This is the time of year when crisp, dry and vibrant Clare Valley riesling comes into its own. As the sun shines, so does one of Australia's greatest white wine styles; and few producers do it better, or better value, than David O'Leary and Nick Walker. This is a delightful hand-crafted wine from one of the best cooler pockets of the Clare, producing intensely flavoured but beautifully balanced fruit. Organically grown and made, this is ridiculously good for the RRP of $25, and can sometimes be found for even cheaper. Perfect for summer seafood and poultry dishes, it is well worth snapping up by the case. Think flower blossoms, lemon rind, minerality and brisk acidity. 95/100? No problem. $25. www.olearywalkerwines.com
Sunday, November 12, 2017
How good is this? Yarra Yering Dry Red No.1 is a blend of cabernet sauvignon with merlot, malbec and a touch of petit verdot that is is one of Australia's icon wines. Planted on a historic Yarra Valley site by the late Dr Bailey Carrodus in 1969, the fruit is being taken to another level by the very talented Sarah Crowe. It is a complex little number with briary notes, dark plum and berry flavours, cedary oak and amazing softness on the palate. It just slides down, even as a new release. History, however, tells us that it will cellar for several decades. If you are looking for a present for a serious wine buff you won't go wrong with a bottle or two of this. One of my favourite wines of the year and 97.5 points. $100. www.yarrayering.com.
Sunday, November 5, 2017
The 2017 vintage was a tricky one in Marlborough, which means volume is down for the release of this iconic favourite, the wine that sparked the sauvignon blanc boom. Quality, fortunately, is maintained. With wine fashion as fickle as ever, it is remarkable that Cloudy Bay has maintained its cult following for three decades; but the appeal is quite stunningly consistent. It's fresh, it's vibrant and concentrated and it delivers exactly what its legion of fans want with citrus aromas, juicy nectarine and tangy white peach on the palate and some vibrant minerality. A bit like The Bachelorette. Hugely popular; not to everyone's taste but hard to ignore. Fabulous with sushi or sashimi.
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Sam Scott is producing some excellent wines under his La Prova label, and this is a pinot noir with a vague Italian accent that shines at its very moderate price point. Made from Adelaide Hills fruit, it has been hand-picked, wild fermented with 35% whole bunch material, unfined and unfiltered. Hands-off, you might say. There is some sweet cherry fruit here, hints of forest floor and some appealing charcuterie notes (maybe salami as this is pinot nero). The end result is serious, but delightfully easy to drink. Pair with old-fashioned roast chook and some mushroom risotto.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Mencia is one of the intriguing red wine grapes of Spain; planted mainly in the north-west of the country. It has characteristics in common with cabernet franc, often producing appealing lighter reds. There has been a revival of interest in the grape in recent years and it has also found a happy home in sunny McLaren Vale, where Oliver's Taranga were the first Australian winery to plant mencia. Here it is used in a fresh and dry small batch rosé that's full of spunky savoury notes and would pair brilliantly with a cheese and charcuterie platter. Winemaker Corinna Wright also makes a "joven" style red made from mencia that's designed for early drinking. $25. www.oliverstaranga.com.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
A batch of new releases from Frankland River winery Alkoomi arrived together, so I tasted them in a block. The 2017 riesling was very good, the chardonnay impressive, the sauvignon blanc excellent and this traditional West Australian blend topped the lot. All four wines are ridiculously good value given the RRP of $15 a bottle. You don't get a lot for that nowadays. A 68-32% blend, this is a terrific summer quaffer with bright fruit and plenty of palate length. Sessionable, too with lemon zest and nectarine flavours to the fore and lime sherbet notes on the finish. Well worth 90/100 and investing in a case for the warmer months ahead. $15. www.alkoomiwines.com.au.
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Coonawarra, and Katnook Estate in particular, is better known for cabernet sauvignon than shiraz, but this shone brightly in a blind tasting alongside some more expensive, and more fashionable, cooler-climate shirazes. The truth is shiraz can often out-rate cabernet on the Limestone Coast and this is a prime example with fresh dark berry fruits to the fore with liquorice and subtle pepper playing solid support roles along with classy French oak. This is a wine that is affordable enough for everyday drinking but boasts terrific palate structure. Warm and generous, but in perfect balance, this easy to drink, even easier to enjoy. A solid 92/100. $20. www.katnookestate.com.au.
