Category Archives: New Release – Wine Reviews

A Year to Remember

A Year to Remember
Barry Weinman: 27th June 2021

Margaret River has been blessed with a seemingly never-ending run of very good vintages, starting with the 2007 vintage and continuing to this day. I am not aware of any other region globally that has ever been able to achieve this level of consistency!

But this success is not the whole story as there has been considerable vintage-to-vintage variation. However, modern viticultural practices and sensitive winemaking techniques have enabled the region as a whole to prosper.

2017 is an excellent example. After the warmer and drier than average 2016 vintage, 2017 was significantly cooler and wetter. This mandated significant work in the vineyard to ensure healthy ripe grapes were delivered to the winery.

And for many, the results were outstanding. More restrained and elegant, yet with perfectly ripe tannins. Different in style? Yes. But the quality of many of the top wines were outstanding and worthy of extended cellaring.

2018, by contrast was a winemaker’s dream. The warm (but not overly hot) weather continued right through to harvest, with no major rain events to worry about. Many are claiming that this is one of the greatest Margaret River vintages for Cabernet on record.

2019 was another cooler year where Chardonnay really shone.

And whilst most producers have already sold out of these vintages, Xanadu has just launched their premium wines and they are worth seeking out.

Reviewed

Xanadu – Stevens Road – Chardonnay – 2019. This is impactful, powerful and intense, with nectarine and tropical fruit to the fore. High-quality oak/barrel ferment notes add the highlights, whilst lemon zest and fine acidity carry the very long finish. This is a statement wine that demands attention. 95pts – $80

Xanadu – Reserve – Chardonnay– 2019. Fine and elegant with great poise. Yet there is tremendous depth and innate power sitting behind the peach-like fruit characters. The high-quality oak has been pared back, adding depth and texture without overly flavouring the wine. Zest builds on the very long finish. Outstanding. 96pts – $110

Xanadu – Stevens Road – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2018. This is something of a gentle giant. There is powerful fruit, firm, structured oak and tannins, yet there is a warm heart nestling underneath all of the bravado. Opulent blackcurrant and eucalypt supported by graphite-like tannins and superb oak handling. Now – 20 years. 95pts – $80

The Duke Who Would be King

The Duke Who Would be King

Barry Weinman: 12th June 2021

Porongorup producer Duke’s has developed a reputation in recent years for making some of Australia’s best rieslings. The combination of high quality fruit and sympathetic winemaking by the talented Rob Diletti has proved a winner.

So I was delighted, but not surprised at the quality of the current release reds under the Magpie Hill Reserve Label. Both the Shiraz and Cabernet are superb, but what makes the wines stand out is the value that is on offer.

Priced around $40, the 2019 Cabernet in particular may be the best value Western Australian Cabernet on the market right now. The vineyard was planted in 1999 and is producing great quality fruit.

Following great reviews from Brendan Jansen MW, I tried the Skigh Shiraz for the first time. Very impressive depth and power.

Aldi has another great value wine with the A.C Byrne and Co Chardonnay. A very drinkable wine for $13.

Reviewed

Duke’s Magpie Hill Reserve – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2019. Oh wow. The purity of the ripe fruit is quite breathtaking. Yet the fruit is very muted, cocooned in a blanket of fine fine tannins. With time and patience, this will transform into something beautiful, but you need to be patient to see it at its best. 96pts – $42

Duke’s Magpie Hill Reserve – Shiraz – 2018. Strikingly vibrant colour. This is intense, powerful and quite beautiful. It is full of coffee and chocolate notes, with a hint of caramel, pepper and mint. But the dense ripe fruit is the main feature. Fine, elegant and even a touch reserved. Brilliant and age worthy. 18.5pts

SkighAbacus – Shiraz – 2019. Dense, powerful, cooler climate Shiraz that is taut and restrained. The ripe fruit has darker plum notes, supported by silky oak. But this needs a decade to really open up. 94pts – $45

