Thursday, July 11, 2024

Oakridge 2022 Henk Vineyard Chardonnay


There is something about the fruit from the Henk vineyard at Worri Yallock in the Yarra Valley that I find particularly captivating; vintage after vintage. This is a searingly good recent release that I found evaporated in my glass. A couple of sips and the bottle was empty. There is nothing revolutionary here. just a very good, well-balanced cool-climate chardonnay for under a lobster from David Bicknell and his consistent team. The grapes were hand-picked and whole bunch pressed into large oak puncheons for a wild ferment - and the juice then spent 10 months on less. An excellent example from a long, late and cool growing season. Pair with American pork spare ribs for gourmet treat. $48.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Mayfield Vineyard 2023 Mrs Crawford Pinot Noir

What a great discovery. Good Australian pinot from cooler regions can easily set you back $75 or more, so by my calculations this one is criminally under priced. It is a very elegant pinot but also has impressive structure thanks to the inclusion of 39% whole bunch material and a year in French oak. This offers typical cool-climate pinot notes; wild berries, mushroom and a nit of undergrowth. The high-altitude vineyard has delivered a little gem here, and the wine is named after Margaret Crawford, who lived on the vineyard property for 65 years. Lovely balance. Great price. $37.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Tapanappa 2019 Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc


This is a stunning Australian nod to the wines of St Emilion on Bordeaux's right bank, a compelling blend of two red grape varieties that often take a back seat but shine here with waves of flavours gently cascading onto your tongue in a very stylish way. This is a masterclass in balance with the 55% merlot and 45% cabernet franc from Wrattonbully in South Australia spending almost 18 months in French oak (50% new) adding to the palate interest but never intruding. There is dark layered fruit here from a warm vintage, along with savoury and earthy nuances, herbal interludes, dark olive notes and some spice hints. This is at its best when paired with food. We paired it with roast lamb en croute, which worked a treat. $90. But worth it. Excellent drinking. 95 points from me.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

De Bortoli 2020 Noble One

For over four decades, De Bortoli's Noble One botrytis semillon has been Australia's benchmark dessert wine. Darren de Bortoli's inspired creation remains at the very top of its game, offering luscious sweetness with brisk acid on the finish. A thing of beauty. Sure, you can match this with pastries, tarts and other desserts, but it also pairs brilliantly with pates, terrines and blue cheeses. Trust me. A team led by senior winemaker Julie Mortlock is carrying on Darren's good work with the 2020 vintage right in the zone. Think rich stone fruit/marmalade ripeness with a citrusy zestyness on the finish. 97 points from me. $38 for 375ml. 

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Nerissimo Primitivo Salento IGP 2022


They've done it again. Here is yet another excellent import from the supermarket chain ALDI that offers stupendous value for money. From Puglia, in Italy, this is labelled as primitivo, a grape variety that we usually call zinfandel in Australia. This is rich and flavoursome, cellar-worthy, too, with some savoury characters that make Italian reds stand out from the crowd. It is dark and serious but with some juicy fun elements along with impressive length and tannin structure. Bottled under screwcap for the Australian market, this is a formidable wine bargain in any language. Pair with Mod Med dishes. $12.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Henschke 2023 Louis Semillon

The Henschke family is well known for its innovative vineyard practices - and its superb high-end wines including Hill of Grace Shiraz and Cyril Cabernet. What is less recognised is that Henschke also produces several very good wines at much lower price points than its vinous stars. This lovely semillon made using fruit from 50-year-old vines is a case in point. It shares the six generations and 150 years of winemaking history but offers both affordability and drinkability. This Eden Valley semillon is super-food friendly, and less aggressive when young than its Hunter Valley counterparts. Think a cohesive blend of florals, citrus, apple, honey, lemon curd tart and herbal notes with plenty of palate length and some refreshing acidity on the palate. Pair with fish or poultry dishes and chill lightly. Deliciously slurpable. $35.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Brokenwood 2023 Rosato

The team at Brokenwood produces some outstanding wines, including the flagship Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz, but when it comes to value this is definitely one of the standouts from the Hunter winery's very large range. It is a blend of sangiovese and nebbiolo fruit from two different states: NSW and Victoria, that comes together to produce a wine that delivers immediate fun times; your own private party in a glass. Think bright, sweet wild berry flavours, and hints of Turkish Delight with a bone dry refreshing finish. A taste of the Med with hints of savouriness on the palate. Pale, zingy and devilishly drinkable. Great with hors d'oeuvres. $30.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Kooyong 2023 Clonale Chardonnay


