Saturday, December 21, 2019

Cobaw Ridge 2015 Syrah

There are few vineyards that can match Cobaw Ridge for visual wow! factor - and the Cooper family always produce wines with personality and palate interest. From the Macedon Ranges in Central Victoria, this is 100% estate-grown, -made and bottled. It is a result of sustainable farming and a passion for quality. This has much in common with the wines of the Northern Rhone, hence its name, but it speaks with a distinctive Australian voice. From 35-year-old vines it has focus and style with definite nod to its granite soil terrior. Just lovely. $55.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Henschke 2019 Percival's Mill Gruner Veltliner

The Henschke family has a global reputation for its high-end red wines, including Hill of Grace and Cyril Henschke. It is less recognised for its excellent white wines at fair prices including the $20 Tilly's Vineyard blend and this impressive Adelaide Hills wine made from the Austrian grape variety gruner veltliner. The Percival’s Mill label pays tribute to the early pioneering days of Lenswood in the high country of the Adelaide Hills. The now demolished historic E.W. Percival’s timber mill once stood on the Croft Road property in the early 1900s. That property is now a Henschke vineyard. This has some gorgeous stone fruit, citrus and root vegetable notes, with spice and minerality jousting amiably on the palate. $38.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Wickhams Road 2019 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir

Wickhams Road is the entry-level label for star Yarra Valley producer Hoddles Creek. Year in, year out this early-released pinot noir is arguably the best value easy-drinking pinot in Australia. More forward than the estate range, it has around 20% whole-bunch fruit to add spice and structure. The palate offers a spectrum of dark fruit flavours while remaining unmistakeably pinot. Unfined, unfiltered and bloody delicious. At $19 a bottle you'd want to be buying by the case, not the bottle.

Monday, November 11, 2019

9th Fable by Usher Tinkler 2019 Chardonnay

Usher Tinkler is one of the rising stars of Australian winemaking and this new release chardonnay offers brilliant value. Available through Cellarmasters or Tinkler's Hunter Valley cellar door, it is a beautifully balanced wine for those who enjoy fruit flavours and purity in their chardys. Weighing in at just 12% alcohol, this has a delightful combination of white peach and vibrant citrus flavours. It has been matured for five months on yeast lees in French oak barrels, adding texture, and was bottled at just six months of age. It is zingy and vibrant, surprisingly complex and thoroughly enjoyable. $16.99. or

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Clonakilla 2017 O'Riada Shiraz

One of Australia's finest red wine bargains, this is named after Irish musician and composer Sean O’Riada. He died, prematurely, in 1971, the year Clonakilla was established by John Kirk at Murrumbateman, outside Canberra. He was Kirk’s cousin. From a wet winter and early spring, followed by a warm, dry summer, this is a wine of elegance and beauty. Think red cherry flavours, floral aromas, spice notes and layers of delicious flavours. Simply stunning with beautiful balance; this is the girl next door who might just be the next supermodel. $36.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Wirra Wirra 2019 Scrubby Rise Chardonnay

Smart wineries go with their strengths. So while McLaren Vale is the source of fruit for Wirra Wirra's red wines, growers in the much cooler Adelaide Hills provide grapes for the winery's whites. This is undoubtedly one of the best-value chardonnays around; fresh, crisp and vibrant with the cool-climate fruit allowed full voice. This is a very new wave chardonnay, none of your big oak or overt lees stirring here. Think lively citrus aromas and flavours; plenty of refreshment and the ability to match with a wide range of cuisines. It was a star with pan-fried whiting fillets. $18.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Heartland 2016 Spice Trader Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon

There is no wine region in Australia offering better value right now than Langhorne Creek. If you are looking for a red wine with palate interest that won't break the bank then this shiraz-cabernet blend from Ben Glaetzer will tick a lot of boxes. The rich, plummy and spice notes of the shiraz combine impressively with the cassis and tannin structure of the cabernet in a very tasty all-purpose wine that would be a ripper with a gourmet hamburger. $18.  

