"Order my book on the Roussillon wine region (colour paperback) DIRECT FROM ME SAVING £4/€4 (UK & EU only), or Kindle eBook on Amazon UK. Available in the USA from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook; or Amazon.com. For other countries, tap here." Richard Mark James


Including: Yalumba organic Viognier, the Signature, the Strapper; D'Arenberg, Willunga 100, McWilliam's; GSM, Grenache/Garnacha, Shiraz, 'Mediterranean' & 'Rhone' reds; Rockford, Thistledown, John Duval, Grant Burge, McPherson; Cabernet & Merlot, Château Tanunda, Balnaves, Woodlands Wines, Wynns; Rutherglen Muscat; Hunter Semillon, Chardonnay galore, Clare & Eden Riesling, Pinot Noir; Seppeltsfield, Kilikanoon, Yabby, Wakefield/Taylor's, St Hallett, Mitchelton, Knappstein, Greenstone, Clonakilla, Paxton, Petaluma, Lehmann, De Bortoli, Penfolds, Pfeiffer, Campbell's, Gatt. Sparkling: Croser, McGuigan, Jansz, Pirie, Chromy, Brown Bros, House of Arras; Tasmania; Australian wine feature for LCN.

Certain archive Australian features (2006-2010) are featured on this page below the first paragraph: '50 World Class Chardonnays', 'Riesling and Shiraz at a glance', 'Passionate about Pinot Noir', 'Consumer top 20', over a dozen winery snapshots and 'Clare Valley Riesling report'.

For the latest and all other posts, tastings and thoughts on Australia, follow these links directly below to read my words elsewhere on the blog:
Varietal wines of the moment April 2021: Yalumba Organic Viognier.
Red & rosé wines of trying times January 2021: D'Arenberg, Willunga 100, McWilliam's - GSMs.
White wines of the cosmos Jan. 2021: Aldi Exquisite Collection Padthaway Chardonnay (Taylor's), The Last Stand Chardonnay (Virgin).
Wines of the moment and other strange fruits Feb. 2020: McWilliam's Markview Chardonnay, Winemaker's Selection Clare Valley Riesling 2018; and 2017: Winter 'wines of the moment'.
Sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot: Italy, Australia, South Africa, France May 2018: Josef Chromy, Pirie, Brown Brothers, Jansz, Croser, House of Arras.
Grenache/Garnacha: Australia, Roussillon, Catalonia April 2018: Yalumba, D'Arenberg, Willunga 100, Rockford, Thistledown, John Duval, Grant Burge, McPherson.
Cabernet & Merlot: France, Chile, Australia Feb 2018: Château Tanunda, Balnaves, Woodlands Wines, Wynns Black Label, Yalumba The Signature.
(More links to follow 2017 to 2015)...
Australia: Gatt Wines November 2015.
Australia: Cabernet Sauvignon (and a couple of Pinots) October 2015.
Australia: Tasmania featuring Tamar Ridge, Devil's Corner, Jansz, Dalrymple, Eileen Hardy Pinot... (June 2015).
Australia & New Zealand: 'wines of the mo': Jacob's Creek Reserve Riesling, Yering 'Wild Ferment' Chardy, McWilliam's 'Elizabeth' Semillon and Xanadu Cabernet (May 2014).
Spain v Australia: festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate featuring Penfolds, Pfeiffer and Campbell's Rutherglen Muscat. (Dec. 2013)
Sparkling wines: festive fizz featuring McGuigan's Sparkling Shiraz... (Dec. 2013)
Grenache: Seppeltsfield & Kilikanoon fresh from the World Grenache Competition (March 2013).
Fizz of the mo: Croser Sparkling Wine 2007 (Feb 2013)
Australian wine feature for LCN - first published in the October 2012 edition of Licensed & Catering News (Northern Ireland trade publication).
Grenache and 'Med reds', Shiraz, Semillon (all Sept 2012) and Riesling (June 2012).
Rhone/Med winter reds (Nov 2011), more Pinot Noir (Oct 2011), Oz wines @ Belfast Wine Festival (Sept 2011), Grenache... (June 2011).
And click here to view several previously scribbled hot Oz winemaker profiles: Yabby, Wakefield, St Hallett, Pirie, Mitchelton, Knappstein, Greenstone, Clonakilla, Paxton, Petaluma, Lehmann and more... And here for De Bortoli, Yarra Valley.

