Author Archives: finewineclub

Vasse Felix – Alternatives Range

Vasse Felix Alternatives Range

Barry Weinman: 6th February 2020

Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are the heart and soul of Margaret River wines and producers are typically trying to make ever finer wines in a style that we know and love.

But there is more to Margaret River, and Sauvignon Blanc (often in conjunction with Semillon) and Shiraz are also important varieties for the region.

Unlike Cabernet and Chardonnay however, there is not a regional style that defines these wines. This gives winemakers the opportunity to explore techniques that are, perhaps, less mainstream.

With Sauvignon Blanc for example, the trend is towards increased barrel fermentation, lees and oak characters, resulting in more complex and savoury wines that is particularly suited to food.

This trend appears to be mirrored at Vasse Felix.

Virginia Wilcox and her winemaking team maintain an unrelenting focus on making the best possible wines from Chardonnay and Cabernet. This is exemplified by the Heytesbury Chardonnay and Tom Cullity Cabernet.

With the main focus firmly on Cabernet and Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon and Shiraz are being repositioned as the alternative range, allowing an evolution of their styles.

The winery has been producing experimental batches of Sauvignon Blanc for ten vintages now, with the lessons learnt being implemented in the Estate wines. The experimental Shiraz program is now up to its fifth vintage.

In 2020, the winery will be releasing limited quantities of these experimental wines in a new “Black Label” range, and they are definitely worth seeking out.

The current SBS and Shiraz give a clear window to where the winery is taking these wines.

At a different price point entirely, but also embracing the small batch ethos is Cullen’s Legacy Series Chardonnay from 2016. Vanya Cullen has been producing tiny quantities of quite exquisite Chardonnays for the last few years, and the current Fruit Day version is a brilliant wine.

Enjoy!

Reviewed

Vasse Felix – Blanc IX – Sauvignon Blanc – 2019. $39. Unfined and unfiltered, with a cloudy appearance, though the wine is clean, fresh and attractive. The initial nose is incredibly floral, showing blackcurrant, stone fruit, melon and citrus, along with supple lees work. The palate is complex, lemony and bright, with the mouth-feel a highlight. Very approachable and quite delicious.

This is the tenth vintage of this series. Initially started as a SSB blend, but has had gradually increasing proportions of SB in the blend. From 2017 this moved to 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine spends ten days on skins and seven months in one year old French oak.

Vasse Felix – Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – 2018. (17.6/20pts – $26). The nose is a bit funky (in a good way), with lees, oak and wild yeast characters adding depth. The palate is fine and elegant, with citrus fruit balanced by herbal notes typical of Sauvignon Blanc. Lemony acidity drives the textural, almost steely finish. A wine that is eminently suited to food.

Vasse Felix – Shiraz – 2018 (18/20pts – $37). Superb vibrant colour. Silky, fragrant aromas of Satsuma plum and dark cherry, with hints of chocolate and spice. The palate is fine and elegant, with feathery tannins and subtle, texturing oak. Refined and elegant, this has immediate appeal, but is also cellar worthy, as with air, this gets quite serious and sinewy.

CullenKevin John Chardonnay                  – Legacy Series – Fruit Day – 2016 (18.9/20pts – $250). The intensity of this wine is quite remarkable. Initially appears modern and taut, yet the fruit power building in layers. The superb winemaking, supple oak (50% new) and fine acid balance confer instant appeal to what is a long-term aging prospect. Outstanding!

Amelia Park in Review

Amelia Park in Review

Barry Weinman: 29th January 2020

If I had to choose one word to describe Amelia Park, it would be polished. From the impressive cellar door, to the superb restaurant and refined and elegant wines, every detail has been executed with great skill and attention to detail.

Walking into the cellar door is an experience in itself. The impressive doors and barrel hall set the scene, and when the inner doors slide open, the windows frame a spectacular view. It is like walking from darkness into light, with mature vineyards stretching into the distance.

The views from the elegant dining room are no less impressive, but somehow, these are overshadowed by the food. Surely, this must rank as one of the region’s best restaurants. The comprehensive menu made it very difficult to choose, given that virtually every dish sounded divine.

Guided by the friendly and efficient staff, we enjoyed a feast of riches, with so many highlights in both taste and presentation, including a superbly cooked shoulder of lamb, the ever popular “fish wings” and wood-grilled marron.

