Saturday, December 31, 2016

Pierre Brevin 2015 Selection Rosé

The rosé revolution is well and truly in full swing this summer; with more wine lovers opting to enjoy well-chilled pale pink and savoury dry rosé wines. On Christmas Eve we had around 50 people around for a drink or two before our local village parade. Rosés, both French and Australian, proved extremely popular but this Loire Valley wine was the almost unanimous favourite and I quickly had people coming back for refills. That was quite remarkable because this was the cheapest of all the rosés on offer - with a recommended retail price of just  $13. It can often be found on special at Dan Murphy's and BWS stores. Made from cabernet franc grapes, this has freshness with bright red fruit notes and a dry finish. Uncomplicated but very gluggable. Two of my neighbours headed off to the local BWS to buy some a couple of days later. Charming, light, crisp and deftly balanced. $13. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy 2016 Arneis

Arneis is an Italian grape variety that thrives in Piedmont but is fast emerging as one of the leaders of the new-wave white pack in Australia, alongside vermentino and fiano but with just a tad more sophistication. This is deliciously floral and dry Adelaide Hills choice for summer enjoyment, unoaked and bursting with white stone fruit and grapefruit notes and vigorous natural acid. It has been lees stirred for a few weeks then rushed into the marketplace while still full of cheeky vivacity. This one just leaps out of the glass and can be enjoyed chilled. From young vines it is probably best enjoyed in its youth; frisky and coltish. Well worth 93/100. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Longview 2016 KÜHL Gruner Veltliner

Gruner Veltliner is a vibrant and spicy Austrian grape variety that is proving very popular, and successful, in cooler regions of the Adelaide Hills. This wine from the Saturno family is one of those leading the way - it is low in alcohol at 11.5% but high in flavour and drinking pleasure. KÜHL - the German word for cool - has been chosen to reflect both the climate and the groovy bottle and presentation. From young vines, this is a very impressive offering with crisp green apple acidity and hints of white pepper. It's downright delicious chilled and well worth 92/100. $25. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fetherston 2015 Pinot Noir

A massively impressive debut from a new Yarra Valley label with this excellent pinot noir released alongside a very good chardonnay. Only 1000 bottles were produced of this juicy, tangy little number with red berry fruit from Steels Creek allied to restrained oak, forest floor elements and hints of Asian spices. Whole bunch fermentation and older oak give excellent balance and structure, too. This offers immediate drinking pleasure wth the promise of medium-term cellaring and makes Fetherston a label to look out for in the future. A very tidy 93/100. $28.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Zonin Ice Prosecco

It is that time of the year when people are looking for cheap and cheerful sparkling wines for Christmas parties or New Year toasts. While wine aficionados adore the complexity of Champagne, or the bright acid of Tasmanian sparkling wines, most casual wine drinkers actually want something chilled and refreshing and with some fruit sweetness (think sweet red apples in this case). This fits the bill - and is designed to be enjoyed on the rocks in a round-stemmed class, perhaps with lime zest or fresh mint, or perhaps with fruit liqueurs, kir style. Launched over the European summer by Italy's leading prosecco producer (Zonin dates back to 1821), this is a fun aperitif with low alcohol levels and broad appeal. And the price, $12.99, is certainly right.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

St Hallett 2013 Old Block Shiraz

To be brutally honest I can take or leave a lot of the new-wave of Barossa shirazes. Some of them, particularly from warm, dry years, taste like reds on steroids and special K. Big, almost brutal. Something to marvel at rather than something to drink. This Barossa icon, however, is a very different kettle of potatoes. The power is there; the intensity from the old vines; the potential to live for 20 years or more in the cellar. The addition of 40% of Eden Valley fruit to the Barossa component adds clarity, class and drinkability. There is that dark, brooding colour, along with fruit intensity, but also classy tannin structure, length and excellent balance. I'd enjoy a couple of bottles over the holidays, and put the rest of the case away for a rainy day, say around 2035. $110.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Coriole 2016 Nero

