Author Archives: finewineclub

New Release Highlights: May 2022

New Release Highlights: May 2022

Wine Reviews by Barry Weinman: 15th June 2022

The highlights of my tasting month were a pair of Cabernets that were both spectacular, with their different regional characteristics stamped on each, along with another bargain from Aldi.

Wynns 2018 Harold is a superb example of Coonawarra Cabernet. Great purity of fruit combined with subtle, sympathetic winemaking. Peppermint and Cassis play key roles. I liked this so much that I immediately ordered a six-pack for the cellar.

Xanadu’s 2020 estate (black label) Cabernet is defined by the red berry fruit that fans out across the palate. This is a joyous expression of Margaret River Cabernet!

Reviewed

Frankland Estate – Alter Weg – Riesling – 2021. Taut, fine with fruit and acid in the lemony spectrum. On the palate, this really shines. Long and near seamless, with high quality fruit that really fills out on the mid-palate with air. This is in a different style to the Australian norm, with gentle phenolics and subtle worked (barrel ferment) characters. Worth trying to see how different Riesling can be. 93pts – $34.

Freya and Jules 2021

Freya and Jules – Riesling – 2021. This is all floral and pretty, with steely notes, minerals and a hint of pear. There is gentle viscosity which greatly adds to the appeal, yet there are no overt phenolics. Gentle lime acidity adds freshness and vitality. Superb value from Aldi. 92+pts – $9

Leo Buring Leopold 2021

Leo Buring – Leopold – Riesling – 2021. Bright, fresh and really quite delicious. This is packed full of citrus, with just a hint of residual sugar adding balance and adding to the drinkability. Underpinning the high-quality fruit is fine acidity. Different style to the Leonay and very worthwhile. 94pts – $35.

Terre à Terre – Crayers Vineyards – Sauvignon Blanc – 2020. This is vibrant, powerful and delicious, with gentle passionfruit, pear and musk flavours lingering for some time. Textural notes add to the mouthfeel and overall enjoyment. Excellent drinking. 91pts.

Myattsfield – Vermentino – 2020. Excellent food wine where there is enough fruit to make the wine interesting, yet the savoury components are the main feature, making this a great all-purpose wine that would be very enjoyable with, or without food. Could be described as semi-aromatic. 91pts

A.C. Byrne – Organic – Shiraz – 2021. The fruit here is supple, succulent and morish. This is supported by excellent structure, good balance and impressive persistence/ length of flavours. At $12, this is great value and could be the perfect mid-week pasta wine for those on a budget. This scored a gold medal from one panellist. 91pts.

Ata Rangi – Pinot Noir – 2019. OMG. This is quite beautiful. Elegant, seductive, succulent, deep, fine, silky and very long. Pristine red berry and cherry fruit. Subtle power emanates from the core, Ethereal. 96+pts

Lost Farm Pinot 2021

Lost Farm – Pinot Noir – 2021. A lovely wine that combines elegant, ripe fruit, with savoury, earthy notes. Minerality and even a touch of sea spray on the close. Lithe, elegant, supple, this builds depth and a slightly chewy texture with air. Very satisfying, if just a little closed at this early stage. Give it a few years. 94pts – $42.

Yeringburg – Pinot Noir – 2019. This was my pick of a strong bracket of Pinots due to its balance of ripe, supple red berry/cherry fruit and fine, savoury, textural notes. There is excellent length and persistence, with gentle spice notes adding to the appeal. Very satisfying straight out of the bottle but was even better a day later. Do not be put off by the pale colour, this is a serious wine. 94+pts.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2020. A bit of wow here, with red berry fruit to the fore on the nose. Supple, ripe red berry fruit floods a palate that is long, fine and energetic., with supple oak and tannins providing the textural framework. This is just so morish, with the fruit fanning out across the palate, unrestrained by oak. A joy. 95.5pts.

