Category Archives: Wine Review

Australian Fortified Part 3: Other Styles

Australian Fortified Part 3: Other Styles

Barry Weinman: 7th August 2016

The Talijancich Pedro is nothing short of spectacular. Expensive, but beautifully packaged. One sip is almost enough.

In a very different style is the De Bortoli Black Nobel. An amazing wine made from botrytis Semillon.


Talijancich – Pedro – Rare – Julian James – Blend No 3 (19pts – $70). Almost opaque: burnt orange, tending to olive. Very intense, powerful nose, the complex aged material balanced by rancio and spirit notes. The palate is intense, dense, long and unctuous, but not cloying. An amazing wine that has an ethereal nature, the spirit and fruit in perfect harmony. Stunning. 350 mls

De BortoliBlack Nobel – 10 y/o (18.6pts – $38). Another opaque, very dark wine – staining the glass amber. Here the Rancio and resin notes are more apparent, with raisins and fruit-cake aromas that are really quite fragrant. Sweetness is obvious, with musk and spice notes. The acid adds life and keeps the whole package together. Impressive and impactful, a unique use of Botrytis Semillon. 500mls.

Lamont’s – R.S.W. Liqueur (18.5pts ). A blend of Pedro and Muscat (Navara). Khaki meniscus. Lovely old material, with rancio and spirit balanced by intense fruit. The palate is thick and lush, yet retains balance via the acidity. The spirit notes add vibrancy. Middle of the road style and delicious. A blend that started in the early 1980’s from a single barrel. Fortunately, there are now several barrels released each year. 375mls

Lamont’sPedro (18pts). Whilst there is no mention on the front label, this is from the 2005 vintage. A lighter amber colour. More Rancio, more sweetness, more obvious. Viscous and thick, there is so much of everything, yet avoids being cloying. Perfect poured over ice-cream! 375mls

Tawny (Port) and Other Fortified Wines

Australian Fortified Wines Part Two: Tawny (Port) and Other Fortified Wines

3rd August 2016

In Portugal, there are dozens of grape varieties permitted in the production of Port.

  • Tinta Barroca,
  • Tinta Cão,
  • Tinta Roriz
  • Touriga Francesa,
  • Touriga Nacional)

A full list can be found here.

The Australian equivalent does not have the same restrictions, meaning that grapes like Shiraz and Grenache can make up the backbone of a blend.

As a result of labelling laws, the use of the term Port is no longer allowed for wines made outside of Portugal. This has not caused a problem for the non-vintage wines, as they have been able to retain the word Tawny. For Vintage Port, this has been more problematic. Many wineries have reverted to using Vintage Fortified, and may also include the grape variety.

Like the Muscats and Tokays reviewed previously, these wines will last for days or even weeks once opened, allowing a glass to be had whenever you like!


Angove – Tawny – Grand – 10 years (17.5pts – $25). Light tawny colour. Fresh, with fruit cake and Christmas pudding notes. Excellent length and follow-through add to the enjoyment. Not overly dense, but a good drink with a touch of nuttiness on the close. 500mls

Morris – Tawny – Classic (17.6pts – $21.25). Red-brown colour. Fresh red fruits, with raisins, cinnamon, spice and orange peel. Good length and a harmonious finish balanced by the acidity. Easy drinking and satisfying. 500mls.

De Bortoli – Tawny – Fine Tawny – 8 years old (17.5pts – $25). Starts with a spirituous lift, over rum & raisin, fruit cake and spice, on a nose that is quite pretty. The palate is fresh and lively, with an uncomplicated structure. Another good drink, requiring no accompaniment. 750mlsOld Boys

De Bortoli – Tawny – Old Boys – 21 Year Old – Barrel Aged (18.6ts – $45). Darker hue – tawny tending to amber. Whilst this is intense and powerful, there is a degree of subtlety and excellent balance. The acidity and judicious use of younger material has added life to what is a complex, aged wine. Relatively light, this would be great with sharp cheddar at the start or end of an evening. The label indicates the bottling date, which is a great service to consumers. (Bottled 2015). 500mls.Patritti-Fortified-Wine-Rare-TawnyPatritti – Tawny – Rare – Old Fortified Wine (18 – 18.5pts – $30). Initially quite spirituous, with a resin-like streak. Clearly aged material, this reminds me of a Bual Madera, with its drying palate, moderate sweetness, obvious Rancio characters and sea spray freshness. This is an unusual style, but is an excellent wine. You could even serve this slightly chilled as an aperitif. Great value in a 750ml bottle.

Talijancich – Tawny – Rare – Blend No 2 (18.7pts – $80). Aged 30 years. Massive, intense wine with Rancio and spirit notes. The palate is powerful, dense and rich, showing more viscosity than most here. Clearly very old material, with higher levels of sweetness and balancing acidity. Rich, textured and seamless, a traditional Swan Valley Tawny style. An impressive wine that would delight with a chocolate pudding. 350mls.

