Saturday, December 31, 2011

Greywacke 2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

This is a ripping Marlborough sauvignon blanc with terrific complexity and intensity. If the name Grewacke is unfamiliar, it is the new label of former Cloudy Bay winemaker Kevin Judd, whose wines are always just a little bit more interesting. This recent release has already received high praise from Jancis Robinson, the high priestess of wine writing, who said she "can't remember a Marlboro SB impressing me more." That's well-deserved acclaim for a wine that is a melifluous assemblage of flavours, ranging from gentle fruit salad to assertive minerality and deliciously zesty, crunchy citrus acidity. A small portion of the fruit was fermented in old French oak barriques to add texture and interest to a beautifully poised wine - a vinous ballerina. $26.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Domaine Chandon 2008 Blanc de Blancs

This is a very classy sparkler and a perfect choice for New Year's Eve festivities; a classic méthode traditionnelle wine put together from fruit grown in cool-climate vineyards across the country, including the Yarra Valley, Strathbogie Ranges, Macedon, Adelaide Hills, King Valley and Tasmania. Made from 100 per cent chardonnay, this is a great choice for those who like their bubblies with finesse (it would almost certainly appeal to lovers of Billecart-Salmon). Lemon and citrus notes star in a beautifully vibrant young wine from a very good vintage that is floral and boasts zesty acidity on the finish. A delightful aperitif with terrific balance and structure.$40.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Geoff Merrill 2011 McLaren Vale Grenache Rosé

Geoff Merrill has been making wine for over three decades and sometimes his "out there" personality and knack for marketing serve to obsure the fact that he is also seriously talented in the winery. While Merrill is best known for his voluptuous, age-worthy reds, he shows a deft touch with this rosé, an excellent choice for summer drinking. It's a vibrant pink wine that hits all the right notes with lively cherry and raspberry characters on an attractive fruity palate. It has 14% alcohol but carries it well. Made from bush vine fruit, the wine also has some spicy/savoury notes and finishes long and dry with some cracking acidity. Chill, serve, enjoy. $20.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hesketh 2010 Perfect Stranger Krems Gruner Veltliner

The Austrian grape variety gruner veltliner is becoming increasingly popular in Australia with producers including Lark Hill, Hahndorf Hill and Stoney Rise all making excellent examples. This wine, however, is the real deal; a collaboration between Austrian winemaker Bert Salomon, whose family have been making wines in Kremstal since 1792, and Australian Jonathon Hesketh, a negociant who has an impressive range. I really enjoyed the spicy poached pear notes of this wine - and the delightful bright acidity. This new release is aromatic, dry, food-friendly and a great choice for summer drinking. It's also surprisingly affordable. $26.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Toscar 2009 Monastrell

Wow! I tasted this impressive Spanish import blind and mentally priced it at around $30+. It was a rather pleasant surprise, then, to find it actually sells for $15-16. Made by Salvador Poveda in the Alicante region from the grape we call mourvedre but the Spanish call monastrell, the fruit was dry grown and organically treated. The wine has delightful sweet/sour impact on the palate. It's quite a rich, savoury offering with serious tannin structure, but weighs in at just 13.5% alcohol. I enjoyed the combination of sweet dark cherry and black plum fruit with delicatessen and balsamic notes. Full of interest and with a real sense of place, it is imported by Marcus Kniel of Ce Soir Wines. Phone him on 0447 772 387. $16.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Eldridge Estate 2011 PTG

David Lloyd from Eldridge Estate on the Mornington Peninsula is passionate about both pinot noir and the Beaujolais grape gamay, so it makes total sense for him to have put together a 50-50 blend of the two red varieties to produce an Australian version of the Burgundy blend known as passetoutgrain. Lloyd is a wine technician, but this releaase is all about fun. Excuse me if I gush a little, but this is the perfect young red wine for summer. It's a fresh and lip-smackingly good wine that could stand a few minutes of chilling on a warm day. It's dominated by raspberry and red cherry characters with just a few spicy hints. More importantly, it is deliciously drinkable and delightfully food friendly. If this doesn't sell out sooner rather than later I will be extremely surprised. It's worth buying at least a case. $25.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bowen Estate 2009 Coonawarra Shiraz

