Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Pooley 2019 Butcher's Hill Chardonnay


What a way to finish 2020! Tasmania is offering quite a challenge to the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula when it comes to premium cool-climate chardonnay. This single-vineyard wine from the Coal Rover Valley provides compelling evidence. Hand picked, whole bunch pressed to tank, cold settled, 100% barrel fermented and then matured in oak for nine months, it is among the most impressive chardonnays of the year. Think ripe pear notes, white peach and zingy citrus with 40% new oak playing a support role when it comes to flavour. Texturally pleasing, fresh and beguiling. I defy you to stop at just one glass. $65. www.pooleywines.com.au/

Monday, December 21, 2020

Feudo Arancio 2018 Nero d'Avola


If money is tight post-Christmas and you are looking for a wine to accompany leftover turkey and ham cold cuts, I have a winner for you. Meet a rather lovely Nero d'Avola from one of the better producers in Sicily that offers quite ridiculous value for money. Imported by Single Vineyard Cellars, it is a delightful medium-bodied red wine with red fruit flavours to the fore. Versatile, it would also pair well with risotto, pasta dishes, pizzas and mushroom dishes. $20. www.singlevineyards.com.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Berton Vineyards Metal Range 2020 Sauvignon Blanc

The packaging may suggest an expensive white - but looks are deceiving in this case and you can buy this at a bargain price. It is a serious crowd pleaser, a lively sauvignon blanc made from cool-climate Padthaway fruit with a high refreshment index that would go down a treat with a barbecue or at a Christmas party. Tropical fruit flavours are to the fore here, but it is well balanced and lingering for the modest price tag. $14. www.bertonvineyards.com.au

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Port Phillip Estate 2020 Pinot Nouveau


Calling all lovers of Beaujolais Nouveau, light red wines from the Loire and pinots barely out of short pants. Have I got a summer treat for you. This is a super little wine for enjoying chilled with a picnic, or dinner on a warm evening. Think whole-bunch wild fermentation, (brief) maturation in big old French large-format oak, malo and no fining with minimal filtration and SO2. The end result; a lively, precociously seductive red that is bright and perky with berry flavours, lightness and delicacy. Pair with pork spare ribs, or a chicken salad. Terrific value at $26. www.portphillipestate.com.au/

Friday, November 27, 2020

Stoney Rise 2020 Chardonnay


The word is well and truly out about the quality of cool-climate chardonnay and pinot noir from Tasmania with some of the big names asking - and getting - well over $50 a bottle. A quality Tamar Valley chardonnay for $32 is a reason to reduce and this delivers plenty of flavour for summer enjoyment - ideal for pairing with chicken and pork dishes, or just for supping by the pool. Zingy with citrus and Granny Smith notes and considerable poise, this is an absolute bargain. $32. www.stoneyrise.com   

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Pig In The House 2019 Shiraz


The Pig delivers. After 10 years of organic certification the Pig In The House range from Cowra producers Windowrie is recognised as being among the best organic lines in Australia - and the value is also terrific. This has already picked up a show gold medal and some rave reviews. It is full of the joys of youth; bright purple in colour and with quality fruit dominating refined seasoned nutty oak notes. It finishes soft and smooth and dares you to enjoy a second glass. Pair with some spicy beef rissoles on the barbecue. Medium bodied, delightfully balanced. $25. www.piginthehouse.com.au 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Deep Woods Estate 2019 Reserve Chardonnay


What a cracking wine this is. Midway in style between classy White Burgundy and classic Margaret River. I opened a bottle at the end of an evening and everything else on the tasting bench was immediately consigned to purgatory. There is plenty of power here; precise fruit character with style and aplomb. Winemaker Julian Langworthy has combined white stone fruit and citrus notes with impressive acid and subtle seasoned oak. Lees stirring has added palate interest. You could drink this now, but it ideally needs a year or two more to reach its peak. Very impressive. $55. www.deepwoods.wine

Friday, October 30, 2020

Zonte's Footstep 2019 Love Symbol Grenache


From an impressive range of 2019 red wines from McLaren Vale producer Zonte's Footstep, this is a very modern grenache; probably more Spanish accented than French. It is a red that is soft and spritely and can easily stand a little chilling on a warm summer day. This is all about fruit and bright acid with oak playing a peripheral role in the structure. It would be great with a steak sandwich and salad, or perhaps paired with Scotch eggs. $30. www.zontesfootstep.com.au. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Maretti 2019 Chianti

