Category Archives: New Release – Wine Reviews

All that Glitters is not Gold

All that Glitters is not Gold

Barry Weinman: 16th October 2020

Decanter Magazine recently announced the results of their World Wine Awards. Fraser Gallop was awarded Best in Show for their 2018 Parterre Chardonnay (from almost 1,000 Chardonnays!).

Whilst this is great recognition of the quality of the wine, trophies and gold medals awarded at wine shows need to be looked at in context.

As with this column, they only judge what is available to taste and many wineries refuse to submit wines for judging. The reason for this is twofold.

Firstly, there is the expense involved. Wineries pay a fee for each wine entered and have to submit numerous bottles of wine for assessment. These wines could otherwise be sold commercially.

Secondly, there may be little to be gained from a reputational point of view. No one would be surprised if Penfold’s Grange was awarded the world’s best Shiraz. But there would be surprise and reputational damage if it only received a bronze medal.

Wine shows and reviews are a great guide but have limitations.

A wine in contention for the most unusual wine of 2020 is the utterly delicious April Red from Patritti. Patritti is one of the last suburban wineries in Adelaide, with control over two of the last suburban vineyards.

The historic Marion Vineyard was planted to Grenache and Shiraz in 1907 whilst “Laffer’s Triangle”, on the banks of the Sturt, has old plantings of Pedro Ximinez.

The April Red is a delicious blend of these vineyards and is the first red wine released from the 2020 vintage in Australia.

Reviewed

Fraser Gallop – Parterre – Chardonnay– 2018. White peach and grapefruit over marzipan and gentle spicy oak notes. The palate is supple, refined and full of life, with the acidity adding delicious energy.  Yet the intensity of fruit at the core is the defining feature. A very fine wine indeed! (18.5/20pts – $50).

Patritti – April Red – 2020. An unusual blend of Grenache and Pedro Ximinez from historic Adelaide vineyards. Ripe, bright and succulent with juicy cherry and berry fruit, with liquorice and spice on the finish. Zippy acidity adds to the fun. Delicious alternative to lighter reds as the weather warms. (17.3/20pts – $24).

Higher Planes – The Messenger – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2016. The cooler climate, minty fruit is ripe and supple, and has been skilfully combined with fine oak and tannins resulting in an elegant, approachable wine. Yet there is the depth and structure to support bottle aging. A lovely wine. (18.5/20pts – $50).

Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Philip Adrian – 2017. Opens with cooler spectrum berry and red currant fruit that is perfectly ripe. The palate is intense, yet fine and elegant, with supple oak (50% new) adding depth and savoury complexity. Impressively packaged, this is a masterpiece for the vintage. (18.6/20pts – $100).

Wendouree: 2013 & 2017 Vintage Review

Image courtesy of Erin Larkin

Wendouree: 2013 & 2017 Vintage Review

Barry Weinman: 11th October 2020

With the imminent release of the 2018 vintage, I took the opportunity to open a cross-section of wines from both 2017 & 2013 for the tasting panel to see how they are developing.

The wines are incredibly hard to find, so I had to take a few deep breaths before opening them. Yes, there was the cost of opening twelve bottles of Wendouree reds., but It was more to do with the fact that this represented a significant portion of my allocation for each vintage.

In 2018 for example, I was only able to secure three bottles of each of the wines.

But I am so glad that I did so for several reasons.

Firstly, the wines are truly outstanding. Tasting the 2013 Shiraz, for example, was a spine-tingling experience. One of Australia’s greatest red wines???

And many of the others were not far behind, with many scores between 18.5 and 19. This consistency of quality across the range is something that few can match.

For me, the Shiraz and Cabernet are the pinnacle, closely followed by the Cabernet/Malbec. The Shiraz/Malbec and straight Malbec and the Shiraz/Mataro just a touch behind perhaps, but still great wines in their own right.

Secondly, it gave the panel the opportunity to compare and contrast the two vintages from a style perspective.

The 2013s’ were classically styled, with precise (if restrained) fruit and restrained structure. Everything is in its place and it is slowly starting to open up.

In contrast, the 2017s’ had an immediacy to the red berry fruit that was both surprising and delicious. Yet the trademark tannins and structure make these just as age-worthy.

Both are great, with strong support for both from the panel.

Finally, it also gave glimpse at how the wines evolve in the short term.

James Halliday recently commented that Wendouree releases over the last ten years have been more approachable at an early age and went so far as to say that he would be drinking some of these in the near future.

But I take a slightly different view. Wendouree reds have always been about elegance and restrained power. And these wines are no different. It was fascinating to see how they opened and evolved in the bottle over the following few days.

On day two and three, they were quite beautiful to drink, but it was clear that they will be at their best decades into the future.