'50 World Class Chardonnays' - Australia versus the rest

Well, I'm lying: half that many actually. I didn't feel like tasting all fifty of them, especially as there was a lot to taste and winemakers to talk to at Wine Australia's modestly titled London show in February 2010 (billed as "World Class Australia"). The plan was "a blind tasting showcasing the breadth of the Australian category (don't you just hate that marketing-babble word) and beyond," which grouped the mystery wines into three logical-enough styles: "crisp & refreshing" (which I skipped just to save time but probably shouldn't have), "fine & elegant" and "rich & complex." The line-up included a few Chardonnays from France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and California; although mostly from Oz. I've added five more I tried un-blind over the course of the day, which either I missed by not tasting all "50" or I found outstanding enough to round off this piece with. My Chardy-tastic notes and reviews have been posted below (evidently).

Conclusions? Well, my top three blind wines were from Oz (Penfolds Bin 311), Burgundy (Bruno Colin) and California (Ramey); closely followed by a couple of other Australians, New Zealand (Kumeu River) and South Africa (the rather classy Hamilton Russell). Add to those five sure-fire classics, although not tasted blind and not all well-known, such as Petaluma (nobody's going to accuse me of bias there), Yabby Lake (one to watch) and Paxton (biodynamic by the way). So, yes, you can of course say that Oz does indeed make some world-class Chardonnay, but some of them were somewhat clunky (e.g. sometimes hard acidity) despite their ambitious price tag. Talking of which, the latter doesn't automatically tie in with obvious "top quality" (although the Ramey was the dearest in the tasting) or a particular style, which isn't exactly a scoop of the century. For example, I marginally preferred (but not by much) Penfold's 311 over their more expensive Yattarna and didn't particularly like the in-between 07A (although a different vintage from the other two). Certain wines aside, nice to see generally more subtle oak usage too. And finally, who said Chardonnay was boring?! Not me.

From www.bbr.com

'Fine and elegant'
2007 Cape Mentelle Chardonnay, Margaret River/Western Australia (13%) - light toast and milky yeast-lees notes vs juicy sweet fruit; quite crisp cut adding a little elegance and length, although the oak is a tad toasty in the end. 85-87 £14.99
2005 William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru Preuses, France (13%) - oily nutty and maturing nose vs quite tight and fresh palate; slightly odd mix of oxidative nutty style vs herbal and zesty flavours, but it works. 87-89 £28.30
2007 Clairault Estate Chardonnay, Margaret/Western Australia (13.5%) - creamier style, nice texture and weight vs again a touch of refreshing bite and subtle length. 87-89 £17
2007 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay (13.5%) - a bit too clashingly sweet/sour. £36
2008 Giant Steps Arthur's Creek Chardonnay, Yarra/Victoria (12.5%) - attractive buttery style with hints of spicy toast; moving on to a greener-edged palate vs exotic and creamy, fat vs citrus finish. 88-90 £17
2008 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, South Africa (13%) - quite voluptuous and big to start although the finish is tighter and smarter; buttery toasted notes with fair weight vs crisp bite. 88-90 £14.50
2006 Kooyong Estate Chardonnay, Mornington/Victoria (13%) - vibrant greenish fruit vs buttery/creamy aromas; attractive fairly soft mouthfeel with a touch of acidity adding liveliness and style, quite a bit of oomph to finish. 87-89 £19
2006 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay, New Zealand (13.5%) - similar profile showing buttery vs greener fruit; nice oily mineral finish and Chablis-like elegance. 88-90 £20
2008 McHenry Hohnen Rocky Road Vineyard Chardonnay, Margaret/Western Oz (13.5%) - more open, buttery and maturing vs a tad of bite and punch; appealing subtle flavours on the finish. 87-89 £16.50
2006 Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay, New South Wales (13.5%) - very attractive creamy/oily flavours and textures vs zestier edge; nice hazelnut tones then intense mineral finish. 90-92 £17.99
2007 Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Chardonnay, California (13.5%) - lacks a bit of flavour perhaps, although has a closed-up and mineral finish? £8.16
2008 Shelmerdine Chardonnay, Victoria (12.5%) - not revealing much at first, has a lightly toasty palate vs slightly bitter acidity and clumsy finish. £12.99
2006 Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay, Hunter Valley 12.5%) - not lacking in mouthfeel with sweet vs spicy vs creamy vs acid combo, although doesn't really come together very well. 85 £21.99

