Saturday, December 24, 2011

ROCKFORD BLACK SHIRAZ 2010 disgorgement

- Barossa Valley, SA
- $50-$120
- Cork
- 13.5%alc

Joseph or Black Shiraz? My mind shudders at the thought of picking a favourite sparkling red. I love the Joseph for its ability to deliver an elegantly styled, complex combination of maturity and freshness upon release practically every year (although my first bottle of the Langton's assisted 2011 disgorgement left me decidedly underwhelmed - fingers crossed for the second bottle), but at its very best, especially with a few years under its belt, I feel Rockford's ultra-rare beast reigns supreme.

Rockford's 2010 disgorgement is an essential sparkling shiraz, depicting true harmony of its schizophrenic nature. Finding the aromatic middle ground between sweet, fruity and savoury, as well as fresh and complex, it boasts an alluring depth of menthol tinged plums, blackberries and blueberries, risen by savoury whiffs of tobacco and smoky mocha/chocolate oak, while smelling so quintessentially Rockford all the way. Its palate bares the smooth balance and beautifully controlled, richly ripened fruit of a top-flight Barossa shiraz, as it oozes a wonderfully seamless and concentrated composition of savoury edged plum and dark berry flavours, which become more complex and appealling towards its fine, fleshy finish of cherry cola and sour-edged meaty notes. A dry, powdery backbone of ultra-fine tannins holds everything in place firmly, effectively ticking the last box for sparkling red perfection. I'd ideally give it another 3-5 years, if that's even possible...

ü+ Pure hedonistic joy. A signal to the world flaunting the showmanship of old-school Australian pride. My sparkling red pendulum has definitively swung full tilt back to the Barossa. The king is back baby! The king is back!!! Drink to 2017.
96 points


Thursday, December 22, 2011

BROWN BROTHERS PATRICIA PINOT NOIR & CHARDONNAY BRUT 2005

- King Valley, VIC
- $36-$47
- Cork
- 13.0%alc

Perhaps it's because of their commitment to an enormous and affordable range hallmarked by diversity, but Brown Brothers' reserve level Patricia wines don't seem to get the recognition they might otherwise receive. Of particular merit is the vintage dated Patricia sparkling, which must go pretty close to knocking on the door of Australia's top ten renditions of the genre.

Helloooo... alive, complex and smitten by a wicked whiff of dry crispbread overlying honey ice cream and almond biscotti notes, then further enlivened by a springy lift of sour raspberries and grapefruit, the 2005 Patricia shows plenty of development and plenty of style, with all the balancing freshness I desire. Through the mouth it's simultaneously creamy, supple and crackly - incredibly crackly actually - as it pops like pop rock candy all the way down its full length of creamy honey biscuit flavour. It's all strung in by stringy lemony acids, working the wine into a superbly balanced, long and dry finish that's firmly stamped by a bitter/savoury mineral twist and a lingering impression of true finesse. It's top shelf Aussie fizz and it's in top form, right now. Ever wished you were drinking a magnum?

ü+ Much like Hardys' spectacular 2000 Sir James Tumbarumba (95pts), Brown Brothers' 2005 Patricia goes a long way to prove Tasmania isn't the be all and end all of Australia's elite sparkling class. Beautiful. Drink to 2013.
94 points


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TAYLORS JARAMAN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011

- Margaret River, WA/Adelaide Hills, SA
- $18-$27
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

Blending 46% Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc with 54% from the Margaret River, Taylors' 2011 Jaraman combines fruit from an area well known for sav blanc with that from an area well known for its sem/sav blanc. I often wonder if bi-regional wines like this would be more likely to gain the interest of fans of both wine styles, or lose the interest of both? It's stretching the boundaries of relevance, but would a collaboration between André Rieu and Snoop Dogg appeal to fans of both the waltz and hip hop?

Intensely grassy and vegetal and altogether reflecting the stronger hand of its Margaret River component, this 2011 savvy also reveals softer scents of poached pears and passionfruit, as it unloads a fragrance with enough intensity to cut through the open-air odours of summertime outdoor drinking. Nothing if not predictable, its pungently varietal palate presents tastes of passionfruit and lychee immersed in sweat, before finishing in a suitably clean yet uninspiring manner that typically (in a commercial sauvignon blanc sense) lacks great shape and structure, although it does culminate with nice notes of lemon rind and kiwi fruit.