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Grosset 2019 Polish Hill Riesling

I'll almost certainly be accused of being predictable and mainstream for recommending this wine - but I simply don't care because it is an outstanding new release  of one of Australia's benchmark white wines. OK, it's not a discovery, and it is a wine with which many vinophiles are familiar - but that doesn't make it any less worthy. Think incredible intensity from a difficult dry year, bright acid, amazing length, classic citrus and mineral notes and joyous freshness and you will be close to the mark. I'd buy at least two bottles, one for enjoying now, another for opening in a decade or so. Organic. Classic. But you'll need to move quick smart because of the low-yielding vintage. $61.   

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Terre a Terre 2016 Crayeres Vineyard Shiraz

The Crayères vineyard is in the Wrattonbully GI, located just north of Coonawarra and south of Padthaway. The climate in Wrattonbully is very similar to Bordeaux, so it is no surprise that cabernet sauvignon does so well. More surprisingly, so does shiraz. Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser have produced a real tantaliser with this blend of shiraz and cabernet franc, with its medium body, dark red fruit and chalky tannins, integrated oak and stoney minerality. A wine of balance and length. An each way bet. Drink now, or cellar for up to five years. $40. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Alkoomi 2019 Chardonnay

Here is a wine that offers superb value for money vintage after vintage. How the Hallett family in Frankland River manage to produce such a stylish, charming chardy for under $20 beats me, but it is certainly good news for canny consumers. Fresh and lively, I suspect unoaked, this is a terrific midweek drinking proposition, ideal for quaffing after work or pairing with a stir-fry or salad. Terrific buying. $18.  

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Risky Business 2019 King Valley Pinot Gris

Risky Business is a joint venture between grape grower/viticulturist Rob Quenby and vintner John Waldron, who source fruit from Western Australia and Victoria’s King Valley, producing mainly small batches. This is a fresh, particularly appealing new release with lively pear and green apple flavours and vibrant acidity. More grigio than gris in my book and a terrific wine for enjoying young and a good match for Thai dishes. $25. 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

De Bortoli Section A7 2018 Yarra Valley Chardonnay

This is one for those wine lovers who enjoy their chardonnays in a delicate, subtle Chablis or Saint-Veran style. This is the first release of this single-vineyard wine, made from vines that are fast approaching 30 years of age. Grapes are hand-picked, whole-bunch crushed, pressed and allowed to settle overnight. Natural fermentation occurs in older French oak casks (no new oak is used) and the juice is left to rest on lees until late November. This is pale in colour but offers terrific drinking pleasure. It is bright and lifted with lemon and lime notes, slatey minerality and appealing acidity. Seriously pleasurable. Pair with pan-fried flathead in lemon butter. $50.   

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Maxwell 2019 Litte Demon Grenache Rosé

The Maxwell range of Little Demon wines represent excellent value - and has been given a label refresh as the first of the 2019 vintage hit the stores. This is a very bright and breezy grenache rosé made from McLaren Vale fruit. It is very fresh, impressively vibrant with aromas of newly picked strawberries. There is plenty of refreshing acidity on a palate that finishes clean, crisp and dry. Pair this with a Lebanese kebab for a gourmet festival in your mouth. $20.       

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sinapius 2017 La Clairiere Pinot Noir

If the artisan wines from Sinapius in the Pipers Brook region of northern Tasmania are not yet on your radar then you really need to get acquainted. Talented young couple Vaughn Dell and Linda Morice are producing a range of wines that push the boundaries in the vineyard and the winery, always making wines that have real drinkability and points of interest. This estate-grown, single vineyard wine underlines exactly why Tasmanian pinots are causing serious excitement globally. The fruit is sourced from a high-density block planted with seven different clones. Soft and silky, but with hedgerow and savoury notes, the fruit is 100% whole berry, naturally fermented and matured in French oak barriques for 18 months prior to bottling. It is unfined, unfiltered and bloody delicious. $68.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Shingleback Davey Estate 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon

Family-owned Shingleback produces wines of both outstanding quality and value from McLaren Vale with this new-release estate cabernet sauvignon a case in point. This is an impressive wine with regional power alongside impressive balance with a silky tannin finish. The wine was matured for 15 months French oak hogsheads, adding palate interest and structure. Ripe currant and berry flavours are very much to the fore here, with herbal notes and dark chocolate. Terrific drinking with red meat dishes. $25. 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Foxeys Hangout 2018 Field Blend

A true field blend from the Mornington Peninsula, this a white wine for those who love flavour and texture. Around 30% each of viognier, vermentino and sauvignon blanc have been blended with small amounts of savagnin and roussanne to produce an intriguing, rewarding and food friendly co-ferment. Mainly older French oak adds to the palate interest without being intrusive, while six months in barrel on lees also plays its part. Bloody lovely stuff. $38.  

