DAVID SLY – WINE REVIEWS – May 2017

WINE REVIEWS BY DAVID SLY – May 2017

Angove AMV-X Whole Bunch Shiraz 2016

Young juicy and vibrant, this new release from Angove focuses on a small parcel of fruit from the Sellicks foothills. The palate is slender but there’s still notable strength in the fruit definition and character. The key to its appeal is slurpy berry freshness, dancing about lightly on the tongue thanks to its svelte body.

Alc: 14%

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Angove AMV-X Tempranillo Mataro Grenache Graciano 2016

Bright Spanish-inspired juiciness erupts in the glass, exhibiting brashness in its forthright, fresh appeal. Various sub-regional fruit sources add complexity to the wine’s personality and texture, with a great tease of spiciness tickling the lively, enticing front palate.

Alc: 13.8%

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Bremerton Tamblyn 2014

Here’s the sum of what Langhorne Creek does so endearingly well – generous, fulsome flavor in a seamless meld of the region’s flagship grape varieties. The easy marriage of cabernet (41 per cent), shiraz (35 per cent), malbec (13 per cent) and merlot (11 per cent) combines rich red berries and sooty grunt in a pleasingly rounded mid-palate. It adds up to great satisfaction and value.

Alc: 14.5%

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Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Assertive fruit is bound tight and shows lots of promise, but with coarse edges at this stage – a consequence of 50 per cent being matured in American oak barrels. Fine black tannins are rigid but integrated into the body of the wine, but are so tightly wound that this must be viewed as a long-term futures investment.

Alc: 14.5%

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Katnook Estate Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Designed and structured like an elite machine that purrs and growls with equal measures of menace and purpose. It tastes like sumptuous, flowing red velvet from the mid palate through to the back, bound by expensive French oak, and the soft integration of tannins promote great length in the flavours. It’s delicious now, with a long distance yet to travel.

Alc: 14.5%

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Katnook Estate Prodigy Shiraz 2012

Exotically perfumed, with mace over roses among a rich melody of plums and blackberries, but the great appeal is its sensual, even flow across the mid palate, all velvety and lush, like molten chocolate. Soft yet opulent, finishing gently, with all the flavours intact. Immensely satisfying, it stands out as a distinctive cool climate shiraz with a mature personality.

Alc: 14.5%

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Longhop 2014 Mt Lofty Ranges Old Vine Grenache 2014

The generous philosophy of winemakers Tim Freeland and Domenic Torzi ensures smart, delicious wine that captures concentrated old vine intensity without ever getting broad or chubby. There’s power but also a big lick of acid to keep fruit flavours bright and clean. The result is juicy, lean and taut, with a big powerful spine running long and true.

Alc: 14.5%

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Longhop 2015 Mt Lofty Ranges Shiraz 2015

Lots of fresh peppery spice runs with the darkest black plum and ripe, juicy blackberry. Despite considerable heft in these flavours, a strong acidic line that drives through the palate and won’t quit. It has the tension of a violin – haughty, lean and tightly wound. Priced like a drink-now wine, it will flourish after at least five years in the cellar.

Alc: 14.5%

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Longview Devil’s Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

A bright, enticing nose of smooth blueberry with an edge of molten chocolate carries a delicious note of temptation, rolling through a long, velvety palate. A clean acid line keep the flavours bright, and fine tannins ensure the final taste shows true varietal character – surprising for Adelaide Hills cabernet.

Alc: 14%

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Longview Macclesfield Chardonnay 2016

Smart new contemporary packaging illustrates the serious intent of this wine, which uses quality oak as a binding agent rather than an assertive force, although it still permeates a pretty peach blossom nose. The body is fine and clean, slender in its fruit profile and quite elegant, with a pleasing lick of minerality in the tail to ensure long, tight flavors.

Alc: 12.5%

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Longview Yakka Shiraz 2015

It’s a huge purple monster in colour, with an aromatic hint of violets over ripe winter berries, and is rather chubby in the mid-palate fruit bowl, yet its presence is short and persistence is lacking. A lick of white pepper doesn’t disguise that it lacks cohesiveness. It needs help from food, ideally some sharp cheddar.

Alc: 14.5%

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Mt Horrocks Alexander Shiraz 2015

So much elegant complexity is evident from the outset. A swirl of red and black fruits in a tussle with black pepper, cedar, cinnamon and nutmeg is bound within a firm corset of acid, ensuring depth in addition to length. It’s the sum of many parts, with most fruit fermented in specially designed vessels to enable the gentlest plunging, and some whole bunches fermented in open containers. Such attention to detail results in a stellar wine of poise and grace.

Alc: 13.8%

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Mt Horrocks Nero d’Avola 2015

The fourth release of this variety from winemaker Stephanie Toole shows more restraint, allowing the plum and spice to sing through the palate, along with licorice, cherry and tobacco on the nose. There’s delicious juiciness in the inky body that slips easily down for one glass, then another. Seductive.

