Friday, December 21, 2012

Hamelin Bay 2009 Five Ashes Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Some wines have a certain something about them - and this stood out from the crowd in a recent tasting. It's a delightful mature cabernet (with 4% of merlot) from vineyards in the far south of Margaret River with a blackberry/earthy nose leading to a plush palate with dark fruit and attractive savoury notes. The 30% new French oak has been seamlessly integrated in a wine that blossoms when served with rich meat dishes. Don't linger; this full-bodied red is drinking beautifully right now. $28. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Yelland and Papps 2011 Delight Vin de Soif

When I popped into Yelland and Papps in the Barossa the other day, I was much taken by their rustic chic cellar door - along with their entry-level 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16) and the delicious 2012 Delight Vermentino. Possibly even more impressive, however, given the vagaries of the 2011 vintage, is this wine in the same fun range as the vermentino; a blend of grenache, mataro, shiraz and carignan that's made in an easy-drinking Rhone style. It's delightfully soft and juicy with savoury hints and plushness on the palate. A red that could even take a few minutes' chilling in the fridge this summer - and an excellent choice for sipping while watching the cricket. $20.   

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Teusner 2012 Joshua

Here’s a wine for lovers of Barossa power that is completely under control; for wines with flavour but also impeccable balance, even elegance. Kym Teusner is one of the most talented young winemakers in the Barossa Valley and this is a delicious unoaked and fruit-forward blend of three classic regional varieties; grenache, mataro and shiraz. From what is being praised as a stellar year for Barossa reds, this is has a summer pudding nose and is a soft, plush almost indecently pleasurable wine; plummy but pristine and offering immediate drinking pleasure. $28.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Voyager Estate 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

This wine is the vinous version of a delightful summer day. It's bright, fresh and vibrant and undoubtedly one of the best of the many West Australian SBS or SSB blends I've seen from the strong 2012 vintage. What I liked most about it was its lightness of presence; it's faintly aromatic with a tangy, flinty, citrusy goodness on the palate. A small portion of the blend has undergone barrel fermentation to add textural interest but it is youthful exuberance that is this wine's strength. It would best be enjoyed in its youth, chilled, with good food and friends. $24. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Folding Hill 2010 Pinot Noir

Born on the Isle of Man, Tim Kerruish is one of those people who make the world of wine so fascinating. After a stint working in Australia as a doctor he went to New Zealand on a fishing trip, loved it and eventually moved to Bendigo in Central Otago, bought a 40-acre sheep farm in partnership with friends and family and planted 10 acres of pinot noir - most of which he sells. He works in the local ER "to pay the bills" but still has time to produce outstanding wines like this tight, intense and textural 2010 pinot, matured in quality French oak, unfilterred and unfined and bottled under a Diam closure. It's a damn fine drop, built for the long haul, that blossoms when given some air. Well worth seeking out - and soon to be distributed in Australia by Winestock. $NZ40.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Longview 2012 Queenie Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio

Wow! I really like the vibrancy of this wine, which is, quite remarkably, the first-ever pinot grigio release from the Saturno family's immaculately tended Adelaide Hills vineyard. Named after the family matriarch, who travelled from Friuli in northern Italy to the Adelaide Hills in the 1930s and is now 90 years of age, the sheer freshness and liveliness of this fruit-driven number might hopefully convert some of the critics who are dismissive of PG as a style. If a bright, flavoursome white that is both refreshing and rewarding appeals, wrap your lips around some of this. It's already started to pick up show gold medals - if that sort of thing floats your boat. $19.50.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Eldridge Estate 2012 PTG

Is there a more perfect style of red wine for daytime summer enjoyment? I doubt it. I loved the debut 2011 version of Eldridge Estate's PTG, a homage to the passetoutgrains of Burgundy, which are  blends of gamay and pinot noir grapes. The 2012 edition is, if anything, even more impressive. Juicy and fruity, it's a rollicking, buccaneering Mornington Peninsula red that can easily stand being chilled. A super-drinkable and immensely enjoyable red that would be a lovely match with Asian-style pork belly, it is a simple wine, with bright raspberry and cheery cherry notes, designed for enjoying young. The empty bottle never lies. Well done David and Wendy Lloyd. $25.       

