You won't find too many merlots reviewed in my wine columns, or on my blogs. I'm unashamedly of the opinion that most Australian merlots are dull, monochromatic beasts, soft and easy to drink without any hint of personality or interest. There are, fortunately, some exceptions; the wines of Irvine Wines in the Eden Valley and this delightful little number from Capital Wines outside Canberra. A lot of work has been done of the southern end of the Kyeema vineyard from which this is sourced and the fruit quality is blossoming. There's plenty of interest on the palate here, plummy fruit notes and hints of spice, along with the softness you'd expect from the variety. It's quite simply very drinkable. Pair this with a pastrami sandwich for a taste treat. $25. www.capitalwines.com.au.
Friday, December 20, 2013
Friday, December 13, 2013
The 2013 vintage for was a cracker for rieslings across Australia and once again this Clare Valley classic was in fine fettle. Crisp and clean with pristine bright citrus flavours and zingy acidity this absolutely delightful in its youth and is refreshing without being simple. It offers plenty of length, is tangy and slatey and would be a charming companion with a seafood platter over the holiday period just as it was a lovely match for some pan-fried blue-eye trevalla. A reliably good wine that's easy to find - and even easier to drink. $22.
Monday, December 2, 2013
Nick Stacey and Michael Kerrigan, the marketer and winemaker behind the striking Vinaceous brand, source fruit from vineyards across Australia for their range - and the attractive labels make the wines easy to find on a bottle shop shelf. Previous incarnations of this shiraz, grenache, tempranillo blend were sourced from McLaren Valley but this new release hails from ever-reliable Margaret River, where they have enjoyed umpteen great vintages in a row. In keeping with the fun label, this is also fun to drink; a bright ripe, fleshy, juicy Aussie red, spicy and fruit driven but benefitting from judicious oak treatment. I like this a lot and I think you'll find their website pretty cool as well. $25. www.vinaceous.com.au.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
I can already hear the wine snobs muttering into their beards. Cask wine? What is he thinking of? But the simple fact is this recent release from the Hill Smith/Yalumba stable offers darn good value for money - at less than $1 a glass in fact. The 2-litre box, a retro classic that is being rebranded, is both convenient and eco-friendly. I sampled the 2012 chardonnay and 2012 tempranillo from a range that also includes pinot grigio and shiraz and found both more than a match for a lot of the execrable cheaper bottled wines in the marketplace. The Winesmiths encourage drinkers to pour their wines into 500ml decanters, European style. As is always the case with casks look for ones that have been stored in a cool place, choose the most recent vintage available and consume the contents within three weeks. I reckon most drinkers will be surprised by the quality on offer here – this has plenty of juicy, spicy fruit, a little dustiness and great drinkability. $18-20. www.thewinesmiths.com.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
The 2011 vintage was a problematic one in many Australian vineyard regions but in Margaret River they enjoyed yet another stellar year, which resulted in wines like this stunning red, a cabernet sauvignon that's blended with a little cabernet franc and merlot. A long-time benchmark single-vineyard wine, this is a deliciously complex beast that will probably cellar for two decades or more. That said, it is already deliciously drinkable with dark cassis and herb notes and just a hint of toasty oak. There's plenty of drive here, real intensity and just enough softness to make it balanced and fun right now. $90. www.capementelle.com.au.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Verdelho is a Portuguese grape that is often used in the fortified wines of Madeira, but in Australia it has found a home away from home in the Hunter Valley, where is produces fruity dry white wines that are extremely refreshing. This is unoaked and has tropical fruit salad flavours along with a crisp, clean and zippy acid finish. A wine for enjoying in its youth, preferably when well chilled. A great summer choice. $16. www.margan.com.au.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Grüner veltliner is an Austrian white grape variety that has been pioneered by Lark Hill, a biodynamic winery at Bungendore, outside Canberra, and Adelaide Hills producers including Hahndorf Hill and K1 by Geoff Hardy. This is arguably the benchmark at the moment; with the fifth release having trademark herbal, melon and spice notes and and some exciting zingy acidity. From a stellar vintage, it is spectacularly drinkable with great vitality and intense mineral notes on the palate. A beautifully food-friendly wine, too, with the power to cope with just about any seafood or white meat dish. $45. www.larkhillwine.com.au.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Mac Forbes is one of the rising stars of the Yarra Valley and I tweeted that this wine was an "absolute triumph". A second look 24 hours later confirmed that viewpoint. Forbes makes several regional Yarra pinots that are more expensive and more sensual than this wine, but I doubt any would be more sessionable. It's a wine of impeccable balance, weighing in at just 13% alcohol. It has plump, fleshy fruit on a palate that also has great tannin structure and a certain refinement. Dark cherry notes are prominent along with spice and earthiness. There's plenty of length and lots of drinkability. I could certainly drink quite a lot of this. $35. www.macforbes.com
