Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series 2012 Willowlake Vineyard Pinot Noir

This feminine, ethereal pinot noir was one of my favourites of the holiday season - how lucky we are in Australia to be able to buy such gloriously seductive wines without breaking the bank. Silky, supple, sensuous and serious; this is the vinous equivalent of sexy university professor. Great work from winemaker David Bicknell and his Oakridge team. It is one of a series of single vineyard pinots designed to illustrate different Yarra terroirs, but it stands alone as a beautiful drink. From the Gladysdale sub-region with red soils, it is pale red in colour and has substance to add to the satin with some earthy mushroom and truffle notes and delicate but emphatic structure. Just delightful. $38. www.oakridgewines.com.au

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Innocent Bystander 2014 Pinot Gris

Steve Flamsteed, chief winemaker at Giant Steps and Innocent Bystander in the Yarra Valley, is in a groove right now; producing wines across the spectrum from light and lively moscato to high-end individual vineyard chardonnays and pinots noir. This is certainly one of the best takes on pinot gris/grigio that I've seen this year; and it also offers cracking value for money. A blend of fruit from the Yarra and King valleys, this falls midway between gris and grigio stylistically. The fruit was hand-picked and whole bunch pressed with 50% going to stainless steel and the rest to mostly older French oak, which adds palate interest without impinging on the bright pear flavours. A fun drink for summer enjoyment. $20. www.innocentbystander.com.au

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Shaw+Smith 2013 Adelaide Hills Shiraz

Some Australian shirazes are absolute blockbusters; jam-packed with ripe fruit, new oak and high-octane alcohol levels, If you are looking for one of those wines then you've come to the wrong place. Instead, this a modern style of cooler-climate shiraz for mature palates, made by the very professional team at Shaw+Smith in the Adelaide Hills. It weighs in at 14% alcohol and is supple and stylish, polished and elegant with red fruit characters and pepper/spice characters to the fore rather than intrusive oak. The 2012 vintage of this was named best red wine in Australia at one of those international shows and this fleshy but beautifully structured wine is every bit as good. $44. www.shawandsmith.com.     

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lark Hill 2014 Riesling

The Lark Hill wines never fail to impress, and while I love their newer varieties like gruner veltliner and sangiovese, this is an old favourite that always shines. Riesling thrives in the Canberra hinterlands and the slow ripening 2014 vintage resulted in an aromatic wine of great intensity with benchmark lemon and lime citrus notes alongside apple and tangy mineral characters. This is a fresh, zesty wine for immediate enjoyment but history suggests it will also cellar well. All Lark Hill wines are farmed biodynamically. $35. www.larkwhillwine.com.au.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pauletts 2010 Polish Hill River Shiraz

Neil Paulett and his wife Alison started Paulett Wines in 1983 and now share the business with their son Matt and his wife Ali. The Paulett family may be better known for their fine Clare Valley rieslings than their red wines, but this new release stands out as one of the best buys of the summer; a mature, soft and approachable shiraz that is spicy and intense and tastes a lot more expensive than the modest asking price. This is a beautifully balanced red with oak playing an important support role. A really lovely drink for $24 that would be great with a gourmet barbecue. www.paulettwines.com.au.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cullen 2012 Kevin John Chardonnay

Vanya Cullen is as obsessive about quality as she is about sustainability. All the Cullen wines are certified biodynamic and carbon neutral and grown on a naturally powered estate. Grapes are harvested by hand on fruit and flower days according to the astrological calendar and there are no additions of yeast, acid or malolactic culture. None of which would matter a jot if the wines were not so very good. From yet another terrific vintage in Margaret River, this is a focused and pure chardonnay with lemon and lime citrus, nutty characters and subtle oak all combining seamlessly. A wine of length and intensity that can either be enjoyed now or cellared. A superb Christmas present for any vinophile. $105. www.cullenwines.com.au.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Brown Brothers 2008 125 Years Special Release Shiraz Mondeuse & Cabernet

