Erin Larkin

"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?

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 http://onthevine.com.au/

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 http://onthevine.com.au/

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 http://onthevine.com.au/

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

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

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”.

Kaesler Stonehorse - a tempestuous beast

Kaesler is another ‘century-plus-old’ cornerstone winery of the Barossa.  Founded in 1893, the first owners planted out 96 acres with Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro (Mouvedre) and White Hermitage vines. 

These days, the winery is perhaps known for premium Barossa wines such as the Old Bastard, and the Bogan – names that usually provide a chuckle, but invariably are rated extraordinarily highly by national press.  The vineyard from which the grapes for the Alte Reben Barossa Valley Shiraz are sourced, is described as a “national treasure” by James Halliday. 

If either provenance or ownership is anything that interests you as it does me, the Kaesler family sold the winery in 1968.  The current owners, who have owned it since 1990, are a small group of investment bankers who also own the incredible Yarra Yering winery in the Yarra. 

2014 KAESLER STONEHORSE Grenache / Shiraz / Mouvedre

66% G /28% S /6% M

“This is the $20 superstar from Kaesler.  The first time I tried this I was blown away by the finesse of it – it’s perfectly Barossa in its ripe fruit and spice, however it’s got more of a delicate edge than I was expecting, and certainly I was most impressed by the medium palate weight, savoury, balanced nature of it.  So too, the 2014 vintage shows a cavalcade of fruits: blackcurrant, cassis, raspberry, mulberry and blackberry, balanced by licorice, hints of juniper, and a ‘tar and roses’ vibe.  Not unlike wet asphalt after a summer rain.  The palate is concentrated, medium bodied, intense, juicy but structured and lingering through the finish. The oak is lovely around the edges- spicy, elegant. This felt like it had a bit more oomph than the 2013 vintage (no Mouvedre included), but both were/are exceptional in their own ways.  This over delivers value for the money.  Finally – a mid-week wine that confidently crosses over into the weekend… 92 points and $23”

Vasse Felix Celebrates 50 Years in Margaret River: A Colossal Celebration

Tasting in full swing at Vasse on Friday 5th May

Tasting in full swing at Vasse on Friday 5th May

0 5 / 0 5 / 2 0 1 7 :

2017 marks 50 years since the first of the modern-era vineyards was planted in Margaret River, on the Vasse Felix property, by Dr Tom Cullity.  There is no doubt that there were vineyards planted in and around Margaret River prior to 1967 (as early as the 1830's), however none survived to be included in what we now class as the Margaret River wine industry.

To celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the region, Vasse Felix hosted a party on the lawn by the original vines.  Each person who attended (thought to be around 350) brought a bottle of wine that was produced in Margaret River in the past 50 years.    

The view from here... straight down the line - this is what 350 wines from Margaret River's last 50 years looks like.

The view from here... straight down the line - this is what 350 wines from Margaret River's last 50 years looks like.

What is good for Vasse Felix, is good for Margaret River. And what is good for Margaret River is good for Vasse Felix
— Paul Holmes a Court, Owner

This attitude of team work, and unification of the region was a strong theme running through the panel discussion on the day.  Paul Holmes A Court addressed the crowd by saying, "Friends, family and neighbours - welcome". 

Wine celebrities on the panel were: Denis Horgan (owner/founder Leeuwin Estate); Nic Peterkin (owner/winemaker L.A.S. Vino, and son of Dr Mike Peterkin - Pierro); Robert Hill-Smith (owner Yalumba Wine Company and Samuel Smith & Sons - distribution partner Vasse Felix); Virginia Willcock (winemaker Vasse Felix) and Andrew Caillard MW (winemaker Caillard Wine, Langtons, filmmaker, MW).

Two of the many premium wines on offer on Friday.  It is perhaps unnecessary to note that both of these wines were in superb form, and illustrated with grace what aged Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon can offer.  Note the interesting watermark running vertically down the bottle on the right - this was the first time Margaret River had been displayed on the label of a Vasse Felix wine.

Two of the many premium wines on offer on Friday.  It is perhaps unnecessary to note that both of these wines were in superb form, and illustrated with grace what aged Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon can offer.  Note the interesting watermark running vertically down the bottle on the right - this was the first time Margaret River had been displayed on the label of a Vasse Felix wine.

Poured here: The 1982 Vasse Felix Hermitage, the tasting table in the background.

Poured here: The 1982 Vasse Felix Hermitage, the tasting table in the background.

