Let’s get 2023 kicked off properly, hey?
Not all wines can be great. Plenty are just ‘ok drinks’, and some are just bad…
Here is a collection of 23 wines that almost made it in December 2022 and January 2023.
I’m kicking off 2023 with this Almost Club, purely because the ‘almosts’ are stacking up. Some of these are solid summer wines too, so this is anything but an exercise in shit canning.
Tomorrow I’ll go through a few wines that did make it, and next week, several more that I bloody loved.
Let’s get started:
Alter Shiraz Pinot 2021
Alter is a new range from the Emma’s Cottage Vineyard in the Hunter, with wines made at Bimbadgen. This is bright and juicy Hunter Shiraz Pinot, although seriously ripe for the Hunter. Jammy berry fruit, no tannins, a sort of gummy jubey character. A light red, but with the alcohol warmth of something else. It finishes a bit tinny too. Plenty of purple fruit, though, to keep you interested. Solid enough. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.6%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Blackstone Paddock Limited Release Chardonnay 2021
Aldi exclusive Margaret River Chardonnay. A ripe and quite worked sort of wine too. Some sulphide funk, then a palate that gets quite ripe and chunky with its orange juice and toast notes before snappy acidity. This has plenty of flavour but is also rather disjointed – it feels made and a bit twangy. It will no doubt win show awards thanks to the weight, but I couldn’t quite see the balance. Best drinking: within five years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $19.99. Would I buy it? No.
Domlina Estate Waurn Ponds Tempranillo 2021
A new name to me, based around Waurn Ponds (eg Geelong region) fruit. Odd wine this. Slightly forward, ham and spice dark fruited, just medium bodied thing with that trade mark Geelong earth but also a bit of a green tobacco leaf edge. There’s an interesting soy and ham sort of wildness, but it’s also sweet and sour. Interest, though not quite drinkability. Best drinking: hmm. Let’s say within eight years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Gundog Estate Hunter’s Shiraz 2021
Hunter Shiraz from a ‘cooler’ vintage, open fermented and matured in French oak puncheons. I struggled hard. It sounds promising but tastes a bit muddled. Ruby red, the nose has a Hunter earth, boysenberry and a slight lift from the oak. Promise. But there is also this weird gummy sweet and savoury clash on the palate, with fruit that seems coinfected, making this seem jubey and yet not bright fruited – a bit leathery. It’s going to take time for that to resolve, I think because it’s just a palate clash. Definitely ‘Hunter Burgundy’ vibes, but it’s going to need time to find some balance. Best drinking: come back in five years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? No.
Wolf Blass Exclusive Release Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2021
Aldi exclusive. Cool lean, and heavily worked style – it feels like bony fruit given some serious going over in the winery. Plenty of sulphide funk melding in with the cool white peach fruit. It’s just a bit clinical and short, but plenty of style for $14.99. Handy enough to win wine show medals. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $14.99. Would I buy it? No.
De Bortoli Tiamo Fiano 2022
King Valley fruit in this well-packaged Fiano. De Bortoli really work hard on making good commercial ‘alternate’ varieties, and this goes fine. Buzzy, lofted honeysuckle aromatics, the underneath its a pleasant, gentle pear and honeysuckle wine of direct fruit and not much else. There’s enough crunch to be refreshing and the flavour to be drinkable, but otherwise a straightforward, ripe enough, slightly monotone white. Best drinking: right now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $19.95. Would I buy it? No.
Flash Gordon Pet Nat NV
Zibibbo based. Frothy, juicy Muscat juice, crunchy phenolics despite the promise of sweetness. Lychee aromatics but bone dry. It’s not easy enough to be smashable, but not a bad wine. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.8%, $?. Would I buy it? No.
Gundog Estate Rosé 2022
just a bit ripe and full for me. Watermelon juicy fruit, it’s a very pink-coloured rosé with just a little sweetness. Plump and generous without being too heavy, I get the commercial appeal and it has flavour, but this needs a little more delicacy. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
La Sorda Rioja Reserva 2015
This a regular reminder that there are oceans of mature Rioja out there (so you can afford to be picky). Great colour in this La Sorda. It smells very typical of a tiring Rioja – old leathery flavours smudging the remaining red fruit, then dusty oak tannins dry out the finish. It’s held together by oak and oak tannins and a little brett. Not lacking in intensity, but needs more vitality at this price. Best drinking: last year. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.3%, $65. Would I buy it? No.
Running With Bulls Albariño 2022
Eden Valley fruit and more Eden Valley than Albariño. A bit of sweaty lemon and melon fruit, then a neutral sort of palate that is neither here nor there. Plenty fresh and pleasant drinking white wine, but missing a varietal trick. Young vines, perhaps? Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%, $31. Would I buy it? No.