But if you wanted to choose one to drink now, my pick would be the Malbec. Fragrant, delicious and a beautiful wine.

2013 Vintage

Wendouree – Shiraz/Mataro – 2013. Firm and structured, but the purity of fruit sits above the tannins and fine oak. Not quite silky at this stage, but elegant and very refined. The textural components build on the finish. With air, the power becomes palpable. Density increases, but the balance and elegance remains. Almost medium bodied. 18.4/20

Wendouree – Shiraz/ Malbec – 2013. More depth and power to the fruit compared to the Shiraz /Mataro. The palate is a delight. Savoury hints, but the pure (mulberry) fruit is the star. Tannins and oak are invisible, yet add a veneer of structure that gives this wine great balance. Superb, seamless, fine. 18.7/20

Wendouree – Malbec – 2013. Possesses a wow factor. Lifted ripe berry fruit combined with elegant structure and super fine tannins. Silky, yet the finish gradually gets closed down by the structural components. Elegant and refined, this is a star. 18.7/20

Wendouree – Cabernet /Malbec – 2013. The fruit here is spectacular! Focused, precise and pretty. The palate is a revelation; layers of blue berry fruits and supple, savoury, structural notes. Remarkably elegant and fine, given the innate power that lurks beneath the surface. So long and dense. Now to eternity. 18.9/20

Wendouree – Shiraz – 2013. An unbelievably good wine. Fragrant, perfumed and vibrant, with the gentlest of savoury oak, combined with fine tannins that slowly build across the finish. Remarkably elegant for a wine of such depth and power. Liquorice and spice notes build with air. The overall favourite wine of the panel. 18.9/20

Wendouree –Cabernet – 2013. Typical Clare mint and eucalypt sitting over the most precise and elegant fruit that you could imagine. More structural components than the shiraz, with concentration and breathtaking depth of fruit. Blueberry, blackcurrant and so much more. A remarkable wine. 19.3/20

2017 Vintage

Wendouree – Shiraz /Mataro – 2017. Beautiful lifted fruit on the nose. Again, fine and elegant, but this has a little more fruit weight up front that needs time to open up. The raspberry and cherry fruit is supported by supple oak. With air the fruit builds and looks very pretty and pure. Great wine. 18.6/20

Wendouree – Shiraz /Malbec – 2017. Riper and a little bit of plum over the berry fruit. Taut and structured, with higher acidity, this is the most closed of the wines so far. Impressive, but not as approachable as the others are right now. Needs years. 18/20

Wendouree – Malbec – 2017. Riper, with an almost juicy character to the fruit complemented by oak that is near invisible.  Higher in acid, this needs time for the fruit to settle down and open up. But with air, this really shines becoming quite delicious. 18.5/20

Wendouree – Cabernet/Malbec – 2017. Wow wow wow. Spectacular fruit. Ripe and powerful, with the succulent berry notes the main focus. Sure, there is plenty of tannins and acid, but the fruit is the primary focus. Easy to overlook the seriousness of this wine given the immediacy, but cellaring will be rewarded. With air this is quite remarkable. 19/20

Wendouree – Shiraz – 2017 If possible, this was even better than the 2013. The fruit is vibrant and lifted, with more in common with Grand Cru Burgundy than a typical Australian Shiraz. Very long and supple, the wine-making inputs invisible. Words escape me. 19.2/20

Wendouree – Pressings – 2017. I was not expecting this to be just so good. Refined, elegant and long, with lovely blueberry fruit the main focus. The acid balance is brilliant, leaving the palate alive and fresh.. Is it the  ultimate food wine? It’s certainly the best drinking young Wendouree that I can remember. (Yet the powerful tannins are palpable underneath.) 18.5/20

Substance versus Style

Substance versus Style

Barry Weinman: 30th September 2020

In the wine industry, like in fashion, styles change over time. What is considered fashionable is often dictated by wine show judges and the major newspaper wine writers.

After all, who is going to question the quality and style of a wine that has won a swag of trophies and gold medals and received scores of 96 – 99 points from the experts?

But sometimes, there is a disconnect between what the critics are advocating and what consumers will enjoy.

I consider myself, first and foremost, a consumer of wine, therefore the wines that I review are ones that I am happy to drink, rather than esoteric wines that appeal to the jaded critic.

Chardonnay is an excellent example of changes in wine fashion. In the 1990s, Chardonnay tended to be very ripe and heavily oaked. Then, after a decade of slow evolution, around 2010 there was a notable shift to leaner, more austere wines that lacked joy and required extended aging to hit their straps. This was particularly so in Victoria.

Fortunately, in Western Australia at least, there has been a tendency to avoid these large stylistic swings and to concentrate on the middle ground.

