Thursday, June 30, 2011


- Grampians, VIC
- $24-$32
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

In my opinion, under the labels of Bin No.0 and Thomson Family, Best's produce as true an expression of single varietal shiraz as there is in Australia. Best's entry level shiraz, Bin No.1, may not have scaled the long-living heights of its esteemed stablemates just yet, but most vintages of Bin No.1 have faithfully reflected Great Western style, at a more than considerate price.

Although present, the anticipated regional influence of pepper (white in this case) takes a back seat to ripe aromas of purple plums, black cherries and choc-licorice in Best's 2009 Bin No.1, with a very soft, smooth vanilla oak influence allowing its fruit to shine through in a convincing, if slightly plump, style. For the most part, its similarly ripe yet classically dark-edged palate is fairly soft, fruity and juicy. It extends with flavours of dried blackberries and licorice towards a pleasingly long, well drawn out finish, softly coated by an approachable, faint coverage of light, dusty tannins, which only adjust the wine with moderate grip. Fortunately, there are well bred hints of clove and gentle spice in the aftertaste, just to remind you whose wine you're drinking. Just.

O From the hot, dry, ultimately challenging 2009 season, Best's has fashioned a ripe and juicy Bin No.1 without the brand's trademark finesse, but with plenty of easy drinking, short term appeal. It's not the best Best's though. Drink to 2014.
89 points


Chargrilled, aged organic oyster blade, served on a deliciously rustic mash of Dutch cream potatoes, broccoli, green peas, kale and seeded mustard, drizzled with a rich red wine and spring onion jus.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


- Tumbarumba, NSW
- $14.95
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

The cool, elevated slopes of southern NSW's Tumbarumba region have already accounted for some particularly fine expressions of chardonnay and sparkling wine, but what about that other essential sparkling wine grape, pinot noir? For $15, Westend's Cool Climate Series Pinot Noir makes an affordable excuse to see what the style is all about.

Lean and thin like a supermodel's legs yet still attractive to sniff within its context (!), Westend's Tumbarumba sourced pinot noir reveals a simple, somewhat confected yet valid aroma of musky cherries, with soft, airy scents of fluffy herbs/mint and white pepper lifting its varietal definition well into recognition. The palate flows with a lean accent of what tastes like diluted fruit, bound by faint, stringy, slightly sappy edges and a rustic, cured/aged meat-like aftertaste, but really, this wine's all about feel, simplicity, form and function, all of which receive big ticks for a sub-$15 pinot. Its suppleness, texture and unforced movement succeed where many of its rivals fail, so if it's a cheap, genuine pinot noir you're after, then you could do a lot worse than this fine example from NSW (of all places!).

ü+ Whether or not Tumbarumba is cut out for world class pinot noir I can't say, but I can say Westend's 2010 Cool Climate Series is a wonderfully correct, textural driven pinot noir that's as tidy as anything Australia has to offer within its price bracket. Good stuff. Drink to 2013.
88 points

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


- Clare Valley/Padthaway, SA
- $7-$15
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

When I'm on the hunt for a good, cheap red, I'm often left wondering where the wines labelled 'South Australia' actually come from. My mind almost always automatically thinks; 'Riverland', so it's pleasing to know Taylors' 2010 Promised Land Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the more premium regions of Clare and Padthaway.

Chocolate coated plum and prune scents adorn the 2010 Promised Land Cabernet Sauvignon, with maybe a faint touch of spicy wood and a minor trace of something green, minty or menthol-like. The green notes disappear after an hour of decanting. In fact, it's all very simple and if anything; barely varietal. Its medium-bodied palate is predictably smooth and approachable initially, but it does show a rather ill-defined, stewy, raisined fruit character, which admittedly, brightens up nicely towards a more red fruit-like profile with a bit of air. Unfortunately, its finish is loose and short on genuine length of fruit, revealing disparate hints of date and menthol underneath an undoubtedly basic structure. As a cheap-Tuesday rump steak-night wine there's some consolation value here (I know, that's how I drunk it), but other than that, there's just not enough going on to see it to stand up on its own.

X When I saw the regional sourcing for the 2010 Promised Land Cabernet Sauvignon my hopes were raised, but in the end, it's just another generic, cheap red devoid of genuine interest. Drink to 2012.
84 points

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011


- Margaret River, WA
- $34-$51
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

At around half the price of the region's big guns, Cape Mentelle produce one of the Margaret River's truly elite chardonnays. Cape Mentelle's Chardonnay isn't as showy as others in its youth, instead, it leans more towards a refined, mineral style, which even displays light spice notes on occasion.

