Category Archives: Chardonnay – Wine Reviews

Chardonnay – Prestige New Release: February 2019

Great Australian Chardonnay

Barry Weinman: 27th February 2019

Until recently, the world hierarchy of Chardonnays went something like;

  1. White Burgundy
  2. Chablis
  3. Everything else

But as in the rest of life, nothing stays the same for ever, and so it is that the current crop of Western Australian Chardonnays are of such high quality, that they must be considered a worthy challenger to the white wines of Burgundy. When price is brought into the equation, then no other region can even get close to matching the value on offer.

From a value perspective, the Xanadu, Evans and Tate and Drumborg were the standouts. The Cape Mentelle turns this up a notch, with reserved power. A simply outstanding wine from the new winemaking team.

Wines like the Deep Woods Reserve are redefining how good Australian Chardonnay can be, whilst the Leeuwin Estate 2016 is destined to be one of the truly great Chardonnays made anywhere in the world.

With the majority of these wines available for under $100, there has never been a better time to try some truly outstanding Chardonnays.


Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2016 (19/20pts). What an extraordinary wine. Barely darker than water right now with subdued/muted fruit notes on the nose. The palate however is amazingly long and intense, with the flavours and textures seamlessly coating the entire palate and lasting for what appears to be minutes on the close. Is this the best Chardonnay yet produced in Australia? It might well be. (Pre-release sample).

Deep Woods – Chardonnay – Reserve – 2017 (18.8/20pts). A very different wine, but just as good as anything in the tasting.  Elegance and poise are the keys to this wine. The fruit quality is superb, but rather than being overt and showy, this is refined and restrained. Peach-like fruit is the main focus, with minerality and supple lemony acidity driving the finish. The textural nature of the palate attests to the finest oak treatment. Sublime.

Cape Mentelle – Chardonnay – 2017 (18.7/20pts). Wow. This is a powerful wine, yet remains taut as a drum right now. The intensity of the fruit is amazing as is the way the palate seamlessly transitions from front to back. The white peach and nectarine fruit is superbly matched to high quality, fine grained French oak. Quite superb.

Fraser Gallop – Chardonnay – Palladian – 2017 (18.7/20pts). Again, the intensity of the fruit here is outstanding, but here there is more of the pineapple/tropical notes coming through. The palate is dense and viscous, revealing its flavours and textures in seamless layers on the finish. As good as this is now, it will be even better in 3 years.

Castelli – Chardonnay – Il Liris – 2016 (18.6/20pts – $70). Powerful, expressive wine of great character. Complex aromas of peach, curry leaf, minerality, and struck match. The palate is intense and focused, with the acid and deftly handled oak building in layers over the fruit.  This will be a great wine either now or in in 5 years’ time. This is sealed with a glass stopper  and the fruit comes from Denmark.

Singlefile – Chardonnay – Family Reserve – 2018 (18.6/20pts – $50). An immense, powerful wine with great presence. Tropical fruit, peach and nectarine are all on show in this densely flavoured wine, with expertly managed oak adding texture, yet tis remains elegant and has a very long palate. Outstanding.

Seppelt – Chardonnay – Drumborg – 2017 (18.5/20+pts). An intense, mouth-watering wine that, whilst in a cooler style, has plenty of personality and life. The high quality ripe fruit is long and intense, with a core of lemony acidity that drives the finish. Needs 3 – 5 years, but a very impressive wine.

Evans & Tate – Chardonnay – Redbrook – Estate – 2017 (18.5/20pts – $40). A powerhouse of a wine that is full of youthful exuberance, with intense stone-fruit and citrus notes, taut acidity, supple oak and hints of minerals. Needs a few years to fill out, but this is a star. (Pre-Release Sample).

Howard Park – Chardonnay – 2017 (18.5/20 pts – $58). This is a very impressive wine, with the dense, ripe fruit paired expertly to medium toast, fine grained oak. Stone-fruit, curry leaf/minerality and citrus zest aromas and flavours all shine through.  However, it is the depth of fruit on the palate that is most impressive. The finish is a little taut now, so 3-5 years in the cellar should see it start to open up.

Xanadu – Chardonnay – 2016 (18.5/20pts – $39). A serious wine with great fruit weight, density and notable viscosity. Powerful, with ripe peachy fruit, a lovely creamy texture and excellent length. Near seamless, the oak adds to the texture, seamlessly complementing the high quality fruit. Will age well in the short term.

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.

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.

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.

