Sunday, January 31, 2010


- Canberra District
- $15
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

It's pretty tough scrutinising wines with such high moral standards as Shaw Vineyard Estate's Laughter Series. With each Laughter Series wine sold Shaw Vineyard generously donates money to Camp Quality, helping kids with cancer, while every back label displays the cheery motto; 'this wine is best served with laughter.'

The 2009 Riesling is clean and casual on the nose, with floral overtones of lavender laid across a distinct note of lime juice and wet stone. Quite broad and forward, its generous, mouthfilling palate pushes through a classic mix of lemon/lime citrus flavour, with its lime juice influence becoming more pronounced and domineering down the palate. Its acidity tingles the side and upper palate, providing more sourness than great length or structure but still adequate shape.

O A good, smartly priced short term Canberra riesling which provides a fine, drier foil to Shaw Vineyard's off-dry Isabella. I'm happy to say it matches some of South Australia's offerings in the same price range. Serve it with laughter and a side of King George whiting. Drink to 2013.
88 points

Thursday, January 28, 2010


- Grampians, VIC
- $55-$75
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

The St Peters is the crowning achievement in Seppelt's superlative portfolio of central and western Victorian shiraz. The present day value of this legendary wine is astounding (like most Seppelt wines really), especially considering the inflated prices of some its cross-state rivals whose fruit is drawn from vineyards with far less pedigree.

Presenting a dark, dense colour with magenta hues, Seppelt's 2007 St Peters is compellingly, deeply fragrant, unfolding to a simultaneously savoury and dark-fruited nose of blackcurrant, plum, mulberry, cocoa and fresh cedar/vanilla oak with a polite sniff of white pepper and an intriguing wafer biscuit-like aspect. Its deep aroma is character laden yet perhaps a little shy; it should open up with further bottle age. The seamless palate is concentrated and luscious yet velvety and supremely elegant, with a bright core of the savoury dark fruit/mulberry characters which so define the Grampians style. A harmonious interplay of fresh cedar/vanilla oak coats its inner core, building the wine into a long, dry and savoury finish firmly held by a silky tapestry of surprisingly sensuous tannins, exuding balance and style deep into the aftertaste.

ü+ From the very early, compressed 2007 vintage Seppelt has crafted a St Peters Shiraz of the highest calibre. Evenly ripened, savoury, sensuous and dark-fruited (but not very spicy); it's guaranteed to impress the (hopefully) growing army of Grampians shiraz lovers. Magnificent. Drink to 2023.
96 points


Seppelt's St Peters vineyard, located in the Victorian town of Great Western on the main highway from Adelaide to Melbourne. You can make out the rather large Seppelt winery in the background. The St Peters Shiraz usually incorporates fruit from two other vineyards in addition to the St Peters; the Imperial and the Police.
(photo taken June 2008)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


- Orange, NSW
- $22
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

It might sound unlikely to your average punter who drinks from the Adelaide Hills or Marlborough, but Orange has stepped forward as a very promising sauvignon blanc district. Names like Philip Shaw, Printhie and Cumulus' Climbing label are leading the way with their more shapely, refined varietal expressions.

Climbing's 2009 opens to smooth scents of creamed gooseberries, lychee, lime and gentle passionfruit, which although lacking a bit of varietal punch and intensity, it shows carefully judged style. Decidedly eloquent for the variety, its somewhat juicy palate presents pristine, clear varietal fruit underscored by mineral tones and a delightful savoury aspect possibly imparted by a touch of barrel fermentation. It's beautifully refined, restrained and ably textured for the variety, with a refreshing finish nicely drawn out by persisting notes of lime juice/passionfruit and limey acids.

ü+ Climbing's 2009 totally works in more of an 'adult' sauvignon blanc sort of way. Chalk up another one for Orange. Drink to 2011.
91 points

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


- Margaret River, WA
- $18-$28
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

Cape Mentelle's much loved sauvignon blanc/semillon has practically become an automatic inclusion on many Australian wine lists. The 2009 is made in the classic house style, with a small amount of barrel fermentation adding texture to the wine's fresh regional fruit base.