Angove – Tawny – Rare – 15 years (18.2pts – $45). Again, an old base is used here. Herbal notes with a spirituous lift and zesty notes. Excellent poise and balance in an intense, impressive wine. Only moderately sweet and very long! Serve with (and on) quality vanilla ice-cream. Whilst an average age of 15 years would not classify as rare for other producers, this is still an excellent wine. 750mls

Muscat and Tokay

Australian Fortified Wines

Part One – Muscat and Tokay

Barry Weinman: 24th July 2016

Whilst Australia has a very long association with fortified wine production, popularity has waned over a number of decades, as table wine consumption increased. This has been a mixed blessing for consumers.

The lack of demand has seen stocks of aged materials increase. This has allowed the inclusion of older materials in blend. This may have contributed to the introduction of a qualification system to give an indication of the relative age of the wine.

The down side is that it has impinged on the viability of many wineries. Just last week, the owners of Morris wines announced that they will be closing the winery (though keeping the brand).

In regards to the qualification system, there are four levels that have been established to give consumers an indication of the age and quality of the wines.

  1. Grape/region
  2. Classic
  3. Grand
  4. Rare

Confusingly, there is significant variation from one winery to the next as to how old these should be. The Angove “Rare” for example, would only qualify for the classic designation if it was produced by All Saints. Indeed, All Saints has the strictest criteria of all wineries reviewed.

In the tastings, this translated into a situation where the base level wines from All Saints scored higher than several of the Classics and even a Grand from other producers.

Another cause for confusion is the introduction of labelling laws that prohibit the use of certain names. For example, Sherry, Port and Tokay are all required to be phased out.

Over the coming weeks, I will review a number of different styles/grapes. The focus will be on the sweeter styles, suitable for drinking on a cold night in front of a warm fire!

Muscat and Tokay

When sourcing wines for this tasting, I was surprised that there were not more examples of Tokay (Topaque). 15 years ago, I am sure that there was a fairly even split between Tokay and Muscat availability, but a trip to Dan Murphy provided only a few examples. In contrast, there was a large selection of Muscats, of varying qualities.

My recollection was that the Tokays tended to be slightly less sweet, with great balance. Perhaps the richness of the Muscats has won over consumers’ palates…

In this group, the designated quality level did not always correlate with the preference of the panel. The base wines from All Saints were brilliant, proving that the age of the wine alone does not always correlate with quality. In these wines, the balance and harmony more than made up for the relatively youthful base wines. They are wines to drink and enjoy.

As the wines moved up the quality ladder, and the base material increased in age, there was an obvious increase in the intensity of the wines on the palate. In the best examples, this was matched by brilliantly judged acidity, ensuring that the wines were full of life and avoided becoming cloying. Wines for sipping and savouring, as well as drinking.

The age and quality of many of these wines, combined with the fact that a small taste is often enough, makes them excellent value in my opinion. The style also keeps well once open, allowing the wine to be consumed over a number of days/weeks. But only if you are disciplined enough…


All Saints – Muscadelle – Rutherglen (18.2pts – $22). Amber, tending to green on the rim. Not overly complex nose, with raisin/fruit cake aromas. The palate is viscous and mouth coating, with honey-like fruit tending to caramel sauce. Youthful, yet delicious and quite fine and elegant, with a long, supple finish complemented by cleansing acidity. Great combination of old and new material and a joy to drink. 375mls

Buller – Tokay – Fine Old Tokay – NV (17.9pts – $25). Colour is amber, tending to burnt orange. Toffee, caramel and some aged aromas over fresh raisins. Viscous, thick, dense, long and intense, yet shows lovely acid balance with enough freshness to add life. The addition of some old material adds depth. A tremendous bargain! 750mls

Seppeltsfield – Tokay – Grand – DP57 (18+ pts – $38). Olive-green rimmed. Very intense, with a significant amount of aged material. The flavours evolve on the palate for some time in turn showing dusty notes, raisin, caramel and orange rind. Rancio notes and balancing acidity makes this rich and powerful wine a joy to drink. 500mls.

Morris – Tokay – Classic – Liqueur (17.7pts – $21.25). Lighter colour, yet still in the amber spectrum. Heady aromas of malted barley, with some aged, Rancio notes adding depth. There is also a fresh spirit lift. The palate is viscous and sweet with an almost orange liqueur flavour. Perfect with a rich fruit cake or just poured over ice-cream. Delicious! 500mls.


All Saints – Muscat – Rutherglen (18.3pts – $22). Burnt orange, tending to amber colour. This is sweet and perfumed, with musk, caramel and hints of honey. Whilst sweet, this is not cloying as the blend of aged and young material and excellent acidity makes this absolutely delicious. A lighter style and a great drink! 375mls.