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Zema Estate 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Zema family has been growing grapes and making wine in Coonawarra for three decades now - and their offerings are a byword for consistency and value. All the wines are estate grown, vintaged and bottled. With winemaker Greg Clayfield showing a deft touch, this is an outstanding Coonawarra cabernet with ripe, inviting aromas leading on to an inky palate with dark fruit flavours, chocolate and tobacco leaf notes with well-integrated French oak. Tannins and acids are perfectly in place, like well-behaved schoolchildren. In fact, there is nothing at all unruly about a wine that is both varietal and regional. It's drinking brilliantly now but will cellar for a decade or more. Pair it with roast lamb en croute, $30.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kooyong 2011 Clonale Chardonnay

Sandro Mosele makes some of Australia's finest single-vineyard chardonnays under the Kooyong Faultline and Farrago labels. This is the baby brother of those wines, released a year earlier and half the price. It's still a terrific Mornington Peninsula chardonnay, as you'd demand and expect from Kooyong, and offers excellent value. It's a Kate Moss-style wine that has great purity and focus with lean citrus fruit and flinty minerality. It's thoroughly modern, certainly not for those who enjoy their chardonnays big and buttery, but very much in line with the zeitgeist in its restraint and food friendliness. $31.    

Sunday, October 21, 2012

De Iuliis 2011 Shiraz

Mike de Iuliis is one of the rising stars of the Hunter Valley - a recent tasting of his new releases revealed a winemaker very much in the zone - and this is the second of his wines I've recommended recently. It is a very good example of one of Australia's classic - and under-appreciated - styles; medium-bodied Hunter shiraz. Everything is very much in balance here. There's plenty of fruit power but also some some subtle, almost feminine aspects. There's spice and undergrowth notes, too, but they aid and abet rather than intruding in any way. Likewise the well integrated oak. This is a red wine that can easily be cellared, but is also appealingly bright and fresh and juicy in its youth. Good work. $25. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Brightwater Gravels 2009 Chardonnay

Sometimes a wine is just too easy to drink. That was the case with this bottle; one from so far out in right field that I'd never even heard of the label before. From Nelson, in New Zealand, it is a chardonnay that ticks all the boxes. It's soft and food friendly, elegant with citrus and stone fruit notes, features some nutty oak that adds structure but is not intrusive, and has excellent structure. I tried to find something about it on the internet, but failed. All I can tell you is that it is imported into Australia by Mira Arocha of Arocha Imports and it's a darn good drink for the price. $28.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Misha's Vineyard 2008 The High Note Pinot Noir

Misha Wilkinson's Central Otago pinots noir have built up a considerable following in New Zealand - and subsequently in Asia - and now have major distribution in Australia through Fesq and Co. All three pinots in the range were impressive but this was the one I would choose to drink right now. It's on the bigger side of the spectrum at 14.2% alcohol but its a metrosexual wine with beautiful balance and everything in place. You'll find black and red berry notes, some spice, moccha hints and lovely softness on the finish. Drink now, or cellar. Your call. $51.   

Sunday, September 16, 2012

De Iuliis 2012 Semillon

Young Hunter Valley semillon remains one of Australia's most under-appreciated wine styles, which is downright hard to fathom when there are wines like this available for under $20. Mike de Iuliis is one of the most talented young winemakers around and he's done a great job with this fresh and vibrant young wine which is appealing lean; like a slinky catwalk model with just enough meat on her bones. There are fresh and lime and grapefruit aromas on the nose, followed up by intense zingy citrus on the palate and crunchy acidity. A crisp youngster that will be perfect for summer enjoyment - and it's a bargain to boot. $18.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

