Friday, December 25, 2015

The Lane 2013 Block 8 Merlot

An empty bottle of merlot is a rare sight at my house. I'm happy to taste merlot but that, generally, is as far as it goes. This, however, is a major step above most Australian merlots, a bit like Arsenal playing Accrington Stanley. For some reason merlot works spectacularly well on dry block 8 at The Lane Vineyard, up in the cool-climate Adelaide Hills. This is a really lovely wine; soft and supple as you'd expect from merlot but also full of brambly flavours and with good length. Compared to most of its rivals its just a little bit cheeky, with some unexpected richness and textural interest. Lovely stuff. $39.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

De Iuliis 2015 Hunter Valley Semillon

This juicy, crunchy, fresh and vibrant Hunter Valley semillon has to be one of Australia's great wine bargains with a ludicrously low RRP. Mike de Iuliis is making some cracking wines right now and his 2014 shirazes are also worth seeking out. This is deliciously crisp and light with lemon and lime notes and lively acid backbone and would be delicious on its own, or paired with any number of seafood dishes over the Christmas holidays. Alternatively you can store it away in the cellar and it will blossom in five or more years. $19.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fox Gordon 2015 Charlotte's Web Pinot Grigio

At last a pinot grigio that is unashamedly grigio in the northern Italian style; crisp, lively and refreshing as a mountain stream. In a world where there are so many grigios masquerading as gris - and vice versa - it is refreshing to find one true to the original prescription, not muddied and homogenised by crazed lees stirring. This Adelaide Hills offering is clean, elegant and lovely with grapefruit and lemon sorbet notes, length and acidity. It is a wine for chilling, a wine for savouring and enjoying with friends. Downright delicious but don't ask; I have no idea who Charlotte is. $24.   

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Stella Bella 2012 Sangiovese Cabernet

When it first debuted, this was an unorthodox blend of Italian varietal and Margaret River staple but this West Australian take on Super Tuscans has now long been a favourite under this label. It comes up trumps in the taste stakes, in this vintage producing a wine that offers both the savoury and undergrowth characters of the Italian variety combined with the sweet dark berry fruit and structured tannins of cabernet. It is a most successful coupling, with the end result a red wine of real personality - and extremely food friendly. $30.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Pike & Joyce 2015 "Separe" Gruner Veltliner

With its sweet/savoury fruit characters and brisk, attractive acidity, the Austrian grape variety gruner veltliner is an ideal choice for enjoyment during the Australian summer. It is starting to build a cult following thanks to the efforts of several Adelaide Hills producers and wines of this quality will surely see it soon gain mainstream status. Think crisp apple and ripe pear notes, gentle spice hints and a long, lean backbone with flinty minerality. A wine for enjoying young and well-chilled, with a second bottle on standby. It is well worth taking a vinous road less travelled to try this. $28.      

Friday, November 20, 2015

Shadowfax 2015 Riesling

There are at least half a dozen wine regions of Australia where you'd look for quality riesling before Geelong; the Clare and Eden valleys, the Great Southern, Canberra and Tasmania among them. But winemaker Matt Harrop has come up trumps with this wine; a riesling that features hand-picked fruit from Sutherlands Creek that ticks all the varietal boxes. It is fragrant and fresh, with intense lime/grapefruit flavours on the palate, and it finishes long and very dry with some attractive green apple crispness. A delightful wine for summer enjoyment, with or without food (although it would pair brilliantly with shellfish). Our bottle was empty inexplicably quickly. $26.  

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Eldridge Estate 2014 Gamay

Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais, the region of France that produces lip-smackingly juicy red wines that invariably offer immediate enjoyment without any need for cellaring. Gamay is an ideal style for the Australian lifestyle - it is fresh and enjoyable chilled - but only a handful of local producers, Sorrenberg and Two Bud Spur among them, make it successfully. David Lloyd at Eldridge Estate on the Mornington Peninsula, is one of the leading lights in the Australian gamay movement, and this is an absolute ripper; vivacious and vibrant with dark cherry notes, hints of pepper and herbs, and really zingy cranberry acidity that dances a tango on your tongue. Lloyd says it will cellar for up five years but I can't for the life of me see why you'd want to. $40. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Deviation Road 2015 Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon blanc is derided by the wine snobs, sneered at by wine wankers and ignored by wine trendoids. But the reality is that a good savvy blanc, crisp, fresh and lively, is a perfect choice for an after-work tipple or summer treat on the terrace. And they don't come much better than this excellent little number from an Adelaide Hills winery that is probably best known for its stellar bubblies. There is plenty of intensity to be enjoyed here with a good balance between tropical fruit salad flavours, lean citrus notes and herbaceous crispness. The finish is lean and clean with refreshing flinty minerality and brisk acid. Forget what the hipsters say and enjoy a well-chilled glass or two. Available nationally and distributed by Negociants. $24.   

