Who doesn’t love a delicious glass of wine? As the end of financial year gets closer, it’s worth having a look at these wines, whether you’re saving money or splashing out. I’ve seen all of these wines available at retail prices well below those cited, so even those who will be travelling first class will recognise the merit of stashing away quantities of such great value wines.
2017 St Huberts Chardonnay, Yarra Valley Victoria. RRP $27
More than 40 years ago St Huberts was the hot “new” kid on the block. It’s been a long time, but now they are back. There’s no better time to get acquainted with the brand than with this wine from the the 2017 vintage which was a pearler in the Yarra Valley.
It’s a mid lemon, straw colour and the bouquet is lifted and complex, with aromas of yellow stone fruits, with a backbone of pear and some oak character (30% new). Delightfully textured on entry with genuine intensity which from the get go, it has sufficient structure and acidity to keep those yellow stone fruit flavours in fine shape all the way through to a long, persistent finish. This is well worth seeking out from either the cellar door or your indie retailer, and I’ve seen it listed at low $20s. Enjoy with roast chicken or veal but stay away from oysters.
2017 Seppelt Chalambar Shiraz, Grampians and Heathcote blend, Victoria. RRP $27
Seppelt Great Western’s winemaker from 1932 until the early 1960s, Colin Preece established himself alongside Maurice O’Shea of Mt Pleasant and Max Schubert of Penfolds as one of the three greatest Australian winemakers of the 20th century. First made by Preece in 1953 and to an astonishing level of quality throughout that decade, the illustrious Chalambar brand lost its lustre for a long, long time, as it devolved to a “fighting” brand, made to a price for the big chain retailers. The good news is it’s back. Big time.
2017 was a cool, exceptional vintage for these two Victorian regions and it shows in the wines vitality. Just 15% new French oak, it has a vibrant dark crimson appearance. There’s lots of interest in the bouquet with dark chocolate, small red and blue fruit notes and with a background lick of oriental spice. Deliciously plush and juicy on entry, the cool fruit flavours flow evenly throughout the palate, satisfying all the way to the finish of coated tannins and lingering aftertaste. When I checked, this was available from the winery for just $20 per bottle by the six pack, and at that price it is one of the red wine bargains of the year.
2017 Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley, S.A. RRP $28
The Pepperjack shiraz is Australia’s number one selling red wine by value. That said, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of excitement from the range at a recent trade tasting. Silly me. Both the shiraz and this little brother cabernet were impressive for their unexpected vim and shapeliness to go with the predictable vigour. I suspect that the cooler, slower ripening period of the 2017 Barossa harvest, afforded winemaker Richard Mattner the opportunity to amp up the elegance while turning down ever-so-slightly the “volume” of the wine’s persona. How serendipitous.
The dark black plum colour is suggestive of a warmer climate. Generous bouquet of ripe dark fruits coat the mint milk-chocolate bass line. The palate has excellent vitality, with good fruit attack on entry and is really textured and lissome, with those dark fruit and choc mint characters persisting through to the medium-bodied mid-palate. The finish is fragrant and long, buttressed with fine powdery tannins. It’s not surprising the brand has enjoyed such success given the quality delivered for the modest price.
2016 Isaac Fernandez “Seleccion” Legado del Moncayo Garnacha. Campo de Borja, Spain. RRP $28
The Campo de Borjo region is in the Zaragoza province, about 360km west of Barcelona almost midway between the Ribera del Duero and Barcelona. Made by longtime consulting winemaker Isaac Fernandez, an extraordinary red wine value.
From 25 years old bush vines, grown at 500 metres above sea level, the vines are “buried” under a covering of pebbles. The fruit is fermented in stainless steel and bottled directly to maximise retention of freshness and delicacy. It has a medium dense vibrant plum-red appearance and has bright, spicy, crunchy raspberry and red currant fruit aromas. The wine has a vibrant red and black fruit attack on entry and the flavours are zippy and stylish, which leads to a medium weight middle palate which includes some savoury undertones. The finish is medium in length with those bright fruit notes closing the deal. This is a red of intense glugability and would slake the heartiest of thirsts. I have seen this at sub $20 per bottle, which is insane value.
We found some great value wines on the modest side, now let’s see what the other side of the coin looks like, with some superb wines to enjoy when nothing but the best will do.
2015 Apsley Gorge Vineyard Pinot Noir, Bicheno Tasmania. RRP $68
I have seen quite a lot of pinot noir out of Tassie, which has reminded me of “pinot noir pop”; juicy, simple bright fruit which makes excellent “ throat oil”. This on the other hand is anything but that. Hailing from Bicheno on Tasmania’s East Coast, this is a serious drink, and fair enough given the price.
Deep, black red appearance now lightening at the meniscus. It’s bottled without fining or filtration, and fermentation was via the indigenous yeast present on the grapes. There’s a fair bit going on in the nose; a distinct menthol or herbal top note backed up with a layer of sarsaparilla and a bass riff of forest dampness and “dead autumn leaves” cracked under foot.
