Summer Drinking Guide 2016

By Ray Jordan

Introduction

It was a challenging assignment – to taste through more than 550 wines to come up with a final list of recommendations to guide readers through their drinking for the coming months.

And for the first time, in addition to the usual pick of the best in white wines under $40, and Australian sparkling wines, the tasting also included separate categories for roses and Proseccos, the two hottest styles on the Australian and global market at the moment.

In the end, 100 wines from all categories were chosen, representing a strike rate of around one in six wines making the final cut. But unfortunately, it was a case of so many good wines and so little space.

Several interesting features emerged from the tasting, especially with the new categories of rose and prosecco. During the past few years these wine styles have exploded in popularity as wine lovers have finally discovered their virtues.

In the case of rose it was more winemakers and wine drinkers meeting half way. Wine drinkers had started to show their preferences for lighter, drier and more savory roses more akin to those of Provence, in the past few years. And winemakers pounced quickly by re-calibrating the style and producing what the market was clearly indicating it wanted.

In this tasting we also tasted the imported roses of France and Spain head to head with the best from Australia. I was delighted to see the new Aussie style stacking up so well. As well, it appears that importers are turning over their stock far quicker so the vintages are more recent and the wines fresher.

A win-win all round.

Prosecco has been something of an overnight sensation. Sure, it’s been around for a long time, but the emergence of a few excellent Australian wines, the courage of importers to bring some in and probably the small bar and cocktail scene where the wine is poured has led to the growth in its popularity.

Or maybe it’s simply that a lot of wine drinkers like a lighter fresher style of bubbles.

Whatever the reason the word has spread and the wine is soaring in popularity. It will never have the complexity or claims to greatness of classic French champagne or even the wonderful sparkling wines made in this country, but the style is resonating with drinkers. And as the base for mixers it also shows its versatility.

Of course, the quality of Australian sparkling wines continues to grow. This is mainly based on the growth in great vineyard sites in Tasmania, which without question is producing consistently toe finest Australian sparkling wines. Most of the big companies are sourcing from here and increasingly some outstanding examples of small producers in Tassie are trickling on to the mainland. I just wish more was getting here, but such are the costs and the tyranny of distance.

Although not tasted as a separate category there was also a healthy number of pinot grigios and pinot gris. Essentially these are the same variety made with a different style in mind – pinot grigio based on the lighter more neutral Italian style; pinot gris on the fuller richer and more alcoholic Alsatian style.

Sales of pinot grigio in particular are going through the roof. I confess to being a little bemused as to why, especially as there are so many wonderful Australian Riesling out there, but at the end of the day the market speaks and the market likes the variety.

Now here’s a tip. If you get a chance try some of the pinot gris being made in Tasmania. A recent fact finding trip there showed that this is a style that works beautifully in the cooler climes of the Apple isle and I have no doubt will become the benchmark for the style in Australia.

The other interesting feature of the tasting was the quality of the sauvignon blancs. This is a style that is distinctly different from the New Zealand fruit bombs, and finally after living in the shadow of those from across the ditch, it is achieving excellent sales.

Winemakers have clearly aimed to accentuate the difference between the two, with wines that sometimes have a little oak and lees influence to heighten complexity, but made with less fruit aromatics and with more palate intensity and power.

The prices for the wines were based on a standard mark-up, and placed in specific categories based on price, style and variety. The prices quote here may vary and as always I encourage readers to shop around for the best deals.

In some instances the wines will be considerably cheaper. If you are looking for value for money then further price reductions are generally available if buying by the case – a good idea with some of the value for money wines featured here.

Once again the standard of wines from WA was a high point, largely with the white wines, with the southern regions in particular featuring strongly.

The Best Wine

Brookland Valley [title-raw] Image

Brookland Valley Estate chardonnay 2015 ($40)

A highly sophisticated chardonnay from Margaret River. It’s full bodied and nothing namby pamby here as the palate delivers its payload of rich fruit laced with fine grained oak to a very long finish. As such rich mouth feel but the lightly toasty oak and crisp oak focused the finish with lazar-like precision.

