Author Archives: finewineclub

Chardonnay – New Release – January 2018

Barry Weinman: 5th January 2018

Value for money Chardonnay can be elusive, so the panel was pleased to be able to recommend four wines at a range of prices that will make for excellent drinking this summer.

Remember not to serve these wines too cold. 10˚C – 15˚C is far better than the 2˚C to 3˚C that you will get straight from the fridge. The flavours and texture will be far more accessible served a little warmer.


Thorn Clarke – Chardonnay – Sandpiper – 2018 (17.3/20pts. $20). Quite taut and compact, with texturing minerality. Grapefruit and lemon curd, with a splash of oak adding mouth-feel. Hints of butterscotch. Good value.

Chanzy – Chardonnay – Rully – 1er Cru – Les Cailloux – 2017 (18/20pts. $40). Creamy white peach notes and a degree of density/viscosity to the fruit that makes this stand out. Medium toast oak adds creamy definition and a slight chewiness to the finish. Good length and persistence to close. A very smart food-friendly wine.

Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – Premium (Gold Capsule) – 2017 (18.3/20pts. $37). I really like that the fruit (peach/nectarine) is the main focus. The palate has complex minerality, persistence and presence, with lees work adding texture and mouthfeel. The near seamless finish is long and refined, with subtle caramel notes to close. Will be a treat with shellfish or grilled chicken.

Moss Wood – Chardonnay – Wilyabrup – 2017 (18.5/20pts. $78). Complex nose and palate. Stone fruit and grapefruit characters combine with creamy oak to produce a rich, almost hedonistic wine, yet there is enough restraint and balance to make this an outstanding drink. The seamless creamy palate and supple fruit are a highlight and there is excellent length and persistence. Very age-worthy.

Prestige Champagne: Christmas 2018

Barry Weinman: 18th December 2018

With Christmas fast approaching, what better time to review a cross-section of some of the prestige Champagnes on the market.

This was an extraordinary tasting with every wine being worthy of a place on your Christmas table. The wines ranged in price from under $100 to over $500, and there was a variety of styles at each price point. The picks for me was as follows

Under $150

  • Veuve Clicquot – 2008 ( a bargain at around$100)
  • Gosset-Brabant – Grand Cru – Zero Dosage (Try Lamont’s in Cottesloe)

$100 – $300

  • Egly-Ouriet – Grand Brut – Rose
  • Veuve Clicquot – La Grande Dame – 2006
  • Krug – Grand Cuvee


  • Pol Roger – Sir Winston Churchill – 2006
  • Dom Perignon – Rosé – 2005
  • Krug – Vintage – 2004


Gosset-BrabantGrand Cru – Zero Dosage – NV. Whilst I am not always a big fan of zero dosage wines, this works very well. Complex minerality and subtle toast notes build on a long palate. As it warmed up, the rich fruit built impressively. (Try Lamont’s Cottesloe).

RuinartBlanc de Blancs – Brut – NV. Rich and powerful fruit on the nose with brioche and bread dough notes. The palate is warm and generous, but the compromise is less energy than the Gosset-Brabant.The fruit for this wine comes from a variety of regions, with the intention of building depth and richness.

Veuve Clicquot – Vintage- 2008. Elegant, balanced and near seamless, with a lovely purity to the fruit.Closed and quite linear, this will reward 3 – 5 years in the cellar. Given that this is still available for around $100, this is the best value wine in the tasting.

Moet et ChandonGrand Vintage – 2009. A generous wine with immediate appeal. Yeasty and a touch chewy, with excellent acidity and a touch of phenolic richness. Very good drinking (whilst waiting for the Veuve to mature), this is actually quite vinous.

Pol Roger – Vintage- 2009. So fine and elegant, this is especially impressive given the vintage. A touch richer than the 2008, yet with excellent presence and intensity. Always excellent value! Pol Roger has some of the deepest cellars in Champagne. This results in a very slow ferment that helps with refinement.

Dom Ruinart –Brut – 2006. Whilst taut and acid driven, this has presence and immediate appeal, with fine minerality adding to the long finish. 1/3 of this wine is Chardonnay from the Montage de Reims.

PommeryCuvée Louise – 2004. Very impressive prestige Champagne. The ripe fruit has richness and presence, yet this is fine, elegant and sinewy, getting a little chewy on the close. Made from 2/3 Chardonnay, with 1/3 Pinot Noir from Aye. Ready to drink now.

