Monday, December 31, 2018

Oakridge LVS 2017 Henk Chardonnay

It is hard to go wrong with an Oakridge chardonnay. No matter the price point, winemaker David Bicknell and his team have the Midas touch. Made using fruit from a grower in Woori Yallock, owned by a guy called Henk, this Yarra Valley wine offers whole lot for not a lot of money; it was hand-picked and whole-bunch pressed, fermented in large-format oak and spent 10 months on lees. The end result is a wine that is right in the zone; with plenty of depth and structure, but - more importantly - serious instant drinkability. 96/100. $42. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Oliver's Taranga 2017 Shiraz

A McLaren Vale shiraz with quality and style that won't break the bank - what's not to like? This is a really lovely wine from the talented Corinna Wright that underlines the strengths of Fleurieu shiraz without in any way being a blockbluster. It's full-bodied, with dark fruit and chocolate/coffee hints, leading to black berry and plum notes with licorice, but also has some appealing light and shade. Terrific value. $30.  

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Maxwell 2016 Four Roads Old Vine Grenache

Red wine doesn't get any more quintessentially Australian than this juicy, earthy, intense old-vine grenache from McLaren Vale in South Australia. It is made from grenache vines that have grown for 89 years - formerly as bush vines but now trellised to keep them ripening evenly as they grow older. There is a whole lot happening here from spice notes on the nose and palate, dark fruits, savoury undertones and well integrated French oak. If this were human it would come with a broad smile and a cheery G'day. 14.8% alcohol and begging to matched with charred meat on a summer barbecue, and cricket on the telly. $28.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Singlefile 2018 Great Southern Riesling

An increasing number of Australia's finest rieslings are being made in West Australia's Great Southern region. This is a prime example; crisp and as effortlessly impressive as a Smokey Robinson vocal. From an excellent riesling vintage, this offers fragrant aromas and zippy minerality on a palate with citrusy acidity to the fore. It finishes bone dry with plenty of length. An excellent accompaniment to whiting or crustaceans over the summer. $25.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Thorn-Clarke 2018 Sandpiper Chardonnay

You don't find many chardonnays this stylish for under $20 a bottle. This is razor-sharp on trend with cool-climate fruit from the Eden Valley producing a wine that has plenty of flavour but is also refined and delicate. It's all about the quality fruit with citrus notes and white stone fruit flavours combining impressively with a small percentage of French oak. Lees contact has added some texture. There is everything you'd want in a modern Aussie chardonnay here; it's well worth snapping up a case for Christmas. $20.      

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Pizzini 2018 Pinot Grigio

This is pinot grigio in the classic northern Italian style from a family of style leaders in the little Italian enclave of the King Valley in Victoria. I've always felt the brisk refreshment of grigio is a better fit for the Australian lifestyle than the oilier gris style and this is a very good choice for summer refreshment. Aromatic, crisp, bright and lively with citrus and lemon sherbet notes along with ripe pear to the fore, this is a wine for enjoying well chilled in its youth. Great with picnics, salads and seafood dishes. $21. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Glaetzer-Dixon 2014 La Judith Pinot Noir

Looking for a special bottle of wine from Tasmania? This is made in tiny quantities (literally just a few hundred bottles) by multi-award-winning winemaker Nick Glaetzer as a homage to his mother. It is a serious, beautifully integrated wine with power, persistent and precision and is, as far as know, the most expensive Tasmanian table wine to be released - a real statement. I much prefer this to the inaugural 2013 release. $220.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Mount Horrocks 2018 Watervale Riesling

Riesling is my "go to" grape for spring and summer quaffing - and this new Clare Valley release is right in the grove; fresh, vibrant and citrusy with minerality and crisp acid finish. There is plenty of length to this estate-grown single vineyard riesling from Watervale and all Stephanie Toole's wines are certified organic and are vegan friendly. This is bone dry and would pair brilliantly with fresh oysters, pan-fried King George whiting, or simply on the back deck with some Jason Isbell country rock on the stereo. Damn fine drinking. Drink now or cellar. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Jacob's Creek Estate 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Much as we would all like to spend our lives sipping Grosset rieslings and Henschke Hill of Grace, the reality is that most of us have wine budgets that are far more modest. That is why many wine lovers have favourite "midweek" bottles that retail for between $12-$20 but still provide satisfying vinous experiences. This is a very good wine indeed at a lower price point; with ripe, dark blackberry characters from Limestone Coast fruit - and impressive structure. The recommended retail price is $17.99 but I've seen it on special for several dollars cheaper. Snap up a bottle, taste it blind alongside something that costs $30ish, and be prepared for a pleasant surprise. $16.  

