Ray Jordan’s Top 100 Reds 2016

Ray Jordan's Top 100 Reds 2016

Intro

The path to reach the final list of wines for The West Australian’s Top 100 was the most arduous and challenging in all the years I have been conducting this annual event. It wasn’t so much the standard of the wines that eventually made the final list but the quality of those that I had to leave out, among them wines that in previous years would have walked into the Top 100. To give you some idea of the challenge faced and the difficulty in making the final decision, with nearly 600 red wines from all around Australia submitted it meant that nearly five in six wines did not make the final cut. the Top 100. Of course, it also means that the Top 100 is made up of some might good wines from value for money wines in the highly competitive under $15 category to the hugely expressive and wonderfully made wines in the $25 to $40 category. And it also means that deciding on the best of the best was equally challenging. In the battle for the best value wine of the tasting, not only were there the usual suspects in the under $15 category, but some worthy wines in the $15 to $20 category, making for a difficult decision. And the taste-off for the best wine of the tasting was incredibly difficult, with some of the finest wines ever submitted to this event vying for the title of the Best of the Best. The tasting was conducting along similar lines to previous years. Producers and distributors from around Australia are invited to submit wines in four categories under $40 – under $15; $15 to $20; $20 to $25 and $25 to $40. It is a requirement that all the wines submitted are in reasonable supply in Perth retail shops. This can be a bit tricky because of exclusive deals between some producers and some of the bigger chains especially, so to be fair I have permitted wines that may be exclusively aligned to some chains, provide they are in healthy supply. I also ask that prices for all of the submissions include all the standard taxes and a 35 per cent markup in price. Now in some cases this is less than the standard mark-up and in some it is more, but the aim is to try to get an average price across the board. With the fierce discounting still prevalent in wine retailing my advice as always is to shop around for the best deals. You will find many of the wines I have included in the Top 100 list for prices well below what I have quoted. Overall the standard of wines in all price categories was as good as I have seen in any of these tastings. This is not surprising with the quality of the recent vintages around Australia being reflected in the wines which were largely from the 2014 and 2015 vintages. Winemakers too, have clearly lifted the bar, which you would expect because the competition for a share of the consumer buck is intense and building brand awareness and identity is a constant struggle. For this reason, it was pleasing when a few new names made it through to the final list. Also pleasing was the number of quality pinot noirs, mostly in the higher priced categories but also with a few cheapies, showing that you don’t have to spend massive amounts to get a decent drop of this sometimes fickle little drop. By far the strongest variety was shiraz which continues to deliver from regions all around the country. The good thing is that there is a range of different styles from the traditional bolder South Australian wines to more elegant cooler climate styles revealing a little more finesse. So what was it that differentiated the best wines from the rest. In the main it is the quality of the fruit which for me must be fully ripe and showing no under ripe green characters. They can be light or medium bodied but they must by ripe. These wines were invariably knocked out immediately. The other aspects were sometimes heavy handed oak treatment and in some cases a little too much tannin or even acidity. In the end it all adds up to balance. A wine, whatever the body or style, must be balanced with everything working towards to common end of focus and palate length and completeness. I think the wines chosen in the Top 100 easily meet those criteria. This year I have taken a slightly different approach and chosen a best value wine in each price category in addition to the usual best value overall and best value runner up.

The Best of the Best

The Best Value

Hesketh Midday Somewhere shiraz 2015 ($13.20)

Hesketh is a family owned South Australian company headed by Jonathon Hesketh with Phil Lehmann the chief winemaker. They have a strong pedigree in wine. Hesketh’s father Robert is chairman of the company and been involved in the industry over many years. Lehmann’s father Peter was one of Australia’s most famous winemakers and a true legend of the Barossa. Together they are making a breathtakingly good range with from wines like the value for money Midday Somewhere shiraz to others differentiated by region and style. Clearly as chief winemaker for the company, Lehmann is bringing a wealth of experience and talent to the task and from the moment I first saw the early releases a few years ago I was impressed. This wine which was judged best value wine is only just starting to reach WA but it is quickly making a name for itself. In fact, it’s almost too good to be in this price category. There is a classy elegance and stylishness you don’t normally get at this price point. Light and delicious with great fruit concentration on a medium weight palate. 91/100 BUY ME HERE

Best value runner-up

Jacob’s Creek Classic shiraz 2015 ($12)

A massive selling wine that continues to defy logic by being so good in such huge volumes, delivering plenty for the price. 91/100 BUY ME HEREBest value $15 to $20

Taylors cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($20)

This is such a good cabernet. Massive fruit concentration but delivered with such finesse and poise. Deep blackcurrant fruit flavour and some rich chocolaty characters with a touch of toasty savory oak. BUY ME HERE Best value $20 to $25

Castelli shiraz malbec 2014 ($22)

Super blend of shiraz and Malbec which might seem unlikely partners but they work so well.BUY ME HERE Best Value $25 to $40

