From great value quaffers to absolute train wrecks, this month’s compilation of ‘almost’ wines is a biggun’.
I’m always conscious of my prejudice against overripeness and heavy-handed oak, but I call both as symptoms of poor wine. Objectively, unbalanced wines aren’t good wines, and I score accordingly.
Here then is a collection of wines that almost made the grade in May.
d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz 2016
A great way to spend $18. It’s not polished, but d’Arenberg again have delivered lots of wine for the dollars. Purple red coloured, it carries the d’Arenberg mark of tilled earth, coupled with a little volatility and then a tangy, earthen and savoury palate that is driven by tannins. It’s less simply juicy than your typical $18 Shiraz but that’s what makes it a more interesting drink, even if it’s just a bit sweet and sour. Good. Best drinking: Good now and for at least 8 years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.3%, $18. Would I buy it? No, but others would.
Mr. Riggs Piebald Adelaide Hills Syrah 2015
This isn’t bad, but honestly I’d expect just a little more concentration. Some of these Mr Riggs wines can taste like they’ve been made in a hurry, and I suspect that could be the case here. The fruit underneath looks ok, with a chunky, but still mid-weight style and fudgey ripe fruit. I find the acidity attenuates the finish somewhat, but it all tastes ok in the end. Best drinking: Will probably get better. Drink over the next ten years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Wirra Wirra Church Block Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2016
K1 by Geoff Hardy Autumn Harvest 2017
Late picked Riesling from the Hills. Botrytis is the first thing you noticed, then honeyed quince flavour in a slightly syrupy mode. There’s still acidity to counter the 144g/L residual sugar, but not quite the length to make it a convincing drink beyond just sweetness. Drinkable, but doesn’t scale the heights. Best drinking: Good now, will hold for a few years yet. 16.5/20, 88/100. 8.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Sherrah Nero d’Avola 2017
Single vineyard McLaren Vale Nero. Lots of fun in these Sherrah wines, but this seems just a bit simple. Plenty of whole berries and open fermented, it’s all sloshable raspberry and blackberry fruit in a round and fun style, the simple juiciness given an extra edge thanks to the late spice. No pretence here just juiciness – a very easy drink. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d drink it but it’s just a little expensive for the joven style.
Chapel Hill The Parsons Nose McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Lots of flavour, not much subtlety. But hey, it’s a $18 wine. Very ripe red berries with a dark plum jamminess everywhere. The alcohol shortens the palate for mine, though I like the blackberry fruit. Great concentration for the $. Best drinking: Good now and for at least five years yet. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? Not personally.
Ottelia Limestone Coast Sangiovese 2016
Good packaging and easy approachable wine. Light, cherry ruby red with bright raspberry fruit, some varietal briar and then slightly raw and grippy tannins to finish. A little light on for such strident structure but has appeal – drinkable, if not quite harmonious. Best drinking: Now for a good five years, though the fruit may start to fade by then. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.2%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
Redman Cabernet Merlot 2013
Reschke Pierre De Ronsard Rosè 2017
Coonawarra Merlot rosè with smart packaging (complete with Vinolok). Spends some time in barrel and definitely a more robust style. Blush/light orange, there’s a hint of candy on the nose – a little raspberry – and some onion skin. Juicy, lightly sweet palate has more of that candied pink fruit but finishes with some alcohol warmth + surprising raw phenolics. Ugh. Good packaging and a quite serious wine all said and done, yet with a harsh finish that doesn’t gel. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 13.2%, $23. Would I buy it? No.
