John Duval, the former chief winemaker for Penfolds, goes about his business with a minimum of fuss. That means the John Duval Wines range sometimes flies a little under the radar despite offering some of the best value from the Barossa. This, which can often be found at retail for $35, is a definite case in point; a beguiling blend of three varieties that traditionally shine in warmer climes; shiraz, grenache and mourvedre. Fourth-generation winemaker Duval has taken some quality fruit from old-vine, lower-yielding vineyards and crafted a wine that whispers its magic rather than shouts. The quality French oak plays a key support role in a delightful red of impeccable balance. $40. www.johnduvalwines.com.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Reliably good year after year, this is, quite simply, one of the best dry savoury rosés to be found in Australia. Made from 100% grenache fruit grown in the Barossa Valley, this has for several years been one of the style leaders as rosé transitioned from curiosity to mainstream. The back label tells the story: "Simply a light, crisp and beautifully aromatic wine that is best served chilled." Match it will anything from seared tuna to a Lebanese mezze platter. $21. www.turkeyflat.com.au.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
It is always nice to discover a new wine producer doing impressive things. Even better when those wines are moderately priced. Last year I was very impressed with a Fetherston pinot noir. From the new releases, I was grabbed by this elegant and seriously underpriced chardonnay made from fruit grown at Gruyere in the Yarra. Fetherston is the cool-climate project of Chris Lawrence and Camille Koll, who have widespread wine, food and hospitality experience. They say their aim to produce "wines of great finesse that capture the purity of each vineyard site". This is certainly a very clean and fresh chardonnay (from one of only 154 cases made). It is elegant, brisk and taut with just a hint of spicy new French oak. Food friendly, too. The Fetherston folk say it will cellar well. I say drink it now to enjoy all its subtleties and give it a cheerful 94/100. Put on a Jason Isbell album, grab some pork crackle and all will be well with the world. A warning: this Macon Villages taste-a-like may be hard to find, so head to the website.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
There is an unmistakeable Barossa-ness to this bold but unostentatious wine; it's a red that is comfortably self-assured. Made from Australia's favourite red grape, grown on near century-old vines in a stellar vineyard, this is helps sets the standard in the $40 price category. It's full-blooded but reminds one of a veteran boxer; all the power is used economically. Think plum and dark berry, black chocolate, subtle oak. History indicates that Filsell shirazes cellar well for up to two decades, so I'd buy a six pack. Enjoy a couple now with a juicy steak or rabbit casserole, and the rest between 2027 and 2037. $43. www.grantburgewines.com.au.
Monday, July 17, 2017
The news is all good from the 2017 vintage for lovers of fine, dry Australian rieslings. I've seen some excellent unfinished examples from the Barossa and Eden valleys as well a pair of high-acid, high-excitement Clare Valley wines from Jim Barry - which are among the first to hit the stores. I thoroughly enjoyed the more complex 2017 Jim Barry Lodge Hill ($25) but this is my pick for drinking young; a dashing, lively wine with lemon, lime and grapefruit notes to the fore with plenty of length and linear acid. Distressingly drinkable, I'd have a second bottle of this on hand just in case and pair it with flathead and chips or some green Thai chicken curry. $20. www.jimbarry.com.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
This is the new release of one of Australia's most complete wines; a Margaret River classic that offers quite spectacular value given the prices now being asked for other Australian icon reds. This is seriously worthy of 98/100 in a world of frequently overblown scores. There are a lot of big-name Bordeaux blends not in the same class as this; a single-vineyard blend of 87% cabernet sauvignon, 11% merlot, 1% malbec and 1% cabernet franc from another standout West Australian vintage. Think classic blackcurrant and violet notes, along with stoney minerality, leafy elements and dark chocolate nuances. Impeccably balanced with fine-grained tannins, this is beautiful now but will almost certainly develop over a decade or more. A work of vinous art that's worth taking out an overdraft for. $125. www.cullenwines.com.au
Monday, July 3, 2017
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Wow! This one really got my clogs cranking. This is the first release of the Terre à Terre Summertown Vineyard Reserve, which is made from tiny parcels of pinot noir planted in the Piccadilly Valley of the Adelaide Hills. The vineyard was originally intended to produce sparkling base material but three tiny parcels were identified as being ideal for table wines. With terroir similar to Burgundy is no surprise that Xavier and Lucy Bizot have produced a wine that has a very strong French accent. Six different clones are fermented in small one-tonne fermenters, with 10-20% whole bunch fruit. The wine is then aged for 6-9 months in French oak (50% new), and bottled without filtration. It is a tad chewy right now but has immense, whisper it slowly, Burgundian potential. 94 points. $40. www.terreaterre.com.au.
