2012 was the best Riesling vintage for a decade
2013 was the hottest summer on record
There were many days when I preferred cold beer to chilled white wine, but there were late evening picnics at the beach where Riesling improved the flavour of cold chicken. This is one of the best-kept secrets in matching food and wine: roast chicken and Aussie Riesling. Wine and food scribes always talk about eating oysters and shellfish with young Rieslings, because of their lime juice and mineral flavours.
They’re wrong in my view: there’s too much fruit even in our young Rieslings, which perfectly complements the sweet meat of chicken and even light cuts of pork. So does the citrus character of the fruit. Older Rieslings develop more flavour so the match works even with richer chicken dishes. If people only knew that Riesling and roast chicken are a match made in heaven, the price would go through the roof. As it is, Rieslings resolutely remain super bargains.
I had a chance to taste two members of the same family: The Pewsey Vale and the Heggies Rieslings, both from 2012, both from Eden Valley. The family is Yalumba, which decided long ago to market these wines under their individual vineyard labels. An interesting branding strategy, but it worked. As you can see, both wines are even made by different winemakers.
I prefer the Pewsey Vale because it has a bit more zip and fresh fruit and fine acid to carry it. The Heggies is a bit rounder and a touch more forward. There’s not that much in it - as you can see, residual sugar is the only real difference. That explains why the Heggies is more forward, but I can’t see it lasting 15 years. The Pewsey Vale will last that long. It’s the better wine, even though it’s a couple of dollars cheaper. I’ve bought some of this wine for less than $14 a bottle, which is ridiculous. At present, they’re $15 and $17 respectively at Kemenys.
Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2007 - $15 at Dan M’s
Found this by accident, really, available online only. This wine is in between two stages, and a bit unsettled. It’s no longer young but retains some fresh acid on the finish, and it’s also developing aged characters – that whiff of kero and hair oil old Rieslings get. I think it’ll be a good one when it settles down in a couple of years or three. Again, the price is ridiculous. Not sure how much is left at Dan M’s.
I also confirmed in my own mind what a lovely wine and great bargain the 2012 is. At present it’s going for less than $13 at Kemenys and Dan M’s.
Nugan Estate King Valley Frasca’s Lane Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 - $17 at Dan M’s
I like the 2009, and I like the 2010 for the same reasons: it’s a well-made, it’s three years old and on the way to settling down and filling out. Good chardonnays need 5 years or more to show their true colours, great white Burgundies need 10. This one avoids the current affection of wine judges for grapefruit and lemon curd and leans instead toward stone fruit like white peaches and nectarines, touched up with some spicy oak. Give it a couple of years to settle down, and it will do you proud.
dA Chardonnay Limoux Reserve 2011 - $15 at Dan M’s
This is another good Chardonnay, a bit more forward and ready to enjoy. Cashews and toasty oak, all well put together and quite enjoyable. From the Languedoc, the Riverina of France, claims an Appelation Origine Controllee. It’s well-made and decent value too.
Wither Hills Chardonnay 2011 – $14 at Kemenys
It’s unusual for me to strike a group of three Chardonnays that are all good buys. Yes, it’s the 2011 W Hills I’m reviewing but I lost the bottle so the photo is of the 2010. It was $12 at Dan M’s the day I bought it, but has since jumped back to $15. This is a really fresh, juicy, vibrant kind of Chardy. There’s just a hint of grapefruit here before we savour white peach and a touch of French oak and a hint of cashews. There’s a nice, clean line of acidity running through the wine, and I found it very appealing. Not a huge amount of complexity here but just lovely, lively drinking.
Tahbilk 2007 Marsanne - $16 at Dan M’s (2007 Cellar release)
Another bargain white that Tahbilk has been making forever from vines planted in1927. Marsanne is a variety grown mostly in the southern Rhone Valley where it is blended with Roussanne and other varieties. When it’s young, this wine is a fresh and clean summer white that does go with shellfish. After a few years it develops lovely toasty, honeysuckle characters, but this one isn’t quite there yet. Give it another year or five.
Paul Jaboulet Cotes du Rhone Parallele 45 Rouge 2009 - $17 Cracka
My mate Reg threw this one into the ring, saying it was a good drop, and I enjoyed it with a small lamb roast. Easily recognisable as a Cote-du-Rhone from its dusty, slaty characters, it shows elegance, balance and length. Again not a complex wine but I’d be happy to drink it often. It’s a bit hard to track down, this one. Never bought anything from this stupid Cracka outfit that clutters up the search engine results – anybody bought wine from them?
Paulette Polish Hill River Clare Valley Cabernet Merlot 2007 – $20 at Dan M’s
The Polish Hill River thing gets me every time – is it a hill or a river? I guess it’s both. This sub region of the Clare (Watervale and Sevenhill are others) has been made famous by Jeffrey Grosset and his fabulous Rieslings, which are way beyond our $25 threshold. Paulette is well-known but makes lovely, delicate Rieslings here as well, and reds like this elegant number which is Australian in flavour and French in its elegance. Nice change if you like your reds with a bit of finesse.