d'Arenberg 2008 The Sticks and Stones

McLaren Vale winemaking icon d'Arenberg this year celebrates its 100th birthday - and the range is bigger and more eclectic than ever. This is one of the more "out there" blends in the range, a combination of Spanish grape tempranillo, local favourite shiraz and two Portuguese grapes, tinta cao and souzao, both rarely seen outside the Douro. What I liked most about this wine were the savoury notes allied to the impressive fruit intensity and interest you generally find in d'Arenberg wines. An earthy, delicatessen nose leads on dark cherry/mixed spice flavours with sous bois hints. This a smooth, mellow wine, content in its own skin but with an interesting Latin attitude. $30.    

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Esperanza 2011 Tempranillo

There is a compelling and profoundly sad story about the brothers Dos Pablos, the creators of this wine. Unfortunately, none of it is true - although it does make for a great (and very funny) read. Check out  Made by the team at Wirra Wirra in McLaren Vale, along with a partner monastrell, this wine is a flagbearer for the new Iberian-style wines the company hopes will shine in the Vale. It is a dark, earthy, spicy and complex wine with great tannin structure. Most enjoyable. $35.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Peter Lehmann 2008 Stonewell Shiraz

Looking for a Father's Day gift? You won't go far wrong with this rich and complex Barossa shiraz if Dad is wine lover. Winemaker Andrew Wigan and his team have been itching to release this for some time and it certainly lives up to expectations with plenty of richness, sweet fruit and high-quality French oak that has been nicely integrated. Some reviewers have found the wine a little hot; but I beg to disagree. I have low tolerance for alcohol warmth in reds and found this one looked great, particularly when matched with food. Look for dark berry flavours, sure, along with plenty of concentration. It's no wimp, erring towards the alpha male side of the spectrum, but I also found balance and approachability given it is a wine built for the long haul. I liked the smart new packaging, too. $100.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Voyager Estate 2009 Chardonnay

A very adult wine this; fully mature on release and beautifully structured in a willowy, elegant way. The alcohol level is just 12.8% but there is no shortage of flavour with a lovely balance between citrus and stone fruit notes on the palate. There is a steely acid core here and complexity from 100% barrel fermentation and 10 months in 33% new French oak. At no point does the oak intrude, however. It is simply a counterpoint to the fine fruit, adding texture and interest. The epitomy of winemaking cool. Very impressive. $45.   

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Edwards 2011 Tiger's Tale Cabernet Merlot

It is ironic that a winery with such strong aviation links as Edwards - family patriarch Brian Edwards flew Tiger Moth Matilda from England to Australia for charity - sometimes flies under the recognition radar. The wines from Edwards (and their second label Tiger's Tale) are reliably good and always offer value for money but the big names of Margaret River tend to hog all the attention and glory. This is a delightful wine, a classic regional blend of cabernet sauvignon and  merlot, medium bodied with just enough oomph and easy drinkability. A really nice drop for everyday enjoyment. $22.   

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Balnaves 2010 The Blend

You get a whole lot of bang for your buck with this outstanding entry level wine from one of Coonawarra's best small wineries. There is no doubt 2010 was an outstanding year in the Limestone Coast; producing dark, supple wines with good structure and plenty of flavour. This is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc is soft and well-rounded with plenty of delightful fleshy blackberry fruit character. Plump and appealing, this is terrific wine for everyday drinking. $19.    