This blend of two traditional varieties and the rare mondeuse noir grape variety that is grown primarily in the Savoie region of eastern France is long-time Brown Brothers favourite. The company has been making the blend since the 1950s.This is a special release at six years of age to mark the 125th birthday of the family-owned Victorian producers. The three varieties are co-fermented to produce an intense and cellar-worthy wine; with the shiraz responsible for sweet dark fruit notes, mondeuse adding acid and structure and cabernet contributing elegance. All three grapes are grown in the King Valley - just down the road from Brown Brothers' Milawa winery - and the end result is an inky,complex but very enjoyable wine. $80. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tolpuddle Vineyard 2013 Pinot Noir

The initial release 2012 Tolpuddle wines - the Tasmanian outpost of Shaw+Smith - were received with rapturous acclaim both in Australia and globally. The good news is the new release 2013s are, if anything, even better, with greater concentration and intensity. From a warmer year, both the single vineyard wines retain their pristine cool-climate characters but have added complexity, and ageing potential. This is an absolutely lovely wine, a thoroughbred with fragrance, structure, softness, sweetness, spice and perfect balance. Delightful. $75. www.tolpuddlevineyard.com  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Billy Button 2014 "The Versatile" Vermentino

Billy Button is the brand new label from talented former Boyntons Feathertop winemaker Jo Marsh, who is based in Victoria's chilly Alpine Valleys - with a cellar door in Bright. Her first releases have a definite Italian accent; vermentino, verduzzo and friulano, alongside a cracking riesling made using fruit sourced from the nearby King Valley. All rated 90+ with the vermentino and riesling my favourites, each scoring 94/100. This take on a Sardinian white grape variety that's taking Australia by storm is both lively and textural; dry and extremely food friendly. Well worth seeking out. By the way, Billy Buttons are the native daisies that you find on the mountain ranges over summer. $25. www.billybuttonwines.com.au

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Maxwell of McLaren Vale 2013 Four Roads Old Vine Grenache

It had been some time since I tasted the wines from Maxwell Wines in McLaren Vale, and the quality across the board came as something of a revelation. The wines are not short of flavour or structure but come with a deft touch, lacking the brute force of the some of their local siblings. I particularly enjoyed this premium grenache, which offers excellent value for money. There is bright jubey fruit intensity (think dark cherry and ripe raspberry) from 80+ year old vines, but also some earthiness and well-integrated French oak. There is plenty of length and depth here, but also immediate drinking appeal. Excellent buying for medium-term consumption. $24. www.maxwellwines.com.au.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pikes 2014 Traditionale Riesling

This is the 30th anniversary release of a Clare Valley icon - a wine that has been relentless in its excellence for many years. The Pikes make a classic Clare style; powdery and floral on the nose with Granny Smith apple notes; crisp, dry and refreshing on the palate with brisk citrus notes, bright acid and river pebble notes/zingy minerality. Lean and clean with just 11% alcohol, this is absolutely brilliant in its youth and can be a "go to" wine for summer enjoyment. A lot of experts will tell you to cellar this, but for me it is just too delicious in its youth to bother waiting for development. I'll give it 96 points.
$26. www.pikeswines.com.au.   

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Clonakilla 2013 Shiraz Viogner

Tim Kirk is one of the nicest men in the wine industry and, following in the footsteps of his father, Dr John Kirk, has pioneered the shiraz viognier blend in Australia. The wines have always been of outstanding quality, and eminently cellar worthy, but this would have to be one of the best over the past two decades. A blend of 95% shiraz co-fermented with 5% viognier it is gloriously fresh and vibrant with a fragrant nose leading to a palate that is like a ballet in your mouth; all subtle changes of direction, silky softness and fine tannins with an understated muscularity. From a very fine Canberra region vintage, this is a triumph and would make a wonderful present for anyone who loves wines of style and subtlety. 98 points if I scored. $110. www.clonakilla.com.au.            