Mount Langi GhiranLangi – Shiraz – 2018. Pretty berry fruit, fine structure and silky mouthfeel. Really complex, with liquorice, menthol, spice and pepper building on the palate. After a day in the bottle, this really blossomed. An outstanding wine 96pts+

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi – Shiraz – 2017. A bit of wow-factor going on here. Pretty berry and cherry fruit up front, but then this gets quite dark and savoury in the mouth with tobacco leaf and cedary notes. The quality is palpable. In this elegant, cooler climate wine that offers great drinking pleasure now, but is also good for medium term aging. Improved greatly with air. 94-95pts.

Bowen Estate – Shiraz – 2018. Classic Coonawarra Shiraz. Mint and eucalyptus over fragrant cherry and plum fruit. The finish is long and fine, defined by the graphite-like tannins, and savoury notes. The texture is a highlight having a lot in common with fine Pinot Noir. 94pts

Simple Chicken Curry

Simple Chicken Curry (Serves 4 people)

Barry Weinman

Prep time: 15 Minutes
Cooking time: 90 minutes

This really is the easiest of recipes, is healthy and delicious, and takes almost no effort. And the ingredients are straight from the supermarket. The only proviso is that it is best to cook this the day before, to allow the flavours to infuse the meat.

I have used thigh fillets in this recipe for convenience, but at home, I tend to cut up whole birds, as this allows me to make stock with the bones.

Pre-made curry powders typically have chilli in them, so I substitute in some extra cumin and coriander powder to boost the flavours without adding extra heat. Feel free to add more or less spice to suit your taste.

And given how well this keeps, I usually make a double quantity and pop some in the freezer.

Ingredients
1kg Chicken Thigh Fillets – Free range if possible
1 large onion – diced
1 sprig curry leaf (Optional)
2 heaped teaspoons Spencer’s curry powder
2 heaped teaspoon cumin powder
1.5 heaped teaspoon coriander Powder
2 cloves garlic – chopped
1 teaspoon of chopped ginger
1 rounded teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
4 teaspoons white vinegar (or to taste)
Generous glug of canola oil to fry

Method

  • Fry onion, ginger and curry leaf in canola oil until softened and translucent.
  • Add all other ingredients except chicken and stir to combine
  • Add chicken and stir to combine
  • Gradually bring to a boil and turn down to a very gentle simmer with the lid on
  • Cook for 60 – 90 minutes until tender
  • Adjust salt and vinegar to taste
  • Skim oil from surface if required

To serve, garnish with fresh coriander or spring onion (optional), accompanied by steamed rice.

Notes

  • Cut larger pieces of chicken in half
  • There is no need to add any liquid. This will come out of the chicken
  • Curry leaf is really optional. The flavour is very subtle and unlikely to be noticed anyway
  • For a more intense flavour, cook with the lid off for 30 minutes to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
  • I prefer the flavours of Naked chicken, but any good quality free range chicken will be fine

Winter Warmers

Winter Warmers

Barry Weinman: 3rd June 2021

With the change in the weather, my mind automatically drifts to bigger, richer reds to drink with a hearty winter casserole or a comforting curry.

There is a lot of hesitation when it comes to selecting a wine to serve with spicy food. The fear is that the food will overpower the wine, reducing the enjoyment.

But I think it is important to differentiate between spice and chilli. There is no doubt that fiery food is a problem. Indeed, when the chilli is turned up, I have trouble tasting the food, let alone the wine that is accompanying it.

But spice is a different matter. We eat a lot of home-cooked curries, rich in flavour but with only a hint of chilli in the background. I also look for cleaner, fresher characters, avoiding the use of coconut cream and adding fresh herbs (coriander/spring onion) just before serving. You can get my recipe here.

The complex flavours of the dish can work brilliantly with a richer red, especially one with bottle age.

As much as I love Margaret River Cabernet, something a bit bolder in flavour would be my choice.