Wow! This is seriously delicious for the price - another winning import from Fourth Wave Wine. A couple of sips of this and you could be watching the Palio in Siena. I love the way the delicious fruit and savoury notes combine to make this so food friendly. You can take this to a BYO and pair it with pasta or pizza dishes, or simply enjoy a bottle with some cheese in front of TV. So versatile and sometimes to be found on special at Liquourland or Vintage Cellars. $24. Imported by Fourth Wave Wines. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Moores Hill 2019 Riesling

Back when I was one of the judges at Festivale, Launceston's annual gourmet festival, two producers dominated the riesling category year after year: Tamar Valley duo Goaty Hill and Moores Hill. The new-release 2019 riesling from Moore's Hill proves very little has changed with Julian Allportstill producing one of the most outstanding rieslings in the country - albeit in tiny quantities. This is a release that screams "refreshment" with lime sherbet and grapefruit flavours and brisk acidity with the merest hint of sweetness at the end. Pair with pan-fried whitebait $35. www.mooreshill.com.au/

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Dr Edge 2019 Tasmania Pinot Noir


Dr Edge Tasmanian Pinot Noir is made by the very talented Peter Dredge, formerly of of Bay of Fires and now the winemaker at Meadowbank. He was nominated for Winemaker of the Year this year thanks to standout wines like this one - one of my top five pinots of the year so far. It is a blend of Tamar Valley, East Coast and Derwent Valley fruit that is full of Tasmanian cool-climate pinot personality. Naturally fermented, it spent two weeks on skins and was then pressed to old oak casks, matured for nine months and then bottled without fining. It is on the refined edge of the pinot spectrum but with enough weight to match with a roast lamb. Bloody delicious. $50. www.dr-edge.com

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Howard Park 2019 Flint Rock Chardonnay

From three sub-regions in the Great Southern of West Australia – 
Mt Barker, Porongurup and Frankland River and - and made by one of the state’s finest producers, this is among the best chardonnay buys around right now: a seriously good new release that won’t break the bank. It is tight and elegant with flinty mineral notes and crisp green apple and citrus notes on the palate This went a treat paired with a spicy roast chicken and all the trimmings. $28. www.howardparkwines.com.au

Monday, September 28, 2020

Grosset 2020 Springvale Riesling


The Grosset Polish Hill Riesling is, in my opinion, consistently the greatest aromatic white wine in the country - but it can take a few months to reveal all of its charms. While you are waiting, its younger brother, the Springvale, is another estate-grown riesling that opens up earlier. Planted on red loam over limestone and slate, the grapes produce a deliciously citrusy wine with grapefruit and lime flavours to the fore. Yields were limited in 2020 but this remains bright, fresh and concentrated with immediate appeal. Organic, vegan friendly and dangerously drinkable. $46. www.grosset.com.au/

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Pooley 2019 Butcher's Hill Pinot Noir


In these days of instant gratification we are so often looking for the "new and exciting" that we pass on the tried and true. The Pooley family has been making superb wines for over 35 years now - and the quality from the Coal River Valley producer has never been better. This is a thrilling single vineyard pinot noir with classic cool-climate vibrancy and poise. French oak adds complexity to the brambly red fruit, Asian spice and earthy notes. Seriously good booze that would impress even the most one-eyed Burghound. $65. www.pooleywines.com.au     

Friday, September 11, 2020

Hoddles Creek 2020 Pinot Blanc

The team at Hoddles Creek in the Yarra Valley seem to be incapable of making a bad wine. Whether you call this pinot bianco, pinot blanc or weissburgunder, it is lip-smackingly delicious. Pinot blanc is an everyday drinking wine in Alsace; a gentle soul usually low in acid. Here it is picked early, left on lees for six months then lightly filtered. There are no additions apart from sulphur. If you enjoy gruner-veltliner or pinot gris than give this stylish and sassy youngster a crack. You won't be disappointed. $22. www.hoddlescreekestate.com.au.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Golden Grove Estate 2019 Nero d'Avola

