Thursday, April 29, 2010


- Southern Tasmania
- $22-$29
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

It might seem a bit odd but I really enjoy good Tasmanian sauvignon blanc on cold days. The better wines have a fresh, crisp bite akin to a winter chill, as well as cool herbal characters that remind me of dripping wet, wintry green-leaved plants.

Showing true clarity of colour and aroma, Stefano Lubiana's 2009 presents an attractively refined nose of restrained varietal quality, opening to herbal/grassy aromas of gooseberry and green pea with a touch of sweaty funk. The long, well constructed palate matches the nose with a refined varietal fruit profile, which bursts with cleanly balanced, juicy white fruit and apple flavours underpinned by notes of passionfruit and brine. Finishing with a lengthy extract of shapely, slightly sherbet-like citric acids, the wine drives home with true lasting impression.

ü+ Fans of Stefano Lubiana's style would do well to invest in this supremely drinkable sauvignon blanc. It's true to the man's ideals of full flavour, elegant structure and natural balance. Drink to 2011.
92 points

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $15-$22
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Talented winemaker Tash Mooney's gained much praise for her Fox Gordon Viognier, so it's only natural that she'd try her hand at other emerging styles, such as the southern Italian variety fiano. Alongside the McLaren Vale based wineries of Coriole and Oliver's Taranga, Fox Gordon's is only the third Australian fiano I've had.

Fox Gordon's second fiano, the 2009, presents floral aromas of lavender, apricot kernel and pine nuts with a clean trace of grapefruit citrus adding zing. Its mouthfeel is the unexpected highlight here, with a smooth, creamy and sumptuous fullness that touches all of the mouth's cornices with opulent flow. Keeping the back label honest is a real depth and persistence of mid-palate character, as the wine unravels pure, olive oil-like flavours with nutty undertones, that extend with brisk acids and a lingering tone of grapefruit.

ü+ Fox Gordon's 2009 Fiano is a rather remarkable, truly individual Australian white wine within its price bracket. It's intrinsic, texture driven (beautifully labelled too) and the pick of my brief encounters with Aussie fiano. Just don't drink it too cold. Watch this space. Drink to 2011.
90 points

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Although laughed out of his own press conference by the established wine media, Eugene's idea would go on to become a hit for generations to come.

Monday, April 26, 2010


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

With long established labels like Custodian, Derelict Vineyard, Cadenzia, Ironstone Pressings and d'Arry's Original, McLaren Vale's d'Arenberg must surely possess Australia's greatest collection of grenache based wines. For around $20 the 2007 Custodian Grenache is a genuinely structured example of its regional style.

Evenly ripened and fruity without being sweet, its dark aromas of plum, blackberries and cranberry reveal meaty aspects and a subtle spice character, with a subdued influence of older oak sitting happily in the background. Texturally it's quite elegant for grenache, with a silky smooth entry that unloads medium-bodied, savoury flavours of earth, cherry, meats and sarsaparilla wrapped up by a rustic cut of firm, fine-grained and drying tannins. Penetrating with true length and an assertive structural lift towards a savoury climax, its masculine finish altogether contradicts its sensual, varietal entry in a well conceived metamorphosis.

ü+ d'Arenberg's made the most of the tannic nature of many 2007 reds, by producing a structured and savoury Custodian Grenache which plays to its regional strengths. It's an ideal grenache for medium term cellaring. Drink 2011-2017.
91 points

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Just a quick couple of notes/opinions I've compiled after my tastings at the Adelaide Food and Wine Expo. I'm focusing on just three small wineries here, but also present at the Expo were wine clubs Wine Selector and The Wine Society, as well as the organic wine group WildFox, who proved very popular with consumers, perhaps largely thanks to their very aggressive 'we're organic guys!' message.

