Sunday, December 22, 2019

Marchand & Burch 2018 Mount Barrow Pinot Noir

Pascal Marchand, the Canadian-born Burgundian winemaker, formerly of De La Vougeraire, and Jeff Burch, vigneron and owner of Burch Family Wines (Howard Park), are the co-founders of Marchand & Burch. They combine their global experience to craft tiny quantities of very fine wines from both France and Australia. This is a new release from the Mount Barker region of Western Australia - and it is a stunner. There are classic cherry and red berry fruits alongside earthy/deli characters and forest-floor notes. It is soft, textured, complex and very, very good value for $60.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Gomersal Wines 2016 Premium Barossa Valley Shiraz

Calling all fans of big, ballsy Barossa Valley shiraz; here's one for you. Fermented on skins for 11 days and then matured in a combination of new and aged American oak hogsheads for three years to add additional intensity, this is a front-row forward of a wine, but with some deft ball-handling skills (sorry AFL followers). Think aromas of dark plums, inky currants and chocolate along with a palate with dark berries and licorice notes. It's big, it's Barossan but it still has some structure and finesse. Try pairing with a fillet steak with mushroom sauce, or sticking away in the cellar for a decade. $

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wicks Estate 2019 Sauvignon Blanc

A cool-climate sauvignon blanc from the Adelaide Hills that tastes like savvy blanc used to taste: brisk, fresh, clean and crisp with plenty of varietal fruit. This new release has already picked up a top gold at the 2019 Royal Melbourne Wine Show thanks to its tropical fruit aromas and lively balance. This wine just screams "summer picnic" and is probably best enjoyed while young and vibrant. It is silly value at $20 a bottle and would be a terrific Christmas party choice.   

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Spinning Top 2018 Pinot Noir

It a tough business nowadays finding affordable pinot noir wines that actually have some pinosity rather than being soft, dry reds that  happen to be made from pinot noir. Finding sub-$20 pinots of quality is even harder, but this one from Marlborough in New Zealand delivers in spades. The back label doesn't give much away but the contents of the bottle speak for themselves with their fruit-forward, juicy flavours. For the technically minded, the wines in the range are made with a low-sulphur regime, wild yeast ferment and lees ageing. The lively fruit flavours score a KO win. $19.95. 

Monday, November 4, 2019

West Cape Howe 2019 Pinot Grigio

Many wine drinkers are guided by price. Others by quality. This ticks both boxes. If you want a white wine for under $20 that offers immense drinking pleasure then you can't go past this new release from perennial over-achiever Gavin Berry at West Cape Howe. The fruit for this is sourced from several different West Australian vineyards but the end result is very pure and cohesive with shimmering bight citrus and pear notes and a hint of chalkiness. Crisp and dry, this is one for enjoying young and chilled with summer dishes like picnics. The new lightweight bottle is another bonus. $17.   

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Grant Burge 2013 Meshach Shiraz

In an era when wineries release one-off collectibles for over a thousand dollars a bottle, paying $200 for a high-quality red of long-term provenance seems fair. Meshach is the flagship shiraz of the Grant Burge portfolio, made from hand-picked grapes sourced from near-century-old Barossa vineyards. Meshach (named after a Burge ancestor) is only released in exceptional vintages - and only when it is deemed ready. This is a wine of intensity, grunty but still impeccably balanced. It is full-bodied, earthy and spicy with sweet, dark fruit and plenty of length. History tells us this will age for up to 25 years if cellared well. Impressive. $199.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Rusden Christian 2018 Chenin Blanc

Chenin blanc is a key white wine variety in the Loire Valley of France and hugely popular in South Africa, where it is often called steen. It has never made much impact in Australia perhaps because it can be neutral if its natural vigour is not controlled in the vineyard. This is anything but neutral; a high-acid wine that was hand-picked early, basket-presssed, barrel-fermented and briefly matured in French oak. The nose offers glimpses of citrus and tropical fruits and that carries on to a nicely-textured palate. There is a lot of length here and plenty of refreshing acid focus. Low in alcohol, too, at just 10.6%. Well worth sampling. $28.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Parker Coonawarra Estate 2017 Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon

Classic cabernet sauvignon from the heart of Coonawarra's terra rossa strip. From a single-vineyard site, this has everything you'd want in a top-notch Coonawarra red; fruit intensity, balance, structure and potential for longevity. All that's missing is the hefty price tag. A wine this good would cost three times as much if it was made in the Napa Valley. One for sipping and savouring with a hearty end-of-winter casserole. $34.   