But the main reason for the visit was the wines.

Launched in 2009, Amelia Park moved to its current location in 2013, following the purchase of the former Moss Brothers vineyard. Like the restaurant, the winery seriously over delivers in the quality/value equation right across the range.

The Trellis range offers honest, easy drinking wines that are terrific value for under $13 for wine club members.

For me, however, the sweet spot is in the estate range (white label) which are available for as little as $27 from the cellar door. And watch out for the soon to be released 2018 reds. The Cabernet, Shiraz and Malbec were all knockouts and are due for release mid-year. See the website for tasting notes.

Enjoy!

Reviewed

Amelia Park – Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – Trellis – 2019 (17.3/20pts – $16). An enticing nose with hints of guava, passionfruit, musk and spice. The palate is fresh and vibrant, with crisp, zesty acidity, along with decent viscosity and mouth-feel. At $12:80 from the cellar door for wine club members, this is a bargain!

Amelia Park – Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – 2019 (17.6/20pts – $23). More depth and intensity to the fruit. The palate texture is also more pronounced, with the fruit and aromatics a little muted. The supple acid rounds out the finish nicely. A more serious wine and well suited to food. A 60/40 blend, with partial barrel fermentation.

Amelia Park – Chardonnay – 2019 (18/20pts – $33).  An elegant wine with white nectarine and peach aromas. The fine and supple palate is complex yet approachable, with near seamless palate transition and well-judged acidity. Needs a year or two to show its best but represents great value (wild ferment, no malolactic fermentation, 9 months in French oak – 30% new).

Amelia Park – Chardonnay – Reserve – 2018 (18.5/20pts – $65). Different nose to the Estate Chardonnay, with Burgundian overtones from the winemaker’s inputs. Complex, dense, textured and powerful, the oak (40% new) is more apparent but sits very well with the fruit. Builds stone fruit and mineral notes with air. Whilst enjoyable now, this ideally needs a few years in the bottle.

Amelia Park – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Trellis – 2018 (17.3/20pts – $16). Bright, fresh and vibrant, with decent fruit quality (especially at this price). Earthy, textured and supple, the acids and tannins frame the fruit, but are soft enough to make this a great quaff. Spends six months in oak. At $12:80 from the cellar door for wine club members, this too is a bargain!

Amelia Park – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2017 (18/20 – $33). Opens with restrained fruit in the blueberry spectrum. The palate, whilst taut, is complex, powerful, long and fine, with supple mouth-feel and texturing oak. Like many of the wines, this is enjoyable now, but will benefit from extended aging to allow the fruit to open.

Amelia Park – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2018 (18.4/20pts). Richer, with more fruit density than the 2017, resulting in a svelte and textural wine that is more approachable young. But underneath the supple exterior, there is serious fruit matched to excellent winemaking. A polished and age-worthy wine. Great winemaking and brilliant value.

Amelia Park – Shiraz – 2017 (17.5/20 – $33). Restrained, but with vibrant fruit sitting underneath. White pepper, chocolate, plum and spice, with a chewy, textural palate. Refined and enjoyable, but really needs time.

Amelia Park – Shiraz – 2018 (18.5/20pts). Richer than the 2017, with ripe, vibrant fruit with lifted white pepper spice. The palate is textured, chewy and quite delicious, with the supple, savoury oak adding to the balanced and finesse. A lovely wine with grace and presence. Now – 10 years. From Frankland River.

Amelia Park – Shiraz – Reserve – 2016 ($65 – 18.6/20). Very fragrant nose redolent of plum, cherry and spice. Rich, textured, dense and powerful, the savoury oak (100% new French) adds depth and sits perfectly with the supple fruit, whilst the earthy, textural notes are reminiscent of the Rhone Valley. Will be even better with at least 10 years in the bottle.

Amelia Park – Malbec – 2018. (18/20pts). What a delightful wine. Fresh and vibrant, the bright strawberry fruit is expertly matched to subtle savoury, earthy notes. The finish is supple, yet there are serious tannins and structure sitting in the background. Will be great with savoury food and should represent excellent value.

Piper Heidsieck Champagne

Piper Heidsieck Champagne

Barry Weinman: 19th December 2019

My favourite Champagne over the last few years has been Charles Heidsieck’s Brut Reserve.