Sunday, October 1, 2017
I have been accused of reviewing too many rieslings, to which I can only plead guilty and throw myself on the mercy of the court, your honour. Young, fresh, vibrant rieslings are among my favourite wine styles; and they don't come much more impressive than the 2017 Clare Valley releases which are uniformly stylish and offer superb value. Clare rieslings are best enjoyed while young, or after being given several years of bottle age. This one is a good each way bet if you can restrain yourself right now. From one of the region's leading producers, it has vibrant citrus fruit characters and strict acidity. Only free-run juice was used to ensure fruit intensity. Enjoy a glass or two after work, well chilled, or pair it with just about any seafood dish. Delish. $22. www.timadamswines.com.au.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
An absolute ripper from Joch Bosworth and Louise Hemlsey-Smith in McLaren Vale - a "new wave" red that is all about pure fruit flavours. Made in the "Joven" or "young wine" style of Rioja, this is one of the first 2017 reds to cross my path. Made organically with no oak treatment and no added preservatives, it is designed for early enjoyment and that certainly works. Bright and fresh with dark berry and red fruit characters jostling for supremacy, this is a red that demands very little but delivers a whole lot. Soft and subversively slurpable. $22.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Clonakilla is renowned for the consistent quality of its benchmark shiraz viognier, but the Murrumbateman winery is also building a solid reputation for the reliability of its outstanding riesling. For several vintages now Clonakilla has offered a serious challenge to the supremacy of the Clare Valley for top-notch rieslings. This is particularly fresh and zingy with lovely florals and bright citrus flavours ranging from lemon/lime to grapefruit. Throw in some bright natural acidity and tremendous length and you have a dry riesling of real appeal. This will also develop deliciously if you have patience. $38. www.clonakilla.com.au.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Friday, September 1, 2017
Mourvedre is a grape with several personalities. Also known as mataro or monastrell, it is grown in France, Spain and the United States, as well as in the warmer regions of Australia. Not only is it a key component in GSM blends, it is also widely used in fortified wines, as well as a component of some rosés. Most of the Mourvèdre from the Yangarra estate vineyard at Kangarilla goes into a GSM but limited-quantity varietals are produced in exceptional years. This is a very lively and spicy wine, perfumed, with grippy tannins and extremely enjoyable even in its youth. Kept on lees for 10 months in older oak barrels this is unashamedly fruit driven, unfined and certified biodynamic. Lovely stuff.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
All right you up the back. Stop sniggering about "cougar juice". Brisk, vibrant sauvignon blanc remains a hugely popular wine style with Australian consumers. From a very good vintage in the Adelaide Hills, this new release will find favour with a lot of lovers of fresh, high-acid, fruit-driven whites - and is as good, if not better, than many of its Kiwi counterparts. That's no surprise as Nepenthe has been producing sauvignon blanc since its inaugural vintage in 1997 and has become one of the Australian benchmarks. This has immense length and depth of flavour and is low in alcohol at 12%. Think cut freshly cut grass, Granny Smith apples, herbal notes and a crisp, zesty palate. A great thirst quencher for summer and a terrific partner for oysters, scallops, sushi or salt and pepper squid. $20ish. www.nepenthe.com.au.
Friday, August 11, 2017
John Duval, the former chief winemaker for Penfolds, goes about his business with a minimum of fuss. That means the John Duval Wines range sometimes flies a little under the radar despite offering some of the best value from the Barossa. This, which can often be found at retail for $35, is a definite case in point; a beguiling blend of three varieties that traditionally shine in warmer climes; shiraz, grenache and mourvedre. Fourth-generation winemaker Duval has taken some quality fruit from old-vine, lower-yielding vineyards and crafted a wine that whispers its magic rather than shouts. The quality French oak plays a key support role in a delightful red of impeccable balance. $40. www.johnduvalwines.com.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Reliably good year after year, this is, quite simply, one of the best dry savoury rosés to be found in Australia. Made from 100% grenache fruit grown in the Barossa Valley, this has for several years been one of the style leaders as rosé transitioned from curiosity to mainstream. The back label tells the story: "Simply a light, crisp and beautifully aromatic wine that is best served chilled." Match it will anything from seared tuna to a Lebanese mezze platter. $21. www.turkeyflat.com.au.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
It is always nice to discover a new wine producer doing impressive things. Even better when those wines are moderately priced. Last year I was very impressed with a Fetherston pinot noir. From the new releases, I was grabbed by this elegant and seriously underpriced chardonnay made from fruit grown at Gruyere in the Yarra. Fetherston is the cool-climate project of Chris Lawrence and Camille Koll, who have widespread wine, food and hospitality experience. They say their aim to produce "wines of great finesse that capture the purity of each vineyard site". This is certainly a very clean and fresh chardonnay (from one of only 154 cases made). It is elegant, brisk and taut with just a hint of spicy new French oak. Food friendly, too. The Fetherston folk say it will cellar well. I say drink it now to enjoy all its subtleties and give it a cheerful 94/100. Put on a Jason Isbell album, grab some pork crackle and all will be well with the world. A warning: this Macon Villages taste-a-like may be hard to find, so head to the website.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
There is an unmistakeable Barossa-ness to this bold but unostentatious wine; it's a red that is comfortably self-assured. Made from Australia's favourite red grape, grown on near century-old vines in a stellar vineyard, this is helps sets the standard in the $40 price category. It's full-blooded but reminds one of a veteran boxer; all the power is used economically. Think plum and dark berry, black chocolate, subtle oak. History indicates that Filsell shirazes cellar well for up to two decades, so I'd buy a six pack. Enjoy a couple now with a juicy steak or rabbit casserole, and the rest between 2027 and 2037. $43. www.grantburgewines.com.au.
