Category Archives: New Release – Wine Reviews

Winery in Focus: Evans & Tate


Barry Weinman: 4th February 2019

Evans & Tate has had a chequered history. Established by the Evans and Tate families in 1974, the original Redbrook vineyard was planted in 1975. In 1983 the partnership broke up, with the Tate family taking control of the winery.

The winery then underwent a period of sustained growth, culminating in a listing on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1999.

After apparent initial outperformance in 2005, things started to unravel, with mounting debt and unsold inventory (an interesting review of this was published in the Financial Review at the time). This culminated with the appointment of receivers and the subsequent sale of the winery to McWilliams Wines in 2007.

A new chapter for Evans & Tate began in October 2017, when the winery was purchased by the Fogarty Wine Group, who also owns wineries such as Mill Brook, Lakes Folly and Deep Woods.

Through many of the changes, one constant was the presence of Matt Byrne as chief winemaker. Matt started in 2001 and has consistently produced quality wines, despite the ownership changes, with the current wines in the premium range being amongst the best the winery has produced.

The staff are really enjoying the transition to Fogarty Wine Group and, if anything, the wines are only likely to get better.

A winery to watch!

Reviewed

Evans & Tate – Chardonnay – Breathing Space – 2017. ($16.15 ex cellar door). Taut and fine, this is made in the modern style, with gentle wine-making inputs and subdued fruit. With air, this wine really shines, showing fine fruit framed by the subtle oak and barrel ferment characters. The texture and acidity on the close are a highlight. Excellent value.

Evans & Tate – Chardonnay – Redbrook – Estate – 2017 ($36). Fine and taut, with attractive stone fruit aromas leading to hints of grapefruit and pineapple. The palate is a treat, with the supple fruit absorbing the oak and lees work easily, rendering the palate near seamless.  The finish is lithe and fresh. Delicious drinking now – 5 years. (Spends 7 – 10 months in 100% new oak, barrel ferment, on oak, wild yeast ferment).

Evans & Tate – Chardonnay – Redbrook – Reserve – 2015 (Pre-release sample). Lovely nose that is at once complex and complete. The palate is a tour de force, with powerful fruit in the grapefruit and melon spectrum, complex flinty/mineral lees characters and creamy texturing oak. The acidity is a highlight on the finish, conferring great drive to the palate. Slightly chewy to close, this will be a treat over the next 5 – 7 years.

Evans & Tate – Chardonnay – Redbrook – Reserve – 2014 ($65). Honeysuckle, melon and zesty grapefruit notes. The palate is taut and reserved, more so than the 2015. Lanolin, minerals, driving acidity. A taut, shy wine right now, this is worthy of spending years in the cellar to let the fruit express.

Evans & Tate – Shiraz – Redbrook – Estate – 2016. An explosion of super sweet fruit in the plum and red berry spectrum, with spice notes building in the glass. The palate is flooded by white pepper and spice, with the structural components keeping the fruit in check. A very impressive wine that, whilst delicious now, will be much better in 10 years’ time (fruit cold soaked with a proportion of whole-bunch).

Evans & Tate – Shiraz – Redbrook – Reserve – 2013. More restrained and reticent than the Estate. The palate is sophisticated and complete, with hints of mint, vanilla and supple spice. Only 20% new oak, but this makes an impact in a positive way. A textural treat that is sure to age well.

Evans & Tate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Redbrook – Estate – 2016. Again, lovely fruit on show here. Ripe and polished with fine, texturing oak, supple tannins and fresh acidity. Also shows a touch of eucalypt and pepper on the finish. The finish gets a little grippy to close, which will soften with time in the cellar. Will be great with a juicy steak now.

Evans & Tate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Broadway – 2017. Supple, medium bodied, savoury. Fruit is the focus here, with little in the way of oak. An approachable food-friendly style with eucalypt highlights and fresh acidity that cleanses the palate.

Evans & Tate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Broadway – 2016. Similar in style to the 2017, but with a little more richness and depth to the fruit. The balance is the key here. Again, a very food- friendly style, but also one that will do well with short-term cellaring.

Evans & Tate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Redbrook – Reserve – 2014. Wow, the step up in intensity and power is palpable in this wine. It is crammed full of blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with firm tannins and driving acidity. Textural, chewy and complex, with spice from the oak and gentle herbal, eucalypt notes. A wine of presence and power.

