Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 1997 (review)

82 points
This wine was much better 5 years ago. It was still a sound wine with earthy-tobacco like aromas and taste. The tannins were about gone, and no fruit left. This is another wine that states on the label that it will last longer than it did. The alcohol and acid are well balanced and the finish was quite long, given the state of the wine.


Schild Estate Barossa Shiraz 2002 (review)

89 points

from Barossa Valley, South Australia 14.5%

It’s not often that you see a wine of this quality at this price.

Dark, sweet but balanced by some complex liquorice characters. Concentrated.

A new star – best buy.

PS this review, like all on this site is based on consuming the wine with food. Many reviews are based on multiple tastings.

Wirra wirra r.s.w. shriraz 2002 (review)

90 points

From Mclaren Vale, South Australia 14.5%

Drak black/red and shiny. This is a winemakers wine. Super clean. Well balanced, well perhaps a little too much acid, some added. Pristine and powerful fruit, a controlled but still obvious oak. The 2002 vintage is quite obvious here, as is the quality winemaking.

James Halliday gave this a huge score something like 97 points. It’s his sort of winemakers wine. Clean and powerful.

It’s the sort of wine that wins medals, but partly because it can’t be faulted. But I find a tad boring, by the numbers – even if it is so impressive.

I think it is very good. And fairly priced. But I’m damining it with faint praise really for a top wine.

What’s happening to my beloved rosé?

Why can’t the wine trade just let winemakers produce rosé for the ‘punter’?

I am starting to lose my passion for the deliciously ‘slurpable’ style of pink wine, so popular at this height of an Aussie summer. I feel that rosé as a wine style should be all about enjoying summer. The wine should be cold, a bright and inviting pink colour, have refreshing acidity, be fruit-driven, relatively cheap, and easy to drink. All the qualities that we sun-bronzed folk appreciate when the mercury tops 30 degrees C! Of late, I’m starting to find increasing complexity, high alcohol, reductions in sugar and other indicators of wine-making intervention in my beloved ‘crimson hints of summer’. Why is this so??

Let me share my marketing advice with any winery wishing to make rosé (and this advice is free, so you should at least look): Rosé, like Riesling, is one of a winery’s best opportunities to generate cash-flow quickly and easily. Exploit the market, we really don’t mind when we purse our lips to enjoy the flush of our cheeks with the joy a rosé brings to imbiber, and friends alike.

In simple terms, you only need to pick the grapes early(ish), crush and macerate on skins for up to 8 hours to gain a bright and pretty pink colour, drain the juice off, ferment (leaving residual sugar to balance the acidity for a wine served at around 4 degrees C), ‘clean up’ and bottle. Then release to the market in attractive packaging- ‘fresh as a daisy’. You can’t ask for a better opportunity to free up space in the winery and generate cash quickly!

For the doubters of my claim, just consider the market leading rosés…. For anyone with a track record in wine consumption, you would have heard of Mateus rosé. This simple, sweet, slightly spritzy pale pink wine was widely available and very popular for decades. To give you a more recent example from the Adelaide market, unless you have had your ears plugged over the last few years, you must have heard of Rockford Alicante Bouchet. In certain retailers the wine is still only available by allocation. The wine is arguably the market leading rosé. Other popular brands are Turkey Flat’s Rosé and Charles Melton’s Rose of Virginia. All of these wines are bright pink, ‘zesty’, fruit-driven, refreshing examples of pink wine. And yes, they all have perceptible (and thoroughly enjoyable) residual sugar!

Despite the increase in brands in this wine style over the past few years, these brands consistently lead the market. Many new entrants offer a dryer style, or softer style, or more complex style of rosé. I say, look at my comments above, and then ask yourself why your rosé isn’t selling.

