Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Leabrook Estate's is a relatively new cellar door in the Adelaide Hills, and if you haven't been yet I suggest you put it at the top of your must visit list next time you're in the region. From word go there's just so much to like about the place. It's housed in a charmingly rustic 130 year-old stone and wood building, which gives off an air of old world charm, traditional values and small-scale, boutique, customer focused winemaking as soon as you arrive.

I recall meeting Leabrook Estate's owner/winemaker Colin Best at a small winemaker's tasting several years ago, where the man left a great impression on me. If I remember correctly Colin brought his own decanters to that tasting, the only winemaker on the day to do so, telling me here's a guy who's serious about presenting his wines in the best possible fashion. Everything about Colin that day beamed focus and determination, especially when it came to cabernet franc (perhaps the house specialty) and pinot noir.

After going through Leabrook on the weekend I'm only happier with the way the brand has developed. Leabrook Estate had no cellar door when I met Colin, but I can tell you he's picked the right pair of ladies to manage it. Both our hosts (headed by the lovely Chris Best) were very personable, entertaining and sharp given the amount of customers they dealt with. It was apparent they were only too willing to take in guests to the cellar door like friends to a family dinner. In fact, the rather intimate cellar door experience reminded me of some of my favourite memories at Ashton Hills with Peta and Stephen George (only minus the state's best pinot!).

Leabrook offers a fairly contemporary range of cool-climate Adelaide Hills' wines, except for their unusual selection of 5 renditions of red Bordeaux styles. I was particularly impressed by Leabrook's generous pricing (especially after having gone there direct from The Lane) and most notably quality control. Due to the harsh conditions thrown up by the 2008 vintage, Colin declassified all the pinot noir fruit which would usually go into his Reserve wine. Instead the grapes were bottled as a cleanskin release, which is sold through cellar door for the excellent price of $80 a dozen. I can tell you the 2008 pinot cleanskins were proving very popular with punters on the day, as I counted at least 5 cartons walk out the door when I was there. Declassification of below quality fruit into lesser wines in difficult seasons is a decision I always applaud wineries on.

In conclusion, if you're in the Hills (or even if you're not, it's only 20 minutes from Adelaide's CBD straight up Greenhill Road) then you must pop in and say G'day at Leabrook Estate's cellar door. You won't regret it. Leabrook Estate is open weekends and public holidays only, from 11am to 5pm.

Leabrook Estate tasting notes are posted below.

Leabrook Estate Riesling 2008 ($22) Slatey, quartz and mineral aromas show a touch of toasty development, but its palate is a bit round and soft, with what seems like awkward, spiky acids. I'd say adolescence has started to kick in here. 87

Leabrook Estate Chardonnay 2007 ($30) A lighter oaked style with ripe melon fruits and a tangy, citrussy palate. It's fairly tidy but a bit simple. 87

Leabrook Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2008 ($35) Fragrant nutty/buttery oak evident, with a balanced expression of very refined mineral and white stonefruit characters. True stuff in the modern Australian mould. 90

Leabrook Estate Pinot Noir 2003 ($15) Very developed, muddy earth nose lacks aromatic lift. Its palate is sharp, without much in the way of texture or richness. 83

Leabrook Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 ($33) Good spice characters to the nose, with underlying cherry and dark plum aromas. The palate presents pleasing, silky texture with fair, prickly pinot structure and an interesting, more savoury finish marked by cedar oak and spice. (full review soon) 90

Cleanskin Pinot Noir 2008 ($80/doz) Surprisingly varietal nose, with perfume, light spice and red cherry. The palate however, lets down its initial promise, with a light, forward and short expression of unconvincing, overly ripe varietal flavour in the rhubarb/currant spectrum that ends rather abruptly. It was very popular on the day but for about $2 more a unit I'd take De Bortoli's 2008 Windy Peak instead. (Casey picked up two cases of this so we might do a comparison of these two sub-$10 pinots one day...) 82

Leabrook Estate Cabernet Franc 2006 ($26) Big fan of this wine normally and the 2006 didn't let me down. It's more of a riper, juicy and quaffable style of richly flavoured Adelaide Hills' red with some cabernet franc character. (reviewed separate post) 90