Friday, October 30, 2015

Artwine 2014 Grumpy Old Man Grenache

As a grumpy old man myself it comes as no surprise that I loved this lip-smackingly good Clare Valley grenache from Artwine. It is made using fruit from gnarly, century-old bush vines that still produce outstanding fruit in their dotage. This has all the bright, lively fruit you'd expect from classy grenache with dark berry and black cherry flavours to the fore, along with dark spice notes. This is a very impressive wine in its youth, but it should also cellar impressively. Smart packaging. Smart wine. $30. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Paradigm Hill 2015 Transition Rosé

It is the time of year when rosé comes to find; pale, crisp, dry and refreshing rosé for al fresco enjoyment like they do in Provence. From being all but ignored a few years ago, rosé wines are enjoying a new wave of popularity thanks to standouts like this delicious estate-grown and -made wine from the Mihali family at Merricks on the Mornington Peninsula. Made from 100% shiraz grapes, it weighs in at just 12% alcohol and is more interesting than many of its counterparts, having been both oak fermented and spent six months maturing in barrels. It finishes bone dry, as is the current fashion, and would be marvellous with a picnic or paired with Lebanese dishes. It is vibrant and savoury with a crisp acid finish. The complete package. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Zema Estate 2012 Cluny

You never see a bad wine under the Zema Estate label - and this classic Coonawarra blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot offers formidable value for money at under $25 retail. The Zema family are fastidious about their vineyards and winemaker Greg Clayfield has decades of regional experience. Put those factors together and you have wines of real personality. This has seen plummy, spicy fruit spend 14 months in both French and American oak and is a very attractive, easy-drinking style that has enough palate interest and balance to please most red drinkers. $25.   

Friday, October 9, 2015

Clonakilla 2015 Riesling

Tim Kirk has largely built his reputation on shiraz in various guises, and particularly his shiraz-viognier blend, a cult wine that was first a trendsetter and is now a benchmark. The awesome 2014 now fetches well over $100 a bottle. But there is more to the Clonakilla range than just stellar shirazes. Kirk and fellow winemaker Bryan Martin last year released an outstanding pinot noir, and also do good things with viognier as a stand-alone varietal. But for me the star win of the new Clonakilla releases is a riesling - and 2015 was a cracking riesling year in the Canberra region with Helm and Lark Hill, among others, also producing very fine wines. This is the 40th Clonakilla riesling, and also a candidate for the best. Kirk describes it as "a wondrous year" and this is beautifully brisk and flavoursome. He suggests cellaring; I disagree. This is just too appealing in its youth not to enjoy over summer. $30.    

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Oakdene 2013 Peta's Pinot Noir

The Bellarine Peninsula is one of Australia's most under-rated wine producing regions with the best wines among the finest cool-climate offerings to be found anywhere. With 100 % pinot noir from the Geelong region, this is a wine that leaps out of the glass with its drinkability; it has all the appeal of young Labrador puppy and just wants to be loved. This has undergone wild yeast fermentation and a small portion of whole bunch material has been used to add structure. Everything is nicely in balance; there is a perfumed bouquet with red berry and Asian spice notes followed up by a palate with bright fruit along with savoury hints and plenty of length. Fruit-driven, and all the better for that, I'm happy to score it 93/100. $35.  