Saturday, July 13, 2019

All Saints Hip Sip Tawny

It has been bloody cold down our way recently and this flavoursome tawny from All Saints in Rutherglen, north-east Victoria, proved a formidable freeze fighter. Rutherglen is known for its range of outstanding fortified wines and this is the Brown family's take on a hipper style that appeals to a younger demographic than the tweed-jacketed, leather-patched traditional port and muscat consumer. Drinkers are encouraged to match this with cheese, or hot chocolate, pour it into a cocktail, over ice cream or, best of all, in front of a wood fire. This has raisiny fruit and nutty intensity from aged oak barrels. Not too sweet, not too heavy. Just right. $20.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Atze's Corner 2017 The Mob Montepulciano

There is a whole-lot of lip-smacking wine savouriness to be found in this new-release single-vineyard wine from a winery that is fast establishing itself in the Barossa Valley hierarchy. The Mob referred to are not the Mafia, but an errant group of sheep who wrecked this vineyard in its youth. Fortunately the vines bounced back and now produce tiny amounts of impressive fruit. Dark cherry and blackberry flavours and savoury tannins speak of the terroir, but the Italian accent adds an exotic nod. Made in very small quantities, this is food friendly and very seductive. $35.  

Saturday, June 29, 2019

DCB 2018 Woori Yallock Pinot Noir

Chris Bendle, whose full-time job is with Franco d'Anna at Hoddles Creek, also makes a range of wines under his own DCB label, albeit most of them in tiny quantities. There are only 159 dozen of this impressive individual vineyard from the cool Lone Star Creek vineyard at Woori Yallock in the Yarra Valley. It spent three weeks on skins and has seen 15% new oak. Malolactic fermentation has added some complexity but this is still a wine full of attractive youthful varietal vigour. Lovely stuff. $35.   

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Willow Creek 2018 Chardonnay

A stunning new release from Geraldine McFaul at Willow Creek on the Mornington Peninsula. The 2018 vintage is described by McFaul as "one of the kindest in memory" with warm, dry weather at flowering and then a mild ripening period. The chardonnay was whole-bunch-pressed to barrels (20% new) and lees stirred as it went through malo. It was then given another four months unsulphered on lees before bottling. The end result is a beautifully constructed, cool-climate chardonnay with a balance between vibrancy and palate interest. $45.   

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Mount Horrocks 2017 Alexander Vineyard Shiraz

This is an estate-grown Clare Valley red from a stable of proven winners that whispers rather than shouts, with stylish fruit and supple tannins laying the framework. There are some bright red berry characters, subtly nutty French oak (40% new) and some medium-bodied goodness in a wine that can either be enjoyed now or cellared. This could easily be labelled syrah, given its European sensibilities, including the precise spice notes and plush finish. Certified organic and guaranteed gluggable. $45.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Bird on a Wire 2016 Chardonnay

What an impressive collection. The current releases from Yarra Valley producer Bird on a Wire are absolutely front and centre in the pleasure zone. Only 380 cases were made of this stunning mature chardonnay; so speed may be of the essence if you want to snap some up. Winemaker Caroline Mooney, a Yarra local born and bred, has produced a very classy cool-climate chardonnay (the fruit is from chilly Gladysdale) that comes with the happy combination of intensity and elegance - and is very much in a Burgundian groove. Pair with a lightly-spiced chicken dish or a traditional pork roast. Bird on Wire is definitely a label to keep an eye out for. $40. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Leeuwin Estate 2015 Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon

The Horgan family, who founded Leeuwin Estate in 1974, are famous for not doing anything by halves. Their Art Series wines represent some of the finest of Margaret River and this is not only outstanding, it offers very decent value when compared with its rivals from Bordeaux. It is a classic Western Australian cabernet with dark currant and berry flavours front and centre of both nose and palate with some tobacco leaf notes and an intense core. There is 97% cabernet and 3% malbec. A wine of style and substance. History suggests this well cellar brilliantly. $70.  

