Sunday, April 24, 2011

2007 Scarborough Shiraz (Hunter Valley)

I tasted this wine alongside the 09 De Iuliis Steven and 09 Pepper Tree Coqunn. Stiff competition to be up against, especially when Scarborough are better known for their Chardonnay and Semillon. To Scarborough’s credit, however, it performed well and served to highlight what a good vintage 2007 was for Hunter Shiraz.

Tasted over 4 nights, it was initially a touch disjointed and primary fruit dominant, though on days 2 and 3 it had integrated nicely. Then by day 4 it had become distinctly “huntery” with notes of earth and leather coming to the fore.

To the specifics, it smells lovely with aromas of cherry, musk and some nice oak. On the palate it’s medium bodied, well balanced between fruit and savoury flavours, has some lovely spice, and delivers a long sour cherry finish. I initially gave it 3.5 stars on Day 1, but the wine’s subsequent performance over 4 days warranted a nudge. 4 Stars and a big tick of approval from my wife as well. It should drink nicely over the next 5 years.


RRP: $25
ABV: 13.5%
Source: Sample


Thursday, April 21, 2011

2008 Westend Calabria Private Bin Aglianico (Riverina, NSW)

Aglianico is sometimes referred to as the Barolo of the South (Italy that is), and this wine would seemingly support that notion,with real echoes of the Nebbiolo grape, except that it’s not from Campania, but rather the Riverina in NSW. At the price I would have been happy with an enjoyable, if slightly different quaffer. As it turned out I got a wine of substance and genuine interest for $15.

There’s a slightly brickish colour to this wine, but don’t let that put you off (or with any wine for that matter). It has an enticing, floral bouquet with aromas of cherry and strawberry. As it opens up, it also begins to show some more savoury, tarry notes. The palate is one of grip and texture, and is decidedly savoury. It feels substantial without being overly heavy, and tastes of sour cherry, liquorice, tobacco and some meatiness. It looked a touch disjointed on day one, but by day two it was drinking beautifully.

I really enjoyed drinking this, and everything seems in place to suggest it will age well over the next five years, and possibly longer. Early doors, but this wine will certainly be a contender for Red’s Top 5 in 2011. Stunning value.


RRP: $15
ABV: 14.0%


Sunday, April 17, 2011

2010 Hoddles Creek Estate Chardonnay (Yarra Valley)

I’ve consumed a superb pair of value wines this weekend. The first of these was an Aglianico which I’ll write about soon, and the other was this 2010 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay. Having tasted this in barrel last year and talked it up then (, I’m probably not entirely impartial with this wine, but given that my wife and I ended up fighting over the dregs, it's fair to say that it won us over! It captures everything I like in modern Australian Chardonnay without going too far down the lean and mean path.

The nose presents that expressive and lovely marriage of oak and fruit that make Chardonnay so, so appealing. Grapefruit, peach, milkiness, nuttiness, and cloves are all there. Moving onto the palate, what I love is this wine’s weight. It’s got richness and power, but keeps everything in check, retaining a sense of elegance. Spicy oak, fine acidity, and some phenolics give this wine a lovely texture to. Wonderful length and persistence in spades are there to finish it all off. Ripper wine.

With a bit of air its great now, but I’ll be putting a couple of bottles in the cellar.


RRP: $22
ABV: 13.2%


Thursday, April 14, 2011

2009 Tarrawarra Chardonnay (Yarra Valley, Tumbarumba)

2009 was a tough, smoke taint affected vintage in the Yarra, and accordingly this wine has seen an addition of Tumbarumba fruit to the tune of 45%. It’s a multi regional blend that’s worked out pretty well I reckon.

This is a good value Chardonnay that’s for drinking over the next couple of years. It strikes that nice balance between being quaffable while also having enough complexity and structure to be worth contemplating. It tastes of peach and citrus, has some nice barrel work evident with lovely cloves and spice, and displays a nice touch of creaminess. Good acidity underpins the wine and there’s some appealing citrus pith through the finish. 3.5 Stars.


RRP: $22
ABV: 13.5%
Source: Sample


Monday, April 11, 2011

A tale of two vineyards: 2009 De Iuliis Steven Shiraz & 2009 Pepper Tree Coquun Shiraz

RedtoBrown was sent these two wines as part of a recent Hunter Valley ‘tweet-up’. I was very impressed with both, and a subsequent trip up to the Hunter gave me an opportunity to visit the two wineries in question, and talk to the respective winemakers, Jim Chatto at Pepper Tree and Mike De Iuliis.

