Not all wines can be great. Plenty are just ok drinks. And some are just bad.
Here then is a selection of wines that almost made it over the past few months.
Normally, this collection of ‘almosts’ happens monthly, but lockdown in the Graham house has been anything but quiet, so I’m very much behind. And very very tired.
Anyway, I like plenty of these as simple drinks. That’s an important distinction, as some almost great wines are just good drinking. Others should never have been bottled…
Eldorado Road Luminoso Rosé 2019
I am a big fan of Eldorado Road but this doesn’t quite work. Early picked Nero d’Avola, Dolcetto & Sangiovese from north east Victoria. Fermented cool, spends 6 months on full solids with regular lees stirring. Very dry, vinous and tangy, the phenolics giving this a ferrous edge. Admirable intensity, but a little hard-etched and too serious by half. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.3%, $25. Would I buy it: a glass.
Indomitus Rosa 2019
Hilltops Nebbiolo rosé from Gundog Estate and another deadly serous wine. Pale orange, it’s a vinous skin contact style that carries serious intent bit ultimately a bit too firm and to be delicious. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.
Longview Barbera 2018
As ever with Barbera, managing the acidity is tricky. A sharply focused light red with leafy edges and a syrupy texture – mixed ripeness is my guess here. It’s pleasant enough but doesn’t quite feel refreshing – just a bit tart/syrupy. It’s ok. Best drinking: nowish. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
Longview Fresco 2019
Nebbiolo, Pinot Nero (aka Pinot Noir), Sangiovese & Barbera. Bright and crunchy red fruited style. Light. A riot of raspberry. Hard to pick a variety. Pretty simple stuff. But pretty and fun. Best drinking: nowish. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $26. Would I buy it? A glass.
Pikes Los Campañeros Shiraz Tempranillo 2017
Another well-priced and affable red from Pikes. It’s ripe, red fruited and juicy, the medium weight palate marked by its raspberry berry liveliness, the warm palate soft, juicy, berried and ripe. Alcohol is the last flavour, which is the annoying part here, otherwise an approachable, well built mid-weight blend. Best drinking: now to five years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $22. Would I buy it? Worth a glass or two.
Red Heads Graciano 2018
‘Adelaide’ fruit which is a catch all for fruit from all over the place. Do you think it works? This sadly doesn’t quite work, the palate intense and chunky, but just a bit indistinct and lacking in a true varietal stamp. Still, it’s a ripe, thick cut red with heartiness but I kept waiting for another level beyond plumpness. Best drinking: to six or seven years easy. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Brut 2014
Genuinely well done value fizz needing just a bit more complexity. Appley palate is crisp and fresh with simple flavour and good length. It’s a bit too much apple juice (and not enough layers) for high points, but well made and drinkable. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 11.5%. Would I buy it? A glass.
Tapanappa Whalebone Cabernet Shiraz 2016
Normally this is a superstar, a rare icon of Wrattonbully. But for mine, this year it’s just hard going. Bourbon is the first and last flavour. Draped in chocolate oak, the fruit warm and licoricey and chunky, the impact unquestioned but the coffeed, oak tannic finish fills every crevice, hiding most any notion of terroir. Entirely likely it will get better, but overripe and overoaked at this stage. Best drinking: wait. Maybe at the eight year mark? 16.8/20, 89/100. 15%, $90. Would I buy it? No.
Taylor’s Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
The Jaraman range I find very uneven – a few highlights, mixed in with some lumpy, divisive wines. This blend of Clare Valley and Coonawarra tries hard, with minty dark berry fruit aplenty, the style chunky and powerful, but still overridingly minty with drying tannins to finish. Almost, but not quite balanced. Best drinking: will look better in five years, then for many years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Varney ‘Entrada’ Rose of Grenache 2019
Bush vine Grenache rosé, with 10% of the blend wild fermented in barrel. Vinous, tangy McLaren Vale Grenache that doesn’t quite nail the pink wine balanced challenge, with too much acidity and a ferrous line that render it a fraction hard. Good intentions though. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.1%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Wicks Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Great packaging on these Wicks Estate wines. I wish the wines were as convincing. Sweaty, sweet and sour with some passionfruit. Down the line Sauv. The acidity is just a bit harsh. Pleasant commercial style. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.9%. Would I buy it? No.