Friday, May 10, 2019

Polperro 2018 Pinot Gris

Polperro is a Mornington Peninsula producer that takes its pinot gris just as seriously as its pinot noir and chardonnay. The vineyards are managed using organic and biodynamic principles and the fruit is handpicked and whole-bunch pressed. The wine is left at ambient temperatures and transferred to barrel with full solids, with minimal sulphur added. It undergoes wild yeast and malolactic fermentations and is left in barrel for six months. The end result is a wine of terrific textural and palate interest seen at its best when paired with food. Great work from winemaker Sam Coverdale. $45. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Shaw Vineyard Estate 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

If you can seek some of this out you will be well rewarded. It used to be that Margaret River and Coonawarra were the "go to" regions for medium-bodied cabernet, but several other regions, including cooler Canberra, have now jumped on the bandwagon. This one is ridiculously good value from an outstanding vintage, very easy to drink given its powerful dark berry and currant fruit flavours,  savoury notes and terrific length. Oak from France, the US and Eastern Europe plays a solid but minimal support role. $32.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Schild Estate 2017 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre

The Schild family produces an impressive range of hearty, gutsy and intensely flavoured Barossa red wines. This has power and presence but also some cheeky charm to make it an appealing and affordable option when big is not better (midweek. perhaps). This is all about juicy fruit and is made using three of the varieties that do best in the warmth of the  Barossa. The three varieties are blended seamlessly with dark and blue fruits, spice and softness on the palate that makes this an amiable companion for a barbecue or gourmet burger. $24.    

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Hahndorf Hill 2018 GRU Gruner Veltliner

Hahndorf Hill has been one of the pioneers for Austrian white wine variety gruner veltliner in Australia and as the vines in the Adelaide Hills get older, the wines just get better. This pure and minerally varietal is the most planted variety in Austria and is known for being hugely adaptable when paired with food. Dry and beautifully balanced, this would pair with seafood, white meats or Asian flavours, finishing with citrus and bright acid notes. I like this a lot and it is fabulous value for $29. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Altero 2018 Montepulciano

Altero is a new range of "alternative variety" wines being made by former Penfolds winemaker Mike Farmilo for the Cellarmasters organisation. The range features spicy and interesting Italian and Spanish varieties grown on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. There is a theme of dark berries and herbal spice running through both the montepulciano and the equally impressive Nero d'Avola. Both offer layers of flavour for under $20. These wines are food friendly and very well priced. $17.  

Friday, April 5, 2019

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard 2015 Cabernet Shiraz

A classic Australian "claret" from veteran wine magician Brian Croser, using grapes from some very special vines in Wrattonbully, South Australia. Planted in 1974, the four-hectare Whalebone vineyard produces cabernets of distinction, with serious presence and minerality. That accounts for 85% of this blend with the remaining fruit comprising shiraz from the adjoining Crayeres vineyard. Seriously good drinking. The wine spent 20 months in 50% new French oak and has superb harmony about it. Think Fred and Ginger, or maybe Scary and Ginger. $55. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Oakridge Yarra Valley Range 2018 Chardonnay

The Yarra Valley range is a new trio of wines from Oakridge, also featuring a rosé (which I have yet to sample) and a very good pinot noir. The fruit is selected from the regular Oakridge vineyards and made in the same way as the more expensive vineyard series wines, being fermented in open-top fermenters with whole berries and then spending a short time in French oak puncheons before being matured on lees. This wine is all about the quality fruit, the skills of winemaker David Bicknell and the price. Classic cool-climate chardonnay in the vein of Chablis for $30.    

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Bernard Schurr 2017 Montagne Saint-Emilion

Great Bordeaux can be expensive - often prohibitively so. Good Bordeaux can be hard to track down, but can be worthwhile taking a punt on, even given the French region's inconsistencies. This one is bottled under screw cap, which removes one potential issue and ensures freshness. Bernard Schurr is a Rhone-based vigneron/negociant who sources fruit from the major wine regions of France. This is a classic right bank blend of merlot (55%) and cabernet sauvignon (45%) from a small vineyard north of Saint-Emilion. It is a wine of charm and restraint and a lovely introduction to beguiling Bordeaux. Imported by Fourth Wave Wines. $27.    