I was most pleased to see Protero as the first winery I encountered today, especially as I quickly noticed the attendance of their nebbiolo. The 2005 Protero Nebbiolo ($60), which narrowly missed out on a top 10 slot in the Adelaide Review's Hot 100, is quite a true nebbiolo for me. It wasn't as fragrant or perfumed as many, but it does reveal raspberry, orange rind and spicy cherry aromas with just a hint of leathery development. The palate was svelte and chewy, with more savoury dark cherry, blackberry and toasty oak nuances held up very aggressively and firmly by an unmistakably dry fistful of nebbiolo tannin. Tannic, structured and age-worthy is the style of nebbiolo Protero set out to achieve, and in my opinion the 2005 succeeds. It'd definitely be worth a look in another 5 years. Certainly the most interesting wine of the day.

Protero also sell their Gumeracha sourced grapes to Coriole for their nebbiolo, which can currently be found in Coriole's 2007 Adelaide Hills release.

Also available from the Protero range was a 2007 Viognier, which is another fine, lean, mineral, clean and textured Adelaide Hills viognier in the increasingly common modern Australian style - good stuff; as well as a 2006 unwooded chardonnay which showed nice textural development and richness from its bottle age, but its 14.3% alcohol just weighed in too heavily on a finish that was too spirity for me. A 2005 Red Blend (Merlot/Cabernet) and a 2006 Merlot (both in the $20-$30 range) were also available, neither of which really left me with any memorable impressions.

Uleybury's certainly best known around these parts for their multi-award winning Reserve Semillon, in particular the 2002, so it both surprised and pleased me to see it's still current release. The wine immediately proclaims its development in its toasty, flinty, melon fruit and lemon rind bouquet, which combines freshness with development well. The palate displays the pungent qualities of maturing semillon, with a long finish marked by rich undertones of pronounced honey flavour. It's a very good if not totally mindblowing semillon, but I feel that at $35 it isn't just more expensive than many of the Hunter's wines, it's also more expensive than almost all its emerging Barossa contemporaries, including Peter Lehmann's scene shattering Margaret.

I also tried two reds from Uleybury's range, which were also showing bottle aged characters. A 2005 Sangiovese ($15.50) displayed developed colour with ripe currant-like aromas, but its palate surprised with approachable, juicy, luscious flavour. I think it's better and cheaper than regional neighbours Dominic Versace's efforts with the grape from the same season. A 2004 Shiraz ($19) showed much more convincing colour, with a smooth yet simple palate containing earth and chocolate flavours. Both red wines are appropriately priced in my opinion.

The four reds available for tasting from Murray Street Vineyards; 2007 Gomersal Shiraz ($35), 2007 Barossa SGM blend ($35), 2006 Sophia Shiraz ($75) and 2006 Benno Shiraz Mataro ($75), all certainly showed a definitive house style. All reds were rich, treacle-like, luscious, dense and concentrated styles in a traditionally ripe and generous Barossa manner, pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a small Barossa maker with loads of experience in the region. Honestly, I expected the two flagship wines from the 2006 season to see a step up in elegance and sophistication over their 2007 stablemates, but it just didn't happen for me. I'm sure these wines would've won a lot of friends on the day for their generosity and style, if not for their price tags.

If anyone's interested Murray Street's Benno Shiraz Mataro is named after the same Benno Seppelt as Seppelt's Bendigo sourced Benno Shiraz (Benno, Benno, Benno - I love that name!), but Murray Street have been making theirs for longer (just!).

Murray Street also presented a 2009 Viognier Marsanne, which for me was all about sweet, ripe viognier fruit in the luscious, pungent apricot flavour spectrum. It was very far removed from Protero's more refined effort I'd had earlier in the day, and it surprised me to learn that Murray Street's was the more expensive of the two, weighing at a rather hefty $35.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $55-$80
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

The recent emergence of Tapanappa has certainly given Ashton Hills some serious competition in the South Australian pinot noir stakes, however, if there's one thing Stephen George's label has that Brian Croser's doesn't, it's a back catalogue full of mature wines. Ashton Hills' best wine is the Reserve Pinot Noir, and I'd like to graciously thank Stephen for the bottles of his 2004.