Alc: 13.7%

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Yelland & Papps Second Take Grenache 2016

Winemaker Michael Papps has been toying with this predominantly whole bunch style since 2012; with this vintage, he got more serious about driving a deliberately different wine that is lean, tangy and racy through a long palate. He likes to call it Barossa pinot, which provides an honest style indicator; its lean red berries achieve delicious juiciness and an intricate sweet/sour balance.

Alc: 14.3%

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Yelland & Papps Second Take Mataro 2016

Something different; an experiment in motion, with 73 per cent whole bunch making the body lean and mean, introducing a feline edge to a usually meaty, masculine variety. However, its skinny mid palate seems awkward, as its bone dry finish leaves scratchy dustiness. It needs a good wet stew on the table, to tease the flavours to flourish.

Alc: 13.8%

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Yelland & Papps Second Take Roussanne 2016

Cloudy in the glass, but that’s fine by me, as this bold unfiltered wine has fascinating chew and play. The nose is particularly enticing – honeysuckle and white peach – while the palate has a raucous grapple between green apple, fleshy pear and a hint of roasted cashew. Forget what you may think of roussanne; this is designed to arouse and recalibrate your palate in surprising ways.

Alc: 12.3%

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Yelland & Papps Second Take Shiraz 2016

Winemaking twists for the Second Take program makes a difference: 65 per cent whole bunch fermentation gives it crunch and nimble, friskiness on the palate, with big peppery bass notes without laboring under dense palate weight. For anyone thinking that Barossa shiraz has become an easily defined style, stop here for a taste to broaden your perspective.

Alc: 13.7%

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Yelland & Papps Second Take Vermentino 2016

The mantra is to pick early and capture the bright juiciness of lean fruit, then build textural grip by leaving the juice on skins for 279 days. This experiment in patience transforms an often-neutral wine, pushing it into confronting territory as the chew of nashi pear is challenged by quandong’s tart bite. It needs the company of food; grilled fish with radicchio salad would be ideal.

Alc: 11%

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Bird In Hand Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2016

There’s nothing shy about this big-bodied embrace of old-school chardonnay. Peachy and full in flavor, the rolling creamy mouthfeel covers a spine of crunchy green apple acid, although this style says much more about the interplay of fruit and oak than it does about site or region.

Alc: 13.5%

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Bird In Hand Adelaide Hills Montepulciano 2015

A new range, produced in collaboration with Milan-born cook Silvia Colloca, has resulted in sexy packaging (a striking tall, striped bottle by Australian fashion designer Dion Lee) and a price hike. It looks seductive in the glass, all deep red and purple hues, with blackberry, dark olives and mocha bound in firm corset of new French oak. Still, the style needs more finesse, its savoury palate wanting more meaty chew and a firmer finish.

Alc: 14.4%

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Bird In Hand Adelaide Hills Grüner Veltliner 2016

The Adelaide Hills has become a significant home for this crisp Austrian variety, adaptable across several styles, with Bird in Hand opting for a clean, fruit-driven interpretation. Bright, riesling-like entry with the slightest hint of nutmeg opens to fleshy nectarine and pear flavours and textures, finishing with a hint of white pepper and a mineral lick to tickle the taste buds.

Alc: 12%

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Bird In Hand Adelaide Hills Nero d’Avola 2015

Also dressed in Bird In Hand’s racy tall, striped bottles, designed specifically for the brand’s Italian varieties, this seems to value packaging smarts over winemaking finesse. Deep purple in the glass with lifted aromas of cherry and rosewater, it has abundant red berries, licks of Turkish delight and spice but the palate is overly dense and blocky. More acid and less ripeness, please.

Alc: 14.5%

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Bird In Hand MAC Mount Lofty Ranges Shiraz 2013

Designed and structured as the winery’s elite shiraz expression, this has had every extravagance bestowed upon it – most notably 24 months in new French oak, which informs the palate and structure far more than its Adelaide Hills cool climate locale. A chorus of vanillas and blueberry over blackberry swirls in a tight dance of oak and seriously dark fruit with a chew of tobacco and a strong tannic hold. There’s silk in the mid palate, but it’s so tightly wound it shouldn’t be approached for another five years.

Alc: 14.5%

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Bird In Hand Nest Egg Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015

Big, full and forceful, from the pungent aroma to hefty body weight, this is opulent chardonnay built in a Burgundian model, with appropriate fruit weight to suit this style. Tight as a fist, with oak to bind it for long cellaring, it has layers of white peach and lemon pith, brioche and a hint of roasted cashew. It’s all about the length and persistence of savoury notes over fruit.

Alc: 13.5%

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Bleasdale Potts' Catch Langhorne Creek Verdelho 2016

Among the first varieties planted at Langhorne Creek in the late 1800s, verdelho is wisely kept lean and restrained by the Potts family at Bleasdale. Toning down the tropical flourish that overwhelms much verdelho, this picnic wine is crisp and lean, with just a lick of passionfruit and green mango among bright lemon notes.