Friday, September 19, 2014

Briar Ridge 2014 Early Harvest Semillon

I caught up with some of the cool kids from the Hunter Valley during the week; Andrew Thomas, Mike de Iullis and Gwyn Olsen, who is regarded as one of the region's brightest rising stars. Her Briar Ridge Dairy Hill Semillon is a cracker but this number - cheaper and simpler - grabbed my attention because of its simplicity and immediate appeal. Made from grapes harvested early (which means just after New Year in the Hunter), this has just 12% alcohol and is disarmingly zesty and racy with a long, line of lean, linear acidity. It may not be a wine for everyone, but if you are looking for a congenial companion for oysters or grilled seafood then this should definitely be on your radar. $22. www.briarridge.com.au.       

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Basalt 2014 Great Ocean Road Riesling

Basalt is a tiny biodynamic wine producer at Killarney, on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, 9km outside the historic and very pretty town of Port Fairy. On a windswept site, Shane Clancey grows riesling, pinot gris, pinot noir and tempranillo, sometimes supplementing his grapes with fruit sourced from inland Henty. I popped into Basalt's rustic and charming cellar door last week and was blown away by the range, but particularly this wine; a blend of Killarney and Drumborg fruit that is the essence of cool-climate riesling; vibrant with lime juice and grapefruit notes, searingly refreshing acid and green apple notes on the palate, which is bone dry. Fabulous drinking for $29. www.basaltwines.com.au.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

De Iuliis Wines 2014 Hunter Valley Semillon

Hunter Valley semillon is one of Australia's greatest - and most under-rated - wine styles. Semillon is the iconic wine of the region, zesty in its youth but a style that matures over decades into a honeyed wine with toasty/brioche notes. This new release is very much at the fresh and lively end of the spectrum with bright citrus characters, a zingy acid backbone and crunchy crispness on the palate. It's great on its own, or with seafood dishes, or maybe oysters. And the good news is this is one of the best buys around - ludicrously good value. With an RRP of just $18, you'd have to be crazy not to snap up a few bottles. www.dewines.com.au. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Majella 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

Great vintage? Tick. Reliably good vineyards in a renowned cabernet region? Tick. Respected family business with an excellent winemaker in Bruce Gregory? Tick. Yes, the Majella 2012 ticks all the boxes and it is no surprise it was one of the stars at the recent Coonawarra Roadshow. This is a classic Coonawarra cab; inky and intense with juicy blackberry and Christmas cake characters. Large format French oak has added structure and interest without intruding on the softness and immediate appeal of the quality fruit. This would be a brilliant each way bet in that it is already drinking beautifully but has the pedigree to suggest it will cellar for 15 years or more. $35. www.majellawines.com.au.   

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Patina 2008 Reserve Chardonnay

Gerard Naef is a transplanted Californian who is making some idiosyncratic and sometimes thrilling wines just outside Orange in Central Western New South Wales. This is a surprisingly youthful estate chardonnay for one at six years of age - and it still has some way to go. Give it some air to let the slightly stinky nose blow off and you have a real treat here with fleshy pear, peach and nectarine notes, beautifully integrated nutty oak and some citrusy lemon meringue hints on the finish. There is plenty of weight here despite the alcohol being only 11.9%. And there is still some nice acid on the finish, too. Who said Australian chardonnays do not cellar? I'd happily give this 96 points. $35. www.patinawines.com.au.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Peter Lehmann 2012 VSV 1885 Shiraz

There have been turbulent times at Peter Lehmann Wines in recent years with the deaths of both Peter and Doug Lehmann and the announcement that chief winemaker Andrew Wigan is to retire at the end of the year. Wigan will go out on a high, however, with this wine from the VSV (Very Special Vineyard) series a case in point. It is a wonderfully elegant example of Barossa Valley shiraz, sourced from the Schrapel family vineyard in Ebenezer that was planted in 1885. These gnarly old vines have produced an outstanding wine in this fabulous vintage; spicy, fruit-driven and beguiling. Brilliant in its youth but potentially long lived. $60. www.peterlehmannwines.com.    

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Helm 2004 Half Dry Riesling

Ken Helm has been at the forefront of Australian riesling production for four decades now and has gradually expanded his horizons beyond his home territory of Murrumbateman outside Canberra. His 2014 range includes his classic dry and half dry wines, alongside some excellent dry offerings from Tumbarumba and Orange. Made in the low-alcohol German halbtrocken style, this wine is designed for those who like a little sweetness to their rieslings - the residual sugar adding roundness with being intrusive. This has just 11.3% alcohol and would be perfect paired with some five-spice chicken and pork wontons in a savoury broth. Aromatic, citrusy and downright delicious. $26. www.helmwines.com.au.    

