Monday, February 28, 2011


- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $26-$33
- Screwcap (Stelvin-Lux)
- 14.0%alc

Yes; I am one of those people who isn't fully convinced the Adelaide Hills has made it as an elite pinot noir region just yet (Ashton Hills being the notable exception). One label I believe is capable of changing my opinion, is veteran winemaker Tim Knappstein's Riposte, which delivered a very attractive, cleanly balanced Sabre Pinot Noir from 2007 (91pts). More recently, Tim's 2009 won the trophy for 'Best Pinot Noir' at last year's Adelaide Hills Wine Show.

Riposte's 2009 Pinot Noir throws off a fairly woody scent to commence (10 months French oak, 10% new), which does restrain its stalk-edged dark fruits somewhat, before a timely, gentle aromatic lift arrives in the form of dry spice. The palate shows an interesting combination of lean boundary lines filled in by a rather rich, dark fruited and meaty interior, but like many from the Hills, it's textural expression isn't exactly a pinophile's dream. Its ripe flavour finishes with a procrastinating extension that follows the lines set by its fore-palate, revealing dark cherry liqueur and apricot kernel notes underneath a tight, dry and ultra-fine structure. With extended aeration it seems riper, richer and smoother, which isn't necessarily a good thing, as it also seems less varietal.

O A fair Adelaide Hills pinot noir, which isn't exactly jumping from the region's pack. I'm sure it'll have its fans. At least Tim Knappstein has his Riposte at a fair price point. Drink 2012-2014.
89 points

Thursday, February 24, 2011


- Beechworth, VIC
- $70
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

The introduction of Savaterre Chardonnay into Langton's latest classification really caught my eye. Why? Because I've never had it before and can't pass judgement. A bit of research reveals it as a high quality chardonnay (obviously) from the same region that brings us Giaconda. That's about all the selling I needed...

After following the back label's advice to decant for several hours, Savaterre's unfiltered and deeply coloured 2008 unloads a good dollop of toasty, buttery oak aromas laid in place by 2 years French oak maturation. Its wood is quite prominent at this stage but underneath it you'll find a deep fragrance of cumquat and peach, just lifted by a tight note of cinnamon. There could be a lack of buzz to its complex, relatively profound scent, but I can see time sorting things out. Beautifully textured, bright and savoury, its palate is sumptuously expressive yet soft and fluffy, revealing a considerable strength concealed by a gentle nature. It presents a smooth and seamless balance of faintly tropical chardonnay fruits with toasty/buttery oak, framed by a viscous undercarriage of yeasty characters and a refreshingly brisk acidity, which combine to deliver the wine with perfect harmony towards a good, spotlessly clean finish marked by tasty touches of buttery nuts and light spice.

ü+ A superbly textured chardonnay whose complex winemaker inputs play the starring role, but its quality of fruit is such that it remains a most brilliant drink. It'll be particularly interesting to see how this balance evolves over the next few years. Drink to 2016.
95 points

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


- Hunter Valley, NSW
- $11-$20
- Screwcap
- 11.5%alc

Mount Pleasant certainly shocked a few people last year, thanks to the arrival of a 2010 Elizabeth released with practically no bottle age and a splash of sauvignon blanc (?), which runs parallel with the bottle aged Elizabeth. Perhaps McWilliam's could've avoided some confusion AND attracted the attention of monarchists, by naming the new wine Mount Pleasant Elizabeth II.

Although not exceptionally clean or pure on the nose, Mount Pleasant's 2010 Elizabeth smells quite expressive and funky for such a young Hunter sem. Ripe rockmelons and a tinge of citrus blossom adorn its fragrance, as well as an ever so sly hint of sweaty tropical fruit that suggests there may be another passenger along for the ride. The palate moves quickly into a surprisingly full, rich middle section, with fresh rockmelon, bitter-edged green apple and faint tobacco flavours, but the palate extension expected of good young Hunter semillon never really occurs, leaving the mouth feeling fractionally nonplussed if you have high expectations of Hunter semillon.

O Hmmm. The back label states; 'this 2010 Elizabeth is made for immediate enjoyment', a statement which may differ from what consumers have come to expect from Elizabeth, but with the 2010's straight forward length and acid structure, it isn't exactly what you'd desire in such a young Lizzy. Light seafood lunch special. Drink to 2015.
88 points

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


- Margaret River, WA
- $17-$26
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

The Margaret River's oldest winery; Vasse Felix, produces 3 variations of the region's red specialty. For my money, Vasse's middle-tiered Cabernet Sauvignon typically over delivers, the reserve-level Heytesbury delivers as it should, while the cheapest wine; the Cabernet Merlot, can be something of a let down. Clearly I'm hoping the excellent 2008 vintage has produced a Cabernet Merlot wholly deserving of the Vasse Felix name.

