December through to February are the big drinking months here at Australian Wine Review HQ. Peak drinking season. Sure, there is something open every day on the tasting bench, but between Christmas, New Year, my birthday and summer holidays, I tend to move from tasting to drinking more often.
On that topic, it might surprise to hear that I don’t drink that much (anymore). It’s unusual for me to have more than a single drink (usually a beer post-tasting/with dinner), and I’m strict on the two alcohol-free days per week as well.
After twenty-three years of professional drinking, I know that even though I want to drain schooners of crisp Yarra Chardonnay on a warm evening, I can’t do it. I can’t look after my fam, juggle multiple jobs and train for an ultra when I drink every night. Once upon a time, I could, though, so maybe I’m just getting old. Or maybe it’s life getting in the way of my drinking?
Anyway, let’s get back to something more interesting – a smorgasbord of the wines that have moved me this summer. Yesterday we kicked off with 23 that didn’t quite make the grade, so today, we’re stepping into a few that did. The theme of this collection is interest, value and/or approachability, with plenty of poolside drinks for good measure.
Alter Semillon 2019
Alter is a new range from Emma’s Cottage Vineyard & Accommodation in the Hunter Valley, with wines made by Bimbadgen. Bizarre to see this Sem sealed with a cork, especially when the sister Shiraz Pinot is in screwcap. Anyway, low alc Hunter Semillon with a light and airy sort of feel. It’s still very youthful, with just a little lanolin and more just gentle apple and lemongrass. It’s quite gentle, a little sour, but pleasant Sem that is already enjoyable. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 10.2%, $38. Would I buy it? A glass.
Angullong Fossil Hill Sangiovese 2021
A step up for Angulllong Sangio. It’s a bit gruff but deadly serious. Has the forest berry Sangiovese varietal character, with berry fruit aplenty, a warmish finish and slightly tart acidity. I want more generosity through the middle to cope with the firm, dry extraction, but hey, it makes for a pretty serious wine. Best drinking: no hurry. Will still be alive in 5-8 years, though I wonder if it might dry out a bit. 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Bugalugs by Tim Smith Grenache 2022
Pleasure city right here. All delicious, vibrant Barossa Grenache fruit – real raspberry gummy bear jubey juiciness. Not sweet, though, just exuberantly juicy. Open, open-hearted, flow of lovely red fruit. No adornments and no excesses – indeed, it’s soft and inviting. Good summer red this. Best drinking: now, but short-term cellaring isn’t going to hurt. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Let’s share a bottle.
Collezione Oro Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2021
Aldi exclusive premium Prosecco. My photo does no justice to the packaging, which is great for this price. Indeed Prosecco Superiore for $12.99 is amazing to start with. I’d love to see this as brut too – the sweetness is unnecessary for nice delicate fruit. Indeed this will blow away any imported $12.99 Prosecco in the country. Nice delicate appley fruit with lovely freshness. Gee I wish it wasn’t sweet-edged – the sweetened apple juice is a slight distraction. The form otherwise is so good that I bumped it up to silver. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 11%, $12.99. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gambit Wines Jaya Grenache 2021
Gambit is the label of long-time Sydney wine sales rep (and friend) Sanjay Chhabra. I should go easy on his wines, but that doesn’t happen here on Australian Wine Review. Luckily this Grenache is a winner. From the Marschall Vineyard at Vine Vale, it’s made seriously too – 15% whole bunches, wild fermented, matured for six months in old barrels. Made by Corey Ryan, who knows how to make this sort of wine. Juicy, bright red fruit with a bit of play-doh and raspberry carbonic character, rhubarb, raspberry, lovely soft red fruits, and just a little bitterness to finish. This isn’t wildly complex, but it is a very easy, well-priced drink. Bang on for what it is meant to be. Best drinking: nowish. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $28. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Good Clean Fun Gris 2022
The name doesn’t sound serious, but lots of thought in these Good Clean Fun wines. Made by Ben Luker, who works for Wine Intelligence by day and makes these brightly labelled western Victorian wines by night. This Gris comes from the Camfield Vineyard in the Pyrenees and spends 2-5 days on skins, then wild fermented in tank and barrel, delivering ‘somewhere between a grown version of rosé and an introduction to the work of skin contact whites’ according to Luker. Ramato orange, but bright, the nose has tangerine and a whisper of funk, this is bone dry but lifted up by that tangerine concentration, just a little phenolic pucker, but clean finish. Spot on rosé/orange contrast, but it’s clean and bright rather than wild and cloudy. Maybe a bit tight to finish. Good drinking, regardless. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 11.5%, $28. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Good Clean Fun Party Red 2022
Good Clean Fun indeed. A blend of Grampians Grenache + Shiraz. The other day, I was talking about how there are not enough interesting wines out of the Grampians yet gere is one. It’s called a Party Red but this is richer, plusher and more Grampian than just another thin park wine. There’s that purple fruit generosity and width of the Grampians with a vanilla bean vein. It’s not full-bodied, yet it has weight. And plushness without trying to be deadly serious. Good stuff. Best drinking: over the next five years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Gundog Estate Wild Semillon 2022
I don’t always love the balance on the Wild Semillon – it can look too sweet in some vintages, but better balance this year. As the name suggests, this is a different take on Hunter Valley Semillon, with a wild ferment and time on lees. It’s slightly herbal to start, which I wasn’t expecting. A bit of passionfruit thiol character too – you could almost pick it as being Sauv with that ripe juiciness. A slightly more generous palate but not sweet. The palate feels like good, riper, more textured appley Hunter Semillon. Acidity feels nicely balanced too. Hardly classic, but plenty of flavour in this modern white. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 11.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Worth a glass.
