Author Archives: finewineclub

Far from home: Less common European varieties in the Antipodes

Brendan Jansen MW

13th September 2019

France has long been regarded, and regarded itself, as the centre of the wine universe. This is understandable, given the offerings of classic wine production areas such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, the Loire and Rhone Valleys, and Alsace, to name but a few.

French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah (Shiraz), Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc, dominate the international wine landscape, and in the New World in particular; so much so that these varieties are often called the “International” varieties.

The situation is understandable, and is reflected in the winemaking histories of many a colonial nation. Some of these varieties have thrived in their new destinations, offering impressive manifestations of the grape, sometimes without attempts at mimicry of the varieties’ ancestral homes. (Think Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand compared to Sancerre and Pouilly Fume in the Loire, Argentinian Malbec compared to Cahors, Uruguayan Tannat to Madiran, and American Zinfandel to Siciliy’s Primitivo… all very different incarnations of the same variety!)

Recently, lesser known (in Australia) varieties have been making an appearance on our shelves. Wines based on Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Touriga, Sagrantino, Saperavi, Fiano, and even Assyrtiko have emerged in the lexicon of both Australian and other New World producers’ wines. These varieties are of course well known and loved in their home. But there are many reasons for us in Australia to embrace them.

Firstly, our market has matured, so that we seek novelty in greater measure. We as consumers are now prepared to stray from Shiraz and Chardonnay, even if it be only fleetingly. Secondly, these varieties are often more suited to Australian climates. Many Italian varieties, for example, have the ability to maintain high levels of natural acidity, even when at phenolic ripeness. Many southern Mediterranean varieties are slow ripening, and so suit the warmer climes of parts of our great southern land. It is no surprise that one such variety has Spanish, Portuguese and French names, as it is grown in warmer regions of all three countries – I am thinking of Monastrell /Mataro/ Mouvedre. Grenache is the name of another variety – grown in the Rhone valley, but called Garnacha in Spain, and Cannonau in Italy (Sardinia).

In truth, some of these varieties have been grown in Australia for a very long time. Australia’s strong historical reputation for fortified wines is one reason, where both International and other (e.g. Touriga Nacional) varieties made up Australian port-style wines. Also, we owe a debt to generations of our immigrant Australians, who, in the King and Barossa Valleys, for example, brought little pieces of Germany and Italy respectively to Australia, including vines, to cite but two examples.

Below is a selection of wines that stood out for me at a recent tasting of, shall we say, non-standard varieties:

Juniper Estate Small Batch Margaret River Fiano 2018

  • Most appealing was the persistence of complex flavours on the palate and a luscious mouthfeel, possibly betraying time spent on lees.

Heirloom McLaren Vale Touriga 2017

  • The fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit! Full and round and balanced, with no hint of heaviness.

Juniper Estate Small Batch Tempranillo 2017

  • Mark Messenger has captured the essence of the variety, with savoury tannins and sarsaparilla flavours, framed gently in oak.

Denton Yarra Valley Nebbiolo 2015

  • Luke Lambert’s love affair with this variety is reflected in the varietal purity of this wine – beautiful tannins and scents of violets. His history of making excellent Pinot Noir also comes through in the aromatic perfume.

Deep Woods Estate

Barry Weinman: 8th August 2019

As it is with all professions, some winemakers are more capable than others. And then there is the elite few, who seem to be able to regularly achieve things that others can’t. Perhaps it is a result of hard work, technical expertise, passion, a special understanding of the vineyards, or even an innate affinity for turning grapes into wine.  

In the Margaret River region, there are a number of excellent winemakers producing world class wines. If wine show awards are any guide, then Julian Langworthy at Deep Woods Estate must rank amongst the region’s best. Since taking over the reins in 2011, Deep Woods has been awarded more than 25 trophies and 70 gold medals in major wine shows. This includes numerous trophies for best Cabernet in show.

I am not the only one to sing Julian’s praises. He is currently James Halliday’s Winemaker of the Year and was awarded the same title from Ray Jordan in 2017.

