Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Delicious Adelaide Hills Chardonnay with bubbles

Daosa Blanc de Blancs 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA) 
12.8%, Diam

Grower Champagne meets top-shelf Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

That's the brief for this Daosa bubbles, with this 2010 iteration following closely in the mode of the 2009 before it.

Drawn from the close planted Bizot vineyard, which was planted alongside the Brian Croser's Tiers vineyard in 1996, this is fermented and matured in old oak for 8 months and then spends 43 months on lees.

In many ways its more Chardonnay than Champagne, with a custard apple fatness and milky yeasty edges. It's quite soft to finish and perhaps not as Champagne like in its minerality but in the complexity and mouthfeel stakes this is a winner.

Enjoyable stuff.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes.
Buy online: Daosa website

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A slice of Portugal in Australia - Old Plains Mistura 2014

Old Plains Mistura 2014 (Barossa, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $18

Here is a wine to rewrite the expectations about what the Portuguese varieties can achieve in Australia.

The old vine whisperer - aka Dom Torzi - has managed to unearth 41 year old Touriga, Tinta Amarela and Tinta Cao vines in the heart of the Barossa at Stockwell, harnessing these old vine stocks to create a joven style red blend of absolute character and vitality.

An awesome ink purple maroon colour, this is a really juicy and pithy young red, loaded with both blackberry and cherry 'fruitiness' through the mid palate with a typically tangy, yet utterly juicy finish. It's not profound, but the intensity of flavour and energy here makes this utterly delicious - it's just feels like drinking from the cask of a Dao producer transplanted to the Barossa.

Admirably charismatic and juicy young red.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I drink it? If I spotted this on a list somewhere with a predilection for chorizo I'd be jumping.
Buy online: Old Plains website

Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2013

Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2013 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $45

2013 was a ripe year in the Hills, with many of the regions reds carrying an extra spoonful of jam.

Indeed this looks more blackberried and glycerol-sweet this vintage, with less spice the obvious trade-off. Still, despite the blurriness that a little extra ripeness gives this still looks carefully made, the oak carefully nuanced, the acid surprisingly taut.

Perhaps a little bittersweet and warm to finish, yet still finely tannic, this is an entirely respectable wine, if not in the same realm as the 12.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2014-2019
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Not quite. Maybe with age, but I'd much prefer buying the 12.
Buy online: Shaw + Smith website

Dodgy Bros Rose 2014

Dodgy Bros Rose 2014 (McLaren Vale, SA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $18

'For Christs sake drink with food. Think Coopers Pale Ale'

That's the Wes 'Dodgy' Pearson disclaimer that came on the bottle of this, describing it more as wine experiment than drink.

But this really works, the full solids ferment and minimal filtration giving this a haze and fullness of texture that so many squeaky clean Aussie roses lack (and I like).

There's still the classic Grenache redcurrant juiciness and even a little candy, but set dry, savoury and even a little chewy. Sadly I didn't have anything on hand to drink this with bar a handful of dates (tough times at Graham HQ), but you know what? It went ok with them too.

Delicious summer drink.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2014-2015
Score: 17.5/20, 91/100
Would I buy it? Yes. A no brainer for pink wine at this price.
Buy online: Dodgy website

Monday, 24 November 2014

A little win for an exploration of alcohol levels in Shiraz

Some very good news came through over the weekend, with my research study looking at alcohol levels in Australian Shiraz (first mentioned here) somehow managing to score a Second Class Honours.

Normally I wouldn't be trumpeting my university results on here (though I'm very stoked that my Masters is one step closer to completion), but a few people have asked to read the essay (and some kindly winemakers even offered opinions on alcohol measurement techniques).

Available here

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Big Barossa - Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz 2009

Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz 2009 (Barossa, SA)
14.5%, Cork, $180

Grant Burge is in the news this week after Accolade Wines confirmed that it is in discussion to possibly acquire/merge with Burge.

Given that Grant is the largest independant vineyard land owner in the Barossa, its probably a quite strategic move for the historically McLaren Vale based Hardys/Accolade business to gain a Barossa asset. The Burge name has plenty of cache too so a pretty natural acquisition.

What's intriguing is that Accolade are actually on the acquisition trail - a peculiar move given that the private equity group that own Accolade made it well known that all the winery assets were on the selling table up until only recently. Probably still are...