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Coldstream Hills 2017 Deer Farm Pinot Noir

This was one of the standout wines at a recent Treasury Wine Estates new-release media tasting; a single-vineyard Yarra Valley pinot noir of serious style and substance. From the cooler Upper Yarra this is extremely poised and elegant; not a Burgundy Villages imitator but certainly an impressive homage. From a very good vintage, this is impressively aromatic  with a ballerina-like light-footed allied to plushness on the palate. Excellent work from winemaker Andrew Fleming, who has let the quality fruit express itself without any interference. Great value at $50.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kooyong 2016 Ferrous Pinot Noir

It really is hard to choose a  favourite from among the stellar 2016 single-vineyard pinots from Mornington Peninsula standout Kooyong - but the complex and savoury Ferrous just gets the nod in an all-star cast. The ironstone pebbles in the 20-year-old Tuerong vineyard give the wine terrific architecture with the tannins providing the framework in which quality dark cherry fruit characters and hints of spice lead the way with support from largely aged French oak barriques. The fruit here is beautifully layered with earthiness, structure and length. I'm happy to give this 96/100 and to bet most buyers find it too delicious right now to even think of cellaring it. $76.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Taylors 2016 St Andrews Chardonnay

There are some very good wines being made at Taylors in the Clare Valley right now; winemaker Adam Eggins is producing winners at several different price points. I was particularly taken by this very classy chardonnay, a vinous prom queen that's a little flashy but a wine of serious beauty. The fruit is a deft blend of white stone fruit and citrus sherbet flavours with lots of length and with quality French oak playing an impressive support role. Crisp and flavoursome and a brilliant match for roast pork and crackling. $40.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Angove 2017 Organic Merlot

This is one of the standouts from an impressive -  and affordable - range of certified organic table wines from family-owned Angove, proclaimed as being both vegan friendly and made using minimal preservatives. The fruit used is from the irrigiated Riverland at Renmark, but this is a soft and smoooth wine, with dark berry and plum flavours to the fore and oak playing a minimal support role. It's long and silky, would be great with gourmet hamburgers and offers very good value for $17. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Hickinbotham 2016 Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon

The Hickinbotham wines being carefully crafted by Charlie Seppelt and American Chris Carpenter in McLaren Vale are hugely impressive. Across the board they are wines of class, style and substance. This quite splendid single-vineyard cabernet sauvignon is all about balance. It was hand-picked, whole berry sorted and open fermented, spending 18 days on skins. Basket-pressed and then matured in new and one-year-old French barriques, it is powerful but sleek. Think blackcurrant, herbal and leafy nuances, soft tannins and seductive length. A classsic "claret" style. One for the long haul but deliciously drinkable now. I give it 96/100. $75.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Chapel Hill 2018 Chardonnay

How good is this? Serious chardonnay from a leading regional producer for under $20.This is flavoursome but beautifully balanced, presumably early picked to grab all the freshness and vibrancy. There are several standouts being made by Michael Fragos and his Chapel Hill team and this is one of them, with fruit purity the cornerstone and some barrel fermentation adding textural interest. Just a small percentage of the brisk fruit sees older oak, the rest is matured in stainless steel. Pair this wine and its crisp acid with an old-fashioned roast pork roast. Downright delicious and great value. $18.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Windows Estate Petit Lot 2014 Petit Verdot

You don't see many varietal wines made from the Bordeaux grape petit verdot; the grape is most often used as blending material. Here it shines as part of a small batch from Margaret Rivers' excellent Windows Estate; which has used a hand-operated basket press to tease out the aromatics and distinctive varietal character. Dark berry aromas and herbal leafy characters on the nose; dark fruits again on the palate with well-integrated cedary oak and architecture without the fierce tannins that the variety can sometimes produce. A wine of structure that offers immediate pleasure but will also cellar well given its immense length. Really lovely. $45.

