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 to a pass mark (silver medal standard) in December.
Notably, there were a bunch of wines in here that were just plain faulty. Mercaptans, oxidation. Who even bottles these things, let alone sends them out for review?
Chapel Hill The Parson Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2019
This is what affordable GSM styles are all about. Bright and juicy Grenache fruit, plump flavours, minimal oak, minimal fuss, plenty of jubey fruit. Simple pleasures done well. The only thing missing is a bit more beyond light fruit for higher marks. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14%, $18. Would I buy it? Sure would.￼
Clyde Park Chardonnay 2019
Ripe fruit, but pared back winemaking, still dealing in figs and honeydew, minimal oak and a slightly sour finish. Feels a bit tinny and half formed for me – like a $20 wine, not $45. Best drinking: over the next three to five years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? No.
Dalwood Estate Chardonnay 2019
I like the Shiraz, but this doesn’t move me as much. Cool white peach fruit, the palate refined and lean but ultimately a little stunted. Classy, but slightly underdone style. Pleasant enough. Best drinking: nowish I guess. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
De Bortoli Grenache Wizardry Grenache 2018
Good packaging and the Grenache Wizardry concept is a clever celebration of a grape now trending up. This doesn’t quite work, but it’s close. Lightly confected and jubey, it’s varietal and round, the mid palate fruit-sweet, the finish light and easy. It’s breezy and approachable, open and fun if very ripe. But I want more depth for there to be any sort of ‘wizardry’. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.8%, $23. Would I buy it? No.
Dirt Candy ‘The One’ Chardonnay 2019
From a 50yo (unnamed) vineyard in Pokolbin. Handpicked, wild ferment in barrel, full malo, lees stirring. Just 45 dozen produced. Strikes a nice balance between banana cream fruit, oatmeal oak and a broad palate. Will please fans of old school Chardonnay, but it cuts a slightly indistinct style despite the low alcohol. Still pleasure here. Best drinking: over the next few years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.6%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
Mandala Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Cab often feels like the odd wine out at Mandala, as it is with so many Yarra wineries. This threatens to be both ripe and leafy but settles down into something in between. A little sweet and sour and the oak doesn’t sit well, but still sings from a classic, pencil shavings and currant playbook. Slightly raw finish. It’s ok, but not a really ‘giving’ wine. Time should be kind. Best drinking: I’d wait and then drink over the next decade or so. 16.8/20, 89/100+. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Paisley Wines Boombox Shiraz 2018
Thick fudgey and oak-shaped Barossan red with substantial flavour, plenty of coffeed oak and a heartiness that obscured the fruit. It’s a bit 2×4, but will win friends with the blocky, blokey flavour. Best drinking: over the next decade. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2019
Easy going territory here. Plump, Grenachey, red fruit style. Pretty, red fruit aplenty but missing much depth beyond the pretty fruit. Fun and frisky, but I want a bit more concentration. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Tache Sparkling Rosé 2013
So close, yet so far. This is well made sparkling at a good price, but can’t quite get beyond ‘solid’. A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Pinot Meunier, it’s quite developed, but has some complexity. Lean Pinot fruit, slightly bony and sour but refreshing and pleasant. I had this in a larger lineup and it looked a step behind. On its own this is still fair drinking. Drink: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
Tellurian Marsanne 2018
The Tellurian range works, as a whole, rather well, and this doesn’t miss by much. Surprisingly subdued, all understated white peach and apple, the palate cool and light but not much going on beyond that, alcohol a late inclusion. Not quite the flavour expression really. Best drinking: nowish. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.9%, $28. Would I buy it? Maybe a glass.
Baileys of Glenrowan Nero d’Avola 2019
Light, vibrant and fruit-forward Nero. I wanted a little more blackness as the flavours are a bit fleeting. But this lively berry fruited red is certainly easy drinking, unadorned by oak and pure. Drinkable plus. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.3%, $20. Would I buy it? Worth a glass.
Brand’s Laira Blockers Chardonnay 2018
Coonawarra Chardonnay pitching at a late-90s Chardonnay drinker. Obvious golden nutty flavour, the toasty oak and yellow peach fruit jumping out from the get-go. Too blunt, from oak to hard acidity, to be great, but lovers of old school Chard will get it. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Berton Vineyard Limited Release Barossa Valley Shiraz 2018
Chunky. Super ripe purple fruit, some American oak, the palate more plum liqueur, complete with sweet alcohol at the edges. Old school and feels concocted, but plenty will love the palate concentration. A bit heady for mine. Best drinking. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $25. Would sI buy it? No.
Chapel Hill The Parson Shiraz 2019
Follows the same mode as the GSM – Bright, jubey, fruit sweet round fruit. Zero tannins. Plenty of jubey confected flavour. Easy drinking. High slurpability. Does what $18 reds should do. Best drinking: over the next 5 years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? Not for me, but it’s still a solid drink for the dollars.
Howard Park Flint Rock Chardonnay 2019
Great Southern Chardonnay. Golden yellow coloured, it’s a quite chunky wine. Not inelegant, per se, but big boned and peachy. It’s going to appeal to old school Chard drinkers but there isn’t much beyond the peachiness. Best drinking: over the next few years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%. Would I buy it? No.
