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.