Chardonnay New Release – May 2018

Chardonnay New Release – May 2018

Barry Weinman: 25th May 2018

With the cooler weather on the way, Chardonnay really comes into its own. The trick for me though, is not to serve high quality examples too cold. This is especially true of the modern, leaner styles. Served too cold, all of the fruit is lost whilst the acid is accentuated.

My cellar is set to 18 degrees, and just an hour or so in the fridge before serving is perfect, though even cellar temperature is fine. In fact, the tasting panel reviews all Chardonnays at room temperature, as this give the best chance for the wines to shine in their youth.

In this tasting, the two cheaper Chardonnays from Howard Park provided an interesting contrast. The Miamup (Margaret River fruit) was tighter and more restrained, whilst the Flint Rock (Mount Barker) was a touch more generous and approachable. Both, though, are excellent examples.

The other wine to feature from Howard Park was the 2017 Chardonnay. This is the first vintage of this wine to be labelled Margaret River. The wine started out as Great Southern, and has gradually transitioned over a number of years, as their Margaret River vineyards have matured.

A highlight was the wine from Angove. Who would have thought that McLaren Vale could produce a wine of such finesse?


Singlefile – Chardonnay – The Vivianne – 2015 (18.5+/20pts – $80). A richer, more powerful style compared to many others in the tasting. Wonderful nose that is complex and complete, with cashew nut, spice, subtle creamy oak and refined stonefruit/pineapple melding seamlessly. The refinement is really evident on the palate, with the creamy textural notes setting the stage for the fruit to shine. Very long, the winemaking inputs and vanillin oak add depth. A superb wine now – 5 years. (From Denmark, the grapes for this wine were harvested over a four week period, and underwent wild yeast barrel fermentation and lees aging.)

Howard Park – Chardonnay – 2017 (18.5/20pts – $58). Quite a modern, subtle style, yet there is great depth to the fruit, and it just needs a few years to open up. Minerality, stone fruit, nutty texture and lime acidity are all in the mix, whilst the very fine texture and length of the palate are a highlight. For the first time in this wine’s history, it is labelled as Margaret River.

Marchand & Burch – Chardonnay – 2017 (18.3/20pts – $73). Ripe pineapple and stonefruit notes (from Mendoza clone grapes), with a core of minerality that adds depth. Fine fruit and supple winemaking leads to a finish that is textured and very long. There is near seamless palate transition, though the high quality oak is still settling into the fruit. Would be brilliant now with oysters or ceviche, but time in the botte will see this blossom (and score higher points). 60% Porongurup & 40% Mount Barker fruit.

Marchand & Burch – Chardonnay – Villages – 2017 (18/20pts – $37). From the Mount Barrow Vineyard in Mount Barker. Whilst there are attractive citrus and white peach aromas, this wine is all about the texture and mouthfeel. From start to finish, the wine is near seamless. Long, supple, and balanced, the fruit, winemaking inputs and oak are completely integrated and in harmony. It lacks the ultimate depth of its big brother but is excellent drinking now, or over the next 2 – 3 years.

Howard Park – Chardonnay – Flint Rock – 2017 (17.5/20 pts – $28). From Mount Barker. Perfumed stonefruit, citrus and tropical notes on the nose. The palate is where this wine shines, with the ripe peachy fruit balanced by a core of pineapple-like acidity that gives the palate a zesty lift. After spending 10 months on lees, this is a little richer than the Miamup, and more approachable as a result.

Howard Park – Chardonnay – Miamup – 2017 (17.8/20pts – $28). From Margaret River, this is subtle and refined, with creamy fruit, lemon zest and a touch of grapefruit acidity. It has a well-balanced palate, with a finish that is long and fairly tight, in the modern style. A couple of years in the cellar should see this flesh out a little, or try it with a simple quiche now.

Cherubino – Chardonnay – Gin Gin – Wilyabrup – 2017 (18.5/20pts – $39). Gin Gin refers to the clone of Chardonnay rather than the town north of Perth. The refinement here is a treat. High quality fruit in the nectarine and white peach spectrum, with subtle winemaking inputs, make for a wine that is superb drinking. The subtle palate builds depth over time, showing great balance and power.

Angove – Chardonnay – McLaren Vale – 2017 (17.8/20pts – $22). From 30 year old vines and treated to barrel fermentation and lees aging which add textural components. Minerals, grapefruit and masses of pretty peach fruit lead to a refined palate, with good texture and length. A smart, modern wine that demonstrates that McLaren Vale is not just about ripe, generous reds.