Much more in the house style than previous releases, the 2008 Cabernet Merlot happily sprays a potently herbal, leafy perfume over its evenly set, dusted blackberry and redcurrant aromas. Backed by additional notes of toasty cedar/chocolate oak and a surprising whiff of spice, it's piercingly aromatic in a fashion bound to be recognised by Vasse followers. Thankfully, the palate mirrors the nose with a flawless display of 'bang for your buck' Vasse quality. Its medium-bodied, deliciously sour-edged black/redcurrant flavours wash down the palate with toasty cedar/coffee oak and herbal side plates, before its long extension builds with impressive dryness, laid out by an ever present, lively acid grip and ultra-fine, intensifying tannins. It is intense and perhaps edgy in its youthful state, but there's also a richness, elegance and completeness that was lacking from the label's recent outings.

ü+ You gotta love it when a label turns things around on you, in a good way. The 2008 is the best Cabernet Merlot I've had from Vasse Felix, and the first one I'll be buying more than one of. It's pure Vasse at a paltry price. Drink to 2018.
92 points

Sunday, February 20, 2011


- Tumbarumba, NSW
- $30-$43
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

As much as it pleases me to see 'Australia's First Families of Wine' getting behind emerging regions, my attention was well and truly turned when a brand synonymous with Hilltops reds chose a Tumbarumba chardonnay as their flagship. Fortunately the 842 Chardonnay (named after the elevation of its vineyard site) has been nothing short of impressive since its 2006 debut.

An aromatic line of citrus infused white nectarines and pears ignite the nose of Barwang's 2008 842, aided by smoother suggestions of nougat, vanilla oak and leesy/nutty barrel ferment notes, which complement character, complexity and an attractive balance of sweet and savoury intrigue. The smooth and sumptuous palate is agreeably rich in a generous, creamy and fractionally forward manner, but its melon and herb fruit expression is crystal clear, light and white in the classic (if slightly plump) cool-climate mould. Buttery oak and more savoury notes of matchstick/wheatmeal emanate from its plump and juicy, clear fruit base, lingering into the aftertaste alongside a regrouping of herbal melon tones and an effortless balance of polished, squeaky clean acids, which carry and hold the wine with charming grace.

ü+ Although it would benefit from a bit more length and refinement, Barwang's 2008 842 Chardonnay is a wonderful package with enough richness and winemaker induced complexity to make an impression, yet just enough restraint of cool-climate accent to please the modernists. It's drinking beautifully right now. Drink to 2014.
93 points

Saturday, February 19, 2011

CROSER 1994 (Magnum)

- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $60-$90? (Gift)
- Cork
- 12.5%alc

I was lucky enough to receive a magnum of 1994 Croser from some very dear friends of mine, who told me it was recently purchased from Petaluma's cellar door. Honestly, I wouldn't have thought a 17 year old Croser would be at its freshest right now, but if it's for sale at Bridgewater Mill (a first rate sparkling wine storage facility) and it's a magnum...

A faint yellow/gold tinge adorns the predominantly pale-straw coloured 1994 Croser. Although it lacks foam, bead and lace in the glass, it opens to an attractively smoky fragrance of creamy lemon citrus, brine and vanilla; altogether suggesting it's far from dead yet. Its palate is undeniably alive, mineral touched and shows hints of sour cream from start to finish, with a carefully laid, evolved note of brine marked by a slight honeyed richness and graced by further touches of white pear and a tangy citric structure that invokes a soft, foamy effervescence, before it tightens gently down the final stretch. In essence, all these features add up to an evenly developed, ideally composed 17 year old Adelaide Hills sparkling.

ü+ Well, slap me down and call me silly, because Croser's 1994 magnum is fresh, complex and an absolute joy to drink. A real surprise. Drink now.
93 points

Thursday, February 17, 2011


- Barossa Valley, SA
- $50
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

It's readily apparent that hot, dry, challenging seasons like 2008 are bound to become a common occurrence in the future of the Barossa Valley (my apologies in regards to what happened in the region on Tuesday night!), in which case, winemakers would do well to invest in new styles to tackle the ever changing climatic conditions. If Shavaughn Wells' 2008 Winemaker's Selection is anything to go by, then shiraz tempranillo blends look a commendable choice. It's a 65/35 blend, aged in 100% French oak (25% new) for 10 months.

