Brown’s of Padthaway Ernest (family reserve) Shiraz 2002 (review)

92+ points

Padthaway, South Australia. 15%.

A fabulous full-throttle cooler climate Shiraz, from a stellar vintage. Very very impressive. Possibly even more intense than the 1998.

Shiny dark red. Very deep aromas, some savoury, some sweet; very ripe, but not porty. Fabulous depth of shiraz flavour, very long. A huge lucious wine with great intensity. The (American and French) oak is substantial but not over powering.

It’s young, there are some disjointed aspects, but pleasing complexity too. Great potential.

An absolute bargain – A$17, US$13, 10 Euro, 7 GBP.

3 years later, November 2008 – I think my tastes have changed, or this wine has not developed as expected.  It’s big and sweet with a green seam.    86 points.

Brown’s of Padthaway Ernest (family reserve) Shiraz 1998 (review)

91 points

Padthaway, South Australia. 14.5%

Deep dark red. Rich spicy aromas. Incredibly rich, ripe, lucious wine. Cooler climate shiraz with the creaminess of a top Barossa. Intense flavour.

In its youth this wine was impressive but marred by heavy oak. At 7 years of age the oak is integrated (which surprised me). A powerful, if a tad straightforward, wine.

An absolute bargain when it was released. Doubly so now. With some development potential ahead of it.

Charles Melton Barossa Shiraz 2002 (review)

88 points

Barossa Valley, South Australia

Charles Melton is Barossa aristocracy, ie one of the top boutique producers that really came into their own after silly government schemes in the 1980s to pull up old vines. In a ‘counter revolution’ a few winemakers proudly exhibited their old vine wines and rapidly captured the public (and wine critics) hearts.

Not cheap but not exorbitent (given its status) either, and bottled with screw cap – two attractive features.

This is fine and flavoursome, but I still suspect some added acidity, in spite of the wonderfully cool vintage. Restrained, concentrated, best with food. Lacks the intensity, attack and complexity of some of the new wave of Barossa producers, and not as lucious as some older competitors.

Very good, but not quite as exciting, or as competitive, as this wine could be.

Chateau Haut Bages Liberal 2001 (review)

89 points

Pauillac, Bordeaux. 5th growth.

A half bottle, more developed than a full bottle tried last year that was quite elemental (and robust, agressive even). This is fine, and fragrant, with rich black current fruit. Concentrated and quite elegant for a young wine. Well balanced acidity and tannin. A fine example of the quality of the 2001 vintage (which is still selling at substantially cheaper than 2000 or 2003).

Youthful, with the French oak not yet integrated, but well handled. A very enjoyable wine with food.

Ch Batailley 1975 BBR own label (review)

90 points

Still good colour, some red at core. Delicate nose with some classic herbal, blackcurrant, tea leaf notes–but ripe. Clean, palate of good length. Appropriately light bodied (? alcohol–prob c11%), fine tannins with good length. Not dry or hard. Well preserved for vintage. Interesting.

Roger Palmer

Dow’s 1985 Colour suggests it is forward. Muscat and mineral nose, but some grip and reserve as per Dow. Fully developed. Good. 87pts
Roger Palmer

Grossot Polish Hill Reisling 2001 Well known to all, i’m sure. Young (in stelvin). All the right adjectives or lime etc. Acidity initially prominent but okay. Lovely. Good for another 5 years. 87pts
Roger Palmer

Monbazillac Tirecul la Graviere 1996 Mature, sauternes-like wine. Full botrytis, orange nose. Sweet but drying a tad– perfect now. Excellent. 91pts
Roger Palmer

Echeverria Reserva Merlot 2001 (review)

80 points

Curico Valley, Chile.

Nice red colour. Smoky claret aromas with herbaceousness and coffee, not too deep but attractive. Black cherry flavours, not complex or concentrated, but pleasant; marred by a somewhat overly acidic and short finish. Nice commercial wine.

I’m positive about the future for Chilean wines. They used to be nice, but a bit boring. Now they seem to be gaining in complexity. I haven’t tasted any Chilean wine that suffers from over extraction – yet. I’d rather spend a $ on Chilean cabernet/merlot than Californian; they are better value, but also reasonable balanced and unpretentious. And some really impressive.

Chateau Leoville Barton 1999 (review)


91 points

St Julien, Bordeaux. 12.5%

Very dark red and shiny. Wonderful smoky aromas, smells like a great wine should, like it is some new fine food dish you have never tried – and want to. Yum, this is a fine wine. Classic, but approachable; a perfect example of what the 99 vintage can be.

The oak is toasty, the fruit fine. It is very consistent across the palate, quite soft (in the sense of dilute) in a characteristicly 99 style. But this wine is still very good.

Vintages like 99 should be cheaper than super great vintages, but we’d wish that all wines of “merely very good” vintages would be like this.

