Ken Gargett Reviews

 

Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz 2014

The greatest vintage in the Hunter Valley since 1965 has given us many stunning wines and there is none better than the Graveyard. I’ll go further, this is the best red Australia has yet seen from the 2014 vintage anywhere. Warm earth, florals, roses, cigar box notes, hints of chocolate and black olives. Richness, complexity, fine balance and great length. Has a great future. Brilliant. Should even exceed the great ’86 Graveyard.

Score: 99/100

Best drinking: 8 to 40 years.

Alc: 13.5%

 

Brokenwood Rayner Vineyard Shiraz 2014

 

Brokenwood’s intriguing exploration of McLaren Vale fruit was much lamented – this is the first release of this wine since the 2007 vintage. A pleasing mix of black and red fruit notes, touches of aniseed, cloves and dry herbs. Finishes with considerable tannins but nicely balanced with the richness of the fruit. Lovely depth. It is the fruit flavours that are key. Toss in a little chocolatey characters. Drink or cellar? Depends on preferences. Hard to go past the lovely expressive flavours as they are now, but with time, more complexity will add to the pleasure.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: five to fifteen years.

Alc: 13.5%

 

Brokenwood Hunter Valley Shiraz 2014

Stock up on all the 2014 Hunters you can find. Drink them now, by all means, but please put as much as you can in the cellar. This is – as they say, a bit of all the top vineyards – a joy, but well-structured and has years ahead of it. Choc and tar, warm earth, orange rind, dark berries. An array of ever-emerging flavours. Plenty of grip on the finish. This has power and persistence. Don’t miss it.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: 4 to 25 years.

Alc: 13.5%

 

Brokenwood Beechworth Pinot Noir 2014

Strawberries, root vegetables, raspberries. A soft and yet finely crafted Pinot. This is elegant, delicious and persists nicely. Finely balanced. A medium weight style which will give greatest pleasure in its younger years. There is a small percentage of whole bunches which add to the complexity. A thoroughly enjoyable Pinot.

 

Score: 91/100

Best drinking: now for five years.

Alc: 13%.

 

Brokenwood Latara Vineyard Semillon 2009

Aged Hunter Semillon is one of the great joys of the wine world but has never gained much traction outside this country (and far less than deserved within). A wonderfully complex wine which is still fresh and bright. Good acidity behind some delightful lanolin and lemon pie flavours. Terrific length. Stunning stuff. Drink now but it has years ahead of it.

 

Score: 95/100

Best drinking: now for twenty years.

Alc: 11%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2016

A strong argument can be offered that this is the finest Bin 51 Penfold’s have ever made. Intriguing aromas of perfumed lemons and Iced VoVo biscuity notes lie over slate and mineral characters. Bright and bracing with its vibrant acidity, this is nicely balanced with piercing length. A delightful fresh summer style, but has a glittering future ahead. Fantastic value.

Score: 96/100

Best drinking: Now for 20 years.

Alc: 12%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2015

Gentle perfumes here. A pretty wine, rather than an imposing one. Lovely upfront fruit notes but lacks serious length. It does offer some very pleasant lemon touches and hints of grapefruit. There is a whiff of oak, as the wine seems to be still coming together. This is an attractive style and an enjoyable drink, but it does not measure up to their best Chardies, at least not with this vintage.

Score: 89/100

Best drinking: Now for four years.

Alc: 13.5%.

 

Penfold’s Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015

By releasing their top two Chardies, this and Yattarna, from different vintages, Penfold’s gives the wines the chance to shine on its merits and we find that preferences can vary from year to year. Yattarna has always been the always-proper school prefect, not a foot wrong, while Bin A is the unruly wild child. Wonderfully complex with struck match, flint and funky notes, this is a fine example of the style. Great texture and impressive length. Will get better. Love it.

Score: 95/100

Best drinking: 8 to 10 years.

Alc: 13%.