What makes the Deep Woods offering even better is the value that the wines offer. Be it the entry level, Estate or Reserve wines, you will be hard pressed to find better value for money at their respective price points.


Deep Woods Estate – Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – Ivory – 2019. ($15). Supple fresh tropical fruit notes, with cleansing acidity. Excellent summer drinking.

Deep Woods Estate – Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – 2018 ($20). Bright nose with citrus and herbal notes. The palate is more subdued than the Hillside, but with the same textural components from lees/barrel work. This is a subtle/supple wine, with decent depth (trophy winner).

Deep Woods Estate – Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – Hillside – 2018 ($25). More gooseberry and grass, with extra mid-palate weight and texture courtesy of a component of barrel- fermented fruit. The refreshing acid backbone suggests that this would take food well.

Deep Woods Estate – Verdelho – Verde – 2016. Grassy, and with gentle viscosity, this is crisp and very dry. This is worth a look, as it would be great on a hot day, with food, or with a few years in the cellar.

Deep Woods Estate – Chardonnay – 2018. ($20). Very attractive, with almond/cashew nut, flint and complex smoky notes all in balance. The palate is bright and supple, with gentle worked notes adding depth. Excellent value indeed (wild yeast ferment, 20% new oak).

Deep Woods Estate – Cabernet/Shiraz – Ebony – 2017 ($15). Vibrant, lifted fresh red berry fruit aromas from the Cabernet, with the Shiraz adding hints of satsuma plum. The palate is fresh, but has enough texture to keep the palate balanced. Pasta or Pizza? Great everyday drinking at this price.

Deep Woods Estate – Shiraz et al – 2017. (Shiraz/Malbec/Grenache) ($20). I like the balance here. The fruit is ripe and fruit forward, but the spicy structure adds depth. The tannins are fine and there is a lick of savoury oak adding texture. Drinks well now.

Deep Woods Estate – Shiraz – Block 7 – 2017 ($50). Wow. The rich and ripe fruit here is most attractive, with sweet, vanillin oak highlights adding to the package. The palate is refined and silky, with polished tannins and texturing oak that is well integrated. Souring acidity builds on the close, adding vitality. Delicious, but also worthy of a few years in the cellar (sees a proportion of whole-bunch fermentation).

Deep Woods Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2017. I was impressed by the amount of minerality on show here. Yes, there is ripe and savoury fruit, but the subtle oak and fine tannins keep the whole package a little closed right now. With air, this builds, but remains medium bodied, reflective of the year.

Deep Woods Estate – Cabernet Franc – 2018 ($30). Big, ripe and textured, with power to the fruit that is in the blueberry spectrum. The tannins are prominent, but in balance with the fruit. Oak is not obvious, but the texture suggests that this has seen a little barrel work. Notable length and persistence.

Deep Woods Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Willyabrup – Grand Selection – 2012 ($130). Perfumed, but with a core of powerful ripe fruit on the nose. That power continues on the palate, though the refined tannins and oak still keep the fruit in check, despite the extra years in bottle. Opens and builds in layers but needs years to reach its peak. Gets a little chewy to close. For the long haul.

Deep Woods Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Yallingup – Grand Selection – 2012 ($130).  A little more blueberry fruit, as compared to the Willyabrup. More minerality and texture on the palate, and a touch more savoury too. Needs years, but this is already a great drink. This really builds in the glass, with the power of the fruit coming into its own. Impressive wine indeed.

Ribafreixo: Wines from Portugal

Brendan Jansen MW: 2nd August 2019

My word!

It is always wonderful to discover a new and relatively little-known producer, churning our really delicious wines at bargain prices. These situations do not happen often, and usually don’t last, as the hype can take over, and prices are hiked.

The Ribafreixo operation, from the Alentejo region of Portugal, is one I have stumbled across recently. Though south of the Dao and Douro regions, the cool Atlantic breezes make this a moderate region for winegrowing.

Owner Mario Pinheiro has spared no expense in setting up a state of the art operation. The winemaking team is led by Nuno Bico, one of the guns of Portuguese winemaking. There are a wonderful array of varieties, including the delicious and indigenous Anton Vaz, and red blends that feature the regions versions of Tempranillo, called Aragonez.

