Hello and welcome to The Australian Wine Journal!
I'm a twenty-something wine fanatic residing in the wine rich city of Adelaide who's just taken the extraordinary step of taking my wine writing to the world. I've recently begun reading other Australian wine sites and thought to myself:- 'Hey, I should be doing this online thing too.'
I have no industry affiliations or experience but have been drinking Australian wine with the passion and methodical madness of a seasoned campaigner for a couple of years now. I've already printed up my own personal guide entitled Australian Wine 2007/08, and I'm about 6 months way from finishing the 2008/09 edition.
One point of difference to my reviewing is I actually drink the wines I review. At least a glass, usually more. I believe wine drinking is a distinctly different experience to wine tasting. Don't get me wrong, I attend a lot of public tastings and believe a lot can be learnt from tastings, but for me to deeply analyse a wine, I prefer the elongated process of drinking. That is; one sip, swallow, analyse; second sip, swallow, analyse; third sip, swallow, analyse and repeat.
I like to keep in touch with how people actually consume wine. I don't review dozens or even hundreds of wines a day; normally one, but sometimes a couple is preferable to me.
-Sorry- I seem to be waffling on a bit about myself here so it's time to get the bottle rolling.
In order to develop this site quickly I'll be typing up some wine reviews I've written over the past few months across the next week or so (I'm also battling a cold so tasting is currently on the backburner). I'll do my best to stick with current vintage wines of some importance or interest to the Australian scene, which should still be available at retail stores.
Since I'm currently not drinking anything (other than a Macallan 12yr old Elegancia Single Malt) I'll start by including my top dozen wines of the past year. Some of these wines are Australian classics, and to the initiated it may contain some fairly obvious, safe selections, but hey, this is what I really liked!
THE AUSTRALIAN WINE JOURNAL'S TOP DOZEN OF 2008/09
- Cullen Diana Madeline 2005 (96pts)
The 2005 release of Australia's pre-eminent cabernet blend (sorry Mount Mary!) contains the exceptional length, tannin structure and sheer elegance encountered in fine Bordeaux, but so rarely in Australia. Beautifully complete and savoury, it's destined to cellar for at least a generation under screwcap. I've already tucked some away for my 50th birthday!
- De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2006 (95pts)
I was a bit disappointed with the last few vintages of Australia's most important sweet wine, but the 2006 Noble One has returned to form in blazing fashion. A perfectly measured yet distinct influence of botrytis, coupled with rich notes of creme brulee, lemon citrus and marmalade, supported by a squeaky clean finish cut by refreshing acidity, keep the Noble One two steps ahead of its competitors.
- Joseph Nebbiolo 2005 (95pts)
As a new set of varieties start to establish themselves amongst Australian vineyards, it's good to see some clear leaders emerge, and perhaps none are as clear as Joe Grill's fantastic nebbiolo. A difficult grape to manage at the best of times, Joseph's 2005 strides confidently with the silky smooth texture of top class pinot and the dusty tannin structure and length of good cabernet. Throw in a complex, savoury red fruit profile meshed with lush vanilla oak, and you've got one scene shattering Australian red for others to imitate at their peril.
- Leasingham Classic Clare Sparkling Shiraz 1998 (95pts)
The amount of faith Hardy's show in Ed Carr by continously allowing him to produce a 10 year old sparkling red is completely repaid in wines like the 1998 Classic Clare. Presently marrying a magnificent combination of maturity and freshness, its superbly concentrated mix of chocolate, mushroom, forest fruits, cola and tobacco characters make it an even better prospect than the outstanding 1996 wine.
- Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2006 (96pts)
At a time when our best chardonnay producers are striving for tighter, more refined and mineral wines, Australia's best maker of the genre goes and delivers this powerfully textured, deeply ripened chardonnay of extravagant proportions which defies the critics. Seriously worked yet exceptionally balanced, long and fresh, it simply adds to the number of industry defining chardonnays available in Australia right now.
- Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (96pts)
2005 allowed Moss Wood to up the ripeness on their flagship cabernet sauvignon, without being detrimental to its composition or integration. Marvellously plush dark fruits with a twist of violets, toast and fresh cedar oak announce a wine which drives deep with a coating of polished tannins. Some have commented on Moss Wood's move to a riper style, but right here, I love it!
- Penfolds Grange 2004 (97pts)
Well, well, well. They'll be screaming 'Captain Obvious' from the bleachers but I just had to include the 2004 Grange in this list. It contains all the hallmarks of classic Grange with its exceptional length, structure and mouth-bashing tannins, but thanks to the stunning 2004 vintage, it complements its assertiveness with layers of perfectly ripened, deliciously complex fruit qualities and classy oak. And yes, it is worth $600.
- Peter Lehmann Margaret Semillon 2003 (96pts)
After the sensational 2002 Margaret many doubted Peter Lehmann could replicate its brilliance in more difficult seasons. Boy were they wrong! From a hot Barossa vintage 2003 produced a Margaret Semillon that would make the Hunter's best green with envy. Full and intense, with restrained, mineral accented varietal qualities, it's a good 10-15 years away from its best; at which point it'll make people think long and hard where Australia's best semillon comes from.
- Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 2002 (97pts)
Wines with layers of flavour and texture really excite me, and Peter Lehmann's 2002 Stonewell literally swirls in the mouth with wave upon wave of richness, flavour and texture. Its incredibly fresh, velvety expression of small berry fruits with sweet vanilla/cedar/chocolate oak bare the impression of an exemplary shiraz only possible in the Barossa, and only in a cool year like 2002.
- Seppelt Benno Shiraz 2004 (96pts)
A shy nose of introverted aromatics conceals the 2004 Benno's powerful palate; dripping with massively concentrated, essence-like dark shiraz fruits and fragrant cedar/vanilla oak, it's superbly driven by assertively firm, powdery tannins which penetrate deep into a savoury finish. It's one of those all too rare, modern Australian shirazes which perfectly harmonises sheer brute force with structure and charm.
- Tim Adams Reserve Riesling 2007 (96pts)
In just a couple of seasons Tim Adams has fashioned possibly the biggest threat to Grosset's riesling throne. His 2007 Reserve exhibits a wonderful clarity of intense citrus/apple characters coupled with formidably sharp acids and incredible length, over a thread of minerals and a faintly juicy undercarriage. It's exactly the type of riesling that's only possible in Clare.
- Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (97pts)
Probably the best Australian wine I've drunk in the past 12 months, the 2005 John Riddoch is a much welcomed evolution in Coonawarra's style. An immense cabernet sauvignon of utterly brilliant restraint and depth, it contains savoury elegance throughout its lusciously ripened, layered flavours of complex meats combined with red and black berries. A perfectly composed influence of polished cedar/vanilla oak expands the palate into a lingering finish defined by fresh notes of eucalypt and vanilla, as beautifully integrated, smooth and creamy, loose-knit cabernet tannins provide a sensuous aspect to its velvety mouthfeel.