Friday, July 27, 2018

TarraWarra Estate 2015 Nebbiolo

This is only the second release of the Italian variety nebbiolo from Yarra Valley winery TarraWarra Estate but winemaker Clare Halloran and her team seem to have the variety nailed stylistically. Perfumed and delicately structured, this is a very good alternative to pinot noir or gamay for those who err to the lighter side of the red wine spectrum. This has an attractive rose garden bouquet leading on to bright red fruit notes and hints of Italian deli goods. There is some impressive architecture here along with the pretty fruit; it is a wine with lovely balance. Drink now with a charcuterie plate, or cellar confidently. $35.   

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Howard Park 2016 Leston Cabernet Sauvignon

The Howard Park label is a byword for world-class cabernet sauvignon from both Margaret River and the Great Southern at various price points. In 2016, the Leston vineyard in Margaret River just edged out the Scottsdale vineyard in the Great Southern, but it was a desperately close run race. The key to this wine's immense appeal is balance; there are ripe plum and berry flavours but cedary oak, mint and spice notes all play key roles in what is a complete package. There is plenty of length here, potential longevity, too, but most of all you get a whole lot of quality for your cash. $50.  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Patina 2015 Chardonnay

American-born Gerald Naef makes a range of intriguing wines from his home (literally in his garage) winery in cool-climate Orange in Central Western New South Wales. I had his stellar 2016 Riesling ($25) ready to review before I came across this complex and beguiling 2015 chardonnay, which I preferred just a tad to its bigger reserve brother. Thanks to Orange's high elevation and volcanic soils you'll find all the classic chardonnay characters here; citrus, stone fruit, peaches and cream and hints of nutty oak. Naef says: “I don’t think there is another region in the world that necessarily produces better chardonnay than Orange, there are just stylistic differences." This is a perfect match for roast pork or chicken dishes and is swashbucklingly stylish. $35.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Battle of Bosworth 2017 Heretic

Joch Bosworth and Louise Hemsley-Smith produce a range of wines with real personality under their Battle of Bosworth label, which highlights organic fruit and old-style wine-making techniques. The Heretic utilises Touriga Nacional and graciano, two Iberian grape varieties that would previously have been used in fortified wine production, blended with a little shiraz, McLaren Vale's local hero. This is a medium-bodied wine of immediate appeal; stylish with spice and oak hints but based on quality fruit picked early enough to retain all its vim and vigour. It pulls off the trick of being both a wine of substance, and elegance. I like this a lot - and it is extremely food friendly. $28.       

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Massale by Kooyong 2017 Pinot Noir

Even when tasted blind, Glen Hayley's wines under the Kooyong label have the ability to seriously stand out from the crowd. I have loved the 2015 Meres and Haven individual vineyard pinots recently - both of which retail for $76 - but you don't have to spend anywhere near that amount to get a sense of the quality and attention to detail given to all wines in the range from this quality Mornington Peninsula producer. This is an entry level offering, young and enticing, that offers excellent value. It's bright red and vibrant, medium-bodied and red-fruit-driven with mainly older oak very much in the background adding smoky nuances. Appealing acid on the finish, too. Perfect for drinking now. preferably paired with some smoked duck breast. 93/100. $34.  

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Yarra Edge 2017 Edward

Viticulturist Lucas Hoorn has worked for Hoddles Creek and Levantine Hill, while Dylan McMahon is the talented winemaker at Seville Estate and together they are producing some impressive wines under the Yarra Edge label, using fruit from a small vineyard at Chirnside Park, on the edge of the Yarra. The vines are 35 years old and the grapes were formerly used by Yering Station. This is a very impressive single-vineyard blend of cabernet sauvignon (70%), cabernet franc (20%) and merlot (10%) that has several elements reminiscent of quality Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux. Herbs and spices, blackcurrant notes, spicy oak, leafy characters and subtle tannins combine well in a wine that is soft and on the palate. Subtle and delicious. $39.   