Very wild, funky and developed; its ultra-complex yet fresh, multi-faceted and spearmint driven bouquet of gumleaf, creamed strawberries and caramel also reveals an earthy/leathery expression of cherry fruits and cinnamon. Its aromatic lift just screams; 'touch me'. It's supple, with a mildly juicy, medium-bodied and sappy presence of earth and dry red cherry flavours marked by a lithe outline of soft acids, which are complemented by a gentle, sensual tannic structure that leaves the mouth in a well mannered fashion indicative of high etiquette. The wine travels long down the palate with a wonderfully even persistence of perfectly pitched, complex, texture driven mature pinot character, before climaxing in a very precise, savoury and attractive manner with just a touch of bite.

ü+ Stunning. Ashton Hills' 2004 Reserve is an overwhelmingly seductive South Australian pinot noir, which is all about perfume and touch. You could hold onto it for another few years but I wouldn't bother; it's drinking so well right now. Just sit, saviour and enjoy. Drink to 2011.
95 points


- Mornington Peninsula, VIC
- $22-$32
- Cork (Diam)
- 13.0%alc

In the past I haven't enjoyed Kooyong's Massale as much as others. For my tastes the early releases were a tad thin, dilute and overly reliant on sour acidity for length. Still, I've kept with the Massale, and I'm glad to announce the 2008 has handsomely repaid my faith in the label.

Powerfully lifted and fragrant, its heady, spicy aromas of clove and cinnamon are underpinned by equally showy notes of dark cherry/kirsch, sweet raspberries and fresh cedar oak. It's much fuller and significantly more sumptuous than previous Massales, with a silken, rather plushly stained palate of liqueur dark cherry and dry earth flavours extending towards a more sour edged yet savoury, ably spiced finish. A harmonious tapestry of brittle tannin and bright, sour acidity frames the wine, which should settle down into a smoother, more sensual pinot with short term cellaring.

ü+ A huge improvement for Massale in terms of texture, depth, balance and focus. A great Mornington pinot at a terrific price. Drink 2011-2014.
91 points

Case In Point Update 22-April-2010

Casey: Instantly noticeable is the darker colour than previous pinots from this range, and this shows with the nose being much fuller and richer. Traditional gamey notes and bright berries burst from the glass. Smooth and well balanced on the palate, there's a slight drying of the mouth with lingering tones of foresty goodness and an acidic finish.
A great wine for a dedicated pinot man like myself. Keep on drinking.

Chris: Now here's a wine I was keen to observe over the shorter term ever since I first reviewed it. This is Casey's first blind (to my original review) note, and jeez, I think he's come up with a pretty accurate evaluation here.
I found the nose not quite as lifted, fragrant or spicy as I remembered, yet more settled and deeper. Although still sourish, its structure has mellowed significantly since December, turning out a much softer finish, and as a result I feel its moved into its ready to drink window quicker than I originally anticipated. Yes, it's already settled down into a much smoother, more sensuous pinot with very short term cellaring. It's still sumptuous and plushly stained but I'm changing its drinking window, due to faster than expected development. Drink to 2013. 91

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


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

I can't explain why but I've recently developed cravings for tapas food and tempranillo, and preferably together. McLaren Vale's Gemtree (who have been making tempranillo since the 2002 vintage) is just one of several Australian producers whose tempranillo has impressed me lately.

Initially closed and spicy but becoming more fruit driven and musky with aeration, Gemtree's 2008 Luna Roja goes on to reveal very ripe, currant-like aromas of dark cherry liqueur, star anise and chocolate coated apricots with touches of clove and cinnamon. It's generously flavoured and sumptuously ripened, with a smooth palate that displays as much (if not more) regional and seasonal influence as it does varietal. There's a rather jammy presence of sour cherry and dark plum flavour evident, but the wine ends more agreeably with good length of sweet fruit, gentle spice nuances and soft tempranillo tannins that sporadically tickle the mouth in varietal fashion.