Leabrook Estate Merlot 2006 ($28) Slightly herbal, tea leaf and red plum characters with none of the plumpness of warmer climate merlot and a surprising structure delivered through fine tannins and good acid. At its best I believe Adelaide Hills merlot can be quite good and this wine proves it well. (does anyone remember Shaw and Smith's?) 90

Leabrook Estate Shiraz 2006 ($30) Very vibrant nose marked by clear spice notes, bright fruit and aromas of cedar oak and aniseed. It's a medium-bodied style, with a lingering, peppery and spicy finish marked by additional tones of aniseed/fennel. Good stuff and a fine take on the regional style. 90

Leabrook Estate Three Regions Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($30) 85% Adelaide Hills with the remainder split between the Adelaide Plains and Langhorne Creek. The Adelaide Plains/Langhorne Creek components certainly contribute richness and plushness to the mid-palate, but its aroma still seems a bit flat. There's a smooth plushness to its herbal dark fruit and chocolate flavours, which show plenty of ripeness and easy drinkability. Probably more of an early drinker. 88

Leabrook Estate George Merlot 2008 ($40) Intensely fragrant, with a herb/menthol overlay to red berry and spicy cedar oak aromas. Its barely medium-bodied palate is fine, elegant and balanced, and driven nicely down the palate by a structure that's relatively vivid for the variety. A very good Australian merlot which represents a true varietal expression (maybe there's a little cabernet thrown in?) 92


My first impression on my visit to Hahndorf Hill was one of disappointment. Disappointment that their superb, award winning restaurant has been closed down in favour of a chocolate tasting area (since September supposedly). Other than that however, the entire experience at Hahndorf Hill remains as enjoyable as ever.

On arrival at the tasting bench we were greeted by South African owner/winemaker Larry Jacobs, who charmed his way through their entire range with us, with the professionalism and striking personality of a seasoned veteran. Being South African we felt it natural to discuss World Cup soccer and enjoyed joking about the Kiwis with him (we drew the first game, then the second, and oh yes, we finally drew the third!), while the group I was with presented a round of applause to the charming Larry when he told us of his refusal to sell Hahndorf Hill wines through Woolworths owned outlets. Although I must mention, Larry's sample pours were decidedly skint!

As has become the norm at Hahndorf Hill, their present range of wines is highlighted by one of the Adelaide Hills' most delicious, distinctive chardonnays (defined by lovely, clear butterscotch characters for the second straight release) as well as delightfully spicy, fine and rich regional shiraz. In my opinion Hahndorf Hill remains one of the Adelaide Hills' most underrated makers of both shiraz and chardonnay. There's also a savoury, dry and unique rose made from trollinger and lemberger grapes (which gets released with a year's bottle age) plus one of the Hills' better sauvignon blancs in Hahndorf Hill's collection.

Wine snoffs out there with a liking for the Austrian grape gruner veltliner will be interested to hear Hahndorf Hill now has that grape under vine too. Larry informed us he'd just finished bottling his first vintage (2010), however, the wine has already sold out through pre-sales to his loyal customer base. Looks like I might have to wait till the 2011 release, for which, Hahndorf Hill's website is already taking expressions of interest. Larry's goal is to make a light-medium bodied style gruner veltliner (or groo-vy as he affectionately titles it - there's one for savvy drinkers to snap at!) which reflects a wine with spicy, gris-like character and riesling-like acidity.

I've written up a separate post on Hahndorf Hill's Vino-Choc chocolate and wine tasting below, because I feel it's quite an interesting, educational and unique experience, which is well worth the time for people with a serious interest in wine and food.

All up there's a lot to like about this enterprising, genuinely boutique little winery.

