WINE REVIEWS BY KEN GARGETT – April 2017

WINE REVIEWS BY KEN GARGETT – April 2017

Pike & Joyce ‘Methode Cuve’ Pinot Noir Rose NV

The colour is a pleasing orangey pink. Lots of aromatics to be enjoyed here – strawberries and florals. This is a sparkler brimming with summer freshness. Clean, lots of fruit, excellent length and a nice touch of tartness on the finish to tie it all together. Also, boasts an attractive creamy texture.

Score: 91/100 Best drinking: Now Alc: 14%

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Pike & Joyce ‘Methode Traditionelle’ Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2009

Price alone would suggest one should prefer this to the Rose but the sheer drinkability of the pink bubbles gets it the nod. Not that this is anything other than a fine fizz as well. It is undeniably more subtle. There are spices, lemon and grapefruit notes. A crisp, clean style with mid-length. Very pleasant drinking.

Score: 90/100 Best drinking: now for two years. Alc: 12%

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Henschke Mt Edelstone Shiraz 2014

A seamless, supple, enchanting wine of great length. There is a slight dustiness at the moment, but the components are all still melding together. The flavours range far and wide, but look especially for plums, black fruits, cloves and black cherries. Very, very fine tannins, leaving the impression of endless plushness. Surely one of the great Mt Edelstones. Just glorious.

Score: 97/100 Best drinking: well cellared, it has three decades and more ahead of it. Alc: 14.5%

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William Downie Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2015

Bill Downie is a pinot specialist and it is wonderfully reflected in his three wines, from three different Victorian regions. Which is “better”? Each year, personal preference will play a role and with the superb 2015 vintage, this Yarra Valley effort gets the nod for me. Stunning stuff. Spice, red fruits and florals – just gorgeous aromas that explode from the glass. A dense core of sweet fruit which sings, backed by good acidity by the balance is key. Lovely seductive texture. Seamless. A wine which dances.

Score: 97/100 Best drinking: now for 8 years. Alc: 13%

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William Downie Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2015

All three of Bill’s pinots reveal the glories of the grape. Here we have more forest floor, a wine more rustic and ripe with a smoky campfire note. An alluring richness here and real length. This is the pick for the long haul. Great length and silky tannins. Exciting stuff. A few bottles of this in the cellar will bring rich rewards. 2015 was so good in Mornington Peninsula that this could not help but be a stellar effort.

Score: 96/100 Best drinking: over the next decade. Alc: 13%

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William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir 2015

Perhaps the ‘prettiest’ of the three pinots in the portfolio, it is delightfully vibrant. There are floral notes and a touch of the variety’s trademark undergrowth character. Aromas and flavours merge into herb garden notes, spices and florals. Finely balanced and with impressive length. Really worth lining all three up and finding your own favourite.

Score: 95/100 Best drinking: now for six years. Alc: 13%

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Pizzini Arneis 2016

Not often encountered, this Italian white variety does very well in the King Valley. Look for a medley of peaches, almonds, stonefruit and orange rind. A nicely rounded palate with an underlying vibrancy. It offers more weight than many and there is some complexity starting to build here.

Score: 89/100 Best drinking: now for three years. Alc: 12.5%

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Pizzini Verduzzo 2015

Another rarely seen Italian variety that has made a home in the King Valley – expect to see much more of these grapes in coming years. Opens with peach kernel notes. There is a touch of oak still evident and the texture is soft and well-rounded. Offers decent length. Lot of flavour for the money here. Top value.

Score: 90/100 Best drinking: now for two years. Alc: 13.5%

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Pizzini Pinot Grigio 2016

Tying up a neat trio of King Valley ‘Italian’ whites, this offers classic pinot grigio fresh flavours, crisp pear, citrus and a pleasing minerally underlay. Some grapefruit and wet stone characters as well. This can be a neutral grape, but no such concerns here. Oodles of flavour. Crisp finish, though no great length. A very pleasant summer drink.

Score: 89/100 Best drinking: now Alc: 12.1%

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Deviation Road Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Adelaide Hills has proved itself as our top sauv blanc region, though it so often seems little more than a footnote in comparison to New Zealand’s Marlborough district. This offers immediate tropical notes, backed by some minerality and a touch of dustiness. Some ripe gooseberry hints. The texture is a little flinty, which works, but it does come across as a smidge tough on the finish. Does offer some length.