A common fault is that producers ask the wine trade (and/or critics) what to do with their suggested new pink wine. Unfortunately, the wine trade is far more concerned with ‘serious’ wines and often suggest that rosé should be more serious. If you need a more objective view, ask a member of the wine trade to indicate the rosé they prefer to drink, if any. You can then make a decision as to whether to take their advice on a rosé you intend to make.

I recently asked a friend starting a degree in wine-making, to promise me that he would make a rosé for the ‘punter’. He promised he would, and I’m looking forward to his first attempt. Like any good marketer, I say- look at what the market likes, then make your decision on what to produce. You may not earn any kudos among the wine trade fraternity for producing a ‘less serious’ wine, but the consumer will love you for it, and your accountant will too!


De Bortoli Yarra Cabernet 1997 (review)

De Bortoli seems to be a bit of secret in spite of its top 10 status among Australia’s wineries. Empirically I know that lots of people drink De Bortoli, but very few people I talk to ever mention them. This Cabernet walks a straightl ine between the cool climate style Cab and a warm and ripe one (as 1997 was in the Yarra). It burst into my mouth with slightly hot and overripe Cab flavours, but followed with a slightly gritty tannin that did add a bit of length. At the same time the substantial and I think natural acid balanced this slightly rough wine. I found the wine on my shelf and think someone must have brought it and then left it. There are 2 gold medals, one from the Southern VIctorian Wine Show and the other from the Cowra Wine Show. My guess is that 8 years ago this French oaked and macerated Cabernet burst into their mouths too. The label says ‘ classic aging prospect over 8-10 years’. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer.

Tatachilla Foundation Shiraz 1999 (review)

88 points – v.good but without a distinctive style.

From McLaren Vale, South Australia. 14%

In 2002 this wine won the “great Australian Shiraz challenge” and James Halliday rated it 96 points!

So it is amazing that I can still buy it and under A$40 (ie no price rise). This winery has a reputation of preducing black/purple wines, super charged, and super clean – wine makers’ wines that scoop awards. Six years after vintage, which is a near perfect time to start drinking quality Australian shiraz, this is a dark red, well balanced though with just noticeable addded acidity.

The interesting thing is that the promise of youth hasn’t really paid off. Flavour has not built with (a small amount of) time. It is a good but restrained/balanced wine. Without great complexity, a very good quality version of commercial wine.

Peter Lehmann Eight Songs Shiraz 2000 (review)

91 points

from Barossa Valley, South Australia

OK, maybe I’m being generous with points but this wine is super opulent. There is a Peter Lehmann style of up front sweet Barossa fruit and noticeable oak. It’s very commerical, but few do it better. And here it is applied in a way to make a premium wine. And 5 years old and at a good price.

Obviously it’s in the ‘chocolate milkshake’ style of Barossa shiraz. But with french oak which really does have an impact.

The mouth-weight is extraordinary – really like cream – no other wine in the world can do this other than Barossa shiraz.

Savoury, sweet with great presence. Not complex, but very distinctive and so deserves a good rating. Terribly hard for anyone to dislike.

Ross Estate Lynedoch 2002 (review)

87 points

14%. From Barossa Valley, South Australia

I bought this wine after hearing about a Parker review. I first tried the 2001 which was nice but not great but I still held out hope. After all Robert Parker wrote:

I was blown away by the 2002 Cabernet Blend Lynedoch. It represents a great value in a Bordeaux-styled red of considerable complexity and elegance. A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Merlot aged in neutral French and American wood (15% new) for 15 months, importer Ken Onish calls it the “Château Palmer of the Barossa.” Its deep blue/purple color is accompanied by sweet aromas of violets, créme de cassis, lavender, and spice box. Gorgeously textured, classy, and noble, with precise flavors, terrific definition, and a long, concentrated finish, this beauty is a steal in terms of pricing. It should drink well for a decade. It would be interesting to insert this Cabernet blend as a ringer in a blind tasting of top classified growth Bordeaux.

What is Parker talking about !

I consumed this after more time in the bottle, but without the wine having to travel to the USA (instead it travelled down the road).