Friday, October 11, 2013
Larry Cherubino makes an impressive number of wines across several ranges; and all of them offer terrific quality at sensible prices. This is in the upper echelons of Cherubino's wines, one of two regional chardonnays from yet another great year in Western Australia. This is a Margaret River wine of balance and style, primarily fruit-driven but with with a percentage spending eight months in oak to add complexity and texture. It is a very pure, clean and dry chardonnay with just 13% alcohol. It's soft and silky on the palate and eminently drinkable with oak playing a support role but never intrusive. A very classy drop. $49. www.larrycherubino.com.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Ministry of Clouds is the name of a new selection of wines developed by two of the wine industry’s bright young talents, Julian Forwood, previously with Wirra Wirra, and Bernice Ong, ex Woodstock. This is and a 2012 Tasmanian chardonnay were the standouts in the range for me; with this blend of McLaren Vale fruit offering excellent value for money. The couple loves the wines of the Iberian peninsula and this 52-48% blend is a homage to those styles with silkiness and plenty of length on the palate. Fragrant and luscious and matured in old oak with aid from winemaker Tim Geddes this is made in tiny quantities but is well worth seeking out as I suspect there will be more excellent wines coming from this duo. $28. www.ministryofclouds.com.au.
Monday, September 30, 2013
After having re-tasted this wine at Savour a couple of weeks ago, I am firmly of the belief that it must be one of Australia's greatest wine bargains of the moment. I spent a week nine months or so ago drinking quite a few bottles of this with friends in Sydney who know very little about wine and do not care one jot what label they are drinking as long as it costs them under $15. This was a lip-smacking success with just about everyone who tried it; a crisp, fresh, dry and downright delicious wine for enjoying chilled that was chock-a-block full of fresh lemon and lime characters and zingy acid. I tried it as part of a structured tasting at Savour and it was just as thrilling, maybe just a little rounder and more complete. There will be a vintage change over the next few weeks, but I'm assured there are still supplies of this in retail outlets. While the RRP is around $12, I've seen this multiple show award-winner for much, much cheaper. It would be a terrific partner for salt and pepper squid, or flathead and chips, so buy a dozen and use the money you've saved for a bottle of something special. $8-12.
Friday, September 20, 2013
The new icon wine from Rymill Wines is named after John Riddoch Rymill, grandson of John Riddoch, who founded Coonawarra in 1890. Rymill was an Australian polar explorer; and both a surveyor and pilot. There was a lot of pressure on French winemaker Sandrine Gimon to come up with a wine that was good enough to stand as a salute to a Rymill family hero – and she’s come up trumps with a cracking, complex and beautifully balanced red wine that’s made from 85 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 10 per cent cabernet franc and 5 per cent merlot – a classic Bordeaux blend that is smooth and structured with no rough edges, but also intense, textural and interesting. It can be pre-ordered at www.rymill.com.au/thesurveyor and will be released on December 1. $80.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Every second wine advertisement or email is spruiking some bottle you have never heard of as the "bargain of the year" or an "unprecedented great deal". In the case of Kym Tesuner's new-release 2012 The Gentleman, made from Eden Valley fruit, I'm not completely sure there has not been a mistake with the pricing; some awful clanger that no one has yet picked up on. It's fruit-driven with good tannin structure, soft and medium-bodied, unmistakably cool-climate cabernet that you'd expect to retail for around $30. A fellow wine writer I respect found the nose too confronting, but it was not an issue for me. I'd be extremely happy with this at $20 a bottle. www.teusner.com.au.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
The Canberra region has a reputation for producing standout rieslings with Helm and Clonakilla among the star names but Nick Spencer at Eden Road hits a home run with the sheer drinkability of this wine, made from fruit grown on decomposed granite soils at an altitude of over 630 metres. While the high acid in lots of Clare and Eden Valley rieslings can mean they need time to soften, this is the complete package in its youth with impressive clean, crisp fruit with lime juice and Asian herb notes and a backbone of zingy mineral acidity. There's plenty of liveliness here, oodles of refreshment (my sample bottle is somehow empty) and great value with an RRP of $21. www.edenroadwines.com.au.