Thanks to innovative winemakers like third-generation Ray Costanzo there has been a dramatic increase in the quality of wines from Queensland's Granite Belt region, which is cold in winter, but warm in summer. This take on the Sicilian grape variety Nero d'Avola is just one of a number of impressive Mediterranean-style reds (the tempanillo and mourvedre are also stars) hat shine in the current range. The packing is smart, the wine even more so; indigenously fermented with bright red fruit notes, texture from partial whole-bunch treatment and soft tannins on the savoury palate. It's vegan-friendly too. New-wave Queensland wine excellence. Drink now, or cellar for a few years. 94 points. $30. www.goldengroveestate.com.au/

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Clonakilla 2019 Tumbarumba Chardonnay

Clonakilla is a standout Canberra region winery far better known for its red wines than its whites - despite producing small quantities of top-notch riesling and viognier. Here owner Tim Kirk has purchased fruit from high-altitude Tumbarumba to make a stellar cool-climate chardonnay. The fruit comes from a block 700 metres above sea level and offers an amalgam of stone fruit and citrus notes, with plenty of brisk acid adding the spine. Lovely drinking here with elegance and length. $36. www.clonakilla.com.au

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Penfolds 2018 Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz

You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy one of the recently released Penfolds Collection reds. This is a ripe, generous and unmistakably South Australian blend of fruit from the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Fleurieu, Robe, Mt Lofty Ranges, Adelaide Hills and Langhorne Creek. Perfect for serving to anyone from overseas wanting to know what a quintessentially Australian red wine is like, and a terrific present for any serious wine lover. A great choice for Father's Day. $50. www.penfolds.com.au.     

Friday, August 7, 2020

Shaw + Smith 2020 Sauvignon Blanc

Such is the immense popularity of sauvignon blanc in Australia that it seems hard to believe that hardly anyone was growing or making it until Shaw + Smith took the plunge exactly 31 vintages ago. It is now an Australian classic with Shaw + Smith still making arguably the finest example in the cool-climate Adelaide Hills. This is an Australian summer in a bottle, an aromatic, varietal and sophisticated sauvignon blanc with plenty of citrus notes and tangy acid that is in no way over the top. It paired beautifully with pan-fried blue-eye travalla. $30. www.shawandsmith.com 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Chateau Yaldara 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Looking for a red wine with structure and style? This Barossa cabernet is in the groove right now, and is beautifully balanced between youth and maturity. Chateau Yaldara founder Hermann Thumm was one of the Barossa’s first boutique winemakers and today the label offers some excellent-value drinking. This has classic cassis, cedar and mint aromas with a tannin structure and dark fruit flavours that offer bothe immediate enjoyment and promise. Quality French oak adds to the complexity of a delicious red for pairing with casseroles and braises. $50. www.chateauyaldara.com.au.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Chardonnay d'Soumah 2019

Soumah sounds like an interesting place so it is a bit of a disappointment to find the name comes from South of the Maroondah Highway. The good news, however, is that this Yarra Valley producer is building a formidable reputation for quality wines at very fair prices. This is a bright young chardonnay that is fresh and vibrant but also with some textural elements from older oak. Wild yeast fermentation and battonage have added palate interest but it is citrus and stone fruit elements that are very much to the for along with minerally acidity. This would be fabulous with fish and chips. $28.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Oakridge Vineyard Series 2018 Hazeldene Pinot Noir

At a time when wineries with far lesser reputations are charging $60 and upwards for their pinots noir, it is a real pleasure to find a wine like this one from one of the Yarra's finest winemakers, David Bicknell. Its is an individual vineyard wine from the Hazeldene vineyard, which is in Gladysdale and has red volcanic soil. This underwent whole bunch/berry fermentation in open vessels for three weeks before spending a year in French oak. The end result; a disarmingly quaffable cool-climate pinot noir with sweet varietal fruit and assertive tannins that is darn fine value for $44. www.oakridgewines.com.au.  