O Clean and varietal yet entirely predictable. I would say this is one for sauvignon blanc devotees but at $24.95 RRP, there are innumerous cheaper options available. Drink to 2012.
88 points


Sunday, December 18, 2011

PRIMO ESTATE IL BRICCONE SHIRAZ SANGIOVESE 2010

- McLaren Vale, SA
- $17-$25
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

A real sleeper within Australia's $20 reds class, Primo Estate's Il Briccone typically resembles a smoothly styled expression of ripe Australian shiraz, enlivened by an Italian inspired savoury twist. The 2010 sees a dominant shiraz component (with a good portion undoubtedly sourced from Primo's esteemed Angel Gully Vineyard at Clarendon) blended with 15% sangiovese, aged in older oak barrels for 14 months.

Really resonating out of the glass with dark aroma and colour, the 2010 Il Briccone packs a very ripe yet piercingly intense punch of spicy currants, dark plums and sour cherry, with trickles of melting chocolate bullets and tar providing an aromatic richness not too dissimilar to a stereotypical South Australian 'Reserve'; without the hefty oak, that is. Not for the first time, an Il Briccone palate startles me with its fullish, voluptuous body bursting with blackberries and sour dark plums, which move ever so smoothly into the mouth with a soft embrace of accessible tannin and slight, sour-edged acids. It's absolutely ready to roll and devoid of excessive hardness, although there is a very faint, savoury grit and curl towards the climax, most likely emanating from its sangiovese component. Other than that, it's straight up ripe and juicy, dark and delicious McLaren Vale shiraz of the early drinking variety.

ü At the darker end of the field, but still an ideal McLaren Vale quaff. I must ask though, has the standard price of a good Australian quaffer gone up recently? By about $5? It does taste that way... Drink to 2015.
90 points


Friday, December 16, 2011

POOLE'S ROCK SEMILLON 2009

- Lower Hunter Valley, NSW
- $36-$45
- Screwcap
- 10.7%alc

The Hunter Valley based Poole's Rock might've surprised a few people last year, when their Tasmanian pinot noir won Best Tasmanian Red Wine at the 2010 Royal Hobart International Wine Show. Fast forwarding to the present day, it's a balmy 32 degrees here in Adelaide, so the more traditional estate grown Poole's Rock Semillon seems a sound choice of drink. I love the moderate alcohol of these wines for such occasions.

Zingy, fresh and tight, with subtle, spicy flint aromas imparting a brisk edge to its lively lemon, pear and grass scents, the 2009 Poole's Rock delivers its very youthful Hunter nose with precision, balance and character. Initially, it's quite an upfront and juicy semillon, with shades of fresh grass and pear skin adding style to its clean core of mineral/citrus flavour, but its length of juicy fruit just loses a bit of momentum down the line. Its structure, however, doesn't, suggesting it could flesh out further with time. The high point is its chalky, lifting backbone of polished citric acids, which carry the wine with refreshing appeal, leaving a dusty note of chalk in the aftertaste. Give it time.

ü A very nice, structurally focused Hunter sem that like others of its ilk, should improve dramatically in the bottle. Drink 2015-2021.
92 points


EXTRAVAGANT JOY WITH A YOUNG, CRISP HUNTER VALLEY SEMILLON

Shellfish

Thursday, December 15, 2011

WESTEND 3 BRIDGES CHARDONNAY 2009

- Riverina, NSW
- $17.95
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

In this modern age of wine consumer consciousness and theoretical values, warm climate chardonnay must be an increasingly hard sell to the sophisticated drinker. Despite the proud standing of Westend's 3 Bridges label as a benchmark of what can be achieved in Australia's warm inland river regions, I can't actually see any indication of regional sourcing on the label here. 'Wine of Australia'.