Amelia Park Frankland River shiraz 2014 ($27.95)

A slightly more refined and controlled wine than some previously and yet there is still all that deep concentrated fruit and wonderfully complex mix of flavours.BUY ME HERE

Best wine of the tasting

Eddystone Point pinot noir 2014 ($30)

Tasmania is starting to come into its own now with quality pinot noirs. Of course many we unfortunately don’t see in WA, but when you get to taste wines like this one, it increases your frustration that they are not available in bigger volumes here. This is a relatively new label from the Accolade stable. It is a thoroughly magnificent statement of Tassie pinot noir. Comes from fruit off the Tamar and Derwent River Valleys in the main. Raspberry and sour cherry notes on the nose with a liberal splash of spices. The palate is light to medium bodied with deep intensity and an extraordinarily long finish. Exceptional pinot especially for this price. 95/100 BUY ME HERE

Runner-up

Swinney Tirra Lirra 2014 ($33)

This is a stunning combination of Cabernet Sauvignon Tempranillo and Grenache from a vineyard in Frankland that consistently most by one of the best in the State. 95/100 BUY ME HERE

Under $15

The under $15 category was the biggest I have tasted in the history of this annual event. And the most impressive thing was the quality of these wines from those selling for well under $10 to those selling for around $15. It appears that winemakers are really doing what they can to maximize the fruit they are getting and trying to capture good fruit intensity and flavor. To that end they are succeeding in spades. Predictably it was the shiraz that was the best performer with some really well made and quality wines. And in the main these came from some of the big names in Australian wines. Wines in this price category have to show good primary fruit characters. I am not looking for too much additional winemaking intervention, but rather just enough oak in some cases and overall good balance. Many of these will be excellent winter buying especially by the case.

Shiraz

Hesketh Midday Somewhere shiraz 2015 ($13.20)

One of the names to watch in Australian wines. This is made by third generation winemakers and it’s bloody good. In fact almost too good to be in this price category. There is a classy elegance and stylishness you don’t normally get at this price point. Light and delicious with great fruit concentration on a medium weight palate. 91/100 BUY ME HERE

Jacob’s Creek Classic shiraz 2015 ($12)

A massive selling wine that continues to defy logic by being so good in such huge volumes, delivering plenty for the price. This one perhaps shows the increasing focus of Jacob’s Creek on getting even more fruit into this bargain package. Loads of spicy rich fruit with a stylish structure. This definitely won’t disappoint. 91/100 BUY ME HERE

Quarisa Johnny Q shiraz 2013 ($15)

An arresting and most stylish shiraz in this category. Has some really attractive fruit flavours with lifted plummy and light cherry plus a decent hit of vanillin oak. It’s all balanced and perfectly poised. A mighty impressive wine. 90/100 BUY ME HERE

Taylors Promised Land shiraz 2015 ($15)

This is nearly always an impressive offering for this price. Promised on the label and delivers in the bottle. Fruity plummy flavours with a little spice and licorice. Nice controlled finish. Super value. 90/100 BUY ME HERE

Whiz Bang Barossa shiraz 2014 ($15)

Ripe and fleshy Barossa shiraz here that delivers plenty in spades. Juicy ripe plummy fruit with a dab of earthiness and oak to complement. A little hint of tannin. But it’s all juicy and delicious. Excellent wine in this price category. 90/100 BUY ME HERE

Hardys Insignia Barossa Valley shiraz 2014 ($20)

Medium bodied and generously proportioned Barossa shiraz with all those warm and cuddly red fruit flavours. Balanced with enough structure and control to provide focus and length on the palate. There is a silky smoothness about it. 90/100 BUY ME HERE

Goundrey Homestead shiraz 2014 ($15)

An appealing fruit driven shiraz sourced from a number of regions throughout WA. Well-structured with light tannins and a smidgeon of oak supporting the bright plummy and slightly spicy fruit characters. Soft and supple in the mouth. 89/100 BUY ME HERE

Angove Long Row shiraz 2014 ($10)

One of the best of this famous line that I have tasted. It comes off one of the longest rows in the world. Medium weight and flavorsome shiraz with stacks to like about it. Nice peppery finish complements the light plummy flavours. Crisp and long in the mouth. 89/100 BUY ME HERE

Grant Burge GB56 shiraz 2014 ($13)

Ticks all the boxes in this price point with a decent mouthful of rich spicy fruit of medium weight and poise. Touch of blackcurrant and dark plum with a nice spicy lift. Like the savoury edge on the finish which adds that bit of complexity. 88/100 BUY ME HERE

Lindeman’s Bin 50 shiraz 2015 ($10)

Simple fruit and spicy and unbelievable value for this quality. Lovely bright fruit flavour with just a dab of oak. But it’s all about bright fresh fruit. Great current drinking. 88/100 BUY ME HERE