SEEN: Veronica Cullity and Dr Mike Peterkin (Pierro); Dan Wegener (Somm, owner of Il Lido Italian Canteen, Cottesloe); Will Berliner (owner Cloudburst wines), Glenn Goodall and Brendan Carr (winemakers at Xanadu); Julian Langworthy (winemaker Deep Woods and current Jimmy Watson trophy holder); Luke Jolieff (winemaker Stella Bella & Len Evans scholar); Ian Parmenter (former writer for Wine Selector magazine; Peter Forrestal (wine writer); fine wine retailers John Jens (Lamonts),  Moreno Berti (RE Store) and Mike Tambouri (La Vigne); Tricia Horgan, Shelley Cullen, Janet and Zara Holmes A Court, Danielle and Jeremy Gordon (owners and winemaker Amelia Park) and many many more... 

TOP 10 WINES UNDER $20 – WHITE AND RED

We all love great wine, sure we do.  But everyone needs a weekday wine.  A Monday night wine.  A ‘cooking’ wine – some of it might even end up in the food.  So here is a list of our top 10 wines below $20 to fill the weekday nights without emptying the piggybank.

WHITES:

Houghton Stripe Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2016

$9.99 – These guys get a lot of press – but they’re worth it.  You want a reliable, fresh and crisp SSB – this is it.  Change from a twenty… or two bottles – depending on how hard your day was. 90pts

Howard Park Flint Rock Chardonnay 2016

$19.99 – About 5 years ago Howard Park introduced the regionals range – same Howard Park quality that we know and love, at a fraction of the price.  Usually $25, but at LB stores for $20 91 pts

Vasse Felix Classic Dry White 2016

$16.99 – Sem Sav Blanc.  Vasse needs no introduction - a high-class outfit producing great wines consistently, year in, year out.  This is a cracker. 91 pts

Deep Woods Estate Chardonnay 2016

$17 – this is Margaret River’s best value, under $20 Chardonnay.  Great every year.  Over delivers complexity, flavour and length.  Love it. 93 pts

Bellewinter Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River 2016

$11.99 – bright, citrus fruit, grassy herbal notes and plenty of ripe tropical fruit.   89 pts

 

REDS:

Willow Bridge Dragonfly Cabernet Merlot 2015

$14.99 – Reds from the Geographe might seem exotic – but they shouldn’t.  A great region producing exciting wines, this being silky, spicy, plush and satisfying. 93 pts

Leeuwin Estate Siblings Shiraz 2014

$19.99 - Margs Shiraz is an underrated style.  Juicy and bright, full of life, spice and joy.  A great estate. 91 pts

Stoneberry Premium Red, WA 2015

$8.99 – Change from a ten.  Simple, juicy, bright – not complicated, just delicious.  Exclusive to LB stores. 90 pts

Amelia Park Trellis Cabernet Merlot 2015

$14.99 – We reckon this is the best Cab Merlot from Margs at this price.  Amelia Park are kicking countless goals right now.  Don’t miss out on the fun. 93 pts

Houghton Stripe Red Classic 2014

$9.99 - The pigeon pair to the SSB.  A blend of three varieties, cabernet dominant. Consistent like the sunrise. 90 pts

Deep Woods Estate Ebony Cabernet Shiraz 2015

$12.99 – Silky, juicy, plump and difficult not to finish the bottle. Love the sweet fruit VS the savoury spice.  Great every year.  92 pts

 

 

 

A pair of Fianos… from the same man

Fiano {said fee-ah-no, NOT like piano} is an Italian grape variety hailing from Sicily and the Campania region (think Naples), that grows very well in Australia.  Whilst plantings are still relatively sparse here, this grape has great potential within our food and wine scene.  Its aromatic, minerally and crisp characteristics make it a suitable match for most of our spring/summer dining.   This week I looked at two Fianos, both from Margaret River.  Interestingly, they are both very different from each other, despite being made by the same respected winemaker, Mark Messenger.

2016 Higher Plane Fiano, Margaret River, RRP $25

“White peach, almond meal, white jasmine florals and hints of white nectarine.  Brine.  Tight and lean on the nose, a sour green apple skin character on the palate. Surprisingly plump for the tight acidity and tingly character.  The finish leaves a powdery sensation – almost talcy.  Crisp.  Flavoursome.  Crunchy.  This wine has been met with great acclaim from wine press across Australia – all agree it is a wonderful example of Oz Fiano.  Textural and full.  This has been fermented in old oak which contributes to the texture but leaves no impression of oak on the palate. 90pts, and $25”.

2016 Juniper Estate Small Batch Fiano, Margaret River RRP $25

“At the other end of the spectrum, this is softer more floral on the nose, it has a soapy character and lacks the overt peach aromatics on the nose.  Again, very high acid! I like the salinity here though – very much.  Honeydew melon and nashi pear. Salty. Fresh. Tangy finish. Somewhat mellifluous - pretty. Delicate. Red apple skins. 20% of this wine was barrel fermented – again to increase depth and texture in the wine.  The remaining 80% was fermented in tank to preserve the clean fresh fruit characters.  On this day – the Juniper Estate wine was more to my taste.  92 points, and $25”

 

Hanging in that beautiful space...

