On Monday, it was a flood of reviews on wines that didn’t make the Australian Wine Review grade (which is a silver medal equivalent). But today, we have less snark, and more good times, with a swag of 23 wines that did make it over the past eight-odd weeks.
Importantly, this collection has two sides – on one hand, early drinking approachable wines, and on the other, bottles for the future that aren’t ready. Choose your poison.
Let me know if you’ve enjoyed any of these recently. Always keen to hear how they play out in real life (rather than the cold dead world of my tasting bench).
Clandestine Vineyards Break Free Shiraz Noir 2022
I rather like the wines under this lo-fi extension of the Clandestine Vineyards, with a combo of personality and imagination that rings my bell. This is Adelaide Hills Shiraz with a splash of Pinot Noir that spends six months in older oak. Minimal additions. Purple colour and purple juice. There is plenty of cool clime spice but it’s very much a purple wine. Mod weight, berries with a little ham. Moderate acidity. This is such an easy open and pulpy style yet cool and approachable, and vital. Fun and yet more serious than you think. I like. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Clandestine Vineyards Break Free Enfant de Lune Syrah 2021
Single vineyard Frankland River Syrah. Lovely stuff this – purple jube, enough acidity and some fine sandy tannins, a little late warmth but effortless red jube fruit. There is some vanilla bean oak sweetness, but the fruit is quality. Plenty fun and enjoyable. Best drinking: good now, and will live for a few years yet. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Sure.
Calabria Family Wines Alternato Malbec 2021
Another entrant from the Calabria family’s alternate varieties range. This is all Barossa fruit, and a real boysenberry plum delight. The flavours are more Barossa plum than Malbec plum, with a rich and generous mid palate driving this forward. It’s just a smidgen tart to finish, but that upfront juiciness and expanse of flavour gives enough punch to be pretty enjoyable. Best drinking: I’d go soonish. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? Worth a glass.
Colmar Estate Block 5 Riesling 2022
Colmar takes Orange Riesling dead seriously. This single-block offering is one of the drier releases in the range, and yet rather approachable, rather than defined by fierce acidity. Green melon and grapefruit, yet the palate is quite plump – ripe grapefruit juice and lime essence. Acidity folds in gently behind the juicy fruit too. Quite surprisingly in its approachability. A good drink. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.5%, $45. Would I buy it? Worth a glass.
Dalwood Estate Shiraz 2021
Bryan Currie delivers the mod Hunter plushness with this Dalwood Estate Shiraz. Loads of ripe, bright mulberry purple juice, with just a little mushrooms and earth to give savouriness to the ripe plum juice. It’s just a little warm to finish and with tangy acidity too, but it just keeps that plummy open palate in order. It’s a one-toned wine, but no doubt the force and appeal of that plump juicy palate. Best drinking: over the next ten years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? Worth a glass.
Hewitson Gun Metal Riesling 2022
There is something just a bit four-square about this Eden Valley Riesling. Florals and a sulphur whaft, it’s both forward but also classically tight and lime slatey underneath. I feel like it’s just a phase – give it time and the intensity of that concentrated limey palate will overcome the forwardness. Best drinking: later. Give it 3-4 years. 17/20, 90/100+. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Hewitson Ned & Henry’s Shiraz 2021
Plump and jubey (thanks to 100% whole berries) this is generous and full, with all old oak only aiding in the ripe black plum fruit. The tannins (and acidity) make this a bit rough-edged, but plenty of open fun through the middle. Looks warmer than 13.5%. Great open berried appeal. Best drinking: over the next decade. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $36. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Hewitson The Mad Hatter Shiraz 2021
Lovely purple-red colour. This is a bit more of a traditional wine after the open Ned & Henry’s. Glossy purple plum wine it is too. Sleek, round, maybe a bit warm and diffuse, vanilla oak giving a bit more richness to what is otherwise a dry sort of thing. I found myself waiting for the intensity to hit – it never quite does. Fractionally tart though which maybe stops the flow. Good solid, sleek Barossan red with a sort of heartiness. I like the Ned & Henrys better, but this feels rather Barossan in a made-for-the-export market chunky mode. Best drinking: over the next decade. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $50. Would I buy it? A glass.
