Torbreck The Bothie 2003 (review)

89 points.

Keeping with the mainly Rhone nature of the evening, we finished with this Barossa version of the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. Given the previous 3 bottles, Byron probably forgot we drank this one (just kidding).

This wine is made with muscat grapes fermented to about 4% residual sugar and then brandy is added to stop fermentation. Total alcohol is only 13%, so it is a light fruity wine best with fruits, but not bad with chocolate mousse!


Roger Sabon Chateauneuf de Pape cuvee prestige 2000 (review)

90 points.

From Northern Rhone, France. 14.5%

An odd Chateauneuf de Pape, lightish in colour. Gloriously ripe, sweet, opulent with soft acids and intruiging spicy herb flavours mixed in with sun ripe grapes. A hedonistic wine. Perhaps it will age well, but why wait ?

Parker raved about it (92 points) “Full bodied, sexy, concentrated, and loaded with the essence of Provence… smells like liqueur of black pepper intermixed with lavender, game, and black fruits. It tastes so much like Provence that one almost expects some of their miniature figurines (santons) to jump out of the glass. Ripe, layered, and spicy, with soaring aromatics, this fleshy, chewy 2000 is undoubtedly hiding some serious tannin. Drink now to 2016.”

Nice description except that it isn’t chewy, unless you think soft ripe fruits are chewy, and if it is hiding serious tannin it is doing the hiding very well.

PS some bottles have been corked, some show some cork influence – another reason not to age it.

Pesquera reserva 1996 (review)

91 points.

Ribera del Duero, Spain. 13%.

A very good vintage and this wine is going strong. Matched against Rockford Shiraz the fresh acidity of tempranillo is apparent, though the wines are reasonable partners. Both rich, soft and savoury. The Pesquera is more a wine for food.

Pesquera’s reservas do tend to be finer, with higher acids, than the normal label. Built to age longer. This has lost the flush of youth with the primary fruit flavours subdued now, but I think it is settling down for a few years of very slow development. Drink now, but no rush whatsoever.

Rockford basket press Shiraz 1996 (review)

94 points.

Barossa Valley, South Australia. 14.5%

A real treat. Serious Barossa shiraz, from a great vintage, aged for 9 years.

Still quite dark this wine is showing wonderful leather complexity and yet probably has another 5-10 years development in it. Fabulous fruit driven wine, honest, made in the vineyard, soft but not creamy. Savoury, though with nice mid palate fruit sweetness, big wine but not a super opulent chocolate milkshake style.

The back label says it will put a smile on the face of all who drink it, but the biggest smiles will be those who cellar it for 10 years. Truth in advertising.

Suggests that the quality 98’s (another great vintage) should be kept for at least another 2 years.

St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 (review)

86 points

Coonawarra, South Australia. 13.5%

Tremendous colour, like the Balnaves 99.

Lifted, obvious Coonawarra eucalypt aromas, and some sweet oak, quite mint chocolate still. Showing little sign of age.

A strong flavoured wine, a little commercial for a wine of this quality/concentration, sweetish fruit with somewhat cosmetic oak. Quite enjoyable though this intense tamarillo style is not something to drink regularly. Very abrupt acid finish. Good with tomato sauce (eg pasta) dishes.

Balnaves Coonawarra Cabernet 1999 (review)

87 points.

Coonawarra, South Australia.

I’ve long been a fan of Balnaves reds. They emerged on the market at a time when many other Coonawarra producers were accentuating the herbal minty eucalypt characters of Coonawarra fruit by picking early, or at least some grapes early. Even now, when everyone is picking late and gaining huge alcohols Balnaves stands out with good physiological ripeness.

Incredible dark colour – and at 6 years old ! Unmistakably Coonawarra aromas, but not outrageous hard mint. An impressively structured wine, fat mid-palate, densely concentrated, though someone dumb. Perhaps it is still too young and will gain complexity with age. I find that a little hard to beleive, but probably worth taking the punt if you can still find some (I bought this off retail shelves this week).

Well priced.

Chateau Talbot 2001 (review)

88 points.

St Julien, Bordeaux, France.

Talbot doesn’t have a reputation as a great value wine, but rather as affordable serious claret. It’s not one of the high flyers nor premium old names, but it is an old name. New owners since Cordier (who seem to have sold off their stable) seem very serious.

It’s a curious wine. Fine oak handling – giving just a hint of warmth and well oak flavour (not vanilla or other cosmetic flavours). Good breeding. Flavours that are strong, some really savoury and ripe, and some hard/green. Victorian claret. And yet very soft tannin. So sort of approachable, and yet confronting.

