Oh yes, this is a big edition!
As the name suggests, these are the 34 wines that almost made the Australian Wine Review top grade (of 17/20 or 90/100+) this month.
Some missed the mark by a little, some by a lot. Some are just simple good value drinks, and some are just plain faulty. Of note is how many ’17 whites from Vic/SA look a fraction too lean. A tricky vintage for some, while others will deliver lovely elegant wines.
Bremerton Battonage Chardonnay 2015
Lots of flavour here, but would it be better with less oak? Langhorne Creek Chardonnay, barrel fermented and matured for 12 months in French oak. Toast with a little marshmallow on the nose with prominent oak mingling with broad white peach fruit and buzzy acidity. A whole mouthful of oak and rich fruit with just enough acidity. Oak tannns to finish are the only distraction. Did I mention the oak? Annoying, really, as this has so much flavour otherwise. Best drinking: Probably better from next year and for eight years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $32. Would I buy it? No.
Down to Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2017
The entry level Wrattonbully Sauv for Terre à Terre and the cool vintage is writ large. As ever, this probably just needs time. Handpicked fruit, 36% of the blend is barrel matured the rest in tank, spends 7 months on lees. Cool fresh nose with a little celery, it’s a lean and slightly green wine this year, with that trademark 2017 spanking acidity. Fresh, but perhaps too much so. Best drinking: Drink 2019-2020. 16.8/20, 89/100+. 13.5%, $26. Would I buy it? A glass.
Soumah Chardonnay 2017
Another lean ’17. Gentle white peach Yarra Chard style that sits at the delicate and grapefruity end of the spectrum, with a rounder white peach and lime curd middle before a grapefruit, slightly tart finish. It’s a curious wine, sprightly and grapefruity but also with that lemon meringue thick middle. Arms and legs for mine. Best drinking: Will be better next year. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $27. Would I buy it? A glass.
Xabregas Shiraz 2015
A raw Great Southern Shiraz. Slightly funky and volatile nose with a little cheese and cranberry, the palate full and round but again with the cheesy edge and some drying tannins. Raw finish too. It’s a hands off red, a cool and minty wine of slightly uncertain flavours. Almost. Best drinking: Drink from 2020 methinks and for a good decade after that. 16.8/20, 89/100+. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Zonzo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Amazing packaging on these Zonzo Estate wines with what would be seriously expensive proprietary bottles and expensive packaging. Yet the juice in the bottle just doesn’t live up to the container. This Cabernet just looks overdone, an inky red with dried leaves and warm blackberry fruit complete with a hole in the middle and alcohol to finish. It’s grunty, but the warmth and lack of delicacy makes this seem like a show pony wine with a fancy bottle and a hefty price tag. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $55. Would I buy it? No.
Bellvale Pinot Grigio 2017
From South Gippsland. Cool ferment and a cool style, there’s lightly musky fruit and a palate of acidity and light fruit. Simple and a bit short, the flavours a bit singular for this price. Best drinking: Now to next year. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
D’Arenberg High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Rough and tumble d’Arenberg McLaren Vale red that is hearty and good value. Dark, chunky and slightly minty red with loads of tannins if not quite the fruit generosity to fully back it up. Love the authenticity though – feels like real wine for the dollars. Best drinking: Now to ten years plus. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.8%, $18. Would I buy it? Not personally, but I’ll recommend.
Hardy’s HRB D665 Pinot Gris 2015
Can’t help but feel this would be better younger. A blend of Adelaide Hills and Tasmanian fruit, this has the pear and peach varietal flavour but it falls away into a slightly chubby finish. You can see the intention – a wine with Gris flavour and acidity. But it’s a fraction shapeless and meh. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Harewood Estate Mira Cuvée NV
52/48 Great Southern Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Spends 2 years on lees. A crisp and grapefruity style with generous almost sherbety sweetness on top. That sweetness is a bit blunt but a pleasant fresh sparkling underneath. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Mylkappa Pat Porter Blanc de Blanc NV
From the tiny Mylkappa label in the Adelaide Hills and the only misstep wine from the label. Mid yellow, light bead. White flowers, dandelion with a hint of butter. Vinous, and quite broad style plays its light, slightly chubby palate with a real table wine width. It’s pleasant but feels like its stuck between sparkling and table wine. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%. Would I buy it? A glass.