Friday, July 20, 2012

Heemskerk 2011 Chardonnay

Just a glance at the posh packaging suggests that this is a serious wine of style and substance. Made by the talented Anna Pooley from fruit grown in the Coal River Valley in Tasmania, this is a wine destined to make appearances of upmarket restaurant wine lists and in fine wine stores. Matured on lees in old and new French puncheons and barriques, it is nonetheless a chardonnay where the quality fruit shines. There’s a hint of oak on the nose but the palate is pristine and intense with tremendous length and drive. A complex wine, full of interest, that demands to be served with food. Superb. $50.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tar and Roses 2011 Tempranillo

Veteran former Mitchelton winemaker Don Lewis and his partner in matters vinous, Narelle King, have spent several recent vintages working in Spain, honing their skills with varieties like tempranillo. This blend of fruit from Heathcote and the Apline Valleys certainly hits the bullseye. The fruit is the star here with fresh rich raspberry notes, hints of spice and licorice and just the barest input from vanilla oak characters. Bright and easy to drink, this is a terrific result from a difficult vintage. A good buy for $24.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Arrogant Frog 2011 Ribet White Sauvignon Blanc

It would be all to easy to dismiss the Arrogant Frog wines produced by Jean-Claude Mas in the Languedoc region of France as novelty wines barely worth a second glance. There are the jokey labels, unashamedly populist marketing and bargain basement prices, all of which add up to plenty of ammunition for the prosecution. The simply fact is, though, that Mas pays a lot of attention to his vineyards and makes wines that are terrific value for money and offer vibrant everyday drinkability. This is a fresh and lively style, a simple Vin de Pays d'Oc that is aromatic and herbal on the nose, with citrus and herbaceous notes and some refreshing acid. It would be terrific with grilled sardines, or with a late-night snack while watching the Tour de France. $11.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Freeman 2008 Rondinella Corvina Secco

Rondinella and corvina may be extremely rare grape varieties in Australia, but Dr Brian Freeman has been growing them for several years with great success in the Hilltops region of New South Wales. The classic Amarone varieties from the Veneto in northern Italy are used in the traditional way with a portion of the grapes dried (in a prune dehydrator) and then added to the fresh grapes during fermentation. The wines is matured in old oak barrels for at least two years, ensuring the savoury fruit characters are the star turn, and then given a further two years in bottle. This is arguably the best release yet; intriguingly intense with sweet dark cherry fruit notes, earthiness, a hint of horse saddle and sous bois characters. Length? There is plenty of that, too. And great tannin structure. Give this a few minutes to breathe, then pair it with a rabbit casserole. $30.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Islander 2008 The Red

Jacques Lurton, a member of one of France's most famous winemaking dynasties, splits his time between Bordeaux and his second home on Kangaroo Island, where he makes a range of extremely interesting wines under the Islander Estate label. This is the bargain basement offering; an unlikely but very impressive blend of malbec, cabernet franc, shiraz, grenache and viognier (Bordeaux meets the Rhone in South Australia). It's a wine that is extremely comfortable in its own skin, savoury and structured with a foot in both New World and Old World camps. Well worth a look. $20.    

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Domaine de Perilliere 2010 Costieres de Nimes

The Costieres de Nimes is the most southerly vineyard region in the Cotes du Rhone - and surrounds the beautiful former Roman city of Nimes. It's a region where eating and drinking well is de rigueur and local red blends of syrah, grenache, mourvedre, carignan and cinsault offer reliably good and savoury drinking. This is a terrific everyday drinking red from a good local co-op, the Vignerons d'Estezargues, made from just syrah and grenache. It's rustic and unfiltered but also modern and clean. It's a wine that tastes of the Camargue, the wild region where it was grown, but also has some sassy sophistication. $20. Imported by Marcus Gniel of Ce Soir Wine.   

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Paringa Estate 2008 The Paringa Shiraz

Lindsay McCall at Paringa Estate on the Mornington Peninsula has a track record of producing excellent cool-climate shirazes. This is a single vineyard wine (effectively the winery's reserve shiraz) that simply oozes class. Dark pepper and plummy notes on the nose lead to rich plum, cassis and spice notes on the palate, which has intriguing textural elements. The wine spent 18 months in French oak that has been beautifully integrated. It has power, elegance, and great structure, and  will cellar well for a decade or more - although there was not a drop left in the bottle I sampled the other day. $80.    

