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 October 2019. I like plenty of them as simple drinks. Others should never have been bottled.
Arlewood Chardonnay 2017
Margaret River Chardonnay that just misses the mark. Arlewood usually do it well, so let’s call this a hiccup. White peach juice. There’s vanilla oak in the middle and oak tannins to finish, the stonefruit flavours carrying to the warmish, slightly flat finish. Never quite gets beyond the initial peach fruit, even if the flavour lingers. You’d drink a glass, but I’m left wanting a bit more. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Brackenwood Vineyard Riesling 2018
Adelaide Hills Riesling from the Brackenwood Vineyard. Always early picked, the most recent crop of wines all look a bit underdone. Demonstrated here. Fresh and grapefruity, super delicate and lean, grapefruity with a passing suggestion of sherbet. But it’s just acidity to finish; the slightly unripe fruit falls straight into acidity. Best drinking: now, I guess. That acidity though – it’s going to live. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.9%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Coulthard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Always a hearty wine, and no exception here. A big, lush, hearty and minty number, the regional choc mint style in abundance. Great concentration, warm alcohol. Lots to chew on, but pervasively minty. Long though. Bang for your buck is high. Best drinking: next year and for a decade easy. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Chalmers Aglianico 2016
I admire the Chalmers wines, even if they don’t always drink easily. Case in point with this rustic Heathcote Aglianico. Follows varietal script with light colours but lots of grip, the tarry, molten, vaguely gamy fruit playing second fiddle to the tannins. An ocean of tannins. Needs more fruit to support those tannins. But swagger. Nebbiolo-esque hints of licorice and roses. Such a formidably tannic red though. Best drinking: now to whenever. The fruit will fade long before the structure does. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $43. Would I buy it? No.
Chalmers Felicitas 2016
Bottle fermented sparkling Heathcote Fiano that spent 27 months on lees. Zero dosage. Entertaining at the least. Fragrant white flower nose, the palate crisp and driven by green apple tang. Lovely freshness here, crisp and appley. Singular flavours. Just one problem – it’s a huge foam monster, with an overwhelming frothy bead that is hard to go past. I like the shape and flavours so much otherwise that it annoys me to be distracted by foam. Can you look past it? Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $43. Would I buy it? No.
Clare’s Secret Shiraz 2017
A bargain for $15. From Millon Wines, has chunky plum fruit and that mint chocolate Clare mode. Acidity is a bit raw, tannins are a bit raw too but hey, the concentration – and lack of excess – is excellent. Balanced alcohol too. Good drinking now and for five plus years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $15. Would I buy it? Not quite, but I’d recommend it in a flash.
Fernfield Wayward Girl 2017
Cabernet, Merlot & Cab Franc from the Eden Valley. Minty, Blackberry jam heavy style that leads with caramelised, glycerol rich fruit, the oak giving tannins and heartiness, the style bold, clumsy and chunky black fruited. Doesn’t taste warm, but gee the tannins are raw and minty. Raw acid and mint on the finish detracts from the style. Value and lots of flavour, but mixed ripeness too. Best drinking: nowish. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Gundog Estate Rosé 2019
Canberra Cabernet-based pink. Coppery/red colour, it’s an off-dry and ripe style with lots of red fruit and a fleshy palate. Old school Aussie rosé and likely a cellar door hit, but just a bit juicy for my tastes. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Longview Vista Shiraz Barbera 2018
Adelaide Hills blend that is fun drinking. Jubey, juicy and generous forward drinking red. All fruit, blackberries and a little ham in there too. No shortage of acidity (thanks Barbera) and alcohol. It’s just a bit pointy to be gluggable, but not without charm. Easy. Best drinking: next year and for three years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $24. Would I buy it? A glass.
Once & Well Chardonnay 2017
Margaret River Chard by Freya Hohnen. Dan Murphys/BWS exclusive. 15% new oak with some tank matured parcels. Light, fresh citrus-driven style, minimal oak and delicate. Maybe a little too light but pleasant white peachy style. Needs mode flavour to be great but pleasant. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $20.99. Would I buy it? Maybe a glass.
