Author Archives: finewineclub

Picardy and Friends

Picardy and Friends

Barry Weinman: 18th May 2020

I recently wrote about the brilliant value Pinot Noir from Shepherd’s Hut in the Porongorups, a region better known for Riesling.

The heart and soul of Pinot production in WA, however, remains in Pemberton with the charge being led by Picardy.

The Pannell family are stalwarts of the Australian wine industry.  Bill and Sandra founded Moss Wood in 1969, before moving their focus to Pemberton in 1993 with the establishment of Picardy.

Their sons followed in their footsteps.  Dan is in charge at Picardy, whilst Steve is one of the most important winemakers in South Australia, having worked at major wineries before establishing the S.C. Pannell label.

Whilst Picardy makes high quality wines from Chardonnay, Merlot/Cabernet and Shiraz, for me, Pinot is the most significant.  It is a variety that is notoriously hard to get right yet seems to have an affinity to Pemberton.

There are two wines in the range. The Estate Pinot and the Tête de Cuvée.  The later wine is made as a reserve.  In addition to fruit from a special plot, a small part of the Estate vineyard is set aside for this wine and given special treatment.

Interestingly, they use a different section of the Estate vineyard each year.  This has the added effect of improving the overall quality of the vineyards over time, without greatly impacting on production in any given year.

2018 was an excellent year in Pemberton, and the soon to be released Pinots may well be the best wines made by Picardy.

Another cracking 2018 Pinot comes from Sittella. The team there can do no wrong at the moment and the value here is brilliant.

Reviewed

Sittella – Pinot Noir – Grenade Plot – 2018 (18.2/20pts). Depth and complexity on show here.  The pretty fruit on the palate is a treat, with supple, savoury textural notes in support.  There is excellent depth of flavours, supported by supple, texturing tannins.  Really delicious, with superb balance, structure and intrinsic power.  Great value from this underrated producer.

Picardy – Pinot Noir – 2018 (18.5/20pts – $45). Pretty, refined and elegant with the superb fruit the focus.  The balance is a highlight, with silky tannins and fruit that lingers for some time.  The savoury, structural components build on the finish adding depth.  A complete and quite beautiful wine with surprising power.  Now – 5 years.

Picardy – Pinot Noir – Tête de Cuvée – 2018 (18.6/20pts – $70). Whilst pretty and fragrant, there is more power, depth and structure here compared to the Estate.  Made in a Burgundian style, with a focus on texture and length of flavours.  Yet ultimately, the precise fruit is the star.  3 – 5 years cellaring recommended.

Sittella – Cabernet/Malbec – Reserve – 2018 (18.3/20pts – $30). The vibrancy of this wine is a highlight. Opens with blackcurrant fruit, with pretty floral highlights and a touch of mint. The power is more evident on the palate, the balance excellent, and the finish near seamless.  Approachable and delicious now, but also age worthy. A bargain.

A Different Environment

A different environment.

Barry Weinman: 6th November 2019

Given the rapid increase in the number of high-quality wines from Margaret River, Great Southern and Swan Valley, it has never been a better time to “shop local” for all our wine drinking needs. And we need only look to our east coast neighbours to fill in the gaps.

Opening a bottle of wine that has travelled 300km has a much smaller environmental footprint than one that has spent four weeks on a ship travelling half way around the world in refrigerated comfort.

There are exceptions however. For example, there is still no substitute for great Champagne or fine Burgundy, and we are yet to master the textural, savoury nuances associated with the great reds of Italy and Spain.

David Mullin has specialised in importing high quality Italian wine for many years now, and the range has never been better. There are numerous interesting whites in the range, as well as top quality Prosecco, but it is the reds that are of real interest to me.

These are not overly cheap wines, especially given the current exchange rates. They do, however, represent fair value when you consider the care and attention that has gone into producing them and curating the collection. Whilst not widely available, his labels are in some of Perth’s better restaurants and your local fine wine specialist will be able to track them down.

