Just as I was regaining the love for Leasingham wines; both high end and low, the brand goes and hits a hurdle. A whole row of them even. Key vineyards have been sold, the winery's been sold off, there's been a recent change of ownership and even Leasingham's website is under construction now. For the sake of one of Clare's most significant names, I do hope these hurdles can be cleared.
In keeping in tune with some of Leasingham's recent successes, this Bin 56 looks and smells joyously bright, without a shred of the over-ripeness found in many of South Australia's 2008s. Menthol-tinged scents of cassis, mulberries and red plums leap from the glass in a magnificently fruited, vivid style after an hour in the decanter, with a secondary accompaniment of soft vanilla/mocha oak thrown in for good measure. A smidgeon of the region's classic eucalyptus also appears, siding with its menthol aromas nicely. Thankfully, these characters slide into the mouth with ease, as it unfolds a silky, medium-bodied palate defined by its vibrancy. If anything, its menthol/eucalyptus touched berry flavours only lack the complexity and integrated elegance of reserve labels, but it still finishes beautifully long and imposingly dry, revealing earthy tones underneath a nervy yet merging structure of gripping acids and tannin, helped into place by some thoroughly modern winemaking polish. It's quite amazing really; a genuinely happy surprise.
ü+ Brightly fruited and flavoured, tight and dry, the 2008 Bin 56 defies my expectations of its vintage and price immeasurably. My fingers are steadfastly crossed for the future of Leasingham now. Drink to 2020.
Picking a favourite out of Morris's entry level muscat or tokay is merely a matter of personal taste. Do you prefer the toffee and tea leaf characters of the tokay, or the slightly richer, more raisined flavours of the muscat? Either way, it's a win-win situation for lovers of fortified wine.
Mmmmm yes. Classic aromas of sultanas/raisins, fruitcake and light spice rise from the glass of the Morris Muscat, expressed with more than minor suggestions of spirity warmth, richness and a nasal tickle that's hard to ignore. In lieu of its rich underbelly, it's actually quite piercing to smell deeply. Throughout the palate those same characters persist, yet definitively, a luscious, comforting taste of liquid fruitcake delves with a snuggly warmth, before perfectly pitched influences of alcohol and a faint dryness partner its sweetly set richness to a refreshingly long, just plain positive finish. Its sheer drinkability is a huge plus, so it's by no means a one nip muscat.
ü+ I continue to be beyond satisfied by the entry level muscats and tokays of Morris. They must be some of the most consistently emptied bottles of wine at my place. Drink now.
As I scan the front label of Orlando's St Hilary, I notice the fine print; 'St Hilary is an elegant dry wine vintaged from grapes grown in Padthaway, a region which has earned an international reputation for premium Chardonnay.' If that's the case, then I hope Orlando continue to release a Padthaway chardonnay; namely St Hilary, which, if anything, has shown itself to be appropriately valued over the years.
Typical of the label, there's a sly yet clear whiff of human intervention evident from first sniff. There are cheesy touches of malo, as well as spicy vanilla oak and yeast on the nose, with its fruity interweaving supplied by aromas of candied white peaches and melon, in a slightly brassy manner that does require more lift and fruit freshness. The palate is medium-full and fractionally round, yet it just seems to cower away when it counts, leaving the mouth feeling fairly nonplussed. Unfortunately, it finishes a little loose, brassy and perhaps warming to boot, as its buttered popcorn-like oak coated flavours of sweet green melon fruits lack the definition, shape and tightness of Australia's pace-setting $20 chardonnays. Overall balance is an issue, although it seems marginally better by night's end.
X For a label and a brand some might consider 'lost', this wine seems just that (and I normally like St Hilary). Drink to 2013.
From an Adelaide point of view, I've always considered Clarendon Hills to be 'the Wendouree of the south' (there are numerous differences though, not the least of which is consistency). Roman Bratasiuk crafts spectacular individual vineyard reds of immense power, depth and concentration, to which there are few rivals within McLaren Vale. Clarendon Hills wines are expensive and tricky to find, but if the style suits, then the best wines are a must try experience.
From vines planted in 1925, Clarendon Hills' 2006 Blewitt Springs shows one of those classic old-vine McLaren Vale grenache aromas, combining sweet fruit with savoury complexity. There are expressions of leathery earth, game meats and perhaps mushroom, expressed with perfume and intensity, and bolstered by a wonderfully deep, bright core of multi-coloured forest berries adding real sex appeal. Its ripeness is generous and vivid, without being excessive. An incredible acid/tannin structure, rare in Australian grenache, harnesses the palate with a sensuous, net-like coverage. Within its ultra-fine, slick and fanned-out confines resides a mouthfeel of genuinely elegant suppleness, filled out by a richly flavoured symposium of berry compote notes. Although it becomes progressively drier and fine-grained to finish, in a more than welcomed, procrastinating fashion, it also shows a slight jammy quality and a warm hint of menthol.