The recent releases from Coriole in McLaren Vale are thoroughly charismatic, offering quite wonderful value for money. They include a beguiling 2016 made from the southern French white grape picpoul and one of the best fianos in the land, also from 2016. The reds include an always impressive 2015 sangiovese and this stunner made from the southern Sicilian grape Nero d'Avola, which thrives in warm climates. Elevated briefly in older oak, this is all about the quality fruit. Think wildflower/hedgerow aromas, followed up with juicy, plummy fruit, soft tannins and lively acid. Downright lovely; dangerously drinkable, great with Italian food and well worth $27.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mountadam Vineyards 2016 Eden Valley Riesling

I cannot image a white wine that will give more pleasure over the warmer months than this stonkingly impressive Eden Valley riesling made by rising winemaking star Helen McCarthy. The vines were planted in 1968, have provided fruit for some of Australia's best-known rieslings and produce grapes of mellifluous intensity. This is fresh and floral on the nose, has a palate bursting with lemon and lime rind freshness, faint powdery notes and offers brisk minerality on the finish. It is a wine for enjoying chilled, preferably paired with either grilled seafood, freshly shucked oysters or other crustaceans. Terrific value for $25.     

Friday, November 4, 2016

Lindeman's Gentleman's Collection Tawny

The initial release table wines from the Lindeman's Gentleman's Collection did not impress me much; the addition of fortified spirit made them flabby, and I also found the concept of wines crafted for "discerning modern gentlemen" to be snobbish. Winemaker Wayne Falkenberg and his team have a winner, however, in this latest addition to the range; a truly luscious and bold tawny that turns back to the clock a little. The wines honour Dr Henry Lindeman, an Australian wine pioneer who started the Lindeman's label in 1843. This tawny is a blend of grapes from six different vintages and four major varieties - and I like it a lot. It's a top late-night tipple (think sultanas, roasted nuts and golden syrup flavours) and pairs very well with traditional fruit cake. Top shelf in the best possible way. $22.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Tapanappa 2013 Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc

Planted to classic Bordeaux grape varieties in Wrattonbully in 1974, the Whalebone Vineyard was named because of the discovery of a 35-million-year-old whale skeleton in a limestone cave underneath the vines. The Whalebone Vineyard was purchased at the formation of Tapanappa in 2002 and produces wines that very much reflect their site. Only 590 cases were made of this wine, crafted in the style of right bank Bordeaux, and I tasted this alongside the 2012, which it narrowly edged out. This is deep and intense with very bright dark fruit, some floral/leafy notes and surprisingly softness and elegance given the use of 90% new oak. A wine of rare class and style. $79.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Elderton 2014 Shiraz

A knockout Barossa shiraz from one of the most reliable producers in the region; the Ashmead family at Elderton. Estate-grown and made, this a classic rich and warm style partially made from fruit grown on vines that are well over 100 years of age. This is big and bold, a real prop forward of a wine, but with some clever ball-handling skills. It's a blend of fruit from Nuriootpa, Greenock and Craneford from what proved to be an outstanding vintage. I enjoyed the fruit intensity with dark berry and currant flavours allied to chocolate and vanilla/oak characters. Despite its 14.5% alcohol, it is drinking well now, but experience suggests that Elderton shirazes can cellar for a couple of decades. $34.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Grosset 2016 Springvale Riesling

Jeffrey Grosset is Australia's riesling guru; his wines are always reliably excellent and fetch commensurate prices. They usually sell out within a few months of release. The taut Polish Hill Riesling ($55ish)  is Grosset's flagship, and most expensive riesling by some margin, but this year I prefer the Springvale, a single-site wine sourcing fruit from an estate vineyard at Watervale. This is simply stunning - and certainly more approachable than the Polish Hill in its youth. It ticks all the boxes for world-class Clare riesling with citrus blossom aromas, delightful minerality and structure, length and a crisp acid finish. Chalky, slatey, lemony, or plain delicious. You try to choose just one descriptor. Brilliant. $40.     

