Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Joyous Festivus (take your pick of chosen intro).
This has been a very weird Christmas for us.
Here, situated in the only part of Australia in lockdown, Christmas was very different. Or not really, because of a brief hiatus that meant we were allowed to have a handful of visitors. Although, only certain visitors, and no one from the northern part of the Northern Beaches. Oh, and only until midnight last night.
Still, it could always be worse (a shout out to friends across the US/UK/EU in even tighter lockdowns) and we managed to shoehorn some of the family into our two bedroom unit regardless (which was hilarious).
What it did mean was that I opened less than half of the wines I expected to open. Even then, what I really liked wasn’t expected either. It was a weird Christmas.
Here then, is a roundup of the drinks of the last 2 days, in the order in which they were opened (over lunch and dinner).
Yulli’s Amanda Mandarin IPA
Fruit and IPA is what everyone is doing right now and mostly it’s a recipe for ruining good beers and wasting fruit. But this is a surprise. The background citrus tang is a balancer and the aromatics work nicely as a contrast. Sessionable. 6.7%. 3.5 stars, nudging 4.
Veuve Fourny Blanc de Blancs NV
Last year, the Cuvée R was a serious highlight. Now, this BdB drops in to remind that Veuve Fourny is a great Champagne house. This is so sophisticated for what is an affordable NV. Chalk and lemon, pithy yet expansive, it’s more like 1er cru grower Champagne than any notion of mass-market bubbles. What a highlight. 18/20, 93/100. 12%.
Deep Woods Reserve Chardonnay 2016
Age doth not weary. Instead it gives a welcome maturity. It’s still nutty, grapefruit backed and taut to finish, but there’s softer edges now too. A delicious and so satisfying full-tilt, yet classically contained, Chardonnay. Why bother with Burgundy? 18.7/20, 95/100. 13%
Rouleur Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2017
Hard to place a winner between this and the Deep Woods. There’s more funk here, it’s more svelte and lean, less grilled nut oak and more whipped butter winemaker influence. And gee it’s clever. Involving. Modern yet not edgy. Such satisfaction. Buy all the Rouleur Chardonnay you can. 18.7/20, 95/100. 13%
Domaine A. et P. de Villaine Bouzeron 2018
After the previous wines this looked angular and ungenerous, pure yet unyielding and a bit mean. But it’s a diversion as this is just a vital white wine that champions Aligote. Maybe not profound, the mode more like AC Chablis in stature. Enjoyable, but the other, considerably cheaper Chardonnay wines were clearly a step above. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%
Clyde Park D-19 Single Block Pinot Noir 2019
Serious Geelong Pinot. This block is on the south side of the properly and it’s a leaner wine for Clyde Park, yet warm to finish too. Cola nut and cranberry, the palate warmer than expected. Quite an array of flavour here, but the ripeness feels a bit mixed. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%
Giaconda Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
The final vintage of Giaconda Cabernet and it feels like an outlier – a leafy and slightly severe Beechworth Cabernet, with leaf litter, pencil shavings and dark fruit. Cool and mature, there’s cool class to the tannins and prominent acidity, but it’s not an easy wine. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%
Balter/Garage Project Dry Haze IPA
The new 375ml can release and gee what a great beer. Snappy, well handled bitterness and this subtle Passiona vibe. Delicious. Glad I bought 4. 4.5 stars. 6%.
Clover Hill Cuvée Exceptionnelle Blanc de Blancs 2014
Oxidised. A shame as the other recent Clover Hill releases have been really impressive #fuckyoucork. NR
Tellurian Tranter Shiraz 2017
Molten, ripe and slightly breathy Heathcote Shiraz. Despite the warm and slightly dessicated edges it retains some charcuterie in amongst the VP-in-the-making mode. Good, although maybe not quite the balance. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%
Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2020
Another solid release. Pretty classic gooseberry passionfruit Sauv nose. Varietal, ripe enough, maybe a little too simple to be great. Big flavour though. Good. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.5%
Bollinger NV (en magnum)
After the Veuve Fourny this came across as a pale Champagne imitation. Bottle variation? Possible, but this flat, broad bottle wasn’t a great showing at all. There’s still a class to the winemaking but I’ve had better $35 Aus NV recently. 16.8/20, 89/100
Clyde Park B3-19 Single Block Chardonnay 2019
From a block planted in 1995 to Penfolds P-58 clones. 60% new oak. 91 cases produced. Quite fine and delicate, with fine white peach, the oak a prominent force of milky nutty flavour. I feel like the oak whacks the palate around a bit, dominating the white peach fruit flavour. Good, but feels like artifice as the first play, when clearly it’s quality underneath. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%
Clyde Park C-19 Single Block Chardonnay 2019
From the original block planted in 1979. 75% new oak, partial malo, made by Matt Holmes at Bannockburn. Grapefruit and white peach, the oak an obvious presence. It’s a more complex wine than the B block, a nice mod Chard but a little oaky. Missing a second gear of complexity and flavour that will likely come. A second glass was better after it had been open a while. Wait. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%
Clyde Park Pinot Noir 2019
Bright and raspberried Pinot. Rather simple red fruit, a flourish of stem influence, some surprising alcohol too. This is a bit simple for the dollars. 17/20, 90/100. 13%
One Drop Venom WCIPA
This is very good beer. A potent, boozy and rather classic West Coast style. I didn’t take extensive notes, but really enjoyed the powerhouse style. 4.5 stars. 7.1%
Zonte’s Footstep Violet Beauregard Malbec 2019
Bright and juicy, purple coloured red. It’s all fruit, all mulberry plum, no tannins and warm alcohol. It’s an easy wine to like, even if there’s not much happening beyond fruit. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%.
Soumah Tranquillo Brachetto 2020
Sweetness has been pared back in this year’s edition. It’s now a semi sweet Yarra style of pink grapefruit and sultana flavour. Simple fun, but maybe even less delicious with less sweetness. 16/20, 87/100. 11.5%
One Drop x Deep Creek Hazy IPA
Smells great, tastes great, until you get the resinous finish. I like bitterness, but the tail end here lingers with aggressive astringency. I couldn’t finish the can. 2 stars. 7.3%
Gundog Estate Marksman’s Shiraz 2019
Canberra Shiraz that’s too young by half. A waft of vanilla bean but it’s not an oaky wine – more mid-weight and juicy, driven by cooked plum fruit that get a little indistinct to finish. That’s the clincher here – it’s stuck between being a big ripe wine and something more nuanced, and the bright fruit muddies things further. A wine clearly still in motion. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%
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Merry Christmas, Andrew.
Thanks for the insightful reviews this year.
That’s quite the variety of drinks!
We were fairly low key and mainstream this year. 2 x Verve (pink and brut), Oakridge rose (Garden Gris – really like this one, lower alcohol – 11.6% and unfined/filtered), Port Phillip Morillon Pinot noir.