Throwing up heady scents of dusty, exotic spices and violet florals, Saltram's 2008 immediately proclaims its tempranillo influence (after a stint in the decanter that is), which is beautifully beefed up by a deeply set array of classically Barossan, old-vine shiraz fruit aromas; licorice/aniseed, black plums and forest berries, all meshed with melted chocolate. Smooth, silky and downright sensuous, its palate presents an evenly styled length of well ripened, harmonious flavours that are admittedly much more shiraz-like than tempranillo, but it's altogether rich and wholesome in the truest regional sense. As its deep flavours are lifted through the back palate by an agreeably lithe, stringy acid structure beset with firm tannins, a rather ripe hint of spicy date rears its head, but its balanced finish remains undisrupted; composed and regal, with not a hair out of place.

ü+ So, so close to perfect. A touch more savoury accent, spice and tempranillo tickle and it would've been there. I wonder whether it was held back by the sumptuous nature of Barossa reds, the hot 2008 season, or something completely different altogether. My mind is keenly tuned to the future on this one. Drink to 2018.
94 points


From left to right:
Greek lamb with tzatziki and fresh mint leaves
Paprika roasted potato, bacon, mozzarella, sour cream and chives
Vegetarian - basil and cashew pesto, roast capsicum, cherry tomatoes, olives, feta, snow pea sprouts and sun-dried tomato aioli

At $20 each the Greek lamb and potato/bacon pizza were more than adequate, but the vegetarian pizza completely hogged the limelight. Its rustic, house made dough, absolutely delicious basil and cashew pesto base, scattered shards of roast garlic, lubricating sun-dried tomato aioli and the crisp crunch of snow pea sprout garnish; all worked together like an Australian pizza lover's wet dream. Quite simply one of the best pizzas I've ever had. Never before have I been so glad to have a friend who doesn't eat meat....

The pizza at Saltram is made from scratch, so if you do order some, prepare with patience. Still, it gives you plenty of time to do a tasting at the cellar door, peruse the grounds, and then enjoy some live music whilst sipping a glass of beautiful shiraz tempranillo.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


- Adelaide Plains, SA
- $10-$20
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

Even though summer's almost over, the recent hot spell reminded me it's about time I picked up my annual supply of Primo Estate's La Biondina. Cheap, cheerful and simply shameless summertime whites generally don't come much better.

With suggestions of green apple and melon most evident on the nose, the 2010 La Biondina seems more refined and perhaps greener than recent efforts, but there's also a scent of the label's classic passionfruit, and ultimately, it's all very clean and fresh in the truest La Biondina sense. Matching the nose is a refreshing cleanliness that highlights and delivers its juicy, mouth-filling white grape flavour, which hits the front and mid-sections nicely, just as a wine of its type should. Pure and simple, refreshingly soft acids provide a gently balancing framework for its finish, with lingering tastes of rockmelon and gooseberry sticking around for sweetly set goodbye notes. It's straight-up delicious and shameless, like licking sweat off your partner's back.

ü+ The cleanly balanced, fruity and flavoursome 2010 sits right back in the La Biondina's style groove. Top form. Drink now.
90 points

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


And with that handshake, the world's most passionate believer in global warming secured the land for his future vineyard site

Monday, February 14, 2011


- Coonawarra, SA
- $14-$22
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

The perception of merlot in the eye of Australian wine quaffers always intrigues me. Many have told me merlot is their favourite wine, but as I see it, merlot is a variety many Australian producers get wrong. Personally, when I buy Australian merlot, I generally look to regions capable of great cabernet sauvignon, such as the Margaret River, Coonawarra and the Yarra Valley.

Unfortunately, Katnook's 2007 Founder's Block shows the unevenness associated with both Coonawarra's 2007 vintage and inexpensive Australian merlot. It's soupy but green, with thinly scented, sticky plum, cherry and cinnamon aromas coursed over by a minty/herbal note and touched by rather blunt oak. The palate follows with thin, disjointed red cherry fruits underpinned by prune and olive undertones, but funnily enough, it presents a bright lift through the palate's upper reaches courtesy of faintly sour-edged, astringent acids and firming tannins. In theory it may sound like partial retribution, but in reality it only adds to the wine's awkwardness.

X Being neither a juicy, plummy warm climate merlot that would appeal to a quaffer's tastes, nor a serious red to excite those with more 'distinguished' palates, Katnook's 2007 Founder's Block has found an undesirable middle ground. It's certainly a product of a difficult year on the red strip. Drink to 2013.
85 points


1. Shiraz/tempranillo is a blend with a ton of potential in the Barossa Valley.
2. Karra Yerta's Eden Valley Riesling really is one of the best rieslings in Australia at the moment.
3. You don't need meat or seafood to make truly exceptional pizza.
4. Don't spend all your money on food and wine the day before Valentine's Day.