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Yangarra Estate 2010 Viognier

McLaren Vale biodynamic producer Yangarra Estate is the Australian outpost of American wine conglomerate Jackson Family Wines. The wines produced from the former Norman's vineyard at Blewitt Springs are unashamedly Rhone in style, and this one of the most impressive Australian takes on the viognier grape that I have seen. This is a fresh but impressively restrained viognier, full of appeal but understated and without any of the canned apricot characters found in so many of its rather loud brethren. Twelve months in French oak and regular lees stirring have added interest to the creamy palate. $25.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Battle of Bosworth 2010 McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon

I opened a swag of red wines recently, and this was the one with a definite "wow!" factor. From one of the unsung heroes of McLaren Vale (and an organic producer to boot), this is a refined, medium-bodied wine, unmistakeably varietal and immediately inviting with dark blackcurrant, charry oak and hints of tobacco leaf harmoniously knitted together - and terrific tannin structure, too. A really delightful drink that carries its 14.5% alcohol effortlessly. Great now, and excellent value, too, but you'd want to put a few bottles down for the long haul. $25. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dog Point Vineyard 2011 Sauvignon Blanc

There are some Marlborough sauvignons blanc that are just too overt and outspoken, like a scantilly clad young thing leaving nothing to the imagination. Then there are superior offerings like this estate-grown offering. There are herbaceous notes on the nose, as you'd expect, but the palate offers so much more with bright, ripe citrus notes, minerality, crispness and concentration, along with restrained grassiness and hints of gunsmoke. Plenty of length; plenty of flavour but most of all, crunchy freshness, intensity and length. Very enjoyable with grilled flathead. $30. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Marchand & Burch 2009 Vosne-Romanée

Marchand & Burch is a vinous collaboration between the Burch family of Howard Park and MadFish fame and  renowned Burgundy winemaker Pascal Marchand, producing wines from both Australia and France. This is an outstanding blend of fruit from three different vineyards in the commune of Vosne-Romanée on the Cotes de Nuits, with the advantage over many Burgundies in that it comes under a screw cap, much reducing the chance of spoilage. This is a fragrant, articulate expression, discreet with spice and sous bois notes, a lovely blend of classy lifted dark fruit and earthiness. Absolutely top notch - and a perfect match for lamb en croute. $130.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bremerton 2009 Old Adam Shiraz

Family-owned Langhorne Creek winery Bremerton produces some excellent value-for-money wines but there is a serious uplift in quality in this limited-release red from an outstanding vintage. There's plenty of rich fruit flavours here to please those who like their wines to have some muscularity, but also some elegant structure and impressively integrated oak. The complexity doesn't get in the way of the drinkability, however, and while his flexible, layered and concentrated wine is drinking very well as a new release you'd bet plenty that will look even better after a few years in the cellar. $50.   

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kirrihill 2011 Slate Creek Vineyard Riesling

This delightful individual vineyard wine from the Clare Valley ticks all the riesling boxes. It's appealingly aromatic with citrus and spring blossom notes leading to a lean palate that has plenty of classic lime and lemon zest flavours. There is some minerality from the vineyard and a zingy and refreshing acid backbone. With a moderate 12% alcohol, the wine finishes crisp and bone dry. Very clean, very elegant and food friendly, it is still a little coltish but will develop beautifully, as was evidenced by a recent tasting of the stunning 2006. The best news of all, however, is the recommended retail price. Every home should have a few of these on hand. $18. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jamsheed 2011 Pepe Le Pinot

I'm loving the unruly, bad boy Harem series wines from the talented Gary Mills at Jamsheed, who has access to some excellent Yarra Valley fruit. I was taken by the phenolic but fab 11 Le Blanc Plonk (a gewurztraminer/riesling blend) and the outspoken 11 Madame Chard but this was the naughtiest in the line-up, a tattooed punk of a wine with nose ring but a heart of gold. A single site wine from the Coombe Farm vineyard, it contains a 45% whole-bunch component, was fermented with indigenous yeasts, given extended maceration, matured in older French oak and  bottled unfined and unfiltered. The end result is a funky, fun wine with tons of personality. $21.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Zema Estate 2008 Cluny Cabernet Merlot