Sherrah McLaren Vale White et al 2017
Fiano and Chenin Blanc in a fresh and fruity ‘this is McLaren Vale’ style. Brightly fruity nose with melon and lemon citrus, the direct fruitiness of nose and palate makes for a pleasant fruit salad wine of broad citrus fruits and pear with a lightly tart finish. Pleasant but lacks any sort of incision and already at its peak. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
The Vinden Headcase Rosè 2017
Something of an experiment this wine with 5 different ferments, multiple different varieties and vessels. Winemaking can be fun! A blend of 55% Merlot, 17% Shiraz, 17% Temp., 10% Sem. and 1% Alicante Bouschet. Includes some barrel fermented portions and tank. Lots going on! Light pink red, the nose seems a fraction extractive, with an onion skin orange colour and a dry and crunchy palate is a bit extractive and angular, with firm tannins. Flavour here but it’s a slightly rough and extractive style that is very dry. Softer please? Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Vinden Estate Sparkling Alicante Bouschet 2017
A cellar door hit and you can see why. I love the lurid pink colour – like pink lemonade. It tastes like raspberry lemonade actually, but bursting with an exuberance of flavour. Not cynical, the sweetness obvious, but not overtly cloying. Just raspberry essence. Does the job and will be so commercially appealing, even if its too sweet and simple for mine. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 10%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Vinden Estate Verdelho 2017
Slightly sour this wine – early picked? Has a briskness to it. The acid-shaped palate getting it done, but I’d like a bit more ripe fruit really. Fresh and fruity white wine, nothing more. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Hither & Yon Rosè 2017
McLaren Vale. Is it Muscat based (yes it is, along with Carignan). Very pale with just a little orange. Heavily reduced nose, and a light, slightly raw palate with very light flavours. Aims for a Provence style, but it’s such a shy thing that you can’t quite pin it down. A bad bottle? Best drinking” Later this year I guess. 15.5/20, 86/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Not based on this sample.
Mr Mick Cabernet Merlot 2014
Minty Clare red with firm structure but not quite enough fruit, the mid palate in need of more generosity, with tannins are green and raw. More stuffing and this would be a much better wine. Best drinking: It will soften though probably not get any better. 15.5/20, 85/100. 13.5%, $17. Would I buy it? No.
Vinden Estate Alicante Bouschet 2017
A light red that I’m not quite convinced by. Raspberry red coloured the story here is the spicy, slightly herbal palate with candied raspberry hitting sour cherry and a leafy, tobacco edge. Sweetness bounces off the tannins. I don’t get the push/pull tannin/sugar flavour here. Short too. Best drinking: Now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 11%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Alkoomi White Label Frankland River Chardonnay 2017
A rather lacking white. Simple white peach citrus fruit and the barest kiss of oak. Barely varietal Chardonnay but otherwise a neutral dry white. The oak here (staves? Chips?) doesn’t do much for it. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 83/100. 12.5%, $15. Would I buy it? No.
Ferngrove Majestic Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Minty Frankland River Cabernet that displays all the hallmarks of mixed ripeness. Ripe blackberry meets mint on the nose, the palate boldly ripe and chunky but with an unmistakable minty, astringent edge. It’s not horrible, but the green edge and ripeness/acid imbalance makes for an unfun wine. Best drinking: I’m not sure. 15/20, 83/100. 14%, $32. Would I buy it? No.
Eldorado Road Riserva Nero d’Avola 2016
Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy Aglianico 2016
Light cherry red. Has a lacquer of obvious vanilla bean oak and a warm and lightly raisined nose. Despite the ripe nose, the palate is less ripe, though the astringent tannins continue to power on. Such raw tannins and then where is the fruit? Completely unbalanced. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 83/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy Nero d’Avola 2016
McLaren Vale Nero. It’s so warm! Hot bitumen and licorice nose. Ripe fruit is the first play, the second play and the third play. Black fruit, raspberry ripple through the middle and then an astringent finish. Rough wine this. Rough at every turn. Not my cup of tea at all. Best drinking: Now, before the fruit fades. 15/20, 83/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy Teroldego 2016
Adelaide Hills fruit. Even though it’s just 12.5%, there’s a mixed ripeness the whole way through, the tannins raw and then a big bang of mint. Needs much more flavour really. I don’t get why you’d pick this early? Best drinking: Now, I guess. 15/20, 83/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Kangaroo Island Trading Company Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Even ripeness seems to be a challenge on Kangaroo Island. Why? Deep red colour, the nose is all mint and sweet vanilla oak, the fruit syrupy, yet with a green minty edge and did I mention the vanilla oak. Unconvincing ripeness and heavy handed oak. No. Best drinking: It will get better but never be balanced. 15/20, 83/100. 14.5%, $39. Would I buy it? No.
Mr Mick Tempranillo 2015
Clare Temp. Reductive nose, thin red berry fruit with a candy edge and then raw tannins. Heavy cropping delivers a lack of flavour here. You could do better in my opinion. Best drinking: No. 14.5/20, 80/100. 13.5%, $17. Would I buy it? No.