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tyrrell's 2015 Vat 63 Chardonnay Semillon

It is not so long ago that chardonnay/semillon blends were all the rage. Somewhat strangely they appear to have fallen from favour, but wines like this underline how well the combination can work. This is one of a number of cracking 2015 whites from Hunter Valley family winery Tyrrell's; a blend of 60% chardonnay and 40% semillon that is both aromatic and textural. A delight to drink. There is bright, sweet fruit here, French oak playing a support role and some crisp, fresh acid on the finish. This wine is mainly available to the winery's Private Bin club members but if you can't track some down there is a very good alternative in the 2015 Part & Parcel blend, a mix of semillon, chardonnay, gewurztraminer and verdehlo has that immediate aromatic appeal. $30.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hesketh 2014 Negroamaro

Negroamaro is a red wine grape variety native to Puglia in southern Italy, where it is usually used in red blends. The wines can often by rustic in nature but here the deep inkiness and earthiness have been tamed by winemaker Phil Lehmann and his team, resulting in a slinky smooth and disarmingly easy-to-drink wine. The fruit is grown by the Kalleske family and the wine has been aged in older French hogsheads, which add texture without any overt oak flavours. The end result is a fruit-driven, medium-bodied red offering immediate enjoyment without being particularly challenging. Great midweek drinking with or without food. $25.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Achaval-Ferrer 2013 Malbec

This was a stand out at a tasting in Mendoza a few months ago, and it also leapt out of the glass with its elegance and class at a recent importers tasting by Untapped Wines at CoolWine in Hobart. It is wines like this that underline why Argentine malbec has become so popular. It is dark and juicy, smooth and supple, and the perfect companion for a medium-rare fllet steak. Achaval-Ferrer is one of the leading Argentine producers and this is one of the simpler wines in its impressive portfolio. Medium-bodied with some mineral freshness, this is extremely enjoyable in its youth. $66. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Walkerville Vineyard 2013 Pinot Noir

Philip Rich is known as wine retailer, wine writer and show judge, but now he is also a wine producer. The Rich family has been farming at Walkerville, in South Gippsland (about 190 kilometres south-east of Melbourne), for over 45 years, mainly producing lamb and beef. They planted a vineyard in 2006 and have just released their first wine, this idiosyncratic and interesting 2013 Pinot Noir made by ex Kooyong winemaker Sando Mosele. It is very fragrant with spicy and minerally elements to the fore, along with red cherry fruit and freshness. Only 220 dozen bottles were made. $55. Available through the Prince Wine Store. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Airlie Bank 2015 Franc

What a lot of vinous fun for a minimal financial outlay. This is a 2015 Yarra Valley red; a rarity in that it is made from the cabernet franc grape. It is crafted using just a hint of seasoned oak but is fruit driven and charming, aromatic and supple. There were minimal additions and no fining and this is chock-full of juvenile charm. Enjoy this as you would a vin de soif  like Beaujolais. A really lovely wine from the team at Punt Road that would be a pleasure to quaff over summer. $20. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Alkoomi 2015 Frankland River Chardonnay

If you like your chardonnay young, vibrant and uncomplicated then this delivers in spades. From one of the pioneering wineries in Frankland River, in Western Australia's Great Southern region, this wine is all about bright, fresh fruit flavours (think stone fruits with hints of citrus). Really nicely balanced with some brisk acidity, this is a versatile food wine and would pair well with poultry dishes, quiches and salads. And take a look at the price. It is an absolute bargain. $16.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Balnaves 2010 The Tally Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Looking for a perfect present for Father's Day? Look no further. This was one of my favourite wines from the recent Coonawarra Roadshow, a stunning cabernet sauvignon from one of the region's best producers that is only just starting to get into its stride and would be a welcome addition to any connoisseur's cellar. This is a big, assertive wine with mouth-puckering tannins in its youth but is also wonderfully varietal and well balanced with dark cassis fruit flavours to the fore along with black chocolate notes and licorice/black olive hints. If you like wines with structure and commanding presence then you'll enjoy this. One of Australia's great cabernets beyond any doubt. $90.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Kooyong 2013 Faultline Chardonnay

For a decade or more Sandro Mosele has quietly been crafting some of Australia's finest chardonnays for Kooyong on the Mornington Peninsula. A few weeks ago Kooyong put out a press release saying Mosele had left to "pursue other interests". All very mysterious. But Kooyong still has Mosele's wines from 2013 and 2014 to come. This new release is, like all Kooyong wines, estate grown, vinified and bottled. And it's a beauty. Wild yeast ferment has added layers of interest to the flinty minerality. Stone fruit and citrus flavours marry happily with just a smidgen of new oak and the end result is as stylish as a Paris catwalk model. $60.  