Quite clean and bright yet complex and elegant; like a sophisticated woman, Cape Mentelle's 2009 Chardonnay reveals a floral, leaner grapefruit and white pear fruit fragrance charmingly lifted by nutmeg aromas and a high, equally sweet and savoury barrel ferment tone, reminiscent of gingerbread. There's a soft, restrained measure of vanilla/butter oak thrown in as well, but its gingerbread-like scent provides the most appeal. Composed and stylish (and better with a bit of air), the palate speaks clearly with pungent, distinctly regional melon and grapefruit flavours deliciously underscored by creamy barrel ferment notes. It etches its way into the mouth's cornices with genuinely forthright, racy, almost side-splitting acids, that fill the mouth and expand the wine with real class, leaving a refreshingly bright trail of nutty flavour left lingering in the mouth alongside a spark of lemon tinged minerals. If anything, it's a little too perfect. A touch of funk, or an edge, would've made it spectacular, but I'm just being picky here.

ü+ Like all of Cape Mentelle's recent chardonnays the 2009 is hard to fault. Its fruit may be a little lean and clean, but the winemaking here is wonderful. The label's changed but the result remains the same; another top class Cape Mentelle Chardonnay that's well worth the money. Drink to 2016.
94 points


Friday, June 24, 2011


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $28-$42
- Cork (Diam)
- 14.5%alc

The record March heatwave of 2008 created more than a few headaches for Barossa growers, but Grant Burge was still able to fashion one of the season's real highlights for me, with his deliciously long and ripe Filsell Shiraz (93pts). From within the same 'Wines of Distinction' class as Grant Burge's Filsell comes The Holy Trinity, a blend consisting of 44% grenache, 40% shiraz and 16% mourvèdre in 2008.

On opening the 2008 Holy Trinity it smells particularly confected and loose, but after a relaxed stint of 2+ hours in the decanter it composes itself somewhat, revealing a rather plummy, fractionally jammy red fruit and blueberry fragrance marked by sweet tones and a sprinkling of cinnamon, as well as a soft coconut oak influence that doesn't exactly make things anymore savoury. Without being brilliantly bright, the palate announces itself as red; syrup-like, smooth and moderately juicy, but as it kicks into the middle section there are tastes of tar and an undesirably ripe, gritty raisin skin-like character, which morph into a finish that lacks focus, shape, persistence and stuffing. In fact, the finish is the real let down here. It's not overly harsh or taxing but its soft, lingering sweet fruit/oak is inadequately checked (for a wine of its price) by an all-too simple structure, typical of many of the Barossa's 2008s.

X There's a lot of Barossa GSMs from the more grenache friendly 2009 vintage available now, which would make a better choice than Grant Burge's straight forward, sweetly fruited and rather caked, shorter term 2008 Holy Trinity. Drink to 2014.
87 points


Located at the southern end of the Barossa Valley, just north of the town of Lyndoch, The Holy Trinity vineyard provides fruit for Grant Burge's GSM of the same name. Typical of the Barossa, there are some wonderfully ancient examples of fruit-bearing vines here. The oldest, dry grown bush vines in The Holy Trinity vineyard are up to 110 years old.
(photo taken February 2011)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $19-$30
- Cork
- 13.5%alc

Although largely followed for their reds, Rockford also make one of South Australia's most interesting semillons (and a handy Eden Valley riesling too). Rockford's Semillon typically displays richness, weight, bold flavours and in this case, higher alcohol, contrasting the Hunter's benchmarks not just when it comes to style, but also choice of closure.

Blushingly golden/yellow and quite frankly deliciously scented, this 5 year old Rockford Semillon throws up a strong, equally pungent and savoury aroma of lanolin, cream and nuts, with notes of lime juice and preserved lemon imparting vitality. It certainly smells more developed, savoury and notably richer than what you'd expect from a top-flight Hunter sem of a similar age, but it still appears fresh, inviting and loaded with varietal character. Furthermore, its palate drinks a treat. It's quite round, juicy and generously flavoured, with a delightful touch of cream supplying both taste and texture to its complex unison of classic flavours; reflecting beeswax and butter with squeaky clean lemon inputs and a nutty aftertaste. To balance the richness, an ever present, stringy acidity straddles along gracefully, providing a clean, refreshing backbone without any implication of physical domination, making this adorably complex Barossa semillon just perfect for drinking over the next few years.

