Redbank Fiano 2014

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I am a huge fan of Fiano, so it comes as a surprise to me that I am yet to write about a wine made from this grape. The bulk of my exposure has been Adelaide Hills, so that’s the style I’m used to and, dare I say it, expect.

For those not in the know, Fiano is a grape which originates in Italy (you could never have guessed, right?). In Campania in southern Italy, to be precise. In modern Italy it is not massively widely planted but it is responsible for the DOCG Fiano di Avellino and you may also find it in a few DOC wines. It’s also planted in Sicily (is there anything that isn’t?!). Hopefully you’re seeing the part of the picture that means it’s suited to Australia … the climate.

I’ve found that, as a rule, Fiano is a rich, textural wine – great mouth feel and strongly flavoured. If I were going to align it with a wine that’s more broadly recognisable, I guess I’d start hedging towards Chardonnay mainly for the weight and feel aspect. But to be honest I can’t really think of an easy analogy.

This wine hails from Victoria and at first I was a little taken aback because it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting but it definitely grew on me and, perhaps more importantly, it’s a tidy wine. Personally, I’m quite keen to find the time to line this up against one of my Adelaide Hills favourites and taste them blind. No doubt I won’t be able to pick the geographic difference!

The wine

In the glass, the wine was pale gold. The nose wasn’t particularly pronounced but showed fresh pear, citrus and a hint of cut grass and even tropical fruit.

In the mouth, there’s good acidity and that lovely rich mouthfeel I was expecting. The flavours are quite rich too and the wine shows pear, spice and some aniseed and even aniseed sweets and good length.

With an RRP just over $20 this is a wine that, while it wouldn’t be my first Fiano pick (and let’s face it, I am a South Australian … ) it would definitely be a wine to which I’d be happy to return. Redbank is distributed by Negociants so it should be widely available.

Sample. RRP $21.95.
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13% abv.

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Greenock Creek Seven Acre Shiraz 2012

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Greenock Creek is, for South Australians at least, a very well known Barossa winery. Greenock is one of the small Barossa towns/villages and the eponymous winery is a small, family run and estate driven outfit that has built a formidable reputation. The website makes the point, almost emphatically, that only the winery’s own grapes are used, so wine stocks are completely in the hands of the weather gods.

This wine was from a WSET Level 1 class. This is an introductory class which showcases a small selection of wines, including a premium Shiraz. Without fail, I choose something local for this wine because it is always enjoyable to show local wine lovers an excellent example of a style with which they are familiar.

I hadn’t actually tried this wine before – I have enjoyed (very much so) a back vintage of the Alices Shiraz (a couple of price points down) so I was more than happy to take a punt.

Everyone’s eyes lit up when this was poured and everyone in the class enjoyed it. Without a doubt, this is a wine that will not be harmed by some time in the cellar. At a retail price of around $55 a bottle, I suspect that few of us will be splashing out on a case but if you’re in the position to drink now, then you can do so because it is delicious.

The wine

In the glass, intense and inky, almost still purple in colour – looking young.

The nose was quite pronounced, showing plenty of plum and licorice, plum jam, sweet spice and even a tiny touch of sweet spice.

On the palate, the plum and licorice are there and the spice is more apparent. There was a hint of black fruit sweets. The tannins were quite soft but offered plenty of structural support. The wine was rounded out by good acidity and length.

What really stood out (in a good way) with this wine is that even though it’s a big 15.5% abv this, even at just 3 years old, is beautifully integrated. It might show up a touch on the finish but it’s impressively unobtrusive.

Purchased from the Ed Cellars, $55.
Cork.
15.5% abv.

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Deviation Road Pinot Noir 2012

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I’ve written before about Deviation Road and how I’m a huge fan of their wines so I’m not going to repeat all of that.

I may have also written about how much I enjoy Pinot Noir. That’s not saying much – I enjoy most good wines and find that if you match mood, food and wine you can’t really go wrong. However, Andy is much less of a wine enthusiast than me, and Pinot Noir is one of the grape varieties where our taste in wine does actually collide (the other biggie in terms of style is Beaujolais). I never have to ask Andy twice if he wants a glass of Pinot.