The Bowen family are salt-of-the-earth country folk who produce only three wines each vintage; a cabernet sauvignon, a shiraz and chardonnay. Their labels are minimalist, they still use cork as a closure and their wines are reliably good – and excellent value. This wine, made by father and daughter team Doug and Emma Bowen, has 15 per cent alcohol but you wouldn’t know it, as while it is forceful it also is beautifully balanced with ripe, dark, juicy and sinuous fruit flavours knitted together with hints of spice and laidback cedary oak. It has some attractive savoury tannins and demands to be enjoyed with a dish like traditional roast lamb. $27.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bream Creek 2010 Late Picked Schonburger

Fred Peacock from Tasmanian vineyard Bream Creek (situated on the road to Port Arthur and overlooking Marion Bay and Maria Island) believes this may be the only dessert-style schonburger made anywhere in the world. His plantings - he also makes a dry version - were certainly the first in the southern hemisphere. It's a delightfully floral wine, with rose petal and Turkish Delight aromas leading on to a soft, delicate palate with those two characters again prominent. The sugar levels are kept in check by some bright acid, making this a thoroughly delicious wine. $26.

Shaw Vineyard Estate 2009 Premium Shiraz

There are some stunning shirazes emerging from the Canberra region; more elegant expressions that are full of interest without being overwhelming. This is a dark purple colour, with oodles of spicy black fruit/Christmas cake characters on the nose leading to ripe, dark berry and currant notes on the palate, which also boasts some intriguing Asian spice notes. It handles its 14.5% alcohol well and is one of those wines that doesn't demand constant attention. A lovely, soft red for everyday drinking pleasure. $22.

Cooks Lot 2011 Orange Sauvignon Blanc

Cooks Lot, the vinous creation of former Sydney chef Duncan Cook, is one of those Mudgee labels that sometimes flies under the radar, perhaps due to a lack of serious marketing budget. The wines have improved dramatically over the past couple of years and this is an outstandingly crisp and refreshing young sauvignon blanc, made from Orange fruit. It's a really floral and clean unoaked wine with gooseberry aromas and some delightful tang on the palate, which boasts grapefruit, passionfruit and nashi pear flavours. A lovely white for enjoying well chilled, in its youth. $20.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Clonakilla 2010 Shiraz Viognier

Tim Kirk at Murrumbateman, just outside Canberra, has created the benchmark for cool-climate shiraz/viognier blends. There’s fragrant perfume and lift from the viognier on the nose, but the complex palate has blackberry and plum flavours allied to white pepper and mocha. A gentle, complex, medium-bodied wine that evolves impressively in the glass. This is not a wine that jumps out at you, rather one that creeps up on you with its lithe muscularity. It's a beautifully constructed wine. $100.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pikes 2009 Luccio Sangiovese

Sometimes all I want is a savoury red wine that's easy to drink, goes well with food and doesn't cost a fortune. This wine from a reliably good family producer ticks all three of those boxes. Made from 100% sangiovese from the Clare Valley, this is a deliciously slurpable medium-bodied red that would be perfect with a wide range of Mediterranean dishes, from pizzas and pastas to prosciutto. Juicy and approachable but dry and earthy, it is a wine for enjoying with friends rather than one to be dissected and discussed. $18.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cullen 2009 Kevin John Chardonnay

If you are looking for Australia's best answer to grand cru Burgundy then you've come to the right place. Biodynamicist Vanya Cullen is crafting some sensational, and beautifully balanced, chardonnays that are pure, complex and full of interest. The fruit for the 2009 Kevin John, named in honour of her father, was picked at intervals over two weeks and at a range of baumés, resulting in added textural interest. Both the nose and palate offer a melange of citrus and stone fruit but there is also some crisp acidity, beautifully integrated oak and some flinty linearity. A truly great wine - and the fourth straight vintage in which I have regarded it worthy of a review. $105.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Grosset 2011 Off-Dry Watervale Riesling

The second release of riesling maestro Jeffrey Grosset's single vineyard off-dry riesling from the Clare Valley is a step up again from his impressive first vintage. It's a bright and lively wine that's characterised by vivacious lemon blossom and freshly cut lime notes on both the nose and palate, searing minerality and beautifully balanced acidity with the 16g/l of residual sugar adding interest rather than obvious sweetness. One for lovers of German/Austrian wines, or those who simply find young Clare rieslings too confronting, this is perfectly pitched and would be delightful with a Thai banquet. $34.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pertaringa 2009 Tannat

