Friday, September 30, 2011


- Coonawarra, SA
- $12-$21
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

What a delight to see Jacob's Creek issue their Reserve range shmick new labels clearly emblazoned by a region of origin. As an ever curious consumer, the more transparency with regional sourcing the better I say - I mean, I probably wouldn't have bought this wine under the old label.

Jacob's Creek's 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon smells like a joyous little dob of sweet Coonawarra simplicity in a glass. Think ripe black plums and raspberries risen by sweet notes of mint/menthol and a wafer-like expression of creamy vanilla oak to boot. Its nose is only marginally put off by a whiff of alcohol etching alongside its menthol, but unfortunately, its palate doesn't follow through on the fragrant promise. There's some winemaking polish on show in its initial push of creamy oak driven black/redcurrant flavour, but then it hits a bump in the movement, first by revealing a raw edge to its fruit, and then by finishing loose and fractionally thin with lingering nuances of both the baked and sweet 'n' sour kind. Structure doesn't help out either. To track this wine as a curve...

X It appears I was overly optimistic on this one. I had grand visions of a mini-St Hugo I did. But on drinking, those visions folded faster than Superman on laundry day*. Drink to 2014.
85 points


Those who hate the use of numbers when analysing wine will probably cringe at this, but I've been toying with this chart for a couple of months now. Previously, I've never seen fit to publish it, because too many times the analysis resembled a straight line with only minor deviations. Unfortunately for the good people at Jacob's Creek, their 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is the first wine I've encountered where the graph illustrates its point quite well. We're clearly shown how a wine can present so much initial promise, yet fall apart badly with deeper inspection. In a visual way, it sums the wine up nicely I think.

I actually sampled this wine not that long ago, towards the end of an all night binge of drinking Coonawarra reds, and was enamoured (enough for a Jacob's Creek Reserve wine anyway), which is why I bought one. Clearly, in a drunken haze, I was attracted to it more by its packaging and aroma then I was by its palate (of which, mine was probably shot by that point of the night).

As for the chart, I've purposely chosen 'packaging' instead of 'appearance' or 'colour', because I find I get more of a sensory thrill from a wine's label than I do its physical appearance (although I do fall for a sexy, unfiltered pinot...). Additionally, I've messed around with the idea of changing it from a score of 0-10 along the y-axis to a score more relative to the 100 point scale, e.g. 85-95 or something like that. It might be more comparable.

But be warned, this chart may return! So if anyone has any hints/tips/ideas on how it could be improved, I'd be MOST appreciative. To say it's in its infancy would be an understatement - I don't even know how to use it yet!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011


- Coal River Valley, TAS
- $85
- Cork
- 13.0%alc

Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon is a highly desired Australian wine, defined as much by its mystery as it is by its greatness. The legend of Swiss-born Peter Althaus crafting a cabernet of Bordeaux-like quality, from a part of the world where only the brave persevere with the style, is one of Australia's greatest wine tales.

Rather loose and unsettled at first and in dire need of a serious decant (5+ hours might do it!), Domaine A's 2005 takes an age to compose itself, but when it does, it reveals an immensely deep, alluring fragrance, which manages to balance contradictory scents from both the meaty/leathery and leafy/herbal spectrums. Any indication of 2+ years in new French oak is held well in check, as its nose is best described as autumnal, with murky suggestions of damp, earthy soils and brown leaf litter interspersed by brighter notes of blackcurrants, pepper berries and menthol. The longer it stays in the glass, the more hints of cigar-box, chocolate and spice begin to emerge. Eventually it finds its way into my mouth, where it unfolds a majestic display of black, briary berry flavours gripped by a first-rate tannin structure whose focus and persistence are exquisite. It becomes impressively dry and savoury towards the finish, flaunting a long and layered assortment of cedar, cigar-box and granulated coffee notes that do share space with an edge of aniseed. Unsurprisingly, for a wine of its magnitude, it's completely apparent that its best days are yet to come.

ü+ Patience reveals Domaine A's 2005 to be a beautifully deep, aromatic cabernet blend with the length, complexity and structure to rival Australia's very best. In all respects, it's a seriously confronting wine. Drink 2015-2025.
96 points

Monday, September 19, 2011


- Coal River Valley, TAS
- $58-$65
- Cork
- 14.0%alc

If there's one Australian sauvignon blanc that makes the rest of the field look rather modest by comparison, then it's Domaine A's Lady A. Check 3 months battonage, around 12 months new French oak and already 3 years age for this current release, as well as a cork closure, a $60 retail tag and a potential cellaring life of 8-10 years according to the back label. Sounds like an Australian savvy with more ambition than Ayrton Senna in a go-kart? You bet!

