Welcome to 2022!
Taking out the recycling over the past few days reminded me that a) I drink plenty of beer b) there were some seriously fine wines opened over the Christmas & New Year period.
This festive season block was designated as a ‘drink fewer samples and more things from the overflowing cellar dammit Andrew’ period, and I’m calling it a minor success. My new Husky wine fridge (quiet, clever, love the blue light) has many more holes, and I can finally close the Wine Ark locker #winning.
What about you? What did you drink over Christmas and New Year? Highlights, lowlights?
For me, there is still an ocean of bubbles to navigate through in the samples room and a mini-vertical of Coolangatta Estate Semillon to dive into shortly. But for now, a recap of the good, the bad, the glorious and the disappointing wines of Christmas & New Year 2021.
Some of these are samples, some I have bought this year, some many years ago. In turn, some of my notes are just drunken impressions, other times a complete deconstruction.
Primo Joseph Sparkling Red (2020 disgorgement)
Ah, the taste of Christmas. A good bottle too. What fascinates me with Joseph Sparkling Red is the mix of youthful richness and vitality with an unquestioned sense that this isn’t a single-speed fruity wine. Close your eyes, and you can taste the old solera character (which famously includes old Australian reds and fortifieds going back fifty years) underpinning the young wine. Anise and sweetened raspberry with dusty chocolate, too – I can see the oak in here, but it’s an extra layer of flavour rather than intruding. Bitter edged and dark chocolatey, with sweet berry fruit and this withering darkness. Just a hint of rancio, the sweetness of oak/fruit/dosage bouncing off the swirling earthen bitter dark chocolate. What a joy and the finest glazed ham wine on the planet. Touch and go for even higher points too. Magic.
Best drinking: now. 18.7/20, 95/100. 13.5%, $90. Would I buy it? I want more already.
Roger Coulon Millésime 2012
Champagne at its most profound (and slightly severe). A blend of 50/50 Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir with just 8000 bottles produced, this golden, nutty, oxidatively crafted cult grower Champagne is so serious (and profound) – more ‘wine’ than aperitif Champagne, from one of the leading lights of grower fizz. Aramis, toasted nuts, fresh Hotcakes, golden pineapple, and all these nutty, lanolin-edged oxidative aromatics from the long maturation (eight years minimum before disgorgement). You expect it to be broad after that nose, but it’s its tight and resoundingly dry without being harsh, with this citrus wrench of acidity to finish. Just excellent. Maybe a smidgen too firm for even higher points, but I may also be nitpicking. Very very good.
Best drinking: now, but you could happily wait another few years. 18.7/20, 95/100. 12%, $170. Would I buy it? I’ve already bought more.
Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 2015
Is it too ripe? That’s the only question with this superior Sauternes. Golden honeysuckle nose is just on the blanched cooked biscotti end of the spectrum – more golden honey than lime custard. Serious intensity of flavour, though, and no excess of botrytis or sweetness – it’s all balanced to perfection, save for the slight warmth. The mark with good Sauternes is always when you come back and see different shades, and a second glass looked even better – creme caramel and just-right acidity. Even if the d’Yquem-like final detail isn’t there, it’s a very fine wine. Damn, it’s impossible when I compare everything to Yquem…
Best drinking: good now. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $85 for 375ml. Would I buy it? Hmm. I like it, but other vintages I’ve enjoyed a little more.
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2017
Wonderful. Captures the beauty of Shirognier, with apricot and raspberry and a slush of black pepper. Mid-weight, drying, but also perfect in its way. Fun to compare this to top Cote Rotie – It has the dandelion edged red fruit and drying tannins of something fine. Gee, it’s serious. Lives up to the nameplate.
Best drinking: good now and for the next five years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $90. Would I buy it? Glad I have more in the cellar.