Vintage after vintage, winemaker after winemaker, this is consistently one of Australia's best "affordable" chardonnay choices. Tim Perrin is the new winemaker in charge at sibling labels Kooyong and Port Phillip Estate and he's not missed a beat, slipping into the role with immediate impact. This is a blend of fruit from estate vineyards in Tuerong and Balnarring on the cool Mornington Peninsula. Think whole-bunch pressing; natural ferment and maturation in large format oak, lees aging and minimal intervention. It is a wine with lively varietal character, youthful charm and bright acid on the finish. Trying pairing it with American-style pork spare ribs. $38.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Greenskin NV Tawny Port


Heading out for a winter camping adventure? Fancy a warming drink that is housed in a lightweight, recyclable pouch? Here's the perfect thing: a new limited release from Greenskin, the West Australian company that specialises in quality drinks that are packaged to make them perfect for picnics, or lazy days at the beach. With colder days on the way, this gained almost unanimous approval from my tasting group. The fruit comes from several varieties and multiple vineyards across Western Australia and the wine is made by John Griffiths from Faber Vineyard in the Swan Valley. Sweet, smoky, raisiny and very delicious, this would be brilliant with a cheese platter. Available in two-packs for $95 from   

Friday, May 10, 2024

Lyons Will 2023 Gamay


Gamay is a perfect wine style for the Australian lifestyle. A lighter red with plenty of flavour that can be chilled on a warmer day. This is one of only a handful of gamays made in Victoria and owner/winemakers Renata Morello and Ollie Rapson have plenty of reason to be pleased. The wine is unashamedly based in the spiritual home of the variety, Beaujolais, with vibrant juby fruit flavours to the fore. Lyons Will, for those not familiar, is a boutique family-run winery in the Macedon Ranges. This wine is estate grown, unfined, unfiltered and Vegan friendly and so ticks a lot of hipster boxes. Stereotypes be damned. Pair this with  a charcuterie plate or a cheese platter. Lively and lovely; stylish and succulent. I liked it a lot. $47.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Even Keel 2022 Cortese


The Even Keel range from Mornington Peninsula producer Polperro is looking smart across the board right now, but this one caught my fancy with its beguiling combination of fresh fruit characters and texture on the palate. Old oak and wild ferment add interest. Enticing aromas lead to an energetic palate where tangy citrus flavours jive with mineral notes. Think dry, think interesting, think refreshing. For those unfamiliar with the cortese grape, very little of which is grown in Australia, it emanates from the south-eastern regions of Piedmont and is the star of the Gavi region. It pairs very well with seafood; anything from Thai fishcakes to grilled prawns. There is also an impressive 2023 Pinot Gris in the  range. $35.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Oliver's Taranga 2023 Brioni's Blend


Tired of clunky red wines that have lashings of new oak and need to be cellared for a decade before they open up? This is the exact opposite: a juicy, fruit-driven red blend that is designed to be enjoyed in its youth. Like right now. Brioni’s Blend is dedicated to sixth-generation Brioni Oliver, one of the cousins keeping this McLaren Vale family winery going after 185 years. Vegan friendly and sustainably made, this is an unusual melange of 45% mataro, 36% Touriga nacional and 19% shiraz. Bright purple, it is light on its feet, juicy, fruity and very gluggable. Fire up the barbecue. Bring on some gourmet hamburgers. 92 points from me. $35.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Hesketh 2021 Dangerous Type Merlot

There are a lot of dull merlots out there in retail land, but this new addition to the Hesketh Limestone Coast range delivers a lot of midweek drinking pleasure at a very fair price. This is a very modern take on merlot with minimal oak influence and a focus on the fresh dark fruit from a cooler region of South Australia. Bright and flavoursome. Pair with anything from a gourmet burger to a spaghetti bolognaise You could even enjoy this lightly chilled. With a top-notch winemaking team of Andrew Hardy and Keeda Zilm, this is a range well worth keeping an eye out for. $16.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Oakridge 2022 Henk Vineyard Chardonnay


This is consistently one of the best sub $50 chardonnays in Australia with winemaker David Bicknell and his team utilising grapes from the outstanding Henk vineyard in Woori Yallock in the Yarra Valley. It is a wine of impeccable balance - everything within its place - and unashamedly medium bodied. Fruit was handpicked and whole-bunch pressed to large format oak for a natural fermentation followed by 10 months maturing on lees. Floral, with an enticing melange of tropical fruit, citrus and mineral notes, it wafts across the palate like a cooling summer breeze. Even its youth this complex wine is accessible and enticing, and would pair with pork dishes or poultry. Absolutely delightful. $48.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Levantine Hill 2019 Syrah