The 2019 Devil’s Lair Chardonnay is a great example of this style. Elegant and refined, yet with a generosity of fruit that makes it quite irresistible.

For Pinot Noir and Riesling, it has been more about refining the style rather than wholesale change and the two wines reviewed are excellent examples.

Reviewed

Devil’s Lair – Chardonnay – 2019. Very fine and elegant, with white peach and gentle nectarine aromas. The palate is fresh, vibrant and precise, with supple oak and partial (50%) malolactic fermentation adding depth and texture. The generous fruit has excellent length and persistence. A great drink now – 5 years. 18.5/20pts – $45.

Duke’s – Magpie Hill Reserve – Riesling – 2020. Gently aromatic and perfumed fruit with lime blossom, talc and sherbet notes. The palate is steely and powerful, with great intensity of fruit. Seamless and very long, with tingling acidity to close. A profound wine and one of Australia’s greatest Rieslings. 18.8/20pts – $42.

Castelli – Pinot Noir – 2019. Lighter, finer and prettier than many new world Pinots, resulting in a serious, yet approachable wine of some note. The quality fruit is savoury, supple, textured and quite delicious, with enough depth and structure from the clever winemaking to support short term cellaring.  Good value! 18/20pts – $34

Leeuwin Estate: Not Just a One Trick Pony

Barry Weinman: 30th September 2020

Year after year, Leeuwin Estate’s Art Series Chardonnay garners a huge amount of praise and attention, and rightly so. After all, this has a long history of being one of the greatest white wines made in Australia, with an enviable 38 vintage history.

With all the focus on Chardonnay, it is very easy to overlook the rest of the portfolio. However, this would be a mistake, given the sheer quality shown across the entire range.

Since 2010, the red wines in particular have really shone, and are now equalling the very best wines of the region and also offer great value.

For example, the 2015 Art Series Cabernet was consistently one of my highest rated wines in blind tastings of great Australian Cabernets. Yet remarkably, it is still widely available for around $80, and offers excellent value compared to some of its counterparts.

The recently released 2016 is another superb wine, albeit in a slightly different style. More perfumed, fragrant and approachable than I recall previous releases, but equally age-worthy.

The Art Series Shiraz is, if anything, even better value than the Cabernet. Mature vines and sympathetic winemaking results in a vibrant, elegant wine with depth and texture.

The best value of all comes from the Prelude Chardonnay. This is an excellent wine in its own right and is a fraction of the cost of the Art Series.

The Riesling is also noteworthy. While it’s not a fashionable grape for the region, this is an excellent, age-worthy wine.

Whichever way you look at it, the consumer is the winner!

Reviewed

Leeuwin Estate – Riesling – Art Series – 2019 (18/20pts – $23). Floral, with taut mineral/steely notes. The palate is slightly viscous and oily, with crisp citrus acidity. The finish is fine, racy, textured and long, building supple lime to close.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Prelude – 2018 (18+/20pts – $36). Gorgeous peachy stone fruit aromas and flavours. The palate is vibrant and alive, with the zesty grapefruit acidity giving way to gentle oak, barrel ferment and lees notes. The supple texture and near seamless finish is remarkable at this price point. While not as deep as the Art Series, it is still utterly delicious.               

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Prelude – 2017 (17.8/20pts – $32). Fragrant and juicy berry fruit, with fine tannins and savoury oak adding depth and texture. The vibrancy makes this a great drink now, but it will also take short term cellaring.

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2016 (18.6/20pts – $79). Wonderfully perfumed, with fragrant berries and so much more. On the palate, the fruit still shines, but the supple structure gives this a degree of gravitas.  Minerality, fine oak (50% new), chewy, savoury notes and talc-like tannins. Powerful enough for long term aging, yet subtle enough for immediate drinking.

Leeuwin Estate – Shiraz – Art Series – 2017 (18.3/20pts – $42). This may be cooler climate Shiraz, but there is wonderful berry/cherry fruit leaping from the glass. The palate is vibrant and fresh, with supple oak and tannins adding depth and texture. Gets chewy on the close, but the finish remains relatively supple and poised, with excellent length.

Leeuwin Estate – Shiraz – Siblings – 2018. (17.5/20pts – $25). This has more depth and structure than I was expecting. There is still the vibrant, pretty fruit, but this is complemented by savoury, earthy complexity that would make this a great choice with food.

A multi-axial approach towards understanding the (red) wines of Burgundy

A multi-axial approach towards understanding the (red) wines of Burgundy

Brendan Jansen MW

24th September 2020

The wines of Burgundy can be as seductive and beguiling as they can be confusing. This small plot of land – with the Cote D’Or comprising only about 13,000 hectares as compared to Bordeaux’s over 120,000 hectares – is infused with wine history and intrigue. The still wines of Burgundy, of both red and white incarnations, are widely viewed as the most wonderful in the world of wine. Winemakers around the world aspire to produce wines that can come close to rivalling the best Burgundy has to offer.