Oxford Landing shiraz 2015 ($9)

A simple ad fruity young shiraz sourced from around South Australian. It’s got a slightly confectionary character of raspberry and cherry on the nose with a delicious sweet fruit palate. Easy current drinking. 87/100 BUY ME HERE

Cabernet merlot

Brookland Valley Verse 1 cabernet merlot 2014 ($15)

A quality wine that clearly is punching above its weight in this price category. Firm and assertive fruit with a degree of plushness. Fine tannins and some understated oak to support. Hangs together rather well and even has some short term cellaring if you really want to. 91/100BUY ME HERE

George Wyndham Bin 555 shiraz ($15)

This is a more robust shiraz for this price point. Loads of earthy plush fruit with a fine dusty coating of tannins and fine grained oak. A degree of class in here and an impressive offering. 89/100 BUY ME HERE

De Bortoli Sacred Hill cabernet merlot 2014 ($7)

Such amazing quality for this price point. Fruity with a decent dab of oak. Fine tannins and good structure. The plummy fruit cake flavours are delicious. Medium weight and perfect current drinking. 89/100BUY ME HERE

Alkoomi cabernet merlot 2014 ($15)

A punchy and lively young cabernet merlot blend. Abundant fleshy fruit complemented with a little dab of oak. It's warm and flavorsome with a good finish. Ideal quaffing at this price. Score: 89/100BUY ME HERE

Cabernet sauvignon

Parson’s Paddock Langhorne Creek cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($13.95)

Softness, softness, softness and high drinkability. That’s what Langhorne Creek is all about and this excellent wine delivers it all. Generous and balanced with a medium body. It’s such delicious current drinking with a good balance of fruit and vanillin oak. 90/100 BUY ME HERE

Serafino Goose Island cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($15)

This is excellent. Loads of plump McLaren Vale fruit with a lift of spice and lively black currant cabernet frit. Balanced oak and a little tannin treading the middle palate to add some structure. Perfect current drinking. 89/100 BUY ME HERE

$15 to $20

Intro

The pleasing thing about this price category was the range of excellent wines from different varieties and different regions. As you would expect shiraz was very strong as it always is in the prices under $20, but there were some excellent blends, a quality pinot noir and couple of decent alternative varieties to add a little interest to the category. Generally, the standard was very good with a little more substance than the under $15 category. At this price point I am still seeking good primary fruit characters but generally like to see a little more in the engine room with some oak and tannin management where appropriate. High standard class offering plenty of great drinking for the winter.

Shiraz

Pitchfork shiraz 2014 ($17.10)

Bright and lively shiraz from Margaret River. Delivers deep plummy and slightly cherry-like characters on the nose and palate. A little oak and some fine tannins add support. It’s all about bright berry flavours but there is some classy structure in here as well. 91/100 BUY ME HERE

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Signature shiraz 2014 ($20)

Barossa shiraz; you have to love it. Here it is with generosity and power all harnessed with a decent hit if oak and fir mish ripe tannins. Rich sweet fruit flavours with a balance of spice and dark chocolate. 91/100

Fox Creek Red Baron shiraz 2014 ($18.50)

Bang on the money for this price. So much dee and plush McLaren Vale shiraz crammed into the palate. Like the savoury and slightly gamey character on the nose which is so compelling. Excellent value. 90/100

Willow Bridge Dragonfly shiraz 2015 ($20)

Lovely wine that shows the quality of the Geographe region of WA. Aromas of roasted coffee with spicy plum notes. The palate is deep concentration but admirable restraint and poise. Smooth integration of oak and grainy tannins complete an impressive young wine. 90/100

Rosemount Diamond Label shiraz 2015 ($16.75)

Bright and spicy shiraz sourced from McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek. Needless to say with that pedigree it’s all about current drinkability. It works so well with just the right hint of oak adding a touch on the finish and md palate. 89/100

Fowles Are You Game? Shiraz 2013 ($18.35)

There is a high degree of complexity in this medium bodied and most stylish shiraz. Spicy with slightly game characters on the nose. Smoot and textured palate with great fruit presentation. 89/100

Battle of Bosworth Puritan shiraz 2016 ($19.15)

No added preservative in this still wet behind the ears shiraz from the 2016 vintage – yep it’s from this year. Fruity and delicious with plum soft plummy and slightly earthy fruit flavours. Drink it now. 89/100

Andrew Peace The Unexpected shiraz 2014 ($17.55)

Okay, here’s a wine for the vegans. It’s preservative free and wit no added Sulphur. When you open there is a little effervescence but if you let it breath this will go. Plump and juicy with good deep fruit flavors. Best drunk now. 89/100

Cabernet sauvignon

Taylors cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($20)

This is such a good cabernet. Massive fruit concentration but delivered with such finesse and poise. Deep blackcurrant fruit flavour and some rich chocolaty characters with a touch of toasty savory oak. As good as it gets for $20 or less. 94/100