Alc: 12%

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Di Giorgio Family Wines Montepulciano 2015

Although based in Coonawarra, Di Giorgios source fruit from many other Limestone coast sites, allowing the ability to tackle montepulciano, although this is a long way from the leaner, more chewy style of the family’s Italian homeland. This has lots of ripe red fruit and black cherry seasoned with black pepper and baking spice, but a firmer spine of acid would make a brighter, food-friendly wine.

Alc: 13.5%

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Di Giorgio Family Wines Riesling 2016

Leading the winery’s Renaissance range, sourced from Limestone Coast vineyards not owned by the Di Giorgio family, is brand’s first riesling release. It comes from Kongorong, south of Mount Gambier, where seriously cold temperatures give the fruit darker brown lime tones. Grapefruit bite counters lemon curd and apple crispness through a long, measured palate.

Alc: 12%

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Di Giorgio Family Wines Tempranillo 2015

Some tempranillo plantings at Di Giorgio’s Coonawarra vineyard supply this heavy, tight-fisted wine. Cinnamon and redcurrant on the nose make way for dark plum and savoury red fruits, using oak as a serious binding agent rather than allowing the textural chew of this variety to show its influence. It’s tight, tannic and, at this stage, unyielding.

Alc: 13.5%

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Di Giorgio Family Wines Tempranillo 2015

Some tempranillo plantings at Di Giorgio’s Coonawarra vineyard supply this heavy, tight-fisted wine. Cinnamon and redcurrant on the nose make way for dark plum and savoury red fruits, using oak as a serious binding agent rather than allowing the textural chew of this variety to show its influence. It’s tight, tannic and, at this stage, unyielding.

Alc: 13.5%

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Riposte The Foil Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Adelaide Hills keeps defining its own style of measured, fruit-driven sauvignon blanc, turning down the volume on overt palate sweetness, obnoxious perfume and searing acidity that plagues many poor examples. This has a clean, lifted perfume with ripe gooseberry and a whiff of passionfruit, yet the palate boasts an easy balance between gentle fruit sweetness and mouthwatering acidity.

Alc: 13%

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Riposte The Cutlass Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2014

Winemaker Tim Knappstein captures both clear regional expression and pleasing shiraz character in this rich wine that isn’t weighed down by bulky fruit weight or alcohol. Brilliant deep ruby brightness and rich black cherry and licorice aromas give way to a tight, spicy palate boasting lean blackberry and dark plum flavours. It’s not created in the skinny supermodel mode of much mod cool climate shiraz; rather, it’s slender with noticeable fruit weight on the bones.

Alc: 13.5%

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Hesketh Barossa Valley Bonvedro 2015

Obscure north-east Spanish red grape Bonvedro (often confused with carnignon) comes from a Light Pass vineyard that produces a bright purple fruit with open, generous flavours. What seems at first to be a simple cherry palate starts to bloom in the glass, with cranberry, smoky blackberry, a bit of meaty chew and grunt in the tail. It would be preferable to see this leaner, allowing savoury notes to drive the palate.

Alc: 14%

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Seppeltsfield Eden Valley Riesling 2016

This is the jewel in the crown of Seppeltsfield’s rejuvenated table wines. It achieves graceful balance between Eden Valley’s famed minerality and lively citrus zing. It’s a gentle sum of many seductive notes, with talc, lemon sherbet, lime and a lick of granite and shale to give firm mineral grip.

Alc: 11.8%

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Seppeltsfield Barossa Vermentino 2016

Winemaker Fiona Donald has been working and modifying this style for several years, leaning away from a neutral palate to embrace a fuller, more expressive style. Flavours of pear, nectarine and lemon pith are matched by textural grip, finishing with a pleasing lick of grapefruit and fresh lemon.

Alc: 12%

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Seppeltsfield Barossa Moscato 2016

Bright lolly pink in the glass, there’s no denying this has no ambition beyond being a blithe quaffing drink. Packaging suggests it – a squat 500ml bottle with crown seal – and the flavor profile of loud strawberry and musk over red apple confirms it.

Alc: 7.5%

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Seppeltsfield Barossa Grenache 2016

Boom – here’s a big ol’ plum and blueberry fruit bomb, but not in the old fashioned oak-heavy model. This bright, fruit-driven wine has not seen oak, so a lifted perfume of rosewater over cherry and raspberry leads straight into a full-frontal fruit smackdown. Cheery and chubby, it would be so much better if only it had been a bit leaner.

Alc: 14.8%

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Seppeltsfield Barossa Shiraz 2016

Rather than the expected hefty body weight of western Barossa shiraz, this is lean and nimble on the palate, leading with an easy mix of plummy red fruits and molten chocolate. Minimal oak influence ensures the fruit is bright and lean, avoiding jammy chew, to finish on a long line of gentle, savoury tannins, holding a delicate balance of sweet red fruit over a sour lick of quandong and quince.

Alc: 14.8%

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Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard The Revivalist Merlot 2014

The Jackson family of California is to be applauded for creating a brand that justly celebrates the great Clarendon vineyard it purchased in 2012. Proof of their belief is in the bottle, even the often unloved variety of merlot – though this silky, rich purple elixir reminds why it’s classified among the noble grape varieties. Combining freshness with earthy grunt, this is the rose in a fisted glove.

