Friday, July 29, 2011


- Beechworth, VIC
- $44-$57
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Nantua Les Deux is the unusual second chardonnay label of Australian chardonnay masters Giaconda. Unusual, I say, because although the back label merely states; 'CHARDONNAY', it also contains a portion of the white Rhone variety roussanne, for added complexity and richness.

Showing off an undoubtedly impressive chardonnay component in its fragrance, the 2010 Nantua Les Deux is bright, savoury and funky, flaunting nutty, lightly spiced, matchstick and mineral aromas with great emphasis above underlying fluffy white peach and melon tones. If there's any roussanne evident on the nose, it's handsomely overshadowed by an energetic partner as well as the proud scent of skilled winemaking. In the mouth it's golden and buttery, somewhat large yet long, curvaceous and sophisticated, with a finely honed-in acidity that slips and slides graciously, revealing a well judged hint of phenolics at the back end. Its flavours are pure bliss; yellow stonefruits and minerals with savoury touches of hazelnut praline and creamy vanilla oak to progress, with an emergent taste of citrus providing necessary freshness in its rather warm and cosy, sumptuous finish. Think of it as a perfumed, voluptuous beauty to happily take home tonight, but ebb with caution around long term commitment.

ü+ As an automatic, buy today to drink tonight, don't even bother putting it in the fridge during winter kind of white, this has so much complex, excessive appeal. In that respect, Giaconda's really nailed the chardonnay/roussanne blend in 2010. Drink to 2014.
92 points

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Here's a couple of tasting notes depicting some of the more interesting wines I encountered during a recent weekend stay in the Barossa Valley. I came across plenty of wines still baring the scars of difficult years in the region, but fortunately, the modern Barossa winemaker, whose versatility with grapes other than shiraz and cabernet seems to get better every year, was still able to produce a number of high points. The more observant of you will notice a couple of Burge Family wines on the list I couldn't keep my mitts off...

From left to right: Burge Family Winemakers, Artisans of Barossa and Torbreck

mesh Riesling 2010 ($25) Quite a typical mesh really, which is a bloody good thing if you love dry Australian riesling! The nose shows a pleasing steely tightness with scents of classic white pear, apples and lime. The palate follows on with a beautifully pure expression of its regional flavour, defined by a classically dry, assertive and racy structure that pulls the wine with great length and tightness. 94

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling 2010 ($18) A very interesting wine with near equal parts of Barossa and Eden Valley riesling, as well as a dab of gewurztraminer. The traminer isn't so obvious on the nose, which is tight, steely, slatey and scented with lemon/mineral notes, but on the palate it makes its presence felt through an extending, slightly sweet and juicy taste of lychees, which flows from mid-palate to back, before it's all back-ended by a lingering steely dryness and razor sharp acids. It's beautifully composed and paired magnificently with Kingfish. Chalk another one up for Penfolds' winemaking team! 91

Burge Family Winemakers Olive Hill Semillon 2010 ($22) A brilliant unoaked Barossa semillon, of the more forward, sumptuous and flavoursome style. Its toasty lemon and melon characters are right on the style cue for semillon, as is its beautifully bright, penetrative acidity and length. 92

Burge Family Winemakers Olive Hill Semillon 2011 ($22) Unreleased. A stark contrast to the 2010. Its scent mirrors tropical fruits, with a note of banana in there, whilst its palate is quite juicy, fruit salad-like, round and up front, lacking the extension of the 2010. If it's a semillon that looks like a sauvignon blanc you're after, then this could be the wine for you. It'll be interesting to see how it looks when released. 87

Torbreck Viognier 2010 ($48.50) Perfumed, floral, mineral and savoury, with more melons than stonefruit on the nose. It's pumped by a richly flavoured mid-palate and enlivened by a bright, lingering, mineral finish. It's possibly as good a white wine as I've ever had from Torbreck, but at $48.50, I'm not sure it really compares to the Clonakilla or Virgilius Viogniers, yet. 92

Heggies Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 ($28) Classy, spicy, nutty vanilla oak dominates the nose somewhat, slightly obscuring very lean, clean lemon and white fruit aromas. The palate shows similarly restrained, clean white fruit flavours that become more pungent and melon-like with progression. There's an initial oomph provided by creamy texture and a sparkling structure of citric acids to follow, but it just gets lost along the way somewhere, as it seemingly lacks great length, shape and balance. 89

