Art Wine Tempranillo 2010


I am a junky for the weird and wonderful (when it comes to grapes, in many other aspects of my life I’m decidedly pedestrian) and I’m pretty sure the first time I came across Art Wine was the Graciano. If I recall correctly, I used that wine for a spot of corporate training where it was very well received.

Graciano is a grape that hails from Rioja, where it plays second fiddle, and then some, in the quantity stakes to Tempranillo.

I am quite a fan of Spain (go out and buy the latest edition of James Halliday’s Wine Companion Magazine to read about my adventures in Rioja) and I think there’s plenty of good wine being made in South Australia from grapes of Spanish origin. The wines produced here are quite different in character to those which originate on the Iberian peninsula, but they are delicious (and often very approachable) wines.

The Art Wine Tempranillo definitely falls into this category. You won’t be mistaking it for a Rioja (well, I wasn’t) but it is a lovely, moreish wine. This wine lasted three days in our household and my tasting notes were written on day 2. I thoroughly enjoyed it on all three days … and of course by day three I was disappointed that there was little more than a glass left in the bottle.

In the glass, the wine is very dense and purple in colour, just tending to ruby.

The nose is reasonably pronounced and red fruit dominated: think red cherry and raspberry jam, but there is something savoury lingering in the background.

The palate reflects this with some added complexity. There’s good acidity and soft tannins, and while there is a ton of fresh black and red fruit, it is balanced by earthy notes and a decided savoury finish. One the second day the alcohol was slightly more apparent but the wine was still well balanced.

A really lovely wine and one which I would buy again without hesitation.

$26 from Cellarbrations, Flagstaff Hill.
14.0% abv.

Serafino 2007 Nebbiolo


We have some friends who married in early June and somehow we’ve managed to spend a good many of their anniversaries with them. Even though we all met in England, they married in the US and have since lived in the UK, Bermuda and now Sydney. One such anniversary was 2010 when they spent a few days in Adelaide. Our Entertainment Book paid for itself in one fell swoop that year!

One day that weekend we headed down to McLaren Vale, visited a few wineries, bought a few wines and found it next to impossible to buy lunch at 3pm. One wine we picked up was the Serafino 2007 Nebbiolo.

I could tell you all about Nebbiolo but I won’t because that kind of clinical wine geekery belongs in a review when there’s no back story bar “I bought a bottle of wine”. I’m sure it is an established scientific fact* that visiting a cellar door slightly bends our perception of the wines, but hopefully, after three and a bit years, I can bring some objectivity to the glass.

In the glass, the wine is garnet and brick in colour, but this illusion of age is not backed up by a nose surprisingly dominant in fresh red berry fruit, which also shows tar, licorice, spiciness, wet bitumen and some perfumed, floral characters like lavender.

The fresh fruit also shows up on the palate with plenty of pronounced fresh red cherries, even cherry jam. There is a slight savoury kick and some licorice, but the wine is still very bright. There’s good acidity and grippy tannins but they don’t dry out your mouth.

A wine we both very much enjoyed. It’s a shame that Serafino no longer appears to make this wine because I would certainly be tempted to seek out current releases. I can’t remember how much we paid for it, though I know it didn’t fall into the bargain basement category. I should also confess that it’s been stored in what might be described as less than ideal conditions.

And if you need more emotive context – the Serafino cellar door is both impressive and pretty. It sits in large grounds, with a lake, and boasts both a restaurant, function centre and accommodation.

* This may be not be available as peer reviewed research but it’s certainly a well discussed phenomenon.

Pertaringa 2010 Undercover Shiraz


I feel like I should put a disclaimer on this – I’ve met socially a couple of people involved in Pertaringa and they’re really lovely. Of course that is going to colour how I feel about the wine. In addition, I don’t think I’ve had a wine from the Pertaringa/K1/Geoff Hardy stable that I haven’t enjoyed – and I have tried a few. If you’re a fan of alternative varieties, then these labels are a good place to start looking.

We don’t normally drink a lot of big South Australian Shiraz – we’re both much more likely to plump for a different variety (why, hello, Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo) and when we do drink the typical South Australian Shiraz it is usually something at a slightly higher price point with a bit of age on it.

All well and good but I was clearly in the mood for a big red when I bought this waaaay back in July. I have to say that at $19.99 (which is what I paid) this is definitely in the value for money bracket. You can easily pay more for a Shiraz that delivers less interest. This wine is very food friendly and approachable and that will make it a clever option for any time you need to take a wine somewhere. I figure that at this price point, a wine has to not make enemies. You should drink it, enjoy it and be sufficiently impressed that you would take it round to your mate’s house on the weekend for a BBQ or round to your mum’s house for Sunday roast. And by those criteria, the wine scores a big tick.

In the glass, the wine is intense purple-ruby in colour – it is young after all!

The nose is reasonably pronounced and shows vanilla, warm spice, blackberry and both black and red plum, with the black dominating.