Monday, June 19, 2017
I am an unashamed fan of the wines imported from France, Italy and Spain by Fourth Wave Wines, who seem to have one of the best contact books around. This is a deliciously crisp and fresh wine under the Bertaine label; guys who have access to some terrific fruit in the Aude region of the Languedoc, between the Pyrenees and the Canal du Midi. This is made from 100% syrah (shiraz) grapes and is pale and aromatic, in the classic regional style, with some fresh raspberry fruit notes. There is plenty of refreshment here when served chilled - and terrific value at $19.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
There are very few red wines in Australia that can match this shiraz/grenache blend for reliability and affordability. How d'Arenberg manage to keep it priced at under $20 is a minor miracle. Made old-style (think pigeage and basket-pressing), this is a wine that just oozes with personality and drinkability. This was known as "Burgundy" until 1993 as a nod to its juicy, easy-drinking persona. Shiraz and grenache are both varieties that shine in McLaren Vale and the Osborn family has over 100 years of experience. The end result: sweet fruit, gentle fresh leather and excellent architecture. Ridiculous value. $18. www.darenberg.com.au
Monday, May 22, 2017
Oakridge chief winemaker David Bicknell is known as something of a style-setter in the Yarra Valley, producing cutting edge chardonnays and pinot noirs with remarkable regularity. One of Bicknell's vinous loves, however, is cool-climate cabernet sauvignon, which is enjoying a renaissance in the Yarra. The 864 is only produced in outstanding vintages and Bicknell says this is best he has ever made. Even give the hype that drives the wine industry, that is a statement to be taken seriously. New in the marketplace, this is a star. Made with "minimal intervention" it is is pretty and poised with time on skins and 15 months in quality oak barrels adding to its precocious appeal and forward cassis flavours. $78. www.oakridgewines.com.au.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
There is no end in sight for the remarkable rosé boom, which has seen wine lovers moving from regarding pink wines as inconsequential quaffers to serious food wines. Rosés, of course, are drier and more savoury than ever before and appealing to whole new demographic - no surprise given the value offered by this one from Jon Hesketh and Phil Lehmann. This is a clean, lean and fresh rosé that uses fruit sourced from several different regions of South Australia. Made from free-run juice from petit verdot and shiraz grapes, it has a fun label by artist Georgina Hart and is exceptionally good buying given its RRP is just $14. www.heskethwinecompany.com.au.