Morris – Muscat – Classic – Liqueur (17.8 – $21.25). The colour is burnt orange all the way to the meniscus. A fragrant Muscat nose with hints of orange, spice, treacle and toffee aromas over fresh spirit notes. The palate is sweet and relatively straightforward, with fresh material adding life. Good acid balance. Uncomplicated and moreish. 500mls

Lamont’s – Muscat (18pts – $30). Olive/khaki colour. Opens with rum & raisin ice-cream and herbal notes. There is decent complexity too. The palate is thick and dense; one of the more viscous examples. The balance is key here, with fresh acidity adding life to the sweet fruit. Excellent length and a drying finish reminiscent of oloroso sherry. Very old material blended in. Great on its own, or with a crème caramel. 375mls.

Morris – Muscat  – Grand – Liqueur Muscat – Cellar Reserve (18.7pts – $50). The colour here is several shades darker – almost opaque dark brown. Incredibly intense and complex nose that is oh-so-enticing. Rancio characters to the fore on both the nose and palate suggesting the inclusion of very old material. The palate is thick and almost chewy, the flavours coming in waves along the palate. Think burnt toffee/caramel, with coffee and dark chocolate notes. The finish is remarkable for the freshness and life. Unctuous liqueur style. 500mls.

csm_Show_Liqueur_Muscat_web_0e341d8aefDe Bortoli – Muscat – Show Liqueur – NV (18.5pts – $25). Lighter colour – tawny and crystal clear. Fresh orange and cinnamon notes on both the nose and palate, with caramel, toffee and fruit cake. Excellent length and mouth-feel. Not as thick or viscous as some, with more fresh material. Possesses a lovely balance aided by a drying finish. Intense and very long. A brilliant value wine for drinking as well as sipping. 500mls.

Winery in Focus – Houghton – Part Two

Winery in Focus – Houghton

Part Two

Barry Weinman: 7th May 2016

Following on from my review of Houghton Cabernets, here is a quick review of some of the other highlights in the range.

The Thomas Yule Shiraz was formally known as the Gladstones Shiraz.

Whilst Brookland Valley is a separate brand in the Accolade stable, wine-making is handled at Houghton, with Courtney Treacher leading the program.


Houghton – Pinot Grigio – Small Batch – 2015 (17.5pts – $22). Almost clear in colour. Vibrant, floral and pretty fruit, in the Alsatian (Gris) style and all the better for it. The fruit is soft and supple and the balance excellent. From Frankland River.

Houghton – Chardonnay – Crofters – 2013 (17.5pts – $18). Quite a refined wine, with peach and nectarine fruit over supple French oak. Silky mouth-feel and excellent length. Value for money.

Houghton – Shiraz – Crofters – 2014 (17.5pts – $19). Wow, there is an explosion of ripe fruit on the nose. The palate is forward and approachable, with the cherry/plum fruit the focus. Supple winemaking inputs add interest. Value Shiraz.

Houghton – Shiraz – Thomas Yule – 2012 (18+pts – $80)   Dense, dark fruit on the nose. The fruit is almost thick on the palate, with hints of licorice and aniseed. The palate transition is near seamless, with the tannins at the close getting slightly grippy. Excellent length and a textural treat. Stylistically very different to the Cabernet, this represents brilliant mid-term drinking.

Houghton – Shiraz – Thomas Yule – 2011 (18.5pts – $80). Quite a contrast to the 2012, with more structure and less ripe fruit characters. Both the 11 and 12 are excellent examples of Shiraz, though this shows more cooler climate characters. Pepper and savoury cherry fruit a feature, with the cedar-like oak adding to the package. Will reward time in the cellar.

Brookland Valley – Chardonnay – Reserve – 2013 (18 – 18.5pts – $70). Whilst there is obvious power to the fruit on the nose, the balance and perfume are noteworthy. Hints of expensive oak add complexity, reminiscent of Burgundy. The palate has rich fruit and superb mouth-feel, though the finish is quite tight and closed at present. May well score higher in the years to come.

Brookland Valley – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2013 (18pts – $45). The depth of the fruit on the nose is a highlight. The perfumed berry fruit builds and carries through onto the palate. Textured and spicy, with excellent length, the fine tannins and oak add grip to close. An excellent wine.

Brookland Valley – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2012 (18.5pts $70). The approachability defies expectations here. Blackcurrant, eucalypt, mint and just a hint of cassis. The palate is rich and round, with the pristine fruit slowly giving way to fine tannins and very supple oak. The length is a feature.

Winery in Focus: Ostler


Winery in Focus: Ostler

Barry Weinman: 28th April 2016

Central Otago Pinot Noir is often defined by purity of fruit combined with a degree of generosity This combination makes for great drinking wines that can also age well in the short to medium term.

The Pinots from Ostler continue this theme, but in addition, there is an earthy/ meaty component expressed in all their Pinots.

At the time of writing, limited stocks of the older wines are available in Perth.