 

Penfold’s Yattarna Chardonnay 2014

73% Derwent Valley, 27% Adelaide Hills, 70% new French oak. This is the more refined of the top two Penfold’s Chardies, immaculately crafted. It is leaner, tighter and with a nice flick of refreshing acidity. Impressive length and the intensity is maintained throughout. Lemon, citrussy notes. There is oak evident but the wine is still integrating. Superb Aussie Chardonnay, but even better in a few years. This is a superb Yattarna, one of the best.

Score: 97/100

Best drinking: 8 to 12 years.

Alc: 13%

 

Penfold’s Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2015

Free run juice, wild ferment, 7 to 8 clones, no filtration, minimal new oak, some whole bunch and nine months on gross lees – all those non-big company things one expects from boutique Pinot producers. And it works. A slightly funky style with sappy notes, woodsmoke, strawberry, blueberry characters. Supple tannins but the highlight is the amazing length. Not a bump.

Score: 93/100

Best drinking: 5-6 years.

Alc: 14%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro 2014

This is perhaps a red more suited to those who like a slightly old-fashioned style of wine, one that is perhaps a little chunky. But there is much to like. Slightly rustic with campfire, cold tea, black cherry and dark chocolate flavours entwined. At this stage, very young. It is solid and powerful at this stage, but the patient will be rewarded.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: 8 to 10 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz 2014

As Peter Gago said of this vintage of Bin 8, they “were empowered to make it better”. Nice lifted perfumes. A generous style, especially on the palate, although this is more restrained than 389. Florals, plums and blackfruit notes. The fruit is the dominant factor here and an array of different characters kept emerging. Lovely drinking already, though no rush, but you can happily enjoy this wine now, if you want to cellar other wines from the release.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: Two to six years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 138 SGM 2014

Always one of my favourites of the annual release and a wine that never fails to drink well above its price. 2014 is no exception. Dark fruits here, blueberries and blackberries. A complete wine, with excellent length. Supple, rich, ripe and exuberant. Barossa SGM is a blend that works seamlessly (64%, 21% and 15% respectively). A joy to drink now but has years ahead of it.

Score: 93/100

Best drinking: 4 to 10 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2014

A lighter, more austere style than most of the wines in the annual release, this has red apple notes and some red fruits. There is a hint of blueberry, but it is very much more raspberry. There is still a splintery touch of oak and reasonable grip on the finish with its fine tannins, though it is a smidge hollow in the middle. Lacks the vivaciousness of some but will reward patience.

Score: 89/100

Best drinking: 4 to 8 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2014

The Kalimna Shiraz might be named after the famous Barossa vineyard, but that is pretty much where the link ends – this wine is from all over South Australia. 12 months in old American oak hogsheads. Thoroughly enjoyable now, but it is built to age for many years. We have notes of chocolate, blackberry, warm earth and spices. Soft tannins and decent length, this is more generous than some and is well balanced, concentrated, seamless and very attractive.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: 8 to 12 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2014

One of the rarer wines of the release in that it is a sub-regional offering, from Marananga in the Barossa. The colour is an inky black with purple rims. Chocolate and cocoa dominant up front. Concentrated but expressive with a sweet core of fruit. Ripe, juicy and delicious. Should have a good future, but there is lots to like now. If one wanted to be really picky, the intensity does fade a touch towards the finish, but by that stage, it will seem largely irrelevant.

Score: 93/100

Best drinking: 10 to 12 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Every time, I really try and like this wine but every time, it leaves me a little flat. And given the price it pulls these days, it should surely do better? Leafy notes, dry herbs, fruit notes from the darker fruit end of the spectrum, some leather, a little of the Cabernet austerity. Lacking some length. Fair at best, for me. A wine that rarely inspires and this vintage is no exception.