Anne rated this wine even higher. I suspect it will benefit from some (3-5) years of age and turn into a very classical savoury claret, but maybe there is no need to wait. It is a somewhat curious wine, not what I expected from Talbot.

Craggy Peak Pinot Noir 2002 (review)

86 points.

Te Muna, Martinborough, New Zealand. 14%

For a high quality New World pinot this is pleasant – that’s all.

A lot of good quality oak. Big ripe structure. Some nice fruit flavours but simple and soft. Lacks concentration. Acids are not bad though soft.

Better balance, less artificial than many Californian pinots but I’m damining with faint praise when I say this.

Tiny bit of a disappointment though not very surprising, there are quite a few wines like this. They shouldn’t really command the prices they do – but then that is true of much Pinot.

Killerby Cabernet 1999 (review)

85 points

Margaret River, Western Australia. 14.5%

James Halliday absolutely raved about this wine in its youth, something I never quite understood – other than that it was to Halliday’s taste, ie a pristine, purple, high flavoured but somewhat acidic cabernet.

Today it is a good quality wine but has gained little in complexity. Like many other Killerby cabernets from recent vintages it is fading with age. They are trying hard, with quality French oak and fairly concentrated fruit. But somehow not getting too far.

It is dropping tartaric acid crystals and might throw a crust when it is older.

Green Point McLaren Vale Shiraz 1998

Green Point McLaren Vale Shiraz 1998

84 pts

$25 – $30
New oak (french) still rather intense

Albeit a stylish construction, this wine is built like a brick dunny.

Inky purple with crimson hues, with nasturtium and briar nose. Relaxes on front palate and initially into rich plum and black olive before tightening into spicey eucalyptus and lemon myrtle that lurk under a dominant quercus grip. A surprising scanlons bubble gum wrapper finish.

I matched this with a roasted tomato and pork and veal spaghetti bolognese. This meaty pasta couldn’t cut through the strength of this wine. I recommend something like an angus rib roast. Although it is meant to be drinking now and it is, with some authority, it could do with some mellowing and the fine grain tannins indicate perhaps another 2 or 3 years could well improve the 1998 vintage. Green Point don’t appear to making wine like this any longer. Being under the international influence of the Domain Chandon LVMH stable it has possibly been deemed too much of a parochial ‘big aussie bloke’ wine. I’d buy it again – but I’d have to be at kingsley’s or similar type of steakhouse restaurant or doing BBQ.


Voyager Estate Shiraz 2002 (review)

91 points

Margaret River, Western Australia.

Candy bright colour with black hues. A smokey (smoked meats), tight but rich shiraz. An unusual style for Australia. Like an Alan Graillot Crozes Hermitage or even perhaps August Clape Cornas… with less concentration and a tad more alcohol.

Very good indeed with food. Quite a bit of acidity on the finish suggests a long future.

A very stylish wine. With greater concentration and age this would be propelled into the super league of wines.

Great value (A$25), v.good aging potential.

Ferngrove The Stirlings 2001 (review)

88+ points

Frankland River, Western Australia. 14%

This is pretty good, worth buying. A clean firm somewhat savoury merlot cabernet blend. Shows good physiological ripeness, something often missing from Australian cabernet (in spite of high alcohols).

I suspect this wine is only just starting to hit its stride. Reasonably priced not cheap but lower than most quality WA cabernets.

Alkoomi Blackbutt 1999 (review)

86 points

Frankland River, Western Australia. 14%

Bordeaux (cabernet oriented) blend. French oak. The top wine from this winery. Great vintage in WA.

Sturdy somewhat rustic cabernet that handles its alcohol well. Might have been a really exciting wine but marred by volatile acidity.

Over priced.

2001 Primo Estate ‘il briccone’ Shiraz Sangiovese etc (review)

2001 Primo Estate ‘il briccone’ Shiraz, Sangiovese, Barbero, Nebbiolo, Cabernet

91 points (Parker gave 90)

14% Alcohol
Aged only in old oak
A ‘secret blend’ from Joe Grilli with around 55% Shiraz sourced from McLaren and Clarendon, and around 35% Sangiovese from McLaren and Adelaide Hills. The final 10% or so is Barbero, Nebula and Cabernet with source not stated.

For a $20 -$25 bracket wine this is excellent value for such a well-crafted Tuscan style wine.

The name translates like cheeky lad, rascal or rogue, but I believe one should fix more on an image of a linen suit-clad swaggering type of rascal from say, Siena or Cortona, as this blend has seduction, style, and an earthy honesty.