Tannat (the only palindromic grape variety with which I am familiar) is common in the south-west of France, in the foothills of the Pyrenees principally, where it is used as both a stand-alone variety and in red blends, and also in Uruguay, where it is the most common wine grape. McLaren Vale winery Pertaringa is excited about late-ripening tannat's potential in that warm region and this is certainly an impressive wine; a powerful, tannic offering (as is typical with tannat). It is deep purple in colour with ripe, dark berry fruit flavours and chocolate and earthy characters, toasty vanillin oak and fine-grained tannins. A wine of power and structure that will cellar well and would certainly benefit from decanting. $30.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Turkey Flat 2011 Rosé

I must admit I am a sucker for the rosé revolution; all these new-wave, food-friendly, dry rosés that are perfect lunchtime wines - and are pretty darn good with dinner too. This wine has been one of the flagbearers. A blend of grenache, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and dolcetto from the Barossa Valley, it is light, crisp and refreshing with a nice balance between red fruit characters and savoury nuances. You could take this on a picnic, pair it with a Lebanese banquet or simply qauff it on the porch on a warm evening. Viva la Revolucion! $$18.

Saint Albert 2009 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh

Another terrific late-picked wine from Producteurs Plaimont, one of the most consistent co-operatives in the south-west of France. An affordable alternative to the dessert wines of Sauterne, this is a blend of four south-western grapes; petit manseng, gros manseng, petit corbu and arrufiac from the Madiran region. You’ll find ripe citrus and tropical fruit salad notes on the nose, leading in to more ultra-ripe fruit on the palate, balanced by some delightfully fresh acidity. Complexity has been added by oak maturation and while this would be great with puddings, it would also work with pates and blue cheeses. $36 for 500ml.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Brokenwood 2009 Graveyard Shiraz

The price of the individual-vineyard Graveyard keeps rising - but what a serious wine you get for your money. Made from vines that are 40+ years old, this is a Hunter classic from an excllent vintage. It is a plush, savoury and spicy shiraz with great tannin structure that will doubtless cellar for decades if you have the willpower (and it is under screwcap to ensure it is not spoiled by cork taint as it reaches maturity). That said, it is drinking beautifully in its gangly teen years, its intense dark fruit beautifully in balance with the French oak. A stunner. $150.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Reillys 2010 Riesling

My normal preference is for vibrant young Clare Valley rieslings that leap out of the glass with their youthful vigour and zesty enthusiasm. This Watervale offering may be a year old but still has all that cheerleader charm. It's a wine with all the classic Clare attributes, lively citrus aromas with plenty of zingy lemon, lime, Ganny Smith and dry marmalade notes on the palate, along with some slatey notes and delightfully refreshing crisp acid on the finish. Great with pan-fried flathead fillets. $20.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kooyong 2010 Clonale Chardonnay

Kooyong and sister winery Port Phillip Estate were recently named as his wineries of the year by James Halliday - and there's no doubt the veteran guru still has his finger on the pulse; Sandro Mosele, the winemaker for both labels, is hitting the ball out of the park on a regular basis, as with this moderately (relatively) priced chardonnay that ticks all the boxes for quality (including being under screw cap). It's undergone bells and whistles winemaking with whole-bunch pressing, barrel fermentation in French oak (12% new), on lees maturation etc etc. But it doesn't taste like a wine that has been worked. Rather, it has lovely pure citrus fruit characters, minerality and the merest hints of nuttiness. An elegant wine for the price. $28.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Urlar 2009 Pinot Gris

I visited Angus Thomson at his Urlar vineyards at Gladstone, outside Martinborough, a couple of years back and remember being most impressed by the Scotsman's passion for his vines - and biodynamic principles as a means to quality. Urlar uses both organic and biodynamic methods and all future releases will be certified organic. Urlar, by the way, is a Gaelic word that means “The Earth”. The Urlar range; an appealing off-dry riesling, an impressively muscular pinot noir, a sauvignon blanc (of course) and this pinot gris, is now available in Australia through distributors Fine Wine Partners and is creating a bit of stir. I loved this wine; barrel-fermented to add complexity and texture but with pear and nectarine flavours leading the charge on the palate. There's plenty of mouthfeel and lots of length. Winemaker Guy McMaster, formerly of Escarpment, is on song and this is a new name worth checking out. $30.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Illuminati 2008 Ilico