Anyway, I digress - let's talk about Meshach. Now $180/bottle, this comfortably sits in the 'icon' class of Barossa reds and is built very much in the classic, old school tradition of big Barossan reds - complete with a cork seal and fancy gift box.

In many ways Meshach hasn't changed since the inaugural 1988 vintage - still sourced from the oldest vines on the Filsell vineyard (which are well over 100 years old apparently) and still all about barrel fermentation with a long (22 months or more) maturation in largely new American oak (though more French recently).

Given that the recipe hasn't changed all that much over the last 20 years its not surprising that this wine tastes a little old fashioned. Indeed it just looks like a big Barossa red, with an impenetrable black red colour that is impossibly thick and dark. You could lose yourself in there.

It smells... of oak. Wonderful, new, heavy toast oak, indicated with cola nut, molasses and bourbon, the oak lacquered over what is already a heady, figgy, warm year ripe wine. Fitting that the palate is ripe, heavy and licoricey, the oak an ever present drying force of mocha richness, giving drying oak tannins to a dry wine that has quixotically high (added) acid to the slightly bitter - but very long - finish.

In many ways it is easy to write a wine like this off as a caricature and a flashback to 1998. Yet that is also missing the key appeal here - of impact, thickness and depth, of a wine style that big red wine drinkers automatically equate with quality, of a mantra that says more is more when you pay over $100 for a bottle of red.

What I'm saying is that this has a place. It's not modern, its not flashy or savoury or even that complex. But it does exactly what you expect it to - and will continue doing so in the bottle for many years yet. For that alone it deserves reasonable points and a respecting nod.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2014-2030
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Not personally. But many more would
Buy online: Grant Burge website

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Abbotts & Delaunay Alto Stratus Carignan 2012

Abbotts & Delaunay Alto Stratus Carignan 2012 (France)
14%, Cork, $40

I loved the 2011 version of this as it really captured the joy of South of France Carignan. This 2012 iteration, though, seems to lack the specialness.

The problem I think is that its just too polished, with a very new world brightness in colour, the nose all ferrous, red currant jam. It tastes juicy, tarry and quite confected, the finish shorter than expected and the tannins soft. There's an awful lot of currant and syrup fruit, but it doesn't feel as well set as last year and the character isn't quite in the same league

Will no doubt improve with time.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2015-2020+
Score: 16.8/20, 89/100+
Would I buy it? Not at the moment
Buy online: Abbotts & Delaunay website

Friday, 21 November 2014

Tasting the 2014 Jimmy Watson Winner: S.C Pannell Syrah 2013

Tasting the 2014 Jimmy Watson Winner: S.C Pannell Syrah 2013

While I've been critical of the inflated wine show score for this wine, what's not up for debate is the synergy of style, wine quality and the original intention for the trophy. This is, quite simply, a delicious one year old red, perfect for serving as a young wine in a wine bar (such as Jimmy Watson's). High fives Melbourne Wine Awards judges.

A bright purple red colour, there no disguising the purple lift of the 3% Viognier. A flash of apricot on the nose to give the Viognier away there too. Beyond the Viognier influence, its more classic warm year Adelaide Hills Shiraz, with redcurrant fruit, red berries and a little vanilla bean oak, dashed with spice for good measure.

What woos though is the palate, which is silken, spicy and gently berried all at once - it's actually quite pretty, moderate without falling into overt sweet fruit, or any sort of imbalance at all. The tannins are a little light - definitely not a driving, extracted style - but the elegance and that late hit of berry juiciness makes this a really fine drink.

Arguably not for the long haul, but impeccably balanced, I'd drink this in a second. It really nails the medium bodied Hills Syrah style with aplomb and drinks beautifully already.

Another great wine (following the Pinot last year) to win a Jimmy Watson.

Source: Tasting
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2014-2020
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I drink it? Yes.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Bimbadgen MCA Series Fume Blanc 2014

Bimbadgen MCA Series Fume Blanc 2014 (Orange, NSW)
12.3%, Screwcap 

Great label on this - the artwork is Grant Stevens' In The Beyond.

As for the wine - well its Orange fume. Half spends five months in new and used barriques.

The problem is just how sharp edged this. Pointy and clean, there's some herbal Sauv on the nose over a very dry, very sour palate. Oak can't tame that blistering acidity.


Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 14
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 15.5/20, 85/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Bimbadgen website

Houghton fineries - verticals of Jack Mann, White Burgundy and more

Houghton fineries - verticals of Jack Mann, White Burgundy and more

This article appeared in print earlier this year. Seems only right to reprint it here now and include the tasting notes from a few Houghton verticals too.