Oakridge Vineyard Series Hazeldene Chardonnay 2019
I had this the day after the 864 below, and for mine, it’s a better-balanced drink (and possibly my favourite ’19 Oakridge Chardonnay). From the Hazeldene Vineyard in the Upper Yarra. Funk. Whipped butter on Sao, the shape underneath that of a reserved, acid shaped wine – grapefruit acidity. Yet there’s width here too – it’s not unripe. Chalk and lemon butter, real acid grip, with a raw cashew nuttiness on the fresh finish. Chablis-inspired, rather than the Corton of 864. Don’t drink it too cold was my takeaway, and only going to get better. Great wine.
Best drinking: now and with scope to improve for two or three more years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.2%, $44. Would I buy it? Yes!
Rouleur Chardonnay 2020
What a contrast to sandwich this Chardonnay in and around the two Oakridge wines. This is a deftly built, filigreed wine like all of Matt East’s Chardonnay. Importantly, it doesn’t look anaemic like some 2020 Yarra Valley wines, just graceful. White peach and fine sulphur funk. Has this acid formed delicacy without being harsh. Sour lemon citrus and delicate white flowers. How can the acidity be tight but not harsh? Another excellent release.
Best drinking: now and for at least five years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.6%, $33. Would I buy it? Absolutely.
Rouleur McLaren Vale Shiraz 2020
Speaking of deft touches, this is a smartly-made Blewitt Springs Shiraz. Interesting that I keep thinking about Wes Pearson’s 2020 Juxtaposed Shiraz when tasting this – winemaking, style and vineyard choices share much. 25% whole bunches included in the blend for context and all older oak – an excellent mix for expression and spice. Blood red with a bit of purple, it doesn’t scream Vale Shiraz at all – Blewitt Springs seems a whole other place. Earth, silt, mushroom, leaf litter, fruit is there but not bursting out. Some background creamy touches to the mushroomy plum palate, making it super smooth. Great polish here. A real sheen to the vanilla bean backed tannins. Maybe a smidgen warm to finish, but the tannins feel finessed and add volume to the earthen red fruit—very clever wine.
Best drinking: now and for a decade, no probs. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.2%, $33. Would I buy it? Yes.
Sunshine Creek Ulysses Cabernets 2019
This is the new top dog Cabernet blend for Sunshine Creek, and it’s one of the best releases from the vineyard. It comes in a massive bottle with cork, which is probably the only negative. Anyway, a blend of best barrels get blended and then sent to large oak foudre. Vines are now 30 years old, with Cabernet Sauvignon blend with small amounts of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Super smooth vanilla cream nose it has, too – really sexy oak. Super stylish, mid-weight style is real top-end modern Yarra red. Mint, ultra-premium oak, dark berry fruit, finessed tannins. It’s a very polished experience. Vanilla etched red fruit; grainy tannins get large on the finish. It gets a little ripe and smudgy at the edges, but the length of the tannins, backdropping the red and black curranty fruit is excellent.
Best drinking: it’s only going to get better. Five years will be welcome, and it will live for fifteen no probs. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $120. Would I buy it? Out of my price range, but I’d happily have a few bottles in the cellar.
Easily the best Bollinger NV I’ve had in an age, and I drink it every Christmas. I believe this is a 2020 disgorgement into magnum. Last Christmas, I was bitterly disappointed with the quality – it felt flat and inferior. But this was superior, and even in the context of the Roger Coulon (that I had on Christmas eve), it looked fine. I had no notes, but I loved the typically extra creamy richness and breezy volume that makes Bollinger great. Starkly good.
Best drinking: now (I guess, but with no disgorgement date, it’s pot luck). 18/20, 93/100. 12.5%, $75. Would I buy it? Absolutely.
Oakridge 864 Funder & Diamond Chardonnay 2019
The single block release from Oakridge, and it’s a hugely intense wine. 20% new oak, 10 months in barrel, then 6 months in tank on fine lees. There is volume and nutty golden power here – a volume of buzzy nutty flavour, but the finish feels warm. Unquestionably powerful, and I admire the lines (hence the score), but it’s not my favourite iteration.