Alc: 14%

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Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Brooks Road Shiraz 2014

Fruit off this site from largely big-boned vintage carries a surprisingly supple, elegant edge – more so than two previous releases of this distinctive shiraz. It has serious blood-red plum and blackberry intensity, yet is nimble on the palate, showing freshness from a strong seam of acid, but also tight grip from taut yet fine tannins. It will grow into a ravishing beauty after at least seven years in the cellar.

Alc: 14%

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Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

This shows true varietal character, yet is significantly different from other familiar Australian regional cabernet signatures. The site’s bright purple fruit provides heady aromas of blackberry, violets and cassis, yet for a seriously structured wine it still has This shows true varietal character, yet is significantly different from other familiar Australian regional cabernet signatures. The site’s bright purple fruit provides heady aromas of blackberry, violets and cassis, yet for a seriously structured wine it still has

Alc: 14%

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Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard The Peak Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2014

A regal blend of cabernet and shiraz treated with serious reverence. While 56 per cent of cabernet leads the dance and defines the wine’s sturdy architecture, separate fermentation has ensured bright definition of each variety, resulting in an opulent, gloriously silky wine with nuanced fruit, hints of smoky meatiness and profound bass notes. This is elite, with only 380 cases produced.

Alc: 14%

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Tim Adams Clare Valley Semillon 2014

One of Clare’s few semillon believers, Tim Adams captures bright citrus freshness and easy drinkability rather than building a severe, tightly wound, acidic beast. Sunny lemon defines a nicely rounded mid-palate texture also influenced by eight months’ maturation in French hogsheads before bottling. A friendly, instantly likeable wine, it’s best consumed in the company of food.

Alc: 12%

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Tim Adams The Fergus 2014

Not your usual red blend, with the juiciness of Clare grenache filled out by tempranillo and malbec. While this combination came about by accident, after Tim Adams had difficulty obtaining enough of his preferable blending favourites cabernet and shiraz, it’s a very pleasing alternative. Soft rounded red berries are accented by a pinch of spice, but a clean seam of acid is the key, ensuring fruit brightness and juiciness.

Alc: 14%

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Yalumba Y Series Eden Valley Viognier 2015

This Coonabeen Champion white variety of Australia is still treated very seriously at Yalumba, even in its modest Y Series range. Showing more honeysuckle and peach than full-blown apricot, it’s bright and fruit driven without being plump or bloated. Good acid keeps the body firm, supported by the sexy roll of slightly unctuous viscosity. If only more wineries could show similar discipline to pick early and demonstrate restraint with this variety.

Alc: 13.5%

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Yalumba Samuel’s Garden Eden Valley Viognier 2015

Apricot aromas with pretty white flower blossoms suggest a fuller, riper flavor, but, smartly, this stays lean on the palate. Fleshy peach, nectarine and lemon pith has apricot tucked beneath and bright clean acid as a measured counterweight. Its big body wants the company of food, preferably creamy chicken pasta.

Alc: 13.5%

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Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier 2015

Focusing on leanness and length, this elite vision of viognier shows restraint and elegance from the outset. Pale gold in colour with green flecks, the refined perfume of apricot and almond blossom leads to a firm palate, as ginger locks in a tight hug with apricot and melon. Wild ferments add to the complexity, along with a lick of shale and complex cashew nut savouriness.

Alc: 13.5%

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Maxwell Wines Barrel Fermented Verdelho 2015

Barrel work makes verdelho’s personality shift away from sunny tropical notes and into a more savoury, textural spectrum. Cellaring on lees for six months has made a significant difference. It’s creamy and plush in the mouth, with toasted nut aromas adding a serious dark note to the fruity lift of rockmelon and lime.

Alc: 13.5%

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Vigna Cantina Barossa Valley Trebbiano 2016

Sourced from winemaker Domenic Torzi’s native Abruzzi region, this white grape from extremely old vines has a plush textural palate, and its open fruitiness countered by raw savoury tones. It’s a difficult wine, having lots of lemon and floury apple, lime and cashew wrestle with a tart streak of grapefruit in the tail. Best enjoyed in the company of ripe white cheeses.

Alc: 12.5%

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Vigna Cantina Barossa Valley Negro Amaro 2016

Domenic Torzi makes delicious, sturdy table wines of extraordinary value, designed to be enjoyable with every meal. This dark, handsome, muscular beast has a high perfume of violets, darkest blackberry and plum – leading with an easy sweetness, but followed by a heavy fist of licorice and black fruit beneath the chewy texture of hearty salami. The rounded slippery mouthfeel leads to a bone dry, tannic finish. Mmmmmm.

Alc: 14%

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St John’s Road Gee Whiz Tram Driver Traminer Riesling 2016

It’s usually hard to take wines with a joke marquee name too seriously, but an impressive second vintage of this style shows that it’s no cheap trick. It’s an astute blend, with lightly perfumed Barossa gewurztraminer softened by 28 per cent Eden Valley riesling, giving the palate pleasing dryness and length. It’s an easy-drinking pleasure that belongs in the company of mezze plates.