As with so many wines, Pinot really reflects where and how it’s been grown and made. New World Pinots are typically what I would describe as brighter, more fruit driven wines. Maybe a little more approachable and generally a little less funky than their Burgundian counterparts. Sometimes, especially in cheaper wines, this can leave them seeming a little vacuous, but in smart wines you end up with something very pretty and very drinkable.

As I’ve come to expect with the Deviation Road wines, the Pinot over delivers. We both enjoyed every mouthful and have spent some serious time considering in investing in a case (well, Andy spent 15 seconds and said to buy a case, I’ve been prevaricating about letting the moths out of the wallet).

The wine

In the glass, pale and quite garnet in colour.

The nose is mostly about fresh red fruit – strawberries and raspberries. But there is also some savoury complexity to flesh that out – strawberry leaf, a hint of black olive and even some peppery spice.

Those red berries carry through to the palate, but there’s also a snap of tart redcurrant which feels almost crisp. The tannins are soft and silky and there’s good, finely balanced acidity. There are subtle savoury notes here too but these are more meaty than on the nose. It’s a beautiful wine with excellent length so you get to enjoy it just that little bit more.

If you like smart Pinots, this is definitely a wine you should try.

Sample. Available from the Deviation Road cellar door (Longwood, South Australia) for $45.
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13.5% abv.

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Quinta do Ameal Branco Seco Vinho Verde 2009

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Over the Easter break we were headed to a large hardware shop which has a Dan Murphy’s nearby. Andy asked me if I wanted anything. I ummed and aahed and decided to stick my nose in for a look.

Generally, I loathe (and no, that’s not too strong a word for it) browsing in a Dan Murphy’s. I find it depressing and demoralising. Our local Dan’s used to have the wines organised alphabetically by producer (I kid you not) and while that has changed I still find the layout confusing. To one side of the store you have ‘Fine Wine’ and on the other … the ‘not fine’ (I guess). There seems to be no real logic to what constitutes fine or not (it doesn’t appear to be price) and while there is a lot of wine in store, I always find the selection rather limiting. It seems to be a repetition of the same old same old. Rows and rows of Shiraz or Sav Blanc but very little in the way of quirky wines or grape varieties. I just checked and at present, our local store does not stock one single bottle of Fiano.

I’m also not a fan of the lack of service. With wine, I can never make a decision so I like wine shops where I can go in, have a chat, perhaps talk about wines I’ve liked in the past and then be introduced to something new. This doesn’t mean I only ever want to drink small batch boutique production wine, which I realise isn’t Dan’s thing, but I want someone in the store to have knowledge of the stock and actually sell me something.

Anyway, I headed in to Dan’s with all these really negative thoughts whirling around my head and then … a large table set up near the entrance caught my eye. I’m not lying when I say it caught my eye because it was loaded with Burgundy and I could see the bottles bore the orange and white markdown labels. It turns out it wasn’t just Burgs and I managed to snaffle an interesting selection of wines, including this Vinho Verde from Portugal.

I’m very excited to write about this. This is not a wine you see kicking around in every bottle shop or on every wine list. In general, I think that Portuguese still wines are massively underrated (and, if you live in somewhere like the UK, they used to be massively under priced!) and, as a bonus, they’re often made from grape varieties that you don’t find on every street corner.

Vinho Verde is a Portuguese DOC located in the north west corner of Portugal and its name is Portuguese for ‘green wine’ as it is generally sold (and consumed) young. A Vinho Verde may be made from a range of white grape varieties, but this Quinta do Ameal is made from Loureiro. There are only around 6000ha of Loureiro planted in Portugal, pretty much all of those in Vinho Verde.

Now, keen readers will have noticed that I mentioned that Vinho Verde typically is drunk young – and in my book a 2009 doesn’t count as ‘young’ in 2015. However, I still came to it with an open mind and I was really very pleasantly surprised.