PS 99 was a good ripe vintage that was hit by some rain.

Chateau Marsau 2001 (review)


82 points

Cotes de Francs, Bordeaux, 14%.

Oh my… what is this ? I didn’t expect this. It is ultra dark, with huge amounts of glycerol, super saturated, powerful and ripe. Dense prune, almost (good quality) porty aromas. And the sort of palate weight that totally knocks around any wines paired to it. Super ripe, concentrated and I’m sure there is added acidity.

It’s impressive in its way. A sort of super hero claret. Not what you’d expect at the price !

But it isn’t very drinkable or enjoyable. We all look for some of these characters in a wine, but there has to be the balance and style to handle it. Is this Bordeaux ? It tastes much more like a Californian or South African cabernet.

Interesting though, in that it shows that Bordeaux can produce heavy extracted wines if the chateau owner wants to.

A web search shows Parker gave it 90 points (and 90-92 for the 2003 vintage) which must be the cheapest 90 point claret from 2000. Unfortunately I’m not giving it anywhere near 90 points. I expect a lot more style for 90 points. I expect something very enjoyable, entertaining, and sophisticated.

Chateau Fournas Bernadotte 2000 (review)


84 points

Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France. 13%

Nice back label. Says the vineyard is in an area that was once classified as Pauillac. And it is owned and made by the team at Ch Pichon Lalande (Longueville Comtesse de Lalande). Really it is sort of a 4th wine. Pichone Lalande has a 2nd wine, they also own Ch Bernadotte, and this really is the 2nd wine of Bernadotte. What does all this mean ? Nothing really, could be good might not be – got to taste it.

The 2000 vintage was possibly the greatest ever in Bordeaux. This wine is well priced and is pretty good, dark, dense, quite tannic. A bit rustic and classically austere, with minerally, shellfish, and water on lead characters.

I think time will benefit this wine. It will soften, fatten, but remain very savoury, dry and austere. Lacks the quality fruit to ever be truly fine or exciting though.

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste 1998 (review)


91 points

From Pauillac, Bordeaux.

A chameleon. Dark, black red yet not opaque. Intruiging complex aromas rich berry, and warmth, and toasty oak. And yet at first this tasted disappointing a tad dilute, some hard green flavours.

But with food this transforms. Classic bordeaux not overt yet more than powerful enough to handle a strongly flavoured pasta sauce. And when the food finishes the wine seems almost too strongly flavoured to finish – I pushed myself.

This is perfect dinner party wine, just a glass or two served with the main meal. Classic fine wine, so flavoursome but not dominated by alcohol or sweet fruit.

J Drouhin Savigney-Les-Beaune 2002 (review)

84 points

From Burgundy, France. 13%

Humble burgundy from a great vintage -a combination that in this case is pretty nice drinking. 2002 in Burgundy (and in South Australia) appears to be a terribly good vintage.

Approachable now, but I think better with some time – how much is hard to judge, probably a year, though this wine just might surprise and live a while.

Warm and soft, yet sappy still. Not very concentrated and yet able to match with fairly strongly flavoured food.

Chateau Puygueraud 2001 (review)

87 points

From Cotes de Francs, Bordeaux.

This isn’t the first time I have reviewed this wine. This time from Canada, so the wine has not travelled so far.

Purgueraud is an impressive wine for the price, not because it has huge concentration or extraction. But rather because it is a rounded, well balanced wine. The 2001 is more delicate (though it is not particularly delicate) than the 2000, fresher more approachable.

It is more closed than it was. Very clean, but less fresh acids and flavour.

Savoury. Perhaps like a little brother to Potensac, with less density. Though in 2001, at 4 years of age, it is so close to Potensac in quality that most would buy this wine for drinking now (and over the next 3-4 years).

Here in Canada it is less than CAN$25. As a benchmark Devil’s Lair cabernet from Western Australia is $45, Potensac 2001 is $35 (still good value).

Serrata di Belgvardo 2002 (review)

80 points

From Maremma, Tuscany, Italy.

This is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot. It was picked by Canada’s govt monopoly fine wine chain as wine of the month. And given 90 points by James Suckling in the Wine Spectator.

Clean, fresh. Quite berry like, including fresh blackberry levels of acidity – which I found offputting. Needs food. Lacks the depth and concentration of top Italian reds, but not over priced (as so many are).

Franciscan Oakville Estate cabernet sauvignon 2001 (review)

74 points

From Napa Valley, California.

Bought and consumed in USA. Very good vintage.

OK but disappointing. Bland, alcoholic, soft cabernet with no depth. Soft but noticeable malic acid finish.

Why do these wines, and similar from Barossa Valley Australia and Cape Town South Africa get solid ratings from US wine critics ?

Iwas born in the New World, and still today buy more New World wines but I’m not an idiot. This is not fine wine.