Wynns Harold 2018

Wynns – Harold – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2018. The purity of fruit here is outstanding. This does not have the showy vibrancy of some of the Margaret River wines that we are used to, but it has a quiet confidence in the way that it has captured the essence of Cabernet. Peppermint, cassis and gentle spice all evolve on a seamless palate. Great length of flavours. Beautiful now or in 10 – 20 years. 96pts

#wynnsestate #xanaduwinery #Yeringburg #lostfarm #leoburing #leopold #atarangi

Houghton Stripe Range Wines: Unbeatable value in 2022

Houghton Stripe Range Wines: Unbeatable value in 2022

Barry Weinman: 10th June 2022

Under the ownership of Accolade, there have been a lot of changes at Houghton. But fortunately for wine drinkers, the quality of the wines has not seemed to suffer, be it at the premium end with wines such as Jack Mann, or at the affordable end of the pricing spectrum.

In this tasting, the panel were blown away by the quality of the wines in the stripe range. These wines are excellent everyday drinking, but when you consider that they can be bought for as little as $7 per bottle, they must surely be some of the best value wines sold in Australia.

Ok, so they are not the most serious wines, but for a mid-week pasta night, you can’t go wrong!

Reviewed

Houghton – Stripe Range – Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – 2021. I like the balance of fruit and supple texture here. This is mouth-filling, with gentle viscosity and crunch acidity carrying the length of the palate. Very satisfying drink for when the focus is on the food, or life in general. 89pts.

Houghton – Stripe Range – White Classic – 2021. This is quite neutral on opening, with subtle depth and weight. This is an intriguing wine in that the drinking pleasure it delivers is greater than a sum of its parts. History suggests that a few years in the bottle will see this flesh out nicely. 91pts.

Houghton – Stripe Range – Shiraz – 2018. From an excellent WA vintage, this has bright red berry fruit, with just a touch of earthiness and gentle plum. Savoury spice notes predominate on the palate, with chalky tannins adding texture. Nothing fancy, but a very good drink. 91pts.

Houghton – Stripe Range – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2019. Fresh, vibrant, juicy and succulent. Gentle savoury oak and fine tannins add to the appeal. This could be the perfect mid-week pasta wine for those who don’t want to spend a bomb. 91pts.

Frankland Estate Masterclass: 2022

Frankland Estate Masterclass: 2022

Barry Weinman: 6th June 2022

(photo courtesy of Frankland Estate)

To put on a benchmark tasting where your wines are up against some of the country’s finest takes a brave, self-assured winery. The obvious risk is that the comparator’s wines will look better than your own.

The team at Frankland Estate have a quiet confidence in the quality of their wines and did not hesitate to show them alongside a strong line up of comparators. And their wines held their own and then some.

The Isolation Ridge Riesling is in a different style to what we typically see out of Clare or the Great Southern and all the better for it. The gentle residual sugar is a key component in what is a textural treat. The sheer drinkability was a key highlight of the wine.

The evolution in style of the Isolation Ridge Shiraz/Syrah over the last decade or so was brilliantly demonstrated by tasting the 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020 side by side. The last two were a real step up in terms of fruit quality and winemaking.

The 2019 was an explosion of ripe, supple fruit, whilst the 2020 was more brooding and introverted. The splash of Viognier appeared to have more of an impact in the 2019.

Somehow, the 2020 Smith Cullam Syrah managed to combine the best of both of these into a magical wine experience. Definitely worth trying. #franklandestate #isolationridge #smithcullam

Bracket 1: Classics

Frankland Estate – Isolation Ridge Vineyard – Riesling – 2021. A drier year that produced pristine fruit. The nose has a wonderful combination of fresh, aromatic fruit and complex winemaking inputs. Ripe, with fine acidity and superbly judged residual sugar, the intensity is a revelation. The finish is textured and long, with great density. Apricot, almond, pear, nectarine and floral honeysuckle all make an appearance.

The style moved to a slightly riper expression where the fruit can shine. Components were left on lees for up to six months in tank, and barrel ferment was used for a small portion of the fruit.

Crawford River – Riesling – 2021. The aromatics here are a highlight. Apricot fruit and supple richness make for a compelling drink, even if it does not have the absolute power of the Isolation Ridge. An understated wine that really builds in the glass.

Grosset – Polish Hill – Riesling – 2021. Pristine and fine. Scintillating acidity and taut structure, yet fine and restrained at the same time. A superb wine in a very different style, that looked just a bit awkward in this line up as the style is so different.

Christmann Gimmeldingen – Riesling – (Village) – 2020. This was a bit overwhelmed in this line up.