Levantine Hill is a big, bold operation in the Yarra Valley. It is spectacular - and in your face. But this wine is none of those things. It is a delightfully composed and elegant cool-climate shiraz that's full of light and shade. Winemaker Paul Bridgeman shows just how appealing Yarra shiraz can be with a wine that is drinking beautifully at five years of age. It is aromatic, delicate but intense, and extremely food friendly with a melange of spice and savoury notes. There is some mince pie richness, sure, but this a beautifully complex wine that is all the better for being medium bodied. $80.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Terre à Terre 2022 Crayères Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

This is one of the most interesting sauvignons blanc releases in Australia, perhaps because it is made in a very different style, and is less overt than most wines made with the variety. The fruit is hand harvested from the close-spaced Crayères Vineyard in Wrattonbully and whole-bunch pressed before being fermented in large old oak demi-muids (600L) where it is left on lees that help add texture, richness and complexity. It would probably have been called fumé blanc in years past. A seriously good food wine paired with anything from seafood to Chinese dishes. $50.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Springs Road 2022 Cabernet Sauvignon


Here's a nice little discovery. In 2016 Joch Bosworth and Louise Hemsley-Smith from McLaren Vale’s organic Battle of Bosworth wines bought the Springs Road vineyard on the northern part of Kangaroo Island, releasing their first wines at the end of 2018. Six years later I've just caught on to a range that is estate grown and made from vines that are in transition to organic certification. And even if you don't care a jot about that, I can assure you that this is a delightfully varietal and very well-priced cabernet that that is medium bodied and full of classic flavours and structure. Love good Bordeauxs? You'll want to try this. Jump on board and pair with a traditional lamb roast. $35.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Apricus Hill 2023 Semillon


When it comes to semillon it is hard to go past the stellar offerings from the Hunter Valley, but this one from Denmark in the Great Southern region of Western Australia is a worthy contender. Established almost 30 years ago, Apricus Hill is part of James Kellie's Harewood Estate group and is the highest vineyard in Denmark with maritime influences producing wines of serious style. This racy number was made from free run juice without any oak treatment and delivers elevated aromatics and exceptional freshness and delicacy on the palate with citrus and fresh-cut grass notes along with tropical fruit flavours. Serve lightly chilled for maximum pleasure, Distributed by Single Vineyard Sellers. $40.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

JP Drouet 2022 Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc


A little taste of France for a tenner? Yes, it is another of those Aldi wine bargains that are popping up with impressive regularity. From just down the road from sauvignon blanc heartland in Sancerre, it is a definite bargain. Made mainly with fruit from nearby Touraine, this is the perfect choice for midweek drinking. It is crisp and clean and without any overt herbaceous notes or intrusive acid. Zingy and refreshing, it can be enjoyed with our without food, given its stone fruit and tropical flavours and brisk mineral hints. Aldi wine supremo Jason Bowyer and his team recommend enjoying it with a chicken salad. It also went well with a ham and coleslaw sandwich on sourdough. A lighter style perfect for lunchtime enjoyment. $10.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Paxton 2022 AAA Shiraz Grenache

There is a TV show called The Bold and the Beautiful that has been around for decades. This organic and biodynamic wine from McLaren Vale is a rather more recent arrival, but it certainly shares those attributes as a vibrant - and affordable - red blend that is food friendly and very swigable. A blend of 55% shiraz, 41% grenache and 4% mataro. it has spent nine months in French oak, which has added some spicy intensity. This is a great choice for pairing with anything from a backyard barbecue to a shepherd's pie for family dinner. No fuss. No pretence, just darn good drinking. $25

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Cullen 2023 Kevin John Chardonnay


Complete. That's my one word summation of this cellar-worthy chardonnay from Margaret River that ticks all the quality boxes. An organic and biodynamic wine with a history of excellence, this is forceful, flavoursome and varietal wine that can be enjoyed now, or any time over the next two decades. The fruit was picked over three weeks according to the biodynamic calendar. There is a range of flavours on the palate, like citrus, stone fruit and spice waves crashing onto a beach. The fruit was hand harvested, whole-bunch basket pressed and fermented in concrete eggs, amphorae and biodynamic puncheons. Unfined, unfiltered and hugely impressive. Long, clean, effortlessly stylish and perfect for pairing with pan-fried whiting. $180.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Mottura 2022 Primitivo Salento

