From near misses to faulty junk. Here is a collection of the wines that almost won me over in October 2018.
A special, frustrating mention to the two Leasingham wines. I grew up worshipping the mid to late 90s versions of Bin 56 and 61, but these new releases are a poor homage to those classic Clare Valley wines. Boo.
Eagles Rest Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Eagles Rest may be Hunter based (and the best wines are from the Valley), but with fruit sourced from all over the country. This is from the Forrest Vineyard in Margaret River. It starts well, with cool minty edges and brambly fruit, but the palate wrestles with oak sweetness, mint and alcohol. There’s a swishness here, and the tannins have some punch, but there’s also a mixed ripeness sweet/sour edge too, robbing it of the extra edge to get the wine over the line.
Best drinking: Next year and it might get better for 10. Or not. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $49. Would I buy it? Not at that price.
Juxtaposed Alright Hamilton Sangiovese Rosè 2018
The latest Juxtaposed pink/light red from the Mayfield Vineyard in McLaren Vale. Unfined and unfiltered, it’s more southern Italy than Provence and a darker coloured, more fruit sweet style. Candied raspberry, generosity and lively fruit aplenty it’s a sunshine wine, even if it’s a bit too juicy to be drunk at anything but ice ice cold temp. Summer enjoyment.
Best drinking: Christmas by the pool, this year. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $26. Would I buy it? A glass.
Koonara Wanderlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Well priced Coonawarra Cabernet from the whirlwind that is Dru Reschke. Deep marooon/purple coloured with a fudgey, ripe and caramel palate. The oak is there in abundance, and all through the finish, the impact a blunt force in every way. Lots of wine for $25, even if it’s a bit OTT. Maybe that’s what people want in $25 Coonawarra Cabernet?
Best drinking: It will definitely be better in 2-3 years and a decade is on the cards. Question is whether it will integrate. 14.5%, $25. 16.8/20, 89/100. Would I buy it? Not really.
Passing Clouds Serpentine Shiraz 2016
This is from a single block within the Serpentine Vineyard on the banks of the Loddon Vineyard at Bendigo. I really need to get down to western Victoria, it’s been a while. Anyway, this Shiraz has promise aplenty – it’s an inky red with black fruit concentration evident from the getgo. The palate is curiously tart and scalped, the acidity and alcohol cutting off the back half of the wine. It’s not a bad wine by any means – indeed it’s brawny and quite juicy. But it does end up attenuated by both (added) acid and alcohol.
Best drinking: Hmmm. Maybe give it a year or two. I do wonder if the alcohol will takeover in the longer term. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.8%, $53. Would I buy it? No.
Schwarz Wine Co. Rosé 2018
Salmon orange, Provence inspired rosé that I presume is Grenache based. Ripe flavours compete with crunchy acidity here, with a little red fruit and a real vinosity complete with an ironstone phenolic grip. Maybe a little too raw to be great, but solid drinking.
Best drinking: Now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
Taylors St Andrews Chardonnay 2016
This sits at the premium end of the Taylors whites though has always been the odd wine out. The style here is comfortably old school, with a lees and oak chubbiness, though the acidity isn’t soft. No shortage of stonefruit and plumpness, but it also feels too much. That leesy pomp will win friends, but less would be more.
Best drinking: Now to 2 years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.
Wirra Wirra Hiding Champion Sauvignon Blanc 2018
This Wirra is always a clean crisp white, but I feel like it’s just a little too angular this year. There’s a whisper of stone fruit on the nose and some celery (early picked fruit?), before a tangy and firm palate. Good delineation and snap, but maybe a little too firm to be smashable. Long though.
Best drinking: This summer. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $24. Would I buy it? A glass. Maybe two if I’m thirsty.
Bernard Schurr Cotes du Rhone Villages 2016
The best from the Bernard Schurr range. Certified organic too. 50/50 blend of Grenache Syrah, it’s a conventional, if a little rustic, Cotes du Rhone. There’s a dustiness on the nose, before a lightly gamey, fruity palate that is just Grenache all the way. It’s not super clean, but unquestionably authentic. Close your eyes and think of Avignon.
Best drinking: Now to four years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
Bertaine Pinot Noir 2017
Gently syrupy Pinot from the Aude. Varietal and juicy, complete with a hint of herbs, it’s not going to set the house on fire with its slightly sweet and raw finish and generic nature, but this generous and plump Pinot has some commercial appeal. Drinkable.