Abound with powerful, nutty aromas resonating from its cashew-like oak, the 2009 3 Bridges Chardonnay is no shrinking violet, as it punches out further aromatic big tones of ultra-ripe melons and sweet nectarines smoothed out by a touch of butterscotch residing beneath. It precariously covers the bases of bold, sweet, fruity and savoury, but smells okay while doing it. Rich, creamy stonefruits roll out its relatively buxom palate, which does show a fraction more poise than the nose. Length is good and although it finishes flavoursome, it's a shade loose and fuzzy to conclude, with energetic, sweet chardonnay fruits depositing brightness and softness, if not really discipline, elegance or finesse. In context of its origins, however, it's actually very well produced and clearly over delivers, making it easy to see why the 3 Bridges label is respected as it is.

O Not a subtle chardonnay, but definitively creamy, round, bold and overtly varietal. Perhaps not my type of hot weather white though. Drink to 2013.
88 points


Monday, December 12, 2011

LECONFIELD SHIRAZ 2010

- McLaren Vale, SA
- $20-$32
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

Most likely due to its relationship with Richard Hamilton wines, the Coonawarra-based Leconfield draws its shiraz from McLaren Vale. You could argue that Leconfield should be sourcing their wines from closer to home, but on the basis of what's actually in and not behind the bottle, I have absolutely no problems with Leconfield's rather reliable and quite delicious McLaren Vale shiraz. It's interesting to note there's a small portion of Coonawarra shiraz in the 2010 added for its intensity.

Instantly recognisable and like running into an old friend on the street, the 2010 Leconfield Shiraz is buoyantly ripened, handsomely fruited and oaked; yet even, with juicy dark plum and melting chocolate scents rising through aromas of cherries, black licorice and smooth vanilla/cedar oak, in the openly accessible fashion that young McLaren Vale shiraz does so well. Its palate delivers what the nose promises, unfolding a smooth and silky mouthful of classically vibrant, sumptuous McLaren Vale shiraz fruit flavour ably moved along by an ever present undertone of melting chocolate. Its rich flavour permeates well into the finish, where it's greeted by a well ripened, initially concealed structure of glossy acids and velvety tannins, which grip and hold the wine right on cue without being detrimental to its voluptuous appeal. Length is good.

ü+ Once again, I'm left looking at another deliciously regional, classically medium-term McLaren Vale shiraz from Leconfield, and one that's certainly benefited from the nature of its season. It's great to see 'Australia's mid-palate' performing like this. Drink to 2020.
92 points


Sunday, December 11, 2011

BATTLE OF BOSWORTH PURITAN SHIRAZ 2011

- McLaren Vale, SA
- $25
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

A nature-lovin', preservative-questionin' friend of mine regularly quizzes me about wine and why sulphur dioxide is essential to its production. So, it was with his consistent inquisition and my own sense of curiosity, that I jumped at the chance to share a bottle of Battle of Bosworth's preservative-free Puritan Shiraz with him. I only wish I had thought of it last year, when the 2010 was around. Whatever the result, I feel good having purchased a wine from the organic shop for once.

Within the first hour, this SO2-free wine changes aroma like a woman changes outfit before a date. It's initially awkward, funky and unnervingly pongy, with a lingering scent I regret to describe as butt, but it quickly morphs into a more decipherable aroma of preserved fruits, with dates/prunes, dried apricots and boysenberry notes lifted by faint floral and musky edges, without the interference of oak. Relatively forward and smooth in a syrup-like fashion, its palate stains the mouth with dark and ripe, regional shiraz fruits and dirty, earthy undertones, but it could use more brightness, freshness and structural lift through the back section, while its length of fruit and overall impression fade off into a passive, sour/plummy conclusion. An optimist might see it as 'Joven' with a 'soft' finish, but others might just call it quaffing material.

