Monday, November 29, 2010


- Macedon Ranges/Pyrenees, VIC
- $22
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

Even on Rosé Revolution day I'm willing to admit that pink isn't my favourite shade of wine. However, there's a growing number of Australian wineries making well conceived rosés from varieties such as nebbiolo, pinot noir, grenache and sangiovese; whose fresh, dry and even savoury wines are causing me to reconsider my views.

A clever blend of early picked Macedon Ranges pinot noir (sparkling base pressings) and Pyrenees sangiovese (bleed), this pale pink/bronze rosé is a little timid on the nose, barely whispering aromas of sour cherry and citrus marked by a faint savoury edge. Its lightly weighted and textured palate drinks with the freshness and dryness of a good quaffing white, but funnily enough, it tastes light pink. It's actually very clean and well controlled for the style, with a balanced, if simple expression of pink grapefruit flavour zipped up by a tangy acidity which refreshes the mouth without dropping any of the dirty, candied aspects associated with lesser rosé.

ü Thanks to wines like the very clean and dry 2010 Mitchell Harris Pinot Noir Sangiovese, my belief in Australian rosé continues to move in an upwards direction. Drink to 2011.
89 points


If you'd like to know which wine continues to draw the masses into my favourite Adelaide wine retailer, just read the sign.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


- Pyrenees, VIC
- $20
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

Thanks to its textural interest and savoury/smoky complexity, I've developed something of a soft spot for wooded sauvignon blanc. When (or if) Australia's infatuation with fresh and fruity Kiwi savvy passes, I'm hoping to see a greater number of our producers follow this rather more sophisticated approach to the style.

For a sauvignon blanc which spent around 6 months in oak the 2010 Mitchell Harris is surprisingly fresh, fruity and primary; blowing off cleanly endowed scents of limes, kiwifruit, white flower and passionfruit with an oak influence that introduces smoothness and restraint more so than smoky or savoury complexity. The palate is neat, tidy and wonderfully formed, with an ably constrained fruit core that builds with flavour intensity towards the back palate alongside a charmed greeting of dry, smoky wood that wasn't so evident on the nose. There's hints of gooseberries, minerals, creamy feel and flavour; and the whole package is beautifully wrapped up by a mouthfilling, limey acidity levelled out by a persisting brininess.

ü+ A very classy sauvignon blanc which echoes clever production with every sip. Full marks to Mitchell Harris for being a small winery willing to champion the fumé style over the more 'standard' model, and of course, full marks for executing it to great effect. Drink 2011-2014.
91 points

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


- Fleurieu Peninsula, SA
- $50-$55
- High quality, vintage dated cork
- 13.0%alc

The establishment of Tapanappa could be the most exciting thing to ever happen to South Australian pinot noir. After following up his first vintage (2007) with a much improved wine from 2008 (94pts), Brian Croser has set the bar even higher with his best release yet from 2009. The future for Tapanappa's young Foggy Hill vineyard looks very bright indeed.

Although not astoundingly complex in its youth, the fruit component of Tapanappa's 2009 Foggy Hill is very bright, pure and clear as day. Like a baby it's a joy to behold, opening to a controlled whiff of cherry kernels augmented by light spice undertones and floral overtones, with a tight interlocking of fresh and fragrant cedar/vanilla oak adding grainy, savoury pizzazz. The palate's considerably more silken, supple, finer and elegant than the 2008 (which I actually drunk last week), with a level of medium-bodied, arousing touch that slows things down a notch in the bedroom like a good lover deserves. It's surprisingly patient, under spoken and gentle, but its graceful demeanor conceals a rich depth of earth, leather and cherry accents built up by a dry and dusty, lithe backbone that's as sensuous as it is assertive. Humble balance is the real key here, as everything falls into place with the timing of an orchestra.

ü+ Having reached an air of majestic bliss, elegance and textural precision I've never encountered in an 18 month old pinot noir from South Australia before, Brian Croser has created a rare, true enthusiasts South Australian pinot noir. Drink to 2019.
95 points


- Clare Valley, SA
- $23
- Screwcap
- 8.0%alc

To say the least, Australians have shown a degree of uncertainty when it comes to labelling off-dry rieslings. Knappstein's 8:8:18 takes the popular formula of incorporating the wine's residual sugar levels into the name and adds to it, by also including its alcohol (8%) and total acidity (8 grams/litre, well, 8.2 actually but that would just sound silly on the label now wouldn't it?).