Yes, this is a superb Champagne, but it also has something to do with the fact that it has been served routinely on Singapore Airlines in Business Class.

I travel extensively for work and at the end of a long week, the Charles Heidsieck is one of life’s small pleasures

There are a number of other airlines serving quality Champagnes.  Qatar for example provides a drinking treat, with the elegant (and food friendly) Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé, whilst Emirates serves the ever-reliable Veuve Clicquot on Perth flights.

In recent times, Piper Heidsieck has also started to appear on more airline wine lists. Initially, I thought this was purely a cost cutting measure, given that Piper is one of the more affordable Champagnes on the market, but two recent tastings have changed my perceptions on this.

At the start of last week, I sat down with Benoit Collard to taste through the range. From the NV through to the Rare, the wines were uniformly excellent.

But wines always taste better when trying them with the producer, so at the end of the week, we put the Cuvée Brut and the 2008 Vintage into a blind sparkling wine/Champagne tasting and the wines showed brilliantly.

Ownership of Piper and its sister house Charles Heidsieck changed in 2011, and this seems to have coincided with a subtle refinement in the style. Piper has become drier and finer, with greater intensity of fruit.

The arrival of a new Chef de Caves in 2018 has reinforced the focus on refinement.

Luckily for consumers prices have not changed, making the wines a tremendous bargain. With the NV on sale for as low as $40, this is a no-brainer for the office Christmas party. For me though, the greatest value sits with the Vintage which is available in the big box retailers for around $80.

The excellent 2008 vintage is still available, with the equally good 2012 also starting to appear on the shelf. The 2008 is just hitting its drinking window and is more approachable right now than the brilliant (if reserved) 2008 Veuve Clicquot.

If you pop in to the Weinman house over the holidays, don’t be surprised if you are offered a glass of the 2008.

Enjoy!

Reviewed:

Piper HeidsieckCuvée Brut – NV (18/20pts – $62). Creamy and textured, with gentle floral peach, apple and nectarine fruit notes. I was impressed by the length of flavours and the finesse of the finish.  With a dosage 9.5gm/l, this feels quite dry. The use of 18% reserve wine in this blend has had a noticeable impact on complexity. Great aperitif and brilliant value.

Piper HeidsieckEssentiel – Cuvée Reserve – NV. ($75). Complex autolysis characters on the nose, with obvious bread dough and fresh brioche characters. The richness of the fruit is a defining feature on the palate. This is quite rich, with increased density and weight. The low 5gm/l dosage gives this extra brut status, but the balance is spot on (18% reserve wine. 2012 base wine. Disgorged June 2017).

Piper HeidsieckVintage – 2008 ($90). From an excellent vintage, the last stocks of this wine are in the shops now. Opens with gentle toasted nut notes, but there are still hints of pretty, fresh fruit. Excellent intensity, mouthfeel and texture, with fine acidity adding balance and drive. Not as concentrated as the best of this vintage, but great value drinking.

Piper Heidsieck – Rare – 2002. (18.8/20pts – $300). The intensity and complexity of the nose is impressive indeed. The palate is so intense and fine, yet with subtle power and great depth of flavours. The persistence is a stand out, with the flavours lingering for seemingly minutes. A superb wine and an excellent Christmas gift. From the eight best parcels of fruit of the vintage. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. This is only the eighth vintage of the Rare produced since 1976.

Charles Heidsieck – Brut Reserve – NV (18.6/20pts – $95). Delicate fruit, with subtle toast/autolysis characters that hints at bread dough and toast. The palate is fine and elegant, yet with a seemingly endless cascade of flavours and textures. The tremendous depth and complexity results from the inclusion of 40% reserve wines (average age 10 years). One of my favourite non vintage Champagnes.

Getting to the Point

Getting to the Point

Barry Weinman: 25th November 2019

When rating and reviewing wines, there are a number of points systems in use globally. This includes scoring wines out of 5, 20 or 100. On top of this some reviewers use a “star” system, whilst wine shows use gold, silver and bronze medals to demonstrate different levels of quality

For decades, the 20-point system was the default, having been developed by the University of California in the 1950s. However in recent years, the 100-point scale has become something of the default, having been popularised by Robert Parker, the USA’s most influential wine critic.

