Torbreck Steading 2000 (review)

89 points

This is a Grenache Mataro Shiraz from Barossa.

Every bottle I have opens with a lot of bottle stink- very earthy funky mushroomy smells. After a while this reduces but is still evident. The now more apparent nose is Grenache Mataro- sweet fruits, earthy, tarry, spicy. The colour is showing a bit of browning at the edges- maybe more due to my lack of cellaring than the wine itself, but more red than purple. The taste is a blend of sweet fruits (Grenache) and very earthy mushroomy character. You might pick this as a Rhone wine, rather than Barossa. The tannin is evident, but soft and the length is nice, but not overly long. Really a nice wine with rich food, not overpowering at all.

Marc Bredif grand annee Vouvray 1986 (review)

90 points

Loire Valley, France. 12.5%

It is amazing that this wine is available retail, at 19 years of age. And at about $35.

It’s also amazing that it tastes so fresh, presumably a cold Loire cellar helps.

Light gold. Gorgeous complex aroma showing just hints of maturity, and sweetness too. That light sweetness is on the palate which is fresh but soft with waxy hints. Clean. Some greenness a tad hard, but this contributes to the enjoyable whole.

Not the most concentrated Vouvray I’ve tried. Not the most outstanding, though it will probably continue to gain in flavour with age.

Imported into Australia by Negociants Australia, Adelaide.

Seppelts Chalambar Shiraz 1999

85 points

For those who like a cooler climate Shiraz with a spicy nose and extracted tannins. The acid is well-balanced, but even after 6 years, the tannins are still pronounced. The nose is red berry and white pepper; the taste is more red fruits and a bit of blueberry. I am not sure if there were added tannins or just a lot of extract. Still a nice winter red for about $15.

Te Mata Awatea 1998 (review)

91 points

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. 13.5%

This is a special wine, an outstanding NZ red. Which we have consumed many times – this is not a one-off tasting review. Sure it is a bit academic reviewing a wine that is unavailable to buy anymore but it is very interesting to see what NZ can do in great vintages.

At 7 years of age this is so like a high quality Bordeaux. Hard to pick blind ! Seemingly higher alcohol with less concentration. Perhaps like 1999 (in Bordeaux) ie ripe but a touch dilute.

Great physiological ripeness, silky smooth palate. And super deft oak. Te Mata really is first class. Increasingly they seem to be overlooked for more high powered (alcohol and extract) wines from new producers, but I think Te Mata really is NZ aristocracy. And in freakishly ripe vintages they produce wines like this, fine elegant but with flavours into the dark end of spectrum.

This is the sort of wine that everyone who lives in the “New World” hopes for. Top quality fine wine, but at a fraction of the price (in this case about $30). Unfortunately this is all too rare with wineries of only a few years old often trying for prices that are ridiculously high.

Dopf Riesling & Gewurtztraminer 2003 Alsace

83 points

These wines are the low end of the spectrum from Dopf. A nice change of style from the typical Australian versions at about $14-$15 at Dan Murphy. The nose is extremely lifted on the Gewurtz, less so on the Riesling. Both wines have nice thick mouthfeel and good length. I found them a bit phenolic, but still enjoyable, easily varietally recogniseable and good drinking with slightly spicy chicken/fish.

Grosset Gaia 2001 (review)

87 points

Clare Valley, South Australia. 14%

Cab, Cab Franc, Merlot.

The great red hope of Clare cabernet ? Perhaps.

Skillfully made. Dark and shiney. Aromas not unlike a quality Bordeaux, nice oak, warm fruit. On the palate a bit stewed, sweet (though not overly) and strong, and with an astringent (added acid?) finish. It’s a pretty enjoyable wine, a notch above many Australian cabernets in completeness and lack of overt mint etc. But at almost $50 it’s no competitor to bordeaux.

Very good wine, not great. Worth trying.

Stelvin, screwcap – to be applauded.

Can Clare cabernet do it ?

Many years ago when I first came to Australia I soon formed the opinion that Margaret River and Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) were the top contenders to make great Bordeaux challengers. Other regions could make interesting wines but none had the flavours and balance right.

Except perhaps Clare, which can produce ripe cabernet yet with bright acids.

Can Clare do it ? I truly think it can, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of motivation from winemakers or critics. We’ll see, eventually someone has to hit the jackpot.

Warrabilla reserve Shiraz 2002 (review)

82 points

Rutherglen, Victoria. 16% (oddly it does not mention the region on the label)

Occasionally the Victorian district of Rutherglen makes outstanding wines. Huge enormous wines, but tight with firm acidity. Like supercharged and underpriced Hermitage. I think Hugh Johnson or Andre Simon once described them as food wine and a good cigar all in one.

So every Rutherglen red I try I always hope….. and this says on the back label “the 2002 vintage was the highlight of 23 years of winemaking” – reflecting the wonderous cool long vintage.

The wine is dull but super dark (purple black), throwing considerable crust. Aromas of berries but quite closed. It’s a solid rustic wine, pretty manufactured (but added acidity is to be expected in this region). It suffers from the major sin of being boring. Sigh, pity.