Gramps Grenache 2009 ($18) Dark fruited with currants, plums and a bit of spicy fruitcake. It seems a little less than ideal at first, but with time it comes together quite nicely, displaying a regional plum and cherry fruit palate that tightens tidily down the line with brisk acids and tannins in a cone-like, prickly 'reverse-fan' finish. There's a pleasing tickle of cinnamon spice too. 89

Torbreck Les Amis Grenache 2009 ($187.50) Its nose is perhaps a bit closed yet deep and even, suggesting a near perfect ripeness of patiently subsiding Barossa grenache beneath. It's equally elegant and deeply, richly fruited, with compacted blue and black berry flavours straddling along medium weight, extravagant layers of silky texture and great length. For a wine that spent 24 months in new French oak, its fruit speaks with incredible clarity and definition, having soaked up the wood with ease. It seems exactly the type of wine that needs a bottle, not a sample, to be truly appreciated, but at that price. . . not for me. Fairly inspiring stuff though. 95

Sons of Eden Kennedy GSM 2009 ($22) Here's a wine that sings the upsides of 2009 Barossa grenache at a very good price. It has an excellent, even, dark/fruity nose that also sprays off the cinnamon and clove notes I adore in beautifully ripened impressions of the style. The palate is just so plush, chocolatey, rich and downright delicious, with a cleansing, refreshing structure that complements the wine without dominating it. Admittedly, it reminded me a bit of Penfolds' fantastic 2009 Bin 138, which isn't a bad thing in my eyes. A great, moreish drinking wine. 92

Burge Family Winemakers Olive Hill SGM 2008 ($28) Very rich and smoothly fruited with the ultra-ripeness expected of the vintage, but it's not as savoury or complex as the best years. It drinks very well, in a big, mouthfilling fashion with good, clean structure, but there is a hint of alcohol/menthol evident in the aftertaste (15.5%). I just expected a touch more from one of my favourite Barossa blend labels. Still pretty good value though. 90

Burge Family Winemakers Olive Hill MGS 2008 ($25) With mourvedre in the driver's seat, this instantly smells more even and interesting than the previous wine. It's heady and floral, with deep, dark, rich chocolatey fruits residing beneath. The palate drinks an absolute treat, revealing a wonderfully generous persistence of classically Barossan bright and silky dark fruits from start to finish. Top value and interest here. 92

Torbreck The Pict Mataro 2007 ($187.50) Small red berry fruits with earthy, muddy tones and mocha oak woven throughout. It's medium-full and muscular in body, and flush with explosive berry flavours and leathery tones. There's quite a classy, rustic finish, but overall it just lacks the wow factor essential for a wine of its price. 93

BVE Ebenezer Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($35) A very well pitched, regional and somewhat savoury Barossa cabernet devoid of the variety's greener aspects. It's powered by dry cedar tones, complementing its dark plum and earth characters well. It has a juicy and generously flavoured palate, with a good backbone of dry and dusty structure. At $10 less (retail) it would be brilliant. 91

Burge Family Winemakers Draycott Shiraz 2008 ($32) Takes a while to open up what is essentially a fairly muted nose by the label's standards, but when it does it reveals sweetly fruited plums, cherries and raspberries with controlled oak and nothing over-ripe or dead. Its palate is smooth but it just needs more freshness, vitality and flesh. It should be a better drink with time. 88

BVE E+E Black Pepper Shiraz 2006 ($90) Unusually fruity, sweet and compote-like for what was a pretty good year for Barossa shiraz. It's very condensed on the palate, to the point of almost being flattened, whereby it needs more vitality, structure, fruit brightness and complexity. Disappointing to say the least - perhaps a poorly presented bottle? 88

John Duval Eligo Shiraz 2008 ($100) From one of Australia's true winemaking legends, comes this wine which highlights the man's ability to craft top wine in a difficult vintage. It has plenty of 08 character, but it presents it to near perfection. It's very controlled and astoundingly deep, with almost elegant scents of plums, berries and cherries earmarking beautiful regional character alongside a smooth note of rich vanilla/chocolate oak. Its palate is ripe in a deliciously Barossan style, with a wonderful caress of silky tannins, but the real highlight is its length of powerful fruit, which just goes on and on with sumptuous impact. 94