Ostler – Riesling – Lakeside – 2013 (17.5 – $33). Floral, sweet fruit that is musk-like and very attractive. The palate is bright, with the musk giving way to a core of lemon and lime. Long, the finish has an almost chalk-like texture and excellent balance. There is a touch of honey on the close.

Ostler – Pinot Gris – Audrey’s – 2013 (17 – $35). Nutty, almost grassy fruit, more in a Grigio style. The palate is oily, viscous and textured. A savoury wine that will sit well with fresh antipasto. A touch more cut-through would see this get higher marks.

Ostler – Pinot Gris – Audrey’s – 2014 (17.5 – $35). A more floral style that has pretty fruit and structure. The palate is fresh, with fine acidity playing nicely against the subtle residual sugar and a touch of phenolic richness. A refreshing style that will be great on its own, or with richer food.

Ostler – Riesling – Blue House – 2012 (17.8 – $30). Oily and textured, with a core of minerality and touches of oily/petroleum notes. The palate is moderately sweet, but retains lovely balance courtesy of the refined acidity. Long, the floral fruit is more of a feature than the sugar. The hint of marmalade on the close adds to a great drinking wine.

Ostler – Pinot Noir – Blue House – 2013 (17.7 – $34). Decent complexity and power to the fruit, with excellent balance. Chewy and textured, but not overly structured, allowing the fruit to be the primary focus. Nice drinking. Opens up with air and builds depth. A touch savoury on the close.

Ostler – Pinot Noir – Caroline’s – 2013 (18.2 – $65). Cherry, spice, hints of smoke and tobacco. The balance is a highlight. There is excellent length, a silky mouth-feel and almost seamless palate transition. With air, the structure builds, adding depth and power to the fruit. Good now, but better in 3 years.

Ostler – Pinot Noir – Caroline’s – 2011 (17.9). Colour just starting to show the effects of age. A bit of earthy pong on both the nose and palate, with roast meats, licorice and chocolate. This is a rich, generous wine that is drinking a treat. Not classical in style, but will accompany roast meats well over the coming months.

Geographe Wine Show


Geographe Wine Show – 2015

Barry Weinman: 29th November 2015

The Geographe wine region covers an area of Western Australia south of Mandurah, down to Busselton, at the edge of the Margaret River region. It includes Harvey, Ferguson Valley, Donnybrook, Capel & Busselton.

With various microclimates, it is not surprising that there are a variety of styles produced. Along with the more mainstream varieties, a number of wineries are exploring alternative varietals. Temperanillo in particular seems to be doing well.

Following on from the Geographe Wine Show, the Geographe Wine Association held a tasting of a number of the trophy and medal winning wines.

I chose to focus (somewhat predictably) on Chardonnay and Cabernet, along with Temperanillo. Overall, the quality of the wines was very high, reflecting that these were some of the best in show.

Wine of the show went to Talisman for their “Gabrielle” Chardonnay. Most successful producer went to Smallwater Estate.

IMG_3167Vineyards at Talisman*


Talisman – Chardonnay – Gabrielle – 2014. (RRP $35). Lovely mineral and spice notes, over precise and elegant fruit on the nose. There is a healthy dose of curry-leaf minerality that adds depth. That said, there is intrinsic power and structure here. The palate is full and dense, with grapefruit-like acidity that keeps the balance spot on. Textured and dense, this will build for a few years in the bottle (awarded aGold Medal, Best Chardonnay & Wine of Show).Chardonnay_Gabrielle_2014

Smallwater Estate – Chardonnay – 2014. (RRP $25). Quite delicate and refined fruit, with strong peach influences. The palate is supple and fresh, with grapefruit, melon and lemon-like acidity driving the finish. Oak sits firmly in the background. A modern, refined wine of real charm and great value too (awarded a Gold Medal).S.E.2014Chardonnay

52 Stones – Chardonnay – Barrel Select – 2014. A traditional style, with a big, rich and buttery nose. The palate is rich and generous, with no rough edges. There is enough acid to balance the power and richness of the peachy fruit. This gives way to a touch of toast and astringency, courtesy of the oak (awarded a Gold Medal).

Ferguson Falls Wines – Chardonnay – 2014. (RRP $27). Quite an elegant style with gentle stonefruit and creamy notes. The palate is bright and fresh, with peach, nectarine, grapefruit and supple oak. The finish sees the oak add grip and texture, without adding overt flavours. Now to 5 years (awarded a Silver Medal).

Cabernet Sauvignon

St Aiden Wines – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2013 (RRP $30). Opens with a lovely core of ripe blackcurrant fruit over aniseed, and cedary spice. The palate is only medium bodied, perfectly matching the fruit profile. There is a touch of graphite and chalky tannins on the long finish. A savoury treat that is good to go now, but will develop for at least 5 – 8 years (awarded a Gold Medal & Best Cabernet of Show).