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Baillieu 2015 Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay

From one of two estate labels owned by the Baillieu family on the Mornington Peninsula (the other is Elgee Park), this a delightful cool-climate chardonnay that bears the quality imprint of winemaker Geraldine McFaul. This is made from fruit grown on the family property at Merricks North and hand-picked. Gentle stone fruit notes are allied to some cashew aromas while citrus is to the fore on the palate with French oak adding structure but not intruding. There is a crisp, clean finish to this very elegant wine. Thoroughly modern, thoroughly delicious. $35. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Barry & Sons 2014 Clare Valley Shiraz

"This wine reminds me of why I used to love Australian shiraz so much," said my wife. She, and the team at Jim Barry Wines, are spot on. This is part of a new range of wines made exclusively for Coles/Liquorland/Vintage Cellars stores and is by far the standout; a lip-smackingly good fruit-driven shiraz at a very fair price. It has plenty of ripe fruit brio without any rough edges. There are berry and currant flavours, hints of gentle spices, and hardly any obvious oak. It is vital but not over-muscular; rather it is easy to drink - curmudgeons would say unchallenging - but will have widespread appeal as a young-drinking barbecue wine. $25.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Seppelt 2015 Drumborg Pinot Meunier

The realtively obscure pinot meunier grape has been planted at the cool Seppelt Drumborg vineyard since 1966, and is a key component in sparkling wine production, regularly making up 10% or more of the Salinger blend. It creates a fascinating dry table wine in the style of gamay and winemaker Adam Carnaby is delighted with this rare release, which is unashamedly fruit driven and matured in mainly large format older oak. It is a red that can be chilled for a few minutes, like releases from Best's Great Western and Oakridge, and would be a very good choice to match with a spring picnic. Downright delicious. $36.        

Vinaceous 2016 Impavido Vermentino

Looking for a delicious "drink now" white wine that doesn't demand too much contemplation? You've come to the right place. This is made from an Italian grape in a fresh and vivacious style by the "non-traditional" duo of marketer Nick Stacy and winemaker Mike Kerrigan. It is their second vermentino release using from Mount Barker in Western Australia's remote Great Southern region. This is unwooded, very fresh with lively acidity. It is aromatic and pure - like a fruit salad exploding in your mouth. A versatile wine that will come into its own on warm summer days. $22.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Michael Hall 2015 Sang de Pigeon Pinot Noir

Michael Hall is a British-born craftsman who was trained as a jewellery valuer and took up wine later in life. This new release underlines he has taken to his new vocation like a duck to water; an elegant pinot in the style of village Burgundy rather than the heavy metal style that is much in vogue. This is a structured but elegant wine that offers excellent value and features a blend of Adelaide Hills fruit from high-altitude Kuitpo and Piccadilly. Three-quarters was open fermented and 25% barrel fermented with 8% whole bunch adding structure. The blend was matured for 11 months in almost entirely older oak. The end result is bright, crunchy and deliciously drinkable with an ultra-dry red berry finish. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Angullong 2016 Pinot Grigio

The wines from Angullong, outside of Orange in the central west of New South Wales, just get better and better. This is a well-priced white that spells summer enjoyment. It is vibrant and fresh with lively cool-climate characters; and is made in the brisk, refreshing Italian style. It is long and lean with a nice balance of citrus and tropical fruit salad flavours and finishes with brisk, attention-grabbing acid. There is no winemaking artifice here; it is unoaked, clean and ready enjoy. A wine for sipping chilled on the back porch, or perhaps paired with salads and picnics. $20.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Langmeil 2012 Jackaman's Cabernet Sauvignon

I was a bit late getting to this wonderfully intense old vines cabernet sauvignon from the Barossa, made largely from fruit from vines planted in the 1960s. It's been out there in the stores for a while but would make a wonderful (and affordable) Father's Day present for any red wine lover. It is dark and varietal with impressive structure. The winemaking regime involved open ferments, basket pressing and two years in French oak, and it is bottled unfined and unflitered. Downright delicious. $50.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Evans & Tate 2015 Time and Place Dry Red

