Monday, December 29, 2014

The Lane Block 1A 2013 Chardonnay

I loved this wine for its freshness; pristine fruit and crisp acidity. It came out top in a bracket of cool-climate chardonnays in the $20-30 bracket and surprisingly turned out to be the cheapest of them all. From The Lane estate vineyards in the Adelaide Hills this is certainly a bargain. It has delightful stone fruit and cashew nut on the nose, leading to a zingy palate with grapefruit, white peach and tight flinty acid with oak very much in a support role but adding texture. A thoroughly modern wine that is quite delicious and would be great with seafood dishes, barbecued crustaceans or old-fashioned roast pork. $20.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Montoro 2013 Pepper Shiraz

The kind folk from the Orange Wine Show sent me a batch of recent trophy and gold medal winners; all of a standard you'd expect from this fast-emerging cool-climate region in Central Western NSW. Among them was this gold winner, a new name to me but from a vineyard that has apparently been planted from two decades. Montoro is situated at 900 metres above sea level, which accounts for the intense black pepper and spice in this really lovely wine crafted by Charlie Svenson and Will Rikard Bell. Think vibrant dark hedgerow berry flavours and savoury sous bois notes. This is unfiltered and unfined, so a little rustic, but all the better for that. A wine with real personality. $38. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chrismont 2014 Riesling

This may well be the best sub-$20 white wine buy in Australia right now. I tasted this new release from Arnie Pizzini's Chrismont winery in the King Valley of north-east Victoria a couple of weeks ago, just prior to its release. Arnie told me the recommended retail price is $18 but you can often find it cheaper, which is just incredible for a luminescent wine that leaps out of the glass with its youthful exuberance. This has all the very attributes of young riesling; it is floral and fresh with dashing citrus notes, zingy acidity and crisp minerality. It can be enjoyed on its own, or with a wide variety of dishes, and is probably best enjoyed while in the full flush of youth. I reckon if you buy one bottle you'll go back for a case. Seriously good. $18.      

Friday, December 5, 2014

Glaetzer-Dixon 2013 Mon Pére Shiraz

The Glaetzer family has been making wines in the Barossa Valley dating back to the 1880s, but Nick Glaetzer has taken a very different road, spending the past decade honing his craft making wines in chilly Tasmania. He's picked up a Jimmy Watson Trophy and a Young Winemaker of the Year award along the way and is soon to open an urban winery and cellar door in Hobart. This new-release shiraz from a fine vintage is a blend of fruit from the Coal, Derwent and Tamar valleys; a north-south blend that is simultaneously intense and finely crafted. It's a wine that is all about cool-climate fruit quality with ripe berry, pepper and spice characters to the fore. This is beautiful right now, sweet/savoury and soft, but I'd put a couple of bottles away for a few years. $50.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Tim Adams 2014 Pinot Gris

Veteran winemaker Tim Adams has the Midas touch with pinot gris; seldom missing a beat and always producing wines that are flavoursome and full of textural interest. Using fruit sourced from two Clare Valley vineyards, this has seen some of the pressings returned to blend to add palate weight. White stone fruit flavours are to the fore (think Nashi pear, Granny Smith apple  and white peach flavours) and there are a few grams of residual sugar to counterbalance the crisp natural acidity. This is a wonderfully food-friendly wine that pairs particularly well with lightly-spiced Asian dishes. A great choice for immediate summer enjoyment and something of a bargain when on special. $20.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sevenhill 2012 St Ignatius

The wonderfully atmospheric Sevenhill Cellars in the Clare Valley are one of the classic Australian wine venues that should be on the "to do" list of any wine lover visiting the region. The Jesuits have been making wine here since 1851 but have moved with the times. Today the wines are made by a woman winemaker, Liz Heidenreich. This is a terrific blend of four grapes; cabernet sauvignon, malbec, cabernet franc and merlot from a vintage regarded as arguably the best of the decade in the Clare. It is an intense and powerful wine, weighing in at 15% alcohol, but there is also poise alongside the power. $40.   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Paper Road 2013 Pinot Noir

If you enjoy your pinot noir young, fresh, juicy and slurpable then you'll almost certainly enjoy this brambly and untamed new release from talented New Zealand winemaker Paddy Borthwick, who is based at Gladstone in the Wairarapa. This is fruit-driven and designed for immediate enjoyment - and I doubt you'll find a better wine in the same style in this price bracket. It is imported into Australia by Single Vineyard Cellars and has a recommended retail price of $25. With its bright, lively red and black fruit flavours (think sweet cranberries) and silky soft finish that makes it an absolute steal.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Rymill 2012 mc²