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Grosset 2016 Gaia

Imagine Daniel Craig as James Bond, strolling onto a super yacht in Monte Carlo. That's the same kind of effortless cool and style that you'll find in this red blend from riesling master Jeff Grosset. Only 6,000 bottles were made of this cabernet sauvignon/cabernet franc blend which is a gentle but intense with dark berry flavours, minerally hints and a soft, smooth finish. This comes from the highest, coolest site in the Clare Valley and is a wine of impeccable balance. It is also unfined, so is suitable for vegans. $90.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Hay Shed Hill 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

Hay Shed Hill winemaker Michael Kerrigan has come up trumps with this impressive traditional West Australian blend from Margaret River fruit. This is a perfect "midweek" white, fresh, vibrant and very easy to drink with tropical and citrus fruit flavours allied to a brisk flinty finish. Ideal for quaffing on a warm autumn afternoon, or pairing with fish dishes. $20.   

Friday, February 22, 2019

Salatin 2017 Pinot Nero

The Salatin family has been making wine in Treviso, just inland from Venice, since 1528 – and their wines are imported into Australia by family company Vino Bambino. This is wine of lovely balance, with cherry and spice aromas and a fresh palate that is smooth and soft. Extremely easy to drink. A versatile food wine that would pair well with a cheese platter. The range also includes a line-priced and equally good pinot grigio. $19.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Clonakilla 2018 Riesling

While Tim Kirk and his team at Clonakilla are best-known for their shiraz-viognier blends and other world-class reds, the riesling is, for me, the best-value wine in the entire range. Riesling thrives in the granite soils and cool climate of Murrumbateman, outside Canberra. This is fine and lean and immediately appealing with lemon, lime and grapefruit notes, spiky acidity and lots of length. Pair this with Thai or Vietnamese dishes. While I was sipping and savouring my usually restrained wife devoured the rest of the bottle. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Tar & Roses 2017 Sangiovese

A beautifully savoury red from Heathcote at a very reasonable price. Sangiovese is to the "go to" Italian grape for wine lovers looking for medium-weight earthiness and balance and this offers those attractive deli notes along with bright, sweet fruit flavours, including dark cherry notes. There are some chewy tannins here, too. Older oak has added herbal palate interest and texture. This would pair brilliantly with calves liver and onions, or a pan-fried fillet steak. $24.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Stonier 2017 Chardonnay

This is the enttry-level chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula pioneer Stonier and my good goodness it is drinking well. If you are looking for a serious "drink now" chardonnay that offers terrific value for money then you won't go wrong here. The 2017 Stonier Chardonnay was fermented in a mix of French oak barriques and puncheons (15% new), for a total of 10 months. Several batches from cooler vineyards were allowed to undergo the acid-softening malo-lactic fermentation with the rest retaining their bright acidity. There are peach and citrus notes here, nuts and nougat, along with vibrant acidity and lots of length. If you share my palate this a real winner. $25.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Lake Breeze 2014 Arthur's Reserve

Langhorne Creek is one of the least appreciated quality wine regions of Australia; producing impressively nuanced fruit that is widely sought-after by the big boys of the industry. The Follett family from Lake Breeze are among the best producers in the region; and their wines always offer good value. This is an impressive Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and malbec that is right in the zone, although it will comfortably cellar for several more years. Produced in tiny amounts, matured for 20 months in new French oak, this is shining example of Langhorne Creek quality. Stylish enough to take to dinner at the boss's place.$45.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Pikes 2018 Traditionale Riesling

I left it several weeks before getting to my sample of the new Pikes riesling - because I knew exactly what I would be tasting. You simply cannot beat this Clare Valley classic for consistency and value for money. As 2018 was an outstanding riesling vintage, I expected this to be vibrant, zesty and delicious with lime/lime bite to the fore. I was right, of course. This is one of those wines where it is hard to go wrong. Pair it with barbecued prawns. $26.