Egly-OurietGrand Brut – Rosé – NV. What an impressive wine. Very rich and intense, with perfumed fruit. The palate is intense,youthful and almost chewy. A very fresher wine that would accompany richer foods nicely as well as take some time in the cellar. The base wine is from2011, and the producer has sought ripeness in the vineyard which contributes to the richness (no chaptalisation was required at vinification).

Bollinger – LaGrande Année–2006. Wonderful fruit that is rich, ripe, intense and powerful. The strawberry and red fruit characters are typical of the style. Great wine.

Veuve ClicquotLa Grande Dame – 2006. Taut, refined,elegant and intense. This has a wonderful presence in the mouth, with supple texture and a seamless palate transition. The minerality adds depth. Super stuff.

Pol RogerSir Winston Churchill – 2006. Incredible vinosity and finesse. This is all about latent power. Very fine, this has great presence in the mouth and the thrilling acidity is a highlight. One of the best wines of the tasting. A super star!

Dom Perignon –2009. Perfumed and laden with minerality, this is long and persistent, with a chewy texture. There is a lovely presence in the mouth, and a drying, linear finish.55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, the base wine underwent 100% malolactic fermentation. Released before the 2008, as the 2009 is more approachable. (I am saving space for the 2008).

Dom Perignon –Rosé–2005. A remarkable wine that is serious and powerful, yet approachable and exciting all at the same time. The red berry fruit, subtle pepper and strawberry notes lead to a structural, textured finish. 55% Pinot Noir, 26% of which was made as a red wine, the production of this wine is very small(compared to the millions of bottles of the standard Dom).

Dom Perignon P2 – 1998. This is the same cuvée as the original release, with the wine aged on lees until ready for release. Given that the original 1998 was a fine wine, it came as no surprise that this was a star of the tasting.  While it has developed some toasty, buttery notes and a hint of caramel, the palate remains fresh and alive. Unbelievably good.

N.B. My experience with Dom is that the best value comes from buying the great vintages like 2008 and 2012 and cellaring them for 3 – 5years. The result seems to be every bit as good as the P2 releases, but at half the cost.

KrugGrand Cuvée– NV. What a contrast to the Dom. Powerful, intense, chewy and long. Above all, this is vinous, and would easily carry many styles of food. Despite the inclusion of a significant amount of aged material, this is actually quite tight and austere and would benefit from a year in the cellar.

The current release has been aged on lees for 8 years, with the base wine coming from the 2010 vintage (42%). The remainder is made up of material spanning vintages back to 1996. Not surprisingly, there is no recipe here and every release is made on the tasting bench.

Krug – Rosé –NV. Pretty red fruits on show, yet this is still intense, powerful and closed.If anything, this is more youthful than the standard NV, and even more worthy of time in the cellar. The finish is supple, long and textured, with lemony acidity melding with a fine minerality to add impact. Made from over 40 parcels,primarily between 2002 and 2007, including 10% red wine and 32% reserve wines.

Krug – Vintage –2004. An unbelievably good wine that has great power and presence, yet also has grace, elegance and poise. Brilliant with food, this is simply one of the great wines, and as worthy of aging as fine Burgundy or Bordeaux. Sublime! The winemakers had over 400 parcels of fruit to choose from and this vintage includes a higher proportion of reserve wines and also includes 24% Pinot Meunier.

Sparkling Wine for Christmas 2018

Sparkling Wine for Christmas 2018

Barry Weinman: 9th December 2018

Having recently written up the sparkling wines of Sittella, I thought I would put them up against a cross-section of local and imported wines to see how they stacked up. The results were nothing short of outstanding, with the wines from Sittella being at or near the top of each bracket tried. You can read the full review here.

Given their recent reviews, I have not written them up here, except for the sparkling Shiraz which is oh-so-easy to drink and was not part of the previous tastings.

There were a few other wines that also showed very well in this tasting. Depending on your budget, any of these will provide drinking pleasure over the summer months.

For prestige Champagne for the Christmas table, look out for next week’s review.


Sittella – Shiraz – Sparkling – NV (18/20+pts. $27). Attractive mid- red colour. Sweet ripe fruit, with wafts of black pepper over plum-like fruit. The palate is rich, yet there is admirable restraint and focus. Excellent fruit density, balance and complexity, this is irresistible drinking and brilliant value.