Oh, and a note - this was written for a 'lifestyle' mag, so the tone is a little different to the norm...

Firstly, a question – one that was asked of me recently, and I got completely wrong.
Namely, where do you think Australia’s third-oldest operating winery is located?

My first pick, naturally, was the Hunter Valley, which has a wine history dating back to the 1820s. Next guess was the Barossa (1840s) with Victoria’s Goulburn Valley an outside pick for good measure.

But all of those answers were incorrect.  In fact, Australia’s third-oldest operating winery is located in a seemingly unlikely, rather unfashionable part of the Australian wine world – Western Australia’s Swan Valley.

To be honest, I really should’ve known better than to forget about ‘The Swan’, as this powerhouse of WA wine production can trace its roots back to 1829. In fact, the Swan Valley region can not only lay claim to the third-oldest Australian winery but the second and sixth oldest too, with more old wineries in this underrated part of WA than there are miners in the Perth airport QANTAS club.

The pretty Houghton cellar door
Speaking of underrated, the third-oldest winery itself, Houghton, seems to be perennially forgotten when Australian wine heritage is talked about, with Houghton known better for its sub $15 white wine – the famed Houghton’s White Burgundy (or White Classic as it is now called) – than anything else.

Just like the Swan Valley however, it is foolish to discount Houghton, for a closer look at some recent wine show results turns up the fact that it is amongst the most awarded wineries in Australia. More to the point, Houghton also picks up more trophies and gold medals for Cabernet Sauvignon than nearly anyone else in the nation, even though few people would ever think mention Houghton when they’re talking about top Cabernets.

If ever there was a wine to ram home just how fine these top Houghton releases can be it is the superb, soon-to-be-released 2011 Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon. Crafted using grapes from one of Great Southern’s oldest vineyards (the Justin vineyard), it is a wine that demonstrates what can be done when you have access to grapes all over WA. Jack Mann is a ‘cream of the crop’ wine that deserves to count amongst Australia’s great reds, with enough intensity to see it live for 20 years or more no sweat.

There is only one challenge ahead for a wine like this – namely, it’s still a Houghton, which means that the public perception is more about cheap and cheerful rather than iconic superstars. In fact, even the bottle itself feels more like budget wine, the glass lighter and the lid flimsier than either the price tag or the quality of the wine deserves.

But maybe that is part of the equation – a reminder that the best wines come from humble origins. Humble origins... just like the Swan Valley.

These were written in a large lineup of Houghton wines served at the winery earlier this year. Notes are as scribbled on the day with extra bits in italics.

Houghton White Burgundy 1998 (Western Australia)
13% alc, pH 3.3, TA 5.8g/l. Cork.
Golden yellow. Warm and quite forward honey fruit, lanolin and creamy apple pie before some jutting alcohol. At its peak and just a little creaky, though nice creamy finish. 16.5/20, 88/100

Houghton White Burgundy 2002 (Western Australia)
12.5%, pH 3.31, TA 6.8g/l. Cork.
Straw yellow. Slightly muted nose over a gently honeysuckle palate. Still quite primary and some citrusy tightness. Pleasant but not remarkable. 17/20, 90/100

Houghton White Burgundy 2006 (Western Australia)
12%, pH 3.1, TA 6.2g/l. Cork
Still some green fruit in this - definitely a much tighter and more linear wine in the lineup. Perhaps a fraction too neutral? Has some delicious pear fruit in there with just a hint of cream bottle age. Freshness and some bottle age interest. Passion fruit finish. Quite fun. 17.5/20, 91/100

Houghton White Classic 2009 (Western Australia)
12.8%, pH 3.1, TA 6.4g/l. Screwcap
Green fruit. stuck in between primary and secondary stages with largely just firm acidity to show for it. Super neutral now. Come back in 3-5 years. 16.5/20, 88/100

Houghton Riesling 2002 (Frankland River, WA)
Sherbet and talc meets the first smidgen of toast. It's very dry - almost severe in its dryness but certainly highly detailed and serious. Perhaps too severe too love tho. 17.7/20, 92/100

Houghton White Classic 2013 (Western Australia)
13%, pH 3.16, TA 6.2g/l. Screwcap.
Looks rather tropical, all fresh tropical fruit on the nose. Aromatic yeasts? Pyrazine hints too. Palate looks curiously thin and Dispirin like. Acidity looks balanced though. Come back in 10 years. 16/20, 87/100+