Hanging Rock Bendigo cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($20)

So much to like about this robust ad earthy cabernet from the Bendigo region of Victoria. Blackcurrant and dark chocolate with some toasty savoury oak character. This is an impressive wine with a hint of iron filings and graphite adding a degree of additional complexity. 92/100

Jack Estate cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($19)

Terrific Coonawarra cabernet from what was an outstanding vintage in this great cabernet region. Smooth and elegant with structure and poise. This is classy stuff with the type of palate that will support medium term cellaring. And believe me these Coonawarra wines can live for long time. 91/100

Quisara Treasures cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($18)

Really impressive cabernet from this excellent season in Goonawarra. Smooth and elegant with those red berry and lifted minty characters well to the fore. There’s a hint of spice and deep blackcurrant richness. Integrated oak works so well. Stylish wine. 91/100

Blends

d'Arenberg d’Arry's Original shiraz grenache 2013 ($18)

From a very good vintage offering super value for such a wine. Has to be one of the better wines from this highly distinguished line. Leafy lift on the nose with typical earthy dusty rose petal aromas. The palate is generous and controlled with lovely long granny tannins supporting the finish. 93/100

Thompson Estate Four Chambers cabernet shiraz 2014 ($20)

The best yet from this second label of Perth Cardiologist Peter Thompson. Textured and fruity with deep and concentrated fruit characters Lots of blackcurrant integrated with fine ok and firm tannins. Controlled and long in the mouth. 92/100

Salomon Estate Norwood shiraz cabernet 2014 ($19.16)

Loads of deed rich dark chocolate and blackcurrant fruit flavours swirling through this robust and impressive shiraz cabernet blend. There’s a bit of history to the place which you can read all about on the back label while you enjoy a damn fine rad wine. 91/100

Wills Domain cabernet merlot 2014 ($20)

These guys are making some mighty fine red wines especially and this one in the value for money category is excellent. Soft and generously proportioned fruit characters on a smoothly integrated palate. Very long and sustained finish. Loads of dark berry fruits with a degree of merlot lushness for balance. 91/100

Amelia Park Trellis cabernet merlot 2013 ($15.95)

A might impressive follow-up to last year’s breakthrough wine. Gone up a little in price but for this quality it is still amazing value. Concentrated Margaret River fruit shows its power and plate strength. The plush merlot adds a little soft suppleness. Nice wine for the short term. 91/100

Rocky Gully cabernets 2014 ($20)

This is a second label from Frankland Estate. It’s quality through and through with excellent structure and fruit definition. Plush spicy plummy fruit with a distinct earthy note that seems to bring vineyard into play. 90/100

Bremerton Tamblyn 2013 ($19)

An aromatic and appealing blend of cabernet shiraz malbec and merlot from Langhorne Creek. The combination works well providing a seamless continuum on the palate. Smooth and seamless medium body with a sweet ripe chocolaty red berry fruit combo. Tuck into this for winter. 90/100

McWilliams High Altitude Hilltop shiraz 2014 ($17.85)

This is quite a departure from the basic Aussie shiraz. The cool climes of the high country creates a wine that is smooth and medium bodied with a slightly peppery freshness, but still with plenty of appealing fruit flavours. Ideal in the short to medium term. 90/100

Pinot noir

Devil’s Corner pinot noir 2015 ($20)

One of the best thing Brown Brothers have done is buy some dirt and vineyard in Tassie. This excellent pinot noir is an example of why it was c a good investment. Spicy cherry and light bodied. Beautifully presented palate supported by fine sinewy tannins and fine-grained oak. Class and quality here. 93/100

Other varieties

De Bortoli Bella Riva sangiovese 2013 ($17)

If you’re wanting a wine for your next pasta dish, then this is your bag. It’s from the King Valley of Victoria. Like the way the fruit has been softened with time in older oak. The tannins are supple and important. Dusty with light cherry flavours. 90/100

Serafino Montepulciano 2015 ($20)

Beautiful example of this famous Italian variety. Medium bodied wine with a mix of savouriness and spices to complement the light cherry flavours. Like the dry savory finish which is perfect for lighter meat dishes. 90/100

Brown Brothers 1889 tempranillo 2014 ($18)

A wine that captures the essence of tis famous Spanish variety rather well. Fruity and savoury with a touch of spice. Supple through the middle palate with a dry savoury finish making it ideal for all many of light Mediterranean dishes. 89/100

$20 to $25

Intro

This was a hugely competitive class with quality wines spread evening across most varieties and throughout many of the best regions in the country. It shows just how good the fruit is for winemakers to really create something special for the price. This was such a difficult class to judge from the point of what to leave out and in the end probably took the longest such were the many agonizing decisions I had to make on which to include and which didn’t make it. In the end I am very happy with the wines that made the list, but there were at least another 20 or so which could have crept in and have been shown up. At this price point you start to get significantly moore winemaking intervention, but still not that it compromises the quality expression of the fruit. Choose carefully here because there is some outstanding value for money quality drinking for the months ahead.