Good Italian wines have a certain savoury swagger about them that is unmistakeable - and makes them very food friendly. This is an excellent example from the large Italian range of importers Single Vineyard Sellers. From the family-owned Mottura vineyards in Salento in the deep south of Italy, where they specialise in native grapes of the region including primitivo (also known as zinfandel) and negroamaro. This is a forceful wine despite weighing in with just 13% alcohol. It has intense dark berry flavours with herbal hints and is a perfect accompaniment to dishes like spaghetti bolognaise, or penne with a game ragu. $35.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Shadowfax 2022 Minnow Rosé


This one shone at a recent trade tasting; a blend of southern French grape varieties creating a very savoury and stylish wine for summer enjoyment. It is a blend of shiraz (syrah), mourvedre, grenache, carignan, mondeuse, cinsault and pinot noir, all grown on the Shadowfax estate vineyards at Werribee, betwen Melbourne and Geelong. There is plenty of flavour here - and a nice dry finish. Think stone fruit notes, creaminess and lashings of refreshment. Perfect for a picnic on a warm day, or paired with a Lebanese banquet. $30.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Dandelion Vineyards 2022 Lion's Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz Riesling

A rather unusual blend, but this melange of 94% shiraz and 6% riesling from McLaren works a treat with the addition of the white grapes turning down the dial on the typically powerful shiraz fruit from the region and giving it immediate approachability. This is a reinvention of a blend from decades ago - and is sure to find favour with those looking for something just a little bit different. Whole bunches of shiraz were fermented on stalks in open fermenters on top of some riesling skins for 11 days, then hand plunged and basket pressed into mainly older oak barrels. Refreshingly fragrant, bottled unfined and unfiltered. A very solid 93 points. Pair with macaroni cheese. $40.



Thursday, January 25, 2024

Yalumba 2023 Vine Vale Grenache Blanc


Grenache blanc is a close relative of grenache noir that is grown mainly in the Rhône Valley and in north-east Spain. It also appears well suited to the Barossa Valley, where its red kin stars. Yalumba has just one hectare of grenache blanc from which winemaker Sam Wigan has crafted this complex, textural and flavoursome wine with white stone fruit flavours to the fore. Very food friendly this one: pair with anything from a vegetable quiche to some Mediterranean dips. A very good choice for anyone looking for an alternative to mainstream varieties but made in tiny quantities - think around 200 cases. $35.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Dog Point 2023 Sauvignon Blanc


I sense the pendulum of public taste is starting to swing back to quality Marlborough sauvignon blanc, which can be a deliciously refreshing summer drink when done well. This is done very well indeed. From one of the star producers in New Zealand, this comes without any of the excesses of some of its cheaper kin. It is a wine of delightful balance - dry, aromatic and dangerously slurpable. Citrus and tropical fruit flavours are to the fore here rather than green herbal notes. There's just a hint of invigorating sea spray. Grapes are selected from eight estate vineyards across Wairau Valley with the fruit whole bunch pressed and cold settled before fermentation. The fruit spends a short time in stainless steel with a portion going through natural ferment. Perfect with fish and chips. $30.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Passing Clouds 2023 Nueva Grenache

The Leith family is this month celebrating 50 years of Passing Clouds, a family-owned and -operated wine business that sources fruit from across Victoria. The business began in Bendigo but the home vineyard and cellar door (recommended) is now at Musk, outside Daylesford in the Macedon Ranges. This is made from grenache sourced from the Riverland and is a smashing "joven" red wine for summer enjoyment, a crunchy (thanks to whole bunch influence), delicious young red that could easily be drunk chilled on a warm day. Joyously juicy, this is bright, fresh and dangerously moreish. $30

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Sparkling Cocktails Blood Orange Mimosa by [yellow tail]


It is a warm summer day and you are in dire need of some zesty alcoholic refreshment. This blood orange flavoured pre-made sparkling cocktail will do the trick in some style. A new release from the team at [yellow tail], this is part of a range that also features a peach-driven Bellini. This was a very nice surprise, not too sweet but with some vibrant fresh orange citrus notes and some positive bubbles. This is a good choice for a beach picnic or a backyard game of croquet. Good fun fizz and only 10.5% alcohol. $18.