O Despite my critique, I gotta applaud the guys at Battle of Bosworth. From a cold, wet vintage and without the use of SO2 or oak, they've managed to craft a shiraz of ample ripeness with enough freshness to make it more than slurpable. Novelty factor aside though, I must say it's not really my type of shiraz. I do wish I tried the 2010 first, but I'd still love to see more from this boundary-pushin' label in the future. Drink now.
85 points


Friday, December 9, 2011

SEPPELT DRUMBORG VINEYARD RIESLING 2011

- Henty, VIC
- $29-$39
- Screwcap
- 11.0%alc

Famed for its spectacular minerality, tight acid structure and unique terroir, Seppelt's Drumborg resides at the cutting edge of Australia's modern riesling class, taking the challenge right up to long term classics like Grosset's Polish Hill and Leo Buring's Leonay.

Almost colourless, with an icy impression of coolness that restricts its water-tight, stony scents of minerals, quartz, lime and jasmine flower, the 2011 Drumborg's nose does shy away in its infancy, but that's of little concern right now. Now then. An incredibly pure, unblemished minerality graces the palate's first movement, preceding a clean taste of freshly squeezed lime juice that emerges through the middle and after sections, before its mineral notes regroup to accompany its genuinely elegant, beautifully measured citrus elements into a very long, classy finish exuding bright, mouth-watering acids and subtle notes of nashi pear and lemon sherbet. Although impressionable and well built up, its structure reveals a surprisingly calm, seamlessly woven exterior, staying true to the wine's purity and elegance whilst steering well clear of anything unforced or aggressive. It's so pure, understated, youthful and practically virginal, with a sophisticated composition shining throughout. Think of a princess in high school...

ü+ From what must now be one of Australia's most important riesling sites, Seppelt continue to do wonders with the Drumborg. The 2011 carries on the label's fine pedigree, with a minerality, composition, texture and structure rare in Australian riesling. A bottle aged release from this vineyard might be a novel idea but in the meantime, just watch it grow, slowly. Drink to 2029.
95 points


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

TIM ADAMS RIESLING 2011

- Clare Valley, SA
- $15-$22
- Screwcap
- 11.0%alc

A consistent overachiever and proud of it, Tim Adams Riesling personifies what the Clare Valley does best - stunningly dry riesling at a joke of a price. If you drink on a budget and haven't yet acquired the taste for dry Australian riesling, then it's about time you did.

Although unlikely to be a shock to drinkers of Clare riesling, aromas of lemons, apples and spice thrive in Tim Adams' 2011, all expressed with lightness, brightness, clarity and a polite balance. From first sip though, the palate takes centre stage, exuding positive reflections of region, variety and maker. Rich and mouth-filling, its zesty citrus and juicy apple flavours bare a dry and savoury, steely edge, yet the wine's most pleasing feature is a clearly defined, chiselled backbone of tight, chalky citric acids, which drill the mouth's upper reaches in the take-no-prisoners style Tim Adams fans must salivate over. Those chalky acids also impart taste through the finish, creating a mouth-watering aftertaste beset by notes of ultra-crisp green apple and lemon sherbet. It's salivating stuff from the 2011 vintage and oh-so Tim Adams.

ü+ There's a lot of new, more fashionable riesling labels bobbing up and down all over the place but Tim Adams continues to show how practiced expertise regularly pays off. The consistent quality of this overachieving wine over the last half dozen vintages is ridiculous. A real Australian riesling lovers special. Drink to 2023.
94 points


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

CLONAKILLA RIESLING 2011

- Canberra District
- $26-$33
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

Summer's well and truly arrived in Adelaide, so it's about time I started seriously smashing down some new season's rieslings (responsibly smashing, of course). Over the next 3 nights I'll be looking at 3 of my very favourite Australian riesling labels - from 3 completely different states. The first model down the runway is a Canberra classic celebrating its 40th anniversary, from a maker that's probably better known for other things.

A little withdrawn and youthful yet rather stylish and blessed by a tight, steely minerality and a note of talcum powder, Clonakilla's 2011 blows a calm air of gentle, floral lavender scents over its cleanly restrained varietal fruits, which reflect white pear/apple flesh and lime pith. In a fashion typical of young riesling, its shapely, persistent palate actually contradicts its calm aromatics, by releasing a more sour-citric flavour profile empowered by its youthful intensity and brashness. It's long, racy and assertive, growing with a mouth-puckering sourness that does suggest some sweet 'n' sour aspects, but it's saved by an impressively long finish, drawn out by vivacious, lemony acids and a cascading flow of lime juice.