New Release Chardonnay – July 2017

New Release Chardonnay – July 2017

Barry Weinman: 4th August 2017

This tasting highlighted the various styles of Chardonnay that are on the market now. Gone are the days of the fat, buttery wines, with a move to more restrained and elegant wines.

For this review, I decided on a couple of very modern wines from Fraser Gallop,Marchand & Burch and a richer wine from Evans & Tate. The latter is a wine that offers a lot of drinking pleasure right now.


Marchand and Burch – Chardonnay – Porongorup & Mount Barker – 2016 (18.5/20 – $73). Dry, taut and lean, the acid holding back the fruit initially, but opens to show floral fruit. A very modern wine that needs years to provide enjoyment. Fine and elegant, with expensive, though restrained oak. Superb wine for the future.

Evans & Tate – Chardonnay – Redbrook – 2013 (18+/20 – $49). Stylistically, this sits between the lean modern styles and the rich wines of old, and is much the better for it. Subtly worked characters over ripe stone fruit aromas. Nectarine and peach on the palate, complemented by structuring oak. The lees work is dialled back here, adding depth without clouding the pristine fruit. Will flesh out with 3 – 5 years in the bottle, but is a treat now.

Fraser Gallop – Chardonnay – Parterre – 2016 (18/20 – $39 ). This is a very good wine, in a lean and elegant style. Delicate, there is lifted white peach-like fruit that builds in layers . Intense, worked, youthful, points here are for potential.

Chardonnay – New Release – May 2017

Chardonnay – New Release – May 2017

Barry Weinman: 25th May 2017

Margaret River is blessed to be able to produce world-class Chardonnay, and this tasting highlighted the quality of some of the top wines.

The real surprise of the tasting was the Madfish; great drinking and with serious fruit. Sure, my points may be a little generous, but at $18, who cares!

The only wine to make this review from outside of WA was the Shottesbrooke from the Adelaide Hills. A sensibly priced wine in the modern style (tight, angular and age-worthy).


Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2014 (18.7pts – $110). Fresh peachy fruit on the nose, with a talc-like floral lift. This is so pretty! The palate is floral and fresh, yet there is a core of serious fruit running through. The structural elements on the palate are more pronounced, with the oak and a touch of struck-match minerality complementing the fruit on the close. Almost delicate, this is a charming wine that is only at the very start of its life.

Piero – Chardonnay – 2015 (18.7). Really fine and elegant. Curry leaf, minerality, grapefruit, hints of pineapple. Beautifully crafted, with high quality oak integrated into a near seamless package. The length of flavours is outstanding. A restrained wine that will age brilliantly, yet offers pleasure now.

Woodlands – Chardonnay – Chloe – 2015 (18.6pts – $80). Restrained and taut, the peach-like fruit is complemented by high quality oak. On the palate, pineapple and marmalade notes build, with just a hint of toast from the oak. Supple, with the power becoming apparent on the long, lemony finish. Great now, but will fill out with 3 – 5 years in the cellar.

Xanadu – Chardonnay – Stevens Road – 2015 (18.6pts – $70). Whilst modern, this is a powerful wine. The nose is an amalgam of high quality fruit paired to supple oak and measured winemaking interventions. The palate is refined, supple and elegant, with mid-palate generosity building. A youthful wine that would benefit from a couple of years to allow the package to come together.

Madfish – Chardonnay – 2016 (18pts – $18). Initially quite shy and restrained, yet possessing an almost ethereal charm which makes for excellent early consumption. Gentle minerality and flint, with supple oak adding to the mouth-feel. Develops nectarine and tropical fruit with air. Brilliant drinking at the price.

Shottesbrooke – Chardonnay – Single Vineyard – 2016 (18pts – $33). Lovely nose, with complex winemaking aromas and flavours, including struck match, flint and minerals. Fruit here is quite lean and modern, though it builds depth on the finish and is very long. Needs time, but should evolve. This McLaren Vale winemaker has produced a note-worthy Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

Mac Forbes 2015 Release

Mac Forbes 2015 Release

Although many of you will have trouble believing me, the life of a wine taster is more often dull and tedious than exciting or fun. Having to wade through dozens of wines each week to find the gems that I can recommend is hard work.

There are however, two occasions where tasting is a joy. One is sitting down with a few friends to try some old/interesting wines from our cellars. The other is sitting down with a capable winemaker to try a cross-section of wines and discuss the philosophy behind those wines.

