With the exception of shiraz viognier and cabernet sauvignon based Bordeaux blends, any red which is labelled as a blend of two or more varieties will be found in this category.
Although there is a wealth of new varieties arriving in Australia with new blends to match, I still find the majority of our red blends come from either the Aussie classic shiraz/cabernet combination or Rhone styles (shiraz/grenache/mourvedre).
Australia possesses some very talented winemakers who have traditionally relished blending. Right now I think South Australia leads this category, with large thanks to its numerous mature grenache vineyards.
The red blends reviewed here are Burge Family Winemaker's 2006 Olive Hill, Cullen's 2007 Mangan, Lake Breeze's 2006 Bernoota, Penfolds' 2006 Bin 389, Primo Estate's 2007 Il Briccone, Schild Estate's 2008 Old Bush Vine GMS and Tim Adams' 2006 Fergus.
The 2006 Fergus is probably getting close to being replaced by the 2007, but the rest of the wines are firmly current and readily available.
BURGE FAMILY WINEMAKERS OLIVE HILL SHIRAZ GRENACHE MOURVEDRE 2006
- Region: Barossa Valley, SA
- Price: $32-$41
Rick Burge is the winemaking inspiration behind Burge Family Winemakers; a company with no business relations to Grant Burge. His best wines are the Draycott Shiraz and the Olive Hill blend of Rhone varieties, of which I'm told (by his niece), the Olive Hill is his personal favourite.
With shiraz the major contributor (68%/18%/14%) and 100% French oak, the 2006 Olive Hill displays an unashamedly ripe aroma of dark fruited, prune-like quality, but it also reveals a deep, brooding presence of smoked meats and rich, spicy chocolate oak with violet florals. Outstanding depth and concentration accentuate the complex, rich and rustic palate, as its surprisingly even level of fruit ripeness penetrates into a savoury finish of great length, revealing silky smooth, powdery tannins and a spirity warmth firmly imprinted by its 15.5% alcohol. Despite its substantial depth, weight and alcohol, the wine manages to remain nice and tight (for the style) due to some very snazzy oak treatment.
ü+ Profoundly ripe yet smooth, evenly fruited, deep and complex; the 2006 Olive Hill is a perfect model of a modern day Barossan Rhone blend, with credit to some very smart winemaking courtesy of a regional veteran. Just less alcohol please! Drink to 2018.
CULLEN MANGAN 2007
- Region: Margaret River, WA
- Price: $42-$57
I'm a big fan of the elegantly complex wines which can be created from the lesser known Bordeaux varieties. As many of Australia's wineries already possess established vineyards of malbec, petit verdot and cabernet franc, I'd love to see more examples in both varietal and blended form.
Presenting a herbal nose with elements of tobacco, blackcurrants, cloves, smoky oak and meaty, stewed plums, the 2007 Mangan delves into an extremely complex, light-medium bodied palate wrapped in brittle acidity. Its particularly savoury, smoky and slightly green-edged black fruit flavours show harmony, precision and great length, with a very dry finish punctuated by a loose-knit cut of powdery tannins and char.
ü To be honest I'm a touch confused by this difficult to judge wine. It's undoubtedly complex and elegant, but I find it lacks outstanding depth and even ripeness. Whether time will see it settle down I'm unsure. Drink to 2017.
LAKE BREEZE BERNOOTA SHIRAZ CABERNET 2006
- Region: Langhorne Creek, SA
- Price: $17-$24
As impressed as I've been with the last few vintages of Lake Breeze's Bernoota (2004-93pts, 2005-94pts), I was equally impressed by their generous, gracious and considerate cellar door hand Janine. Hold onto that one Lake Breeze!
Less perfumed and hedonistically fragrant than recent releases, the 2006 Bernoota opens to a more 'typical' fragrance of ripe blackcurrants, vanilla/chocolate oak and eucalypt leaves. Its velvety mouthfeel reveals slightly cooked, dark fruit flavours of plums, currants and cherries smoothed over by vanilla oak. In pursuit of its fruit base is a loose cut of ripe tannins and a warm finish laced with notes of menthol.