95/100

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The runner-up

2016 Stella Bella Sauvignon Blanc

Stella Bella sauvignon blanc 2016 ($24)

This is right in the groove for the modern expression of Australian sauvignon blanc that is starting to erode some of the dominance of the New Zealand wines. Loaded with nectarine and gooseberry plus a healthy minerally crunch that adds plenty of punch to the palate. Has a deep flavor profile and a long finish. If you have been turned off savvies for a white, I strong recommend giving this one a go. It will not disappoint.

95/100

BUY HERE

 

The Best Value

Houghton sauvignon blanc Semillon 2016 ($13)

This was almost too easy to pick. From the first sniff, it stood out and if you don’t get some of this for the next few months you are simply nuts. It is a stunningly good wine in the under $15 price category and could easily challenge in the higher price brackets. Brilliantly made value for money wine that combines the power of the sauvignon blanc and the aromatic lift of the Semillon. Balanced with a most appealing fresh fruity palate. Vibrant and punchy and everything you want in this style of wine.

93/100

read more……….

 

Sparkling wine introduction

If there is one thing that peeves me, it’s wine snobbery. And sparkling wine is a perfect case in point. The number of times I get – and continue to get – people who think just because it’s French champagne it must be better than Aussie fizz.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. There is plenty of French fizz that is quite frankly rubbish and hardly worth the price even if discounted. Some of the stuff I have tasted is little more than acidic mouth wash. But you must hand it to the Champenois. They package their wines brilliantly and have created such a clever marketing strategy that it is little wonder many drinkers simply must have the real French bubbles.

Of course, at the top end, largely vintage champagnes, there is no serious challenge, but around the $40 to $60 mark there are plenty of Aussies sparkling wines that would knock off the French.

These days the quality of Australian sparkling wines is outstanding. The best is made in the same way as the French, using the traditional method of secondary fermentation in the bottle.

And where the winemaker has could leave the wine on its lees for an extended period after the secondary fermentation to achieve greater complexity, the result can be staggering good. There are of course a range of styles from the richer fuller wines to more restrained and elegant – just as it is with the wines of Champagne.

The best Australian sparkling wines are coming from Tasmania, where the cooler vineyard regions, produce such fine restrained chardonnay, pinot noir and sometimes pinot meunier to make the best sparkling wines. And while many of these wines are made in Tasmania under local labels, the fact is that most of the big producers on the mainland also source from Tasmania.

I recently visited some of the best vineyards in Tasmania and was astonished at the quality and complexity of these wines. And you want to know, they are only going to get better. At a time when Australia has become the fastest growing market for French champagne, Aussie bubbles sales are in decline. The bubbles from Tassie might just be the savior to restore sales too where they should be.

The problem of course for Australian winemakers is that these wines sell for the same or in some cases a lot more than many of the discounted French champagnes, and getting the drinking public to accept that our wines ae is many cases as good or better, is a challenge.

So, wake-up all you wine pseuds; give some of these wines a go.

The wines

Sparkling wines – Over $20

40 tasted – 10 reviewed

Quality of sparkling wines in the over $20 category was once again outstanding. The high proportion of wines being sourced from Tasmania was a feature of the tasting.

The best of them was also remarkable value. The Pirie Non-Vintage is a wine that would easily match up with many French champagnes in complexity and flavor profile, albeit with a distinctly different non-French character.

Best wine

 

Arras Grand Vintage 2007 ($77)

From Australia’s sparkling wine master Ed Carr. Beautiful rich and precise palate structure Has a quince and stone fruit middle palate intensity and a very long finish. Surprisingly clean and precise after that deep rich middle palate. Such a long and very intense palate structure. Traces of jasmine and lemon meringue. With some sea spray oyster shell character. Seven years on triage has pumped some serious intensity and complexity into masterful wine.