Closer to home, but also hard to track down, are the wines of Shepard’s Hut in the Porongurups. Made by the talented Rob Diletti, the excellent Pinot represents great value indeed.

Reviewed

Shepard’s Hut – Pinot Noir – Porongurup – 2018 (18/20pts – $30). Bright and fresh, with a delicious savoury edge that adds depth to both the nose and palate. This has cherry, plum, spice and supple texture in a medium-bodied wine that deserves to be popular. Not easy to find, but brilliant value. Try Lamont’s in Cottesloe or Steve’s in Nedlands. http://shepherdshutwines.com.au/

Lantieri – Chardonnay/Pinot Noir – Franciacorta – Extra Brut – NV (17.9/20pts – $55). Made in the traditional method, with extended lees aging adding richness and depth. The extra brut indicates a very dry style (dosage 3.5gms/l). The palate is rich and round, with gentle but persistent fruit and obvious autolysis characters. A complex, drier, low pearl style to accompany food.

E.Pira & Figli – Nebbiolo – Langi – 2017 (18.2/20pts – $90). Fine and almost ethereal, with supple, savoury notes adding depth to the pretty, elegant fruit. This is a delightful wine to drink now, such is the immediacy of the fruit on the palate, but the fine tannins that build on the finish will also support medium-term aging. From an excellent producer.

Sittella Wines: Sparkling Success

Sittella Wines: Sparkling Success

Barry Weinman: 7th May 2020

When I sat down to write this review, my intention was to write about a cross-section of the Sittella’s range, given they make excellent (and great value) white and red wines from Margaret River, Swan Valley, Pemberton and Frankland.

However, the quality and value offered by Sittella’s sparkling wines proved irresistible, and they deserve recognition as a genuine alternative to fine Champagne.

The Berns family were inspired to plant a vineyard and start a winery by several trips to France’s Loire Valley. So it is no surprise that a sparkling Chenin features in the range.

The Sparkling Chenin is the wineries most popular wine, and is a fine drink in its own right. The grapes come from mature vineyards in the Swan Valley and it is made using traditional method.

With up to 2 years on lees and only 7g/l of dosage, this is fresh and vibrant, with decent complexity and excellent length. At $25, this is clearly a bargain.

The Cuvee Blanc is where Colby Quirk and Yuri Berns’ talents really start to shine. With the aim of producing sparkling wines to rival the best of Champagne, they have built a reserve wine program to be used in blending.

The current release includes 24% reserve wine from 2012 – 2017 vintages. Remarkably, this is mainly fermented in old oak barrels.

The ultimate expression of the reserve wine program is the Avant-Garde Blanc de Blancs. Made from 2012, 2013 & 2014 vintages, this is a powerful, age-worthy wine that spent 48 months on lees in bottle.

Reviewed

Sittella – Chenin Blanc – Brut – NV (17.3/20pts $25).  Crunchy Granny Smith apple is the main feature, combine with gentle brioche notes. Fine mousse and excellent attack combine with surprising complexity on the palate, and the finish is dry and refreshing.

Sittella – Cuvee Blanc    – NV (18/20pts – $32). Fine, elegant and refined, with subtle stone fruit and lovely refreshing acidity. The mouthfeel is the highlight, with near seamless palate transition and excellent length and creamy texture. A precise wine that has grace and presence. Great value. (18 months on lees, 7 g/l dosage)

Sittella – Cuvee Rose – NV (18.2/20pts – $34). Very fine mousse in the glass and on the palate. The red fruit is more pronounced here, with fresh strawberry and cherry notes. The palate richer and more rounded, with great length and subtle power. Autolytic characters and gentle grip add depth. (24 months on lees, 6.5 g/l)

Sittella – Grand Vintage – Marie Christien Lugten – 2015 (18.5/20pts – $42). Leaner, finer and more elegant, with citrus-like fruit and subtle yeasty notes. The palate is restrained and taut, with underlying fruit power. As it warmed up, the fruit really built. An incredibly fine wine that deserves a year or two in the cellar. (4 years on lees, 7g/l)

Sittella – Avant-Garde – Blanc de Blancs – NV (18.6/20pts – $45). Extraordinarily fine mousse. Amazing musk and peach-like fruit on the nose. The palate is very complex, with apple-like acidity. Very long, powerful and deep, the texture almost chewy. This has enough weight to serve with a meal, yet is a masterpiece on its own.