The first thing to strike me about Knappstein's 8:8:18 is its T/A and residual sugar balance isn't that far removed from Grosset's recent off-dry outing, although Knappstein's wine has considerably less alcohol. It's surprisingly slatey/chalky/flinty on first sniff, perhaps even savoury and dry, but underneath that first layer lies a speck of honeyed lemons providing varietal/stylistic punch. Although clear and bright for the most part, the palate is driven by a rich, sweet thread of sugary/glycerol-like flavour that resides throughout. Its most pleasing point is a hint of flinty character on the mid-palate, but it passes quickly, turning into something closer resembling lime candy to finish. Like other off-dry Clare rieslings it finishes a bit loose, without any of the tightness or grip of the region's classic dry styles.

O Relatively clean, very drinkable (low alcohol related) and probably beautifully suited to Asian foods, but not lifting my confidence in off-dry Clare riesling like Grosset's wine did. Drink to 2013.
87 points

Monday, November 22, 2010


- Clare Valley, SA
- $27-$36
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

Knappstein's reserve level riesling, the Ackland, is a single vineyard wine sourced from a cool, elevated Watervale site (420-450 metres) planted in 1969 over the region's classic red loam and limestone. Followers of the Ackland Riesling will be glad to hear that winemaker Julian Langworthy believes the 2010 may be the best wine he's ever made.

Distinctly more refined on the nose than Knappstein's Hand Picked Riesling of the same year, the 2010 Ackland's fragrance brings in immediate thoughts of fresh green apples, lemon and talc, but its aromatic lift is presently constrained by a defining, almost steely tightness that follows through to a gripping palate. A beautiful clarity of pure lemon, lime and melon flavours sing the palate's opening verse, before a strong surge of limey minerality comes forth to command the show, guiding the wine in a more savoury, steelier direction towards a taut climax drawn into line by a zippy, laser-like acidity that cuts with smart precision.

ü A very fine, bell-clear Watervale riesling that harmonises a slick combination of minerality with limey undertones and a brisk acidic backbone. It should cellar particularly well. Drink to 2020.
93 points

Sunday, November 21, 2010


- Clare Valley, SA
- $16-$22
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

My early impressions of 2010 suggest it should be the third straight good vintage for South Australia's premier riesling districts. The better 2010 rieslings I've had from both Clare and the Eden Valley show a pleasing richness and fullness of flavour, complemented by the tight acid structures that lovers of these wines seek.

Aromas of tropical fruit punch and blossom emanate from Knappstein's Hand Picked Riesling, in a perfumed fashion that's bound to please many, while a slightly sweet-edged yet clean expression of lemon and lime fruit lingers beneath. Although a little loose in some sections, the palate is squeaky clean, juicy and downright addictive on a hot day. Its initial flavour burst of lemons, apples and mineral evolves into a more lemony, tangy and perhaps even sherbet-like finish, pushed along by an approachable, soft and brittle acid balance that refreshes as it cleanses. This time of year, drink it refrigerator-cold for maximum return.

ü Knappstein's 2010 Hand Picked Riesling may be a fraction simple and without the sheer power of Clare's finest, but it's 35 degrees in Adelaide today and I can't help myself from going back to the fridge to pour myself another glass before the missus gets home. My only wish is that it were $5 cheaper, like Jim Barry's Watervale. Drink to 2016.
90 points

Thursday, November 18, 2010


- Mornington Peninsula, VIC
- $44
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

Although I've never had a Dexter wine before, my experiences with Yabby Lake suggest Tod Dexter isn't the type of guy to let a loosely styled Mornington Peninsula chardonnay slip through the cracks. Just 4080 bottles of the 2009 Dexter Chardonnay were made, from vines planted in 1987.

A savoury whiff of creamy/nutty oak underpins the fragrance of Dexter's 2009, which is cleanly lifted by a springy citric component indicative of both lemon and tangerine fruits. Like a lot of good Aussie chardonnay there's an aroma of nectarine present, but I'm gonna lean towards yellow nectarine over my usual white here. To sum up, its palate is about as polite and well groomed as an usher at a royal wedding; smooth, spotless and debonair, with all of its components integrated in a tidy fashion. Upon deeper inspection you'll find a clear expression of creamy lemon and white pear flavours which evolve in a pleasingly savoury, perhaps even spicy manner (well handled oak?), with the last word spoken by a ginger-like tone. My only wish would've been to of seen tighter, clearer definition of acidity, but that could just be the difficult vintage playing its part.