Barossa Valley is a great place to start. Welland is not a wine that I am overly familiar with but with access to excellent old-vines fruit and a skilled winemaking team, they are worth seeking out.

But dont rule out something crisp and aromatic like a Swan Valley Verdelho!

Reviewed.

WellandOld Hands – Shiraz – 2018. Impenetrable colour in the glass. Sweet, ripe old-vines fruit and supple (American) oak are the key here, with polished tannins and acid providing structure and balance. Layers of spice sit in the background of what is a dense, complex and very fine wine. 95-96pts – $70

Welland – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2019. Mint, menthol, eucalypt, this has Cabernet written all over it, in a different expression to Margaret River. With power, intensity, beautifully ripe fruit, this reminds me of something from the Penfolds stable but at an affordable price. Not quite seamless, but excellent drinking. 94pts – $30

Nikola Estate – Verdelho – 2020. The first wine I have tried from the new owners of the Houghton winery in the Swan Valley, and it is a cracker. Fresh talc and floral notes that are pretty and delicate. Fine acidity adds life to what is a charming wine. 92pts.

New Release Bargains at any price

Bargains at any price

Barry Weinman: 28th May 2021

When it comes to reviewing and recommending wine, perspective is everything in my opinion. There are three steps that I take to reduce bias and improve objectivity.

Firstly, there is a panel of tasters for www.finewineclub.com.au that taste together. There needs to be consensus amongst the tasters before a wine makes it to the pages of the Western Suburbs Weekly or to this website. The core panel is made up of;

John Jens: A wine industry veteran and proprietor of Lamont’s in Cottesloe.

Dr Brendan Jansen MW: The Master of Wine is the most difficult and prestigious wine qualification.

Terry James: With a fine palate and sharp wit, Terry provides a consumer’s perspective and keeps the rest of us honest.

Secondly, we taste several wines of a similar style together, so that their relative merits can be compared. It is not uncommon for us to taste 20 wines of the same variety at a tasting.

Finally, we taste blinded to what the wines are, so that we are not influenced by the maker or the price of the wine. This can lead to some remarkable results.

In a tasting where the majority of the wines were above $50, two wines stood out for quality and value. Shingleback’s Red Knot Shiraz and the Classified GSM are incredible bargains at $12 and $18 respectively from Dan Murphy’s.

In its own way, the new Tom Cullity ($180) is also extraordinary value on the world stage.

Reviewed

Shingleback – Red Knot – Shiraz – 2019. Sweet, ripe, vibrant fruit the main focus on the nose. The palate has excellent mouthfeel, with the fresh acidity and supple tannins and oak adding depth and balance. Superbly made and excellent drinking, this is a tribute to Australian Shiraz. 92pts – $15.

Shingleback – Red Knot – Classified – GSM – 2020. More depth, with high quality ripe, fragrant fruit supported by supple oak. The palate is quite taut initially, but the fruit excels on a finish that has excellent balance. Medium term cellaring an option, or drink with a rich pork ragout. Brilliant! 94pts – $19.

Vasse Felix – Tom Cullity – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2017. Taut, restrained and shy, with hints of mint and gentle berries. The palate is spectacular. Seamless, silky and fine, with intrinsic power and great depth. Amazing now, but best in 20 years+. Equal to the best of Bordeaux at a fraction of the price! 97pts – $180

Reaching for the Skigh

Reaching for the Skigh

Brendan Jansen MW: 19th May 2021

Master of Wine: Brendan Jansen (Photo by John Jens)

It is rare that I taste the range of wines from a single producer and am enamoured by all of them. I set out to write this article intending to utilise one or two wines from the range to showcase the producer, but I simply could not choose!

Skigh McManus happened to be in Perth and offered to show me their range. This was the sixth harvest of the label, and he and Jared brought with him the premium Abacus range. You may have seen other wines in their portfolio, including from the Coda range (tank fermented and tank matured), and the Stage Brew range (a range of zero intervention wines).