Evans & Tate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Redbrook – Reserve – 2013.  Inky, intense, powerful and brooding, with chewy tannins. Tight, structured, very long, with the oak barely noticeable. Needs a decade to open and will continue to improve for many more years, yet you can already see the quality of the fruit open up with air.

Evans & Tate – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Evans & Tate – 2014. Tangibly different from the Reserve. Supple, fine, silky, fresh, lithe and restrained, yet this manages to remain approachable. The integrated tannins help confer a seamless finish. With lots of air, the fruit characters start to shine. This is a superb wine that is a delight to drink, but also sure to age well.

Wine musings: Is the notion of “typicity” the enemy of innovation?

Brendan Jansen

Brendan Jansen: 27th January 2019

Wine quality is difficult to define, but is often spoken about in terms of the degree of complexity of wine bouquet and flavours, the length and persistence of these flavours on the palate, the intensity of aromas and taste, and the overall balance of the core elements of the wine. These core elements, depending upon the style of wine, variably comprise alcohol, acidity, fruit flavours, tannins and sweetness. This notion of balance is also key to the concept of ageability, or the age-worthiness of a wine, though this multiplex issue is also linked to other aspects of quality mentioned here. In addition, we might infer a wine’s quality by the quality of oak we perceive in the wine, acknowledging the cost associated with the use of high quality barrels (though aforementioned balance is also salient). The development of a wine as it sits before us in the glass, when it evolves to emanate varied primary, secondary and even tertiary aromas, also adds to our enjoyment and appreciation of a wine.

The notion of the “typicity” of a wine is often viewed as one of the indicators of a wine’s quality. By this is meant the degree to which a wine is representative, “classic”, distinguishing, prototypical, even archetypal, of a particular wine. Though sometimes referred to a variety, the term more fittingly describes, I believe, the “whole package” – of variety, style, winemaking, origin – dare I say, terroir. We speak, therefore, of “typical” Chablis, as having flavours of oyster shell and shale, and a mineral acidity matched by pristine citrus fruit. We might speak of a wine as being “quintessential” Meursault, and point to why it may differ, for example, from a Puligny Montrachet of comparable quality and vintage.

Yet these notions probably best apply to the so-called “classic” regions. Typicity is a term we could safely ascribe to wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Mosel, Rioja – I could go on. But what about New World winegrowing regions?

Is the task of a New World winemaker crafting, shall we say, a Chardonnay, to make it in a style that emulates the best white Burgundies? Why not Chablis, for that matter? Or is the task of the winemaker to put their stamp on a wine, so that it is the most honest and faithful example of the fruit of the region?

Of course, even if the latter is true, winemakers might vary in their view of how best to achieve the aim of showcasing a region’s fruit… WA’s own Millbrook Viognier has exquisite varietal faithfulness, but is unlike any other Viognier in the world. Brazenly un-Condrieu-like yet superbly representative of terroir. Should it be regarded as a “typical” West Australian incarnation of the variety?

These questions are becoming more difficult as winemakers around the globe adopt new and varied techniques – New World winemakers can make wines in an “Old World” style. Old World winemakers, assisted in part by global warming, can make wines in a “New World” style.

So where does the concept of typicity come into play? We speak of “modern” and “traditional” Rioja; “modern” and “traditional” Barolo; as though both incarnations have an innate “typicity”. Yet winemakers in modern and traditional camps can be as varied in the techniques employed within as without of these categories. Often this “modern” and “traditional” distinction boils down to the use (or not) of new oak and/or protective handling.

Even in “classic” regions, such as Burgundy, winemaking techniques vary immensely between producers. Do we assess the notion of typicity by the final product, the grand Gestalt of all the wine offers?

The perspective of history is also important. In the mid 1800s, after Sir James Busby had brought the first vines to Australia, Barolo and Barbaresco were still sweet wines. Amarone, as a style, in terms of the very long history of wine, is a relative newcomer on the scene, yet has qualities that are now said to be “typical”…

And what of innovators within the “classic” regions? A winemaker in the Mosel who wishes, let us say, to ferment Riesling to dryness, in new French oak barrels? Or the Margaret River producer who feels Cabernet Sauvignon from the region is best expressed through the employ of amphorae?

At some point, innovation can become accepted practice, and even orthodoxy. Though clearly not always…..