The Gaudio range, in their premium bracket, are deliciously long, complex and structured, framed by judicious use of oak and capable of long bottle aging – importantly, they offer fantastic value for what they cost. The main varieties are Alicante Bouchet and Touriga Nacional.

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New Release Cabernet: July 2019

New Release Cabernet: July 2019

Barry Weinman: 10th July 2019

It is always an interesting exercise when two bottles of the same wine end up in a tasting, or in tastings that are close together, as it is a chance for panel members to measure the consistency of their notes and scores. The closer the scores, the happier the panel.

So it was that a bottle of the 2016 Howard Park Abercrombie was included in this tasting. I reviewed this two months ago and was pleased to see that I gave both wines identical points (18.7/20) and near identical tasting notes. The main difference was that a few extra months in the bottle have allowed the fruit to shine just that little bit brighter. Great wine.

The highlight of the current tasting was the wines from Flametree. The Embers Cabernet is brilliant drinking now, whilst the “regular” Cabernet is age-worthy and powerful. Both represent fine value.


Flametree – Cabernet Sauvignon – Embers – 2017 (18.3/20pts – $20). Fine and elegant, this supple wine is full of blueberry fruit, with near seamless palate transition. The quality of the fruit is a highlight and whilst being a great drink now, has enough depth and structure to benefit from a few years in the cellar. This is the first time that I can recall that this wine is not labelled Cabernet Merlot and is great value.

Flametree – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2016 (18.5/20pts – $45). There is density and a degree of power to the brambly fruit here that elevates it beyond the Embers. The palate is supple, silky and seductive, with silky, feather- light tannins on the mid palate that slowly build on the close adding texture and structure. This serious wine gets a little chewy to close and is worthy of extended time in the cellar. This is the first time this wine is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mr Barvel – Cabernet/Merlot – 2017 (17.5/20pts). This wine is quite delicious, with the ripe berry fruit complemented by savoury winemaking and fine tannins. Perhaps not that serious but well-made and eminently suitable for early consumption.

Fraser Gallop – Cabernet Sauvignon – Estate – 2016 (18/20pts – $33). Pristine ripe fruit in the cooler spectrum is supported by fine tannins to make a lovely, medium-bodied wine. The finish is long, supple and elegant, showing admirable balance. The winemaker (Clive Otto) has taken a different approach with this wine, using techniques learned in Bordeaux. The purity of fruit seems to be the key feature.

Emirates Business Class Lounge Wines: June 2018

Emirates Business Class Lounge Wines: June 2018

Barry Weinman: 15th June 2019

In the course of my work, I spend a large amount of time traveling internationally. This includes regular travel on Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways, as well as less frequent trips on Malaysian, Asiana etc.

By far the best wine that is regularly served in Business Class on any of these flights is the Charles Heidsieck Champagne served by Singapore Airlines. A superb wine of great complexity and finesse. Interestingly, I believe the wine being served is a much more recent disgorgement than that which is available in Australia.

For something a little different, I recently flew six sectors on Emirates, becoming well acquainted with the wines being served both in the lounge and on the plane.

On board, there is either Veuve Clicquot or Moet NV Champagne (depending on the sector), as well as two decent whites (including one White Burgundy) and two reds (including a Bordeaux). There is also a 1994 Late-Bottled Vintage Port for those so inclined. But the highlight on each flight was the Sommelier’s Selection mentioned at the end of the wine list.

On each flight, this was quite outstanding, being either a super-Tuscan or Napa Valley Cabernet. I would definitely recommend asking the staff about this as, whilst available, is not always offered during the service.

What was really exciting for a wine tragic like me, was the range of wines available in the Business Class Lounge in Terminal 3 at Gate A in Dubai. The first time I visited, I assumed that the wines would be the same at each drink station, so did not go looking. On my second visit though, I realised that there were at least one or two different wines at each drink station. So at 1am in the morning, I found myself wondering around the eight drink stations spread across the two wings of the lounge excitedly exploring the various options.