Penny’s Hill Edwards Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Appealing McLaren Vale Cab with just one hiccup. Spends 18 months in oak and shows it with a rich coffee mocha edge. Nice oak texture though, and this has smoothness all round. Lavish, chocolatey McLaren Vale Cab. Polished too. My gripe remains the finish – it’s spirity and warm. A shame to finish like that what is otherwise pretty attractive wine. Best drinking: over the next ten years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2019
A very rare miss for S & S and this wine. Shows the vintage challenges, with a clipped personality. Passionfruit and a little grassiness but it’s rough-edged, it’s a bit drying and doesn’t have the lift. Ok, but misses the usual spunk for what is a very consistent wine. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $29. Would I buy it? A glass.
Yalumba Organic Shiraz 2018
From vineyards all over South Australia, this is affordable organic Shiraz. Cascading berry fruit with simple ease si the star. It’s a bit monotonal and jubey for this price but respectively well made, varietal and affable. I want a bit more intensity for $22. Best drinking: over the next three years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $22. Would I buy it? A glass.
3-Rings Shiraz 2016
Thick, export-bound Barossa Valley Shiraz in a style I see less and less often nowadays. Fudgey, coffeed and heavy palate with confected flavours and oak tannins to give structure. Hearty and long, warm. Chunky. Has a place, but not my place. Best drinking: now to ten years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.9%, $NS. Would I buy it? No.
Brackenwood Vineyard Syrah 2017
Adelaide Hills Syrah and suffers the same fate as the Riesling. Curious wine too. Low in alcohol and with plenty of acidity, the push is towards a crunchy style, but it’s still not fresh, more medicinal and tangy. The oak sits like a layer of paint on top and with oak tannins to finish. Not quite. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.9%, $32. Would I buy it? No.
Brash Higgins FRNC 2017
I’ve struggled with some of the recent Brash Higgins releases which look a bit too extractive and horsey for mine. This is Cabernet Franc from a vineyard on Malpas Road in McLaren Vale planted in 2001. Extended maceration and spends nine months in older oak. Light colours as befitting the alcohol, the extractive palate is ferrous and meaty, the structure overwhelming the fruit with blood & bone extractive grip. Impressive savouriness but I don’t feel the balance here. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Tamblyn Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2017
A lighter Tamblyn this year and boy is it minty. Minty fresh dark chocolate palate tends lighter and fresher than the norm, but still a chunky red. Handy wine still, if a bit clumsy. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
Chapel Hill The Parson Shiraz 2018
Grippy. A slightly industrial vintage of this reliable red, driven by raw tannins and alcohol but still plenty of fruit. Clumsy, but hearty wine at a good price. Has nice jubey fruit through the middle. Tries hard. Bitter finish, however. Ok. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
Chalmers Lambrusco 2018
Heathcote Lambrusco! Deadly serious too. Bottle fermented, 9 months on lees, 4g/L dosage. Ultra dry, vinous. Tannic. Froth is hardcore too. So tangy. So drying1 Achingly firm. Uncompromising. Proper modern Lambrusco, if too stern to be great – gets astringent pretty quickly. I want this to be in the vein of the beautiful Italian Lambrusco styles, but it’s just too dry and hard. Best drinking: now. But it will live for decades. Might get better too. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11%, $43.. Would I buy it? No.
Colour of Raven Black Wine Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Export Limestone Coast bottling from Andrew Peace. The full hog export labelling too. Predictably dark, it’s a lightly minty, medium bodied red with average fruit density and grippy tannins. No shortage of drying tannins lifted by oak sweetness. Has a generic, minty oaky richness. Not without appeal, but you could do better. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $28.99. Would I buy it? No.
Highgate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Dusty, varietal and regional style that lacks stuffing but has Coonawarra markers. Sour and a bit horsey, the tannins are the saving grace. Ok. Best drinking: over the next seven years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Jacobs Creek Double Barrel Shiraz 2016
Barossa Shiraz started in wine barriques and finished in scotch whisky cask. Yeah, it’s rich. Dark berry fruit and yes a smoky oak sweetness. But you wouldn’t call it oaky, just ripe. Ripe, with fruit cake and berry concentrate, then the sweetness of high alcohol. Not without appeal at all. But not balanced enough to be drinkable for mine (and so rich that it’s hard to finish a glass). Coke drinkers wine. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.7%, $24.99. Would I buy it? No.