Friday, August 30, 2013
The Mulligan family has been farming in the Penola region for over a century and Barry and Glenys Mulligan planted grapes on their St Mary's property, 15 kilometres out of town, in 1986. Unfortunately when the boundaries for Coonawarra were re-defined a few years back, their land was ruled to be outside the Coonawarra appellation despite being on a limestone ridge covered in the classic terra rossa soil. The wines are thus labelled Limestone Coast but are quintessentially Coonawarra in character. An old style, but delicious, wine made using open vat ferments, hand plunging and a basket press, this is a wonderfully atmospheric red that has a real sense of place. You'll find both power and finesse here - along with immediate drinkability. Lovely stuff. $30. www.stmaryswines.com.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Stephen Pannell has an impeccable winemaking pedigree. A member of the family that founded Moss Wood, he's worked for Wirra Wirra and BRL Hardy among others as well as doing vintages in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Barolo. He's a winemaker whose counsel others in the industry actively seek out. He makes superb high-end grenache, nebbiolo and shiraz but this wine is noteworthy because it is so slurpable, so immediately appealing and so ridiculously drinkable that it is hard to resist. A blend of two Iberian Peninsula grape varieties, it leaps out of the glass with its positivity. If you like wines that reflect juicy, concentrated fruit rather than serious structure then I guarantee that you'll love this wine. Pair it with a barbecue, a burger or just a night in front of the TV. A lusty, luscious red from the southern Fleurieu Peninsula. $25. www.scpannell.com.au
Saturday, August 10, 2013
With many of their their wines named after popular rock songs, Claymore Wines in the Clare Valley run the risk of having their vinous output labelled as curios or oddities. The fact is the wines themselves are very good and have no need of such gimmicks. The standout right now is this new-release 2013 riesling - a classic Clare offering at a very down-to-earth price. With grapefruit and lemon zest aromas, this is all about delicate lemon and lime juice flavours on the palate and crisp, zingy acidity. It's long, it's cool and very drinkable - I'd match it with pan-fried flathead fillets, but it would also be great as after-work refresher. Lovely stuff. $18-20. www.claymorewines.com.au.
Friday, August 2, 2013
There are so many great Australian chardonnays out there in the marketplace right now; with a smorgasbord of styles to choose from. Cannibal Creek Vineyard, in the foothills of the Black Snake Ranges in the West Gippsland, may not have the kudos of the Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula, but what's in the bottle is a damn fine. There is some nutty oaky goodness on the nose but the palate is all about elegance and balance with 30% new oak impressively integrated and adding structure rather than overt flavours. There's a lovely minerally linearity, sensible restrain (just 13% alcohol) but most of all a refreshing drinkability to this wine. Quite lovely and well worth $28. www.cannibalcreek.com.au.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
This may well the best Australian viognier I've seen. There's no sign of that annoying canned apricot flavour/texture here. Instead you have a wine that is subtle, nuanced, fresh and delicious. Clonakilla winemaker Tim Kirk may be best known for adding a little viognier to his shiraz to create an Australian icon, but he's also a dab hand with the Rhone white variety as a stand-alone varietal. Fermented purely in stainless steel and bottled early, this is wine for enjoying slightly chilled in ts youth. Kirk describes it as having "heaps of flavour without heaviness". I could drink a bucket or two of this. $26.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Here's a wine for those who like their reds on bigger side of the spectrum; more bulldozer than go kart. Orphan Bank is a testament to Langmeil's commitment to preserving old and rare Barossa vineyards. Ten rows of shiraz planted pre-1860 were saved from a developer's clutches and replanted alongside the original Langmeil vineyard on the banks of the River Para. Deep and inky in colour, this is a rich and powerful wine with sweet fruit, spice and impressive tannins that suggest it will cellar well. $50.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Saturday, June 29, 2013
There is a consistent quality to the wines that Xavier Bizot and Luxy Croser produce from their small Wrattonbully vineyard on the Limestone Coast. I had their 2012 sauvignon blanc ready to review, but it was then trumped by this outstanding varietal cabernet that shows remarkable intensity given the vines were planted less than a decade ago. There's plenty of blackcurrant power here, an impressive tannin structure, too, along with classic herbs and spice with beautifully balanced oak. It is well worth buying a six-pack and enjoying a bottle or two over each of the next few years. $33. www.terreaterre.com.au
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Here we go again - another new release from Oakridge and more fawning praise from the wine media. The simple fact is David Bicknell is making some of the best chardonnays anywhere in Australia - and this offers terrific value for money. From a stellar Yarra Valley vintage, it is a blend of grapes from several regions of the Yarra and is everything you'd expect from an Oakridge chardy; fresh, clean and minerally with beautifully poised acid. It's steely with the meerest breath of oak, but with hints of creaminess on the palate to add textural interest. And it can often be found on special well below the RRP of $23.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
The Yarran range was one my discoveries on a recent trip to the Riverina - young winemaker Sam Brewer is producing some excellent wines at very reasonable prices and I also enjoyed the chardonnay and merlot from 2012. This is an unashamed grigio, very northern Italian in style, that is vibrant and varietal with delightful crispness on the finish. The fruit leaps out of the glass and the brisk acid guarantees refreshment. An ideal post-work pick me up and terrific value at $12. www.yarranwines.com.au.