Hahndorf Hill tasting notes are posted below

Hahndorf Hill Rose 2009 ($22) Even though I'm a self confessed non-rose drinker, I always find time to taste Hahndorf Hill's, which is an unusual blend of the red grapes trollinger and lemberger. The 2009 is light, dry and savoury in a good food-pairing sense, but I still found that hint of dirty, candied acids which I so detest in rose. Personally I'd love to see the maker make more trollinger or lemberger as a single varietal red wine. Now that could be interesting! 85

Hahndorf Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($22) Usually one of the Hills' best yet least heralded savvys. The 2009 is no exception. Its nose doesn't jump out of the glass, but the palate thankfully delivers a smooth, luscious and smartly richer expression of gooseberry and lime flavours framed by the necessary refreshing acids. 90

Hahndorf Hill Pinot Grigio 2009 ($25) Another style I'm not particularly huge on (least of all from the Adelaide Hills), but this one's a pretty good, clean and fresh style with the typical pear characters delivered in water-clean fashion. Nick Stock rated this 93 points and Australia's best grigio. 89

Hahndorf Hill Chardonnay 2008 ($28) First varietal chardonnay from HHW since the excellent 2004 vintage (92pts). It's nicely refined yet character laden, rich and textured, and lives up to the 2004's standards. Shows the makers trademark butterscotch characters (which become more pronounced with age) with a creamy expression of peach, melon and creamy cedar oak marked by citric acids, ever present mineral qualities and a clean finish. It's classic Hahndorf Hill style and great value as always. (full review soon) 92

Hahndorf Hill Shiraz 2007 ($30) Shows the strong spice aromas which define the label, this time in more of a pepper sense. There's some red cherry and plush dark plum notes as well, plus carefully contained oak. The palate is beautifully elegant, with fine line and length driven by a sensitive rod of dry tannins. (full review soon) 91

Hahndorf Hill Shiraz 2006 ($32) Superlative fragrance. It's exotic, heady and floral, with distinct notes of cinnamon, clove and violets, in fact it's one of the most beautifully spicy Adelaide Hills shiraz I've ever encountered. Its rich and velvety dark plum and mulberry fruit flavours are considerately framed by light tannins and zippy acids, allowing its wonderful fruit to shine through. A delicious, generously flavoured and hedonistically spiced regional style. 92

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Hahndorf Hill's cellar door gives wine tasters the opportunity to drink their wines alongside some of the world's greatest chocolates, in a sit down, formal setting. The staff at Hahndorf Hill recommend you give an hour to spare for the tasting, which is conducted with detailed explanations of each chocolate. There's a variety of options to chose from, ranging from a single glass with a single style of chocolate, to a trio of wines (a third of a glass each) matched to 5 individual chocolates. Prices range from around $20 up to around $40, most of which seems to cover the cost of the chocolate.

I sampled the 2008 Chardonnay with Michel Cluzel tasting (pictured but only showing 2 of the 3 chocolates), incorporating a glass of chardonnay and three small blocks of chocolate for $20 all up. The dark chocolates (all around 66% cocoa) matched the chardonnay surprisingly well. It left a delightful fusion of smooth chardonnay acid and dark, bitter chocolate tannin lingering in the mouth, implying both freshness and grip. I also had a glass of Hahndorf Hill's 2006 Shiraz with the Menavava (50 grams-$26) chocolate tasting, which cost me another $31. The German made but Madagascan sourced Menavava was 52% cocoa and included both vanilla and cocoa nibs. Not only was it the finest milk chocolate I've ever had but it's the only one I've seen with a 39 page booklet included in the package as well as a delightful tasting note on the back;

'Milky, with intense cocoa note. With crispy roasted fresh Menavava cocoa beans and fresh vanilla.'

My only question over the experience is pricing. What you pay for a glass of wine and in some cases very little chocolate could easily afford you a good square meal (or dessert) plus a glass of wine at many of the Hills' delightful pubs and eateries. Given the rather exorbitant prices of the Vino-Choc tastings I'll be interested to see if the experiment lasts, but even if it doesn't, at least they would've opened the eyes of a few people to the world of wine and fine chocolate tasting, just as they did with me (sauvignon blanc and 99% cocoa chocolate, well I never!).


In addition to seeking out the world's finest chocolates for their VinoChoc tasting, Hahndorf Hill also seek out what they believe to be the world's cleanest water as a palate cleanser.

Originating from Tasmania, Cape Grim claims to be the 'cleanest natural water in the known world'. Supposedly the air over their water source travels up from Antarctica, passing over 16,000km of clean sea water and little else. They believe that purity of air equals exceptional water quality.