The Evans & Tate brand, now under the ownership of McWilliam's, is home to a bewildering number of labels. This is a new one on me - and it certainly punches well above its price category. Plush, medium-bodied and versatile, this is a terrific midweek, or casual dining, option. The primary blending components are cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz (the breakdown is not given) but I do like the softness and immediate approachability that make this a good choice for a barbecue, or to take out to the local Italian to accompany pizza or pasta. It is not complex, or challenging, but it certainly offers great value for money. $13.   

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Erin Eyes 2016 Pride of Erin Reserve Riesling

Wine industry veteran Steve Wiblin has gone through a very rough trot with illness recently but the quality of this new-release reserve riesling must bring a smile to his lips. Made using fruit from a single vineyard at Penwortham, this is a glorious each way bet in that it is succulent and enticing in its youth with brisk citrus flavours and bracing acidity but has the classic Clare Valley structure to suggest it will cellar brilliantly for a decade or more. This is only the second reserve riesling Wiblin has released under his new label - which he started after the sale of Neagles Rock. He's worked for some of the biggest names in the business but it must be artisanal wines like this that give him the greatest pleasure. Top notch. $35.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Foxeys Hangout 2015 Red Fox Pinot Noir

Good Australian pinot noir with a reasonable price tag is becoming increasingly rare. Prices are rising and many wineries are looking to make more complex, sometimes ageworthy, Burgundian, styles and charge accordingly. This is the reverse; a luscious and fruit-driven pinot from the Mornington Peninsula that offers immediate drinking pleasure at a fair price. There's natural ferment at play, and the use of older, unobtrusive, French oak but the end result is a fun, fruit-driven wine that is made in a serious way. It certainly offers value with a capital V, combining dark red fruit elements with savoury hints and bright acid. $28.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Wynns Coonawarra Estate 2013 John Riddoch

There is no doubt that $150 is a lot of money to splash out for one bottle of wine; even when it is one of Australia's benchmark cabernet sauvignons. But if you do have some cash to spare, or are looking for a special Father's Day present, then this new release might fit the bill. All six of the new Wynnsday releases are outstanding but this is the pick of the bunch, a wine of impeccable balance that is long and structured with cassis, chocolate and licorice notes allied to classy French oak. Supple, stylish and downright fabulous. $150.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Brash Higgins 2015 MRLO

There are very few standout stand-alone merlots in Australia. Many are soft and easy to drink but only a handful shine, partially as a result of poor clonal selection when the grape variety was planted down under. This is a shining exception to that rule; a merlot that offers classic rock'n'roll rather than the mainstream Australian Idol mediocrity. This has the fleshy softness you'd expect from the variety but it has been matured in an amphora by winemaker Brad Hickey and blended with 10% of the Italian grape Nero d'Avola to add a bit of edginess and funk. This McLaren Vale wine is dark and complex and very interesting texturally - a bit like a vinous James Ellroy novel. $38.   

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Schwarz Wine Co. 2016 Chenin Blanc

What a pleasant surprise this wine was. Chenin Blanc may not be a fashionable grape variety but this is just lovely. Jason Schwarz has a happy knack of making wines that have a real vitality and this is a delicious new release that might help change chenin's image in Australia (just think of many superstar wines made from the variety in the Loire Valley). There are aromas of melons and tropical fruits, followed up by fresh, green apple, tangy elements on the palate (not dissimilar to seriously good Muscadet). It's fresh, it's zingy and it makes you feel alive. Picked early for maximum pleasure, this was a very good partner for pan-fried flathead and would be an excellent choice for any picnic. Great value at $22.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Arrogant Frog 2015 Syrah Rosé