Shiraz

Battle of Bosworth shiraz 2014 ($23.15)

Outstanding producer from McLaren Vale where they do things as naturally as possible with organically grown fruit. This is a perfect example of capturing the essence of the vineyard. Dusty and savoury with a real sense of place. 93/100

Bleasdale Bremerview shiraz 2014 ($21)

One of Australia’s oldest family owned companies. They are based in Langhorne Creek where they have been turning out classy and superb wines like this for years. The beautiful powdery tannins of the palate are a feature with soft and supple medium weight fruit delivered to a long focused finish. 93/100

Hardys Tintara shiraz 2014 ($25)

A consistently underrated name from McLaren vale. This one of the very best and shows the blend of old and new with a terrific freshness worked into the wine plus some good earthy richness underpinning it. Loads of spices and dark chocolate add further richness and lift. 93/100

Tahbilk shiraz 2013 ($24.80)

One of the more generous and approachable shiraz yet from Tahbilk. Is this a change in winemaking approach despite what is written on the back label about maintaining traditional winemaking techniques? It certainly has a typical Tahbilk thread but there is a little friendlier suppleness in the fruit. Spicy and savoury with sinewy tannins and fine understated oak. Will handle extended cellaring. 92/100

Tellurian Redline shiraz 2014 ($22.50)

This is the entry level shiraz. There is a lovely richness and depth in here with that typical graphite and slightly gunpowder characters of the region. Lovely rich and dense palate with vibrant lively fruit weight. Really beautiful wine of wonderful fruit expression which comes from the fact that there is no new oak. 92/100

Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel shiraz 2014 ($25)

The secret of this excellent wine is the finishing in whisky barrels after traditional oak maturation. The whisky barrels simply act like a condiment to spice things up a bit. Works well and this one is a beautiful with delicious deep fruit driven flavours of dark chocolate and earthy with a savory dark chocolate character. 92/100

Yalumba Patchwork shiraz 2013 ($22)

Good value Barossa red wine here. It's sourced from all over the Barossa and comes together in a medium bodied quite elegant red. Spicy savoury notes on the nose with seductive perfumed sweet plummy character. The palate is soft and supple with the small amount of new oak adding a neat lift. Ideal in the medium term. 91/100

Xanadu DHL shiraz 2014 ($24)

So well presented. This is an example of Margaret River shiraz showing that distinctive savory and slightly earthy sinewy character that distinguishes it from other areas. Spicy with a little toasty oak complementing the medium bodied plummy fruit characters. 91/100

Cabernet sauvignon

Sevenhill Inigo cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($24)

Intense and concentrated cabernet from the Clare Valley. Blackcurrant and black olive nuances with cedary oak influences. It's loaded with lots of dark fruits and supported by firm ripe tannins and very attractive oak. So smooth and seamless through the palate to its long finish. Will happily support extended cellaring. 94/100

Blass Black Cassis cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($20.90)

A new name from Blass. This is a cabernet sourced from Langhorne Creek which was the favoured region for Blass’s earliest wines. It’s so typically soft and supple with those minty dark chocolate characters of the region complementing the deep blackcurrant fruit richness. 92/100

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($22)

Powerful statement of Margaret Rover but one with poise and elegance. Fine powdery tannins control the palate with the use of oak clever and understated. The fruit is classical Margs with that bay leaf character over the deep blackcurrant fruitiness. Dry and focused on the finish. 91/100

Robert Oatley Margaret River cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($22.35)

Classically framed Margaret River cabernet. All those distinctive black olive and bay leaf characters across the deeper blackcurrant fruitiness Nice oak treatment with a sinewy tannin definition. Stylish. 91/100

Lindeman Gentleman’s Collection cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($21.85)

A very complete and almost understated wine of impeccable balance and poise -  as a gentleman should be, of course. Sweet fruit characters supported by fine grainy tannins and a little oak. It all knits together perfectly to deliver a focused effortless palate. 90/100

Blends

Castelli shiraz malbec 2014 ($22)

Super blend of shiraz and Malbec which might seem unlikely partners but they work so well. The leafy floral notes of the Malbec are superb complements to the richer dark chocolatey plum of the shiraz. So rich and flavoursome yet with Great Southern elegance and plumpness. 93/100

Smith & Hooper cabernet sauvignon merlot 2013 ($21)

Sourced from Wrattonbully down on the South Australian south coast. Spicy and aromatic notes on the nose with touches of floral clove like influences. The palate is typically smooth and seamless with a great integration of fine powdery tannins and fine grained oak. Deceptive cellaring if you want. 93/100

Hancock & Hancock Home Vineyard shiraz grenache 2014 ($22.35)