Best drinking: now. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $90. Would I buy it? I’d take the Hazeldene.
Robert-Denogent Saint-Veran Les Pommards Vieilles Vignes 2017
Sunny, golden Burgundy gives Macon’s volume with real ripeness and luxury. Custard, aftershave, the golden roasted oatmeal and lemon citrus palate full and luxurious in a sunny mode but tightens with a citrusy twist to finish. This is lovely. Many a 1er Cru doesn’t have the length of this. It’s lacking just a little acidity to make it gold-medal quality, but yum.
Best drinking: now. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $60. Would I buy it? Happily.
Rouleur Grenache 2020
Blewitt Springs Grenache. 50% whole bunches, three weeks on skins, all old oak. Complex Grenache here. Mulchy yet a bit of syrupy raspberry fruit. The bunches give this a meaty animal flourish. Smoky yet syrupy too. Is it too ripe? Real ferrous tang offset with that bright raspberry, tending drying and meaty. Unquestioned layers of structure and flavour here, even if it is very winey (rather than just fruit).
Best drinking: now. I think it will dry out in time. 18/20, 93/100. 14.3%, $33. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Sunshine Creek Yarra Valley Shiraz 2019
Another Sunshine Creek success story. The fruit for this comes from the Thousand Candles Vineyard. 30% whole bunches, with this vintage the first using the new optical sorter. 30% whole bunches. Bright purple edges to the red fruit, but it’s more savoury red fruit than purple. Slightly sour and gravelly style, with this sour plum fruit offsetting lightly chocolaty oak. I like the sour berry fruit here – it’s the barest smidgen too ripe for perfect balance, But the finessed tannins and shape of the thing are very Rhonish. High class.
Best drinking: now and for a decade. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? Let’s share a bottle for a start.
Tyrrell’s Johnno’s Semillon 2010
This has spent its entire life in a temperature-controlled cellar, and gee, it’s backward, Still so green. So pale. Gee, this is angular. Green apple citrus and very tart. Lemon and green apple STILL plays the game. It’s so backward, really, and awkward. But it’s also very, very long too, and what toasty citrus flavours are unquestioned in their power. Quality, but come back later.
Best drinking: I have no idea. It will likely still be alive in two decades and outlive me. 18/20, 93/100. 11.5%, I paid $35 for this way back when. Would I buy it? I’m not opening any more of these for years.
Aurelio Settimo Barolo 2010
A treasure that came back from a Piedmont trip about six years ago. It still has a €28 sticker on it too. Dusty, a little bretty, but classic Barolo lines. Brick dust. Biltong, meat, dusty tannins, yet it still tastes young, and the tannins are still fine-grained. Not without charm, if in a slightly rustic style. Lots of love to give.
Best drinking: good now, but don’t hold on for too much more. 17.7/20, 92/100. Would I buy it? I’d buy another vintage for sure.
Clover Hill Cuvée Foudre NV
No disgorgement date, but this is a recent release. Clover Hill on a roll. Another smart wine it is too. Chardonnay dominant, with fruit all from the Piper’s River vineyard, the juice aged in large oak before the second ferment in bottle. Has this vague vanilla bean note in the backdrop and the Chardonnay oatmeal and citrus acidity. The action still seems a bit stark, but a good sparkling, with a richness/freshness balance the envy of many NV Champagne. I’m a fan.
Best drinking: now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12%, $50. Would I buy it? Yes.
Domaine du Collier Saumur Blanc 2017
A pleasure to finally open this cult Loire Blanc. It’s an enjoyably textured drink, too, with a gently waxy lemon apple pie nose and palate of evident charm and concentration. It doesn’t hit the most profound heights of complexity but has a lovely enveloping width before a tangy lemony finish. Quality drink.
Best drinking: good now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $150. Would I buy it? I can’t justify the price.