Meerea Park Alexander Munro Chardonnay 2019
Plump and slightly obvious peachy style of ripe Hunter Chard. It’s simple, the oak tannins are a lasting impression and it all feels a bit tinny. I don’t quite get the intention here as it feels mid-tier quality. Best drinking. It might well improve with more time in bottle. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $50. Would I buy it? No.
Octtava Piano Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2018
I quite like the textured Susuro range, but by-and-large the Octtava wines all seem a bit blunt and heavy-handed. This white includes some new Italian oak matured parcels. Certainly some oak tannins in the mix too, with golden nutty lees and ripe fruit all piling on to give an early-noughties era palate weight that ultimately feels cumbersome. Packs some intensity in, but oak tannins are the final flavour here. Nope. Best drinking: next year and then over the next 5 years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $60. Would I buy it? No.
Octtava Piano Pyrenees Shiraz 2019
From the Malakoff vineyard. Saturated plum purple red, the alcohol wafting off as the first element. The palate too tastes warmer than 14.3%, the oak adding an extra layer to the heady palate. Big impact and quite polished too, but ultimately unbalanced. Best drinking: over the next ten years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.3%, $60. Would I buy it? No.
Peter Lehmann The Barossan Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Chunky, oak drawn Barossa Cabernet with big chubby flavours, oak tannins and a coffeed palate, the finish a bit spirity and inelegant but broad. A bit rugged and oaky, but packs in some flavour. Best drinking: over the next ten years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%. Would I buy it? No.
Soumah Al Fiori Rosato 2020
Riper, rosato-style Yarra pink. Juicy, red berries and cream, it’s full-flavoured, dry and drenched in raspberries, but feels a bit cumbersome to be really convincing. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? A bit ripe for me.
Soumah Chardonnay 2019
Otherwise known as Chardonnay d’Soumah. The kick-off point for the Soumah Chard range. It’s riper than expected, with a mid palate of generous fat and toasty fruit with a short finish. Yarra Chard on training wheels. After a while, it just tastes short. Ok, but I’m looking for more. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Tahbilk Grenache Mourvedre Rosé 2020
Just off-dry, it’s a light pink coloured, and pleasant rosé, with soft flavours and good acidity. Not profound, but pleasant commercial style. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%, $21.50. Would I buy it? No.
Tahbilk Pinot Gris 2020
Pink orange colour. It smells ripe and full but the palate pulls everything back. I want the Turkish Delight and blackcurrant the nose is promising, but the leanish and phenolic palate doesn’t quite deliver. Still, solid style with good easy appeal. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $21.50. Would I buy it? Not really.
Terre à Terre Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Ambition over drinkability. That’s the challenge with this Wrattonbully Sauv. Sour, lemony and quite aggressively acidic, the oak tannins adding even more aggression, with whispers of passionfruit at least a varietal cue. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt as it just needs time, the intensity of flavour a testament to that (hence the bronze medal score). But for now it’s stuck in a development hole with acidity as the notable character. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 13.1%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
Vino Intrepido Straight Jacket Friuliano 2019
From the Vaughan Vineyard at Tuerong on the Mornington Peninsula. A little lacking in intensity but has the varietal orange blossom signature, plus some well balanced phenolics too. Promise here, but needs more fruit weight to be convincing. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11.8%, $30.99. Would I buy it? No.
Vino Inteprido This Little Piggy Vermentino 2018
Adelaide Hills Vermentino from the Amadio vineyard. Slight skin contact tang, the bottle age giving this breadth that belies the low alcohol. It’s starting to fade a little, but the mouthfeel makes it an easy enough lunch wine. Best drinking: last year. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $27.99. Would I buy it? No.
Zonzo Estate Shiraz 2017
The Zonzo Estate Vineyard is now 25yo. This sees 20% new oak. Light and just a little confected, the fruit all blackberry gummy berries with sone spice. Elegant, yet fruit sweet, the vanilla oak filing out the palate. Finishes a bit short. Pleasant, needs more depth for higher marks. Best drinking: now to six years. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
Clandestine Vineyards Shiraz 2019
McLaren Vale Shiraz. Reductive and thin commercial Shiraz. Below par for the intentions. Best drinking: over the next five years. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
d’Arenberg The Feral Fox Pinot Noir 2018
Very ripe Adelaide Hills Pinot. Big hit of raspberry fruit but also raspberry liqueur, the finish stunted and a bit warm. Unquestioned fruit weight but utterly inelegant and clumsy. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 14% (14.5% on the sticker). $32. Would I buy it? No.
Feudo Arancio Tinchitè Rosé 2019
Juicy off dry, pink and fruity rosé. It’s fresh and exuberant but the lasting sweetness is a bit cloying. It’s going to win fans though. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Gartelmann Diedrich Shiraz 2016
Odd wine this. Orange Shiraz that’s ultra ripe. Smooth, mouthfilling and a bit fiery, the confected fruit palate turned up to 11 and yet thin to finish and less than refreshing. Nope. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 15.2%, $50. Would I buy it? No.