Saturday, August 2, 2014

St Hallett 2013 Old Vine Grenache

It's a mystery why grenache remains out of vogue when it can produce such deliciously drinkable wines as this little beauty from the Barossa Valley. This is made by talented Toby Barlow in the style of pinot noir; it's designed to be instantly slurpable, fresh and juicy and has proved a runaway success at the St Hallett cellar door, where it matches perfectly with the duck platters served up by chef Stuart Oldfield. Soft and pulpy with cranberry/raspberry notes, this just leaps out of the glass and is beautifully balanced with just 13.5% alcohol. A little ripper. $25. www.sthallett.com.au     

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard 2012 Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon

A very special first release from high-level Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyards in McLaren Vale; a great Australian vineyard now under new ownership. This vineyard has produced grapes for wines such as Penfolds Grange and Eileen Hardy and was sold two years ago to Jackson Family Wines of the United States. This is one of four impressive red wines released from the first vintage after the sale and it is an US-Australian combination of winemakers Chris Carpenter and Charlie Seppelt that has produced this stunning cabernet sauvignon - which I put firmly in the top 20 Australian cabernets on this evidence. It's a wine that shows McLaren Vale can match Margaret River and Coonawarra when it comes to cabernets with both flavour and finesse. A blend of 95% cabernet and 5% merlot, this is silky, elegant, flavoursome, polished, refined, and downright delicious. A rare gem. $75. www.hickinbothamwines.com 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Waywood Wines 2012 Quattro Vini

Talk about food-friendly! This medium-bodied wine might have been designed to accompany Mediterranean nibbles like a charcuterie plate or marinated olives. Andrew Wood, a winemaker without a vineyard, sources fruit from the McLaren Vale region with preference for making wines that offer something just a little bit different. This is a blend of montepulciano, sangiovese, cabernet and shiraz that offers immediate drinkability; an Australian wine with an Italian accent with bright fruit, savoury tannin structure, spice elements and a soft finish. Lovely stuff and immediately accessible. $25. www.waywoodwines.com. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Grosset 2014 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

This is absolutely delicious. Stonkingly crisp and refreshing - like having a mountain stream in your mouth. Grosset is best known for his premium rieslings and is probably the most consistent producer in Australia. His Gaia red blend is also pretty special, so this blend of Clare Valley semillon and Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc can sometimes get overlooked. Big mistake. This is just superb, the perfect choice for lovers of fresh, vibrant young whites. But there were only 85 cases made, so it might pay to be quick off the mark buying this one. $38. www.grosset.com.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

John Duval 2012 Plexus

John Duval was for many years the chief winemaker at Penfolds, crafting Grange, Bin 707 and other Australian wine icons. These days he has his own label and sources fruit from old vineyards in and around the Barossa Valley. This was the wine with which he kicked off his new enterprise a decade ago, a Rhone-style blend of shiraz, grenache and mourvedre. And boy is this new release a cracker. From one of the best vintages in living memory, it has both power and elegance and is approachable now while being cellar worthy. Fifteen months in French oak have added structure and texture to the blackberry and spice notes and the end result tastes like a wine that should command at least twice the price. $40. www.johnduvalwines.com. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Peter Lehmann H&V 2014 Verdejo

Verdejo (not to be confused with the Portuguese grape verdelho) is a white grape variety that has long been grown in the Rueda district of Spain. The grape originated in North Africa and was introduced to Spain in the 11th century. There have been very few verdejos in Australia to date, although Trentham Estate released a fine example in 2013. Verdejo thrives on sandy, well-drained soils and is grown by the Peter Lehmann group at Vine Vale. I believe the variety has a huge future here, much preferring it to other alternative white varieties like arneis and fiano. This is a stylish effort with tight structure, bright citrus and stone fruit notes and a very dry finish with some refreshing acid. A wine for enjoying well-chilled in its youth. $22. www.peterlehmannwines.com. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hewitson The Mother Vine 2012 Shiraz