Croser – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Piccadilly Valley – 2013 (18.1/20pts. $33). The mid-straw colour attests to the bottle age, as does the complex, aged notes on the nose. The palate is, long, rich, intense but balanced by bright Granny Smith acidity. A powerful, food-friendly wine with excellent mouthfeel.Great Value.

AR Lenoble – Champagne – Intense – NV (18/20pts. $50). Very fine and almost racy, with supple mousse and texture. Complex yeasty notes, with hints of floral fruit adding depth. Fine acidity drives a finish that shows purity of fruit and mineral notes. Excellent value from Kemenys.

Seppelt – Original – Sparkling – NV (17.8/20pts. $25). Intense, almost purple colour. Ripe yet restrained Shiraz fruit on the nose and palate, showing white pepper, red fruits, hints of plum and aniseed. The palate is soft and rounded, yet with decent depth. A joy to drink now with Christmas dinner, but will also gain complexity with a year or two in the bottle.

Yarra Burn – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay/Pinot Munier – Vintage – 2015 (17.5/20pts. $25). Quite a serious nose, with complex autolysis characters a feature. The palate is medium-weight, with good balance. A slightly higher dosage makes for easy drinking, but there is enough substance to the wine for those looking for a bit of complexity. Excellent value.


Chablis: New Release Lamont’s Imports November 2018

Chablis: New Release Lamont’s Imports

Barry Weinman: 8th November 2018

For a number of years now, John Jens at Lamont’s has been importing a number of producers’ wines direct from Burgundy. This has allowed him to keep the prices down, by removing the costs associated with having a broker, importer and local wholesaler all taking a margin.

Typically, the quality of the wines has been very good, and the value excellent when compared to other producers available locally. The catch though is that the quantities available are quite low.

For me, the most impressive wines on a price/quality scale have been the Chablis. I have bottles of the Premier Crus from Sebastian Dampt and Sylvain Mosnier going back to 2010, and they are holding up very well indeed.

This year has seen another producer added to the stable. Vincent Dampt is the brother of Sebastian, and the wines are equally well made. The style though is a little different, with Sebastian favouring riper fruit characters and mid palate weight, whilst Vincent’s wines are leaner and racier, with the acidity adding great drive to the finish.


  • The prices listed are for the introductory promotional period, but I suggest getting in fairly quickly, especially for the great value Premier Crus
  • The wines have only recently arrived in Australia, so took a little while to open up
  • This was not a blind tasting, so the points are best used as a relative guide only


Sebastien Dampt – Chardonnay – Petit Chablis – 2015 (17.5/20 pts. $33.00). Pretty and perfumed, there is fantastic fruit on the nose for an entry level wine. Excellent mouth-feel and texture, with ripe stone fruit notes. A modern, elegant Chardonnay that has the presence of a more expensive wine, but lacks the ultimate length and depth.

Sebastien Dampt – Chardonnay – Chablis – 1er Cru – Les Beugnons – 2015. (18.1/20 pts. $44.50). There is a degree of finesse here that is charming. Lithe and subtle, this is quite shy at present with the texture a stand-out. The quality is on display with the supple, perfumed fruit that gradually builds with air. Should be very good with another two years in bottle.

Sebastien Dampt – Chardonnay – Chablis – 1er Cru – Cote de Lechet – 2015 (18+/20 pts. $56.50). Wow, this wine really makes an impression for all the right reasons. Intense stone fruit characters give way to minerals, toast and honey. Excellent balance and structure on the close.

Sebastien Dampt – Chardonnay – Chablis – 1er Cru – Vaillons – 2015. (18.5/20 pts. $56.50). Taut, fine and elegant, this is an excellent wine that needs 3 – 5 years in the cellar. The balance is key here, as everything is in place, though the fruit is muted at present. Lemon, honey and fine minerality are paired to ripe tropical fruit. Super stuff!

Sylvain Mosnier – Chardonnay – Petit Chablis – 2016 (17.4/20 pts. $29.00). Lemon, toast and supple lees work that shows as struck match and flint characters. Mouth-filling and rounded, this is an excellent drink now.

