SEARCH FOR THE HOLY GRAIL: The Perfect $10 Wine – does it exist?

"Indy, In Latin, Jacob begins with an "I"..." 

"Indy, In Latin, Jacob begins with an "I"..." 

Finding a worthy 10 buck chuck – it’s harder than you think. 

It can make you feel like you’re on a never-ending quest that rewards you with hangovers that weren’t worth it. You start to understand what it would be like to be a pilgrim in an unholy land.

There’s plenty on the shelf that’ll give you change from a blue swimmer, but would you go back a second time?  Like bad pennies – the s*** ones always seem to turn up.

So, after tasting our way through many (many) chucks, we can confidently tell you:  you’re about to witness the best discoveries in the history of mankind:

Indy knows the real deal when he sees it

Indy knows the real deal when he sees it

1.  Houghton Red Classic ~$9.99

So this little baby is pretty much available everywhere, and it’s easy to overlook on account of its prevalence, but we can assure you this is just about the holy grail of value wine.  Not only is it consistently good vintage after vintage, it also gets up in wine shows – which is no mean feat given the calibre and variety of its competitive set.  With more structure and varietal integrity than its $10 pricetag gives it credit for, it's no surprise this came up tops.


2.  Fifth Leg Red ~$10*

*WA’s other darling value red and not ALWAYS under $10.  But when it is under $10... 


3.  De Bortoli Sacred Hill Shiraz ~$7

All things considered (ok what we mean is: it’s $7 or less on sale... so….) these Sacred Hill wines are crackers.  Juicy, vibrant, plush and full of convincing fruit that help you forget there is only minimal structure on the palate.  It’s reassuring that De Bortoli (family owned company) make so much of this wine each year – no dead horses are being flogged here that's for sure...

4.  Stoneberry Premium Red, WA ~$8

Simple and delicious – makes the fact that this has little to no structure totally irrelevant.  Drink it.

5.  McGuigan Black Label Red ~$7

Silky smooth, plush and concentrated.  South Eastern Australian red blend: somewhat like mystery meat (not RW Satay off the beach) – you don’t quite know what’s in it.... "dry red" doesn't cover it.  But you also don’t really care.  It tastes great.  Bottoms up.

6.  De Bortoli Sacred Hill Cabernet Merlot ~$7

The perfect wine to smash with your mates over some mid-week burgers.  As we said about the Sacred Hill Shiraz – these are no-brainers, get stuck in.

7.  Jacobs Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet ~$9

Ýou can usually be comforted by the fact that when a big company releases an ‘entry level’ wine, that it’s going to be pretty good.  JC Classic wines are regularly featured in “Top…” lists from wine writers around the country, so if it’s good enough for them… Keep in mind JC also is responsible for St Hugo Shiraz Cab and we all love that.  Think of this as the (cheap) baby bro.

8.  Yellow Tail Big Bold Red ~$10

Another mystery meat wine, but not to be sneezed at.  Yellow Tail wines have the highest production output of any Australian winery, remain family owned, and are seeded all over the world.  Might as well see what every other country sees when they think of Aussie red wine…

9.  Angove Long Row Cabernet Sauvignon ~$10

Everything from this range is epic.  Good quality.  Reliable.  Juicy.  Simple packaging. WE LIKE. There's plenty for the Elsa's in the Long Row range (see below for Elsa), including moscato, riesling, savvy, pinot G, chardy and bubbles.

For all the Elsa's out there who won't touch red regardless of the season.... this next one's for you

For all the Elsa's out there who won't touch red regardless of the season.... this next one's for you

10.  Windsong Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc $9.99

It’s winter, yet you’re still drinking chilled savvy.  Hmmm.  Whatever – did you know that nationally Aussies spent OVER $630 million on NZ Sav Blanc in 2016?  SAV-alanche..