Houghton Wisdom Chardonnay 2005 (Pemberton, WA)
Lovely golden cashew but style. Has a lovely biscuity chard nose and very firm acidity. Maybe a little too firm? Regardless in wonderful shape for a 9 year old and refreshing to finish. Big accent on the acid twang. Thump! Delicious though. 18.5/20, 94/100

Houghton Wisdom Chardonnay 2007 (Pemberton, WA)
13.8%, pH 3.25, TA 6.09. Screwcap.
Open, Sao biscuit nose. Bottle aged but clearly also a ripe and quite toasty (oak and lees) style. After the promise of the nose the palate is a little stunted and boozy, the finish warm too. Extra points for the nose though. 17/20, 90/100

Houghton Wisdom Chardonnay 2009 (Pemberton, WA)
13.5%, pH 3.24, TA 6.62.
Quite reserved, acid driven style. Indeed it looks rather muted for 09. A curious wine that is still sorting itself out - that acidity is quite tinny. Need another look at this 16.8/20, 89/100

Houghton Wisdom Chardonnay 2011 (Pemberton, WA)
13.5%, pH 3.24, TA 5.8
Open, nutty and viscous - the nose is quite perfectly judged and quite complete. The finest Wisdom in this line and the longest too. Rather satisfying, complex and nutty Chardonnay. 18.5/20, 94/100

Houghton Wisdom Chardonnay 2013 (Pemberton, WA)
13.5%, pH 3.2, TA 6.1. RRP $36.99
Very tight and still carrying banana ferment esters. Added acid here? Still unfurling in the bottle though. Hold. Lots of power but not even or balanced enough to love as yet. 17.5++

Houghton Thomas Yule Frankland River Shiraz 2011
Sourced from the Justin Vineyard. $74.99
White and black pepper interspersed with milk chocolate - aromatic and spicy. Cool, black fruit palate is smooth but deep and coffeed - fuller and richer than the norm for Frankland Shiraz. Deep and coffeed and rather delicious indeed - if a bit warm. 18.5/20, 94/100

Houghton Thomas Yule Shiraz 2012
Immediately more high toned if also a little more reductive after the 11, this looks pretty and fragrant - but I'm just a little less convinced by the red purple simpleness. More whole bunch apparently. Seems a bit more reticent than the 11 but also sexy too - stem tannin dryness. Revisit in 5. 18.2/20, 93/100+

Houghton CW Ferguson Cabernet Malbec 2007 (Great Southern, WA)
14.3%, pH 3.5, TA 6.4. 75/25 Cabernet/Malbec
Fleshy, open and a little boozy. Drained finish. Nice gravelly classic Cabernet nose, but a little skinny. Still dense and chewy but feels slightly underpowered. Nice tannins. Where is the fruit. 16.8/20, 89/100

Houghton CW Ferguson Cabernet Malbec 2008 (Great Southern, WA)
14%, pH 3.42, TA 5.69. RRP $59 92/8 Cabernet/Malbec.
Sweet bitumen style. Really all roasted fruit and warm spiky finish. Needs the palate weight to match the alcohol. Unbalanced. 15.5/20, 85/100

Houghton Gladstones Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 (Margaret River, WA)
14%, pH 3.37, TA 6.93
Rambunctious nose - lovely gravels and cedar and spice. Oak rich palate is smooth and still tannic and drying. Don't notice the huge acidity. Nice leafiness through the finish. This is top shelf gear, the finish exceptional. Maybe a little warm? Very handy though. Would have been an oaky wine in its youth, Gold medal quality. 18.5/20, 94/100

Houghton Gladstones Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Margaret River, WA)
14%, pH 3.36, TA 6.22
An almost sullen wine in this context. Rather leafy with lots of eucalpyt. Drying tannins. Subtle and may live forever but maybe a little lean. Keeper though. I like the pure lines here. Give it 5 years. 17.7/20, 92/100

Houghton Gladstones Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Margaret River, WA)
14.3%, pH 3.49, TA 6.18
Forward, ripe, warm and almost caramelised - is this an 08 from south Oz? Definitely has fruit sweetness but some obvious raisining. Tannins not up to the task either. Still, long long finish gets this some kudos. The bitumen dead fruit subtracts and dries everything out. Alcohol a full stop. Long but hmmm. I'd like to revisit in 5 years. 17.5/20, 91/100

