Saturday, December 24, 2011

ROCKFORD BLACK SHIRAZ 2010 disgorgement

- Barossa Valley, SA
- $50-$120
- Cork
- 13.5%alc

Joseph or Black Shiraz? My mind shudders at the thought of picking a favourite sparkling red. I love the Joseph for its ability to deliver an elegantly styled, complex combination of maturity and freshness upon release practically every year (although my first bottle of the Langton's assisted 2011 disgorgement left me decidedly underwhelmed - fingers crossed for the second bottle), but at its very best, especially with a few years under its belt, I feel Rockford's ultra-rare beast reigns supreme.

Rockford's 2010 disgorgement is an essential sparkling shiraz, depicting true harmony of its schizophrenic nature. Finding the aromatic middle ground between sweet, fruity and savoury, as well as fresh and complex, it boasts an alluring depth of menthol tinged plums, blackberries and blueberries, risen by savoury whiffs of tobacco and smoky mocha/chocolate oak, while smelling so quintessentially Rockford all the way. Its palate bares the smooth balance and beautifully controlled, richly ripened fruit of a top-flight Barossa shiraz, as it oozes a wonderfully seamless and concentrated composition of savoury edged plum and dark berry flavours, which become more complex and appealling towards its fine, fleshy finish of cherry cola and sour-edged meaty notes. A dry, powdery backbone of ultra-fine tannins holds everything in place firmly, effectively ticking the last box for sparkling red perfection. I'd ideally give it another 3-5 years, if that's even possible...

ü+ Pure hedonistic joy. A signal to the world flaunting the showmanship of old-school Australian pride. My sparkling red pendulum has definitively swung full tilt back to the Barossa. The king is back baby! The king is back!!! Drink to 2017.
96 points

Thursday, December 22, 2011


- King Valley, VIC
- $36-$47
- Cork
- 13.0%alc

Perhaps it's because of their commitment to an enormous and affordable range hallmarked by diversity, but Brown Brothers' reserve level Patricia wines don't seem to get the recognition they might otherwise receive. Of particular merit is the vintage dated Patricia sparkling, which must go pretty close to knocking on the door of Australia's top ten renditions of the genre.

Helloooo... alive, complex and smitten by a wicked whiff of dry crispbread overlying honey ice cream and almond biscotti notes, then further enlivened by a springy lift of sour raspberries and grapefruit, the 2005 Patricia shows plenty of development and plenty of style, with all the balancing freshness I desire. Through the mouth it's simultaneously creamy, supple and crackly - incredibly crackly actually - as it pops like pop rock candy all the way down its full length of creamy honey biscuit flavour. It's all strung in by stringy lemony acids, working the wine into a superbly balanced, long and dry finish that's firmly stamped by a bitter/savoury mineral twist and a lingering impression of true finesse. It's top shelf Aussie fizz and it's in top form, right now. Ever wished you were drinking a magnum?

ü+ Much like Hardys' spectacular 2000 Sir James Tumbarumba (95pts), Brown Brothers' 2005 Patricia goes a long way to prove Tasmania isn't the be all and end all of Australia's elite sparkling class. Beautiful. Drink to 2013.
94 points

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


- Margaret River, WA/Adelaide Hills, SA
- $18-$27
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

Blending 46% Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc with 54% from the Margaret River, Taylors' 2011 Jaraman combines fruit from an area well known for sav blanc with that from an area well known for its sem/sav blanc. I often wonder if bi-regional wines like this would be more likely to gain the interest of fans of both wine styles, or lose the interest of both? It's stretching the boundaries of relevance, but would a collaboration between André Rieu and Snoop Dogg appeal to fans of both the waltz and hip hop?

Intensely grassy and vegetal and altogether reflecting the stronger hand of its Margaret River component, this 2011 savvy also reveals softer scents of poached pears and passionfruit, as it unloads a fragrance with enough intensity to cut through the open-air odours of summertime outdoor drinking. Nothing if not predictable, its pungently varietal palate presents tastes of passionfruit and lychee immersed in sweat, before finishing in a suitably clean yet uninspiring manner that typically (in a commercial sauvignon blanc sense) lacks great shape and structure, although it does culminate with nice notes of lemon rind and kiwi fruit.