Alc: 12.5%

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Peter Lehmann Wines VSV Valley View Road Shiraz 2014

This winery’s Very Special Vineyard range follows many Barossa wineries keen to identify the differences between sub-regional sources. The Grope family’s Ebenezer vineyard produces a brooding black fruit beast – a big whiff of aniseed, the bite of big dark berries dominating an intense flavor profile, yet the palate has surprisingly plush velvety smoothness. Destined for a long cellar life.

Alc: 14.5%

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Peter Lehmann Wines VSV 1885 Shiraz 2015

This shiraz parcel from the Schrepel family’s 1885 dry grown Ebenezer vineyard has the seamless, rolling mouthfeel of rich plum, blueberry and blackberry best described as Barossa chocolate – also a hallmark of this brand’s flagship Stonewell Shiraz. However, this is packed a little more tightly, a little more austere in its black fruit grip, although the long flavours carried on fine black tannins are beautifully balanced.

Alc: 14.5%

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Shut The Gate Polish Hill River Riesling 2012

It’s a smart move for this small Clare winery to offer museum stock at its cellar door – not only demonstrating how these wines develop in bottle, but also the separate personalities of two Clare sites. Notable for the intensity of its lime curd flavor, lick of minerality and firm textural roll, this rich Polish Hill River riesling remains a tightly wound coil, suggesting its best is still to come.

Alc: 12.5%

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Shut The Gate Watervale Riesling 2012

This riesling sourced from Watervale is travelling a different journey to its Clare sibling after five years – and is currently luxuriating in an especially good place. A pretty citrus blossom nose hasn’t faded, yet slight notes of honeysuckle add voluptuousness. Playful lemon freshness drives a rich, serious, layered palate, with some savoury grip and the slightest hint of kero as a whispery final note.

Alc: 12%

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Mount Horrocks Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

An often-overlooked champion variety of Clare sings here in full voice. The confidence that saw this bottled as a straight varietal for first time since 2006 is very well placed, with its fine, rich perfume of mulberry and mocha translating to a luscious, silky palate. Now accredited with certified organic status, the vineyard’s fruit bursts with flavours of vivid clarity and purity.

Alc: 13.8%

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Wicks Estate Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

The Adelaide Hills has a reputation as a marginal region for ripening cabernet, and this wine demonstrates why; it’s hard and raw, the oak biting deep into the tightly wound red fruits and blackberry laced with a prominent vegetal edge. Tight black tannins remain tough in the back palate, making it notably abrasive.

Alc: 14.5%

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Wicks Estate Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2016

Playing to an Adelaide Hills strong suit, this fruit shows lovely freshness in its red and black cherry aromas. The flavor profile, however, embraces significantly darker tones, remaining nimble and clean in the midriff until lots of sooty, tarry notes permeate a grumbling back palate held in firm, tannic grip.

Alc: 13.7%

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Hahndorf Hill Winery Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Nouveau 2016

The winery enjoys a giggle by choosing this racy name for its new carbonic maceration style of zweigelt, another Austrian grape finding itself at home in the Adelaide Hills. Bright raspberry in colour, it’s more than simple picnic juice; grip and spice from ripe cherry and pomegranate places it beyond Beaujolais Nouveau to be a more enticing, firm-gripped affair. While ideally chilled, it’s equally impressive at room temperature with baked salmon or grilled quail.

Alc: 11.7%

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Grosset Gaia 2014

It’s luxury in a glass. This brilliant cabernet blend has especially seductive charm due to the swirling melody of velvety blackberry, dark plum and blackcurrant. Rich brambly notes are countered by the whiff of violets from cab franc. It’s a deft, measured exercise in poise and balance. It’s the 25th vintage of this singular wine; its finesse and beauty will shine radiantly for at least as long in the cellar.

Alc: 13.7%

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Grosset Piccadilly Chardonnay

Cleanliness defines a striking, svelte take on chardonnay, with Jeffrey Grosset approaching Adelaide Hills fruit from an unsentimental Clare perspective; thus he produces a very lithe, bright elixir showing lemon and grapefruit freshness over delicate white nectarine and bass notes of roasted hazelnut. The sexy meld rolls around playfully around the mouth for a long, luscious time.

Alc: 13.5%

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Grosset Pinot Noir 2015

From a single site at Piccadilly, this projects vivid personality from the outset; strawberry highlights without silly sweetness, dark cherries without the meanness, redcurrant without awkward tartness. A deliberate acid line keeps it all in check, allowing long fruit notes to hang on the palate without being swamped by tannins, though its controlling role never dominates the soiree.

Alc: 13.5%

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Mr Riggs Adelaide Hills Ein Riese Riesling 2016

Aiming to echo Germany’s off-dry style of riesling, there is deliberate fruit sweetness on entre but also a long, even, measured palate. Brown lime and lemon juice combines with green apple and some roasted nutty tones, with enough acid to drive and sustain the broad palate.