Sylvain Mosnier – Chardonnay – Chablis – 1er Cru – Beauroy – 2016 (18/20 pts. $45.00). Classic Chablis, with elegant, yet concentrated fruit paired to supple minerality and gentle flint/struck match notes. Excellent mouthfeel and length on the palate, with gentle toast and honey notes to close. Needs a year or two to open up.

Sylvain Mosnier – Chardonnay – Chablis – 1er Cru – Cote de Lechet – 2016. (18.3/20pts. $45.00). Very fine and elegant, this is a great example of the style. Supple, rounded and revealing, with the gentle minerality and acid carrying the fruit with ease. Delicious now, and sure to be better in a year or two’s time.

Vincent Dampt – Chardonnay – Petit Chablis – 2016 (17.7/20 pts. $27.00). Full of life, this is a leaner, racier style that is so typical of the region. Supple, perfumed fruit, gentle minerality and a saline tang make for an excellent aperitif with freshly shucked oysters as well as white meats such as grilled lemon chicken.

Vincent Dampt – Chardonnay – Chablis – 2016 (17.9/20 pts. $32.00). A step-up in intensity, with thrilling lemony acidity driving the palate. The grapefruit and melon flavours are a highlight, and bitter almond minerality adds drive and focus. Very good.

Vincent Dampt – Chardonnay – Chablis – 1er Cru – Vaillons – 2015 (18.6/20 pts. $46.00). A highlight of the tasting. Refined, fine and elegant, with subtle fruit and minerality. Very long, the finish is near seamless. Gentle aromatics build and are accompanied by a steely minerality and fine acidity. An exciting wine now, but also one that is sure to age brilliantly over the next 5+ years.

Shiraz: October 2018 New Releases

Shiraz: October 2018 New Releases

Barry Weinman: 24th October 2018

The panel was in a tough mood this week, with only three out of the fifteen wines tasted making it to this review.

Interestingly, the top wines came from Brash and Avani. Both are wineries that I am unfamiliar with.

From the Mornington Peninsula, Avani has taken the unusual direction of converting their entire vineyard to Shiraz in 2006, replacing the Pinot and Chardonnay that predominated at the time. The vineyards are managed biodynamically, and planting density has been increased to 4000 vines per hectare.


Avani – Shiraz (Syrah) – The Earth – 2015 (18/20 pts. $85). Northern Rhone in style, with savoury fruit and souring acidity key features. Fragrant, almost floral fruit, with plum, cedar and exotic spices. Very good intensity of fruit, with dusty, chalky tannins. A wine that needs food now, or extended cellaring. (The winery has moved on to the 2016, but this can still be picked up in the trade for around $70).

Brash – Shiraz – 2015 (17.8/20pts). Dark cherry fruit and cooler, herbal notes on the nose. The palate displays high quality fruit, with excellent intensity, texture and length. Fine tannins that are actually quite silky add to the balance. Needs a few years to open up, but a smart wine.

Xanadu – Shiraz – DJL – 2016 (17.5/20pts – $24). Ripe fruit at its core, with menthol, hints of eucalypt and savoury plum-like notes. Good length and mouth-feel to close.


Chardonnay: October 2018 New Release

Chardonnay: October 2018 New Release

Barry Weinman: 20th October 2018

This tasting was a mixed bag, with some well-known wines missing out on being reviewed, whilst others shone.

Vasse Felix’s recent form with Chardonnay continues with the excellent 2016 vintage. The other highlight was the Suckfizzle. This is the first time that I have seen a Chardonnay under this label and it is an excellent effort. The very cool climate fruit is a contrast in style to the Vasse Felix and would take 5 years in the cellar with ease.


Suckfizzle – Chardonnay – 2017 (18/20pts. $65 ). Attractive nose, where the flint and mineral characters are a highlight. Refreshing grapefruit flavours and acidity define the palate, though with air, the subtle stone fruit notes start to emerge. Lees and barrel ferment characters add depth. A cooler style for the cellar.

Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – Gold Capsule – 2016 (18 – 18.5/20pts – $36). An impressive wine. The high-quality fruit is ripe and supple, with creamy oak and lees notes. The oak treatment is a highlight, the richness is balanced by fine acidity and builds on the finish. This is the sleeper of the tasting. Just a few years should see this blossom.

Grace Farm – Chardonnay – 2017 (17.5/20pts). Creamy nose that is fresh and vibrant, with cashew and ripe peach aromas. This continues on a palate that is very well crafted and balanced. Not the greatest depth to the fruit, but a very enjoyable wine that is well-made, with no rough edges.