Zonzo Estate Pinot Noir 2019
So close yet so far for this Yarra Pinot. Glacé raspberry fruit is the hero here, the flavours are fleeting, the lightly volatile fruit doesn’t go beyond tinned raspberry. Ok. Best drinking: nowish. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
Alte Chardonnay 2019
From the Cumulus vineyard in Orange. Barrel fermented in 37% new oak. Aims for delicacy but ultimately a bit thin, white peach, nutty oak. I get the push to delicacy, but this just across as light peach juice. Best drinking: over the next 3 years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%. Would I buy it? No.
Altus Rise Wildlight Merlot 2018
Margaret River Merlot. At least it is varietal. Gravelly, mint and definitely varietal Merlot. It starts well but ends up baked and astringent to finish. Heavy handed extraction and alcohol. Best drinking: over five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Auld Strawbridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Langhorne Creek red. Thick, old school choc mint Langhorne Cab – like an old noughties Wolf Blass. Jammy, lightly herbal with some mixed ripeness too. Big impact but a clumsy. Best drinking: will likely look better in five years and drink well for a decade after that. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%. Would I buy it? No.
Austin’s Riesling 2018
Generous, lightly off dry Riesling in simple fruit form. It doesn’t need the sugar as it broadens out the palate. Affable. Unremarkable. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Battonage Chardonnay 2018
Barrel ferment and 12 months in oak. Creamy peach barrel ferment but it’s actually a lean Langhorne Creek CHardonnay, the fruit an initial hit before heading into a massaged, sulphide heavy style that is lean and has rather tart chalky acidity. It’s plump enough to start but that acidity is mean and unforgiving and the finish doesn’t carry as it should. Early picked, built up in the winery, and looks leaner than it should be. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton No Added Preservatives Shiraz 2019
Langhorne Shiraz that spent 4 months on lees. Jubey pulpy and has sweet alcohol to finish. It doesn’t taste your typical, slightly oxidised, plain, no preservative style, with a really bright jubey flow of polished purple fruit. Falls away a little beyond that first fruit flourish, but hey you could do worse. Best drinking: now. Don’t delay. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%. Would I buy it? No.
Calabria Three Bridges Mourvedre 2018
Barossa fruit. Reductive and a little thin, there is quality fruit in here but it feels rushed, the tannins are uneven and bitter, the fruit thinner than it should be. There is flavour here, but it comes up a bit short for the prieepoint and feels rather made (and acidic). Best drinking: to ten years, though I’m not sure if it will improve. 16.5/20,88/100. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Campo Viejo Rioja 2017
The entry level Rioja from Campo Viejo and better than most of the reserve wines. Captures the juicy berry fruit and sandy tannins of good modern Temp, complete with grippy tannins and little oak to get in the way. Approachable and well priced Rioja, if very simple. Best drinking: to seven or eight years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $15.99. Would I buy it? A glass.
Colpasso Nero d’Avola 2018
Appassimento style Nero from Sicily and a Cellarmasters exclusive. Bright red raspberry fruit, thin palate. You’d need to dry the fruit to get any concentration. Can see the appassimento character on the warmish finish. Otherwise a light cherry red. Pleasant drinking. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $22.99. Would I buy it? No.