ü This is exactly the type of chardonnay I could drink all night long without a fuss, but for $44, I'd prefer something a bit more mesmerising or age-worthy. Drink to 2015.
92 points


- Margaret River, WA
- $25.90
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

Fire Gully is the second label of Pierro, one of Australia's most distinguished makers of chardonnay. The Fire Gully Chardonnay is made in a contrasting style to Pierro's icon, with most of the wine fermented in stainless steel and only a small amount seeing oak.

Fire Gully's 2008 Chardonnay jumps out of the glass with a truly forthright, assertively fruited fragrance which hits more than a few sweet notes along the way. It possesses an abundance of ripe, peachy and pungent aromatics, reminiscent of ripe melons, pineapple juice and corn with a hint of warmth etched throughout. Up front and brassy, with a length of flavour that initially holds itself back from true extension (but penetrates deeper with time), its relatively rich, smoothly textured textured palate does show plenty of peach fuzz and corn flavour, but its lack of authoritative elegance indicates to me that this style of chardonnay may be better suited to rather more restrained alcohol/ripeness levels. Or maybe it's just me...

O Quite a boldly flavoured, ripe example of a lightly oaked Margaret River chardonnay, which doesn't really possess the refinement of Australia's best 'modern' styles. Drink to 2013.
88 points

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010


- Canberra District
- $22
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

After thoroughly enjoying a bottle of Shaw Vineyard Estate's off-dry 2009 Isabella Riesling (90pts) almost a year ago, my thirst was well and truly quenched in anticipation of the Canberra-based maker's dry 2009 Riesling. So without further adieu, here it is.

A year in the bottle has seen the bath salts and limey florals of Shaw Vineyard's 2009 Riesling take on hints of lime marmalade-like character. Fortunately, this extra degree of character is presented in a fresh and inviting way, but it actually seems to dissipate with time towards a more youthfully apparent nose. The palate enters with smoothness, concentration and a touch of juicy fruit, before some seriously pure lime juice flavours let loose with clear definition. For those who enjoy a Corona with a wedge of lime in the neck (not dropped in the bottle), think of that refreshing first mouthful. A certain tanginess marks its finish with some pleasing length, but a bit more cut through the back palate would've been wonderful.

O A tidy little Canberra riesling with plenty of limey character. Seafood addicts; dive in! Drink to 2015.
90 points

Thursday, November 11, 2010


- McLaren Vale, SA
- $57.50-$90
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

The highly innovative Joe Grilli makes his iconic Moda Cabernet Merlot in the Italian Amarone style. After harvest the grapes are air dried on outdoor racks (for around 2 weeks) to increase skin to juice ratio, concentrating the flavours in an almost raisined fashion. The resulting wine is a lusciously rich, ripe dry red which seems to overcome difficult seasons with absolute ease. Just ask popular UK critic Oz Clarke, who recently named Joseph's Moda as the world's second best wine!

In tune with other Moda wines, the 2008 is aromatically deeper than a rabbit's hole. Its typically moreish, ultra-ripe raisin, chocolate and leather aromas have already set themselves in for the long haul, while drier, dusty notes of tobacco and herb straddle the higher tones as an essential counter balance to the smooth richness residing beneath. The palate manages to be extravagantly luscious, smooth and rich without being heavy, jammy or offensively ripe whatsoever. Then considering its generous proportions, it's amazingly balanced and even, saturating the palate from front to back, as lingering touches of tobacco leaf and incredibly polished and smooth, powdery tannins ride like surfboards along its tidal wave of massively deep, dense flavour. It isn't exactly the medium-bodied, elegant cabernet many Australians are looking for, but it's near impossible not to be impressed.

ü+ The 2008 continues a run of consistently delicious Moda wines from up-and-down McLaren Vale cabernet vintages. How does Joe Grilli do it, and why aren't there more imitators? There may be nothing plain about Moda, but it's just plain yum. Drink to 2024.
95 points

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


- Clare Valley/Adelaide Hills, SA
- $25-$36
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

When everything falls into place for Jeffrey Grosset, there's practically no other South Australian sem/sav to compare with his blend of Clare Valley semillon and Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc. Although the last two releases weren't quite on the money for me (2008-89pts and 2009-89pts), the 2007 (92pts) was right on the mark.