Of interest, the best wines appeared to be at the quiet end of each of the lounges. It is also worth noting that the wines can change completely from one bottle to the next, so it is worth checking what else is open with the staff.

The only Champagne open was the NV Moet, which is not a bad wine by any means. From there, things get much more exciting. There was a cross-section of white Bordeaux that I found very interesting. A highlight was a lovely bottle of 2015 Chateau Carbonieux (complex and refined, with excellent fruit weight), and the excellent Chateau Bouscaut 2011, both of which are Graves Grand Cru. The Tronquoy Lalande 2016 was lighter and more straightforward, but excellent drinking.

Other whites included a 2016 Pinot Grigio from Livio Felluga that had a most distinctive label, as well as a couple of South African whites and a Penfolds Chardonnay. There was also an excellent Burgundy from Domaine Roux Père & Fils. The Saint Aubin – 1er Cru – Vieilles Vignes 2017 is fresh and bright, with ripe stonefruit and textural winemaking influences. An excellent wine from an under-rated region in Burgundy.

For me, the highlight of the whites was Antinori’s Cervaro della Sala 2016. Castello della Sala (now owned by Antinori) is considered by some as one of the great white wines of Italy, and if this bottle is typical, then who am I to argue? Very refined and polished, with ripe peach and apricot fruit combined with a creamy mouthfeel from the oak and lees work. A textural treat that would be as good with food as it was on its own. Superb!

An interesting counterpoint to these wines was the 2014 Opalie by Chateau Coutet. This has clear links to sweet Sauternes, having hints of botrytis and honey, though the finish feels very dry.

The reds were just as exciting, and included two contrasting wines from Bordeaux. Clos Du Marquis (Saint Julien) is a second label (as opposed to the second wine) of Leoville Las Cases. On this occasion, the 2007 was available. From a difficult year in Bordeaux, this is an excellent result. Whilst the fruit is relatively subdued, the structure is classic Bordeaux and is drinking well now.

By contrast, the 2008 Lynch Moussas (5th Growth – Pauillac) was bursting with ripe, almost succulent fruit. An excellent wine from this revitalised estate.

For Shiraz lovers, the Torbreck Run Rig 2006 was already drinking a treat, with the extra bottle age allowing the structure to soften considerably, while the Donelan Walker Vine Hill Syrah 2013 was full of pretty berry fruit with very fine structure. Both were excellent wines!

The highlights for me came from the truly excellent 2013 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley and the dense/powerful 2013 super-Tuscan from Collazzi (labelled Toscana).

So next time you are transiting in Dubai, I highly recommend that you take some time to wonder around the lounges exploring the wines on offer. You will not be disappointed.

New Release Premium Shiraz: June 2019

New Release Premium Shiraz: June 2019

17th June 2019

For those who have been following my reviews for some time, you will have noted that there are some wineries that get reviewed more often than others. One of those is Shingleback and another is Angove. Both wineries are making wines at a variety of price points that are class- leading.

When it comes to reviewing their new releases, I have tended to focus on the more affordable ranges, such as Red Knot and Hay Cutters (Shingleback) and Long Row and Family Crest (Angove), such is the quality of the wines offered.

But with the launch of the 2014 D Block Reserve from Shingleback and the 2016 Medhyk from Angove, the sheer quality of these wines cannot be ignored. Whilst the styles are very different, even at the $55 – $70 price point, they both represent great value given just how good they are.

I will be laying down both of these wines in the cellar for future enjoyment.

The other wine to stand out in this tasting was the 2016 William Randall Shiraz from Thorn Clark. Whilst not formally reviewed here, this was a restrained expression of Barossa Shiraz that will be brilliant in 15 – 20 years’ time (cork permitting).


Angove – Shiraz – The Medhyk – 2016 (18.5+/20pts – $80). Wow, this is a very serious wine indeed. Whilst the fruit is dense and structured, there is a silky approachability to the ripe fruit that is quite disarming. With air, the fruit really starts to shine, though the silky tannins creep up on the finish. A powerful wine that has been brilliantly made, but needs 20+ years to hit its peak. Enjoy with a rich beef dish now, but give it an hour or two in a decanter beforehand.

