Not all wines can be great. Plenty are just ok drinks. And some are just bad.
Here is a selection of wines that almost made it in May and June 2021.
We’re moving house at the moment, which means I’ve been largely drinking beer at the end of another long day of boxes, rather than wine. Still, this collection of ‘almost’ drinks sums things up pretty well.
Although a few beers should be added to the list – like the ok, if a bit generic 7th Day Brewery IPA. Or the Hop Nation Brewing Co. Ground Control Fresh Hop West Coast IPA which, despite a brew data in late March, seemed a bit flat and tired (and I’ve had several cans now).
Bellvale Pinot Noir 2020
An off-year for this star Pinot performer. Really dry, a little smoky and sappy this vintage, the palate ferrous and very savoury with quite some grip. Vinous and concentrated, but ultimately ungenerous, especially through the finish. Low-level smoke influence? A dead ringer for a village-level Bourgogne in structure, just needing a bit more flavour to be great. Best drinking: now I guess. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Brand & Sons ‘CBD’ Single Vineyard Shiraz 2014
You want power? The Brand & Sons wines have ’em. This is a big, wide, oaky Coonawarra red. Maturing nose, it’s all cooking chocolate and caramel chews, the fruit lost between licks of sweet oak. Shame, as the fruit underneath is not unbalanced. Oak is the lingering flavour. It’s surely concentrated but OTT as well. Best drinking: now. Though the oak will integrate further with bottle age. I wouldn’t wait to see tbh. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $85. Would I buy it? No.
Giesen Uncharted Sauvignon Blanc 2020
A new range for Giesen and it does the job. Direct, cool and clear Savvy, crunchy celery meets understated passinfruit style. It’s a bit light, but the freshness vs fruit weight makes for easy drinks. Mono dimesional but fresh and fruit-forward enough. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $24.99. Would I buy it? No.
Harewood Estate Chardonnay 2019
In a bit of a weird place is this white. Broad brushed pitch at modern Chardonnay, the middle riper, the finish tighter. It all ends up a bit sweet and sour. Needs a bit more pleasure – it’s a bit tart. Best drinking: over the next two years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Howard Park Miamup Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2019
No questioning the varietal mix here – classic West Australian dry white. But gee it’s a bit crunchy. Green pea and lemon, it’s still very crisp and taut, freshness to the fore. A little green edged, but glorious delineation. Makes a statement on the nose but pulls up a bit short. Still thirst-quenching. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Tache Sparkling Rosé 2014
Taltarni’s range of fizz has never been better. This is an entirely drinkable inexpensive bubbles. Light, fresh, gently strawberried sparkling. Great form here a little pink grapefruit, gently leesy, it’s just a little vegetal. A bargain in relative terms, at a very good price, it just needs a bit more power and polish to be great. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12%, $26. Would I buy it? Worth a glass.
Taylors St Andrews Chardonnay 2018
Big boy Chardonnay this. Red wine drinkers Chard. Oak has been pulled back compared to some vintages, but it’s still a peachy, golden fruited thing. Generous, although the MLF has clearly been pulled back so the acidity is more citrus. It’s a bit gritty, and the finish is a bit fatty at the same time, but it makes a mark with its palate width. Not my thing, but will win ‘buttery’ Chardonnay fans. Best drinking: nowish. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
Arms Reversed Shiraz 2018
Canberra Shiraz made by a group of Aussie veterans. It feels handmade, complete with a label with tiny illegible print. This is a jammy, jubey Canberra red too, despite the moderate alcohol, the palate ripe and a bit volatile. There’s red fruit in there, but it’s also a bit fleeting and confected. I wanted this to be superb given the noble concept, but it’s just ok. Best drinking: nowish. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.7%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Brand & Sons Fire & Ice Shiraz 2018
Coonawarra Shiraz, though you’ve got to dig deep to find a distinctive regional character. Fire and ice maybe but it’s mainly just vanilla essence oak and alcohol across nose, palate and finish, the mid weight wine cut in its wake. It’s polished and the oak is sweet, but balanced it is not. Best drinking: time will be kind. Drink over ten years plus. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
Brand & Sons Night Owls Shiraz Malbec 2018
Coonawarra Shiraz Malbec – why not? Thick with oak, the palate is ultimately just mid weight but burdened by oak and alcohol – so you get sweet choc vanilla to start and then the alcohol kicks in from about the mid palate. Again, I can’t see the balance here, even if it has concentration. Best drinking: a little earlier drinking but will still cruise through a decade at least. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
Brand & Sons Sanctuary Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Dried out and drying red with varietal cedar but a lack of fruit cuts it short. Beginning to look a bit creaky and clearly spent too long in barrel, despite the serious intensity. Power, but ultimately an overwrought wine. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $130. Would I buy it? No.