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Down The Lane is a new drink-now range of wines from De Bortoli with labels that pay homage to Melbourne's legendary laneway culture of pubs, clubs and eateries. This and the rosé are the standouts and offer excellent terrific value for those looking for well-priced, food friendly quaffing wines with bright acid and plenty if flavours. This blend of two Italian varieties (with a touch of vermentino added to make it a fun trio) is crisp and clean and quite dangerously easy to drink. It's worth buying a dozen to have around the house just because. This is unoaked, vegan-friendly and terrific for just $12. www.debortoli.com.au.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Most Australian wine drinkers equate Beaujolais with fresh and fruity Beajolais Nouveau, which was all the rage a couple of decades ago. Fortunately there is a whole lot more to Beaujolais than frivolous Nouveau - and the gamay grape is an absolutely stellar drink for Australian conditions. This one, imported by DiscoverVin, is a medium-bodied, textural French red made by one of Burgundy's star winemakers that is both fleshy and minerally, and extremely food friendly. If it's been a long while since you tried a Beaujolais, this would be a good choice to break your pleasure drought. It is very good value for $33. www.discovervin.com.au.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
TarraWarra winemaker Clare Halloran has no less than four cool-climate chardonnays in the current range. This is the entry level estate wine, with a few fewer bells and whistles than its more expensive siblings, but it stands alone as a delightfully elegant Yarra Valley chardy; more artist than artisan, estate-grown and hand-picked, it has clean lines with citrus zest notes, hints of roasted cashews, along with a crisp, clean finish. Tight and fresh, this is very food friendly, too. Think roast pork with crackling, chicken dishes or perhaps pan-fried John Dory. Great value from an excellent vintage for $28. www.tarrawarra.com.au.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Looking for a seriously delicious red blend for under $20? You won't go wrong with this blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, malbec and merlot from one of Langhorne's Creek's best wine producers. Sisters Rebecca and Lucy Wilson are very much in the groove over recent vintages producing reds, particularly, with real personality. Generously flavoured but tightly controlled, this is a perfect all-purpose red that is dark and full of flavour but also boasts some impressive structure. You could grab a bottle of this to pair with pizza and pasta, but it has the quality to also partner a classic Sunday family roast.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Late-ripening montepulciano is a red wine grape planted widely throughout central and southern Italy, where Coonawarra's di Giorgio family has its origins. This medium-bodied wine is all about the fruit; it is a perky little number with red fruit flavours to the fore and hints of fresh pepper. Plumpish and low in acid, it's a wine offering immediate enjoyment - and is extremely food friendly. I'd love some of this with a traditional thin-crust pizza; or maybe some penne boscaiola. There is a lot of everyday enjoyment here. $23. www.digiorgio.com.au.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Woodvale is the personal wine project of Kilikanoon winemaker Kevin Mitchell, one of the stars of the Clare Valley, and his wife Kathleen Bourne. They produce a very impressive range of wines, of which this is one of the standouts. It is a feisty blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvedre with bright sweet dark berry fruit and Asian spice flavours to the fore. As you'd expect, it is a wine that is beautifully poised; ready for immediate enjoyment but also cellar worthy for a decade or so. Well worth 93 points. $35. www.woodvalevintners.com.au.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
My wife is a very reliable guide to wine deliciousness. If she tastes a wine she really likes she'll sigh with appreciation and demand a re-pour within a very short time. This is a superb Tasmanian riesling about which she is right on target. It's a fresh, vibrant and dry cool-climate white that's full of refreshment and palate interest that would pair brilliantly with anything from Thai stir-fries to runny cheese (we tried it with both). A blend of fruit from the East Coast and the Tamar Valley, this is aromatically appealing with fresh citrus sorbet notes, a zingy acid backbone and general joie de vivre. Best of all it has a recommended retail price of just under a lobster. You won't find many better wines for the price. $20. www.devilscorner.com.au.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Brad Wehr gained notoriety for his funkily-labelled and easy-to-drink wines under the Wine by Brad label, but he's now spread his wings and sources fruit from regions outside West Australia, including some alternative varieties from the Riverland. This is a standout under his Amato Vino label made from the southern and central Italian grape montepulciano. This is medium-bodied, juicy, spicy and dangerously drinkable. Hand-harvested, 20% whole bunch, wild fermented, matured in French oak for 10 months, it is certified organic. Only 160 cases were made of this wine, but Amato Vino is certainly a label worth looking out for. $25. www.amatovino.com.au.