Not all wines can be great. Plenty are just ok drinks. And some are just bad…
Here’s a selection of wines that almost made it in July 2019. I like plenty of them as simple drinks. Others should never have been bottled.
Apricus Hill Chardonnay 2018
I like the Apricus whites, but this Denmark Chardonnay looks a little one dimensional, the oak not quite integrated. Peaches and cream, but with too much cream. New oak, hello? It’s all a bit broad-brushed, creamed stonefruity and then a finish that is crisp and zingy. Needs a bit more cohesion at this price. Best drinking: Better next year, then for 2-3 years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Auld Family Wines William Patrick Shiraz 2016
Barossa Shiraz from the Auld family, and I expected this be thicker. But it’s not. It’s jubey, a little confected and leanish, with lots of acidity. It’s sound, safe, chunky commercial – but the acidity robs it of some approachability. Best drinking: Up to ten years as a start, though it may not integrate. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $50. Would I buy it? No.
Chardonnay d’Soumah 2018
The label says Soumah Chardonnay, but this Yarra white is also called Chardonnay d’Spumah. Choose your name of choice maybe? Intended to be easy drinking, it’s affable and well made, with a little funk on the nose, over a lean palate that is certainly fresh, but lacks some varietal punch. A little more ripeness wouldn’t have gone astray. Best drinking: Now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.7%, $28 at cellar door. Would I buy it? Not quite.
Thomas Wines Two of a Kind Shiraz 2017
Thommo’s plump and jubey blend of Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale Shiraz is always pretty friendly, and no surprises here. Purple berries on a round and slurpable palate. Spritzy acidity is the only gripe – it seems out of step with that easy gluggability. Best drinking: From now to five or eight years as a start. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? Not really.
Bremerton Coulthard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Lots of wine for $22 here. Not polished, but full of flavour which is what you want at $22. Firm, really ripe, choc-minty Langhorne Creek Cabernet with the drying tannins and alcohol a contrast to the chunky fruit and liqueur coconut oak. It’s inelegant and raw, but a massive overdelivery of flavour. Best drinking: It will keep going for yonks. In five years it will look much better. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Fernfield Old River Red Shiraz Cabernet 2014
Such heavy-handed oak with these Fernfield wines. Just not needed. This red is a blend of Barossa Shiraz with 15% Eden Valley Cab, the lot then spends 24 months in wood. It tastes mainly of barrel, too. There’s fruit underneath, black olive and mint, but all obscured by oak. Shame, as I can see the quality juice underneath. Sausagey savouriness too. Older oak would be very welcome here. Best drinking: Ah I don’t know, it’s already drying out. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Meerea Park Indie Marsanne Roussanne 2018
80% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne from the Lochleven Estate in the Hunter Valley. Barrel fermented and spends some time in wood. Gently textural style rather than ripe, with appley flavours and a sort of nothing palate. Seems to be missing a flavour gear – it just doesn’t show much at all, even at room temp. Curiously underdone, if gently textural and pleasant enough, with oak tannins to finish. Doesn’t quite get there. Best drinking: Nowish. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
Unico Zelo Halcyon Days Nero d’Avola 2018
Primary, black and red fruited, luncheon style Riverland Nero with a delicacy that is quite appealing. Quality packaging too. Pretty, light and juicy with light extraction and minimal tannins. Day drinking red, but lacks the concentration for this pricepoint. Best drinking: Now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.2%, $49.99. Would I buy it? No.
Auld Family Wines Strawbridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Langhorne Creek Cabernet that is hearty, but a bit industrial. Minty varietal nose, tannic palate. It really needs more fruit to counter those aggressive tannins, but will win friends with that structure. Best drinking: Well worth a few years in the cellar to see if it can improve. 16/20, 87/100. 14%, $42. Would I buy it? Not my style at all.
Auld Family Wines Strawbridge Shiraz 2017
Barossa Shiraz and follows in the vein of the other Auld wines. Glacé red fruit nose, confected palate, syrupy and warm finish. No noticeable oak. Juicy but lacks concentration and heavy-handed acidity. Less acidity and more freshness needed. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 15%, $42. Would I buy it? No.
Elgee Park Family Reserve Viognier 2016
From some of the oldest Viognier plantings in the country up on the Mornington Peninsula. Such a hard grape to get right, let alone in a drying (and trying) vintage like 2016, and this is developing fast, the varietal character missing save for a late bump of stonefruit. Lacks fruit too. Middling. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 13.5%, $33. Would I buy it? No.