With the weather hanging in that beautiful space between cool mornings, and sunny afternoons, the wine choices seem infinite.  Cooler night-times can call for heavier reds, or full bodied whites, and meanwhile – the afternoon sunshine is near on perfect for crisp fresh whites, or lighter bodied, nervous and vibrant reds.  So…

2016 Rieslingfreak No 3, Clare Valley

“Tight, austere and unapologetically Clare.  Beautiful length and line.  This is tight.  Cellar it.  Love it.  It’s structured and linear – hints of bath salts, lime blossom, spring florals and ripe citrus.  Fruit for this wine was ‘harvested from the family vineyard… in the White Hutt sub-region’ situated in the northern part of the Clare Valley.  This is a label to look out for each vintage: each ‘number’ indicating a different sub-region or style of riesling.  For the love of riesling – don’t miss it.  93 points, and around $26”

2013 Vietti ‘Perbacco’ Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont, Italy DOC

“If you’re not familiar with the great Vietti house of Italy – may I humbly suggest that you do something about this.  If you are – excellent.  The Vietti family have been producing beautiful and age-worthy wine in Castiglione Falletto (Piedmont) since the early 1900’s.  Fermented in Slovenian oak and sourced from pedigree Barolo vineyards, this is bright and fresh: the tannins are fine but assertive, the fruit is spicy, lithe, supple.  Red cherries, rosewater, cracked black pepper.  There is a rusticity here, wrapped in silk… honestly this is an exciting wine.  2013 was an exceptional vintage for nebbiolo, and Barolo. American wine writer Antonio Galloni says of the 2013’s: “The 2013 Barolos I have tasted from cask are aromatically compelling, rich and structured; in other words super-classic. At their best, the 2013s come across as slightly richer versions of the 2010s.” This is a drink-now Barolo, get around it.  Perfect time of year for it! 94 points and $58”

 

Does size matter?

Shiraz comes in all shapes and sizes – here are three very different but equally delicious examples to titillate you through your Easter long weekend…

2015 Thistledown, One Chain Vineyard, The Opportunist Shiraz, Langhorne Creek

“This is what some friends of mine might refer to as a ‘juicy banger’.  It is bright and vibrant on the nose with red raspberry characters and silky smooth blackberry and spice – it promises a good time.  On the palate it is a totally different ball game: savoury, spicy, stemmy and structured.  It is a wine of extremes… the nose continues to pull me in, the palate constantly surprising.  “As for all of our wines, the fruit for One Chain Vineyard The Opportunist Shiraz 2015 is picked on the way up to ripeness rather than on the way down.” It is fresh and energetic – the palate leaving a decidedly rustic old-world vibe, yet it is modern and delicious.  Great value, and an intriguing drink.  92 points, and $20”

2013 Castelli, Empirica, Mt Barker Syrah

“Tomato leaf, black pepper, black berries, blood plum and blackcurrant – this is good solid shiraz from the Great Southern – it practically shouts its regionality from the glass.  It is balanced with great structure, the persistent, savoury tannins frame the black fruit and create awesome length.  For lovers of shiraz with both oomph and finesse – this one’s for you. 93 points and $32”

2014 Yalumba, The Paradox, Barossa Shiraz

“Part of the Distinguished Sites range, this is rich, opulent, silky and lush.  Barossa at its finest: although not overblown and extraverted. It is bright and juicy initially, paving the way for an injection of inky fruit, crushed black pepper, liquorice and blackberries on the palate.  Dark and brooding, the old vine material really steps up the concentration in this wine.  94 points, and $48”

Willow Bridge PHWOAR WINES

I’ve long been a fan of Willow Bridge wines - the winery produces outstanding wines that represent exceptional value for money.  This is not an overstatement.

The Willow Bridge Estate wines start at the well-known and highly regarded Dragonfly range.  Consistently pipping others wineries in the points stakes, and regularly receiving medals at wine shows, the wines retail at around $15.

The range extends into the Estate range – named after the parts of the estate from which the wine originates - the Gravel Pit shiraz belongs here.  The top of the triangle is reserved for the Black Dog shiraz – a collectors wine, retailing at the extraordinarily reasonable pricepoint of $60 – some may say it is too cheap.

Recently Willow Bridge has released the Maris Sol wines – a white (oaked sauvignon) and a red (a grenache/tempranillo blend).  These are exciting and limited/ small batch, the labels set apart from the rest of the Willow Bridge range.  Maris Sol are a “see-and-buy” proposition, retailing at around $40.

The wine that got me thinking recently was the 2015 Willow Bridge Gravel Pit Shiraz.  The shiraz fruit is sourced wholly from the Geographe region, which is an emerging region for red varieties, in particular – shiraz, tempranillo and grenache.  Geographe also produces very high quality riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, so do keep an eye out.