Curly Flat White Pinot 2019
I’m unconvinced by this rosé/light red. Made from Pinot free run juice, with a sweaty pink grapefruit aroma and palate that is musky but pulls up short. There’s a palate that seems to have gone MIA here. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.7%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
Down to Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2019
As ever, this needs time as it is way too neutral now. Ripe fruit lobs up a whiff of passionfruit but it doesn’t translate into flavour. Maybe wait? Best drinking: in 2-3 years, historically. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 13.5%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
Galafrey Dry Grown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018
More Great Southern than Pinot. Ripe, cherried, hearty and smoky. Grip, oak, macerated cherry fruit and drying tannins. I’m not a fan of dry reds masquerading as Pinot really. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%. Would I buy it? No.
Gatch The Rosé 2019
Riverland Mataro Rosé. Dry, ferrous and phenolic style with grip. It’s tangy, slightly oxidative and anything but fruity. Interest, but it’s just a bit unforgiving, dry, lean and harder than it should be. Best drinking: over the next few years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%. Would I buy it? No.
Gartelmann Phillip Alexander Cabernet Merlot 2016
Mudgee Cabernet Merlot from a vineyard at Rylstone, circa 630m. surprisingly light for 14.7% alcohol, it’s minty, drying and structured red that looks just a little bony. There’s a sense of lightness which is welcome enough, but the donut style palate lacks a mid palate and descends into minty, slightly astringent tannins all too early. Best drinking: now to ten plus years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.7%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Gundog Wild Semillon 2020
I’m still not convinced that this needs any residual sugar. Bring it back to a bone dry style! Passionfruit, the sugar is the only flavour making this broad and stone fruity, even if it has classic acidity. Misses me. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 10.8%, $35. Would I buy it? No
Harewood Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2016
Denmark Chardonnay. Fights with oak tannins and loses. There’s flavour here but it finishes harder and oakier that it needs to be. Not convinced. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $45. Would I buy it? No.
Jules Taylor OTQ Pinot Noir Rosé 2019
Phenolic and ripe style Marlborough pink that misses delicacy, with late candied red fruit. Simple, forward and yet pointy too and the acid balance doesn’t feel right either. Almost. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Madmen of Syrah 2019
Great Southern Syrah given some carbonic. Tangy, crunchy red fruited carbonic style with bitter red rhubarb fruit and lots of acidity. Need more approachability for this mode – it’s a bit bitter for that. Best drinking: nowish. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%. Would I buy it? No.
Patrick Riesling 2019
Coonawarra Riesling. I get the intentions but this is a blunt and already forward slightly toasty white. Older examples can be good, so maybe wait. Best drinking: come back in 3-4 years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11.5%. Would I buy it? No.
Pizzini Arneis 2019
Broad, broadly textured style that is vinous but a bit indistinct beyond ripe fruit and acidity. Great intensity of crunchy melon fruit but also too much width. Best drinking: nowish. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.6%. Would I buy it? No.
Pizzini White Fields Pinot Grigio 2018
Delicate, but just a little too neutral this year. Pleasant, missing a top gear. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%. Would I buy it? A glass.
Pizzini Rosetta Sangiovese Nebbiolo Rosé 2019
Pink grapefruit punch in an early-picked, sweet and fruity yet tart mode. Commercialiy sound but a bit sweet and sour for high marks. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. Would I buy it? No.
Rusty Mutt Tempranillo 2018
Joven style McLaren Vale Temp but a bit syrupy to be lively. Red cherry fruit with that vanilla chocolate ‘I’ve been playing with oak but not in it’ Temp character. Easy enough but just missing a little vivacity for big points. Best drinking: now to five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%. Would I buy it? A glass.
Shanahans Evergreen Eden Valley Riesling 2017
Forward, yet stuck in the no fruit zone. Plenty of acidity. Zippy palate lacks fruit concentration but clean enough. Missing a beat in cohesion though. Best drinking: come back in 2-3yrs. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 12%. Would I buy it? No.