O Gemtree's 2008 Luna Roja isn't really the type of tempranillo I've been craving lately, but it's a juicy, regional little sucker with enough crossover appeal to convert fans of McLaren Vale shiraz. Drink to 2013.
88 points

Monday, April 19, 2010


- McLaren Vale, SA
- $30
- Cork (Diam)
- 11.5%alc

$30 might seem a bit daunting for Australian chenin blanc but Dowie Doole's Tintookie is an Australian chenin of rare pedigree. Sourced from a single Blewitt Springs vineyard that's over 70 years old, the 2008 underwent oak fermentation, lees stirring and 3 months maturation in secondhand French oak, adding highly desired texture and complexity to a wine style that's all too often simple and one-dimensional in this country.

The 2008 Tintookie is brightly scented and nutty on the nose, with a clean, youthful fragrance of grapefruit, white flowers and hazelnuts sitting harmoniously alongside a note of creamy vanilla/butter oak. Lusciously creamy and opulent on entry, its deeply flavoured, mineral infused chenin palate presents a lively core of grapefruit, honeydew melon and citrus fruits overlying a complex undercarriage of leesy, sour cream-like flavour. A proudly assertive influence of vivid, gripping grapefuit-like acids coats the wine, carrying it with magnificent thrust towards a vibrantly long, penetrative finish of exceptional length, focus and brightness.

ü+ I'm certainly not the first to say this but Dowie Doole's 2008 Tintookie is the best Australian chenin blanc I've had. It makes me wonder why there aren't more around like it. Great vitality, length and structure. Drink to 2015.
94 points

Sunday, April 18, 2010


- Margaret River, WA
- $17-$24
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Although perhaps lacking the profile of regional neighbours Cullen, Moss Wood or Vasse Felix, Woodlands' complex, structured and distinctive Bordeaux style reds lose nothing by the way of comparison. Woodlands' Cabernet Merlot (which also includes a portion of malbec in 2008) provides a very affordable, high quality entry point into their range.

Densely coloured and inky, Woodlands' 2008 Cabernet Merlot opens to a leafy/herbal nose of dusted blackberries, olives and fragrant pencil shavings-like oak. Its medium-bodied palate reveals silky flavours of dark berries and sour plums with a salty, olive-like aspect, evolving with herbal undertones towards a rather intense finish defined by an emerging presence of side splitting acidity and coarse tannins, however, it does soften with extended aeration.

O Like Woodlands' similarly priced Cabernet Franc Merlot of the same year, this is quite an intense young red that just needs a bit more time to settle and find itself. Drink 2012-2015.
89 points

Friday, April 16, 2010


- Pipers River, TAS
- $22-$31
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

Tasmanian riesling must be one of Australia's most underrated wine styles. Two experienced producers in particular, Pipers Brook in the state's north and Freycinet in the east, are more than capable of making world class, dry rieslings equal to Australia's very best.

Flinty, mineral and showing marginal signs of what could be toasty/kero/honeyed development, the nose of Pipers Brook's 2009 typically represents a marked contrast to its South Australian counterparts, presenting an underswell of sweetly fruited yet compellingly restrained lime juice, white pear and heady, musky apricot skin aromas. Likewise, its palate is also complex considering its age, with a delightfully concentrated and smooth entry that bursts with juicy flavour on the mid-palate, unravelling a delightfully chalky, mineral expression of varietal lime juice character. It progresses with a lingering presence of sweet/honeyed fruit undertones, which are offset magnificently by a dry, savoury climax defined by an impressive structure that grows in sculpted fashion.

ü+ Splendidly complex and unique in a refreshingly Tasmanian style, Pipers Brook's 2009 Riesling is my type of wine. It's a real journey from start to finish. Drink to 2017.
93 points

Thursday, April 15, 2010


- South Eastern Australia
- $7-$15
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

Despite brandishing a reputation which is at times comical with consumers, I'd have no hesitation in naming Jacob's Creek as one of Australia's most reliable makers of quaffing wine. In particular, look out for the consistently good value offered by their base range riesling and dry sparkling whites.

