Not all wines can be great. In fact plenty are just ok drinks. And some are just bad…
Here’s a selection of wines that didn’t quite excite me in May. Several are unremarkable, others are good value simple wines (like the bargain Yalumba Y), others should never have been released.
Brothers at War Fist Fight Barossa Shiraz 2017
All this needs is a bit more stuffing. But solid $20 Shiraz. A blend of Barossa and Eden Valley fruit, it’s savoury with just a little leanness through the middle holding it back. Classy construction, however, and a fair drink. Best drinking: Now to six years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14%, $20. Would I buy it? A glass.
d’Arenberg The Bonsai Vine Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2016
Slightly rustic, tannin led GSM. This is the d’Arenberg mode of a few years ago, and the newest releases look much more polished. I still like how savoury and punchy, but it’s not immediately attractive at all – too meaty and secondary for that. Maybe a bit more flesh would be welcome? A good hearty drink though. Best drinking: I’d wait 2-3 years and it will live for 10 more years easy. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $29. Would I buy it? No.
Livewire Swanno Tempranillo 2016
Heathcote Tempranillo with character, if a bit rough around the edges. Glossy Heathcote fruit initially and then gritty tannins. Not sexy, but substantial. Best drinking: Wait. Maybe 2 years for cohesion and then a good 8-10 yrs. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.6%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass.
Livewire The Blood of Hipsters II 2016
Another good chewy red from Anthony Brain. A blend of Sangiovese Shiraz from a single vineyard in Heathcote. Dark berry, meat, bark and a whisper of vanilla. Sandpaper Sangio tannins are a little raw, the palate rustic too but lifted by some oak sweetness through the middle. Plenty to get your head around here. Best drinking: Will be better next year, then for up to 10. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.2%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass also.
Longview Devil’s Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
The Longview Vineyard has never seemed well suited to Cabernet, with the ripeness not quite matching up. Nebbiolo? Now that’s a different story. Anyway, this is choc-minty, ripe and lusciously oaked, the sweet oak sitting on top of the mint-edged palate. It’s not heavy or desiccated though, but the sweet and sour, oak and acidity balance isn’t quite perfect. Best drinking: Will appreciate a year or so in the cellar, and drink for a decade plus. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Arlewood La Bratta Rosso 2012
Unusual blend of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo and Shiraz that spends 24 months in barrel. Already forward, it’s leathery and drying with bark, dark fruit and then bristling tannins. No shortage of structure, but the fruit is departing and leather is stepping in. Length is the redeeming factor. Best drinking: Last year. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $50. Would I buy it? No.
Barone di Villagrande Etna Rosso 2016
More Etna in my life please, even if this is a bit middling. A blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese, 20% Nerello Cappuccio and Nerello Mantellato. Nerelli! Smoky and ripe, bitter black fruited red that has some of the high toned red fruit of Mascalase but just a a fraction overwhelmed by raspy tannins. There’s a pretty, charismatic wine trying to get out before the tannins take over. Ok. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $50. Would I buy it? Not at that price.
d’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2016
There’s so much to like in this Vale Grenache, but then the gritty earthen tannins take over. Red fruit nose, then a palat of raspberry rolled in black dirt and ashen tannins. Not an easy wine, but a firm one – a Grenache of substance and chew. A lot of wine for $20! But just a little more generosity would be welcome to match those tannins and beefy savouriness. Best drinking: Will it resolve and the tannins soften, or will the fruit be gone by then? I’m going towards the former. Drink now with a good decant. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 14.5%, $20. Would I buy it? A glass.
De Bortoli La Bohème Cuvée Rosé NV
A new De Bortoli rosé with smart packaging. 78% Chardonnay, 16% Pinot Noir and the rest Pinot Meunier. I don’t like reviewing NV wines as you never know what you’re going to get, but this is just released (so useful this year). It’s very pink, more like still rosé than fizz. Tastes like early picked rose fruit too, yet it’s a bit broad and the dosage dampens the vitality you want in a great sparkling rosé. Classy look though. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%, $21. Would I buy it? No.
Huntington Estate Fortified Shiraz 2013
Fortified Shiraz from Mudgee, where the spirit and the base wine don’t quite gel. The challenge is that underneath it’s a savoury, earthen red, and hence the alcohol just monsters things. The intention is a Portuguese VP, but I feel like this would be better unfortified. Best drinking: Will be interesting to see how it ages. Hold. 16.5/20, 88/100. 20%, $25 for 375ml. Would I buy it? No.