ü+ Certainly built in a more openly accessible sense, Rockford's 2006 Local Growers remains fresh, beautifully composed, complex and deliciously hedonistic, and it's worth an extra point for that. Great value Barossa semillon. Bucking the trend. Drink to 2015.
92 points


- Western Australia
- $7-$15
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

White Classic has proven to be a suitable name for the wine formerly known as Houghton White Burgundy, because as a wine first made in 1937, classic is exactly what it is. No other present day label takes me back to my childhood more, sitting at the dinner table, watching my father drink wine, and he's a one-eyed South Australian red drinker!

Simple and sweet-edged yet clean and punchy, the 2010 White Classic presents a tropical fruit bouquet that takes on the guise of summertime fun, in the middle of winter. The palate doesn't veer too far from these descriptors either, as its minutely viscous undercarriage moves a sweetly flavoured glob of tinned tropical fruits, akin to pineapples with banana custard. Unfortunately, although there's a soft note of white peach fuzz left lingering in the mouth, the wine's overall impact isn't drawn down the palate with enough distinction, whilst its softly spoken, clean structure isn't exactly out of the ordinary for a well made, big brand $10 white.

O Sweet, simple, juicy, fruity, easy drinking; Houghton's 2010 White Classic forms a modern day stereotype of a quaffing white. Drink to 2012.
86 points

Saturday, June 18, 2011


- Clare Valley, SA
- $85
- Cork
- 13.9%alc

Wendouree is an Australian winery of Grand Cru-like status. Their reputation is such that nearly all their wine sells out to mail order customers, with very few ever making it to retail shelves. Those that do make it into stores tend to undergo a noted price hike, of around $30 or more. As is the norm on this website, the price stated here is retail.

Perhaps a little constrained now, Wendouree's 2008 Cabernet Malbec nonetheless smells like a caged beast waiting to strike. It's deeply scented, beautifully ripened and even a touch savoury for what was a troubled year across South Australia, as calm, floral whiffs of eucalyptus, lavender, tea and tobacco leaf carry its plush mulberry and pastille blackcurrant aromas with regal grace, whilst finely honed French oak provides no more than a support role, imparting a further lick of savoury quality. Its delicious palate is surprisingly medium-weighted and supple, with a leathery/earthy interplay of dark fruit flavours driven deep into the mouth by a corkscrew-like penetration of structure, drilling the back palate with a one-two punch of dry, dusty, spiky tannins and refreshing acids, leaving a lingering note of licorice-tinged old-vine fruit to pass. For all its quality, there's no doubt its best years are yet to come.

ü+ I'll admit I hesitated when it came to buying Wendouree's 2008s, but I'll never doubt that magical vineyard again. Brilliant. Drink to 2028.
95 points

Friday, June 17, 2011


The following images are of a Thick-skinned Cork Oak, or Quercus suber, planted in Adelaide's Belair National Park during the early 1900s.
Although one of the finest specimens in South Australia, the Thick-skinned Cork Oak is introduced to this state, and as such, this plant may not be replaced when it dies.

The plant is native to the temperate regions of Europe and northern Africa, where it can grow up to 20 metres high and reach up to 200 years of age.
Its thick bark is softish and spongy on the absolute exterior, yet much harder on the inside. It's particularly strong, solid and tough, and challenging to break off even the slightest piece.


- Tamar Valley, TAS
- $20-$32
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

I've been thoroughly enjoying Tamar Ridge's Kayena Pinot Noir over the last few years, as its value and true varietal quality have seen it become the go-to cheap pinot at my place on many occasions. However, even I was a bit surprised when the 2009 won the Best Pinot Noir Trophy at the 2011 Sydney Wine Show, furthering the reputation of a wine which had already been awarded 96pts by James Halliday. Rest assured, my hopes have been riding high on this one.