The problem with these scales is that only the top end of the scale has any relevance. A score below 15/20 or 85/100 indicates a wine that has nothing to recommend it or is faulty.

So in reality, the 20-point scale is a score out of five, whilst the 100-point scale is a score out of 15. But giving a wine a score of 2/5 or 5/15 does not sound very good, whereas 17/20 or 90/100 sounds a lot better, even though they would be, in effect saying the same thing.

The advantage of the 20-point scale for me however, is the ability to use decimal places to differentiate between two wines. The difference between 18.5 and 18.7 is very small in absolute terms, yet it shows a clear preference for one of the wines.

Using the 100-point scale would see both of these wines scoring 95 if using the Decanter conversion chart. https://www.decanter.com

Reviewed

Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – (Gold Capsule) 2018 – (18+/20pts – $39). The pretty floral fruit is a delight and sits over a core of white peach and nectarine. Continues on the palate, with medium weight fruit, and excellent complexity from the oak and lees work. Overall, a fairly restrained style that will suit food well.

Deep Woods – Chardonnay – Reserve       2018 (18.7/20pts – $55). Wow, a majestic nose reminiscent of fine White Burgundy. Perfume, minerals, stone fruit, hints of curry leaf all collide on the nose. The palate is creamy and textured, with precise fruit flooding the mid-palate. Fine acidity and oak add depth on the close. Wonderful now – 5 years. Five trophies to date!

Howard Park – Chardonnay – Allingham – 2018 (18.6/20 – $89). Taut and restrained, but with serious fruit and power sitting in the wings. Long, fine and elegant, persistent fruit on the palate. This is subtle and refined, though needs a few years for the fruit to unwind. Opens in the glass, revealing pretty peach and floral notes and a near seamless finish.

Juniper Estate – Chardonnay – Juniper Crossing – 2018 (17.9/20pts – $25). Amazing value here, given the depth and intensity of fruit, as well as the quality winemaking (oak pared back to allow the fruit to shine). Great drinking now with a haloumi salad or simply grilled chicken.

Credaro

Credaro

Barry Weinman: 28th November 2019

Credaro may not be a household name here in Perth, but the Credaro family is well known in the Margaret River region. In 1922, the family emigrated from Italy and established a farm in Carbanup, in the northern part of the region and have been there ever since.

Having grown grapes and made wine from a small vineyard on the property for many years, the family established their first commercial vineyard in 1988.

With a focus primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Shiraz, Credaro built a reputation for supplying quality grapes to a number of producers in the region.

In 1999, the family almost doubled the size of their grape growing business, with the purchase of a 37-hectare nearby property that had established vineyard.

Subsequent purchases have resulted in the family owning seven vineyards across the region, totalling an impressive 140 hectares.

Given the size of the vineyard holdings, supplying grapes is clearly still a key part of the business, but in 2009, the family took the plunge and started the Credaro winery and brand. All wines are made on site, with Trent Kelly being the chief winemaker since 2017.

Given their access to high quality fruit, it should be no surprise that the wines are good. But I was surprised at just how good they were.

Tasted in line-ups including some of Margaret River’s best producers, the wines showed very well indeed. The 1000 Crowns Chardonnay and Cabernet were standouts, ably supported by the more approachable Kinship range.

Reviewed

Credaro – Chardonnay – 1000 Crowns – 2018 (18.6/20pts – $65). Whilst initially taut and restrained, this opens up to show stone fruit, pineapple and citrus notes. The finish is complex and creamy, aided by supple barrel ferment and lees notes. Brilliant balance a highlight. Now – 10 years. Spent 8 months is French oak (30% new), with wild ferment and regular battonage.

Credaro – Chardonnay – Kinship – 2018 (18/20pts – $35). Whilst not as dense as the 1000 Crowns, this is a very complete wine. Fine and elegant fruit has been expertly managed in the winery, resulting in a supple, approachable, wine that is fresh and fruit driven, with excellent length of flavours. The quality fruit and supple winemaking has resulted in an excellent drinking wine.

Credaro – Cabernet Sauvignon – 1000 Crowns – 2017 (18.5/20pts – $85). I love the fruit here: Redcurrant, with a hint of cassis. This remarkably polished wine is vibrant and approachable. Tucked away in the background though, there is serious oak, tannins and structure, the latent power palpable. A superb wine.

