Taylors Winemaker’s Project Clare Valley Shiraz 2012


A second wine from the TWP series of wines. Almost a month ago I wrote about the Viognier so now it’s the turn of the Shiraz.

Clare Valley Shiraz is quite a ‘thing’ and one which sits all too firmly in the shade of the much lauded, and generally excellent value, Rieslings. As the region is cooler than the more Shiraz-famous Barossa you do see a considerable difference in style. Think of the Barossa wines as the bubbly, bright, out-going but perhaps ever so slightly in-your-face counterpart to Clare’s quieter wines, more thoughtful perhaps, a slightly more elegant or understated dresser. They can be different wines for different occasions and I generally find that those who loves the fullness of a Barossa Shiraz find cooler climate wines more difficult to deal with.

Personally, I have a bit of a thing for cool(er) climate Shiraz so wines from Clare are often right up my street and I’ve been lucky enough to taste some stellar wines with some reasonably serious age on them.

Of course, this wine is a current release and something of a baby. In this respect, it looks very approachable and I reckon that dyed in the wool ‘big’ Shiraz drinkers will be quite happy. In that respect, I think it’s an excellent introduction to Clare Valley Shiraz and should open plenty of punters’ eyes to Clare’s offerings other than Riesling.

The wine

In the glass, intensely purple. The nose is pronounced and comes across as a little hot. It is all about plums, fruit cake, sweet spice, licorice and dark chocolate.

The palate very much reflects the nose: tonnes of fresh fruit – plums and blackberries – along with some vanilla which didn’t show up on the nose. It does also seem a bit hot here too – but, interestingly, this heat really backs off give some time in the glass, so I wonder if decanting this wine (with a good splosh to get some air through it) would be worth the effort.

The wine is well balanced, with some reasonable acidity and very soft tannins and reasonable length.

Initially I had some misgivings about the heat of the wine but time in the glass really sorted that out. The wine has plenty of oomph, so it will work well with a range of food – particularly barbecue over summer.

And on that note, I’d also like to draw your attention to a new Taylor’s campaign/initiative regarding wine service temperature, Better By Degrees. With red wines, in particular, should not be served at ambient temperature when it’s 43 degrees in the shade.

Taylors Winemaker’s Project Clare Valley Shiraz, sample. RRP $25. Again, a cellar door exclusive so online may be your best bet.
14.0% abv.



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Royal Adelaide Wine Show – Media Tasting

2015-11-04_10-34-08Hard at work … (thank you to Francis Wong for this photo)

The Royal Adelaide Wine Show (or RAWS, for the sake of sanity) wrapped up at the beginning of October.

After the best part of a week of solid tasting and general hard work on the part of the judges, the Showground doors were flung open to a small group of media. 

Nick Ryan, Matthew Jukes and Michael Brajkovich MW talked us through the wine show process and then let us loose on a bracket of Chardonnay and a bracket of Shiraz.

Wine shows (and, indeed, scoring in general) can be a little controversial – because obviously how a wine looks at any moment in time is highly subjective. At a show, in an attempt to even this out, wines are judged by panels and gold medal winning wines are looked at more than once.

If you spend enough time around wine geeks, you’ll realise that it doesn’t take long for everyone’s preferences to more or less fall in line. Wines that can be a tough sell in the retail market are often beloved of professionals and hardened enthusiasts. Yep – there’s a reason why Riesling is so cheap (thank goodness) – it’s not the darling of consumers.

We tasted two flights of six wines (Chardonnay and Shiraz) – and in advance we were told that there were three gold medal winning wines (including the trophy), one silver, one bronze and an also-ran.

While wines (at the Adelaide Show) are scored on a 20 point scale, in reality only 10 of those points are used. Wines scoring 18.5 and above are gold, 17 – 18.5 results in silver and 15.5 – 17 a bronze. Below 15, no medal is awarded. About 5% of wines are awarded a gold medal and approximately 50% get a medal of some type.

Your average, drinkable, clean, but otherwise unremarkable wine will score around 15 – so in order to be awarded any kind of medal a wine does have to be a bit special.

chardyChardonnay for elevenses? Don’t mind if I do!

We started with the 2013 Chardonnays – a class of originally around 50 wines before moving on to the 2014 Shiraz – originally around 180 wines! Shiraz REALLY dominates at the Adelaide show … I can’t imagine why!

