I haven’t been tasting as much this week after Miss 2 brought home a virus from daycare and took out the whole house like a rogue wave at a Nippers carnival. It’s not the ‘rona, but not much has been opened recently. I was lucky to get to Canberra and back before the sickness onslaught.
Thankfully I have a backlog of decent wines that have passed the desk in recent weeks.
Importantly, every single one of these wines scored a silver medal or better on my scale AND weighs in at $30 or less. It’s a value drinking smorgasbord.
Brand & Sons Last Sunday Drive Cabernet Franc 2019
Now here’s an outlier, a straight Coonawarra Cab Franc. Sam Brand’s well priced Franc sits very much in the right bank Bordeaux mode too with this riot of ripe red raspberry liqeuer fruit with a streak of varietal mint for good measure. It’s medium bodied, the oak supporting, the fruit the star performer in a thicker, richer mode. The only distraction is the slightly astringent tannins and sticky out alcohol. Can’t derail a smart wine and v. well priced. Best drinking: now to ten years easy. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $26. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Geoff Merrill Bush Vine SGM 2014
I always like how Geoff Merrill’s wines lob with a bit of bottle age. Aged and built to age. Here, it’s a riff on a McLaren Vale GSM blend. The Shiraz dominance works too – chocolatey rich purple fruit, with Grenache adding the red fruit highlights. It’s medium to full bodied, chunky, and ultimately fruit drenched. Old school heartiness rather than modern swish and polish, with surprising life for its age. Entirely solid wine. Best drinking: good now and for another decade if you want. But I’d drink in the next five. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5, $28. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Silkwood Estate The Walcott Pinot Noir 2019
I’m not sure what has happened at Silkwood, but the wine quality has jumped up several notcheds in the past two vintages. Especially this Pemberton Pinot Noir, which is much improved. Bright, varietal, raspberries it’s still a riper Pinot that leans towards warmth and some dry red bitterness to finish, but the sappy, mouthfilling fruit is the trade-off. There’s genuine Pinosity here, even if you’d never call it delicate. Best drinking: I’d go over the next five years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Silkwood Estate The Walcott Shiraz 2018
See above. Plush, chunky and earthen Shiraz with a distinctive Pemberton tang. Great tannins, savoury yet generous too. It’s really smart. Nudges 18/20, 93/100, though there’s a late green olive leanness. Still very good. Best drinking: oh over the next eight years say. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Well worth a few glasses.
Bremerton Coulthard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Speaking of improvements, the throttle has been pulled back on the Bremerton wines and they look all the better for it. Still round, full and bold wines, but less extract and a little more balance. This Coulthard is such a crowd-pleaser too. A cavalcade of blackberry, and less mint. Still a wall of tannins in the true Langhorne mode. It’s not sophisticated, but a lot of flavour for very few dollars. Best drinking: now or for many years yet. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $22. Would I buy it? A glass or so.
Clandestine Vineyards Grenache 2018
Blewitt Springs Grenache. Lots of the Clandestine wines have underwhelmed but this is much better. The hero here is the fruit that shines through in this raspberry fruited, gently earthen and vibrant form. Well handled, bright and very likeable approachable red. Best drinking: go nowish. It won’t fall over, but right now is a good time. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Geoff Merrill Jackos Shiraz 2015
Lavish. So much oak you can almost see it. Works though – a vanillan slick on top of smooth polished fruit. Too much oak, sure, but plump and powerful. I can’t doubt the appeal here, that ultra choc flow almost unstoppable, even if it’s something of a caricature wine. Best drinking: now or in DECADES. It’s not going anywhere thanks to the concentration of fruit + oak. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Not really. But I know plenty of people who will love this.
Hofer Lagrein 2019
Langhorne Creek Lagrein. Why not? Dark, inky and ripe style in the dark mode, oak adding further layers to the minty berry fruit. There’s layers here to take it beyond just another non-varietal alternate red – mint and licorice on the nose, the glacé fruit palate held back by prominent acidity. Quite a success really, if a big and bountiful sort of wine. More Langhorne than Lagrein (we’re not in Alto Adige anymore Toto!) but not without thick, plum soaked charm. Tastes warmer than 13.5% and loads of acid too. Solid. Best drinking: This will likely improve with bottle age. Maybe better again in 2-3 and it will live. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $25. Would I buy it? Maybe a glass.
Kurtz Boundary Row Cabernet Shiraz 2017
As with all the Kurtz wines, this is unquestionably a big red. Thick, oak rich Barossan with chocolate oak and dark fruit, the palate chunky and drying if substantial. Oak is mega, alcohol is warm, the whole package overdelivering in intensity. Come for the big wine, stay for the pricetag. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass.