Silkwood Estate The Walcott Chardonnay 2019
Pemberton Chardonnay. These Silkwood whites can be great value drinks, but I feel this Chardonnay would have been better a year ago. Cheesy and shows its age on the nose. Plenty of nutty flavour though, and the palate is fresh enough. Gets a bit raw on the finish- hard to miss the wood tannins. Flavour intensity gets it a decent bronze. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5% $30. Would I buy it? No.
Small Gully Wines The Formula Zibibbo 2022
A white wine from the big red kings of Small Gully Wines! South Australian fruit here, and it’s making a dry, aromatic, but frustratingly lean Muscat. A musky adventure to smell – a big bath salt terpene lift, white pepper over a pithy palate that is tight and fresh too. Plenty of florals, and yet it’s very tight and phenolic. Needs more generosity – it feels like half a wine. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%, $?. Would I buy it? No.
The Little Wine Company Pecorino 2022
Hunter Valley Pecorino. Pecorino has promise as a fresh drinking white in the warm Hunter, but why bother when you can have Semillon? Surprised to see some colour! Golden green. Gently aromatic too. Pear and lime aromatics, underneath it’s a bit diffuse, but a pleasant dry white of indistinct varietal character. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.4%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
The Little Wine Company Sangiovese 2019
Ripe, slightly roasted Hunter Sangiovese with trademark forest berry fruits that look a bit cooked, complete with the jagged acidity and tannins of ripe Sangio. It’s ok, but less would be more. Already a bit dried out on the finish too. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Bonny Doon Vineyard Pink Wine of the Earth Vin Gris de Cigare 2021
Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm is a fascinating guy, but I’ve never got the hype for his wines. They always seem like cheap-tasting commercial things with outsized price tags. Jacobs Creek quality (actually, JC is often better). Here is another example – a quite forward, Grenache-based Californian rosé with soft watermelon and gentle forward fruit. It pulls up short, but it’s pleasant drinking. Rough acidity to finish is off key, though. Meh. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $50. Would I buy it? No.
De Bortoli Venturer Series Pinot Grigio 2022
Riverina King Valley blend here. Musky and tropical riper-styled Gris, it feels generous and plump with a tiny bit of residual. The finish is a bit raw and clumsy, but the mid-palate is well done. Overall effect is an easy drink at a cracking price. Best drinking: immediately. 16/20, 87/100. 12.8%, $10. Would I buy it? No, but for $10 I’d recommend it!
Doom Juice Rouge 2021
I love what the Doom Juice boys are doing with the brand, even if the wines are very straightforward. This is ‘Australian’ Cabernet & Shiraz. Very light ruby. Lightly confected slightly sweet red fruit palate with cherry fruit and a cheery disposition. Light and easy, but there isn’t anything beyond confected fruit. Best drinking: nowish. 16/20, 87/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Longhop Angaston Merlot 2021
A rare miss from Dom Torzi. Soft, fleshy, tinned plum and beetroot wine of puply fruits but also warm alcohol and a gruff finish. The winemaking is sound, but I’d be grafting over this Merlot. Best drinking: over the next few years. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
The Little Wine Company Little Gem Shiraz 2018
Big Hunter red. Ripe purple fruit, brick dust, cooked plums slathered with oak. The longer it sits, the more cooked it looks. Drying finish too. OTT. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 14.7%, $60. Would I buy it? No.
Campos de Luz Garnacha 2021
Generic Spanish supermarket red. Good colour, but it’s a pretty thin and confected thing with dilute flavours and a lean finish. No. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 85/100. 13.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Sunlight By Oxford Landing Shiraz 2021
Lighter in alcohol Shiraz from Oxford Landing. Comes with a nutrition panel. Jubey red fruit that’s a bit thin and sweet, with simple cherry raspberry juice. but I get the intention, tapping into the nascent ‘good for me’ lighter alcohol wine trend. This isn’t going to excite serious wine drinkers though. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 85/100. 8%, $15. Would I buy it? No.
Yalumba Gen Sauvignon Blanc 2022
Organic Sauvignon Blanc. South Australian fruit. Sweet and sour, generic and quite phenolic Sauv with little fruit intensity. Lacks much body and then a rough finish. Unbalanced. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 85/100. 12%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Tatachilla Light & Fresh Sauvignon Blanc 2022
Light, fresh and gross. Region not indicated. A bit of cardboard and green veges on the nose. Anaemic palate tastes stretched and thin. This isn’t good, though not strictly faulty. Drink water instead. Best drinking: now. 14.5/20, 82/100. 9%, $8.99. Would I buy it? No.
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