Sunday, July 14, 2019

10X 2018 Chardonnay

10X is the entry level range for 10 Minutes by Tractor, one of the star wine producers on the Mornington Peninsula. This is a classic cool-climate chardonnay without an extravagant price. You'll find all the traditional varietal characters; citrus and white stone fruit, bright acidity and zingy minerality but with a solid backbone structure. Lightly toasted oak, just 20% new, plays a solid but unobtrusive support role in a wine that is impressively chilled. We are fortunate to be able to buy wine of such quality for $30.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Zema Estate 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

How good is this? A delightful new-release cabernet from one of the best producers in Coonawarra that hits the market just as it is hitting its peak. The Zema family are committed to quality across their range, but this offers superb value for a quintessential Coonawarra cabernet with juicy dark berry and fruit characters, an enticing softness on the palate with some French oak making a guest appearance without stealing the show. Complex, beautifully balanced and ridiculously easy to drink. Cellar if you must but it is damn good right now. $30.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Nepenthe Pinnacle 2018 Gruner Veltliner

Gruner Veltliner is an Austrian white wine grape that is rapidly finding favour in Australia and has been adopted as a project by several wineries in the cool Adelaide Hills. From a vineyard in Hahndorf, this is the first "pinnacle" release from Nepenthe. It is a crisp, vibrant yet pleasingly textural single-vineyard wine with floral elements, white spice but mainly crisp, lively fruit flavours with plenty of length. It was fermented in big format oak and matured in oak for four weeks but this is all about the quality fruit. Pair with pan-fried scallops. $32.     

Monday, June 17, 2019

Les Peyrautins 2017 Syrah-Grenache

Les Peyrautins is a new range of French country wines imported by Angoves. This is a very quaffable blend of 70% shiraz and 30% grenache from the cooler parts of the Pays d'Oc appellation. It is fresh and juicy but with the rusticity that marks the wines of the south of France. If you are looking for an easy-drinking red for under $20, it is well worth a look. Raspberry and dark plum fruits are to the fore with a soft, supple finish. Pair with anything from a steak and kidney pie to a cheese platter. $18.99.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sandalford Estate 2018 Reserve Verdelho

It is a mystery why verdelho is not more popular in Australia. The Portuguese white grape variety produces delicious crisp, fresh and dry wines that are ideal for Australian conditions; floral, fresh and food-friendly. This is a very good example, made from vines that are nearly 40 years old at Wilyabrup in Margaret River. The fruit was harvested in the early (cool) hours and was immediately processed. It underwent a long, slow ferment in stainless steel tanks and emerged with fresh florals, chalky minerality and brisk citrus intensity on the finish. I'd drink this young and pair it with fish and chips, or perhaps Thai chicken and cashew stir-fry. Versatile and delicious. $25. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Xanadu 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon

Here is a classic Margaret River cabernet, impressively varietal but also approachable in its youth. This has those layers of flavours we seek in a well-bred cabernet, plenty of structure and intensity with dark berry and currant flavours and fine-grained tannins, along with plenty of length on the palate and well-integrated French oak. There's a lot going on here with malbec and petit verdot aiding and abetting the cabernet. The end result is a harmonious wine with classic cassis and minerality that offers a lot of drinking pleasure for a very reasonable price. $40.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Henschke 2017 Five Shillings

The new vintage Henschke Hill of Grace, Australia's best-known single-vineyard red wine will set you back close to $900 a bottle. It is a common misperception that all the wines in the Henschke range are too expensive for mere mortals. Not so. This rather impressive blend of shiraz and mataro from vineyards in the Barossa and Eden Valley comes in well under $35 - and you get a lot of quality for your cash. The ungrafted, biodynamically grown shiraz sings and the rustic mataro plays a support role with quality oak (95% older French and American vessels). The wine pays tribute to Paul Gotthard, the second-generation Henschke winemaker of the early Barossa Lutheran pioneers of South Australia. Deeply flavoured with dark fruits to the fore, this also has floral and spice elements that come together in a soft, smooth package with some earthy elements. Downright delicious. $33. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Longview 2018 Macclesfield Chardonnay

There is a fascinating topographical map label on this chardonnay from the Saturno brothers in the Adelaide Hills - and the wine is equally interesting. Longview is building a reputation for both the length and breadth of its range and this is terrific chardonnay for the price; beautifully balanced, impressively varietal with the poise of a ballerina and the coiled power of an MMA artist. The fruit was all hand-picked from low-yielding high-altitude vines. French oak adds interest. Thoroughly modern, thoroughly delicious. $40.   