I tried a dozen or so wines of different power and weight as a match for veal cutlets and mushroom-infused pasta but nothing came close to being as good a partner as this humble blend from the Rymill family in Coonawarra. A melange of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc that is designed to be particularly food friendly and versatile, it lived up to its role admirably. There is no great complexity here; but there is great drinkability, which is almost certainly what you are looking for at the price point. Soft but structured, fruity but far from frivolous, I enjoyed this immensely. $20. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Coriole 2013 Sangiovese

The Lloyd family were way ahead of the game when they planted the Tuscan grape variety sangiovese in McLaren Vale almost three decades ago. With Italian varietals now all the rage, Coriole has the oldest sangiovese plantings in the country. Fruit quality shines through here in a most attractive medium-bodied red that combines bright red fruit flavours with savoury characters and a lovely structure. This is the style of versatile food wine that is perfect for when friends drop around for a bite, or you need to grab a bottle for a visit to the BYO. Beautifully balanced and very reasonably priced. $25.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Vickery 2014 Watervale Riesling

This is the first release of a cracking Clare Valley riesling that's a collaborative effort between veteran John Vickery, maker of many of the great old Leo Buring rieslings, and talented young gun Phil Lehmann, youngest son of the late Peter Lehmann. Made from fruit from three Watervale vineyards, two young, one old, this is a wine of rare beauty and purity - and the product of a great Clare vintage. A vivacious, floral nose leads on to a palate driven by fresh lime and grapefruit-tinged acidity, tremendous length and flinty minerality. Vibrant, refreshing, delicious. You won't do better at the price. $24.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Leconfield 2013 Coonawarra Merlot

I enjoyed the 2012 Leconfield Merlot and really like this 2013 version as well. Which comes as something of a surprise as I am no great admirer of merlot as a stand-alone varietal in Australia. Winemaker Paul Gordon clearly has an affinity with the variety as he's able to produce delightfully drinkable merlot on a regular basis. This is soft and silky with ripe plummy fruit, as you'd expect, but also has plenty of length and palate interest with the French and American oak adding structure. It would be terrific with coq au vin or and old-fashioned roast chicken and the trimmings. $25.    

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Journey Wines 2013 Pinot Noir

Damian North has access to some very good Yarra Valley fruit and has made a splendidly accessible pinot noir in 2013, with dark berry notes, length and depth and the fruit shining through despite the use of 25% new French barriques. A former sommelier who has worked in Oregon, as well as at TarraWarra Estate and Leeuwin Estate, his wines are blossoming with each vintage and this pinot from a warm, dry vintage is positively hedonistic with a beautiful balance between the bright fruit, spice and earthiness. Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing on your tongue - a thing of beauty. The empty bottle gave away how much I enjoyed this. $34.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bobar 2013 Yarra Valley Syrah

Husband and wife team Tom and Sally Belford craft some intriguing wines in the Yarra Valley; marching to a different drum to the bulk of Yarra mainstream. This is labelled syrah, rather than shiraz, presumably to indicate a French style preference, and is both unfiltered and unfined but full of personality. Inky, it has the merest hint of spritz (maybe thanks to carbonic maceration), some silk sheet softness and a very fruity palate with black cherry/sweet raspberry cheerfulness to the fore. There is just a smidgen of spice, too, with some savoury/deli action, along with an appealing immediate drinkability. It may be in the natural wine camp but who cares? It's a very stylish wine with a stylistic nod to serious Beaujolais. $29.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thomas 2014 Braemore Semillon

Is this Australia's best semillon year on year? Probably. Is this outstanding new-release 2014 the best Andrew Thomas has produced? Very likely. Put simply, this is an outstanding version of under-valued Hunter semillon that makes you shake your head in bewilderment that the style is not more popular. Made from fruit grown on 45-year-old vines, this is so pure, so fresh and clean that you could almost take a bath in it. The fruit was havested at night by pickers using headlamps and is wonderfully tight and vibrant (think lemon and lime juice with hints of Asian spice). Steely, with just 10.8% alcohol, this would be marvellous paired with fresh oysters, or a plate of sashimi and sushi. From a cracking vintage, you could confidently cellar it for a decade or two - but it is just too delicious right now to make that seem a realistic possibility. $30.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Z Wine 2012 Rustica Shiraz