Houghton Gladstones Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Margaret River, WA)
13%, pH 3.51, TA 6.1
Much better. There's some obvious oak on the nose of this - very modern oak though, plush and smooth. That palate is seamless too - cool and spicy. It's still a puppy - and perhaps a little too youthful, but has a very good balance too it. Almost southern Victorian in its profile rather than gravelly Margs though. Nice even finish. This is a keeper. I'd like to see some more classic Margs characters as it's perhaps too smooth, 18/20, 93/100+

Houghton Jack Mann Malbec 2004 (Great Southern, WA)
Bottled separately but never released, this single vineyard Malbec is basically the key Malbec part of Jack Mann.
Spicy black leaf mulch. Quite advanced on the nose. Palate is really backward though - deep, black fruit and a mid weight finish. Spicy. Clearly a palate and finish filler but misses its cab component. A bit uncompromising. Real cocoa powder richness here though - has an absolute decadence to it. 17.7/20, 92/100

Houghton Jack Mann 1994 (Great Southern, WA)
13.5%, pH 3.39, TA 6.7. 85/10/5 Cabernet/Malbec/Shiraz
Still impressively dark, just a hint of mahogany at the edges. Nose looks more forward and has the tea leaf character of older Aus Cab - starting to look more   old wine than old WA wine. Still a lovely wine though with excellent drying tannins. I really rather enjoyed this. Fresh finish. Top class. 18.5

Houghton Jack Mann 1995 (Great Southern, WA)
Hello Brett! Lovely juicy fruit underneath, but the more I look at it the more Brett I can see. Sigh... 15/20, 85/100

Houghton Jack Mann 1999 (Great Southern, WA)
14.5%, pH 3.39, TA 6.65. 70/30 Cabernet/Malbec
Heroic wine. Concentrated but seems to be driven by alcohol and tannins. Huge tannins.  Sweet, mint and oak nose, palate looks like it'd teetering, holding onto oak richness but hot and heavy. Excellent intensity though - long leafy finish. If the alcohol could be reined in this would a star. 17.7/20, 92/100

Houghton Jack Mann 2004 (Great Southern, WA)
14%, pH 3.42, TA 6.2. 98/2 Cabernet/Malbec
Significant bottle variation in the 04 Hardy's red releases - TCA and oxidation. healthy intensity and life but it just feels a dull and boozy. Low level TCA? I'm not convinced by this. 16/20, 87/100

Houghton Jack Mann 2011 (Great Southern, WA)
14% pH 3.56 TA 6.27. 96/3/1 Cabernet/Malbec/Shiraz.
Welcome back. Softer and pretty. A barrel sample-esque wine but such delicious drive. Harks back to the 94. I'm stealing Ralph Kyte-Powell's quote 'deceptively drinkable but will live for 20 years'. Fine tannins. Excellent drive. No acid. Back to the top tier, this is really natural and such length! 18.7

Cork vs Screwcap

What a comparison this was. Same wine, two different closures. I didn't score these as was to interested in the comparison. Served blind.

Houghton Jack Mann 2001 (Cork)
Rather forward and caramel. Treacly but with big alcohol. Warm year wine. Open and flashy though - hearty drink with a slightly earthy ferrous red finish. Meaty and a little raw. Warm year wine for sure.

Houghton Jack Mann 2001 (Screwcap)
This seems more svelte, more closed and more boozy. I'm guessing screw as it seems much more backwards (bingo). A better wine? Not conclusive. I think the more open 01 under cork is better.

Houghton Jack Mann 07 (Cork)
Slightly more vegetal wine. Closed too. Lots of acid in this puppy. Quite refined though - tight lines. Fresher than the last wine.

Houghton Jack Mann 07 (Screwcap)
More polish, more tannins and more flavour - a rich bugger too. Is this the cork wine (it wasn't)? Such a baby. Long termer. Classic. Very similar wine. Hard to separate cork and screwcap but this perhaps gets the edge. Long and purpley oak berry amalgam. An excellent wine. Tannin aplenty - slightly raw tannins but burly drive. Excellent!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

View Road Wines Picked by my wife Arneis 2014

View Road Wines Pick by my wife Arneis (Adelaide Hills, SA)
13%, Screwcap, $22

'A wine to smash over summer' according to winemaker Josh.