Torbreck RunRig Shiraz Viognier 2007 ($225) A rather typical yet practically ideal expression of the ultra-ripe, rich, in-your-face modern Torbreck style. It's meaty, spicy, raisiny and dark fruited, extravagantly concentrated, dense, smooth, rich and sumptuous, with assertive, grainy tannins pulling out a long, tight finish that plays its part well, balancing the whole package effectively. Elegant it isn't, but it's great if over-the-top Australian reds are your thing. Harnessing ripeness and structure, it's really well pulled off for the 07 vintage. 94

Torbreck The Laird Shiraz 2006 ($700) I'll admit I didn't approach this, now Australia's most expensive dry wine, with a lot of enthusiasm, but when I heard its fruit was pulled from the same vineyard that ran into the infamous Three Rivers Shiraz, at the cost of a whopping $25,000/ton to Torbreck, things starting making a little more sense. . . and then I drunk it and it all came together beautifully. It displays an incredibly bright, vivid fruit expression, covering a variety of colours, and it actually smells, tastes and feels like a very un-Torbreck-like wine in my opinion, as the dark, ultra-ripe, meaty and currant-like characters I encountered in Torbreck's other top shirazes that day weren't present (admittedly this was the only 2006 in the line up, but I find those characters in most of Torbreck's top shirazes, almost irrespective of season). Its palate was surprisingly elegant in a rich, velvety Barossa style, controlled in both weight and particularly structure, as it took a long time to unfold and grow with great patience and restraint into the mouth, with powdery, dry tannins revealing an extra degree of character every step of the way. Best of all, it's neither Grange-like nor Hill of Grace-like, so it makes a welcomed addition to the top-tier of Australia's wine family tree. Definitely worth a look if you're contemplating what to do with the left over money after you sell your Lamborghini for a Maserati. 96

Spinifex D.R.S. Vineyard Durif 2009 ($48) It wasn't that long ago I was deeply pondering why there isn't more durif in the Barossa, and this wine, made from vines planted as early as 2002, only raises the question even more. It's surprisingly elegant, silky, medium in weight and savoury-edged, contrasting the Rutherglen style yet nailing the Spinifex style, and it's easily the pick of their current releases for me. It possesses bright plums and red berries, with a beautifully fine-grained finish highlighted by its precision, freshness, vitality and length. It's a bit of a surprise stylistically, but it provided great drinking enjoyment nonetheless. More please! 94

BVE E+E Black Pepper Sparkling Shiraz 2005 ($50) Currants, meats and juicy red plum fruits, expressed in the buoyantly ripened, fruity style typical of its vintage, with rather generous, if straight forward flavours on the palate. Unfortunately, it seems a bit simple and syrupy, and really, it appears more of a 'friendly consumer style' sold at the wrong price right now. 89

The new cellar door on everyone's lips in the Barossa at the moment is Artisans of Barossa, who have taken the extra step of naming their spittoons after popular Australian wine personalities.

Artisans is the shared accommodation of 7 boutique Barossa wineries; Hobbs, John Duval, Massena, Schwarz Wine Company, Sons of Eden, Spinifex and Teusner. The wines available for tasting work on a rotating schedule, with each producer typically offering 2 of their wines in addition to a chosen, 'featured' brand offering more (I was fortunate to be there on a Spinifex day!). Samples are arranged and presented in pairs, in an interesting, comparative format, where similar wine styles from different producers are pitted next to each other. For example, we tasted Hobbs' 2009 'With Freckles' Viognier next to Massena's 2010 'The Surly Muse' Viognier, then John Duval's 2008 Plexus SGM with Sons of Eden's 2009 Kennedy GSM and so on. Of course, this option can be passed if you wish, but I was happy to take part.

Personally I'd love to see an 'Artisans of [insert region here]', housing small winemakers without cellar doors, open up in every major Australian wine region. And the little regions too of course... :) . It's a great concept, bringing some of Australia's most interesting modern wines within closer reach of the everyday consumer.


- Pyrenees, VIC
- $25-$27
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Mount Avoca picked the fruit for their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon across 2 phases in late March. A small amount was picked earlier to capture cabernet's structure and greener aspects, with the balancing richness and ripeness provided by later picked fruit. Add to that 15 months in new and used French and Hungarian oak as well as a splash of cabernet franc (10%), and it certainly sounds like a cabernet constructed with ample character in mind!

