Eldridge Estate Gamay 2011


The facts

Gamay from Eldridge Estate on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
Purchased at auction for silly cheap. The current release (2014) is sold out but was $40.
Closure: screwcap.
Alcohol: 13% abv.

The waffle

It’s probably been well established that I love buying wine at auction. On the one hand, it is fraught with danger but if you can handle disappointment, it is also a great way of trying new producers. I’m on a good run at the moment – after my discovery of Mayford, I’m pleased to report that this wine from Eldridge Estate (not to be confused with Eldredge in Clare …) over delivers and gives me another winery to keep an eye out for.

Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais and it is not often found in Australia (Wine Grapes says around 20 producers). Generally accepted wisdom is that the wines it produces are mostly best drunk young – so a 2011 from an unknown producer required a small leap of faith on my part.

If you are familiar with Beaujolais, this wine is much more in line with one of the cru wines, than the entry level Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages (not that there is anything wrong with either of those). If you’ve never tried Gamay before, I recommend finding a bottle of the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, which you should be able to find at around the $20 mark. These wines are more red fruit focussed than today’s wine, but they are a very solid and reliable introduction to both variety and style.

Elsewhere, you will find small amounts of Gamay grown in cooler climate areas, such as Germany, England, Switzerland, Oregon and Canada.

The wine

Very pale and definitely garnet in colour. On day 2 the nose is not looking quite as attractive as day 1 – but it is still pronounced, black cherry, some tobacco, leather, a touch of anise and black olive.

The palate is less fruit forward – there is some stalkiness which I personally find quite attractive – and it’s backed up with some black cherry and cassis. There’s good acidity and tannins are, as expected, very soft.

It doesn’t look as good on day 2 as it did on day 1 (hmmm, perhaps I should have been more forthcoming in sharing with Andy yesterday …) but I will most definitely be on the look-out for more wines from this producer and more Australian (nay, even Victorian!) Gamay in general.

Mayford Porepunkah Shiraz 2009


The facts

Shiraz from Victoria’s Alpine Valleys, by Mayford Wines.
Purchased at auction, not readily available (current release is $40).
Closure: cork.
Alcohol: 14% abv.

The waffle

I bought this wine knowing nothing about either Mayford or Porepunkah. The price was right and it had some good reviews. I still know next to nothing – although I am at least now across the fact that Porepunkah is in the Alpine region of Victoria. Near Bright. Which is near Mt Hotham. And I like skiing.

This bodes well as I have a weakness for cool climate Shiraz.

The wine

Tasting note written on day 2.

In the glass, super intense. If a wine could be pitch black this would be it. It’s a youthful dense cross between ruby and purple.

The nose is pretty pronounced. Fresh black fruit, black olives, peppery spice and even some licorice and fresh tobacco.

All that black fruit is on the palate, blackberry jubes, peppery spice, just like the nose. It’s full and weighty and structure is amply provided by acidity and fine tannins.

This is absolutely delicious with plenty of life left in it. If I had case loads I’d be gobbling them up though because that’s just how I am.

The current vintage of this wine looks to retail for about $40 and if it looks anything like the 2009, it’s money well spent.

I see plenty more Mayford and Alpine Valleys Shiraz in my future.

Redbank Fiano 2014


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.
13% abv.

Brown Brothers Patricia Cabernet Sauvignon 2004


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.
13.5% abv.

Whistling Duck 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon


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.
12.0% abv

Kooyong Clonale Chardonnay 2013


Once upon a time I drank very little Chardonnay – no idea why, but I suspect I’d jumped on the ABC bandwagon without even thinking about it. And it is true that once upon a time, much Australian Chardonnay was over oaked and one dimensional – especially the stuff that was exported. I don’t recall drinking an Australian Chardy while living in the UK – but very serviceable Chablis and white Burgundy was available for almost knock down prices, so I didn’t need to seek out the classier Australian efforts.

A couple of years ago I took part in the Negociants Working with Wine program in which one masterclass focussed on Chardonnay. One of the panellists was Sandro Mosele of Port Phillip Estate and Kooyong. I can’t recall (and I am too lazy to get off the sofa and find notes from two years ago!) if we tried the Clonale at that tasting but the event certainly put the Kooyong wines on my radar.

Since then, for me, the Clonale Chardonnay has been one of those very reliable, almost go-to wines. It is reasonably widely available and you do see it on the odd wine list. At around $25 per bottle retail it also falls into my ‘weekday drinking’ price bracket. I do realise that my tolerance for spending on wine far exceeds that of many people – but don’t worry as this wine is definitely good enough to be special occasion material.