Flametree – Chardonnay – 2017 (17.5/20pts). Lithe and fresh, this is fairly linear in the mouth and will be excellent with lighter food. The texture and flavours build on the close, so a couple of years should see the mid-palate fill out. Cooler climate fruit characters, gentle minerality and refreshing acidity are all reflections of the vintage.

Cabernet: October 2018 New Releases

Cabernet: October 2018 New Releases

Barry Weinman: 8th October 2018

It was no surprise that the wines from Victory Point, Higher Planes and Fraser Gallop shone in this tasting. What did surprise though, was that these premium Margaret River Cabernets can all be picked up for under $40 a bottle.

It was also good to see some solid wines from Sandalford. If the quality of the new releases are anything to go by, then this will be a winery to watch over the next few years.


Fraser Gallop – Cabernet Sauvignon – Parterre – 2013 (18.3/20pts. $45). Appears more serious on the nose, with high quality oak framing the fruit. The palate is a highlight, as the silky texture is the perfect foil for the ripe, cool-climate berry characters. Hints of mint and eucalyptus round out an impressive, age-worthy wine. (The winery has moved on to the 2014, but this is a bargain at $35 from Nicks).

Higher Planes – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2013 (18+/20pts. $38). High quality fruit, with raspberry, blackcurrant and even a touch of cassis on display. Fine, texturing tannins and supple oak serve to close down the fruit on the finish a little, so give it some air, or 10+ years in the cellar. A classic Margaret River Cabernet and very good value.

Victory Point – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2014 (18+/20). A treat to see this in the line-up. High quality fruit, supple oak  (30% new) and texturing tannins all play an important role on the near-seamless finish. Flavours include blackcurrant, cedar and menthol. Great now, but even better with 10-20 years in the cellar.Xanadu_Exmoor_Cabernet

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – Exmoor – 2015 (18/20pts – $18). For an entry-level wine, this is a cracking effort and got extra points for value. Supple mulberry, dark berry and plum notes, with silky oak adding texture. Well-crafted and persistent, this could even take a few years in the cellar.

Grace Farm – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2015 (17.8/20pts). I like this. There is ripe, if somewhat subdued blackcurrant fruit, balanced by fine, textural, almost graphite-like tannins and supple oak. Excellent length to close. A very good wine.

Sandalford – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Margaret River – 2017. (17.8/20pts) – A smart wine from the winemaking team at Sandalford. Silky, supple and refined, with elegant, medium weight fruit. A smart, fruit driven drink, with floral fruit.

Affordable Tempranillo

Affordable Tempranillo

Barry Weinman: 28th September 2018

Over the last few years, wines from Aldi have received a few good reviews in the media, especially overseas. Now that they are well established in Western Australia, I took the opportunity to taste their range of Tempranillos from Spain which, remarkably, included a pair of Reservas for under $10 a bottle.

To put the wines into perspective, I also included some of the more affordable examples from Vintage Cellars and Dan Murphy and a couple of more expensive wines for good measure. I gave the tasting panel no clue about the origins of the wines, to prevent any bias.

To my great surprise, there were several decent wines, all at bargain-basement prices.


Pablo & Pedro – Tempranillo – 2016 (16.5/20 pts. $9). Sweet fruit, with a dusty/savoury component. The palate is fairly light, with pleasant red berry notes. With no oak to speak of, the gentle cherry-like acidity and tannins add life. An easy-drinking pizza wine from Australia, that is popular at my local Vintage Cellars.

Marques de Riscal – Tempranillo – Proximo – Rioja – 2015 (16.9/20 pts. $9.40). A bit more body than some, with cherry, plum and spice over plum and dark berry fruit. The finish has refreshing acidity and tannins, with little in the way of oak. This is really quite good, and gets a little chewy to close. From Dan Murphy, this is a great drinking entry-level wine from this well-known producer. Now – 3 years.

Chalk Board – Tempranillo – Navara – 2014 (16.8/20 pts. $15). Good quality fruit and chewy, textural tannins here. The fruit is actually quite dense, and opens with air. The tannins are drying and are the main characteristic on the finish. Souring acidity makes a good foil for richer tomato-based pasta dishes. Navarra is in the Basque country in Northern Spain (Vintage Cellars exclusive label).