We've made sure you've chosen, wisely. (via GIPHY)

Top 5 no-fuss beers – and why you need to get retro


The craft beer revolution is taking over us all.  You have even started to forget about Australia’s old favourites: EB, Sports and VB.  And so here we are – drenched in endless craft, and close to forgetting our blue-collar roots.  Allow us to give you a refresher.


1. Emu Export

“Affectionately referred to as “Bush Chook”, “Red Can”, and good ol’ “Sports”, Emu Export is WA’s favourite beer.  Perfect for taking 4WD’ing, fishing, and anywhere else that requires booze that doesn’t weigh much.  Also suited to BBQ’s, parties, and porches.  Comes in a convenient 30 can block that crushes down to nothing.  Wide mouth can is an extra plus.”

How MUCH do we love it?

$56.1 million spent on Sports in WA alone, 2016


2. VB

“We couldn’t really have summed this beer up better than they did here:

Hooke: It smells like a beer mat.

McDonald: It covers the entire palate with its plasticine thing but also coats your teeth, kind of. It's a weird one.

Pereira: Out of all the lagers we've had it's probably the cleanest and the driest.

Hargreave: It's something I can imagine drinking in an RSL on a Saturday and having eight or nine of them. Sorry, I mean three or four.

Other names for VB:  Green Death, tinnie of Green, Vomit Bomb, can of Vic, Very Best.

How MUCH do we love it?

$33 million spent on VB in WA alone, 2016


3. Coopers Pale

“So maybe the religious debacle* didn’t hurt the brand as much as we thought!  West Australians spent a fair bit on this beer in 2016. An English Pale Ale in style, pours a hazel colour and features a Best AFTER Date which has confused many a customer.  Famously unfiltered - lees remain in the bottle.  Don't forget to roll it before you drink it."  

“Can get a bit heavy on the stomach after a 6 pack – but that’s a good time to move to the Scotch.” – Review found on net.

How MUCH do we love it?

$27.9 million spent on Coopers Pale in WA alone, 2016

*if you missed it, catch an overview here:


4. Carlton Draught

“Has to be drunk in a pint, from a tap.  Clean and fresh- not a lot going on – but at the height of summer, what exactly do you want?  A country pub favourite.”

Other names for Carlton Draught: White Can, Whitey

How MUCH do we love it?

$11.7 million spent on Carlton Draught in WA alone, 2016


5.  Emu Bitter

The drier, more bitter (higher IBU) brother to the red can.

“Nevertheless, there is nothing like an icy Emu on hot dry day to clear the cobwebs.”  - found on beer review forum

Other names for Emu Bitter: EB, Bush Chook, Flightless Bird,

How MUCH do we love it?

$10.5 million dollars spent on Emu Bitter in 2016 in WA alone


If all this has you thinking, “Jeez… Burke and Wills passed through here too… and they died of thirst”, that doesn’t have to be your fate.  Head into your local Liquor Barons store to avoid your own imminent demise. 




Oh alright.  An encore.


6. Swan Draught

“A contentious beer to say the least.  Swanny D (as it is known amongst locals) is well-known to be best, fresh on tap… pity it’s not brewed in WA anymore.  With a long history (first brewed in 1857) and a clean, dry, crisp taste – this is on the list for a good reason."

“When it’s on tap it’s beaut”

How MUCH do we love it? 

$7.6 million spent on Swanny D in WA alone, 2016

Picardy 2015 Reds Release - "Pemby Grand Cru"

Line up of Picardy wines: 2007 - 2015

Line up of Picardy wines: 2007 - 2015

My friends and I embarked upon this tasting with an idea that we would do a full Picardy sweep across the vintages that we had at hand. (We looked at: 2009, 2014, 2015 Pinot Noir. 2008, 2009, 2015 Shiraz. 2007 and 2015 Merlot Cab / Cab. 2013 and 2104 Tetes.)

So there we were on a rainy Thursday night, piling through these wines, building a picture that quite frankly had us scratching our heads. What was materialising, was the dawning of something great: Picardy are in the midst of a purple patch.

