I missed December’s Almost Club edition (holidays), so this is a huge crop of almostness…
As the name suggests, here are the wines that almost hit the mark for me in January. Some are just nice drinks without being blinding, others are faulty trainwrecks.
Let me know what you think.
Chateau Tanunda 150 Year Old 1858 Field Blend 2015
A mega red from Chateau Tanunda that ends up mega OTT. From a single vineyard in Springton; it’s a field blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Malbec, matured in a single puncheon for 18 months. Mid weight, but still so ripe and rippling with red berry fruit, slightly sour acidity and then alcohol, alcohol and alcohol. A flagship wine that tries too hard. Plenty of flavour, no doubt, but it’s too warm and too much (let’s not talk about the pricetag). Best drinking: Now and for the next decade. 16.8/20, 89/100. 15.7%, $500. Would I buy it? No.
Church Road Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2017
Classic Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay in an old school mode. Fully ripe, but with some stylish funk amidst the spiced peach. The reductive edges are such a contrast to the thicker palate. So plump! There’s just a little too much thickness on the finish, but will please anyone looking for weighty Chard. Best drinking: Now and for the next 3 years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $25.99. Would I buy it? Not my style, but I’d drink a glass.
Raidis Estate Cheeky Goat Pinot Gris 2018
Fun, approachable Coonawarra Gris. Pink grapefruit aplenty and surprisingly dry and acid shaped given the ripeness. Pleasant enough, but a little more texture would help the conviction. Best drinking: Now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $24. Would I buy it? A glass.
Two Hands Angels’ Shiraz 2017
McLaren Vale Shiraz from Two Hands. Polished, round and slightly warm, there’s just a little broad caramel to blunt the edges. Packs in flavour, but just a bit ‘made’. Best drinking: Now and for up to eight. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.1%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
Alkoomi Cabernet Franc 2016
I don’t think I’ve seen an Alkoomi Cab Franc before. This certainly tastes like Frankland River fruit, complete with a little regional mint. Actually a lot of mint, pencil shavings and meaty menthol. I want more generosity here, rather than just extraction. Certainly some mixed ripeness too. Has depth, but I’d prefer other wines in the Alkoomi range. Best drinking: Probably better next year and then for up to ten without even trying. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
Andevine Reserve Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2017
From the Trevena Vineyard, this has a flourish of peach but with very grippy acidity. Seriously citrussy acidity, but pings off the nutty oak. I don’t like the raw oak but the freshness is pretty handy. Not quite the balance, but I think this will come together next year. Best drinking: From late 2019/2020 and over the next five +. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 12.5%, $35. Would buy it? A glass.
Coombe Farm Chardonnay 2017
From Coombe Farme Estate fruit and around the valley. A whiff of reductive gumball, hessian (older) oak and some oatmeal. Surprisingly phenolic and a bit raw, the stonefruit mid palate let down by the clumsy finish. Balance? Not quite. Might improve next year. Best drinking: Now and over the next few years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $37. Would I buy it? No.