Chris Hancock knows a thing or two about making wine having been involved in the industry, largely with Rosemount, since the early sixties. This excellent shiraz and Grenache blend captures much of the McLaren Vale character. Pepper and with nice plum and that so appealing rose petal character of the Grenache make for an excellent wine. 92/100

Hewitson Miss Harry 2013 ($22)

This Barossa Valley GSM blend also has a cinsault and carignan tossed in for good measure. It's a medium bodied wine of subtle fruit expression. Balances the primary confectionary fruit characters of the three main varieties with a savoury earthiness adding an intriguing thread through the palate. Nice dry finish with supple fine tannins and understated oak. 92/100

Fox Creek JSM 2013 ($25)

This is a blend of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Rich and opulent blend from McLaren Vale. Loads of deep fruit concentration with ripe firm tannins and loads of oak worked into the dark chocolate and black fruit of the concentrated palate. 91/100

Peel Estate shiraz cabernet 2014 ($20.10)

One of the quiet achievers in WA. This little vineyard in Peel just south of Perth makes some of the best cellaring red wines in the State. This one has all the ingredients to handle medium term cellaring with plush and intense fruit on the palate supported by a clever use of oak. Tonnes of flavour right through to the long finish. 91/100

Stella Bella cabernet merlot 2015 ($24)

So bright and lively is this terrifically flavored young cabernet merlot blend. This is all about fruit presentation. Lively raspberry and cherry notes mon the nose with more traditional plum and red berry notes. The oak is underplayed but important. Palate is so well balanced. 91/100

Hay Shed Hill cabernet merlot 2014 ($20.75)

This beautifully appealing cabernet merlot blend is all juicy fruit and succulent flavours. Perfumed scented notes on the nose with a fruit driven medium bodied palate offering load of balanced red berry flavours supplemented with some nice savoury slightly cedary oak. Smooth and effortless. 91/100

Singlefile Estate Frankland River cabernet sauvignon merlot 2014 ($25)

Terrific wine that seriously over delivers for this price. Blackcurrant and leafy tobacco and black olive nuances create a compelling and complex opening. The palate has a dusty minerally thread running deep into the warm fleshy fruit. Structured and precise with plenty to like about it. 91/100

Pikes The Dogwalk cabernet merlot 2013 ($25)

Fleshy and fruity cabernet merlot blend from Clare. Loaded with sweet ripe red berry fruit characters. Palate is fruity with fine tannins and a little oak in support. Has a dry savoury and slightly sinewy character to add balance on the finish. 90/100

Pinot noir

Mount MacLeod pinot noir 2015 (22.40)

Lovey elegant and beautifully presented pinot noir from the Gippsland District of Victoria. Light cherry and spices on the nose with a sublimely pure and expressive palate. Medium to light bodied with great intensity. 92/100

Amato Vino Montepulciano 2015 ($25)

Part of a new range of interesting alternative varieties by Brad Wehr. This one is wild fermented and spends around 10 months in oak. The result is a wine that brings complexity and subtlety to the table. Dark chocolate and savoury coffee grinds work with the dusty fruit characters. 91/100

Crittenden Geppetto pinot noir 2015 ($22.35)

One of the pioneering producers of the Mornington Peninsular. This is a firmish pinot but showing all that delicious spicy sour cherry characters on the nose. The palate is thoroughly delicious with a silky smoothness and very long finish. Expresses a lot that is good about pinot noir. 91/100

Other varieties

KT Tinta tempranillo 2015 ($23.95)

Just love this excellent tempranillo from Kerri Thompson in the Clare Valley. It’s beautifully presented with a great balance of fruit and oak with some fine grainy tannins understating the palate. The smooth slightly dusty earthy character with hints of raspberry are just beautiful. 92/100

Millbrook sangiovese 2014 ($20)

Captures the distinctive characters of this famous Tuscan variety. Sourced from the Geographe region which appears well suited to the variety. Loads of red berry aromas with a spicy dusty overtone. Deliciously fruit driven with firmish dry savoury tannins and a little dab of oak. Score: 90/100

$25 to $40

Intro

All I can say is that if your budget can stretch a little more than you need to check out some of the fabulous offerings in this price category. Okay, you expect things to hit up a bit when in some cases you are paying around $40, but throughout this category from the wines around $25 through to the more expensive offerings there is so much quality. Like the $20 to $25 category the challenge was dicing which wines to leave out. It was the biggest class in the tasting with nearly 200 wines on the table so you can get an idea that the wines that made the final list are pretty damned good. The wines that made the final cut  were all from varieties or blends that fall within the norm of Australian wines, so it was a little disappointing that some of the newer alternative varieties didn’t perform as well. It was particularly pleasing that the pinot noirs were very strong and if you are into this variety you will find some excellent wines here that when you stack up the quality are hideously expensive. A lot of great drinking and cellaring if you wish in this class.