Through the lens of pinot we saw that vintage 2013 was sensational. The pinot was tight, lean, spicy, concentrated and structured. 2014 gave us a touch more approachability, a touch more finesse, with structure and length for days. 2015 is off the richter. It is everything that is 2013 and 2014, and to complete them both - has a brightness of acidity, a clarity of fruit, and a life/vivacity that we could hardly believe.

The shiraz and the merlot blend too, have this same spirit about them. 2015 is a must see / must buy / must store / must drink vintage.

~ New Releases ~

It's pale in colour... but don't let that fool you.  Followers of the Picardy pinot style will be well-aware of  the inherent power, concentration and elegance of this wine - which has nothing to do with how dark it is (or isn't) in colour.

It's pale in colour... but don't let that fool you.  Followers of the Picardy pinot style will be well-aware of  the inherent power, concentration and elegance of this wine - which has nothing to do with how dark it is (or isn't) in colour.

2015 Picardy Pinot Noir, Pemberton

We looked at this alongside the 2014, which to date is, I believe, the strongest pinot release so far. That is, until we opened the 2015. It opens with the typical (and much loved) Picardy characters of black cherry, blood plum and green olive, fringed in lightly toasted, spicy, Burgundian oak. It is pretty. Pristine. Fragrant. On the palate it is lifted, alive, and incredibly long - the flavours mingle and, sort of, plume, through the finish. The fruit sits right on the back palate, languid as you like. The acidity is bright and refreshing. The texture in the mouth is something to note - there is a fine yet gravelly grip that keeps the jubilant flavours on the palate honest. The flavour is concentrated and intense, belying its pale colour, it is alive. The wine finishes with a final flick of pomegranate and cherry, a suggestion of spice form the fine oak, and a swoosh of cleansing acidity that ties it all together. Rockstar. Best yet - no question.

Look at the vibrancy of colour here... always si and vivacious on release - irresistable in fact.

Look at the vibrancy of colour here... always si and vivacious on release - irresistable in fact.

2015 Shiraz

Very much in the style of Northern Rhone (not that we need to compare to other places to verify worth, but it does help to set the palate scene), this is silky, juicy, full of red berries, lifted fragrant fruit and enough savoury spice to bring this in perfectly balanced. This is a cool climate shiraz done well - it is elegant, ripe, structured and restrained. There is a black fruit undertow to the palate, laced with red apple skins, black pepper and star anise. Wonderful length and texture, it just seems to linger and whisper suggestions long past the point of being swallowed.

2015 Picardy Shiraz, Pemberton

2015 Picardy Shiraz, Pemberton

2015 Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Cabernet Franc

[ Merlot 61% / Cabernet Sauvignon 20% / Cabernet Franc 19% ]

As with every year that I look at this on release, it is luscious, silky, plush and rich - but it is never overdone or demanding. Redolent of red berries, poached raspberry, pink peppercorns and hints of cocoa, mulberry and vanilla pod. The 19% Cabernet Franc contributes structure, acidity, fragrance and blackcurrant to the mix. The oak, as with all of this release, is judged expertly and serves to sprinkle the fruit with spice, balance and structure.

Want to try these for yourself?

The Pannell family will be opening these and other current releases:


TIME:  4:00 – 8:00PM


See you there ;)



Top 5 Reds Under $40 for our Glorious Pseudo-Winter…

Winemaker Robert Gherardi of Mr Barval wines

Winemaker Robert Gherardi of Mr Barval wines

2016 Mr Barval Nebbia, Margaret River

“We can’t get enough of this.  Bright strawberry lift on the nose, refreshing acidity on the medium bodied palate, plenty of fine grained tannin and structure, and enough spice to make this a desperately interesting, delicious, moorish wine.  Redolent of violets, rose petals and suggestions of the old adage ‘tar & roses’.  96 points, $40”

Who is Mr Barval...?

Who is Mr Barval...?

Winemaker Alex Head, at Head Wines in the Barossa.