Ottelia Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Another firm ’17 white, this time a Mount Gambier Sauvignon Blanc. Firmly delineated and varietal style with overt herbs and grass on the nose and a slightly sour and very fresh palate. This is how Kiwi Sauv tasted 15yrs ago! Lots of varietal character, but that palate is bit angular for higher points. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11.2%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Sweetwater Shiraz 2005
From the Sweetwater Vineyard, and made by Andrew Thomas. Fully mature, this ripe style is packed with leather, brick dust and and briary black fruit, the nose fully mature and yet open and expansive. The palate is generous and round with more of that earthen red dust and some cooked plum, the palate fading fast with day old beef on the slightly sour finish. A fully mature Hunter Shiraz that is just a little sweet and sour, this is a reasonable drink but doesn’t have the fireworks required for the pricepoint. Best drinking: Now, it’s just not getting any better. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.4%, $90. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Cuvée Rosè 2012
A coppery light pink that is surprisingly serious. It’s a little bit too lean and lettucey but the style is sound. If only it had a bit more depth, as it finishes a bit tinny. Otherwise quite solid. Best drinking: Now to 3 years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12% $23. Would I buy it? A glass.
Vinea Marson Prosecco 2016
Alpine Valleys Prosecco that includes circa 2% Pinot Bianco. Just 9 grams of RS. Broad and appley with a generous apple lemon juice core. Affable and generous if just a tad diffuse to finish. Layers of flavour though. Solid, drinkable. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass.
Zonzo Estate Yarra Shiraz 2015
Yarra Shiraz that is just too ripe. A hint of tomato leaf, the smudgy plum palate heavy with coffeed oak and a whiff of dried fruit. Barely Yarra, it could be Bendigo really with that width. Warm finish too. Has punch and depth of flavour, but a find this a bit heavy and lacking in authenticity. Best drinking: Now to 10 years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $55. Would I buy it? No.
Alkoomi White Label Frankland River Cabernet Merlot 2016
Solid commercial style but a bit raw. Dry and minty red with too much tannins that overwhelms the light purple fruit. They’re not astringent or harsh tannins, just too dominant. Otherwise ok. Best drinking: Now and to 4 years. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $15. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Mollie & Merle Verdelho 2017
Fresh and fruity young Verdelho with simple guava fruit and prominent chalky acidity. The acid/sweetness balance feels forced but its a pleasant wine. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 12%, $17. Would I buy it? No.
Curtis Heritage McLaren Vale Shiraz 2016
Plump, lightly chocolatey red fruit aplenty here. It’s just a little thin and very ‘made’ with a tart finish. but a pleasant quaffer. Best drinking: Now to 4 years. 16/20, 87/100. 14%, $18 . Would I buy it? No.
Longview Whippet Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Very snappy and cool Sauv that lacks some oomph this year. Cool grapefruit and some ferment esters but the fruit is hard to fine. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12%, $21. Would I buy it? No.
Mandala Prophet Pinot Noir 2014
A tricky wine. Destemmed, but I would have guessed whole bunches given the firmness and colour. Matured in 50% new oak. Unusual Yarra Pinot in every way, it’s already browning, the delicate wine underneath leathery and forward with sappy tea leaf tannins and a grippy, faintly astringent finish. Doesn’t have the fruit for all the tannins, but plenty to chew on. Would be a much better wine if the grapes were picked later. Pass. Best drinking: Now to I’m not sure. Just drink now. 16/20, 87/100. 11.8%, $50. Would I buy it? No.