Score: 88/100

Best drinking: 2 to 4 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2014

Always a star and deservedly one of Australia’s most popular fine wines. Amazing quality for a wine that tops the 100,000 case mark annually. Chocolate, spices, black fruits, axle oil, and well-integrated oak. Has excellent length, fine tannins, good balance and a taut, appealing texture. It may not be the ridiculous bargain it once was, but it is still great buying. Every cellar should have some.

Score: 95/100

Best drinking: 5 to 30 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s St Henri Shiraz 2013

A wine with poise and exquisite balance. Other end of the spectrum from the powerful, richly extracted styles which people tend to associate with Penfold’s, this has finesse, balance and a classic structure. St Henri always ages well and this one will certainly do that. There are spice notes, florals, a hint of a saline character. Thoroughly appealing. The ’13 will have to compete with the two recent great St Henri’s, ’10 and ’12, but it is off to a flying start.

Score: 95/100

Best drinking: 10 to 30 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s Magill Estate Shiraz 2014

A rare single vineyard wine in the portfolio – and an even rarer wine than most as it comes from a suburban vineyard that has managed to avoid the ever-encroaching swell of humanity – long may it do so. Notable oak notes here, but they are integrating well. It is a mix of French and American oak, all new barrels. Dark fruits, spices and earth but a core of finely balanced sweet fruit. With time, this will sing.

Score: 95/100

Best drinking: 8 to 25 years.

Alc: 14.5%

 

Penfold’s RWT Barossa Shiraz 2014

Originally dubbed ‘RWT’ for ‘red winemaking trial’, when the first vintage, the 1997, hit the shelves, it has outgrown that and we’ll now see it gradually start to be called ‘Bin 798’. 17 months in French hogsheads, just 70% new, ensure a very different style to the all-American, all-new oak Grange. Mulberries, a lovely slightly smoky note, spices, dark chocolate. Good grip and excellent length. This is a cracker wine.

Score: 96/100

Best drinking: 5 to 25 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Penfold’s Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

17 months in new American hogsheads, this Cabernet is from the Barossa (including fruit from the legendary Block 42), Padthaway and Port Lincoln. If you are seeking an Aussie Cabernet to stand the test of time, there are not many better choices than Bin 707. The power in this wine is immediately apparent. Black fruits, florals, spices, dark chocolate, dry herbs and hints of bitumen. Terrific length of flavour here and the intensity is maintained throughout. A stunner.

Score: 98/100

Best drinking: 8 to 40 years.

Alc: 14.5%

 

Penfold’s Grange 2012

2012 Grange will be forever compared with its great sibling, the 2010, much like 1990/1991 and ’02/’04 (pity the poor 2011). 98% Shiraz, dominant Barossa, this is undoubtedly a great Grange. Powerful and intense, black fruits, florals, black olives, axle grease, cloves, chocolate and oolong tea. Heavily packed with tannins, but the overall impression is of a wine that is near perfectly balanced. Supple, seamless and concentrated, but nowhere near as approachable as the 2010 at this early stage. One for the cellar. If you have enjoyed Grange over the last decade, you’ll love this.

Score: 99/100

Best drinking: 12 to 50 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Sirromet ‘Signature Collection’ Shiraz Viognier 2014

Attractive style from the Granite Belt, this is soft and juicy with lots of red fruit notes, a good balance with the underlying acidity and a wine with length. Mid-weight at best, but fresh and fragrant. This works as a lovely aromatic style when one is not chasing a heavily extracted blockbuster.

Score: 89/100

Best drinking: 2 to 6 years.

Alc: 14%

 

Turkey Flat Grenache 2012

A delightfully soft style with notes of cloves and black fruits. Plenty of tannins but they really are very soft. Nice length. A Barossa Grenache from vines which are mostly over the century in age, or touching on the ton. The flavours really do linger nicely. The key is the freshness and vibrancy of the wine. A very fine example of the style from a good year. Pleasure to drink now.

Score: 90/100

Best drinking: Now for 6 years.

Alc: 15%.