A little about these guys, as though Skigh has given his name to the label, the brand consists of three key individuals. They lease and organically manage two vineyards (in Walcliffe and Yallingup) and also source grapes from growers they respect and value, in the Margaret River and Great Southern regions. This from their website: “We’re a group of mates, brought together by the same (crazy) dream of building our own small offering of real wines – wines that at their core represent what we love to drink.” Skigh McManus is the winemaker, with over 20 years’ experience in Australia (he worked at Cape Mentelle, Howard Park, Forest Hill, amongst other places) and numerous overseas stints.

On to the wines, in the order they were presented:

Abacus Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Karridale fruit, 100% barrel-fermented, 18 months in wood in all. This would give most Sancerre producers a run for their money. Length of flavour is the key, without any acid additions, while retaining Sauvignon typicity.

18/20

Abacus Chardonnay 2019

Vines planted in the 90’s from Wilyabrup, but not Gin Gin clone. The wine undergoes partial malolactic fermentation with very little new oak vanillin overtones. Burgundian in texture and line, Puligny-esque.

18.5/20

Abacus Pinot Noir 2019

Lovely dark cherry savoury flavours; pre-fermentation cold soak and 20% whole bunches add to the fruit lift. Very much in the style of a Cote De Nuits Burgundy, dare I say Gevrey.

18/20

Abacus Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Skigh was pleased with my comment that this had a touch of “old school” about it. The fruit was pristine, and the tannins ripe, but the aroma reminded me of tasting cabernet from Margaret River in the 1980’s.

18.5/20

Abacus Syrah 2019

Who says Margaret River cannot produce great Syrah/Shiraz? I was beguiled by this wine, so spicy and mineral, it took me straight to the Northern Rhone and Cote Rotie. Amazing persistence.

19/20

Abacus Grenache 2019

With fruit sourced from the Swinney vineyards in Frankland, this wine had power yet elegance. The wod that emerged most commonly in my tasting notes in the Skigh range was “balance”, and this wine was its epitome.

19/20

Incredibly impressive, guys. Grab hold of some while you can.

Brendan Jansen MW

Bargains from the Tasting Bench

Bargains from the Tasting Bench

Barry Weinman: 11th April 2020

Like many other wineries in Australia, the land on which 3drops vineyards sit started life as a farm in Mt Barker. In the late 1990’s the Bradbury family diversified into olives and wine.

In 2007, the family bought the nearby Patterson’s vineyard, giving them access to mature Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Chardonnay. The old Patterson’s Pinots were memorable for their approachability and quality, so the vineyard is capable of producing quality fruit.

But the x-factor here is winemaker Rob Diletti from Castle Rock Estate, who seems to have the golden touch when it comes to producing high-quality wines. Rob makes wines for a number of Great Southern producers and his Rieslings and Pinots in particular can be exceptional.

The 2019 3drops Pinot Noir is a rare combination of quality, enjoyability and affordability and worth looking out for.

Mr Barval’s winemaker Rob Gherardi has taken an altogether different, but also common approach to establishing a winery. Buy the best available fruit possible from the best (sub) regions and apply a minimalistic approach in the winery.

Whilst the Cabernet/Merlot and Riserva Cabernet Sauvignon are impressive, the entry level Vino Rosso is the standout for me. The fruit is excellent, but it is the way that this has been handled that is important here. This is just so approachable and delicious, and great value too.

And then there is the Tudor Shiraz from Aldi. You could have knocked the panel over with a feather when the bag came off this beauty!

Reviewed

3drops – Pinot Noir – 2019. I fell in love with this the moment I tasted it. The nose is richly aromatic whilst the palate is silky and supple, with decent power and, more importantly, intensity. This is a great example of new world Pinot and will build with medium term bottle age. 94pts – $32.