Friday, July 31, 2015

Billy Button 2014 "The Rustic" Sangiovese

Billy Button is the new label of former Seppelt and Feathertop winemaker Jo Marsh, who has an unusual problem for a young winemaker; many of her wines sell out within a few months. Marsh is based in the Alpine valleys of north-east Victoria, where she is coaxing maximum flavour out of sangiovese grown at Whorouly South and Myrtleford. This ticks all the sangiovese boxes and is juicy, savoury and spicy - simply a pleasure to drink. The name is spot on. The wine is rustic and unpretentious in a good way with dark cherry juice and lovely balance at just 13.5% alcohol. You could comfortably pair this with anything from classic Italian cuisine to a Friday night takeaway pizza. $30. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Smith & Hooper 2013 Reserve Merlot

Wrattonbully may not yet have the high profile of nearby Coonawarra, but it is producing some outstanding fruit for labels like Smith & Hooper, part of the Hill-Smith Family Vineyards/Yalumba empire. This has a lot more going on than many of its Australian merlot rivals, the terra rossa soil producing flavoursome and vibrant red wines. This is a hand-picked, single-vineyard wine full of the youthful vigour of a yearling colt. There is a freshness here with briary, bright berry and dark chocolate flavours to the fore with apparently minimal oak. It is such a pity that a wine that shines in its youth is bottled under notoriously fallible cork, although the sample bottle was fine. The RRP here is in the high twenties but I've seen this wine on special for a few dollars less. At that price you'd snap it up. $27.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

John Duval 2013 Entity Shiraz

A quietly impressive Barossa shiraz from former Penfolds chief winemaker John Duval, a fourth generation vigneron now making wines under his own label. Duval no longer has the promotional firepower he used to have in his three decades at Penfolds, but his wines are always stylish and good value. Made from old, low-yielding vines in Marananga, Eden Valley, Ebenezer and Krondorf, this stands out for its classic full-bodied depth of flavour and balance, with almost 18 months in French oak acting as counterpoint to the high-quality fruit and the Eden Valley component adding elegance. A wine that's drinking well now but has the poise and structure to cellar well for 15 years of more. $50.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ocean Eight 2013 Verve Chardonnay

I'm hugely impressed by the estate-grown and -bottled Ocean Eight wines that Michael Aylward is producing on the Mornington Peninsula. The Aylward family has a track record, of course, having helped found regional benchmark Kooyong, but the Ocean Eight wines stand out for their purity and fruit intensity. This is very much in the mould of Chablis with lime and grapefuit zest flavours to the fore, slatey minerality and impressive acid backbone. It is drinking very well as a young wine, too, and would be a perfect partner for oysters or a char-grilled lobster. Excellent, but made in small quantities, so it is the quick and the wineless. $50.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Schwarz Wine Co. 2014 Meta Grenache

An impressive range of wines in outstanding colour-coded packaging. Jason Schwarz defines Meta as “an abstraction from a well-known concept” and this fruit-driven, assertive grenache is certainly made in a different style to many of its Barossa siblings. Made from 80-year-old vines, this is the punk, naughty boy version of grape variety that has been somewhat moribund. Hand-picked, 70% whole-bunch fermented, wild yeasts, unfiltered and unfined, this is a raw (Schwarz calls it crunchy), but very appealing, expression of an under-rated variety. Ripe, juicy, spicy and maybe just a little gangly in its youth, this is a barrel load of fun. $35.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Flowstone 2010 Queen of the Earth Cabernet Sauvignon

Flowstone is the new venture of Margaret River winemaker Stuart Pym, who has over 30 years of experience at the likes of Devil's Lair and Stella Bella, and his friend and business partner Phil Giglia. This is an absolutely outstanding cabernet, made in tiny quantities. It has received 100% new oak, but such is quality of the fruit that the wine tastes absolutely seamless (and I hate over-oaked wines). This is a concentrated - but food-friendly - wine that is in the zone; like a McGrath fast ball, or a Federer forehand. There is plenty of flavour here, but the power is retrained. It comes for a very good vintage and has dark berry/chocolate and spice to the fore. There is soft mouthfeel, excellent tannin structure and intensity and it is drinking beautifully right now. I'll score this 96/100. $75. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Eden Hall 2015 Riesling