Pale straw; its typical nose of ripe, juicy gooseberries, grapefruit and straw precedes a cleanly flavoured, juicy palate of fairly straight forward character. There's an underlying herbal thread and some sweatiness to its bell-clear mineral fruit profile, which is handsomely wrapped up by brisk lemony acids and attractive length.

ü Cleanly balanced and easy to drink; there's nothing wrong here, not by a long shot, however, there's nothing terribly exciting either. The likes of Voyager, Cullen and Vasse (and the emerging wine by brad - great 2009!) make the quality end of Margaret River's sav/sem class a highly competitive marketplace these days, but I'm sure the more consumer friendly 2009 Cape Mentelle will still find its welcome home on restaurant/bar wine lists. Drink to 2011.
90 points

Monday, January 25, 2010


(Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot)
- Coonawarra, SA
- $43-$70
- Cork
- 14.0%alc

After digging out Petaluma's 2000 Coonawarra from the cellar I thought I'd also try to dig up any old reviews I could find on my bookshelf. (Pre-consumption) It delighted me to read in Langton's Australian Fine Wine Guide 5th Edition the words; "Super wine. 98 points. 2005-2012." The 2000 is a 50/50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot aged in new Nevers and Alliers oak for 18 months.

It's still very fragrant and richly perfumed, with a violet-like bouquet of dusty cedar entwined with cassis, redcurrant and dry earth notes. Particularly smooth, its ready-to-drink palate contains good weight and richness through the mid-palate, with an assertive merlot component contributing a pleasing plumpness and leafy/olive aspects to its blackcurrant fruit core. Both tannins and oak have integrated nicely into a more velvety and fruit focused wine, and although it isn't terribly complex, it does present good length of sumptuous flavour with a lingering finish marked by moderate dryness.

ü A very slurpable and good, but not exceptional Coonawarra; the 2000's new oak and tannin have now been enveloped by its fruit, as perhaps more surprisingly its merlot overshadows its cabernet sauvignon. You could hold onto it for a few more years but I don't think it'll accomplish much. Drink to 2012.
93 points


- Yarra Valley, VIC
- $20-$32
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

In this glorious modern age of Australian chardonnay Oakridge has certainly asserted themselves as a leading practitioner of the great white variety. Now rated among Australia's finest, the 864 Chardonnay sits atop their range, which is partnered by a standard release that's emerging as a consistent over achiever.

The 2008 Oakridge unloads a clean and bright perfume of winemaker derived cashew nuts, nougat and yeast aromas overlying punchy melon and white nectarine; it displays good balance and sophistication. Its charming palate is also brightly laden with Oakridge's typical vitality and character, pushing forth a carefully refined cool-climate fruit profile in the white nectarine/citrus spectrum, which evolves in a more savoury, nutty and waxy fashion towards a persisting climax tightened by well defined and powdery, grapefruit-like acids.

ü+ This is a top notch, well poised and classy expression of cool climate Australian chardonnay. It should nestle nicely into anyone's short term cellar, especially those fortunate enough to locate any for $20 a pop. Drink to 2015.
92 points

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


- Murray Darling, VIC
- $5-$13
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

The very affordable (fiver on a good day) Victorian riverland sourced Deakin Estate 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon certainly impressed veteran Aussie wine critic Jeremy Oliver, who stated in his last book; "Discounts and clearance sales aside, is this Australia's best sub-$10 wine?"

Nicely varietal for the price, its leafy/minty nose of ripe dark plum, liqueur blackcurrants and cedar precede a soft and juicy cabernet palate with a sprinkling of dusty tannins peppered throughout its dry finish. Its vibrant plum and dark cherry flavours show elements of sour-edged acidity, with just a miniscule fraction of ultra-ripe fruit residing beneath, but the flow and charming balance evident from start to finish make the whole experience a totally delightful quaff.

ü+ It may not be as impressively varietal in its palate as its aroma, but for $7 it's almost impossible not to be smitten by Deakin Estate's 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. Save yourself a packet and whip some out at your next summer BBQ. Drink to 2012.
89 points

Monday, January 18, 2010


- Southern Australia
- $6-$14
- Cork
- 11.5%alc

One of Australia's most recognisable global brands, Jacob's Creek, is also one of our most popular makers of cheap and cheerful fizz. Jacob's Creek's sparkling range has been bolstered in recent years with the addition of some attractively packaged moscato-styles, but perhaps of more interest is their clear glass-bottled Blanc de Blancs.