Alc: 11%

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Mr Riggs McLaren Vale Mrs Viognier 2015

Restraint is required when it comes to viognier, and Ben Riggs does an admirable job with a solid but structured wine. Peach and apricot tones are tight and bound by lemon-accented acid that keeps the fresh fruit notes bright and clear, while the texture is slippery and even. I’d like this with roast chicken.

Alc: 13%

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Mr Riggs Adelaide Hills Cold Chalk Chardonnay 2015

Oak binds this big-fruited, big-voiced chardonnay, placing a stylistic nod in the direction of Burgundy. There’s considerable power driving flavours of white peach and rockmelon through a solid mid-palate, a deliberate squeeze of oak, then closing with a tight savoury note that lingers.

Alc: 12.5%

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Mr Riggs Yacca Paddock Tempranillo 2015

Cedar and baking spice wrapped in oak bursts into the nose, with a big muscular palate driving black cherry and licorice ahead of tight black tannins. This is tempranillo with muscle and chew, and good vine age on the Hicks’ Kuitpo vineyard is ensuring very impressive power and depth in a rich flavor profile.

Alc: 14.5%

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Mr Riggs Adelaide Hills Montepulciano 2015

Ben Riggs never leaves you guessing where the fruit weight is in his wines, and for traditionally savoury Italian varieties such as montepulciano, this presents a challenge. There’s spice on the nose but red cherry and plum heft is very forward on the palate, making it more about the fruity boom than the seductive squeeze.

Alc: 14.5%

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Mr Riggs McLaren Vale The Magnet Grenache 2015

Although he has 100-year-old vines to work with, winemaker Ben Riggs still imparts his will on the wine, encouraging big, amplified fruit to push its weight around. Lots of sweet cherry with raspberry tones exerts sweetness over the muscle of good grenache, although bulkiness clouds the beauty of what’s possible here.

Alc: 14.5%

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LaBise Le Petite Frais Adelaide Hills Rose 2016

There’s a note of power in the belly of this dry but full-fruited rose driven by sangiovese over tempranillo with a splash of pinot gris. It enables pleasing textural play in the mid-palate and nice tannic grip in the tail, though it’s all about clean raspberry and cherry fruit, without sugary interference.

Alc: 13.2%

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La Bise Adelaide Hills Sangiovese 2015

The latest interpretation of this rich white blend has the volume turned down, with viognier at a whisper rather than a shout. It’s still plush and full bodied, though the greater influence of marsanne introduces citrus pith to balance lush peach and apricot, with a lick of nuttiness in the tail.

Alc: 13.6%

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d’Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2016

This points to a new interpretation of white wines from d’Arenberg, with a more restrained hand in the winery leading to a crisper, gentler drink. The roussanne is clean, bright and slender, its fresh citrus line being augmented by textural grip in the mid-palate. Good acid ensures notable length in the pleasing hints of melon and mango.

Alc: 12.7%

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d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2016

The latest interpretation of this rich white blend has the volume turned down, with viognier at a whisper rather than a shout. It’s still plush and full bodied, though the greater influence of marsanne introduces citrus pith to balance lush peach and apricot, with a lick of nuttiness in the tail.

Alc: 13.6%

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d’Arenberg The Witches Berry Chardonnay 2015

A third interpretation of chardonnay from d’Arenberg, using only McLaren Vale fruit in a generous yet still tightly bound expression. The bite of green apple and lemon zest rolls on top of ripe peach fleshiness. Oak serves as a toasty binding agent rather than bullying the palate, which is more informed by the creaminess conjured by lees stirring. .

Alc: 13.5%

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D’Arenberg The Anthropocene Epoch Mencia 2016

The expected tongue-twister name from winemaker Chester Osborne points to an era of environmental change, and underlines d’Arenberg’s planting of alternative varieties to keep producing new wines. One of several exciting mencia releases from McLaren Vale, this is dazzling purple in the glass, with rich plummy perfume on the nose, a juicy mid palate and fierce drying tannins. It’s bright and lively, but so puckery that it begs the companionship of a rich, meaty stew.

Alc: 14.2%

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Hesketh Midday Somewhere Shiraz 2016

The wine’s name suggests exactly what winemaker Phil Lehmann intends; a carefree, easy drinking shiraz that’s all about simple pleasure. It’s juicy, not jammy. Plummy red fruits are sweet, and bright acid keeps the flavours clean without being austere. It’s light bodied, in a lightweight bottle; a tidy package at a modest price.

Alc: 14.5%

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Hesketh Twist Of Fate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

At entry level prices, cabernet can mostly be raw, green and rude – but this wine from Phil Lehmann rises well above its station, showing good varietal nose, with dusty blackberry and a hint of leafy freshness, while the body is lean without lacking substance, and juicy without being extracted or plump. I’ve tasted many cabs at least $10 a bottle dearer that don’t achieve such balance or pleasure in the glass.