96/100

Runner-up

Jansz Vintage Cuvee 2010 ($46.95)

94/100

BUY HERE

Best Value

Brown Brothers pinot noir chardonnay pinot meunier brut ($25)

92/100

 BUY HERE

The Rest

Pirie Non Vintage ($35)

95/100

Arras Brut Elite Cuvee ($50)
Brown Brothers Patricia pinot noir chardonnay brut 2010 ($44)

94/100

Abel’s Tempest chardonnay pinot noir 2011 ($33.35)

92/100

Jansz Premium Rose ($31.95)

91/100

Heemskerk Georg Jensen Hallmark Cuvee ($46.15)

93/100

Seppelt Sallinger Henty Vintage Cuvee 2011 ($30.35)

92/100

 

Sparkling wines under $20

35 tasted – 10 reviewed

 

While the sparkling wines selling for more than $20 can be exceptional, the quality and value for money in the bracket selling for less than $20 is just as compelling.

 

Okay, there may not be the same depth and complexity that comes with extended lees ageing and other techniques designed to bring the best out of the fruit, but these wines are beautifully made with good flavours and a lot of appeal.

 

And although a little simpler they are still most enjoyable. Even wines that sell for less than $10 are well made, clean and crisp with plenty to like.

 

The best wine I this bracket is as good as anything you will see in the price bracket – red, white or sparkling.

 

Best wine

Jacob’s Creek Reserve chardonnay Pinot noir 2015 ($18.15)

This reserve range from Jacob’s Creek is always good and this excellent bubbles provides a degree of subtle complexity and a refreshing creamy zing in the mouth. Deal as a current drinking sparkling wine.

91/100

 

Runner Up

Crittenden Estate Geppetto NV Brut ($19.16)

90/100

 

Best Value

Jean Pierre Brut ($7.50)

88/100

 

The rest

De Bortoli Emeri chardonnay pinot noir ($9.85)

88/100

De Bortoli Rococo Premium NV Cuvee ($18.60)

89/100

Jacob’s Creek Trilogy Cuvee Brut ($15.45)

90/100

Yellowglen Non Vintage chardonnay pinot noir Brut Cuvee ($16.40)

89/100

De Bortoli Sacred Hill Brut Cuvee ($7.20)

87/100

Azahara Brut NV chardonnay Sparkling pinot noir ($15)

90/100

Taylors Estate pinot noir chardonnay Cuvee Brut ($20)

89/100

 

Prosecco

35 tasted – 10 reviewed

 

Prosecco has become one of the hottest wine styles on the Australian market. Whether it’s the real deal from Italy or one of the growing number of Australian examples it seems that when it comes to sparkling wine prosecco is increasingly the wine of choice.

 

Prosecco is a curious animal. It is a relatively simple and neutrally flavoured style, with its traditional home in the Veneto region of North East Italy.

 

It is hard to say just why it has become so fashionable and popular but there is no doubting the numbers which point to a significant growth in the last couple of years as the flavorsome and easing drinking fruit characters of prosecco have resonated with a new market.

 

Prosecco is quite different from traditionally made sparkling wine or even the Spanish Cava for that matter, both of which are made with secondary fermentation happening the bottle to produce the fizz.

Proseccos lightly gassy character comes from low pressure tank fermentation before bottling.

 

This means there is none of that secondary lees influenced character of the best method traditional sparkling wines. The wines are drinkable and friends and mighty good with desserts. Some can be slightly fruity bordering on sweet but generally the fine acid focusses the finish and keeps it fresh and clean.

 

This tasting showed that Australia is making some very good proseccos with characters similar to house of Italy. And the other good thing is that they are well priced, with even the Italian prosecco modestly priced.

These are ideal summer drinks. IN addition, they are well suited to a range of cocktails with only your imagination preventing you creating all manner of thirst quenching drinks.