Mr Barval – Vino Rosso – 2019 . A blend of mature Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec aged in older oak, this is all about enjoyment. It starts with fine, elegant fruit that is precise and supple, but the highlight is the finish that has a silky texture and near-seamless palate transition. 94pts – $29

Tudor – Shiraz – 2018. More restrained, with a core of dark plum fruit coated in layers of chocolate and coffee. The ripe fruit has decent power and is remarkably balanced. The tannins and acid are firm but really polished. A great food wine, capable of short-term aging. Unbelievable value. 92-93pts – $13 from Aldi.

Pinot Noir: April 2021

Pinot Noir: April 2021

Barry Weinman: 8th March 2021

For many wine lovers, Pinot Noir remains the holy grail of wine drinking. There is the potential to produce great great wines, however the variety can be almost impossible to get right in less than ideal climatic conditions. to get right in the vineyard and in the winery.

High demand combined with inconsistent quality and quantity (due to climatic variations) has seen the price of great Pinot from Burgundy skyrocket. The best producers and villages now demand prices that extend to thousands of dollars per bottle.

But the good news for drinkers is that the quality of new world wines has never been better.

Unconstrained by rigid rules and regulations, producers have been able to find sites that offer excellent growing conditions, without the extreme climatic variations that make life so difficult in France.

Tasmania, Yarra Valley and Adelaide Hills are just some of the regions in Australia producing consistently high-quality wines.

In WA, both Pemberton and the Great Southern (esp. Denmark and Porrongorups) are capable of producing excellent wines. New Zealand and the USA are also showing great results.

The downside for consumers though is that prices remain relatively high.

Reviewed

GrossetPiccadilly Valley – Pinot Noir – 2019. Crimson colour. Beautiful, fragrant nose that is supple, lithe, elegant and refined. The palate is all about precision. Excellent oak handling and a silky texture add to the enjoyment. There is excellent length to close. A delightful, age worthy wine. 95pts – $80.

EtudeNorth Canyon Vineyard – Pinot Noir – 2016. Serious fruit weight and depth, with strawberry notes building in the glass. This has more savoury notes, with textural oak and graphite-like tannins adding to the mouthfeel. A few years in the bottle should see this relax and open up. 94-95pts.

CherubinoPannoo Vineyard – Pinot Noir – 2019.A meatier, earthy wine that has minerals, texture, depth and power. Chewy, yet supple mouthfeel, with cherry-like acidity carrying the finish. An excellent, food friendly wine that with air, expressed lovely cherry and strawberry fruit notes. 93 – 94pts – $65.

Au Bon ClimatSanta Barbara County – Pinot Noir – 2018. There is an immediacy about this wine that is quite special. Supple, ripe, silky textured and long, this is great current drinking. But there is depth of flavours behind this, with excellent acidity and structure. Serious and good. 94pts.

New Release Premium Chardonnay: March 2021

Barry Weinman: 27th March 2021

Whilst it is good to be able to review wines from a cross-section of producers, there are some wines that justify being reviewed each year, as they form the standard by which all other producers are judged.

Chardonnays from Leeuwin Estate (Art Series), Vasse Felix’s (Heytesbury) and Cullen (Kevin John) are examples of such wines. So their release demands attention.
Wines that can hold their head high in this company are also noteworthy. Juniper Estate has released a new range under the Cornerstone label and the 2019 Chardonnay (95pts – $70) is a great first effort.

Howard Park’s 2018 Allingham Chardonnay (95+pts – $89) has never looked better.
It is easy to think that Margaret River has a monopoly on high quality Chardonnay, but this would be a mistake. Yarra Valley, Tasmania and the Adelaide HIlls are just some of the regions capable of producing great Chardonnays.

We do not get to see many of them here in the west, but the Shaw and Smith M3 is readily available and a cracking example.

What WA does do better than anywhere else, in my opinion, is producing consistently high quality wines from year to year, despite climatic variations, as well as the sheer depth of producers who are making very good wines. No other region can match this in Australia.

We really are spoiled for choice.