Much of the mystique around Burgundy stems from the in-depth analysis and classification in the region, pioneered by Cistercian monks over centuries, adding at once both a stamp of authority and an air of opacity.

I, too, have fallen victim to Burgundy’s charms, and I, too, have sought to understand this ever-changing, complex and multi-faceted area.

I do not pretend to be a Burgundy expert – far from it, in fact. I believe that to truly understand Burgundy one has to live and breathe the place, and preferably live and breathe IN the place – as do the likes of Jasper Morris MW and Clive Coates MW.

Yet I have found a formula that I believe assists, and am bravely sharing it.

A quick word on the term “multi-axial”: I borrow it from my psychiatry roots, where, in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), diagnoses were, up to the most current fifth edition, spread across five axes. The intention was to highlight the complexities of psychiatric formulation, by making specific reference in the final assessment of such elements as global functioning, psychosocial stresses, personality style, and organicity.

Translating that to the Burgundian setting, I have come to appreciate that certain variables are important, and act somewhat independently from others, yet contribute to the complex “formulation” of the wine. In Burgundy (as in other areas wherein small lots and artisanal holdings predominate, as in Piedmont, Italy) these axes are those of

  • Vintage
  • Commune
  • Quality level, and
  • Producer

VINTAGE

Taking each of these in isolation, vintage variation continues to be a major factor influencing both yield and quality in Burgundy, despite the irrefutable march of climate change. While global warming continues, the presence of extreme weather events continues to haunt Burgundian vignerons, especially the curse of hail.

There are perhaps several points to be made about vintage – firstly, increasingly important has work in the vineyard become. Aggressive foliage management, disease control, frost mitigation and yield adjustment can result in very sound wines. Moreover, poorer vintages may bring out larger variations in communal terroir than “good” vintages. (Of course, vintages rated poor for white wines might not be so for red, and vice versa.) Further, hyperlocal variation in weather events can be evident from village to village, vineyard to vineyard, even row to row.

Very reliable vintage charts are widely available, and represent a dependable and accessible resource. I use those available on JancisRobinson.com.

COMMUNE

Provenance is another important axis. Broadly speaking, the Cote de Beaune reds are less muscular and sinewy that those of the Cote de Nuits. There are of course, exceptions. Volnay and Pommard abut each other in the Cote de Beaune, but the ferric content in the Pommard soils leads to much more tannic wines. Likewise, in the Cotes de Nuits, wines from Chambolle Musigny and Vosne Romanee are softer and more perfumed than the more brooding wines of Gevrey Chambertin. Other appellations are “midway”, and the characters of their wines in part depend on where in the commune the vines sit geographically.

QUALITY DESIGNATION

Quality levels – from AOC Bourgogne, up to Village wines, to Premier Cru and then Grand Cru status – offer an in-built system by which we Burgundy lovers can obtain direction. Quality classifications may be similar in different communes, but objective overall quality is not easily comparable. Consider a Premier Cru wine from a well-known appellation such as Vosne Romanee as compared to, say, one from lesser renowned Beaune or Fixin. Nonetheless, these quality levels reflect longstanding acknowledgement of the superiority of some sites within the appellation – due to soil, aspect, terroir….

PRODUCER

Finally, there is the axis of Producer, which can be code for “care in the vineyard” and/or “winemaking techniques”. In regard to the latter – there are as many formulae touted for making the best red Burgundy wines as there are producers. Variations include the inclusion of stems or whole bunches, the pre and post maceration regime (if any), the temperature of fermentation, the type of, and treatment with, oak, to name but a handful of the myriad that exist. Winemaking can of course vary from year to year in the same producer, and aspects such as the degree of protective handling and cleanliness in the winery come into play.

Winemaker variables explain, for example, why two wines from a particular vintage, and particular appellation, and even particular vineyard, can command vastly different prices. Some winemakers develop a cult status, ensuring prices of their best wines are astronomical, and out of reach to most.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

How does this multiaxial approach assist the average consumer? Price can assist, as broadly speaking, two wines that cost, say A$150 each will have a similar objective quality level, irrespective of producer, quality designation or commune. But going beyond that, I hope the axes mentioned above can help.

An understanding of vintage conditions is a good start. Quality designations, too, are a quick and easy guide.

If, for example, you discover that you love the wines of Gevrey Chambertin, you might seek out a bargain from close by Fixin. Likewise, Puligny Montrachet and St Aubin.