 

Best wine

Andreola Dirupo Prosecco Superiore 2015 ($34)

Just a lovely example of this style. Aromatic with a mix of apples and pears sprinkled with a biscuit crumble. Has that delicious succulence on the palate but with a crisp fine citrus tang and crisp fine acid. Suggestion of fruit sweetness on the palate which rolls on beautifully to a long finish.

93/100

 

Runner-up

Guerrieri Rizzardi Prosecco Extra Dry ($26)

92/100

 

Best value

Brown Brothers Mimco Prosecco ($18)

92/100

 

The rest

Casa Gheller Prosecco Treviso Brut ($20)

91/100

Yellowglen Prosecco 2015 ($22.85)

89/100

Andreola Sesto Senso Prosecco Superiore DOCG Dry 2014 ($42.35)

91/100

Jacob’s Creek Prosecco 2015 ($17)

89/100

Divici Prosecco NV ($17.26)

90/100

Canaletto Prosecco Vino Spumante Brut ($24)

91/100

Casa Gheller G Gold Prosecco Superiore ($25)

90/100

 

Roses

101 tasted – 10 reviewed

 

Rose has soared in popularity in recent years and it seems that just about every winery has at least one rose in their armory.

 

Some years ago, I arranged a rose tasting and struggled to get 20. In this tasting, there were 101 roses submitted – quite a frightening prospect when confronted with such a line-up at 7am. They were large from Australia and France, with a few Spanish Rosados, and this is only a fraction of the number now being produced in Australia.

 

The growth in popularity is almost certainly due to the style of wine being produced now. Many people who have travelled to southern France and tasted the famous roses of Provence through to the Languedoc have experienced wines that are drier, less fruity, more restrained yet with great texture and friendly appeal. Wines with a savoury edge sometimes that are so easy to drink.

 

It appears that winemakers have recognized that the previously very fruity and most likely quite sweet Australian roses were not appealing to the new palates of Australia.

 

And where once rose was made almost as an afterthought these wines are now being made seriously.

 

Wine makers are using a little oak and creating paler, lighter and generally drier wines that have hit the mark.

 

In many cases the Australian wines are out-rose-ing the French wines.

 

Rose is an excellent aperitif when served nice and chilled and ideal with light dishes and perfect for a summer picnic. It’s also a good mixer with a little ice and maybe some mint if you like.

 

And the great thing is that it’s not expensive.

 

A bottle or two of rose should be mandatory in your fridge this summer.

 

The Best

De Bortoli Villages Grenache Rose 2016 ($20.05)

This is a Grenache Rose from Heathcote that really hits the mark for the modern style. It has that classic combination of Provence-like lightness of touch but with texture and mouth feel. Delicious fruit with a high perfume on the nose. Fermentation in some older French oak has contributed to the feel of what is the quintessential expression of the style.

93/100

 

Runner-up

Chateau Les Crostes 2014 ($30.50)

92/100

 

Best value

Estandon Heritage Cotes De Provence 2015 ($18)

91/100

 

The rest

Willow Bridge Rosa de Solana tempranillo rose 2016 ($25)

92/100

Spinifex Rose 2015 ($25)

89/100

Turkey Flat Rose 2016 ($22)

92/100

Levantine Hill Rose 2015 ($33)

90/100

Domaine Des Peirecedes 2014 ($27.10)

91/100

Victory Point Rose ($21.50

91/100

Deep Woods Estate Rose 2016 ($30)

92/100

 

White Wines

Under $15

46 tasted – 15 reviewed

 

The range and quality of wines in the under $15 category continues to amaze. I don’t think there was a dud among them and culling too the final 15 was a challenge.

 

The best of them, the Houghton Sauvignon blanc Semillon, was a class act that could easily have been in the next price point. When you consider that this wine is regular discounted to less than $10, it is one that I would be grabbing by the case to get me through summer.

 

There is generally a good range of varieties represented, but as you might expect it is chardonnay, either unwooded or lightly wooded, and the blended whites of sauvignon banc and Semillon that are the biggest categories.

 

Nice to see a quality pinot grigio creep in as well.

