Not all wines can be great. Plenty are just ‘ok drinks’, and some are just bad…
Here is a selection of 13 wines that almost made it in May 2022.
An important note with the array of Aldi wines at the bottom of this list – when you look at the price, and the drinkability, these are wins, not losses. The Almost Club celebrates wines that are just good, and wines like the Beaujolais below are honest, simple finds that do precisely what they should for very few dollars. The Domaine A, however? Yeah, nah.
Dalwood Estate Chardonnay 2021
I like the reborn Dalwood Estate wines, even if this Hunter Chardonnay is simple. Real golden flavours, despite the low alcohol, with toasty richness a first flavour. But it’s a ruse – underneath, this is pretty lean and lightish. There is fruit flavour, flinty reduction, new oak vanilla bean ice cream, and some nutty caramel from oak. It’s very much an old-school Hunter with a broad-brushed, chunky flavour to start, but then it ends up tart and a bit less convincing. Pleasant enough, but a blunt object of two halves. Best drinking: nowish, no hurry. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Longview Vista Grigio Gruner 2021
Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio and Gruner Veltliner. Why not? It’s an easy fresh white with green, chalky melon fruit and a bit of celery. The palate is easy, with some ripe fruit sweetness, the palate then tending a little crunchy and dry. Nothing alarming. Not much going beyond simple fruit going on here, though. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $23. Would I buy it? A glass.
Tokar Estate White Label Chardonnay 2020
This is a rare miss from Yarra Valley’s Tokar Estate, although this may right itself more in time. This vintage has more golden ripe flavour, riper and fuller, but the acidity is tart. Some reductive winemaking funk on the nose, with lots going on, but it’s sweet and sour on the palate. Gangly. It will need some time to come together as the palate looks ok – good nutty golden fruit and citrus acidity underpins the thing. Off form for now. Best drinking: next year, it’s worth another look. 16.8/20, 89/100+. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Chapel Hill The Parson Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
Gee, these ‘Parson’ wines from Chapel Hill are well-priced given the flavour volume. Ripe and breathy nose, some stewed berries, caramel oak. The firm, drying, boozy palate is very substantial – it feels like declassified barrels from something much more expensive. Thick, drying and firm. Too warm, sure, and clunky (represented in the score), but great power at this price. Best drinking: good now, will live for five years, easy. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? A glass.
Howard Park Arbor Novae Pinot Gris 2020
Mount Barker Gris with a little skin contact. You wouldn’t pick it, though – it’s just a little apple skin fruit, crisp fruit, and the alcohol is warmer than expected. It leans towards acidity and feels a bit washed out at the same time. Better last year? Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc 2021
Nothing shy about this white. Lots of passionfruit grassy Marlborough Sauv character here, but the palate tends towards gritty and clumsy sweet/sour fruit and raw acid (and alcohol) on the palate. Big impact, but a caricature wine. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Soumah Chardonnay d’Soumah 2021
The entry point for Soumah Chardonnay looks a bit light on. Bright peachy, easy Yarra Valley Chardonnay of just-ripe peach juice, minimal oak, and a light and fresh personality. Misses a beat for mine. Bst drinking: will improve with a year in bottle. Drink it soonish after that. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? No.
Marques del Atrio Rioja Reserva 2016
Ald exclusive. Purple fruit. Quite primary in the glass too. The oak then hits with some vague caramel oak bitterness, and the fruit fades away. Savoury and authentic enough, though. Unremarkable. That oak lift and fruit on the nose ultimately fades into something a bit, well faded. But for $11.99? Hey, it does the trick. Best drinking: now. 16.3/20, 87/100. 14%, $11.99. Would I buy it? No.
Charles Renoir Beaujolais 2020
Aldi exclusive. Generic Beaujolais, but in a style with body and a bit of grip. More Bourgogne rouge contender really. Purple colours. Texta and red lolly fruit, a big of warmth, a rustic grip. It’s true to type, has grip and body, and tastes as it should. Not exactly pure or even light, but that’s part of the mode. Highly drinkable at this price. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $10.99. Would I buy it? A glass.
Domaine A Pinot Noir 2016
These old Domaine A Pinots are a roulette game (as I touch in here), and this is a miss. Still great colour, typical for the label – reddish and almost purple. Lipstick, black Texta and currant, very ripe fruit on the nose. The palate lurches between ripe, nay, stewed fruit, mulchy development, bitterness, and alcohol. Sheesh. It’s still intense and no question about the length, but it’s not exactly a balanced affair. Nope. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5%, $85. Would I buy it? No.
Les Argelières Pinot Noir 2020
Aldi exclusive. Pays d’Oc. Bright and jammy little Pinot. It’s both vegetative and confected, but you get the Pinot flavour for very few dollars. Not super clean, but loads of fruit. Exactly what a cheap Pinot should be. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 13% $10.99. Would I buy it? No.
L’Expression du Gamay 2020
Aldi exclusive. Simple vin de France. Purple fruit. Leaf litter. Has a little unripe raspiness, but there is enough purple fruit crunch to make it work. Straightforward table wine but clean and well made. Best drinking: now. 15.5/20, 85/100. 12%, $8.99. Would I buy it? No.
The Birds & The Bees Organic Shiraz 2021
Aldi exclusive. Made by Fourth Wave Wines for Aldi and a coup to have organic wine at this price. Jubey, pulpy and nondescript red juice it is, though. Cardboardy, with very tart acidity and not enough interest. You’re paying for the organic certification for what is a sub $10 wine. Best drinking: now. 15/20, 83/100. 14%, $11.99. Would I buy it? No.