Falling into the second category was sharing a meal with Mac Forbes while tasting through his 2015 releases.

Mac takes a hands-off approach to winemaking, in an effort to allow the individual vineyards truly express their characteristics.

How the wines are sealed deserves a special mention. Depending on the variety, Mac is looking for the seal to aid in the wines development. As you would expect, a number of the whites and the Yarra Valley Pinot are sealed with screw caps, but two other closures are currently in use. One is a nifty cork alternative and the other is natural cork.

The use of Ardea Seal synthetic cork rather than a screw cap was dictated by the oxygen permeability characteristics, which mimic cork. These look smart, appear to seal well, and are easier to extract (when young at least). The top wines are currently sealed with natural cork, and use of this will increase in 2016.

The rationale given for the move back to cork relates to the impact that cork can have on the wine as it ages. This includes permeability, as well as the effect the cork itself has on the wine. When asked about the risks associated with using corks, Mac believes that with careful selection of the supplier, as well as rigorous testing of each batch of corks, the risk of taint can be minimised.

There is no doubt in my mind that cork producers have had to lift their game, so I will be interested to see the feedback that Mac gets over the coming years.

Whilst the focus is on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, there is also an excellent 2016 Riesling sourced from the Strathbogie Ranges. I swear I could taste the mineral composition of the soil in this wine. Racy, balanced and morish!

Chardonnay – 2015


The 2015 Yarra Valley Chardonnay is a wine that will make a few friends. Here is a wine that offers a degree of generosity to the fruit, yet has balance along with decent textural components. At $30, this represents excellent early drinking.

The Single vineyard wines offered more personality and, whilst a little more restrained, had increased depth and power. At around $50, the Hoddles Creek and Woori Yallock Chardonnays are not exactly cheap, but they do showcase the quality of Yarra Chardonnay.

Pinot Noir – 2015

Like the Chardonnay, the Yarra Valley Pinot Noir deserves to be popular. The fruit is ripe and succulent, with excellent acidity and mouth-feel. A great drink over the coming summer.

It was the single vineyard Pinots however that really showcased what Mac Forbes is trying to achieve. Crafting individualistic wines where the vineyards and climate dictate what the wines will taste like. The hands-off approach in the winery includes the use of no new oak in any of the single vineyard wines.


The Coldstream ($50) is the only wine that is made from fruit coming from flat lands in the Yarra. I really liked this wine as it combined a degree of generosity with elegance and poise. The Hoddles Creek and Yarra Junction (both $50) come from higher up in the valley, with the microclimate influencing how the wines express. For me, the Hoddles Creek was my pick and will cellar well for at least 5 – 8 years.


At the top of the range are the Wesburn and the Woori Yallock ($75). I was surprised at just how differently these two wines showed. The Wesburn was all minty with a hint of eucalypt, whereas the Woori Yallock was refined and elegant, with a purity to the Pinot fruit that no other wine in the line-up could match. A brilliant wine.

Felton Road 2015 New Release

Felton Road – 2015 New Release

Barry Weinman: 20th November 2016

The chance to taste the newly released 2015 Felton Road Pinots was an opportunity too good to miss. Needless to say, the quality of the wines was outstanding.

The quality of the Chardonnays was right up there with the Pinots, and the Rieslings provided an interesting counterpoint to the styles typically produced in Australia.

N.B. This was not a blind panel tasting, so please take my points as a guide only.


Felton Road – Riesling – Bannockburn – 2016 (17.5pts – $39). Fresh lime juice and floral characters leap from the glass. Gorgeous, off-dry palate, with apple and rosewater flavours. The finish is long and fine, with enough acid to keep the balance. Different to a German Kabinett, but worthwhile.

Felton Road – Riesling – Dry – 2016 (18.3pts – RRP $39). More minerality here, with subdued fruit initially. The palate is bright and fresh, with steely characters to the fore. Reminds me of a Clare Riesling, though with less overt citrus characters. Builds depth and power in the glass.

Felton Road – Riesling – Block 1 – 2016 (18 – 18.5pts – $51). Restrained and taut, giving away little on the nose. The palate is off-dry (though appears less sweet than the Bannockburn), with similar apple and floral characters, though there is more depth and texture, with excellent acidity adding balance.

Felton Road – Chardonnay – Bannockburn – 2015 (17.5pts – $56). The nose is quite complex, with barrel ferment and lees characters over creamy oak. The palate is quite firm and structured, with honeyed fruit notes. Long, and a touch robust right now, there is a nutty minerality to the finish. Not quite the depth of the Block wines, but will develop with a year or two in bottle.

