30 September 2009

Clonakilla 2008 Hilltops Shiraz

I. Like. Big. Reds...and I cannot lie. And you really can't deny that this one is a stonker.

The colour is deep. The aroma is intoxicating. And the drinking is a heady eruption of big, peppery meatiness and warmth. It's long. Strong. And down to get the friction on.

At $25, it gives you a great big bang for your buck and I guarantee you'll be smacking your lips and pouring your second and third glasses in no time.

It is more casual than its two bigger brothers, and that's fine. Sometimes, it's exciting to dress up in a dinner suit - other times, it's more enjoyable to put on your best thongs and just have a BBQ.

Ridiculously good.

Rating: 9
Drink with: a knife and fork
Price: $25

Clonakilla 2008 O'Riada Shiraz

Remarkably, the O'Riada Shiraz is only a small step down from the climactic Shiraz Viognier. And so, if you can't quite plump for the Big Boy, you can quite contentedly settle for his younger brother.

Like the flagship, the O'Riada also gets a little hint of the viognier, and benefits enormously for it. As rare as a drop bear eating a steak tartare, viognier is a white grape that has a happy knack of lending a cheery, floral note to the brutish power of shiraz.

To the nose, the O'Riada is sweet, spicy, and intensely inviting. And for that reason, I didn't waste too much time sniffing it.

The fruit is cherry ripe, and this wine really does have a great texture - like rubbing suede against the grain. It is smokey and delicious, and crying out to be consumed liberally with a nice piece of meat. Or even by yourself. Perhaps with a steak.

Quite simply, this is a great quality, silky smooth red which is worth much more than its $35 price tag. Many other vineyards would get away with nominating this as their flagship, and then charge you $100 for the privilege. But at Clonakilla, their embarrassment of riches is your windfall.

Make the most of it and get on board.

Rating: 9
Drink with: your best Sunday roast
Price: $35

Clonakilla 2008 Shiraz Viognier

It is an inescapable truth that the only respectable things to come out of Canberra are firecrackers, pornography, and the Barton Highway.

Clonakilla, sitting just off the Barton, is fast becoming an icon in its own right and should rightly be added to that list.

Thanks to the genius of Tim Kirk, the Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier is now one of the luminaries of the Australian wine scene. Inevitably, many have tried to follow in the footsteps of this now trendy blend, but no-one else quite manages to achieve the casual brilliance of the genuine article. If ever there was a contender for the crown so tightly held by Grange, then this (in my very humble opinion) is it. And at a fraction of the cost.

Crack the top and let the genie out of the bottle. The colour is tremendous. It blushes like an autumn peach as translucent shards of light flash through the deep-cherry red contents of the glass. Give it a swirl and the legs are longer and more shapely than a Vegas chorus-line on opening night.

The nose is a panoply of all that is good in this world. A garden of spring-time flowers. Delicious gravy scrapings from a Sunday roast. The intoxicating spice of a Marrakesh marketplace.

You can almost taste the sunshine as you swill it around your mouth. Like your grandmother's best scone, there is a good lug of raspberry jam and a generous dollop of double cream to smooth out the whole experience.

It is a wine that Dionysus himself would have enjoyed in a stupor of orgiastic glory. And then come back for seconds.

Last year's release ('07) was virtually impossible to come by. And a friend of mine made Mr Kirk recoil in horror when he recounted that he'd drunk three bottles within a week of fluking across it in a bottle shop last year. The '08 release is in greater circulation, but you'll still want to be quick - particularly as it is so good.

In short, this is the best wine I've drunk all year. And, if I can keep my mitts off the rest of the case, it will no doubt be the best wine I'll drink for the next 10 years and beyond.

A keeper - but only if you have more discipline than me.

Rating: 9.9
Drink with: Restraint
Price: $75

16 September 2009

Sevenhill 2008 White Spider Semillon Chardonnay

I came across this bottle - or rather, I discovered it - in my "back-up" rack over the weekend.

I don't recall buying it, so I can only assume that a charitable friend (or fiend) brought it for dinner once and left it behind. On that basis, I will be kinder than I might otherwise have been. But, should you choose to read on, please keep that indulgence in mind.

Sevenhill Cellars is the oldest winery in the Clare Valley. It was founded, and is still run today, by the Jesuits. It is a lovely spot, with a lovely old church and lovely old cellar. And apart from table wines, they also enjoy a healthy monopoly in the supply of sacramental wine to the other Catholics. The sacramental wine sells for $15 a bottle. Precisely the same price as the White Spider... And that is your first clue.

Now, we all know that if you happen to attend a Catholic mass, there are sensible reasons for only pretending to take a sip from the Communion cup. Mostly, they involve a desire to avoid the proliferation of herpes. But, equally, you may simply wish to avoid partaking in a ritual which involves swallowing pure gasoline.