Baron Amarillo – Tempranillo – Riojo – Reserva – 2012 (17.5/20 pts. $10). A traditional style showing earthy, forest-floor characters over sweet, red berry fruit. This is quite ripe and seductive, with cedar and vanillin characters courtesy of the (American) oak. The palate is initially firm, but the fruit lingers admirably. Almost pinot-like, with masses of red berry fruit. Perhaps a bit rustic, but this is all part of the charm of this excellent value red. Spent 3 years in oak and is exclusive to Aldi.

El Toro Macho – Tempranillo – Utiel – Requena – Barrica – 2013 (17.5/20 pts. $7). Utiel – Requena is a wine district in the Valencia region of Spain. The fruit is more in the plum spectrum compared to the Amarillo. The palate is fresh and lithe, with fine tannins and souring acidity complementing the supple mouthfeel and decent fruit weight. Good length and an enjoyable drink on its own or with slow-roasted lamb shoulder. Brilliant value from Aldi.

Singlefile – Tempranillo – Run Free – 2017 (17.5/20 pts. $25). Clean and fresh, with pristine fruit on both the nose and palate. Bright, succulent, and fresh, with delicious cherry and plum fruit. Uncomplicated and great drinking.

Sittella: Sparkling Wine Review

Sittella: Sparkling Wine Review

Barry Weinman: 16th September 2018

The Berns family were inspired to plant a vineyard and start a winery by several visits to the Loire Valley in France. Given the Loire influence,   it is no surprise that sparkling wine was part of the plan.

The first vintage of Sittella’s Sparkling Chenin was in 2001, and the wine has proved to be very popular ever since. And is the biggest selling wine in their range. The style has evolved over time, becoming gradually drier and more refined. One thing that has remained however, is the vibrancy and freshness that makes this such an easy drink.

Like all the sparkling wines in the range, the sparkling Chenin is made in the traditional method used in Champagne, with secondary fermentation occurring in bottle.

The real interest for the winemakers however, is in the wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery is dedicated to producing the best possible sparkling wines, made from grapes grown in Pemberton (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and the Porongurups (Chardonnay). All wines are made at the winery in the Swan Valley.

Given that Western Australia is not known for its sparkling wines, the quality of the wines produced is nothing short of astounding. And based on what we tasted and heard, they are only going to get better over the next few years.

In conjunction with investments in the vineyards and winemaking equipment, the winery has started a reserve wine program. Small quantities of the base wines are being matured in oak casks for a number of years, allowing the winery to use older material when blending, to make more complex and elegant wines that have a consistent style from year to year.

The benefits of this can be seen in the yet to be released 2014 Grand Vintage, where the extra complexity provided by reserve wine adds to the impact of what is a brilliant value sparkling wine.

But there are even more exciting things to come. The first wine in the reserve program is the Avante Garde. Due for release in late September, this is a brilliant wine that will easily hold its own against some of the best French NV champagnes. At $45 and with only 500 bottles made, this is likely to sell out in weeks, so I suggest joining the wineries mailing list and get hold of a few bottles.


Sittella – Sparkling Chenin – NV. ($22). This was first produced in 2001 and is made for 100% Swan Valley fruit. The wine spends between 18 & 24 months on lees to gain complexity. Dosage is a modest 8g/l. Aromas of fresh fruit and citrus on the nose lead to a palate that is fresh and vibrant. The gentle mousse adds to the mouth-feel, and there is decent length and good acidity to add life. A delicious afternoon quaff.

Sittella – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Cuvee Blanc – NV. ($29). The first release of this wine. The handpicked fruit comes from Pemberton, is whole bunch pressed and includes 15% reserve wine from 2014 & 2015. Fragrant, with apple, spice and citrus notes. The palate is fresh, yet there is excellent complexity and depth to the palate. A touch of autolysis, and lemony acid adds to the finish. A more serious wine with focus and precision, the team see this as their new house style.

Sittella – Pinot/Chardonnay – Grand Vintage – 2009. Deeper straw colour. Complex and developed with brioche and nutty citrus aromas. The palate is rich and mature, with chardonnay-like vinosity to close. Chewy and textured, with a touch of phenolic astringency on the finish, this is complex and powerful enough to pair with food. Spent 6 years on lees and a further 3 years under cork, the dosage is a low 5g/l.