ü Perhaps moving away from some of Clonakilla's recent, chalkier offerings (which were probably more my style), the 2011 is a more sour-citric, yet varietally intense riesling, crafted well from a cool, wet season and set well for the cellar. Having said that, there certainly isn't anything wrong with cracking one now, especially if the mercury's creeping towards 100. Drink to 2021.
92 points


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

OZ WINE TOONS: THE SKETCHES AND OUTTAKES

Oz Wine Toons recently celebrated its 50th incarnation, so I thought I'd take a momentary break from its madness, to slightly open the vault on what goes on behind the scenes...

When I first started Oz Wine Toons, I used to just go straight from my head onto the computer screen. But then, one day, I did a quick sketch first...

My first ever Oz Wine Toon draft was born out of the question; 'how do you draw a caveman?' I was so impressed (and surprised) by my ability to translate an image from paper to screen, that I kept going.... (this particular toon remains one of my personal favourites by the way).



Similarly, the second sketch was born out of the question; 'how do you draw a guy squished into a wine bottle?'



Looking at these two images, now, I'm not sure this toon actually required text.



Perhaps because this toon was directly inspired by a fellow blogger, the original sketch here says 'Wine Front', which eventually became 'Halliday' in the finished version. Likewise, #eatwithbacon was corrected, because wine is something we're much more likely to #drinkwithbacon.



I completely changed my mind on this toon. The original shows Jesus presenting his own wine at a tasting, which I changed to an image of The Last Supper, just because I wanted to try and draw something with a bit of class for once, where it ended up taking longer to complete than any other Oz Wine Toon. The joke didn't actually change, just the scene, and the sketch here shows several punch line alternatives I was playing around with.






Oz Wine Toons at its absolute crudest. In the finished version, I wasn't happy with the character's aim, as it looks like he's missed the bottle (completely unintended by me), so I inserted the text 'Dang, missed!'



One of my personal favourites, for its simplicity and bluntness. I wish I could come up with toons like this more often.



This toon is merely an exaggeration of something I experienced in real life. With a salesman, of course.



The original sketch here depicts a crashed plane in the background, which I removed for several reasons. Firstly, I didn't think it was necessary. Secondly, I felt the plane made it look like they'd only just arrived on the island, but most importantly, I just couldn't be bothered to draw it. Not sure what happened to the coconut though...



The image in the corner shows how I had to use a reference point for getting Ronald McDonald's colour scheme right. No such problems with Grimace though.



The original sketch here shows God thinking to himself; 'Hmm... think I'll go... blizzard this time', which I later changed to 'alien attack' because it sounds a lot sillier. I was also concerned this toon might look un-p.c. if an Australian vintage is actually destroyed by a blizzard one day...



It's rare that I think a finished, digital toon looks better than its original sketch, but with this one, I did.
Additionally, I often like to sneak sly images of some of my favourite Australian wines into Oz Wine Toons. This toon depicts Karra Yerta Riesling - a real 'blogger's favourite' in my opinion, hence its appearance on a blogger's bedside table.



This one just never made it. The finished toon would've shown the diners absolutely covered in overblown sparkling red.



Another one that didn't make it. Without the text, you can't actually tell what's going on here. I remember I was going to use it on Christmas, but a little too much Christmas cheer last year led to me doing a Boxing Day toon instead...


Sunday, November 27, 2011

WATSON FAMILY VINEYARDS SAUVIGNON BLANC SEMILLON 2011

- Margaret River, WA
- $12-$16
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

The Watson Family Vineyards SBS is a collaborative wine project, born out of a desire to contradict popular opinion of sauvignon blanc.