Either I've been asleep at the wheel, or the wines from Eden Hall have been flying under the radar a little. I was extremely impressed by their two new-release 2015 rieslings, a slightly more refined reserve version that's considerably more expensive (but probably worth it), and this everyday drinking version that's a fast bowler's dream. Think persistent line and length and you are on the right track. This is is very pure, refreshing; textbook Eden Valley riesling attributes to the fore. Lean but delicious, And who are Eden Hall? Well, David and Mardi Hall have been growing grapes at Avon Brae in the high country of the Eden Valley for almost two decades and sell most of their fruit to some of the biggest names in the game. Their limited-release wines are smartly packaged and colour coded. Their white wines are made by Christa Deans (of Rolf Binder) and the reds by Kym Teusner. Oh, and they badly need to update their website. $22. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Brokenwood 2013 Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz

To all those who question the appeal of Hunter Valley shiraz, I present Exhibit One; a superbly composed wine from Iain Riggs and his talented team at Brokenwood. In truth. though, this wine is not about the winemaking, it is about the vineyard, a patch of dirt that has proved itself over decades. Made from 45-year-old vines and coming from a stellar Hunter vintage, this is sharper than a banker's suit, smoother than a salesman's patter. Lifted and brambly, it offers a delightful melange of savoury notes, dark fruit, well-integrated oak and terrific tannin structure. Graveyard traditionally cellars for a couple of decades or more but this looks very smart on release. 95/100 for this one. $200.   

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Oakridge 2014 Meunier

Pinot Meunier is one of the most widely planted grapes in France, but you will rarely find its name on wine labels. Even in Champagne, where it is the most planted variety, it trails well behind pinot noir and chardonnay when it comes to recognition. Aromatic and fruity, and producing its best results in cool climates, here it is utilised as a stand-alone varietal table wine. Vibrant and fresh, pure and crisp with bright red berry flavours and limestone tannins this should be enjoyed as one would enjoy a good Beaujolais; lightly chilled and in its youth. Only 150 cases were made and you'll probably need to venture to the Oakridge cellar door to procure some. Another winner from David Bicknell; disarmingly easy to drink. $26.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Langmeil 2012 The Fifth Wave Grenache

The Lindner family has some of the oldest vines in the Barossa Valley and the name of this wine refers to fifth generation involvement. While grenache is certainly not a trendy variety (it is used mainly for fortifieds), wines like this - made from vines planted over 70 years ago - can only help re-elevate its status. This is a big, bold wine but without the jammy sweetness that many grenaches can display. Dark fruit flavours are to be found here alongside vanillin oak, mocha notes and some spice store characters. Long, sweet and textural, this has the structure to cellar for decades but is approachable right now. Pair it with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. $40.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ross Hill 2014 Pinnacle Sauvignon Blanc

Here is proof that not all sauvignon blancs have to be either tropical fruit bombs or herbaceous as hell. This is a really lovely wine from cool-climate Orange in the Central West of New South Wales, a region that is living up to its vinous promise. Winemaker Phil Kerney, who is on fine form, has hit the bullseye here, coaxing plenty of interest out of fruit grown on vines that are nearly 20 years old and sit at an altitude of 750 metres. The grapes were whole bunch pressed and naturally fermented using wild yeasts. There is zingy fruit intensity here, interesting texture and impressive line and length. Brilliant with sashimi or sushi. I'll give it a comfortable 93/100. $30. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Xanadu 2012 Stevens Road Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2011 vintage of the Xanadu Stevens Road Cabernet Sauvignon was James Halliday's Wine of the Year in 2014 - and was scored by him at 99/100. Predictably, it sold out. The good news, however, is that I honestly believe the new release from consistently excellent winemaker Glenn Goodall is every bit as good. I tasted this alongside the also impressive 2012 Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($85) and only opted to review this wine on value. It is spectacular in terms of quality; a single vineyard wine from Margaret River that sees 40% new oak for 16 months and is wonderfully varietal, extremely stylish and complete on its release - although you'd love to have a few bottles in the cellar. Complex, elegant and dangerously drinkable with black berry and dark chocolate flavours to the fore. I'll give it 97/100. $65.  