Silkwood Estate The Bowers Chardonnay 2019
Single vineyard Pemberton Chardonnay. Simple white peach flavours, sprightly, no malo citrus acidity. Never gets past simple fruit and acidity. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Silkwood Estate The Bowers Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc. Passionfruit and tropical fruit, the fleshy palate lifted up by late sweetness. Varietal fruit is a boon, fleshy palate is easily attractive, but it’s just a bit one dimensional really. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
St Anne’s Heathcote Shiraz 2017
Blocky, slightly raspy Heathcote Shiraz. Has tannic grip but not the fruit to match. Hard finish too. Best drinking: in 2-3 years maybe? 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
St Anne’s Liqueur Shiraz (2019 blend)
Thick, treacley fortified style that looks like a ruby style. Sweetness here sits on top of the fruit, making this caramelised and overtly simple, the spirit an afterthought. It’s ok. Best drinking: nowish really. 16.5/20, 88/100. 18%. Would I buy it? no.
Smith & Hooper Pinot Grigio 2019
Handpicked and wild fermented. Cool and fresh if a bit tinny. Takes on the lean Italian style and trades in more ripe pear fruit. I can’t quite shake the tinny acidity. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%. Would I buy it? no.
Terre a Terre Rosé 2019
Piccadilly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay pressings spends 9 months on lees. Tart, grippy and vinous it’s drying, phenolic and red appley, long but always unapproachable. Not much love as a drink. Best drinking: nowish. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13,5%, $32. Would I buy it? no.
The Other Wine Co. Pinot Gris 2019
Slightly volatile, ripe and almost fatty style with pear juice aplenty. Just a bit broad for big love. Pleasant. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $26. Would I buy it? no.
Varney Wines Semillon Fiano 2018
Semillon From Kuitpo. Fiano from Langhorne Creek. 24 hours on skins Fiano. Hyper oxidised juice. I was expecting fireworks, but it’s a neutral, gently textural, bland white, that is maturing away. Pleasant, but pedestrian. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.4%, $25
Vino Intrepido Pinot Grigio 2019
Mornington Grigio. Probably the most neutral and lean of the Intrepido range, the intention is Italy, but it just doesn’t quite give enough of anything to be great, the finish a bit broad and indistinct. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $29.99. Would I buy it? No.
Wicks Estate Pinot Rosé 2019
Top packaging. Vinous and pink grapefruity , it’s pretty, with the firm citrus acidity the only harshness. Commercially attractive but needs more vitality. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%. Would I buy it? No.
Zema Estate Shiraz 2016
Lavishly oaked and very ripe Coonawarra Shiraz that goes into fudge territory, the thick, coffeed dark berry palate, warm finish and oak tannins making the region hard to pick, alcohol and acidity obscuring the finish. Why do this to Coonawarra Shiraz? Best drinking: try again in five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5% $26.99. Would I buy it? no.
Angullong Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Ultra crisp, by the numbers Orange Sauvignon Blanc. Taut, eatery, slightly sour. It’s a Marlborough competitor and does it simply. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Fiano 2019
Driven by acidity and little else. A simple drink, with ferment esters and vague pear the only real character. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%. Would I buy it? No.
Blue Pyrenees Estate Merlot 2017
Slightly thin and lean style that is only propped up by oak through the middle. Best drinking: to five years. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Chateau Picoron 2015
Ultra ambitious Bordeaux. 100% Merlot. Dense, coffeed oaky, the oak tannins are in a fight with the alcohol to see who wins. Sure it’s powerful, but I don’t see the fruit to cope with the alcohol or the tannins. Best drinking: it might come around in 5 years. But the balance will always be off. 16/20, 87/100. 15.2%. Would I buy it? No.
Feudo Arancio Grillo 2018
Generic Sicilian Grillo. Has a nice sea spray thing going on, but otherwise diffuse and tart. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13%. Would I buy it? No.
Feudo Arancio Nero d’Avola 2018
Generic Sicilian Nero, as above. Has some tarry, dried black fruit richness to lift up the middle but it ultimately finishes lean and lightly bitter. Best drinking: nowish. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Gartelmann Georg Petit Verdot 2016
From at block at Rylstone near Mudgee. Spends 17 months in new and old American and French oak. Extract and alcohol. You can’t see much else besides some candied cooked fruit. It’s savoury, shy, oak tannic. It’s already dried out and warm, lacking the fruit for this attempt. Not quite. Best drinking: now to ten years. 16/20, 87/100. Would I buy it? No.