Fernfield Gold Leaf Single Vineyard Shiraz Viognier 2013
From a single barrel, this suffers the same overoaked fate as many of the other Fernfield wines. It does spend 32 months in barrel, so I’m not surprised. Bright colours – still very red – this kicks off with a real chocolate milkshake nose. Palate is more of the same – chocolate, Cherry Ripe, oak. Too much oak. Some welcome autumnal bottle development. But largely oak. There’s some nice sausagey secondary flavour here. But please, less oak. Finish is raw (hello oak tannins) too. Best drinking: I’m not sure. 16/20, 87/100. 14.3%, $54. Would I buy it? No.
Juniper Estate Small Batch Fiano 2018
A rare miss for Juniper and a bit of a muted wine. There’s a little varietal pear, but otherwise difficult to pick as much of anything. Broad and ill-defined finish. It’s ok, but not quite there. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 13.5%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
Raidis Estate The Kid Riesling 2018
Coonawarra Riesling is rarely more than just a pleasant drink to my tastes. Sorry Coonawarra, but prove me wrong. This is pleasant enough. Cooked limes on nose and palate. Broad brush palate is sweet and sour, easy drink but the acid is a bit grating too. Ok. Best drinking: Now. 16/20, 87/100. 11.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Sunshine Creek Yarra Valley Cabernets 2016
The Sunshine Creek wines have advanced in leaps and bounds over the last few years, but these 2016 wines are challenging, the vintage robbing the wines of balance and delicacy. Alcohol wafts off the top here, before caramelised fruit, the edges warm and spirity, the fruit black and condensed. Great persistence, but ultimately overripe and the lasting impression is just alcohol. Best drinking: It will get softer, but maybe not better. Start drinking now and then who knows. It has the structure to live, but balance? 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $?. Would I buy it? No.
Fernfield Late Harvest Semillon 2016
Late harvest styles are surprisingly hard to get right. Few nail it. This isn’t there either. Smudgey, sweet and sour Eden Valley dessert wine with caramelised fruit and a broad, warm finish. Toasty too. Not sweet enough to be generous, but too sweet to be delicious. Best drinking: Now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 13.5%, $22.50 at cellar door. Would I buy it? No.
Fernfield Gold Leaf Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
A single barrel of Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Juice spends 36 months in that barrel which is quite a bit. Rum and raisin. Milkshake oak. Aside from the dash of eucalyptus and tannin profile you’d struggle to pick this as Cab, let alone Eden Valley Cab. Monstered by oak. And minty too. Why? Best drinking: Now I guess. 15.5/20, 85/100. 14.2%, $54. Would I buy it? No.
Stefano de Pieri Merbein Vineyard Sagrantino 2018
Cellarmsters exclusive and I get the intention. Bright and juicy fruited light red that is difficult to pick as Sagrantino. Jubey fruit, some tannins. Fun, but tastes like $10 juice and little else. Best drinking: Right now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 13%, $17. Would I buy it? No.
Fernfield His Grenache 2015
Fascinating style. Late picked Barossa floor Grenache, with whole bunches in the mix and spends some time in American oak. Curiously, it doesn’t smell like fruit much at all. Just caramel oak and with a medicinal edge. The palate is packed with glycerol ripeness, but not necessarily fruit generosity. The sweetness comes from the chocolate icecream sweet oak, and then the spirit takes over on the finish. It’s barely Grenache-like, and closer to a spirit than a red. I don’t know how you could drink more than a glass of this. 15.3/20, 84/100. 16.5%, $44. Would I buy it? No.
Fernfield Gold Leaf Single Vineyard Merlot 2015
Eden Valley Merlot, handpicked and matured for 30 months in barrel. And it tastes like coconut juice. Nothing else. Oak flavour, oak tannins. I can’t pick the variety. Expensive, smooth, ripe. oak juice. Alcoholic finish. Unbalanced. Best drinking: Now, apparently. 15/20, 83/100. 14.1%, $54. Would I buy it? No.
Fernfield Her Grenache 2015
The companion to the His Grenache, though with no new oak and a play towards elegance. Maybe. Cooked plum and raspberry on the nose, with a resinous palate that can’t escape the alcohol. Already developing fast, and lacks vitality before finishing hot and dull. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 83/100. 15%, $44. Would I buy it? No.
Fernfield Old River Red 2015
I don’t get it/ Eden Valley Merlot, though you wouldn’t know it. Spends 36 months in barrel and just tastes like oak. Lots of creamy coconut oak. Almost nothing else. Silky smooth condensed milk palate. Just oak though really. Best drinking: Now. 15/20, 83/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Patritti Marion Grenache Shiraz 2015
I want to like this. Comes in a big heavy bottle, which is naughty, but has a fine story and the Patritti family are good people. Sourced from the old Marion Vineyard planted in 1907 which lies within Adelaide suburbia. Yes! Now there’s a story! Pity it’s a rustic and horsey red – a bretty, chunky leathery Shiraz. Not the good brett either, the horsey kind, then finishes warm and clunky. Nope. Best drinking: Now. 14.5/20, 80/100. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? No.