Score: 87/100 Best drinking: over the next year. Alc: 12.5%

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Deviation Road Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2016

There is no mistaking the crisp, fresh pear notes that this variety just exudes. In this wine, it offers a supple texture and the impressive length that seems to be the hallmark of DV wines. Finely balanced with a nice flick of acidity to tie things up neatly. A fine example of pinot grigio.

Score: 89/100 Best drinking: now for two years. Alc: 12.5%

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Deviation Road Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015

A quality chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills. Opens with appealing lifted aromas and a noticeable nut/cashew character, with some gentle guava, stonefruit and tropical tones. The oak is perhaps a little upfront at the moment, but it will surely meld with some time. Juicy acidity, nice balance and good length but be in no hurry.

Score: 90/100 Best drinking: leave for three to four years. Alc: 12%

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Deviation Road Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2015

This is a youthful, tight, red-fruited pinot looking to burst its restraints. Coiled power is just waiting for the passage of some time. Very youthful at this stage, there are some appealing red cherry, floral and slightly sappy notes here. Good length, balance and real potential. For me, looking at almost any DV wine in the year or two after release, does it a disservice. These are wines that will age gracefully and in almost all cases, deserve higher scores with time.

Score: 90/100 Best drinking: leave it for five years. Alc: 13.5%

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Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner 2016

This Austrian variety is proving a hit in the Adelaide Hills and I doubt few makers do it as well as these guys. This effort offers a delightful mix of citrus, florals and even some stonefruit. There is a pleasing supple texture, with decent length. Fresh, and although no great complexity, this is a really delicious wine. It will drink well for several years.

Score: 92/100 Best drinking: now for three years. Alc: 12%

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Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2016

This came across as surprisingly muted at this stage but it is very young. Quite a restrained style. Look closely and there are notes of stonefruit and a little lemon pith, but it is rather straightforward. A pleasant Chardy but the value is with the gruner veltliner or go upscale with the ‘Nest Egg’ Chardonnay.

Score: 89/100 Alc: 13.5%

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Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills ‘Nest Egg’ Chardonnay 2015

A much more serious and impressive wine than the ‘standard’, as it should be at twice the price. Only around 300 cases made. It is elegant, yet focused, and has the underlying power one might expect in a fine wine. There is quality oak integration, good acidity and inspiring length. It offers an array of gentle flavours, nothing dominates, but there is a lovely supple lemony note which is a highlight. Concentration and balance here. Very fine.

Score: 94/100 Best drinking: will drink well over the next eight years. Alc: 13.5%

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Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2015

Dense and opaque, this is a full-flavoured style with big and bold strokes in every direction. Lovely aromatics. It is spicy and floral with purple fruit characters. Good intensity. There are notes of beef stock, black olives, cloves and soy. Abundant tannins, though they are quite fine. There is length and balance here. This is a wine with a future.

Score: 93/100 Best drinking: four to twelve years. Alc: 14.5%

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Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Montepulciano 2015

This savoury, spicy Italian variety is the flavour of the month and it has found a home in the Adelaide Hills. Some lovely dry herb and salami characters. Nice weight on the palate but it is soft, delightfully so. And gentle. A hint of vegemite on a lengthy finish. Really like the wine but it deserves better packaging surely? A clear bottle, taller than a riesling bottle, wrapped in an all-encompassing plastic coating that, when two bottles are next to each other, looks like someone has put ‘Where’s Wally’ socks on a pair of crutches.

Score: 92/100 Best drinking: up to five years. Alc: 14.5%

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Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Nero d’Avola 2015

Another fine wine, more dodgy packaging. Nero d’Avola is another Italian variety making a name for itself in Australia, though early days. More floral and with an appealing cherry confectionary note. Ripe and juicy, though it is quite forward. A delicious drink, but, while it will surely hang around for several years, there seems no real reason not to enjoy its fruity freshness.

Score: 90/100 Best drinking: now for two years. Alc: 14.5%

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By Farr Chardonnay 2013

The Farrs, Gary and Nick, have always made exemplary Chardonnay, though often you have to work for the rewards they can offer, as the wines can be wonderfully subtle. This is quite a muted style on the nose, but is more expressive on the palate – elegance with attitude. The oak is perfectly integrated and there is fine acidity backing it. Impressive balance and serious length. A classic chardonnay with a more exciting future ahead of it than most.