Shiraz

Amelia Park Frankland River shiraz 2014 ($27.95)

A slightly more refined and controlled wine than some previously and yet there is still all that deep concentrated fruit and wonderfully complex mix of flavours and aromas that stamp both the region and the approach to winemaking. Excellent wine of great balance and style. 95/100

Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 shiraz 2013 ($40)

Classically deep and lush shiraz from a number of different regions. It's largely Barossa but influences also from McLaren Vale, Padthaway and Langhorne Creek. Ripe juicy fruit balanced by a cutting edge of cordite and graphite. The palate packs plenty with its generous proportions. Loads of dark chocolate plum and black olive influences. Such a rich and generous style that captures the essence of Penfolds perfectly. 95/100

Hardys HRB shiraz 2013 ($39)

McLaren Vale, Clare and Frankland River. Such a fine and immaculately poised shiraz which brings the virtues of three wine regions into play. It is a magnificent statement of Australia shiraz delivered with refinement and stylish elegance. 94/100

Tim Smith Wines Barossa shiraz 2014 ($38)

The fruit for this exceptional wine is sourced from both the Barossa and cooler climate Eden Valley regions. The result is a wine that brings the deep concentration and intensity of the Barossa together with the lifted refined aromatics and stylishness of Eden Valley. Beautifully structured and presented shiraz. 94/100

Juniper Estate shiraz 2013 ($37)

Shiraz continues to be a super wine from Juniper. This follows the excellent 2012 and shows a slightly more robust character and structure. Remains that savoury earthy character with firmish sinewy tannins a feature. Really concentrated and dense with great length and palate persistence. 94/100

Seppelt Great Western Chalambar shiraz 2014 ($27)

Excellent slightly different take on shiraz from the Grampians and Heathcote regions. Has a distinctive earthy ironstone minerality that carries through the palate. It's savoury with licorice and cedary notes. The palate is supple with spicy minerality. 93/100

Mandoon Estate Old Vine shiraz 2014 ($29.50)

These older vineyards date back to the mid-1950s and are now supplying some pretty handy plush plummy fruit towards this wine. The approach has been a gentle winemaking technique to preserve the essential soft fruit characters. Generous soft and supple palate with love oak and fruit balance. Like that minerally chalky tannin influence on the finish. 93/100

Yelland & Papps Second Take shiraz 2015 ($32.75)

There's some power in this exceptional statement of Barossa shiraz made in a traditional old world way. Wild fermented and half whole punch pressed. Gets eight months in oak of which nearly half is new French. So this is substantial and yet it presents with lovely restraint and beautiful seductive fruit expression. There purity of expression is a feature. Terrific take on trad Barossa. 93/100

West Cape Howe Two Steps shiraz 2014 ($30)

Another exceptional wine under this sub brand from West Cape Howe. Shows excellent flavour intensity and balance with a poise and elegance you might expect from higher priced wines. The palate is seamless merged with fine grained oak and super fine though fully ripe tannins. Dark chocolate and blackcurrant flavours with a spicy lift on the finish. 93/100

Heirloom Vineyards shiraz 2014 ($40)

Lots of sweet ripe fruit here with a balance of earthy savoury notes that smack distinctly of place within the McLaren Vale district. Lovely mouth feel with intense flavours carried effortlessly to a long finish. IT’s a juicy vibrant wine for drinking in the short to medium term. 91/100

J.E. Ngeringa syrah 2012 ($28)

Biodynamically grown fruit from the Adelaide Hills showing the different and more modern Aussie take on shiraz, hence the use of the term syrah. It’s an elegant and slightly rustic wine showing vineyard character with minimal intervention. 91/100

Cabernet sauvignon

Singlefile Estate Single vineyard Frankland River cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($37)

Cracking good wine that amply demonstrates the qualities of Frankland as a cabernet region. Loads of deep dark fruit displaying typical Frankland juiciness and plushness. Yet there is structure and poise here with firmish tannins and well played oak. Great depth and power. 95/100

Xanadu cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($37)

Another stunning statement of classic Margaret River cabernet. Packed with all those black currant, plums and chocolate black olive characters you expect. Powerful it is but there's polish and finesse here that stamps it as a wine of the highest class. 95/100

Evoi cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($28.75)

Quite beautiful and fragrant cabernet from Margaret River made by Nigel Ludlow. It’s a small producer yet one making some of the consistently finest cabernets in the region. Loads of ripe blackcurrant fruit with leafy bay leaf and black olive nuances. Already complex and velvety smooth. 95/100

Frankland Estate cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($28)

Most impressive cabernet from the Frankland Estate vineyards. It shows a distinctive regional and vineyard character with a graphite-like iron filings character threading through the seamless structured palate. Elegant and stylish. Beautiful wine. 94/100

Yalumba The Cigar cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($26)

Comes from one of the most famous stretches of dirt in Australia, right in the heart of Coonawarra’s terra Rossa patch. This is so elegant and poised with those fine tannins, and smooth effortlessly long palate features of an exceptional wine. 94/100

