Honey Moon Vineyard Rose Brut 2011

20151231_092158wine cat approves

I promised you some more bubbles before the new year kicked in and I’m only just managing to squeeze this in. Appalling form but I suppose that at this time of year it’s to be expected (unless I were one of those people who wrote blog posts months in advance and scheduled them all … maybe one day!).

A few weeks back we were out for dinner vaguely near Belair Fine Wines when Andy suggested we drop in to have a look. While having a little wander, my eyes lighted on these Honey Moon bubbles. I am a HUGE fan of the Honey Moon Shiraz and Pinot Noir so I was keen to try this out.

The Honey Moon wines aren’t cheap – they all (bar the still rosé) seem to hover between $40 and $50 so you may need to save them for special occasions. When it comes to bubbles, in my opinion, ‘special occasion’ is generally ‘day with a “y” in it’!

After the experience of both this and another rosé sparkling, I really think these are wines I am going to have to drink more often because I’ve really enjoyed them, perhaps a little bit above and beyond white bubbles.

This wine is predominantly Pinot Noir – just 13% Chardonnay. The wine is also disgorged on demand – on the side of the bottle it notes that it was disgorged for Belair Fine Wines in September 2014. The theory is that while the wine rests on the yeast lees it remains fresh, vibrant and young and takes on aged characteristics much more slowly Once disgorged, the ‘regular’ sparkling wine ageing process kicks in. Indeed, Bollinger, one of Champagne’s well-known houses, has trademarked ‘RD’ (neatly, ‘recently disgorged’ in English but really ‘récemment dégorgé’ in French), which it uses on one of its (more) premium wines.

Another good thing about this wine is that it arrives in your hands topped with a crown seal. You won’t have to spend time messing with the muselet and lacerating your hands and then breaking the Ming vases when the cork explodes out. Just locate the bottle opener and you’re good to go. I really wish that more sparkling wine came under crown seal – after all, it is what most of these wines are sealed with while they’re ageing, AND it’s easy to open.

So – ticks all round for this wine. If you can find it – it’s definitely worth investing in.

The wine

Salmon pink in colour, with a reasonably pronounced nose showing strawberries and cream, a hint of talciness and citrus.

On the palate, the mousse is incredibly fine and mouth filling. The citrus character is a little more dominant and I suspect it is beefed up by the wine’s excellent, and very persistent, acidity. But this wine is all about strawberries and cream and mixed red berries.


Honey Moon Vineyard Rosé Brut, purchased from Belair Fine Wines for $45
Crown seal.
12.5% abv.

Jansz Vintage Cuvee 2010


After doing a relatively good job of keeping up weekly posts I’ve dropped into an unplanned hiatus. I blame (in part) the fact that some contractors near home cut through a big chunk of telecommunications cable, leaving us without phone or internet for over a week. Of course, if you’re kind that excuses just one week (sort of) …

Anyway, ’tis the season to be jolly and drink bubbly so I’ve got a couple of sparkling reviews lined up for you. I’ve decided to start with this, the Jansz Vintage Cuvée 2010, in part because it was a sample and I do try to review samples promptly but also because Jansz’s NV offering is such a well known wine. I suspect many people will not even be aware of the other wines in this range.

You may be aware that a vintage sparkling wine (or Champagne) is made from grapes from a single vintage (that is, the grapes are all picked in one year, the year that appears on the bottle). This means that you should see variation in the wine between one vintage and the next (whereas with a non-vintage – NV – wine it is likely to follow a consistent house style). Vintage wines are often (necessarily) made in smaller quantities and this is reflected in their price. Indeed, in France, Champagne producers are obliged to age the wines for longer so this increases the price further.

This wine has had four and a half years ageing on the yeast lees so you should see plenty of yeast character in the wine. It is 51% Pinot Noir and 49% Chardonnay.

The wine

Pale gold in the glass, the nose is quite pronounced and shows apple and citrus, some smoke and spice and even verges towards a talcy character. There are, unsurprisingly, yeasty notes.

In the mouth, the mousse is beautifully fine and mouth-filling – straight away you feel like you’ve got a mouth full of teensy-tiny bubbles. The wine is very apple-y, with green apple skin but also some good yeast and brioche characters. The acidity is good (always essential in sparkling wine – it’s what makes it refreshing!) and the wine has good length.