The wine

In the glass it was really heading towards a slightly more gold colour, so it was definitely starting to show some age. Nothing that alarmed me though.

The nose was reasonably pronounced, and had some slightly floral characteristics which are, apparently, typical of a young Loureiro. It also showed pear, and raw cashew nuts.

The wine had good acidity (these wines are typified by high acidity) and while I didn’t get any floral notes on the palate I did get pear, pineapple and grapefruit and the wine finished with a slightly more savoury, nutty note. There were also some herbal and aniseed characters there too. The length was not bad at all.

For a wine which I was expecting to be noticeably past its best I was really pleased with this. It went beautifully with our spicy Singapore-noodle style prawn dinner, and drank well on its own.

It didn’t look quite as impressive on the second day and was definitely showing its age a bit more but it was still more than fine to drink.

From the mark down table I paid $18 for this wine – full tote odds at Dan’s for a more current release (maybe 2011 if you’re lucky) are set at $30 and the importer (The Spanish Acquisition) has the 2013 for $32 a bottle.

I actually thought this was pretty good value for money, and I enjoyed the wine, but I wouldn’t be paying around the $30 mark for a back vintage. I’d really like to see this wine in its prime so if you’re interested in trying it – I’d make the effort to seek out the 2013.

Quinta do Ameal is a very well regarded producer of Vinho Verde so definitely one to keep an eye out for.

Purchased from Dan Murphy’s, marked down to $18.
Cork.
11% abv.

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Brown Brothers Patricia Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

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At the moment, I’m in the middle of teaching a WSET Level 2 course. Although it’s three very long Saturdays it’s also a lot of fun. One of the best bits of running the course is choosing the wines beforehand. The WSET issues guidelines about the wines we should show, so I don’t have carte blanche, but the suggestions are broad enough to allow lots of diversity for me.

When wines are working well, I will use them repeatedly (hello, Georges duBoeuf Beaujolais Villages!) but sometimes a wine doesn’t show well or, for some of the more premium wines in particular, I struggle with availability.

One wine that changes almost every course is the premium New World Cabernet Sauvignon. Naturally I ALWAYS show an Australian wine and I always try to choose a wine with a bit of age on it. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to have a few bottles of 1996 and 1997 Wynns John Riddoch in my cellar. Using them in a course is a great way to actually open them (rather than sitting around waiting for the perfect moment) and hopefully it is also a treat for the students. This no doubt says something about South Australian palates … but these wines are always amongst the best received in the whole course.

Anyway, with no gems left in the cellar, I had to buy. I chose the Brown Brothers 2004 Patricia on a bit of a whim. It had some age and I have a lot of respect for the wines that Brown Brothers produces across their range. Don’t take this as meaning I unilaterally love everything that the company produces, but overall they are amongst my ‘safe’ picks.

The Patricia wines are Brown Brothers’ flagship wines and are named after the family’s matriarch, Patricia Brown, who died in 2004. Brown Brothers doesn’t release these wines every vintage and the wines get the best treatment. So you expect something good.

And my goodness me – this wine totally over delivers on that promise. It might be almost 11 years old (the back label says its cellaring potential is 6-10 years) but it is an unbelievably vibrant and youthful wine. In a word – it is DELICIOUS. And absolutely worth every penny of its $59 price tag. I only wish I were wealthy enough to drink this kind of wine on a very regular basis.

It was also extremely handy that the current class has someone from a (well known) winery who had tasted that winery’s back vintage Cabernet Sauvignons the day before. Apparently the Patricia put a lot of those wines firmly in the shade so I am not alone in my admiration for this wine.

The wine

In the glass, it is ruby and very deeply & intensely coloured. Even at 10+ years, it is looking young.

The nose is pronounced and the fresh fruit is starting to drop off, being replaced with a very attractive cedar, tobacco and worn leather character, there is also some warm spice such as clove or nutmeg.

The palate is positively bursting with fresh fruit, there is good acidity and the tannins are very firm but pleasantly chalky, rather than mouth strippingly drying, fresh blackcurrant, blackcurrant jubes, some vanilla, touch of baked black fruit, and some milk chocolate.