A very quaffable Montepulciano d'Abruzzo for under $15? You'd be well advised to think there has to be a catch, but no, this is a great introduction to Italian wines at a very affordable price. Wth some nice plum/raspberry characters on the nose, this is a medium-bodied, food-friendly wine with plenty of length on the palate and savoury mushroom/delicatessen notes along with hints of black pepper. We paired ours with a dish of pasta, meatballs and parmesan cheese and it proved an excellent combination. Available at Dan Murphy's stores. $12.99.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Gundog Estate 2011 Wild Semillon

Gundog Estate is a small winery sourcing fruit from the Hunter Valley and Canberra regions that is owned by the parents of Wandin Valley winemaker Matt Burton, one of Hunter's rising stars. This is a terrific young Hunter semillon, low in alcohol at 12.5% and bursting with fresh, vibrant sweet young fruit. A portion of the blend was fermented using indigenous yeast while the juice remained on skins, in much the same way as red wine is made. The end result is a delightful sweet/sour character (with resultant pineapple/apricot/nutty flavours) allied to vibrant acidity and citrus notes. A semillon with the appeal of a fresh, young chardonnay. $30.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Yalumba 2007 The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon

Named after Sir Robert Menzies, Liberal politician and red wine enthusiast (I'd much rather be drinking The Keating, personally), and produced from fruit grown at Yalumba's Coonawarra outpost, The Menzies has emerged as one of the most consistently reliable cabernets to be found in Australia. Volume from this vintage is small as a result of devastating frosts in late 2006 but the quality is sensational with winemaker Peter Gambetta having crafted an exceptional wine from intensely flavoured but only moderately alcoholic fruit, using new French oak to add complexity and style. And this is, above all else, a supremely stylish wine with classic mint, cassis and chocolate notes along with great structure that will doubtless ensure it develops for a decade or more. $48.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Freycinet Vineyard 2009 Chardonnay

A classic cool-climate chardonnay made using traditional Burgundian techniques by Tasmanian wine's man-of-the-moment Claudio Radenti. An impressively complex wine, but very easy to drink, this has intense fruit flavours thanks to drought conditions and was matured for 10 months in French oak casks, most of them aged. The end result is a stunning chardonnay with bright stone fruit and fig characters along with hints of nuttiness and creaminess as a result of barrel ferment, lees stirring and malolactic fermentation. Taut, textural and very tempting. $32.

Mumm 1999 Cuvee R. Lalou Champagne

The 1999 release of Mumm's prestige cuvee lives up to the hype, although you need to be very heeled to afford the pleasure. You get what you pay for, however, and this is truly great Champagne. The wine pays tribute to Rene Lalou, who worked for Mumm for over half a century, and there is no doubt he would be proud of this wine. As you'd expect, there is wonderful pure fruit freshness, tremendous complexity, hints of brioche and biscuit, savoury notes, honey, white nougat and a lively mousse. A 50-50 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, its complexity does not detract from its drinkability. This is a very special bubbly for a special occasion. $360.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bella Riva 2010 Pinot Grigio Vermentino

Bella Riva is the new label from Leanne de Bortoli and Steve Webber, who are utilising mainly Italian grape varieties grown in Victoria's King Valley to produce easy-drinking, food-friendly wines for under $20. The red wine of the pair is 2009 blend of sangiovese and merlot that is soft, savoury, rustic and very gluggable. Here the addition of vermentino lifts the pinot grigio, resulting in an aromatic wine that has pear and lemon/lime notes, some nuttiness and great chalky acidity on the finish. An impressive debut - and I like the QR code that takes you direct to an informative video. $18.