Ripely scented with a clean, punchy nose of tinned tropical fruits and lemon, which is vaguely reminiscent of sauvignon blanc at first sniff, the 2009 Jacob's Creek Riesling gladly delivers a juicy, generous palate with much more correct varietal character than the nose. Its slightly candied lemon and lime flavours display good freshness and depth of fruit for the price, finishing with a welcomed, balancing cut of zesty citric acids that show a hint of austerity in dry fashion.

ü Just as you'd expect from the maker; a totally quaffable, clean and generously flavoured, varietally sound riesling that's hard to top for $8. Drink to 2013.
87 points

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


- Heathcote, VIC
- $13-$24
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

Rufus Stone is the brand name given to Tyrrell's single region reds which are sourced from outside their traditional Hunter Valley home. The brand typically provides faithful regional expressions in a generously flavoured and approachable style, but in better years the shiraz wines can really over deliver on price (especially as they're often discounted to under $15).

Brightly coloured with a vivid red hue, the 2008 Heathcote Shiraz opens to an arrestingly regional, clear whiff of white pepper underlined by sweetly fruited dark plum and raspberry aromas with lightly toasted notes of cedar and mocha oak playing a secondary role. Its barely medium-bodied palate possesses the mouth-coating, long prickly spice characters that so define classic central Victorian shiraz, underneath which resides some evenly ripened sweet red berry and cedar tones. There's fluid movement and development to its well composed palate, which contains enough structure from a firm, tannic backbone to suggest it'll flesh out nicely over time.

ü+ Fine, sweetly fruited yet spicy, structured, long and truly regional; this is what I call a quaffing shiraz price wise, that's a downright proper shiraz style wise. Drink to 2016.
91 points

Monday, April 12, 2010


Here's a picture of McLaren Vale's most recent gift to sightseeing tourists; a tree-sized, 30,000 litre bottle of Wirra Wirra's 2008 Church Block composed entirely of corks. Location: Wirra Wirra's cellar door, where else?


I'm going to bundle Gemtree and Dowie Doole together here, since that's how their wines are presented in their combined cellar door, which is housed in the same building as McLaren Vale's iconic Salopian Inn restaurant on the corner of McMurtrie and Main Roads.

I've enjoyed visiting this cellar door almost annually since it opened several years ago, largely because when you put Gemtree and Dowie Doole together you get a range of wines which highlight the strengths of McLaren Vale's often underrated diversity. Although the generously fruited and oaked shiraz and cabernet wines of both producers have reflected the difficulties of recent seasons; at Gemtree and Dowie Doole's cellar door you can generally expect to find some intriguing red blends (check out Dowie Doole's G+T), some good expressions of non-mainstream red varieties (see Gemtree's Tempranillo and Petit Verdot) and some of McLaren Vale's most exciting and promising new white labels (Gemtree's Savagnin and Dowie Doole's Chenin Blanc wines).

The quality of Gemtree's Savagnin (formerly and rather controversially labelled as Albarino) and Dowie Doole's reserve level, oak fermented from 70+ year old vines Tintookie Chenin Blanc really stood up well today. Both wines easily sit among the best McLaren Vale whites I've had for some time, with their deceptive complexity delivered though outstanding texture, freshness and shape. Although the Vale may struggle to compete with Australia's best when it comes to chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc (which doesn't seem to stop people making them), the region is now clearly capable of good chenin blanc, viognier and more recently, off the back of Gemtree's efforts, you can add savagnin to that list as well. Of course, we shouldn't forget what some makers have achieved over the years with the likes of semillon, verdelho, marsanne and roussanne, while coming years may soon see fiano join that list of McLaren Vale scalps as well.

The Gemtree/Dowie Doole cellar door also offers sit down wine flights of either 5 red or 5 white wine tastings, served with cheese and lavosh at the cost of $5 per flight.