It’s a dark young red with a flash of purple (not deep blue/purple). Warm aromas with very nicely restrained oak and hints of tomato & herb pizza – quite enticing, though they don’t leap out of the glass (which is a good thing). On the palate there is immediate sweet fresh and spicy fruit, not deeply rich and savoury like top bordeaux. Nor obviously varietal cabernet as say a top Margaret River or NZ cabernet.

The finish is abrupt because of acid, which gives a sudden tamarillo type flavour in the mouth. I think this is due to added acidity. This subsides and oak and fruit come back to linger a while.

It’s a nicer wine than the 2001, but I’m not blown away. With food I expect this wine to be easily smothered, and that’s not to say that it is particularly elegant – just that it is soft and not terribly concentrated in flavour. It’s very good for a Barossa Cabernet, but this variety does not do terribly well in this region. Barossa produces cabernet sauvignon that is soft and a bit dull; often hot and clumsy (though not this wine in this spectacular cool vintage).

Actually when consumed with food the sweetness is confectionary like. The Cabernet Franc flavours are also very obvious after a glass or two. My wife refused to drink it half way into the meal.

Good wine (for a Cabernet Franc dominant blend) but not serious wine. Such a pity. I hoped that Parker had led me to a bargain (he scored it 93!). It’s about A$20 here with little market presence. It would have been a wonderful find, I could have scooped the market.

Chateau Rollan de By 2001 (review)

90 points

From Bordeaux, France.

Dark with considerable glycerol. Very dense small barrel French oaky nose. Follows through on the palate – this demands some aging. Quite burly.

For a plain Medoc this is pretty intense, and perhaps even classy. Worth revisiting to see if the points score I gave is really warranted.

Clos du Marquis 2001 (review)

86 points

From St. Julian, Bordeaux, France.

2nd wine of Leoville Las Cases, and perhaps a bit over-rated as a bargain. It’s textbook quality claret with quite reasonable mid palate richness given its age. Good but no wow factor. It has a touch of mineral steel flavour which I’m not sure if is a characteristic of St Julien or just in this vintage. Ch Branaire 2001 also had this (more so).

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 1991 (review)

86 points

From Margaret River, Western Australia 13.9%

Bought from a cooled cabinet in Perth (though I don’t know how long the wine had been in this nice cellar).

Dark brick red. Aromas of shellfish (mussels) and dried herbs, not entirely pleasant. Some leather and tiny touch of vinegar – all to be expected on a wine of this age, which appeared well cellared. Nice drinking but a bit flat, the last few years have not improved this wine, I’m sure it was better drinking in the 1990s.

I’m a big fan of Leeuwin Estate cabernet (though a bit concerned by the high alcohol levels of recent vintages). It is a serious savoury wine. I had high hopes for this 91, which were not fulfilled. Perhaps Australian cabernet should not be kept for more than ten years ?

Leconfield 1999 Shiraz (review)

Maturing beautifully.

Opinions on this producer seems to vary between those who like earlier styles from before the mid-90s and those who enjoy the latter style. I don’t know why this is the case, as I have only ever found the wines to be thoroughly enjoyable.

For all the hype surrounding the 1998 vintage in SA, particularly in Coonawarra, I suspect many overlooked the quality of the wines produced in 1999. In my experience, I suspect that the Cabernet family will be remembered for 1998, but Shiraz and the white varieties in 1999 have been my preference so far…

I opened this wine to have with a BBQ lamb burger for dinner. I could not have been more pleased with the combination, or the maturation of this wine. With every mouthful of my lamb burger, the wine seemed to freshen the flavours in my mouth. The burger had beetroot, tzatziki, cheddar cheese, ice-berg lettuce and eggplant chutney, and each flavour was evident after sipping a mouthful of this svelte wine.