With the exception of Valentine's Day, I'll elaborate on these points in future posts.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Australia's most recognised wine brand globally?


South Australian winery where you're most likely to see busload after busload of Asian tourists arrive to circle the surrounds for about an hour or so, taste a single sample of shiraz and then leave?


I also noticed they have a play area in the corner of the tasting room for kiddies now. They do think of everything, don't they?

For all the hoopla, Jacob's Creek actually makes some pretty sound wines throughout their portfolio, whether you love 'em or hate 'em. From low-end to the high-end, you generally know what you're gonna get with Jacob's Creek. Consistent, cleanly made, ably balanced and flavoursome expressions of variety are what I've come to expect from Jacob's Creek, not to mention reliable value for money.

Like many large producers, Jacob's Creek are evolving and bolstering their range at present. In addition to their 'Sparkling/Moscato' range (9 wines), 'Classic' range (15 wines), 'Three Vines' range (3 wines), 'Reserve' range (6 wines) and 'Heritage' range (5 wines), Jacob's Creek has introduced a 'Limited Release' range of 7 wines, which is basically where the brand's toying around with new varieties that haven't surfaced under their previous labels. Langhorne Creek tannat, Adelaide Hills sangiovese, lagrein/dolcetto, Langhorne Creek graciano and vermentino are some of the new varieties available in this range. The 'Limited Release' wines sit slightly above the 'Reserve' wines in price, with a retail tag of $20 for the whites and $25 for reds.

Additionally, Jacob's Creek are looking to better the reputation of their 'Reserve' wines, by moving them in a more (single) regional direction. Due to time constraints I bypassed tasting the Reserve wines on this day, but in hindsight I wish I hadn't. The thought of Jacob's Creek made Barossa shiraz, Coonawarra cabernet or Adelaide Hills chardonnay stirs up optimistic ideals in my mind, especially within the $12-$16 price range.

On the subject of regionality, there is a bone I wish to pick with Jacob's Creek; Reeve's Point Chardonnay. On my last visit to the cellar door in 2008 I was told Reeves Point would be moving away from Padthaway towards the Adelaide Hills. Now, with the current 2005 vintage available, the Reeves Point bares no region of origin on its label, although I'm told it's still predominantly Padthaway based, with a smaller portion of Adelaide Hills fruit in the mix.

I understand Padthaway chardonnay isn't as fashionable as Adelaide Hills chardonnay (which is becoming a competitive little market in its own right), but the Reeves Point, just like St Hilary, has shown itself to be a good wine over the years, with a unique, pungent regional character. These two wines have been regional benchmarks of Padthaway whites for many years. By jumping on board the Adelaide Hills bandwagon the brand is essentially abandoning Padthaway (which has been championed by Orlando for years). I only hope someone else picks up the fruit source and makes some pretty smart chardonnay out of it as well, because losing these Padthaway chardonnays would put a kink in the armor of one of Australian wine's greatest strengths; diversity.

Anyway, enough of that.

The tidy little Gramp's wines are also available for tasting and purchase at the cellar door, but I thought I'd focus my attention solely on Jacob's Creek.

Jacob's Creek tasting notes are posted below

Jacob's Creek Reserve Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2008 ($18) Yep. 100% Adelaide Hills now. Its lemony/bready fragrance is quite atypical, but there's also a charming note of spice that really appeals to me. The palate is cleanly flavoured, with its grapefruit/white apple notes finished off in the classically tingly, effervescent Jacob's Creek style, which is given a lift by the same spice note I picked on the nose. Not quite as good as the 2007 wine though. 88

Jacob's Creek Limited Release Vermentino 2010 ($20) Like Yalumba's tasty little vermentino, this is predominantly sourced from Langhorne Creek. It shows a big, tropical fruit punch nose that immediately has me thinking; 'savvy drinker special', but its palate is much zestier and livelier than most savvy, with clean and clear guava fruit flavours driven to a limey finish loaded with plenty of zing. I'm liking what I've had of this variety so far, but this one might be a fraction dear; better on discount. 88

Jacob's Creek Steingarten Riesling 2010 ($35) The Eden Valley classic. At the youthful and tight end of the Eden's 2010s, with a mineral, slatey fragrance of lime juice. Its very fresh palate is juicy on entry but lively to progress, announcing an almost zesty citric sherbet like accent to what is otherwise a steely climax. It's good, but I don't think it's quite as good as some of the label's recent efforts, which could be a combination of it being very young, or just served too cold on the day.....93