A cautionary word – we as humans, seek novelty as much as familiarity. In the chase for novelty, those other aspects of quality I listed at the start of this article should not be forgotten. Just because something is “different” or “trendy” does not make it “good”. There are clearly reasons winemaking in Burgundy has evolved to where it is now. So perhaps thoughtful innovation is the key, with dangers lurking on both sides – of staying stuck in out-dated practices, and of changing for change sake.

And who decides what is a quality wine anyway? Perhaps that is a subject best left to another musing.

Winery in Review: Woodlands


Barry Weinman: 19th January 2019

Established in 1973 by David and Heather Watson, Woodlands is one of the earliest vineyards in the Margaret River region. The original Woodlands vineyard has a total of 10 hectares under vine, many of which are now approaching 40 years of age.

In 2007, the family bought the 50 hectare Woodlands Brook property which has a total of 17 hectares of vineyards.

Woodlands has gone through some directional changes over the years. Initially, wines were made by David, but the focus shifted away from winemaking in the early 1990s, to supplying grapes to other producers in the region. During this time, a number of great Australian wines were made from this fruit, including some vintages of the Thomas Hardy, as well as contributing to the early Gladstones from Houghton.

Production of wines resumed at the end of the decade, with Stuart Watson taking over the winemaking in 2002. Stuart is clearly a talented winemaker, as the Cabernets (and lately Chardonnays) have been amongst the region’s finest for a number of years now.

One impact of the break in production at Woodlands is that the winery has not had the same consumer recognition as the likes of Moss Wood and Cullen. This is clearly a bug-bear for Stuart, but is a bonus for wine-lovers, as both the Woodlands Valley and Woodlands Brook ranges offer excellent value for money, as does the entry level Watson Family range.

At the top end of the Cabernet range, the 2016 Margaret and 2016 Clementine-Eloise (due for release mid-year) are amongst the best yet produced at the winery (although Stuart suggests the 2018 may be even better).

Reviewed

Watson Family – Chardonnay – 2016. ($20). Nectarine and white peach stonefruit characters combine with flint and minerality, giving excellent length and mouthfeel. Creamy, textured and supple, this is a wine of substance. Made from Wilyabrub fruit that is primarily Clone 5 (a variant of Gin Gin clone), the wine was barrel-fermented and spent 6 months on lees. A complete wine that would be great with grilled chicken.

Woodlands – Chardonnay – Wilyabrub Valley – 2017 ($28). Richer and more textured, with more peach notes than the Watson Family, along with greater oak impact. The mouth-feel on the finish is a highlight, with the creamy fruit building density and carrying right to the close. Gin Gin clone, barrel fermented, matured in 30% oak (1/3 new).

Woodlands – Chardonnay – (Woodlands Brook Vineyard) 2017 ($39). Wow, a wine of great presence. The fruit here is a highlight with ripe peach, creamy cashew nut, a silky mouthfeel and excellent fruit intensity. From the Woodlands Brook vineyard, and excellent value.

Woodlands – Chardonnay – Chloe – 2017 ($$110). Complex white peach aromas over supple winemaking inputs. The palate is mouth-filling, supple and seamless, with tremendous length and presence in the mouth. The fine acidity, in combination with the oak and barrel/lees work adds depth and texture, without adding overt flavour. A powerful, finely balanced wine made from very low yielding vines.

Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Wilyabrub Valley – 2016 ($28). Sweet ripe fruit is the focus here. Fresh, lively and textured. Excellent drinking or short-term cellaring.

Woodlands – Cabernet Franc/ Merlot – Wilyabrub Valley – 2017 ($25). Excellent fruit characters. Bright, vibrant and textured, with minerality and chewy, fine tannins. An interesting alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon, and a great food wine, as the texture and acid will accompany richer dishes very well.

Woodlands – Cabernet Merlot – Wilyabrub Valley – 2017 ($28). Tighter, more restrained than the 2016. The density of fruit is a feature. Fine tannins and minerality adds texture, and there is very good length on the finish. Only medium bodied, this is a savoury, food- friendly wine that will do well with 5 years in the cellar.

Woodlands – Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon – Emily – 2017 ($39). A structured, age-worthy wine, with excellent length.  This is a tighter and leaner style, with menthol, a touch of eucalypt and souring acidity adding drive on the finish. Excellent length to close, but this wine needs food or time in the cellar to show its best. Produced from a single plot on the Woodlands Brook vineyard from younger vines. 40% new oak hogs head and more skins contact.

Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Clementine – 2016 ($39). The fruit ripeness on the nose is very attractive. The palate is supple and delicious, with texturing minerality and greater mid-palate density and power than the Emily. Also from the Woodlands Brook Vineyard, this age-worthy wine had 40% new oak barriques.

Woodlands – Cabernet Merlot – Margaret – 2016 ($70). From older vines on the original Woodlands vineyard, the Margaret has pristine, bright fruit. Produced from a warmer, riper part of the vineyard, the palate is supple, textured and silky, with deliciously sweet fruit. A delightful wine now to 10 years.

Woodlands – Cabernet Merlot – Clementine Eloise – 2016 ($160. Pre-order via the winery). A superb wine that whilst elegant and oh so fine, has great power and presence. Supple and textured, with very fine tannins, yet this wine is elegant to its core. Needs years to show its best, but a treat now.

Woodlands – Cabernet Merlot – Russel – 2015 ($150). Matured for 19 months in new French oak. Any number of adjectives could be used to describe this intense, powerful wine. Silky, supple, textured, powerful, long, seamless. ; A superb wine.

Woodlands – Cabernet Merlot – Matthew – 2014 ($160 ex cellar door). A sublime wine! This has everything that you could want in a Cabernet, and then some. Power, grace and elegance. A brilliant wine. 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc.

Woodlands – Cabernet Merlot – Heather Jean – 2010 (N/A). The power here is palpable. At 8 years of age, this is still a baby. Textured, chewy, long, fine, needs years. A superb wine with a tremendous future.

Pinot Noir – New Release – January 2018

Barry Weinman: 19th January 2018

The key feature of all the wines reviewed is drinkability. This is a cross-section of affordable Pinots that will provide uncomplicated drinking over the summer months.

There is also a good value red from the south of France that is excellent value (From Lamont’s Cottesloe).

Reviewed

Singlefile – Pinot Noir – Run Free – 2017 (17.8/20pts. $25). Don’t be fooled by the lighter colour, this is a delicious wine. There is a precision to this wine that is disarming, with bright cherry fruit expertly paired to supple oak to make a wine that offers immediate drinking pleasure, but also short-term aging. Impressive for the price.

Sunsets – Pinot Noir – 2014 (17.5pts). Pristine fruit, a touch of oak, hints of herbs and spices as well as redcurrant and cherry. Bright, fresh and delicious, with a supple, savoury edge. (I could not find any information  on this producer).

Chanzy – Pinot Noir – Bourgogne – Clos Michaud – 2017 (17.5/20pts. $30). A little more closed than the standard Bourgogne, but this opens with air to show souring cherry and plum fruit and excellent texture. Needs a couple of years to open up but could be enjoyed now with a sharp cheddar.

Magellan – Shiraz/Grenache – Coteaux Du Languedoc – 2013 (17.5/20pts. $21). An interesting alternative to Pinot Noir, showing more density to the plum-like fruit. The palate is quite creamy, with the savoury notes balanced by supple acidity and texture. Ripe and well-made, this is an excellent food wine.

Chanzy – Pinot Noir – Bourgogne – 2017 (17.4/20pts. $28). There is a combination of fresh and stewed plum on the nose that is most attractive. The palate is lively and fresh, with the acidity cutting through the richer cherry fruit notes with ease. Will be good with food, but also on its own. Good entry level Burgundy.

Chardonnay – New Release – January 2018

Barry Weinman: 5th January 2018

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

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

Reviewed

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

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

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

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

Prestige Champagne: Christmas 2018

Barry Weinman: 18th December 2018

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

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

Under $150

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

$100 – $300

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

$300+

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

Reviewed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sparkling Wine for Christmas 2018

Sparkling Wine for Christmas 2018

Barry Weinman: 9th December 2018

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

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

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

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

Reviewed

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

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

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

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

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

 

Shiraz: October 2018 New Releases

Shiraz: October 2018 New Releases

Barry Weinman: 24th October 2018

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

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

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

Reviewed

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

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

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

 

Affordable Tempranillo

Affordable Tempranillo

Barry Weinman: 28th September 2018

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

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

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

Reviewed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sittella: Sparkling Wine Review

Sittella: Sparkling Wine Review

Barry Weinman: 16th September 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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