Score: 95/100 Best drinking: up to a decade. Alc: 13%

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By Farr Shiraz 2013

I’d be interested to know if the Farrs think they have ever made a better shiraz – if so, not sure I’ve seen it. Love this. Wonderfully expressive. Delightful and yet intense, cool climate shiraz with florals, spices, a sprinkle of black pepper, a note of licorice and coffee beans on the finish. Supple and seamless texture with juicy acidity. Very long.

Score: 96/100 Best drinking: 15 years with ease. Alc: 13.5%

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By Farr Viognier 2013

A viognier very much in the more elegant and moderated style, eschewing the apricotty exuberance (and often blousiness) that so many offer. Florals and stonefruit notes with an underlying smoky/mineral character. Fine acidity and a better balanced wine than most examples of this variety.

Score: 90/100 Best drinking: now for two years. Alc: 12%

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Castle Rock Estate ‘Skywalk’ Riesling 2016

Rob Diletti is now firmly ensconced as one of the West’s superstar winemakers, even if perhaps not as well known in the East as he will surely soon be. This is a really impressive riesling from the Great Southern region and fantastic value at around twenty bucks. A hint of oystershell and seaspray, florals, spice and wet slate. Nicely balanced, terrific persistence. Maintains its intensity on a long finish.

Score: 94/100 Best drinking: will see fifteen years without blinking. Alc: 11.5%

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Clonakilla Riesling 2016

Hard to believe that Tim Kirk, who has been making such stellar wines at Clonakilla in the Canberra region for so long, does not have some form of divine help. His riesling is rarely discussed, left in the shadow of the amazing ‘Shiraz Viognier’, but it deserves far more attention. Wet stone, minerals, pears, citrus, florals. Builds nicely on the mid-palate. Good acidity and length. Will age, but can be enjoyed earlier than some.

Score: 94/100 Best drinking: over the next decade. Alc: 12%

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D’Arenberg ‘The Anthropocene Epoch’ Mencia 2016

Never let it be said that Chester Osborn ever made things easy for those who enjoy a simple label. Concentrate instead on the wine – from McLaren Vale, this is a rarely seen Spanish variety offering oodles of flavour – cranberries, raspberries, spices, plums. It is ripe, fresh and savoury with bright flavours. Good length. May age, but there seems little point. Delicious drinking as a young, flavourful wine.

Score: 90/100 Best drinking: now and for three years. Alc: 14.2%

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Ocean Eight ‘Aylward’ Pinot Noir 2015

Their flagship pinot noir, from vines yielding a meagre one tonne per acre. 25% new oak, a mix of puncheons and barrels, and more dependence on the MV6 clone. It is from one of their warmer sites, which has been providing fruit for the reserve wine for nearly a decade. Red cherry notes, supple texture, good acidity. Slightly richer and deeper than the ‘standard’. Terrific effort.

Score: 96/100 Best drinking: for a decade. Alc: 13.5%

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Ocean Eight ‘Grande’ Chardonnay 2014

A small production – 150 cases – flagship chardonnay from the Mornington Peninsula, from a mix of four clones, aged in one-year-old puncheons and made with close to 100% malolactic fermentation. This is a nicely integrated wine, richer than the ‘Verve’, but well balanced. Richer fruit notes and even a pleasing custard-like character. A fine, complex chardy with a good future.

Score: 94/100 Best drinking: 3 to 6 years. Alc: 13.2%

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Ocean Eight Pinot Gris 2016

Pinot gris has proved a winner for this impressive Mornington Peninsula winery, moving from 200 cases in 2004 to over 4,000 now. This was made with by way of whole bunch press and a little oak, all to add some extra complexity and it works nicely. A hint of stonefruit on the mid-palate and a flick of acidity to finish. A very good pinot gris.

Score: 89/100 Best drinking: now for two years. Alc: 13.5%

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Ocean Eight Pinot Noir 2015

A beautifully fragrant, perfumed Mornington pinot noir, which offers red fruits in abundance, raspberries, some spices and a hint of nutmeggy oak. Well integrated and a slightly savoury finish. Impressive length. Made from vines yielding a mere two tonnes per acre and from a mix of clones, this is a pinot revealing the glories of the region.

Score: 93/100 Best drinking: should drink superbly over the next eight years. Alc: 13.5%

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Ocean Eight ‘Verve’ Chardonnay 2015

This wine was originally made with no malo but in recent years, that has increased to 50%. Old barrels are still the go. This is a delightful, lean, citrussy Chardy, much more Chablis-like than some of the richer styles. There is a hint of melon but the citrus notes dominate. Good concentration and length. A fine example of the modern style of chardonnay.