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Loimer Lois 2017 Gruner Veltliner

There are few grape varieties that suit the Australian lifestyle better than grüner-veltliner and this is a particularly appealling example from Fred Loimer in Kamtal, Austria. Grüner veltliner is the signature grape of Austria and produces dry white wines with savoury aromas, spicy flavours, and bright acidity. Loimer's vineyards are now all organic and this is light, low in alcohol at 11.5%, unoaked and extremely refreshing. It also very food-friendly, pairing with anything from spicy Asian cuisine to poultry and seafood dishes. Imported by Red & White.$28.      

Friday, September 20, 2019

Mount Trio 2018 Porongurup Syrah

How good is this? A seriously enjoyable red from an excellent year in West Australia that offers immediate pleasure with its bright, juicy demeanour. The winemaking team of Gavin Berry and Gill Graham describe it as "as good a vintage we have ever experienced". Formerly known as shiraz, the new vintage has been re-badged as syrah in homage the the grape's origins in France's Rhone Valley. This is made from 20+-year-old vines that have really hit their peak and offers spice and plush fruit flavours along with that instant approachability. A terrific all-purpose red that is great value for $22.50.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Oakridge 2018 VS Henk Chardonnay

It is less than 12 months ago that I was raving about the 2017 Henk Chardonnay - a wine that sold out very quickly. The 2018 vintage is, if anything, even better with winemaker David Bicknell again working his magic on fruit from a grower in Woori Yallock in the cool upper Yarra Valley - a guy called Henk, Natural ferment, whole-bunch pressing to large-format French oak and 10 months on lees have resulted in a chardonnay from an excellent vintage that offers quite exquisite pleasure with its sexy citrus and minerality. Once again it is a wine of immediate appeal but with the length and structure to cellar impressively. 96.5/100. $42.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Bleasdale 2017 Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon

Bleasdale has been making wine in Langhorne Creek for 169 years now - but still tends to fly a little under the radar of casual drinkers. For those in the know it is a small winery with a big reputation. Winemaker Paul Hotker has significantly standards in recent vintages and this is one of a range of reds offering excellent value for money. You won't find many better balanced reds around $20 than this - a medium-bodied, elegant offering with classic berry and chocolate aromas and flavours. Very smooth and a great partner for a roast lamb en croute, or a fillet steak with mushroom sauce. $20.   

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Trentham Estate The Family 2019 Vermentino

There's a new look for what used to be labelled La Famiglia wines from Trentham Estate. The range has now been anglicised to The Family - but remains a homage to newer grape varieties from Italy. I was particularly taken by this delicious vermentino. It is a very food-friendly young offering; pale, lifted and fresh with citrus flavours and a vibrant acid backbone. You could happily quaff a few glasses of this on its own but to be seen at its best it should be paired with some grilled garlicky prawns. $18.    

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Golden Grove Estate 2018 Nero d'Avola

It has taken a while, but the wineries of the Granite Belt in Queensland (freezing in winter, warm in summer) are starting to produce wines with a wow! factor. This is a case in point, made by Ray Costanzo at Golden Grove Estate in Ballandean. Its is a modern take on the ancient Sicilian grape Nero d'Avola, with bright red fruits on both nose and palate. Naturally fermented, this has oodles of soft, sweet fruit, but is also impressively poised with the fruit combining impressively with fine-grained French oak. This a pleasure to drink and would work a treat with Italian meatballs in tomato sauce. $30.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Margan 2018 Ceres Hill Semillon

What a stunning semillon, estate-grown and estate-made by Andrew Margan and his team at Broke in the Hunter Valley - semillon central. This is released later than most other Hunter semillons, losing its aggressive acid edge but retaining some delightful lemon/grapefruit flavours, It is made from vines that are now over 30 years old and are producing impressive fruit intensity. This is delightfully aromatic with citrus notes and vibrant minerality. It is crisp, refreshing, and very, very moreish. We paired this with Thai chicken and cashes and it proved an excellent combination. $35.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Hurley Vineyard 2017 Garamond Pinot Noir

I think this individual vineyard pinot from Hurley Vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula is my favourite pinot of the year so far. Made entirely from fruit grown on a tiny three-acre vineyard, it is a wine of poise and panache, a tribute to the great wines of Burgundy. It is appealingly perfumed, with power allied to charm; a rare combination. Matured in French oak casks for 20 months, unfined and unflitered, this is a savoury and delicious - and comes in individually numbered bottles. Superbly stylish. $72. 

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.