O Clean and varietal yet entirely predictable. I would say this is one for sauvignon blanc devotees but at $24.95 RRP, there are innumerous cheaper options available. Drink to 2012.
88 points

Sunday, December 18, 2011


- McLaren Vale, SA
- $17-$25
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

A real sleeper within Australia's $20 reds class, Primo Estate's Il Briccone typically resembles a smoothly styled expression of ripe Australian shiraz, enlivened by an Italian inspired savoury twist. The 2010 sees a dominant shiraz component (with a good portion undoubtedly sourced from Primo's esteemed Angel Gully Vineyard at Clarendon) blended with 15% sangiovese, aged in older oak barrels for 14 months.

Really resonating out of the glass with dark aroma and colour, the 2010 Il Briccone packs a very ripe yet piercingly intense punch of spicy currants, dark plums and sour cherry, with trickles of melting chocolate bullets and tar providing an aromatic richness not too dissimilar to a stereotypical South Australian 'Reserve'; without the hefty oak, that is. Not for the first time, an Il Briccone palate startles me with its fullish, voluptuous body bursting with blackberries and sour dark plums, which move ever so smoothly into the mouth with a soft embrace of accessible tannin and slight, sour-edged acids. It's absolutely ready to roll and devoid of excessive hardness, although there is a very faint, savoury grit and curl towards the climax, most likely emanating from its sangiovese component. Other than that, it's straight up ripe and juicy, dark and delicious McLaren Vale shiraz of the early drinking variety.

ü At the darker end of the field, but still an ideal McLaren Vale quaff. I must ask though, has the standard price of a good Australian quaffer gone up recently? By about $5? It does taste that way... Drink to 2015.
90 points

Friday, December 16, 2011


- Lower Hunter Valley, NSW
- $36-$45
- Screwcap
- 10.7%alc

The Hunter Valley based Poole's Rock might've surprised a few people last year, when their Tasmanian pinot noir won Best Tasmanian Red Wine at the 2010 Royal Hobart International Wine Show. Fast forwarding to the present day, it's a balmy 32 degrees here in Adelaide, so the more traditional estate grown Poole's Rock Semillon seems a sound choice of drink. I love the moderate alcohol of these wines for such occasions.

Zingy, fresh and tight, with subtle, spicy flint aromas imparting a brisk edge to its lively lemon, pear and grass scents, the 2009 Poole's Rock delivers its very youthful Hunter nose with precision, balance and character. Initially, it's quite an upfront and juicy semillon, with shades of fresh grass and pear skin adding style to its clean core of mineral/citrus flavour, but its length of juicy fruit just loses a bit of momentum down the line. Its structure, however, doesn't, suggesting it could flesh out further with time. The high point is its chalky, lifting backbone of polished citric acids, which carry the wine with refreshing appeal, leaving a dusty note of chalk in the aftertaste. Give it time.

ü A very nice, structurally focused Hunter sem that like others of its ilk, should improve dramatically in the bottle. Drink 2015-2021.
92 points



Thursday, December 15, 2011


- Riverina, NSW
- $17.95
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

In this modern age of wine consumer consciousness and theoretical values, warm climate chardonnay must be an increasingly hard sell to the sophisticated drinker. Despite the proud standing of Westend's 3 Bridges label as a benchmark of what can be achieved in Australia's warm inland river regions, I can't actually see any indication of regional sourcing on the label here. 'Wine of Australia'.

Abound with powerful, nutty aromas resonating from its cashew-like oak, the 2009 3 Bridges Chardonnay is no shrinking violet, as it punches out further aromatic big tones of ultra-ripe melons and sweet nectarines smoothed out by a touch of butterscotch residing beneath. It precariously covers the bases of bold, sweet, fruity and savoury, but smells okay while doing it. Rich, creamy stonefruits roll out its relatively buxom palate, which does show a fraction more poise than the nose. Length is good and although it finishes flavoursome, it's a shade loose and fuzzy to conclude, with energetic, sweet chardonnay fruits depositing brightness and softness, if not really discipline, elegance or finesse. In context of its origins, however, it's actually very well produced and clearly over delivers, making it easy to see why the 3 Bridges label is respected as it is.