Cabernet Sauvignon: April 2020

Cabernet Sauvignon: April 2020

Barry Weinman: 10th April 2020

I hope you and your family are safe and well during this difficult times.

Given everything that is happening globally, it seems a bit irreverent to be reviewing fine wines. But given that we are living in relative isolation, a decent bottle of wine at the end of the week might bring a little consolation.

With the border closures, and their impact on freight, what better time to focus on the great wines made here in WA?

I recently reviewed Chardonnays made by Vanya Cullen, but this week, it was the Diana Madeline that stunned the (socially isolated) panel. Here is a wine that is only 13% alcohol, yet has perfectly ripe fruit.

I can’t remember a better wine under this label.

At a more approachable price level, there were several wines that stood out.

Singlefile has consistently produced high quality wine from a number of varieties, with Cabernet, Chardonnay and Riesling all featuring strongly year after year.

The entry-level Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot is my pick at the moment. Excellent fruit quality and deft winemaking (cold soaked berries, extended maceration, 13 months in French oak, 30% new). A tremendous bargain at only $25.

Marri Wood Park is the run by Julian Wright and his children. There are seven hectares of vines, planted in 1993. There is a very hands-off approach in the vineyard (dry grown, no fertilisers), which are certified biodynamic, resulting in quite low yields.

The wines are made by Nic Peterkin from L.A.S. Vino, and the focus is on Cabernet, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.

Reviewed

Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon – Clementine Eloise – 2016 (18.7/20pts). Beautifully fragrant and intense fruit on the nose, with blackcurrant, cassis, menthol and a touch of cedar. On the palate, the perfectly ripe fruit continues, but this is framed by the tannins and supple oak leading to a taut finish. A great wine, but really needs years.

Woodlands – Malbec – 2018 (18.5/20pts). Very drying and firm, a wine with density and gravitas. Bordeaux- like, with leaner fruit and dry, savoury complexity. A serious, intense wine that needs years in the cellar, but with air, the fruit really builds.

Marri Wood Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Single Block – 2018 (18.5/20pts – $40). This is reserved and taut, yet the berry fruit has lovely mouthfeel and is polished, refined, elegant, and very long. A savoury, textural wine that combines high quality, perfectly ripe fruit with sympathetic winemaking. Approachable, but better with 5 – 10 years in the cellar. Great value!

Woodlands – Cabernet/Merlot – Margaret – 2017 (18.3/20pts). I like that a lot. Fine, elegant and refined, the pristine fruit displaying blueberry, cinnamon and spice. Textured, dense and powerful, this is a bigger, richer style that is full of immediate pleasure, though also worthy of mid-term aging.

The Yard – Cabernet Sauvignon – Riversdale – 2018 (18.4/20pts). More approachable and even delicious, with ripe blueberry fruit that is floral and perfumed. The fruit weight is not overly dense, making for great drinking. Ultimately, there is a degree of restraint that suggest cellaring is in order.

Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2018 (18.2/20pts – $25). The ripe fruit is rich and intense, with concentrated berry notes. Excellent depth on the palate, with the fruit wrapped in a savoury, textural blanket. Clearly different to the wines from Margaret River, but equally worthy. An all-purpose wine that would be great with food, but even better in 5 -10 years. Bargain!

Cullen – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Diana Madeline – 2018 (18.8/20pts). Superb fruit has been massaged in the winery to produce a wine that very elegant and refined. The palate is ripe, supple and completely seamless, yet the tannins sneak up on the close, leaving a dusty, textual component that adds depth. A beautiful wine, and perhaps the best yet under this label.