In the end, what I came away with from this visit more than anything, was a sense of excitement about the prospects for two historic vineyards. Both of these sites had been somewhat neglected in recent years. Now, however, through the intervention of these two Hunter winemakers, they are set to see a renaissance and produce some wonderful wines.

The first of these vineyards is Tallawanta. It was planted in 1920, and despite a history of producing great fruit, had fallen on lesser times, and indeed was due to be mothballed until Jim Chatto stepped in to take up the lease at the end of 2009. The other is the Steven Vineyard, which was planted in the 60s by Lindemans, and had been the source of the Lindeman Steven Shiraz. As with Tallawanta, it had been less than fastidiously looked after of late. De Iuliis then also stepped in at the end of 2009 to take over this vineyard.

The thing that struck me was that the two respective wines that came from these two sites, the 2009 De Iuliis Steven Shiraz & 2009 Pepper Tree Coquun Shiraz (Tallawanta Vineyard), were made prior to these two gentlemen gaining control of the vineyards, a period in which they were receiving less than meticulous care. Despite this, the two wines are very impressive. I tasted them over five nights, and both integrated and developed beautifully during this time. They are wines undoubtedly for the long haul. This ultimately is testament to the inherent qualities of these vineyards, the quality of the vintage, and the intelligent treatment of the fruit from Chatto and De Iuliis.

The exciting thing is that Tallawanta and Steven in 2009 were like Porsches that hadn’t been fine tuned for many a year - still capable of wonderful things, but certainly not delivering at peak performance. Now, however, they are under more watchful gazes. From the 2011 vintage we should start to see the effects of greater care and attention in both vineyards. I tasted barrel samples of both wines from the 2011 vintage, and while still very young and somewhat difficult to assess at this early stage, they are looking full of promise.

Considering that it will probably take a few more years of effort in these vineyards to see them realising their full potential, it’s exciting to think of the quality of wine that will be produced in future vintages.

A final thing to note is the high levels of natural acidity that fruit from Tallawanta and Steven produce. Both of these wines have a lovely, insistent acidity upon which their longevity will be built. Talking to Chatto about this, he reckons the best sites in the Hunter have always produced fruit with high levels of acidity, and all that is needed to retain this acidity is to not leave the fruit on the vines for too long. To me this is a major part of the Hunter’s appeal, that as a sub-tropical region it is able to produce wines that are acid driven, and hence very age worthy. Indeed Chatto claims that he’s more likely to need to add acid to wines he makes from Coonawarra and Wratonbully (relatively cooler regions), than to his Hunter wines.

2009 De Iuliis Steven Shiraz – $40 - Line and Length. No, I’m not talking about Glen McGrath’s style of bowling, but rather the style of wine. It presents a refined and well defined line and length of elegant, medium-bodied Hunter Shiraz. While it’s very enjoyable now, it’s undoubtedly built for the long haul. Lovely flavours of cherry, violets, earth, meatiness, and just a hint of vanillan oak. A classic Hunter “Burgundy” in the making. 4 stars ++

2009 Pepper Tree Coquun Shiraz – $45 - This Shiraz has a different feel compared to the Steven, and highlights the difference between wines that can be savoured and enjoyed when single vineyards are ably expressed. This wine has a darker fruit profile, some interesting notes of pepper and mint, and some lovely oak that integrated well with time. While it’s still in medium bodied territory, it’s more towards the full bodied side of the ledger. It has a nice bit of mid-palate richness before delivering a long finish of lovely sour cherry flavours that are supported by fine, drying tannins. In fact, that finish just got longer and longer over the 5 nights. 4 stars ++

I sometimes shake my head at my own change in attitude towards the Hunter Valley. 5-10 years ago I had a fairly lukewarm view of wines from this region. This was to some extent ignorance on my part (or at least a fairly narrow palate at that stage), but it was also a period in which Hunter wine reached somewhat of a nadir, producing often less than inspiring wines. What then happened gradually during the noughties, was an effort by vignerons to better care for and express their vineyards, as well as work more judiciously in the winery. These efforts continue apace, as evidenced above, and to my mind make Australia’s oldest wine region also one of its most exciting.



Saturday, April 9, 2011

2009 Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc (Malborough, NZ)

If you enjoy your Malborough Sauvignon Blanc then you'll almost certainly enjoy this. Personally its generally a style of wine I struggle with, though there's no question this is a good wine.