Although not entirely complex, the 2009 Kayena Vineyard is a beautifully fragrant, genuinely affordable north Tasmanian pinot noir of some class. It reveals more spicy, clove-like, stalky aromas than its predecessors, which give the wine a more savoury edge, in addition to lifting and defining its nose with perfumed appeal. There's also a clean influence of oak, which might be a touch spicy too, as well as a fruit fragrance that sits right in the dark cherry/cute strawberry spectrum. Texturally, it's velvety and succulent yet proudly medium-bodied, as it's just so smooth, supple and seamless in an easy to understand manner. Its slightly sweet dark cherry and strawberry flavours are joined by secondary nuances of stalk and sap, leading into a rather chewy pinot structure laced with a brisk movement of ultra-fine tannin. If you read the presses you might want more, but if you sit down and enjoy it with friends your wallet won't be complaining.

ü+ Not the show stopper my ambitions hoped for, but I'm still loving this label for its consistent value. With hindsight, I can see another 12 months of empty Tamar Ridge bottles at my place. Now, where's that pâté? Drink to 2016.
91 points

Tuesday, June 14, 2011



- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $22 (500ml)
- Cork (Diam)
- 14.0%alc

There's been a lot of discussion surrounding 'natural' wines lately, from both positive and not so positive standpoints. If I must draw a personal criticism of both Jauma and Domaine Lucci's current offerings, then it's with the 500ml bottles used for their whites. Yes, the long, narrow bottles are aesthetically spectacular, but I'd hate to see the trend of downsizing catch on. It's a drinker's thing.

Before anyone gets too excited, let it be known grauburgunder is a German synonym for pinot gris. Jauma's 2010 immediately reflects this, with its pale-bronze appearance indicating skin contact, but its aroma, devoid of basic pears, apples or citrus, is something else. It's somewhat sweet yet bright smelling, revealing an unusual, essentially nail polish remover-like scent, which, optimistically, might tip towards a more agreeable honeyed sweetness. In the mouth it straddles a fine line between rich and zippy, yet is neither one nor the other, as its ill-defined palate is hurried along by a punchy sweetness, before ending with a loose formation of bitter, crunchy green apple-like acids and a note of varnish.

X I'd say there's something not quite right here - one for the chemical analysis course perhaps? It's more funky than complex. Honestly, I would've preferred a straight and simple, cleanly flavoured gris or grigio style. Drink now.
83 points

Thursday, June 9, 2011


- Margaret River, WA
- $30-$45
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

As Australian Wine Journal gathers age, I'm hoping, or perhaps assuming, my readers will recognise there are some wines I buy practically every year. Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly one such wine. In theory, Vasse's Cabernet should've benefited immensely from the perfumed nature of the Margaret River's 2008 cabernet crop, so this purchase was always destined to occur.

Ooooh - rich, brambly blackcurrants, mulberries, black olives, graphite and well toasted cedar/mocha oak, all expressed with floral/herbal accents and a risen, savoury intensity - this is classic, unmistakable Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon people. It's about as appealingly aromatic as Australian cabernet gets for me at this price. Fortunately, the palate doesn't disappoint either, especially if bright and assertive Margaret River cabernet is your thing. It's a bit juicier and perhaps plumper than the classic 2004 (95pts) and 2007 (93pts) wines, but its toasty dark fruit flavours are still forged onwards and into the mouth with searing intensity, by a rather mouth puckering, almost astringent acid structure which merges seamlessly with bony, drying tannins, whilst flavours of juicy, genuinely savoury regional fruits marked by cedar and dried herbs return to provide vibrant lasting impression.

ü+ A bit fuller and juicier than I anticipated but nonetheless as fragrant and assertive as I hoped, Vasse's 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon shouldn't disappoint its legion of followers. Drink to 2023.
93 points


Margaret River Venison Chorizo, purchased just down the road from the Vasse Felix winery.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


- Hilltops, NSW
- $14.95
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

Westend Estate has previously been associated with some of the finest wines to come out of Australia's warm, inland river regions, but these days, their range has expanded to include a selection of wines sourced from cool climate areas. In addition to this Hilltops Shiraz, keep your eyes open for Westend's Canberra Riesling, Hilltops Tempranillo and Tumbarumba Pinot Noir, all sold at the generous RRP of $14.95.

Kinda sweet and earthy, Westend's Cool Climate Shiraz doesn't exactly smell like an archetypal cool climate shiraz, but despite a minor baked/warming note, it still reveals an abundance of uncomplicated, ripe plum and berry aromas with a calming whiff of vanilla/coconut oak. The palate introduces simple, soft and round shiraz characters, blessed by enough brightness of flavour and length to provide fun at its modest price. There's recurring ripe fruit and a slight warm spike in the aftertaste, but there's nothing overly awkward or jarring about it, so the second glass continues to go down smooth. As does the third...