After doing some digging into past scores from James Halliday for the Gravel Pit, I see it has been running super consistently – to the tune of: 2010 - 94 points, 2011 – 94 points, 2012 – 96 points, 2013 - 95 points, 2014 – 96 points and now the 2015 is current release.  This wine was nestled in amongst 16 other Shiraz in a recent blind tasting and stood out for its hedonism, balance and structure.

2015 Willow Bridge Estate, Gravel Pit Shiraz, Geographe WA

“Phwoar [yep my note starts this way]… sweet, full, ripe and dark on the nose.  Utterly enticing.  The palate is structured and complete, almost hedonistic in its abundant red and black fruits, dark spice and supple tannins.  It is inky.  It is intense. Full of blood plum, blackberry, licorice, hints of strawberry, crushed black pepper… all ending in a juicy upswing of flavour through the finish.  This is delicious now – satisfying and complete, but it will cellar well into the future.  Halliday recommends as far forward as into the 2030’s… I tend to agree.  Everything that is required for an elegant future is here.  It is important to note that the 2015 vintage was dedicated to the previous late winemaker Simon Burnell, who was a charismatic, intelligent and talented man, and who is missed by all.  $30 is an absolute bargain – long may it remain.  94 points”

Great Galafrey

The more wines I see from the Great Southern, the more impressed I become.  And that’s saying something, because for the past couple of years I’ve been looking at 300-400 wines from the region per year. Traditionally, the Riesling has been the superstar, however now we can comfortably add shiraz, cabernet, chardonnay, ‘other white varietals’ (think gewurtzraminer) and ‘other reds’ (think tempranillo, grenache and others).  Has this region got it all?  Perhaps.

Galafrey Wines was established in Mt Barker in 1977 by Ian Tyrer (1946 – 2003).  These days, the winery is run by his wife Linda, and daughter Kim who is the winemaker.  Galafrey are responsible for small batch, classy and delicious wines, and should not be missed.

Interested in why they called it Galafrey?  OK maybe you’re not… but the reason is good.  Let us set the scene for you (taking of course a bit of artistic license)... It was on a dark and stormy night in the late 1970's, when a group of like-minded mates met up for dinner and drinks in Mt Barker.  They got to chatting... one of them had an idea to start a winery.  But what to call it?  The night wore on... more wine was consumed and many topics were raised, Dr Who among them.  Gallifrey is the home planet of the Doctor, Rani and the Time Lords.  Gallifrey is a cool word... why don't we call it Galafrey? Like the tardis, this was a big idea in a small package.  So if you see a Dalek on their social media feed, or in the winery, or anywhere around a Galafrey wine – now you know why.

These two wines happen to be from the same winery, but were picked from a blind tasting of 35 wines – split across shiraz and riesling.  The riesling I knew immediately was from the Great Southern.  To me, fewer styles from WA speak of their place more clearly, than G.S. riesling. The Galafrey shiraz was a surprise I will admit – my notes say “McLaren Vale?” because I usually associate the blackcurrant creaminess with that region.

2016 Galafrey Dry-Grown Reserve Riesling, Mount Barker

“Typical Mount Barker acidity – like a coiled spring.  Tight, racy and with floral flourishes, this dry-grown riesling from Galafrey just smells so typically of the Great Southern that it makes me smile as I smell it.  Fine minerality, ripe citrus, bursts of brine and lime blossom, this has finesse, power and a lightness of touch all at once.  YES.  A bargain at $25.  92 points.”

2014 Galafrey Dry-Grown Shiraz, Mount Barker

“I have to say – this surprised me.  In a blind tasting where we looked at shiraz from all over Australia, this has a creaminess, concentration and completeness that I associated with the eastern states… but even better – it’s a WA wine.  Ripe, concentrated, redolent with sweet red berries, plush cassis, hints of anise, licorice, and black berry.  There is spice, and opulent fruit, but it’s tempered by drying tannins and modest alcohol.  Elegant and deeply satisfying.  Recommended.  94 points. $30”

LIQUOR BARONS PAPER BAG PROJECT - SERIES II

LIQUOR BARONS PAPER BAG PROJECT - SERIES II

THE IDEA //

Each morning I drink coffee from cafes around Perth, many of whom use take-away cups with featured artists or artworks on them.  They range from cool to really epic, and it begs the question: 

Why aren't we doing something with our bottle bags?

We are an independent premium wine/beer/spirits retailer, it makes sense that we support local, independent artists.  So here we are.  

The hope is that you learn about someone that you may not have heard about before, that you have something new to talk about, and most importantly, it supports a local artist who is leading in their field. This time round - it's Smij.