The Zema family are known for making beautifully balanced wines that offer immediate pleasure but also reward cellaring. They also have a reputation for wines that are great value for money. This new release is, then, a fairly typical Zema offering; wonderfully enjoyable on release and very reasonably priced. It is a classic Bordeaux blend with a Coonawarra twist. Cabernet sauvignon and merlot dominate, but there is also a smidgen of malbec and cabernet franc. A beautifully structured wine, soft and appealing on the palate with bright berry fruits, hints of spice and nicely integrated oak. Drinkability with a capital D. $26.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pizzini 2010 Sangiovese Shiraz

The Pizzini family make an excellent range of wines in the King Valley in north-east Victoria but it is  hard to go past this delightfully savoury blend for everyday drinking pleasure.  A perfect partner for pizza or pasta dishes, it is extremely food friendly and  very quaffable. Medium-bodied and boasting sweet fruit and some gentle spice,  it is a wine for enjoying with family and friends. $20.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

1er Yarra Valley 2010 Chardonnay

If Franco d'Anna were a baseball player he'd be described as "seeing each pitch like melon". He's hitting the ball out of the park with the quality of his wines across all three of his ranges; the regional Wickhams Road series, the excellent Hoddles Creek range and this, his premium label. There were an equally impressive 2010 Pinot Noir and 2010 Pinot Blanc released alongside this wine, but this just oozes class, with every element in tune - like a world-class orchestra. It is a flighty filly right now, but offers just the right combination of citrus and stonefruit notes, with terrific texture and great zingy acidity. If this were a Burgundy, we'd be prepared to pay a fortune for it; so that makes the price tag for this Yarra Valley gem an absolute bargain. $40.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kyeema Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay Viognier

Quality fruit is the key to the appeal of this, the first white wine to be released under the Kyeema label - the premium range of wines from Capital Wines. The Kyeema chardonnay vines are over 30 years old and have previously provided fruit for the iconic Eileen Hardy wine. This is a very textural offering as a result of the addition of some bright, early-picked viognier, a variety more usually blended with shiraz. This is not a co-ferment; the chardonnay is fermented in oak and the viognier in stainless steel, but there is still a seamlessness to the wine, along with real drinkability. $36.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bloodwood 2010 Chardonnay

Stephen and Rhonda Doyle were pioneers in the cool-climate Orange wine region, planting their first grapes almost three decades ago. This is a simply stunning chardonnay - and outstanding value for money - seamless and elegant with delightfully racy fruit (both tropical and grapefruit notes), great minerality, nutty nuances in their place but not intruding and and some crisp, refreshing acidity. Just 12.5% alcohol and an impressive package. $27.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Goaty Hill 2011 Riesling

This is an absolutely ripping riesling from the Tamar Valley in Tasmania that took out the honours at the recent Festivale tasting. It’s fresh as a daisy (bottled only a few weeks ago) with vibrant aromas, bright Granny Smith and lively fresh lemon and lime zest notes on the palate, crunchy acidity and pristine minerality. It ticks all the boxes for dry riesling and would be fantastic with freshly shucked oysters, fish and chips or spicy Asian dishes. If you haven’t tried a Tassie riesling for a while this is the one to go for. $28. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Koonara 2008 Angel's Peak Cabernet Sauvignon

Let's get this straight from the start. Here we have a very good Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon from a family owned winery that is a current release at four years of age. It is concentrated, but with classic regional elegance, and weighs in with just 13.5% alcohol; a lean, fighting machine. It's dark, still a little moody, with classic dark berry and chocolate characters, balanced, not intrusive, oak, dry and with plenty of length and structure. It will almost certainly cellar well. And here's the silly bit (the good bit, actually): this wine is available for $15.95 at cellar door on online and only a couple of bucks more retail. $18. light to see how dense it is if you don't believe me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Wither Hills 2011 Sauvignon Blanc