Well ripened yet genuinely controlled for its hot season, Mount Avoca's 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon backs its plush blackcurrant and raspberry scents with chocolatey tones, hints of gumleaf and calm vanilla oak, yet nothing terribly sharp, pointy or piercing, as its aroma floats gently like a cabernet-soaked cloud. Its charmingly bright fruit takes centre stage on the nose, but on the palate, there's a variety of features playing in harmony, namely richness, suppleness, structure and length. It's simultaneously creamy and supple, willowy even, but the wine's impact through the back palate, defined by by a wonderfully even, flared-out coverage of ultra-fine, dusty, gripping tannins, punctuates the package in a truly explosive manner. It finishes in classically regional style; chiselled, imposingly dry and marked by lingering notes of juicy dark fruits and dry eucalyptus leaf.

ü+ From Mount Avoca's fantastic trio of 2009 estate reds, this is the pick for me. You couldn't ask for more from a $25 Pyrenees cabernet - really. Throw some in the cellar or drink some now, John Harris, take a bow. Drink to 2024.
94 points

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $22
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

One of the Barossa's better semillons, the Olive Hill, underwent a few changes with its 2010 release. The vintage offered such ideal conditions in the eyes of Rick Burge, that he was able to pick early (11th Feb) and bottle early (23rd Mar), completely bypassing the use of oak or commercial, cultured yeasts, instead opting for a fruit driven semillon fermented using only naturally occurring yeasts. Sounds like a winner, tastes like a winner too.

Although showing a somewhat developed, deeper yellow colour, the Olive Hill opens to a beautifully varietal, truly zippy fragrance that defines the unwooded Barossa style well. With candied lemons sitting on top, there's a genuine citric fruit bowl in there, as well as bright floral tones of fresh herbs and apple blossoms and that slightly toasty, woody, matchstick-like scent that occasionally adorns unoaked semillon. It's all expressed with great vibrancy and balance. The palate's moved through the middle lane by a lovely, buttery texture, but on the outside, there's a fast moving pulse of zippy, crystalline semillon acids, which control, harness and lengthen its toasty lemon zest and melon flavours with ease, forging out a refreshing climax that just urges you to go back for more, even in the dead of winter.

ü+ Although perhaps a touch forward or developed in character (by Hunter standards that is - its structure still remains beautifully intact and complete though), the 2010 Olive Hill is a near perfect example of what earlier drinking, unoaked Barossa semillon is capable of. Yummo. Drink to 2017.
92 points

Monday, July 25, 2011


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $15-$20
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

Torbreck's premier 2009 and 2010 whites present more texture driven style and refinement than one might expect from the brand, especially when they're sat next to Torbreck's rather boisterous offerings of shiraz and shiraz/viognier from 2007 and 2008. However, the partially barrel fermented 2010 Woodcutter's Semillon shows more of the sumptuous, bold nature Torbreck's become famous for, albeit within a white wine.

The Madeira clone used by Torbreck gives a deeper, slightly blush, light yellow/beige colour to the Woodcutter's Semillon, as well as a punchy, practically brassy fragrance of honeysuckle, melons and almond slivers marked by distinctly spicy high notes. For a 1 year old semillon, it sits a long way from the Hunter model, with barely a lemon in sight. In the mouth it states further individuality. It's quite round and creamy; borderline fat up front even, with a juicy glob of honeydew melons and apples extended with length by citric zing and spiky traces of phenolic action, but nothing overly chalky, directive or truly cleansing. When its sumptuous entry trails into a lingering, tangy aftertaste of nashi pear, it actually casts my mind to gris briefly, making this a most unusual semillon by Australian standards. It's certainly not without intrigue, but it might be more confusion than complexity.

O One of the more unique semillons around Australia, but it probably isn't to everyone's tastes (I'm not entirely sure it suits mine). Fortunately, there are two saving graces here; sheer originality and cost. Drink to 2013.
88 points

Friday, July 22, 2011


When wine turns cannibal

Thursday, July 21, 2011


- South Australia
- $7-$15
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

At first glance Taylors appear to have an overcrowded lower end, but closer inspection reveals there are subtle differences between Taylors' trio of sub-$20 labels. The highly recognised white label, or Estate range, represents a collection of single varietal wines sourced from either Clare or the Adelaide Hills, or both. Next up, Eighty Acres stands as a group of Clare Valley wines made with 'carbon neutral' ideals. Then finally, Promised Land resides as Taylors' outpost for fairly predictable, multi-region blends, the sort you see everywhere.