I wrote this tasting note on the second day and it was still showing such vibrant, fresh fruit – an absolutely beautiful wine.

Purchased from the Ed Cellars, $59.
Cork.
13.5% abv.

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Deviation Road 2014 Pinot Gris

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I am a little fussy about my Pinot Gris. Those made in the more neutral Italian style (and so generally labelled Pinot Grigio) I find lacking in interest. This may be the fault of English pubs, who for so long served dull, dull, and cheap Pinot Grigio as the standard house offering. But those made in the more textural (wine wanker word, I know!), savoury and intense Alsace style (labelled Pinot Gris) I do find myself getting along with. The Adelaide Hills in particular appears to be a happy hunting ground for this style of Pinot Gris. My experience thus far leads me to believe that these are wines that generally benefit drinking young and that the wineries that are getting ‘it’ right are getting ‘it’ right consistently.

Deviation Road is one such winery. I am a huge fan of Kate and Hamish Laurie’s Longwood outfit (although, despite living about half an hour down the road, I’ve never got myself to the cellar door). I’ve been lucky enough to sample their new releases a couple of years in a row, and around the middle of last year I interviewed Kate for an essay. Kate is probably the easiest interviewee I’ve dealt with ever.

So I have a massive soft spot for these wines. I was impressed by the 2013 Pinot Gris so I was keen to have a look at the 2014. In addition, I’d very recently tasted the Pinot Gris which had picked up several gongs at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show. I’d been rather underwhelmed by that wine but I was interested to see how the Deviation Road equivalent (at almost twice the price) would stack up.

In brief, the Deviation Road more than stacks up. I would much rather have, enjoy and savour one bottle of the Deviation Road Pinot Gris than the equivalent two bottles of the medal winner. This just proves to me (yet again) that while wine shows have their place, punters need to be aware that not every wine is entered and the show results are best viewed as a rough guide, rather than a definitive state of the nation.

The wine

The nose shows quite pronounced pear and pear drop characters, with some green apple and slight melon.

The palate shows off the pear – ripe, but not overripe and none of the potentially confected pear drop that I saw on the nose. Green apple, citrus and an all important touch of warm spice all make an appearance. There is good acidity, coupled with excellent mouth feel and texture as well as good length.

I think that this wine more than demonstrates that it’s possible to buy wine that is both approachable and classy. With a recommended retail price of $28 it may not fall into your every day drinking price bracket but it is definitely worth every penny.

Sample, RRP $28. Deviation Road is distributed by Negociants so it shouldn’t be too hard to track down and you can buy the 2013 through the Deviation Road website.
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12.5% abv.

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Whistling Duck 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

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Like I’m sure almost everyone reading this, the run up to Christmas and beyond is hectic. I’d like to offer up several reasons (read, birthdays) why our December is more hectic than most … but I know that everyone finds themselves in that predicament. Even work Christmas parties appear to be getting earlier and earlier (Andy missed his while we were away – and that was early November).

With more parties, BBQs and Christmas drinks than you can throw a shoe at, my December action plan always ensures that I get in a collection of reasonably priced wine that I can have ready to go when I need to head somewhere. Early in the month, I had a stash of the ever reliable Thorn-Clarke Riesling but as December marched on, stocks were running low.

Of course, I’m signed up to plenty of wine related email lists who all wanted to sell me something but the one that caught my eye (arrived on the right day) was one from Virgin Wines. I’d used Virgin Wines for about a year or so when I’d lived in the UK and had had no troubles so, given the generous nature of the offer (a case of wine and two bottles of Prosecco for $100, delivery inclusive) I had to give it a go.

A lot of the bottles from the mixed case have been distributed far and wide and remain untasted by me. Of the wines I have tried they have been quite hit and miss. There was a Chardonnay in the case which was actually quite OK and the red I am currently drinking is a very approachable, even if not madly interesting, wine. And given that I’ve paid under $10 a bottle for them, I am happy with the return on my investment.