Best drinking: Low acid and fruity – it’s best in the next 3 years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $21. Would I buy it? A glass.
Dodgy Bros GSM 2017
The only one of Wes’ wines that doesn’t do it for me, and it’s largely because of the alcohol. Some of these Sellicks foothills wines (I see it in the Hither & Yon stuff too) just have this dried fruit side that is a bit jarring. There’s a robustness to the flavours, but the bitter spirit of alcohol on the finish is less my bag. Impact, but at a cost.
Best drinking: Now to six odd years. 16.5/20, 88/100. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gundog Estate Wild Semillon 2018
Wild yeast, some skin contact and back to being more of an off-dry style this vintage. I’m unconvinced that the sweetness does much, and despite the plumpnes of this forward style the sweetness seems out of place. Long, but drier would be better for mine.
Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Jacobs Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Steer clear if you don’t like Eucalyptus/mint. Underneath that dominance this is a serious and really quite substantial red, complete with drying, slightly raw tannins and a long finish. A polarising wine perhaps but really packs in the depth for few dollars. Good BBQ fare when on special.
Best drinking: You know what? This will improve over the short term. Even up to six or seven years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.1%, $17.99. Would I buy it? Not strictly, but fair drinking for the dollars.
Leasingham Bin 56 Cabernet Malbec 2015
How the mighty have fallen. Here, Bin 56 feels a bit forgotten – a minty regional red blend that looks raw and lacks some love. It’s still packs in a hearty, tannic edge that will only improve in the cellar. But gee it’s a rough wine given what it used to be.
Best drinking: Wait a few years and let’s cross our fingers and toes it gets better (it probably will). 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $19.99. Would I buy it? No.
Leasingham Bin 61 Shiraz 2015
I don’t think the RRP has changed in 15 years. This is pretty hearty fair too – gruff tannins, plenty of mint, unsubtle oak. it’s a hearty old school Aussie red that hasn’t changed style in decades, but could be a much better wine with a gentler touch.
Best drinking: It will live for plenty of years, but will it get better? 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $19.99. Would I buy it? No.
Alkoomi Frankland River Rosè 2018
An inexpensive, sweeter style rosé with simple appeal. Made from estate grown Petit Verdot which is interesting (a new role for PV!). Sweet pink sherbet and a light tangy palate. Fresh and fun if just a little too sugary and juicy. Will have broad appeal though.
Best drinking: Right now, real cold. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $15. Would I buy it? Nah.
Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz 2017
Limestone Cost fruit in this Reserve Shiraz. Given the discount price this gets sold for, you’re looking at good drinking. Minty red fruit lifted by oak sweetness (barrel or stave) before a warm and quite luscious finish. Lots of flavour and depth, if not exactly refined. Goes ok, but the Cab is better.
Best drinking: Now and it will live for a few years easy. 16/20, 87/100. 14.3%, $17.99. Would I buy it? No.
Les Courtilles Cotes du Rhone 2016
Grenache (45%), Syrah (35% and Carignan (20%) from the banks of the Rhone. Hand picked too. An affable enough Cotes du Rhone with meaty edges and a hint of feet. Not super clean and also lacks some fruit. But ok I guess.
Best drinking: Now. 15.8/20, 85/100. 13.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Le Chat Noir Grenache Mourvedre Syrah 2017
I was a bit disappointed with this. From the south of France. Somewhere. Glacé berries on a candied palate. No oak, minimal tannins. Just slushy fruit with a faint bitterness and warm alcohol. Friendly enough but pretty syrupy and simple. Pass.
Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 82/100. 14.5%, $21. Would I buy it? No.
Bernard Schurr Alsace Riesling 2017
Unbalanced. Tart, dusty green apple and a tinny finish with flabby oxidative edges. Ultimately tastes like €3 supermarket Alsace. No.
Best drinking: Now. 14.5/20, 80/100. 12.5%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
Bernard Schurr Montagne Saint-Emilion 2016
Wearing one of my other hats I’ve tasted some very large lineups featuring rough, budget Bordeaux like this. It’s not fun. 55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon. Volatile and hard, with no fruit, a dusty edge and warm alcohol. No, no thankyou.
Best drinking: No. Don’t. 14/20, 78/100. 14.5%, $27. Would I buy it? No.