Monday, July 17, 2017
The news is all good from the 2017 vintage for lovers of fine, dry Australian rieslings. I've seen some excellent unfinished examples from the Barossa and Eden valleys as well a pair of high-acid, high-excitement Clare Valley wines from Jim Barry - which are among the first to hit the stores. I thoroughly enjoyed the more complex 2017 Jim Barry Lodge Hill ($25) but this is my pick for drinking young; a dashing, lively wine with lemon, lime and grapefruit notes to the fore with plenty of length and linear acid. Distressingly drinkable, I'd have a second bottle of this on hand just in case and pair it with flathead and chips or some green Thai chicken curry. $20. www.jimbarry.com.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
This is the new release of one of Australia's most complete wines; a Margaret River classic that offers quite spectacular value given the prices now being asked for other Australian icon reds. This is seriously worthy of 98/100 in a world of frequently overblown scores. There are a lot of big-name Bordeaux blends not in the same class as this; a single-vineyard blend of 87% cabernet sauvignon, 11% merlot, 1% malbec and 1% cabernet franc from another standout West Australian vintage. Think classic blackcurrant and violet notes, along with stoney minerality, leafy elements and dark chocolate nuances. Impeccably balanced with fine-grained tannins, this is beautiful now but will almost certainly develop over a decade or more. A work of vinous art that's worth taking out an overdraft for. $125. www.cullenwines.com.au
Monday, July 3, 2017
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Wow! This one really got my clogs cranking. This is the first release of the Terre à Terre Summertown Vineyard Reserve, which is made from tiny parcels of pinot noir planted in the Piccadilly Valley of the Adelaide Hills. The vineyard was originally intended to produce sparkling base material but three tiny parcels were identified as being ideal for table wines. With terroir similar to Burgundy is no surprise that Xavier and Lucy Bizot have produced a wine that has a very strong French accent. Six different clones are fermented in small one-tonne fermenters, with 10-20% whole bunch fruit. The wine is then aged for 6-9 months in French oak (50% new), and bottled without filtration. It is a tad chewy right now but has immense, whisper it slowly, Burgundian potential. 94 points. $40. www.terreaterre.com.au.
Monday, June 19, 2017
I am an unashamed fan of the wines imported from France, Italy and Spain by Fourth Wave Wines, who seem to have one of the best contact books around. This is a deliciously crisp and fresh wine under the Bertaine label; guys who have access to some terrific fruit in the Aude region of the Languedoc, between the Pyrenees and the Canal du Midi. This is made from 100% syrah (shiraz) grapes and is pale and aromatic, in the classic regional style, with some fresh raspberry fruit notes. There is plenty of refreshment here when served chilled - and terrific value at $19.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
There are very few red wines in Australia that can match this shiraz/grenache blend for reliability and affordability. How d'Arenberg manage to keep it priced at under $20 is a minor miracle. Made old-style (think pigeage and basket-pressing), this is a wine that just oozes with personality and drinkability. This was known as "Burgundy" until 1993 as a nod to its juicy, easy-drinking persona. Shiraz and grenache are both varieties that shine in McLaren Vale and the Osborn family has over 100 years of experience. The end result: sweet fruit, gentle fresh leather and excellent architecture. Ridiculous value. $18. www.darenberg.com.au
Monday, May 22, 2017
Oakridge chief winemaker David Bicknell is known as something of a style-setter in the Yarra Valley, producing cutting edge chardonnays and pinot noirs with remarkable regularity. One of Bicknell's vinous loves, however, is cool-climate cabernet sauvignon, which is enjoying a renaissance in the Yarra. The 864 is only produced in outstanding vintages and Bicknell says this is best he has ever made. Even give the hype that drives the wine industry, that is a statement to be taken seriously. New in the marketplace, this is a star. Made with "minimal intervention" it is is pretty and poised with time on skins and 15 months in quality oak barrels adding to its precocious appeal and forward cassis flavours. $78. www.oakridgewines.com.au.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
There is no end in sight for the remarkable rosé boom, which has seen wine lovers moving from regarding pink wines as inconsequential quaffers to serious food wines. Rosés, of course, are drier and more savoury than ever before and appealing to whole new demographic - no surprise given the value offered by this one from Jon Hesketh and Phil Lehmann. This is a clean, lean and fresh rosé that uses fruit sourced from several different regions of South Australia. Made from free-run juice from petit verdot and shiraz grapes, it has a fun label by artist Georgina Hart and is exceptionally good buying given its RRP is just $14. www.heskethwinecompany.com.au.