The wine still exhibited aromas of freshly ground white pepper, but the most alluring aromas of fresh tea leaves and plum were the hallmark of such a well made wine. The development in bottle was evident in the soft and creamy texture, under a blanket of mocha flavour. The wine had excellent length, and complexity, showing what a producer who aims for balance can do with excellent fruit from a quality vintage!

I’m looking forward to drinking the next 11 bottles!

Orlando St Helga Riesling 2003 (review)

This Eden Valley Riesling is always a solid performer. The taste is towards the citrus-lime end of the spectrum, not overdone or extracted, maybe a bit light in the finish, but again this is not an expensive wine. The label claims an improved form of Stelvin with a foam seal as well as the standard foil seal, which is suppoed to last 3 decades. It is certainly worth buying a case of this and opening one every year or so, especially when the price can be as low as $13-$14 a bottle.

Mitchelton Print Shiraz 1995 (Review)

The 2000 version of this wine was recently reviewed by Byron and my comments are similar. I got two bottles of this as part of a small consulting assignment and I am glad I didn’t pay full retail. The winery said this was a great wine and would last- the back label claims up to 20 years. I found the wine sound, but tired. The fruit was just about gone. The tannins were nice and soft, but not a tremendous amount of complexity for a wine costing $45 in 1998. It certainly was pleasant, but not rewarding.

Seppelt Chalambar Shiraz 1999 (review)

Victoria RRP ~$16

This wine goes on sale periodically and is a great buy for those who like more of the white pepper spice Shiraz from cooler areas than the Barossa. The tannins are quite serious and a little rough, but for the price, the complexity, the length, and style are excellent. This wine had already thrown a crust, so some of the tannins had already dropped out. It improved with both age and aeration. We found it tasting better after decanting and sipping for an hour. The fruit is good, with more of the raspberry end of the Shiraz flavours, than the plum end. Worth buying 6 or 12 when on sale.

Chateau Puygueraud 2000 & 2001 (Review)

89 points (for both vintages)

Appellation Bordeaux Cotes de Francs 13%

Presumably a largely merlot based wine the 2000 has some of the fruitcake flavour of a St. Emilion but without quite the palate weight. Some bitterness which many would find confronting.

The 2001 is fresher, lighter, brighter acids, more a modern cabernet, just a touch New World.

Both are very good wines for what they are. Real bargains. I’m giving them equal points, though the 2000 has more depth, because the wine making on the 2001 is particularly fine.

Both drink well now but should continue to do so, indeed even improve, over the next four years. The 2001 being more attractive early for its age, though should age just as well.

Fiddler’s Green Riesling 2001 (review)

84 points – very good

From Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand. 12%

Very pale gold. Minerals and lime (not juice the whole lime) aromas. The first flavour that hits the tongue suggests a medium sweet wine, and then whoosh it finishes dry. An ephemeral wine.

Given blind it would be awfully hard to guess where this wine came from. So light, not as concentrated (as good German rieslings) yet very good. Delicate but not dilute.

Not a food wine. Difficult to say if it will benefit with more age, I’d say no.

If they could build on this style they could produce something really very distinctive and top class.

Majella Coonawarra Shiraz 2001 (review)

79 points

From Coonawarra South Australia 13.5%

Coonawarra shiraz is often overlooked with cabernet getting all the attention. And yet there are a number of top shiraz from Coonawarra. Len Evans & James Halliday’s old book talks about how the shiraz is (was ?) more like claret and the cabernet like burgundy. While today the cabernet certainly isn’t like burgundy the shiraz can make a wide variety of styles including some elegant claret-like cool climate shiraz.

In 2001 Majella produced a multi trophy winning cabernet.

This shiraz is surprisingly bland. Weakly flavoured cool climate shiraz. Some blackberry flavours, mostly up front with a flat mid palate and limey flavours on the finish. Presumably this explains why it is still on the shelves while their cabernet sold out long ago.