Felton Road – Chardonnay – Bannockburn – Block 2 – 2015 (18.5pts – $69). So much more finesse and poise than the standard wine. There are all of the worked characters, but this is more subtle and balanced. Minerality and fine acidity add to the restraint and balance. A modern reserved style that will age well for years to come.block_6_chardonnay

Felton Road – Chardonnay – Bannockburn – Block 6 – 2015 (18.7pts – $69). The finest of the chardonnays and very restrained and elegant. The palate is brilliant. Fine and elegant, the subtle fruit is perfectly ripe. The structural components are tightly married to the fruit, making for a seamless finish. A superb wine. Now to 8 years.

Felton Road – Pinot Noir – Bannockburn – 2015 (18+pts – $76). Not quite as fruit forward as the 2014, this has more savoury characters to the cherry/plum fruit. Quite earthy, with almost brambly fruit. With air, the fruit shines. The mouth-feel is supple, though the tannins provide a firm edge. Would benefit from a few years in the cellar.

Felton Road – Pinot Noir Cornish – 2015 (18.5pts – $89). Quite closed and tight. The palate is fine, elegant and structured, though the high quality fruit is somewhat suppressed. That said, there is no denying the quality or the outstanding mouth-feel and texture. This will blossom in 3 – 5 years as the cherry fruit emerges from its structural cocoon.calvert_2015

Felton Road – Pinot Noir – Calvert Vineyard – 2015 (18.6pts $89). Restraint and balance are the key features. Supple, seamless, earthy notes, cherry, spice and brilliant mouth-feel. Very long and fine, this is the most refined wine to date and my pick to drink now (or in 5+ years).block_3_pinot_2015

Felton Road – Pinot Noir – Block 3 – 2015 (18.8pts – $122). Wow, this has the balance of the Calvert, with more intrinsic depth and power to the fruit. The cherry fruit sits comfortably within the structural elements. There are earthy notes and great length, but the sublime fruit is the main focus. A wonderful wine anytime over the next 8 years. My pick of the tasting!

Felton Road – Pinot Noir – Block 5 – 2015 (18.5+pts – $122). The vibrant fruit is more overt than in the Block 3.There is inherent depth and power, yet there is silky, almost jube-like fruit on the palate. Despite being seamless, on the palate this is actually quite closed and subdued. An almost ethereal wine for the aficionados, though this may be overlooked initially.

Chardonnay: March 2016



Barry Weinman: 30th March 2016

In November, I previewed the wines of Cloudburst and came away with a great deal of respect for what the winery is trying to achieve. So I was really pleased when the 2014 Chardonnay showed so well in this masked tasting. A very fine and elegant wine, and also possibly the most expensive Chardonnay in the country.

At the other end of the price spectrum, the Kiss Me Kate Chardonnay is a beauty. The majority of the fruit is from the Adelaide Hills, with a small portion from McLaren Vale.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that both the Cullen and Pierro Chardonnays looked great.


Pierro – Chardonnay – 2014 (18.7). A serious wine here that has burgundy-like minerality, expressed as curry leaf aromas and flavours. The palate is seamless and refined, yet the core of complex, ripe fruit has real presence. An almost vanillin lift comes through on the close, suggesting high quality, tight grained French oak, and there is excellent mouth-feel and texture. Will be even better with a year or two in bottle. ($80).

Cullen – Chardonnay – Kevin John – 2014 (18.5). More obvious ripe fruit on the nose. Pineapple, melon and citrus with a backbone of peach-like fruit. The palate is rich, with the acid and oak sitting nicely with the fruit. An approachable style that provides immediate drinking pleasure, but will also age well for several years. A stately wine. ($100).

Cloudburst – Chardonnay – 2014 (18.4). Bright, elegant fruit, with peach and gentle melon. The palate is refined, with a creamy texture and fine French oak structure. Whilst there is a degree of restraint to the fruit, the wine has excellent poise and length. Builds depth in the glass, with a hint of toast from the quality oak. Needs time to show its best. ($250).2015 Kiss me KateShingleback – Chardonnay – Kiss Me Kate – 2015 (18). Another refined wine, with gentle stonefruit characters. The palate is near seamless and elegant. Superb balance, the subtle acidity builds and carries the finish. The oak merely shapes the palate, rather than dominating it. A lovely wine that will drink well over the next 5 years. ($19 in dozen lots from the winery).