What I found most fascinating about this exercise was where the ‘amateurs’ and the ‘professionals’ diverged. This was most evident in the Shiraz class where, for me, the ‘also ran’ stuck out like a sore thumb. And I mean REALLY stuck out. However, while I picked it I also knew that it was representative of a style of wine that is also very popular and I wasn’t surprised at all that the room was split.

Many of us did score it down but just as many people loved it and scored it highly. I’d scored it a 15 – out of medal contention – but after a chat with Matthew Jukes revised that score down to a 13. He said that with a wine such as this, he would always score it down because there could well be someone on the panel who, for whatever reason, scores it surprisingly highly. When the average of the panel’s scores is taken, your 15 might be just enough to bump it up into bronze medal territory. There you go – strategic scoring is not just for reality tv!

This was a great morning – it is always interesting to learn about wine and taste something new. And of course, meeting Matthew Jukes and Michael Brajkovich MW and talking wine with them was a real treat*. I loved that this was a small group – it meant that it was intimate and friendly and everyone got a chance to have some input without feeling any more intimidated than you might do with an MW in the room!

It was especially interesting because the next day I attended the RAWS lunch and got to taste a whole lot more medal winning wine – not all of which was my cup of tea! I think it’s so important to remember that wine is about so much more than a score or a medal. As this session showed, everyone’s taste is different.

* Not saying that seeing Nick wasn’t a treat – it’s just that he’s based in Adelaide and not hard to find at wine events! :D

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Pewsey Vale Prima Riesling 2015


I am not a woman who turns her nose up at some residual sugar (RS, if you want wine-geek talk) in a wine.

This doesn’t mean I get excited by a run of the mill Moscato, or an overly sweet and confected rosé or indeed any wine which has been crafted with the 18-24 ladies in mind.

But RS can be such a clever and beautiful thing in wine and I, for one, am so happy that the Riesling pendulum is regaining some equilibrium. Yes, those austere, limey Clare Valley Rieslings are lovely in their vaguely terrifying way (I say that affectionately) but leave a touch of sugar in the wine and it can transform what is in your glass.

It’s not surprising I am a fan of German Rieslings and many of the Australian Rieslings which are embracing this (the RieslingFreak No 8 is a standout on this front). The Pewsey Vale Prima has been at the vanguard of what is hopefully a trend.

This was the very first wine I used in a WSET course when I needed an off dry Riesling. Before ‘off dry Rieslings’ attempted their moment in the sun. It is consistent – consistently good. I’m a fan.

Riesling ages beautifully, dry or not. But the off dry Rieslings have the added bonus of being very light on the alcohol. Yeast converts sugar to alcohol. The grape juice has all that sugar in it. If you ferment it all out – you have a dry wine with higher alcohol. Don’t ferment it out and the chances are you have a slightly lower alcohol wine. This baby comes in at just 9.5% alcohol with ~ 25g/L of residual sugar.

Given the human tongue starts to detect sugar around 4g/L that’s quite a lot for our tongues to deal with so the wine needs to have some serious acidity otherwise we’ll feel like we’re drinking golden syrup. And, of course, acidity is what Riesling does well.

Can you tell how excited Riesling makes me?!

The wine

Very pale in the glass with a reasonably, but not excessively, pronounced nose. Very typical Riesling – rosewater, Turkish delight, honeysuckle with some lemon/lime in the background. Super appealing.

To describe this wine in one word, the word we choose is ‘sherberty’. Whether that is an actual word is irrelevant, as it captures the awesome combination of acidity and sugar we find in the wine. It’s a combination of crisp green apple, that green apple skin, some slices of that apple that have had a good dunking in lemon and lime juices. This all means that the sugar is not immediately apparent or overt. The mouth feel is amazing and the wine has great length.

My wine tasting note does actually include the words ‘absolutely delicious’ and ‘bloody excellent’.

$26 a bottle. I don’t get it. I really do not get why Riesling is never the ‘it’ drink. I don’t get why people pay the same money (or even more) for wines that are less exciting.

Anyway, I suppose that is a good thing – Riesling stays ludicrously cheap and there is always a hefty supply of it (much of it in my cellar).

Pewsey Vale Prima Riesling, sample. RRP $26.
9.5% abv.

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Taylors Winemaker’s Project Clare Valley Viognier 2014


As I’ve documented elsewhere, Viognier and I have a difficult relationship. I hated it, I fell in love with Condrieu, I fell out of love with the price tag and I have had fleeting dalliances ever since.

Viognier’s now on the WSET Level 2 tasting list so I’m forced to feign a more regular interest in this grape. It also meant that I approached this wine with an academic, as well as a personal, interest.