'Rich and complex'
2006 Bruno Colin Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot, Burgundy/France (14%) - lightly volatile, complex and nutty nose; elegant and maturing in a very different oxidative style, builds up into a buttery crescendo vs firm cut. 90-92 £28.30
2006 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret/West Oz (14.5%) - leesy nose leads on to fatter richer mouthfeel with nutty undertones; a bit heavy and hot in the end though. £45
2007 Penfolds Bin 07A Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills (12.5%) - sweet vs nutty aromas, you get more flavour and build up in the mouth but again it's a touch too sweet/sour. £27.99
2006 Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay (13%) - creamy and concentrated showing oily mineral tones vs buttery lees; nice hazelnutty flavours and big vs firm and fresh mouthfeel. 89-91 £39.99
2007 Ramey Chardonnay, California (14.5%) - aromatic and exotic, toasty vs buttery vs hazelnut; enticing bite vs oomph, keeps on going. Wow. 90-92 £46.99
2008 Wolf Blass Presidents Selection Chardonnay (13.5%) - a bit unrevealing to start, nutty vs tight palate finishing with very subtle cream and toast. 87-89 £10.99
2008 Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay, Margaret/Western Oz (14%) - quite tropical and fat vs toasted nut notes, finishing with subtle crispness and power too. 87-89 £42

The ones I didn't taste (but probably should have done): all from Aus unless stated
Andrew Peace FuturPak, Blason de Bourgogne Macon-Villages (France), Brown Brothers Bankside, Chapel Hill, De Bortoli Estate, Felsina i Sistri (Italy), Ferngrove, Jacob's Creek, Jacob's Creek Reeves Point, Lindemans Bin 65, MacForbes, McWilliam's "Crisp", Oyster Bay (NZ), Paxton Thomas Block, Punt Road Napoleone Vineyard, Rosemount "Crisp", Wakefield Estate, Wolf Blass Yellow Label, Oxford Landing, Shaw and Smith M3, Stonier Reserve, Wakefield St. Andrews, Hardy's Eileen Hardy, Moss Wood, Penfolds Thomas Hyland, PHI Lusatia Park Vineyard, Rustenberg (SA), Vasse Felix Heytesbury.

Other star Chardys tasted at the show (not blind)
2007 Petaluma Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay - classy toasty buttery vs maturing complex notes vs tight and refreshing finish; lovely balance. 90-92 £15
2006 Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay - toastier yet with lusher fruit and finishing on wilder, yeast-lees edges; again shows fab mix of maturing and intricate vs tight and long. 92-94 £36
More Petaluma below.

2008 Yabby Lake Vineyard, Red Claw Chardonnay, Mornington/Victoria - nice aromatic oaty leesy nose; subtle buttery fruit vs tight and mineral palate, lively elegant length. 89-91 £15
2008 Yabby Lake Chardonnay, Mornington/Victoria - similar to start although develops wilder lees edges vs creamy and full flavours/mouthfeel; again lovely crisp length, elegant structured style. 90-92 £24
2007 Paxton Chardonnay, McLaren Vale/South Aus - buttery, nutty, maturing, oatmeal aromas/flavours; lovely balance of rich cream and lees, maturing fruit vs mineral and still alive. 90-92 £19

All rights © Richard M James March/April 2010

'Varietal obsessions at a glance'
a dozen Rieslings and 20 Shirazes

A quick-view, slightly obsessive list featuring two varieties that Oz can do with panache and, well, I'm rather partial to in fact; all tasted at Wine Australia's London extravaganza in 2010. These wines - a dozen Rieslings and 20 Shirazes - have been extracted from those tantalising 'consumer top-20' selection and 'winery snapshots' below, where, on the latter, you'll find tasty profiles on some of these wineries plus several other non R & S wines...