 

Arras Blanc de Blancs 2004

8 years on lees has contributed to the texture and the complexity of this classy fizz. Has weight and depth. Stonefruit notes with a Crème Brûlée and lemon sorbet touch. Balance and length. This is a superb Aussie sparkler. Not a foot wrong. It shows what a gem we have with winemaker, Ed Carr, and the sheer quality of the best fruit from Tasmania.

Score: 95/100

Best drinking: Now but will hold for 5 years.

Alc: 12.5%.

 

d’Arenberg ‘The Laughing Magpie’ Shiraz Viognier 2012

There might be only 7% Viognier in the blend but it is apparent, lifting the perfumes. Lovely soft red fruits, the wine has that note of stonefruit that this blend often exhibits. Florals. Very fine, soft tannins, seriously impressive length. Key to it is the immaculate balance. A lovely expressive wine, terrific persistence and a delight to drink now. It will age but I’m not sure that it will ever be much more enjoyable than it is now.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: Now for 6 years.

Alc: 14.4%.

 

d’Arenberg ‘The Footbolt’ Shiraz 2014

A much loved and always useful McLaren Vale Shiraz, always top value. That red stripe instantly recognisable. Soft and juicy, slightly dusty tannins, nice length. Flavour falling over itself. Not a classically structured style; just a glass of flavour and joy. A case or two in the cellar and you have a terrific drink for fabulous value, any time over the next decade.

Score: 90/100

Best drinking: Now for ten years.

Alc: 14.6%.

 

Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2005

For most of us, an aged Hill of Grace is something long forgotten or all too rarely encountered, but as there was no release for the 2011 vintage, as the grapes just did not step up to the requisite level of quality, the Henschke family came up with the idea of re-releasing a couple of older stars as a package. So you can grab the 2005 and 2006 HoG’s from the Henschke cellars! Inevitably, they are not cheap but both are stunning wines. The 2005 is beautifully fragrant, seamless, balanced, exquisite. Cloves, olives and spices. Superb.

Score: 97/100

Best drinking: Still has 30 years ahead of it.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2006

Part of the package deal, the ’05 and ’06 have long tussled for supremacy but on this occasion, 2006 ruled. Black cherry notes, plum pudding, dry herbs and spices. This is complex, classically structured, concentrated, offering underlying power and finishing with cashmere-like tannins. Glorious and still offering refinement. This is a brilliant wine by any standards. On this evidence, it will even outlive the 2005.

Score: 99/100

Best drinking: Now for 40 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Henschke Tilly’s Vineyard 2015

A blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, this feels a little like an attempt to fight back against the Kiwi sauvalanche. That might be a bit futile, but this has always been a popular wine. It has moved to a more aromatic style than previously and it does have a slight vegetal note to it. Leafy, slightly green, but it is fresh, bright and juicy.

Score: 88/100

Best drinking: Drink now.

Alc: 13%.

 

Henschke Louis Semillon 2014

Trying to shift non-Hunter Valley Semillon can’t be the easiest gig in the world (I suspect trying to shift Hunter Valley Sem is only marginally easier), but this effort from the Eden Valley might turn a few heads. The vines are half a century old. The result is a muted style, tight but with some vibrant acidity. There is a dry vegetal note that some may find appealing; others will not. Hold off for now. This has ageing potential.

Score: 88/100

Best drinking: 3 to 8 years.

Alc: 12%.

 

Henschke Archer Chardonnay 2015

For those wondering where this has come from, it used to be called the ‘Crane Chardonnay’. Slightly lower key than the Croft, it is more of a fresh lighter style. Has been built with a little malo influence. From the Lenswood sub-region of the Adelaide Hills, a fine, bright offering with a nice lingering finish. Drink it while ageing the Croft, if you want Chardy in your cellar.

Score: 90/100

Best drinking: Now for three years.

Alc: 13%.