Credaro – Cabernet Sauvignon – Kinship – 2018 (18/20pts – $35). This has serious fruit on the nose. Quite dense, powerful and compact, with eucalyptus and blackcurrant notes. The palate is firm, though the blueberry fruit has enough depth to shine. Polished enough to drink now with a good steak, but definitely age-worthy.

Grenache and Grenache blends at Fox Creek in McLaren Vale

Grenache and Grenache blends at Fox Creek in McLaren Vale

Brendan Jansen MW: 28th November 2019

A Grenache masterclass at the Master of Wine (MW) seminar took us to Fox Creek Winery in McLaren Vale. We were hosted by Marketing Manager James Carman and Winemaker Ben Tanzer.

A stimulating discussion around the (slow but sure) growth of Grenache as a variety of interest, and the special place McLaren Vale holds in that story, followed. The tasting highlighted the range of terroirs in the Vale – with varying soils, altitudes, temperature ranges – and how these affect flavour profiles. We also saw the effects of vintage variation and the impact such variation has on each year’s blend.

Most fascinating was tasting samples of 2019 Grenache from varying locations in the Vale. The Blewitt Springs site – at higher altitude and on sandy soils, gave rise to a lighter, floral aromatic Grenache, and as Ben described, “sandy” tannins. Vines were 90 years old! The Grenache from around McLaren Vale itself, on darker soils, gave rise to more sinew and darker fruit. The bush vines here were also 97 years old!

Around Willunga, with the vines on alluvial clay, there was again a different expression, still pretty but with more sour fruit. From the Sellicks vineyard site, there was a wonderful combination of sweet fruit and super structure.

We had a chance to try 100% Shiraz samples and 100% Mourvedre samples, to understand how they contribute to a GSM blend.

Look out for these wines – at RRP $37 for the Limited Release Grenache, and $27 for the GSM, they’re a steal.

The Lenswood subregion in the Adelaide Hills

The Lenswood subregion in the Adelaide Hills

Brendan Jansen MW: 25th November 2019

A day trip to the Adelaide Hills as part of the MW seminar culminated in a tasting and lunch at Anderson Hill winery. Producers from the newly defined subregion gathered to enlighten us about the benefits and rationale of naming their subregion, and to outline specific characteristics of the area.

At a higher altitude than most of the Adelaide Hills, it is the only named subregion in the Adelaide Hills other than Piccadilly. Discussion touched upon the pros and cons of introducing a subregional brand to the Adelaide Hills brand, and whether the classification was for the benefit of consumers or producers.

The wine intelligentsia from other South Australian regions have long recognised the cooler region as unique, with Pikes (from the Clare) and Henschke (Eden Valley) having vineyards in the area. In the case of Pike, it was a partnership with the Joyce family resulting in the Pike and Joyce label. Henschke have been in the area for 18 vintages.

We were treated to a selection of excellent wines, in varying styles. Below are just a few that caught my eye:

Henschke Blanc de Noir MD (mature disgorged) MV (multi vintage):

Made in the transfer method with a cache of wines from 18 vintages going into the blend, this wine was impressive for its complexity. RRP $60 17.5/20 points

Turon Wines Chardonnay 2018

Sleek, slender but not corseted, wild ferment, 20% new oak, partial malolactic. What a delightful wine! Watch out for this winemaker  – his reputation is already burgeoning. RRP $35 18.5/20 pts

Golding Wines La Francesca Savagnin 2014

A really interesting wine, one of those “we thought it was Albarino” plantings but made into a delicious, complex semi-aromatic wine. RRP $25 17.5/20 pts

            Golding Wines Ombre Gamay 2019

Fresh, juicy, crunchy even, would blow any Beaujolais out of the water.

RRP $35 18/20

            Anderson Hill Art Series Pinot Noir 2016 “Down She Goes”

A mix of funky, earthy elements with sweet fruit. Ticks all the Pinot boxes. RRP ~$35 17.5/20 pts

Pike and Joyce WJJ Pinot Noir 2018

Subdued to start, but grows. At this price point, why go to Burgundy? RRP ~$65 18/20 pts

Turon Wines Pinot Noir 2019

Bright cherry nose, clean with silky tannin structure and a savoury, anise edge. 30% whole bunches, wild yeasts, nine months in barrel, 20% new. RRP~$35. Watch out for this release. 18.5/20 pts

Buy West – Buy Best.