This wine lacks the pungency of some Sav Blancs, which to my mind is a good thing, and smells of melon, passionfruit, and a touch of grassiness. On the palate there is a nice balance between ripe generous fruit and a fine line of acidity. It finishes with good length and a touch of minerality. A good wine in its style. Drink over the next couple of years.


RRP: $22
ABV: 13.0%
Source: Sample (


Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Next Frontier of Australian Wines?

This article was originally published on the Wine Communicators of Australia Blog -

The Australian wine industry Catch 22: To be unable to innovate leads to wine-making and wine industry stagnation. However, if we stop focusing on what we do well and concentrate on diversifying using alternative varieties that have their own history in their home country, Australia may lose its wine individuality and become even more of a globalised, homogenous wine producing nation. Can a middle ground be reached and if so, has it already occurred?

The next frontier of Australian wine is one where wine makers and wineries ply their trade from a position of self confidence, not self doubt, and advertise this fact in an innovative and non-traditional way. There are positive signs already, though structural and historical factors prevent Australia from realising its wine making potential.

The Australian wine industry at the moment is like a city that has reached its geographical limits and is suffering growing pains: important far reaching decisions need to be made.

Does Australian wine expand into new territory (new markets, new varieties, new styles), does it reinvigorate or consolidate what it already has (previously successful wine styles, varieties, markets) or does it try to strike a balance between the two? Regardless of the choices made by the wine industry, it will not succeed if these decisions are not made in a self confident and innovative way.

What is meant by ‘self confidence’ aside from basic definitions? – self confidence on the new Australian wine frontier is the confidence to make some mistakes in the short term trying to push the boundaries of wine excellence with the aim or aspiration to hit the highs in the long term. Take risks, try new things, have the courage to maintain and improve on traditional methods. This is has all been said before, but most importantly, the wine industry must have the self-confidence to stick with it.

In harnessing the emerging self confidence in Australian wine, the new wine information paradigm must be fully utilised. The wine maker, winery, vineyard or vintage narrative, combined with new media-assisted word of mouth is one of the key methods the Australian wine industry should use to forge a new frontier. The era of the hegemonic wine critic passing down wine style commandments from on high is coming to an end: Information is becoming more diffuse, readily accessible, and generic yet ironically also more niche. Wine consumer sub cultures, can now access more than enough information to enable them to make commercial decisions on the products they want to consume. The more innovative, versatile, agile, unique and quirky Australian wine becomes (breaking from the critter wine stereotype in the process); the easier it will be to promote this innovation using the new information paradigm.

I smile when I see an Australian winery taking a risk. If the risk works they are praised, if it fails, they wear some criticism. I applaud the wine risk takers and the innovators. In the brave new wine world, the more risk takers and skilled story tellers Australia can produce, the better-off Australian wine will be. The new frontier awaits.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The beginnings of a Golden Age in Australian wine? Future Alternative Varietal Icons

This article was originally published on the Wine Communicators of Australia Blog -

For all of the negative press around Australian wine in the past few years, I can’t but help think this is in fact the most exciting time in Australia’s modern wine history. I think there are a number of factors at work at present that are resulting in some genuinely remarkable wine being produced, and that these same factors will lead to an even greater number of world class wines in 5-10 years time. These factors includes -

A greater understanding and exploration of site – with each passing year there is a greater emphasis that wineries and winemakers place on understanding and expressing single sites. There are more and more single vineyard wines coming onto the market each year, and these are some of the most interesting and expressive Australian wines I’ve tasted.

Vine Age – Whether you are looking at exciting, upcoming regions like Macedon, Tumbarumba, and Tasmania, or more established regions like the Yarra Valley and Margaret River, many of the vines and vineyards in Australia are still very young. Generally speaking vignerons talk about vines needing about 20-30 years before producing the kind of concentrated, complex fruit they are after. In many regions around Australia the vines are yet to reach this mature age.

Clones – Australian winemakers have a better understanding of different vine clones than ever before. Put simply, different clones of grape variety perform and taste different. Some of the less than successful experiences with Australian wine can in some part be put down to clone selection (or lack thereof), but this is now beginning to change.

Organics/Biodynamics – regardless of one’s thoughts on the extent to which one should be fully organic or fully biodynamic, what the growth in this type of viticultural practice signals to me is that vignerons care about the health of their vineyard more than ever. In paying this level of attention in the vineyard, the quality of the fruit they produce will undoubtedly continue to improve.