This wine is lovely and would work really well with seafood – think oysters, scallops, prawns – fresh and not messed with too much! For me the highlights were the lovely mouthfeel – the explosion of fine bubbles – and the extra complexity.

Definitely a step up in the sparkling wine stakes and if you’re going to splash out over Christmas then this is worth a look. While the RRP is $46.95 the chances are that if you do some research you will find it more cheaply. I spotted it at under $40 – a very compelling price point.

And props to the marketing people for the “méthode tasmanoise” strapline!

Jansz Vintage Cuvée 2010, sample. RRP $46.95.
Cork (standard sparkling wine closure).
12.5% abv.

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.

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 …

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

Mountadam High Eden NV Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay


Quite often Andy is dispatched on a wine buying mission for me. I don’t think he enjoys this experience so I always try to pick out at least one thing for him to buy (more than one just in case option 1 is not in stock). Wine stores – this is why you need to have an up to date and comprehensive list on your website.

One Friday he was dispatched on such a mission and I randomly picked the Mountadam High Eden NV Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay. I’d love to provide you with a link to the actual wine but either the Mountadam website is really out of date or the horrible Flash monstrosity that appears to be the “Wines” page doesn’t render correctly in my browser of choice. I’ve actually really struggled to find you any other information about this wine on the internet although if you have a subscription you may care to check out The Wine Front, which at least is relatively recent and not trying to sell you the wine.

So now you’re just going to have to trust me.

In the glass the wine is quite gold in colour, with lots of bubbles*. The nose is not particularly pronounced but there’s Granny Smith, rose and strawberry. The palate has plenty of crisp acidity but I did feel there was perhaps just a touch too much tart/bitter lemon action. All these tart flavours dominate: Granny Smith and citrus but not enough sweetness (as in flavour sweetness, not actual sugar in the wine) for me. I’d like some of that strawberry that was on the nose to come through on the palate. The wine does have good length but it’s clean and simple, rather than offering complex and developing flavours. I also didn’t get any of the bready, yeasty notes that I like to find in bubbles, but more I was disappointed by the lack of fruit sweetness on the palate.

I paid (well, Andy, as my proxy) paid $24 for this wine. At this price point, I think there are better and/or more interesting wines you can buy. However, if you could pick this wine up sub $20 I’d definitely give it a go.

Given its flavour profile, I’d recommend drinking this as an apéritif wine, rather than trying to pair it. Maybe it’d work with oysters though.

This wine was purchased from East End Cellars for $24.
Closure: cork.

* Yes, I’m aware this is more to do with the glass and how clean it is and less to do with the wine. If this type of wine geekery interests you, check out this piece from The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog.

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.

O’Leary Walker 2010 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay


I have no problem defending Chardonnay. The ABC* brigade is a bit tiresome – 10 or 20 years ago maybe there was a point but these days Australian Chardonnay is being made in such a range of styles that saying you don’t like it is, to me at least, kind of like saying you don’t like white wine, or you don’t like lamb. Have you had every white wine? Have you had every cut of lamb cooked every possible way?

So I urge everyone reading this point to give Chardonnay a rethink. If you don’t like big, oaky, ripe Chardies take a look at a few unwooded examples such as the extremely affordable Mike Press Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

If you like oaky – let me introduce you to the O’Leary Walker 2010 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. I was a huge fan of this wine over Summer but I don’t remember it being so oaky (which makes me wonder if it was the 09 I was drinking …).

The wine is pale gold in the glass and the nose is dominated by the oak, with citrus and nectarine (stone fruit). On the palate there’s good acidity, and again the wine is oak dominant. The fruit is all lemon and lemon curd, with buttery and creamy notes. I found the finish a trifle hot. I did write the tasting note a day after opening the bottle and I do find that this can exacerbate hotness.

I still think this is a good wine, although I’d prefer a touch less in your face oak. Andy bought this for me and thought he paid about $27 for it – this is a notoriously unreliable measure of price though! The O’Leary Walker website lists it for $22 and a quick search of the internet suggests you should be able to pick it up around the $20. This is much closer the money.

If you like this style of Chardonnay this is a lovely example.

The wine was purchased from Cellarbrations (price uncertain).
Closure: screw cap.

* Anything But Chardonnay