The grape is picky, low yielding and temperamental in the hands of the winemaker which means that it’s not hugely widely grown. It’s natural home is the northern Rhône in France (you’ll find it solo as a white wine most famously in Condrieu and Ch Grillet) and it’s grown in a few pockets worldwide, including Australia.

The wine

In the glass, a distinct mid-gold colour. On first glance, this wine stands itself apart from wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris/Grigio.

The nose is actually quite subtle for a Viognier, but it is still noticeably dominated by apricot. In this wine’s case, it is dried apricot, backed up with the fresh fruit and a touch of spice.

The palate shows even more dried apricot and a slightly bitter apricot kernel finish. The acidity is not bad but a bit of extra zing does not go astray and I recommend serving this wine reasonably well chilled – that seems to liven things up quite a bit. The wine does have really lovely weight and mouth feel.

Because this wine does not show off the overt fresh apricot that is really typical of Viognier it will be an excellent introduction to the wine, or re-introduction for someone who thinks they don’t like Viognier. On day 2 it actually was drinking pretty well although the alcohol stuck out a bit more.

The fact this wine is a little lighter on the apricot than many Viogniers means it is a less difficult food match. Because of the wine’s weight I’d avoid any very light or neutral foods but I imagine it would work well with chicken and fish like salmon or tuna (particularly if they’ve been pan fried or even bqqed). Think salmon with a miso and sesame glaze and you may be heading on the right track.

Taylors Winemaker’s Project Clare Valley Viognier, sample, RRP $25 (listed as a cellar door exclusive)
12.5% abv.

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Deviation Road Altair Rose Brut NV


I do not receive so many samples that the novelty has worn off and one of my favourite packages to receive comes from lovely Adelaide Hills winery, Deviation Road.

I am still yet to visit the cellar door (I feel like I may have already written this earlier this year) which I feel is terribly remiss of me. But I do champion these wines and the Loftia (the winery’s vintage white sparkling) makes a regular appearance in my classes.

I did feel vaguely bad about tasting this wine on my own, as I know that it is a favourite of a friend of mine. But, I do find that if I don’t look at samples sharpish they end up waiting quite a while for their turn on the tasting bench. Plus, it’s been a hot weekend and we’d had a big sushi dinner, and sparkling rosé seemed like just the biscuit … (let’s be honest, that’s the real reason).

The wine

Pale salmon pink in colour. The nose shows off vibrant strawberries and cream, with a zip of citrus and touch of yeastiness.

On the palate the wine comes across as bone dry – the accompanying notes say that the dosage is 9g/L but the excellent acidity means that you don’t really pick this up. The strawberries and cream are there, cut with fresh lemon juice and the wine has a pleasant, almost savoury, finish which has good length.

I don’t drink a lot of sparkling rosé (maybe I need to address this) so I can’t benchmark this wine against anything I’ve recently tasted.

However, against my general tasting background (and I taste/try/drink a reasonable amount) this wine stacks up very favourably. The strawberries and cream character is both very pleasant and what I have come to expect from a pink sparkling. With an rrp of $32 a bottle, this also delivers sound value. It is 50:50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which accounts for the very attractive (and necessary, in my opinion) citrus. 24 months on lees delivers the savoury complexity. It’s lovely that a lot of this (inherently interesting) wine making chit chat shows up in the wine.

Yet again, Kate and Hamish Laurie deliver the goods.

Deviation Road Altair, sample. RRP $32.
12.5% abv.

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Matthieu Barret Billes Noires Cornas 2007


A wine from my most recent WSET Level 2 class and one that I bought insanely cheaply at auction (yes, there are still auction bargains to be had). The bottle noticeably big and heavy. The label sparse but sophisticated. The whole thing screams class (bar the rather clumsy back label put there by the importer).

Cornas is a northern Rhône appellation so the wine is Shiraz based. In fact, it is solely Shiraz (no white grapes are permitted, unlike some of Cornas’s northern Rhône neighbours, such as Côte Rôtie or even Hermitage) and the appellation itself consists of just 90 ha.

When I lived in the UK and drinking wines from this part of the world was not such a luxury, people would quite routinely proffer the opinion that Cornas could represent far better value for money than some other appellations in this region. Of course, here in Australia our options are sadly limited and were you to walk into a bottle shop and be able to buy this wine, it would set you back around $200. Not my definition of “good value” …

As I bought this at auction, opening the bottle was even more fraught than usual and I held my breath, fingers crossed that the wine would be neither corked nor overtly bretty.