The delicately scented nose of Grosset's 2010 shows some distinct young semillon character upfront; nettles, lemon/citrus and maybe some straw initially, with a more subdued influence of sauvignon blanc cut grass and tinned fruit tip-toeing throughout its bouquet to create a convincing balance of the two varieties, which should work for the anti-savvy crowd. Likewise, its crystal-clear palate reveals a proud semillon component that speaks slightly above its sauvignon blanc, as its savvy imprint is expressed more through a faintly juicy, slip 'n' slide mouthfeel, as opposed to pungent tropical fruit flavour. Its flavour profile resembles lemon curd, mineral, tinned lychees and pineapple, but flavour expression is hardly its high point. To finish off, Grosset's classy acidity springs forth with shape, thrust and genuine zip to punctuate, highlight and refresh the palate.

O If I'm right it's been roughly 20 years since Grosset released a straight semillon. Now I'm no hater of savvy styles, because I find Grosset's 2010 Sem/Sav to be a good, clean, flow down like water off a duck's back kind of wine, but after having sampled delightful, oaked Clare Valley semillons from the likes of Mitchell, Tim Adams and Mount Horrocks across the last few years, my desire to see Grosset join (or top) their ranks only grows. Drink to 2013.
90 points


My pursuit of fine wine and the understanding of it has led me to meet some interesting people over the years. One person whom I'll never forget was a middle-aged, blonde woman (name unknown) who studied the same basic wine evaluation course as I did several years ago.

The funny thing was, she didn't actually drink wine. Not a drop.

This fact shockingly came to my attention (as well as the rest of my class) in the first 'true' tasting class of the course, when, with six sample pours of white wine placed in front of every student for assessment, our wine lecturer asked her what she felt of a certain wine's palate;

"I'm unsure." She said. "I don't actually drink wine."

To which, the lecturer responded with; "If you don't drink wine, what are you doing in a wine tasting course?"

"I want to become a winemaker." She replied. At this point the class became somewhat baffled, but the lecturer was becoming frustrated with sheer disbelief.

So the lecturer confronted her with; "How are you going to become a winemaker if you don't drink wine?"

"I just smell them." She quipped.

Now exceptionally puzzled, the lecturer told her; "You can't become a winemaker by just smelling wines. You HAVE to drink the stuff too. Now come on, stop being ridiculous and drink the damn wine!"

But she refused. The more he tried to get her to drink the wine, the more she refused. Eventually, the lecturer gave in, but he did end with; "Just see me after class, okay?" Now I'm not entirely sure what he said to her after class, but rest assured, she didn't return to any more wine tasting classes after her initial effort.

True story.

A wannabe winemaker attending a wine tasting course, who doesn't drink wine; just sniffs it. I've always wondered how her aspirations of becoming a winemaker have progressed since....

Monday, November 8, 2010


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $24-$33
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

One of the Barossa's highest profile producers, Torbreck, is an internationally recognised name well known for rather expensive, ultra-ripe, generously oaked reds packaged with distinctive white labels and visible corks. A unique wine within Torbreck's range is the Cuvée Juveniles; a relatively affordable, unoaked red with a coloured label and a screwcap closure.

I'm beginning to really appreciate unwooded Barossa GSMs for their ability to be cracked and enjoyed immediately, and Torbreck's 2009 Cuvée Juveniles instantly fits the bill, with a lightly spiced fragrance of liqueur cherries, blueberries, dates, currants, cinnamon and spirit that strikes an aromatic lift and warmth from first pour. However, the palate doesn't follow suit, as its initially pleasing burst of smooth, deep, dark, rich and pure GSM flavour is betrayed by a jarring acidity and an unpleasant rawness. Indeed the whole presentation seems to be left wanting once its plush entry is overcome by an edgy, thinning, ill-defining intensity; while a final, ungainly and lingering impression of ultra-ripe fruit, spirit and clove-like flavour does little to enhance the experience. With air it becomes marginally softer, but it never achieves true balance.

X This is a wine of two tales; a pleasing entry and a rough finish. Hopefully the latter might sort itself out with some more time in the bottle, but you'd probably be better off buying Teusner's 2009 Joshua instead. Drink 2011-2012.
84 points

Case In Point Update 9-November-2010

Casey: All the pleasing qualities of a GSM on the nose, with robust berries and a slight fortified grenache aroma. Lovely rounded flavour with a ripe, juicy burst and almost completely devoid of tannins. Finishes a little sweet on the palate.