Unfortunately, this Sauvignon Blanc Semillon didn’t repay me in quite the same manner. Someone went crazy with the ‘fruitiness’. My gut feeling is that this is the kind of wine that could well be a hit with younger drinkers who are taking their first steps with wine.

I was also underwhelmed that by purchasing this case I rather unwittingly signed myself up to a regular 3-monthly delivery of wines. I unsubscribed from that quick smart!

The wine

Very pale in the glass.

Nose quite pronounced and definitely showing off the Sauvignon Blanc. Gooseberry, lychee with a strong grassy, and even dried grass, back note.

Palate – very “fruity” and rather smacking of some sugar – again the Sauvignon Blanc is at the fore but with melon and passionfruit. Not bad acidity but not really enough to back up the ‘fruitiness’. It is a little short and one dimensional although it does have a reasonably satisfying savoury herbal twist to it.

Best served cold and for drinking, rather than intellectualising.

The RRP on the Virgin Wines site is $17 a bottle, which is, in my opinion, too much. However, I bought it in a case where it worked out at under $10 a bottle … and at that price point, if you like this type of wine, it is probably OK.

Virgin Wines.
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12.0% abv

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Rhythm Stick 2012 Red Robin Riesling

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As summer rolls around and the silly season kicks off I always ensure that I have a good stash of wine around the house that I can drink, share and take out and about with me without worrying about it. It might make me a bad person, but I’m not too hot on sharing my really good wine. I’ll usually crack something special on significant family occasions (only if it can be drunk before my rellies have worked their way through too many beers and reds!) but if I’m in a large group, I like to share good wine which over delivers for its price point.

I first came across Rhythm Stick Wines at least year’s (2014) Cellar Door Festival. I enjoyed the wines then and was going to buy some except that they weren’t accepting cards. I’m lucky if I have 20c on me at any one time so that was something of a deal breaker …

But when I was on the hunt for some bargain summer drinking – obviously Riesling was on my mind – and I saw that the Red Robin Clare Valley Riesling was available at Dan’s, I popped a bottle of it in my cart and placed my click & collect order.

I was really pleased when I picked it up to find that it was a 2012 Riesling. 2012 was a cracking year for Clare Valley Rieslings and it’s always good to come across one. Note to Dan’s though – really, you need to get your attitude towards vintage together – for ALL your wines. There’s a good chance I’ll buy more of this wine but no chance I’ll do it online through you since I can’t control what vintage I get. However, it’s very worth noting that you can buy direct from the producer …

My apologies for two Riesling posts back to back – however, at under $20 a bottle, this is more affordable and definitely in the every day drinking category (for those of us who can’t routinely splash $70 on a bottle of wine).

Pale gold in the glass – perhaps starting to show a little age and development.

The nose is pronounced with the distinctive rubber and kerosene characteristic that some Rieslings take on with age. There’s lemon and pineapple with a hint of both spice and flowers.

The palate is dry and citrussy with plenty of acidity and the wine shows off a really pleasant top note of honeysuckle. The wine has good length and texture. It’s very enjoyable to drink and provokes just enough thought. However, I’d avoid serving this too cold – I found that straight from the fridge the palate was a little narrow and fell short but the wine really opened up given some time out of the fridge.

As with almost all young(ish) Riesling, you need not be in a hurry to drink this.

This was purchased from Dan Murphys, $20 a bottle but you can purchase (vintage specific and even back vintage) wines direct from the winery.
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12.5% abv.

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Loimer 2007 Langenlois Terrassen Riesling

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This wine was a generous gift from a friend. I swapped a baby seat for this and a bottle of Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir (not yet drunk). Based on the Riesling alone I definitely got the better end of the deal.

The friend who gave this to me is not a particularly big wine drinker. However, unlike a lot of people who get slightly freaked out by my outside the norm interest in wine – and who promptly spend a fortune on giving me things like flowers, he did the sensible thing.