This has to be the best wine bargain in Australia right now. Bar none. Just how Jean-Claude Mas and his team can produce a dry rosé of this quality from the Languedoc in France to export to Australia and retail at $10 a bottle is remarkable. The Arrogant Frog wines usually offer excellent value - but this one is stupendously good for the price. It is dry and refreshing in the southern French style, lighter in colour than in previous vintages but even more alluring. Made from shiraz (syrah) grapes from the Limoux region and sub-titled Ribet Pink, this has delicious bright fruit, savoury notes and bright acid. The quintessential lunchtime or picnic wine. Available at Dan Murphy's and BSW stores. If you love rosés I'd go out and buy a case - and have one friend who has already done so. $10.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Schild Estate 2014 GMS

I did a double take when I saw the price tag after tasting this wine in a blind line-up. It has to be one of Australia's best red wine bargains right now; a wine I scored at 93 that retails for for under $20. A blend of three red varieties that traditionally shine in the Barossa; grenache 52%), shiraz (24%) and mourvedre/mataro (24%), it is bright and juicy, firm and fruity but also has enough structure to be considered for the cellar. There is some appealing softness and hints of pepper but overall it is the sheer drinkability of this that stands out. Well worth buying a few bottles. $18.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Yering Station 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

It used to be that there were two regions to go to in Australia for classy cabernets; Margaret River and Coonawarra. On the evidence of recent releases, you can also throw the cooler Yarra Valley into the mix. This is an outstanding reserve cabernet with not a leafy, green element in sight. Yering Station reserve wines are only released in outstanding vintages - and this is a single vineyard selection has spent 18 months in French oak and then time in bottle prior to release. It reminds me of a prima ballerina; tightly coiled with elegance, strength and grace. A wine of power and balance that is most impressive and justifies the price tag. $120.   

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Penfold's 2015 Max's Chardonnay

There has been a lot of debate in the wine community as to whether Penfold's has paid adequate tribute to legendary winemaker Max Schubert with the release of its new Penfold's Max's range. Whatever your thoughts on the matter, this white wine really stood out for me; and it is a little-known fact that Grange creator Schubert also did a lot of white wine research while working at Penfold's. This is a brilliant example of modern chardonnay crafted using fruit from the Adelaide Hills, which underwent its grape-growing revival well after Max's time. To be released over the next few days, it is tightly structured with pure fruit flavours to the fore; a classic cool-climate chardonnay. It has little to do with Schubert's legacy but would doubtless please him with its quality. For me, it is a steal at $35. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

McLeish Estate 2015 Semillon

The McLeish family has a winning way with semillon; perhaps not a surprise as the husband and wife enterprise has been growing grapes in the Hunter Valley for over 30 years. With quality fruit from Robert and Maryanne McLeish's vines combined with the winemaking talent of Andrew Thomas, the McLeish Estate wines are global award winners; and made in tiny volumes. This is the current release, although soon to be replaced by the 2016, and it is a wine that is very much in the zone, still with youthful, zingy lemon sherbet acidity but without any rough acid edges. And, of course, this is a wine designed for the cellar; the 2007 Reserve sells for $220 a bottle and was named the world’s best semillon at the International Wine Challenge in London. Very stylish and ridiculously good value. 25.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Zonzo Estate 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Zonzo Estate, a little slice of rustic Tuscany in the Yarra Valley, now has its own range of wines, crafted by talented winemakers Caroline Mooney and Kate Goodman. This is one of five debut wines and it impresses with its lively cassis intensity along with some leafy notes and hints of spice. No expense has been spared on the packaging; heavy bottle, quality cork and waxed seal all scream "luxury item" but it takes a couple of goes before you can get to the cork without slicing your hand to pieces removing the wax. When you do get to what is in the bottle you will be impressed by the flavours and the structure. A fine debut. $75.   