Chardonnay – New Release: March 2020

Chardonnay – New Release

Barry Weinman: 18th March 2020

In recent years, Cullen’s Kevin John has been one of my favourite Chardonnays from Margaret River, holding its own against the region’s best. So the release of the 2018 vintage is eagerly anticipated.

At a recent Chardonnay tasting hosted by John Jens, the 2018 Cullen was put up against some of the region’s best, along with a smattering of Burgundies and iconic wines from other regions in Australia.

Not surprisingly, the wine ranked amongst the best of the blind tasting. Disarmingly accessible, yet worthy of five years in the cellar.

Another highlight was Woodlands’ Chloe, also from 2018. A little richer and more textured than the Cullen, and already drinking superbly.

The tasting also served to highlight just how different the Chardonnays from Burgundy (including Chablis) appear. In this tasting, there was no mistaking the origin of any of these wines, with their nutty minerality and more subdued fruit.

There was also a touch of honey and toast in many of the Burgundies, reflecting the different philosophy to winemaking.

I also opened a few 10 – 15-year-old Chardonnays from Australia and Burgundy, to illustrate the impact of bottle age on Chardonnay. From this, two clear take-aways emerged. Firstly, it was just how well Australian Chardonnays can age under screw cap. Whilst it is no surprise that the likes of Leeuwin Estate age well, others also showed very well indeed.

The second point was the vagaries of the cork used to seal the Burgundies. Random oxidation and cork taint are an ever-present risk.

Reviewed

Cullen – Chardonnay – 2018 (18.8/20pts – $127). Beautifully fragrant nose with floral white peach and subtle nuttiness. The powerful and dense palate shows excellent fruit and superb winemaking. There is gentle spice, creamy, texturing French oak (50% new), citrus and tropical fruit on the mid-palate and a complex mealy nuttiness and great length on the finish. Now to 10 years.

Domaine Oudin – Chablis – 1er Cru – Vaugiraut – 2017 (18/20pts – $80). Pretty, peachy stone fruit on the nose, with subtle minerality adding depth. The palate is supple, textured, creamy and long, with gentle toast on the close. No oak used. Fermentation and aging in stainless steel. A smart wine and very different to what we see from Margaret River.                                                                

Woodlands – Chardonnay – Chloe – 2018 (18.7/20pts – $110). White peach, cashew and grapefruit lead both the nose and palate. The viscosity, mouth-feel, depth and subtle power of the fruit are all highlights, as is the seamless finish. From the Woodlands vineyard, wild yeast fermentation, 10 months in oak. One of Margaret River’s best Cabernet producer demonstrates a deftly crafted Chardonnay.

New Release – April 2020

New Release – April 2020

Barry Weinman: 20th April 2020

Over the last few weeks (before the COVID-19 shutdown), the panel had a first look at several producers.

Below & Above: The primary focus of this Pemberton producer is on growing high-quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under contract, for a number of large and small producers. They currently have 35 hectares under vine, with efforts being made on increasing clonal diversity, especially for Pinot Noir.

A small percentage of grape production is set aside for their own label, made under the watchful eye of Bruce Dukes. The current Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are solid wines, but it was the Merlot that caught my eye.

This is notably different in style to a Margaret River Cabernet, the powerful fruit taking on a dark, brooding character. The 2013 is the current release and represents decent value.

Hutton Vale: Slick, polished wines made by Kim Teusner

Liv Zak range by Warramunda: These are fresh and approachable wines that are perfect for early consumption.

Reviewed

Below & Above – Merlot – 2013 (17.7/20pts – $35). Quite dense and powerful fruit that is brambly, brooding and chewy. A different style to what we are used to from Margaret River, but a compelling wine. Slick enough to enjoy now, but cellaring likely to add complexity.

Liv Zac by Warramunda – Chardonnay – 2019 (17.5/20pts). Quite a smart wine this, with all the winemaking boxes ticked. Peachy fruit, fine creamy oak and gentle lees work add up to an approachable, moreish wine. Delicious, supple and uncomplicated. Don’t serve too cold.