Pale-straw and aesthetically straight forward, this 100% chardonnay reveals a fresh and inviting nose of sparkling lemon citrus and white flowers backed by a delightful yeasty tone. The palate has good weight, effervescence and dryness for its price, presenting an uncomplicated yet tightly wound mix of creamy grapefruit and lemon citrus flavours, with a persisting creaminess outlined by spiky lemon sherbet-like acids in a crisp fashion.

ü+ I'll happily jump on board with Quaff's Peter Forrestal here. Jacob's Creek's Blanc de Blancs is a miraculous achievement at $7, which puts other, significantly more expensive sparklings to shame. Who needs cheap pinot grapes at $7 a bottle? House bubbles of the year? Drink now.
89 points

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


- Margaret River, WA
- $30-$42
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

Few $35 Australian reds could match the Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon's consistent ability to deliver an ideal marriage of exquisite regional character with perfectly valid seasonal variation. At $35rrp it also happens to be one of the most affordable wines included in Langton's Classification of Australian Wine IV.

Classically Vasse in its aromatic quality and intensity, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon opens to a charry nose of dusty cassis, violet and redcurrants backed by smoky cedar/chocolate oak, dried herbs and a sniff of pepper. The truly regional, youthful palate presents genuine elegance to the fluidity of its medium-bodied small black berry, herb and spice flavours, which are ensconced by a snazzy extract of toasty cedar/mocha oak, a firming dryness, gripping length and persisting notes of olive. A complementary powdery undercarriage harnesses the wine, with assertive, grippy tannins and distinct acidity providing structural support.

ü+ The 2007 is an intense Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon loaded with fragrance, hidden elegance, smoky/herbal/dark berry fruit characters, length and true structure. Fans of the house style (like me) won't be disappointed. Drink 2012-2022.
93 points


- Yarra Valley, SA
- $17-$25
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

In a move made to signify the company's use of estate grown fruit, TarraWarra has dropped the Tin Cows name from its entry level Yarra Valley wines. Tin Cows always sounded a bit tacky to me, so it's a welcomed change in my view.

Opening to a nose of simple yet recognisable varietal quality, its spicy dark cherry aromas also reveal hints of herb and a sappy aspect. Attractively varietal in its smooth entry, the palate is pleasingly supple and approachable, with a fairly straightforward yet generously long expression of dark cherry, plum and cedar flavours which end fractionally raw and hard edged alongside a lingering presence of assertive spices.

ü Another wine which underlines the recent improvements made by Australia's $20 pinot class, TarraWarra's 2008 is a tidy little drink which is ready to enjoy now. Drink to 2012.
89 points

Monday, January 11, 2010


- McLaren Vale, SA
- $16-$25
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

The names behind the Paxton brand are son Michael (winemaker) and his father David, who happens to be one of this country's leading viticulturists. Therefore, it should come as no surprise Paxton are among a growing number of Australian producers who now implement biodynamic practices throughout their vineyards.

Typically ripe and generous as befits the AAA blueprint, this aromatically lifted and meaty 2008 Shiraz Grenache opens to a floral fragrance of blueberries, dark plum, raspberries and chocolate oak with a hint of cinnamon stick. It (happily) steers completely away from the confectionery aspects sometimes associated with the blend, with a sumptuously flavoured, medium-full bodied palate which announces juicy dark red fruits touched by a restrained use of older, spicy oak, evolving into a more savoury, rustic climax framed by agreeably coarse tannins and bright sour-edged acidity.

ü+ A fruit focused, well ripened (not over), earlier drinking and perfectly harmonious blend of McLaren Vale shiraz and grenache. It's an ideal summer red which represents a good early sign for McLaren Vale 08's as well as the future developments of Paxton's biodynamic vineyards. Drink to 2014.
91 points

Sunday, January 10, 2010


- Clare Valley, SA
- $15-$22
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

Alongside wines like Tahbilk's Marsanne and Mount Pleasant's Elizabeth Semillon, Mitchell's Watervale Riesling is a wonderfully affordable dry white whose long established cellaring record has seen it practically achieve cult status among Australia's drinkers. However, I have noticed a slight increase in the discounted price of Mitchell's Watervale recently, which differs from the other two wines mentioned.

