Craft Beer Guide: The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Beer Snob Part 1

Craft Beer Guide: The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Beer Snob Part 1

A three part craft beer guide series exploring the craft trend. In Part 1 we break down different styles of beer from around the world.

Cabernet + Chardonnay: King + Queen of Margaret River

Following on from last week's exploration into James Halliday's Best of Best wines by region, we get to the heart of our state's wine production: Chardonnay + Cabernet Sauvignon.

Best of Chardonnay 2018

“The field of 44 chardonnays was led by Margaret River (11), Yarra Valley (7), Adelaide Hills (5) and Mornington Peninsula (4). There was a greater spread thereafter, reflecting the great quality of Australian chardonnay; Beechworth, Geelong, Gippsland and Tasmania all provided three wines, Denmark two, Pemberton one.”

Leeuwin Estate Art Series 2014, 98 points

Leeuwin Estate Art Series 2014, 98 points

Leeuwin Estate Art Series 2014 was crowned Australia’s Best Chardonnay – and with good reason.  Wine buffs have long known the latent power and classicism that is intrinsic to Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay.  No surprises that other chardonnay 97-point powerhouses from WA include: Mandoon Estate, Singlefile (two wines at 97 and 98 points respectively), Vasse Felix, Windows Estate, Credaro Family Estate, Cullen Wines, Deep Woods, Devil’s Lair, Flying Fish Cove (two wines at 97 and 98 points respectively) and Larry Cherubino.

Best of Cabernet and Family 2018

“A thoroughly diverse range of Bordeaux blends and varieties on the one (larger) hand courtesy of Margaret River, and the classic Australian blend of cabernet and shiraz on the other.”

2013 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet blend, 98 points

2013 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet blend, 98 points

Vasse Felix released a new flagship wine this year - the Tom Cullity.  Named after Dr Tom Cullity who was responsible for planting the first vines at the vineyard (and indeed the first vines of the modern day Margaret River wine region as we now know it), this wine replaces the much-loved Heytesbury red.  Sourced from the original vines planted by Dr Cullity it is an homage to the man.  It also happens to be an exceptional example of Margaret River cabernet blend (also malbec).It received a whopping 98 points in the 2018 Wine Companion. Other wineries to bask in the glory of upper echelon reviews: Pierro Reserve (97 points), Woodlands Reserve de la Cave (two wines awarded at 96 and 97 points).

Best of Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

2014 Deep Woods Estate Grand Selection Yallingup Cabernet Sauvignon, 98 points

2014 Deep Woods Estate Grand Selection Yallingup Cabernet Sauvignon, 98 points

“The affinity of cabernet sauvignon with a maritime climate is put beyond doubt by its home in Bordeaux’s Medoc region. So it comes as no surprise to find that most (but not all) of Australia’s top quality cabernets come from regions with climates similar to Bordeaux. The dominance of Margaret River is likely to continue; not only is the climate ideally suited, but it is far more consistent than that of any other Australian region.”

Not many know that Deep Wood Estate have been dabbling in super premium wines.  Those who do are surely delighted about it - the winery is well known for its high quality and extraordinary value for money wines.  If you comb carefully through the "Best of" categories, you will notice Deep Woods Estate features in the 'Best of Rose', 'Best of Chardonnay', 'Best of Cabernet' and 'Best of Sauvignon Blanc'.  Not bad going at all.  There were three other WA Cabernets that were awarded 98 points this year: Evans & Tate (for their Evans & Tate flagship cabernet), Watershed (Awakening) and West Cape Howe (King Billy).  97 points wasawarded to Houghton (Jack Mann), Larry Cherubino, Moss Wood, Singlefile (they had two wines at 97 points: the Philip Adrian and the Single Vineyard ($37!)), Stella Bella (Serie Luminosa - this won a swag of medals and trophies at the 2016 Margaret River Wine Show) and the little known but MUCH loved Windows Estate in Margaret River.  If you haven't had the distinct pleasure of these wines - absolutely do yourself a favour.  Exceedingly well priced (nothing over $40), all single vineyard, delicious and well packaged (also featured in "Best of" chardonnays FYI). What a combo.

Safe to say, WA is a good place to be (always) when you're a cabernet lover.

"Why does anyone outside of Margaret River bother?"

James... we agree.

Every region around Australia produces wine based on its strongest varietal/s.  This can mean that a region might be known for one great wine style or many.  Western Australia polls very well indeed with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon (and cabernet blends) and the Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blend, and further south, our Great Southern Rieslings are not to be trifled with.

Thankfully, I am not only commenting from my own observations, there are many well-known writers in the rest of the country (not the least of whom is James Halliday) that also value our strengths in these areas.

In James’s recent 2018 Wine Companion, he lists his Best Wines by Variety.

Best of Riesling 2018

“The Eden Valley empire strikes back with nine wines compared with six from Western Australia.”

Dukes Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling 2016, 98 points

Dukes Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling 2016, 98 points

Dukes Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling 2016 was awarded Best Riesling in Australia (98 points).  The winery officially sold out of this wine months ago, and has rolled to the 2017 vintage.  With a long history of crafting superb riesling in the Porongurup region, there is every reason to expect that the 2017 is as dynamic as the 2016.  Other Great Southern wineries to receive outstanding scores: Harewood Estate, Abbey Creek, Castle Rock Estate, Forest Hill Vineyard and Singlefile all scored 97 points for their rieslings.  WA sure is fortunate.

