Henschke's Lenswood vineyard in the Adelaide Hills

Thursday 11 October 2012

Wirra Wirra Church Block (2010)

McLaren Vale, South Australia
14.5%, screwcap, biodynamic, around $18

2010 was a good year for this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. Displaying impressive fruit intensity for a wine in this price bracket, the palate was rich and seamless. Good value. - 94.

P.s. Church Block is one of the few wines that are consistently available in 375ml bottles - the perfect size for one person. Why are so few wines released in 375 ml bottles?

Thursday 4 October 2012

Gibson Reserve Shiraz (2010)

Barossa Valley, South Australia
15%, screwcap, $45

This classic Shiraz from the Barossa is flush with vibrant plums and black cherries set against lovely oak. The palate is incredibly long and smooth, but it is the quality of the fruit and oak that sets this wine apart. Do yourself a favour by grabbing some of this wine and laying it down for six years. A delightful wine - 96.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Coolangatta Estate, Savagnin (2012)

Shoalhaven Coast, New South Wales
12.7%, screwcap, $23

This grape variety is rapidly gaining attention and this example is no exception. Picked before the rain came, this Savagnin packs a punch. Its two best cards are its texture and acidity. Like a pair of aces, they bring on a smile regardless of how good your 'poker face' might be. The palate combines delicate citrus notes with fleshy peaches amongst a fascinating textural matrix, finishing with zesty acidity - 94.  

Coolangatta Estate is located on the Shoalhaven Coast, just over 2 hours drive south of Sydney. Whilst it is better known for its award winning Semillons, it also produces alternative varieties such as Tempranillo and Tannat. Anyone that lives in Sydney should take a day trip and check out these wines at the cellar door. Or, do yourself a favour and make a weekend of it so that you can tour the range of cafes and restaurants in nearby Berry. Sample sour dough bread baked in a wood fired oven or graze on African influenced cuisine at savannah cafe (the new kid on the block and rising star by all accounts).

Sunday 23 September 2012

Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz (2004)

Barossa Valley, South Australia
14.5%, cork, around $35

A delightful bouquet of plums and spice. The type of bouquet that makes you go back again and again, to savour it before taking a sip. The palate displayed a spread of concentrated, rich fruit - notes of blackberry and plum speckled with chocolate and cedar. The fruit combined with ripe tannins and supporting acid to form a delicious wine with good length. A full bodied Shiraz. The type of Shiraz that has made the Barossa Valley world famous - 96. 

P.s. I recently tried a sampe of the 2010 vintage - it's a cracker. Grab some while you still can.

Sunday 2 September 2012

O'Leary Walker Shiraz (2008)

Clare Valley/McLaren Vale, South Australia
14.5%, screwcap, around $22

As I was pouring this wine into the decanter I was struck by its deep impenetrable dark purple colour. But even with this preview, I didn't predict the potency of this wine. The palate was flush with intense vibrant fruit, covering the spectrum of red all the way through to black. The fruit a blend of Clare Valley (70%) and McLaren Vale (30%), combining two regions famous for Shiraz. The two years in French oak had resulted in a sublime oak influence which perfectly supported the fruit. The tannins were ripe and velvety. The high acid matched the power of the other elements. A lovely wine - 95.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Penfolds BIN 138 Shiraz Mourvedre Grenache (2008)

Barossa Valley, South Australia
14.5%, screwcap, around $20

This wine smelt of dark roasted spices - black pepper, aniseed, sawdust and leaves. The medium bodied palate was muscular, tight, complex and concentrated, yet the mouthfeel was immediately soft. A seamless blend: bright red fruits emerged from the darkness. Medium length and medium to high acidity - 93.5.

Monday 18 June 2012

Taylors Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet (2008)

South Australia
13.5%, screwcap, around $11

Deep purple. An alluring bouquet of red berries and oak. On the palate there was a scattering of redcurrants and plums mixed with cedary and toasty notes. The firm, medium bodied palate displayed smooth tannins and medium acidity. The blend was seamless and well judged. What struck me about this wine was the power of the fruit and depth of flavour. This was an authentic wine crafted in a traditional mould, unlike many of the other wines under $15 in the marketplace today. Those other wines have been crafted for early consumption and have reached their peak within two years and then experience a quick decline from that point on. There's no smoke and mirrors here, this is a genuine bargain - 93.    

Sunday 10 June 2012

Wynns Coonawarra Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon (2005)

Coonawarra, South Australia
14.5%, cork, around $30

A complex nose of cigar box and cedar. The medium bodied palate was dense and opulent, with mostly dark fruit, medium length and medium acidity. With time hints of licorice, menthol and tobacco leaf emerged on the nose. Years of bottle age had been kind to this wine and it was drinking really well - 94.