Faintly nutty and green pea-like, with a restrained fruit scent of lemon citrus and some smoky elements, this Margaret River SBS draws a straight line down what I'd expect from the style, but it does it with good intensity, clarity and definition, all of which I expect from the style anyway. Its palate really holds back on sauvignon blanc's pungent, fruity aspects, instead opting towards a more funky, savoury, mineral and brine-like rendition of passionfruit flavour, with a viscous feel marked by a certain looseness and a subtle tartness, the latter of which lingers softly through its aftertaste of kiwifruit and brine. For all its pleasing funk, it just lacks the tightness, shape and driving acidity of the Margaret River's best, but it's definitely one of the more interesting Australian interpretations of the blend available for under $15.

ü If you're the type of person who never spends more than $15 on your beloved sauvignon blanc, you might find interest in this textured, funky wine. Whether or not you'll prefer it to your favourite cheap and cheerful Kiwi savvy is another thing. It might actually be better suited to the serious drinker on a budget (looking for an SBS?), rather than the quaffer looking for something different. A middle ground for now. Drink to 2012.
89 points


Friday, November 25, 2011

FREEMAN RONDINELLA CORVINA SECCO 2007

- Hilltops, NSW
- $30
- Screwcap
- 15.0%alc

Freeman's 2004 Aged Release Secco (93pts), an Amarone inspired wine where the rondinella and corvina grapes are partially dried in a prune dehydrator, has been one of the finds of the year for me thus far. Perhaps the only thing holding back the absolutely delicious 2004 Secco from even greater heights, was the lack of a truly authoritative tannin structure, a quality which, Dr Brian Freeman happily informs me he's successfully captured in the 2007. Well, let's have a look-see then...

This is the third bottle of 2007 Secco I've had and I'm finally starting to get it. Early on, it smells thickly confected and jarringly awkward, but let it decant for at least 6 hours and watch it transform into an ever changing creature of complexity, masculine beauty and intrigue. It's at once meaty, leathery and spicy, richly ripened and a flamboyant brute, baring a gruff tone of smoky oak to add savoury grunt to its deeply aromatic, valid currant-like fruit and brown leafy scents. The palate really puts its foot to the floor, leaving any concept of subtlety behind as it deposits the imposingly firm, penetrative, spiralling and intense tannin structure Dr Freeman must surely seek with this wine. Its all-encompassing backbone takes centre stage in its youth, framing and directing its smoothly set, luscious flavours of savoury-edged blackberries, redcurrants and smoky chocolate oak with real authority and drive, allowing a sly note of aniseed to linger through the finish. Rough and rugged, it's definitely a man, and almost enough to make me turn...

ü+ A real living, breathing beast. A ringing endorsement of the benefits of decanting, time, patience and repeat consumption for wine. The 2007 Secco may not be as immediately delicious as the 2004 Aged Release (naturally), but it's perhaps even more up my alley, as it's a much more serious, longer term prospect, with a spectacular tannin structure and shape rare in Australian reds. Dr Freeman's closing in on the white light here. Cellar it. Drink 2017-2025.
94 points


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

TYRRELL'S SINGLE VINEYARD BELFORD SEMILLON 2006

- Lower Hunter Valley, NSW
- $25-$37
- Screwcap
- 11.0%alc

Made from a single vineyard planted in 1933, the Belford was the last of Tyrrell's semillon to be picked in 2006. Now 5 years old, this 2006 Belford proudly wears 4 gold medals on its bottle, covering 4 different years between 2006 and 2010, but that amount pales in comparison to the 20+ shiny things flamboyantly flashed around by the 2005 Vat 1.

Lively as a drunk teen at schoolies but much fresher, with classically regional, mineral infused lemon/lime zest and quartz aromas stringing through emerging, savoury notes of lightly toasted white bread and flint, the 2006 Belford appears a barely adolescent semillon, which is absolutely revelling in its aromatic vitality and clarity right now. Moderately juicy flavours of green melons, pear and citrus introduce the palate, before a smooth, waxy complexity joins its mid-palate announcement of grassy/herbal tones to move the wine into a long, bright finish sparked by a penetrative and succulent, yet fairly ripe Hunter acidity.

ü+ Although not set for the super long term, I can still see the 2006 Belford gaining wonderfully textural, beeswax-like complexity over the medium term. It's well worth a look for the cellar, so long as there's not a 2005 HVD (94pts) sitting next to it in the bottle shop (as I saw). Drink to 2018.
92 points


THERE'S GOLD IN THAT THAR VAT!