I can't recall the last time I pulled a cork from an Australian sauvignon blanc but more importantly, I can't recall the last time I stuck my nose into such a wonderfully unique interpretation of the style. Riddled with a bright, intoxicating fragrance of sour-cream, gherkin relish (I did compare and yes, the relish is 26.9g sugar per 100g), limey minerals, fresh green grapes and granny smith apples, the 2008 Lady A's funk and complexity are without peer in this country, yet its composition is delivered with a strange balance and floral lift. The clarity and vibrancy of its palate are superb, as those idiosyncratic sour-cream and gherkin notes return to contribute taste to a creamy undercarriage, which underlines its vivid announcement of mineral-sparked green apples and kiwi fruit. The complexity achieved by marrying these contrasting characters is outstanding, as is the way its textural drive lasts well into the finish, with lingering white cheese/leesy notes matched well by an accompaniment of refreshing, minerally acids.

ü Mmmm. . . so hard to pin down such an ethereal wine. If you wanna know what $60 Australian sauvignon blanc does and perhaps should taste like, then invest your money here. The wise among us might even sit one aside for a couple of years. Definitively, the Lady A is about as close to the stereotype of a typical Australian savvy as Tasmania is to Pluto. Drink to 2016.
94 points

Sunday, September 18, 2011


- South Australia
- $12-$21
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Just taking an unusual look at two very different 2008 sauvignon blancs at the moment. One is your readily available, typical consumer style, exactly the type of wine experts tell us not to age. As for the other, well, we're just gonna have to wait till tomorrow for that...

Ooh, there's quite an interesting nose here. Jacob's Creek's 2008 Reserve is scented with limey/toasty notes (maybe an initial hint of kero as well?), not too dissimilar to a developing riesling, but happily, it still rises out of the glass with certain degrees of clarity and brightness, if not outstanding lift. Unfortunately, it all becomes less distinctive with time. Its palate looks a bit flat, lacking varietal intensity and definition more than anything else, which leaves its one-dimensional lime juice notes to be characterised by an all too simple expression of texture, flavour and structure. Having said that, its limey focus actually proves quite drinkable, surprisingly settled and completely inoffensive, in an ignore the wine and just talk to your mates kind of way.

O Ultimately simple in the mouth, yet not too bad really. I can see where this has fallen down, but I can also see it's disappearing down the back of my throat. I still wouldn't hang on to wines of this ilk though. Drink now.
86 points

Friday, September 16, 2011


- Clare Valley, SA
- $20-$25
- Screwcap
- 11.5%alc

Rieslingfreak is the brand of John Hughes, a man whose rise to prominence has been doubtlessly assisted by his appearance on Australia's most popular reality TV show. Fortunately for John, his dry Clare rieslings are of a good enough standard to withstand the potential flow of customers who make the transition from television set to bottle.

Moderately pure to sniff yet still marked by hints of tropical riesling fruit, this 2011 Clare riesling gets lifted out of the glass by a sharp, almost spiced-up scent of lemon/grapefruit, which really flies with straightness and precision, leaving a mineral accented aroma of melon and pineapples behind. There's a slightly unnerving taste of pineapple to the palate, but other than that, its concentrated texture, driving length and searing acidity work like a well drilled team. In fact, it tastes like a riesling that's been built much more seriously than its fun name suggests. The mouthfeel and movement of the wine are key. Its wet slate and lime juice flavours announce themselves as quite smooth and richly flavoured, in a pleasingly compact way that does become juicier with time, before it springs into action on a lively finish, decorated by vibrant, grapefruit-like acids and a note of tinned pineapple.

ü There is a slight sweet 'n' sour aspect here (pineapple-like), but looking at the texture, flow and structure of this wine, John Hughes clearly has a knack for dry Clare riesling. Reality TV show appearance or not, Rieslingfreak is a welcomed addition to the shelves of fine wine retailers in my opinion. Drink to 2018.
91 points

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


- Yarra Valley, VIC
- $56-$72
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

The Yarra Valley enjoyed a cracking vintage for chardonnay in 2005. Coldstream Hills' seamless, near perfect 2005 Reserve (96pts) provided a seasonal high point for me back in October 2007, but Yering Station's 2005 Reserve (95pts) wasn't too far behind. Ah, good times they were, and now, I'm reliving one of them.

With a glowing, radiant scent lifting off its pale-golden shades, Yering Station's 2005 Reserve conducts a hi-octane aromatic dance throughout the bowl of my biggest Burgundy glass, releasing yellow nectarine, grapefruit, creamed corn and buttered white toast/popcorn aromas. The line between fruit and oak has been considerably blurred, creating a complex unison of the two. When the time finally comes to drink down, it reveals a most supple, practically fragile texture, which although fractionally creamy, still mimics some elements of beautiful pinot noir, without any sign of excessive weight or richness. Perhaps equally as impressive is an ever present, electrifying zap of sherbety grapefruit/citric acids ensconcing its vibrant flavour, the latter of which resembles sweet yellow stonefruits bookended by minerals and sour cream. It's that understated harmony of complex texture, brightly lit flavour and glistening structure that makes this chardonnay something special. There's more good years ahead here. No doubt.