Fraser Gallop Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $20 at 1st Choice
At one stage last year, they sold this for less than $15.This SSB from a boutique Margaret River maker got rave reviews (96 from Halliday among others) and I like it too, I just don’t think it’s developed the way I expected. Lots of flavour, for sure, but not showing as much finesse or restraint as the West Cape Howe below. Great food wine, though. Dan M has the 2012 for $19.
Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - $12 at Kemenys
This wine didn’t convince a year ago or more so it was surprise how it’s flourished. Can happen with SB in a good vintage, and 2011 was one of those (2012 is much more forward). The Oyster Bay 2011 did the same thing. More herbaceous than I recall, quite full-flavoured now but all held in balance. Great with fried salmon.
West Cape Howe Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – $15 at 1st Choice
Bought this a year ago before 1st Choice still offered sharp prices on lots of good wines. As I’ve written elsewhere, Coles tossed in the towel last year in its battle with Woolworth’s, at least on the wine front. That 1st Choice still has the 2010 on the shelf just goes to show how few people know this medium-sized winery in the Great Southern region of Western Australia.
This wine is fine and restrained and developing slowly, because of the Semillon component. Grass, herbs and minerals, perfect with delicate seafood. The current 2012 that’s around for the same money might be a bit more forward from what I’ve seen of the vintage over there. They also make a good straight Sauvignon Blanc and some great reds as well. Winery is top-rated by James Halliday (5 red stars).
Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc 2011 –$12 at Dan M’s (for the 2012)
I’ve yet to be convinced by one of these. 2011 was a great year for SB in New Zealand but this one is a flabby, non-descript white with some tropical fruit. A slouch with no class or posture. Maybe a bit harsh, that. I’m not tempted to buy the 2012 but it’s cheap at Dan M’s this week.
Printhie Mountain Range Pinot Gris 2011 – $18 at Dan M’s
I liked the Printhie Pinot Gris 2010 from Orange, and the label, but the 2011 is not in the same class. The ripeness surprises, given the wet year, and it lacks the acid to hold it together. She’s a bit like a woman who’s put on some weight and hasn’t yet had her dresses altered. Might’ve been better 12 months ago – Pinot Gris can develop at breakneck speed, so don’t keep it too long. As an aside, Kemenys sell these whines for less than $14, but only have the 2011 Chardonnay in stock (not tasted, the 2010 was OK).
Reserve Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010 - $20 at the Pott’s Point Deli next to Woolworths on McLeay
This is a lovely deli with some interesting wines, and thjis one caught my eye. The enthusiastic boys there said it was a bargain but I have to disagree. It’s pleasant enough with soft, ripe fruit nodding vaguely in the direction of Pinot Noir, but it lacks flavour and conviction and the depth and backbone to keep it in shape, really. It’s drinkable but there are better reds out there for the money.
Madfish Bay Margaret River Golden Turtle Shiraz 2010 – Dan M’s $14
Another disappointment in this new range from Howard park Wines. The Cabernet Merlot is a steal but this is a clumsy red devoid of charm and appeal. Barely recognisable as Shiraz, certainly not from Margaret River – I would’ve picked it as a Hunter from an ordinary year or maker.
XANADU Next of Kin Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – $15 at Bonds Corner Fine Wines
Much the same comments as for the Golden Turtle Shiraz, strange as it is. Not readily recognisable as Cabernet or Margaret River, clumsy and unappealing. No major faults really, just not much chop. The 2010 is in the shops now and gets a decent review and 91 points from the boys at Winefront. The 2010 Shiraz under the same label is a winner, btw.
Goundrey Homestead 2012 - $10 at Dan Murphys
The 2011 was a winner, a fresh, uncomplicated mouthful of grapes, but this is rubbish, sweet lolly water, unrecognisable as Chardonnay, unstructured, unconvincing at half the price. There’s no justification for putting out wine this bad, and BRL-Hardies ought to hang its corporate head in shame. This goes down with the awful, undrinkable OOMOO GSM 2010 on my shortlist of worst wines ever tasted.
M.Chapoutier Luberon 2011 - $13 at Dan M’s
These minor Rhone reds can be nice drinking but not this one. It starts in a promising way but soon reveals unpleasant, sweaty and swampy characters you don’t want to associate with. A low blow from the usually reliable Chapoutier.
Turners Crossing Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - $20 at 1st Choice
Turners Crossing is a highly rated winery in the Bendigo region, and the wines are made by well-regarded Sergio Carlei who also has a winery in the Yarra Valley. The Shiraz Viognier is the more well-known of the two reds under this label, and I like the 2008. This Cabernet is a mess, however, with a green vegetative character (I thought it might be mint on the nose initially) spoiling the show. It got worse over a couple of days - not really drinkable. Maybe this was a bad bottle?