Hot on the heels of this month’s Almost Club (highlighting wines that didn’t make the silver medal standard), here is a selection of ten wines that DID make it (if only just).
As a warm-up, Zema’s Shiraz 2018 below is the sort of wine that I’m happy to shout from the rooftop – honest red wine at a super price.
Zema Estate Shiraz 2018
I think this might be the best of the current Zema releases. The bottle age helps a lot, but also, a reminder that Coonawarra Shiraz can be great. Lush purple fruit is the key here – a long slick of purpleness. Ultra youthful it is too – some cool mint and that Coonawarra dark chocolate truffle in amongst the purple fruit ripeness. Maybe a bit warm, but not derailing alcohol heat. Character at a very fair price.
Best drinking: now to ten years easy. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $26.99. Would I buy it? Worth two glasses.
Angullong Fossil Hill Montepulciano 2021
Ripeness can be a struggle at Angullong (both over and under). This Monte is better, with a wave of plum conserve fruit driving it. I like seeing some furry fig and ‘underside of a fern’ leafiness that makes you feel like it could come from the Abruzzo. It’s a bit firm and drying to finish, but that also feels like Abruzzo Monte (and makes this substantial). Goes ok.
Best drinking: over the next five years before it dries out. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? Maybe a glass.
Centare Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
I liked the 2021, although this is a step behind. Warm vintage Yarra Cabernet in a transitional phase. That’s the vibe. It’s only medium-bodied but still ripe, the pencil-shaving Yarra claret mode of the 2021 version swapped for something a bit chubbier and cuddlier. Solid Cabernet that can’t work out whether it’s going to be rich and plush or refined and elegant, not helped by the vintage warmth and dry finish.
Best drinking: later. This should get better. 17/20, 90/100+. 13.5%, $65. Would I buy it? A glass.
Clandestine Break Free Nouveau Cabernet Franc 2022
Albany fruit for this Clandestine boundary pusher. Fun wine too. Wild ferment, matured in tank. Bright ruby thing all lollied red fruit, with some of the carbonic maceration confectoin to it, competing with a little Cab Franc herbs. Sancerre rouge? It’s a bit simple for that, but pretty enjoyable, driven by the juicy and lightly tannic palate, all fun and easy. It’s not particularly intense, and the fruit is just up to the task – the tannins and acid threaten to overtake it, especially if you actually did serve it cold (which the notes suggesT0, but a fun nouveau style with some character and nice pithy tang.
Best drinking: right now. 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $29.99. Would I buy it? A glass.
Down to Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2021
This is the second label of the Terre à Terre Crayères Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and much the same vibe. That also means it’s not ready. Handpicked Wrattonbully fruit, with 40% of the blend barrel fermented and matured in oak, the complete cuvee blend spending circa 9 months on lees. The neutral palate shows little aside from subtle barrel ferment phenolics and the barest hint of lemon cream. The length is there, with this thrumming acidity, but gee, you’re grasping at flavour (or I was). Fundamentals look sound, though. Come back next year.
Best drinkin’: give it a year. 17/20, 90/100+. 12.8%, $32. Would I buy it? A glass now.
Gambit Wines Jaya Shiraz 2021
Gambit Wines is the new label for Sydney wine sales legend Sanjay Chhabra (formerly of Fourth Wave Wine) and Australian Wine Review lurker (hi Sanjay). This is Barossa Shiraz from the Cowham & Grope vineyards and made by Corey Ryan. So Sons of Eden type fruit source, with the Sons of Eden winemaker. 15% whole bunches in the wild ferment, 10 months in one-year-old oak. This has plenty of the Sons of Eden DNA too. Bright purple colours, with a gummy mulberry and blueberried palate that is juicy and mouthfilling, with just a little chocolate paste oak and a whisper of warmth. Soft, plush and very purple-fruited. Pretty simple wine, but gee, it’s going to be popular.
Best drinking: now to five years. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gundog Estate Hunter’s Semillon 2022
How patient are you feeling? This Hunter Semillon is going to take a long time to come around. Water-clear green, it’s so tight, with green apple fruit taking a back seat for the acidity, with a dash of pyrazine and lettuce. Is it too lean? The acid isn’t hard, and the structure is assured, but you’ve got to know your Sem to see this evolve beyond a green-fruited white.
Best drinking: not now. Come back in four years. 17/20, 90/100+. 11%, $30. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Harewood Estate Pinot Noir 2022
Always a bargain, although I think the last vintage was better. All Denmark (the WA Denmark, not the one we beat in the World Cup) fruit. Light, bright ruby coloured – it looks pretty fresh and inviting. Smells it, too, with glacé raspberry and a bit of cherry, plus a twist of bark and new leather. It’s a varietal, juicy, ripe and open sort of wine if just a little bitter and smoky on the finish. Pretty good drinking.
Best drinking: probably best from next year, then over the next few years. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? A glass.
Head Rosé 2022
Barossan Grenache. Despite the pale colour, this is a ripe rosé, with coppery fruit highlights, just a little strawberry juice and a little musk. Quite long too. This has length plus a little warmth and grip. I like that this has actual flavour if just a little tutti frutti sweetness whisper.
Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass.
Hungerford Hill Classic Shiraz 2021
This Hunter Valley Shiraz is part of the ‘Classic’ range, though you wouldn’t know that as it doesn’t say it on the label. Tricky. Anyway, Bryan Currie still has the best hair in wine and has made a wine of easy appeal. Purple berry fruit, easy and open, acidity juts in on the finish, but lots of purple fruit. Little tannins, and the acidity is a bit jaunty, but lots of purple fruit.
Best drinking: no hurry. Over the next eight years for a start. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass.
Quartz Hill Syrah 2019
Want to taste what a dry year in the Pyrenees looks like? Here you go. Firm and drying, this feels warmer, thicker and more desiccated than the 13.8% alc. might suggest. The vanilla ice cream oak lifts it up, the extractive palate sucks the life out of you with its rawness. Unquestioned power, though – it’s an absolute powerhouse of a wine, with intensity plus. It feels like it’s attacking your palate though.
Best drinking: I’d go earlier in case it dries out even more. 17/20, 90/100. 13.8%, $42. Would I buy it? A glass.
Small Gully Wines Pilgrim Shiraz 2018
A typically idiosyncratic wine from Small Gully, which is famous for larger-than-life Barossan reds. Bottle number 001604. Ultra-thick fruit cake style with liqueur plum mega-rich fruit, a warm syrupy palate and an unfortified Barossa port feel. Still, plenty of youth, even if the brick dust creeps in. It’s not heavy to finish either – just generous. Of a style, I can admire the flavours here, even if it’s too luscious for mine.
Best drinking: over the next decade. It will not fall over. 17/20, 90/100. 15.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Probably not.