Ripe boysenberry and and sour-edged fruit aromas rise from the glass of Taylors' 2010 Promised Land Shiraz, with an additional leafy, herbal note. On first sniff, it smells slightly marijuana-like, but its green edges settle almost immediately, disappearing into a fruity nose with spicy fruitcake scents, leaving a fragrance which is simple and inoffensive, if fractionally indistinct. In the mouth it's quite round and all about plummy, raisiny, straight-up-front flavour, as it extends particularly loose and soft, showing touches of sweet oak and warm fruit, yet it finishes without any genuine direction or focus. A little more structure would've gone a long way here, but it is cheap and that's how it tastes.

O A step up from cask red, but not a big one. It's a wine 'to drink with friends' (because you'll wanna be distracted from it somewhat). Drink to 2012.
85 points

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $25
- Cork
- 15.0%alc

Higher alcohol Barossa reds aren't exactly my cup of tea, so I must credit Rick Burge, because his Olive Hill blends almost always open my wallet after tastings. Perhaps it's the 100% French oak Rick uses (10 months here), or his valued years of experience within Lyndoch, but more likely, it has something to do with Rick's humble, traditional approach and (very!) generous pricing. Rick was so pleased with the quality of his 2008 mourvedre crop that he released a special, one-off blend from the Olive Hill vineyard, using mourvedre as the dominant component (70%).

The 2008 Olive Hill MSG presents an aroma with two distinct layers. Rising up early, it's heady, lightly spiced and floral, rather intense and a shade savoury, but underneath that layer, it's fruity and buoyantly ripened, with rich, chocolately scents of blackberry, currants and cranberries residing patiently below. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the patience subsides on the palate, as its deliciously supple and silky, big red and black fruits flow with the richness and definition expected of the maker. Its whole, long, 'open' finish is deeply imprinted by the saturated, juicy, bright fruits let loose by the fore palate, as well as a beautifully integrated, mild yet truly refreshing structure beset with vibrant acids and fair tannin. The balance works flawlessly and seamlessly (without over-ripeness or hardness), in an absolutely delicious, earlier drinking Barossa style, which has been composed perfectly within the constraints of its price and its season.

ü+ The only thing I don't get about this wine (other than why the front label says MSG but the back suggests MGS), is why, as a 'special release', is it cheaper than the 'standard' 2008 Olive Hill SGM? ($28-90pts) Hold on, that's right, Rick Burge doesn't follow the crowds, he just concentrates on making great wine. And that this is. Drink to 2014.
92 points

Thursday, July 14, 2011


- Margaret River, WA
- $65
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

If it's a pristine expression of Australian cabernet franc you're after, then you need look no further than Woodlands' Reserve de la Cave. With the stunning results regularly achieved by Woodlands' Cabernet Franc, it makes me wonder why more Australian producers don't treat the variety with the same level of attention.

I love the fresh green-edged/capsicum scents of cabernet franc, and the 2010 Reserve de la Cave has it right there, sitting at the peak of its bouquet. Its green characters also show a drier herbal edge, which bolster, define and lift its violet, cassis, black cherry and toasty cedar oak aromas with piercing intensity. Despite revealing a velvety plushness of texture backed by chalky tannins, its palate still feels a little youthful, or elemental initially, as these two components don't quite seem in perfect harmony just yet, so a decent decant is advised. Once exposed to a bit of air though, there's no denying the quality on offer here. You'll find it's deliciously saturated with dense forest berry flavours, covering every colour from red to purple to black, all driven along a savoury, dry undercarriage of toasty cedar tones into a wonderfully conceived finish, that's as spectacular for its length as it is for its direction of perfectly composed, fine-grained structure.

ü+ What a wine! Elegant, harmonious, simultaneously perfectly regional and varietal. Picking a favourite between this and Woodlands' 2010 Malbec is challenging to say the least. The cabernet franc may need a bit more time, but I feel its varietal character suits the Margaret River better, however, the malbec is just so delicious. Either way, both wines make note taking a lot of fun. Drink to 2024.
96 points

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


- Margaret River, WA
- $65
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Woodlands issue the Reserve de la Cave label to an occasionally spectacular, rather scarce trio of (typically) single barrel selections of estate grown pinot noir, cabernet franc and malbec, all of which are sourced from a vineyard planted between 1975 and 1977. At their best, the Reserve de la Cave Malbec and Cabernet Franc surpass all of their Australian counterparts.