 

 

 

The Best

Houghton sauvignon blanc Semillon 2016 ($13)

Wow what a wine in this price category. It could easily challenge in the higher price brackets. Brilliantly made value for money wine that combines the power of the sauvignon blanc and the aromatic lift of the Semillon. Balanced with a most appealing fresh fruit palate. Vibrant and punchy and everything you want in this style of wine.

93/100

 

Runner up

Azahara pinot grigio 2015 ($15)

91/100

 

Best Value

De Bortoli Sacred Hill chardonnay 2016 ($6.35)

89/100

 

The Rest

Alkoomi Riesling 2016 ($15)

90/100

Goundrey Homestead unwooded chardonnay 2016 ($15)

89/100

Bellewinter Semillon sauvignon blanc 2016 ($12)

89/100

De Bortoli La Bossa sauvignon blanc 2016 ($8.95)

88/100

Jacob’s Creek Classic Riesling 2016 ($10.65)

91/100

Heathridge Gold Range sauvignon blanc Semillon 2015 ($10)

89/100

Deep Woods Ivory semillon sauvignon blanc 2016 ($15)

91/100

Moondah brook Verdelho 2015 ($15)

92/100

Amelia Park The Trellis sauvignon blanc Semillon 2016 ($15)

91/100

Taylor’s Promised Land unwooded chardonnay 2016 ($15)

88/100

Hanwood Estate chardonnay 2016 ($12)

88/100

Deakin Estate chardonnay 2016 ($10

87/100

 

$15 to $20

99 tasted – 15 reviewed

 

Although the best wine in this category was another sauvignon blanc Semillon blend, it was nice to see the emergence of Rieslings and a few other interesting alternative varieties and styles. And just as with the under $15 category a pinot grigio was runner-up.

 

As a general rule, if you are buying wine at this price point you are still looking for good honest drinking that delivers flavor a decent bang for your buck.

 

The wines are not overly complex but they are immensely enjoyable and idea for current drinking.

With discounting you will certainly find many of these sitting below $15.

 

 

The Best Wine

Hay Shed Hill sauvignon blanc Semillon 2016 ($19.95)

Fresh crunchy and with a little palate texture completes what is the perfect summer drink at value for money. Lots of vibrant tropical fruit with a little citrus tang driving to a long finish. Nails the fresh young drinking style to the letter. 93/100

 

The runner-up

Devil’s Corner pinot grigio 2016 ($19)

92/100

 

Best Value

Credaro Five Tales chardonnay 2016 ($17.55)

91/100

 

The rest

Castle Rock Estate Skywalk Riesling 2016 ($19.15)

93/100

Nannup Ridge Firetower sauvignon blanc 2016 ($19.15)

91/100

MadFish Riesling 2015 ($19.25)

91/100

Amato Vino Bianco fiano slankamenka bela 2016 ($20)

92/100

St Hubert The Stag Cool Climate chardonnay 2016 ($19.90)

90/100

Castle Rock Estate Porongurup sauvignon blanc 2016 ($19.15)

90/100

Brown Brothers 18 Eight Nine sauvignon blanc 2015 ($18)

89/100

Voyager Estate chenin blanc 2016 ($20)

90/100

D’Arenberg The Hermit Crab viognier marsanne 2014 ($17.85)

92/100

Leo Buring Clare valley Dry Riesling 2016 ($18.90)

92/100

Xanadu Exmoor sauvignon blanc Semillon 2015 ($18)

89/100

Warner Glen Estate chardonnay 2015 ($20)

90/100

 

$20 to $25

111 tasted – 15 reviewed

 

Gosh, there were some super wines in the $20 to $25 price category, with Riesling in particular a standout.

 

The 2016 vintage was very good, especially in the famous Clare and Eden Valley vineyards of South Australia and I would be grabbing hold of the Sevenhill Inigo Riesling as an example of this great summer drinking style.

 

This was a big category that made the selection difficult and I confess to agonizing over the final selection to decide which of the very good wines to leave out. IT was a hard call in several cases.