If you prefer more perfumed and less tannic wines, you may stick with the communes of Chambolle Musigny, Volnay or Vosne Romanee.

If you discover that you adore the winemaking style of certain producers, be they more rustic and savoury or more modern, using more or less new oak – stick with them, or seek out producers with a similar style.

A new up-and-coming producer you have discovered might not have hit Rockstar status (yet), making his or her wines more accessible.

A wine from a great producer from a lesser vintage frequently delivers a very pleasant surprise.

HAPPY HUNTING!

Brendan Jansen MW

Clive Otto and the wines of Fraser Gallop

Clive Otto and the wines of Fraser Gallop

Brendan Jansen MW: 15th August 2020

After working at Vasse Felix winery from 1989 to 2006, Clive Otto joined Fraser Gallop wines. This is his 14th year at the helm as chief winemaker. All of Clive’s wines, even those that he makes for other growers in Margaret River, have his stamp of elegance and understated austerity.

The benefits of working in a single vineyard site such as Fraser Gallop is that Clive can essentially use the same winemaking techniques for each of his wines – for example employing wild yeast ferments and the same coopers each year – so that vintage variation can easily be evident.

There are three “levels” of Fraser Gallop wines – the Estate, Parterre and Palladian – each offering excellent value for money.

I attended a tasting at Lamont’s Cottesloe hosted by Clive and tasted the following wines:

Fraser Gallop – Estate – Semillon Sauvignon Blanc – 2019

Reflective of the cool vintage, this was fresh but has a palate feel suggesting time on lees and perhaps a barrel component. 70% Semillon, I daresay this will age well for another 5 years +.  17.5/20

Fraser Gallop – Parterre – Semillon Sauvignon – Blanc – 2018

From the warmer 2018 vintage, 54% Semillon. Whole bunch pressed to barrel, with use of 500l puncheons and 265l long barrels (akin to pipes) to maximise effects of 9 months on lees. Superb depth. Ageworthy. 18/20

Fraser Gallop – Parterre – Chardonnay – 2014

Despite bottle-age quite youthful, opened nicely, gentle palate. Light toast Burgundian oak well integrated. 17.5/20

Fraser Gallop – Parterre – Chardonnay 2018

Tropical fruit and zesty acidity come to the fore here, with warmer vintage showcasing the Gin Gin clone. Malolactic avoided, both puncheons and barriques employed, 30% new, grapes refrigerated before pressing. Intense flavours. 17.5/20

Fraser Gallop – Palladian – Chardonnay – 2018

Only 2 puncheons made each year. Specific vineyard selection of east-west rows, on gravel soil. Different tone to this wine – deeper, superb mouthfeel. More toasty oak evident giving spicy even peppery edge. 18/20

Fraser Gallop – Rose – 2018

This was made from Chenin Blanc (55%) and Muscat Rouge a Petits Grains (45%). Ultra-dry, ultra-pale, minerally and fruity at the same time. I actually think that one could treat this like a white wine and age it for a few years. 17.5/20

Fraser Gallop – Rose – 2020

More in a Provencal style, again ultra-pale and dry, this was made from Shiraz grapes. 17/20

Fraser Gallop – Estate – Cabernet Merlot – 2018

Hand-picked, destemmed, no crushing, whole berry cold soaked, with Clive’s signature combined plunging and pumping over technique. Superb colour, Margaret River faithful, and perhaps best quality-for-price ratio. 18.5/20

Fraser Gallop – Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2017

More structured and Bordelais, reflecting Clive’s experiences in Pichon Baron. Grapes were crushed and a warmer ferment used, with more traditional barrel-to-barrel racking. One for classical palates. 18/20

Fraser Gallop – Parterre – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2017

Open fermenter, hand plunged, then transferred to barrel to complete fermentation, portion of new oak. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot, with licks of Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Concentrated and “serious”, will evolve for over 10 years. 18/20

Fraser Gallop – Palladian – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2016

The best rows of Cabernet Sauvignon – 100% destemmed with cold soak, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% new French oak barrel-fermented, and 100% delicious! A wine of class and aristocracy! 18.5/20

Brendan Jansen MW

Riesling: Southern Exposure

Riesling: Southern Exposure

Barry Weinman: 15th August 2020

At the end of a 25-wine tasting of very high-quality Riesling, I found myself reflecting on just how much I enjoyed the tasting. This was due to a number of factors.

To start with, there was the purity of fruit, approachability of the wines and sheer quality of winemaking on show.

I was also enjoying that my palate felt refreshed in a way that would never happen with Cabernet, Shiraz or Sauvignon Blanc for example.

There was also the fact that Western Australia is producing great Rieslings from across the Great Southern.