Blessed by vividly ripened, slightly sinister yet even aromas of cassis and purple fruits with a deft touch of fragrant, classy cedar oak, the 2010 Reserve de la Cave Malbec hits a beautiful air of perfumed, floral quality, that's as attractive for its brightness as it is for its balance and restraint. Throughout the mouth it manages to be luxuriantly silky within a definitively medium-full bodied framework, whilst its impact is best felt through an incredible depth of flavour. For all its depth and power, it's also harmonious and wonderfully controlled, as its youthful, concentrated dark berry fruits are drawn with outstanding persistence, focus and a valid gamey meatiness long into the mouth. To complete the picture, there's a damn sexy extract of tightly woven acids and beautifully disciplined, ultra-fine tannins, which coil together and work like a team. As a drinking wine, there's an awful lot of high points and absolutely nothing to bitch about.

ü+ The 2010 Reserve de la Cave Malbec contains the picture perfect composition of perfume, texture, depth and fine-grained structure which essentially no one else in Australia can achieve with the variety. It's an immaculate malbec. I wonder what the chances of Woodlands making 2 barrels are... Drink to 2024.
96 points

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $15-$21
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Yalumba's done a fine job of issuing an everyday drinking tempranillo of good standard (with some degree of anonymity), right when Australia needed one. It's interesting to note the Running With Bulls label now also includes a Wrattonbully tempranillo, in addition to the more commonplace, warmer climate Barossa version.

A sense of Barossan generosity adorns the 2010 Running With Bulls Tempranillo. It's augmented by a fragrant edge that casts my mind to a continental smallgoods shop; cured meat, black olive and cola nut, but these more exotic notes remain a mere side plate to its aromatic main course of cherries, blackberries and plums, all expressed with ripe regional character and sensitively used oak. Somewhat luscious and silky, its medium-medium/full bodied palate expresses cherry and plum fruits and appears to be definitively more regional than varietal. For those who choose to ignore this minor quibble, it actually drinks really well. It's smooth, brightly flavoured and flows along seamless curves, allowing its good length of juicy fruit to saturate the back palate underneath a balancing framework of approachable, ticklish tempranillo tannins.

ü The argument here, like many South Australian tempranillos, is just how varietal is this? Push that aside however, and you're left with a delicious, classically sumptuous and bright Barossa red that's perfect for immediate drinking (and good value too). I must say though, with tapas on the table, it'd be hard to pick this over the old world stuff. Sorry about that. Drink to 2016.
90 points


Iberico Jamon
Predominantly made in Spain, Iberico Jamon is an opulent cured ham produced primarily from the black Iberian pig. At $200/kg from Burnside Village, the 150 grams you're looking at here costs more than most bottles of Australian tempranillo, which admittedly, might not be an ideal match.

Monday, July 11, 2011


- Pyrenees, VIC
- $25-$27
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Like many others throughout Australia's south-east, Mount Avoca suffered a disastrous 2011 vintage, losing all but a small amount of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc to floods and rain. Fortunately for Mount Avoca, their current release 2009 reds are of a high enough standard to warrant tasty consolation.

Although beautiful to look at with its vivid crimson hues, the nose of Mount Avoca's 2009 Merlot isn't quite so vibrant, as it just seems a bit closed now and in need of more time to open up. What is there reflects dark plums and cherry fruits, with a soft, slightly toasty, spicy vanilla oak influence laying a calm aromatic blanket over its fruit. Its palate captures merlot's supple aspects well and like Mount Avoca's other 2009s, it displays a pleasing brightness of flavour up front, this time revealing clear cut cherries and chocolate notes transcending into something much grittier, more savoury and rustic to finish, with a dry, baked earth-like aftertaste. A prominent structure, particularly by Australian merlot standards, assertively wraps up the whole package. It's tight, sandy and conclusively drying, with more than a fair whack of grit providing masculine grunt as well as a certain edginess.

ü An interesting, physical Australian merlot with structure and suppleness, which probably requires a bit more time to come together and show its best. It may not be in the same league as Mount Avoca's delicious 2009 Shiraz (92pts) or the highly thought of Cabernet Sauvignon, but then again, how many Australian producers could honestly say their merlot is equal to their cabernet or shiraz? Drink 2014-2019.
90 points

Sunday, July 10, 2011


- Clare Valley/Coonawarra, SA
- $20-$35
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

Taylors continue to roll the dice against modern trends, by releasing a 'premium' wine range sold on blending the fruit of two different regions. I feel it's a practice where if it works, it works (I thought Hardys' award winning 2006 HRB D637 Shiraz was more than worthwhile by the way), but if it doesn't...