Liv Zac by Warramunda – Malbec- 2018 (17.5/20pts). Lifted pretty blueberry fruit on both the nose and palate. Fruit driven and vibrant, but the immediacy is compelling. Drink now.

Hutton Vale Farm – Shiraz – 2014 (17.8/20pts – $75). Spice here is a key feature. Ripe, fresh fruit is intense and powerful, with texturing tannins and acid build on the finish, keeping the finish tight. Dense, concentrated and age-worthy, with excellent fruit quality.

Marchand and Burch – Pinot Noir – Mt Barrow – 2018 (17,7/20pts -$60). Pretty and fragrant, with cherry, berry and spice aromas. The palate is firm, but accessible, with the oak spice notes complementing the fruit well. Supple and savoury, with excellent length. A  year or two in bottle should see this fill out. From Mt Barker.

First Taste: Duval-Leroy & Giovanni Rosso

First Taste: Duval-Leroy & Giovanni Rosso

Barry Weinman: 27th March 2018

Depending on who you believe, there are somewhere between 6000 and 15,000 unique grape varieties grown globally. Of course, only a proportion of these are used for wine production, and even less are in common production.

In the seminal work Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, including their Origins and Flavours, Jancis Robinson et al gave detailed descriptions of 1368 varieties that are currently used in commercial production. It is safe to say that most of us have only tried a small fraction of the grapes regularly used in winemaking.

In their 2018 report, OIV estimated that there was 7.6 million hectares under vine, with Australia contributing 145 thousand hectares (2%).

So it is little wonder that almost weekly, I review wines from producers I have never heard of before, or grapes that I have little experience with.

This week, I was particularly taken with the wines of Giovanni Rosso, a long-term grower who started making wines in the 1990s. The family is proudly traditional in their approach to winemaking, seeking texture and savoury complexity over overt fruit/oak characters.

I was also very impressed with the Champagnes of Duval-Leroy. This is a family owned house based in Vertus, run by Carol Duval-Leroy since 1991. The family owns 200 hectares of vines (primarily Grand and Premier Cru) in Côtes des Blancs, which supplies 1/3 of their needs.

The Brut Reserve and Rosé are both fine wines, but the prestige Femme de Champagne was the highlight. The current release is an NV based on the 2004 vintage.

Reviewed

Duval-Leroy – Brut Reserve – Champagne – NV. (18.3/20pts – $90). There is more depth and power than I was expecting here. The palate is quite rich and textured, with good complexity and mouthfeel. Fresh enough to enjoy as an aperitif but has enough weight to accompany the start of a meal. Includes 40% reserve wines, 100% malolactic fermentation, 8g/l dosage.

Duval-Leroy – Brut – Femme de Champagne – Grand Cru – NV (18.6/20pts – $220). A most impressive wine. Very fine and subtle, this could almost be described as delicate. Yet this is supple, mouth filling and intense, with the power building on the finish. Refined acidity and near seamless palate transition to close. 87% Chardonnay. 10 years on lees. 5gm/l.

Giovanni Rosso – Barbera d’Alba – Donna Margherita – 2016 (17/20 – $50). Pretty and floral. Really quite perfumed. A food-focused wine, where the acid and structure take pride of place on the palate. Uncomplicated, and easy to drink.

Giovanni Rosso – Barolo – Del Comune Di Serralunga – 2015. (18/20pts – $110). The nose is fragrant and supple, with just a hint of spice adding depth. The palate is textured and firm, in a more traditional style, but the quality of fruit is palpable. Slightly grippy, drying tannins to close. Worthy of time in the cellar.

Giovanni Rosso – Barolo – Serra – 2015 (18.5/20 – $170). Similar profile to their standard Barolo, but with greater intensity and refinement. The palate is near seamless, with the texture building in layers. Very long, with intrinsic power, yet supple enough to be drunk now. Very impressive indeed. 30 days on skins, fermentation in large concrete vats, three years in older oak.