It even lacks concentration – which I thought was the obvious way to get a decent Parker scores. Though it does have alcohol – the other obvious way to get a decent Parket score. Which I assume most Napa Cabernets aspire to.

J-M Boillot Puligny Montrachet 99 vs Penfolds Yattarna 2000

Similar price. Colour identical. The burg initially a tad pongy, but soon clean, med full, some minerality, even slightly sweet despite its 13%. Nice balance and length. Well developed. Not over complex. 92 pts. The Yattarna immediately tasted fresh, correct, varietal and quite heavily oaked. Med weight–not overdone. Well balanced but ultimately no real interest, and didn’t develop in glass. Quite a dissapointment.Burg was consumed and half the Oz left 85 pts.

Reynella Vintage Port 1975. Given by Stephen I think some 8 years ago (forgive me if actually from Byron). Tasted of cab and bitters (don’t know the actual vartietal make-up). Neither deteriorated nor developped in the sense again of no great complexity. Tasted disjointed–a red wine with some sweetness. A curiousity. 84 pts.

Roger Palmer

Chateau Chasse-Spleen 1996 (review)

90 points

From Moulis, Bordeaux, France 12.8%

This was a treat. Almost ten years old but still dark red. Complex fragrant aromas, of savoury currants. Concentrated firm wine less elegant than on the nose. Very much classic claret, partly a function of the vintage. Though in a somewhat burly style.

Well cellared this should easily last another 10 years.

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Paris 1999 (review)

82 points

This wine is probably a bit over the hill. It is an attempt by a small traditional Chianti producer to reach a differerent audience with a more New World look. The back label is still in Italian, but says the wine was aged in barriques di rovere francese.

The nose is subdued with some faint cherries and spice. The immediate mouth effect is of acid along the lower part of the tongue (or is that just noticiable because it is so different than many Australian wines with added acidity?). The acid mouth effect is followed by some fair fruitiness, slightly red cherry and then long very fine tannins. Once the wine was opened for an hour or so the tannins softened. The wine is not long in the finish, but does has a lingering spicy, cinnimon flavour.

It seems like second quality grapes were used- ripe but lacking in complexity and intensity.

Majella Coonawarra Cabernet 2001 (review)

83 points

From Coonawarra, South Australia. 14%

Multi trophy winner, including the Stoddard (best 1 year old red) in Brisbane.

Dark and shiny, with a lifted nose of mint, berries, varnish, and French oak. Lots of sweet flavours, in an aggressive acidic structure. Perhaps this is the sort of thing that really stands out in a wine show ?

But is this wine or a bottled fruit concoction ?

It might mellow and integrate with age, but it is already 4 years old, I simply suspect that the VA will be increasingly noticeable as the fruit softens and fades.

Fairly priced at least. And better than the shiraz.

Chateau Potensac 2001 (review)

87 points

From Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France

I previously reviewed the 2000. This is a med-full bodied, dark red wine, with a rather classic young bordeaux savoury hard and green flavour. But without a herbaceous underripe flavour. So I suspect physiologically ripe grapes but in a cooler vintage.

I’ve read before that Potensac typically starts life a bit hard and green. It is clearly built for some age, though the tannins and acid are not pronounced. A number of 2001 clarets are firm but quite approachable. This is more a keeper. Drink from 2007.

Some 1996 cheaper clarets I tasted were of this style though with less weight and stuffing.

Oddly Robert Parker is reported to have described this as “an elegant, medium-bodied Medoc offering dried herb and berry fruit characteristics in an open-knit, attractively fruity, pure style”. Which barrel did he sample ? (He also gave it 87 points).

I’ve tasted this twice now, in two countries, bought from different sources. The last time over two evenings.

PS Decanter (April 2005) magazine lists Potensac equal first in a list of great affordable bordeaux describing it as “a full firm wine. Often austere, it has a degree of rusticity” and “depth, density, classicism and age-worthiness: Potensac has them all”. I think this puts it rather well.

Other vintage reviews of Chateau Potensac.

Leeuwin Estate Prelude Cabernet 2001 (review)

84 points

From Margaret River, Western Australia.

This is Leeuwin Estate’s sort of 2nd wine label, the top wines being the ‘art series’. Prelude is supposed to give you an idea of what the ‘art series’ will be like, though in practice the vintages of both are released at pretty much the same time.

This is like a minor cru bourgeois Bordeaux chateau. I mean that in a positive sense, in that this is a cut above most Australian cabernets. But I’m also damning with faint praise as I expected better given the stellar vintage in WA (which is lauded on the back label). It’s 14% alcohol but comes across as a bit dilute, tiny bit unripe. And compared to bordeaux it is sweet and not built to age.

I’m not sure if this wine is less than it was in previous vintages, or if my expectations have gone up. For around A$20-25 it’s not exactly bad value. A good restaurant wine so long as you don’t have to pay restaurant prices.

Best 2005 – 2007.