Buy West – Buy Best.

Barry Weinman: 25th November 2019

This article first appeared in the Western Suburbs Weekly on the 22nd November 2019

In James Halliday’s Top 100 wines, a remarkable 27% of the wines reviewed came from Western Australia. South Australia was next best with 25%. To put these figures into perspective, Western Australia accounts for only 5% of all of Australia’s wine, whereas South Australia produces 50%.

As expected, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon shone. Western Australian wines contributed six of the eight Cabernet in the top 100, with five of these from Margaret River. With Chardonnay, Western Australia contributed nine of the 14 in the Top 100 (seven from Margaret River, two from Great Southern).

Additionally, four of Halliday’s ten Rieslings came from the Great Southern (from only 1% of the nation’s vineyards), the same number as South Australia!

This success is also reflected in national wine shows. In 2019, six capital city wine shows have announced their results. Remarkably, Western Australia wines have won the Trophy for Best Cabernet in every show.

Even more remarkably, Xanadu accounted for five, as well as the coveted 2018 Jimmy Watson Trophy. In 2019, the DJL has two trophies, the 2017 Estate four, and the 2016 Stevens Road three. That the Estate can be bought for as little as $30 is hard to believe.

Western Australia also won five out of seven best Cabernet trophies in 2014, 2015, 2017 & 2018, and all seven in 2016!

Of course, statistics do not tell the full story. Many of Australia’s greatest producers do not enter wine shows (Penfolds, Leeuwin Estate, Cullen, & Yarra Yering etc).

Yet there is no denying the brilliance of Western Australian wines.

Reviewed

Shingleback – Cabernet Sauvignon – Red Knot – 2018 (17/20pts – $15) Ripe, plummy fruit that is fresh, youthful and vibrant, but not overly complex. Soft tannins and balancing acidity support a gentle finish. Not overly typical, but a good BBQ red.  Along with the excellent Shiraz, this is a bargain given that Dan Murphy’s will discount this to around $12.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – DJL – 2017 (17.8/20pts – $25) Lithe and fresh, with bright redcurrant/ blueberry fruit. The palate has fine tannins and supple texturing oak that provides balance and allow the fruit to shine. Lacks the ultimate depth of the best, but fine drinking given the price. Trophy for best Cabernet at Perth.

Plantagenet – Cabernet Sauvignon – Aquitaine – 2017 (18,3/20pts – $45). Plantagenet is surely one of the most underrated wineries in Western Australia. This is dense and inky, yet supple enough to drink now. The savoury oak adds texture and depth, without constraining the excellent fruit. Structured and cellar-worthy, so food is a must if drunk now.

21 years of Mark Messenger at Juniper Estate

More than a coming of age – 21 years of Mark Messenger at Juniper Estate

Brendan Jansen MW: 20th November 2019

Brendan Jansen & Mark Messenger (Credit: John Jens)

What a privilege to have been included in a small select group of wine writers and experts to celebrate Mark Messenger’s 21 years at Juniper Estate. For the tasting, Mark whetted our appetite with a young and old example each of Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz, before we embarked on the mammoth vertical tasting comprising 21 vintages of the Juniper Estate Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon (minus the 2006, when the fruit didn’t come up to scratch).

A few general points before I run through a (necessarily) succinct review of the wines:

  1. Vintage variation occurs and matters in Margaret River. Never mind the notion of the region being moderately warm each year, and of Australian wines being all “sunshine in a bottle”…. We were able to see quite clearly the influence of cooler overall vintages, the scourge of rain at harvest, and relatedly, the importance of care in the vineyard to mitigate these changes.
  2. Mark’s nine years at Cape Mentelle before he joined Juniper Estate shows, with the early wines in particular showing the structure derived from extraction typical of older Cape Mentelle Cabernets. What Mark has managed to do, however, is to bring the fruit to the fore: Mark’s red wines always have both fruit and tannins in generous proportion, and in balance.
  3. As vine age and Mark’s knowledge of the vineyard and site (can I say terroir?) have increased, so has he honed his winemaking to suit. New oak influence is dialled back in recent vintages. Picking times have changed, sometimes with two or three passes per vintage.