Howard Park Grenache 2022
This is Swan Valley fruit, and great to see old vine Swan Grenache seeing some time in the sun. Sunny is about right – lots of ripe red sandy raspberry fruit. It’s not heavy, but it is very ripe with something of a confected berry juiciness. Tarry bitumen ripe fruit edge too. Still, that bright fruit and no oak to interrupt the purity. I thought it was a bit one-dimensional but there is a certain deep raspberry fruit that will bring you back for more. Best drinking: nowish. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Longhop Old Vine Shiraz 2021
Adelaide Plains fruit in this bold red. You can taste the sunshine too. Ultra plush, with soft and ultra expansive licorice plum jam fruit. It’s thick and chunky but the finish is so inviting and plush, if capped with alcohol warmth and bitterness. No questioning the intensity, even if it’s so bloody chunky. Lots of appeal. Best drinking: good now, no hurry to drink. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Oakridge 864 Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
From the original Oakridge Vineyard, this is red for the long haul. Classical treatment – 30 days on skins, 15 months in barrel. Yarra classicness. Mid weight, but with the drying deep dark red fruit of 2019. Plenty of pencil shaving and cassis varietal flavour, though it feels like a work in progress, the finish a jumble of acid and tannins. Gee, it’s long though. Worth the wait, methinks. Best drinking: wait a decade. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 13%, $96. Would I buy it? I’d like to have some in the cellar, tbh.
Oakridge Vineyard Series Hazeldene Pinot Gris 2021
Serious Yarra Gris. Handpicked fruit, whole bunch pressed with full solids to old casks for wild ferment and time on lees before bottling. Rich pear juice nose feels very Alsace. Palate tastes more of Oakridge winemaking than Gris, with a deal of reductive funk. Generous vanilla bean and ripe pear flavour that sort of gets lost in textural white land rather than Gris, then a grippy finish. Still, that palate is unquestionably interesting. Best drinking: nowish. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.2%, $30. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Old Plains Alluvium Cabernet Shiraz 2021
Adelaide Plains Cabernet Shiraz from the Noto & French vineyards up to 60 years old. Matured for 18 months in 25% new oak. What a big wine it is too. A huge wall of dark berry fruit with a whisper of mint but mainly dehydrated blackberry. Oodles of dark berry fruit, soft tannins. A big and bruising fruit monster, but pretty impactful stuff. It’s just a little too sweet berry jam fruited. But power! Best drinking: over the next decade. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Worth a glass or two.
Old Plains Power of One Shiraz 2021
Adelaide Plains Shiraz, also from 60-year-old vines. Thick, viscous plum juice – compared to the more structured Cab Shiraz, this is just a purple boozy flow of ultra-ripe juiciness. Squishy berries, a bit alcoholic, with this glycerol punch before a boozy, dried plum juice finish. It’s just a bit too overt and warm, but the impact and chewy hedonistic fruit has a place. Best drinking: now and over the next eight years. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $32.99. Would I buy? Worth a glass.
Serafino Reserve Grenache 2021
Generous, slightly syrupy, McLaren Vale Grenache with a big flourish of raspberry concentrate fruit, and then the alcohol flushes out the finish. Plenty of flavour, though – has a withering blackness to it, even if it is a bit foursquare and blocky rather than pretty. Best drinking: a year or two isn’t going to hurt. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass.