Ferguson Falls Wines – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2013 ($27 ex winery). Quite a seductive nose, with soft, approachable fruit. The palate is fresh and fleshy, with gentle grip and structure adding texture. With air, the depth really builds, complemented by fine tannins and oak. Give it time in the glass, or a few years in the cellar (awarded a Gold Medal).

Mandalay Road – Cabernet Sauvignon – Persimmon Paddock – 2014. Fragrant and fine fruit on the nose. The palate is fruit driven, showing blue and blackberries and mulberry highlights, yet the fine structure builds on a finish that is long and supple. Hints of cedar and earthy notes to close. This is an elegant, smart wine that has latent power (awarded a Gold Medal).

Smallwater Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Rob’s Block – 2014. (RRP $30). Very similar to the 2013, though the fruit here is more accessible. The palate has fresh, vibrant fruit that is well suited to the winemaking. Whilst the red berry characters are the main focus, the finish gradually gives way to fine tannins, and a lick of savoury oak. A medium bodied wine that is worth a look. Now – 5 years (awarded a Gold Medal).S.E.2013Cabernet

Moojelup Farm – Cabernet Sauvignon – Thompsons Block – 2013. (RRP $24). Fresh and succulent red currant fruit that is quite delicious. The palate shows tobacco, spice and vibrant fruit. Little in the way of oak apparent, allowing the fruit to shine. The finish is brought together by fine, talc like tannins. A delicious wine that will go a treat with a BBQ this summer (awarded a Silver Medal).

Willow Bridge Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Coat of Arms – 2013. Hints of plum and spice on the nose. I like this wine for the way it balances ripe fruit with savoury, almost earthy characters. A dense wine that will be well suited to a hearty meal in the cooler months, or with a decent steak off the grill (awarded a Silver Medal).


Bakkheia – Temperanillo – Aequitas 2014. Licorice and tar to the fore on the nose. The palate is chock full of ripe fruit, though this is in no-way overblown. The fresh acidity, supple tannins and oak all serve to keep the finish vibrant. The dense, chewy fruit builds structure with air. This is a powerful wine that would match roast lamb beautifully (awarded a Gold Medal/Best Red Wine/Best WA Alternative Red Wine).

Fifth Estate – Temperanillo – 2014. (Awarded a Gold Medal).

Green Door Wines – Temperanillo – El Toro – 2014. A savoury, fruit driven nose. The palate is delicious. The vibrant fruit has a distinctly savoury tone that is ready made for food. Cherry and menthol fruit is supported by supple wine making. A delicious wine that is my pick for immediate consumption with food (awarded a Bronze Medal).


Ferguson Falls – Shiraz – 2013. Licorice, leather and spice over plum and aniseed. The palate is dense and ripe, with excellent structure and mouth-feel. Closer to the Barossa in style than Margaret River, the finish is long and powerful, with a dusting of fine tannins and acid. Great drinking (awarded a Gold Medal).

* Image courtesy of Talisman Wines



Barry Weinman: 4th November 2015

Cloudburst VineyardCloudburst may be the most famous winery you have never heard of. They might not be well known, but they are making some of the most expensive wines to come out of Margaret River.

The man behind the label is Will Berliner. Will hails from Mayne in the north-east of the USA, and has a varied background, most recently being a film-maker. Given the costs of establishing an operation like Cloudburst, Will was obviously successful.

Will’s connection to Australia, and wine in general is a relatively new phenomenon. Wills partner is Australian, and it was while he was on a holiday that he fell in love with Australia, and Margaret River in particular.

Photo Courtesy of Cloudburst Winery

After a few years of looking for the right location, the family relocated to Margaret River as a lifestyle decision, unrelated to wine. The location of the former cattle property clinched the deal, and the Berliners ended up with 100 hectares of farmland, which included 40 hectares of native bush.

Starting with stripped pasture, Will gradually built up the soil health, using organic and biodynamic principles.

The initial plan was to grow avocados but logistical challenges led to planting grapes, given the clearly evident affinity of the region to vines.

As a non-wine drinker, Will started researching and got completely hooked, taking an almost spiritual approach to the vineyard and wine. Will speaks with reverence on the establishment of the vineyard, as well as how he learned from others in the region.

This is a small operation. There are currently 1.2 hectares under vine, of which 0.5 hectares are in production! The first vines were planted in 2005, closely planted in short rows and small blocks. The first vintage was in 2010, with the wines being made at Woodlands, with the oversight of Stuart Watson.

Due to the family’s connections to the USA, the wines ended up on the wine lists of some of New York’s finest restaurants, which may go some way to explaining why the wines are the most expensive. It is only now that a local distributor has been appointed (The Drink Well Philosophy).Cloudburst Vineyard







 Photos Courtesy of Cloudburst winery


Cloudburst – Chardonnay – 2014. Very refined and elegant with hints of perfume and lanolin. The pristine fruit is the primary focus. The palate has excellent structure, with lemon, grapefruit and a touch of zest. The finish is almost chewy and textural. The acid is really polished and fine.