Dean Hewitson can always be relied upon to produce wines full of interest and appeal - and this one has a great story behind it. The reason I'm recommending it, however, is its sheer drinkability. I taste tested it alongside several other very good shirazes, and this is the wine that accompanied our veal cutlets, and the bottle that ended up empty. It is made in tiny amounts from a "sélection clonale" from just one ancient shiraz vine planted in 1853. Back in 2008 Hewitson harvested the buds from the old vine and grafted them onto existing 25 year-old roots at Dorrien in the Barossa Valley. He now has a single vineyard, 0.8 hectares in size, all from the one mother vine. The fruit is matured for 20 months in new and seasoned French oak barriques and the end result is a wine of impeccable balance. $50. www.hewitson.com.au/

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Raidis Estate 2013 The Kid Riesling

If you are looking for top Australian riesling then the Clare and Eden valleys would be your first port of call, maybe followed by the Great Southern in Western Australia and Tasmania. Coonawarra would be a fair way down the list, but Wynns Coonawarra Estate has always produced a fine riesling and this is a very impressive offering from passionate young couple Steven and Emma Raidis, who are making some very good Coonawarra wines at reasonable prices. This is fresh and zesty, floral on the nose with stone fruit and citrus on the palate, varietal, and very food friendly, Chill it, pair with some pan-fried flathead fillets, and you will have a veritable feast on your hands. $20. www.raidis.com.au.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dawson & James 2011 Pinot Noir

This is just the second Tasmanian pinot noir release from wine industry veterans Peter Dawson and Tim James, who have well over 60 years of combined experience and source their fruit from the Ellis family's outstanding Meadowbank vineyard at Glenora in the Derwent Valley. Their project to produce fine Tasmanian wines won instant acclaim with the debut 2010 releases and this is an outstanding follow-up from a 2011 vintage on the Apple Isle that was nowhere near as problematic as on the mainland. This is a pinot for sipping and savouring; beautifully balanced thanks to judicious oak selection with bright fruit, complexity and depth of flavour, $58. www.dawssonjames.com.au.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Chateau Rollan de By 2008

The price of some the more prestigious Bordeauxs has put them beyond the reach of mortals with budgets; but there is still some great "claret" available to those without a black American Express card. This is a case in point, a very impressive Cru Bourgeois from the ever-growing stable of Jean Guyon, who also owns the renowned Chateau Greysac. This Medoc blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot is soft and understated without any hints of greenness. There are moccha and ripe fruit aromas while the medium-bodied palate is blessed with an appealing structure with dark blackcurrant and restrained oak to the fore. Perfumed and elegant, it was an excellent match for a beef casserole. I liked this a lot. $59. Imported by DiscoverVin www.discovervin.com.au

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kooyong Clonale 2013 Chardonnay

I am flabbergasted by the consistently quality of the wines Sandro Mosele makes for Kooyong. In blind tastings his wines regularly shine - standing out with their purity, pithiness and precision - so much so that it is often hard to find space to review all of the ones that impress. The Clonale is nominally an entry-level wine but this soars way above many other Australian chardonnays - and certainly most in a similar price bracket. Whole bunch pressed and barrel fermented in French oak (12% new), this has stone fruit and citrus vibrancy but with underlying concentration, nuttiness, flinty minerality, gentle creamy texture and brisk acidity. Very rarely nowadays do I manage to finish a whole bottle of wine. This was a worthy exception to that rule. $33. www.kooyongwines.com.au. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mount Horrocks 2012 Nero d'Avola

There are a lot of good judges who believe that Nero d'Avola, the major red grape from Sicily, is one of the new-wave varietals most likely to succeed in Australia. The grapes are late-ripening, thrive in warmer climes and produce flavoursome medium-bodied wines. This is the first Nero d'Avola released by Stephanie Toole at Mount Horrocks in the Clare Valley - and it is extremely impressive. From a single vineyard in Watervale, this certified-organic offering is made in a fruit-driven style, perfect for early drinking enjoyment. It's produced in tiny quantities (around 100 cases) and its bright and lively freshness would make it a perfect partner for a rustic dish of meatballs, spaghetti and Italian cheese. $35. www.mounthorrocks.com.