Shingleback – Shiraz – D Block – Reserve – 2014 (18.5+/20pts – $55). Sweet, rich, ripe fruit explodes from the glass. This is dense and powerful, yet is totally seductive and captivating. A different expression of McLaren Vale fruit, with a wonderful exuberance and silky, gossamer-fine tannins that makes this irresistible now. Will also age very well, in the cellar for a decade or more. Sealed with a natural cork.

New Release Chardonnay – June 2019

New Release Chardonnay – June 2019

Barry Weinman: 24th June 2019

I love Chardonnay. If I had to choose just one white wine style to drink, this would be it. Part of the appeal is the versatility that the grape affords. From zesty, racy unoaked styles made famous by Chablis, to the powerful rich and textured White Burgundies, there is a style for every occasion.

For this tasting, the panel sat down to a line-up of over 20 high quality wines, primarily from 2017 and 2018. The final five wines that made it through to this review are all worthy of your attention. From the great value Flint Rock, to the powerful Singlefile, the different faces of Chardonnay are well represented.

I hope you get the chance to enjoy some of these wines.


Singlefile – Chardonnay – Family Reserve – 2018 (18.7/20pts – $60). This is a great wine. Complex and creamy, with powerful fruit and very refined winemaking inputs. Peach-like fruit with citrus highlights really build in the glass. The suppleness to the palate is a highlight, with the creamy texture adding depth. Excellent fruit, oak and winemaking combine to make this a brilliant drink now, but also one that will age well for at least five years.  (From a 30 y/o vineyard, the fruit was hand-picked, barrel fermented in French oak (40% new), lees stirring and only 12% malolactic fermentation).

Howard Park – Chardonnay – Flint Rock – 2018 (17.9/20pts – $28). Whilst I was tempted to review the premium Howard Park Chardonnay, the value offered by the Flint Rock made this a stand-out. This wine is a bit deceptive, as it starts off very easy to drink and satisfying, but then starts to build greater depth and texture, with the ripe fruit perfectly matched to the oak and lees work. A fine wine with a creamy finish, the generosity of fruit makes this great drinking now. (Aged in older oak and spends 10 months on lees).

Dexter – Chardonnay – 2017 (18/20pts – $40). This is a leaner, more modern style, with fine, if obvious acidity and subtle fruit in the grapefruit and nectarine spectrum. The acidity, which is a touch youthful now gradually gives way to fine, supple fruit and a very long finish. Very good indeed, this will evolve for a number of years. (Whole bunch pressed, barrel fermentation, extended lees aging, partial malolactic fermentation).

Sandalford – Chardonnay – Estate Reserve – 2018 (18/20pts). Fine and elegant, with everything in balance. There is a touch of toast from the oak, but this fits well with the fruit profile. With air, this builds peach and pineapple fruit notes. This finish is long, supple and textured, with a savoury lift on the close.

Plantagenet – Chardonnay – York – 2018 (18.4/20pts – $40). A great way to finish the tasting. This is fine, refined, elegant and long, with supple stone fruit and citrus notes combined with impeccable (French) oak handling. The latter adds texture and depth, without dulling the fruit expression. A stately wine that is great now, but would benefit from five years in the cellar.

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: May 2019

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: May 2019

Barry Weinman: 31st June 2019

In the global wine market, Western Australian wines are positively cheap, when quality is factored in. In an effort to lift the profile internationally, a number of producers have released, or are planning to release limited edition Reserve wines at a higher price point.

Cullen’s Vanya was at the vanguard of this movement, and has been quickly followed by the likes of Vasse Felix with their Tom Cullity. There is also a stable of fine producers whose “standard” premium wine is of equivalent quality.

The points given in this tasting are quite arbitrary as all the reviewed wines are quite extraordinary.

It has never been a better time to be a wine drinker in Australia!