2009 Petaluma Hanlin Hill, Adelaide Hills SA - zesty phenolic (those zesty aromatic qualities you get from pre-fermentation skin contact) chalky tones, concentrated vs crisp palate, lively tight finish. Promising. 89-91 £10
2008 Petaluma Hanlin Hill - wilder more intense style, nice concentration with oily vs zesty mouthfeel; very attractive mix of oily developing fruit vs still tight and long. 90-92 £10
2008 Ferngrove Great Southern WA - quite classic zesty limey Riesling nose and palate; crunchy and lively vs chalky and oily mouthfeel. £7.99 87
2008 Plantagenet Great Southern WA - more intense and limey, chalkier style too; very lively and crisp vs oily palate with classy bite. £10.99 90+
2009 Pewsey Vale Eden Valley SA - more closed up to start with floral peachy notes; softer style perhaps yet still very Riesling with nice zesty finish and citrus zing. £9.20 87-89
2009 Grosset Polish Hill, Clare Valley SA - demanding nose and palate, slowly revealing honeyed notes vs crunchy chalky extract; builds up to very intense, tight and structured mouthfeel with delicious elegant mineral length. Wow. Great yet austere wine in need of a little rest in bottle. £19.95 90-92
2009 St Hallett Eden Valley SA - softer style with lime blossom aromas and juicy mouthfeel, finishing crisp and mineral. £8.99 87+
2006 Pirie
South, Tasmania - enticing developing oily and mineral nose; fading citrus fruit and zest, turning petrol-y and mature vs backbone of underlying acidity. 88+
2005 Pirie Estate - classy Alsace "grand cru" type profile and intensity; maturing mineral edges vs concentration, then tightens up with crisp bite still. Wow. 92+£
2007 Pirie Reserve Clark's Botrytis - complex spicy noble rot nose, lush honey and marmalade; classy rich mouthfeel vs elegant bite, pretty fine balance and style. 90+
2009 Knappstein
Hand Picked, Clare Valley (12%) - floral lime aromas with light tobacco even (what's that about£); fresh clean and lively mouthfeel, fairly easy style with attractive zesty finish. £8.49 85
2008 Knappstein Ackland Vineyard (12.5%) - a step or two up: lovely oily mineral nose with complex lime flavours vs oily notes/texture; great bite with classy tight length. £10.99 90+