ü+ I could elaborate much further on this. Let's just say it's a wine that demands respect and, I'm really, really glad I have one left. Drink to 2015.
95 points


Chicken, broad bean and artichoke stew, with a simple mash accompaniment. Indeed, only a sick and twisted individual would use brussels sprouts purely for presentation purposes on a dish like this. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011


- Coonawarra, SA
- $20-$35
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

It interested me to see Wynns dub their new green label cabernet sauvignon 'The Siding'. According to a winery rep, too many consumers were referring to the wine as the green label, which, in Wynns' opinion, is a bad colour to be associating with cabernet sauvignon. On the basis of some 54 vintages, black seems a much better colour match for Coonawarra cabernet.

Perhaps showing more malty notes than I recall in recent vintages, Wynns' 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon nonetheless remains typical of the label's pedigree. It presents an evenly ripened yet well contained fragrance of blackcurrants which edge slightly towards red, boosted by aromas of licorice, toasty cedar/vanilla oak and a faint thread of dry leaf; no mint. The palate itself is just so Wynns. There's a genuine depth and richness to its pulsating core of medium-medium/full bodied regional berry flavours, which although silky to commence, quickly move into a much drier, dustier landscape, forged through the finish by smatterings of dry cedar and a particularly grainy extract of gritty tannins tightly checked by cutting acids. The final impression is very dry, savoury in a mineral way and most of all, physical.

ü+ Structurally, the 2009 is a notable step up from the 2008, but the overall consistency of this wine is incredible. Wynns must possess some sort of factory line for producing flawless Coonawarra cabernet, black-toothed Oompa-Loompas and all. Drink to 2027.
92 points


Wynns' famous 'Black Label' Cabernet Sauvignon actually wore a white label until 1965, the same year in which it went from being called Cabernet to Cabernet Sauvignon.

[Image courtesy of the book; Reflections: 50 Years of Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon]

Thursday, September 8, 2011


- Yarra Valley, VIC
- $60
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

Mac Forbes is an emerging name rightly associated with Australia's new wave of fanatical pinot noir producers. With no less than 6 individual Yarra Valley pinot noirs in his range, Mac's focus is squarely set on promoting distinguished sites within the Yarra Valley and realising the potential of each site's unique attributes. As I was feeling in need of something special today, I thought I'd splurge on the most expensive 2010 Mac Forbes Pinot Noir available, the Woori Yallock.

The Woori Yallock's name may be about as elegant as a bow-legged ballet dancer in desert boots, but its aroma is a thing of elegant bliss. It's bright yet seductively understated, with a wonderfully airy perfume of sweet, succulent cherries bonded by notes of stalk, fresh herbs, balanced spices and a lick of caramel, reflecting true Yarra elegance without a forceful impression of oak. Although lightly scented and a touch simple in its youth, it's in no way thin or dilute. The palate enters with the restrained, textural lightness of a genuinely polite pinot, before building expansively yet gracefully with intensifying meaty/cherry notes blessed by outstanding length of flavour. It reveals a finish whose wonderfully quaint tapestry of svelte, caramel tannins and slick acids glide throughout the mouth with precision, leaving a long lasting impression of utter brightness and ideal ripeness, marked by sour-edged aspects and dry touch of earth. Yep. . .

ü+ On first sip the 2010 Woori Yallock appears to be one of those pinots where less is more, but then it just grows and grows into the mouth until you're left thinking; 'Wow! Gimme some more!' Even then, I can still see this really flying in a couple of years time. Brilliant Yarra pinot. It's hit the spot nicely. Drink to 2018.
94 points

Monday, September 5, 2011



- McLaren Vale, SA
- $20 (375ml)
- Screwcap
- 12.3%alc

I've been relatively impressed by d'Arenberg's recent efforts with their dessert riesling. The cleverly named Noble Wrinkled now leans towards a very rich, luscious, genuinely botrytised style, which, if anything, makes me eager to see what d'Arenberg can come up with from the generally botrytis riddled 2011 vintage. I mean, even Jeffrey Grosset made a botrytis riesling this year!

Just like a good Australian stickie should, d'Arenberg's 2010 Noble Wrinkled Riesling glows aromatically, with genuine vitality and life. It hits big nectarine and spicy green melon scents right within its stylistic groove, flying into the nose with a sweet, fruity, confected fragrance punched out further by a hint of apricot marmalade on toast. Smooth and sweet, its palate delves lusciously into the mouth's depths, releasing a literal duck dive of melon and burnt caramel flavours defined by an unctuous quality and a notably sticky progression. Its finish is enlivened by a timely wash of orange/citric acids, which refresh the palate whilst leaving a lasting note of orange zest-like flavour behind.