Alc: 14.5%

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Wicks Estate Shiraz 2015

Plummy and perfumed, this is chunkier and chewier than what you’d expect from modern Adelaide Hills shiraz. A nose of violets and anise leads to a plush mid-palate, although not so full that it doesn’t show some spice in the tail. Oak lifts rather than overwhelms the cherry, ripe plum and blackberry notes, resulting in a solid, generous palate, but restraint would add more appeal.

Alc: 14.5%

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Henschke Ida Selma Blanc de Noir MD

Fresh disgorgement shows this multiple-vintage sparkling assemblage in its best light. The bright, tight mousse leads to a slender palate, making less of a statement about the density of older vintage base wines and more about the bright freshness and sprightly bounce of finely structured pinot noir. A lovely clean aperitif.

Alc: 12%

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Henschke Hill of Peace Semillon 2012

First release of this old vine semillon from the Hill of Grace vineyard presents a very mild straw nose, with its fine, skinny fruit primed by clean but not strident acid. Juicy lemon ensures a fresh palate, with a lick of shale providing tight pull at the conclusion. The result is stern and deliberate without being too severe, although the structure is quite petite, like fine porcelain. An ideal food wine.

Alc: 12%

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Henschke Giles Pinot Noir 2014

This 25th vintage from Henschke’s Lenswood site shows impressive precise texture. Modest floral aromas are taut and poised, while the slim structure benefits from a fine seam of acid, highlighting discrete layers of lean black cherry and a hint of cranberry rather than blunt fruit forwardness. Deliberate tannic grip pulls hard on the reins at the conclusion, suggesting it will have a long life.

Alc: 14%

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Henschke The Bootmaker Mataro 2015

An outstanding fruit parcel from sandy Vine Vale in the Barossa provides lush purple colour and an especially pretty nose, singing with bright violet, nutmeg and red berry freshness. The palate has spice dancing in step with cranberry, cherry, and a lick of acidic raspberry, although this surprising gem is all about the leathery chew of its savoury mouthfeel. Worth investigating.

Alc: 14.5%

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Henschke Five Shillings Shiraz Mataro 2016

Deepest purple in the glass, plumped by the heft of velvety plum, blackberry and juicy blueberry. Its plump, sweet entry signals that shiraz overwhelms mataro’s savouriness, yet a strong tannic pull underscores the tidy finale, with a lingering trail of black pepper. It should have a good decade of cellaring ahead.

Alc: 14.5%

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Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz 2015

Big, seductive perfume carries a waft of fresh berries and spice, but the swoon factor is a wall-to-wall entry of blueberry and star anise, providing a spicy starburst. Vibrant flavours continue through deep layers, as serious structural architecture stands firm and proud. The fruit relaxes as the palate draws to a spicy final note, although very fine tannins carry long, lean blueberry flavours throughout this wine of great elegance.

Alc: 14.5%

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Henschke Hill of Roses Shiraz 2010

This is the big surprise packet in the Henschke portfolio; new vines from heritage cuttings on the Hill of Grace vineyard are showing an exciting personality of their own. A big, potent nose of liquorice and blackberry signals vitality, while the palate has serious power, though without the same density or depth of the site’s grandfather vines. Its layered flavours have a surprisingly soft finish, yet it has deceptive persistence and lingers on and on, without either oak or tannin hanging off the tail. Continue watching this wine with great interest.

Alc: 14.5%

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Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2012

An outstanding vintage. A massive nose of blackberry over deep red plum and some sharp acidic raspberry rides over customary sniffs of sage, though there’s also liquorice in a heady bouquet. Compact layers of flavour and texture drift from joyous berries to black earth intensity, then the iron fisted grip of black tannins. It’s a shift in style for Hill of Grace to look so confident now as a fully formed drink, rather than purely a futures investment, though it still promises to travel a very long distance, sealed under Vinolok glass stopper.

Alc: 14.5%

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Brash Higgins GR/M McLaren Vale Grenache Mataro 2016

The heavy glass bottle signals the intention – this co-fermentation of 70 per cent grenache with old vine mataro is a serious marriage. Yet while it has a solid body, the grenache shows bright cherry freshness and lip smacking vitality. There’s more to the story, with the back palate hitting resonant bass notes from mataro’s grunty black fruit and extra spice, which is a surprising flip side to the sunny front palate. Beguiling.

Alc: 14.6%

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Brash Higgins MRLO Lennon Vineyard McLaren Vale Merlot 2016

Anyone thinking merlot equals mellow needs to be handed this bottle. Working in the blackest flavor spectrum, it’s all sooty tar, menacing blackberry and dark ink, yet never descending into gluey texture; far from it, as the beautifully even palate remaining clean and true, with soft tannins integrated seamlessly in a long finish.

Alc: 13.9%

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Brash Higgins FRNC Sommerville Vineyard McLaren Vale Cabernet Franc 2016

Not what you’d expect of cab franc. Extended maceration has given classic bright purple hues, but the nose is very subdued, with barely a hint of the variety’s characteristic lifted violet. Instead, this wine focuses on a smooth, even palate through its medium-weight body. It’s pretty, but lacks the allure of a truly beautiful cab franc.