Monday, June 11, 2018

Curly Flat 2016 Chardonnay

There has been a recent changing of the guard at Macedon Ranges icon Curly Flat with Matt Harrop now installed as chief winemaker. Not only is this an outstanding example of cool-climate chardonnay, it also offers quite spectacular value when compared alongside village Burgundy, for instance. Power and elegance co-exist happily here with a brisk citrus zing and more restrained peachy notes. This is a wine with delightful architecture and plenty of length, allied to tension and poise. It's main strength, however, is that it is downright delicious. $46.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Brokenwood 2016 Beechworth Pinot Noir

How good is this? Terrific pinot noir from Beechworth in the foothills of the Victorian Alps that costs a whole lot less than many much-vaunted pinots at extreme price points. This is a wine of lovely balance, it is soft and appealing but hints of spice and florals and quality cool-climate fruit play key roles. Oak is very much in the background. I'd be drinking this is its youth with some barbecued duck or port, and maybe some noodles. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Yering Station 2016 Shiraz Viognier

Spicy cool-climate shiraz meets a dash of lifted viognier to produce a red blend of rare style and composure from the Yarra Valley. More art house film than movie blockbuster, this is charmingly lush and plush with softness on the palate a key ingredient to its charm. There's plenty of power and concentration, too, and 20% new oak has added textural elements. This was a very fine partner for a old-style shepherd's pie. $40.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Atze's Corner 2016 The Giant Durif

So you like your red wine with plenty of power and personality? Let me introduce you to a monster from the Barossa, a Giant by both name and nature. This is a heavyweight bruiser going for a knockout finish. Just 375 cases of this were made by sixth-generation winemaker Andy Kalleske and the wine is full-bodied and full-blooded, dark, ripe and almost overwhelming in its power, although it has a silky, smooth finish. Durif, also known as petite syrah, shines in warm climes and the fruit used here has thrived in deep red clay soils. Kalleske says this will cellar up until 20130. Presuming you may wish to open it a little earlier, then a bold beef casserole would be a very good companion. $30.      

Friday, May 18, 2018

Cullen 2016 Diana Madeline

If the apocalypse were approaching and I only had time to savour one drink, then this would be a leading contender. This Margaret River benchmark is, to be blunt, downright spectacular with high-quality fruit, purity, elegance and texture and what Vanya Cullen describes as the "classic Cullen Vineyard Wilyabrup flavours: cassis, violets, chocolate and ironstone". This is a lifted, vibrant red that has soaked up mainly new French oak from barriques. A blend of 93% cabernet sauvignon, 5% merlot and 1% each of malbec and petit verdot, this is absolutely superb right now, but will cellar for decades. Impeccable balance, just 12.5% alcohol, from a certified biodynamic and carbon neutral estate. 97 points from me. $130.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Mitchell 2017 Watervale Riesling

The Mitchell family has been crafting excellent wines for decades now; and re-visiting this old favourite after a couple of years was a revelation. The Mitchells only release their wines when they believe they are ready. Hence the rieslings are launched later than many of their regional rivals, and current-release reds can be up to seven or eight years old; reserve reds a decade or more. The Mitchells also farm organically, which gives their wines real personality. This is a classic Watervale riesling with sparky citrus aromas and intense, tangy  grapefruit flavours. Beautifully fresh, balanced and with an edge of bright acid minerality, this is a truly lovely dry white wine that offers stupendous value.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Vasse Felix 2015 Premier Cabernet Sauvignon

The quality of the wines being made by Virginia Willcock at Vasse Felix in Margaret River just keeps soaring. This is characterful, fleshy, elegant, concentrated and appealing in the regional style. It was the first red wine produced in Margaret River and has been made every year since 1972. In this vintage, a savoury nose (think a fragrant compost heap or pot pourri) leads on to a body with dark fruit cake flavours, cassis and biscuity/chocolate notes, beautifully integrated with spicy oak. I'm happy to give this 96 points and would advise buying at least half a dozen so that several bottles can be cellared. $45 - and a very good buy at that price.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Innocent Bystander 2017 Pinot Noir