Bracket 2: Off dry

Frankland Estate – Smith Cullam – Riesling – 2021. Very similar profile to the Isolation Ridge, but with the floral aromatics turned down a touch, and the textural components turned up. For me, this really needs a few years to really open up but is a super wine all the same.

Heymann-Löwenstein – Schieferterrassen Bohème – 2018. Wow. The aromatics here are amazing, and really quite foreign to anything made in Australia. Intense, powerful, savoury and complex. The palate is a little more mainstream, with lovely acidity playing against the residual sugar. Viscous and mouthcoating, the texture is a highlight. Quite superb.

Koehler-Ruprecht Kallstadter – Kabinett Trocken – 2020. The balance here is a highlight. The fruit here is much more preserved. But lacks the sheer depth and power of the previous wines.

Loosen Barry – Wolta Wolta – Riesling – 2019. Drier, very intense and very powerful. But the finish is quite closed at present. Would be wonderful with food, or with ten years in the cellar. Possibly the most expensive Riesling made in Australia.

Bracket 3: Isolation Ridge Vineyard Vertical

Frankland Estate – Isolation Ridge Vineyard – Shiraz 2015. Pristine fruit, with hints of spice, menthol and eucalypt. White pepper to the fore over cherry and satsuma plum fruit. Excellent balance and mouthfeel.

Frankland Estate – Isolation Ridge Vineyard – Syrah 2017. The spice is turned up, complemented by sweet fruit that floods the palate. Large format oak allows the fruit to shine. Pretty and vibrant, yet with greater mid-palate density and texture. Lovely mouthfeel and excellent length of flavours aided by a small proportion of whole bunch fermentation.

Frankland Estate – Isolation Ridge Vineyard – Syrah 2019. Wow. This is quite special. The sweet, ripe fruit is still the focus, but the savoury, spicy components really make an impact. There are lovely musk and pear notes that run the length of the palate. Aromatic, floral and quite spectacular. Small amount of Viognier and Mourvèdre add impact, as does a component of whole-bunch fermentation. 95+pts seems only fair.

Frankland Estate – Isolation Ridge Vineyard Syrah 2020. Quite a different expression of Frankland Shiraz. Here the aromatics are less overt, whilst the structure is the focus and the fruit taut, fine, unyielding. With air, the intense, dense and powerful fruit really shines. Despite the power, structure and almost chewy texture., this somehow remains near seamless. Only 6% whole bunch in this vintage. 95 – 96pts.

Bracket 4: Benchmark Shiraz

Frankland Estate – Smith Cullam – Syrah – 2020. This is a special wine, combining the aromatics of the 2019 Isolation ridge, with the depth of the 2020. Yet, at its core, this is elegant and very fine. It offers the opportunity to be appreciated young, but also possesses excellent ageability. The tannin management is a highlight. A magical wine. 96pts.

Craggy Range – Le Sol – Shiraz – 2019. A very contrasting style where the oak (37% new) is much more noticeable, but in no way overpowering. This is a traditional new world red with ripe, structured fruit, along with excellent depth and power. But this is a long-term prospect…

Domaine Ogier – Côte Rotie – Mon Village – 2018. Did not show well on the day.
Shaw and Smith – Balhannah – Shiraz – 2019. A very interesting contrast. Another cooler climate shiraz, but here there is a degree of textural plushness that stands it apart. Virtually seamless, the fruit less overt, whilst the texture is key indicator of quality. Superb, but needs years…

Final wines

Frankland Estate – Isolation Ridge – Riesling – 2012. A museum release that is only available in tiny quantities. Lovely toast and aromatics on both the nose and palate. A classic aged Australian Riesling. This really benefited from time in the glass, so a quick swirl in a decanter is probably in order to get the best out of this wine.

Frankland Estate – Alter Weg – Riesling – 2021. I love this wine. So complex and powerful, with great depth and colour.

(Photo courtesy of Frankland Estate)

Tapanappa 2021 Vintage Chardonnays

Tapanappa 2021 Vintage Chardonnays

Barry Weinman: 13th May 2022

Brian Croser is a stalwart of the Picadilly Valley in the Adelaide hills, having established Petaluma winery in 1976. The base for Petaluma was the Tiers Vineyard.

