Liquor Barons resident wine writer Erin Larkin was one of Australia’s top 30 wine journalists invited to attend the exclusive media preview tasting in Melbourne, and here she shares her views and notes from the release
Like hands and gloves, Bey and Jay, oysters and Champagne, chocolate and wine make a fine pairing. Not only does Liquor Barons support local wine and beer producers in bringing their wines to the people, but where possible, we get behind our fellow West Australians in any capacity that we can. Read on for our TOP 3 chocolate and wine pairings featuring local wine and chocolate producers…
What's International Women’s Day all about? It's about working together to reach gender parity before the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report predicted timeframe of 217 years! Can you believe that?! Each year there's a different focus on International Women’s Day, this year it's #PressforProgress Women’s equality has come a long way since the Women’s Lib movement in the 60’s, but we’ve still got a ways to go…
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 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.”
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
“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.
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 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?
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:
(You'll note that WA took out BEST CHARDONNAY, RIESLING and CABERNET SAUVIGNON)
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.
(Insta: #hallidayawards2018 for pics from the night)
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.
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”
This week we are delving into Woodlands of Margaret River. An institution in WA wine since 1973 and established by David and Heather Watson, the estate is now largely run by their two sons; Stuart and David Watson.
The Watsons at Woodlands are well-known for producing high quality, classically styled wines, with a particular affinity for chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, this year sees an overhaul of the labels, referencing the regionality of the wines, over the varietal.
Perhaps they may look the same to those who aren’t keen on detail, but look a bit closer and you will notice the ‘sub-region’ of Wilyabrup Valley on the label is prioritised over the varietal listed below it. This is more in line with what we are used to seeing from regions such as Burgundy, who display village and vineyard over varietal. In a New World context, we are free from restrictive planting and production laws, which is advantageous in that it allows vignerons to grow and make their preferred wine style, wherever they choose, however it also necessitates stating the varietal on the label, as we can not rely on appellation laws to dictate what is grown, and where.
In particular focus this week are the 2016 Chardonnay, and the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. It’s not possible to overstate the value in these two wines, and the quality (at any price point, let alone at $28).
2016 Woodlands ‘Wilyabrup Valley’ Chardonnay, Margaret River
“As usual, the nose here presents pristine stone fruit, crushed cashew and almond meal, salted preserved lemon and suggestions of red apple skins, all wrapped in lightly toasted French oak. The palate echoes the aromatic sentiments, throwing up additional flavours of yellow peach, pistachio and pink grapefruit. The flavours linger long after the wine has been swallowed, remaining true to their original expression and carrying you through to your next mouthful. Truly an incredible wine, most especially for the pricepoint. If you love Margaret River Chardonnay, this is NOT to be missed. 95 points, $28. A steal.”
2015 Woodlands ‘Wilyabrup Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Margaret River
“This was looked at over two tastings, and boy am I glad this was so. The first look showed concentrated cassis, blueberry, and classic Margaret River freshly turned earth. On second look (<24hrs later), the Wilyabrup characters of ripe red raspberry and eucalypt emerged alongside the cassis and earth, combining to make an incredibly complex wine. The palate shows typical Woodlands structure and spice, with lingering, fine grained and yet supple/chewy tannins. With more than enough plump fruit and spice to delight the most casual of drinkers. Delve a bit further, and the structure, regionality, oak handling and tannins will have the most serious of observers glancing from glass to receipt in astonishment. A wonderful gateway wine into the wonders of Clementine, Margaret, and the flagship cabernet - all of which deserve a place in a the cellar. 95 points and $28”
With more gold medals, trophies, and Australian wine media reviews exceeding 96pts than you can comfortably shake a stick at, it's painfully obvious that Xanadu are absolutely killing it. And it's not an isloated incident. Glenn Goodall and his winemaking team are creating pristine, delicious, terroir driven wines in almost every style and price-range.
June 6th this year saw the release of the Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon; and what wines they are. It seems that the winemaking team down there are on a roll - creating wines of finesse, elegance, concentration and style at almost every price point. No mean feat.
The current Xanadu range features four labels: Exmoor, DJL, Estate, Stevens road and the Reserve wines.
The DJL Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, tried earlier this year, was a revelation - incredible value for money and at only $24, it perfectly encapsulates Margaret River Cabernet. Ripe cassis, blackberry, good structure on the palate and all the savoury herbal characters you could want (92 points). So with this wine in mind, and an awareness of the impact that the 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon has made on Australian wine media since its release; to say there was anticipation upon opening was an understatement.
2014 Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec.
“On the nose, a chorus of blood plum, pomegranate concentrate, summer raspberry, cassis, black cherry, blackberries, salted licorice, eucalypt, and a fresh earthy character rise to meet you. On the palate it is elegant, structured, dense (yet typified by finesse); the acidity, oak and fruit in perfect harmony. The French oak (50% new) is evident but judiciously contributing spice, structure and toast to the final blend.
This is absolutely serious and yet already absolutely delicious (spelling danger for its long term residency in the cellar). Counting among its many attributes: ripeness that would make the Americans jealous; structure that would make the Bordealais weep; and elegance and concentration that will make the drinker/collector rejoice. This is an investment wine, one that will repay many decades in the cellar - should you wish. Tyson Stelzer’s Top Australian Cabernet Sauvignon of the Year 2017 (98pts), This has just been released but is selling fast. If you’re a cabernet nut - you’d be mad to miss this. 97+ points, and $85”