Cloudburst – Chardonnay – 2013. More complex and developed on the nose than the 2014, this is really attractive and interesting. A touch linear in the mouth initially, but the finish really fleshes out, showing grapefruit, and a touch of phenolic richness. Again, the acid is really fine, supporting the fruit, and helping to integrate the near seamless palate. Lemony fruit to close.

Cloudburst – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2013. Very complex and deep smelling. Menthol, blackcurrant and shades of eucalypt all meld into an alluring nose. The palate is fine and linear, with a clear minerality running from front to back. There is an almost graphite-like textural component. The supple acid and tannins combine with the fine-grained French oak to suppress the fruit somewhat on the finish. Give it some air or 5 – 10 years in the cellar. Bordeaux-like. 1,688 bottles made.

Cloudburst – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012. Really interesting nose, with the minerality that is all about white pepper and Australian mountain pepper. This gives way to a core of ripe fruit. A lovely expression of Margaret River Cabernet. Fine and taut, with blackberry fruit over supple spice. The slightly chewy tannins add to the overall package, making this an excellent drink now or in 10 years.

Cloudburst – Malbec – 2013. Excellent purity of fruit on the nose. The palate shows ripe red fruits, plum, spice and textural tannins. Opens up to show mint, menthol and redcurrant that is plump and ripe, with a cedary oak lift. A succulent, delicious wine that is drinking brilliantly now. 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cloudburst – Malbec – 2012. More restrained. Fine, elegant, balanced. Silky and near seamless. The oak and tannins add texture and vibrancy to the finish, with fine acids carrying the finish. Will cellar well for a decade or more, but is delicious now. Becomes quite chewy with air. 422 Bottles made


Riverland Clonal Project

Riverland Clonal Project

Barry Weinman: 1st November 2015

The Riverland Clonal Project has set out to identify the grapevine clones that are most suitable for the Riverland. The project is trying to identify vines that produce high quality wines efficiently. Factors include:

  • Water efficiency
  • Crop size and consistency
  • Grape/wine quality
  • Commercial viabilityDSC01116

Photo courtesy of the RVTG


The Riverland Clonal Project is run by the Riverland Viticultural Technical Group (RVTG), a sub-committee of Riverland Wine. The RVTG includes growers, winery representatives and technical members who collaborate on a variety of projects aimed at benefiting the region.

The Program is funded by Wine Australia as part of the Regional Extension Program.

The initial vines were planted 5 years ago, primarily covering Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. In total 96 clones were planted, all on the same rootstock. The project has since expanded to include other varieties that may be particularly suited to the warm, dry conditions of the Riverland.

At first glance, Chardonnay might seem like an interesting choice for what is a very warm region. It is worth highlighting that the Riverland produces 40% of Australia’s Chardonnay.

Interestingly, the Riverland is also the biggest producer of organic wine in Australia, which is providing a much-needed boost in profitability for some growers, given that the returns can be as much as 4 times that of grapes grown non-organically.


Water conservation is a priority for the region. The cost of irrigation strips any profitability out of production for many growers. According to the RVTG:

Water use differences are more influenced by the root-stocks rather than the clones. Most of the recent redevelopment has been on water efficient root-stocks such as Ramsey and Ruggeri 140.   When these vines are well managed, the vigour is controlled and high quality wines can be produced with little water.

Almost all vineyards in the Riverland are now irrigated with drip irrigation, and use soil moisture monitoring to ensure that the water use efficiency is as high as it can possibly get.

Assorted RVIC DEC 2010 156

Photo courtesy of the RVTG


Three years ago, the project started to produce wines from the various clones to look at the results. The wines were all made at a contract winery in Victoria (DPI) in 50kg parcels. For each grape variety, all fruit was treated in the same way. With Chardonnay for example, the grapes were picked at 13.5% Baume, fermented in stainless steel and saw no oak.

Going forward, the winemaking will be brought in-house, to be made by Melanie Kargas, winemaker for the RVTG. Picking times will be refined to bring down the level of alcohol and focus on purity of fruit. This would make the test wines more representative of where the market is going.

At this early stage, what is clear is that the different clones produce very different profile wines. This will help winemakers to select clones that best complement the style of wine that they are striving to produce.

The one variety that really stands out is Merlot, with broad recognition that some of the test clones are superior to those that are used commercially in the region.


Vintage 2015

The wines tried showed a remarkable diversity in style, from restrained and austere, to rich and expansive. Clearly the Riverland is capable of producing quality Chardonnay with careful clonal selection.

Clone 96: Floral notes, but with a core of minerality. The palate is rich and expansive, showing lemon, melon and grapefruit acidity, with a creamy finish.

Clone 95. Muted, tight fruit on the nose. The palate is all pineapple and citrus, but the finish is quite muted.