Friday, May 1, 2015

Marchand and Burch 2014 Villages Chardonnay

Marchand and Burch is a joint venture between French-Canadian winemaker Pascal Marchand and the Burch family, owners of leading West Australian winery Howard Park, among others. Whether it is the winery impact of Burgundy-based Marchand, or the quality of the fruit from the Porongurups in the Great Southern, anyone tasting this wine blind could be forgiven for thinking it was Burgundian. There is a lively minerality and purity here (sorry, my notes were almost identical to the label notes). I love the structure and restraint. There is so much happening here it is like a novella in a bottle. A wine of elegance and structure that is under-priced at $37. I'll give it 94/100.       

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Yering Station 2012 Pinot Noir

Pinot noir is a most capricious grape, recalcitrant in the vineyard and sometime truculent in the winery. That is why the best examples, like this excellent new release, are so prized. There can be plenty of disappointments for pinotphiles, but this is one of the best releases from Yering Station in the Yarra Valley; aromatic and silky and bursting with bright fruit, allied to classy French oak. This is downright delicious right now and will almost certainly age gracefully. $40.   

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Plantagenet 2013 Chardonnay

Plantagenet's departing winemaker Cath Oates describes 2013 as a “great chardonnay vintage” in Western Australia's Great Southern and this wine underlines that with its seamless quality; bright citrus notes, hints of yeast from indigenous fermentation and classy French oak, which is beautifully integrated. There is an intensity and creaminess here that pinpoints this as a wine that will blossom when paired with food. $35. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

La Ferme du Mont 2012 Gigondas

A superb example of briary, juicy southern Rhone village red from Stephane Vedeau, one of the premier vignerons of this beautful region. A blend of 80% grenache and 20% syrah from organically farmed vineyards with old vines, this is bursting with dark red fruit flavours and spice notes. It is a big wine in the French scheme of things but very well balanced and drinkable even its youth. It is imported by Single Vineyard Sellers. $58.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

1er Yarra Valley 2013 Chardonnay

Franco d'Anna from Hoddles Creek is an extremely versatile winemaker. As well as producing wines that over-deliver in quality for both the Wickhams Road and Hoddles Creek labels, he also crafts small quantities of very classy boutique wines under the playful 1er Yarra Valley banner; poking of fun at the grandoise labels of the great wines of Burgundy. What is in the bottle here has certain parallels with Burgundy; it is lean at 13.2% alcohol, has classic vibrancy and intensity (think citrus and flint) and is made without fining, filtering or additions, letting the fruit write the narrative. If this was Burgundy, though, you'd be paying a substantial whack more than $40. Bargain.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Segura Viudas 2011 Gran Reserva

It is an absolute mystery to me how Champagne sales continue to soar in Australia, how prosecco is all the rage but classy cava is all but ignored. If you are looking for sparkling value there is plenty of it in this new release; which is lean, minerally and very dry with just a touch of mustiness about it adding character and interest. Extremely food friendly, this proved a most amiable companion for char-grilled octopus and sardines in olive oil. $25. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Erin Eyes 2013 Merlot

Steve Wiblin is closing in on four decades in the wine business, first on the marketing side for labels such as Wynns and the now sadly neglected Seaview, then for close on 15 years as a partner and co-owner of the Neagles Rock label. Now, after recovering from a period of ill health, he's sourcing premium Clare fruit for his own boutique label Erin Eyes, the name of which is a nod to to his Irish ancestry. This is one the better merlots to be found in Australia, rich and profound with plenty of length and palate weight. It's soft, as you'd expect, but also very interesting. $28.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Thistledown 2013 The Basket Case Shiraz

There is all the power and persistence you would expect from a young Barossa shiraz here, but also with a little elegance and swagger. There's the intense aromas and dark black fruit notes you would anticipate, but also a plush, relaxed attitude, perhaps due to the use of an old-style basket press in the winery. There are also some spicy elements in the background of this layered, textural wine and overall this is more a smart and savvy middleweight than some of the region's heavyweights. It would be superb matched with lamb cutlets and short-crust vegetable tarts. Lovey stuff. $35.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hay Shed Hill 2012 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon

 Tasting this is in a bracket containing several more expensive Margaret River cabernets, I made a note that this was probably in the $50+ bracket, offering all the elements required of a regional icon. The 40-year-old vines at Hay Shed Hill are doing their job, 2012 was an outstanding vintage and Michael Kerrigan a wise winemaker who is in touch with the region and its vines. This is a wine of impeccable balance with dark berry fruit allied to classy French oak producing a svelte, intense but stylish red with both complexity and accessibility. An absolute bargain at $28.   