Hastwell & Lightfoot Fiano 2019
Indistinct Fiano that tastes riper than 12.5%. Broad and tropical with a whiff of mothballs. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
McPherson Wines MWC Shiraz Mourvedre 2018
Thick and plush, plum-fruited style that is all mid palate, the finish a bit thin, confected and commercial. Not a bad $14 red, but lacks the finish or intensity for its actual RRP. Best drinking: over the next three years. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $21.99. Would I buy it? No.
Meerea Park XYZ Chardonnay 2019
Broad, chubby and easy Hunter Chardonnay. No malo, and tart on the finish. The mid palate is where the appeal is here, as that finish is a but hard edged. This is going to win fans, but a bit rough-and-ready. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Patrick Wines P Series Rosé 2019
Juicy, fruit- sweet rosé. Pulls up dryish after the mid palate, but the acidity feels disjointed and then off-key sweetness. It’s ok. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 11.5%, $19. Would I buy it?
Salena Estate BFR 2016
BFR stands for what you think it stands for. A huge red, in a ginormous bottle. South Australian Touriga, Lagrein and Cabernet Sauvignon in an ambitious style that is maturing fast, the nose fading vanilla oak, the palate an indistinguishable red blend of ripe red grapes. Warm hearted, it doesn’t taste like Riverland fruit – you’d call it Barossa at a glance – but the palate is clumsy, the oak and oak tannins the only real feature. It’s ok. Best drinking: last year. 16/20, 87/100. 14%, $99. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Blanc de Blancs 2016
A blend of Tasmania & Victoria fruit. It smells good. Green apple, celery and a bit of custard. Yet the palate is just green apple and then falls away on the finish. Pleasant, but middling. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
Berton Vineyards White Rock Chardonnay 2018
High Eden Chardonnay. Nutty, maturing style with a fat palate but a tinny finish. Middling and tiring fast. Best drinking: last year. 15.8/86/100. 13.5%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Don’t tell Gary Shiraz 2018
Don’t tell Gary how ordinary this is. Sweet and chocolatey warm clime Shiraz from McPherson Wines with jubey fruit, inglorious oak and a slightly rough finish. Simple commercial affair. Best drinking: now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 14.5%, $23.99. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Racy Rose 2020
Off dry and vaguely candied rosé. The sweetness doesn’t work, save for the commercial appeal. Best drinking: now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 12.5%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
Chapel Hill Chardonnay 2020
McLaren Vale Chardonnay. It’s ripe, peachy and affable even if it lacks class, the finish a broad sway of clunky acidity and tinned peach fruit. Generic and unglorious. Graft the vines over to something else. Best drinking: now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 12.5%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
Grenache Wizardry Grenache Blanc 2020
Heathcote. Generic white wine with broad stonefruit and lime, the palate ultimately lacks much varietal character or flavour. Missed opportunity. 15.5/20, 85/100. 13%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Harewood Flux V Pinot Noir 2019
Tough, inelegant and warm Pinot. Despite the high alcohol it lacks much fruit, propelled along by alcohol and raspy tannins, Lifted by a smodge of oak. I don’t get it. Best drinking: nowish. 15.5/20, 85/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Schild Estate Rosé 2020
Barossa rosé. Pink coloured, the nose smells sweet and juicy, candied save for some late bitterness. I don’t see the balance here, as it’s both bitter and sweet. Best drinking: now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 12%. Would I buy it? No.
Hastwell & Lightfoot Vermentino 2019
Vaguely tropical, cardboardy sweet and sour Vermentino. Developing fast too. No. 15.3/20, 84/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Bremerton Betty & Lu Sauvignon Blanc 2020
Langhorne Creek Sauvignon Blanc. Recognisably Sauv but that’s about it. Short. Sweet and sour palate is a pale attempt at the variety, the palate finishing with a grassy sour edge. It’s flavourless white wine. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 83/100. 12%, $18. Would I buy it? No.
Fat Bastard Chardonnay 2017
Like trying to drink caramel juice. Ripe, although the buttery character here is a manipulation rather than fruit or quality oak. Sickly and cardboardy, the acid tart, the package unbalanced. Best drinking. 15/20, 83/100. 13.5%. Would I buy it? No.
Highgate Chardonnay 2019
Orange Chardonnay. Peachy, sweet and sour, the style simple and confected. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 83/100. 13.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Salena Estate You, Me and Pinot Grigio 2020
Reductive, hard and flavourless. Missing the quality here. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 83/100. 12%. Would I buy it? No.
Schild Estate Shiraz 2019
Has reductive issues – mercaptans aplenty, so bad to be offensive. I can’t believe this was bottled. Maybe a bad bottle (I hope)? Best drinking; not sure. NR. 14.5%.
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Andrew I just loved your reviews of December 30.
As a long suffering drinker who gets the same every time I stray off proper research and just goes for a bottle blind from the local, wines like these seem to be par for the course.
Thanks for having the courage to put it up.
As for the wine scores put up by our most lauded wine critic it’s basically a disgrace . But I guess they work off the premise that it sells lots of wine and most people wouldn’t know the difference.
Anyway ,congrats on your wine blog. It’s entertaining and informative