And that there is something extra special about the Rieslings from the Porongurups. The wines seem to express themselves a little differently to their Frankland cousins, being a little finer, taking on an almost ethereal character that defies description.

This was particularly evident with Howard Park and Cherubino, where their Porongurup offerings were clearly preferred by the panel. Great for current drinking, but also very age-worthy.

Yet the wines from Mt Barker held their heads up high, particularly the block wines from Forest Hill.

There is also something different about Riesling when it comes to value. With wines like the Gilberts Riesling selling for little more than $20, they are no brainers. Even the very best of the wines reviewed sell for less than $50 and represent great buying!

Finally, it was great to be able to compare and contrast these wines to those from Clare and Eden Valley, the spiritual homes of Australian Riesling. The 2019 Leonay did not disappoint!

Reviewed:

Duke’s – Riesling – Magpie Hill Reserve – 2019 (18.8/20pts). This has a real wow factor. An combination of minerality, subtle spice and lemony fruit. The palate is sublime with great balance and seamless palate transition. Will reward cellaring if you can stop yourself from drinking it now.

Leo Buring – Riesling – Leonay – 2019 (18.7/20pts – $40). A lovely mix of steely notes and gentle floral and citrus characters on the nose. The palate is restrained and taut, with fine, neutral acidity and a finish that feels bone dry. Great balance, with subtle depth and power, and seamless palate transition. A brilliant wine that will blossom with age. An icon!

GilbertsRiesling – 2019 (18/20pts – $24). I like this, as it was the most approachable wine of the tasting yet has excellent lime-like fruit that is fresh and bright. Gentle, texturing phenolics and subtle viscosity add mouthfeel, with the zippy, balancing acidity carrying the finish. Great value and capable of some bottle age if desired.  From Mt Barker.

Howard Park – Riesling – Porongurup – 2019 (18.5/20pts – $35). Zesty and racy, with lime acidity, steely fruit notes and a touch of perfumed talc. The palate is concentrated and powerful, with lemony fruit building on the finish. The fruit quality is a highlight though this needs a few years to hit its straps.

Cherubino – Riesling – Porongurup – 2019 (18.6/20pts- $39). A fragrant, pretty and almost ethereal wine where the citrus-like fruit is subdued. However the quality is palpable on the very fine, restrained palate. The finish is quite silky, yet the minerality and texture a highlight. With air, the fruit really builds intensity and lingers, so time in the cellar recommended.

Cherubino – Riesling – Mt Barker – 2017 (18.5/20pts – $35). Fragrant, intense and powerful fruit up front. But then the acid kicks in and leaves the palate drier than the Simpson desert. Powerful, impactful and age worthy, this really opens up in the glass. An excellent wine with great balance, but needs a few years to show its full potential.

Castle Rock – Riesling – 2019 (18.5/20pts – $25). Taut, youthful and athletic, this is sinewy and lean with deceptive power. There are lemony citrus notes and fine acidity and gentle phenolics that add depth and texture.  This is an excellent wine, but it really needs a few years to open up and build some flesh.

Forest Hill – Riesling – Block 2 – 2018 (18.3/20pts). A reserved style that has a steely minerality. The palate is packed with lime and fine, piercing acidity.  This is made for the long haul. Despite being closed and tight, it is very impressive all the same. The off-dry finish adds to the palate feel. From a vineyard planted in 1975.

Dr. Loosen – Riesling – Kabinett – Wehlener Sonnenuhr – 2016 (18.3/20pts – $36). A different style that is aromatic and perfumed with musk, sherbet and a touch of lemonade. The palate is vibrant and delicious, with superb acid balance. Being off-dry and lower in alcohol, this is so easy to drink now. A thrilling wine.

Frankland Estate – Riesling – Isolation Ridge – 2018 (18/20). More approachable with the aromatic fruit on the nose a highlight. Hints of pineapple, tropical fruit, and lanolin, with vibrant citrus notes flooding the palate. The texture on the finish is noteworthy. A great drink now, but sure to age well in the medium-term. Points for drinking well now.

Pewsey Vale – Riesling – The Contours – Museum Reserve – 2014 (18.5+/20). The concentrated fruit has a steely component and is taking on the first signs of bottle age. The palate is intense and powerful, with gentle toast notes building. The depth of flavours is a revelation, building in layers on the palate. The acid is firm and taut, leaving the finish very dry. An excellent wine that gives a glimpse as to how Rieslings age.

Cherubino – Riesling – Great Southern – 2019 (18.2/20pts). An intense, high acid style that is powerful but a touch subdued at present. Age worthy.

Ad Hoc – Riesling – Wallflower – 2019 (17.8/20pts – 21). I like the balance here. Lemony fruit with hints of musk combine with fine, refreshing acidity. The gentle phenolic texture adds to the appeal. A touch dumb in the mid palate now, but there is excellent length on the close.