Z Wines is a small Barossa Valley winery run by the Zerk sisters, winemaker Janelle and marketer Kristen, that I must admit had previously flown under my radar. The Zerk family has been growing grapes since 1846 but Janelle is the first member of the family to turn to wine making - and has done vintages around the globe. The fruit is sourced from the family's Lyndoch vineyards and this is a new addition to the range that can be found at Dan Murphy's stores. It is absolutely delicious and ridiculously good value with juicy/spicy blackberry/dark plum notes and some soft earthiness as well. A terrific fruit-driven wine for enjoying in its youth and an ideal "midweek" choice. $15.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hahndorf Hill 2014 GRU Gruner Veltliner

Take two South Africans who settled in the Adelaide Hills and developed a love of Austrian wine styles - particularly the savoury white variety gruner veltliner - and you have the back story to a wine that has established a big reputation over just a handful of vintages. This is a brand-new release (I believe I am the first journalist to get a peek) that is remarkably pretty and delicate - "like a young girl in a summer dress". It is an aromatic and textural wine with 30% of the fruit having seen older oak, some going straight to stainless steel and some being given skin contact. With the pioneering vines now nine years of age this wine is hitting its straps and offers a very chic, food-friendly option to sauvignon blanc and pinot gris. Just delightful. $30.         

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Kooyong 2012 Meres Pinot Noir

I am an unashamed fan of the wines of Sandro Mosele, chief winemaker at Kooyong and Port Phillip Estate on the Mornington Peninsula. He has the midas touch with both chardonnay and pinot noir with his wines always standing out in blind tastings. This is aromatic and bright, silky smooth and savoury at the same time; some European sensibilities shining through despite the fruit's origins. It is brambly and complex, elegant and completely beguiling. I was sipping on this after a tasting, savouring not swigging, but the bottle was soon empty. One of three single vineyard pinots in the collection and the most immediately inviting, this is downright delicious and I wouldn't begrudge the price given the stellar quality. I'd have no hesitation giving it 97/100. $75.     

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Oliver's Taranga 2014 Fiano

I am extremely impressed by the consistency of the wines being produced by Corrina Wright (a sixth-generation family member) and her team at small McLaren Vale producer Oliver's Taranga. This wine, made from a grape that derives from the Campania region of Italy, ticks all the boxes for modern white wines. It is medium-bodied with plenty of textural palate interest, fresh and citrusy with nutty nuances, low in alcohol at 12.5% and punches well above its weight when it comes to price-quality ratio. $24.    

Friday, August 8, 2014

Terre a Terre 2012 Wrattonbully Cabernet Sauvignon

Talented young couple Xavier and Lucy Bizot, both blessed with impeccable wine industry credentials, are making some stunning wines from the under-rated Wrattonbully region of South Australia. Their complex and intense 2013 Terre a Terre sauvignon blanc is among the best in the country and this cabernet sauvignon, made in tiny quantities, could confidently be put up against any label from nearby Coonawarra. From an outstanding vintage, this is just the third cabernet release and it packs plenty of persistence for a wine from such young vines. There is depth of flavour with cassis and spice notes matched by excellent tannin structure. Beautifully poised; very elegant; extremely drinkable. $40.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Toolangi 2011 Estate Chardonnay

Forget any bias you may have against wines from the 2011 vintage; this is an absolutely terrific Yarra Valley chardonnay that sits comfortably midway on the style spectrum and offers superb drinking. Made from hand-picked fruit grown on the Hounsell family's estate at Dixons Creek and vinified at Oakridge by chardonnay maestro David Bicknell this underwent natural yeast ferment and no malo and spent 10 months in larger format French oak, including 40% new barrels. There is some exciting classic stone fruit character here, but also some subtle nuttiness and palate complexity. Classically appealing with an Errol Flynn swagger. $35-40. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ocean Eight 2012 Verve Chardonnay

Mike Aylward is crafting some impressive wines from Ocean Eight on the cool-climate Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and this one in particularly blew me away - an Australian take on village Chablis that is early picked, high in acid and low in alcohol at 12.2%. This is a very clean, linear and refreshing chardonnay with treatment in old oak barrels adding some textural complexity without impacting on the palate, which is long and refreshing. Pale, citrusy, minerally and bloody good drinking when lightly chilled. Great stuff. $48.   