In the mouth, I found this wine a trifle hot and this heat did rather dominate the wine’s finish. But it did have a ton of juicy black fruit, an almost over generous whack of vanilla and an ever so slightly savoury edge to it, adding a bit of interest. While the tannins were actually pretty grippy they do drop away so don’t be buying this wine for extended cellaring.

$20 from Cellarbrations, Flagstaff Hill.
14.5% abv.

Henry’s Drive 2009 The Trial of John Montford Cabernet Sauvignon


As I received this as a pigeon pair with the Dead Letter Office Shiraz, I thought it reasonable to taste (and post) them close together.

This wine is named for a local bushranger, John Montford, who was convicted for robbing a mail coach near Naracoorte. He had covered his face with a brown hanky, holes cut out for his eyes and this was recovered from his swag, thus providing the evidence for the conviction. CSI south eastern Australia style!

Anyway, that provides the wine with a colourful back story which is only well and good if the wine can deliver.

In the glass, a quite intense ruby red.

The nose was similarly intense, with blackcurrant and vanilla the most dominant notes, but also some minty and stalky characters along with a touch of soil and licorice.

In the mouth, there was a ton of juicy fresh blackcurrant, with some licorice and a touch of warm spice. The acidity and persistent tannins were well balanced and, despite its 14% abv, there was no heat.

I really liked this wine: I found it approachable, enjoyable and really lovely. I preferred this over the Shiraz by just a whisker (although my other half disagreed).

It looks like the only place you can purchase this wine is through Henry’s Drive.

And just so you know how subjective this wine tasting mullarkey is, this wine received 89 points in the James Halliday Wine Companion (2013), where it is described as “soft, simple and accessible” and yet Lisa Perotti-Brown MW (Wine Advocate) gave it 92 and wrote “this wine offers complex flavours”.

Proof that you need to make up your own mind (no hanky needed).

This wine was a sample.  RRP is $32.
14% abv.

Henry’s Drive 2010 Dead Letter Office Shiraz


One of the perks of my gig at (the sadly now defunct) Sumptuous was the lovely selection of wines I got to taste. While I did have input in the theme of the wines, and I did get to make suggestions as to wines to taste, there was always at least one wine I didn’t pick. Which I thought was great, because it was a surprise. And I’m also inherently pretty lazy. When it comes to dining out, the shorter the menu, the better. If it comes as a set menu – result. Set menu with matching wines – double result. I don’t have to make any decisions!

So I was pretty happy to visit my GPO box and find two bottles from Henry’s Drive. Henry’s Drive is based in Padthaway (Limestone Coast), in the south eastern corner of South Australia. It’s not a brand I’d come across before so I came to both bottles with no preconceptions.

Henry’s Drive has the bulk of its vineyards in Padthaway, with just 30 acres in McLaren Vale. The fruit for this Shiraz is sourced from both regions: an almost even split in this release, the scales just tipping slightly in favour of McLaren Vale (55:45).

In the glass the wine was intense. Ruby red in colour, with a pronounced nose showing black plum, spice, licorice and tar. There was also a hint of vegetal character.

This black fruit dominance carried through onto the palate but there was also vanilla, spice and a touch of black pepper on the back palate. The wine had a lovely savoury finish with an aniseed/licorice kick to it. The wine had a good level of acidity and soft tannins that provided weight and structure but weren’t drying. The tannins, alcohol and fruit were all very well integrated, making this a well balanced and easy to drink wine. It might be 14.5% alcohol but you wouldn’t know it.  While this is lovely to drink now, you don’t need to be in a hurry to drink it either.

Although this was a sample, the RRP is $25. If I’d paid $25 for it I’d have been pretty happy. The internet suggests that you may be lucky and able to find it under $20, in which case you’d be even happier.

This wine was a sample.
14.5% abv.

Tim Adams 2001 Aberfeldy

Tim Adams 2001 Aberfeldy

Another wine from the cellar and I didn’t date the tasting note but it was a while ago. This is a Clare Valley Shiraz from the very well known (in South Australia, at least) Tim Adams stable.

The grapes come from the eponymous vineyard, first planted by the Birks (of Wendouree) in 1904. And some of this old stock remains – now well over 100 years old, but in 2001 the vineyard was just approaching its centenary.

This is not their cheap, every day quaffer and the winemaking notes (thankfully still available on the website) reflect that. Basket press, plenty of time on skins, and a year on both new and one year old American oak.

I can’t remember how much I paid for this bottle, but I know that I bought it at the winery in very early 2004. It is still available but you can expect to look for it and pay between $55 and $65 a bottle. When it was released it received plenty of praise and even today, at twelve years of age, it is looking very good. The current release (2009) sells through the website for $50.

Unlike many big family sounding names in the Australian wine industry Tim Adams Wines is still owned by Tim Adams and his wife and he is still chief winemaker.