Shepard’s Hut – Riesling – Porongurup – 2019 (17.7/20pts). Fresh citrus with floral talc aromas. The palate is lithe, fresh and near seamless. Restrained and fine, yet there is decent depth. A touch of minerals and fresh lime juice round out the package.

Penfolds Collection: 2020 Release

Penfolds Collection: 2020 Release

Barry Weinman: 31st  July 2020

Penfolds is a brand that needs no introductions. From the humble Koonunga Hill through to Grange, generations of Australians have built their cellars around these iconic wines.

The wines are reliable year in and year-out, but in the good years, they take on a special quality.

So the launch of a new vintage is something to get excited about, especially when the vintages concerned (2016 – 2018) were all very good years in South Australia.

To celebrate the 2020 release, I tasted a few of the wines, and was left profoundly impressed. The Bin 28 and Bin 389 are excellent, whilst the St Henri is a truly outstanding wine.

The surprise of the tasting was the 2019 Bin 311 Chardonnay – a beautiful expression of cool climate Chardonnay.  The Bin 19A Chardonnay was even better, similar to the profound 2017.

I have a growing respect for McLaren Vale Cabernet, and I was interested to note this featuring in Bin 707, Bin 389 and Bin 407.

Prices for the Bin wines continue to creep up, but, in the context of Australian wine, remain fairly priced.

What about Grange? For the elite few who can afford to buy (and drink) this wine, Peter Gago is comparing it to the great 1986 and 1996. An iconic wine with a price and pedigree to match.

Reviewed

Penfolds – Chardonnay – Bin 311 – 2019 (18.5/20pts – $50).  Perfectly ripe stone fruit aromas are supported by gentle pineapple, lemon pith and grapefruit notes. The palate has laser-like precision, with elegant fruit the star. Oak and lees work add depth and texture without impeding the flavour profile. Develops minerality and complex lees/barrel ferment aromas and curry leaf with air. Quite beautiful.

Penfolds – Shiraz – Bin 28 – 2018 (18.6/20pts – $50).  Intense, powerful and very long, with a degree of suppleness that is irresistible. The plum/berry fruit is vibrant and supple, with fine tannins masking its full effect just now. Savoury, with refreshing acidity, this is quite delicious, but is capable of aging for at least 20 years. The most complete wine in the line-up right now.

Penfolds – Cabernet/Shiraz – Bin 389 – 2018 (18.7/20pts – $100). Vibrant colour and a nose that is supple, succulent and refined, showing perfumed blueberry fruit, with gentle mint highlights. The concentration of fruit is a highlight, as are the very fine savoury notes courtesy of the oak and fine tannins on a long, silky finish that is refined and polished. Needs years yet drinking well now.

Penfolds – Shiraz – St Henri – 2017 (18.8/20pts – $135). Quite closed, with intense fruit and savoury menthol and dried herb notes. With air, the precise fruit gets better and better. The palate is outstanding. The fruit stunningly concentrated, yet remarkably elegant and refined. The velvety tannins build ultimately shutting down the fruit on the close. Balanced, long and extremely age-worthy, this is a great wine!

The Many Faces of Cabernet Sauvignon

The Many Faces of Cabernet Sauvignon

Barry Weinman: 30th July 2020

When I think of versatile red grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon does not normally spring to mind. Shiraz, after all, is the ultimate chameleon, thriving in all but the very coolest vineyards in the country.

Whilst Coonawarra is perhaps the spiritual home of Cabernet in Australia, Margaret River is, for me at least, the reigning king of Cabernet production.

But looking a bit further afield, there are a number of regions producing very fine Cabernet. In South Australia for example, Barossa, Clare Valley and even McLaren Vale can produce excellent wines. Each region has a slightly different take on the style.

This week, I have reviewed a number of quite different styles, including two from the same producer. The Pedestal, Peos Estate and Higher Planes are all notable for offering excellent value. The Higher Planes is also noteworthy for being a 2014 vintage.

Reviewed

Shingleback – Cabernet Sauvignon – Davey Estate – 2018 (18/20pts). Intense blackcurrant fruit with hints of mint and menthol. Very fine and polished tannins and supple oak and silky texture add to the appeal. Now – 10 years+.

Shingleback – Cabernet Sauvignon – D Block Reserve – 2017 (18.5/20pts – $60). Fragrant and attractive, with intrinsic power to the ripe blackcurrant fruit. Souring cherry-like acidity and fine tannins build on the close, complemented by quality oak.  A serious wine that will be long lived, but its immediate appeal makes this hard to resist.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Abercrombie – 2017 (18.5+/20pts). Initially shy and restrained, building bright blueberry fruit and even a touch of violets building with air. The palate is taut, dense and restrained with a core of ripe fruit that slowly builds. The tannins and oak are not obvious but make their presence felt in the way the fruit is shut down on the close. Potential.