In the glass the wine is a pale gold in colour and while oak does rather dominate the nose, there is some spice along with lemon and lime.

Don’t be put off by the oak on the nose though as on the palate there is a lot more fresh fruit evident. Lemon, lime and green apples, along with a touch of ripe pear and the oak sneaks in later. There’s good acidity and excellent structure: the palate develops really beautifully and the wine has good length.

While I do think that $25 a bottle is a more than fair price for this wine, its reliability gives it some extra bonus points. Even if you think you don’t like oaked Chardonnay this is a wine worth checking out – especially if you can just cadge a glass from a friend’s bottle!

$25 from Dan Murphy’s.
13.5% abv.

Oakridge 2009 Chardonnay Pinot Noir


Oakridge is a brand with which I’m a little familiar – mainly by reputation but I’m pretty sure I’ve encountered the wines at at least one tasting.

As it feels like a while since I’ve had some bubbles, I popped into East End Cellars and pretty much picked up the first thing I saw that I hadn’t tried (and wasn’t crazy money!). It was the Oakridge 2009 Chardonnay Pinot Noir. In typical fashion, I took it up to the counter and said “is this nice?”. The guys assured me it was, so I took it home and put it in the fridge, so it would be all ready for a bubble emergency.

Something like 24 hours later, the bottle was duly opened. As soon as the cork was phutted (I open bubbles properly … there’s no crazy popping here!) a gorgeous yeasty aroma was released and I was hopeful I was in for a treat.

I wasn’t disappointed.

In the glass, the wine is very pale straw in colour – almost lemon like, which surprised me given its age and the fact that it’s spent 3 years on lees (the same legal minimum as vintage Champagne). The nose is quite pronounced, with beautiful toasty and yeasty notes, accompanied by vanilla and citrus.

On the palate, there is some very good, persistent acidity, and a very pleasant phenolic grip which really adds to the mouth feel. Lovely lemon and lemon sherbert flavours, with great length and flavour development, so you end up with lemon pith. There is also some brioche character but the palate isn’t nearly as bready as the nose might suggest.

An absolutely lovely wine – one I’d definitely buy again. It’s a shame I can’t find it on the Oakridge website …

Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch 2010 Merlot Lagrein Tempranillo


Well, isn’t that a mouthful and a half?! I first became aware of the Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch brand way back in 2009 when Andrew Barrow wrote about the Shiraz and Chardonnay, which were being sold in the UK by Naked Wines. Brand awareness in place, it’s been ‘on the list’ ever since. Which shows you that I need more time, more money and quite possibly some kind of reserve liver.

Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch is a label produced by Plunkett Fowles in Victoria’s Strathbogie Ranges. In addition to the Chardonnay and Shiraz, the stable also consists of a Riesling and this unfamiliar blend of Merlot, Lagrein and Tempranillo.

There’s an awful lot I could write about this wine but that would make for one long blog post, so I’ll focus on the quirkiest aspect of this wine: the Lagrein. Lagrein hails from, and is indeed native to, Alto Adige in north eastern Italy. Wine Grapes tells us that it’s been written about since the fourteenth century and has a complicated family tree (including being a cousin of Shiraz and a grandchild of Pinot!). Got to love DNA analysis!

In Italy, where it is found in Trentino as well as Alto Adige, it is often blended but varietal wines are allowed by both DOCs. There are quite a few Australian producers, and I’ve enjoyed it before in a Heartland wine, where it was blended with Dolcetto. There are also a few Californian producers – although with just 31 hectares in 2008 I think we’d struggle to find those wines in Australia.

Wine-geek talk over, the thing to take away is that this is an unusual blend and you’re unlikely to find parallels within Australia, let alone in European wines. In many ways, this is a good thing because it means you can come to the wine with no expectations.

In the glass the wine is a very pretty ruby colour, which is reasonably dense. The nose is quite pronounced and initially comes across as a touch alcoholic, but it has a fabulous warm spice aroma, with a hint of herbaceousness. There are also black plums and black cherries with a touch of vanilla and dark chocolate. This is a pretty complex nose and there’s plenty there to think about and also to struggle to pin down!

In the mouth, this wine is all black plum with slightly earthy characters and chocolate and vanilla. There’s really good acidity and the wine finishes with a real flush of fresh fruit, including sour cherry. The tannins are very soft: unless you put in serious thought you won’t spot them but I suspect you’d miss them if they weren’t there! The length is good, but if you want to be really picky you could complain that it rather flatlines with the sour cherry.