This looks to me as way more older-school Burgundy that what it does a Tassie pinot. The palate starts out with a really nice — and surprising — bright glint of fresh red berry fruit on entry. No shortage of palate intensity thanks to the amply proportioned shape and body. It has a delicious and savoury mid palate which flows through to the long, structured finish of firm wood and fruit tannins, with another crisp, savoury note in the aftertaste.
This is not a wine for pinot noir neophytes. Those who enjoy older school Burgundies and Barolo’s will revel in this wines character, shape and the satisfaction it delivers.
2015 Clarence House Estate Réserve Pinot Noir, Coal River Valley, Tasmania RRP $45
When I was writing the following tasting note, for some unknown reason — perhaps because the World Cup was on in the background — I was reminded of the late Richie Benaud and what his intonation of my following comments might sound like:
“Pretty handy little wine this. My word, I wasn’t expecting it to be this good, but gee, it really does come onto the palate with a fair whack of complexity and appeal.”
This wine is from near Hobart, where so much high quality pinot noir is now produced, and has a medium weight red appearance. It’s pretty sexy on the nose with red and dark fruits which jump up out of the glass with great exuberance. One sip will give you a really delicious attack of sour cherry and wild strawberries, which flow evenly through to the mid palate which features a melange of plush, ripe fruit flavours which echo the attack. The finish is long, and the aromatics redolent of those exotic red fruits.
No less serious than the preceding wine, this is a truly delicious Tassie pinot noir of charm and satisfaction and great value.
2017 Devil’s Lair 9th Chamber Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River W.A. RRP $120
It’s unarguable that Margaret River is producing some of Australia’s very best cabernets and chardonnays and it’s hard to believe that viticulture in the region didn’t really get going at all until the ’60s. Within half a century, “Margs” can validly argue that it has firmly planted (pun intended) itself as one of the great wine regions of the world.
While rarely mentioned amongst the regions’ standard bearers, Devil’s Lair are making some superb wines and this red from the 2017 vintage is a pearler. Real iron fist in velvet glove stuff. Lifted bouquet redolent of cassis, oak and fresh cool oriental spice notes. The palate features an intense black currant fruit attack of superb depth and texture, cloaked with stylish new oak and buttressed by perfectly integrated oak and fruit tannins. Terrific line and drive for a wine of such substance, MR cab sav this glorious is a great example of why Margs’ best can mix it with anything out of Napa or Bordeaux — and they would be $300+ per bottle so the RRP of this wine makes it a (relative) bargain.
2016 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France. RRP $75
From one of the most important domaines of the appellation, Mont-Redon accounts for just on 5 % of the AOC’s vineyards; extraordinary. This translates into good news for Chateauneuf lovers in that — in the pithy words of the local importer — the wine does not need to be priced for scarcity, as so many others of this AOC do.
A grenache heavy blend with syrah and mourvedre, the good news continues as its from the magnificent 2016 Southern Rhône vintage, with all of its concomitant intensity, structure and balance. It has a very deep dark black and purple appearance and the bouquet is crammed with notes of black olive tapenade and dark berry jam, with an oriental spice twist. After the foreboding colour and the nose-twisting bouquet, you might reasonably the expect the palate to be ponderous and muscle bound. Wrong.
On entry, those dark ripe fruit and savoury characters attack the palate with great vigour and are really up and about. The shape and proportions of this wine are really elegant — borderline svelte — for a wine of such intensity and character. Just deliciously juicy, the intense complex flavours fill the mouth with excellent mid-palate intensity and conclude with a really long fragrant aftertaste with the farewell definition coming from the well integrated fruit tannins. Will easily cellar for 20+ years.
Outstanding, classic Chateauneuf. Bargain. Load up.
2015 Alvaro Palacios, Gratallops Vi de Villa, Priorat, Spain. RRP $145
If you see the name Álvaro Palacios on a bottle of wine, try it. Arguably the most notable leader of the winemaking revolution that took place in Spain in the 1980s, he has achieved wide-spread success and critical acclaim. Today he produces some of Spain’s greatest wines from the regions of Bierzo, Rioja and Priorat.
This Priorat wine is a “Vi de Villa” (of a notable village), and is a blend of 10 different sites within the village appellation. Its composition is 85% Garnacha (grenache) red 13% Cariñena (Carignan) and 2% total white grapes made up of Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo and Pedro Ximenez. It has very enticing aromatics, with aromas of chilled raspberries, a whiff of cherry liqueur and a background note of liquorice. The palate is appropriately Spanish-sexy with its vitality and shape. The palate attack features those bright red berries, restrained by spice and grip of tannin. The mid palate introduces some savoury, mineral notes which persist throughout the very long red-fruit fragrant finish. A wine of restrained power and significant style. Delicious.
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