Saturday 2 June 2012

Bimbadgen Estate Shiraz (2010)

Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Sample, 13.5%, screwcap, RRP $23

Deep red. A medley of dark berries with hints of nutmeg on the bouquet. The palate is clean with good line, quite direct, though there is a softness to the red and black cherry flavours. The oak is barely discernible. Nice acid on the finish - 91.

Try it yourself

The folks at Bimbadgen have provided me with a bottle of this Shiraz to give away. To enter the competition for this bottle, all you have to do is Tweet a link to this post using '#shiraz'. Then send an email to Hemmings_David@yahoo.com. I will randomly select a 'tweet'. Note: to enter this competition you must be of legal drinking age and must have a postal address within Australia. Good luck!

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Bimbadgen Sparkling Semillon (NV)

Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Sample, 12%, cork, RRP $15

I'm always looking for an excuse to celebrate and a bit of 'fizz' is the perfect way to get the party started. If you are looking for a great value Australian sparkling wine, then this is a great place to start. Sourced from the Hunter Valley, a region that is known for top notch Semillon, this sparkling wine is 100% Semillon, made using the charmat tank fermentation method. Light in colour and a shy nose. Gentle citrus flavours combined with biscuity notes to produce a compelling alternative to the varieties that feature more traditionally in sparkling wines. It had fine bead. The small amount of residual sweetness was well judged. I must say I was easily convinced. There's no question about this wine's authenticity and value - 90.   

Thursday 24 May 2012

Bimbadgen Chardonnay (2011)

Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Sample, 13%, screwcap, RRP $22

Partially fermented in new and used oak, using Indigenous yeasts. A delightful nose of fresh peaches, cashews and vanilla bean. With a little more time some fruit salad aromas emerged. The fruit had generous intensity with all of the promise of the bouquet realised on the palate. The experience of the palate was like gliding along a meandering river - a central theme of nectarine carried me past hints of almonds and vanilla oak notes, with medium length and medium acidity. The malolactic influence was perfectly pitched. The fruit was vibrant and intense, though slightly dominated by the oak - 94. 

I really liked the way this Chardonnay has found a middle ground between the way Chardonnay used to be made and what is currently in fashion. In my view this is a smart move given the flood of Chardonnay made in a lean and minerally style (think thin and weak) that currently dominates the market place. It is so hard to find a Chardonnay that is vibrant and rich. 

Drink with...

Jacket potatoes, topped with sour cream, smoked salmon and a dash of horse radish cream. The richness of this Chardonnay enables it to be partnered with rich creamy dishes and the oak compliments the smoked flavours of the salmon. A perfect match.   

Saturday 19 May 2012

Bimbadgen Estate, Semillon (2011)

Hunter Valley, New South Wales
sample, 10%, screwcap, $20

The grapes for this wine were sourced from the Howard 'Somerset' and Benwarin vineyards located in Pokolbin (Hunter Valley). Light straw in colour. Some grassy notes with elements of lime blossom on the bouquet. I found the palate to be quite restrained, with a central spine of lime and soft acidity. With a little time some white flowers emerged on the bouquet. A somewhat sappy finish - a case of bottle shock?  - 91. 

Try it yourself

The folks at Bimbadgen have provided me with a bottle of this Semillon to give away. To enter the competition for this bottle, simply start 'following' this blog using the 'Followers' widget in the right hand column - just click 'join this site' and enter your details. I will randomly select a 'follower' in one week's time. To enter this competition you must be of legal drinking age and must have a postal address within Australia. Good luck!

Monday 7 May 2012

De Bortoli, Vat 8 Shiraz (2008)

South Australia and Victoria, Australia
14%, screwcap, around $14

Smells of plums and mulberries. The palate has balance, though it isn't overly complex or long. A dash of oak. Somewhat sharp on the finish. That said, this wine is good value - 86.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Centennial, Barbera (2008)

Orange, New South Wales
15.3%, cork, around $25

With a nose of prunes and raisins, this medium to full bodied red wine had not benefited from time in the bottle. Notwithstanding the palate of luscious berries and supple tannins, this wine finished with sharp and harsh acidity along with some metallic notes, which tainted the overall impression of the wine - 83.  