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fowles Wines 2013 Stone Dwellers Arneis

Vermentino, fiano, arneis; the wine world is full of aromatic Italian white varieties that were virtually unknown a decade ago, but all three look to hold immense promise in Australia. This is the first arneis release from Fowles Wines in Victoria's Strathbogie Ranges; and it is an offering for those who like their whites with plenty of fruity punch. There's a tropical fruit salad nose with the tropical theme leading on to a palate where it is allied to a strong citrus backbone. This is long, lively and fresh and a very good introduction to a variety that originates in Piedmont and is known for producing floral and crisp wines; although the style can also be rich and textural. $22.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Stanton and Killeen 2011 Durif

The durif grape, also sometimes known as petite syrah, has a cult following among aficionados of bigger-style reds, and thrives in warm climes of Rutherglen in north-east Victoria. This is a more elegant durif than many of its counterparts, the result of a cooler vintage. It has plenty of intense fruit flavours but rather less weight than is the case in warmer years. Medium-bodied and spicy, this is a soft and approachable red that offers something just a little bit different. Try pairing it with a venison goulash. $35.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Willow Creek 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes you come across a wine and food matching so sublime that it takes your breath away. So it was with this delightful sauvignon blanc crafted by Geraldine McFaul paired with some Will Studd Brillat Savarin cheese. Sauvignon blanc thrives in the cool maritime climate of the Mornington Peninsula and this one hits all the right notes. It's had all the wine-making bells and whistles; whole bunch pressing and barrel ferment, adding texture and palate interest without impinging on the fruit purity. Lovely stuff. $35.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Medhurst 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

Former Domaine Chandon winemaker Matt Steel is doing some excellent work at Medhurst in the Yarra Valley. First planted by owners Ross and Robyn Wilson in 2000, the vineyard is now producing some excellent red wines, with the 2012 shiraz and pinot noir also outstanding. This is delightful cool-climate cabernet, intensely purple in colour with a panoply of red and black fruit characters on the palate, hints of Asian spice mix and some judicious oak. Well-balanced and with plenty of power, this is well worth seeking out for those who prefer finesse in their reds rather than brute force. $30.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Kerrigan + Berry 2013 Riesling

Michael Kerrigan is the vastly experienced winemaker at Hay Shed Hill in Margaret River and his friend Gavin Berry is the long-time winemaker at West Cape Howe. Both have decades of experience and make the K+B wines as a diversion. This wine is made from fruit grown on 40+ year-old vines on the Langton Vineyard at Mount Barker in the Great Southern region, which is fast becoming one of Australia's best sources of riesling. This is a classic Australian dry riesling; intense with lashings of citrus and minerality, along with some impressive precision and a great acid backbone. It is wonderfully thirst-quenching and will probably age well, too, although my guess is most of it will be consumed young. It would be a delight with a Thai banquet. $30.     

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hurley Vineyard 2012 Lodestone Pinot Noir

Take a pair of high-flying legal eagles who turned wine from a hobby to a mini industry and quickly built a reputation for high-class Mornington Peninsula pinot and you have Hurley Vineyard. The brainchild of judge Kevin Bell and solicitor Tricia Byrnes, Hurley Vineyard has over the past decade emerged as a beacon of quality single-site pinots made with tremendous care and affection. In 2012, a cracking vintage, all three vineyards; Garamond, Lodestone and Hommage, shone. While the Garamond and the Hommage will cellar brilliantly, the Lodestone stood out for me for current drinking with a its bright dark fruit, judicious oak and smooth lusciousness on the palate. I'm not afraid to admit that my bottle simply evaporated. Be quick, because there are only 300 cases of each wine made. $70.      

Monday, June 2, 2014

Singlefile 2012 Frankland River Cabernet Sauvignon

Over the past couple of vintages I have become aware of the consistent quality being produced by Singlefile Wines, based at Denmark in Western Australia's Great Southern region but with access to fruit across a broad sweep of the state's vineyards. This wine, however, stands out even from the pack of outstanding 2012 cabernets from the west. It is a downright lovely drink; with that elusive interplay between fruit, oak and savoury characters right on the money. Stylish, sophisticated and very approachable even in its youth, this would be a brilliant accompaniment to a lamb en croute. $37.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Woods Crampton 2012 Frances Nicole Shiraz