Monday, May 6, 2019

Clonakilla 2017 Syrah

There are wines that sing; and there are wines that rock. Bruce Springsteen would be proud of this one; a superb syrah from Tim Kirk and his team at Clonakilla in Murrumbateman outside Canberra. There is a crescendo of quality here; a symphony of style. While quality is high, volume is low. Just one fermenter each vintage is made from pure shiraz from an estate vineyard. The winemaking is kept simple; indigenous yeasts; a month on skins and 22 months in fine-grained bigger-format French oak. The 2017 had a wet winter and early spring followed by a dry summer. The result: a major hit. Silky, smooth, briary, delicious. $108.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Leeuwin Estate 2016 Art Series Chardonnay

The Art Series range represents Leeuwin’s most elegant and cellar-worthy wines from each vintage, and while I have no doubt this will cellar well, it will call for great willpower to not drink it right now because it is magnificent in its youth. With striking artwork from Kim Maple, entitled Influence, the wine lives up to to its billing as an Australian classic. It is a chardonnay of poise and precision, at once delicate and at the same time assertive it has the core strength of a ballerina. With layers of flavour including flintiness, nuts, Asian spices and bright, tight fruit on the grapefruit/ Packham pear side in of the spectrum this is downright delicious. This one merits 99/100. $104.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

St Hallett 2017 Faith Shiraz

Talented St Hallett winemaker Toby Barlow and his team specialise in shiraz at a range of different price points. The Barossa Valley winery's collection includes the $100-a-bottle Old Block, an Australian classic. In less rarified air is the reliably excellent Faith Shiraz, a popular everyday drinking red option since 1994. There's plenty of guts here, oodles of flavour, youthful vibrancy and a lot of enjoyment for not a lot of dollars. Pair this with a steak and mushroom sauce, or maybe a gourmet burger. Good drinking for $23, or less on special.  

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Vasse Felix 2016 Filius Cabernet Sauvignon

This impressive red is the baby brother of the world-renowned Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon and Vasse Felix Tom Cullity - and it proved a major hit with my tasting group. It's a delicious medium-bodied cabernet with plenty of complexity but it opens up more quickly than its more expensive siblings. There is a splash of malbec in the mix, too, along with softness and immediate appeal. A red where big is not best, but balance is key. From young vines from a very good vintage, this has excellent length and and palate interest. Excellent drinking. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Blue Pyrenees 2015 Midnight Cuvée

There is terrific value to be found in this crisp and lively blanc de blancs style from Blue Pyrenees. Chardonnay fruit from the Pyrenees and Macedon Ranges in Victoria has produced a bubbly full of the joys of life with an impressive mousse, zingy palate and plenty of length. Grapes for this wine are picked at night to ensure maximum freshness. This is very stylish and refreshing with Granny Smith apple and kaffir lime juice notes. $36.

Friday, March 29, 2019

La Linea 2018 Tempranillo Rosé

La Linea is a joint project between wine industry figures David LeMire MW and Peter Leske. This is a very attractive young rosé made from the Spanish grape variety tempranillo, grown in the cool Adelaide Hills. This is not just a pink wine for enjoying well chilled; it stands alone as a very good drink that is particularly good with food. I enjoyed the vibrant freshness, the crisp, dry finish and the layers of flavours and textures that elevate it above your bog standard pretty pinks. This is a wine that tends to sell out, so I'd suggest snapping some up soon rather than later. Good value for $23.     

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Calabria 2017 Private Bin Nero d'Avola

Nero d'Avola, the most popular red grape in Sicily, has proved to be a great success in the warmer regions of Australia, producing reds with real personality. This is arguably the best-value red wine in Oz right now, with a retail price of $15 but often found cheaper on special. What you get for your minimal outlay is a medium-bodied, savoury red, perfectly for pairing with pizza and pasta dishes. Calabria Family Wines is one of the best producers in the Riverina and this is soft, spicy and very gluggable. $15.   