The program is unique in Australia - we are the first liquor group to do it, but I wager we won't be the last. 

SERIES II FEATURED ARTIST / /  Smij

THE ARTIST //

Smij started out life as a small shrubbery but with regular watering he has grown into a Perth based artist. Heavily influenced by music and custom culture he is a self-proclaimed selfish painter and his artwork is a regurgitation of his imagination.

All though not always noticeably of this world his subjects and subject matter often tell relatable stories, narrowing the gap between the surreal and the real world.

Instagram: @_smij_

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/smijart

THE BRIEF //

>> To create 3 original designs to be printed onto paper bottle bags. Bottle bag sizes are single bottle, double and triple bottles.  The series will be printed as a limited run, and distributed to our stores.

>> Each bag is to carry a different design.  There will be 3 designs in the series.  The design can cover as little or as much of one side of the bag.

>> The focus of each design is entirely up to you, our only stipulation is that it is reflective of your style.

THE ARTWORKS //

SINGLE BOTTLE BAG //

DOUBLE BOTTLE BAG //

TRIPLE BOTTLE BAG //

Only a limited number of these bags have been printed, and they will run out, so get into your local Liquor Barons store and collect all three.  

Let's get serious with Yalumba

Today we are looking at Yalumba – one of the Barossa’s oldest winemaking families.  If you’ve ever had the privilege of going to the stately winery in Angaston, it is impossible not to feel the history of the place – it’s palpable.  Every level of the company is run with an air of fanaticism and loyalty that is an absolute marvel to witness, and Samuel Smith & Sons the parent company, remains to this day a wholly family owned company.

Yalumba, Patchwork Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2014

“From one of the Barossa’s oldest winemaking families, comes an unmissable, great value Barossa Valley Shiraz.  2014 vintage was typified by challenging curveballs and unpredictable weather patterns, but overall produced wines of complexity, balance, and dare I say it – finesse.  Yields were down on 2013, but quality was up, so snatch up the 2014’s while you can. Purple/ garnet in colour, crushed pepper, blackberry, mulberries and poached raspberry.  The palate is bright and yet intense – powerfully fruit driven, good structure, acidity and length.  There is a creaminess here.  This is classic Barossa – blueberries, crushed black pepper, full red berry on the mid palate, and a long spicy finish.  Structured and round.  Awesome value for money.  Perfect for the rainy weekend ahead…92 points and $23”

100% Shiraz

Yalumba, The Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2012

“The Scribbler is often seen as the baby brother to the iconic Signature Cab Shiraz.  There’s nothing more Australian than this blend, and doubly so from the Barossa, the birthplace of the Cab Shiraz. 2012 was an exceptional vintage, producing high quality, well balanced wines that have been internationally lauded by wine press. Deep and dense in colour, the cabernet playing a huge role here.  Cassis, freshly turned earth, blackberry, leather, hints of cedar – it’s clear to see why this is a blend, with each variety so complementing the other.  Balanced and rich, the 5 years of age has mellowed out the mouthfeel and tannins, meaning this is a plush, spicy, silky and deeply satisfying wine. Perfect for the cooler weather. Cassis, blueberry, raspberry, crushed pepper spice, hints of licorice, smooth tannins and great intensity.  For a $23 wine, this is hard to go past. 93 points”

54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Shiraz

Yalumba, The Signature Cabernet Shiraz 2013

“The 2013 vintage in the Barossa valley will be remembered as the driest, earliest and quickest vintage in memory.” (Barossa Grape & Wine Association)  The quality from the vintage has been strong across the board, and this is no exception.  Each year, the Yalumba wine company dedicates The Signature to someone of significance – this vintage, it is Andrew Murphy Director of Wine at Yalumba.  The first thing I notice about this wine is that it is absolutely plush, concentrated and complete… this kind of flavour only comes from the Barossa.  Steeped in blackcurrant, ripe red berries, silky tannins and great structure.  The Hungarian and American oak provide a softness, a sweetness, a roundness to the wine.  This is delicious now, but if you can hold onto it, will develop into a stately wine over many years to come.  95 points, $65”

Celebration or despair...

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Election wines – what to drink

Let’s assume for the moment that we’re all going to stay in on Saturday night and watch the election results flood in.  This is going to be a particularly interesting election, what with the unprecedented preference arrangement between the Libs and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation; perhaps you’re hoping this leads to failure, so that the contentious Roe 8 project will be permanently diverted.  Whatever your viewpoint, there may be cause for celebration, or despair.  So – what’s on the menu?

Something to start – let’s get the ball rolling:

Amelia Park, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, 2016, Margaret River

The forecast is warm, so let’s head for WA’s perennial favourite blend – SSB.  The grassy characters that spring from semillon are alive and well in this wine.  Bright and vibrant, redolent with ripe citrus, green apple, sugar snap peas and jasmine florals.  With enough texture and complexity to make this perfectly suited to wide range of foods – it’s recommended to throw some Exmouth King Prawns on the BBQ and watch events unfold.  93 points and $20.”