Hill Smith Estate Eden Valley Chardonnay 2020
I’ve never loved the Hill Smith whites – compared to the glorious Pewsey Vale wines, or the high quality Yalumba releases, this range always feels a bit lost. Still, plenty of old school style with this Eden Valley Chardonnayh. Broad-brushed peach flavours through the middle and then broad to finish, barrel ferment giving this an extra layer of vanilla juiciness. Will have fans but a bit chubby for me. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Longview Whippet Sauvignon Blanc 2020
Crunchy, primal Adelaide Hills Sauv with celery and green citrus. Tricky vintage and this feels a little lean and early picked, the acidity has that unripe apple chalkiness. Solid enough, but a bit light on given the history of this wine (normally it’s v. good). Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11.5%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Patina Chardonnay 2019
Always interest from Patina, but they need time to come together. This is dominated by banana cream oak, the fruit not up to that overt wood. There’s a fine delicate wine in there, but cream is all you can really taste. Best drinking: next year for a start. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 13.2%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
Coola Road Pinot Gris 2018
From the Mt Gambier promise factory that is Coola Road. This pushes towards a richer style but it’s a ruse, as it finishes lean and phenolic. Vaguely varietal, but lacks power. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Earthworks Riesling 2020
Slightly flat South Australian Riesling. It’s ok, but a bit of a blunt, citrus green apple thing with spiky acidity. Best drinking: nowish. 16/20, 87/100. 11.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Rouleur Arlo’s Pinot Noir 2019
Upper Yarra Pinot Noir. It’s a teensy bit varnishy (volatile) which I can’t get past. Nice sappy red fruits though, the palate gently stalky, and with a real delicacy. Can’t avoid the volatility for mine though. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13.5%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Tokar Estate Tempranillo 2019
The standard Tokar Tempranillo, not the sublime amphora version. Curiously I don’t love this anywhere as much as the amphora wine either – It’s a bit reductive, sure, but otherwise it feels overly lean, the fruit a bit tinny and lacking body, then pulls up short. A miss. Best drinking: next year? 16/20, 86/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Zontes Footstep Excalibur Sauvignon Blanc 2020
Is it just me, or is this a little bit ashen? Juicy, sweet-fruited, plump Adelaide Hills Sauv. The smokiness is just on the nose. Palate is a bit tinny, ripe and broad. Pleasant though in a commercial mode. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Berton Vineyard Vermentino 2020
Juicy, lightly varietal, innocuous white wine. Fresh, simple, flavourless white alcohol, save for a dash of pear. Does the job for $13, but that’s it. Best drinking: next year? 15.8/20, 86/100. 12.5%, $13. Would I buy it? No.
Coolangatta Estate Tannat 2018
The Shoalhaven is tricky enough to get reds ripe every year, let alone Tannat. This is a leathery, meaty and slightly resinous red. It feels like it never quite got ripe enough to be delicious. Best drinking: now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 13.7%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
La Resistance Cotes du Rhone Rosé 2019
Dusty, Crunchy, austere and ungenerous Rhone rosé. Bitter edges and no fruit. Not much love here. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 83/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Jacobs Creek Nature’s Craft Organic Shiraz Cabernet 2019
Cashing in on the organic trend, this is low-quality commercial red. Raspberry lollies and cardboard. Inferior stuff and a disappointment for this price point. Jacob’s Creek can do better. Best drinking: now. 14.5/20, 81/100. 14%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Salena Estate Wines Ex-press-ion Shiraz 2019
Thin, sweet and syrupy Shiraz. It’s a concoction, lifted by vanilla syrup ‘oak’ and then added tannins. Average commercial wine. Nope. Best drinking: now. 14.5/20, 81/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.