I can definitely see that, the style crunchy and fresh, kicking off with lemon and celery with a dash of lavender perfume. It's hard to pick the variety here, but it smells appealing. The palate doesn't deliver much flavour beyond light phenolics, but certain the crunch is there.

Not a bad neutral dry white, but ultimately a simple drink.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2014-2016
Score:16/20, 87/100
Would I buy it? Not quite.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A great Australian red from a champion of The Great Australian Red

A great Australian red from a champion of The Great Australian Red

The results from Tyson Stelzer and Matthew Jukes 'Great Australian Red' (Cabernet Shiraz and blends focused) wine competition were announced this week, with the 2012 Yalumba Caley Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz taking out the big prize (full results here).

Given just how many Cabernet Shiraz blends Yalumba make it's not surprising that they've won it out (again), but that's also detracting from the reason why they did - because Yalumba honestly believe that such a blend is the pinnacle of Barossa red wine.

To emphasise the point I had a look recently at a wine that defines the absolute pointy end of Yalumba's wines - the 1990 Yalumba Reserve. Interestingly this, and the follow-up '92, were blends of Coonawarra Cab and Barossa Shiraz, with the blend only becoming 100% Barossa in 1996.

Regardless, this really is a classic Australian red. Lots of oak. You really can't ignore that this framed by A.P. John's finest American oak in every way. There's some good old Aussie eucalypt too. What wooes though is the mouthfeel - it just floods your mouth with thick grained tannins, everything chocolatey and coated with that old brick plumminess of aged Australian Shiraz. For all that power, though, this is no bruiser - indeed the alcohol is restrained and there's little excess warmth, just enveloping richness and dry, dark choc extract.

It's easy to criticise, rich oaky Australian reds, but presented like this, with such obvious fruit depth and charm, they're actually pretty satisfying wines - and this is one of the more special ones out there. 19/20, 96/100

Monday, 17 November 2014

Thomas Wines OC Semillon 2014

Thomas Wines O.C. Semillon 2014 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
11.7%, Screwcap, $23

The more forward and approachable of Thommo's Semillons. I must admit I'm a Braemore man and the O.C. does less for me as a young wine - it's just too juicy.
Sherbet and lime. Lots of sherbet. Lots of lime. Great fruit intensity here - excellent power, if perhaps a little forward and a fraction toasty. Nice acid though (and this can look really good with age).

Juicy Sem and high quality, if standing in the shadow of Braemore's greatness.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2014-2024+
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink it, but Braemore is where the money goes.
Buy online: Thomas Wines website 

Montalto Chardonnay 2013

Montalto Chardonnay 2013 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13.2%, Screwcap, $39

Clever wine for a warm vintage. Simon Black & crew are doing good things at Montalto.

It's a quite delicate wine for the Peninsula - cool and quite delicate, grapefruit meets breadfruit and white melon. The palate too is an essay in control, the white peach fruit carefully contained by briny acidity.

Very satisfying modern Chardonnay. Maybe a little lean to be perfect just yet, but utterly delicious and refreshing. Yes.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2014-2019+
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes. I'd prefer to drink in another year, but still very solid purchase now.
Buy online: Montalto website

Beyond the fancy bottle: Heemskerk Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2009

Heemskerk Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2009 (Tasmania)
12%, cork, $60

This comes in one of the most eye-catching bottles around. What do you think - brilliance or novelty (especially given that it looks a lot like the Crown Ambassador bottle)

Thankfully the juice inside is top-rate - perhaps the best bubbly yet from Heemskerk. All Coal River Valley fruit (including a portion from the Tolpuddle vineyard apparently) and Chardonnay dominant.

A wonderfully delicate style it is too. Very crisp and perhaps too dry, but lovely delicacy - really quite pretty and correct, though the acid is just a little citrussy. Indeed it's almost an aromatic white with bubbles, such is the citrussy acidity. But nice though - I shared a bottle and it disappeared quick smart.

If anything I think this could be quite magnificent with more lees/bottle ageing. Certainly more complete than most $60 NV Champagne (and a quick Google search tells me this can be bought for sub $50 too).

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2014-2018+
Score: 18.1/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Almost. With Bollinger available at $54 its tricky. This has more character though.
Buy online: Wine Box Warehouse, Heemskerk website

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Chapel Hill The Gorge Block Chardonnay 2013

Chapel Hill The Gorge Block Chardonnay 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA)
13%, Screwcap, $35

I've never noticed that the coffin shaped thing on the Gorge Block Chardonnay label is a clever label cut out. It's the little things that make the difference and Chapel Hill are cluey on the details.