Monday, June 6, 2016

Giant Steps 2015 Chardonnay

Giant Steps is best known for its single-vineyard pinot noirs and chardonnays, but even at the entry level quality fruit and the skills of Steve Flamsteed and his winemaking team shine through. This an estate chardonnay, made from hand-picked fruit, produced using indigenous yeasts, in a high-tech gravity flow winery with minimal fining and filtration. All of which means diddly squat if you don't get things right; and Flamsteed has. Fruit from three vineyards, given 20% new oak and a month of batonage, has produced a wine that is spot on stylistically. Think bright stone fruit flavours aided and abetted by grapefruit notes, savoury nuances, smoky hints, appealing leanness and lots of length. $35.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mitchell Harris Blanc #1

This is an experimental wine from John Harris and his "muse and alchemist" Craig McKenzie; inspired by France but offering a unique taste of Australia. You've probably tried Harris's wines before. He was chief winemaker at Domaine Chandon before downsizing to Ballarat, where he makes an impressive range of wines and has an urban cellar door and wine bar. This is the duo's take on French vin de liqueurs, or mistelle de raisins, like Floc de Gascogne or Pineau de Charentes, and is made from sauvignon blanc grapes from the Victorian Pyrenees, fortified with grape spirit and matured in French oak. The end result is a classic aperitif, slightly sweet but wonderfully textural with rose and almond notes, that is probably best enjoyed on ice. Try it and be blown away. $35.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Thomas 2014 Deju Vu Shiraz

Andrew Thomas has just released all six of his shirazes from the much-acclaimed 2014 Hunter vintage; and the good news is that they live up to the hype, with the Kiss Shiraz ($75) leading the charge with macho aplomb. This is probably more old school Hunter Burgundy in style and is certainly lighter and more savoury with immediate drinkability. It is an individual vineyard wine from the light, sandy soils of the Trevenna vineyard and a splash of semillon verjuice has been added (I'd have guessed pinot noir), to pretty up the red fruit. Only older oak has been used to add textural interest - but is almost imperceptible on the palate. Smooth, supple and downright lovely. $30.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Jim Barry 2016 Watervale Riesling

It is always interesting to follow the race to be the first to release new-vintage wines; and this was the first 2016 to land on my doorstep. If it is a harbinger then there will be plenty of smiles because it is, as is usually the case, a wine that offers outstanding value. This is the entry level Jim Barry riesling but it offers classic Clare Valley/Watervale pleasures with zingy lemon and lime sorbet notes on the palate along with grapefruit notes. There's plenty of refreshing acidity but it is beautifully balanced for a wine so young. A great partner for spicy Thai dishes, fresh oysters or simply as an after-work reviver. $19.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

De Bortoli 2013 Bella Riva Sangiovese

A lovely wine for everyday drinking this. Soft, savoury and supple, it is extremely food friendly and dangerously quaffable. This is made from fruit grown in the King Valley in north-east Victoria - a region where Italian varietals like sangiovese thrive. It has been matured in older oak for 18 months and is drinking beautifully right now. This slightly rustic number would pair beautifully with a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise, or a pizza fresh from the wood oven. Great value, too. $15.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

Best's Great Western 2012 13-Acre Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

This spectacular individual vineyard cabernet sauvignon was one of my favourites from a most rewarding weekend spent in the Grampians region of Victoria, enjoyed during a class given by Viv Thomson and winemaker Justin Purser. While Best's, celebrating their 150th anniversary this year, are probably better known for shiraz than cabernet, this is a ripper of a wine that took out the trophy for the best cabernet at the 2013 Victorian Wine Show. There are small amounts of merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot in the blend, which carries its 14.5% alcohol with nonchalant ease. It is a wine with a bit of a swagger with dark berry fruit aided and abetted by spice notes and impressive tannin structure. Well worth 96 points - and it will cellar well. This is made only in seriously good years - and 2012 was a classic. It might be hard to find, but contact the Best's cellar door, or try the new-release 2013 instead. $35. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cullen 2014 Diana Madeline

I was absolutely blown away by the quality of this new release from Vanya Cullen (actually it was a sneak peek and the wine will be released next month). It is probably the best young Australian red wine I have ever tasted - an instant classic. It is still youthful but everything is beautifully balanced. With fruit intensity (think dark currants and berries), quality French oak (69% new barriques), hints of tobacco leaf and superb structure, this is on the same level as first and second growth Bordeaux from the best years. A tribute to Cullen's mother, Margaret River wine industry pioneer Diana Cullen, this is a blend of 89% cabernet sauvignon with small batches of petit verdot, merlot, malbec and cabernet franc. The bees knees and I'm happy to give it 99/100 (not something I do very often). You won't be disappointed. $110.     