Sittella – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Grand VintageMarie Christien Lugten – 2012. The first vintage produced since 2009, this is a serious wine that reminds me of vintage Champagne. Rich and creamy, there are hints of red fruits and fresh apple and excellent persistence. The mouth-feel is silky, and the finish is very long, clean and fresh, with racy acidity to close. The balance and persistence is a feature. Dosage is 5.5g and the wine spent 5 years on lees.

Sittella – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Grand Vintage – Marie Christien Lugten – 2013. ($36). Really shows just how good these wines are, with the density of fruit a feature. The Chardonnay adds drive and finesse, whilst the Pinot provides generosity and depth. From 2013 onwards, the amount of reserve wine used in the Grand Vintage has increased, adding depth and complexity. The richness of this wine allows for a slightly higher dosage of 7.33g/l.

Sittella – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Grand Vintage – Marie Christien Lugten – 2014. (Pre-Release). This really is very good, with ripe fruit expressing citrus, strawberry and green apple characters. The palate is creamy and supple, with excellent length and texture. The very fine acid builds on the finish. Will gain depth and complexity with time in the bottle, though this is already very good indeed.

Sittella – Chardonnay – Avant Garde – Blanc de Blanc – NV. ($45). Surprisingly restrained on the nose initially, and the palate is where this wine shines. Rich, powerful, polished and supple. The depth of the Chardonnay fruit is a highlight, with apple, lemon/citrus and gentle stone fruit characters that finish with slate-like minerality. There is tremendous length of flavours to close. A brilliant wine that will hold its own against many higher priced wines.

The Avant Garde is the first wine from the reserve program and also the first to introduces Chardonnay from the Porongurups. Made from reserve wines from 2012 – 2014, the wine spent 4 years on lees. Released in late September, only 500 bottles were made.

Sittella – Pinot/Chardonnay – Cuvee Rose – NV ($32). Very pretty, pale copper/bronze colour resulting from the addition of 10% still wine which was made from the same vineyard as the base wine. Complex and textured, red berry fruit is in the strawberry spectrum. This is quite vinous, with the high-quality fruit a feature. 30 months on lees and a modest 6.5g/l dosage adds depth and mouth-feel.


Winery in Focus: Sittella (Part One)

Winery in Focus: Sittella (Part One)

Barry Weinman: 10th September 2018

The Berns Family started Sittella with the purchase of land in the Swan Valley in 1993 that now houses the winery and vineyards. They subsequently bought and sold (in 2003) a vineyard in Margaret River, before purchasing their definitive Margaret River vineyard in the Wilyabrup sub district in 2010. This is a mature vineyard planted on heavy loam/gravel soils.

The family recently purchased another 5 hectares adjacent to the Margaret River vineyard and are embarking on an impressive planting program. Impressive, not because of the size of the vineyard, but rather for the planning, care and expense that has gone into choosing the site, grape clones and trellising.

This attention to detail in the vineyard is replicated in all aspects of the winemaking process. Winemakers Colby Quirk (Senior Winemaker) and Uri Berns have a stated aim of producing the best Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia, and are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to improve on (the already high) standard that they have achieved with Cabernet and Chardonnay.

Their success has not happened overnight. As this tasting demonstrated, the winemaking team have been honing their skills and refining techniques over the 6 years that they have been working together. They have tweaked vine management and adjusting winemaking to allow the fruit quality to shine in the bottle.

From 2015, both the Chardonnay and Cabernet have moved to another level of refinement.

Given the passion and skills shown by the winemakers, along with a serious investment in the vineyards and winery, it is not surprising that the wines are very high quality. What really surprised was:

  1. The wines are seriously cheap for the quality on offer
  2. The sparkling wine program is, if anything, even more significant than that for the still wines.

I will write in more details about the sparkling program next week, as the quality/value on offer would be hard to beat anywhere in Australia. The sparkling wines really are that good! There are also other worthwhile wines in the range, including a delicious Swan Valley Verdelho and an unctuous PX (Pedro Ximenez), made from base material going back to 1998.


Reserve Chardonnay

The fruit for the reserve is sourced from 1.5 hectares from the Wilyabrup Vineyard. The vineyard is planted with Dijon 95/96 clones, which produces less of the pineapple characters associated with the Gin Gin clone that is ubiquitous across the region. Production is limited to 200 dozen/year.