Oakridge Over the Shoulder Cabernet Merlot 2020
Dear God I hope they don’t change much at Oakridge now that Woolworths have taken over. Dave Bicknell is staying on, which bodes well for the future. Chapel Hill hasn’t suffered after changing hand either. Fingers crossed, hey? Meanwhile, this is mighty well priced Yarra luncheon red. Just mid-weight, classy furry tannins to chew on, just enough ripe fruit. Great drink and so substantial. More please. Best drinking: now or in a decade. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.2%, $24. Would I buy it? Heck yes.
Zontes Footstep Love Symbol Grenache 2019
The Grenache-based reds are typically my favourites from Zontes Footstep and this is a very likeable wine. Generous, loaded with raspberry fruit pastilles, it’s all fruit, with little oak or tannins to speak of. The fruit intensity is what propels this into a silver medal score – not shortage of juiciness here. Best drinking: now to five years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Zonte’s Footstep Super Trooper Shiraz Cabernet 2018
A contrast to the Love Symbol and sure to please. Plump, rich and oak tannin led Fleurieu red. It’s a bit raw and four square but no doubting the easy appeal. Less oak wouldn’t hurt. Plenty of drinkers will love the grunt of the oak tannin drive. Will likely get better too and not short. Best drinking: drinkable now, better given it a year or two, and then drink over ten years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz 2018
Another entrant in the ‘big but not as hard anymore’ club. Still luscious and so very Langhorne. Sweet vanilla oak. Sweet, if sticky thick and very ripe, blackberried palate. So Bremerton. So big. No doubting the flourishing dark fruit, even if it’s a little warm. A big, bold, juicy South Australian Shiraz in that classic mode at a fair price. Best drinking: over the next seven or eight years just for a start. It will probably last longer than that. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5% $22. Would I buy it? A glass.
Clandestine Vineyards Malbec 2019
This is a curious wine. It works, but by the same token it could be a lot better with some Cabernet. Like it’s a blending component, and there is another half a wine out there. Still, a mid weight, slightly minty, very Margaret River red, with this mid palate of classy red fruit, then capped off with brimfuls of (slightly underripe) tannins. Plenty of varietal dark fruit savouriness and carry here, but it could and should be even better. Best drinking: from now to at least eight years. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
d’Arenberg The Anthropocene Epoch Mencia 2019
Gee, they process a few grapes varieties at d’Arenberg. It’s not quite Brown Brothers levels (I counted 32 varieties available last visit to the Brown Bros. cellar door. That was an off day). This Mencia is hardly threatening the best of Ribeira Sacra, but there is joy here. Bright purple fruit, a little varietal leaf litter, then typical tilled earth d’Arenberg tannins. It feels more d’Arenberg than Mencia, the middle palate thick and bumped up with oak, alcohol and bitter tannins finishing it off. Just a solid McLaren Vale red really, save for the leaf litter edged tannins. It could be an unnamed red blend. It could be anything. Still joy, but no definitive anything beyond being a good Vale red. Best drinking: over the next five years before the tannis take over. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Harewood Estate Pinot Noir 2020
Good clean, inexpensive Pinot fun, with exuberant red fruit, nothing else. It’s more like a ripe Gamay, all juicy dark fruit. Not much else needed to be said, save for to complement the intended style. An easy win. Best drinking: immediately. It will also take a chill. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $20. Would I buy it? A glass.
Kurtz Boundary Row GSM 2018
Thick, lavishly oaked and very ripe, all fruit cake and chocolate berries, the tannins from oak, the exact varietal mix difficult to pick. Still a satisfying big Barossan red, but it’s too ripe, too dense and fudgey, to be noble. That treacly palate will definitely win over punters though and it gets a silver medal equivalent on concentration alone. Best drinking: will be better in time and last for a decade or more. 17/20, 90/100. 15%, $28. Would I buy it? Not really my bag.
Kurtz Boundary Row Shiraz 2017
As with all the Kurtz recent red releases this is RIPE. Lucky the alcohol % on the label is so small you can’t read it. A huge coffeed wall of rum and raisin, chocolate in a lavish, if slightly drying form. That hedonistic palate is going to win friends, but the balance is a bit awry. It’s so substantial that I’m still passing it, but I’m not sure I could finish a glass. Best drinking: I guess now? 17/20, 90/100. 15%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Sans Pareil Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Chunky, minty and tannic big boned Langhorne Creek Cabernet. Big tannins, plenty of oak. Plenty of dark choc mint flavour. Reminds me of an old Wolf Blass red. It’s actually not a bad wine if you view it through a Langhorne lens – those big flavours are going to seduce plenty. It’s worthy. Best drinking: worth a few years in the cellar and then drink over ten plus years. 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
Silkwood Estate The Bowers Pinot Noir 2020
Like the Harewood, this does exactly what it should. Has a bit more depth than the simple fruit of the Harewood, even if it’s less exuberant. A well priced Pemberton Pinot regardless. Raspberry mulch, ripe, generous, mulchy and yet with a solid core of dark fruit. This is very approachable, it’s not sophisticated, or is it that complex. But it’s raspberried, has some spice and carry, and varietal. A win. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $20. Would I buy it? A glass or so.