Something fancy – it case it swings your way:

Martinborough Vineyards, Te Tera Pinot Noir, 2014, New Zealand

State elections have the power to directly influence our daily lives, sometimes even more so than Federal.  So let’s pretend this is going to go the way you want, and you pop into the pantry/wine fridge/cellar to open something… anticipated.   Located on the southern tip of the north island, Martinborough Estate has notable peers in Ata Rangi and Craggy Range.  This wine is right for this occasion – supple, spicy, textured and satisfying.  Ripe red cherry, pomegranate, blood plum and crushed black pepper.  Hailing from a great vintage, this is one to seek out. 94 points and for as little as $32.”

A comfort wine – in case it didn’t swing your way, and you don’t want to talk about it:

Mr Barval Nebbia, 2016, Margaret River

This brings a smile to my face every time I drink it.  “Here’s hoping it works tonight.” 100% nebbiolo picked from a vineyard south of Margs, and made in the lighter, fresher ‘Langhe’ style, this wine shows us that concentration, texture, complexity and vibrancy can come from WA nebbiolo.  After crushing, the juice spent just 5 days on skins, plunged by hand every 2 hours (a hectic schedule for Rob Gherardi the winemaker), and then bottled after 10 months in old oak.  Strawberry, minerality, refreshing acidity, violets and roses; all balanced by drying tannins and spice.  Only two barrels made, and perhaps more traditional in style to the 2015.  Love this for a lighter style red in warm weather.  96 points, and $35.

Tassie pinot... what's not to love?

Heading home on the ferry after a day spent at MONA

Heading home on the ferry after a day spent at MONA

I’ve never met a Tassie pinot I haven’t loved.  Tasmania was the focus of conversation las night, and it reminded me how much love I have for Tassie wines, but more specifically – Tassie pinot.  Pristine like the breeze off the Derwent, uncomplicated like the people and full of pleasure like the countryside and scenery.

Typically, Tasmanian Pinot is not the cheapest pinot in Australia, however in my books, it has the most reliable flavour profile – an unmistakeable ‘Tassie’ character.  The following two wines from the great 2015 vintage are absolute standouts, for different reasons. 

2015 Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir, Tamar Valley

“Hard to go past this for value for money.  Bright summer strawberries, silky mouthfeel and enough spice on the backend to maintain interest all the way to the end of the bottle.  Packed with raspberry, pomegranate, red currant, ripe December cherries and hints of blood plum.  This is a juicy, drink now style pinot: reliable, delicious and incredible value for money.  Typically retails for around $20 and 92 points.”

2015 Dalrymple Pinot Noir, Pipers Brook

“If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting winemaker Pete Caldwell, you’ll know what I mean when I say, ‘Dalrymple is a bloody happy experience’.  Pete has an almost permanent smile (perhaps due to his great job – who knows) on his open face, and is one of the most approachable, intelligent and humorous winemakers in the industry.  This wine is created from a blend of three different vineyard regions: the Dalrymple own vineyard in Pipers Brook, Coal River Valley and one parcel from a grower in the Upper Derwent Valley.   This approach allows for each of these site terroirs to contribute complexity and nuance to the final blend.  The wine is redolent with ripe black cherry, blood plum, fresh raspberry, crushed black pepper, hints of clove and aniseed, and suggestions of Christmas spice… cinnamon perhaps.  Like all the Dalrymple pinots, this is a step up in complexity, body, structure and will comfortably cellar, if an aged pinot is more your jam.  95 points, and around $40.  Well worth it.”

 

 

Bare All Wine Co

Nic Peterkin is at it again.  Son of Dr Mike Peterkin (Pierro), and owner/winemaker of L.A.S. Vino wines, Nic has just released a super-small batch and very affordable range of wines from the Margaret River region.  There are three wines in the range: a rose, chenin blanc and a cabernet franc (all of which are multi-varietal blends). The labels are identical and don’t display a vintage, so you’ll have to keep your wits about you.

A new release for his L.A.S Vino label, to be released in April this year is his 2015 Barossa Shiraz.  Keep your eyes out for this one – as usual he has embarked upon this project with originality and confidence.