This looks just a little touched up by the warm vintage. It smells tightly contained, but a robust, butter and biscuits Vale Chardonnay is just lying under the surface itching to get out. It tastes of grapefruit and lemon spice and nouguat, the fruit full and ripe despite some raw and hard acid. Actually, that's the challenge here as it is both raw and full all at once.

Plenty of classy winemaking, but the balance just isn't there.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2014-2017
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? No.
Buy online: Chapel Hill website

Turners Crossing Shiraz Viognier 2012

Turners Crossing Shiraz Viognier 2012 (Bendigo, Vic)
14.5%, Screwcap, $25

This Shiraz spends between 30-60 days on skins, which is quite rare for Australian Shiraz (where short warm ferments and early pressing off skins are the norm). You can see that long maceration methinks, with some very shapely tannins to finish things off.

The first whiff, however, is all about eucalypt - no doubting that this is Australian Shiraz. Dandelions, white pepper and meat in there too. The style is dense, compact, slightly foxy, and superbly structured, with dry, long grippy tannins and some alcohol warmth to finish.

Impressive, slow burn cool clime Shiraz.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2014-2014+
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? With a few more years under its belt I might. At present its just a little firm to really love.
Buy online: WinelistOz, Turners Crossing website

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The best Dodgy Red yet: Dodgy Bros. Sellicks Foothills Shiraz 2013

Dodgy Bros. Shiraz 2013 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.7%, Screwcap, $29

Yes, the label is upside-down

I've been in the box seat for the evolution of Wes Pearson and co.'s Dodgy Bros wines, having seen the wines pretty much from the start (have a read of a few Dodgy reviews here).

Still, this is the best Dodgy wine I've tasted to date - and its a goodun.

Hand picked from two vineyards in the Sellicks foothills, this was matured in old French and one new American oak barrel, bottled unfined and unfiltered. Just 460 6 packs made.

What a riotous wine it is too. Floods your mouth with that liquid treacle and choc bullet ultra concentrated Sellicks foothills flavour. It's plush and slick, warmly alcoholic yet unashamedly so (and it doesn't stick out). Texturally it's a dynamo, vanilla bean sweet oak lifting things right up, but that expansive, super smooth richness bringing you over the line

Large but lithe Vale Shiraz, this shows the warmth of the vintage, in a wonderfully polished and full form. Great value too.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2014-2024
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? If I was in the mood for a big Shiraz hit this would be a natural choice. The price is silly for the quality really.
Buy online: Dodgy Brothers (upside-down) website

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Symphonia Pinot Grigio 2013

Symphonia Pinot Grigio 2013 (King Valley, Vic)
12.5%, Screwcap, $24

A winery with a whole suite of interesting varieties and styles (in true King Valley form).

Indeed this is an aromatic beast, with loads of white flowers, white nectarine and a little blossom. Very aromatic for Grigio.

After the nose the palate is a little bit of a letdown - the acid has the sharp edges of early picking, with flavours not quite carrying through. Still, lots of promise, if not quite superstar delivery. Like the nose alot.

Source: Sample
Tasted: Nov 2014
Drink: 2014-2015
Score: 16.5/20, 88/100
Would I buy it? Not quite.
Buy online: Symphonia website

Monday, 10 November 2014

Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12%, Screwcap, $25

In an unguarded moment, Shaw + Smith winemaker Adam Wadewitz called 2014 'difficult' in the Adelaide Hills, with poor flowering, uneven yields and a stop-start combination of intense heat and the odd downpour making life challenging.

Still, if anyone can pull the rabbit out of a hat it is the Shaw + Smith, who I'd rate as one of the most professional wine craftspeople in the nation - and Wadders is right up there amongst the brightest stars in the industry.
This is cleverly made. There's passionfruit and a little melon Hills signature to kick things off, in an open, slightly grassy style. Maybe less tropical than usual. It tastes a little light and sharply drawn this vintage, but the acid is soft and not harsh - important for what looks like an earlier picked style. Clean, fresh, perhaps a little underpowered but everything packed in as it should be.

Not a classic S + S Sauv, but a good outcome.

Source: Sample
Tasted: November 2014
Drink: 2014-2016
Score: 17/20, 90/100
Would I buy it? I'd drink this and probably buy it on a list. Still refreshing.
Buy online: Dan Murphys, Shaw + Smith website