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…
This stallion from Reims will be carrying the polish from one of the most experienced champagne stables in the world. A race day favourite and arguably the most widely recognised of all the bottles out of the gate this Tuesday...Our resident expert punter has selected his personal picks in champagne, prosecco and other sparklers taking to the field at Flemington for the race which stops the nation this Tuesday. Which will you back for a win?
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”
1. SIDEWAYS (2004)
A classic. If you've not seen it - knock it off the list. Make sure you know teensy bit about Bordeaux before you start....
"Struggling writer and wine enthusiast Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his engaged friend, Jack (Thomas Haden Church), on a trip to wine country for a last single-guy bonding experience. While Miles wants to relax and enjoy the wine, Jack is in search of a fling before his wedding. Soon Jack is sleeping with Stephanie (Sandra Oh), while her friend Maya (Virginia Madsen) connects with Miles. When Miles lets slip that Jack is getting married, both women are furious, sending the trip into disarray."
2. THE INVITATION (2015)
[Important to note - this intense, psychological thriller is not ABOUT wine, but we can't think of anything more necessary to have on hand while watching it. Trust us - you'll need a drink.]
"While attending a dinner party at his former house, a man (Logan Marshall-Green) starts to believe that his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband (Michiel Huisman) have sinister plans for the guests."
Mood: dark, sinister, intense
3. THE DUEL OF WINE (2015)
"This madcap, offbeat comedy is a must for wine lovers. It picks up from where The Way of Wine (2011) left off, with real life master sommelier, the so much larger-than-life Charlie Arturaola playing himself, who, having famously lost his palate during the shooting of the earlier film, has left the world of wine in disgrace and is now working as a taxi driver in Miami, where he lives with his wife and former manager Pandora.
But when Pandora is approached by rising star sommelier Luca Gardini (also playing himself) to manage him all the way to the world championship of sommeliers, The Duel of Wine, Charlie (having regained his palate) feels compelled to regain his reputation and win Pandora back. Using his friend Lino as a front man at tastings around Europe Charlie manages to make his way to the final where he faces Luca and Pandora."
Mood: self-referencing wine comedy
4. BOTTLE SHOCK (2008)
"Paris-based wine expert Steven Spurrier heads to California in search of cheap wine that he can use for a blind taste test in the French capital. Stumbling upon the Napa Valley, the stuck-up Englishman is shocked to discover a winery turning out top-notch chardonnay. Determined to make a name for himself, he sets about getting the booze back to Paris."
Mood: Alan Rickman (he's enough incentive) + classic 70's America
5. THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987)
Naught to do about wine, but plenty of chuckles along the way.
"The Princess Bride is a 1987 American romantic fantasy adventure comedy film starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant and Christopher Guest. Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel of the same name, it tells the story about a farmhand named Westley, accompanied by befriended companions along the way, who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the odious Prince Humperdinck. The story is presented in the film as a book being read by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage), thus effectively preserving the novel's narrative style."
Mood: "In-con-theeeevable!" Medieval comedy told as a real-time narrative. Irreverant
REQUIRED/ PLEASE BRING:
- BOTTLE OF WINE(s)
Dream Day in the Life of a Wine Ambassador: Ambar Maddox
I have to admit; I’ve been a bit of a chameleon when it comes to my working life. From fast food to fine dining, making coffees in the morning to mixing cocktails in the evening, events to restaurants to bars to hotels — that's not just in Australia either, my working life to date has taken me throughout Australia, France, Canada, Mexico and Ireland. And while it may sound like getting a permanent position in Sydney would require putting adventure on the back burner, that couldn’t be further from the truth...
Picture this – It’s bright and early on a Monday morning and myself and a small group of newly hired Wine Ambassadors have just stepped off the plane in Adelaide. We’re here to learn about the Barossa Valley; heartland of South Australia’s premium wine production. Even though I’ve been warned of the heatwave the state has been experiencing, I’m excited to step foot in the region for the very first time.
Exiting the airport, I’m daydreaming about the breakfast that I forgot to eat when a blast of hot, dry January air hits me in the face, accompanied by the already familiar ‘ping’ of my work email buzzing in my pocket. I have a quick read through my emails and while the usual suspects were still there in the form of trainings and inductions, I have to wonder if there’s been a mistake? Sprinkled in amongst our inductions are no less than seven wine tastings and six degustation occasions scheduled at various local restaurants and wineries in the region – and that was all before Friday midday. On further inspection, the schedule outlines the likes of a Food & Wine Philosophy class with internationally renowned local chef, Mark McNamara, followed by an exclusive wine tasting run by Ben Bryant, Chief Winemaker of the global icon, Jacob’s Creek. It’s only my second week on the job as a Wine Ambassador and I find myself constantly circling back to the same thought — is this real life?
Fast forward six months and thankfully for my waistline, there are far less degustation's in my day-to-day work. There are, however, a lot of crazy fun things involved in my role as a Wine Ambassador, which is part of the reason why I love it so much.
For example, yesterday I started the day with our marketing team planning a launch event for a new product. We’re talking graffiti, warehouse parties, DJ sets – you name it. By noon I was representing Jacob’s Creek at a trade show – a slight change of pace from our rave conversations of the mid-morning. There was wine everywhere and of course, I wouldn’t be a professional if I didn’t try some other well-known producers while I was there.
Back to the office at three o'clock to host a wine and cheese pairing session for my fellow colleagues – food and wine seems to be a common theme here, doesn’t it? Part of my passion lies in teaching people something new when it comes to wine. Did you know blue cheese and sweet wine go together like two peas in a pod? Or that goat’s cheese and sauvignon blanc are a match made in heaven? I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
Finally, in the evening I hosted a 6 course wine dinner at one of our amazing new on-premise venues on the waterfront — needless to say, I didn’t eat dinner that day!
I'd be lying if I said my job was easy, but when you are meeting inspiring people on a daily basis who all share your passion for wine, it feels a lot less like work and a lot more like play. Being a Wine Ambassador for Jacob's Creek truly is a dream job.
- Ambar Maddox
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”
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 ~
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.
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 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:
DATE: WEDNESDAY 14th JUNE 2017
TIME: 4:00 – 8:00PM
PLACE: SURROUND SOUNDS
102 STIRLING HIGHWAY
NEDLANDS WA 6009
(PARKING AT REAR)
See you there ;)
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”
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 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/
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/
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/
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 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”