Winemaker Alex Head, at Head Wines in the Barossa.

2014 Head Red, Shiraz, Barossa Valley

“This is the ‘entry level wine’ from winemaker Alex Head’s collection, and great value at that.  Alex describes it as a “barrel cull” from the great single vineyard wines of Brunette, Blonde and Contrarian wines (YES – worth tracking down and treating yourself).  With parcels from the Marananga, Greenock, Stone Well and Light Pass subregions, this sees 12 months in mainly older oak, and a tiny injection of Grenache, Mataro and Cabernet Sauvignon from Greenock.  A super exciting winery to watch – it is recommended that you try all of his wines – but start here – a great litmus.  93 points, $25”

2015 Head Red Shiraz, Barossa Valley

2015 Head Red Shiraz, Barossa Valley

Flowstone Vineyard, Forest Grover, Maragret River

Flowstone Vineyard, Forest Grover, Maragret River

2015 Flowstone Shiraz Grenache, Margaret River

“The thirst for red blends, alternate varietals, and ‘old world styles made in a new-world manner’ is absolutely dominating wine trends on and off wine-lists this year.  The Flowstone Grenache Shiraz (winemaker Stuart Pym) has been good for a couple of years running, and exemplifies perfectly why shiraz and Grenache should be seen together.  Juicy and plump, yet structured and savoury, this is fresh and energetic and absolutely delicious.  92 points and $24”

Currently available at our On The Vine stores

2015 Flowstone Shiraz Grenache, Margaret River

2015 Flowstone Shiraz Grenache, Margaret River

Mandoon Estate restaurant, Caversham WA

Mandoon Estate restaurant, Caversham WA

2014 Mandoon Estate Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River

“Ryan Sudano at Mandoon Estate is responsible for some of the best value, age worthy, exciting, classical and delicious red wines made in WA at the moment.  The Cabernet Merlot is an incredible starting point, and showcases his ability to create wines of suppleness, finesse, fresh fruit, balanced tannins and spicy oak.  The grapes are picked from the northern end of the great Research Station vineyard.  This is always a winner.  93 points and $26”

Currently available at our On The Vine stores

2014 Mandoon Estate Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River

2014 Mandoon Estate Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River

View over an Ulithorne Vineyard, McLaren Vale

View over an Ulithorne Vineyard, McLaren Vale

2015 Ulithorne ‘Specialis’ Tempranillo Grenache Graciano, McLaren Vale

“Aromas of sarsaparilla, pomegranate, ripe raspberry, hints of liquorice, raw cocoa and cracked black pepper.  It is not too heavy in the mouth as the flavours might suggest – medium bodied – it just sings of life, vivacity and spice.  This is a perfect ‘gateway wine’ into the world of European reds, lovely acidity and tannin profile to balance out the fruit of the front of the palate.  Get around this.  94 points and $25”

Currently available at our On The Vine stores

2015 Ulithorne 'Specialis', Temp, Grenache, Graciano, McLaren Vale

2015 Ulithorne 'Specialis', Temp, Grenache, Graciano, McLaren Vale

GUEST BLOG: girl + beer

...on beer and cheese matching

If it weren’t for the whole no-talking-thing, I would bet good money that I was a reincarnation of a Belgian monk from centuries ago, happily, albeit silently, in the monastery making beer and cheese.

Beer and cheese have a long history together and not just with the dutiful Belgian monks of old but over the sea to England where a traditional Ploughman’s lunch may consist of bread, pickles, ham and, of course, some cheese and a beer.

The main reason I love beer and cheese together is the sheer diversity of flavour available in each of them and it’s why they make such a fantastic couple. You can get cheese that’s delicate and soft all the way through to some huge blue cheese so stinky in flavour you’re not sure if you should put it in your fridge with the other food. Same goes for beer, you can get a beer that’s light and crisp and you can also find a beer that is the boldest of the bold. With such a wide spectrum of flavour it’s no wonder you’d be hard pressed to find a beer that couldn’t be paired with a cheese or vice versa.