Mitchell's 2009 Watervale Riesling (vines planted 1962) reveals a somewhat closed yet classically tight and floral fragrance of well defined lemon and lime citrus backed by steely suggestions of mineral. Wonderfully edgy in its youthful, pure varietal form, its faintly spicy lemon and pear flavours are beautifully punctuated by a persisting undercarriage of lime juice, before finishing in a more savoury, austere fashion with a bone-dry cut of powdery citric acids.

ü+ For a season laden with mixed results for Clare riesling; this truly regional, tight and dry wine has landed itself right near the top of its class. As usual, the Mitchell's experience and vine maturity has paid dividends. Drink to 2017.
93 points

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


- Lower Hunter Valley, NSW
- $40-$59
- Screwcap
- 10.5%alc

Sitting atop Tyrrell's well constructed hierarchy of Hunter Valley semillon is the almighty Vat 1. It's a true Australian benchmark, one of this country's classic dry whites, and its impeccable record with cellaring is known throughout the fine wine drinking world.

The 2003 Vat 1 remains a youthful clear-straw colour, unfolding to a cleanly lifted fragrance of toasty melon, lime and lemon fruits marked by flinty mineral edges and a surprising hint of spice. Bell-clear, fresh and zingy, this drought year semillon (handpicked in late January) presents a juicy expression of pristine citrus/melon flavours enveloped by distinctly drier, developing notes of toast and cashew nuts. It finishes savoury, long and dry, with a somewhat prickly, broader influence of zesty acids and spritz.

ü This 7 year old Vat 1 might be nearing the halfway mark of its development, yet it's exceptionally addictive and easy to drink right now, without a single sign of adolescent awkwardness whatsoever (perhaps due to its choice of closure?) Under screwcap it should cellar safely and improve for up to another decade. Drink to 2019.
94 points


- Pyrenees, VIC
- $16-$24
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

The usually multi-regional yet ever reliable Three Monks Cabernet Merlot was sourced entirely from Taltarni's traditional Pyrenees home in 2006. 1% of petit verdot was also thrown into the cabernet sauvignon (55%) and merlot (44%) blend.

Possibly a shade more developed in colour than anticipated, Taltarni's 2006 Three Monks opens to a dusty nose with leafy scents of tobacco, crushed leaves, olives and spicy cedar oak. Silky on entry and medium-full bodied, the savoury palate shows essentially the same, perhaps earlier maturing characters as the nose, but it does finish long, lively, dry and freshly fruited in typical Taltarni fashion, with a firm structure of gritty, rustic tannins suggesting it has plenty of life yet.

ü Firm, savoury, rustic and dry; this cellar worthy red is clearly marked by Taltarni's stamp of approval. Drink to 2016.
90 points

Monday, January 4, 2010


- McLaren Vale/Southern Fleurieu, SA
- $25-$33
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

One of my most prized Australian grigios is the occasionally deep, long and finely textured d'Elena, which has been intriguingly labelled as Adelaide in 2009. Most of the 2009 was sourced from Joseph's Angel Gully vineyard in Clarendon (grigio planted 1998) with a smaller portion coming from Mt Compass, which lies south of Willunga in the region some might call Southern Fleurieu.

Cleanly scented with crunchy pear and lemon aromas underpinned by delightful notes of vanilla and nuts, this luscious and creamy grigio presents a pleasurable mouthfeel through genuine texture, shape and clean balance. Like a lot of grigio it's perhaps overly simple in its tightly wound, youthful white pear/citrus/grapefruit flavours (it's a good sight fresher and more palpable than most though) but its smooth and happily deep palate finishes fine, long and particularly refreshing, with a lively extract of zesty, chiselled acidity. It's a great grigio really, with a wonderful cool-climate aspect imparted by the Mt Compass component.

ü+ Like the brilliant 2006 (92pts) the 2009 d'Elena does fall within the confines of its varietal parameters, but once again it's been beautifully, even artfully crafted into a dry white by the superb Joe Grilli. It's another handsome success for this label. Just serve it at a slightly warmer temperature, not straight out the fridge. Drink to 2011.
92 points

Sunday, January 3, 2010