Jacob's Creek Reeves Point Chardonnay 2005 ($35) Mostly Padthaway with some Adelaide Hills now. Pungent, open Padthaway style nose with juicy melon fruits, butterscotch and tightly wound clean oak. It seems well poised within its context. Its medium-bodied palate has pungent fruit flavours inside, but ample framework outside. It's driven and formed. Not a shy man's chardonnay, but it just might be peaking now. 91

Jacob's Creek Three Vines Shiraz Grenache Tempranillo 2009 ($14) I've always enjoyed this wine in its short existence, and with the 2009, the streak continues. Musky, exotic spice driven fragrance with sweet, small red fruits and little if any oak evident. It's light-medium in weight, with a good line of refreshing structure that holds its red fruits nicely in place, until finishing in an agreeably spicy fashion. Certainly at the more 'modern' and 'cutting edge' of Jacob's Creek's reds. I like it. Smartly priced too. 89

Jacob's Creek Limited Release Lagrein Dolcetto 2007 ($25) Pongy nose. It's muddy, with plummy ripe fruit, chocolate raisins and smooth oak. Its palate is quite flat and tarry, lacking brightness and vitality throughout. Unconvincing. 84

Jacob's Creek Limited Release Tannat 2008 ($25) Langhorne Creek. Good nose. Black, typically sinister tannat nose with ripe, tarry dark fruit quality, but it is considerably even and deep. The palate has good length, with drying yet well contained tannat tannins, but it just seems to be a touch riper than what was promised on the nose, with a profoundly meaty mid-back section that also reveals dates/prunes. It's not without potential though, and I'll be watching the label in the future. 88

Jacob's Creek St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($45) The Coonawarra classic, of course. Big, typically minty St Hugo nose, with cassis, red plums and vanilla oak, expressed in a style which is relatively soft, bright and even for the season. Concentrated and smooth, its dark palate holds its ripe fruit in check, although there is a suggestion of ripeness evident in what seems to be some fairly polished tannins. Although not too bad really, it clearly lacks the finesse of the better years. 91

Jacob's Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet 2005 ($75) Classic Johann mint on the nose. It's deeply fruited and beautifully ripe for the season, with red fruits and plums met by an equally strong, if not more prominent note of fresh vanilla/cedar oak. It's smooth and rich, with a touch of meaty ripeness that is actually quite agreeable, but it really comes through on the back palate, which grows with great intensity. It's a very well made wine, with cellaring potential aplenty. Much like Penfolds did with their 2005 Bin 389, Jacob's Creek has delivered a real winner here. 94


Last Sunday was estimated at a magical 25 degrees in Adelaide, so what better way to spend a mild summer's afternoon than a trip to South Australia's most famous red wine region, sampling warm, hearty reds, which might otherwise have been a little too gutsy for a more typical Adelaide summer's day.

There are few Australian winery buildings with more grandeur than Grant Burge. So grandeur is the setting, my girlfriend has flirted with the idea of one day seeing Grant Burge as the backdrop for our wedding vows (I said one day...). She envisions walking from behind the fountain (pictured), down the terrace of long stemmed white roses (also pictured), to culminate in the semi-outdoor function area at the end, whose ceiling constitutes nothing but vines. Although it is Valentine's Day, I am here to talk wine....

As seems to be the norm with large Barossa wineries these days, the range at Grant Burge is spreading its wings, with more fruit coming in from the Eden Valley and the cooler Corryton Park vineyard in the Barossa's far south-east, as well as the Adelaide Hills for whites and sparkling wines.

Although Grant's range has almost as many still whites as it does still reds now, I still consider his brand a red specialist first and foremost. Traditionally I've considered Grant Burge whites to be sound, if not great wines, and the wines tasted on this day haven't shifted my opinion. The current reds, however, do reflect the difficulties of recent Barossa vintages, with a good amount of the range being rather ripe, smooth and quaffable 2008s, but fortunately, its two highlights came from that same vintage, in the way of the Filsell Shiraz and a shiraz mourvedre blend labelled under the name of Daly Road.

2005 Meshach was for sale ($130!) although unavailable for tasting, while a current vintage Shadrach was not to be seen. No Shadrach will be made from 2007 (nor Meshach I think?), while the 2006, which has been available for some time, was unsighted at the cellar door.

Interesting to note Grant Burge's Icon wines and Wines of Distinction (basically those $34.95rrp and up) still all sport corks, a trend which I'm told is going to continue.