Screwcaps – Kind of like climate change deniers, each passing year further pushes cork advocates further to the margins. Wines that have been 5-10 years under screwcap are ageing consistently and with a very small percentage of closure issues (at least compared to cork). In the next decade we will be drinking many a beautifully aged Australian wine.

Alternative Varietals

The factors discussed above all deserve an article in themselves, but one final factor that I think is very exciting, and what I wanted to focus on, is the explosion of alternative varietals in Australia in the past decade. By “alternative” varietals I am simply referring to grape varieties that have not been a mainstay in Australian wine production. There are some doubters, who would argue that many of these varietals can only be truly successful in their native environments in Europe. However, to my mind, when I cast forward 10 years, I’ve no doubt we will be able to talk about a number of iconic Australian wines that are made from such grapes.

Whether it’s Gruner Veltliner, Nebbiolo, Fiano, or Sangiovese, there are an ever increasing number of alternative varieties in Australia. Many wineries, both old and new, have at least one alternative varietal in their wine range. Some wineries may be doing this as much to meet trendy consumer demand as anything, but many, if not most, however, seem to be approaching their foray into alternative varietals with intent and ambition. Without wishing anyone ill, I think many of these attempts will be unsuccessful, at least in so far as producing truly great wine. Many regions will ultimately show themselves to be unsuitable or at least limited for a certain grape variety, and mistakes will inevitably be made with varietals that vignerons are less familiar with. However, for all these potential issues, some attempts will be successful, and there’s every chance that in a decade’s time we will have world class alternative wines coming from particular sites or regions, and indeed at that point we will stop referring to them as “alternative’.


In particular I have high hopes for Australian Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. In terms of Nebbiolo, many have made the case that the terroir in and around Barolo in Piemonte, Italy, is so unique, and that Nebbiolo is such a finicky a grape variety, that somewhere like Australia will never produce great Nebbiolo. My personal experience suggests otherwise. There are seemingly 3 regions really striving to produce great Nebbiolo in Australia – the Adelaide Hills, Heathcote, and the King Valley. The most impressive I’ve yet had from these regions is the 2007 SC Pannell Nebbiolo. It’s a wine that could hold its own amongst many a Barolo. The thing that really made me sit up and take notice with this wine, beyond its inherent qualities, was that it is only the 3rd vintage of this wine off 10 year old vines in the Adelaide Hills. Where might future vintages of this wine be in another decade, when the vines are 20 years old, and the viticulturist and winemaker have another 10 years of understanding the vineyard under their belts? I think it’s safe to say there’s a bright future for this wine. Indeed the same type of story could be told for other producers of Australian Nebbiolo like Pizzini, Arrivo, and Luke Lambert. All up, there is more than enough promise being shown at a very early stage of development to suggest we will be talking about a great Australian Nebbiolo in 10 years time.


Sangiovese has been more widely planted than Nebbiolo thus far, and there is plenty of decent Oz Sangiovese out there. Is there an iconic, world class Australian Sangiovese yet? I’d argue not, though we’re perhaps not far off either. Castagna Sangiovese from Beechworth, and from all reports the Coriole Vita Reserve Sangiovese (a wine I’ve not tried), are certainly starting to make a case. One Sangiovese, however, that I think we may all be talking about in 10 years is the Greenstone Sangiovese. From a vineyard in Heathcote planted in 2005, the 2007 Greenstone Sangiovese is a superb first up effort. When I tasted it last year, there is no way I would have assumed it was such a young wine in all respects. It managed to be beautifully balanced between tasting like a Sangiovese as well as expressing a sense of place. It’s amazing to think where this wine might be with some more vine age.

As with Nebbiolo, there will be some failures, and some sites that are ultimately limited in the Sangiovese they can produce. But such is the promise of a number of these wines, that it’s hard not to envisage an iconic Australian Sangiovese in the not too distant future.

There’s many an exciting Australian wine being made at the moment, and the greater exploration and understanding of terroir, increasing vine age, better clone selection, and more organic/biodynamic practices, all point to the emergence of a golden age in Australian wine during the next decade. These very same factors will see alternative varietals occupy an increasingly prominent position. In the same way that we saw the arrival of world class Australian Pinot Noir during the noughties, I believe we will see iconic Nebbiolo and Sangiovese emerge over the next decade.

Blog Design by: Designer Blogs