Reynell ‘basket pressed’ cabernet sauvignon 1998 (review)

84 points.

McLaren Vale, South Australia.

Very dark colour with some purple hints still, has thrown a light crust and there are ultra fine tartaric crystals floating in the wine (reflecting the substantial degree of added acidity).

Smells hot, rustic, savoury, tinned tobacco – will be leathery with a little more age.

Rugged dense short palate. Sweet simple tomato leaf flavour and rather fairly hard, dark chocolate, tannic acid finish. The finish is rather dominant, the fruit flavour short.

Looking at the number of gold medals and trophies on the label I know that I’m really out of step with Australian wine show judges, at least when it comes to cabernet. And so is Anne who tasted the wine completely blind – her initial comment “too limey (added acid), and worse with food, can I have the other wine (Chateau Puygueraud 2002) instead please”

It is an amazing (very hard work), and very artificial, task that wine show judges do. Little wonder that they consistently admire some odd wines.

This wine: heroic, dense, dull, dumb. No finesse.

The Tucker Seabrook Perpetual Trophy for the “Most Successful Wine of the Show Circuit” in Australia over the past 12 months.

96 points James Halliday
95 points Jeremy Oliver


Banrock Station – environmental credentials

Banrock Station is a brand of the Hardy’s Wine Company and refers to vineyards located on the Murry River in South Australia. They have recently been advertising how money from the sale of each bottle goes to help preserve endangered Australian wildlife – flora and fauna. Which in the fairly boring world of wine advertising gives them something to say and stand out.

Yet I wondered how valid are their environmental claims ? This is still Riverland wine, made by irrigating grapevines with precious water from the Murray River. And on land that was once slow growing mallee forest (90% of South Australia’s malle has been cut down).

I visited their web site, which while not the most objective source is very informative. Indeed it is a superb site which even features a Quicktime vitual tour and a live webcam where you can control the camera view.

It includes information not just on their philanthropy (donations from bottles sales go to wetland environmental causes in 10 different countries), but also on their viticultural practices to save water use. There are just 600 acres (245 hecares) of wines on 3,400 acres (1375 hecares) of bush and wetlands which are being restored after a century of rabbit and stock grazing.

I’m impressed. And while Banrock Station don’t exactly make fine wine (they do a good job at making everyday wine) I’m very keen now to visit the vineyards and tourist centre they run at Kingston-On-Murray, South Australia about 2 hours drive from Adelaide.

Wolf Blass Grey Label shiraz 2002 (review)

90 points

Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale. 15%

I previously reviewed the Wolf Blass Gold Label 2002 shiraz which I wasn’t too enamoured by. I felt the fruit was simply too commercial and nice winemaking couldn’t make up for this. Then I heard about this grey label wine, and its incredible show success, and price $29. But surely gold label would be a more premium wine than grey label ? Apparently not (ask the Wolf Blass marketing dept to explain).

This is a sleek, soft, sexy, supple wine. An interesting fruit driven, low tannin, blend from the heartland of South Australian shiraz (Barossa, Clare and McLaren Vale). Exotic aromas, complex (American and French) oak and not overdone. It carries its 15% alcohol effortlessly, and drinks well without food – which must in part explain its success in wine shows (see below).

Even without this wine show success I would describe it as a sophisticated show pony wine, the lovely balance and fruit clarity is both enjoyable and a tad boring; I wonder if it has the character and backbone to age into something great, but the price and stelvin screwcap enclosure make it an attractive gamble. I’m going to buy a few more bottles (quickly before it disappears from retail shelves).

James Halliday gave it 94 points. I’m not so impressed the pristine modern winemaketing style (what I call white wine makers’ red wine making).