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Year after year, the Pike family produce a great-value riesling that is one of the benchmarks for the Clare Valley, the region that is riesling heartland in Australia. This is the 32nd release of this wine and over that time it has barely skipped a beat. This is from an excellent vintage and is drinking impressively in its youth with fresh citrus aromas and flavours, crisp acid and length that suggests it could cellar for a decade or more. I’d enjoy it now - and did.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Here's something deliciously different to enjoy during the dying days of summer: an Australian take on a classic sparkling wine style from Piedmont in northern Italy. Low in alcohol at 9.5%, this is a fresh and vibrant alternative to moscato, made by Soumah Wines in the Yarra Valley. My wife described it as a "cheerful wine that was like a dip in the surf on a hot day". Brachetto is a variety that has strawberry and musky characters.This is made in a "frizzante" style with soft bubbles and vibrant red fruit notes, along with astutely judged sweetness. Try a glass after work. $25. www.soumah.com.au.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Here we go again. I invariably have at least one or two wines under the 1er Yarra Valley, Hoddles Creek or Wickhams Road labels awaiting a review slot. All three labels belong to the d'Anna family in the Yarra Valley are bywords for both quality and value. This is, I believe, the best sub-$20 cool-climate pinot noir in the country; fruit-driven and startlingly sessionable. Think dark fruit, 20% whole bunches in the ferment, 20 days on skins and a wine that has been bottled without filtration or fining. This is juicy and spicy with soft tannins and is ridiculously good for the price. $17-$20 depending on where you buy. www.hoddlescreekestate.com.au.
Monday, January 30, 2017
There are precious few chardonnays of this quality that can be found for under $15 a bottle, but Peter Logan and his team have hit the quality/price bullseye with this very fresh, very clean offering. This is a blend of fruit from cool-climate Orange and warmer Mudgee from a very good vintage and has a melange of citrus and subtle stone fruit flavours along with cashew nut hints and some briskish acid on the finish. Wild years ferment and eight months on lees added complexity but the style is still very much fruit forward. Nicely balanced at 13% alcohol; a good match for fish, pork and chicken dishes. Excellent midweek drinking. $13. www.loganwines.com.au.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Looking for something just a little bit different to sip and savour? You won't find a wine much more exotic than this lighter-style red made by two South Africans from an Austrian grape in the Adelaide Hills. A cross between St Laurent and Blaufranskisch, zweigelt is the most widely planted red grape variety in Austria, but rare in Australia. Here it has produced a zingy, zippy red in the style of Beaujolais Nouveau that is designed for early drinking pleasure and can be enjoyed chilled over summer. Low in alcohol, perfumed, with black cherry notes, this is extremely refreshing and more fun than mud wrestling. $33.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Vasse Felix winemaker Virginia Wilcock is in a fine vein of form with her chardonnays over recent vintages. If she were a tennis player she'd be one of the grand slam favourites. This has been released for several months and has settled into a real groove of excellence, even though it is in the lower tier of Vasse Felix chardonnays. It is just gorgeous right now with all its elements singing in perfect harmony. Citrus and spice on the nose lead to a palate with pristine lemon/lime and stone fruit notes along with zingy acid and crisp minerality. French oak adds interest and depth like a great bass guitarist adds to a rock anthem. Classic Margaret River character and length. I'll give this 94/100. Great value for $37. www.vassefelix.com.au.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
How good is this? Founded in 1840, Sandalford is one of Western Australia's oldest and largest privately owned wineries. It started life in the Swan Valley and is now one of the powerhouses in Margaret River, where it was one of the pioneers. This is a perfect summer wine; a blend of two grape varieties that are like yin and yang (or Eminem and Dido) in Margaret River. We tried this alongside several other WA blends and it was a clear winner with terrific zesty freshness. Lemon and lime notes and tropical fruit flavours co-exist joyously. It is crisp, dry, uncomplicated and perfect with or without food on a warm afternoon. Simply delicious and good value for $20-25. www.sandalford.com.