Tasting notes are posted below

Dowie Doole Second Nature Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18) 100% Adelaide Hills. Sweaty, herbal gooseberry nose with touches of lime zest. Its palate is richly flavoured and agreeably oily, with fantastic thrust and length, finishing brightly with a framework of zesty acids. A real surprise. Good Hills savvy at a very fair price. 91

Dowie Doole Chenin Blanc 2009 ($16) Clean, light nose typical of variety with green apple aromas and a hint of nettle. The palate enters with fluidity, but it's a fraction broad through the middle section, before finishing very clean with a note of toasty development evident. Good value. 89

Dowie Doole Tintookie Chenin Blanc 2008 ($30) Beautifully fragrant for the style, with creamy/butter oak aromas overlying grapefruit and white flowers. Its very elegant yet soft, luscious and deeply flavoured with intriguing sour cream-like undertones. Its clean, fresh and sumptuous varietal flavours are offset beautifully by a sparkling climax of bright, lingering citric acids. A rare yet totally justifiable reserve chenin blanc of rare class. Coriole usually wait a few more years before releasing their reserve chenin, and the Dowie Doole staff recommend drinking the Tintookie at 5 years age. (full review soon) 93

Dowie Doole Merlot 2008 ($22) Very unconvincing nose; thin, lean and green; herbal raspberry olive soup? Pretty much translates over to the palate which doesn't tickle my fancy at all. 82

Dowie Doole G & T 2009 ($25) 65% Grenache/35% Tempranillo. Sweet cherry and plum spice nose with slightly more tempranillo than grenache evident, and little oak. The syrupy palate reveals good concentration of light-bodied red fruits with an ably spiced finish. A very modern style of McLaren Vale red which would pair wonderfully with Tapas. 89

Dowie Doole California Road Shiraz 2008 ($35) Single vineyard release. Coconut and vanilla oak dominant nose, with sweet berry fruits, plums and cinnamon with a touch of menthol. Its silky, concentrated palate reveals a bit of tartness through its sweet and sour finish, whose oak also outweighs it length of fruit at this stage. 89

Dowie Doole Reserve Shiraz 2006 ($50) Good regional plum and berry fruit nose overlying chocolate/vanilla oak undertones. Also reveals nuances of ripe raspberry and menthol. Its palate is reasonably well balanced, with luscious, velvety flavours that finish with good length of fruit sweetness, smooth tannins and bright acid. 91

Dowie Doole NV Moxie Sparkling Red ($25) 90% Shiraz/10% Malbec. Peppery, leathery nose of redcurrants, black plum and sweet cherry fruits. Its concentrated sweet berry flavours are quite sweet and sour. A simple rendition of the style. 86

Gemtree Moonstone Savagnin 2009 ($25) 100% natural fermentation, 100% biodynamic, 20% old oak fermentation. The variety name (savagnin) does not appear on the wine's front label but only on the back. Very fresh, faintly honeyed nose of pear and melon fruits. The texture is wonderful and immediately proclaims itself through an oily, viscous mouthfeel and distinct green nashi pear notes, framed by a refreshing cut of soft acids. It's a surprising, yet genuinely complex lighter style of white. Interesting to note Gemtree liken savagnin to being a cross between pinot gris and riesling (character/acid). (full review soon) 92

Gemtree Citrine Chardonnay 2009 ($16) 30% new French oak fermented McLaren Vale chardonnay. Soft, creamy peach fuzz and lychee nose with a warm hint of solvent/spirit? Its simple, lightly fruited palate reveals punchy melon undertones with clean acids and pleasing texture derived through barrel fermentation. It's a good, correctly priced regional style, suggestive of clever winemaking. I tend to prefer the lighter oaked chardonnay styles from McLaren Vale over the heavier oaked ones. 88

Gemtree Luna Roja Tempranillo 2008 ($25) Shows a true varietal nose of dark cherry, spice and cedar with a touch of aniseed. The balanced, medium-bodied and clean palate shows a pleasingly savoury expression of cherry flavours with classic, prickly tempranillo tannins. Another indication of how well suited this variety is to the region, plus how well it has transcended recent seaons. (full review soon) 90

Gemtree Tatty Road 2008 ($25) Cabernet Sauvignon (30%)/Petit Verdot (25%)/Merlot (25%)/Cabernet Franc (20%). Bright colour. Shows a minty edge to baked plum and berry aromas with vanilla/coconut and wafer-like oak. Its smooth, juicy and brightly fruited palate presents ripe flavours and an even tapestry of acid and tannin, but it's a fraction simple and forward. On the plus side it's quite difficult to pick a dominant variety here. 88