 

Henschke Croft Chardonnay 2015

A mix of seven clones and both new and older oak in this absolutely terrific Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. It has benefited from careful site selection and the result is seamless and compelling. It is complex, beautifully persistent and is offering the gentlest touch of oak. Notes of limes and lemons, as well as florals, pears and spices. Impressive.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: 1 – 7 years.

Alc: 13.5%.

 

Henschke ‘The Alan’ Pinot Noir 2012

Site selection from the Lenswood vineyard in the Adelaide Hills has resulted in this seriously impressive Reserve Pinot. It is subtle, restrained and wonderfully elegant. Red fruits, warm earth, red cherry notes. Really has terrific persistence and the tannins are as soft as cashmere. A Pinot of which to be proud. And one to enjoy for many years to come.

Score: 94/100

Best drinking: 2 to 15 years.

Alc: 13.5%.

 

Henschke Henry’s Seven 2014

The ultimate ‘north meets south’ Rhone blend – the South providing the GSM component and the North, the concept of blending in some Viognier, as is done in Cote Rôtie (65% Shiraz, 20% Grenache, 10% Mataro and 5% Viognier, for those who like to know such things). Flavours of black olives, soy, cherry, sarsaparilla and a tiny hint of stonefruit. Supple with masses of fruit and yet retains an elegant opulence, a very fine line to tread.

Score: 93/100

Best drinking: 2 to 12 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Henschke Johann’s Garden GMS 2015

A traditional Rhone blend, but one where Grenache dominates; Mataro is the support act and Shiraz little more than a cameo. Strawberries, mulberries, nutmeg, choc/earth notes. Ripe and plush and of moderate length with quite fine tannins, this is an enjoyable Barossa Grenache, made from old vines. It should have no trouble ageing for a decade or more.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: 4 to 20 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz 2014

Most wineries in Australia would be delighted to have this fabulous wine as their flagship, rather than stuck in the pecking order behind Hill of Grace, Mt Edelstone and possibly others. From three sub-regions in the Barossa/Eden Valley, this vintage offers wonderful fragrances and flavours of mulberries, rose petals, notes of dark chocolate, blueberries. Seamless and supple. A reasonable, if not especially long finish. Fine tannins. Under vinolock.

Score: 95/100

Best drinking: 5 to 20 years.

Alc: 14.5%.

 

d’Arenberg ‘The Money Spider’ Roussanne 2016

Lovely fresh and flavourful wine. A real nuttiness to it. Hazelnuts, almonds. Backed some appealing stonefruit notes. Good acid bite. Has a depth of flavour that raises it above the pack. Good drinking now, but expect it to build in flavour, mellowness and complexity over the next few years. That Roussanne is a much underrated variety is evident when one sees wines of this calibre.

Score: 90/100

Best drinking: now for four years.

Alc: 12.7%

 

Best’s Great Western Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

If one may be permitted, this is more of a New World style of Cabernet, much more richly flavoured than some, with none of the weedy greenness that can bedevil poor examples. Cassis, oodles of cherry notes, good grip, even a hint of austerity on the finish but only enough to indicate good structure rather than anything that might diminish the wine. Good length.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: four for fifteen years.

Alc: 14%

 

Jim Barry Assyrtiko 2016

This is the first commercial release of this Greek variety in Australia. The Barry’s have been working hard with it for some time – there was a pleasant but experimental ’15 – and now 1,000 dozen of this first commercial release. The result is absolutely delicious and a perfect summer drink. Fresh with bright acidity, a hint of lemon and lovely texture, quite minerally. Just a slight saline note to tie it all together. Will it age? Unknown at this stage, but it really should do perfectly well for a few years.

Score: 91/100

Best drinking: Now for two years.

Alc: 12.5%

 

Margan Aged Release Semillon 2011

Opens with appealing fresh notes of green apples. Some citrus, more grapefruit than lemon. Fine acidity here. Still youthful, it is finely balanced with plenty of length. Perhaps a little riper than some in the line-up but none the worse for that. There are touches of cashew/nuts and the texture is a delightful creamy and supple one. Some early development is evident, but many years ahead of it.