2007 Petaluma Adelaide Hills - peppery with ripe cassis and quite a bit of vanilla-y sweet oak; attractive texture and oomph vs spicy/sweet black fruit, closing up on its nice finish showing more subtle oak integration. 89-91 £15
2009 Paxton rosé McLaren Vale - juicy spicy minty style, moving on to ripe oily red fruits then nice refreshing and crisp bite. £10.99 85
2008 Paxton
Quandong - rich dark black fruits, spicy and punchy mouthfeel turning firm and tight; wilder savoury edges vs underlying sweetness vs dry grip closing up the finish a little. £15.50 88-90
2005 Paxton Jones Block - maturing and meaty vs rich cassis; spicy and tasty palate, quite elegant and complex, keeps going. £18.99 90-92
2008 Paxton MV
- ripe vs spicy and juicy, again pretty easy compared to some of the others vs a bit of bite to finish. 83-85
2006 Paxton Elizabeth Jean (100 year-old) - complex smoky nose with dark cherry, blackberry and a touch of vanilla; intense and lush palate vs herbal-edged fruit, punchy solid vs fine length and again finishing with savoury vs liquorice flavours. 90+
2008 Clonakilla
Hilltops, Canberra District NSW - quite seductive spicy cherry fruit, peppery and pure with a wilder side too; subtle oak coating and rounded vs tight and firm framework. £15 88+
2007 Clonakilla O'Riada - pure minty style with dried cherry and raisin edges; solid powerful palate with again that taut feel vs wild herb/garrigue tones, captivating stuff. £27 90
2006 Greenstone
Heathcote, Victoria - dark and lush black fruits with chocolate oak undertones; tight framework and power vs subtle bite, attractive texture and a bit of class too. £16 88+
2007 Knappstein
- taut and leaner style of Shiraz showing subtle peppery vs "sweet" fruit; firm framework layered with dark cherries, nice now actually. £10 87
2008 Mitchelton Nagambie Lakes, Victoria - spicy and pure black cherry nose; quite soft and subtle vs tighter structure underneath, ripe then spicy finish; quite elegant change. £8.99 87+
2006 Mitchelton
"Print" - concentrated and vibrant mouthful with subtle oak layering, firm and punchy vs deliciously rounded. £15 90
2006 St Hallett
Eden Valley - offers creamy berry fruit and subtle concentration, lusher on the finish with light toasty oak; still firm vs maturing framework, quite elegant actually. 89
2008 St Hallett Faith, Barossa Valley SA - nice dark blackberry and pepper on the nose; lively fruity palate with chunky texture, turning savoury too with big vs rounded tannins and attractive oomph. £10 88
2006 St Hallett Blackwell, Barossa - darker richer spicier and toastier; lush mouth-coating texture plus commanding power then tighter finish with meaty edges. Wow. £13 90
2006 St Hallett Old Block, Barossa/Eden - smoky vs herbal nose, lush "tar" notes in the mouth; appealing grip and background wood, big spicy mouthful yet still tight and fine-grained. 92
2004 Wakefield St Andrews, Clare Valley - maturing meaty aromas with leather, dark plums and spices; complex tobacco tones vs lush black fruits vs very firm finish still. 90-92
2006 d'Arenberg the Dead Arm, McLaren Vale SA - wow! Minty "garrigue" (as they say in the south of France) tones vs very ripe, lush/dark plum; turns meatier with concentrated big (15%) mouthfeel, finishing with light wood grain vs grippy tannins vs dark peppery fruit. £26.99 90+
2008 Ben Glaetzer Bishop, Barossa - purer herbal juicy vs very ripe black cherry style; chunky solid texture, concentrated and big (15.5%) mouthful vs spicy fruit. Wow: needs a few years to mellow, almost too much but carries it off somehow! £19.95 90+
d'Arenberg Vintage Fortified, McLaren Vale - meaty maturing nose with dried cherries and plums vs minty herbal undertones; grip and power vs sweet lush fruit, well made in this "not everybody's cup of tea" style (I like it). £10.99 89+

All rights RM James, posted May 2010.

Australia: 'consumer top 20'

Wine Australia showcased a 'consumer top 20' selection at their London show in Feb 2010: the idea being an interesting and representative range of styles and qualities, priced £6 to £27 in the UK, which Joe Public particularly liked "at recent consumer tastings." I've narrowed this down to my top dozen, just to be contrary, succinct and somewhat point-ist (wines rated over 85 only!); plus added a few brief comments on the other wines.

Jansz NV Premium Cuvée, Tasmania (12.5%) - attractive floral vs bready style on the nose; "sweeter" oatier palate vs fresh acidity and clean length, although those toasty notes carry through nicely too. £11.99 87

2008 Ferngrove Riesling, Great Southern WA - quite classic zesty limey Riesling nose and palate; crunchy and lively vs chalky and oily mouthfeel. £7.99 87
2008 Plantagenet Riesling, Great Southern WA - more intense and limey, chalkier style too; very lively and crisp vs oily palate with classy bite. £10.99 90+
2009 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley SA - more closed up to start with floral peachy notes; softer style perhaps yet still very Riesling with nice zesty finish and citrus zing. £9.20 87-89
2009 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley SA - demanding nose and palate, slowly revealing honeyed notes vs crunchy chalky extract; builds up to very intense, tight and structured mouthfeel with delicious elegant mineral length. Wow. Difficult to believe average "consumers" liked this great yet austere wine, but very encouraging to see several Rieslings being singled out! £19.95 90-92
2007 Paxton Chardonnay, McLaren Vale SA - buttery, nutty, maturing, oatmeal aromas/flavours; lovely balance of rich cream and lees, maturing fruit vs mineral and still alive. £18.99 90-92