Quality pinot noir is becoming increasingly expensive as it grows in popularity with Australian drinkers. Some producers are able to ask - and get - $50 for their entry-level offerings. This Yarra Valley wine is a nice surprise, then, well-made, flavoursome cool-climate pinot at a sensible price. Think black cherry flavours with hints of Asian spice, some savoury deli hints and a very soft and supple finish that makes it accessible in its youth. Seriously good buying here; and with the money you save you can probably afford some roast duck to go with it. $25.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Brown Brothers 2014 Patricia Noble Riesling

Named after late family matriarch Patricia Brown, the Brown Brothers' Patricia range highlights the finest wines produced by the benchmark Victorian winery. The range varies each year with only wines judged as being outstanding making the cut. I was a big fan of the 2013 Patricia stickie and the 2014, using riesling from the King Valley, is another standout. A multiple god medal winner, this continues a long line of botrytis-affected wines dating back to the early 1960s. It has a beguiling blend of natural sweetness and acid and is delightfully balanced, as well being vegan friendly. Complex and concentrated with classic Scottish marmalade flavours and a silky finish. $37.  

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Michael Hall 2016 Blanc de Pigeon

British-born Michael Hall is one of the fascinating stories of the Australian wine industry; a former jewelry valuer who changed career streams mid-life and now crafts some intriguing wines from various sites in South Australia, including the Barossa and the Adelaide Hills. This is a beguiling white blend from the Hills, an unusual combination of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. All the fruit has been barrel fermented and spent nine months on lees in quality French oak. The end result is cerebral, textural, delightfully balanced and decidedly gluggable. $28.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Sinapius 2016 Home Vineyard Pinot Noir

Vaughn Dell and Linda Morice, the inventive couple behind Tasmanian boutique label Sinapius, describe themselves as wine growers, rather than winemakers. Their wines are close planted, dry grown and hand picked on their exposed site at Pipers Brook. This is 100% estate grown pinot from low-yielding 22-year-old vines made with minimalist winemaking intervention; 80% whole berries, 20% whole bunches, wild yeast fermentation for 21 days and matured in 30% new French oak barriques for 12 months, then a further three months blended in tank prior to bottling to allow for natural clarification and integration. Think black and red fruits, herbal notes, deli counter characters and natural acidity, on a wine that finishes soft and sweet with plenty of textural impact. Well worth tracking down. $55.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Scott 2016 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay

Sam Scott is probably best-known for his impressive range of Italian varietals under the La Prova label, but the Adelaide Hills winemaker also produces some classic cool-climate wines under his Scott label. This chardonnay, made using fruit from the chilly Piccadilly Valley, is absolutely outstanding. It is thoroughly modern, tight and focused, fruit-driven with citrus and stone fruit notes co-existing happily alongside each other. There is some bright acid backbone and an overall elegance that makes this a pleasure to drink. The fruit is hand-picked, chilled overnight and then whole-bunch pressed directly to old French oak barriques, where it undergoes natural fermentation. It undergoes partial malo but no lees stirring. Clean, crisp, intense and delicious. Pair with roast pork and crackling. $45.  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Taylors Promised Land 2017 Pinot Noir

There's a new look to Taylor's value-for-money Promised Lange range - and a newcomer, as well; a youthful pinot noir that is a downright ridiculous bargain. If you can find a better pinot than this at the same price you should snap it up - but I'm pretty sure you won't. A friend found it on special for $10 a bottle the other day; you should be chewing the bottle shop manager's arm off to take your money if you can match that. For a start, you don't find many pinots with this kind of varietal character for under $20. It is a blend of fruit from several regions of South Australia, and granted, it is not one for the cellar. But is lifted, vibrant, light bodied and a whole lot of fun; juicy, fleshy and very drinkable with or without food. La Cicciolina. Highly recommended. $14.       