O It's unfortunate but I always knew the brilliant Bernoota bubble had to burst sooner or later. Drink to 2012.
PENFOLDS BIN 389 CABERNET SHIRAZ 2006
- Region: South Australia
- Price: $42-$65
Quality cabernet shiraz blends seem to be popping up from all over Australia these days, but none come close to matching the popularity, reputation or longevity of Penfolds' 'Baby Grange'; the classic Bin 389. Like its partner the Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon the Bin 389 has delivered handsomely over recent years.
Somewhat closed in its youth, the 2006 Bin 389 opens slowly to a rustic, savoury fragrance with currant, spice and cedar/mocha oak aromas influenced by a vegetal/leafy aspect. It reveals an excellent balance of dark fruit and savoury meat flavours, as the palate announces seasoned cedar oak, which accentuates the wine with a firm cut of positively sandy tannins into a long, dry and savoury finish.
ü Quite refined and elegant now, the 2006 Bin 389 requires a few more years yet to reveal its best. Drink 2016-2026.
PRIMO ESTATE IL BRICCONE SHIRAZ SANGIOVESE 2007
- Region: McLaren Vale, SA
- Price: $16-$24
Joe Grilli' s innovative Il Briccone blend of shiraz (85%) and sangiovese (15%) is fast becoming one of my favourite every day drinking reds. Through skilled winemaking the last few vintages have easily handled difficult seasons (2005-90pts, 2006-88pts), whilst the 2007 has introduced a component of high quality Clarendon shiraz to add depth.
Ripe and tarry, its dark fruited nose displays currant, leather, chocolate oak and aromas of cinnamon in a deep fashion. Medium in body, the palate reveals a complex interweaving of silky smooth flavours, announcing nuances of sumptuously ripened dark fruits wrapped in smoky chocolate oak, with gentle tannins tip-toeing throughout a balanced, savoury finish.
ü+ Delicious and original. A real bargain and the perfect partner to the white La Biondina. Drink to 2011.
SCHILD ESTATE OLD BUSH VINE GMS 2008
- Region: Barossa Valley, SA
- Price: $11-$20
Schild Estate is yet another grape grower turned winemaker (vineyards est. 1952/winery est. 1998) with a penchant for rich and ripe Barossa reds. Although I've never really found anything in their range to truly suit my tastes, I can't deny the value offered by their unoaked Old Bush Vine GMS, made from vineyards with an average age of 70 years.
Lightly coloured, with an appealing shade of fuscia, it's ripe and plummy, with a nose of sweetly fruited red cherries, raspberries, blueberry and cinnamon with melted chocolate undertones. Surprisingly thick and syrupy, the uncomplicated palate presents vigorously ripened, confectionary Barossa grenache flavours of currants and berry fruits in a pleasantly soft, plush fashion; however, its simple structure allows a distinct influence of alcohol (15%) to command the finish.
O I can see the thinking here but personally I prefer my reds naturally balanced with less alcohol and sweet fruit influence, regardless of oak. Drink now.
TIM ADAMS THE FERGUS 2006
(Grenache/Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Malbec/Cabernet Franc)
- Region: Clare Valley, SA
- Price: $20-$32
The brilliant Tim Adams is one of the few Australian producers brave enough to make a premium red based on grenache blended with Bordeaux varieties. Named the Fergus after Tim Adams' neighbour, the 2006 also contains a portion of shiraz.
Immediately proclaiming its grenache influence with a floral perfume, its ripe blueberry and violet aromas give way to reveal a deeper presence of spicy chocolate oak, meat and cloves. Medium-bodied and silky smooth, the impact of Bordeaux varieties in this meticulously balanced blend transforms the Fergus into an exceptionally elegant example of a complex grenache based wine. Its savoury, earthy and rustic flavours announce true depth alongside minor nuances of small red berry fruits, before finishing fine, long and focused with powdery tannins, lingering spice and bright acidity.
ü+ Just the sort of wine Australia needs to see more of, Tim Adams Clare Valley sourced Fergus gives South Australia's best grenache producers something to seriously think about. Excellent. Drink to 2016.