Grant Burge tasting notes are posted below

Grant Burge Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay ($24.95) Almost essential in your wine list, if you happen to own a pub in Adelaide. A nose of sweet, baked apples had me thinking residual sugar, and on query I was told it's definitely in there. The faint sweetness adds a richness to the palate without being detrimental to its dryness, line or effervescence, while it finishes agreeably ticklish and fizzy. A real consumer friendly style. $10 off would be great though. 88

Grant Burge Sparkling Blanc de Noirs ($27.95) Almost 100% pinot noir, 2% chardonnay? White, maybe faint blush sparkling. Immediately has more character on the nose than its cheaper sibling. It's somewhat meaty and honeyed, with a pleasing touch of pinot-esque cherries, but there's still a suggestion of RS. The palate shows enough classy balance and effervescence to make it a relatively agreeable aperitif style. I don't mind this at all. 89

Grant Burge Thorn Eden Valley Riesling 2010 ($18.95) Good lime fruits to the nose, in more of a lime pith and green apple style. It's a touch simple and not as expressive or refined as some from the season, but it's undeniably Eden. Its palate presents pure citrus fruits, in a fractionally broad manner, yet it's still very fresh, thanks to a clean, drying acid balance that cuts and strengthens the whole package. 90

Grant Burge Zerk Semillon Viognier 2009 ($18.95) 70/30 blend. It's a shame Barossa semillon is a bit of a hard sell these days (unless your brand name is Peter Lehmann), because I'd almost always prefer to see it in single varietal, dry white wine form than in some of the interpretations I've seen lately. Interestingly, the semillon owns the nose here, with a clean restraint of lemon fruits graced by a touch of viognier's stonefruit and spice, but the viognier speaks much clearer on the palate, which is somewhat rubbery in feel with a finish marked by viognier's unmistakable acid. It's a clean, easy enough drink though. 88

Grant Burge Daly Road Shiraz Mourvedre 2008 ($18.95) 81/19 blend. Looks like this style of blend could become more popular. Fortunately, it seems to work in challenging seasons, while wines like this and Coriole's Dancing Fig are more than reasonably priced. The Daly Road reveals a nose loaded with bright fruits, in a rather plummy sense, with a touch of licorice for further interest. The palate is a shade soft and round on entry, but its dark fruit and licorice flavours are balanced and even enough to carry the wine to good finish, where mourvedre's delightfully rustic attributes make a much welcomed statement. 90

Grant Burge Cameron Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($21.95) Mint, vanilla and black plum nose, expressed with some rather bruising fruit in a style typical of both label and vintage. The palate however, is a bit softish, ripe and simple, making for a rather easy going Barossa cabernet that is a result of its hot season. 87

Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz 2009 ($21.95) Oooooooh. Ultra-ripe, porty nose - similar palate. All of my companions were searching for the spit bucket on this one (not common!) and I'd definitely give it a miss too. 84

Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2005 ($34.95) An interesting chain of events saw 2007 Holy Trinitys sent out to stores, before a supply of 2005 and 2006s were found in Grant Burge's large storage facility. Hence, 2005 and 2006 are available to purchase at cellar door, with 2005 on tasting. Developing nose with sweet, leathery/meaty red fruits and choc-coconut oak. Seems a bit uneven. The palate's a bit unconvincing as well, with a collection of raisin, leather and earth flavours, which altogether suggest it might be at a rough stage of development. 87

Grant Burge Balthasar Shiraz Viognier 2007 ($34.95) 3% viognier. Pleasing cola-like plum fruits and a touch of cinnamon to the nose, with viognier adding a smoothness and warmth without any apricot nuance. On the palate though, the viognier is a bit more noticeable, adding smoothness and warmth through the finish, to quite frankly, create more of a quaffing style wine. 87

Grant Burge Corryton Park Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($34.95) Made from a 12 year old vineyard planted in the Barossa's coolish, far south-east, almost halfway between the Eden Valley and Williamstown. It is hoped this vineyard will one day make up the dominant portion of the Shadrach. Although still showing a minty nose of blackberries and cherries, the Corryton smells much more even and deeper than the 2008 Cameron Vale. It's medium weight and quite ripe, with a strong whack of tannins at the finish that don't quite seem in tune at the moment. Give it some time maybe? 89

Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz 2008 ($34.95) Typically one of my favourite 'second' shiraz labels from the Barossa. From a fairly disappointing vintage, the 2008 didn't disappoint! Settled, deep nose, adequately reflects its old vine fruit source. Abundant and rich black plums, cherries and of course, American vanilla oak, are all expressed in a classically Barossan style. There's wonderful concentration and surprising elegance to the palate, which seems a very unforced, natural Barossa shiraz drawn down the line by good length of fruit and very tidy structural elements. There's much to like here. It's perhaps a 'drink now or later' style. Delicious. 93