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Feudo Arancio 2015 Rosso Riserva

This offers a serious taste of Sicily with a very reasonable price tag. Impressively perfumed and flavoured, it is made largely from the native Sicilian grape Nero d’Avola and is has structure without being challenging. It is very food friendly, soft and juicy with elegant and fine tannins and would pair with anything from Osso Bucco to roast chicken or mature hard cheeses. Distributed by Single Vineyard Sellers. $30.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Blue Pyrenees Estate 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon

Blue Pyrenees Estate vineyard in cool western Victoria is a source of several outstanding value red wines. "Delicious" said a local cafe owner on being offered a sip of this. "Yum" said the barista. "Delicious" repeated the server. These guys often give me input on wines I like, but in this case they were unanimous. The cabernet grapes (with 5% merlot in the blend) are matured for 24 months in new to 10-year-old French and American oak barriques. adding style and substance. Think blackcurrants, mint, briary notes and fine grained tannins. Delightful. $27. www.bluepyrenees.com.au

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Tapanappa 2016 Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz

The maestro has not lost his touch. After five decades in the wine industry, pioneer, winemaker and educator Brian Croser is still producing wines of impeccable balance and widespread appeal. Much of his success has come down to a knack for brilliant site selection. Tapanappa acquired the then 30-year-old Whalebone Vineyard in Wrattonbully in 2002, transforming the vineyard management. From a dry, warm vintage, this is a beautifully complex wine with layers of flavours. Think a classic Australian blend with the dark cassis and blackberry fruit flavours from the cabernet in harmony with spice and leather notes from the shiraz. There's plenty of length here, cellar potential as well, but this is in the zone right now. French oak barriques, 50% new, 50% second fill, play a serious support role without intruding. 96 points. $55. https://tapanappa.com.au/

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Shingleback 2017 Davey Estate Shiraz

So you like your red wines robust but still well balanced? You've come to the right spot. This is an inky purple-red in colour with dark berry, instant coffee and black chocolate aromas allied to an equally intense palate with a firm tannin structure, assertive oak and more length than Bob Beamon. It is a single-vineyard wine from a family owned and operated winery in McLaren Vale, home to many luscious shirazes. This one stands out from the crown for both quality and value, and would be an impressive winter warmer paired with a pie or casserole dish. $25. www.shingleback.com.au.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Bleasdale 2016 Double Take Malbec

Malbec's traditional home is in France, where it first shone in Bordeaux and is the main grape in Cahors. Nowadays, most malbecs come from Argentina, where the variety has flourished, but Langhorne Creek in South Australia is a another region where the variety shines. This is an absolute standout from a family winery with a 170-year history and a very talented winemaker in Paul Hotker, the 2019 Jimmy Watson trophy winner. This is rich, assertive and full bodied, with violet, dark berry and olive aromas, powerful cassis fruit with savoury naunces and a firm structure that suggests long-term cellaring might be in order. It's a bloody delicious drop. $69. www.bleasdale.com.au

Friday, May 8, 2020

Yangarra Estate 2019 Roussanne

A lot of wine drinkers are not particularly adventurous. They know they love chardonnay, or perhaps old clarets, and that's all they drink. Perhaps that is why roussanne, a Rhone white grape variety rarely grown in Australia, remains very much under the radar. A pity, as roussanne is vibrant in its youth but also has a capacity for aging gracefully, unlike sauvignon blanc and other popular white grapes. Yangarra, in McLaren Vale, make two different styles of roussanne, of which this lively - but savoury and textural - offering is my favourite. Farmed organically and biodynamically on sandy ironstone gravels, this is wild fermented and spent seven months in older oak with lees stirring. Think white stone fruit and honeyed notes with a Led Zeppelin-style richness. $35. www.yangarra.com.au.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Terre a Terre 2018 Summertown Pinot Noir

Another winner from talented couple Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser; a beautifully balanced cool-climate pinot from the Summertown vineyard - one of the oldest in the region - in the Piccadilly Valley of the Adelaide Hills. The quality fruit has soaked up the 40% new French oak and the wine presents with pure pinosity. No surprise as the Terre a Terre team feels the climate here is very similar to that of Burgundy. So an Australian pinot with a definite French accent made in tiny quantities. I liked this a lot; primarily because it is bloody delicious, even in its youth. $40. www.terreaterre.com.au. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Cullen 2018 Kevin John Chardonnay

Kevin John, arguably Australia's most consistent fine chardonnay, is named in tribute to winemaker Vanya Cullen's late father, the founder of the Margaret River winery. Made from chardonnay vines planted between 1976-1988, it is - once again - a triumph. It ticks all the sustainability boxes; organic, biodynamic, carbon neutral etc, but it is the purity of the fruit that is the most striking element of this new release. There's 50% new oak, 100% natural malo and the wine is unfiltered. There's a panoply of pleasure here; a symphony of style. The oak barely registers. Think length, poise. minerally intensity and immense drinking pleasure. 97/100 for me. $127. www.cullenwines.com.au.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Gundog Estate 2019 Hunter's Semillon