Higher Planes – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2014 (18.5/20pts – $40). The nose is quite seductive, the fine fruit perfumed and redolent of ripe berries and cassis. The palate is most beguiling, with mint, gentle eucalypt and a hint of dried herbs. The finish is ultimately shut down by the very fine tannins and oak, yet remains near seamless. Good value.

Peos Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Four Aces – 2018 (18.5/20pts – $35). A real surprise package that is supple, restrained, elegant and fine. This is tight and dense with very polished tannins and fine-grained French oak (50% new), leaving the fruit a little subdued at first. With air though, the blackcurrant fruit starts to shine. With only two barrels produced, this is a great effort from this Manjimup producer.

Pedestal – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2018 (18.4/20pts – $25). Clearly different to most here, in that this wine is all about immediate pleasure. Builds layers of rich, ripe fruit that are supple and deliciously succulent. Excellent texture and oak to close. Not as serious as the big boys but gets big points for being a great drink.

Chardonnay: July 2020

Chardonnay: July 2020

Barry Weinman: 18th July 2020

I am a huge fan of Riesling, a variety that can also claim the title of best value white wine in Australia. But in the cooler months, Chardonnay is my go-to white.

With the temperature in the cellar approaching fifteen degrees, this is a little too cold to get the most out of a decent Cabernet or Shiraz. The cooler temperatures tend to suppress the fruit characters, which can sometimes make the wines look a little unbalanced.

Worse still, serving them too cold can suck the joy out of the wine, making for a less than ideal experience.  And it is unlikely to warm up much with an hour or two on the kitchen bench.

Fifteen degrees is, however, an excellent temperature to drink Chardonnay. But this comes with a caveat: make it a good one. Lesser quality whites are best served well chilled, as this masks some of the less desirable characters.

Obviously in summer, the wine is going to warm up in the glass, necessitating more time in the fridge, but mid-winter, this is not an issue (in my house at least).

In my experience, better quality Chardonnay can really express its character as it warms up in the glass. If it feels a little too warm, then a short stint in the fridge will do the trick.

Reviewed

Cherubino – Chardonnay – Gingin – Wilyabrup – 2019 – (18.3/20pts – $39). Complexity here is a feature. Creamy lees and barrel work, supple oak and ripe stone fruit all express on the nose. The palate is intense, powerful and very long, with the supple texture a highlight, courtesy of very fine, tight grain oak. Delicious and almost seamless, with grapefruit acidity to close.

Cherubino – Chardonnay – Margaret River – 2019 (18.5/20pts – $60). Pretty floral notes with depth and intensity to the fruit and just a touch of caramel oak and lees. Power builds on the palate and is most impressive. The oak has been subsumed by the fruit contributing to the near seamless palate transition. A potent wine that needs a year or two to settle.

Cherubino – Chardonnay – Laissez Faire – 2019 (18.5/20pts – $39). Pretty, perfumed, focussed, fine and intense. The powerful, yet sublime fruit has clear cool region characters and grapefruit acidity. The clever oak and lees work add to the appeal. Gets extra points for drinkability, as this is delicious straight out of the bottle.

Cherubino – Chardonnay – Dijon – 2019. (18.5+/20pts – $45). Opens with complex, struck match and flint notes courtesy of the vanillin oak and supple lees work. The palate shows ripe stone fruit over complex yet supple worked characters and is very long and intense. Beautiful mouthfeel, with gentle toast from the oak and fine grapefruit acidity. Will be even better with a year or two in bottle.

Forest Hill – Chardonnay – Block 8 – 2016 (18/20pts – $50). A viscous, textured wine, where the toast from the oak is a little more obvious at present but this should settle in the bottle. The intense, pristine fruit is at the core of this wine with impressive depth and power. This is a powerful wine that demands attention.

Howard Park – Chardonnay – Allingham – 2018 (18.3/20pts). Rounded and balanced, with subtlety, elegance and finesse.  Long and very fine with pristine acidity, this is remarkably good drinking right now.  However there is an intensity to the fruit that suggests that this will improve over the next 3 – 5 years at least.

Shingleback – Chardonnay – Red Knot – 2019 (17/20pts – $15). Pristine, fine fruit that is redolent of peach and nectarine, complemented by fragrant vanillin oak notes. The palate is bright, and fresh, with gentle lees and malolactic fermentation notes. Straightforward? Sure, but this is an eminently drinkable wine and great value at $15.