A deep red hue with a cigar box and dark chocolate nose. Initial passage through an elegant series of fruit -cherry tomatoes, floral fruity notes of tamarillo inching languorously through black currant and plum with hints of nail candy and white pepper spice. A viscous back end with a little beach-roasted seaweed. Overall this has enormous length with out the heaviness.

I paired this with garlic, sake and olive oil marinated yearling rump, cooked fast and rare, with parmesan mash and brussels sprouts that are bursting with green flavour right now. Putting it all together I couldn’t help remembering what a great time and place it is to be alive.

Seriously, buy some and drink it this year or next.


Tim Adams Shiraz 2001 (review)

84 points

From Clare Valley, South Australia. 14%

Nice, spicey. An Australian take on some Southern Rhone/ Provence wines. With sweet fruit and alcohol and a touch of dried herbs. Reeks of Summer. The label says 100% shiraz, but it has a structure of a blend (featuring some grenache).

Some will like this wine more than I – I’m not a fan of grenache style wines. But I admired the freshness of this wine. Sure it doesn’t have great concentration, and it’s hitting its peak already, but it is a fun, if eventually cloying, drop now. Needs to be matched appropriately with food, and preferably shared with friends.

I’m somewhat surprised to find this 2001 vintage on retail shelves still. A$19 at Melbourne Street Wine Cellars, Adelaide, South Australia.

The 2003 is the latest release. The review I read said it is brawny – 2003 being a very hot vintage.

Voyager Estate Cabernet Merlot 2001 (review)

88 points.

Margaret River, Western Australia. 14%

From a very good WA vintage.

Dark shiny wine with spicy sweet aromas reminiscent of food, perhaps like a tomato & herb based pasta or pizza. Very enticing.

I’d swear this was a Coonawarra, not Margaret River, cabernet – the flavours and acids are so frisky with a touch of capsicum/eucalyptus.

Quite delicious with food, like Italian pasta.

If this were a Bordeaux I’d guess it was a new promising chateau, in a ripe vintage, with very young vines. In that it has quality fresh fruit and alcohol with no great physiological ripeness, ie no flavours into the deeper, more savory, even bitter spectrum.

Well made but lacking real substance. It will undoubtedly improve with 2-3 years of age. There is some, but not much, potential to gain complexity.

PS Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine gave it 93 points with Jancis Robinson selecting it in her top five out of a Coonawarra, Hawkes Bay and Margaret River cabernet tasting. In her defense Jancis Robinson described it as “very clean, brisk and lively; not at all opulent” – I concur.

Penfolds RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2001 (review)

85 points.

Baross Valley, South Australia. 14%

RWT stands for “red wine trial”.

A story about Penfold’s Grange is that Max Schubert toured Bordeaux observing various techniques including small barrel maturation. On arrival back in Australia he decided on a Shiraz based wine, there being little (quality) cabernet around. And American oak.

This wine could perhaps be seen as an attempt by Penfolds to answer the question what might have been if Max had had access to french oak.

It’s certainly an attempt to add another fine wine to the upper part of their portfolio.

And it is a bit of a disappointment. And a surprise. In spite of the region and alcohol level this is not a huge lucious wine.

It is a fairly tight wine with pretty high amounts of added acidity, and a lot of French oak – in a tight limey style, rather than toasty or sweet coffee. Better with food it is a good wine but not worth half the price – unless I’m trying this far too early, maybe it will emerge as a beautiful wine, but meanwhile I think they are fundamentally on the wrong track. The trials need to continue !

Geoff Weaver Lenswood Cab Sav Merlot 1997 (review)

Geoff Weaver Lenswood Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1997

88 pts

82% Cabernet Sauvignon 18% Merlot
Region- Lenswood, Adelaide Hills South Australia.
Oak maturation- 24 months in French oak barriques, 1/3rd new.
Vines – 17 yrs old
14.5% alcohol – A cool march and warm april achieved record high sugar levels

This wine has the immediate fruit generosity of a young wine and lasting character and dry resonance of the well matured.

Initial ripe blackberries and sour cherry give way to prune and syrupy black currant. This tightens to a mid palate of licorice, smoky cedar and mild toasted oak. After the acid of fruit dissolves it is held together with a distinct leather and tea leaf grip. Evokes a european forest feel with wet soil and humus, but like an extended sunset on the outback whitewashed cricket-clubhouse, it has iron tinged creosote and red dust lingerings.