Gemtree Cadenzia 2008 ($25) Grenache (60%)/Tempranillo (20%)/Shiraz (20%). Interestingly, grenache and tempranillo dominant. Shows cedar, sweet cherry, clove and cinnamon aromas. Its smooth, juicy and rich palate has loads of berry and plum flavours with a pleasing announcement of tempranillo influenced prickly tannins and spice evident at the finish. Once again it's a tad simple, but it's also very well made and definitely tasty. 89

Gemtree Uncut Shiraz 2008 ($19) It's good, if perhaps a bit rare to see a true premium McLaren Vale shiraz for $19. Its dark berry/currant fruit nose with chocolate/vanilla oak and herbs does reflect its season somewhat. It reveals a rather essence-like palate, with Gemtree's typical smoothness, unloading sour edged berry and plum fruits with a finish marked by sweet oak. 88

Gemtree The Phantom Petit Verdot 2008 ($25) Cellar door only. Cleanly fruited, spicy and cedary nose of redcurrants, eucalypt and gumleaf. It's the most elegant of the Gemtree reds, with fairly settled, light-medium bodied flavours of red fruits and cedar oak framed by brisk, effective tannins. It's a pretty good varietal if you can handle the leafier side of the grape. 90

Thursday, April 8, 2010


- Wrattonbully, SA
- $22-$30 (375ml)
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

My brief encounters with Australian botrytis viogniers have left me with the impression that it's a style of sweet wine with loads of potential in this country. Early examples I've had from both Yalumba (Wrattonbully 2007-91pts) and Cape Mentelle (Margaret River 2008-90pts) have cleverly demonstrated how the pungent, aromatic varietal qualities of viognier can combine fruitfully with the rich and luscious nature of botrytis wines.

Pale-yellow in the glass, Yalumba's 2008 reveals lightly fragrant, toasty aromas of creme brulee, vanilla, nectarine and lemon teacake with more savoury quality and refinement than anticipated. Its mouthfilling palate is notably fresh and beset with a pleasing richness through the middle section, offering a clean and clear spectrum of mineral infused stonefruit, lemon marmalade and cinnamon toast flavour. A synergy of botrytis and viognier provides some agreeable rubbery tones, before the wine finishes long with a soft brace of refreshing acidity, which just leaves the mouth salivating for more.

ü+ 2008 has produced another deliciously clean and addictive Yalumba Hand Picked Botrytis Viognier; surely one of Australia's most promising dessert wine labels. Drink to 2013.
91 points

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


- Margaret River, WA
- $35-$54
- Screwcap
- 13.2%alc

It's a pleasure to see Voyager Estate's Chardonnay return to top form in 2007, regaining its place among Australia's better renditions of the variety. The superlative chardonnay standards consistently set by the likes of Voyager Estate and Cape Mentelle for around $40 retail, must surely put added pressure on the regional icons of Pierro and Leeuwin Estate to perform at a higher level. Indeed, Margaret River chardonnay looks to be in very good shape right now.

Clean and ably restrained in its pristinely fruited nose, this bright, youthful chardonnay harmoniously marries lemon cake, grapefruit, quince and white nectarine aromas with a carefully judged touch of creamy, nutty vanilla oak in a fruit focused and perfumed fashion, however, it becomes more nutty and savoury with extended aeration. Full, creamy and smooth on entry, its superbly balanced and presented palate is wonderfully pure in its tightly wound grapefruit, mineral, citrus and nutty oak flavour profile, yet deceptively sumptuous in texture, allowing a seamless interweaving of bright and fluffy, polished acids to carry the wine towards a long finish marked by enduring undertones of creamy, baked soft white cheese and sparkling citrus flavour.