Thankfully it was neither. The wine received a resounding thumbs up in class and I loved it. My caveat here is that I am rather partial to this style of Shiraz so, as with any wine, especially one with age, your mileage may vary.

The wine

In the glass, very deep and still quite ruby in colour, so not showing its age quite as much as I expected.

The nose was quite pronounced, and the black pepper which you’d expect to see on a cool climate Shiraz is indeed there. There is also black fruit, licorice and anise. Everything looks promising.

On the palate, it delivers: the black pepper, blackberry and licorice are all there, accompanied by chocolate and cedar. There’s acidity and fine tannins with good length and altogether drinkable. It is, to use the most technical wine term available, yummy.

To the super sensitive there may be an argument that this wine showed a little teensy tiny bit of brett. Not in quantities to bother me.

I am just saddened that when I bought it there was just the one bottle for sale.

Matthieu Barret, purchased at auction.
13.0% abv.

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Quick Taste: Oxford Landing Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2015


I confess – I drink very little Sauvignon Blanc. I have grown very tired of the identikit cat pee style of wine that New Zealand mastered and marketed so successfully that now everyone wants to make it.

Everyone bar the French, bien sûr.

So imagine my surprise when, on opening this bottle of wine and expecting the worst (that is, more of the same) I was faced with something completely different and yet still identifiably Sauvignon Blanc.

Rather than focussing on those pungent herbaceous characters this wine is much more restrained and shows off pineapple and passionfruit. It’s approachable, easy drinking and perfectly clean and correct with enough refreshing acidity to make you come back for me.

The best part is that this wine retails around the $9. Yes, that’s right. Just $9.

I think this is absolutely banging value and this is a wine I would not hesitate to buy as summer rolls around.

Also note its relatively low alcohol content.

(I also tried the Pinot Grigio in the same line. It didn’t excite me quite as much but it’s another wine that represents good value for money.)

Oxford Landing Estates, sample. RRP $8.99.
10.5% abv


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Yalumba Single Site Schiller Vineyard Shiraz 2007


Another 2007 wine and completely by accident. Whereas last time we were in McLaren Vale, let’s shift north to the Barossa.

I first came across the Yalumba ‘single site’ Shirazes at the Negociants’ Working with Wine Shiraz masterclass last year. I can’t remember now exactly the wine we tried (and I don’t have my handouts immediately to … hand) but I was sufficiently impressed by the wine to spot this offering at auction. On release, this was $60 a bottle but I can see now that you can pick it up slightly more cheaply. I ended up paying around $55 – so a small saving.

For a while it has been sitting in our wine fridge (hmmm, another topic I’ve been meaning to write about for a while!) waiting for an appropriate occasion. Generally, ‘appropriate occasion’ in our house means that someone is thirsty. I also have the philosophy with my auction purchases that we only check out the price/value AFTER we’ve opened the bottle – that way we avoid the agonising over whether we really should open it …

The wine

In the glass, garnet and intense in colour – both as you would expect for an eight year old Barossa Shiraz.

The nose did seem quite muted but this may be a very unfair assessment as our house is most kindly described as bloody cold and I’m finding that wine tasting in winter is something of a challenge when it comes to service temperatures. Despite being shyer than you’d expect, the nose showed plenty of black fruit with a touch of licorice and vanilla.

The palate was a lot more forward – lots of black fruit and vanilla, with a meat and leather finish. There was good acidity and some pleasant soft tannins and the wine showed good length. I particularly liked that the savoury, slightly developed characters kicked in at the end.

The wine definitely has plenty of life left in it so if you are in possession of one or more bottles there is no need to rush.

We both felt that the $50-60 mark was a trifle high. Yes, this wine has been scored highly and reviewed well but my gut feeling is that there are other Barossa Shirazes out there at an equivalent price point which show a bit more complexity and character. Of course, I’m not comparing directly like for like, as the wines I am thinking of are all younger so be aware that this is a slightly unfair comparison …

Yalumba. Purchased at auction for ~ $55.
13.5% abv.


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WayWood Wines Shiraz Cabernet 2007


I’m sure I’ve mentioned before about my local bottle shop. At a high level, its range is standard – there are lots of wines at the ‘under $20′ price point, there’s a small selection of ’boutique’ wines (small wineries, unusual grape varieties) and a reasonable selection higher shelf reds. It’s not my ideal wine shop but shopping there is not a dire experience, either.