In the glass the wine looked remarkably young: very intense, and more ruby in colour than garnet. I was very surprised because prior to opening I’d been concerned that I’d be drinking a lovely wine that, yet again, was past its prime.

The nose was quite pronounced, with fresh blackberries, pepper, with chocolate and leather. The palate was showing the age more than either the appearance or nose. The tannins were quite drying and, while there was a burst of fresh blackberry, the tertiary characters were much more apparent. There was a lot of chocolate and the wine was very savoury and leathery, with a meaty finish. Although the length was good the complexity of flavours did drop off quite quickly.

This is one wine that I feel I got to in the nick of time and I was very pleased that I did. If you have a stash of the ’01 I’d be taking a look at it now, at least, if not drinking it up.

This wine was purchased from the winery in 2004.
Closure: cork.
Alcohol: 13.7% abv.

Kangarilla Road 2009 Sangiovese


You will struggle to find this wine. The 2010 (featured in the Winter issue of Sumptuous) has been sold out for ages. But my local bottle shop almost always has something interesting tucked away if you do a bit of hunting. Andy brought a bottle of this home for me one day, and I returned a couple of days later and bought the last bottle.

Kangarilla Road is a McLaren Vale winery with instantly recognisable labels: a black ground with an image of the vine leaf. Very striking and easy to spot.

Sangiovese is something of a ‘thing’ in McLaren Vale. Its Old World home is Tuscany. I guess I’d describe the climates as being vaguely similar but Tuscany has some rolling hills and makes McLaren Vale look seriously flat. Despite its Tuscan pedigree, Sangiovese is actually part Tuscan and part Calabrian, and is actually found growing in many wine producing areas, under a variety of synonyms. For example, you can find Coriscan, American and even Swiss examples of this wine. In Australia it arrived in the 1960s but was not commercially planted until the 80s, with the first block being in Penfold’s Kalimna vineyard. The commercial pioneers are considered to be Coriole and Dromana Estate (Mornington Peninsula).

I tasted this wine on 29 June, and the bottle had been open one day.

In the glass, the wine was ruby in colour with medium intensity.

The nose was quite pronounced: black cherry, vanilla, even blackcurrant. In fact, the blackcurrant was pushing towards blackcurrant jubes. There was a very slight green or herbaceous character to the nose which was a good thing as it balanced out the slightly confected jube notes.

The black cherry was dominant on the palate, with firm, but not drying, tannins providing a lovely structure. There was some cedar spiciness and the wine had good length. I did wonder if the finish was perhaps a little hot, but that didn’t stop me heading back and buying the last bottle.

This wine was purchased from Cellarbrations, Flagstaff Hill for $26.
Closure: screwcap.
Alcohol: 14% abv.

In the mouth,

Caudo 2012 Peace Chardonnay


Another wine from the same cheap Cellarmasters carton that yielded the Zenith Sauvignon Blanc.

At an average of $5 or so a bottle, expectations were set accordingly, and this bottle was actually hiding in the fridge, a little forgotten.

Caudo is based in the Murray Lands, in South Australia. 700 acres are planted to vine (300 of those planted in 2001), with a further 150 acres preserved as a wildlife sanctuary. The website makes a reference to the Peace Chardonnay on the “about” page but I couldn’t find it anywhere else on the site. The Cellarmasters site will only find it if you search using Google rather than the on site search. Judging by the availability of the reds, I’d suggest these wines have been run out so I think you’ll struggle to find this wine (unless you are in NZ).

The wine producing areas along the River Murray are perhaps most crudely characterised as heavily irrigated bulk wine production areas. This is actually unfair because there are many producers doing small scale, interesting winemaking and it’s where we’re seeing a lot of work with emerging varieties.

However, at its price point, it’s not going to surprise anyone that this wine falls into the stereotype. And, indeed, if you are looking for that archetypal Aussie Chardonnay: sunshine in a bottle with lots of oak, then you’ve hit the nail on the head.

In the glass, the wine is straw in colour. The nose is dominated by butter and vanilla, with some lemon and apple. The butter and vanilla give away the oak treatment (at this price we’re talking something less subtle than new French oak barriques – the small, 225L barrels that you’ll find used in wines ten times the price and more). The palate is similarly dominated by the oak which is decidedly unbalanced. The wine’s acidity is OK and the weight is decent – it feels pleasant in the mouth. But the flavour profile is all about cream and vanilla with a touch of citrus.

The above might sound like I’m handing this wine a bit of a hiding, but I’m actually not. Yes, it does rather fall into my ‘boring’ category (hey, I’m someone who gets excited by the weird and wonderful) but I think this wine absolutely delivers in this style for its price. Just as there are people who like their Chardonnays lean and crisp, there are plenty of people who would really go for this wine. It’s all about your expectations as you open the bottle.

So not for me, but there are far worse t hings you could drink at this price point.

This wine was purchased through Cellarmasters in a mixed case.  Average bottle price was somewhere around the $5-6 mark.
Closure:  screw cap
13.5% abv