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Down The Lane is a new drink-now range of wines from De Bortoli with labels that pay homage to Melbourne's legendary laneway culture of pubs, clubs and eateries. This and the rosé are the standouts and offer excellent terrific value for those looking for well-priced, food friendly quaffing wines with bright acid and plenty if flavours. This blend of two Italian varieties (with a touch of vermentino added to make it a fun trio) is crisp and clean and quite dangerously easy to drink. It's worth buying a dozen to have around the house just because. This is unoaked, vegan-friendly and terrific for just $12. www.debortoli.com.au.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Most Australian wine drinkers equate Beaujolais with fresh and fruity Beajolais Nouveau, which was all the rage a couple of decades ago. Fortunately there is a whole lot more to Beaujolais than frivolous Nouveau - and the gamay grape is an absolutely stellar drink for Australian conditions. This one, imported by DiscoverVin, is a medium-bodied, textural French red made by one of Burgundy's star winemakers that is both fleshy and minerally, and extremely food friendly. If it's been a long while since you tried a Beaujolais, this would be a good choice to break your pleasure drought. It is very good value for $33. www.discovervin.com.au.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
TarraWarra winemaker Clare Halloran has no less than four cool-climate chardonnays in the current range. This is the entry level estate wine, with a few fewer bells and whistles than its more expensive siblings, but it stands alone as a delightfully elegant Yarra Valley chardy; more artist than artisan, estate-grown and hand-picked, it has clean lines with citrus zest notes, hints of roasted cashews, along with a crisp, clean finish. Tight and fresh, this is very food friendly, too. Think roast pork with crackling, chicken dishes or perhaps pan-fried John Dory. Great value from an excellent vintage for $28. www.tarrawarra.com.au.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Looking for a seriously delicious red blend for under $20? You won't go wrong with this blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, malbec and merlot from one of Langhorne's Creek's best wine producers. Sisters Rebecca and Lucy Wilson are very much in the groove over recent vintages producing reds, particularly, with real personality. Generously flavoured but tightly controlled, this is a perfect all-purpose red that is dark and full of flavour but also boasts some impressive structure. You could grab a bottle of this to pair with pizza and pasta, but it has the quality to also partner a classic Sunday family roast.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Late-ripening montepulciano is a red wine grape planted widely throughout central and southern Italy, where Coonawarra's di Giorgio family has its origins. This medium-bodied wine is all about the fruit; it is a perky little number with red fruit flavours to the fore and hints of fresh pepper. Plumpish and low in acid, it's a wine offering immediate enjoyment - and is extremely food friendly. I'd love some of this with a traditional thin-crust pizza; or maybe some penne boscaiola. There is a lot of everyday enjoyment here. $23. www.digiorgio.com.au.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Woodvale is the personal wine project of Kilikanoon winemaker Kevin Mitchell, one of the stars of the Clare Valley, and his wife Kathleen Bourne. They produce a very impressive range of wines, of which this is one of the standouts. It is a feisty blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvedre with bright sweet dark berry fruit and Asian spice flavours to the fore. As you'd expect, it is a wine that is beautifully poised; ready for immediate enjoyment but also cellar worthy for a decade or so. Well worth 93 points. $35. www.woodvalevintners.com.au.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
My wife is a very reliable guide to wine deliciousness. If she tastes a wine she really likes she'll sigh with appreciation and demand a re-pour within a very short time. This is a superb Tasmanian riesling about which she is right on target. It's a fresh, vibrant and dry cool-climate white that's full of refreshment and palate interest that would pair brilliantly with anything from Thai stir-fries to runny cheese (we tried it with both). A blend of fruit from the East Coast and the Tamar Valley, this is aromatically appealing with fresh citrus sorbet notes, a zingy acid backbone and general joie de vivre. Best of all it has a recommended retail price of just under a lobster. You won't find many better wines for the price. $20. www.devilscorner.com.au.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Brad Wehr gained notoriety for his funkily-labelled and easy-to-drink wines under the Wine by Brad label, but he's now spread his wings and sources fruit from regions outside West Australia, including some alternative varieties from the Riverland. This is a standout under his Amato Vino label made from the southern and central Italian grape montepulciano. This is medium-bodied, juicy, spicy and dangerously drinkable. Hand-harvested, 20% whole bunch, wild fermented, matured in French oak for 10 months, it is certified organic. Only 160 cases were made of this wine, but Amato Vino is certainly a label worth looking out for. $25. www.amatovino.com.au.