Friday, May 2, 2014

West Cape Howe 2011 Two Steps Shiraz

I'm a little late arriving at this party. This shone in a recent tasting of mid-priced shirazes (well 2011 was a very good vintage in Western Australia) and my wife pronounced it as being spectacularly good. It is certainly outstanding value for money. But unfortunately a certain Mr James Halliday reviewed it, gave it 97/100 and it is sold out at the winery, although there may still be some left in retail stores. If you find some, snap it up. Made from fruit grown in Mount Barker and Frankland River, it ticks all the boxes at the bigger end of the medium-bodied spectrum. Rich: tick. Spicy: tick. Savoury: tick. Delectably complex and decadently drinkable. $28. www.westcapehowewines.com.au.   

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hoddles Creek 2013 Chardonnay

Someone said on Twitter the other day that Hoddles Creek winemaker Franco d'Anna has "the Midas touch". There is no doubt that d'Anna is able to produce extraordinarily good wines from the Yarra Valley at ridiculously low prices. This is a stunning new-release chardonnay, a wine of impeccable balance that offers pristine fruit and plenty of palate interest. Made from cool-climate Upper Yarra fruit, it has an amalgam of grapefruit and stonefruit on the nose, plenty of length, good crisp acidity and slateyness on the finish and has sensible alcohol levels at 13.2%. I know I'll get slayed for saying this, but it is reminiscent of good Petit Chablis. An absolute bargain at $20. www.hoddlescreekestate.com.au 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Seppeltsfield Paramount Collection DP 64 Museum Reserve Tokay

Reach for the thesaurus. This is about as close to wine perfection as it gets. Rich, unctuous and concentrated; a classic Australian fortified. Collectors of fine and rare wines will be captivated by a new range of fortifieds released by Seppeltsfield that have been “held in secret” by generations of winemakers at the historic Barossa Valley cellars. The Paramount Collection, utilising reserve parcels dating back as far as 1922, features two Australian sherry styles (now known as aperas), a tokay and a muscat. The parcels used in these blends were put away by winemakers over the years and were not originally designed for sale but have now been hand-bottled in very limited quantities. This DP64 Tokay, made from muscadelle grapes, is a blend of many vintage years but maintains an average age of 32 years. It has amazing intensity with espresso coffee, dark chocolate, prune and rancio characters. So rich that one glass is enough. 99/100. $699 in a special display box. www.seppeltsfield.com.au. 


Friday, April 11, 2014

Alkoomi 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Here is one for those of you on a tight budget. I'm risking the wrath of the vinerati by selecting a sauvignon blanc as my wine of the week, but I favour pleasure over fashion when it comes to wine - and this is a decent drink at a very fair price. It's not a great wine by any means but it comes with a wallop of acidity, some bright tropical fruit flavours and refreshing crispness on the finish. I reckon if you gave this a good chill and paired it with flathead and chips you would feel very smug and self satisfied given it only costs $15. www.alkoomiwines.com.au.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ridgemill Estate 2013 Riesling

Last week was Queensland Wine Week and some of the local producers kindly sent me a few samples. This was one of the revelations from a selection of wines that offered plenty of interest and hints of a quality revolution on the Granite Belt. This is as good as any sub-$20 Australian riesling I've tasted recently and its novelty value - and value for money - make it well worth seeking out. It's as bright and fresh as a daisy with fresh cut flower and citrus notes on the nose followed by some by crisp citrus peel flavours, plenty of acid backbone and length. A delightfully balanced cool-climate style dry riesling, hand-picked and basket pressed, that weighs in at just 11% alcohol but has plenty of flavour and character. $18. www.ridgemillestate.com.   