Clone 76 AR. Creamy, peach-like fruit on the nose. Big, bold flavours in the stone fruit spectrum, with lovely lemony acidity.

ENTAV 809 AR. Pretty, floral fruit that justifies the “Muscat” tag. Continues on the palate with a mouth-feel and acid that is not dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc. Bright acidity.

Clone 548. A very balanced profile, with floral fruit leading to grapefruit and melon. Sits very much in the middle ground.

ENTAV 1066. Peach, citrus, nectarine, grapefruit, melon. There is a lot going on here and the drive on the finish is noteworthy.


All grapes were picked at 13.8 Baume, received minimal skin contact and no oak. Acid was adjusted to 3.3pH in all wines and no malolactic fermentation was allowed due to the small batch size.

A couple of the wines here came across as a little warm. Melanie will look to adjust the Baume and introduce malolactic fermentation in subsequent years, to get a better idea of how each clone is performing.

D3V14. Plump and plummy fruit on the nose, with herbal, menthol and red berry characters. Gritty tannins carry the fruit nicely. Trying this, it is easy to understand why Merlot is so popular with some consumers.

8R. Less floral and more subdued than D3V14. Some graphite and tar notes add interest. The palate is a little overcooked, but the structure is noteworthy. A more refined/balanced wine with cassis and leafy notes.

ENTAV 181. Pretty fruit. Perfumed, yet mineral like, with decent structure and mouth-feel. A very balanced wine that will stand-alone well.

Q45-14. Decent concentration and depth to the fruit on the nose. Pretty red fruits on the palate, yet with excellent structure. Savoury, though the herbal tannins are a little green.

ISV F6V4. Muted, lacks vibrancy or depth.

3 Italy. Pure, varietal fruit with clarity and vibrancy. Red currant and blueberry fruit, with fine tannins. A pretty wine that suffers from being a little over-ripe.

Non-Mainstream Varieties.

Yalumba – Vermentino – 2014. Vibrant aromas with a savoury edge. Precise fruit that, whilst not overly concentrated, is pretty and satisfying. The pithy, drying finish adds to the charm. Very refreshing.

Unico Zelo – Fiano – 2015. Lovely Muscat-like fruit, with sherbet and delicate spice. The palate is vibrant and textured. Perfumed fruit continues on the palate, with musk-like notes and Turkish Delight. A delightful drink. (Basket pressed, wild ferment – at temperatures up to 40 degrees. Irrigation turned off at flowering, and no acid adjustment made).

Amato Vino – Bele – 2015. Really savoury with an almost saline lift to the nose. This is really interesting. Spice, with brine-like characters. This is a savoury, complex wine that will partner richer food dishes really well.

Whistling Kite – Montepulciano – 2014. Lovely cherry fruit, with savoury tar and spice. The palate is really structured and the tannins prodigious, but very fine. Will be a treat with a steak now, but a few years will see this open up nicely.

Cirami – Lagrein – 2014. Almost Shiraz-like, with dark plum-like fruit on both the nose and palate. This is a dense, powerful wine that will appeal to those who like a big red. Bring on a decent steak.


Hickingbotham – Clarendon Vineyard

10th June 2015

The Clarendon vineyard in McLaren Vale has contributed to some of Australia’s great wines, including the likes of Grange, as well as supplying Clarendon Hills winery. Planted in 1971, the plantings focus on Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

I was therefore surprised to hear that a few years ago, the vineyard was sold to the Jackson Family Estate. The company owns a number of wineries across the globe including some cult wineries in the Napa Valley. They also have Yangarra amongst their stable of wineries.

2012 was the first vintage under their control and Charlie Seppelt was appointed winemaker to oversee the operation. Charlie was given the daunting task of establishing a winery, complete with an oak regime to produce high quality wines from the outset.

Having just looked at the first releases, the early results look very promising. Though the wines could not be considered cheap, the pricing does, however, reflect the value of this special vineyard.

Reviewed2012 Hickinbotham Brooks Road Shiraz

Hickingbotham – Shiraz – Brooks Road – 2012. Classic McLaren Vale Shiraz that shows bright, fresh and pretty berry fruit characters. The palate has dense black fruit, but none of the candied characters that are common in the Vale. The finish is silky and refined, with a core of minerality. The oak (30% new) has been soaked up by the fruit, so as not to appear disjointed. Opens up and gets quite chewy and textured, with licorice and spice to close.

Hickingbotham – Cabernet Sauvignon – Trueman – 2012. Cassis and mint on the nose, though the fruit is quite muted at this point. Closed, tight and refined, the palate has remarkably fine, though persistent tannins. Finishes with chalk-like minerality with graphite and olive characters. This is the opposite of what I would expect from a warmer climate Cabernet. According to the winemaker, the Hickingbotham vineyard produces some of Australia’s most tannic Cabernet.