O A bright and ripe, well made in the winery if essentially straight forward quaffing shiraz, whose price is the key. For no more than $15, it's the sort of wine I'll be keeping an eye on in the future. Drink to 2013.
87 points

Monday, June 6, 2011


- Hilltops, NSW
- $30
- Screwcap
- 15.0%alc

Dr Brian Freeman's Rondinella Corvina Secco is one of the most unique wines in Australia. It's a blend of two varieties typical to the Amarone styles of north Italy; rondinella and corvina, where some of the grapes are dried in a prune dehydrator to produce a rich, savoury wine with few peers in this country. Like Joseph's exquisite Moda Amarone, it's the type of wine that benefits from a few years bottle age, so an aged release (without an inflated price) is a stellar idea.

Lifted cherry, cigar-box and dried herb aromas fly from the glass of Freeman's 2004, gifting fragrance and savoury appeal to a wine whose scent is beautifully bolstered by deeper notes of plums and chocolate raisins with a delightfully rich tone of meat jus. It smells complete yet vibrant, with any suggestions of bottle age developing with harmony. Pushing along a rich, silky flow of flavour blessed by its vibrancy, the palate delivers exactly what I want from the style at this price. It's bright, flavoursome and utterly delicious; no matter who you are really, as its saturated core of plush red berry, dark plum and leathery earth flavours are cleanly balanced by a lengthening extract of glossy acids and lithe tannins, leaving the mouth refreshingly dry in an almost coffee-like fashion, with a valid undertone of juicy red meat to pass. It's wonderful, hedonistic and genuinely affordable.

ü+ Bright, sumptuous and conclusively satisfying, Freeman's 2004 Rondinella Corvina Secco makes all the right turns on its road to partially dried grape goodness. Drink to 2016.
93 points

Saturday, June 4, 2011


- King Valley, VIC
- $13-$20
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

Victoria's King Valley isn't the first region to come to mind when thinking of Australian sauvignon blanc, but really, the pairing makes sense. It makes even more sense when the maker is the ever reliable Brown Brothers and the price is $15.

Brown Brothers' 2010 presents an uncomplicated yet clean fragrance of straight forward varietal character. Its aromas of nettle and grass make the loudest statement, while zesty lemon citrus and pear fruits complete a nose of cool-climate restraint, that steers away from the variety's pungent aromatics. Unfortunately, the zesty palate's slightly broad and its components don't gel as well as I'd like, leading to a general feeling of poor definition, particularly flavour-wise. There are finishing tastes of citrus and ripe kiwi fruits that provide some satisfaction, but still, I don't see the necessary shape, structure or direction to see this savvy rise from the pack. It's all a bit too generic really.

O There's nothing excruciatingly wrong or right about Brown Brothers' 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, so it's just another middle of the road savvy, lost in a very crowded marketplace. Drink now.
87 points

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $35
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

One of the wines that really stood out to me last year was Hahndorf Hill's 2008 Blaufränkisch (91pts), especially when it was served with a quartet of German sausages, sauerkraut and mash. Some have likened blaufränkisch to an Austrian pinot noir, but I thought Hahndorf Hill's first release (made from vines around 20 years old) was more like an Adelaide Hills version of Barossa grenache.

HHW's second blaufränkisch, now aptly named Blueblood, seems a touch riper and darker fruited than its predecessor, but it handles it well. A floral whiff of crushed herbs, menthol and white pepper carries its ripe dark cherry and plump blueberry fruits with lifted appeal, while a smooth scent of chocolate oak resides patiently below. The chocolatey tones impart a more melting chocolate-like feel and character to the palate, which is particularly smooth, richly flavoured in a medium-full bodied sense and subsequently easy to consume in its youth. Expect vibrant liqueur cherry and dark plum fruits at its core, drawn sumptuously down the palate by an approachable, soft-edged structure beset with lithe, refreshing acids and ultra-fine tannins that curl up a fraction at the final stanza, leaving a touch of gentle spice to linger gently in the mouth. The balance works.

ü The two 'blaus' I've had from Hahndorf Hill have both been from challenging seasons but happily, they've both been delicious drinks. Just imagine what these guys might be able to achieve with this special variety from a kinder vintage. Eyes to the skies people, eyes to the skies. Drink to 2014.
91 points