Not all wines can be great. Plenty are just ok drinks. And some are just bad.
Here is a selection of wine that almost made it in December 2021 & January 2022.
As ever, some of these wines are fine everyday drinks. No drama, just good drinking for few dollars, and solid bronze medal winners (like the Running From Bulls Garnacha or the Longhop wines). Others are genuine disappointments, where you look at the price and think ‘what the fuck happened here?’.
Even Keel Field Blend 2019
The only misstep in the range. A blend of Mornington Peninsula Cortese & Gewurztraminer co-fermented and matured for 12 months in old oak (it even goes through malo). Golden, honeyed nose, with a bit talc for good measure. Golden, nutty palate is a broad-brush of nutty flavour yet it’s more about the winemaking and ageing rather than fruit. That’s the rub here – it’s a bit faded, then the firm acidty kicks in to make it even less generous. Texture is up there – plenty going on – but broad for mine.
Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12%, $35. Would I buy it? No.
Longhop Merlot 2020
Barossa Valley Merlot in a chunky, warm-hearted, plump Merlot mode that is all fruit. Licorice, fruit cake, plump flavour. It’s exactly what you’d want in a $20 Merlot, if round, soft and raisined at the edges. Plenty drinkable.
Best drinking: nowish. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Longhop Shiraz 2020
Thick, syrupy and dense this year. It’s fudgey, with soft tannins and this wall of choc cherry fudge flavour, sweet oak and minimal tannins. I get the mode, and unquestioned density though. So much wine for the money. Is it smashable? That’s the clincher. A little OTT for me.
Best drinking: nowish. No major hurry. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Running With Bulls Garnacha 2021
Less oak, more fruit in this joven style Barossan red. Juicy, primary, berry-laden Grenache with a lovely flow of fruit, very light tannins, no oak. Carbonic juiciness, a zip of acidity to finish, lots of fun. Not super serious – it doesn’t hang around – but good vital drinking.
Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass or so.
Woodstock Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
When a little more freshness wouldn’t go astray. This is solid, old-school McLaren Vale Cabernet, the nose all caramel chew, cooked berries, more McLaren Vale than Cabernet, lots of chunky dark fruit, lots of oak, a real blackness to the whole package. Heavy-handed oak and the fruit feels overripe though. Has presence for the price, regardless.
Best drinking: over the next ten years, easy. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $26. Would I buy it? No.
In Dreams Chardonnay 2020
Loved the Pinot and the Rising Chardonnay, but this In Dreams Chardonnay is too lean. Sulphide funk, but mainly acidity. It’s too firm, to the point of feeling stripped – funky acid water. Has some complexity and sure it’s fresh. But misses a whole beat of flavour.
Best drinking: nowish, I guess. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Ross Hill Maya Chardonnay 2021
Gently textured, just-bottled style of modern Orange Chardonnay with a flourish of ripe white peach fruit. It feels underdone, the whisper of nutty oak sits separate to the buzzy fruit, the palate angular and fractionally raw. There’s clearly quality fruit in there, but more would be more.
Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.9%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Small Gully Wines The Concoction Cabernet Shiraz 2013
Curious wines these Small Gully. Very ripe and yet hold up ok. This is in pretty good health for its age. Some bricking. Brick dust on the palate signals the fruit is moving on, but relatively generous and chocolatey. The tannins are still pretty firm, the alcohol is not as prominent as expected. It’s an ok, older ripe Barossan red.
Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 15%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Taylors Jaraman Grenache 2020
McLaren Vale Grenache. Looks varietal too, in a ripe and concentrated form. Dark red-ruby coloured, the slightly rubbery edge leads to a palate of ripe, confected raspberry fruit, firm acidity, warm alcohol. Some nice fruit at the core but gee it’s a pretty raw and made wine. Not quite my bag, but it’s going to win wine show medals for that concentration.
Best drinking: over the next five years for a start. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $34. Would I buy it? No.
Woodstock Audacity Rosé 2021
Rosé made using Vermentino, Grenache & Mataro from McLaren Vale. Juicy sort of pink that’s basically a white wine with its stone fruit, a flash of pink grapefruit, plus strawberries and cream. It’s a bit stark on the finish but the fruit sweetness makes this a pretty easy wine. Ok.
Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 11.5%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
Woodstock Naughty Monte Montepulciano 2019
I’m fascinated by anyone focusing on Monte. There are so few glorious wines out there, even in Italy. Solid drinks, sure, but profundity? Often lacking. Lots of leathery red fruit in this McLaren Vale red with lots of drying raspy tannins too. Noticeable acidity. This needs a bit more fruit to cope with the tannins. Gee it’s leathery and firm. Grunty, if that’s your bag.
Best drinking: over the next five years, before it starts drying out. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Berton Vineyards The Vermentino 2021
Simple varietal fare with crunchy pear juice, sour acidity and an easy finish. It’s a straightforward, but varietal, wine at a good price. Lingers on the palate enough too. Good $14 drink.
Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $14. Would I buy it? A glass.
Berton Vineyards Winemaker’s Reserve Fiano 2021
Gently varietal with a little honeysuckle. Light, simple pear juice palate. It’s an easy sort of summer drink, if a little cardboardy. Ok.
Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 11.5%, $16. Would I buy it? No.
Dalfarras Sangiovese 2019
A curious mix of Clare Valley & Goulburn Valley fruit. Tries to be authentic but comes across as dusty and a bit raw. There is a varietal berry fruit but a cardboard edge. Reminds me of the generic Tuscan reds. Fair price I guess.
Best drinking: nowish. 16/20, 87/100. 14%, $19.70. Would I buy it? No.
Gundog Indomitus Rosa 2021
Hilltops Nebbiolo. An odd rosé this. Earthy grippy palate is pale and tight but has this flourish of cherry and pink grapefruit, yet there’s an odd, earthen, sweet and sour fruit/acid balance on the palate that just doesn’t work. Despite the intensity and ambition, I don’t find this appealing.
Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12%, $45. Would I buy it? No.
Quilty & Gransden Chardonnay 2019
Orange Chardonnay. Probably the least interesting and cheap tasting wine in the range, with tinned pear and hessian the palate lacking fruit intensity and with minimal winemaking complexity.
Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $15. Would I buy it? No.
Librandi Segno Librandi Ciro Bianco 2020
100% Greco from Calabria. Light, crisp and gentle waxy with a ripe pear and honeysuckle vibe and some Celery, the palate is generous and yet crisp with a breezy sort of waxy flavour. Easy. Much better than the red below. It’s a bit short, but it’s ok. A $15 wine for quality.
Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $26.99. Would I buy it? No.
Small Gully Wines Black Magic Shiraz 2017
Admittedly, this is not my preferred style, but even then the balance isn’t right on this Barossan heavyweight. It’s a tarry black thing like the name – treacly, very ripe and drying black-fruited red. Heady volatiles, the nose and palate more burning alcohol heat than fruit, scorching finish rounds it out. I get the intention, but this just tastes like spirit. Would be better used to make port.
Best drinking: who knows. Now. 16/20, 87/100. 16.2%, $120. Would I buy it? No.
Fringe Société Chardonnay 2020
Basic ‘grown somewhere in the south of France’ Chardonnay. Marzipan, sunny golden fruit, something chubby and vaguely oak related on the back palate, tight finish. Generic stuff, but well packaged and clean. Jacobs Creek does better than this for half the price.
Best drinking: now. 15.8/20, 86/100. 13.5%, $22. Would I buy it? No.
Hewitson Miss Harry GSM 2020
A bit underdone this year and showing the vintage challenges. Dusty jubey sort of wine that’s just a bit muddled, with a plasticky mulberry palate then both syrupy flavours and jaunty acidity. Not feeling this – it tastes cheap.
Best drinking: nowish. 15.8/20, 86/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Hill-Smith Estate Wild Ferment Eden Valley Chardonnay 2021
I don’t get it. Shades of peach fruit, but mainly citrus acidity. It’s so achingly neutral. Reminds me of the bad old days of unwooded Chardonnay.
Best drinking: now. 15.5/85/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Dalfarras Nero d’Avola 2019
Dusty berries and cardboard. It’s a tinny sort of wine, with a lack of fruit and this cheap tasting leanness and then a tart finish. Early picked/overcropped or young vines – there is Venn diagram intersection there. The cardboard vibe is more like sub $10 fare though. No.
Best drinking: now. 15/20, 83/100. 13%, $19.70. Would I buy it? No.
Librandi Segno Librandi Ciro Rosso Classico 2019
Gaglioppo from Calabria. Raspberry and ironstone. Rustic and ferrous without the fruit to cope with the drying ferrous tannins. Knockabout €3 red from the local supermercato, no more.
Best drinking: now. 15/20, 83/100. 13.5%, $26.99. Would I buy it? No.