You might be reading this and thinking, ‘hey, what about wine?’ and I’d say to you just one word - ‘bubbles’.

The magic of carbonation gives beer the upper hand when it comes to pairing with cheese over wine. Those wonderfully rich, fatty, thick, tongue coating cheeses are lifted off your palate by the bubbles in beer, allowing the pairing to shine together, to really work together. Poor old wine just can’t do that.

There are almost no rules when it comes to pairing beer and cheese and you don’t have to be a Masterchef winner to put together a wonderful combination at home. Find a nice place to buy cheese, it might even be your local IGA, and a good bottle shop and you’re most of the way there. The only guideline I’d recommend are to consider intensity by pairing big bold beers with big bold cheeses and the more delicate subtle beers with delicate cheeses.

Little Cheese Shop in Bayswater

Little Cheese Shop in Bayswater

Somewhere to start ...

Reypenaer VSOP with something bold and hoppy, such as an amber ale or IPA

The Reypenaer is a traditional gouda from the Netherlands aged for over two years, the result is an intensely flavoured cheese that I find caramelly, buttery, salty and a little nutty with sharp fruity notes. A well hopped amber ale or IPA will have a great complement of hop character with the fruity zing in the cheese whilst the caramel and buttery notes should highlight the sweeter malt character in the beer.


Eagle Bay Kolsch with Meredith Dairy Chevre (goat's cheese)

Eagle Bay Kolsch with Meredith Dairy Chevre (goat's cheese)

Meredith Chevre with something more delicate such as a kolsch

This is one of my long go-to beer and cheese pairings that showcase the brightness and zest I get from both a chevre and a kolsch. The Meredith Chevre is an Australian goat’s milk cheese with a beautiful tanginess and fruitiness that,when paired with a Kolsch, seems to emphasise the bright citrusy Kolsch flavours whilst also coaxing out the light grainy malt sweetness.


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Sidewood - top of the Adelaide Hill

There’s been plenty of hype around the place recently for the wines from Sidewood in the Adelaide Hills.  Understandably so.  The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc received a 95 point score from James Halliday - an incredible score for a wine that retails around the $20 mark.  For lovers of the Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc style, this is as crisp, pristine and restrained as you could hope for.  So too, the thirst for cool climate, lower alcohol, elegant reds is extending towards varieties like Shiraz, from regions such as the Adelaide Hills.


So here we are.  In 2004, vigneron husband and wife team Owen and Cassandra Inglis purchased the vineyards and have been working towards producing wholly estate grown, cool climate wines - it seems their reputation has caught up with their vision.   Their impact on the national wine scene was further accelerated when they employed Adelaide Hills superstar Darryl Catlin - former senior winemaker for the inimitable Shaw & Smith.  


Between an enviable position nestled high up in the Adelaide Hills (380m above sea level), years of viticulture experience between Owen and Cassandra, an experienced winemaking team and a solid reputation, Sidewood wines are consistently going from strength to strength.


To the wines:


2016 Sidewood Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills

“Fermented wholly in stainless steel to preserve maximum freshness and fruit intensity, this concentrated yet fine example of Adelaide Hills savvy is an undisputed bargain.  With characters of citrus blossom, snow pea and fleshy citrus fruit, there is a lovely textural complexity (thanks to the 4 months on lees in tank) to bolster the energetic fruit on the palate.  Lingering flavours through the length and finish - a superstar, a no-brainer.  93 points, and $20.”


2014 Sidewood Shiraz, Adelaide Hills

“This is an exciting, fresh and juicy example of cool climate Shiraz.  The already aromatic characters of the shiraz grape are accentuated by a whole berry component in the ferment - essentially contributing partial carbonic maceration to the mix.  This exaggerates the flavours of ripe raspberry, blood plum and black currant. Finished off in French barriques, it is rich yet elegant, structured yet fine - absolutely everything you could want from a shiraz.  Just lovely.  94 points, $26”.