 

The chardonnays here ratchet up a notch or two in quality and complex sophistication, but still retain an early drinkability feel about them.

 

The blends were outstanding with the subtle use of a small amount of oak a feature.

 

Lots of good gear I here.

 

 

 

The Best wine

Stella Bella sauvignon blanc 2016 ($24)

This is right in the groove for the modern expression of Australian sauvignon blanc that is starting to erode some of the dominance of the New Zealand wines. Loaded with nectarine and gooseberry plus a healthy minerally crunch that adds plenty of punch to the palate. Has a deep flavor profile and a long finish. If you have been turned off savvies for a white, I strong recommend giving this one a go. It will not disappoint.

95/100

 

Runner-up

Castle Rock Estate Porongurup Riesling 2016 ($23)

95/100

 

Best value

Annie’s Lane Riesling 2016 ($20.90)

94/100

 

The Rest

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery sauvignon blanc Semillon 2016 ($24)

93/100

Fraser Gallop Semillon sauvignon blanc 2016 ($22)

91/100

Voyager Estate sauvignon blanc Semillon 2016 ($24)

92/100

Juniper Small Batch fiano 2016 ($23)

93/100

Tomfoolery Tally-ho sauvignon blanc 2016 ($22.35)

92/100

Howard Park Miamup sauvignon blanc Semillon 2016 ($24.80)

92/100

Sevenhill Estate Inigo riesling 2016 ($23)

94/100

Amato Vino fiano 2016 ($25)

92/100

Credaro Kinship chardonnay 2015 ($24.75)

93/100

Pizzini pinot grigio 2016 ($20.75)

91/100

Millbrook Perth Hills viognier 2015 ($22)

92/100

Vasse Felix sauvignon blanc Semillon 2016 ($24)

93/100

 

$25 to $40

86 tasted – 15 reviewed

 

This was the most difficult category to judge. The standard was extradentary high and deciding which to cull was a challenge. Just when I thought I had the list finalised a final check of the near misses had me rethinking and in some cases doing the old switcher-roo.

 

The standout variety was Riesling and quite frankly I could easily have found another five to justify inclusion but in the interests of balance had to put a limit on the number.

 

The chardonnays showed both great fruit and clever winemaking to bring out a generally modern fine r expression while losing nothing in intensity. The pleasing thing was that there were few of those stripped back hard chardonnays which crept in a few years ago as winemaker pursued the leaner style.

 

A quality selection all the way through.

 

 

 

 

The Best Wine

Brookland Valley Estate chardonnay 2015 ($40)

A highly sophisticated chardonnay from Margaret River. T’s full bodied and nothing namby pamby here as the palate delivers its payload of rich fruit laced with fine grained oak to a very long finish. As such rich mouth feel but the lightly toasty oak and crisp oak focused the finish with lazar-like precision.

95/100

 

 

 

 

The runner -up

Shaw + Smith sauvignon blanc 2016 ($29)

94/100

 

Best value

Frankland Estate Riesling 2016 ($28)

94/100

 

The rest

 

Hay Shed Hill Block 1 semillon sauvignon blanc 2015 ($28.75)

94/100

Sevenhill St Francis Xavier Riesling 2016 ($34)

94/100

Mount Horrocks Riesling 2016 ($32.40)

93/100

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2016 ($40)

93/100

Hahndorf Adelaide Hills gruner veltliner 2015 ($30.35)

92/00

Leeuwin Estate Art Series sauvignon blanc 2015 ($30)

93/00

Paul Nelson PN Arneis 2016 ($26)

93/100

Domaine Naturaliste Floris chardonnay 2014 ($30)

92/100

Robert Oatley Finisterre Margaret River chardonnay 2015 ($35.10)

92/100

Stella Bella chardonnay 2015 ($32)

93/100

Giant Steps chardonnay 2015 ($30)

93/100

Coldstream Hills chardonnay 2015 ($37)

93/40