Kirrihill Estates Clare Valley Shiraz 2002 (review)

75 points – OK-ish

From Clare Valley, South Australia

15% Stelvin screwcap

Dark concentrated wine. But simple, sweet with clumsy commercial oaking. No hint of terrior – is this Clare ? Could be riverland. Even as a BBQ wine this was not enjoyable.

This is a very good example of how concentration – though usually a hallmark of top wines – is not enough by itself.

Pewsey Vale Riesling: 1998 vs 2004 (review)

I will start by stating that I am a fan of Pewsey Vale Rieslings. They offer a little more fruit up front than typical Clare Valley versions, and I have found that they are a little rounder and full. They are always reasonably priced, available almost everywhere, consistent in quality, and provide a great example of a limey, minerally or “wet slate” (borrowed from a colleague of mine) Riesling from this premier region.

On opening the Contours, the aged, brown, toast, smell filled the immediate space. On warning from an experienced colleague, I checked the cap for failure- a stain was present in the base of the cap. The brown toast and thick butter smell had collected in the cap. This did not seem affect the wine in a bad way.
In the glass, the wine held an attractive light gold with green hues. Its clarity was less than expected- I cannot put his down to either one of being not as clean in fermentation as a Riesling intended to be drunk on release, or the imperfect seal.
The nose was slick- brown toast and thick butter promised it would taste more like Allen’s Butterscotch than anything else I can recall. On the palate, the wine was very delicate- like it had got to the end of its developing years. Up front acidity was absent- a reminder is present on the crisp finish. Just holding together, the mouth feel was oily. Flavours of toast and honey, for me, dominated, and the finish was slick, softly warm and lengthy.
Overall, a middle weight aged wine, but great value for the asking price of around $25 retail(AUD). It is a great opportunity for those people who do not have the ability or desire to enjoy the fruits (or in this case toast, butter and honey) of cellaring wine.
The characters in this wine may be more suited to a male palate- I say this in that most of the large group of females who tried them along side each other thought there to be something wrong with the wine. My partner said that it reminded her of an aged Semillon- which she also finds undesirable.

The current vintage wine had the taste of a warm season- the acidity of previous vintages was down on my recollections, with a pleasant surprise. The bouquet was tight giving an abundance of soft lavender and rose perfume. There was also a hint of crunchy green apple. The robe showed mineral clarity with straw green/yellow hues.
The palate was crisp and tight, with a slightly course acidity that matched the floral nose, and slightly pungent (almost Gewurtztraminer-like) with medium length. The mineral nature of this wine was lower than I expected of the region. The lime flavours synonymous with the region were more evident in the mouth than on the palate (lime, and some lemon). For those that dislike overt Mineral/Petroleum characters of young Riesling, this wine may suit.
The female reaction to this wine in the group was far more positive than that of the aged version. My take is on this is the floral lift, and almost pungent finish that takes it closer to the currently in vogue- Sauvignon Blanc. It is reliable year to year. Its reasonable length, and user-friendly acidity will ensure that most of the group you are drinking with will enjoy. Priced at around $17(AUD)- it is a great buy when on discount, and high on my list when entertaining wine drinkers without a huge repertoire of experience.
-1998 Contours Museum Release 4/5
-2004 Eden Valley Riesling 4.5/5

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2001 (review)

82 points

From Barossa and other South Australian areas. 14%

Very dark with flashes of purple. Fairly closed nose, there is American oak but it is not sweet and vanillin. Very dense palate for a commercial wine. The balance between grape fruit sweetness and vinosity skews to the latter. This sort of concentration would stand out in commercial classes of wine shows, which probably accounts for its medal success.

But I found it a rather boring drink. Structure good, flavour simple. Nothing faulty about the wine, just solid and a bit dull.

When is a cellar not a cellar ?