Meerea Park Alexander Munro Chardonnay 2018
From the Casuarina Vineyard, this seems stuck between old school generosity and new school delicacy. Gee, it’s ripe, tinned pineapple! Glacé pineapple. The oak adds a biscotti edge. That tinned stonefruit is barely even Chardonnay, the finish warm. Yeah, this is an outlier, and it doesn’t work. Long though, which is why it’s still bronze medal calibre. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
Renegado Old Vine Malbec 2018
Juicy, berry-laden unwooded Malbec from somewhere in South Australia, made by Fourth Wave Wines. Joven style, with easy energy and juicy fun, complete with leathery tannins to finish. Packs in plenty of open berry easy fruit. Doesn’t go much further (and the sour finish doesn’t help) but fun. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $18. Would I buy it? A glass.
Thomas DJV Shiraz 2017
The only 2017 Thomas red that doesn’t work, although it’s not my preferred wine from Thommo. Trevena Vineyard fruit with a dash of verjuice. Jubey and primary, there’s this leathery currant Hunter fruit character, but it’s a bit simple and furry and pulls up short. Pulpy, early drinker if sweet and sour. Best drinking: now to six years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise Shiraz 2017
Scrubby Rise is now all McLaren Vale fruit which is good to see. Plenty of flavour and complete with a sausagey fruit, if just a fraction sour to finish. Good solid sub $20 drinking. Best drinking: over the next three years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $17. Would I buy it? Not really.
Yalumba Organic Viognier 2018
Rare for Yalumba not to nail a Viognier but here we are. From vineyards across South Australia, largely Riverland and Adelaide Plains. Welcome varietal character, even though it feels just a little tinny and underdone. Pleasant, but missing a beat. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Yalumba Sanctum Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
New Coonawarra Cabernet from Yalumba and keenly priced Lean and minty old school style, with a leanish palate. Hello, mid 80s Coonawarra! I’m not sure about the balance here – a little more ripeness would go a long way. Best drinking: will it improve? Quite possibly. So from next year to up to a decade. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $20. Would I buy it? Not quite.
Andrew Peace Zweigelt 2018
Hello Aussie Zweigelt! A collab with Austrian winemaker George Weinwurm. I so wanted to like this! Riverland fruit and ambitious. Light ruby, syrupy middle, but sky-high acidity. pH 3.0! Lacks balance and so sharp. I appreciate the honest attempt. But not an enjoyable drink. Best drinking: now, I guess. 16/20, 87/100. 13.5%, $NS. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Special Release Malbec 2017
Always a beastly wine and same again here. Spends 14 months in largely Hungarian oak. Dark red colour, the full assault of ripe, eucalyptus edged fruit hits you full on. That palate is too minty and drying to be delicious, the raw tannins sucking the life out of the finish. Not feeling the joy here. Best drinking: wait, and it might get better over the next ten years. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
Chapel Hill Sangiovese Rosé 2019
Sourced from ‘Adelaide’ fruit. Salmon pink colour, it’s an easy, slightly off-dry style with pink strawberry fruit (still varietal) and a simple, slightly tart palate. Affable, but acid/sweetness isn’t quite right for big scores. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
d’Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2018
Viscous, chunky Roussanne that is all over the place. Too ripe by far. Tinned peach and apricot, the palate a chunky fruit salad before a warm finish. Come here for flavour, not delicacy, and you’ll love it. Otherwise this remains a bit too warm and flabby. Best drinking: right now. 16/20, 87/100. 14%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Mil Historias Garnacha 2017
Organic Garnacha from Manchuela. Cellarmasters exclusive. Earthy and a bit raw with a whisper of mercaptans. Has a rustic charm to it though, with earthy tannins threatening to overtake the fruit. Not lacking in charm, but very much a wine you drink in Spain for a few euros a bottle. Has charisma, even if it could do with some light fining. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13.5%, $22. Would I buy it? A glass.