Hoddles Creek Estate 2010 Chardonnay

If you are looking for value for money you've come to the right place. I reckon you'd struggle to find a better $20 chardonnay than this one from Franco d'Anna, whose Yarra Valley wines always seem under-priced to me. This one has length, finesse, sensible oak treatment and lovely balance. It is driven by stone fruit and grapefruit flavours and has a crisp acid finish. Thoroughly modern, thoroughly delicious - and it is just 13.2% alcohol, too. The label is minimalist, with no tasting notes or background info, and the website was being constructed when I checked. Not a problem. The wine quality speaks for itself. $20.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pressing Matters 2006 R139 Riesling

Greg Melick and his team at boutique Coal River Valley producer Pressing Matters make an impreessive array of rieslings with various levels of residual sugar. This is a beautifully developed wine that is indisputably sweet (139 grams per litre of sugar no less), but is not at all cloying and has some lovely crisp finishing acid. There are some intense citrus and floral aromas and marmalade/dried fruit flavours on the palate and the wine paired beautifullly with an old-fashioned steamed pudding. A perfect Tasmanian winter combination. $26 for 375mls.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bunkers 2010 Windmills Rosé

If you are looking for a wine that will bring back that summer feeling, you won't do much better than this bright, breezy and affordable rosé from the funky Bunkers stable in Margaret River, where wines are named after local surf breaks. Delicate and dangerously drinkable, if this were a pop band it would be Beach Boys - think great harmonies, sweet, high notes and unexpected complexity. Made from shiraz grapes, it's alive with fresh red cherry and ripe strawberry characters, along with hints of Asian spices. It's one for enjoying young and well chilled with Mediterranean or Middle Eastern dishes. And you can't argue about the price. $18.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Clemens Hill 2009 Pinot Noir

This is a Tasmanian wine from the Coal River Valley outside Hobart that has developed beautifully in recent months - an ugly duckling transformed into a beautiful swan. It was one of the stars of the recent Trans Tasman 7s tasting and is quite an elegant style of pinot with some distinguished fruit flavours and great tannin structure. It opens up in the glass, revealing dark cherries and spicy hints along with persistent dryness on the long finish. A really delightful drink and great value, too. $35.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Murray Street 2010 Semillon

The Murray Street winery in the Barossa Valley is far better known for its gutsy, masculine reds than the small amount of whites it produces, but this wine really stood out from the crowd; my initial note was that it was a "a ridiculously slurpable" wine - and the empty bottle confirmed that impression. Low in alcohol at 11.5% (like its Hunter cousins) this is a wine of purity and intensity that is quite dsiturbingly Hunter-like in style with bright citrus on the nose, lots of mouth-watering flavours and lashings of refreshing acidity. $20.

Monday, May 23, 2011

John Duval 2008 Eligo Shiraz

For almost 30 years, John Duval was the chief winemaker at Penfolds, producing some of Australia’s classiest reds. Now he’s out on his own and the wines remain exemplary while the price tags are considerably lower - if not exactly bargain basement. You get what you pay for, however, and this wine is all class. The name Eligo is from the Latin meaning “to pick” or “select” and Duval uses the best fruit he can source to make this age-worthy gem. Beautifully constructed, this is a complex, serious wine with layer upon layer of flavour and complexity. There is some powerful dark, concentrated fruit, but everything is perfectly balanced. $110.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coal Valley Vineyard 2010 Riesling

Tasmania and the Great Southern region of Western Australia are the two up-and-comers when you are looking for rieslings to challenge long-time champions the Clare and Eden valleys. This is a delightful wine from the Coal River Valley region outside Hobart made in a classic cool-climate riesling style with lime/lemon rind aromas, plenty of bright fresh citrus fruit and minerality on the palate and an impressive acid backbone. Delightfully zingy and refreshing, this is probably best enjoyed in its vivacious youth. $26.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Vasse Felix 2009 Cabernet Merlot

Vasse Felix winemaker Virginia Willcock is in a groove right now, crafting some very fine Margaret River wines. This is a great choice for anyone looking for a lip-smacking blend of cabernet, merlot and malbec that ticks all the boxes in terms of regionality and drinkability. There are impressive dark fruit flavours alongside well-integrated tannins, impressively subtle oak and plenty of length. One of those wines with both softness and complexity where the bottle is empty before you notice how much you are enjoying it. $25.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Penfolds 2006 Grange

The new release of Australia’s most famous wine is spectacularly good – 2006 is set to be regarded as one of the classic Granges. Made almost entirely from Barossa shiraz (with just a dash of Coonawarra cabernet) it is a beautifully integrated wine; tight-knit but compelling, restrained but promising so much. It has fine-grained tannins with plum, brambly fruits, tar and spice notes all starring, along with immense length and suppleness. Plush and poised; it is already brilliant but tantalises and teases as a cellaring prospect. A rich, beautifully layered wine that lives up to hype. $600.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lenton Brae 2008 Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon

I've seen several very good wines from Margaret River winery Lenton Brae over the past few years but this is a defining wine from winemaker Ed Tomlinson; quintessentialy varietal and regional. While 2007 was a great vintage, cooler 08 has been less highly regarded but this ticks all the quality boxes. Small portions of merlot and cabernet franc have been added to the blend, which has lashings of powerful fruit (think blackcurrant, chocolate and eucalpyt characters) and is drinking extremely well in its youth. The wine has spent 18 months in French oak but the wood is well integrated and it is impressively complex and structured. $55.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

De Bortoli Gulf Station 2010 Pinot Noir

If you are looking for a pinot noir with infinite complexity and the potential to cellar for decades or more, this is not the wine for you. If, however, you are seeking a fresh, lively young Yarra Valley red that offers immediate drinking pleasure at a sensible price, then you've come to the right place. This has dark cherry flavours to the fore, some earthy, mushroomy notes and quite assertive tannins. It is unmistakeably pinot - which is not something that can be said about many of its similarly-priced rivals. A wine for enjoying with friends and family, without fuss, and very good value for $20.

Thomas Wines 2009 Motel Block Shiraz

There are many who rate Andrew Thomas as the best winemaker in the Hunter Valley - and I wouldn't disagree. His semillons and shirazes are always top-notch. This is the first release of a new individual vineyard wine from a plot of old-vine grapes that Thomas had been eyeing off for over a decade. While not quite as elegant as the 09 Thomas "Kiss" Shiraz, this may well appeal to a broader constituency. Although bigger than many Hunter shirazes it has impressive structure and some in-your-face aromatic energy. It is a rich, powerful wine - a bit like a Hunter shiraz on steroids; muscular and intense but still unmistakeably varietal and regional. Only 350 dozen were made, so I suspect this may well be sold out before it is released to retail in May. Get on the mailing list. $50.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oakridge 2010 Over The Shoulder Chardonnay

Oakridge winemaker David Bicknell has been hitting home run after home run with his 2009 and 2010 whites. His 2009 chardonnays were of exceptional quality and this continues in the same vein; it has intense citrus flavours in the Chablis style, having been aged in stainless steel and older oak barrels. It is the purity and linearity that shines through with just a hint of creaminess on the end. The 2010 Estate Chardonnay, to be released in June, is also a stunner - tightly-knit and vibrant - but this is certain to sell out quickly because it is a ridiculously good wine for $20.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Louee 2010 Nullo Mountain Pinot Grigio

The fruit for the wines under this label is grown in the wilds of Nullo Mountain outside of Rylstone in Central Western New South Wales on a vineyard that sits at an altitude of 1100 metres above sea level and has a unique terroir. Louee winemaker David Lowe says he’s aiming to reproduce wines in the same style as rieslings from the 1970s; low in alcohol with fresh acidity and ageing potential. This may be a pinot grigio but it has the same clarity and natural acidity as many good rieslings and has been picked at just 11% alcohol. Quince and pear aromas and flavours dominate and the finish is decidely crisp and dry. Stunningly good. $25.

K1 by Geoff Hardy 2008 Chardonnay

I'm overwhelmed by the number of quality chardonnays that cross my desk each week. The new ABC rule should be "Always Buy Chardonnay" given the excellence across the board of recent vintages. Nonetheless, this Adelaide Hills wine stands out from the pack; a cool-climate wine of style and finesse with aromatic attributes leading onto a pure palate in which crispness and linearity are more evident than the French oak and malolactic fermentation. Fresh green apples and citrus are dominant aromas with savoury, brioche notes aiding and abetting the bright fruit and clean acid finish. $35.