O The supple, elegant feel of this well structured grenache comes across as something of a surprise from Clarendon Hills, yet it reflects its variety and vintage to perfection. Even for the price, this is quite a grenache, but if it wasn't for a touch of warmth at the finish, then it would've scored an extra point and a tick. Drink to 2018.
I recently had the opportunity to sample wines from The Ed's Enomatic wine tasting machine, or, the Wine Taster 2000 as it could also be called. :)
For those unfamiliar with the machine, The Enomatic is a wine dispenser, capable of rationing out single tastings, double tastings or full glasses of wine, via 3 separate buttons aligned to each bottle in the display. Prices go up in accordance with the size of the pour, as well as the wine in question. Additionally, and on this day, some pours can be free of charge, however, it's intended for commercial use and not the home (although...).
To prevent oxidation, the Enomatic disperses gas into the bottle as it pours out the wine. In this case, The Ed were using argon, which can apparently keep open wine bottles fresh for around a month, but to play it safe, bottles at The Ed are presently changed over after two weeks. Seeing as single bottles actually last two weeks, indicates to me there might not be too much consumer interest in the Enomatic around Adelaide, just yet.
I tasted my way through the wines available on the day, which included a couple of Australian icons. Leeuwin Estate's 2008 Art Series Chardonnay, Clonakilla's 2009 Shiraz Viognier and Peter Lehmann's 2006 Stonewell were all on hand, but alas, they were also at the end of their two week cycle, as they were getting replaced by a predominantly European selection of off-dry rieslings the next day.
To be honest, I felt some of the wines presented well and some not so well, so no tasting notes were taken. I believe the level of wine in the bottle may have had some effect, as some of the cheaper wines (including Rymill's 'free of charge' 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon) appeared fresher and livelier through the palate. Interestingly, a staff member agreed some of the wines may have been a bit 'flat'. To possibly improve the situation, the next selection of wines are going to be 'prolonged' by a mixture of argon and CO2. It's still a trial and error thing at the moment, as well as the only one in Adelaide if I'm correct. If anyone out there has any experience using these machines, any insight would be appreciated.
To purchase from the Enomatic, The Ed provides the customer/taster with a 'credit card', where credits can be purchased and topped up from the register as you see fit. Knowing the place, I can guarantee there will always be something interesting in their Enomatic, but whether you're willing to pay for it is up to you.
As a rough guideline of pricing, I think the Art Series was $4 a pour, $8 a double and $18 a glass. Clonakilla $4.50 a pour, $9 a double and $20 a glass. You be the judge. Most days I'd be happy to pay $18 for a glass of Art Series or $20 for Clonakilla, but with Enomatic, I just wasn't convinced about the state of the wine's freshness, or the environment in which it's presented (does anyone really want to pay $20 for a glass of wine in a bottle shop?) I'd want to get there early on the rotation next time, although I was told the Art Series was drinking better after two weeks.
The Ed's Enomatic credit card
So there we have it. More innovation from my favourite fine wine retailer. Is it the future of wine drinking? I hope not. But I don't have a problem with Enomatic playing its role at fine wine retailers or wine bars. Sure, the prolonged freshness is a plus and allowing customers to taste wines they otherwise might not buy is good (the first set of wines included Hill of Grace, Grange and Chateau d'Yquem - too many credits for me!), but the Enomatic experience is just too sterile for me, and as a consumer, it also takes away one of my most loved aspects of wine tasting; human to human contact.
Guys like Ken Helm make Australia's wine industry a better place. They pick a special variety for their chosen site, nurture it, work it and excel at its production; with undying commitment, until the rest of the industry can't help but take notice. Sublime Canberra District riesling is Ken Helm's forte.
On first sniff, a clear, attractive scent of light spice (ground white pepper maybe?) emerges from Helm's 2010. It dissipates relatively quickly though, giving way to a tight fragrance of slate, white flowers, pear and citrus juice, which should unravel nicely with time. The palate delivers characters of lemon juice, green-edged pears and slate, with a slight undertone of white peach, but it's incredibly flavoursome and zesty, in a sour-citric riesling sense. Its tail whips across the back palate with a wonderful, nervy energy, imparted by a dry structure as assertive as South Australian models, but it's considerably less chalky, more sour-citric, mouth puckering and zippy.