In due course, Petaluma was sold to Accolade Wines though the Crosers maintained control of the Tiers vineyard and subsequently established the Tapanappa winery.

The vines are now over forty years old, and the best fruit goes into Tapanappa’s Tiers Chardonnay. Recently, a second wine has been added to the Tiers range: The 1.5M.

The fruit for the 1.5M comes from a section of the vineyard that was replanted in 2003 at even closer spacing to the original vineyard (4,444 vines per hectare). At almost half the price of its big brother, the 1.5M is something of a bargain at $59.

The wines from Tapanappa are tight, lean and high in acid at this very early stage of their lives, but they will be marvelous wines with some time in bottle.

Reviewed

Tapanappa – Tiers – Chardonnay – 2021. This smells expensive! This is a restrained wine where the fruit is initially quite muted, with minerals, curry leaf and spice aromas adding impact. The palate is lithe and fresh, in a slightly leaner style. However, there is power and intensity in spades. With air, peach and tropical fruit start to express. This took three days to be at its best, so give it a few years if you can. 95pts – $110

Tapanappa – Tiers 1.5M – Chardonnay – 2021. As the name suggests, this comes from a portion of the vineyard that has been replanted at closer (1.5 metre) vine spacing. Very similar in style to the Tiers, but here the fruit is a little more accessible at this early stage. There is real depth and power and excellent length of flavours, and if anything, the minerality has been turned up a notch. Give it a couple of years. 95pts – $59.

Tapanappa – Chardonnay – 2021. Very fine and taut, yet this is intense and powerful, and possesses great depth. Peach, nectarine and cashew nut all express. The balance of fruit, oak and winemaking is a highlight. Super drinking whilst waiting for its big brothers to hit their peaks. 94pts – $49.

Champagne: What to drink in Australia in Autumn 2022 Part Three: Roederer, Moet, Jacquart & Ruinart

Barry Weinman: 21st April 2022

In the third part of this series, I have reviewed wines by Jacquart, Moet, Roederer & Ruinart.

Part one reviewed Pierre Gimonnet, Pol Roger & Duval-Leroy.

Part two reviewed Ayala, Billecart, Bollinger & Devaux

Louis Roederer

The 2015 Vintage Rosé is a highlight, with lovely red fruits adding to what is a beautiful and very approachable wine.

The 2014 Vintage Brut was somewhat of a contrast, here the fruit was tightly wound and taut, with the lemony acidity playing against the textural, almost chewy structure. Very fine, but deserving of a few years in bottle.

The biggest change at Roederer is in the NV where, much like Krug (and Arras with their excellent Brut Elite), they are now labelling each release with a unique number so that the consumers know what is inside the bottle they are drinking.

This has been accompanied by the establishment of a Perpetual Reserve which appears to be a type of solera to provide a consistent, mature reserve wine for blending.

Louis Roederer – Collection 242 – NV. 56% from the 2017 vintage with a remarkable 44% reserve wine (34% Perpetual Reserve + 10% oak aged reserve wine from vintages between 2009 and 2016). This is fine, elegant and supple, yet possessing of impressive power and serious texture. Generous, yet refined. Superb! Dosage of 8gm/l.

Jacquart

Jacquart’s Brut Mosaique remains a good value aperitif style, but it was the 2012 Blanc de Blancs that caught my attention. This is a serious wine as much as it is a fine Champagne, the fruit coming from 100% Grand Cru vineyards with 6gm/l dosage. The stone fruit notes were a highlight on a fine, elegant and supple palate. Worth a try.

Moët & Chandon

Moët was the surprise package of the tasting. The wines here are more serious and powerful than in some recent releases. Combine this with very reasonable prices, and the wines from Moët are very good buying indeed.

The Brut Imperial ticks all the boxes, the low 7gm/l dosage a testament to the quality of the fruit. A very good wine that is more serious than its reputation suggests, making this fantastic value when discounted around the traps.

Moët & Chandon – Grand Vintage – 2013. This wine takes things to another level. Seven years on lees, and the 5gm/l dosage low enough to qualify as Extra Brut. A very good champagne with a fine, elegant mouthfeel and serious structural components. A great drink!

Ruinart

Ruinart’s Blanc de Blancs is very good indeed, with fine structure and an elegant mouthfeel. The Rosé Brut takes this a step further, with the remarkable addition of 18% still wine adding to this supple, delicious wine.