Hewitson Belle Ville Rosé 2021
Variety not specified on the bottle, but it’s 80% Mourvedre, 20% Cinsault. A really good rosé it is too. Coppery pale pink, it smells juicy, but this is very well handled – just a little creamy at the edges and with enough phenolic grip. It would be well at home in Bandol. Well done. Maybe a bit firm to finish, but that’s a passing gripe.
Best drinking: now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $26. Would I buy it? Yes.
Meerea Park Alexander Munro Aged Release Semillon 2009
Another unready aged Semillon that has come out of the cellar (and no, I don’t know why there is writing on the bottle). Lime toast with whipped cream, the limey acidity strident, the palate still stark and nervy. Gee, it’s long though. Pulsating lime chugs along. A firm grape of chalky, almost vegetal acidity to finish. Unready. Maybe even a little hard going. But the long term potential is there.
Best drinking: revisit in three years. 17.7/20, 92/100+, 11%, $? Would I buy it? I will leave the other bottle in the cellar.
Mesh Riesling 2021
I dismissed this latest release (20 vintages of this collab between Jeffrey Grosset & the Hill-Smith family!) as a bit direct and simple acid juice. But on the second day, it just looked even better. Limey, direct and very classic Eden Valley Riesling. No alarms, and good drinking.
Best drinking: now, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it again in five. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $32. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Pikes The Merle Riesling 2021
Always classic lines on this Clare Rizza. A little more diffuse this year, though. Cooked lime and brown lime, the palate generous and limey, more fruit-forward and even plump this year. Agreeable and easy, even if it’s not scaling the same scintillating heights.
Best drinking: nowish. 17.7/20, 92/100. 11.5%, $55. Would I buy it? Hmmm. A glass or two.
Raymond Lafon Sauternes 2009
It’s official; I’m selling my final bottles of this Sauternes to buy a different vintage. Golden yellow coloured. It is lightly volatile; it has a gentle warm biscotti custard and lime citrus nose, but the palate is smudgy and slightly warm in its volume. It’s still just a bit ripe; the alcohol fans out to dominate beyond the front palate. The more you look, the more warm and indistinct it gets. Great nose though. The palate warmth stops it getting to gold, but the quality is there (hence the score). I want more detail, and I know that Raymond Lafon can deliver.
Best drinking: now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, I paid $70 en primeur. Would I buy it? Not more of this vintage.
St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2019
A return to a thicker style of Shiraz for Blackwell, all plump purple fruited, tending glacé plum but Chococolatey and dense tending a bit spirity on the finish. Big impact. Purple fruit, but less obvious oak than you’d expect. Certainly classic, and this is so cleverly built for Barossan Shiraz fans. I can’t entirely escape the bitter alcohol warmth on the finish, though it’s also part of the style. Worthy silver.
Best drinking: over the next ten years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $45. Would I buy it? Not quite my bag, but some are going to love it. Just a glass for me.
Sunshine Creek Chardonnay 2019
Carefully handled Yarra Valley Chardonnay with a push-pull between toasty golden yellow peach fruit, some sulphide funk and then a tart and taut finish. I feel like this might be pulled back too far, and the finish is just a bit firm (though gee it’s fresh) with oak, fruit and acidity ways apart. The form is there though, this needs a little time.
Best drinking: next year for a start. Then over the next few years. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 13.2%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass or so.
Heggies Vineyard Estate Botrytis Riesling 2021
Damn, this is seriously sweet. Straw green, the nose generous, with golden honey fruit and plenty of botrytis, alongside toffee and honey-lime custard. It smells very sweet. The palate is VERY sweet. Direct golden honeysuckle sweetness. Lovely juiciness. It’s probably too sweet but luscious to the max. Good easy sweet wine.
Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 10.5%, $26 (375ml). Would I buy it? A glass is enough.
Jansz Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2016
I still find it curious that this Jansz premium release is not labelled as Blanc de Blancs. Calling it Chardonnay is confusing. This is 100% Chardonnay from the estate vineyard in Pipers River. Aged in old oak, then four and a half years on lees. Gee, it’s delicate. Just the barest hint of funk, then apples and white flowers. It’s very pretty, and the filigreed style is so fresh and vibrant, but this looked anaemic and mono-dimensional when judged against the Bollinger above. Ambitious, though, and super lively. I ended up settling at a solid silver, but I wonder if it could be more impressive with a bit more weight.
