and all the classic cabernet virtues; dark blackcurrant and berry flavours, hints of tobacco leaf and nicely integrated French oak. A wine of impressive structural definition. There is a sense of satisfaction with every glass here and, as it was released in October last year, I'm a little angry with myself that I didn't get to it sooner. It's a James Bond wine; smooth, suave and sophisticated. But less dangerous than 007. Pair this with just about any red meat dish. $29.     

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

West Cape Howe 2015 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

Whenever I taste the wines from Gavin Berry and his team at West Cape Howe, one thought comes to mind: How do they do it for the money? There can be few wineries around the country that manage to offer such great value at a range of price points - and they do it from the Great Southern in Western Australia, one of the most remote wine regions in the country. Anyway, this is a lovely wine for everyday drinking pleasure; a blend of two proven performers that is zingy, zesty and dry and designed for immediate enjoyment, with or without food. Chill. Enjoy. Simple. $17.      

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ottelia 2015 Mount Gambier Sauvignon Blanc

For a couple of decades, John Innes was the highly respected winemaker at Rymill in Coonawarra. Then he and his wife Melissa opened an excellent little restaurant and pizza bar in an old school house called Fodder in Coonawarra township. Fodder now shares its space with the Ottelia cellar door because John is back in the winemaking game, sourcing fruit from around the Limestone Coast region (Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Mount Benson and Mount Gambier), for a tidy little range. I particularly enjoyed this; very lively, very crisp and very drinkable with lip-smacking passionfruit and grapefruit flavours, flinty minerality and refreshing cool-climate acidity. $22.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Foster e Rocco 2012 Sangiovese

I was reviewing the 2015 Foster e Rocco Rosé for a print publication recently and remember being impressed by the way it combined savoury notes with a bright, juicy drinkability. I felt exactly the same way about this wine; three years older, altogether more serious, but made from Heathcote sangiovese and just as joyfully drinkable. I first met Adam Foster when he was a keen young sommelier at The Lake House in Daylesford. Since then he's formed a formidable winemaking partnership with fellow somm Lincoln Riley, as well as making wines under his own Syrahmi label. Whether you go for the rosé, nuovo or straight sangiovese in this impressive range you are getting plenty of bang for your buck. Recommended. $29.   

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Clonale by Kooyong 2015 Chardonnay

Glen Hayley was handed one of the least enviable tasks in the Australian wine industry when he was named the successor to Sandro Mosele, who had churned out world-class chardonnays and pinots for Kooyong and Port Philip Estate on the Mornington Peninsula over the past decade with apparent nonchalance. On the evidence, however, of Hayley's solo debut releases, this excellent chardonnay and an impressive 2015 Beurrot Pinot Gris ($30), Kooyong has not missed a beat in the change-over. This is one of Australia's best-value chardonnays; a blend of quality fruit from vineyards at Tuerong and Balnarring that hit just the right balance between cool-climate citrus and stone fruit flavours, along with hints of struck match and flint. It is tight and enticing with plenty of length and there is a whole lot of serious drinking pleasure here for $32.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

MSV 2012 Greenock Shiraz

It has been a couple of years since I took a long at the bold reds produced Murray Street Vineyards in the Barossa Valley - and I was most impressed by the power and concentration. This single vineyard shiraz was the stand-out for me; coming from one of the prime sub-regions. The vines are largely dry grown, resulting in fruit that has great complexity and depth. Everything about the wine says quality; including the ultra-heavy bottle. This has spent 18 months in new and older French oak, but the quality fruit is still the star of the show, along with red soil elements, spice and minty notes. Powerful but extremely well balanced. $55. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Pauletts 2015 Polish Hill River Riesling

There is an erudite, but extremely annoying, fellow called Ralph Kyte-Powell, who writes informative wine reviews for The Age newspaper. He's frustrating because my palate so often coincides with his. It is not unknown for us to review the same wines in the same week. I'd had this superb value riesling from Pauletts in the Clare Valley marked to be posted today for a couple of weeks. Then I open Mr Kite-Powell's column in Tuesday's Good Food section and he'd gone ahead and reviewed it - and was similarly enthusiastic. Great minds, maybe, or perhaps both lovers of bracing young Clare rieslings. This has oodles of zingy lemon and lime sorbet character and is clean and fresh. It would pair well with peri-peri pan-fried John Dory (as well as the Thai fishcakes Mr Ktye-Powell recommends). Go ahead and try it. We can't both be wrong. $23.           

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Mount Pleasant 2015 Elizabeth Semillon

I was going to write about this is as one of the great white wine bargains in Australia - but that was looking at the $20 recommended retail price. Then I saw that you can snap it up for $13.99 in a batch of six at Dan Murphy's - and that is virtually giving it away. My advice: snap up a case of this Hunter Valley classic right now. That's because, despite the daggy (but historic) label, this is a wine that is a double threat. It is delicious right now in its youth, slinky and lemony, zingy and fresh with some flinty hints. Unoaked; it is all about the fruit. But if you don't drink it all over the final few weeks of summer then put a bottle or two away in the cellar for five years or so. It will metamorphasise into something altogether different; richer and more savoury. Right now, it is a lovely young thing, low in alcohol at 10% and full of vibrant enthusiasm.$20.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Villebois 2014 Sancerre

Some sauvignon blancs are impossibly tarty; offering a sloppy kiss of passionfruit and green herbs and a lack of sophistication. This wine from the French sauvignon blanc heartland of Sancerre is the exact opposite, flirtatiously offering a subtle brush of the lips, full of knowledge and sultry hidden promise. For this is a wine that blossoms with food; emerging from its shell when paired with oysters and other crustaceans. It is made from 100% Loire sauvignon blanc, grown on clay soils with both flint and stone, that give it the characteristics of the region; minerality and intensity. Made by Thierry Merlet, who spent two vintages working at Petaluma, this is vibrant and fresh. Drink now and enjoy chilled with someone you'd like to get to know better. $55.  

Monday, February 29, 2016

Hither & Yon 2015 Grenache Mataro

I love the lip-smackingly drinkable fruit-driven reds that are produced by Hither & Yon in McLaren Vale - and I also enjoy the dramatic and artistic colour-coded labels from Estonian artist Eiko Ojala. This is a fabulously accessible blend of 60% grenache and 40% mataro – the ripe, sweet grenache fruit melding with the earthy funkiness of the mataro to produce a beautifully balanced red that is designed for immediate enjoyment. No need to cellar this one; just put some gourmet sausages on the barbecue and you have a wine/food match made in heaven. $24.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Rob Dolan True Colours 2015 Field Blend

This is a little bit "out there" in terms of white blends, but veteran Yarra Valley winemaker Rob Dolan has got his formula spot on. This lovely wine combines flavour and texture and has drinkability with a capital D. It is an unoaked but lees-stirred blend of savagnin (the grape previously believed to be albarino), pinot gris, gewurztraminer and chardonnay from several different Yarra vineyards (meaning it is not a true field blend - but that is nitpicking). A melange of Jura,  Alsace and Burgundy grapes, it somehow just works. It is delightfully floral, fresh and crisp, with hints of Turkish Delight alongside stone fruit vibrancy. I enjoyed more than a couple of glasses. Considerably more. $24.