Cape Grim's back label reads; 'Clean air means clean water. City air purity ranges between 10,000 and 500,000 particles per cubic centimetre. The water in this bottle was collected on days when the air purity was between 0 and 600 particles per cubic centimetre. The smooth, soft characteristics of this water reflect indiscernable levels of naturally evolving salts.'

I'm sitting here drinking it right now and it tastes pretty good to me, but I've never really viewed water in that deep an analytical sense.


The third cellar door I visited in the Adelaide Hills last sunday was The Lane (formerly Ravenswood Lane). I'm going to keep this post fairly brief, because for the second time in as many visits I was disappointed with the range of wines on offer at The Lane.

Although The Lane's flagship reds; the Reunion Shiraz and 19th Meeting Cabernet Sauvignon, both delivered the finest, most elegant and harmonious wines I've had from each respective label from the 2007 vintage, I still believe they're overpriced at $65 each. In fact, I feel most of The Lane's range is overpriced given the track record and recent quality of their wines. There's a $39 chardonnay which is about to be superseded by an even more expensive chardy in the range, 2 bottles of $39 Adelaide Hills shiraz in addition to the Reunion, a $39 viognier, a $39 pinot grigio, a $35 and a $30 sauvignon blanc/semillon as well as a dessert wine with an asking price greater than that of De Bortoli's Noble One. Just because you have a fancy cellar door restaurant with pricey, delectable dishes doesn't mean you have to make wines with a price to match.

The two wines from The Lane which I have enjoyed in recent years, the Gathering Sauvignon Blanc Semillon and the Beginning Chardonnay, both failed to meet my expectations of wines with their respective asking prices. The 2008 Beginning produced another solid if not spectacular chardonnay, with good, ripe melon fruit and cashew nut qualities marked by a smooth, creamy texture, but at $39 it's competing against regional big guns Shaw and Smith, Petaluma and Grosset, when I feel it would be better served competing against the likes of Yalumba's FDW7C, Ashton Hills, Hahndorf Hill, Barratt and Starvedog Lane in the $20-$30 chardonnay class. The wooded 2009 Gathering SBS just seemed to dumb its primary fruit down a bit too much for me, leading to a rather bland and neutral white, which at $35 (same price as Cullen's) isn't a speck on the Margaret River's best. I know the Gathering is capable of better and I will return to the label without question.

One of the more interesting wines available was The Lane's 2008 Pinot Grigio; oily, developing and textured, with a good richness of flavour and ample pear/honey character for the variety, but once again; $39!?

After having said all this I must also mention that there's plenty of good reasons to go up and visit The Lane. The location is absolutely stunning; perched high on a hilltop with sweeping views across the Adelaide Hills, there's hardly a more picturesque spot in the region. The cellar door staff are always smart and friendly, and the extravagant cellar door restaurant is magnificent, one of the best in the Hills (look out Bridgewater Mill!), which leads me to another point; why is the cellar door tasting bench located in the main dining room? About a metre behind us sat a table of roughly 20 diners. It was a busy, full house that day (supposedly sundays require booking 6-8 weeks in advance) and aromatic dishes were flying past us at close range thick and fast. The cellar door hand mentioned she'd learnt every dish by smell alone and every one of my companions also noticed the obvious aromatic distractions. The pork belly in particular had us salivating...


Monday, June 28, 2010


- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $26
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

In addition to his achievements with the Adelaide Hills 'standards' of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir, Leabrook Estate's very focused Colin Best also produces some rather fascinating takes on red Bordeaux varieties. Lately my pick of Leabrook's lot has been the cabernet franc, which in years like 2005 (92pts) successfully captures the style's distinctive fragrance and lean, dry, dusty qualities.

Leabrook's 2006 Cabernet Franc shows valid green notes of capsicum and dried herbs laid across aromas of blackcurrants, tobacco and ripe cherry in a fruit focused style, although there remains a clean whiff of toasty cedar/vanilla oak residing in the background. Much fuller and more sumptuous than the 2005 release, its generous palate announces a juicy core of vibrant berry flavours which extend with nuances of fresh green capsicum, toasty oak and tobacco. It finishes clean and soft in a charmingly drinkable manner, with a surprisingly creamy extract of ripe tannins balanced by well judged acids and underlined by lingering fruit.