Thursday 19 April 2012

Di Lusso, Barberra (2010)

Mudgee, New South Wales
approx 14.5%, around $26

This wine displayed immaculate balance, with all components seamlessly blending together in a tight knit fashion. In that context, it was the intense blackberry on the nose and palate that played the staring role, set perfectly within a dry and savoury style. A delightful wine - 94.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Piggs Peake, House of Sticks Shiraz (2007)

Hunter Valley, New South Wales
15.5%, screwcap, around $28

A nose of prunes and charcoal with some red berries. Upon entrance, the soft mouthfeel was immediately discernible, followed by dull fruit, which then lead to a sharp finish and some warmth from the alcohol. I recall liking it when I sampled it at the cellar door years ago. However, this wine may have been crafted for early consumption as opposed to the five years that I have allowed it to have. Quite disappointing really - 82.

Monday 2 April 2012

McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon (2005)

Hunter Valley, New South Wales
11.5%, screwcap, around $24

Years ago, I searched a ridiculous number of wine outlets in Sydney looking for this wine. Knowing that 2005 was a grand year for Semillon in the Hunter Valley, I had been waiting for the 2004 vintage to run dry and for 2005 to finally be released. It remains unclear to me just how much was sent to the market place at the time, but I was unable to find one bottle of 2005. Every store had the 2007 vintage instead! Thus it was a case of serendipity, when during a recent holiday on the mid north coast of NSW, I stumbled upon a bottle of Cellar Aged 2005 Elizabeth in the local bottle shop. 

This wine was spectacular. With a lighter colour than would be expected for a seven year old wine, the wine was shrouded in a bouquet of lemony goodness. The bottle age shone through on the palate which showed intense citrus characters and a delightfully creamy texture. Fantastic value - 95. 

P.s. The 2005 vintage is still available from the cellar door for $118 per dozen. I'm told there isn't much left. What a surprise.   

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Tamburlaine, Reserve Semillon (2010)

Hunter Valley, New South Wales
10.8%, screwcap, Certified Organic, $25

Light straw in colour. A classic Hunter Semillon with subdued and delicate lemon and lime blossom flavours. It has good line and length. Impressive structure, it has been crafted for the long hall - 93.

Monday 12 March 2012

Vasse Felix, Classic Dry White Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (2010)

Margaret River, Western Australia
12.5%, screwcap, around $18

The bouquet was tropical with passion fruit and melon. On the palate the Semillon opened the show with grassy and herbaceous notes, and Sauvignon Blanc was the closing act with flavours of tropical fruit salad. A crisp and refreshing wine - 90.  

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Hamiltons Bluff, Sangiovese (2007)

Cowra, New South Wales
15.4%, around $28

With a slightly volatile nose, this wine packed a punch with a full bodied palate of intense fruit. Time in bottle had probably been quite favourable to the tannins, which were unobtrusive and supported by medium acidity. The palate was dry and had good length - 93.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Chalkers Crossing, Hilltops Shiraz (2009)

Hilltops, New South Wales
14%, screwcap, around $33

This wine's identity was revealed at the first whiff, with a bouquet of vibrant cool climate red fruit. The palate was medium bodied and delivered an array of intense fruit, along with spice and vanilla oak in support. With impressive structure, this dry red wine was a delight and demonstrated the classic skill of French born and trained winemaker, Ms Celine Rousseau - 94.

Monday 27 February 2012

Mitchelton, Marsanne (2009)

Nagambie Lakes, Victoria
12.5%, screwcap, around $20

Glowing yellow. Aromas of tangerine, pear, apple and some white flower blossoms. On the crisp palate pear notes dominated against a grassy background. Good line and structure. Having spent time in oak, the tannins were quite pronounced. This wine has plenty of life left - 92.   

Monday 20 February 2012

2012 Sydney Royal Wine Show - selected highlights

I attended the public wine tasting and as you will appreciate, there was no time for extensive notes as I rushed my way through the many wines that were available. 


Audrey Wilkinson Semillon (2011) - 93
Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling (2008) - 93
D'Arenberg The Dry Dam Riesling (2008) - 94
Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling (2006) - 94
Evans & Tate Redbrook Chardonnay (2009) - 94


Geoff Merrill Wines Bush Vine Grenache Rose (2011) - 93


Peter Lehmann Moppa Shiraz (2008) - 94
Yalumba Octavius Shiraz (2008) - 95
Wirra Wirra Woodhenge Shiraz (2010) - 94
Saltram No.1 Shiraz (2009) - 95
Gemtree Vineyards Obsidian Shiraz (2008) - 94
Mt Langi Ghiran, Langi Shiraz (2006) - 95

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Hubert The Stag Pinot Noir (2010)

Yarra Valley, Victoria
13.5%, screwcap, around $25

A bouquet of new cherries, cranberries, dried flowers and stemmy goodness. All of this was realised on the palate, which was dry. It had soft mouth feel, great line and impressive texture. Trophy for best Pinot Noir at the 2011 Yarra Valley Wine Show and a gold medal in the 2011 Royal Melbourne Wine Show. An impressive result from what is their lower tier Pinot Noir - 93.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Serving Wine - Some Tips

The following tips are based on my own preferences as a very fussy wine drinker. Everyone loves a good night out at a fantastic restaurant. It can be the little things that make the difference between it being a fantastic experience and not so great. 