Friday, March 11, 2011

1er Yarra Valley 2009 Chardonnay

A classic cool-climate chardonnay in the modern Australian style from winemaker Franco d'Anna of Hoddles Creek fame. The label suggests a homage to Burgundy and while this wine is determinedly Australian in many ways, it certainly has echoes of Chassagne-Montrachet, too. It's a modern wine with a complex but appealing bouquet leading to white stone-fruit and citrus notes, length, intensity and purity. Lively minerality leads the way on the palate with oak playing very much a support role. This is, quite simply, a delicious chardonnay with beautiful balance. If I'd have had a second bottle on hand I have no doubt I would have finished that as well. $35.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Elefante 2009 Tempranillo Shiraz

Spain (and neighboring Portugal for that matter) is producing some terrific wines that fly under the mainstream radar. This is a thoroughly modern red blend from the Castilla region with lots of smart, bright fruit and some impressive earthiness as well. It's a ripe, full-bodied wine that has some appealling berry flavours tempered by good tannin structure. The label is as bold as the contents of the bottle and what is amazing is the price: at $12.99 this puts a lot of domestic reds to shame.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Scarborough 2009 White Label Chardonnay

Cool-climate chardonnays from regions like Tasmania, the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula are all the rage but it pays to remember that chardonnay can shine just about anywhere - including the warm Hunter Valley. Winemaker Ian Scarborough has long had a Midas touch with the variety but he'll rarely have made a better wine than this one, which is more restrained in style than many of his offerings but still has plenty of fruit generosity. It's a complex wine with a lot to say; more Cate Blanchett than Cameron Diaz. There's a peachy/spicy bouquet, nectarine/stone-fruit flavours on the palate, compelling structure and impressive acid on the finish, which is surprisingly minerally and tangy given the fruit's provenance. A really lovely wine and excellent value. $30.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Robert Stein 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

This family-owned Mudgee winery has been kicking quite a few goals recently; their 2010 Reserve Riesling is also a ripper. Balance is the key to this dark, rich cabernet, which has the classic blackcurrant and chocolate characters, alongside spice and impressively integrated oak but weighs in at a sensible 13.5% alcohol while still having impressive length and persistence. A terrific wine for pairing with a classic lamb roast. $35.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Morning Sun 2008 Pinot Noir

I tasted this wine six months ago and was distinctly underwhelmed. I sampled it again at the recent Mornington International Pinot Noir Celebrations and loved it. It's pale, certainly, but it doesn't pay to be colourist with pinot and the way it has evolved is an object lesson in wine as a living organism, constantly changing. This was made by previous incumbent Owen Goodman, not current winemaker Michael Kyberd - and Kyberd admits he is pleasantly surprised at how the wine has developed into a pinot with real pinosity; it's quite light-bodied and delightfully perfumed with beautiful structure and length. Dark cherry and rhubarb characters are prominent along with tons of acid. A wine that will continue to develop over the next few years. $38.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Foster e Rocco 2010 Nuovo Unoaked Sangiovese

Former Lake House sommelier Adam Foster is proving a dab hand at the winemaking caper with a series of delightfully drinkable wines to his name (and that of fellow sommelier Lincoln Riley in this case). This deliciously different wine really took my fancy. It's a perfect choice for those who enjoy good reds but like to chill them a little - an unoaked sangiovese made from Heathcote fruit that has the typical bright sangiovese dark cherry fruit characters, plenty of earthiness and just a hint of sweetness on the palate. It's simple, rustic, relatively low in alcohol (12.8%) and food friendly. A lot like drinking grape juice - but a whole lot more fun. $30.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Heggies 2010 Riesling

There is no grape variety in Australia that offers better value for money than riesling; and few labels can match Heggies (and sibling Pewsey Vale) when it comes to quality. The fact this wine can sometimes be found for well under $20 is both a surprise and a blessing for drinkers. From the high country of the Eden Valley, this is a wine of finesse and balance that's a very pale straw colour. There are classic lime and grapefruit aromas with luscious lemon/lime zest on the palate, minerality, zingy finishing acid and great drinkability. A prince of a wine at a pauper's price.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Whicher Ridge 2010 Riesling

The Frankland River region of Western Australia is producing some wonderfully poised rieslings and while this is only the second release from Whicher Ridge, it is right up with best. It's a svelte, citrus-driven style with not an inch of extra meat on its bones. Lime, grapefruit and lemon peel aromas and flavours dominate on a wine that is more on the flinty, river pebbles, minerally side of the spectrum and has some lovely linearity and crisp, cleansing acidity along with admirable 12.5% alcohol. One of those wines where one bottle may not be enough, and two would fit the bill a whole lot better. Pair it with fresh grilled sardines. $28.