New Release: Barolo and Barbaresco – March 2020

New Release: Barolo and Barbaresco

Barry Weinman: 11th March 2020

Unlike Cabernet or Shiraz, Nebbiolo is not a household name here in Australia. Yet some of the world’s great wines are made from this grape from the Piedmont region in Italy. The two key districts are Barbaresco and Barolo.

Barolo, whilst not a household name in Australia, is a wine of great repute. The neighboring village of Barbaresco, being only 1/3 of the size of Barolo, does not have quite the same recognition, but the wines can be just as impressive.

Luckily for Australian consumers, two new producers are being represented in Australia for the first time.

Bera is family-owned, with 35 hectares of vineyards across Piedmont. Moscato d’Asti is the backbone, accounting for 50% of production. Freshness is the key for the Moscato.  Bera cold stabilizes the juice, bottling what is needed each month. The Barbarescos straddle the boundary between traditional and modern: Fruit characters are preserved and new oak is eschewed.

Revello is also family-owned, the 10 hectares of vineyards gradually acquired over the last 50 years.  Sixty percent of the Baroko vineyard holdings are in La Mora, and thirty percent in Seralunga. A modern approach is taken, with shorter fermentation/skin contact times and ageing in French oak bariques (20-30% new) for the Barolos.

A number of the wines were from the excellent 2016 vintage, which ranks among the best of the decade. Overall, the quality was very high indeed.

The wines will be arriving in Australia in May. Contact your local fine wine retailer for stockists

I tasted these wines with the winemakers (unblinded), so points are an indication only.

Reviewed

Bera – Barbera d’Alba – 2018 (17.5/20pts – $29). Both a surprise and a delight, with fresh, vibrant fruit the primary focus. Pretty, fragrant berry and cherry notes combine with a supple mouthfeel to make for a great drink. There is enough structure to add depth, without detracting from the purity of fruit. Food not required.

Bera – Langhe- Nebbiolo – Alladio’ – 2016 (17.9/20pts – $54). 2016 was a great year in Lange, and this is evident in the greater density of fruit and finer structure. The textural components are a highlight, with the slightly chewy tannins getting quite dry on the close. A Barbaresco by any other name…

Bera – Barbaresco – 2016 (18/20pts – $77). The perfumed fruit is a highlight and is so typical of Nebbiolo (even a hint of rose blossom). But the main feature here is the balance. So approachable and delicious, yet clearly worthy of 5+ years in the cellar. Spends two years in older oak.

Bera – Barbaresco – Serraboella’ – 2016 (18.3/20pts – $110). More structural, textured and powerful, yet possesses grace and balance. Elegant, though the finish is taut and fine. Altogether more reserved than the straight Barbaresco, with greater viscosity. Yet supple enough to enjoy young.

Bera – Barbaresco Riserva – Rabaja – 2013 (18.6/20 – $187). The depth and power here is something to behold. The classic Nebbiolo floral notes build and gets quite perfumed in the glass. Whilst near seamless, this is taut and closed, and needs years to hit its straps. From 35y/o vines, spends three years in oak. 

Bera – Moscato d’Asti – 2018 ($29). The juice for this wine is held in cold storage, with a batch made each month to ensure maximum freshness for the consumer. Apple, musk and grapey goodness that is fresh, vibrant and refreshing. With 130g/l of residual sugar and only 5% alcohol, this is smashable and fun. But don’t let the kids try it…

Revello – Barbera d’Alba – 2018 – (17.5/20pts – $44). More structured than the Bera, with the fruit a touch subdued. Textural and very food friendly, with the souring cherry-like acidity adding drive and zip on a finish that gets slightly chewy on the close. (No oak used).

Revello – Langhe – Nebbiolo – 2017 (17.5/20pts – $59). Reflecting the vintage, this is quite masculine and structured, yet with air, the dense fruit gets quite pretty. Will be better with short-term aging.