Reviewed

Shaw & Smith – M3 Chardonnay – 2019. Beautiful ripe peach fruit with nutty notes and subtle oak adding depth. On the palate, the stone fruit is complemented by minerality and cashew nut mealiness. The acidity is refreshing on the close, without being overpowering, and will soften in time. 25% new oak. An excellent wine! 95pts – $55

Leeuwin Estate – Art Series – Chardonnay – 2018. Fragrant, floral and pure, with ripe nectarine and citrus aromas. The palate is spectacular. Fine and elegant, the complex stone-fruit flavours meld seamlessly with supple oak and gentle lees work, finishing with great length of flavours. Whilst a little closed now, this is a brilliant wine! 97pts – $130.

Vasse Felix – Heytesbury- Chardonnay – 2019. A lovely wine! Cooler and restrained, reflecting the vintage. The fruit quality is superb, with stone fruit and zesty citrus notes. The palate is tight and intense, with innate power and fine structure. Oak (61% new) and winemaking characters (Barrel ferment, lees stirring) provide the perfect backdrop. 96pts – $92

Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – 2019. Taut, structured and quite closed, yet the perfectly ripe fruit that has power and depth. The fruit has been paired with barrel ferment/lees characters and tight-knit French oak (40% new) with impressive results. This needs a few years to reach its drinking window but represents excellent value. 94pts – $40.

Juniper Estate – Cornerstone – Chardonnay – 2019. Wow. This wine is intense, punchy and impactful, yet it’s only medium bodied, with the peachy fruit really building in the glass. The palate is textured, chewy and almost a meal in itself. Yet this is restrained, taut and age-worthy, so give it five years to settle down. The tight, leaner style reflects the vintage. 95pts – $70

Grosset – Piccadilly – Chardonnay – 2019. A different style, this is much more floral and fragrant, with peach and nectarine coming to the fore. The palate is intensely flavoured, with fine acidity driving the finish. The oak is almost invisible, adding texture and depth. Needs years to show its best. 95+pts – $68

Tolpuddle – Chardonnay – 2019. Very White Burgundy-like, with minerals, struck match and tight-grained French oak. Fine, precise and elegant, yet powerful and impactful at the same time. Develops white peach and grapefruit notes with air and, whilst textural, has a near seamless finish. Food Friendly. 95pts – $85.

Premium Cabernet: March 2021

Premium Cabernet: March 2021

Barry Weinman: 22nd March 2021

I was lucky enough to have a sneak preview of several yet to be released Margaret River Cabernets, including the 2018s from Brookland Valley. As good as the Estate is, the Reserve is just that little bit more special. Both are worth looking out for.

Cherubino have made another fine Margaret River Cabernet in 2018. The likely $80 price seems very reasonable when compared to other top-flight wines from the region.
I don’t know a lot about Peccavi but they have produced another delicious Cabernet in 2018, though this is probably a year or two away from release.

Reviewed

Peccavi – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2018. Ripe, luscious and user friendly, this has approachable, delicious fruit and gentle structure that adds texture. Great drinking now. 93pts – $TBC

Cherubino – Cabernet Sauvignon – Margaret River – 2018. Dense, textured and powerful, with mint and black currant fruit. The graphite-like tannins add depth. A very impressive, age-worthy red that is good value at around 95+pts – $TBC

Brookland Valley – Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2018. Cassis and ripe berry fruit, but initially a touch closed. Excellent texture and mouthfeel, with graphite and tar-like undertones. With air, the fruit gets quite juicy. A traditional MR Cabernet Sauvignon that will improve for a decade or more. 94pts – $TBC

Brookland Valley – Reserve – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2018. This is fine and elegant, yet has a core of ripe, powerful fruit that is very impressive. Textbook Cabernet with supple oak and super fine tannins adding texture and depth, but not impeding the fruit’s development on the palate. As good as it is now, will be even better with ten years in the bottle. Worth the premium over the Estate. 96pts – $TBC