ü This juicy and generously fruited, perhaps typically Australian cabernet franc presents quite a contrast to my recollections of Leabrook's leaner, dry and structured 2005, but having said that it's a success in its own right and only adds to the pleasure I've experienced from this emerging label. Drink to 2013.
90 points

Thursday, June 24, 2010


- Tasmania
- $57-$75
- Cork
- 12.5%alc

Australia's most celebrated sparkling wine, Arras, has undergone some significant cosmetic changes leading into its 2003 release. Gone is the Bay of Fires branding, which has been replaced by the House of Arras label, while its new, grandiose squat bottle now adorns a luxuriant gold insignia, making the whole presentation look remarkably similar to some Grand Marque Champagnes.

Fizzing away in the glass with racy, crackly and stringy bead, the pale-gold 2003 Arras opens to intense, openly fragrant, rich and creamy aromas of nougat, creme brulee and almond meal overlying notes of bakery yeast and white nectarine. Despite its rather obvious winemaker influence the nose shows real vitality, freshness and a synergy of man and nature. Notably deep and complex by Australian standards, the palate unloads a quirky combination of sweet-toned savoury notes, which ride with layer upon layer of chewy richness and citric effervescence. In fact, as it penetrates with a luscious undercarriage of sweet bread, honey and almond flavours topped off by a long wash of sparkling grapefruit-like acids, it's evident the substantial richness and weight of this wine contrasts that of other tighter, finer Arras wines.

ü It's not the best Australian bubbles I've had (that honour still belongs to the 2001 Arras-96pts), but it does reflect what could be a change in direction towards something more profound, rich and complex from the masterful Ed Carr. Drink to 2013.
94 points


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


- Henty, VIC
- $33-$39
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Crawford River's iconic riesling sits proudly alongside the 2 Grosset rieslings and Petaluma's Hanlin Hill as the only rieslings included in Langton's Classification of Australian Wine IV. Perhaps this is but one indication Langton's 2005 classification is beginning to show its age, because I for one believe that across recent vintages Crawford River's reputation as Henty's benchmark has been seriously challenged by the exquisite Seppelt Drumborg.

Made from a vineyard established in 1975, Crawford River's 2009 Riesling reveals a tight, mineral nose of white flowers and grapefruit augmented by impressive wet slate aspects and unexpected creamy undertones. Underpinned by ripe, sweet fruit nuances, its clear palate delivers a full, rich and luscious expression of white stonefruits and minerals with a truly opulent texture for young riesling, but thankfully, a clean and timely wash of refreshingly soft, chalky lemony-citric acids neatly balances its lengthy conclusion.

ü There's so much to like here. With a lusciously textured richness of ripe yet clear varietal fruit harnessed by soft, refreshing acids, this flies in the face of Australian convention. A great Crawford. Drink to 2017.
93 points

Monday, June 21, 2010


(Shiraz/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon)
- Western Australia
- $11-$22
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

A Foster's rep told me on the weekend the 2008 Fifth Leg red is sourced exclusively from the Margaret River, however, I'm not entirely sure I believed her. There have been times when the Fifth Leg red has been labelled as Margaret River, but recent releases have carried the broader Western Australia tag (such as the 2007 which I know was sourced from at least both Margaret River and Geographe). Still, it's all quite impertinent for a $12 wine, isn't it?

The 2008 Fifth Leg is leafy, but perhaps more like Margaret River-shiraz tomato bush than Margaret River-cabernet tobacco leaf, with thinly veiled scents of cherry and blackcurrant partnered by a sniff of spice and an oak influence which sits slightly above its fruit at this young stage. Medium in body, the fractionally loose and hollow yet soft and approachable palate contains youthful, vibrant berry and spicy red cherry flavours touched by creamy oak. Its long finish is drawn out significantly more by lively acids than tannin, which allows a faint metallic edge to make itself apparent at the final climax.