Here is the list of the Cabernets tasted:

1999 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Aged, tertiary characters evident, reminiscent of an old Claret. Cork closure

2000 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Balanced but weight affected by rain at harvest.

2001 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: One of the wines of the tasting – structure, varietal character, power.

2002 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: More linear and even tighter than the 2001, reflecting a sunny but cooler year.

2003 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Another one of the wines of the tasting – powerful and rich – a sleeper…

2004 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Varietally faithful, mid weight cabernet, whose structure offers a long life ahead – and the by-now routine use of screw cap will no doubt assist.

2005 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Subtle with excellent drive to a persistent finish.

2007 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Polished wine. Fruit structure and a long life ahead – repetitive but true!

2008 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Another wine with amazing potential. Use of a sorting table for the first time. A baby, and still closed.

2009 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Perfectly in its drinking window, the wine I most wanted to drink that day. Everything perfectly in place, tannins silky…

2010 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Dignified, aristocratic even, reflecting the warm year. Mark took a month of blending to finalise the finished product!

2011 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Big, juicy, ripe, with the signature fruit and structure.

2012 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: All class. An infant. Fruit, power and structure.

2013 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Closed, but like a chrysalis waiting to turn into a butterfly.

2014 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Another baby, with excellent potential.

2015 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: The power of the fruit and the tannins is hard to fathom, and even harder to describe

2016 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: Mark described this wine as dark, brooding and concentrated – very apt.

2017 Juniper Cabernet Sauvignon: A touch lighter tone to fruit and aromatics, reflecting the cooler vintage.

My faves?

Splitting hairs, but…. 2001, 2003, 2008, 2012 and 2015. With the option of drinking the 2009 tonight!

Riesling: No Longer The Bridesmaid?

Riesling: No Longer The Bridesmaid?*

Barry Weinman: 5th October 2019

Riesling has been the perennial bridesmaid of the Australian wine scene. Capable of breathtaking beauty, but routinely overlooked in favour of more overt wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and complex, approachable Chardonnay.

For as long as I can remember, experts have been extolling the virtues of Riesling, but it has remained steadfastly out of fashion with the average wine drinker. Perception about what a Riesling should taste like is at the heart of the problem.

In its native Germany, where the grapes are grown in a very cold climate, Rieslings have traditionally ranged from off-dry to sweet, with the precise acidity providing the perfect counterpoint to the sugar, leaving the palate refreshed.

In years gone by, Australian Riesling (often sold in casks and made from anything but Riesling) was insipid swill, made sweet, but without the acidity to provide balance. Unfortunately, this reputation stuck, despite many years of excellent wine being produce in regions such as Clare Valley.

Fast-forward 20 years and the situation has evolved significantly. The best Australian Rieslings have become ever finer, with Great Southern wineries now vying with the great South Australian producers for the title of Australia’s best. Leading the vanguard are producers such as Singlefile, Howard Park and Castle Rock all capable of producing great wines. Another is Cherubino, who has consistently produced exquisite wines.

But traditional SA producers have not stood still, with Grosset still staking a claim as Australia’s greatest producer.

Fine, dry and elegant, these are wines that are redefining just how good Australian Riesling can be. Now it is over to you to try them…

Reviewed.

Grosset – Riesling – Polish Hill – 2019 (18.8/20pts – $60). Beautiful perfumed fruit, with floral and lime juice highlights. There is even a touch of aromatics reminiscent of a fine gin. The palate shows all of this, yet it is remarkably fine, restrained and elegant, with great length, persistence and near seamless palate transition. Exceptional.

Cherubino – Riesling – Great Southern – 2019 (18.5/20pts – $35). The floral aromatics are a highlight here with musk and gentle herb highlights. The pristine fruit is seamless and near ethereal, showing great depth. The mouth-feel is a highlight, with the elegant fruit perfectly balanced by the lemon-like acidity. Now – 10 years.

O’Leary Walker – Riesling – Polish Hill River – 2018 (18/20pts – $25). Steely, powerful and austere compared to the Grosset, this is a more traditional with lemon zest acidity defining the finish. There is excellent fruit tucked in behind the structure, but this needs years to hit its peak.

* This article first appeared in the Western Suburbs Weekly