Small Gully Mr Black’s Concoction VP 2013
I always think that the Small Gully Barossan wines would make great fortified; here is the proof. This vintage port take, based on Shiraz, feels a bit too much, with sweet alcohol and sweet fruit wafting off the top. It’s so raisined, caramelised and spirit-forward. No questioning the caramel lusciousness, though – it’s a huge and ultra-generous thing, even if all feels a bit too primary. Not hard to see the new lusciousness, even if it’s a singular sweetness. Best drinking: Would be fascinating to see this in two decades. 17/20, 90/100+. 18%, $60 for 500ml. Would I buy it? Half a glass is plenty.
Small Gully Mr Black’s Concoction Tawny NV
Barossan Shiraz, Grenache & Mataro, matured in a solera system, average age 15 years. Tarry, treacly caramel thing of obvious caramel sweetness. Life the VIP, It’s a pretty sweet and easy thing but singular and a bit obvious. Still, that richness and power is uncompromising and has a place for the volume alone. Best drinking: now, I guess. 17/20, 90/100. 17.6%, $50 for 500ml. Would I buy it? Half a glass.
Steels Gate Blanc de Noirs 2019
Crisp fizz from the Yarra. Sourced from the Home Block planted in 1979. Very delicate pink fruit hints. Light and citrussy with a little red apple, tight and lean sort of refreshing aperitif mode with tart apple styling. Nice delineation, and the dosage is about right. I find this just a bit delicate but cleansing stuff. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 11.7%, $60. Would I buy it? A glass.
Steels Gate Home Block Pinot Noir 2021
Yarra Valley Pinot Noir. The Steels Gate mode is always light touch and occasionally sinewy, and no break here – this smells of light glacé raspberry with a bit of smoky whole bunch spice and then firms right up with a rather chewy finish. That rawness derails the rather limpid red fruit a little, but again it’s also quite interesting in its lean and spicy form. Arguably underdone but not uninteresting. Best drinking: nowish. 17/20, 90/100. 12%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass.
Terre à Terre Crayères Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020
They’re typically substantial wines from Terre à Terre and usually in need of patience. This is Wrattonbully Cabernet Franc with 8% Shiraz. 30% whole bunches in the Cab Franc ferment, the wine matured for 12 months in 30% new oak. I see the oak more than the 30% suggests, with a cocoa powder layer in there on a mid-weight, drying palate. It has some of the 2020 desiccation, which the oak can’t quite lift up, but the palate is long with its chewy caramel richness and warmth in the house style. I’d like a smidgen more fruit generosity rather than oak and tannins, but this certainly has expansive oaky chunky power that just needs time to pull together. Another wine in this lineup that is going to win you over with its impact. Best drinking: give it two to three years and drink over a decade. 17/20, 90/100. 13.8%, $32. Would I buy it? A glass.
Torzi Matthews Francesca Grillo OV Grenache 2022
A crown sealed new Grenache from Dom Torzi. Fruit comes from a 108yr old Grenache block in Rowland Flat. 20% whole bunches in the blend, basket pressed to used wood, bottled unfined and unfiltered. Bright ruby. Smells like it’s still fermenting, too – the juiciness of the plum jam nose, and you expect it to be sweet. But it’s not. It’s only light-bodied and has great sandy tannins too. I would have picked more than 13.5%, but the palate lightness is correct for that ripeness. There is something a bit diffuse to this though – I thought it was a bit volatile at first shake, but it wasn’t obvious. Just a bit shapeless on the finish. Still pretty handy and immediately appealing. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $38. Would I buy it? A glass.
Vigna Cantina Prosecco 2022
Who said that you can’t make Prosecco in Eden Valley? Some white flower prettiness here – has some of the pear juice with a bit of sea spray and a tangy pear finish. Great freshness. Just a little obvious, maybe, but this is varietal and has quality intensity. Smart wine, and well priced too. Well done though. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12%, $23. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
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Only drunk a couple – Terre a Terre Crayeres and Howard Park. Agree with you, ok but not exceptional. Crayeres needs years in the bottle, much prefer the CS – just drank a 2016 and still needs five more years before I touch another.