Mr Mick Shiraz 2013
Pleasant black fruited Shiraz with a decent dose of Clare Shiraz character, complete with a tarry middle. Lacks intensity for higher points and a flat finish. Solid though. Best drinking: Now to 5 years. 14.5%, $17. 16/20, 87/100. Would I buy it? No.
Nikkal Wines Chardonnay 2017
From the Goodman Wines stable. Subtle nose, with a slightly diffuse white peach nose; lean and grapefruity palate has delicate flavours and certainly fresh, if a bit indistinct. I’m waiting for something to happen here – it’s just acid juice. Best drinking: Likely better next year. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Reschke Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 2015
I want more great fumé, as when it’s good, the best wines are just delicious. But balancing out aromatics, oak and acidity seems often too hard. This Coonawarra Sauv looks surprisingly tired. The nose has some leesy creaminess and a hit of asparagus, but the herbal Sauv fruit looks like it’s already losing its zing and the palate falls away into acid citrus water with a somewhat hard finish. Promise on the nose doesn’t deliver. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Blanc de Blancs 2013
Tricky selling conventional bubbles in Australia at the moment. Straw yellow coloured, this has a light buttercup nose, backed by a sweet and sour palate with gentle Chardonnay flavours and a light finish. Pleasant, but a fraction short. Ok. Best drinking; Over the next 3 years. 16/20, 87/100. 12%, $23. Would I buy it? A glass.
Ottelia Pinot Gris 2017
Dry Mount Gambier Pinot Gris that is driven by fresh grapefruity acidity but lacks any flavour. Crisp, but give us something to work with! Best drinking: Now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 11%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Skillogalee Cabernet Malbec Rosè 2017
Bright raspberry red coloured Clare Valley pink that is and full of generous candied redcurrant lolly fruit, a hint of mint and then a brush with tannins, the off-dry raspberry juiciness a straight contrast. Friendly, sweet and full style with plenty of red fruit, if not much more. That sweetness balance just doesn’t work. Best drinking: Now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 13.5%, $23. Would I buy it? No.
Voyager Estate Chenin Blanc 2017
Citrus aplenty, with simple guava and grapefruit flavours, the palate moving from sweet lemon drop fruit to a rather sour finish. Does the job but a workhorse white. Best drinking: Now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 12.5%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Mr Mick Novo Sangiovese Malbec 2016
Grunty budget Clare red, carries very light black cherry fruit and lots of tannins. Too much tannins for the fruit really, but a good grippy quaff. Best drinking: To five years. 15.5/20, 85/100. 12.5%, $17. Would I buy it? No.
Stefano de Pieri di Qualita Prosecco NV
Cellarmasters exclusive Prosecco. Fresh melon nose, broad and generous palate, short finish. Fresh and simple with good commercial appeal, but not much going on beyond simple fruit. Best drinking: Now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 10.5%, $17.99. Would I buy it? No.
Grigori Family Reserve Riesling 2015
Clare Valley. Current release, apparently. Broad nose is already headed towards petrol, the lifted nose quite forward, the palate round and toasty but with cutting, chalky acidity. You don’t notice the alcohol, but surprised that it lacks the fruit generosity to match – it’s quite lean. The balance just isn’t there. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 84/100. 14%. Would I buy it? No.
Mezza di Mezzacorona Italian Glacial Bubbly
Bianco Vigneti delle Dolimiti IGT – now there is a new IGT for me! Neutral nose with a little grapey musky aromas, simple musky palate. Pleasant but very simple with a vague sweetness offsetting the acidity. No. 15/20, 84/100. 12%. Would I buy it? No.
Fuedo Arancia Accussi Extra Dry NV
Extra dry Spumante but a simple tutti frutti style with initial candied fruit and then a slightly off dry palate. Does the job but coarse and short. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 84/100. 12%. Would I buy it? No.
Terzini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015
Rustic Monte with no shortage of farmyardy meaty flavours and furry tannins. Less than clean with a feet and sausage finish. Not for me. Best drinking: Now. 14/20, 80/100. 14%, $29. Would I buy it? No.