Champagne: What to drink in Australia in Autumn 2022 Part Two: Ayala, Billecart, Bollinger & Devaux

Barry Weinman: 11th April 2022

This is part two of a series on Champagne’s available in Australia right now. You can access part one here.

Reviewed

Ayala

Ayala was bought by the Bollinger family in 2005 and there has been a process of gradual improvement ever since. In fact, the winemaker (Caroline Latrive) was formerly at Bollinger before taking over the reins here.

A key difference between the houses is the increased focus on Chardonnay at Ayala.
The Brut Majeur is a richly flavoured wine, where the fruit takes centre place supported by a very fine structure and drying acidity. The blend includes 45% Chardonnay and the dosage is only 6gm/l

But the standout for me was the Blanc De Blancs.

Ayala – Blanc De Blancs – 2014. A beautiful wine with finesse and elegance, but also possessing great power, supported by an addictive creamy texture. If anything, this would be even better with a few more years in the bottle. Spent six years on lees and the dosage is 6gm/l.

Bollinger

The Special Cuvée is in fine form, combining power with finesse and supple texture. Delicious and ready to go now. A step up in quality and price was the B13!

Bollinger – B13 – 2013. Made from 100% Pinot Noir (Blanc De Noirs), this wine is all about the power and intensity derived from the late 2013 vintage and of Pinot Noir. A wine with tremendous impact, this is a tour-de-force. But the style will not be for everyone. Seven years on lees, 6g/l.

Billecart-Salmon

I am the first to admit that I do not often enjoy zero dosage wines. However, Billecart’s Brut Nature is very much an exception to this.

Billecart-Salmon – Brut Nature – NV. Dry, but very balanced, this is quite lovely. Fine, elegant and laced with minerality, this is delicate, yet possesses gentle generosity. An excellent wine. 40 months on lees, 0% dosage, 2016 base wine, with a high percentage of reserve wines.

Billecart-Salmon – 2009. With a very low 2g/l dosage, this wine is technically an Extra Brut, though this not on the label. The power of the Pinot Noir (40%) is evident in this wine and is accompanied by a very attractive chewy texture and fine acidity. With excellent length and balance, this is a fine wine indeed! Nine years on lees.

Devaux

I very much enjoyed the copper tinged Devaux D Rose, where the addition of a small amount of red base wine from the 2010 vintage adds gentle red fruits. The dosage feels a little higher than some of the other wines tasted and this suits the style well. Five years on lees.

Champagne: What to drink in Australia in Autumn 2022 Part 1: Pierre Gimonnet, Pol Roger & Duval-Leroy

Champagne: What to drink in Australia in Autumn 2022 Part 1: Pierre Gimonnet, Pol Roger & Duval-Leroy

Barry Weinman 3rd April 2022

The title for this series of articles is very specific to a point in time for an important reason. Non-vintage Champagne is not a homogenous product and there are a number of factors that can influence how it tastes.

  • The blend: The majority of the base wine in NV Champagnes typically comes from a single year, with reserve wines added to keep the style and quality consistent. But the characteristics of the base wine changes from year to year which affects the overall taste.
  • How long the wine has been left on lees: For the bigger houses in particular, their NV will be disgorged in batches to meet market demand. More time on lees will subtly change the flavour profile.
  • How long the wine has been sitting in Australia: Once a wine has been disgorged, the characteristics change over time. If a distributor has old stock, or a retailer has slow sales, then the wine will taste differently to a bottle that is fresh of the boat.

So, with the NV wines at least, what I am reviewing below is the wine that is currently available from the wholesaler in Australia today.

These wines were tasted as part of Tyson Stelzer’s fantastic Champagne tasting that is held each year around Australia.

Duval-Leroy

Duval Leroy is a historic Champagne house that was established in 1859 and is still family owned today. These wines were the value standout for the tasting, and it’s worth checking for special prices with your local independent bottle shop.

Given the value on offer, the Brut Reserve is currently our house Champagne here at the Weinman’s.

Duval-Leroy – Brut Reserve – NV. A richer, textured style with decent length and refreshing acidity. Whilst not the most complex wine in the tasting, this is a wine that brings pleasure and can put a smile on your face. Pinot dominant, with four years on lees and 8gms of residual.