Combining 64% Clare Valley fruit with 36% Coonawarra, Taylors' 2009 Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon presents a softly fragrant nose with choc-mint and biscuity vanilla oak aromas leading the way, but underneath that, its dark fruit seems a bit thin and jammy, with a conserve-like expression of blackcurrants and cherries graced over by a warm note of menthol. Its palate sits quite plump and rich initially, pumping out a syrupy, tarry taste of solid blackcurrants coated in soft vanilla oak, but as it lengthens it thins out in a less than convincing manner, becoming notably lean, loose and disparate to finish. There's a slight undertone of baked/jammy fruit in the aftertaste, but the real surprise here is how passive its structure is, forcing me to consider Taylors' 2009 Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon as no more than a short term drinking prospect.

X An all too straight forward, unsophisticated and earlier drinking cabernet, which doesn't really warrant its $30 RRP tag. Drink to 2014.
87 points

Friday, July 8, 2011


- Kangaroo Island, SA
- $16-$21
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

One of the more interesting sangioveses in Australia at the moment belongs to French winemaker Jacques Lurton, a man who accompanied his love to Kangaroo Island (on honeymoon), then fell in love with Kangaroo Island. Jacques' innovative work with Kangaroo Island reds in particular, is generating much deserved interest in South Australia's remote and relatively unknown, cool-climate island region.

With funky, gamey aromas of tobacco leaf and herb, the 2008 Islander Sangiovese releases a pleasingly varietal perfume loaded with a strong and straight dark cherry fruit component and a lick of vanilla. The palate sits proudly in the light/medium-medium bodied weight range, with balance and directness being its keys. At first, it appears rather straight forward, but deeper inspection reveals a wine that twists and turns with ample character and control. Its bright cherry, almost kirsch-like flavour is distributed throughout the mouth by wonderfully vivid acids and tightening tannins, finishing with lingering sour-edged aspects enhanced by hints of cured meat and herb, as well as a lively tickle that goes on and on.

ü+ If it's a lighter bodied, long, refreshingly structured and food friendly red you seek; on the cheap, then you need look no further than the 2008 Islander Sangiovese. With experienced, enthusiastic men like Jacques Lurton around, you'd be hopping mad to ignore the promise offered by Kangaroo Island's wines. Drink to 2015.
91 points

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $20-$30
- Cork
- 12.5%alc

Alongside Tyrrell's and McWilliam's, the wines of Hardys would have to be some of the biggest show ponies around, as many flaunt their achievements like an old rich guy with a blonde bombshell. However, as much as I'd hate to admit it, most of the wines I've had with a complete gold necklace on the outside, turn out to be pretty good on the inside. Chalk one up for the show judges!

Starvedog Lane's sparkling isn't just something of an Adelaide Hills benchmark, it's also one of the best value vintage fizzers in Australia. The 2004 reinforces this point, with its crisp, lively nose combining character with clarity. There's a scent of white peach inside, joined by impressions of white bread, oyster shell and a slight richness, with a fine, high tone of ginger providing great appeal. Mineral complexity and an expansive effervescence highlight its pure, clean palate, which hits all the right spots along the way, imparting grapefruit and nashi pears for taste, tight citric acids for vibrant, stringy structure, and a persistent, steely dryness punctuated by mineral tones for lasting impression. Its flavour is notably clear, or lean even, but for a sparkling so cheap there's a lot going on in the mouth, and in every direction.

ü+ What a great pair this makes alongside Hardys' 2004 Oomoo Sparkling Shiraz (92pts). Both wines offer delicious immediate drinking, or the opportunity to grow further with a little more bottle age. Ed Carr, take a bow! Drink to 2014.
91 points

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


- Pyrenees, VIC
- $25-$27
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

The Dalwhinnies and Warrenmangs of the world may fly the flag admirably for high-end Pyrenees wine, but lately, I've been really impressed by a number of more modestly priced Pyrenees reds, from emerging brands such as Blue Pyrenees, Mitchell Harris and Mount Avoca. The last two names mentioned here share an important resource; the winemaking skills of one John Harris.