ü Just as the name suggests, this is a classic, dry Canberra District riesling. It's emphatically defined by a racy, sour-edged structure now, but a good stint in the cellar will repay patience. Drink 2017-2022.
Capital Wines is a small Canberra District producer, whose enthusiasm for the micro-blogging social medium, Twitter, has raised their profile dramatically, now putting them in the enviable position of being a small winery whose demand often outstrips supply. Admittedly, if it wasn't for Capital Wines use of social media, I probably wouldn't be holding this bottle now.
Australian merlot fans will be happy to sense dry accents of cedar, herbs and light spice residing in the airspace above Capital Wines' 2009 Backbencher, underpinned by comforting aromas of plums and cherries tightly bonded by a classy touch of chocolate/cedar oak. Its invitingly medium-medium/full bodied palate appears darker, silky to touch yet conclusively dry and fine-boned, with an attractive mix of olive, earth, red plum and melting chocolate notes graced over by velvety tannins. However, the Backbencher's best feature must be its sheer drinkability, attained through a lush nature. With smooth, soft and seductive curves, it literally oozes its way from front to back palate, leaving the mouth with a lasting impression of faintly sour-edged, bright varietal fruits dipped in milk chocolate. Yum.
ü+ A very modern impression of a ready to drink, genuinely ripened, cooler climate Australian merlot. As a second label merlot, the 2009 Backbencher makes many of Australia's first labels look, well, like a politician caught sniffing a seat. Drink to 2017.
Smidge Wines is a project of winemaker Matt Wenk, a man well known for his work at Two Hands in the Barossa Valley. The Smidge range covers a classically South Australian set of styles, including McLaren Vale Shiraz, Barossa Shiraz and Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, as well as some less common regional/stylistic match-ups, such as Langhorne Creek Zinfandel and Barossa Valley Shiraz/Zinfandel.
A rather joyous whiff of varnishy, secondhand vanilla oak jumps from the glass of Smidge's 2009 Houdini Shiraz, slightly obscuring a fruit profile that does take time to open up, but when it does, it's pleasingly regional and sweetly fruited without being over-ripe. Aromas of raspberry, boysenberry and sour plums reside in the bouquet, with a minor lift provided by notes of menthol and cinnamon. Its palate is medium-bodied and vibrant, with no awkward or unwanted distractions, allowing a bright, balanced and appealling array of juicy choc-berry flavours to be strung together by sour-edged acids, in a simple, easy drinking manner. There are hints of dried fruit, lightly spiced vanilla oak and maybe a faint hardness at the finish, but those refreshingly sour-edged acids confidently stride through, cleaning up the aftertaste like a good wax finish. Just pass the BBQ pork spare ribs please...
ü Thanks to its bright flavours, contained alcohol, medium-weight and most importantly; balance, Smidge's 2009 Houdini is a stylish quaffing shiraz from a difficult season. Drink to 2015.
Whether the Margaret River is capable of first rate semillon or sauvignon blanc you can decide (I think so, Leeuwin Estate's Art Series Sauvignon Blanc and Vasse Felix Semillon being key examples), but there's no denying the region's suitability to blends of the two, particularly when a lick of barrel induced complexity comes into the picture.
Fraser Gallop's 2010 SSB shows a keenly balanced arrangement of fruit and winemaking on the nose, by shooting up a direct, piercing fragrance of smoky green peas, capsicum and guava underlined by a clean hint of lemon butter. The aroma really permeates, in a fashion that gives a polite nod to its maker. Palate wise, it's quite long, clean and fractionally round through the middle section, but it comes together tidily on the finish, as its creamy oak/texture driven flavours of lemon and green pea are drawn into line by a fast movement of slick acids, which push the wine along a multitude of chiselled lanes, before finally leaving the mouth with a regrouping of its initial green characters and faint, lingering smoky vanilla oak.
üFor its price, Fraser Gallop's 2010 SSB appears cleverly constructed, with regional elements of semillon and sauvignon blanc, plus barrel ferment notes all raising their heads at one point or another, without anyone trying to steal the show. Good drinking. Drink to 2013.
Made using the charmat method and capped with a crown seal, Dal Zotto's Pucino Prosecco makes a seriously sophisticated selection as a $20 party starter. At a recent comparative tasting (at my house!), Dal Zotto's NV came across as a much finer, drier aperitif than the more readily available, perhaps more crowd pleasing Brown Brothers Prosecco (86pts).