Tyrrell's 2005 Vat 1 Semillon. A modern day show winner of almost embarrassing proportions. Wholly deserving though.

Monday, November 21, 2011

CALABRIA PRIVATE BIN AGLIANICO 2009

- Riverina, NSW
- $14.95
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

Strange as it may sound to some, Bill Calabria's Westend Estate is behind some truly groundbreaking reds at the moment, made from Riverina fruit, and sold for $15. Alongside Australia's only Saint Macaire (an ultra rare variety with Bordeaux origins), the shamelessly Italian inspired Calabria Aglianico is growing a steady following for its savoury nature, firm structure and food friendliness. Much like the Calabria's themselves, these Private Bin releases are doing a lot to help reshape the future of Australia's warm inland river regions.

Oh my. On first sniff the Calabria shows promising signs of being a textbook, new age Aussie quaffer, as the late ripening aglianico has produced an earthy and floral, rather savoury and feral wine by Riverina standards, that still underpins its fragrance with a slightly leathery expression of classically sun-drenched, ripe dark plums and cherries marked by dry cedar oak. Its palate unleashes a comforting mouthful of similarly dark, berry, cherry and plum flavour, capably enveloped by a back end of dusty, savoury tannins, forthright acids and a lingering note of licorice, but it doesn't quite live up to initial promise, because I detect a faint diluteness to its taste. It's a grievance that can easily be overlooked for $15, because the wine's good body, structure and length all meld together in vivid harmony, making it such an easy red to slide down the back of the throat. So long as you can handle the tannin, of course.

ü+ Despite one niggle, there's so much potential on display here, particularly in terms of aglianico's character and its suitability to the hot Australian sun. Given time, experience and increased vine age, I think the Calabria Aglianico could establish a new benchmark for inland reds. Drink to 2016.
90 points


Sunday, November 20, 2011

MCWILLIAM'S INHERITANCE CHARDONNAY 2010

- South Eastern Australia
- $4-$11
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

The surprise packet Inheritance Chardonnay from 2009 gifted me much more drinking pleasure than I'd usually expect from a $5 wine. Were it not for a touch of heat through the finish, it would've scored even higher than the 87 points I awarded it 50 weeks ago. Taking that into account, it's good to see McWilliam's wound the alcohol back in the 2010.

Once again, it's hard to deny what's on offer here for much the same price as non-alcoholic chardonnay. Although not as well defined as the 2009, the 2010 Inheritance does reveal an inoffensive, light fragrance of citrus rind and kiwi fruit, smoothed out by a sly note of nut oil. If anything, it's a little too light on the nose, as it seems to lack varietal punch. This quibble carries over to the palate, where its cleanly textured, under-ripe melon and lemon tart flavours become more citric accented down the line, courtesy of a brisk influence of bitey, grapefruit-like acids. It's well made for the price and shows a relatively kind transition from smooth entry to crisp finish, it just needs more flavour, that's all. Drink cold.

O A very plausible, clean expression of what's essentially a generic white wine. Even though that may be its purpose in life, I was hoping for something a bit more 'chardonnay-like', like its predecessor. Drink to 2012.
85 points


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

STEFANO LUBIANA COLLINA 2008

- Southern Tasmania
- $60-$75
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

When it comes to maintaining a high standard of quality, across an entire range, year in, year out, Stefano Lubiana is one of Australia's strictest. Mediocre clearly isn't in the man's vocabulary. Atop his whites sits the Collina, a 'best of the best' chardonnay produced only in exceptional seasons (2003 was the only release prior to 2008). When Mr Lubiana says 'best of the best', you know he means business...