Pierre Gimonnet et Fils

The Champagnes of Pierre Gimonnet are notable for being almost all Blanc de Blancs. Even their Rosé starts life as a Blanc de Blancs before the addition of a small amount of still red wine.

Whilst the NV wines have always proved excellent drinking, it was the vintage wines that really stood out this time. There is an excellent article on Wineanorack discussing the house in some detail.

Pierre Gimonnet et Fils – Cuvée Fleuron Brut – 1er Cru – Blanc De Blancs – 2015. A very fine wine where the balance is the key to the success. This is lively, racy and taut, yet still possessing excellent depth and richness. From the Côte de Blancs, 75% Grand Crus, 5gm/l dosage. ($110 from Winesquare)

Pierre Gimonnet et Fils -Special Club – Grand Terroirs de Chardonnay – 2014. As the name suggests, this is really quite special. A Champagne with great richness, depth, intensity and power, with a creamy mouth filling texture. Outstanding Champagne! This is made from old-vines material with the vines between 60 and 100 years old. 5gm/l dosage.

Pol Roger

A house that needs no introduction, and the wines are in top form. The current release of the Brut Reserve is excellent, with a lovely combination of richness, power and balance, but it was the 2013 vintage wine that stood out.

Pol Roger – Vintage Brut – 2013. The key here is the balance. This combines the finesse of the 2013 Blanc de Blancs with the richness of the NV. The result is a sublime wine that is brilliant value at around $125. 60% Pinot Noir 40% Chardonnay, 8gms/l dosage, disgorged December 2019.

Singlefile Cellar Door Experience

Singlefile Cellar Door Experience

Barry Weinman: 16th March 2022.

As someone who tastes a lot of wines each week, I rarely take the time to visit cellar doors when I am on holiday. And to be fair, my wife is not as interested in wine, so repeated winery visits have the potential to become a bit tedious.

So over a week in the Great Southern district, I only visited three wineries. And each experience was dramatically different.

The Low

I had the misfortune of visiting one (unnamed) winery in the middle of a 40-degree spell at the end of January, The temperature was at least 30 degrees inside the cellar door, which meant that the red wines were also at this temperature. As you can imagine, the wines did not look great.

To compound this, all wines had been opened between one and five days previously. It is understandable that they did not want to waste half full bottles, but even the whites looked flat and dull.

Rather than having 15 – 20 wines on tasting, perhaps narrowing it down would allow the wines to be served in optimal condition.

The High

I spent an hour with Guy Lyons at Forest Hill chatting about their wines and the direction that the winery is heading in. Given the sheer quality of the range, as well as the welcoming cellar door, I would highly recommend a visit if you are anywhere near Denmark.

I the restaurant (Pepper and Salt) is also highly recommended, but it was not open the day that I visited.

The Sublime

Perhaps the best cellar door experience that I have seen in WA is at Singlefile in Denmark. Rather than line up at a bar to taste the wines, guests are seated at tables overlooking the vineyards and water. It really is quite a spectacular setting.

The knowledgeable cellar door staff then proceed to conduct the tasting at your table, whilst you relax and enjoy the surrounds (and the fine wines). Given the sheer breadth of the range of wines made, they sensibly offer a curated selection from the range as part of the experience.

If you are a member of Singlefile’s wine club, then there are extra wines that are available to taste as part of the experience (From the premium ranges).

But for a truly unique experience, I highly recommend their “Sense of Place” tours. We found ourselves walking around the vineyards with a glass of Family Reserve Chardonnay whilst our guide was explaining the approach to viticulture, and how this impacts on the finished wine.

We were then shown to a private tasting room where we were able to try some of the best wines made on the property, whilst learning about the unique geology and geography that gives the different vineyards their character.

Yes, there is a cost to this tasting, but I can assure you that it is $59 very well spent. Given that my wife was talking about how good the experience (and the wine) was for days afterwards, I may even be able to schedule a couple more winery visits on our next getaway!

The Wines

As part of the experience, I was able to taste a few of the yet-to-be released wines from the premium range, and the wines were outstanding. My notes and points are only first impressions, as the wines were not tasted blind.