A sticker on the sample bottle of this wine mistakenly priced it at $24.99 - which would have made it one of Australia's greatest wine bargains. The real price is $50; reflective of the quality, and it's still a good buy at that price point. Made by designer Aaron Woods and marketing guru Nicholas Crampton, and named in honour of their wives, this is made from fruit grown on 60-year-old vines in the Blenkiron Vineyard, a cool site in the Eden Valley. There is a nod to minimalist winemaking techniques here and the use of larger format French oak adds character without any overt oakiness. This is a big wine from a superb vintage but well-rounded and with plenty of length. A red for wine lovers who who value balance and do not want too much of a good thing. There is plenty of dark fruit and spice but the end result is well balanced with good structure. Great now; greater in a decade. Only 157 cases were made. $50.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Howard Park 2013 Great Southern Riesling

A recent visit to the Howard Park cellar door in Margaret River underlined what an impressive array of styles is produced by the Burch family under their many different labels; Howard Park, MadFish, Jete and Marchand and Burch among them. There is an attention to detail throughout, and while the range has grown exponentially over the past few years, this remains one of the standouts; a wine that sits comfortably among Australia's top rieslings. Crisp, clean, delicate, zesty, linear, refreshing.....the adjectives just go on and on.  A dry wine of length and balance that offers immense enjoyment and is wonderfully food friendly. Cellar-worthy, too. $33.     

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Derwent Estate 2012 Chardonnay

The vast majority of the fruit that goes into Penfolds' flagship Yattarna Chardonnay comes from one standout vineyard in Tasmania: Derwent Estate, overlooking the Derwent River at Granton, north of Hobart. And while the Yattarna sells at $100+ a bottle, Derwent Estate owners, the Hanigan family, also keep a small amount of fruit to release under their own label. And, of course, the Derwent Estate wine is just a tad more affordable than Yattarna. Vinified by Julian Alcorso at Winemaking Tasmania (although Derwent Estate has recently built its own winery), this is a thoroughly modern chardonnay with bright stone fruit and citrus flavours, bright acid, a judiciously judged oak regime, minerality and palate interest. Outstanding - and indicative of the quality wines Tasmania is producing. $37.   

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Greywacke 2013 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Reach for the thesaurus. This is about as good as it gets when it comes to sauvignon blanc. No one does the variety better in Marlborough than Kevin Judd, the man who made Cloudy Bay a global phenomenon and then set off of his own to create the Greywacke brand. This is no in-your-face passionfruit and gooseberry fruit fest. It's a whole lot more interesting than that; delicate but not subdued; funky but beautifully balanced with citrus and melon notes, slightly smoky oak, hints of fresh-cut grass and some crisp acid on the finish. Great with food; but just as good without it. Terrific work Mr Judd. $32. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rolf Binder 2012 Barossa Valley Shiraz

There are a number of Barossa Valley shirazes that are hulking monsters; all power, no finesse. But in a world of Wladimir Klitschko-style heavyweights this is more Muhammad Ali. Made from slow-ripening fruit in a very good year, the back label describes this as being "luscious" and "abundant". That's true, you would not mistake it for anything other than Barossa, but there is a certain style to its swagger. Made from fruit from five different vineyards, it also contains some grenache and mataro, adding some earthiness to the sweet, full-bodied shiraz. This is juicy with well considered use of French and American oak and has an immediate drinkability. $20.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Vela Blanca 2012 Albarino

The quality of the imported wines being brought into Australia by Fourth Wave Wines really is quite remarkable. From France, Italy and Spain, the Fourth Wave team have sourced terrific wines from unheralded growers at excellent prices. I particularly enjoyed this albarino from the Rias Baixas region of Spain. It is a wine of vitality and purity with a bright, intense palate, crisp acidity and a lovely  dry finish. It's a little bit different with citrus, green apple and flinty notes, and all the better for that. You can find it in the shops for around $20.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Crittenden Estate 2012 Peninsula Pinot Noir

There is a lot of pleasure to be had from this new-release pinot noir from Crittenden Estate on the Mornington Peninsula - and there's a new-look label too. This is no simple fruit bomb, or earthy mushroom compost remnant, but rather a beautifully balanced pinot with rather more textural interest than many of his its kin. Made with "minimal intervention" it was wild yeast fermented and bottled without fining or filtration. It has some brambly fruit notes, good acid structure and immediate appeal, although I suspect it will cellar well for several years. The 2012 Chardonnay and 2013 Fumé Blanc under the same label are also impressive. $34.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ballandean Estate 2012 Messing About Saperavi

This was one of my favourites wines from Queensland Wine Week; the debut release of saperavi - a grape variety that originates in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and is made by one of the Granite Belt's longest established wineries. Despite being made from young vine fruit this has some impressive dark berry flavours, along with some well-balanced oak and tannin structure, too. This was the champion wine of the show at the Queensland Wine Awards (where I once judged) and it handles its 15% alcohol with consummate ease. One of the Queensland alternative varieties to keep an eye out for. $42.    