With an un-bottle fermented touch that puts up quite a fizzy, foamy head on first pour (it's less noticeable from there though), Dal Zotto's NV presents itself as rather simple yet attractively clean and clear on the nose, displaying aromas of crisp green apples and lemon rind with the faintest touch of something savoury; sourdough crisp bread maybe. Its palate continues along similarly simplistic lines, however, it expresses it with utter joy, clarity and complete satisfaction to the drinker. Possibly a fraction forward, it remains particularly soft to touch, in a deliciously foamy, lifted manner, as it unravels 'clean enough to eat off' flavours of white pear and lemon juice with just a hint of vanilla ice cream, backed by enough refreshingly citric induced dryness and strewn together by more than enough balance, to compensate for any lack of complexity or forthright assertion. It's one of those wines where, you should just drink it, and forget about its intricacies. Whoops - I'm contradicting myself here...
ü+ In one word; delicious. I only know one retailer (and 1 bar) in Adelaide that sells Dal Zotto's Pucino Prosecco NV, and for $20 each, I can see their stock moving faster than The Flash in a breakdancing contest. Drink now.
No list of Australia's top wines would be complete without Cullen's Diana Madeline. Alongside Mount Mary's Yarra Valley sourced Quintet, Cullen's flagship represents the very pinnacle of Australia's cabernet blends class. Both Cullen and James Halliday have made mention of a differently styled 2008 Diana Madeline, delivered by the application of new winemaking equipment.
Seductively perfumed and fragrant, yet elegant and controlled, Cullen's 2008 Diana Madeline shows everything you'd expect from the label and its season, albeit in a much gentler, even more feminine manner than usual. Its aromas of cherry, blackberry and mulberry are expressed with an edge of genuinely ripened, sweet fruit, complementing its 12.5%abv, but also with an additional interweaving of the savoury, earthy notes typical of Cullen's reds, and a clean air of the freshest cedar/pencil shavings-like oak (14 months French - 48% new). A touch of dry leaf may also rear its head. In the mouth, it's definitively elegant, gentile, fine, long and tightening, with a light to medium-bodied filling of character so understated, that it's hardly a cabernet for the tasting circuit. For a young blend containing 14% merlot, one could be forgiven for anticipating more juice, or richness, but as the wine transgresses from front to back palate, there's a wonderful consistency to its physicality; a beautifully articulated progression, punctuated stunningly and gracefully at its climax by the perfectly concealed, sensuously dry and lithe acid/tannin structure found exclusively in Cullen's bio-dynamic beauties.
üRight in Cullen's modern groove. A scene setter. Poles apart from the norm of Australian cabernet. Lady-like, intelligent, stern and composed. Drink to 2024.
- Barossa Valley, SA - $7-$16 - Screwcap - 10.5%alc
From far outside New South Wales' Hunter Valley, the Barossa's Peter Lehmann produces a benchmark of cheap Australian semillon. Lehmann's semillon has proven itself quite capable of short-medium term cellaring over the years, which actually contradicts something a wine educator once told me; 'if it comes in a clear glass bottle, don't age it.'
Like a shot of stunning vodka pulled from a freezer, Peter Lehmann's 2009 gives away very, very little on the nose. It has me thinking it's more refined than recent vintages, but in reality, it's probably more youthful, tight, and set for a longer term. If forced to, I'd say extremely shy, somewhat steely aromas of crisp green applesand lemon reflect the nose, characteristics which translate onto a palate that's equally as minimal in its flavour profile, if a touch more lemon accented. However, to be positive, its clarity and cleanliness are superb, as its effortless fluidity caresses the mouth in a spotless and well drawn out fashion, with a brisk framework of bright acids completing the picture in a slightly crisper, more assertive manner than usual.
ü+ If you know what to expect from the label, then Peter Lehmann's 2009 Semillon is great value, and as always, good with light seafood. Additionally, I can see it ageing slower than recent releases, especially if those green bottles are still around... Drink to 2017.
Shaw and Smith's M3 sits confidently at the fashionable end of Adelaide Hills chardonnay. The top vintages are wines of immense character, combining genuinely ripened cool-climate fruit with well balanced winemaking tricks. Personally, I consider the style to reflect a happy middle ground between worked and restrained, although a winery employee recently told me the M3 is more about typically modern, cool-climate restraint and refinement. Judging by the 2009, he's right.