2006 Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard Pinot Noir, Tasmania - quite sexy "sweet n sour" Pinot nose, turning savoury on the edges; toastier spicier palate turning a touch extracted and bitter vs that nice lush PN fruit. Pity, would've rated it higher otherwise. £14.99 85-87
2006 d'Arenberg the Dead Arm, McLaren Vale SA - wow! Minty "garrigue" (as they say in the south of France) tones vs very ripe, lush/dark plum; turns meatier with concentrated big (15%) mouthfeel, finishing with light wood grain vs grippy tannins vs dark peppery fruit. £26.99 90+
2008 Ben Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz, Barossa Valley SA - purer herbal juicy vs very ripe black cherry style; chunky solid texture, concentrated and big (15.5%) mouthful vs spicy fruit. Wow: needs a few years to mellow, almost too much but carries it off somehow! £19.95 90+

2008 Brown Brothers Orange Muscat, Milawa Vic - very floral orange peel notes with pure sweet Muscat grape aromas; lush taste vs attractively light, refreshing and quite crisp finish. £6.49 85+
2005 d'Arenberg Vintage Fortified Shiraz Chambourcin, McLaren Vale SA - meaty maturing nose with dried cherries and plums vs minty herbal undertones; grip and power vs sweet lush fruit, well made in this "not everybody's cup of tea" style (I like it). £10.99 89+
Campbell's NV Muscat, Rutherglen Vic - cooked Madeira-like nose with caramelised orange peel and toffee; layers of sweetness vs intricate baked flavours, pretty treacly vs cut of 17.5% uplifting the finale. A one-off. £15
Other wines: these four were finished or missing or fell off the radar: Jacob's Creek Blanc de Blancs fizz, Pikes the white Mullet, Gemtree Citrine Chardy and Turkey Flat rosé. And: Bird in Hand sparkling Pinot (mouth-watering red fruit style although not good value at £12), Majella Cab Sauv 2005 (nice maturing although a bit old-fashioned and clunky), Bleasdale sparkling Shiraz (not lacking flavour but too strange) and Innocent Bystander Moscato (the name says it all: crowd-pleaser but facile).
All rights RMJames, posted 6 April 2010.

Australia - 'Passionate about Pinot'

Continuing the country / grape variety theme, this was the title of a blind Pinot Noir tasting led by two leading Australian winemakers: Steve Webber of De Bortoli and Peter Leske of Nepenthe. The former winery is in the Yarra Valley, Victoria (east of Melbourne) and the latter Adelaide Hills, South Australia, where Jeffrey Grosset also grows a tad of Pinot. Other Victorian wineries included Stonier, Mornington Peninsula (south of Melbourne) and Scotchmans Hill, Geelong (southwest); from Western Oz we had Plantagenet, Great Southern region and Fonty's Pool from Pemberton (both about 400 km southeast of Perth). And last but not least, the great Pipers Brook Estate in Tasmania.
Which more or less covers all the best areas, where Pinot Noir really appears to feel at home - obviously the key is 'cool climate' (man). I discovered a couple more Oz Pinot producers at the show (London Wine Fair, May 2006), also included in my report: Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander and Pirie. By the way, Pinot South is an association set up by Diamond Valley (Yarra), Stonier, Nepenthe, Scotchmans and Stefano Lubiana (Tasmania). Other top names in Pinot conspicuous by their absence take in Coldstream Hills, Paringa Estate and Yering Station (all Victoria).
Steve and Peter summarised the main changes towards making quality Pinot in Australia, technical and philosophical. Vine age is an obvious but important development, as are Pinot clones especially new French ones and which rootstocks work best with them, planting density in different soils etc. The focus has definitely switched to growing accompanied by an understanding that Pinot requires a lot of effort. This means cane pruning, less buds, shoot and bunch thinning, hand-picking and sorting (the latter two very important for top notch quality). And not picking too late but just ripe, even if only at 12.5% potential alcohol. Basically all the stuff the best Burgundy growers have learned over generations and many more years of hard graft (minus chucking sugar in the vat).
By getting the vineyard right, which is cost-intensively manual, actually making good Pinot becomes easier. The Oz mistake 20 years ago was to focus on the winery first. Climate studies have also been done hence the concentration on the cooler regions, as mentioned above. In the winery itself, current successful techniques for Pinot include small batch fermentation (4-6 tons), "full-bodied pigeage" (I guess means vigorous hand- or foot-plunging), extended skin maceration and careful oak selection. Both Steve and Peter have done vintages in Burgundy in the last few years. Anyway enough of the blah blah, here are the wines: no "******* Merlot" here!