Monday, March 31, 2014

TarraWarraEstate 2012 Yarra Valley Chardonnay

There is a smart new look for the estate wines from TarraWarra Estate, and while the prices of many leading Australian chardonnays are nudging upwards, this represents excellent value for money. Beautifully balanced, it shows the attention paid in the vineyard, where the grapes are hand-picked, and in the winery, where Clare Halloran is in excellent form. From a very good vintage this is a fruit-driven wine with qulaity oak hiding away behind the curtains. Think citrus and stone fruits notes, cleanliness and great drive. $25. www.tarrawarraestate.com.au.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Syrahmi 2010 Siren Shiraz

What a sexy beast of a wine this is; all class and sheen and poise. Former chef and sommelier Adam Foster has developed into a wonderfully intuitive minimal interventionist winemaker, unashamedly influenced by the great wines of the Rhone but, in this case, expressing the terroir of Heathcote. Seductive and voluptuous, but beautifully proportioned, this siren has plenty of plushness and flavour with a distinct plummy earthiness, but is also a model of restraint at 13% alcohol. Very enjoyable. $46. www.syrahmi.com.au     

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Xanadu 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

While many wine regions of Australia struggled to produce quality fruit in a problematic 2011 vintage, Margaret River was once again blessed by near-perfect conditions. With Xanadu winemaker Glenn Goodall very much at the top of his game it is no surprise that this is a standout for both quality and value. It was matured for 14 months in French oak (including 40% new barriques) before the blend was assembled, and returned to older French barriques for a further two months of maturation prior to bottling. Cassis and blackberry fruit flavours are to the fore here, along with great structure and integrated oak. A serious wine, but a lot of fun to drink. $38. www.xanaduwines.com  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ben Haines 2012 Flute d'Amour Rosé

Talented young winemaker Ben Haines, formerly of Mitchelton but now out on his own, started making wines in the south of France in 2010, using fruit from biodynamically farmed La Verriere vineyard in the mountainous Ventoux region of Provence. This is a bone dry rosé made from grenache and syrah grapes, although there are hints of fruit sweetness. It is pale pink in colour, wonderfully savoury - with some flinty, pebbly notes - and deliciously drinkable. More French wines are to follow from Haines, including a Rhone red. $36. www.benhaineswine.com

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Penfolds 2011 Yattarna Chardonnay

You'll have to wait until May 1 to buy some of this; but if you are a Yattarna buyer I'd put in an order now to make sure you don't miss out. It's a classic cool-climate chardonnay made in a style Penfolds' white winemaker Kim Schroeter describes as "a tight, linear and restrained".   Penfolds' white wine flagship is once again made almost entirely of Tasmanian fruit (96 per cent with 4 per cent from the Adelaide Hills) and is a seamless, stylish, structured wine that reflects the quality of the cool-climate fruit used. It is pure, tight and textural (aided by lees stirring) and the fruit from a great chardonnay vintage in Tasmania has soaked up the 64 % new oak. The end result is flinty, chalky wine of great finesse. This has power and length and must be among the best Penfolds chardonnays of all time. $150.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Swinging Bridge 2012 Mrs Payten Chardonnay

There are many regions of Australia now producing outstanding chardonnays: Tasmania, Tumbarumba, the Yarra, Mornington Peninsula and Adelaide Hills are all excellent sources - and Orange also has to be taken into consideration on the evidence of this outstanding single-vineyard wine made from fruit grown in the high country Balmoral vineyard. There's plenty of varietal chardonnay flavour here but also some real finesse. It's a bit like a vinous Billy Slater, impressively brisk with stone fruit and citrus notes, flinty mineralityy, judicious oak treatment and cool-climate racy acidity. I liked it a lot; my wife liked it even more. So we argued about who had the last glass! $32. www.swingingbridge.com.au. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jed Wines 2012 Malbec

Jed Wines are created by three young Australian who venture to the Argentina each year to make a range of wines in the Uco Valley. The fruit is grown in the foothills of the Andes, giving the wines an undoubted exotic appeal but what I like most about this is its balance and downright dangerous drinkability factor. This is a delightful cooler-climate malbec, soft and supple with bright red berry and cherry characters and well integrated oak. This is medium-bodied, a lot of fun and the perfect partner for a steak. If I was scoring I'd give it a 94. The Jed team also imports a range of Argentine wines into Australia with the standouts including the Colomé 2011 Estate Malbec ($50) and Tahuan Siesta En El Tahuantinsuyu 2011 Bonarda ($30). A range well worth checking out. $25. www.jedwines.com. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Helm 2013 Classic Dry Riesling