OK wine snobs. Time to get over yourselves. The reality is a lot of people really enjoy Marlborough sauvignon blanc. A lot of them like to enjoy a bottle or two on a sunny day, or pair some savvy with fresh seafood. Much as you'd prefer them to be drinking arneis, or albarino, the reality is they relish the style of wines the Kiwis make. So if you are looking for a classic and consistently reliable Marlborough sauvignon blanc, nicely put together, with plenty of zing and zest and a good balance between tropical and leaner herbaceous characters you'll almost certainly enjoy this vibrant young wine from one of the region's style leaders. $22.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lark Hill 2011 Dark Horse Viognier

Several Australian wine producers have had a crack at the white Rhone grape variety viognier - with decidedly mixed results. Far too many end up tasting like an alcoholic version of canned apricot juice. This is a welcome counterpoint to those wines; made with restraint and passion. Lark Hill is a proven success with other aromatic white varieties, including riesling and gruner veltliner, and this wine continues in the same vein. It is floral with appealing fresh stone fruit characters, ginger notes and a hint of citrus. Wild yeast ferment has helped add complexity and texture but the key here is balance - it has only 12.5% alcohol with a refreshing slatey finish. Definitely one of Australia's better viogniers. $25.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Highland Brae 2010 Pinot Noir

Richard Tyler's ultra-neat Highland Brae vineyard is tucked away at Braeside, in the hills above Franklin, overlooking the Huon River in southern Tasmania, where he also farms Highland cattle. This new-release wine offers almost comical value for money given the wine (made by talented Nick Glaetzer at Frogmore Creek) has delightfully clean fruit flavours, varietal savoury notes and some impressive textural elements. It has already collected a silver medal at the Royal Hobart Wine Show and is extremely food friendly; we paired it with a rich mushroom soup. It's equally impressive without food, a wine for sipping and contemplating. $20. Email: or (03) 6266 3411.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Louee 2011 Nullo Mountain Riesling

Mudgee-based David Lowe, vice-president of the Winemakers Federation of Australia, seems able to turn his talents to fruit from just about any region. Having made his reputation in the warmth of the Hunter Valley, he's now producing some of his best wines from the cool-climate, ultra-high altitude vineyards of Nullo Mountain, outside Rylstone, which stand at 1100 metres above sea level. This is a very lean, austere style of riesling, dry with some cracking natural acidity from a vineyard that is unlike any other within the Mudgee appellation. This is a wine of real character and intensity that weighs in at just 10% alcohol. Lowe predicts it will be potentially long-lived. I love it in its youth. We'll just have to agree to disagree. $25.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Derwent Estate 2010 Chardonnay

The chardonnay fruit from the Derwent Estate vineyard in southern Tasmania is second to none, much of it being used in Penfolds' ultra-premium Yattarna blend. This is a delightful new release with the quality and tension of that fruit shining though. Classic stone fruit and citrus flavours work harmoniously but the use of French oak by Julian Alsorso of Winemaking Tasmania hits the dial maybe one notch too hard for my taste. That said, I have no doubt the wine will become tighter-knit as time goes by. Wild yeast barrel ferments, lees stirring and malolactic fermentation all give poise and structure and it is already a lovely drink that can only get better over the next couple of years. $35.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Two Hands 2010 Gnarly Dudes Barossa Shiraz

Made from gnarled old shiraz vines, this is a quintessentially Barossa Valley wine that offers excellent drinking and great value. It's a powerful wine, no doubt, but it handles its 14.8% alcohol with aplomb. There are all the black plum and dark berry characters you'd expect but the volume knob has been turned down in terms of oak and it is the fruit that is singing. It's an elegant wine when compared to many of its contemporaries, soft, easy to drink and very nicely balanced. We drank the whole bottle, which is rarely the case with Barossa shiraz nowadays. $27.