The show record:

Wine Press Club Trophy Best Shiraz in Show – 2004 Royal Adelaide Wine Show

Max Schubert Trophy Best Red Wine in Show – 2004 Royal Adelaide Wine Show

The Winery Supplies Trophy for the Best Shiraz – 2005 Royal Melbourne Wine Show

Top Gold Medal – 2004 Royal Adelaide Wine Show

Gold Medal – 2003 Royal Queensland Wine Show
Gold Medal – 2005 Royal Melbourne Wine Show
Gold Medal – 2004 Royal Hobart Wine Show
Gold Medal – 2004 Royal Sydney Wine Show

Seppelt Sunday Creek Pinot Noir 1999 (review)

84 points

Victoria, Australia. 13.5%

We bought several dozen of this wine when the brand was being shut down in one of many rationalisations by the Penfolds group. An awful blue label – perhaps not surprisingly this wine always was sold cheap, but in the end was sold off on special at a ridulously low A$8. Shortly after the subsequent vintage (which never saw the light of day under this brand) won some wine show trophies – which must have caused the marketing dept some heatache.

Now 6 years old the 1999 is surprisingly together (unusual for Australian Pinot Noir). Quite dark, with touch of brown rim. Soft yet varietal nose (some rose petals even). Rich quite forceful palate with a refreshing finish. It has fattened with age and is now the best bottles are quite solid burgundy. Odd bottles show excessive oxidation – this was before most ‘downunder’ pinot began being bottled with stelvin screwcap enclosures, this 1999 has a cheap cork.

For the price this wine is extraordinary value. And a sign perhaps that quality pinot noir can be made in some volume. Cheap quality Pinot may be possible.

Yering Station Shiraz Viognier 2002 (review)

82 points

Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia. 13.5%

I didn’t like this. It has some intensity but this cool climate shiraz just lacks flavour and excitment. It’s somewhat floral, perhaps the viogner has been overdone, or the shiraz just not ripe enough.

And yet this wine has had some stellar reviews elsewhere. Odd.

Note: this is not the Reserve version which is 3 times the price.

Domaine de Gerbaud Cotes du Luberon 1999

84 points

South of France. Made by Tardieu Laurent.

Quite dark. Gently fresh leather on the nose. Moderately concentrated palate, minerally with some spice. I’m not sure of the blend, I’d suspect grenache but it hasn’t the sweet opulence of grenache. It’s quite close knit.

I was worried that in my warm cellar a wine of this age and price would be fading – but not so. Should last a few more years.

Edwards & Chaffey section 353 shiraz 1999

88 points

McLaren Vale, South Australia.

A dark wine, looks very healthy for 6 years of age. It has thrown a crust (which for some reason has been broken up – lots of sediment).

Rather monotone nose, slightly vegetal (mercaptan ?). French oak apparently.

Rich sweet spicy energetic, similar weight to a Barossa shiraz but different – slightly tighter. The back lable talks of chocolatey sweetness, but this is not a chocolate milkshake style shiraz.

It’s a hot somewhat manufactured wine (added acidity) but the flavour intensity is very good.

Plaisir de Merle Grand Plaisir 2001 (review)

87 points

Paarl, South Africa. 14.5%

A bordeaux blend but with some shiraz. A shiny wine with tiny hints of crimson still. Big but quite concentrated. Syrupy with glycerol and some sweetness. Best with food. Quite impressive rather than fine. Lacks really exciting fruit or savoury characters.

Recommended. One of South Africa’s better wines.

Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2001 (review)

91+ points

St Julien, Bordeaux.

Clive Coates and Robert Parker agree that this wine is consistently of 1st growth quality. And like most of us I don’t get to try 1st growths very often, to say the least. So this was very interesting.

Interestingly it smells like a top NZ cabernet (like Te Mata) ie great oak on distinctively varietal fruit.

Tastes sleek (glycerol) and incredibly concentrated. Somewhat like a top South African cabernet in ripeness and they too often have this sort of dry (pencil shavings) not sweet French oak. Surprisingly quite New World, but perhaps due to youth. It really is very concentrated – I know I’ve already said that, but it is a standout feature. Dense fruit lots of oak. Not for drinking now, other than as an academic exercise (vinicide).

Very interesting rather than a lot of fun. I’m reluctant to give higher points, I expected something more distinctive rather than so densely concentrated. Needs quite a few years of aging, eg at least 5.