Castelli Frankland River cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($34)

Another exquisite wine from this emerging star of the West Australian wine scene. Flavours are intense and rich with sweet fruit characters augmented with a leafy tobacco and black olive nuance. The palate is structured with firm fine tannins and a lick of cedar oak. Well-presented and balanced through to its long finish. 94/100

Firetail cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($27.50)

Loaded with dark chocolate and plummy blackcurrant with just a faint hint of roasted coffee on the nose. The palate is seamless and velvety smooth but there is plenty of core power with those firmish tannins and ample oak. Subtle astringency on the finish completes an excellent wine. 93/100

Serafino McLaren Vale shiraz 2014 ($28) check vintage – sam had 2013

Full bodied shiraz from McLaren Vale capturing the sumptuous middle palate fruit of this region. Fine grained oak and silky and slightly powdery tannins add support. Focused long finish. 93/100

West Cape Howe Book Ends cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($28)

Consistently one of my favourite modestly priced cabernets each year. This is another cracker which captures the character and style of Mount Barker cabernet perfectly. Lots of plum and black currant frit intensity with a little cedary savoury oak influence. Structured with firmish tannins and balanced oak. 93/100

Pinot noir

Eddystone Point pinot noir 2014 ($30)

Thoroughly magnificent statement of Tassie pinot noir. Comes from fruit off the Tamar and Derwent River Valleys in the main. Raspberry and sour cherry notes on the nose with a liberal splash of spices. The palate is light to medium bodied with deep intensity and an extraordinarily long finish. Exceptional pinot especially for this price. 95/100

Devil's Corner Resolution pinot noir 2014 ($35)

An immensely powerful pinot noir from the cool climate east coast vineyard of Devil's Corner. Spicy dark cherry fruits with an earthy savouriness adding complexity. Tannins are rainy and firmish while the fine grained oak is impeccable. Strength and power here and it will continue to reveal more as it ages. 94/100

Hardy’s HRB pinot noir 2014 ($39)

Sourced from both Tasmania and the Yarra Valley. This is the first pinot under this multi-regional label from Hardy’s under the dab hand of winemaker Paul Lapsley. Silky smooth and very rich palate with firm tannins supporting the long stylish finish. Thoroughly integrated and harmonious in every aspect. 94/100

Domaine A Stoney Vineyard pinot noir 2015 ($32.85)

Another tremendous pinot from this exceptional vineyard is Tasmania. Sweet fruit balanced with dry savoury tannins and fine grained oak. Lively and vibrant fruity notes on the palate make for a gorgeous expression of the variety. Excites and appeals. 93/100

Blends

Swinney Tirra Lirra 2014 ($33)

This is a stunning combination of cabernet sauvignon tempranillo and Grenache from a vineyard in Frankland that consistently most by one of the best in the State. This wine already demonstrated a high degree of complexity on the nose especially but it is the weight and balance on the palate that really stamp its quality. Just superb. 95/100

Teusner Joshua 2015 ($30.90)

Hugely fragrant and perfumed blend of Grenache mataro and shiraz. The thing is that this is all fruit with no oak used. Beautiful spicy notes on the nose and a soft and supple palate with ample structure coming from the fruit itself. Excellent. 94/100

Ministry of Clouds tempranillo Grenache 2015 ($27.95)

Smooth integrated and seamless structured blend of these two excellent partners from McLaren Vale. It’d been handled with kid gloves through the winery to really capture the fruit without compromise. Fragrant and delicious with the potential to age for a few years. 93/00

Flametree cabernet sauvignon merlot 2014 ($30)

A really punchy cabernet merlot from one of the best producers in Margaret River. It’s largely cabernet merlot but there is an important inclusion of Malbec and petit verdot. The result is a more complete wine with good structure and palate presentation. Impressive. 93/100

Henschke Henry’s Seven 2014 ($37)

A blend of shiraz Grenache mataro and viognier. The spicy ginger viognier is quite evident on the nose. Beautifully aromatic and fragrant wine as a result of that viognier with a plush and fruit driven palate that carries an impressive finish. 92/100

Deep Woods cabernet sauvignon merlot 2014 ($35)

This is highly sophisticated red blend of cabernet merlot. IT's more in the medium to full bodied zone. Lifted red fruits with a trace of black olive on the nose. The palate is balanced with sinewy chalky tannins and fine grained oak in support. A perfumed red currant and violet lift adds to the bouquet. Most appealing and stylish wine. 92/100

Kaesler Avignon Grenache mourvedre 2013 ($35)

These vineyards supplying fruit for this classic blend are more than 80 years old. The result is a wine that presents so much fruit intensity albeit with effortless understatement. It’s so smooth and elegant with grainy tannins and a slightly gravelly feature on the palate. 92/100

RAY'S WINE GUIDE 2017