Monday, March 11, 2019

Vinaceous 2018 Sirenya Pinot Grigio

Here's a bargain white for the tail-end of summer; full of freshness and vitality from the colourfully-labelled Vinaceous range of winemaker Nick Stacy, who has a knack of sourcing quality fruit. This one is from the Adelaide Hills and is the epitome of fresh young grigio, floral, vibrant and unoaked. This a wine for sipping and savouring on the back porch, and is also a versatile food companion (think seafood and chicken dishes). $22.    

Monday, March 4, 2019

Henschke 2017 Giles Pinot Noir

A classic cool-climate pinot noir from the Adelaide Hills, and in my opinion the finest wine the Henschke team has produced under the Giles label. This utitlises fruit from a Lenswood vineyard named in honour of regional pioneer Charles Giles and is a wine of delightful balance. I was sipping, savouring my bottle and almost by accident the bottle was empty. Strikes just the right balance between quality fruit and savoury characters. $55.  

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Robert Stein 2018 Farm Series Riesling

Dry rieslings continue to offer some of the best-value wine drinking in Australia and this new release from talented young Jacob Stein in Mudgee is a very good example. For under $20 this is extremely impressive with lime and grapefruit notes to the fore and a crisp, minerally acid finish allied to the merest hint of fruit sweetness. Made from young vines in a stellar vintage, this would pair impressively with Thai and Vietnamese stir fries, or as a refreshing back porch quaffer after a tough day at work. $18.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Elderton 2017 Barossa GSM

The Ashmead family can be relied upon to produce impressive wines at fair prices; often edging towards the more elegant style of Barossa reds. This is a case in point. Traditionally used in fortified wines, regional stalwart grenache has been blended with shiraz and mourvedre from the family estates at Greenock. There is a lot of flavour here, some complexity, too, but most of all there is serious drinkability - think blueberries and violets. Matured in French oak puncheons for 15 months, this speaks quietly but powerfully, and would pair admirably with just about any hearty meat dish from burgers to casseroles. $34.  

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Kooyong Clonale 2018 Chardonnay

Calling all lovers of Chablis. If you are finding your fresh, citrus/mineral favourite increasingly expensive then here is a very good Australian alternative from Kooyong on the Mornington Peninsula. There is a floral/talcum powder nose leading on to an impressive intensity and acidity on the palate. Think pithy manadarin and grapefruit, hinits of ripe dtone fruits, with just a hint of nuttiness. Wonderfully fresh and beguiling. My bet is you'll empty the bottle quick smart. $34.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Dog Point 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

The Marlborough sauvignon blanc boom appears to be coming to a crunching halt; there are too many generic wines and a whole lot of desperate discounting. There are, however, still several brands still making stellar examples, among them Greywacke and Dog Point (both brands with links to regional pioneer Cloudy Bay). This is hand-picked from vines that are farmed organically and made with serious attention to detail. There is part indigenous ferment but no oak treatment, meaning the palate is fresh and racy. There are citrus, herbal and flinty notes here, plenty of texture and juicy fruit. Great with a seafood platter. $25.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Rabbit Ranch 2017 Pinot Noir

It is becoming harder and harder to find affordable entry-level pinot noir. New producers in Tasmania are asking for, and getting, $50 a bottle, big names in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula command similar price tags. Rabbit Ranch is the intro label of Central Otago star Chard Farm - and this offers all you'd want from a juicy, fruity, uncomplicated but very enjoyable midweek pinot. Think bright red fruit, bramble bush notes and low tannins in a rewarding fruit-forward slurper. $27.    

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Elderton 2018 Barossa Rosé

I'm drinking a lot of rosé at this time of the year. The paler, more savoury versions are crisp, refreshing and food-friendly. This certainly fits the bill: a blend of 70% mourvedre and 30% grenache from Elderton's Greenock vineyard on the western side of the Barossa. Using early picked fruit, this is a delightfully vibrant wine with crisp acid finish. Next time I'm enjoying Lebanese dips and pitta bread I will order a bottle of this and savour it. Bloody good. $25.