Petaluma Coonawarra Merlot 2015
20 months in French oak! Tastes like it too. Retro Coonawarra Merlot, with dark colours and a palate shaped by oak. Drying, savoury and minty with just enough late sweet to redeem things, but gee that oak is too much. It’s long, which bumps up the score, but less would be more – a throwback from the late 90s/early noughties with its oak drawn style. Best drinking: Will go for the long long term and best drinking is at least five years off. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $59.99. Would I buy it? No.
Pizzini Arneis 2018
Pizzini Nonna Gisella Sangiovese 2017
Light and bright King Valley Sangiovese. Washy raspberry fruit, no noticeable oak, plenty of Sangiovese acidity and some late tannins. Lucid red fruit, and varietal but you want more than just a cherry mid palate perhaps. Then again, at $21.50 this is is admirable value in the scheme of things. Gluggable. Best drinking: Over the next 2-3 years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.8%, $21.50. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Yalumba Y Series Sangiovese Rosé 2018
Smart drink for the dollars. Wild fermented! Pink grapefruit, a little tutti fruity pink strawberry and then a light and soft palate. Fun and friendly easy summer wine. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11.5%, $15. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Brothers at War The Favourite Son Chardonnay 2018
‘Chablis style’ Eden Valley Chard that promises much but comes away looking like just tart peach juice. I don’t quite get this sort of style – it feels underdone. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
d’Arenberg The Feral Fox Pinot Noir 2017
Adelaide Hills Pinot that just misses the mark. A robust style with the body to match, the flavours heading towards cooked raspberry, bark and even bacon before a slightly tough and warm finish that is a bit resinous. Varietal, sure, but would be a better wine less ripe. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Take it to the Grave Riesling 2018
Fun labels on these Take it to the Grave wines (and many come in cans too!). This Rizza comes from the Clare Valley, and has some of the Clare lime juice, over a palate that is a bit short and forward with a sweet and sour profile. Ok drinking, but a bit unremarkable. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $19. Would I buy it? No.
Harewood Estate Cabernet Merlot 2016
Value is the aim, but this is a little hard and dry. Licorice and blackcurrant nose with a plasticy edge. Bitter, dried and warming palate lacks the middle to pull off all the alcohol and bitterness, though the length rescues things quite a bit. Still a bit tough going. Best drinking: Now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 14.7%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Mo-town Shiraz 2017
McLaren Vale Shiraz from the Kollaras empire. Plump and plummy through the middle, light to finish and a bit bitter. Lacks some concentration but regional and affable if a bit thin. You’d want to pay no more than $11.99 for this. Best drinking: Now to 3 years. 15.8/20, 86/100. 14.5%, $14.99. Would I buy it? No.
Mi Scusi Prosecco NV
Slightly sour, if fresh Prosecco that ticks the boxes. Simple freshness with a slightly tart, but fresh enough palate. Ok. Best drinking: Now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 11.5%, $14.99. Would I buy it? No
Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Now a straight Sauv Blanc from ‘Adelaide’. Grassy citrus, varietal, if lacking in much fruit, the soft acidity quickly takes over the light citrus. Middling. Best drinking: Now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 12%, $17. Would I buy it? No.
Mo-town Pinot Noir 2018
Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir that is ‘Destined to be sported by the most stylish’ says the bottle. Ugh, marketing guff! Light ruby red, the nose shows muddy raspberry, the palate confected and then a bit raw to finish. Slightly weedy sub $15 Pinot with not enough fruit. Warm too. Best drinking: Now. 15.2/20, 84/100. 14.5%, $14.99. Would I buy it? No.
Highgate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Herbs, some passionfruit, some sweetness through the palate and late sweetness. Thin and sweet. Missed the mark. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 83/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Lou Miranda Leone Chardonnay 2018
Barossa Valley Chardonnay that spends 7 months in oak. Toasty golden peach juice with broad, brassy stonefruit flavours and a hard cardboard finish. I don’t see the quality here. Graft the Chardonnay over to Grenache? Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 83/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Betty & Lu Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Langhorne Sauv. But why? Tart, flavourless and sour. No fruit, no point. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 83/100. 12%, $17. Would I buy it? No.