O Compared to the superb, finer 2005 (91pts) this is much more of a softer, quaffing style WA blend and a reasonably good one at that (especially for $12). Just add commercial grade pizza. Drink to 2013.
88 points

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


- Margaret River, WA
- $29-$38
- Screwcap
- 11.5%alc

In my opinion Cullen's pair of bio-dynamically produced, wooded sauvignon blanc/semillon blends are Australia's best. The 2009 Cullen Vineyard is a 70/30 blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon, of which, 70% spent 4 months in new French oak (3 months oak is more common for the wine but Cullen deemed the 2009's fruit quality to be of an exceptional standard).

With true delicacy and poise, Cullen's 2009 sends up a carefully refined bouquet of clean, toasty/nutty oak, lemon infused mineral, green pea and brine. Pleasingly racy yet full and sumptuous, its pristine palate shows a cleverly judged balance of mineral, citrus and lightly smoked, creamy vanilla oak flavours, with any indication of sauvignon blanc's often predictable, pungent, simple tropical fruit flavours kept well at bay. Despite being quite rich and perhaps even fat through the middle section, the wine finishes fine and dry with refreshingly chalky acids underscored by penetrative notes of lemon, grapefruit and brine, which push deep into the aftertaste with wonderful definition.

ü+ Typical of the label, the 2009 Cullen Vineyard is a rare, intelligent, thinking person's sauvignon blanc blend, which would benefit considerably from a short stint in the cellar. I'd love to see more Australian wineries interpret the blend this way. Brilliant. Drink 2012-2015.
95 points

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


- Canberra District
- $25
- Screwcap
- 14.3%alc

As Canberra continues to gain recognition as a fine wine region, it's becoming more apparent the district is ably suited to a number of varieties. Shiraz, riesling, viognier, and more recently cabernet, have all caught my attention from the nation's capital.

Showing similar minty/leafy tones to Shaw Vineyard's 2008 Cabernet Merlot, this sweetly scented young cabernet sauvignon reveals an aroma of blackberry, dark plum, violets and raw, toasty chocolate oak residing beneath its heady green aspects. Syrupy in texture, its leaner palate announces faintly hollow but brightly lit, ripe and slightly sweet varietal fruit flavours in the stewy cassis/mulberry/raspberry spectrum, before it extends with developing capsicum/minty characters and a soft structure marked more by lithe acids than tannin.

O Much like Shaw Vineyard's 2008 Cabernet Merlot, this is a brightly flavoured, early drinking and very quaffable cabernet which rides the style's minty/green aspects well, however, I believe the cab/merlot possesses superior structure and character, although some will prefer the more straight forward nature of this wine. Drink to 2013.
88 points

Monday, June 14, 2010


- Tamar Valley, TAS
- $20-$32
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

Although Tasmanian pinot noir still has its doubters, its positive development can be measured as much by the quality of the state's cheaper wines as by its more expensive. For $20 on discount, Tamar Ridge's Kayena showed what good, cheap Tassie pinot can really achieve with a delicious 2007 release (93pts).

Clear bright-crimson, this musky, floral and sweetly fruited north Tasmanian pinot noir reveals a ripe varietal perfume of raspberries, cherries, purple plums and stalk with lesser nuances of white pepper and seasoned vanilla oak also evident. Bestowed with a brittle, acidic backbone which should settle down with short term cellaring (typical of the state), its uncomplicated palate presents a light-medium bodied balance of soft raspberry, cherry, earth and white pepper flavours with moderate length, lingering sour-edged aspects and a prickly finale.

ü Simultaneously varietal and quaffable (if that's even possible!), the 2008 Kayena represents another great entry point into Tasmanian pinot noir from the label. It's even forced me to think of it as a Tasmanian alternative to De Bortoli's 2008 Gulf Station. Drink 2011-2013.
90 points

Friday, June 11, 2010


- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $66-$90
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

The Reserve Bin A Chardonnay represents Penfolds' most ardent attempt at a super premium, single region white wine. In a sense, if Yattarna Chardonnay equates to white Grange, then Bin A Chardonnay must equate to being the white RWT (WWT?).