Matt Burton is one of the Hunter Valley's winemaking wizards when it comes to semillon, the white grape variety for which the region is best known. Burton makes semillons in a range of styles, from "wild" to off-dry. While many semillons are crafted to age gracefully this is one for enjoying right now, while is still boasts the cocky bright fruitiness of a cheeky nightclub comedian. It is made from grapes grown at the Tinkler family's School Block Vineyard - and no one is more obsessive about quality viticulture than the Tinklers. Expect intense crisp citus acidity and lots of length. Pair this with fresh oysters, or a seafood basket. $30. www.gundogestate.com.au  

Friday, March 27, 2020

Levantine Hill 2017 Estate Syrah

Winemaker Paul Bridgeman describes the 2017 Yarra Valley vintage as being "akin to winding the clock back 25-plus years, delivering an absolutely ideal unusually cool, calm and extended growing season like the classic conditions of yore". Anyone lucky enough to taste this stunning syrah would be likely to agree; it has serious cool-climate style. Poised, like a ballet dancer or supermodel, it also has an inner core of strength; and an elegance akin to one of the classic cars in owner Elias Jreissati's collection. It's a smooth customer with layered flavours that range from Christmas Cake to cassis to white pepper. Complex but undemanding, sensuous and silky, this is a beautifully integrated instant classic. I'd give it 96 points, or maybe 96.5. $80. www.levantinehill.com.au

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Shottesbrooke 2017 Single Vineyard Chardonnay

Seriously good cool-climate chardonnay from McLaren Vale winery Shottesbrooke made using Adelaide Hills fruit. With prices for top-notch chardonnays creeping about the $50 mark this offers excellent value for money. It is elegant and stylish with bright citrus fruit flavours and crisp minerality. It's a lovely drink offering immediate pleasure that would pair brilliantly with roast pork, crackling and all the trimmings. $33. www.shottesbrooke.com.au.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Castle Rock Estate 2019 Porongurup Riesling

Castle Rock Estate winemaker Rob Diletti is something of a riesling specialist. This is one of three rieslings in the current range and is absolutely outstanding both in terms of quality and value-for-money. The Great Southern in Western Australia is a region that can compete with any in Australia in regard to riesling quality and potential longevity. Pale, but intense, this still quite tightly wound in its youth with lime and grapefruit juice notes to the fore. It has terrific structure and fresh zingy acid on the finish and is lip-smackingly good right now. Pair it with pan-fried whiting fillets. 

Friday, February 28, 2020

Seville Estate 2018 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir

Looking for a vibrant and juicy pinot noir that won't break the bank? You've come to the right place. The vineyards of Seville Estate are located in the cooler, southern regions of the Yarra Valley and produce very stylish fruit. Winemaker Dylan McMahon adds a bit of magic and you have an impressively perfumed wine which captures two key elements of pinot pleasure: bright red fruit characters and earthy, savoury notes. This is a fresh, textural wine with impressive structure for short- to medium-term enjoyment. Lovely stuff. $40

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Silkwood Estate 2018 The Walcott Chardonnay

A chardonnay that ticks all the boxes for $30? Here you have it. From Walcott Estate in Pemberton, West Australia, this is a real crowd pleaser that can be paired with a range of cuisines. Think nutty, tropical aromas leading on to a serious palate, to which barrel fermentation has added complexity. The finish is classic chardonnay; with lifted lemon and grapefruit notes along with some croissant notes. You could pair with the everything from roast pork to Chinese chicken and cashew stir fry. Bloody good drinking. $30. www.singlevineyards.com    

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Pikes 2017 The Hill Block Cabernet

I'm jumping the gun a little here, as this wine will not be released until early April, but I'd recommend putting your name down for a bottle or two right now. This is the epitome of stylish Clare Valley cabernet, made from fruit grown on an estate vineyard at Polish Hill River. The back label notes say it is "elegant, textural and complex" and that nails the appeal. From a cooler vintage in the Clare, this is an absolutely delightful medium-bodied red that can either be enjoyed on release, or cellared for a decade or so. Not cheap, but well worth $70. www.pikeswines.com.au.