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 September 2021.
Thanks, also, to everyone for your feedback on the last Almost Club.
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It’s hard to ignore another Almost Club with lots of mediocre Gris/Grigio and aromatic whites, but this is unavoidable given that the ‘dry whites’ category is dominated by flavourless alcohol delivery systems masquerading as wine.
As for reds, many wines are marked by spiky acidity and warmth, which goes hand in hand (pick grapes too ripe chasing flavour, add more acid looking for balance).
Boat O’Craigo Black Spur Gruner Veltliner 2021
Great to see more Gruner in Australia. This Yarra-sourced Federspiel style is a bit light on – young vines robbing it of some intensity, I’m guessing – but there’s a recognisable white pepper/celery/grapefruit varietal thing here too. I like the intention, even if this needs more flavour.
Best drinking: nowish. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.6%, $24. Would I buy it? A glass.
Jules Taylor Chardonnay 2020
I liked the 2019 iteration, but less of a fan of this. Peachy, but rather simple Chardonnay. No shortage of ripe fruit, the oak subtle, with plenty of slightly raw acidity. Still fresh and drinkable, though it seems broadly peachy without the detail.
Best drinking: until at least 2026. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Monterra Sauvignon Blanc 2021
Crisp, delineated Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, cast in a slightly sour, green-melon-meets-chalky-acidity style. It’s fresh and quite long but doesn’t go much beyond the talc and melon mode.
Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Not really.
Jules Taylor Pinot Gris 2019
For mine, this has lost an edge with bottle age, with a slightly flat personality that can’t be rescued by its gently textured pear and melon fruit. There’s a solid core here (and hey, it’s still a bronze medal wine), but it would have been more impressive 12 months ago.
Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Lovable Rogue Abboccato Fiano 2021
Hunter Valley Fiano from the Carillion label. Light colours, juicy tropical flavours, the Verdelho-esque fruit salad palate is generous, easy-fruited and sunny with enough acidity to be crisp. Pleasant, no fuss. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Monterra Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
Firmish and raw McLaren Vale Cabernet. It’s still unfurling in the bottle, so not going to write it off yet. But at the moment, minty tannins are the focal point, and difficult to see much else that’s appealing.
Best drinking: worth waiting another year and then drink over the next ten. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Monterra Vineyard Select Shiraz No.1 Shiraz 2018
McLaren Vale Shiraz. Plump commercial Shiraz. Purple, slightly confected fruit, grippy finish, a bit sweet and sour all round. It’s ok but lacks the polish for more points.
Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Richard Hamilton Little Road Shiraz 2020
Swish new packaging for this range. An easy McLaren Vale Shiraz here. Red berries, the palate bright and berried, but the acidity is a bit jagged to finish. Pleasant enough, lacking some intensity but affable fruit, although I can’t get past that almost metallic acid on the finish.
Best drinking: until 2028 for a start. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
Tahbilk Viognier 2021
Despite the 13.5% alcohol, this doesn’t have much flavour. There’s a line of peach in there, but it’s also a bit volatile and lacks direction. Fresh, but not varietal or remarkable.
Best drinking: by 2023ish. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $20.60. Would I buy it? No.
The Little Wine Company Little Gem Sangiovese 2018
Thick, oak-drawn and ripe Hunter Valley Sangiovese. Lavish milk chocolate oak and a broad palate give this lots of flavour, but it’s a blunt object, complete with a back end that promises much but is attenuated and warmish. Less would be more.
Best drinking: until 2031, easy, if the oak resolves. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 14.4%, $42. Would I buy it? No.
Yalumba Y Series Pinot Grigio 2021
Simple, fresh, light white wine. Not much flavour, but pleasant, crunchy and really quite refreshing and well balanced. Not sophisticated, but drinkable and varietal. Good, in the context of price.
Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $15. Would I buy it? A glass.
Boat O’Craigo Black Spur Pinot Grigio 2021
20% barrel ferment, but I don’t see it. Yarra Valley Grigio that looks a bit underdone, all tart apple and pear juice and not much else.
Best drinking: now. 16.2/20, 87/100. 12.2%, $24.99. Would I buy it? No.
De Bortoli Blue Pinot Gris 2020
I still don’t get the ‘Blue’ in this King Valley Pinot Gris, but the packaging will win friends. Edging towards Grigio rather than Gris (the lines between the two are a mess these days anyway), there is just enough pear fruit to make this a simple drink but little flavour or charisma to speak of. It will probably sell regardless, but not much is going on.
Best drinking: now. 16/20, 86/100. 12.5%, $19.95. Would I buy it? No.
Lambert Estate Little Rebel Mourvedre 2019
Barossan Mourvedre. Jubey, confected and yet slightly raisined at the edges, is bright and simply fruity with a spike of tart tartaric acidity to finish. You don’t see many Mataro confected like this. Curious wine. There is fruit appeal here, but not exactly convincing.
Best drinking: over the next few years. 16.2/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $36.95. Would I buy it? No.
Fringe Societe Gamay 2020
Thin and confected mediocre French Gamay. Surprisingly high alcohol given the lack of depth – high yields, no doubt? Cool packaging and all that, but there are oceans of better Beaujolais for cheaper than this.
Best drinking: nowish. 16/20, 86/100. 14%, $25, Would I buy it? No.
Lambert Estate Thoroughbred Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Basically, oak and alcohol to be had in this Barossan Cab, the fruit pushed too far, the drying husk already looking forward. Why so ripe?
Best drinking: now. 16/20, 86/100. 15%, $44.95. Would I buy it? No.
Mt Bera Dream Catcher Pinot Gris 2019
Innocuous, although still ok, Adelaide Hills white with pear juice and plenty of acidity, bottle age hasn’t given this any more breadth, just a bit more breadth to the phenolic finish. It’s ok.
Best drinking: last year. 16/20, 86/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Yalumba Y Series Pinot Noir 2021
A bold move to make Pinot like this for $15. It has some bright raspberry, mulchy fruit, too, although the longer you sit with it, the leaner and more sinewy it looks, and the finish lacks generosity. A noble attempt, but this ultimately tastes cheap and a bit tinny.
Best drinking: now. 16/20, 86/100. 13.5%, $15. Would I buy it? I’d go the Y Merlot instead.
Angullong Fossil Hill Tempranillo 2019
Tempranillo from Orange. It’s surprisingly ordinary. A mid-weight, but thin, take on the variety with clumsy oak and alcohol that is far too high for so little generosity. Underwhelming.
Best drinking: now. 15.8/20, 85/100. 14.5%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Karl’s Scepter Shiraz 2020
Complete with stickers-that-look-like-medals and heavy bottle, this export-focused South Australian red is a big liqueured mouthful of confected fruit, low quality ‘oak’ and then a warm finish. Faux wine.
Best drinking: nowish. 15.8/20, 85/100. 14.5%, $? Would I buy it? No.
Mt Bera Wild & Free Pinot Noir 2018
This Adelaide Hills red would be better as a young wine. Slightly gluey, volatile and minty wine with sappy, raw-edged flavours and sharpish acidity. Not much joy here.
Best drinking: last year. 15.5/20, 84/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
2D Vintage Car Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Australian wine at its most cynical. ‘South Australia’ says the label, and this drying husk of a red tastes like the wine that John West, and everyone else, rejected and sent to China, where it didn’t sell, and they sent it back again. Bricking colour, the faintest whisper of hollowed-out red fruit before the forward palate goes to brick dust, leaving little but added tannins added acid and too much alcohol in its wake. Poor.
Best drinking: last year. 14.5/20, 80/100. 14.8%, $?. Would I buy it? I’d send it back.
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