Deep Woods – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2016 (18.5+/20pts – $70). Wow, the fruit here is impressive. Dense and powerful initially, but becoming quite restrained on the finish as the dusty tannins and oak shut down the fruit. Built for the long haul, and likely to get higher points in the future.

Deep Woods – Cabernet Sauvignon – Yallingup Vineyard – 2014 (19/20pts- $130). Wow, whilst almost perfumed, this is big! Intense dark berry fruit floods the palate lingering for what seems like minutes. Ultimately, the fine tannins and supple oak start to rein the fruit back, leaving a drying finish that demands another sip. Great wine!

Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Jack Mann – 2016 (18.7+/20pts). Restrained and elegant, but full of life all the same. Pristine red currant fruit with hints of black cherry and tar. The palate is silky and fine, but needs years to show its best, as the complex, perfumed fruit is quite shy.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Abercrombie – 2016 (18.8/20pts). Wow, spectacular fruit and winemaking! This is supple and balanced, yet is packed full of ripe blackcurrant fruit. The finish gets a little closed, as the very fine tannins build and shut down the fruit. Brilliant, but will be better in 20 years.

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2015 (18.8/20pts – $69). This is seductive and sensuous, with velvety fruit flooding the senses. That said, the acid/tannin balance adds life and depth. Very long and very fine, this is a brilliant wine that could be drunk with pleasure now, but will be best with at least a decade in the cellar. An absolute bargain.

Nocturne – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2017 (18.5/20pts – $40). Intense and perfumed black currant and cassis fruit on the nose, with just a touch of tobacco leaf. The palate shows refined red berries, with hints of liquorice and spice. The fruit is the primary focus, with the oak adding texture on the close. This excellent wine is a side project of the talented Julian Langworthy at Deep Woods.

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – Bin 169 – 2016 (19/20pts – $350). Wow, I love the perfumed fruit here. Intense, powerful and impressively textured, with extreme length and persistence. Classic Coonawarra Cabernet at its best.

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – 707 – 2016 (18.8++/20pts – $650). Intense, powerful, closed, tight, firm, structured, textured and chewy.  With air, this is like drinking Cabernet essence, such is the concentration of the fruit. Timeless wine that will outlive me.

Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Philip Adrian – 2016 (18.7/20pys – $100). Really deep, powerful and concentrated, yet this has grace and balance. On the palate, there is very intense fruit but it manages to show a degree of restraint. The finish is, for all intent and purposes, seamless and the fruit lingers, opening in layers. Amazingly good now, but will be at its best after 20 years+. Very impressive packaging adds to the appeal.

Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – Tom Cullity – 2015 (18.7+/20pts). Textured, savoury, earthy and chewy, this is a powerhouse of a wine. Intense blackcurrant fruit and spice combine with grip from the oak to create a wine for the long haul. Sophisticated and stylish, this is all potential right now.

Yarra Yering – Cabernet Sauvignon – Caroudus – 2016 (18.8/20pts – $250). Lithe and fresh in comparison to some of the Western Australian wines, with a purity to the fruit that is breathtaking. A very fine, age-worthy wine that will be at its best with at least 10-15 years in the bottle.

Voyager Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – MJW – 2014 (18.7/20pts). Supple red berry fruit, fine oak and elegant, restrained tannins express on a very long and fine finish. The fruit builds in layers on the palate. What a great way to end the tasting. A refreshing, youthful, high acid style that leaves you wanting another sip.

Spoiled For Choice: Selecting your next wine

Spoiled For Choice: Selecting your next wine

Brendan Jansen MW

May 28th 2019

The other day, I found myself in a supermarket looking to buy toothpaste. I was confronted with two, maybe three different brands, and only had to choose between “whitening” or “Extra Whitening” options!

I left the supermarket to walk into the neighbouring bottle shop (as is my wont), and there was confronted with walls and walls of wine. I thought to myself that this was much more of a delicious challenge! But I also wondered if such choice represents a dilemma for many.

It is no surprise that we return to familiar brands, styles and varieties in wine choice, and no surprise that we rely on the recommendation or advice of others in making our choice. The subject of fashion in wine, and the importance of a brand’s story was the subject of a previous wine musing…!