Serafino Cabernet 2002 (review)

83 points

McLaren Vale, South Australia. 14%

Awarded several trophies in 2004 including Winstate’s cabernet of the year. Not bad for an under $20 bottle. But then again Winestate magazine has a pretty odd palate particularly when it comes to cabernet.

Warm climate wine aged in French and American oak. This is an old style chocolately cabernet. Not overtly herbaceous or minty, nor sweet syrupy – which all sounds good. But this is a chunky dull wine, presumably it was fresher last year. Odd finish, hard from added acidity and also milky (perhaps the American oak). Bit of a freak really.

Not recommended unless you like cabernet with undefined solid fruit, and don’t mind obvious winemaking. If the style doesn’t offend then this is well made. But personally I feel that “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” and McLaren Vale is not a cabernet region.

Leconfield Old Vines Riesling 2002 (review)

88 points

Coonawarra, South Australia. 12%

Coonwarra can produce very good Riesling. Less upfront that Clare or Eden Valley Rieslings it generally needs a few years in bottle before it starts to shine. But this wine was quite a hit early winning a trophy at the 2002 Adelaide Show.

Today it is still a green gold colour. It’s a flavoursome Riesling with some green vegetal tones – but pleasant ones. Quite vinous, able to handle food.

The low alcohol is a pleasant feature. Stelvin/screwcap.

Tresmoulis 2000 Corbieres

90 points

Corbieres is a region in the southwest of France, not far from Spain. This wine is drinking excellently now. I wish I had a few more bottles . The nose is tight with a bit of blueberries and spice. It is definitely not Australian. The palate is also tight, not big but very long with more spice than any wine I can remember in a long time. After swishing in the mnouth there is definitely a peppery spice and a bit of cinnamom. The tannins are strident, but no real oak flavour, even though it says on the label it was aged in aok barrels. The blend in Carignan, Grenache, Mouvedre – the three windmills. I think some of the Barossa winemakers are trying to make wines like this but failing.

Cape Mentelle Cabernet 2001 (review)

89 points

Margaret River, Western Australia. 15%

Personally a much awaited release from a top producer in a great vintage for WA.

Dark, shiney, though surprisingly dropping a fine crust (suggesting a degree of added acidity).

Super thick opulent aromas of warm fruit and plenty of rich new oak. Oak dominates the nose.

This is a heroic opulent cabernet, good but not fine, with lashing of new French oak. Hefty alcohol and weighty fruit – thankfully no overt minty eucalypt characters that affect so many Australian cabernets. It isn’t overty sweet either, and not jammy in spite of its weight, but is far from being bordeaux like savoury. A masculine Australian cabernet, but obviously, too obviously, from a hot vineyard with extractive winemaking.

Terroir-wise this is more like a (quality) Barossa, Napa or Cape cabernet than Margaret River. It has fabulous concentration, but even at this young age lacks freshness, also lacks elegance (which it will never gain), it also lacks sufficient complexity for a wine of this price and heritage – though it should gain something with age. With food it palls.

Interesting. But underwhelming (which seems odd to say about such a huge wine). At $50 there are many ripe concentrated yet elegant alternatives. Tasted alongside Leeuwin Estate Prelude 2001 (half the price and previously reviewed as good, but not up the usual standard) it was obviously more intense, built to age much longer, and also hotter – and less food friendly.

Impressive wine, but not one I recommend (unless you really like this sort of thing); and I can’t give it more than 89 points though no doubt there are plenty of critics (Parker included) who will go higher. Indeed here is some of the flowery criticism that a web search turned up (yes they are all Australian – as if it isn’t obvious):

This is a real cabernet. It’s not opulent, it’s not over-ripe, it’s not shiraz, and nor was it meant to be. It’s fine and gravelly and strong in its aroma, there is nothing fragile here, and then the palate impales the initial impression and does not let it go anywhere: currants, yes, but moreso ash and cedar and gravel and bitterness, with dry dark chocolate appearing but only as stumps to the house of its stylish, long flavoured, anti-sweet, rakingly tannic body. Drink: 2015-2025. 96 points. Campbell Mattinson, Winefront Monthly

Cape Mentelle’s return to prominence with cabernet sauvignon continues with this alluringly complex and tightly crafted long-term wine. Its dusty, cigarboxy bouquet of cassis and dark plums, dark olives and cedar/vanilla oak reveals meaty undertones and aromatic floral qualities. Smooth and silky, it’s firm and fine-grained; a structured wine whose slightly closed and brooding core of blackberries, cassis and plums is tightly interwoven with tannin and oak. (Margaret River, $75 retail, approx., 18.8/95, drink 2013-2021+ Jeremy Oliver, OnWine

The finest Mentelle cabernet sauvignon since the great ’95. Herbal blonde tobacco smells on the nose, with deep, deep cassis building in the glass. Even more exciting in the mouth; slippery, tongue-coating loganberry and other forest berry fruits, plus piercing juicy cassis. The tannin and oak is in complete harmony with everything else. – Tim White, Australian Financial Review