Alc: 13.8%

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Turkey Flat Vineyards Barossa Valley White 2016

This winery has tinkered with this blend for years, showing off white Rhone grapes that grow so well in the Barossa yet are rarely celebrated. Its blend of 38 per cent marsanne, 23 per cent roussanne and 29 per cent viognier achieves a rich flavour harmony of white peach, nectarine and nuttiness, with savoury, spicy notes poking through a playful texture and luscious mid-palate.

Alc: 11.5%

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Turkey Flat Vineyards Mataro 2016

A very measured, modern approach to taming the beastly nature of old vine mataro, aiming to show more spiciness than meaty chew in the mid-palate. The bright purple colour correctly suggest opulence, though the body is tight and contained, providing a tension that ensures lively, feisty play in the mouth. Ole!

Alc: 13.5%

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Parker Coonawarra Estate Shiraz 2014

This third release since the Hesketh family and winemaker Phil Lehmann took over the Parker brand shows that they place a premium on value and generous flavour. There’s a big bite of cool climate pepper – relatively unusual in Coonawarra shiraz – which sits well within a swirl of plum, red cherry and vanilla bean. Full, forward and satisfying.

Alc: 14.5%

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Parker Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

A lovely smooth, rich style, boasting a generous mid-palate of potent blackberry and blackcurrant. True to varietal character, it has a hint of fragrant leafiness over the ripe berries, and it ends with the bite of dusty tannins. Likeable now; likely to be more lovable with age.

Alc: 14.5%

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Claymore Wines You’ll Never Walk Alone Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2016

Lots of spice and mid-palate generosity in this bright, clean-flavoured blend, where peppery shiraz plays as significant a role in the flavour meld as rich, plummy grenache. A kindly barbecue companion.

Alc: 14%

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Claymore Wines Bittersweet Symphony Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

A strong lick of oak and traces of vanilla support a seamless meld of red cherry, blackberry and blueberry in a full and friendly mid-palate. Its pleasing earthy tones show a true, rich expression of Clare Valley cabernet.

Alc: 14%

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Claymore Wines Skinny Love Summer White 2016

A very different take on viognier, picked lean and early to achieve a light-bodied, fresh tasting picnic wine. It’s sweet but crisp, with only 9.6% alcohol and a bright acid line that amplifies the taste of crisp green and red apples.

Alc: 9.6%

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Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard Old Pump Shed Pinot Noir 2014

Available from cellar door (and in the company of food at the winery’s excellent restaurant) this older vintage shows pinot from this steep Adelaide Hills site at its best. There’s a lick of smoky wood in the rich fusion of slinky black and red cherries, with discrete oak keeping the body slim and erect.

Alc: 13%

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Maxwell Eocene Ancient Earth Shiraz 2013

Overly sweet and assertive in the front palate, yet the tail is sharp and peppery – it seems disjointed as a result, lacking cohesion. The plump blackberry body is blocky, syrupy and viscous, only taking shape after a long time in the glass. If it were leaner and more taut, it would be it significantly better.

Alc: 14.8%

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Oliver’s Taranga Vineyard Shiraz 2015

Big generosity in a fresh, modern take on old vine McLaren shiraz, bridging the divide between skinny new-school and traditional styles. The mid-palate is soft but has a long line. There’s depth of flavour but also immediate approachability. It’s a well-made crowd-pleaser, and as an entry level to the impressive Oliver’s Taranga brand, it represents superb value for money.

Alc: 14.5%

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Oliver’s Taranga Vineyard Grenache 2015

Spice jumps out of the glass immediately and dances on the front palate. This small batch release shows obvious power from old McLaren Vale vines but it’s intention is to highlight a lean savoury note. Surprisingly nimble on the tongue for such a hefty wine, it shows lovely elegance and balance.

Alc: 14%

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Oliver’s Taranga Vineyard Corrina’s Shiraz Cabernet 2015

Rich generosity makes this easy to love. Co-fermentation of the two varieties results in a carefully integrated marriage. Enjoy its sexy mid-palate roll of redcurrants and blackberry in a tight tango, while the combination of black tannin and shiraz pepper adds firecracker pops for a finale.

Alc: 14%

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Oliver’s Taranga Vineyard HJ Shiraz 2013

Deepest blackberry and star anise, with a hint of fennel, leads to the big, thick, tarry gush of solid blackberry. This is serious old vine shiraz; a big, foreboding presence with extraordinary power, wrapped in a severe, steely fist that says cellaring is necessary. After a time, it may actually open up and perhaps crack a smile. A magnificent specimen, to be treated seriously.

Alc: 14.5%

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Oliver’s Taranga Vineyard DJ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Lots of rich earth and chocolate, soft on entry before the palate embarks on an elegant dance through silky red berries, plum and blackberry, with presence and length through the palate. This has drink-now accessibility, but significant cellaring potential as well.

Alc: 14.5%

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RAY'S WINE GUIDE 2017