Best of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc Blends 2018

“Why does anyone outside of Margaret River bother? Not only does it monopolise the field on points, the wines have typically mouth-watering prices.”

Six wines featured in this list, all from WA, most at around the $30 retail mark (full retail price – ie not on special), and five of the six are from Margaret River.  What a scoop.  Nothing we didn’t already know: Cape Mentelle (96 pts), Cullen (96 points), Domaine Naturalist (96 points), Larry Cherubino (97 points), Stella Bella Suckfizzle (96 points), Xanadu DJL (97 points).

Next week we’ll be looking at Chardonnay and Cabernet, the undisputed queen and king of Margaret River.  In the meantime, the new 2018 Wine Companion is now available online and in bookshops – perhaps some light bedtime reading?

James Halliday's Wine of the Year 2018

Assuming most of you are across this, but the 2018 Qantas epiQure Halliday Wine Companion Awards Dinner was carried out in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

On the evening, many awards were given out for Best Winery of the Year, Winemaker of the Year and others.  An important list released was James Halliday's best wines on the previous year's tastings.  See them below:


Best Sparkling: 2007 Seppelt Show Sparkling Limited Release Shiraz
Best Sauvignon Blanc: 2016 Oakdene Jessica Single Vineyard Bellarine Peninsula Sauvignon Blanc
Best Semillon: 2016 Silkman Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon
Best Riesling: 2016 Duke's Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling
Best Chardonnay: 2014 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Chardonnay
Best Shiraz: 2012 Henschke Hill Of Grace
Best Cabernet Sauvignon: 2014 Deep Woods Estate Grand Selection Yallingup Cabernet Sauvignon
Best Pinot Noir: 2015 Mount Mary Yarra Valley Pinot Noir
Best Other Red: 2015 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1
Best Fortified: 1917 Seppeltsfield 100 Year Old Para Liqueur

A huge congratulations to Leeuwin Estate, Deep Woods Estate and Duke's Vineyard - this is not only great recognition for these wineries, but a massive accolade for the state.

2014 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Chardonnay

2014 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Chardonnay

2014 Deep Woods Estate, Grand Selection Yallingup, Cabernet Sauvignon

2014 Deep Woods Estate, Grand Selection Yallingup, Cabernet Sauvignon

2016 Duke's Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling

2016 Duke's Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling


(Insta: #hallidayawards2018 for pics from the night)

Ray Jordan can read the future? CONFIRMED

You may have noticed Ray Jordan's Top 100 Red Wines released on the 20th of July.  You may not have (maybe you live in a cave), however we like to cross-check all great reviews with results at wine shows, just to confirm what we already know - that Ray has a great palate and is our go-to source for great wine recommendations.

Well - he's done it again.  One of his listed top wines - the Houghton Crofters Shiraz 2014 has just won a GOLD MEDAL at the very recent Royal Sydney Wine Show.


This wine is not only a GOLD MEDAL winner at one of the country's great capital city wine shows, it is also selected from 650 of its peers by Ray in an independent tasting.

The guys at Houghton must be onto something.  Or Ray is onto something.  Or we're onto something....  

Regardless - pop into your local Liquor Barons store and see if they've got any of this baby left - irresistable at under $20!.

Vasse New Release Cabernets

It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of Vasse Felix wines.  When I’ve got the money, Heytesbury chardonnay is my go-to chardonnay, when I don’t, the estate chardonnay still punches well above its weight and satisfies the urge for something concentated, minerally, and just a wee bit funky. 

As for the Vasse cabernets…. well.  They toe the line between silky and structured, plush and grippy, hedonistic and restrained.  They’re great from the entry level Filius, right up to the Icon Tom Cullity.  You can imagine my delight when the winery releases its next tranche of vintages as it has just done in June.

2015 Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet Sauvignon


87% Cabernet, 13% Malbec

“Handled like a top tier wine and priced like and entry level (got to love Vasse), the Filius this year has a whack of malbec in it.  No complaints here.  All parcels are picked and vinified individually, before being put to a year in French oak (13% new, and the remainder made up of 1-5 yr old).  The large ‘older’ oak component tells you that the fruit is handled with kid gloves, not overpowered by the strong new oak characters.  Made to drink now. A challenging spring in Margs led to yields being down for many varieties, although quality was very good (again).  Ripe raspberry, blackcurrant, blackberry, black spice, eucalyptus, earth.  Silky and plush.  Love it, as usual. 92 points, $28”

2014 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon

90% cabernet, 8% malbec, 1% petite verdot, 1% merlot

“Made every year since its first vintage in 1972, this Vasse cabernet occupies the absolute sweet-spot for value.  This is an incredible wine to drink now, but it is also age-worthy, meaning if you were to invest in this wine to cellar, you would be investing in your future joy, and in a future snapshot of Margaret River cabernet.  Wise.  This has a higher proportion of new French oak (40%), the rest being 1-4 years old, where it rests for 18 months.  This is again, another serious release for Vasse, displaying a perfect balance between spice, ripe fruit, dusty/earthy spices and fine tannins.  95 points, $45”