Profoundly worked yet savoury, complex and openly fragrant, Penfolds' Bin 08A announces a deeply hedonistic bouquet that combines peach fuzz and white nectarine fruit aromas with toasty, nutty oak and richly scented leesy, cheesy malolactic and barrel ferment notes. Projecting utter opulence from first touch, its very full, smooth mouthfeel expresses a bold and funky palate absolutely loaded with a complex marriage of fresh, savoury oak and creamy, mineral fruit nuances, which drive with stunning richness in what's practically a tidal wave of flavour. It's absurdly rich, deeply flavoured, long and fat, but if its creamy (yet somewhat austere) acids tightened up a fraction more on the finish it would rate rate even higher.

ü+ If you're a red wine drinker obsessed with big Barossa shiraz, then this could be the best white you ever drink. At this time of year, don't even think about putting it in the fridge. Complex, spectacular and excessive to the nth degree. Drink to 2015.
96 points

Tuesday, June 8, 2010



- Great Southern, WA
- $20-$29
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

With a now established group of committed producers making great wine, Western Australia's Great Southern continues to gain prominence as a stellar riesling region. Wineries like Plantagenet (Mount Barker) and Frankland Estate (Frankland River) are doing wonderful things to define Great Southern's diverse sub-regional profile, while perhaps the region's best known maker of riesling; Howard Park, continue to make a fine riesling blended across numerous Great Southern districts (Mount Barker and the Porongurups in 2009).

Crystal-clear in both its pale colour and its aroma, Howard Park's 2009 reveals a somewhat subdued fragrance of grapefruit citrus and mineral with pronounced limey accents and a mere hint of chalk. Rather full, juicy and forward for the label, its clean palate presents a pure expression of slightly candied lemon and guava flavours with a chalky undercarriage of limey notes, but it finishes in a rather loose fashion, without the tightening acid structure for which Howard Park has become synonymous.

O Maybe I'm being a bit picky here, because I was looking for a tighter, more linear Howard Park Riesling with a bit more bite. Other than that it's actually a pretty good, if more of a quaffable riesling, which should drink well from now up until the medium term. Drink to 2016.
90 points

Sunday, June 6, 2010


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $19-$27
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

Barossa favourite Charlie Melton is justifiably recognised as a highly skilled blender; a recognition which is exemplified by the winning combination he's hit on with his very successful Rose of Virginia, one of Australia's most serious roses. The co-fermented 2010 begins with a base of grenache (46%), then adds lesser amounts of cabernet and shiraz, with final touches of pinot meunier and mataro added for spice.

Baring the translucent vivid-fuscia colour of one of Australia's most visually spectacular wines, this mere infant of a rose unloads bright and inviting aromas of glazed cherries, ripe, creamy strawberries and lemon candy with the anticipated influence of youthful confection evident throughout. On the palate it's still a little elemental and quite sweet at this stage, but it does show the deep, smooth, abundant red berry flavours and refreshingly sweet'n'sour citric acids which characterise the label. A bit of air helps the wine out, but a little time (and warmer weather!) will do it wonders.

ü I had a bottle of the 2009 (92pts) about a week ago which was drinking beautifully, much more integrated than this. I'd happily drink that over the next month or so, by which point, the 2010 should be starting to hit its straps as well. Drink to 2011.
89 points

Saturday, June 5, 2010


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $28-$36
- Screwcap
- 11.5%alc

Since switching names from Reserve to Margaret, Peter Lehmann's achieved consistently spectacular results with their flagship Barossa semillon (2002-95pts, 2003-96pts). Has the Barossa's champion finally cracked the Hunter's code?

Mid/light-gold in colour, Peter Lehmann's 2004 Margaret is brightly layered with honeyed, waxy aromas of lanolin and lemon teacake backed by a faint nuttiness and even fainter notes of melon and freshly cut garden herbs. It enters the palate with smooth, rubbery texture, delivering a deeply complex array of buoyant, maturing semillon characters which sit slightly more on the mature side than the youthful. A simultaneously gentle and expressive extract of limey acids coat its lemon curd and beeswax flavours, allowing the wine to finish long, clean, savoury and briney, with a lingering richness of flavour.