Paxton Now Shiraz 2019
Preservative free McLaren Vale Shiraz. Soft and juicy flow of purple berry fruit. Barrel sample fresh fruit, but a simple wine. Easy, approachable and fun, has a place, but lacks the depth (and any sign of tannins) for much more. It’s like a joven, but missing the depth. Best drinking: immediately. 16/20, 87/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Renegado Old Vine Grenache 2018
‘South Australia’. Entry-level red from Fourth wave Wines. Simple unoaked Grenache fare. Bright, jubey, slightly furry fruit is heading towards jamtown. Warm finish. Clumsy, cheap tasting but retains Grenache varietal character. Ok. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 14.2%, $18. Would I buy it? A glass.
d’Arenberg The Olive Grove Chardonnay 2018
Entry-level Chardonnay from d’Arenberg that seems to get cheaper over the years. How does that work? 7 months in oak. Tinny, stonefruit driven Chardonnay that promises freshness but delivers broa brush flavours. Look, it’s a $16 Chard I shouldn’t have high expectations. But still, this is pretty chubby and clunky. Best drinking: Now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 13%, $16. Would I buy it? No.
Taylor’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Underwhelming. Cardboard nose. Sweet and sour palate has solid, grippy tannins, raw acidity, the palate sweet fruited but in a concentrate way. You could do better. Best drinking: To five years. 15.8/20, 86/100. 14%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Taylor’s Estate Chardonnay 2017
Clare Valley in a ripe mode, but just comes across as fruit juice and oak. A tough year for Taylors in the Clare? Tinned peaches. Tinny acidity too. Very commercial style. Trying hard but that clumsy stone fruit ripe fruit is broad and chubby. 15.8/20, 86/100. 13.4$, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Special Release Fiano 2018
Langhorne Fiano. Early picked and looks anaemic. Has a waxy Fiano middle, but the chalky acidity grates. Balance isn’t there. Best drinking: now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 12%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
Taylors Pinot Noir 2017
Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir. I was expecting more. Cardboard and mothballs on the nose, ferrous, twangy, sweet and sour palate is middling. Lesser. Best drinking: now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 14%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Taylors Estate Shiraz 2017
Large volume red and tastes it. Smoky, muddled, sweet and sour palate lacks definition. Coffeed and overripe but lacks fruit. Cheap commercial stuff. Best drinking: now to eight years. 15.5/20, 85/100. 14%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
3-Rings Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
How can Barossa Cab be simultaneously green and overripe all at once? Average fruit, that’s how. Cooked veggies. But heavy, cooked fruit too. Unfun. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 84/100. 14.5%, $NS. Would I buy it? No.
Spiritus Shiraz Grenache Mataro 2016
Disappointed by this. Made by John Duval (apparently) in an exclusive with Cellarmasters/Pinnacle Drinks. How much input did John have? A grubby, black earthen style with raw tannins and a lack of purity. I’d expect more than this muddled cheapie. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 84/100. 14.5%, $16.50. Would I buy it? No.
The Primrose Path Chardonnay 2018
Organic Chardonnay from South Australia. Pale, insipid, watery sweet and sour Chardonnay. Organic tax at work, as this is $10 wine. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 84/100. 12.5%, $19. Would I buy it? No.
The Primrose Path Rosé 2018
Coppery coloured South Australian organic Rosé of unknown origin. Oxidising, propped up by residual sweetness with clumsy acidity to finish. Indifferent quality. $10 wine also. Best drinking: last year. 15/20, 84/100. 13%, $19. Would I buy it? No.
The Primrose Path Shiraz 2018
South Australian organic Shiraz. Singular berry fruits and some fizz. Industrial, unpolished and already starting to oxidise. Best drinking: yesterday. 15/20, 84/100. 13.5%, $19. Would I buy it? No.
Paxton NOW No added Preservative Chardonnay 2019
Blowsy. already oxidative, and a little mousey McLaren Vale Chardonnay. How did this ever get bottled? A little sulphur goes a long, long way. 14/20, 80/100. 12%, $25. Would I buy it? No.