Monday, June 10, 2013
A big, rich, deeply coloured shiraz from Berton Vineyards (probably better known in the UK than Australia) is a formidable value-for-money buy. A blend of local Riverina fruit with some from Swan Hill in the Riverland, this has some enticing aromas leading to a soft, approachable palate with dark, ripe berry fruit and well-integrated oak. There's nothing too subtle here; just a well put together soft and approachable red that wants to be your friend and over-delivers on quality. Put a bottle of this beside you when you are watching the footy and I'll bet it is empty before full-time. A cracker this. $12.
Monday, June 3, 2013
Margaret River keeps racking up great vintage after great vintage and Vasse Felix winemaker Virginia Willcock keeps turning out out classic version after classic version of Heytesbury, the pioneering Western Australian winery's flagship Bordeaux blend. A cabernet sauvignon-dominated wine that also contains petit verdot and malbec, this has spent 18 months in top-quality French barriques and is a superbly supple wine, boasting restrained power and intense berry fruit beautifully allied to the well-integrated oak. This will undoubtedly cellar well but is temptingly gorgeous right now. $90. www.vassefelix.com.au/
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Affordable mature Bordeaux from a very good producer in the Listrac-Medoc appellation? Tick. A blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon and 50% merlot from hand-tended vines farmed using organic methods and hand-picked? Tick. The use of 30% new oak that has been impressively integrated? Tick. Soft, complex and round, this is a wine of great length and elegance with not the slightest hint of greeness. Its quality puts to shame many bigger-name Bordeauxs at double, even triple, the price. This is drinking beautifully now and no doubt for some years to come. Stock up on a case if you afford to do so. $49. www.discovervin.com.au
Saturday, April 27, 2013
There are some wine producers who seem to manage to hit the bullseye every time; no matter how tough the vintage. Franco d'Anna from Hoddles Creek in the Yarra Valley is one such vigneron, as is evidenced by this stunning and decidedly Chablis-like cool-climate chardonnay from the winery's flagship range. Weighing in at just 13.2% alcohol, this is a white wine of both concentration and finesse with immense immediate appeal. Made using minimal intervention (its spends more time in tank than in oak), the fruit shows taut, flinty nuances alongside tangy citrus notes, green apple with just a hint of mealiness and superb acid. This has so much length and purity and is beautifully composed and light on its toes - like a world-class fencer. $40. www.hoddlescreekestate.com.au.