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bowen Estate 2012 Shiraz

Family-owned Coonawarra wine producers Bowen Estate are unashamedly old-school in their approach. Doug Bowen still tends the vines, wife Joy runs the office and daughter Emma makes the wines, which in 2012 are of outstanding quality. The range is tiny, wines are still bottled under cork, the labels contain minimal information and there is little or no promotional push other than the sheer quality of what is in the bottle. In 2012, I thought the shiraz just edged out the cabernet sauvignon - but only by a whisker. It's a big wine at 15% alcohol but it handles it beautifully with inkiness leading on to ripe blackberry/dark plum flavours, dark chocolate, oak and spice notes. Great flavour; good structure. $30.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Monocle 2013 Tumbarumba Chardonnay

Monocle is a new label for fast-charging Orange winery Ross Hill and in this instance winemaker Phil Kerney was able to get his hands on some very smart fruit from from high-altitude Tumbarumba. I said on Twitter that was "a really impressive effort with cool-climate gluggability", That might have undersold what is a class act. There are the usual bells and whistles; wild yeast ferment in French oak, including 10% cent new, but it is the shiny minerality and bright fruit intensity that shines alongside the textural elements. A thoroughly modern wine at a very reasonable price. Outstanding. $30.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Paradigm Hill 2013 Riesling

The Mornington Peninsula is perhaps not the first wine region in Australia you would choose to seek out fine rieslings. The Clare and Eden valleys, Henty in Victoria, the Great Southern in Western Australia, even Tasmania, probably have stronger claims. But George Mihaly at Paradigm Hill consistently produces top-notch estate-grown and -made rieslings, potentially long-lived, too, at Merricks. Bone dry, and made in tiny quantities, this is fermented in open vats for 3 1/2 weeks, and winemaking intervention is minimal. Rich, full-flavoured and textural, with more than a nod to Alsace, this is downright delicious. Also try their 2013 rosé for late summer refreshment. $36.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Chemin 2012 Pinot Noir

Chemin is the small-batch label for Yarra Valley winery Punt Road and winemaker Kate Goodman (who has since departed; a big loss). Chemin is the French word for path or direction, and these wines are made using an alternative philosophy to mainstream Punt Road wines - using whole bunch and whole berry fermentation, indigenous yeasts and allowing barrels to age untouched with minimal racking, fining, and filtration. The end aim is minimal intervention wines made in tiny quantities with a savoury, textured palate. This is a wine from an excellent Yarra vintage, using fruit from 25-year-old+ vines. The result is a wine with a distinct French accent; low in alcohol at 12.5% but with savoury North American spice notes alongside dark fruit flavours. Distinctively different. $42.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Penfolds 2012 Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon

At the same time as Penfolds was unveiling its new 2009 Grange and host of other premium wines, what got a little lost in the shuffle was the release of some affordable bin wines from the cracking 2012 vintage. The Bin 138 Barossa Shiraz Grenache Mataro ($40) and the Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz, a more approachable, drink-now red-fruited style for $45 were among them. This new release, however, offers great value for my money. It is a multi-regional blend sourced from vineyards across South Australia (including McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Wrattonbully, the Barossa, Padthaway and Coonawarra) that offers immediate pleasure but will also cellar well for several years. Cassis, green leaf and spice notes jostle on the nose, leading on to a tight, intense palate with dark fruits, earthiness and spice along with classy French and American oak notes and savoury tannin structure. A most impressive debut. $30.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pike & Joyce 2013 Gruner Veltliner

People in the wine industry are often asked: "What's the next big thing?" On the evidence of early efforts from Hahndorf Hill, K1 by Geoff Hardy, Lark Hill and others, my bet is the savoury Austrian white variety gruner veltliner - and this debut effort from Pike & Joyce in the Adelaide Hills is excellent. Made in tiny quantities, it has white pepper/talcum powder notes along with bright fresh pear and green apple characters on a palate that also has faint grapefruit notes. This is nicely vibrant, food-friendly, easy to drink and has impressive crispness. With only around 75 cases made it may pay to lay pedal to the metal if this sounds like your scene. $28. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dog Point 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