O Not a subtle chardonnay, but definitively creamy, round, bold and overtly varietal. Perhaps not my type of hot weather white though. Drink to 2013.
88 points

Monday, December 12, 2011


- McLaren Vale, SA
- $20-$32
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

Most likely due to its relationship with Richard Hamilton wines, the Coonawarra-based Leconfield draws its shiraz from McLaren Vale. You could argue that Leconfield should be sourcing their wines from closer to home, but on the basis of what's actually in and not behind the bottle, I have absolutely no problems with Leconfield's rather reliable and quite delicious McLaren Vale shiraz. It's interesting to note there's a small portion of Coonawarra shiraz in the 2010 added for its intensity.

Instantly recognisable and like running into an old friend on the street, the 2010 Leconfield Shiraz is buoyantly ripened, handsomely fruited and oaked; yet even, with juicy dark plum and melting chocolate scents rising through aromas of cherries, black licorice and smooth vanilla/cedar oak, in the openly accessible fashion that young McLaren Vale shiraz does so well. Its palate delivers what the nose promises, unfolding a smooth and silky mouthful of classically vibrant, sumptuous McLaren Vale shiraz fruit flavour ably moved along by an ever present undertone of melting chocolate. Its rich flavour permeates well into the finish, where it's greeted by a well ripened, initially concealed structure of glossy acids and velvety tannins, which grip and hold the wine right on cue without being detrimental to its voluptuous appeal. Length is good.

ü+ Once again, I'm left looking at another deliciously regional, classically medium-term McLaren Vale shiraz from Leconfield, and one that's certainly benefited from the nature of its season. It's great to see 'Australia's mid-palate' performing like this. Drink to 2020.
92 points

Sunday, December 11, 2011


- McLaren Vale, SA
- $25
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

A nature-lovin', preservative-questionin' friend of mine regularly quizzes me about wine and why sulphur dioxide is essential to its production. So, it was with his consistent inquisition and my own sense of curiosity, that I jumped at the chance to share a bottle of Battle of Bosworth's preservative-free Puritan Shiraz with him. I only wish I had thought of it last year, when the 2010 was around. Whatever the result, I feel good having purchased a wine from the organic shop for once.

Within the first hour, this SO2-free wine changes aroma like a woman changes outfit before a date. It's initially awkward, funky and unnervingly pongy, with a lingering scent I regret to describe as butt, but it quickly morphs into a more decipherable aroma of preserved fruits, with dates/prunes, dried apricots and boysenberry notes lifted by faint floral and musky edges, without the interference of oak. Relatively forward and smooth in a syrup-like fashion, its palate stains the mouth with dark and ripe, regional shiraz fruits and dirty, earthy undertones, but it could use more brightness, freshness and structural lift through the back section, while its length of fruit and overall impression fade off into a passive, sour/plummy conclusion. An optimist might see it as 'Joven' with a 'soft' finish, but others might just call it quaffing material.

O Despite my critique, I gotta applaud the guys at Battle of Bosworth. From a cold, wet vintage and without the use of SO2 or oak, they've managed to craft a shiraz of ample ripeness with enough freshness to make it more than slurpable. Novelty factor aside though, I must say it's not really my type of shiraz. I do wish I tried the 2010 first, but I'd still love to see more from this boundary-pushin' label in the future. Drink now.
85 points

Friday, December 9, 2011


- Henty, VIC
- $29-$39
- Screwcap
- 11.0%alc

Famed for its spectacular minerality, tight acid structure and unique terroir, Seppelt's Drumborg resides at the cutting edge of Australia's modern riesling class, taking the challenge right up to long term classics like Grosset's Polish Hill and Leo Buring's Leonay.