Score: 92/100 Best drinking: now for five years. Alc: 12.5%

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Petaluma ‘Hanlin Hill’ Riesling 2016

One of the most famous of all Clare riesling makers is right on form here. Lovely wet slate, river pebble notes. Hint of a lanolin-like character. Crisp acidity and excellent length, but where this wine really shines is on the palate where the flavours explode into life. Attractive citrus and floral notes, this wine perhaps offers fuller flavours than some.

Score: 95/100 Best drinking: will be a joy over the next 12 to 15 years. Alc: 12.5%

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Pikes ‘The Merle’ Riesling 2016

Neil Pike is not one to seek the spotlight, but the fact that he has steadily been earning a reputation as one of the Clare Valley, nay Australia’s, finest riesling makers has thrust him firmly into centre stage. The Pikes Riesling is simply one of the most reliable and best value wines found anywhere. ‘The Merle’ is their flagship riesling and it sits comfortably with our best. This vintage is a stunner. Concentrated, immaculately balanced. Pears, florals, citrus, minerals. Great length. An absolutely classic Clare riesling.

Score: 97/100 Best drinking: will age brilliantly for decades. Alc: 12%

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Seppeltsfield ‘Para’ Grand Tawny NV

A famous old Aussie fortified which is in top form. The colour has hints of bronze/orange. A lovely aged tawny style. The flavours have that appealing rancio touch with some golden syrup notes. Good length. Not overly complex or intense, but it has impressive length and, put simply, is a joy to drink. Delicious.

Score: 92/100 Best drinking: store it well and it will keep endlessly. Alc: 21%

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Tim Adams Riesling 2016

A fine Clare Valley winery, with a track record of excellent riesling among other grapes, this vintage is still so closed and tight that it seems to almost disappear within itself. Spring freshness here. Clean and pure with decent length on the finish. There seems little point in drinking it now – far better to cellar it for as long as you can and reap the rewards.

Score: 92/100 Best drinking: leave for five to eight years and then drink over the next decade. Alc: 11%

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Yalumba Octavius 2012

The Octavius is always a class act, but one that needs time to reveal itself. These days, the oak, a mix of French barriques and Hungarian hogsheads, has been relegated to a support role and the wine is all the better for it. Fine example of a powerful Barossa shiraz (2/3rds from the Eden Valley and the rest from the Barossa floor) from old vines, but it is one for the cellar. Raspberry, floral and even blueberry touches here.

Score: 93/100 Best drinking: not before ten years and then for another decade or more. Alc: ??????????

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Yalumba Signature ‘Andrew Murphy’ 2013

The 55th release in the series of the classic Aussie of cabernet and shiraz, this time honouring their current director of wine. This is a step up on a very good 2012, with an extra core of power and richness. Plums, dry herbs, licorice. Darker fruits and powerful tannins. Lovely ripeness, but a wine that really needs time. The oak is a mix of French, American and Hungarian.

Score: 93/100 Best drinking: five to fifteen years. Alc: 14.1%

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Yalumba ‘The Caley’ 2012

Yalumba’s new super-blend, from vines dating back as far as 1901. A mix of Coonawarra cabernet, Barossa cabernet and Barossa shiraz. One for the cellar. Finely balanced, tight and with length. There are dark fruits, hints of old leather, cloves, black olives and much more. Great intensity here, with real persistence. Abundant yet silky tannins. Not a foot out of place. An Aussie classic.

Score: 97/100 Best drinking: Any time over the next three decades. Alc: ????????????

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Yalumba ‘The Menzies’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Yalumba have been offering a premium Coonawarra cabernet since 1987 and this is one of the best of them all. It is tight and still very youthful, with pleasing blackberry notes and a slight earthiness. Lovely supple tannins, though they are well structured for the long term, and excellent length. A floral note weaves its way in and out. A cracker Coonawarra cab.

Score: 94/100 Best drinking: A long term proposition, up to 20 years. Alc: 14.1%

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Yalumba Tri-Centenary Barossa Grenache 2011

Grenache still seems to be everybody’s poor cousin, but it really can make exceptional wine, especially if from the right sites, old vines (bush vines) and usually dry grown. Not every vintage suits it and, while 2011 was perhaps the ‘least’ vintage in recent history, it worked well for this variety. This is fragrant with strawberries and warm earth notes. Nice flick of acidity to carry it.

Score: 90/100 Best drinking: over the next half dozen years. Alc: 13.2%

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RAY'S WINE GUIDE 2017