Mount Avoca's 2009 Shiraz may well contain some viognier, but v-weed sceptics needn't worry because it's disguised well. In fact, its aroma just beams sexy young shiraz appeal. It's bright, fruity and vividly ripened; showing classic Australian form, yet its proudest punch is pulled by a minty, regional whiff of eucalyptus, whilst a toasty side note of fragrant coffee/vanilla oak complements a drier, more savoury edge. The palate slides in with a fine assortment of medium-bodied, rich, silky flavours, all cleverly offset by a gritty acid/tannin balance, but its most pleasing feature may be the way its bright fruit fore-palate translates into lingering, savoury, earthen tones, spiced up by a dry touch of clove. For its price, the transition is something special. So is its ripeness, brightness, winemaking, balance, polish...

ü+ An incredible, delicious effort from a hot, trying vintage. Undoubtedly one of the bargains of the year thus far. Outstanding value. Drink to 2017.
92 points

Monday, July 4, 2011


Although I've recently vowed to significantly cut down my own coffee consumption, I've still enjoyed the modern approach to coffee promotion undertaken by a new cafe at Adelaide's old Reserve Bank site.
At the shop, coffee's sold proudly with an emphasis on region of origin, but what really grabs my attention is the detailed tasting (cupping) notes used to promote their 'coffee of the week', displayed to the public via sidewalk billboards. Every time I read one I feel more educated about coffee, without even having to drink the stuff!
In the Nyeri Tegu cupping note, I particularly like, and can relate to, the 'long hard candy dissolve in the finish' line (I wonder how sugar effects it though), but either I'm going to need more experience tasting coffee, or broaden my mind a bit, to pick up a 'punch bowl of currant, cranberry, cantaloupe, ripe cherry' in my coffee. Cantaloupe most notably. I am looking though!


- Eden Valley, SA
- $16-$23
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Around 3 years ago I fell in love with Yalumba's value packed 2007 Wild Ferment Chardonnay, awarding it 93 points and purchasing half a dozen, which quickly became one. Fast forward to the present day and as I'm drinking the last bottle, my appreciation hasn't changed one iota.

Golden yellow in colour, with classy, balanced aromas of almond meal, vanilla and cream bolstered by big, BIG yellow nectarines, Yalumba's 2007 Wild Ferment has seemingly flowered in the bottle, becoming richer, bolder, funkier and even sunnier. There's an additional undertone of white nougat too, complementing a nose which has clearly developed beautifully and bountifully over the short term. Its palate's glowingly flavoured, glossy, sumptuous and drinks with discerning ease, as its creamy yellow peach flavours are drawn down the palate to great effect by a powerful, savoury taste of nuts and a fluid undertone of vanilla. It's straight-up delicious and doesn't need to be described much more than that. If you have any, drink up!

ü+ You know those magical times when you pull a wine out of storage, crack it, drink it, absolutely adore it, then gloatingly think to yourself; 'wow, that was exactly when that should've been drunk.' Well, this was one of those times. Perfect. Drink now.
93 points

Saturday, July 2, 2011


- Yarra Valley, VIC
- $36-$42
- Cork (Diam)
- 13.0%alc

Spelling terrior backwards for your brand name might sound like a bit of a gimmick, but there's absolutely nothing foul about the intentions of Riorret Pinot Noir. Riorret is the brainchild of De Bortoli's Stephen Webber and Leanne De Bortoli, whose low intervention winemaking and single vineyard selections focus solely on promoting the special relationship between key Victorian sites and the pinot noir variety.

From a Healesville site planted in 1993 to the MV6 clone, the 2008 Abbey Vineyard reveals a nose of sweetly fruited, succulent and musky charm. Earthy suggestions of cherry kernel and dry spice pepper its bright cherry scents with a layer of savoury aromatics, expressing a pretty, sweet and savoury fruit profile bound by a relatively forward influence of raw cedar/vanilla oak. Elegant and unforced, its lightweight palate just glides in on entry, but it's driven assertively, deeper and wider by a beautifully varietal, genuinely sour-edged extract of refreshingly glossy, brisk acids and an ultra-fine sheet of velvety tannin. Within its structural outline resides a classically regional, savoury interplay of dark cherry and strawberry flavour, which may be a touch lean and clean at the moment, but it evolves tidily into lingering notes of clove and white pepper, providing a fine lasting impression throughout its bright acid wash.

ü Powered by a particularly slick acid structure, Riorret's Abbey Vineyard sits well away from De Bortoli's 2008 Yarra Valley pinot noirs, just as it should. I'll be watching the future of this label with keen interest, particularly as its asking price falls well within the reaches of normality. Drink 2013-2015.
92 points