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Audrey Wilkinson 2014 Winemakers Selection Semillon

Crisp, fresh Hunter semillon is a quintessentially summer drink, full of vibrancy and intense citrus and green apple characters. There’s plenty of zesty mineral acidity here as well, making this a very refreshing drop whether you pair it with some freshly shucked oysters, fritto misto or some basic fish fingers and chips on a sunny lunchtime. Either way, this is a lovely wine from a cracker vintage made from fruit grown in one of the oldest vineyards in the Hunter Valley. $27.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ad Hoc 2014 Wallflower Riesling

There are a bewildering number of wines and ranges made by Larry Cherubino from all corners of West Australia but they all have two things in common: quality and value for money. Now labelled Great Southern rather than Mount Barker, this riesling can often be found for under $20 - which makes it hard to beat. Very floral with bright citrus flavours on the crisp, dry palate, this is a wine designed for immediate enjoyment and would be a lovely post-work soother, or terrific paired with spicy Thai food. With riesling this good it is a wonder the variety is still struggling for popularity. $20. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dog Point 2012 Pinot Noir

This is a multiple award winner from a Marlborough, New Zealand, winery owned by former Cloudy Bay grape growers and winemakers who favour organic farming methods. It is a delightfully complex and interesting pinot noir with violets and savoury notes on the nose leading on to a palate on which bright red fruit takes the lead with well-integrated French oak and soft tannin structure. A serious wine of immediate drinkability that would be great matched with game meats or mushroom dishes. $45.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hither & Yon 2014 Muscat Blanc

The Leask family of McLaren Vale look to push the boundaries with their excellent Hither & Yon range, which is notable also for its clever colour-coded labels. This is a lovely light and aromatic white for summer, made from the now quite obscure muscat blanc à petits grains grape, which is also known as frontignac and is often used in moscato wines. Low in alcohol at 11.5%, this has aromas of intense musk, rose petals and Turkish delight and a light, crisp and dry palate that tastes distinctively grapey. Serve young. Serve chilled. A fun wine with a point of difference that is worth every cent of $20.     

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Alpha Crucis 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

Alpha Crucis is the brightest star in the Southern Cross constellation - and an appropriate name for Chalk Hill Wines in McLaren Vale to use for its ultra-premium range. This is a wine of immense power and concentration with ripe fruit and dark, concentrated notes, but it also comes with a soupcon of sophistication. Hand-crafted using small parcels of fruit, there is a lot to like here and the wine carries its 15% alcohol with swagger and style. $85.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Eden Road 2013 Courabyra Chardonnay

Brilliant, but available in tiny quantities, this is made from cool-climate Tumbarumba fruit by the talented team at Canberra's Eden Road winery. It is a high acid but textural wine that has an instant drinkability factor. If you like Chablis you'll love this. The Courabyra vineyard is one of the oldest in the region and produces wines of immense intensity. This was hand picked and whole bunch-pressed direct to stainless steel without settling and fining. Fermenting on solids and 100% malo added the structural steel. I reckon I could drink a fair few of these. $50.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rocky Gully 2014 Riesling

Frankland Estate makes an outstanding range of individual vineyard rieslings from the Frankland River region of Western Australia; the 2014 Isolation Ridge and Poison Hill are both outstanding, and cellar-worthy, examples. When it comes to immediate drinking pleasure, however, it is hard to go past this ultra-fresh and lively release from the winery's entry-level brand Rocky Gully. Dry with just a few grams of residual sugar, this is pristine with zingy acid and a fabulous match for Thai-style fishcakes. Fun and affordable, this is a delicious summer drink. $18.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Kate Hill 2010 Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir

A follow-up to the excellent 2008, this new release 2010 bubbly from Kate Hill really shines. This was a favourite with just about everyone at a Huon Valley tasting I did at the recent Taste of Tasmania, captivating with its freshness and purity. It is an elegant and delicate style of Tassie bubbles with delicious vibrancy on the chardonnay-dominated palate. It has citrus notes (it's on the Billecart-Salmon side of the spectrum for those with Champagne tastes) and plenty of length. A blend of fruit from several southern Tasmanian vineyards, it is is extremely enjoyable right now but will certainly develop over the short- to medium term. $42.