The fruit aromas within Shaw and Smith's 2009 appear consciously restrained, or minimal even. Frozen bananas and grapefruit? Maybe. But what is there is savoury, nutty and lightly spiced, like hazelnuts and nutmeg, with wild yeast/barrel ferment influences depositing the most fragrant tones. The palate is marked by Shaw and Smith's typically creamy announcement and a pleasing length drawn out by polished, brisk acids, concealing a rather delicate, savoury flavour profile also reflective of lees and nuts, with a quick spark of mineral tinged white nectarines barely turning on a light. Initially, there's a lack of oomph on the mid-palate, which could've been brought out by a bolder fruit component, but it does flesh out over the course of a bottle.
O Because I have such high standards for the label, I'm marginally in two minds here. Either way, the 2009 is clearly not as spectacular in its youth as recent M3s, but I'd still love to see it in a couple of years. Drink 2013-2015.
Considering Climbing is the 'up-market' label (or uphill even, its vineyard extends to 600+ metres above sea level), you could say the entire Cumulus range is sold at very reasonable prices, which helps keep the emerging wines of Orange within reach of the everyday drinker. Consumer accessibility should only benefit a region seeking greater recognition, so long as the wines provide pleasure of course.
Although fractionally thin on depth of fruit, the nose of Climbing's 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is unmistakably cabernet. It's pleasingly floral and leafy around the high tones, with an aroma of vanilla/cedar oak passing through a fruit profile that displays both red and black berries. It enters the mouth with silky touch, unfolding a surprisingly savoury, earthy mouthful of forest berries back-ended by slightly raw cedar oak. To finish, it lengthens in a much drier, earthier and altogether physical manner, courtesy of a notably pushy extract of grippy, sandpaper-like tannins directing the show, and yes; they do require time to settle, even for tannin-loving me.
ü Climbing's surprisingly savoury, central ranges NSW cabernet sauvignon is a bit dry and assertive right now, but a short stint in the cellar should pay dividends. Otherwise, just pull out some deliciously fatty red meat. Drink 2013-2017.
Tom Carson made some truly memorable wines during his time at Yering Station, highlighted by some of the best expressions of sumptuously fruited, absolutely delicious shiraz viognier Australia has seen. In March '07 I rated Yering Station's 'standard' 2005 Shiraz Viognier at 93pts, which seems rather harsh when compared to the 96pts James Halliday gifted the wine.
Showing upfront, vibrant aromas of earth and boot polish underlined by plums, redcurrants, licorice and decomposing leaf litter, this 6 year old red shows age in a nose that does take time to settle, but it eventually reveals pleasing, savoury intrigue. Reinforcing the signs of development, its relatively sumptuous, leathery palate displays meaty red cherry and blackberry flavours within a medium-full body. Unfortunately, its overall level of excitement and integration is neither here nor there, as the gloss of youthful radiance it once showed has now given way to earlier maturing shiraz flavours, while its structure has nestled into something softer and juicier, with a hint of tart cranberry-like acids to pass.
O Because I have such fond memories of this wine, I'm currently wishing I drunk it during the time period from which the memories came. Ah, the complexities of the ageing process and what to buy... Drink to 2013.
Paying $17.55 for Penfolds 2009 Bin 138 actually had me feeling kinda guilty, like I was doing my bit to assist the slow destruction of Australia's wine business. Andrew Caillard MW gave the wine 96pts in an eye-catching newspaper ad, but I was more taken by the honest opinion of another Andrew.
From what's shaping up to be a good year for South Australian grenache, Penfolds has produced an archetypal Barossa GSM of immense drinkability. It's floral, joyously ripened and fruity, with an air of cinnamon stick providing a lightly spiced lift to deep set, plummy scents of blueberries, raspberries, chocolate and even tar, without a shred of over-ripeness evident. Brightness and harmony exude throughout the palate, as everything just seems to fall into place seamlessly, like melting chocolate in your mouth. Expect juicy plum, choc-raisin and raspberry flavours; expressed with ideal ripeness, and pushed along a medium-medium/full body (which is far from heavy) by gentle spices and a charmingly resistant extract of gritty tannin, causing the wine to move in a more rustic manner down the back palate, before leaving the mouth with a faint taste of sweet and sour meaty flavour. Its judgement in the vineyard and winery seems..... beyond perfection for what I paid.
ü+ As a relatively recent entrant to the Bin range (the first Bin 138 came from the 1998 vintage, although Penfolds first made an 'Old Vine' Southern Rhône blend from 1992) I'm happy to say this is the best Bin 138 I've had; and I'm not usually a big fan. It's so on the money for the label. Drink to 2021.