The first thing you'll notice about the Collina is its gorgeous label, and then, of course, what an equally gorgeous wine it is. It's savoury and stylish foremost, yet refined and intricately detailed, unfolding a clean and clear whiff of biscuity oak bitten by pure, mineral scents of grapefruits and lemons, with carefully placed suggestions of white flower, nougat, hazelnuts and cinnamon adding real pizzaz in a wonderfully controlled way. For a fleeting moment, my mind is cast to Champagne. That thought clearly dissipates in the mouth, where it bedazzles with an arrestingly complex yet perfect marriage of intense, penetrative structure and texture, the latter of which reveals an ethereal suppleness and fragility. To say elegant might be understating its smooth, seamless movement of restrained flavour, which slowly unravels pear, crisp vanilla biscuit, apple and citrus, all checked by stunningly clean, mouth-watering, racy acids that match its textural touch for sheer thrill. Contrasting notes of nuts and lemon sherbet in the aftertaste only add to its pleasure. I could write an essay on this, but common sense says no...

ü+ I've been wondering who's going to step forward and claim the as yet undecided crown of Tasmanian chardonnay - one of Australia's most underrated and promising modern styles. Stefano Lubiana's Collina steps forth like a casanova at a hen's party. I've never had a Tasmanian chardonnay like it. Let's just hope it's not another 5 years till the next one comes round. Brilliant. A real keeper. Drink to 2018.
96 points


Monday, November 14, 2011

STEFANO LUBIANA ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2009

- Southern Tasmania
- $45-$55
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Easily in my top handful of Tasmanian pinot noir, Stefano Lubiana's Estate takes off from his delicious Primavera Pinot Noir and betters it - just as it should - by way of savoury complexity, texture, structure and longevity. I often wonder how many other producers would be content to classify such a wine as reserve, which of course, the Estate isn't. The 2006 was a beauty (95pts).

Beautifully bright and fragrant, with succulent dark cherry and strawberry scents bursting from the glass alongside a joyous lick of caramel oak, imbibed by a low-tone of game and a high-tone of freshly picked garden herb, the 2009 Estate doesn't quite possess the savoury complexity or finesse of the very best vintages, but its sumptuous varietal nature smells an unabashed treat. It tastes that way too, rolling out rich, almost palate staining for pinot, silky layers of cherry, strawberry and then rhubarb flavour, with the onus being on its youthful freshness and texture. Wonderfully slight, velevty tannins, which meld seamlessly into its silken core, perk up the finish beside a refreshing acidity, leaving a juicy taste of small forest berries edged by cedar to linger long into the mouth.

ü Clever winemaking from Mr Lubiana - again (does this man know how to make bad wine?). His 2009 Estate is a richer pinot noir with the depth, backbone and capacity to age, yet the sensuality to drink now. It's a classic 'each-way bet'. Drink to 2017.
93 points


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

FREYCINET PINOT NOIR 2009

- East Coast Tasmania
- $63-$80
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

According to Langton's, who chose Freycinet as the sole Tasmanian pinot noir in their latest classification of Australian wine; 'The family-owned Freycinet Vineyard is recognised by collectors as the most consistent and distinguished producer of ultra fine Tasmanian Pinot Noir.' Stefano Lubiana and Domaine A immediately spring to mind as other names to consider, but wines like Freycinet's 2009 really hammer home why the east coast producer is a benchmark of Tasmanian style.

Showing lovely, spicy hits of clove and star anise that rise from the glass with stunning definition, Freycinet's 2009 displays a dark and dusty, regional set of sweetly fruited and savoury attractions, meshing redcurrants, cranberries and musk stick with meaty, herbal influences and some fragrant smoky oak. It's deep and beguiling yet intensified by its high toned spice and herbal elements, but the palate is where its true complexity takes form. Combining a fluffy suppleness with a concealed depth of dark cherry kernel, herb, clove and sour-edged red berry flavour, it's at once submissive, electrifying and pert, as its understated qualities are zipped up and driven long by an attractively youthful, crisp outer shell of structure, which provides wonderful extension courtesy of slick 'n' shiny acids peppered by ground spice-like tannins, leaving notes of nutty oak and a tart taste of cranberry to pass. Age worthiness is clearly on the cards here. It's wickedly Tasmanian.

ü+ A true, essential Tassie pinot, done the Freycinet way. All it needs is time and I think we'll be looking at a modern day Tasmanian masterpiece. Drink 2013-2021.
95 points