This is a very approachable and attractive expression of Margaret River shiraz. Its overt aromas of spice and blueberry are complemented by a full bodied palate with good length on the finish. Ready to drink now and over the next 4 to 5 years. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 14%. Price: NA. Website: http://willsdomain.com.au. Source: Sample. Reviewed: September 2019.
This is a pleasant and approachable Margaret River cabernet sauvignon from the 2018 vintage. It has an aroma of ripe cassis and its palate reminds of blackcurrant and clove. Ready to drink now. Rating: Good. Abv: 14%. Price: NA. Website: http://willsdomain.com.au. Source: Sample. Reviewed: September 2019.
Very pale in colour, this rosé from Wills Domain in the Margaret River is a blend of 85% shiraz and 15% sauvignon blanc. In the glass, it has a fruity aroma of ripe red strawberries. The palate has a soft body but firm acidity. Ready to drink now. Rating: Good. Abv: 12.6%. Price: NA. Website: http://willsdomain.com.au. Source: Sample. Reviewed: September 2019.
This is a good sparkling wine from Wills Domain. However perhaps its most surprising feature is that it is made from 100% scheurebe. Scheurebe is an early twentieth century German cross of riesling and “bukettrebe”, and well regarded as such, but finds its home mostly in Germany and Austria. Apparently some has found its way to the Margaret River. In the glass, this sparkling wine has aromas of apples, lemon and a touch of bread. The palate is fresh with good acidity and balance. Ready to drink now. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 12.6%. Website: http://willsdomain.com.au. Source: Sample. Reviewed: September 2019
This artistically labelled wine from Wills Domain in the Margaret River is a sparkling rosé made from 100% merlot. Pale in colour, it has aromas of red fruit and toast. The palate is dry and pleasant and has a delicate mousse. A well made wine that is ready to drink now. Rating: Good. Abv: 12%. Price: $39. Website: http://willsdomain.com.au. Source: Sample. Reviewed: September 2019.
Devil’s Lair is a brand owned by Treasury Wine Estates and this is the 2014 vintage of their cabernet sauvignon from the Margaret River. It opens to aromatics of clove and eucalyptus, the latter a character that I notice in a lot of Margaret River cabernets. The palate is dry and somewhat stern in bearing, overly so for me. Rating: Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $40. Website: www.devils-lair.com.au.
The new Langtons classification (classification VII) of Australian wine was released last week. It is stated to measure the performance of wines in an open market, with the condition of entry being 10 vintages and a track record in the secondary market. The list has been prepared for many years now, and is prepared by Langtons, a company that forms part of an Australian supermarket conglomerate. You can read it here.
It’s actually a pretty interesting list, even though it is easy to cynical about lists and since it’s wine, everyone has a view. The facts are it captures many, perhaps almost all, of Australia’s great wines and helps provide an easy reference point to quality Australian wine for expert and new comer alike. I think it therefore is of use.
In this post, I wanted to sift through the list to see what has changed, as that is potentially of interest in spotting trends. So, I am going to look at the promotions, demotions and departures. The latter two have seemingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly at least from producers, attracted little comment that I have seen. Here’s what I found.
Promotions at the top level (exceptional)
At the top level, there is only one move, a new entrant. The new wine is Best’s Thomson Family Great Western Shiraz. I have tasted this wine on few occasions, but it is a very good wine. There are many outstanding wines at this level. I do think though that Grange and Hill of Grace remain above most of them.
Promotions at second level (outstanding)
At the next level, twelve wines were promoted:
1 Best’s Bin 0 Great Western Shiraz
2 By Farr Sangreal Pinot Noir, Geelong
3 Charles Melton Nine Popes Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre, Barossa Valley
4 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz, McLaren Vale
5 Henschke Euphonium Shiraz Cabernet Merlot, Barossa Valley
6 Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet, Great Southern
7 Langmeil 1843 Shiraz, Barossa Valley
8 Leeuwin Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
9 Seppeltsfield Para Liqueur Port, Barossa Valley
10 Yalumba Signature Cabernet Shiraz, Barossa
11 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 Cabernet, Yarra Valley
12 Yeringberg Cabernet, Yarra Valley
These promotions are from quite a mix of regions and styles, with five wines from the Barossa and three wines from around Melbourne, namely the Yarra Valley and Geelong. But it is a strong list. I haven’t encountered a couple – Howard Park’s wine and the Seppeltsfield fortified specifically. Leeuwin’s cabernet sauvignon has improved over the years.
Promotions at the third level (excellent)
At the next level, twelve wines also have been promoted:
1 Cullen Wines Kevin John Chardonnay, Margaret River
2 Deep Woods Estate Reserve Cabernet, Margaret River
3 Hentley Farm Clos Otto Shiraz, Barossa Valley
4 Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley
5 Kooyong Haven Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula
6 Oakridge 864 Chardonnay, Yarra Valley
7 Oliver’s Taranga Reserve Shiraz, McLaren Vale
8 Vass Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay, Margaret River
9 Wine by Farr Tout Pres Pinot Noir, Geelong
10 Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
11 Yabby Lake Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula
12 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 2 Shiraz, Yarra Valley
I have tasted most, but not all, of these wines. Of the twelve, interestingly ten are from the Margaret River and the wine regions around Melbourne. A couple of wines here will be on a higher trajectory, with Oakridge’s 864 chardonnay the most obvious example.