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pike & Joyce 2015 Rapide Pinot Noir

Is this the best-value young pinot noir in Australia? You'd be hard-pressed to find many that are better. From the Adelaide Hills, where cool-climate varieties like pinot flourish, this is a bright and vibrant young wine. It's a bit of a show off with some "look at me" tendencies but quality fruit that's been given a short stint in French oak has resulted in a wine where the youthful vigour is also charming. It's fresh and easy-to-drink with bright berry flavours and softish tannins. Don't bother cellaring this one. Drink now. Enjoy. $21.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Terre a Terre 2015 Blanc

From industry veteran Brian Croser's daughter Lucy and her talented French partner Xavier Bizot, this is an impressive wine made from close-planted Wrattonbully sauvignon blanc that owes a lot more in style to Bordeaux than Marlborough. Cold soaked, then slowly fermented in a huge 3,000-litre new French foudre, this then spent a further five months in old oak, which resulted in a wine that is enigmatic and intriguing with just a hint of residual sugar on the palate. Chalky, off dry and delightful. $32.    

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Brangayne of Orange 2013 Tristan

In Wagner's opera, Tristan and Isolde, Brangayne, the handmaiden, creates a love potion for her mistress, Princess Isolde, as an act of devotion. This blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and merlot, may not be a love potion but it is a classic Australian cool-climate red blend made by consultant Simon Gilbert, who has been in the winemaking game for four decades and knows a thing or two about coaxing the best from cool-climate fruit from the Orange region. I liked this a lot. Elegant with the use of French oak astutely judged, it is long and soft with impressive structure, and extremely enjoyable. $35.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Brokenwood 2015 Cricket Pitch

For the past couple of decades, Cricket Pitch has been the bargain-basement, entry-level white for Hunter Valley quality stalwart Brokenwood. Some of the fruit used to be sourced from a block near the winery, but sauvignon blanc has now overtaken semillon as the major ingredient in the blend and the fruit is sourced from several vineyards around the country. That has made no impact on the quality, however. The Cricket Pitch white remains a terrific buy - one of the most reliable choices in the sub-$20 range with its fresh, crisp fruit characters, almost imperceptible oak and excellent refreshment value. $22.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Irvine 2014 Springhill Merlot

There is a lot of very average merlot in the Australian marketplace. We got poor clones or some such excuse. Fortunately new clones are being planted but in the meantime long-time market leader Irvine Wines (now under new ownership but with Joanne Irvine still making the wines) leads the pack when it comes to good-value merlot with this impressive entry-level wine that is designed to be drunk over the next four years. The key to this wine's appeal is its immediate soft slurpability. No difficult questions are posed; it is not a wine that demands much thought or analysis, but it does offer soft, plummy flavour with just the merest hints of spice and oak. Fun and affordable. $18-20. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

TarraWarra Estate 2014 Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the king of white grapes. No argument. There is no grape variety to match it when it is handled well, and Clare Halloran and her team at TarraWarra Estate in the Yarra Valley have handled this wine very deftly. Rarely nowadays am I tempted by more than a glass or two of any one wine, but this bottle is empty as I write my notes. It is a wine of impeccable balance with a very high quaffability factor. It is a combination of barrel and tank fermented parcels and has classic cool-climate zingy citrus on the nose; impressive textural interest after 10 months on lees, cashew nut nuances and plenty of length and drive. A poor man's village Burgundy if you like; but I do like this very much. Drink now. Drink lightly chilled; pair with barbecued prawns or old-fashioned roast pork. Great value, too. $28.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Heartland 2013 Directors' Cut Cabernet Sauvignon

I was all set to write about the excellent Heartland 2013 Directors' Cut Shiraz until I came upon the cabernet sauvignon from the same winery, same vintage, and enjoyed it even more. This is a top-quality cab sav from Langhorne Creek, where you'll find some of Australia's best wine bargains. This looks stylish and expensive - but delivers on only one of those two promises. It is an intense, dark and inky wine from the talented Ben Glaetzer, made from vines that are 40+ years old. It is almost impossibly flavoursome and assertive at 15% alcohol but handling it with ease. It spent 14 months in new French and American oak, but the wood is beautifully integrated. An impressive package and one that will almost certainly cellar well for a decade or more. $33.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Chalmers 2015 Rosato

No one does innovation better in the wine industry than the Chalmers family - and this new-release rosato, thoroughly European in style and swagger - is a prime example. When the first Chalmers rosato was released in 2009 it was made from negroamaro grapes. In 2010 it was made from sagrantino; and the decision was made that future releases would be made from whichever varieties looked best in that vintage. In 2015, the decision was made to blend sagrantino and aglianico - and that blend is a real winner, producing a dry rosé that offers plenty of fresh strawberry and zingy dark berry refreshment. There is lovely bright acid on the palate here, and plenty of promise when matched with food. Downright delicious. $25.  

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mitolo 2013 G.A.M. McLaren Vale Shiraz

The 2013 red wines from Frank Mitolo and his McLaren Vale team are right in the zone; offering splendid drinking on release and reflecting the excellent vintage. This is a wine of impressive balance with everything in place as the 40+-year-old vines get to show their quality. There is 70% new oak in the mix but it doesn't intrude on the dark fruit and lifted herb notes. The amalgam of sweet fruit and savoury notes creates a wine that is truly memorable - a worthy tribute to Mitolo's three children; Gemma, Alexander and Marco, after whom the wine is named. Unfined and unfiltered, this offers superb drinking. $58.   

Friday, February 12, 2016

De Bortoli 2015 Villages Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon blanc is a not a variety that is usually associated with the Yarra Valley, but this is a gem of an easy-drinking wine from Steve Webber and the team at De Bortoli; a lovely choice for the final days of summer. It has just a tad more palate interest than most savvys at the same price point, having been fermented in both stainless steel and oak casks, as well as having enjoyed some time on lees. This is a fine and elegant example of cool-climate Aussie savvy; think of a ballerina skipping across a lily pond. It is vibrant, refreshing and food friendly with citrus more to the fore than herbs or tropical fruit characters. $20.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Stanton & Killeen 2013 The Prince Reserva

This is a wine that marks out a new pathway for Rutherglen wine pioneers Stanton & Killeen, best known for their excellent fortified wines. It is a unique blend of four Portuguese grape varieties; tinta barocca, touriga nacional, tinta cao and tinta roriz; in almost equal quantities and was previously released in 2008 and 2009 in tribute to the late Chris Killeen, known as “The Prince of Port”. Although the grape varieties have previously been used as fortified material, here they are picked earlier to produce an elegant and savoury red with a distinct Iberian accent. It is delicious in its youth; rambunctious and fun and a great match for dishes like rabbit or venison. $45.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ten Minutes by Tractor 2013 Wallis Chardonnay

The year may still be young but I do not expect to taste many better chardonnays over the next 11 months than this exquisite offering from Ten Minutes by Tractor on the Mornington Peninsula. One of three individual vineyard chardonnays at the peak of the winery's pecking order - the others are the McCutcheon and the Judd - this is a wine for those with expensive tastes, probably lovers of fine white Burgundy. This ticks all the cool-climate chardonnay boxes; hand-picked, whole-bunch-pressed, wild yeast fermented and matured in quality French oak. The end result is lithe, like a beautifully proportioned catwalk model. Lean and very elegant this is top notch. $65.