There are now four rieslings in the Helm portfolio, three of them using fruit from the Murrumbateman region outside Canberra and a new arrival using Tumbarumba fruit, which I was going to review until I tasted this thrilling number. Ken Helm has been making rieslings for over three decades now and has not only put the Canberra region on the map for the variety but is producing better wines each year. This is crisp, precise and linear with great acid structure and mouth-watering citrus notes on the palate. $30. www.helmwines.com.au.   

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chateau de Fesles La Chapelle Vieilles Vignes Cabenet Franc

A wine of beautiful balance, and impeccable poise, much like a thoroughbred racehorse, this delightful lean to medium-bodied red underlines just how under-rated cabernet franc is as a stand-alone grape variety. This is made in limited quantities by a Loire Valley producer better known for sweeter-style chenin blancs. The grapes are grown in the district of Thouarcé in the Anjou region and the wine has just 13% alcohol but beautiful bright, crunchy red berry fruit and intensity. This would be a super match with charcuterie or maybe enjoyed with roast spatchcock. Great value at $28. Imported by www.francaboutwine.com    

Monday, January 27, 2014

Lock & Key 2012 Tumbarumba Chardonnay

A very modern, thoroughly delicious cool-climate chardonnay at a down-to-earth price. Lock & Key is the entry-level range for vigneron Jason Brown's Moppity operation outside of Young in New South Wales and the fruit for this wine is sourced from from Coppabella vineyard in ultra-cool Tumbarumba. The wine is made in an elegant, fruit-dominated style with peach and pear notes to the fore. Oak merely plays a small support role and there is plenty of racy acidity on the finish. The more delicate, minerally, Moppity Tumbarumba Chardonnay ($25-30) from the same vintage is more citrusy and elegant, but you can't go past this wine for everyday drinkablity and value. $17-20.  www.moppity.com

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hither & Yon 2012 Shiraz Cabernet

The classic Australian combination of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, varieties that are rarely blended elsewhere, in a big, bold but approachable McLaren Vale red that tips the scales at 14.8% alcohol but has the oak subtlety of a fast-punching middleweight. From 2012, a cracking vintage in the Vale (and other regions of South Australia) it is dark and slightly brooding but with fresh dark fruit notes that lift it above the pack. This not only tastes great, it also looks good. I love the colour-coded candy stripe labels that make Hither & Yon (a family-owned boutique producer) stand out from the crowd. $25. www.hitherandyon.com.au

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Yelland & Papps 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

The guys at Yelland & Papps, a small family winery in the Barossa, do a lot of things well. Their wines invariably offer terrific value and they have a range that features both the usual suspects and vareties like vermentino, dolcetto and lagrein. And while many Barossa wine families date back generations, Susan Yelland and Michael Papps are relative newcomers - but newcomers with a plan. Visit their delightfully rustic cellar door if you get a chance, and enjoy their quirky labels. I particularly liked this new-release cabernet made from organically grown fruit. It has spent 17 months in new French oak and is purple in colour, bold in demeanor with classic cassis, savoury and spice notes but also beautifully balanced with fine tannins. You'd struggle to do better for the price. $20. www.yellandandpapps.com

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Matchbox Wine Co. 2013 Malbec

Malbec is a much under-rated grape variety in Australia, where it is often blended away unacknowledged and unappreciated. In Argentina and Chile, in contrast, it is much respected. This wine, made in the Joven, or "drink young" style by Nav Singh, uses fruit sourced from the Clare Valley and is the ultimate juicy drink-now red . With a nose of wild flowers leading on to a palate that has both intense spice and ripe berry flavours, it is deep purple in colour, soft and enticing - a vinous Lolita that is extremely food friendly. It was hand-picked, matured in older French oak puncheons and basket pressed and carries just 13.5% alcohol, a welcome respite in these days of blunderbuss reds. Just lovely and great drinking for $30. www.matchboxwine.com