2004 Stonier, Mornington Peninsula - nice smoky 'sweet and savoury' (abbrev to s+s from now onwards) notes with complex herbal fruit set against background oak; perfumed juicy red fruit start getting more austere with its acid structure plus a little weight from the alcohol, reasonably elegant and more savoury finish. £12 UK retail, importer Bibendum Wine. 87-89
2004 De Bortoli Reserve Release, Yarra Valley - pure fruit v smoky notes, fragrant yet ripe red fruits; delicate dry tannins and acidity, chunkier long finish suffused with delicious Pinot flavours. £18, De Bortoli Wine UK. 92-94
2002 Scotchmans Hill Norfolk Vineyard, Geelong - more mature and rustic nose leads to fuller meaty palate, pretty firm mouth-feel with powerful alcohol yet fresh acid too; a little clumsy but the maturity adds style. £25, Andrew Browne. 87-89
2004 Giant Steps, Yarra Valley - gentle savoury oily Pinot notes, richer concentration with dry tannins and firm acid in the mouth, powerful yet nice elegant fruit too. 89
2004 Giant Steps Punt Road
, Yarra Valley - more complex with herbal berry fruit and smoky backdrop, very subtle oak; bigger and firmer yet has nice s+s style and fresh clean finish. 90-92
2005 Innocent Bystander Pinot rosé
, Yarra Valley - fresh and herbal v 'sweeter' raspberry fruit, tight elegant palate with subtle oomph v creamy fruit.87
2005 Innocent Bystander
, Yarra Valley - vibrant perfumed cherry fruit builds to more savoury profile, ripe texture v some firm acidity and elegant finish.87-89

Western Australia
2004 Plantagenet, Great Southern - more perfumed s+s fruit leads on to lightly creamy silky mouth-feel, fairly soft with a little weight and delicate fresh acidity; a bit short perhaps. £12, Liberty Wine. 87
2004 Fonty's Pool, Pemberton - a bit more oak-forward yet still has complex s+s tones, again elegant concentration with fresh acid length supported by soft red and savoury fruit. £10, Boutinot. 87-89

South Australia
2004 Nepenthe Charleston, Adelaide Hills - more floral style with subtle ripe red fruits and light tannin texture, very fresh acidity means tight finish layered with s+s flavours and some alcohol weight. £9, Enotria Winecellars. 89-91
2003 Grosset, Adelaide Hills - seductive s+s nose, intricate aromas; quite rich with light tannin structure, again shows elegant acidity and length v power. £27, Liberty Wine. 92-94

2003 Pipers Brook Estate - the nose is a little closed yet this reveals richer s+s fruit on the palate, more concentrated and firmer too v fresh acidity and alcohol weight; lends power v finesse. £14, Boutinot. 91-93
2004 Pirie South Estate Pinot - smoky with nice s+s notes, meaty v cherry fruit, closes up on the finish; could be very good. 89 (By the way, this a new venture by Andrew Pirie, former owner of Pipers Brook and one of the pioneers of Pinot in Tasmania.)