Head Red GSM 2021
Alex Head’s Head Red wines are always bargains, and no change here. Glossy, juicy purple fruit. It could almost be made by Corey Ryan, too with that jubey purple gloss. Minimal tannins, fun, simple fruit. Just a smidgen purple fruity simplicity for big marks, but a very easy wine to like. Best drinking: over the next five years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Hungerford Hill Classic Pinot Grigio 2022
Hilltops fruit for this approachable Grigio. A kiss of orange in the colour. Smells like a bit of skin contact too – plenty of stonefruit on the nose. Tangy, tight palate is a bit light by contrast but the length and flavour is all there. This is handy Grigio and just needs a bit more oomph to be great. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $27. Would I buy it? A glass.
La Sorda Rioja Vendimia Seleccionado 2020
Approachable Rioja is the vibe here with this import from the crew at Single Vineyard Sellers. Great colour – mulberry red. Good standard Crianza style Tempranillo this – that sweet and sour dusty sour cherry fruit with a little of the leather. Half modern young red, half classic crianza. There’s a dip of leathery, slightly furry tannins to finish but it’s more fruit wine than tannic and long. Not undistinguished, though. Solid drinking. Best drinking: over the next five years for a start. 17/20, 90/100. 14.2%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.
Longhop Old Vine Grenache 2022
Always bargains to be found in the Longhop range. This is playful, juicy, red fruity, light touch Adelaide Plains Grenache of softness and ease. Less weight than in some years, it’s a light and bright vibrant redcurrant and raspberry style of appeal and fine tannins. Fun. Best drinking: over the next few years. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
Longview Jupiter Barbera 2020
Barbera can be an ideal grape for summer-friendly light reds but there is still so little grown here in Australia. Longview’s 2020 Jupiter is a rounder, juicier, plump wine this vintage with this generous purple plum jam thing going on. It’s a bit soft and pulpy (and hardly varietal), but as a mouth-filling-yet-not-heavy red it carries things off well. Best drinking: over the next few years. 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.
Longview Macclesfield Chardonnay 2021
One of the weaker releases from the Longview Macclesfield range, but the bar is set so high that’s inevitable. It’s a bit underdone, but still drinkable Adelaide Hills Chardonnay is light, crisp but looks rather worked, with milk bottle sulphides and white peach on the nose, the palate more like spring water touched with peach juice. Too early picked, which means great freshness but at the expense of palate weight. Still long and vital, even if I want more flavour. Best drinking: over the next 3-5 years. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass.
Meerea Park The Aunts Shiraz 2021
The fruit source has switched for this single vineyard Meerea Park red, now from the Glenguin vineyard in Broke. It’s such a chunky, open and plummy sort of Hunter red this, almost syrupy despite the low alcohol, which is just a reflection of the glycerol-packed fruit. So much bold, soft-edged, generous sweet fruit here that is going to win over many, even if it feels a bit one-dimensional compared to some previous vintages. Best drinking: within ten years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.
Meerea Park XYZ Semillon 2022
The XYZ wines are meant to be straightforward Hunter valley wine expressions, but this is a cut above the rest. Crisp, classic Semillon with good palate intensity and surprising length. Lemon lime and green appley, it’s a bit neutral without some of the classic depth, but gee, you’re getting some Hunter Sem character for relatively few dollars. I like. Best drinking: now, but it will mature for sure. What’s not to like? 17.5/20, 91/100. 11%, $30. Would I buy it? Several glasses.
Paisley Linen Fiano 2022
Adelaide Hills fruit for this easy Fiano and quite a ripe expression it is too – sweaty lemon and a bit of pear. Plenty of lemony flavour on the palate too. It feels fruit salad juicy too. Generous musky fruit. There is flavour intensity here, and it makes this wine. Drink it ice cold is my pick – I tasted it again after it had been out of the ice for a while it looked a bit broad. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Paisley Silk Shiraz 2020
Derek from Paisley knows how to deliver a big, warm-hearted Barossa Shiraz, and this rambunctious red has a lot of impact for the price. Plush and ultra-ripe with viscous plum lusciousness before a warm and ripe finish. It’s plush and mouthfilling stuff, even if it edges towards overripeness. Best drinking: within five years before the alcohol takes over. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Silkwood Estate The Bowers Chardonnay 2020
I criticised this wine’s older brother yesterday and side-by-side this was so much better. Pemberton Chardonnay in a brisk and light style but with golden nutty oak highlights on a crisp palate. Plenty of upfront flavour, and nice acid balance. Not profound, but great value. Best drinking: nowish. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $20. Would I buy it? A glass.
The Other Wine Co. Pinot Gris 2022
The Other Wine Co. releases are always well-made and fit for purpose. No difference here. Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris with generosity is the mode. It smells ripe – Nashi pear and stonefruit. Ripe enough palate too – maybe a little too soft to finish, but nice generous pear fruit the whole way through. This is what approachable Pinot Gris should taste like, really. Just a bit diffuse to finish, but the flavour is spot on. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $26. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
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