Almost colourless, with an icy impression of coolness that restricts its water-tight, stony scents of minerals, quartz, lime and jasmine flower, the 2011 Drumborg's nose does shy away in its infancy, but that's of little concern right now. Now then. An incredibly pure, unblemished minerality graces the palate's first movement, preceding a clean taste of freshly squeezed lime juice that emerges through the middle and after sections, before its mineral notes regroup to accompany its genuinely elegant, beautifully measured citrus elements into a very long, classy finish exuding bright, mouth-watering acids and subtle notes of nashi pear and lemon sherbet. Although impressionable and well built up, its structure reveals a surprisingly calm, seamlessly woven exterior, staying true to the wine's purity and elegance whilst steering well clear of anything unforced or aggressive. It's so pure, understated, youthful and practically virginal, with a sophisticated composition shining throughout. Think of a princess in high school...

ü+ From what must now be one of Australia's most important riesling sites, Seppelt continue to do wonders with the Drumborg. The 2011 carries on the label's fine pedigree, with a minerality, composition, texture and structure rare in Australian riesling. A bottle aged release from this vineyard might be a novel idea but in the meantime, just watch it grow, slowly. Drink to 2029.
95 points

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


- Clare Valley, SA
- $15-$22
- Screwcap
- 11.0%alc

A consistent overachiever and proud of it, Tim Adams Riesling personifies what the Clare Valley does best - stunningly dry riesling at a joke of a price. If you drink on a budget and haven't yet acquired the taste for dry Australian riesling, then it's about time you did.

Although unlikely to be a shock to drinkers of Clare riesling, aromas of lemons, apples and spice thrive in Tim Adams' 2011, all expressed with lightness, brightness, clarity and a polite balance. From first sip though, the palate takes centre stage, exuding positive reflections of region, variety and maker. Rich and mouth-filling, its zesty citrus and juicy apple flavours bare a dry and savoury, steely edge, yet the wine's most pleasing feature is a clearly defined, chiselled backbone of tight, chalky citric acids, which drill the mouth's upper reaches in the take-no-prisoners style Tim Adams fans must salivate over. Those chalky acids also impart taste through the finish, creating a mouth-watering aftertaste beset by notes of ultra-crisp green apple and lemon sherbet. It's salivating stuff from the 2011 vintage and oh-so Tim Adams.

ü+ There's a lot of new, more fashionable riesling labels bobbing up and down all over the place but Tim Adams continues to show how practiced expertise regularly pays off. The consistent quality of this overachieving wine over the last half dozen vintages is ridiculous. A real Australian riesling lovers special. Drink to 2023.
94 points

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


- Canberra District
- $26-$33
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

Summer's well and truly arrived in Adelaide, so it's about time I started seriously smashing down some new season's rieslings (responsibly smashing, of course). Over the next 3 nights I'll be looking at 3 of my very favourite Australian riesling labels - from 3 completely different states. The first model down the runway is a Canberra classic celebrating its 40th anniversary, from a maker that's probably better known for other things.

A little withdrawn and youthful yet rather stylish and blessed by a tight, steely minerality and a note of talcum powder, Clonakilla's 2011 blows a calm air of gentle, floral lavender scents over its cleanly restrained varietal fruits, which reflect white pear/apple flesh and lime pith. In a fashion typical of young riesling, its shapely, persistent palate actually contradicts its calm aromatics, by releasing a more sour-citric flavour profile empowered by its youthful intensity and brashness. It's long, racy and assertive, growing with a mouth-puckering sourness that does suggest some sweet 'n' sour aspects, but it's saved by an impressively long finish, drawn out by vivacious, lemony acids and a cascading flow of lime juice.

ü Perhaps moving away from some of Clonakilla's recent, chalkier offerings (which were probably more my style), the 2011 is a more sour-citric, yet varietally intense riesling, crafted well from a cool, wet season and set well for the cellar. Having said that, there certainly isn't anything wrong with cracking one now, especially if the mercury's creeping towards 100. Drink to 2021.
92 points