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Yalumba Y Series 2017 Pinot Grigio

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the Yalumba Y Series Riesling in my wine column in Sydney's Ciao Magazine, saying it was part of one of the "best value wine ranges in Australia". This is another star member of the same team; impressively fresh and vibrant and made in the style of the cheeky grigios of northern Italy. Australians are so lucky that they can buy such stylish wines for a relative pittance. Think wild flower aromas, apple pie and fresh pears on the crisp palate. This wine is wild fermented and is vegan friendly; serve it with a late summer salad or fresh seafood. $12.  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cape Jaffa 2017 Anna's White Blend

Cape Jaffa winemaker Anna Hooper is not afraid to experiment and this unusual blend of barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc and semillon with aromatic gewürztraminer has come up trumps on the flavour spectrum, producing a fresh, textural wine with hints of fruit sweetness that finishes dry - and is an extremely versatile food wine. Hooper says you can cellar this but I like its cheeky, youthful personality right now. It is vibrant and muscaty and proved an impressive combo when paired with a particularly spicy Thai chicken curry. $25.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pike & Joyce 2016 Vue du Nord Pinot Noir

The Pike & Joyce label offers some of the best of the Adelaide Hills at extremely realistic prices. At a time when it can be hard to find a quality pinot noir for under $50 this one made from 100% Lenswood fruit is an absolute bargain. Smart, fresh and extremely varietal, it is an excellent midweek choice for serious pinotphiles given its delicious slurpability factor. That medium-bodied softness makes this new release perfect for enjoying young. Dark cherry flavours lead the way along with sous bois notes and some hints of Asian spice. Delicious. $36.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Schwarz Wine Co. 2017 Chenin Blanc

My wine writing colleague Gary Walsh from Winefront cavalierly dismisses chenin blanc as a serious grape variety, swatting away any praise like David Warner smites boundaries. The Loire Valley grape can often produce dull, neutral wines and seldom offers complexity, but it can, in the right hands, be used to craft fresh, lively thirst-quenching wines that can be enjoyed well chilled. This is one of those wines, delightfully crisp and undemanding for summer enjoyment. Think minerality, ripe green plums and fruit cocktail notes. Dry and energetic; a busy featherweight, with alcohol weighing in at a low 11%. One for quaffing; not analysing. $25.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Giant Steps 2017 Yarra Valley Chardonnay

Australia produces some of the finest chardonnays in the new world but you'll have trouble finding one that offers a better quality-price ration than this sensational new release from Giant Steps. Aided and abetted by a stellar vintage, winemaker Steve Flamsteed and his team have produced a quintessential bright, medium-bodied, cool-climate chardonnay that just oozes class. Beautifully poised, impeccably balanced, a welterweight with a wicked left. Hand-picked from the Applejack, Gruyere Farm, Sexton, Tarraford and Wombat Creek vineyards and made with minimal intervention, this weighs in at just 13.5% alcohol but has great flavour profile and structure. Indigenous yeasts and large format, mainly older, oak play support roles while 30% malo adds interest without intruding. Simply lovely chardonnay, but the word is out in the industry and it might pay to buy sooner rather than later. 95/100. $36.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Jacob's Creek 2017 Le Petit Rosé

Sorry wine snobs. This is not from a trendy biodynamic winemaker, it isn't fermented in ceramic eggs and doesn't undergo pigeage by Tuscan virgins. It is, instead, a mass-production rosé from one of Australia's biggest companies - and it offers terrific value for refreshing summer drinking. JC chief winemaker Ben Bryant describes it as an Australian rosé with a little French style. It is bright, crisp and dry and perfect for sipping on the back deck. A blend of pinot noir, grenache and mataro, it is textural, with fresh-cut flower notes, fresh strawberry flavours and bright acid. It "captures the elegant and savoury style of French rosé, with the freshness and purity of Australian fruit," says Bryant. It shone in a blind tasting of several more expensive rosés at our place and proved versatile with food, although it doesn't need it. Available at all major liquor outlet. $17.