SinglefileFamily Reserve – Chardonnay – 2021 is one of the most complete young Chardonnays that I can recall tasting. Great purity of fruit, silky textural oak (1/3 new) and subtle winemaking inputs combine in a stunning package. This starts in the stone fruit spectrum, with citrus notes driving the finish. Capable of cellaring, but irresistible now. 95+pts – $60

SinglefileThe Vivienne Chardonnay – 2019. Incredibly intense and powerful, with the winemaker’s inputs playing an important role (barrel ferment on solids, wild yeast, lees aging and partial malolactic fermentation). White peach and grapefruit give way to flinty minerality and curry leaf aromas. The sheer intensity of this wine will not be for everyone, but this is a wine that you need to try! 96pts – TBC

SinglefileThe Philip Adrian – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2018. This is a magical wine that combines fragrant fruit that is fine and supple, with tremendous depth and intensity. The Houghton-clone fruit was matured in oak (40% new) for thirteen months. 2018 was a great year in Frankland and this wine is absolutely brilliant. 97pts – TBC

Forest Hill: A Block of History

Forest Hill: A Block of History

Review by Barry Weinman: 22nd March 2022

When it comes to pioneering vineyards in the Southwest of Western Australia, people automatically think of the stalwarts of the Margaret River region. But plantings in Mt Barker actually precede this Margaret River (by a year or so).

In 1965, a five-acre experimental vineyard was planted on what is now the Forest Hill vineyard and the first wines were produced in 1972. The Cabernet was made at Houghton by the Legendary Jack Mann, whilst the Riesling was made at Sandalford by Jack’s son Dorham.

Fast forward to 1996, and the Lyons family purchased the vineyards from the Homes a Court family (Vasse Felix). Over the subsequent years, vineyards were rejuvenated, new vineyards planted and, in 2004, a winery and cellar door built in Denmark.

On a recent trip to the region, I took the opportunity to sit down with winemaker/general manager Guy Lyons to taste through the range and hear a little about the philosophy that he, and senior winemaker Liam Carmody are trying to capture in the wines.

My overarching impression of the wines was that of restraint and elegance. Beautifully expressive fruit, yet reserved and age worthy. The Cabernet, for example, has more in common with fine Bordeaux that it does with a traditional Australian red wine.

If I had to choose one word to describe these wines, it would be exceptional. Exceptional quality and exceptional value.

Reviewed

Forest Hill – Riesling – 2021. 2021 was a good year for Riesling, and the fruit was harvested over multiple picks, with the parcels kept separate to ensure typicity. Fragrant citrus blossom with gentle talc and mineral/spice. Gentle phenolics add texture, whilst the taut acidity adds a lemony tang. Excellent length to close. 94pts – $30.

Forest Hill – Riesling – Block 2 – 2021. From the 1975 plantings. 15% matured in old oak with 9 months on lees. This is different to the standard wine. Finer, more elegant, almost ethereal in nature. There is also greater length and intensity, yet the phenolics are a lot finer. The textural components are a highlight. Seamless, yet possessing amazing intensity, this could be enjoyed any time over the next 10 – 15 years. 300 cases produced. 96pts – $38.

Forest Hill – Riesling – Block 1 – 2021. From the original 1965 vineyard. This is a step up again in intensity compared to the Block 2, with a core of minerality running the length of the palate. Lime, lemon and steely acidity combine on the close. This is a powerhouse that needs years to reach its peak, yet is superb drinking now. A statement wine. Only 100 cases made. 97pts – TBC.

Forest Hill – Chardonnay – 2020. The fruit for this comes from the lower part of the vineyard, with a cross section of clone planted. Matured in 20% new oak and underwent wild yeast fermentation. This leads with citrus, with supple stone fruit in the background. There is a degree of richness which reflects the vintage. Balancing acidity and supple winemaking inputs make for a very enjoyable wine to drink now. 93pts – $32

Forest Hill – Chardonnay – Block 8 – 2018. The power here is palpable, but the fruit is cloaked with restraint. Citrus notes and lemony acid abound, the oak (25% new) and lees work have been absorbed by the fruit adding texture and depth, without over flavours. Very fine and elegant, with incredible intensity. The style here is getting ever finer, and cellaring is recommended. 95+pts – $50.