Yet I believe there is a way out of the quagmire. Just a little bit of knowledge can go a long way….

To some, the wall can be threatening, overwhelming, almost closing in. But breaking down the parts of the wall is the first step. Thea easiest breakdown is red, white or bubbles. After that there are typical styles and varieties – that vary depending upon aromatic intensity, aromatic profile, palate weight, tannin structure, even acidity and alcohol content.

The key, I feel, is to sample enough wines to know what you like – and what you might be looking for on that particular occasion. Food is a factor, but ultimately, your preferences are what matters most.

It will not take long before you develop a familiarity with those preferences. For example, my own personal tastes are for a preference of Riesling over Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Of course, exceptions apply, and preferences can vary from occasion to occasion and even within a variety.

German off dry Rieslings from the Mosel can be as different from a high octane, high alcohol dry Riesling from the Wachau in Austria – and there may be certain occasions when I would prefer one over the other. If I were to be choosing a wooded white style, my preference would be for a more sleek and slender or linear incarnation rather than a bigger style.

I prefer Pinot Noir and Cabernet to Shiraz (I know, blasphemy for an Aussie!), and have an idea of the different manifestations of say Margaret River and Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.

So on entering the bottle shop, it is not a big wall you are confronted with, but a small part of that wall. And even then, only a few “bricks” in the wall are relevant. I strongly feel that such a level of comfort and ease with wine choices are within the grasp of most people.

Recently I found myself at a top-end Pinot Noir tasting where the very best of Australasian Pinot Noirs were on show. I have to say that I did not taste a “dud” wine. But my own preferences came to the fore. And I was able to identify those wines that might be more attractive to those seeking, for example, greater new oak influence, or greater extraction. There were those in the more floral/strawberry spectrum, and yet others in the cherry spectrum. Even then, you could choose black, red, or Maraschino cherries, depending on your whim! I could see the quality in all the wines, but looked for a style I like. So while I rated all the wines highly, I only put in an order for one….

Cabernet Sauvignon New Release May 2019

Singlefile Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Cabernet Sauvignon New Release May 2019

Barry Weinman: 28th May 2019

Whilst Fine Wine Club is not about making money (it actually costs me money to run), there are some great perks to the job, such as being able to taste dozens of very high-quality wines in a week.

There are some varieties that are just that little bit more special to taste than others, and Cabernet Sauvignon, either alone or blended is one of those. Part of the attraction is that Australia (and Western Australia in particular) makes Cabernet-based wines that are the equal of any in the world when assessed for quality as well as value, so the quality of our tastings can be quite high.

This week was a good one, having reviewed over 40 of Australia’s best Cabernets, including the current Penfolds big wines. And while it is easy to write reviews about Tom Cullity, Vanya etc, it was the quality of the second tier Cabernets from Howard Park (Leston) and Singlefile’s (Single Vineyard) that gave me the most enjoyment.

Whilst not quite as dense and powerful as their big brothers, these wines offer that rare combination of being a great drink now, as well as being capable of being cellared for at least a decade or two. But do give them an hour in a decanter (or double decant) to let the fruit shine if you are drinking them young.


Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2017 (17.5/20pts – $25). Fresher and more approachable, with supple red currant fruit supported by just a lick of savoury oak and refreshing acidity. Great drinking now – 5 years with grilled meats.

Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon – Single Vineyard – 2017 (18.6/20pts – $39). I like this a lot! Excellent quality fruit in the mulberry spectrum has been skillfully matched to subtle, savoury oak. Whilst lithe and approachable, there are plenty of fine tannins, supple oak and balancing acidity to keep this relatively restrained at first, suggesting the ability for extended aging (this was brilliant drinking after two days on the tasting bench). At $39, this is surely a bargain.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Leston – 2016 (18.5/20pts – $48). This was actually quite muted to start but really opened up with air. The palate has fresh berry fruit, silky tannins and savoury oak adding depth but not overt flavours. The balance that is a highlight, with this wine having the rare ability to drink just as well now as it will in 10-15 years. Super!