ü+ In my opinion the richly flavoured and complex 2004 is maturing a fraction quicker than the previous two Margarets, but let's not forget; this exceptional dry white is Barossa semillon people! Drink to 2015.
94 points

Friday, June 4, 2010


This actually happened to me at a Thai restaurant on King William Road recently.

Upon arrival at the restaurant I perused its wine list and was extremely pleased to see bottles of Peter Lehmann's 2008 Eden Valley Riesling available for $26. A fine match for Thai food and a bargain to boot - decision finalised!

A minute or so later the waitress promptly returned with said bottle of riesling and two, frosted wine glasses. From sight alone it was evident the glasses had been stored in some sort of fridge, which immediately gave me minor concerns about what temperature the wine was going to be served to us at, but when she placed them in front of us, it was glaringly apparent these empty wine glasses also bared fragrance. She proceeded to pour one glass, leaving the other empty, then exited.

On first sniff the Eden Valley Riesling gave off a cold, muted aroma reminiscent of lemongrass, ginger-root and shallots, with perhaps more minor suggestions of chilli, basil and garlic. Now I'd already drunk several bottles of Peter Lehmann's 2008 Eden Valley Riesling before, none of which, possessed such unusual aromatics. So, with an empty glass sitting next to me, I took the unusual step of smelling it. Yep, it smelled of lemongrass, ginger-root and shallots, with minor suggestions of chilli, basil and garlic. At this point I sipped my riesling, whose true varietal character had been absconded by whatever food and climatic conditions the glass had been sleeping with.

My partner then went to pour herself a glass of riesling, but I quickly stopped her. I told her to get as much water as she could through the glass and to let it aerate. Over the next half an hour I slowly sipped at my chilled-glass riesling, which, with time, air and warmth, was beginning to become more varietal.

I think it was nearly an hour into the night when the riesling and paired glassware really started to shine. Once again with the air, time and warmth applied to it, the glass had returned to a more neutral state, and the riesling started to smell, taste and feel as it should. Eventually it made a stunning compliment to the Thai food; if only the bottom half of the bottle.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


- Grampians/Bendigo, VIC
- $16-$31
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

I'm putting my qualms with bottle variation aside for a moment, because it's strikingly apparent that Seppelt's removed the region(s) of origin from the front label of their 2008 Chalambar (although the back does state it's primarily sourced from the Grampians and Bendigo). I'm not sure why this change is, but the last thing I'd want to see is my beloved Chalambar relegated to the ranks of cross-regional generic Victorian shiraz.

Radiantly coloured with bright magenta hues, it's cleanly scented with a floral, violet infused aroma which effortlessly marries dark plums, ripe forest berries and chocolate/mocha oak with a concealed note of cured meat. Medium-full bodied yet sumptuously flavoured, it's smooth and harmonious, with ripe, slightly juicy flavours of black plums, redcurrants and blackberries marked by creamy cedar oak and hints of white pepper, which drive the wine towards a balanced finish coated in fine, ripe tannins. Its generous flavour through restrained alcohol is a plus.

ü+ Bottle variation and new labelling aside, this is a deliciously bright and exuberant Chalambar of considerable finesse and approachability. Drink to 2018.
92 points

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


- Eden Valley, SA
- $22-$31
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

mesh could be considered something of a modern day Australian super wine. Its decorated achievement is the combined efforts of two doyens of Australian riesling; Jeffrey Grosset of Grosset and Robert Hill-Smith of Yalumba, a pair of guys who know more about making riesling than reality shows do blunders.

Attractively limey on first sniff, the 2009 mesh unravels a fine, floral presentation of apple blossom, chalk, wet slate and mineral aromas. Packed with mineral accented, green apple and lime citrus flavour, it's initially quite upfront and rich for Eden Valley riesling, but it extends agreeably down the palate with tightening, drying length and an even coverage of well defined, chalky citric acids underscored by lingering grapefruit/lime juice qualities.

ü+ For $25 it's always a pleasure to taste Jeffrey Grosset toying with Eden Valley riesling. Drink to 2017.
92 points


... had me sold.