Forest Hill – Shiraz – 2020. This is all about the fragrant fruit. Cherry, plum, and even berry, with the gentlest of cedar. The palate is defined by its minerality and texture, and the chewy finish has a sprinkling of black pepper. A small proportion of the fruit underwent whole bunch fermentation, and the wine was matured in seasoned oak. 94pt – $32.

Forest Hill – Shiraz – Block 9 – 2020. Wow, the intensity has been turned up here. The minerality again is a feature, with the perfume more subdued, and gentle savoury notes (including chocolate and coffee.) build. Great length, but this needs 10+ years to reach its best. Block 9 was planted in 1985. 95pts- TBC

Forest Hill – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2019. The dusty fruit (a good thing) is really taut and drying and is reminiscent of fine Bordeaux, but at a fraction of the price. This took two days to open up, but I was rewarded with bright fruit and supple textural components. 93-94pts – TBC.

Forest Hill – Cabernet Sauvignon – Block 5 – 2019. The best parcels of fruit (Houghton clone) from a vineyard at the top of a ridge. The perfume is more notable here, with hints of berry and even a touch of violet. The palate is briary, textured and closed, but the potential is palpable. Give it 10 years and be rewarded. A classic Cabernet and proudly different to the wines coming from Margaret River. 95+pts – $65.

New releases Cabernet: February 2022

New releases Cabernet: February 2022

Barry Weinman: 3rd March 2022

Some of the big guns were out in this tasting and they did not disappoint.
Cullen’s 2020 Diana Madeline is a superb wine. The generosity of flavours are a highlight. Meanwhile at Moss Wood, the Ribbon Vale reds stole the show from their big brother. The Merlot was a real surprise package.

There has been a lot of talk about the exceptional 2018 vintage in Margaret River and one of the last wines to make it to the market is the Woodlands Margaret. Another excellent wine at a fair price.

And for a different expression of Cabernet, Thorn Clarke’s William Randell is a BFG.

Reviewed

Cullen – Diana Madeline – 2020. Wow. This is just subline. Fine, elegant, supple and restrained. Seamless and very long. Silky, with grace and presence. This is absolutely delicious now but would also benefit from 20 years cellaring. A masterpiece! 13 months in oak (50% new), 13% alc, from the Cullen Vineyard. 96+pts – $150.

Moss Wood – Ribbon Vale – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2019. Wow. This is quite beautiful. Exquisite fruit, supple winemaking and unobtrusive oak combine in a package that is refine, elegant, polished and deceptively easy to drink. The near seamless finish is a highlight. 95-96pts – $75

Moss Wood – Ribbon Vale – Merlot – 2019. The panel were very surprised when the identity of this wine was revealed. Fine, elegant, taut., the oak near invisible. Reserved and reminiscent of Bordeaux in structure. The red and blue berry fruit is ripe, but in the cooler spectrum. Excellent length of flavours, but very much built for the long haul. Lingers for what seems like minutes. 95pts – $TBC.

Mr. Barval – Cabernet/Malbec – 2019. Excellent fruit on show here. Long, fine, textured and slightly chewy, this is restrained and taut. The length and persistence of flavours is a highlight. Unyielding, but has all the hallmarks of an excellent wine. Just give it a bit of time. 95pts – $TBC

Woodlands – Margaret – Cabernet Blend – 2018. This has excellent depth, density and fruit weight, yet remains supple and restrained. An elegant wine that is refined and long. The super-fine tannins slowly build, shutting down the fruit on the very close. Another cracking wine from the 2018 vintage and good value on the world stage. 95pts – $80.

Thorn-Clark – William Randell – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2018. Boom! The fresh raspberry and blueberry fruit leaps out of the glass and smacks you in the head (in a good way). This is ripe and luscious yet does not lose its focus and remains varietally correct. A counterpoint to the cooler climate cabernets that we are used to from Margaret River. Would be great with dinner at the local Italian restaurant! 92pts – $70.

Mr. Barval – Vino Rosso – 2020. Vibrant red fruit with blueberry highlights. The berry flavours really build in the mouth. This is juicy and succulent, but also balanced and refreshing, with the fine tannins adding texture and depth. An excellent early-drinking wine that will suit both the novice and experienced wine drinker. 91pts – $33.