It might be a bit late to be handing out wine gift buying advice now but if you are buying for a wine lover (any time of year) don’t be intimidated by what you perceive to be either their knowledge or enthusiasm and buy them something other than wine. Even wine paraphernalia can miss the mark (seriously, do you know how many corkscrews we have? more than one for every room and that includes my favourite one which lives in my handbag). But a bottle of wine will ALWAYS hit the mark.

What you need to do is set yourself a budget and head to a serious (and most likely independent) bottle shop. You need to be in a wine shop where all the staff are enthusiasts and who will know their stock – so now is the not the time to head to the local.

The chances are you already know something about what the recipient likes or doesn’t like when it comes to wine (if you really have no idea then a voucher from the bottle shop might be the best idea but you can always ask the recipient for a few favourite wine suggestions) and armed with this, the bottle shop staff should be able to point you in the right direction.

And so … my good friend arrived with two classy bottles of wine. If the second is anywhere near as good as this, I am in for a treat!

While most of us have formed an association between Austria and Grüaut;ner Veltliner, it is hardly surprising that it should also produce quality Rieslings. I can’t pretend to be familiar with aged Austrian Rieslings but any lover of aged Riesling would be happy with this wine.

A striking pale gold in the glass with a pronounced nose.

The oily, rubbery, kero characters of older Riesling dominate the nose, but there are very subtle floral characteristics, including a touch of rose water.

The palate shows off more of the floral characters, along with a slight honeyed characteristic with a ton of acidity which pulls through a crisp, tart green apple, almost sherberty finish. Definite green apple skin, with plenty of texture, lovely mouthfeel and good length. A very moreish wine that delivers plenty of interest and very much a style of Riesling that I enjoy.

Most people will detect a hint of RS (I couldn’t find any tasting notes for the 07 which specified this) but this is more than balanced by the stunning acidity. In a sentence – green apple skin with a touch of honey and rosewater.

A gift – but it is available from East End Cellars where it retails around $70.
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I failed to note the alcohol content of the wine but the internet suggests it’s 13.5% abv which I find surprisingly high. So don’t quote me on that one.

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Carpene Malvolti 1868 Cartizze Prosecco

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Prosecco suffers from an image problem – even worse than that suffered by Cava, in my opinion. There are a lot of reasons for this – and the biggie is that because it’s a sparkling wine people immediately compare it with Champagne and Champagne it isn’t. Prosecco has a few different classifications in Italy – the most widely recognised is perhaps Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG (promoted from DOC in 2009). You may also see Conigliano, Valdobbiadene-Conigliano or even Cartizze. Cartizze is a high vineyard of just over 100 hectares and is considered the granddaddy (or ‘grand cru’, if you will) of Prosecco.

Aside from being the classification, Prosecco is also the name of the grape which constitutes the bulk of what you will find in the bottle. However, to avoid ‘confusion’, the grape Prosecco was ‘renamed’ in 2009 to Glera. You will still see plenty of Australian sparkling wine made from Glera labelled … Prosecco.

Pretty pale straw in the glass, with fine, persistent bubbles. The nose is restrained but shows some fresh lemon and ripe pear. The palate is a little one dimensional – the pear is very apparent and a touch confected. Although the Carpenè Malvolti tasting notes indicate that this wine is dry you could be forgiven for thinking there’s a touch of residual sugar (RS) present. There are also floral notes and a slightly sherberty finish.

While the wine isn’t unattractive, it’s a touch short on acidity and doesn’t offer much in the way of complexity.

I’ve not been able to track down an Australian retailer for this particular wine but others from the same stable look to be around the $20 mark, which is fair, but not brilliant, value. Given the wine’s confected character, I’d recommend drinking this at afternoon tea, with a slice of lightly toasted pandoro, dusted in icing sugar. Or use it in a Bellini or Buck’s Fizz.

This wine really wasn’t my cup of tea – too much apparent sweetness (I’ve been unable to find the wine’s actual RS anywhere) and not enough savoury characters or complexity. This wine is less apéritif and far better suited to dessert than canapés.

Not readily available. This was a prize.
Cork.
11% abv.

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