I loved this wine. Don’t come to it expecting big, bold fruit flavours or mouth drying tannins because you’ll leave disappointed. But if you want a wine which is immensely drinkable, with some lovely complexity, and that is extremely food friendly, then you’ve come to the right spot.

I’d also like to commend Plunkett Fowles for the comprehensive tasting note on the website. If you want the nitty gritty on this wine, take a read! I wish more wineries provided this level of detail.

This wine was purchased from Belair Fine Wine for $30. It’s worth every penny.
Closure: screw cap
13.5% abv

Blue Pyrenees NV Luna

Quite a while ago I was trawling the sparkling aisles of Dan Murphy’s (something I usually find pretty depressing as it’s a very predictable and both limiting and limited selection) when I saw the Blue Pyrenees Luna. This is a non vintage offering, but is still produced in a “méthode traditionelle” manner. Technically, this means that the secondary fermentation process takes place in the bottle, and is generally something to look out for when seeking out a potentially better than average sparkling.

The Luna retails around $16 and last time my family got together there was some vigorous debate about whether or not the extra $10 represents money well spent. As Andy pointed out the Midnight Cuvée (a popular go to wine in our family) is ⅔ more expensive but is it that much better than the Luna? Some of us were firmly in the camp that we liked the Midnight Cuvée more and, without analytically measuring the degree to which we liked it more, we were happy to spend the extra money.

Family debate aside, the wine is medium gold in colour and the nose is moderately pronounced: buttered toast, citrus with a hint of toasted pandoro too. On the palate, there is less of those yeasty, bready notes (these are all thanks to the méthode traditionelle production) and more straightforward citrus. There’s a touch of berry fruitiness too, which closes out the wine. This is a really nicely balanced wine, particularly in terms of flavour. It’s lacking in complexity and doesn’t have the acidity and length to get too excited about. But wait – we’re talking about a sparkling wine which sits well under $20 so we shouldn’t be too demanding, either.

I wouldn’t put this as my favourite sparkling at this price point (at the moment, that gong goes to the Deutz from Marlborough, which pains me as I’d rather buy Australian) but this wine definitely represents good value for money.

As to whether it’s dollar for dollar better value than the Midnight Cuvée, I suggest you buy a bottle of each and make your own mind up!

Brown Brothers Patricia Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut 2006

As it’s getting close to the weekend it’s time to think about celebratory, weekend wine and for me that means bubbles! I’ve had my tasting note for the Brown Bros Patricia hanging around for a while so I figured it was time to commit it to the internet.

Patricia Brown was the matriarch of the Brown family and the wines that bear her name are the winery’s flagship wines. The sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay comes from the winery’s Whitlands vineyard in Victoria’s King Valley. The 2006 is 79% Pinot and 21% Chardonnay and was made the same way that Champagne is made (you’ll see this on bottles as méthode traditionelle or méthode champenoise). Amongst other things, this means that the wine has spent its entire life in the bottle you pick off the shelf – including the five years it has spent on lees.

This time on lees, where the sparkling wine lies in the bottle with the dead and dying yeast (oh, right – that sounds so attractive) is what gives good sparkling wines from around the world their complexity. As the yeast runs out of sugar in the wine it starts to eat itself and this process, known as autolysis, gives vintage sparkling wines their characteristic yeasty, bready notes.

With vintage sparkling wine it’s important to remember a few things. Firstly, it will usually cost more than a non vintage because it’s taken more time to put together, and often uses better fruit and production techniques. The wine is much more likely to be savoury than its non vintage counterpart. If you’re not a fan of yeasty, bready, nutty and perhaps even Vegemite like characters in your sparkling wine then proceed with caution. But because of this savouriness, vintage bubbles often work brilliantly with food.

In the glass, this wine is pale gold in colour and I note comparatively few bubbles (although this depends so much on the glass that I’m almost reluctant to write that down!). The nose is all about toasted brioche and bread and butter pudding with a touch of vanilla.

On the palate, the Patricia is very savoury. There’s very good acidity which is softly persistent. There’s a little bit of lemon that comes through, and a slight nuttiness, but this wine is really all about those savoury characters – it’s yeasty, brioche like and has a slightly meaty flavour which is perhaps best described as umami or Vegemite (think just a hint of Vegemite smeared on buttered white toast, rather than slathered on!).

I enjoyed this wine – this style of bubbles is definitely my thing. If you’re interested in exploring vintage sparkling wine this also represents a reasonable, and reasonably priced, introduction before you start delving into the considerably more expensive Champagne.

Jeremy, over at Wine Will Eat Itself, also enjoyed this wine, back in May.

This wine was purchased from Dan Murphy’s (Marion), $40.
Closure: cork.