These tips are for all hospitality staff. I appreciate that customer service is a very challenging industry and it can be confusing when there are conflicting views about what constitutes 'good wine service'. Thus I have tried to provide a supporting explanation for each of my tips, some of which may be controversial. It is my view that some of the industry standards are misguided.

1. Practice removing a cork from a bottle of wine

Despite the increasing preference for wine sealed under screwcap, it is inevitable that you will have to open a wine sealed with cork at some stage. Good wine service involves being able to remove the cork in its entirety, which is not as easy as it may sound. If the wine is sealed under cork you should quickly look at the front label to see how old it is. The older the wine, the more likely it is that the cork will be soft and prone to breaking or disintegrating.

Wine consumers do have to take some responsibility here, if they bring a special bottle of 20 year old Shiraz to their local BYO and they know that the cork may not be in good condition, it is courteous to mention this to the waiter.

It is important to have a good quality cork screw that you can trust. Cut back or remove the foil layer covering the cork. If you cut it, try to do this neatly. Take notice of how easily the corkscrew goes into the cork. If it is extremely soft take extra care. Keep inserting and twisting the screw into the cork until it is all the way in, but avoid piercing the other side of the cork. Pull the cork out slowly and avoid bending it, which may cause it to crack or break. When approximately 70% is protruding from the bottle, take hold of the cork with your hand and use a twisting motion to completely remove it.  

Sometimes you will find that the cork is in such bad condition, that it disintegrates when you insert the corkscrew. If so, explain that you have some concerns about the cork and ask if it is OK to pour the wine into a decanter. Do this using a filter to catch any small pieces of cork. If you need to do this elsewhere, check that its OK. People that are fussy about wine can sometimes get rather paranoid about a special bottle of wine going out of sight!

The other likely cork scenario will involve a bottle of sparkling wine. Again, neatly remove the foil covering the cork. Take hold of the bottle neck and place your thumb on top of the metal holder that is keeping the cork in place whilst you untwist the wire at its base with your other hand. Ensure that the bottle is not pointed at you or anyone else and quickly remove the metal holder. Take hold of the cork in one hand and the bottle in the other and gently twist.

2. Don't automatically fill up a wine glass when it is low

This will help you to avoid a number of potential pitfalls. I will never forget one occasion when I was out for lunch with my family. I can't remember where we were, but we had a bottle of Shiraz and a bottle of Merlot open. The waitress filled up my brother in law's almost empty glass of Shiraz with Merlot. We were not impressed. Winemakers are allowed to blend wines, but waiters are not!

Similarly, I have a very clear memory of being on a date with my wife, to which I had taken a very nice bottle of wine. I was savouring every sip, but had specifically held back because I primarily wanted to enjoy it with the main course. My wife on the other hand, was happily drinking away. I had noticed that there was less than a quarter of the bottle left and had decided that it equalled my share, given I had been holding back. But in a moment of inattention, I looked up to see the waitress pour the rest of the wine into my wife's glass. It made me feel very unhappy!

It becomes very difficult to count how many glasses of wine you have consumed when they are getting filled up along the way. This can create difficulties for a designated driver.

Just because someone's glass is low doesn't mean they want it filled up. The bottom line is, ask first. In fact, I would prefer that the waiter asks at the outset whether we would like them to fill our glasses with wine, or whether we would prefer to do it ourselves. I prefer that waiters don't pour the wine because of the above experiences.

3. Don't over fill the glass

If you are invited to pour the wine, you should avoid over filling the glass. If the glass is too full, wine wankers like me have difficulty swirling and smelling the wine. Inevitably we end up spilling it, which makes us look even sillier. 

As a general rule of thumb, pour the wine until it gets to just over one third of the capacity of the glass.

4. Don't take the bottle away when it is empty

Waiters need to understand that a bottle of wine may be very special to the people consuming it. It might be a rare gem that they've pulled out of their cellar for a special occasion, it could be the last of a dozen, it could have special memories attached to its purchase etc. In many circumstances, just staring at the bottle, even if it's empty, will bring a wine wanker like me pleasure. So just leave it there until we leave.