ü+ Spotless and stylish; it's a complete package that's beautifully set for the chardonnay section of your cellar. Drink to 2015.
95 points

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


- Clare Valley, SA
- $11-$21
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Although still popular with consumers and discount retailers (doubtlessly relative!), the base range of Annie's Lane has hardly inspired me lately. In fact, the last Annie's Lane base range wine that did meet with my approval was their Cabernet Merlot from the excellent 2002 vintage (92pts-June '06), which caused enough excitement for me to sit a bottle aside until now.

Appearing a dark brick-red/crimson, its lively perfume of herbal-edged sour plums and raspberries also reveal aspects of dusted earth, aniseed and toasty chocolate oak, which altogether suggests there's plenty of life in this cheap cabernet blend yet. Smooth and syrupy on entry, its vividly flavoured, medium-full bodied palate progresses with a dusty extract of surprisingly assertive, prickly tannins, leaving the mouth with lingering nuances of black plum and fennel. Even at 8 years old there remains ample fruit and structure, but thankfully, it's completely in balance.

ü+ At its often discounted price the 2002 Annie's Lane Cabernet Merlot beautifully demonstrates the (not always relevant) theory; 'good vintage + cheap wine = great value for the cellar'. In hindsight I might've preferred this at 10, or perhaps even 12 years of age. Drink to 2012.
92 points

Saturday, April 3, 2010


(Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot)
- Langhorne Creek, SA
- $30-$38
- Cork
- 14.5%alc

Those familiar with the brand will know full well how Lake Breeze make some of the most generously priced, traditional Aussie style reds around. For instance, how many Australian wineries from a reputed cabernet region could lay claim to releasing a reserve level cabernet for $30, whose current vintage already bears 5 years of age? Not many I bet!

Beautifully composed and savoury on the nose, this 84/16 blend of cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot still reveals a strong presence of fragrant pencil shavings/cedar oak at 5 years old, underneath which resides some savoury edged, briary dark berry fruits, herb/menthol and mint aromas. With some thanks to extended bottle age its palate is charmingly settled and elegant, announcing an initial burst of juicy, briary berry fruits and herbs with choc-licorice undertones. It finishes with more savoury, drier character, revealing notes of olive and graphite and a cedar/chocolate oak influence that marginally grips the wine with creamy, polished tannins and bright, well judged acids.

ü+ Old vine fruit + 22 months in new French oak + selection of only the best barrels + only 250 dozen made = $30!? I almost feel like leaving a tip! Drink to 2015.
93 points

Friday, April 2, 2010


- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $15-$23
- Screwcap (Stelvin Lux)
- 14.5%alc

Wicks Estate is among the most popular new entrants to the Adelaide Hills wine scene (est. 2000). While their releases to date of riesling and sauvignon blanc have met a more than acceptable standard, their efforts with reds have been somewhat less consistent.

The nose of Wicks Estate's 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is very soupy, with leafy/herbal aromas of thinly scented dates, baked currants and black olive with a note of varnish. Its palate also lacks true varietal punch, revealing a thinly fruited and dilute expression of overly herbal, faintly medicinal leathery redcurrants framed by green tannins and acid.

X I continue to hold personal reservations about not just Wicks Estate's reds, but also about Adelaide Hills cabernet sauvignon (especially in the more trying vintages like 2007). Drink to 2011.
84 points


- Victoria
- $11-$19
- Cork
- 12.5%alc

The Yarra Valley base of Constellation Wines, Yarra Burn, produce a steady range of Victorian sourced sparkling wines. Incorporated in their range is one of Australia's best value, cellar worthy vintage-dated sparkling whites, as well as some very reliable, non-vintage quaffing styles.

Distinctly light-bronze in colour, Yarra Burn's NV Rose opens to a clean, fresh and simple nose of creamy almonds and strawberries. Its refreshingly uncomplicated palate is gently foamy and effervescent, with a bitter edged aspect of grapefruit-like acids framing a dry, savoury expression of crispbread/dry biscuit flavour, before leaving the mouth with sparkling impression.

ü Typical of the maker this is a very tidy, large scale sparkling rose, which is fresh, simple and savoury in the truest quaffing sense. Drink now.
87 points