Bare All Wine Co Rose 2016

50% Shiraz, 25% Pinot, 10-15% Nebbiolo, plus a bit of Viognier 

Spicy, concentrated, full, textured and exciting. Made at the urban winery event at Petition in the Perth CBD.  Unfined, but filtered. 92pts and $20

Bare All Wine Co Chenin Blanc 2015

91% Chenin Blanc, 5% Riesling, 4% Viognier

Natural barrel fermented, no malo, lees stirred, two barrels only.  Carries sediment. Only settled in tank for two weeks, cloudy.  Cloudy apple on the nose, tight minerally, delicious. Paired with crab at the Wildflower restaurant degustation. 94 pts and $20

Bare All Wine Co Cab Franc 2015

80% Cab Franc, the balance being Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo & Petit Verdot

Oak for 2 years, tank topped with pressings of Cab Sav, Neb + PV.  There's a caramel flavour mingled into the raspberry, blackberry fruit.  This is perfect for Perth summer (if it ever gets here) medium/light bodied, pinot-esque.  91 pts and $20

2015 LAS Vino Barossa Shiraz, release April 2017

From a 20yr old shiraz vineyard in the Barossa, made by his mate Jimi Lienert in the family shed over there (the surname should sound familiar…. His uncle Steve Lienert is the senior red Winemaker at Penfolds).  Full and spicy - elegant and full of fruit - red apple, blood plum, long and plush, love this. 95 pts and $65.

Wines to Drink When it’s Raining

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Who can believe this weather recently? It’s supposed to be summer!  If you, like us, have drastically altered your wine choices to suit the storms, and have dusted off the winter clothes months earlier than you expected to, then we hope this little buying guide will help refresh your memory on stormy wines… even though it’s still summer.

Below is a little buying guide for rainy day wines, plus some standouts from recent trips to the local.

Cabernet + Cabernet Merlot blends – Margaret River.  
Producers to look out for: Cullen, Deep Woods, Vasse Felix, Amelia Park, anyone really.  Most wineries create delicious Cabernet + cab blends at many different price points.  If you’re really in the mood to search – Ipso Facto Cabernet…. Moorish.  And for something a bit off the wall – try the Brash Higgins Cabernet Franc from McLaren Vale.  Phwoar.

Shiraz:
Big + peppery - Barossa Valley.  Producers to look out for: Yalumba, Standish, First Drop, Spinifex Creamy and juicy - McLaren Vale. Producers to look out for: Some Young Punks, Brash Higgins, Ministry of Clouds
Structured, engaging and elegant - Frankland River. Producers to look out for: Swinney Vineyards, La Violetta (Up! shiraz)

Grenache:
Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale – some elegant and exciting examples to be found in both of these regions. Producers to look out for: S.C.Pannell, Ochota Barrels, Clarendon Hills – and for a great value and totally slurpable suggestion – don’t walk past the Kaesler Stonehorse Grenache Shiraz.  Around the $19-20 mark.

Tempranillo:
Interesting plantings all over Oz.  Producers to look out for: West Cape Howe – value for money at ~$20

Nebbiolo:
Interesting plantings all over Oz.  Producers to look out for: Primo Estate, S. C. Pannell, and from WA (always support your local superheroes) Mr Barval and L.A.S. Vino.  Love both these WA boys – and they make their Nebs from the same vineyard.  If you’re a true nerd, you’ll seek out both, open them at the same time, and see the difference the maker makes.

Sangiovese:
nteresting plantings all over Oz. Producers to look out for: Coriole

Chardonnay: 
Powerful, spicy and intense: Margaret River Producers to look out for:  LAS Vino, Pierro, Deep Woods, Cullen, Xanadu, Vasse Felix…. The list is extensive – Margs Chard is renowned for a reason.
Spicy fine and long: Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania Producers to look out for:  Dawson & James (premium – treaty yourself – fine and gives Burgundy a run for its money), Tolpuddle, Yabby Lake.  We’re smiling as we suggest these – they’re all incredible.
Bit of everything great: Yarra Valley Producers to look out for:  Mac Forbes, Giant Steps, Seville Estate

Riesling:
Great Southern first, then Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Tasmania Producers to look out for:  Paul Nelson (Denmark, lees contact, complex), Brave New Wine – Sunshine & Hercules (natural, out there), Grosset (classic benchmark – world class), Clos du Tertre (Great Southern – fine and precise).
 

What to drink at the end of the of the world

2017 – What a start to the year it's been.  In the last week alone we’ve witnessed the exit of Barack Obama from the White House, and we watched as Donald Trump entered.  I thought initially it was just outside of America that the horror of what has just happened was felt most keenly, but as the images and reports of reactions and protests within America began to pour in, I felt a glimmer of hope that the rest of the world wasn’t alone in feeling shock, disbelief and just a bit terrified of the impending Trump reign. 

As we know, the US political climate affects the rest of the world, so it was interesting to read a press release from the Winemakers Federation of Australia this morning, regarding Trump’s decision not to ratify the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership).  The US remains Australia’s most valuable wine export market, meaning that the decision not to ratify the TPP could have potentially devastating flow-on effects to our wine export industry here in Australia.