Best drinking: nowish. No hurry. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12%, $65. Would I buy it? A glass.
Marcarini Barolo Brunate 2006
Drying, reserved, old school Barolo, picked up in the little supermarche in La Morra many years ago. As ever with Marcarini, this smells like tannins, with cold tea and fish oil, the palate dusty, bony ironstone and leather. Great length, but little fruit to drive it along. It’s enjoyable in a drying mode, but I wonder if the tannins were ever truly in balance. The more you look, the more tannic and drawn it becomes. I still like drinking it, though, hence the silver medal score.
Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, €20. Would I buy it? A glass.
Pikes Traditionale Riesling 2021
Just a little disappointed by this vintage of Pikes Riesling. The edges noticeably more rounded (and they didn’t need to be). Bright, citrussy lime juice and fresh with cooked lime and lemon, the palate gentle and easy, with a bit more bath salt aromatics. It’s maybe a little more diffuse this year – almost tropical with just a smidgen more sweetness to finish – but certainly easy drinking and entirely correct.
Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 11.5%, $26. Would I buy it? A glass.
Jansz Vintage 2017
Wholly outclassed in this lineup, and it showed. Very clear green straw. Gently yeasty bread dough and lemon citrus, the palate a bit stark and taut. There is a good play at complexity, but it’s too delicate and tart to be genuinely compelling.
Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $47. Would I buy it? A glass.
Monocle by Ross Hill Riesling 2021
Orange Riesling of simple freshness. A bit of celery greenness, but also blackcurrant and texta. It’s a bit lean but nice aromatic flourish. Just-ripe-enough grapefruit citrus fills the palate. Solid drinking.
Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Pommery Brut Rosé Royal NV
Compared to the other fizz in this collection, this felt very old school. Dusty strawberries with yeasty richness, soft red fruit and a slight sweetness at separate points. But it still does what most people want in a rosé Champagne. Solid.
Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12%, $85. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gundog Estate Rosé 2021
Canberra and Hilltops fruit in this pink. Candied red fruit colour suggests sweetness, and this is undoubtedly juicy – all strawberry cream and juicy fruit. A bit sweet edged and candied to be refreshing. The commercial appeal is high, though.
Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Probably not.
Woodstock Sauvignon Blanc 2021
Broad brushed Adelaide Hills with sweaty tropical fruit and punchiness with a taut phenolic finish. A pretty rough and tumble attempt at riper Hills Sauvignon Blanc; heaps of flavour, though. Ok.
Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $19. Would I buy it? No.
Sticks Chardonnay 2020
Lean Yarra Chardonnay. Lacks some fruit, with complexity dealt back in via sulphide funk. Palate is sweet, sour, and light, with a cheese-edged grapefruit that feels forced. It needs a bit more generosity, I think.
Best drinking now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Taché Sparkling Rosé 2014
A miss from a producer that doesn’t miss often. Light pink fruit. Creamy too. The dusty palate lacks freshness, finishes bitter and dusty too. That promising nose doesn’t deliver, the palate tired and lacking. A bad bottle, perhaps.
Best drinking: last year. 15.8/20, 86/100. 12%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
St Hallett Blockhead Shiraz Nouveau 2021
A tale of two wines. On day one, this nouveau style red with so reductive it would have been flatly rejected from a wine show. The sort of wine where I think ‘who bottled this?’. By day two, it had morphed into a slightly reductive, skinsy plum fruited Beaujolais inspired Barossan red with a bit of bitterness, lots of carbonic juicy fruit and no oak. A mediocre wine, regardless.
Best drinking: it needs more time in bottle. Maybe later this year. 14/20, 78/100 on day 1 or 16/20, 87/100 on day 2. 13.5%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
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