Coombe Farm Rosé 2018
Yarra Pinot rosé. Subtle and fresh with a little sweetness. It falls away a little to finish, but pleasantly attractive. I was expecting something, I don’t know, a bit more sophisticated. This is just ok. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gundog Estate Rosé 2018
Canberra Cabernet-based pink. It’s rosado-esque in the ripeness, with plump raspberry through the middle, but a dryish finish. Pretty, if slightly tannic palate too. And late red fruit sherbet. Plenty of elements in the mix, but not quite together. Drinkable enough. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Gundog Indomitus Rosa 2018
The only letdown in the premium Gundog range – a Hilltops Nebbiolo rosé. I had it on a warm afternoon and it seemed too vinous. It’s quite ripe, tangy, phenolic, ferrous, complete with tannins but also with a tangy almost strawberry fruit too. Complex, but maybe too much Nebbiolo and not enough rosé. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
Harewood Estate Flux VII 2017
Great Southern Pinot Gris/Gewurz/Ries blend. Given how good the Harewood range is, I’m surprised that the Flux wines seem a long way off the mark. Gently aromatic but a mainly textural style with Gris as the focus. It’s sort of chunky but lean as well with a peachy fullness. I’m not sure of what its identity is really. Pleasantly textural enough, but where’s the detail? Best drinking: Now I guess. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Highgate Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Well priced Margaret River Cabernet, but a little short on flavour. It’s light and elegant, simple fruit with a slight warmth. Round and ripe, varietal and affable, if a bit light on. Best drinking: Now and will go for the next few years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Koonara Ambriel’s Gift Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
I like the pic of the Reschke family on the back. Humanises it. This is such a flashy wine too – the sweet smell of oak barrels (where it spends 18 months) wafts out from the glass. Oak leads the palate too, the first, second and third flavours before oak tannins and alcohol to finish. It’s ultimately too much, but certainly impact aplenty. Not my bag at all, but I can appreciate the plush oak. Best drinking: Will be better in five years. Too oaky for now. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
Koonara Emily May Mount Gambier Pinot Noir Rosé 2018
Not bad, but just missing the balance between sweetness and acidity. Pale rosé with plenty of acid, the flavours understated and with the barest hint of sweetness. Friendly, though the acidity is raw. Not bad. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. $20. Would I buy it? No.
Lana Nebbiolo Barbera 2017
King Valley Nebbiolo Barbera in the Langhe red mode. It’s ambitious and varietal, but the raw edges are less palatable. Sappy redcurrant nose with a dash of mint is pretty classic, then Pinotesque red fruit. Slightly raw tannins and so seriously dry to finish too. So authentic. Has a certain savoury appeal and proper vinous tarriness. But it’s genuinely raw too. Would be better with red meat. Best drinking: I know this will appreciate cellar time. But might not get much better. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.8%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
Liv Zak Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
I feel like this would largely need time. Yarra Cabernet, from the home block at Warramunda. It’s distinctly Yarra Cab with black fruit pastels and a little of that meaty 2016 vintage ripeness. Dusty and warmer than the alcohol suggests, the tannins are vaguely astringent. I know this will improve, but it’s a bit rough edged now. Best drinking: Next year at the earliest. Then five years easy. 16.5/20+, 88/100. 13.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Not at that price.
Liv Zak Syrah 2016
Much like the Cabernet, this has form, but is just a bit raw,. From Coldstream in the Yarra. Mulch and jam on the nose is very 2016, and complete with mint. Tangy palate doesn’t nail the ripeness either, but there’s still a nice Syrah bent to lift it up. If only it was a bit less sharp edged. Best drinking: Nowish. But will it ever really integrate? 16.5/20, 88/100+. 13.6%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Lou Miranda Estate Old Vine Shiraz Mourvedre 2015
Ambitious Barossa red blend. Sourced from vines dating back to 1898 on the Valley floor, and a really old school Aussie red, oak domina t style, complete with a dose of American oak moccha. That sweet, easy oaky caramel plum nose is immediately attractive but mono dimensional. A single flavour, the palate is a singular, oak meets alcohol flavour too. it’s the flavour of ambitious winemaking, but not integrated at all. Will it arise? Time will tell. But I didn’t enjoy this much now. Best drinking: Hold for at least 18 months. Then maybe up to ten years? 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $65. Would I buy it? No.