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Year after year, the Pike family produce a great-value riesling that is one of the benchmarks for the Clare Valley, the region that is riesling heartland in Australia. This is the 32nd release of this wine and over that time it has barely skipped a beat. This is from an excellent vintage and is drinking impressively in its youth with fresh citrus aromas and flavours, crisp acid and length that suggests it could cellar for a decade or more. I’d enjoy it now - and did.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Here's something deliciously different to enjoy during the dying days of summer: an Australian take on a classic sparkling wine style from Piedmont in northern Italy. Low in alcohol at 9.5%, this is a fresh and vibrant alternative to moscato, made by Soumah Wines in the Yarra Valley. My wife described it as a "cheerful wine that was like a dip in the surf on a hot day". Brachetto is a variety that has strawberry and musky characters.This is made in a "frizzante" style with soft bubbles and vibrant red fruit notes, along with astutely judged sweetness. Try a glass after work. $25. www.soumah.com.au.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Here we go again. I invariably have at least one or two wines under the 1er Yarra Valley, Hoddles Creek or Wickhams Road labels awaiting a review slot. All three labels belong to the d'Anna family in the Yarra Valley are bywords for both quality and value. This is, I believe, the best sub-$20 cool-climate pinot noir in the country; fruit-driven and startlingly sessionable. Think dark fruit, 20% whole bunches in the ferment, 20 days on skins and a wine that has been bottled without filtration or fining. This is juicy and spicy with soft tannins and is ridiculously good for the price. $17-$20 depending on where you buy. www.hoddlescreekestate.com.au.
Monday, January 30, 2017
There are precious few chardonnays of this quality that can be found for under $15 a bottle, but Peter Logan and his team have hit the quality/price bullseye with this very fresh, very clean offering. This is a blend of fruit from cool-climate Orange and warmer Mudgee from a very good vintage and has a melange of citrus and subtle stone fruit flavours along with cashew nut hints and some briskish acid on the finish. Wild years ferment and eight months on lees added complexity but the style is still very much fruit forward. Nicely balanced at 13% alcohol; a good match for fish, pork and chicken dishes. Excellent midweek drinking. $13. www.loganwines.com.au.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Looking for something just a little bit different to sip and savour? You won't find a wine much more exotic than this lighter-style red made by two South Africans from an Austrian grape in the Adelaide Hills. A cross between St Laurent and Blaufranskisch, zweigelt is the most widely planted red grape variety in Austria, but rare in Australia. Here it has produced a zingy, zippy red in the style of Beaujolais Nouveau that is designed for early drinking pleasure and can be enjoyed chilled over summer. Low in alcohol, perfumed, with black cherry notes, this is extremely refreshing and more fun than mud wrestling. $33.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Vasse Felix winemaker Virginia Wilcock is in a fine vein of form with her chardonnays over recent vintages. If she were a tennis player she'd be one of the grand slam favourites. This has been released for several months and has settled into a real groove of excellence, even though it is in the lower tier of Vasse Felix chardonnays. It is just gorgeous right now with all its elements singing in perfect harmony. Citrus and spice on the nose lead to a palate with pristine lemon/lime and stone fruit notes along with zingy acid and crisp minerality. French oak adds interest and depth like a great bass guitarist adds to a rock anthem. Classic Margaret River character and length. I'll give this 94/100. Great value for $37. www.vassefelix.com.au.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
How good is this? Founded in 1840, Sandalford is one of Western Australia's oldest and largest privately owned wineries. It started life in the Swan Valley and is now one of the powerhouses in Margaret River, where it was one of the pioneers. This is a perfect summer wine; a blend of two grape varieties that are like yin and yang (or Eminem and Dido) in Margaret River. We tried this alongside several other WA blends and it was a clear winner with terrific zesty freshness. Lemon and lime notes and tropical fruit flavours co-exist joyously. It is crisp, dry, uncomplicated and perfect with or without food on a warm afternoon. Simply delicious and good value for $20-25. www.sandalford.com.