Jules Taylor Marlborough Pinot Gris 2019
Faint pink tinge. It’s a pretty uncertain Gris though, with faint honeysuckle and a little peach fruit. It’s washed out and phenolic, missing the palate weight to make it convincing, acidity the only remnant. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Mojo #02 Barossa Shiraz 2018
Soft, jubey round and a bit confected. There’s a plasticky character which I see in these commercial reds. It’s pleasant but needs more everything. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16/20, 87/100. 14%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Mojo #03 McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Matured in older oak for 5 months. Slightly herbal red fruit with surprising hedge clipping varietal character. It’s a bit lean for the acidity but at least it’s varietal. Lacks concentration. Best drinking: now to five years. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Silkwood Estate The Bowers Rosé 2019
Pemberton fruit. Dry, reductive and serous, it’s just a bit tart and extractive to be enjoyable. Best drinking: nowish. 16/20, 87/100. 13.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Taylors Jaraman Chardonnay 2018
Clare Valley/Margaret River blend. Odd bedfellows. Palate is both flabby and tries too hard, like creamed lemon juice. Not there. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Blue Pyrenees Estate Bone Dry Rosé 2019
Pinot & Merlot juice. Very light pink. Flavourless palate has gentle acidity, pink grapefruit fruit sweetness, and then some late tannic grip. Middling dry rosé. Best drinking: now. 15.8/20, 85/100. 13%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
Mojo #01 Pinot Grigio 2019
Fleurieu Peninsula fruit. Just a little colour. Broad, open, stonefruit palate with just a smidgen a of light fruit that is varietal but ultimately flabby. Best drinking: now. 15.8/20, 85/100. 13%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
St Anne’s Bendigo Chardonnay 2018
From a vineyard at Mt Alexander in Bendigo. Slightly brassy, tinned peach and cream style with a little warmth to finish. Plenty of flavour, but a broad and indistinguished style. 15.8/20, 85/100. 13.5%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Clare’s Secret Grenache 2017
Confected and less than pure, the dusty, slightly mean palate lacks body and finishes bitter. Best drinking: now. 15.5/20, 84/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
Lino Ramble Blind Mans Bluff Bastardo 2019
Great label, but this didn’t work for me. Spends 60 days on skins. From Chalk Hill’s California Road vineyard. A rare off, this syrupy Vale red is volatile and a bit hard, without the fruit weight to carry things. Medicinal and hard finish. Best drinking: now. 15.5/20, 84/100. 13.8%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Mojo 04 Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Limestone Coast Sauv. Bitter, pithy and angular, the raw palate lacking real flesh or ripe fruit despite the alcohol. Best drinking: now. 15.5/20, 84/100. 13.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
St Anne’s Pinot Gris 2019
From Perricoota. Brassy citrus, the palate broad and soft edged despite lacking fruit generosity and finishing sweet and sour. Skip it. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 82/100. 12%, $19.50. Would I buy it? No.
Kings of Prohibition Barossa Valley Shiraz
Plump, berried and vanilla lacquered, it’s a wine ‘made’ rather than crafted, the vanilla seems added, the whole package trite, overly sweet and confected. $14 wine. 14.5/20, 80/100. 14%, $23.95. Would I buy it? No.
Kings of Prohibition Tempranillo
I can’t find a vintage on this. Hilltops Tempranillo. Dusty thin commercial Tempranillo. Juicy fruit but lean and confected.Ugh. 14.5/20, 80/100. 14%, $23.95. Would I buy it? No.
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Totally agree with your comments on the Gundog Wild Semillon 2020!!! Bring back the dry style! Can’t drink this new style.