Oakridge Skelete Riesling 2018
Odd wine this. From a single vineyard in Wandin Yallock, handpicked and whole bunch pressed, wild ferment and aged on lees. 165 dozen produced. Water clear, it’s so delicate, and the acidity is so dominant that you don’t notice the sugar save for a hint of tutti fruit. But is it complete? Nope, it feels like half a wine. Not unpleasant, but not quite convincing and a bit underdone. Best drinking: N0w. 16.5/20, 88/100. 8.5%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
Schwarz Chenin Blanc 2018
Fresh and crunchy neutral summer white from the Barossa. It’s best for immediate drinking with just a twinkle of sweetness. It’s a simple wine, and a refreshing one, the natural acid balances it out. Quaff. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Silkwood Estate The Walcott Cabernet Malbec 2015
I’ve struggled with nearly all the Silkwood reds. This Pemberton Cab Malbec release sadly falls in the same boat. Chocolate and pencil shavings, it’s varietal but already secondary and meaty, and the tannins are just hard. Has flavour, but doesn’t nail the balance. Best drinking: Perhaps better next year. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
The Vinden Headcase Rosè 2018
Fun pink from Angus Vinden. But it still feels like an experiment. A blend of Temp, Shiraz, Semillon. Just a little creamy tutti frutti and creamed peach, I can see the fun but it’s just a bit full and ripe and weird. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Malbec 2016
Hearty Malbec in the very hearty Langhorne mode. Deep mulberry red, it’s deeply flavoured too – but the booze scalps the generosity. It’s so berried, but the alcohol is too hard and the oak too much. Balance isn’t there, even if the flavour is. Best drinking: Will be better next year and for 10 easy. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
d’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2015
Rustic and earthen Grenache in a leathery and developed style. It could be from the south of France with its faecal and less-than-pure nose (cough, brett, cough) with ferrous tannins. It’s characterful, but just secondary and a little bit too rough edged to be delicious. Best drinking: I’d only have it now. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
Freeman Prosecco NV
Bright and fruity Prosecco with a juiciness and ease. It’s maybe a little ripe and soft but affable. There’s better, cheaper out there from Italy sadly. Give me the Freeman reds please! Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.4%, $23. Would I buy it? No.
Harewood Estate Flux-II 2017
Great Southern Pinot Gris that almost works. Peach juice but with a grassy edge and a lean, ctirussy palate. Short and doesn’t follow through save for some musky phenolics. I want more. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
Yalumba Y Series Riesling 2018
Always good value, even if this ’18 is a bit bland. Lemon lime sherbet, though quintessentially dry Barossa Riesling that trades a diffuse middle with clean, tart citrus acidity. Not a lot of flavour here, but clean, varietal drinking. Solid. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 11.5%, $15. Would I buy it? A glass or so.
Toi Toi Pinot Gris 2017
Slightly tinny Gris with understated stonefruit. It’s a bit broad and bland. Better last year perhaps. Best drinking: Now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 13%, $12.99. Would I buy it? The Sauv is much better value.
Hastwell + Lightfoot Fiano 2018
I remain unconvinced by lots of Aussie Fiano. This McLaren Vale white is just a bit lacking in varietal flavour. A simple crisp dry white, with crunchy acidity and not much else. Ok. Best drinking: Now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 12%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Andevine Reserve Canberra Districts Syrah 2016
Curiously harsh and cooked. I wonder if this was a great bottle? Looked ok. Hmmm. From the Caruluma Vineyard in Murrumbateman. Meaty, ripe red with the scorched almond Canberra character. Harsh tannins and cooked flavours mar the finish and grippy acidity. The balance between meaty flavour and acid/tannins isn’t quite there. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 84/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? Not on this bottle.
Botham 81 Series Shiraz 2017
Made by Pinnacle (ie Woolworths), it’s deeply berried and ripe, a simple commercial style with warm plum fruit complete with plenty of added acid. Generic but pleasant. Hard to see this as more than just a cynical wine, even if it soft and easy. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 84/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
The Natural Wine Co. Shiraz 2018
Organic Central Ranges PF Shiraz. It’s really just juice, the confected palate tastes too pulpy and light for real satisfaction. No. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 84/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
Botham 76 Series Chardonnay 2017
This is not much fun. Margaret River Chardonnay that lacks heart. Lean and grapefruity nose, complete with green pea, then a citrus palate which has acidity but little else. Half a wine and raw. Best drinking: Now. 14.8/20, 83/100. 13%, $18. Would I buy it? No.