Chris: Okay, so here's the first 'Case In Point' wine which I've re-reviewed because I believe my original note might have been based on a 'dud' bottle. Put simply, it was the off-putting, hard intensity of its finish which lead me to feel something wasn't quite right, and being the fair man that I am, I felt it possibly deserved better than this note. So how's the second bottle? Well, the hard finish is nowhere to be seen, in fact, it actually finishes quite soft with some pleasing spice elements, but other than that most of the original note remains true. So yes, I remain under the impression that my original note was taken on a 'dud' bottle. As a result I've re-written my original note, which can be found here, or under Red Blends in Wine Reviews in the sidebar. Anyway, my updated score is....89

Sunday, November 7, 2010


- King Valley, VIC
- $17-$26
- Screwcap
- 12.1%alc

As the partner of a one-eyed chardonnay drinker, I've noticed the rise in prominence of pinot grigio throughout casual-dining venues (thanks to its association as a food friendly style) has only made things harder to get ahold of a glass of decent chardonnay at such places - and all this comes at a time when the number of good Australian chardonnays is increasing across all price ranges! Let's just hope more of our wineries follow in the footsteps of makers like Pizzini, and get grigio right!

Pizzini's 2010 is a predictably pale-straw grigio, but its nose is less predictable; it's delicate and withdrawn, yet laden with subtle character. A smooth whiff of creamed nuts provide something of a blanket for its tight white flower, mineral and melon aromas, which altogether come forth with the volume of a whisper. Its palate delivers a fullness of clear-cut creamy mineral and white pear flavours without being round or fat, and thankfully, it's all very clean and unmarked from beginning, to middle, to end. The finish presents something of a joyous contrast, as a slightly chalky, bright acidity grips the mouth's outer edges, while an undercarriage of lingering, juicy mineral fruit flavour contradicts the progression.

ü+ A brilliant little grigio of clarity, freshness, shape and grip, with more than enough mineral aspects to please the discerning. It's exactly the type of wine I'd be delighted to see on my local speakeasy's wine list. Drink to 2013.
92 points


- Margaret River, WA
- $16-$25
- Cork
- 13.5%alc

I've long suppled at the teat of Yalumba's foray into Tasmanian sparkling wine through the Jansz label; and now, with the 2008 Ringbolt, I'm starting to become a regular follower of Yalumba's venture into the fine world of Margaret River cabernet sauvignon.

With the fierce leap of a pouncing tiger, Ringbolt's 2008 delivers the aromatic intensity of an incredibly fragrant, well defined wine. Regional and smoky, its beautifully spoken aromas of char-grilled meats, violets and dried tobacco leaf lead the performance, with the backing notes played by varietally correct blackberries and fresh cedar oak. On entry to the palate it's agreeably smooth and rich, but it flows on fractionally ripe and meaty, as its flavours of dark currant fruits and dried leaves are drawn nicely down the palate by rich, bitter dark chocolate tones. The tannin extract isn't particularly physical or commanding, yet it does finish adequately dry in more of a crisp, silky linen-like fashion, making it an ideal Margaret River cabernet for drinking over the shorter term.

ü Thanks to a beautifully fragrant opening, I can't help but be a little disappointed by the smooth, rich, ripe and rounder aspects of the palate here. Having said that, it is priced accordingly and makes a smart choice for anyone after a sound Margaret River cabernet to drink tonight, with good company. Drink to 2015.
90 points

Thursday, November 4, 2010


- Clare Valley, SA
- $17-$25
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

The classic Alsatian blend, or 'Three' as it's been dubbed by wineries such as Knappstein and Ashton Hills, is a white wine style known well for its ability to be paired with the perennially tricky to match, spicy asian food.

There's elements of all three varieties in Knappstein's 2010 blend, as its oily pear-skin aromas make the broadest statement, but underneath that traminer/gris attribute lies notes of lime juice and lychee which are given a pleasingly floral/musky lift. The viscosity of its dominant partner (gewürztraminer, 72%) drives the wine into the palate, releasing white pear-skin , lemon zest and grape seed flavours, before a cleaner indication of lychee-like character combines with a hint of spice and a refreshing acidity to finish. A genuine touch of Clare's classic chalky acids accentuate its structural elements, which might just be an 18% riesling component punching above its weight, but the optimist inside me believes it's an indication of true regional/seasonal influence prevalent across all three varieties.

ü For a Clare-traminer-based wine, I don't think you could work this too much better. It's not terribly punchy or intense, but its beautifully measured combination of varietals has produced a wine that's clean, shapely and very easy to drink. Drink to 2014.
90 points