Grant Burge Abednego Mourvedre Grenache Shiraz 2003 ($59.95) Perfumed, fresh nose for its age and season, although it is decidedly meaty and gamey with some prune fruits present as well. It possesses a leathery, gamey palate, with a fistful of mourvedre's charmingly assertive tannins imparted through the finish and a length that goes on and on. Just goes to show that in warmer Barossa seasons, mourvedre and grenache aren't bad varieties to seek. 90

Friday, February 11, 2011


- Lower Hunter Valley, NSW
- $40-$66
- Screwcap
- 11.5%alc

In addition to a slightly altered bottle shape and a recent Langton's promotion, Mount Pleasant's acclaimed Lovedale has also experienced a slight increase in 'retail' price, although its 'discount' price seems to have remained much the same. At $65, it must now go pretty close to being Australia's most expensive white wine which isn't a chardonnay. Of that tag, it's reasonably deserving...

As one would expect of the label and its vintage, the 2005 is pure Lovedale. Its emerging hints of straw and lemon butter are given a real lift by a mineral tinged note of citrus zest. With no aromatic element claiming dominance, it's expressed with refreshing harmony. Smooth and rich to commence yet electrifying to drive, the palate announces a softly spread push of lemon butter which becomes greener and more vegetal as it tightens, perhaps reflecting green beans or capsicum. Like many from the 2005 vintage, its acid structure maintains mouth-filling impact and waves of intensity, but in a show of strength, the Lovedale's sharp edges seem to be cloaked somewhat by an incredibly persistent onslaught of rich, deep, old-vine semillon flavour, which pushes on with careless abandon towards a finish of spectacular length and balance.

ü+ Considering the noted price hike, Mount Pleasant's utterly brilliant 2005 Lovedale couldn't have come at a much better time. Let's hope future vintages maintain the standard. Drink to 2020.
95 points

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


- Eden Valley, SA
- $22-$27
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

Alongside names like Flaxman Wines, Karra Yerta and Dandelion Vineyards, Poonawatta Estate is among an emergent group of small makers showing off just how good Eden Valley riesling can be. The Eden is a single vineyard riesling sourced from low-yielding vines planted between 1972 and 1978, at a typically high elevation of 425 metres above sea level. Only 2816 bottles of the 2010 were made.

Defined by a youthful scent that's as tight as the lycra on a 50 year old cyclist (when cold; wine that is), Poonawatta's 2010 Riesling slowly opens to clean aromas of bath salts and blossoms, lifted and drawn into line by a high citric tone that may also reveal a hint of spice such is its nasal tickle. The palate speaks the crystal clear accents and limey extension typical of the region, expressed with pleasingly lean boundaries yet undoubtedly flavoursome insides, before its pure green apple flavours finish wonderfully long and limey, outlined by a beautifully measured wash of mouth-filling, chalky citric acids and a faint bitter aspect that may displease some, yet please others. On a hot summer's night, it's not the sort of wine you want to leave me alone with...

ü+ Limes? Check. Apples? Check. Clarity of flavour? Check. Length? Check. Chalky acids? Check. With exception of perfume, Poonawatta Estate's 2010 is a true Eden Valley riesling in every respect. Drink to 2018.
93 points


Crispy-skinned Atlantic salmon with mango salsa,
served on a bed of snow pea sprouts

Monday, February 7, 2011


- Hilltops, NSW
- $14-$22
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

After splitting the difference in 2007 courtesy of a fine, spicy shiraz (91pts) and a fairly average cabernet sauvignon (87pts), it's great to see both Barwang reds return to top form in 2008. Barwang has essentially repeated in 2008 what Tahbilk did for cheap, readily available reds in 2006, not to mention what Saltram's Mamre Brook label did in 2004. The spread of regions (and states) of the 3 labels mentioned here beautifully reflects the diverse nature of Australia's modern wine scene.

With pleasing white pepper/spice notes laid across ripe plum, cherry and red licorice aromas, the 2008 Barwang does a fine job of representing Hilltops shiraz, which some have likened to being a stylistic fusion between the Grampians and Barossa styles. There's a clever scent of toasty, clove-like cedar oak in there as well, and for all the bouquet's ripe fruit it's considerably even. Plushness and generosity hallmark the palate's silky, medium-full bodied plum and cherry tones, while a simultaneously soft and ticklish coverage of gentle spices and vanilla oak extend the wine's good length of fruit, which drops a hint of dark chocolate licorice to conclude. Without doubt it's a classically Australian shiraz of genuine balance and sophistication for its price, backed by enough clean acids and slight yet grippy tannin to see it improve nicely over the medium-term.