Monday, April 22, 2013
The Orange region, just over three hours west of Sydney, is fast emerging as one of the most exciting wine producing districts in the country; chardonnay and sauvignon blanc do particularly well in its cool climes. This is a stunner from a small family winery that has built up a formidable reputation for quality. This has a real Wow! factor with grapefruit and mandarine notes, some nutty nuances and restrained spicy oak. Extremely elegant with terrific length and balance. $36. www.printhiewines.com.au
Saturday, April 13, 2013
I recently tasted a batch of wines from Queensland, largely from the Granite Belt, and while several of the whites shone, this was the standout red. The Costanzo family craft some excellent wines at their Ballandean facility and this is a delightful take on the Sicilian grape Nero d'Avola, which is growing in popularity in Australia. It has a delightful freshness and drinkability to it, with a bright mixed berry and smoky nose followed by zingy ripe fruit, good structure, spicy intensity and plenty of lively acid. Very food friendly and a great lunchtime red at just 13.5% alcohol. $24. www.goldengroveestate.com.au.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
For those days when you just want a wine that is cool, clean, crisp and refreshing, I give you the Briar Ridge Trio; a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and chardonnay from the Hunter Valley and Orange regions of New South Wales. Unwooded and weighing in at a modest 12% alcohol, this is not a wine that encourages contemplation or evokes images of terroir. It is what it is, a very enjoyable drink that demands nothing of the imbiber other than pleasure. It's a light, earlier drinking style in which all the elements have gelled brilliantly. $18. www.briarridge.com.au.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Clever chap, Andrew Caillard. He's a master of wine, auctioneer, author and all-round wine boffin. He not only made this lovely wine in conjunction with family members, he also painted the pretty picture for the label. I tasted this alongside several far more expensive premium reds and it shone with its super dark fruit complexity. “Exquisite” was my one word tasting note. It is a triumph from a very difficult vintage in the Barossa; spicy, supple, briary, tangy and very drinkable. One to seek out - and a terrific partner for a traditional roast lamb en croute. $44. www.caillardwine.com.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Sunday, February 24, 2013
If there were to be a competition to find the label offering the best value wines in the land then Wickhams Road would be a very serious contender. Wickhams Road is the budget label of respected Yarra Valley winery Hoddles Creek, which embraces sustainable agriculture and organic methods. This is an excellent chardonnay from a serious cool-climate wine region at a price that beggars belief. It is a lip-smackingly delicious, thoroughly modern chardonnay in the style of Chablis with white stone fruit, citrus and mineral notes to the fore along with crisp acidity. Try it with flathead and chips. There is also a Gippsland chardonnay in the range that is equally excellent. $18. www.hoddlescreekestate.com.au.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
The 2011 vintage was a problematic one for red wines in the Yarra Valley - and Coldstream Hills produced no reserve or individual vineyards reds. The good news, however, is that all that premium fruit went into the standard pinot noir - which while still tightly wound is a wine of immense promise. A recent online tasting hosted by founder James Halliday and winemaker Andrew Fleming underlined that the Coldstream Hills wines are very much "in the zone" right now and I enjoyed this pinot for its medium-bodied elegance, dark cherry and cranberry flavours, stalky elements, earthy delicatessen notes and well integrated French oak. It's a wine that will evolve in time, but its a classic cool-climate vintage wine right now for those who enjoy the style. $35.
Monday, February 4, 2013
The trendies have already started chuckling at the mere thought of drinking sauvignon blanc; a variety that has become almost laughably unfashionable among the industry set. Their loss. Sauvignon blanc is popular with the general public for a reason - and this is a beautifully crisp, precise and intense wine without any overt herbaceousness. Gooseberry, fresh grass, passionfruit and grapefruit characters rule the roost here, aided by some subtle oak to add interest on the palate, which finishes crisp, dry and downright delicious. Pair it with Thai seafood dishes. $22.
Monday, January 28, 2013
The wines from Swinging Bridge, which sources fruit from both Orange and the Central Ranges, are invariably offer both high quality and good value - but this is one of the best I've seen, a cracking, thoroughly modern Orange limited-release chardonnay (in provenance, not colour) that more than held its own alongside a Chablis from a very reputable producer. The elegance and balance underline the quality cool-climate fruit used in a wine that has beautiful texture with hints of citrus, stone fruit and minerality, along with restrained oak that plays a judicious support role. Lovely stuff. $32. www.swingingbridge.com.au.
Monday, January 21, 2013
La Prova is the name of a new range of wines from Adelaide Hills winemaker Sam Scott. The label means the trial, or experiment, and the range features Italian grape varieties. I was very impressed by both the pinot grigio and this pale rosé made from aglianico grapes. It doesn't pay to be colourist when it comes to either rosé or pinot noir; some of the palest wines are the most textural and savoury. Such is the case here, with this plump, tangy and dry number that went brilliantly with some Lebanese dishes. $23. www.scottwinemaking.com.au
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Soumah is a funky new producer based at Gruyere in the Yarra Valley (the name stands for South of the Maroondah Highway). This is its third release of savarro, the rather peculiar name it chose for its savagnin after it turned out that what Australians thought were albarino grapes were not (a long and complicated story). Fortunately there is nothing either funky, or peculiar, about the wine, which is made in the style of Northern Italian pinot grigio; fresh, crisp and clean and ideal for drinking young - and appropriate as savagnin dates back 10 centuries to the Alto Adige region, where pinot grigio also thrives. As Australians increasingly look for alternative grape varieties, I suspect this will be extremely popular - and most punters won't give a damn that there is no such grape as savarro. To cut a long story short, I very much like the citrus and gentle spice notes of this unwooded wine and recommend drinking it chilled. Lots of it. $26. www.soumah.com.au