Revello —Barolo – 2016 (18.3/20pts – $116). More depth to the colour here. This is the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove. Pretty, almost succulent fruit abounds, but there is serious fruit weight and density. The fruit is sourced from both La Mora and Seralunga, with the latter contributing a muscular framework. Oak and fruit tannins are fine, but notable.

Revello – Barolo – Gattera– ’ 2016 (18.5/20pts – $148). A modern Barolo of great charm, with the fine, perfumed floral aromas a highlight. With excellent texture and mouthf-eel, the fine tannins were polished enough to allow the fruit to shine, yet guarantee age-worthiness. Impressive.

Revello – Barolo – Giachini –  2016 (18.6/20pts $172). More power to the concentrated fruit, accompanied by more notable tannins (fruit and oak). All of this comes at the expense of short-term drink ability, even though there is near seamless palate transition. With air, the fruit starts to shine. A brilliant wine, but really needs a decade or more to start opening up.

Revello – Barolo – Conca – 2016. (18.7/20pts – $187). Wonderful fruit lies at the heart of this wine. Whilst pretty and supple, there is great depth and intensity, with a near seamless finish.   An ethereal wine that was my pick of the tasting. The Conca vineyard totals just three hectares, with Revello holding 1/3 of the vineyard.

New Kids on the block

New Kids on the block

Barry Weinman: 21st February 2020

The new year has given me the opportunity to try wines from a number of wineries that are new to WA or have had limited distribution in the past.

The most exciting aspect of the tastings were the opportunity to try several different grape varieties, or wines made in styles that are different to what we are used to here in the west.

From the Barossa comes the Auld family, who can trace their history in wine in Australia back six generations. The current generation is sticking to what Barossa does best, producing Riesling, Cabernet and Shiraz.

Unusually, there is very little difference in price between their three ranges, making the premium William Patrick Shiraz the obvious choice.

Another producer to catch my eye was JC’s Own. Whilst based in the Barossa, Jaysen Collins is producing wines from several regions, including a Pinot and a Mataro from Sierra Nevada in the USA.

The first thing that struck me was the brilliant packaging. Distinctive bottle shapes combined with clever art work has resulted in some of the most memorable bottles that I have seen of late. The Grenache is well worth tracking down.

Closer to home, I had tried a few wines from Aylesbury. The Gibbs family have been farming on the property since 1883 and diversified into viticulture in 1998. Ryan Gibbs (5th Generation) established the label in 2008.  I was quite taken by the Arneis.

JC’s Own and Aylesbury are distributed by Claret & Co, so try your local wine store.

Reviewed

AylesburyQO5 – Arneis – 2019 (17.5/20pts – $30). From the Ferguson Valley in Western Australia, this has a fragrant and perfumed nose. The mouthfeel is a highlight: creamy, viscous, mouth-filling and long, with the fruit persisting to the close of the palate. The crisp acidity adds to the drinking pleasure, while the textural components are well suited to food.

CorioleNero – Nero D’Avola – 2018 (17.8/20pts – $31). Initially muted on the nose, but the palate is bursting with bold ripe fruit, supported by a savoury lift. Little in the way of oak to get in the way. Ultimately, the finish gets a little chewy, but this is all part of the charm. A generous wine that deserves to be popular.

JC’s OwnBluebird – Grenache – 2019 (18/20pts – $38). Very pretty fruit on the nose that is lifted and redolent of ripe red berries and cranberries. The palate continues with bright, succulent fruit, but then things get quite serious and firm on the close. Yet the balance is maintained, making this a delicious drink over the next few years. Great packaging!

Auld Family WinesWilliam Patrick – Shiraz – 2016 (18/20pts – $50). Powerful ripe fruit has been paired to quality oak here, though the whole package is a bit subdued initially.  Opens to show pristine fruit, with white pepper and a spice lift. The vibrant palate has depth and finesse, though the tannin structure makes this better suited to extended aging. Contact the winery.

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!