The really cool thing about this shop is that every now and then you can discover absolute gems. You know when you watch antique programs on tv (programs about antiques, not programs that are themselves antiques!) and the presenters often talk about someone having ‘a good eye’ – well, that is how it is with wine and our local shop. It’s less about the eyes and more about a gut feel that the price and the label just don’t really match up.

So quite a long time ago now I was recovering from a cold and was still quite bunged up so I was very keen to spend under $20. I actually did have a particular wine in mind but wasn’t able to find it so I was wandering around the shop in a slightly still-full-of-cold befuddled state when I spotted the WayWood Shiraz Cabernet 2007 marked down. Having met Andrew Wood, WayWood’s owner and winemaker, a couple of years ago I picked it up.

That evening, I opened it, poured myself a glass and realised that while I still couldn’t actually taste very much, it tasted pretty good. I shoved the glass to Andy and asked for his expert opinion. As ever, his expert opinion was tempered by “how much did this cost then?” but between us we decided that the price I paid was significant bang for buck. I checked pricing with Andrew and then headed back to the bottlo the next day to relieve them of the remaining three bottles.

Since then, I have, on and off, been able to enjoy this wine and earlier this week, I opened the last bottle. My last opportunity to write a tasting note.

The wine

Intense, deep ruby in the glass.

The nose shows pronounced licorice, blackcurrant and blackberry with a touch of violet and some spice and fruitcake. It is pleasingly complex and not overwhelmingly fruit-driven. It is starting to show a little maturity.

On the palate, things look really good. There’s good acidity and the tannins are still nice and grippy. This, combined with the ton of juicy black fruit suggests that there’s no rush to drink this wine. Combined with that lovely rich black fruit is some spiciness and even a slight smokiness (or is that smoked meat?). The length is excellent and that attractive fruit is really persistent. There is a touch of alcohol heat there but it is by no means intrusive or detrimental to how much you will enjoy this wine.

The chances are that the only place you can now find this wine is at the WayWood cellar door and it could well cost you considerably more than it cost me.

WayWood Wines. Purchased as a bin end at < $20 per bottle. Limited availability as museum stock at the winery.
14.5% abv.

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Yalumba Galway Malbec 2012


I’m mortified that it’s been exactly a month since my last post. It’s not that I’ve not been drinking some interesting wines in the interim – I have and the tasting notes are stacking up – but I always find the more I am writing for publication the far less inclined I am to write for fun after Master 4 goes to bed.

The release of this wine I actually wrote about for the last (June) SA Life food & wine enews – so for Yalumba background I refer you to that.

For wine geekery … stay here.

Malbec is perhaps most often recognised as the black grape of Argentina. It hails from France and you find its entry in Wine Grapes under its first French name, Cot. Originally from Quercy, a former province in the south-west of France, it appears to have arrived in the Gironde (Bordeaux) in the eighteenth century, which is also when its name ‘Malbeck’ is first recorded. DNA analysis shows us that Malbec is the half sibling Merlot.

Its plantings in Bordeaux were reduced by severe frosts in the mid-twentieth century which means that, although it’s still permitted in a Bordeaux blend, there’s not a great deal used though you will find it making up at least 70% of a wine labelled Cahors, from the nearby Lot region.

But it is in Argentina that it has really found its niche. Introduced in the mid nineteenth century, it is now the country’s most widely planted (quality) variety. Compared with Argentina’s roughly 27000 ha, Australia’s just under 400 ha seems minimal. Many of our plantings are in South Australia and Yalumba’s vine nursery has been instrumental in bringing the variety to the country.

Given how little is planted in Australia, I suspect that for many people this will be something of a new variety. I certainly found this wine much more approachable than many of the Argentine examples I’ve tried and I think anyone who enjoys big Australian reds should like this. I found it attractive in every aspect: in the class, how it smelt and how it tasted. My tasting notes wrap up with “smart and interesting for < $20″. If you are the kind of drinker who finds branching out a challenge, do yourself a favour and pick this up.

The wine

In the glass, really quite deep and a very pretty bright ruby/cherry red.

The nose was also attractive – showing bright red berry fruit, red and black cherries, some spice and even a hint of violet.

The palate follows through with those cherries. Black and red cherries with a hefty side of vanilla, although actually not badly balanced and certainly not madly tannic. There was a slight earthy character and while the wine was not massively complex, the length was pretty good and stayed balanced.

If you do not like wines with a big whack of oak this will not be your style, but it is not so over the top that it will blind you to the wine’s pretty fresh fruit.

Yalumba. Sample, RRP $17.99. The wine is a limited edition so you may need to look out for it.
13.5% abv.

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