Restuarant Cibo North Adelaide is a great restaurant that reinvented cafe (ie not silver service) Italian in super competitive Adelaide. Great professionalism. No part-time waiters – career people. A fabulous in-house patisserrre, great gelato, and a serious pizza chef. The only mistake they made was to fit the restaurant out in a way that sound/talk bounced everywhere and destroyed their good intentions of buying decent sound system speakers.

Their only mistake until now that is. Cibo have recently installed a pretentious walk-in cellar of approx. 4 metres square. All for show. It holds a pathetic amount of wine under super cool conditions. The signal to customers is supposed to be that Cibo cares about wine, and that these bottles are special/precious. But anyone who gives a second of thought (or observation) will realise that these wines are very young, and most have come from the wholesaler within a few weeks/months.

Hey that’s the same as 99% of restaurants – but it is sad that a really professional place like Cibo would pretend. The local Chinese takeaway has more authenticity and honesty when it comes to wine.

Review- Mt Langi Ghiran Shiraz 2000


Cooler climate Shiraz is often dismissed by those wanting jam-packed, tannic, fruit bombs- so popular with today’s ‘punter’. However, the enjoyment I glean from wine is not from being smacked in the mouth by flavour. To paraphrase one of the cult winemakers from the Adelaide Hills, Tim Knappstein, “I would rather my palate be caressed with flavour than assaulted with power”.

My last taste of this wine was from the widely lauded 1994 vintage that the wine industry’s omniscient wine critic, Robert Parker Jr., rated as one of the world’s best Shiraz a decade ago. Despite my palate’s regular conflict with the musings of Mr Parker, I must concur on his identification of such a delightful expression of Australia’s premier red variety.

The 2000 example comes from an under-appreciated vintage in this country. Despite the dismissal of 2000 as vintage of note in Australia’s winestate, central Victoria produced some outstanding wines. This wine is no exception.

On the first pass, the wine showed brooding hints of satsuma plum and freschly ground mixed spice. The palate was supple and generous, the silky tannin structure illustrating what can be achieved with juducious handling of oak. No pencil shavings or sawdust here! The wine promised more, and it was with about an hour of birth from the bottle that the wine showed its true character. The mixed spice developed into a classy assortment of bitter chocolate, black pepper, spearmint and clove. Each spice giving way to the next with another pass of the glass. The plum became more intense, yet smooth over time, seamlessly blending into the velvety texture of spices from within.

The wine cried out to be partnered with a dish of BBQ’d lamb backstraps, served pink and tender on a bed of Moroccan cous-cous, with wild rocket. The sweet and tasty lamb being the perfect foil for the soft texture of the wine. The fresh-bread aromas of cous-cous with the earthiness of spices from the Middle East matching beautifully with the spice of the wine.

Unfortunately, I was so engrossed in the wine that I forgot to cook the food. Well, better have another bottle to check…..

Review Pasanau Finca la Planeta 2001

89+ points

from Priorat, Spain, 14%

Cabernet from Spain in a good vintage, serious winemaking.

Big wine, with dense aromas, rather neutral oak but plenty of it, and chocolaty tannins, and shiny acids. Needs food. Very very impressive.

Hard to pin down but seems like the sort of wine that will have an exciting future. But I’m not sure, it’s so “all over the place” and at the same time enjoyable now (albeit with strong flavoured food – like serious margarita pizza) so I’d hedge my bets. Keep trying over the next 10 years.

Review Henriques & Henriques Madeira Malmsey

91 points

Madeira, from Madeira 15 years old

Solid, dependable good class Madeira. Malmsey (what a wonderful word – conjuring images of pirates as in Victorian boys’ novels – yo ho ho and a bottle of decent Madeira) pretty sweet, or rather rich (but then all good Madeira is rich even if boen dry).

Oh what a wine. Madeira is hard to describe – like Port crossed with Sherry, but not. Actually I don’t want to describe it well. I don’t want Maderia to ever be fashionable. Leave it all for me.

Thankfully there is plenty of rubbish Madeira that will put most people off.