ü+ Quite delicious and really ready to go now, d'Arenberg's 2010 Noble Wrinkled is an easy two glass dessert wine for me. Drink to 2016.
91 points

Saturday, September 3, 2011


- Pyrenees, VIC
- $29.95
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

It's always interesting to compare the work of one winemaker producing two closely priced renditions of one style for two different brands. Johnno Harris crafted a brightly fruited, delicious Pyrenees shiraz with his 2009 Mount Avoca release (92pts), which leads me to his similarly viognier influenced 2009 Mitchell Harris Shiraz (3% viognier here compared to 4.5% in the Mount Avoca).

Dark and ultra-ripe but not over-ripe, with a slight skinsy/dried apricot-like whiff of viognier, the 2009 Mitchell Harris opens to a fragrance dripping with black suggestions; plums, dates and bramble berries, perhaps tar and a sniff of white pepper, with a soft oak influence indicative of older barrels. Through the darkness roams a minor scent of dried leaf, but it's fleetingly apparent and far from defining, providing no more than a green edge to its black ball of fruit. The palate is marked by a gritty rawness, or hardness, clinging to its very dry finish, which upsets and dislodges its initially smooth and earthy movement of bright, medium-weighted forest berry flavours. With that in mind, its ideal setting might be at the dinner table for now, or possibly the cellar for later.

O For me, I much prefer the 2009 Mount Avoca Shiraz over this. It just seems a more complete, sensuous and subsequently delicious wine. But to confuse matters, here's a link to a beautifully articulated look at the two John Harris wines, from a seasoned blogger whose preference might just contradict mine. Drink 2014-2017.
89 points

Friday, September 2, 2011


- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $17-$25
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

There was a time when Petaluma's pastel yellow was principally set aside for the company's premier wines. Now, that famous shade seems to adorn almost all Petaluma products, from the previously white labelled viognier and shiraz, to the recently released earlier drinking Hundred Line cabernet, to the second label Bridgewater Mill wines. My question is, has Petaluma manufactured a better sense of unity across their range, at the expense of the high standing of their best wines?

There's a floral lift of white pepper rising alongside fragrant, nutty/chocolatey oak from within this 2009 Shiraz, which proves quite attractive. Its nose displays calmness without a big punch of ripe fruit, revealing a deeper, reserved aromatic layer of both red and black cherry scents for balance. The palate however, doesn't quite follow suit. Whilst reasonably lively throughout, it's a bit edgier and beset by a more 'roasted' blackcurrant/red cherry-like profile, with a simple announcement of texture and weight that is somewhat overawed by a rather hard-edged, mouthfilling wash of glossy acids and gritty tannin. Some of the elements of great shiraz are present, but they just don't quite gel together. More length of fruit, stuffing and a finer, tighter stitching would've gone a long way here.

O I can't help but think this is just an 'average' Australian shiraz. For around $20, I guess that's fair enough really. Drink to 2012-2016.
88 points

Thursday, September 1, 2011


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

I fear Taylors has lost a bit of focus lately. Personally, I'd love to see the brand concentrate more on creating high quality Clare Valley wines, the type which brought them to prominence in the first place, before this cross-regional blending thing (matched with heavily discounted prices) gets too out of hand. It's just one man's opinion.

The 12 months Taylors' 2009 Jaraman Shiraz spent in American oak (10% new) resonates throughout its aroma. It's lifted by a fragrant whiff of vanilla/mocha/coffee oak, which isn't without appeal, but it does slightly hinder a rather jammy/jube-like scent of raspberries and blueberries residing beneath. Interestingly, I also pick up a note of toasted marshmallow. Although reasonably smooth to touch (for the most part) and perfectly quaffable with simple red meat, pasta or pizza dishes, its palate is moved along by smooth, sweet oak, whilst still leaving a trail of warming aspects and an ill-defined fruit profile that takes on the guise of shiraz fruit compote drizzled over cooked red meat. Structurally it's quite straight forward too, but for a wine with a $30RRP, it's the all too simple flavour profile that really lets me down.

X I had a 'complimentary' bottle of De Bortoli's 2009 Willowglen Shiraz Cabernet at a Spanish restaurant last night, which I believe retails for around $5, and honestly, on the basis of enjoyment, I couldn't pick too much difference between that and this. Drink to 2015.
86 points


The label of Taylors' 1975 Clare Valley Hermitage, a champion of Australian wine shows in its day. In addition to the 3 gold and 4 silver medals mentioned here, Taylors' 1975 Hermitage also acquired one additional silver medal and 7 more bronze babies. For all its proudly flaunted achievements, notice the lack of 'bling' on the label here.

[Image courtesy of the book; 'Winemakers of the Clare Valley'. Published by Decalon, 1978.]