Clare Valley Riesling report March 2007

Fifteen 2006 vintage Rieslings from "Planet Clare" (as Freddie and his B52s almost said), one of Australia's premium regions for a variety I seem to be getting a bit obsessed with (must be the "pink air" and "red trees"...) Plus a trio of sublime Bordeaux-style blend reds that proved difficult to leave out. Including Grosset, Annies Lane, Jeanneret, Jim Barry, Kilikanoon, Knappstein, Koonowla, Leasingham, Mitchell's, Mount Horrocks, Neagles Rock, Olssens, Petaluma, Sevenhill, Skillogalee, Wakefield and Tim Adams.
2006 appears to be a successful, well-balanced vintage for Riesling in the Clare Valley judging by these wines, which are mostly very zingy with tight framework needing a few months in bottle to express themselves. Andrew Mitchell, CV winemakers' chairman, commented: "High natural acidity was a feature this year and Riesling in particular displayed excellent chemical analysis." Somehow I couldn't imagine his German or French counterparts saying those last two words, even though they know exactly what it means of course!
The only 2005 vintage on tasting (Neagles Rock Reserve) was a nice stylistic contrast and indicates how Oz Riesling can develop complex 'mineral oil' characters even after one year. I found I least liked Rieslings with 13.5% alcohol, most of them being a bit 'warm' and out of kilter. In addition, those from certain districts within Clare tend to show more finesse, such as Watervale, Hanlin Hill and Polish Hill. Perhaps it's an altitude thing: vineyards in the latter two sites are planted either side of 500 metres (1600 feet).

Annies Lane, 2006 Coppertrail - zestier and more lifted than their 'basic' Riesling, showing a steely mineral palate and fresh citrus fruit; crisp intensity v a touch of softness on the finish. 87-89
Grosset, 2006 Polish Hill - limey and oily, super zesty and tight palate with long incisive finish; actually showing more fruit and less austere at this stage than previous vintages, from memory. 92+
Jim Barry, 2006 Lodge Hill - tight chalky lime mouth-feel, very crisp yet weightier too (13.5%), fresh and zingy; tad too much alcohol on the finish but it's still good in the end. 87-89
Kilikanoon, 2006 Mort's Reserve - edgier and greener than their 'basic' Riesling, very steely on its mineral length. 88-90
Knappstein, 2006 Ackland (Watervale) - lovely floral nose leads to a limey chalky palate, incisive bite v white peach fruit; again 13.5% comes through yet it works in the overall framework of things. 90
Koonowla 2006 - honeysuckle and white peach notes, very zesty with nice mineral style and length. 88
Leasingham, 2006 Bin 7 - quite gentle mineral palate to start builds to a biting yet balanced finish, zesty and exciting. 90-92
Mitchell's, 2006 Watervale - fuller 13.5% style yet it's quite classy with zingy lime fruit, perhaps a little 'hot' but good nevertheless. 87-89
Neagles Rock Vineyards, 2005 Reserve 'Frisky Filly' - showing a little 'petrol-y' development on the nose, very crisp green citrus fruit v oily texture, nice style and zing. 90-92
Olssens of Watervale 2006 - eye-watering acidity set on a lemon oil palate, crisp long finish. 90
Petaluma, 2006 Hanlin Hill - gummy zesty floral notes lead to peachy softer palate, elegant crisp acidity and extract, stylish length. 92
Sevenhill Cellars 2006 - a touch oilier with floral white peach tones, soft yet crisp, juicy oily texture v zesty elegant length. 88-90
Skillogalee 2006 - floral v 'petrol' notes, fuller softer palate yet still zesty and mineral. 87-89
Tim Adams 2006 - more 'Germanic' showing tight framework with floral lime and white peach fruit, oily elegant finish. 89-91
Mount Horrocks 2006 - slightly reductive nose, probably just needs some air; superb zesty mouth-feel with vibrant lime fruit and chalky fresh length. 90-92

Jeanneret, 2003 Cabernets (organic) - herby spicy cassis turning more savoury, firm complex yet powerful palate with dry texture and underlying ripeness. 92-94
Grosset, 2001 Gaia (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon plus Cabernet Franc and a touch of Merlot) - savoury v minty notes, pure cassis with floral edges v earthy black plum fruit, rich v fresh with maturing fruit yet still firm structure. Yum. 93-95
Wakefield, 2001 St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon - herbal minty yet also savoury nose, meaty fruit and tannins v seductive ripe smoky fruit; lovely wine. 92-94
Wakefield, 2002 St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon - perfumed red pepper tones, beginning to turn savoury; quite elegant (despite 14.5%) with dry tannins, pruney backdrop and subtle mint on its more closed, less revealing finish. 90-92
Posted March 2007


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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.