Hickingbotham – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – Peake – 2012. Surprisingly, this is more floral and fragrant than either of the straight wines. The palate has a savoury edge, with the quality fruit balanced by fine tannins. With air, the mineral-like texture really builds, the fruit coating the mouth and persisting for what seems like minutes. This needs years to reach its peak, but the wait will be worthwhile. 1200 bottles made.

Plantagenet Wines – 7th April 2015

Serving wine in optimal condition does not happen by accident. At home, we are able to control factors such as the temperature of the wine and also the amount of air exposure that the wine receives prior to drinking (either via decanting or leaving the bottle open).

I also take care to ensure that I use a high-quality wine glass to present the wine in the most favourable light. For years now, the Vinum – Chianti glass from Riedel has been my preferred glass.

Unfortunately, the same care and attention is not always given to wine by others. Examples include: wholesalers who store their wines in an industrial shed with no refrigeration, retailers who display wines in a hot window or in a display cabinet with a halogen light that heats the wine all day.

Restaurants are also hit and miss, with the temperature of the wine being the most common problem (Red wines to warm and white wines to cold). Another bugbear is when wines available by the glass are not fresh. I have been served wines that have been open for four days and have lost all fruit. Sure, the staff are happy to open a fresh bottle if asked, but the customer deserves better.

I do feel sorry though for wineries offering tastings mid-week when customer numbers are low. Having worked hard to produce the wine, there can be a reluctance to discard half-used bottles within a day or two of opening.

The financial implications are obvious. This is a double-edged sword though, as serving oxidised wines will give potential customers a less than ideal experience. The problem is exacerbated during the Australian summer, when high temperatures accelerate the deterioration.

It was a visit to a couple of wineries in late January that really highlighted the effect that this can have. Tasting the red wines at one unnamed winery was a real challenge. The bottles were sitting on the counter and the temperature was over 30 degrees. When combined with a bottle that had been opened for three days, it is not surprising that I did not really appreciate the wines.

My last stop for the day was Plantagenet Winery in Mt Barker, and what a revelation it was. Yes, the tasting room was air-conditioned, but the wines were also stored in optimal condition. For example they have two fridges for to store their tasting wines: one at 12˚C for wines such as the Chardonnay, and another much cooler for the Riesling etc.

Whilst Plantagenet has an extensive range of wines available, this review focusses on the premium wines labelled as Plantagenet, as well as the Juxtapose range, which is aimed at the restaurant market.

Overall, the wines were of very high quality and represent excellent value for money.


Plantagenet – Riesling – 2014 (18). Floral fruit notes on both the nose and palate, yet there is a steely backbone that adds structure. The textural components on the palate are a highlight, with an almost talc-like minerality. The gentle lime-like acidity adds to the excellent length (now or in 10 years) (RRP $25).

Plantagenet – Sauvignon Blanc – Juxtaposed – 2014 (17.5). Tropical fruit characters to the fore on the nose. Whilst the fragrant, floral fruit is the focus here, there is just enough lees and barrel ferment characters to add depth and make this really interesting.

Plantagenet – Chardonnay – 2014 (18). A complex wine. The nose opens with fresh stone-fruit, yet there are attractive worked* notes. The palate is rich, textured and long, opening with melon and stone fruit and finishing with a lick of toasty oak. A mainstream style that will be at its best in a year or two. (RRP $25).

Plantagenet – Pinot Noir – Juxtapose – 2013 (17.5). Fragrant red fruit characters lead the charge, with a savoury undertone redolent of spice. The chewy, textured fruit is allowed to shine here, with little in the way of oak apparent. A touch of mineral-like tannins add depth to the finish. Excellent current drinking. (RRP $28).

Plantagenet – Shiraz (Syrah) – Juxtapose – 2012 (17.5). True to the style of the Juxtapose range, the Syrah shows forward, fresh and vibrant fruit, framed by bright acidity. Good texture, with subtle oak adding depth. The fine acid and tannins carry the finish. Good drinking! (RRP $28).

Plantagenet – Shiraz – 2012 (18.5). Perfumed, ripe red berry fruit characters over licorice and supple spice. The palate stands out for its superb structure. Fine, savoury, tight and firm, yet this retains a degree of approachability. The silky tannins add to the mouthfeel, and the length is exemplary. (RRP $45). A recent bottle of 1996 Shiraz highlighted just how well these wines age.

Plantagenet – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 (18+). Mint, red currant and spice meld together on the nose. The mint carries though to the palate, where it is complemented by delicious, savoury herbal notes. The serious fruit has real depth and, combined with dusty tannins, confers excellent length to the palate. Whilst this needs years to reach its best (and score even higher points), the supple mouthfeel and balance make this approachable now. (RRP $45).

* Worked notes refers to characters that develop as a result of winemaking efforts. This includes the use of oak maturation, barrel fermentation and lees stirring.