ü+ Barwang's 2008 Shiraz is a more open and generous wine than their 2007, yet equally enjoyable all the same. It's not the first Hilltops shiraz to remind me of my home state, but there's nothing wrong with that for $15. Top value. Drink to 2016.
91 points

Sunday, February 6, 2011


- South Eastern Australia
- $7-$15
- Cork
- 11.5%alc

Although I've now converted to Jacob's Creek's Blanc de Blancs, I still hold a high level of respect for their standard NV as one of Australia's more palpable house fizzers. For a relatively small increase in price, Jacob's Creek's vintage dated reserve release, which is now sourced exclusively from the Adelaide Hills, makes for pretty smart drinking as well.

Scents of lemon/grapefruit and white flower announce the Jacob's Creek's nose, with a lifted thread of dry biscuit aromas adding much needed interest to what is otherwise a straight forward, yet inoffensive fragrance. Tidy effervescence as well as a moderately zippy thrust of flavour run through the palate, which houses a relatively simple concoction of tangy, lemony dry biscuit flavour. A bitter-edged aspect, not too unlike grapefruit, rears its head at the end, providing both lasting impression and a pleasing point of punctuation. It's simplicity personified, in an all too perfect and manufactured sense.

ü Sure, it probably lacks the freshness and zing of the Blanc de Blancs, but there's still nothing wrong with Jacob's Creek's standard NV for under $10. Drink now.
87 points


The much less popular sparkling wine;
Méthane Champenoise

Friday, February 4, 2011


- Tasmania/Adelaide Hills, SA/Yarra Valley, VIC
- $24-$35
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

The Victorian bushfires of 2009 forced Yarra Burn to look further afield for their 2009 Pinot Noir, drawing in fruit from Tasmania and the Adelaide Hills to create an intriguing tri-state blend. Also lookout for a similar three region blend from the award winning Coldstream Hills 2009 Pinot Noir, which was sourced from Tasmania, the Mornington Peninsula and western Victoria's Henty region.

I can't recall drinking a tri-state pinot noir before, or at least one that was labelled as such, and well; the 2009 Yarra Burn smells a treat. It's rather elemental in its intensely lifted, fragrant and juvenile state, with a range of sweet, musky spices and herbs that literally own the airspace sitting above the wine's surface. Cherries, plums, toasty vanilla/cedar oak and perhaps even meats and stalk reside in the bouquet as well, all leading into a dark fruited (Tassie?), medium/medium-full bodied (Adelaide Hills?) and relatively savoury palate that takes a long spell in the decanter to fully show its best. It's quite lithe and travels with the keenly balanced extract of sour-edged acids and tannin that pinot drinkers seek, however, although it eventually shows a pleasing richness of flavour and a certain fragility, I do detect a slightly astringent hardness at the climax of its firm, dry finish, which barely passes with time.

ü+ For around $27 the 2009 Yarra Burn is a genuinely complex (could just be the unusual regional make-up), cellaring style pinot noir. I optimistically envision it getting much better with time, so give it some. There's a clear extra point for potential here. Drink 2014-2016.
92 points

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


- Mount Barker, WA
- $15-$22
- Screwcap (Stelvin-Lux)
- 11.5%alc

If there's one wine style I'd personally like to see achieve better distribution throughout Adelaide's retailers, then it's Great Southern riesling. Older vintages from the likes of Plantagenet, Frankland Estate, Ferngrove and Alkoomi seem to be gathering dust on the shelves of numerous retailers (and in some cases, unlikely to be restocked), while the only current vintage wines I've been able to obtain in the last 12 months have been from Howard Park and Larry Cherubino's stable (thank you Halliday ;). Nothing against the last two names mentioned but.......sigh(!).

Just as the back label states, Ad Hoc's 2010 Riesling is 'unassuming' in its very tight, shy aromatic introduction, which presents a limey, pristine and pure fragrance of floral riesling fruits underlined by a gentle touch of wet stone/chalk. Once the palate hits though; it's 'unassuming' no more. It's juicy and rich, with a concentrated, weighty presence of lime juice and green apples that become saturated with citric accents as it powers down the palate, before showing a hint of sherbet-like fizz at the climax. A sumptuous, mouth filling impression may leave the deepest hole here, but a well contained, dry and lithe acid structure that's been polished to the point of refreshment ensures its length and drive aren't to be scoffed at either.

ü+ As beautiful Australian riesling continues spreading its wings across the country, I'm keeping a keen eye on what labels are going to challenge the Clare and Eden Valley's dominance of the sub-$20 market. Ad Hoc's Wallflower has definitely stepped forward as a challenger (distribution helps). Drink to 2018.
91 points