I really should have hung on this a bit longer but it went down a treat with slow-cooked (South Australian) lamb, aioli, cucumber mint and yoghurt, pepperonata, with a cauliflower pilaf

I am not sure about the price (a gift) but I hear that it is not a particularly good value drop, but it hardly seems the point if you are looking for this type of elegance, complexity and generosity


Pikes Clare Valley Shiraz Grenache Mouvedre 1997 (review)

90+ higher points for the price value ~ $21 at cellar door

Here is a wine that has been perfectly cellared at the winery, near the ssupposed end of its life- the back label says 4-7 years aging- that is contrary to many Australian red wines- it has aged beautifully. The colour is starting to pick up a bit of red brick, but still has reddish purple notes. It is not a dark wine, looking more like a southern Rhone than an Australian Shriaz. The nsoe is a bit of licorice, a bit of spicy cinnamon fruits and that earthy smell of Grenache. I didn’t detect much of the tarry Mouvedre, even though it is listed as 25% of the blend. The taste is sweet fruit and spice., more cinnamony fruit and here the Mouvedre brings its smoky dark flavours on top of the spicy Shiraz and Grenache. There is oak, but it is now subtly part of the tannin, dry and dusty but with no bitterness- just long lingering spicy dust. I wish I had bought a lot more at this price!

Chateau les Grands Marechaux 2002 (review)

84+ points

Cotes de Blaye, Bordeaux, France. 13%

Stylish but a bit thin. Nice touch of tannin on the finish.

I first tried this wine as the 2000 vintage, it was an impressive bargain, intense with whiffs of almond marzipan even on the nose. This is not in the same league. It is different but will probably fatten with a little age. While I doubt this is for long keeping, it is early days for this wine. Premature to judge it now, give it a year or two.

Chateau D’Escurac 2002 (review)

89+ points

Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux. 13.5%

The first 2002 Bordeaux I’ve tasted, and the first time I have ever tried this producer. Not a bad first impression !

A racy wine. Lovely, pristine, black currant cabernet with new but deftly handled oak. This has purity and style. The sort of wine that many good New World producers are aiming for, but before reaching this goal most get tripped up by excessive alcohol, acid etc.

Compared to 2001 wines this has similar nice acid and classic structure but perhaps a further degree of attack and ripeness.

Pretty exciting. Suggests that at its best 2002 was a very good vintage indeed.

Other vintages

Torbreck The Struie Shiraz 2003 (review)

90+ points

This wine was just bottled a few weeks ago and was given as a gift, so the rating could change over time. The Struie is 100% Shiraz from a combination of very old vines from theh Barossa floor and the Eden Valley. It has both the rich licorice and plum flavours of the warmer Barossa and some peppery and raspberry overtones from the Eden. The tannins are very evident, but smooth and drinkable, even slurpable. I can see those who like big wines enjoying this, but it has more finesse and less evident oak than many. Retail cost is about $45.

Tim Adams Aberfeldy Shiraz 1995 (review)

78 points

Clare Valley, South Australia.

From a magnum. Dull, devoid of flavour and fruit. I’d suspect it has suffered from cellaring but the wine colour is excellent, structure study, and the bottle fill perfect.

I found this web site where Tim Adams describes 1995 as not a good vintage, and the tasting found the 1995 dried out. Robert Parker is said to have given this wine a high rating in 1998.

d’Arenberg Sticks & Stone 2002 (review)

84 points

Tempranillo Grenache blend, with a touch of Souzao. 14.5%
McLaren Vale, South Australia.

Inky, shiny, red black wine. Deft oak handling, concentrated rich nose.

Intense concentrated, with the warmth of grenache held in check by some cabernet-like (in structure) Tempranillo. Intensity, alcohol, and bright acids. It’s an academic, rather than enjoyable, drink. Impressive at first, able to handle food well, but not a lot of fun – not much distinctive flavour to remember.

Better with age ? Probably, though I suspect it may evolve into a traditional wine as the added acidity become increasingly prominent.

Has won lots of medals.

Brown’s of Padthaway T-trelis Shiraz 1998 (review)

83 points

Padthaway, South Australia.

Fairly deep dark red for its age. Has thrown considerable crust. A rich, sweet, old fashioned commercial shiraz. Added acid noticeable.

This wine has not benefited particularly from age. It was better when fresher. Very old-fashioned, ripe without great concentration, and a dollap of added acidity.

The difference in quality between this and their ‘Ernest Family Reserve’ is quite pronounced. When the two wines are released drink this one, and cellar (and buy more of) the Ernest.