There has been a clear evolution in style over the 5 vintages, with the oak becoming ever more refined and the fruit more complex. The oak regime is consistent, with 25% new each year. The aim is to use the best oak possible, with only subtle changes to the forest and level of toast over time.

Sittella – Chardonnay – ReserveWilyabrup – 2013. Complex, with powerful stone fruit on the nose, along with creamy notes from the lees work and oak. With passionfruit and hints of tropical fruit, this is a bigger style, with the ripe fruit balanced by toast notes. Textured, chewy and powerful, though the oak sits a touch prominently on the close.

Sittella – Chardonnay – ReserveWilyabrup – 2014. The depth and power are palpable, yet the balance and poise are noteworthy. This is supple and refined, with stone fruit characters over creamy winemaking inputs. The high-quality oak is finely meshed with the fruit adding to the mouth-feel and texture. Seamless, balanced, long and silky, the acid finish is a highlight. Wonderful drinking over the next few years.

Sittella – Chardonnay – ReserveWilyabrup – 2015. More restrained and taut, with the fruit tightly bound at present. An evolution in style, with the balance a highlight. Supple and textured, the subtle stone fruit, minerality and lemony acid leads to a very long. The result of perfectly ripe fruit combined with silky winemaking. Now – 2023.

Sittella – Chardonnay – ReserveWilyabrup – 2016. From a warm, dry year. Restrained, yet with latent power. The fruit and oak are in perfect harmony, yet the whole package is reserved and tight. Near seamless palate transition, with the oak adding depth, but no overt flavour. Supple, long and age worthy, this is not as intense as the 2017, but will be better drinking in the short term.

Sittella – Chardonnay – ReserveWilyabrup – 2017 ($31.50). From a very cool year, with fruit that was in perfect condition when harvested. Fresh, powerful and zesty, this is all potential right now. The fruit is dense and ripe, though tightly bound and shy. The palate is supple, balanced and very long. Subtle pineapple and lemon, along with the trademark white peach fruit. Tightly coiled and powerful, there are hints of spice, citrus and minerality to close. Needs years, but a great wine already.

Cabernet Sauvignon

The stated aim of the winemakers is to make the best Cabernet based wine from Western Australia (and Australia). To this end, there has been a huge time investment in the vineyard, with every aspect of production carefully managed to ensure that the absolute best fruit is produced.

This attention to detail has been clearly carried through to the winery as well. The oak is the best available, with 40% new each vintage. The current vintage is 2015 and only 150 dozen are produced each year.

Sittella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Berns Reserve – 2012. Pristine fruit that is just starting to show some development, but this is still fresh and youthful. There is a generosity to the fruit that is captivating, with the fine balance and structure framing the fruit perfectly. Very long and fine, the red berry fruit is supple and succulent and there are hints of mint to close. A great drinking red that will also live for a decade or more.

Sittella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Berns Reserve – 2014. A touch more herbal, but still ripe and supple. This is quite tight and needs years to hit its peak. The fruit is complemented by silky tannins that add a little grip on the back palate, with supple oak and fine, tight acidity. A superb wine in the cooler spectrum that will live for 2 decades or more.

Sittella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Berns Reserve – 2015. ($52). An amalgam of fruit and savoury characters, with brilliant red berry/cherry fruit, hints of cassis and mint and very fine, texturing tannins. Superbly made, and worthy of extended time in the cellar. Gets a little chewy to close, so give it 10 years to really start to open up. A great wine!

Sittella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Berns Reserve – Wilyabrup – 2016. Harks back to the 2012, with brilliant ripe fruit, but the structural components are, if anything, turned up a notch here. Chewy, texture, and long. The perfectly ripe fruit is poised and balanced. Near seamless and with great density of fruit, a great wine is the making and a long-term prospect.

Sittella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Berns Reserve Wilyabrup – Buckshot Vineyard – 2017. Fragrant red berry and mint fruit that is refined, fine, elegant, and showing tremendous depth. Yet somehow, this manages to be restrained and tight. The finish is remarkably silky, supple, long and fine. In what was a tricky vintage for the region, the vineyard was intensely managed from bud burst to harvest, to produce an exceptional wine that may prove to be one of the best Cabernets to come out of Margaret River from the 2017 vintage.