Score: 94/100

Best drinking: now for twenty years.

Alc: 11.5%

 

Margan Shiraz Mourvedre 2014

A great Hunter vintage and this is reflected in the Margan reds from ’14. Not a foot wrong. This blend is bright and fresh with an array of flavours including spices, red apples and raspberries. Good intensity and a lovely plushness. Long and juicy. This is a cracker. A wine that is terrific drinking now, but will become more complex over time. Up to you as to which you prefer.

Score: 94/100

Best drinking: now for twelve years.

Alc: 14.5%

 

Margan Breaking Ground Barbera 2014

Hands down the best Barbera the Margans have released (a vertical – the first ever vertical of Hunter Valley Barbera – confirmed this). Aromatics of cherries, spices and raspberries. A youthful wine with good concentration, fine acidity, soft tannins and very good length. A complete wine. Well-structured and has depth, but retains a delightfully appealing lightness. Will age and impress for many years.

Score: 94/100

Best drinking: 4 for fifteen years.

Alc: 12.5%

 

Claymore Wines ‘London Calling’ Clare Valley Cabernet Malbec 2015

A punk rocker may not often grace a wine label, so perhaps this is a first. Youthful wine but oodles of flavour – cloves, black olives, leather. Black fruits abound. Malbec does well in the Clare Valley, perhaps as well here as it does anywhere in Australia, and this is a successful blend. Good underlying acidity, plenty of grip, nice length. Good value style with time in its favour.

Score: 89/100

Best drinking: 2 to ten years.

Alc: 14%

 

Stonier’s Reserve Chardonnay 2014

Very fine Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay. Peaches and stonefruit notes. Quite an intense style, but it maintains its elegance – a fine tightrope. Some fresh underlying acidity. A very attractive style of Chardonnay. 2014 saw a change in the way Stonier’s handle these wines – including a move to puncheons as it allows more control over MLF, less new oak, more lees stirring and experimenting with different yeasts. It’s working.

Score: 90/100

Best drinking: Now for 6 years.

Alc: 13%.

 

Stonier’s Lyncroft Vineyard Chardonnay 2014

Moving into the single vineyard range, this is a seamless and supple example of MP Chardy. Very appealing and a style that is very drinkable. Flavours move through stonefruit, grilled cashews, a hint of oatmeal and ripe peaches. Impressive length. These are Chardonnays that will age both gracefully and well.

Score: 92/100

Best drinking: Now for 8 years.

Alc: 13.8%.

 

Stonier’s KBS Chardonnay 2014

My favourite of the range from this year’s Chardonnay releases. Offers a touch more complexity than the others. Flavours range through florals, noticeably jasmine, beeswax, nuts and stonefruit. There is some vanillin oak but it is integrating well. Good concentration, fine balance and a real underlying minerally intensity. A great deal to like here.

Score: 93/100

Best drinking: Now for ten years.

Alc: 13.5%.

 

Stonier’s Thompson Vineyard Chardonnay 2014

First made in the 2012 vintage, this wine is a soft, slightly broader Chardonnay than some in the range. Florals, nuts and minerally notes to be found here. It is neither as fine nor as focused as some, but rather, is a little more forward. The flavours are very appealing, though the finish is shorter than with some.

Score: 90/100

Best drinking: now for four years.

Alc: 13%.

 

Stonier’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014

Brightly perfumed, a hint of cowhide with strawberry notes, all adding to the complexity. A lovely soft, elegant Pinot of reasonable length, the sort of thing that Mornington Peninsula does so well. Very fine tannins. There is an ever-so-slight bitter almond note right on the finish. A wine with time ahead.

Score: 93/100

Best drinking: Two to ten years.

Alc: 13%.

RAY'S WINE GUIDE 2017