I am sorry to say that the White Spider (which is an unusual blend of Semillon and Chardonnay) is not dissimilar. It claims to have the aroma of peaches, and that may certainly be true if they mean Peaches Geldof. Unbathed. And then doused in Impulse bodyspray. It is sickly sweet to the point of suffocation.

The taste is then anodyne in the extreme (to the extent that is possible). There is really little discernible flavour to speak of - although there is a nice, dry finish and just a touch of traditional Clare flintiness. It is relatively easy to drink, in the same way that water is easy to drink. But that is really the best I can say for it because, put simply, it just doesn't have that much to offer.

The last time a Jesuit bored me this much, I was watching the art-house film tedium that is The Mission. I recall, after a mere ten minutes, pleading for the natives to get it all over with by cooking up Father Gabriel and throwing his oboe down the waterfall. And so it was with the White Spider - except that you should replace the words "natives", "oboe" and "waterfall" with the words "me", "wine" and "sink". And leave out the part about Father Gabriel, obviously.

In other news, there is no truth to the scurrilous rumour that the brethren are also planning to release a Rock Spider Shiraz in the near future, that kind of thing now, of course, being widely frowned upon.

Drink with: Raspberry cordial...?
Price: $15

10 September 2009

Bindi 2000 Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc

This is, in all likelihood, the champagne supernova that Oasis refer to in their famed anthem. But then again, since they wrote it in 1995 and this drop was only released last year, it might not be. That is, unless Noel Gallagher can see the future. Which he would probably tell you he can. In which case, it is. But I digress...

This aged Australian sparkling is phenomenal. It is more like champagne than most of the fizz that comes out of Champagne. The colour is bright yellow - like urine the day after asparagus. The nose reeks of earthy, yeasty goodness. And is so yeasty in fact that you can easily visualise the little yeasty beasts feverishly fermenting away at the Chardonnay nectar as they send their millions of tiny bubbles onwards and upwards in a spiral of refractive glory.

It is creamy and thick as it slides over the tongue, but then delivers a crisp, dry, acidic kick as it swims flirtatiously past the tonsils. It is a Vegemite milkshake, with a gin and tonic chaser. A Rubenesque femme fatale, who warms you to her ample bosom and then pierces your heart with her stiletto heel.

I met the winemaker, Michael Dhillon, at a tasting last year. He was unpretentious and down to earth, but complex and serious at the same time. He clearly delivers that stamp in his wine making. I liked him. And I like his wine. A lot.

I should also mention that the Bindi makes the cut at the new Aria restaurant in Brisbane. And I would suggest that it compares more favourably on price and taste to many of the more illustrious, imported bubbles which sit above it. I also suspect that if you treated a date to a bottle of this gear, it may actually end up saving you money on dessert - since you will, in all likelihood, be invited to depart early and skip straight to the naked peek-a-boo.


Rating: 9/10
Drink with: Matt Moran's scallops
Price: $50 (if you are lucky)

01 September 2009

Voyager Estate 2007 Girt by Sea Margaret River Cabernet Merlot

This wine has been a popular option for me since visiting the winery a few years back. I was treated to a generous number of liberal pours at the cellar door, and then kept it going over lunch with the mixed flight of wines and accompanying tasting plate. We ate blue swimmer crab, venison chorizo and duck, while the glasses were continually winged in at a brisk pace by the best hot tottie the Wild West had to offer.

They can afford to be generous I suppose. The winery is one of the most opulent in the country, and is built from the same source of cash that has funded Rose Hancock's bizarre lifestyle over the years. The owner, Michael Wright, is the son of Lang Hancock's business partner. But whereas young Rose squandered her inheritance on pink Rollers and poodles, the Wright heir toiled away with heart and hand to build Voyager Estate. Thanks to the mountain of mining money, and a healthy dose of eccentricity, he has created one of the standout cellar doors in the Margaret River region.

They produce a sizable range of consistently high quality drops at decent prices, and their flagships are the usual Margy suspects - a Chardonnay ($42), and a stellar Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot ($60).

But they also make a Cab Merlot for the everyman, known, patriotically, as the Girt by Sea. $24 a bottle is the list price, but I have seen it as cheap as $17. And, at that price, there is good reason to let us all rejoice.

The '07 Girt by Sea is the colour of a Tuscan terracotta, and it is probably just a little less full-bodied than in previous years. More Kate Moss than Elle Macpherson, although that is obviously not such a bad thing as far as it goes.

It has the soft, spicy aroma of a freshly split vanilla pod, and delivers plummy, fruity goodness with every swallow. It is smooth R'n'B drinking - but, much like a date with Chris Brown, it can still get a little punchy if provoked.

All in all, its beauty is as rich and rare as a footballer with morals. And while we may well have boundless plains to share with Johnny Foreigner (it's from the second verse, stick with me), I'm keen to guard this gem a little more closely.

It is an early drinker, so get stuck in while its young and free.

Rating: 8.5/10
Drink with: a good pizza
Price: $24
Image from: http://www.voyagerestate.com.au/