5. Provide appropriate wine glasses

I remember taking a nice bottle of wine to a popular restaurant on Crown St, Surry Hills one time. It was a funky looking place, but they seemed to think that it was quirky to only have basic water glasses. It isn't! It was very difficult to enjoy my wine because I couldn't swirl it without spilling it and it was difficult to pick up the aroma.

Wine glasses have been designed to accentuate the experience of consuming wine. They don't just look good, they actually make a big difference. Any good restaurant will have glasses specifically for: white wine, red wine, sparkling wine and fortified wine.

6. Offer to decant a young red wine

This is particularly important if your restaurant doesn't allow BYO and the red wine available on your list is young (i.e. under 3 years). Offer to decant a young red wine. It will earn you masses of browny points if you are serving a wine wanker. If it's a young Cabernet Sauvignon double decant it.

I recently had a meal at a non BYO restaurant in Beechworth. Unfortunately all of the red wine on their wine list was young. I chose what should have been a nice wine, but it wasn't until the very end of our meal that it just started to open up.  

The best service I've had...

...was at the Restaurant of Schonegg Country Guesthouse, Murrumbateman, ACT (unfortunately they no longer serve lunch or dinner). It was a special occasion and I had brought a special bottle of wine. The waitress asked if we would like the bottle opened upon arrival. I took up the offer because it was a nice Shiraz and I wanted to give it some time to breathe. She neatly cut away the top 5mm of the foil and carefully removed the cork, leaving the foil and cork on a small saucer positioned beside the bottle. She didn't touch the bottle of wine for the rest of the night. It was a brilliant night and I still have the cork which I kept as a memento.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

De Bortoli, La Boheme Act Two Pinot Noir Rose (2011)

Yarra Valley, Victoria
12.5%, screwcap, around $20


Pale salmon, this wine bucks the trend and provides a refreshing change from the deep pink that has become the norm for Australian Rose. But do not be deceived by its light colour (which is usually associated with subdued flavour in other contexts), the aroma and palate are packed full with delicious and supple, savoury fruit. Pinot Noir has the lead role (94%), supported by a cast of unidentified 'aromatic varieties'. It was fermented in old French casks using Indigenous yeasts. Crafted to be consumed with food, this Rose was deliciously savoury, dry and perfectly balanced - 95.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Peter Lehmann, Eden Valley Riesling (2008)

Eden Valley, South Australia
11%, screwcap, around $16

Green gold. A chorus of vibrant lemon grass, lime and hints of straw on the bouquet, which is completely realised on the palate. With the lemon grass slightly more pronounced, the palate is crisp and long - 94.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Mistletoe, Home Vineyard Semillon (2009)

Hunter Valley, New South Wales
10%, screwcap, around $20

A nose of lime blossom and apple. On the palate, vibrant lemon and lime. A small amount of residual sugar? Finishing with bright acidity - 94.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Domaine Chandon, Pinot Noir Rose (2011)

Yarra Valley, Victoria
12.5%, screwcap, around $20

A light shade of pink mixed with coral. On the bouquet there was a seductive array of roses and Turkish delight. This wine smells like...happiness! On the palate there was an array of fresh and juicy wild strawberries, though there was no detectable residual sugar, it was completely dry and savoury, finishing with a zingy slightly sour edge. A sensational Rose - 95.  

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Wolf Blass, Red Label Shiraz Grenache (2010)

South Eastern Australia
13.5%, screwcap, $11

I had to try this wine after noting that it won a gold medal in the 2011 National Wine Show of Australia. An amazing result in a strong field. Unfortunately it may have been a fluke, because I found the wine to be incredibly underwhelming. With a medicinal nose, the palate of stewed red and dark berries lacked fruit intensity, acidity, complexity and oak influence - 83.  

Thursday 19 January 2012

Penfolds, Thomas Hyland Chardonnay (2009)

Adelaide, South Australia
13%, screwcap, around $18

Light straw. Aromas of almonds, peach, nectarine and classy oak. On the rather simple palate, subtle nectarine with some grapefruit notes - 90.

A nice wine, but I am not at all enthusiastic about the current trend for Australian Chardonnay which emphasises cool climate fruit, picked early and with little to no malolactic fermentation. The overdone Chardonnays of the 80's are well behind us, but it is my view that the pendulum has now swung too far in the opposite direction.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Peter Lehmann, Semillon (2009)

Barossa Valley, South Australia
10.5%, screwcap, around $14

Light straw. Hints of citrus and hay on the bouquet. Lemon sherbet on the palate. A great balance achieved between the fruit and acid. Reasonable length. Great value - 91.