If only all New Zealand sauvignon blancs were as compelling as this consistently brilliant offering from Dog Point in Marlborough. I could certainly drink a fair amount of this with its standout tropical fruit salad and Thai herbs on the nose, leading to a palate with textural interest, brisk, refreshing acidity, flinty minerality and citrus notes. Indigenous fermentation to a portion of the fruit has added interest, but this is certainly not one of those over-worked Kiwi savvys where it is all about how clever the winemaker is. Lovely drinking and a congenial companion for seafood and shellfish. $25. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Eden Road 2012 Canberra Shiraz

What a beautifully precise cool-climate wine this is, but you'll need to move quickly to snap some up as only 150 cases were made. Winemaker Nick Spencer has everything in place with gorgeous bright fruit, hints of pepper and spice, structure and balance. While this is drinking superbly already (it will be released in March), I suspect it will also cellar well, and it is extremely food friendly with a sensible 13% alcohol. This is a wine at the cutting edge of new-wave Australian shiraz. Lovely stuff. $60. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

919 Wines 2009 Vintage

Australia's warmer regions produce some of the finest fortified wines in the world and this Riverland take on port is up there with the best. A blend of tinta roriz (tempranillo), touriga nacional and tinta cao (all Iberian grape varieties), along with durif and shiraz, this is dark and mysterious wine, with ripe berry fruit, spice and  licorice and a soft, silky and sweet core. The vintage is made only in excellent years - the last was 2006 - and winemaker Eric Semmler reckons this can confidently be cellared for 20 years. This would be brilliant paired with a Pyengana cheddar from Tasmania, or indulgently poured over vanilla ice cream. $50.   

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pooley 2012 Pinot Noir

Attention to detail in the vineyard has been paying huge dividends for Pooley Wines in recent vintages - with their Coal River Valley vineyards producing some of Tasmania's most exciting and reliable pinots. This is a great each way bet, drinking beautifully in its first year of release with vibrant black and red fruit flavours, but also blessed with tannin structure that suggests it will cellar well for several years to come. It is aromatic and spicy with bright fruit allied to intriguing savoury notes. A chance to see why Tasmanian pinots are all the rage - without breaking the bank. $35.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tim Adams 2013 Riesling

Veteran Clare Valley vigneron Tim Adams hits a double bullseye with this. It's not only mind-blowingly enjoyable, it is also a tremendous bargain as it can generally be found for under $20. This is a classic Clare dry riesling but an x-factor. It is aromatic with zingy lime and lemon zest zaniness on the palate and searing natural acidity on the very cleansing palate. Adams reckons this will cellar for a decade or more. I say phooey - it's just too refreshing not to drink it right now. It reminded me of drinking straight from a fresh mountain stream - and it paired brilliantly with pan-fried snappper. Absolutely fabulous - and just 11.5% alcohol. It's almost a health drink! $20.    

Friday, January 10, 2014

Printhie 2012 MCC Shiraz

The wines from the Orange region in the Central West of New South Wales can be quite spectacular - and this is a case in point; a stunningly good cool-climate shiraz that is peppery, elegant and has plenty of thought-provoking texture. It's not a wine for lovers of blockbusters, but rather for those who prefer reds that can be sipped and savoured. It has plenty of sweet ripe plummy fruit, judicious oak, and is only medium-bodied with just 13.5% alcohol. This has the architecture to age well. I liked this a lot. MCC, by the way, stands for Mount Canobolas Collection - the reserve wines in the Printhie range. $36.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Zonte's Footstep 2013 Doctoressa di Lago Pinot Grigio

Another wine with a crazy name from the fun-loving crew at Zonte's Footstep, who source fruit from vineyards across South Australia. It is named after the "Lake Doctor", a wind that causes temperatures to drop late in the day at Lake Alexandrina, which is overlooked by the Adelaide Hills vineyard from which the fruit is sourced for this really lovely pinot grigio; crisp and fresh, zingy and delicious. There is some really lovely acid here - it's sharper than Christopher Pyne's tongue - but also some softness with delightful ripe pear notes. A terrific summer wine, with or without food, and outrageously good value at $18.