Tony Battaglene, Chief Executive of the Winemakers Federation of Australia said that ‘The TPP offers tremendous opportunities for our sector and the promise of wealth creation in regional Australia as well as to the national economy’. 

Despite Trump’s decision not to ratify, Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has announced that the Australian government will proceed with ratification of the TPP, confirming our stance on trade liberalisation.  Mr Battaglene went on to say ‘This is the first agreement to specifically address significant nontariff trade barriers restricting our export growth as well as promoting significant opportunities within the region. It also provides a template for future agreements.’ 

Here’s hoping.  Our country is built on a rich history of embracing new cultures, and we proudly export our products, culture and wine to the rest of the world.  Long may it remain.

Inauguration wine:

2014 Between Five Bells H-Cote Red, Lethbridge Victoria

“An intriguing combination of Nero d’Avola, Negro Amaro and Pinot Gris.  Sounds confusing, but tastes like cherries, dark chocolate, spice and it was exactly what I needed while watching the events unfold in the US.  Like all good things in life, this wine is made by adding two great varieties (Nero d’Avola and Negro Amaro) to a base of something that came before it – in this case Pinot Gris skins.  It was silky and quenching and comforting, in a time of distress. 

92 points and about $35 

Aussie Sparkling - You need to drink more!

Aussie sparkling can range from commercial and deservedly cheap, through to sublime.  The sublime wines in focus for this week are:

2005 House of Arras Rosé, and what a gorgeous rosé this is.  Winemaker Ed Carr is undisputedly Australia’s greatest sparkling winemaker.  With grapes hand-picked in the Lower Derwent, Coal River Valley and the Upper Derwent, this is a 75/25 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay.  It’s a soft salmon pink colour in the glass, the nose complex and suggestive of wild strawberries, roasted mandarin and Marrakesh market spice.  The palate is great – it’s a mix of serious texture, structure and length, but it’s bright, and the Tassie acidity is refreshing.  This wine spends an extended 6 years on tirage – colossal time investment when you consider the pricetag, the soft colour coming from the addition of still pinot noir at the blending stage.  A wonderful wine: poise, grace and delicacy. Gold medals at 2015 Adelaide Wine Show and 2015 National Wine Show.

95pts and $80.

2008 Clover Hill Rose

A completely different wine in terms of style and structure than the Arras, and they were looked at side by side.  The Clover Hill spends 3 years on lees, and is a blend of Pinot Noir 87% + Pinot Meunier 13% sourced from the Clover Hill Vineyard in Pipers River.  This has a lower residual sugar (6.5g/L) than the Arras, yet it is richer/rounder in style.  The dosage is made from reserve wines aged in oak – a serious investment in quality.  In the glass the wine is a pale salmon pink, the flavour is hugely intense – spicy, dry and rich. The colour comes from gentle maceration of the pinot noir, with a small amount of pinot meunier added before bottling. This is serious, will age, and at this stage is a dense, savoury, almost muscular sparkling, more tertiary than the Arras, but curiously, showing wild strawberries, raspberry and Turkish rosewater alongside the spice.  These two sparklings split the tasting down the middle in terms of preference – both equally loved for different reasons. 

94pts and $55.

The Rose Revolution is here to stay!

We’ve got a lot to thank Provence for;  The sun-drenched coastal region in South West France has largely been the driver behind the increase in popularity of rosé.  The glistening, pale salmon pink colour we love to seek out and consume exposes a fascinating trend in the marketplace currently.  If you consider for a moment that the total liquor market in WA is 10% down on last year, then it is exciting to note that rosé is in significant growth, and in fact, more than this: rosé is one of the leading growth segments in the wine category. Did you know that 12% of ALL wine sold in the UK is rosé?  Rob Crawford from the Fogarty wine group said, “We can’t keep up, if we were able to double production of our Rosés on last year’s volume, we’d still sell out before the new vintages were released.  We take our Rosé program very seriously at Deep Woods, and it’s great to see that the market is responding positively to the wines that we are producing.”

The rosé revolution is here to stay.   

2016 Deep Woods Estate Rose, Margaret River

“Rated the best rosé in Australia in 2015 (96pts James Halliday), I’d wager this will again hit the jackpot in 2016.  It’s a ripper.  Pomegranate, red cherry, rose petals, crushed pink peppercorns, white pepper, touches of ripe raspberry and red apple.  Last year superstar winemaker Julian Langworthy only made a modest amount of this – consequently, it promptly sold out.  This year there is a touch more, so hopefully, it will last a little while longer into the summer drinking season.  68% Tempranillo, 27% Shiraz and 5% of some barrel aged Vermentino, all from the Yallingup/Margaret River area.  It’s not possible to overstate the joy this will bring you this summer.  

$25 and available from the 1st of September. 95pts”