Now, my spreadsheet was tested by trying to track the various movements, so if there is an error here or anywhere else in this post let me know. These are the wines that have been moved down a level:
1 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
2 Chambers Muscat, Rutherglen
3 Chambers Topaque, Rutherglen
4 Crawford River Riesling, Western Victoria
5 Dalwhinnie Eagle Shiraz, Pyrenees
6 De Bortoli Noble One, New South Wales
7 Glaetzer Amon Ra Shiraz, Barossa Valley
8 Grosset Springvale Riesling, Clare Valley
9 Majella Malleea Cabernet, Coonawarra
10 McWilliams Lovedale Semillon, Hunter Valley
11 Noon Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale
12 Paringa Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula
13 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz, Western Victoria
14 Wynns Michael Shiraz, Coonawarra
15 Yalumba Octavius Shiraz, Barossa
This group is a bit of a mixed bag, but they all remain in the classification, so really, it is not that the wines have all suddenly undergone some misfortune. I will return to this shortly, as first I want to mention the wines left out of this classification. They are:
1 Bannockburn Serre Pinot Noir, Geelong
2 Greenock Creek RR Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley
3 Wolf Blass Platinum Shiraz, South Australia
4 Coldstream Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley
5 Katnook Prodigy Shiraz, Coonawarra
6 Lake’s Folly Chardonnay, Hunter Valley
7 Lindemans Shiraz Cabernet, Coonawarra
8 Paringa Shiraz, Mornington Peninsula
9 Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling, Clare Valley
10 Primo Estate Joseph, South Australia
11 Rolf Binder Shiraz, Barossa Valley
12 Sally’s Paddock Cabernet, Pyrenees
13 Savaterre Chardonnay, Beechworth
14 Wantirna Amelia Cabernet blend, Yarra Valley
15 Wild Duck Creek Estate Springflat Shiraz, Heathcote
This is a very interesting list. It would appear to reflect changing styles (rich and bold styles to more elegant), some declining fortunes and perhaps declining interest in a couple of cases.
You can slice and dice these a number of ways to work out trends, but it is interesting to look at which grape varieties and regions had the most net promotions and demotions. Here’s what I found, using a very simple method of promotions minus demotions for grape varieties and regions:
Pinot Noir, net +2
Cabernet sauvignon & cabernet first blends, net +1
Chardonnay, net +1
Shiraz & shiraz first blends, net -2
Riesling, net -3
Margaret River, net +4
Yarra Valley, net +3
Barossa Valley, net +2
Coonawarra, net -4
This is just one means of looking at this information, and wine is notoriously diverse. However, in terms of grape varieties, this may very tentatively suggest that pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet blends are grape varieties on the up, and riesling and perhaps shiraz is not. There is a lot of movement in shiraz both up and down and a lot of shiraz on the list, so I am slow to draw strong conclusions on shiraz, but it is net down.
The funny thing is that this more or less accords with what I anticipated might be seen, except for the cabernet blends. The pinot noir charge is led by the established wine regions around Melbourne – the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Geelong. Tasmania has not yet seen its day, although I think it is coming.
In terms of movements in regions, the Margaret River, the Yarra Valley and the Barossa lead the pack for net promotions. Coonawarra has seen the most demotions. Again, these are not particular surprises. If tentative observations may be made, and there seems no reason not to make them, perhaps it is that the Yarra Valley appears to be rising with more serious producers than ever and the Margaret River has become Australia’s benchmark region for cabernet sauvignon. And Coonawarra, well, I think it could be so much more than it is. Perhaps that is a post for another day.
This is a fresh summer rosé from Calneggia Family Vineyards in the Margaret River. A blend of shiraz and cabernet (62/38), it opens to aromas of spice and vanilla bean. The palate is dry, medium bodied and the spice character carries through. Rating: Good. Abv: 13%. Price: $25. Source: Sample.
This is an outstanding Heytesbury cabernet blend from Vasse Felix from the highly regarded 1995 Margaret River vintage. Nearing the end of its prime drinking window, this is cabernet at its best and I mean that in an international comparative context. This wine would rival most left bank Bordeaux and is compulsory tasting for those lacking belief in Australian wine. It has long length, mature characters of earth and blackcurrant and that ethereal character that distinguishes the finest of wines. I am woefully underweight in Margaret River cabernet and a glance at Vasse Felix’s website suggests that this label is no longer made and notes on older vintages are seemingly not published. A pity on all three counts. (Alc: 14%, Region: Margaret River, Rating: Outstanding, Drink: now, Price: $70+, Tasted: October, 2017)
Other vintages reviewed:
Not rated. Notes only.
The Fraser Gallop cabernets I’ve tried to date have all been very good: classically profiled and well proportioned. The “Parterre” seems to be the wine pitched at the middle of the range, the estate wine a rung lower and the “limited release” above. The 2012 vintage in the Margaret River is yet another good vintage in this region. In the glass, there are aromas of vanilla, clove and blackcurrant. The palate has long length on the finish and its components are in harmony. A short decant is suggested. (Region: Margaret River, Western Australia, Rating: Very Good, Would I buy it based on this tasting? Yes, Drink: 2019 to 2029, Tasted: July, 2017)
Other vintages reviewed: