The Wine Merchant Australia supplement 2018

 

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The Wine Merchant Australia supplement 2018

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ATuOPs50tralian wines 2018 THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES | 1

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Specialists in Australian regional fine wines Five of the top 50 wines in the Australian Supplement 2018 “Wine Merchant Magazine” Croser NV Sparkling, Adelaide Hills Petaluma White Label Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills Petaluma Yellow Label Hanlin Hill Riesling, Clare Valley Petaluma Yellow Label Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot St Hallett Butchers Cart, Barossa Valley 2 | THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES

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ATuOPs50tralian wines 2018 In November 2017, The Wine Merchant invited suppliers to put forward their best Australian wines aimed at independent merchants and tasted them alongside buyers from seven specialists. The tasters were Peter Mitchell MW of Jeroboams/Laytons; Colin Thorne of Vagabond Wines; Ashley Tuiri of Last Try Wines; Greg Andrews of DVine Cellars; Zoran Ristonavich from City Wine Collection; Kent Barker from the Beckford Bottle Shop; Freddy Bulmer from The Wine Society; wine writer Sarah McCleery; and Wine Merchant editor Graham Holter. In this supplement we present the wines that most impressed the judges, narrowing down the original line-up of just over 200 wines into our top 50. For more information about Australian wine please visit www.wineaustralia.com or email uk@wineaustralia.com © Graham Holter Ltd 2017 www.winemerchantmag.com Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT: 943 8771 82 THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES | 3

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Image: Barossa Grape & Wine Association WINES WORTH TALKING ABOUT OUR TOP 50 DEMONSTRATES HOW AUSTRALIA IS BECOMING A FORCE IN THE INDEPENDENT WINE MARKET 4 | THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES T he UK remains the number one export market for Australian wine. Australia is still the biggest-selling country of origin in the take-home trade. It’s been one of the success stories of the past 25 years. But big isn’t a word that always impresses independent wine merchants. They don’t want to sell the same blockbuster brands as the supermarkets, and soaring export figures leave them cold. They’re more interested in the niches and the curiosities, the experimental and the radical, the artisans and the aesthetes. Can Australia really deliver on this front? Increasingly, it’s happening. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise in a country with 65 distinct wine regions and more than 100 grape varieties. And yet in some quarters Australia continues to be defined by the sunshine-in-a-glass Chardonnay and mouthfilling Shiraz that combined to form the country’s advance force in the UK back in the 90s. The pendulum has swung since then. There’s been a noticeable trend towards fresher, more balanced wines with good natural acidity and genuine regional credentials. Cool-climate Australian Chardonnay is described by many commentators as a genuine rival to white Burgundy. Without restrictive laws dictating what they can or cannot plant, an energetic new breed of Aussie winemakers has been eagerly experimenting with new varieties and less familiar wine styles, challenging conventions and changing perceptions of what Australian wine can be. Touriga Nacional, Fiano and Vermentino showed the strongest export growth in Europe last year. Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Arneis have thrived in Victoria’s King Valley since the 1950s, so can hardly be considered novelties, but all three are finding new devotees. It’s made the country a hotbed of innovation and expanded immeasurably the wealth of the Australian offer. The Wine Merchant decided to try to measure the progress with a tasting, attended by a group of specialist retailers, featuring just over 200 wines submitted by some of the leading suppliers of Aussie wines to the independent trade. It’s fair to say opinion was often divided, and some categories performed better than others: nobody is pretending Australia has yet perfected all of the styles that it’s attempting, and the learning curve continues. Yet the potential is there for all to see. We arrived at our Top 50 by selecting the wines that received five-star ratings from at least one of our panel of eight, and in most cases at least two. It reflects the reality of the new Australia: these are specialist wines, aimed at specialist retailers, and they provoke debate. It’s a healthy state of affairs.

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Image: Wine Australia THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES | 5

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AD Moss Wood 6 | THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES

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CROSER NON VINTAGE ADELAIDE HILLS FINE WINE PARTNERS, £17 Very much made in the aperitif style, the judges felt that this sparkling wine delivered nicely at the price. Described as “beautifully flavoured” by Ashley Tuiri, others found it to be delicate, refreshing and good value. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with a fine mousse and a charming creamy quality to the white orchard and floral fruits. PETALUMA YELLOW LABEL HANLIN HILL RIESLING 2015 CLARE VALLEY FINE WINE PARTNERS, £26 Judges were keen on the racy richness of this wine that was, according to Peter Mitchell “rich, toasty and with lime. Long-lived”. There was a lot of praise for the wine’s rounded, tropical-fruit flavours and mineral palate. The Hanlin Hill Vineyard is made up of red loam soils on slate with the vines planted at 550 metres above sea level. Grapes are hand-harvested and gently pressed with only the free-run juice being fermented in stainless steel. PIKES TRADITIONALE RIESLING 2016 CLARE VALLEY SECKFORD AGENCIES, £18.75 Taut, lean Riesling that Freddy Bulmer considered to be “very good”; Peter Mitchell was impressed by the “nice structure and length”. A lively wine with a strong citrus quality and lime and lemon peel coming through as the distinctive fruit flavours. Long-lived in the palate, the wine has a refreshing 11% ABV and 10.5g residual sugar. THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES | 7

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CLONAKILLA RIESLING 2017 CANBERRA DISTRICT LIBERTY WINES, £29.99 An excellent flinty Riesling that captured the judges’ imagination and achieved high scores. There were plenty of positive notes about the wine’s zippy, judiciously-managed acidity, the refreshing grapefruit flavours and its youthful quality, hinting at the delights to come as the wine ages. Riesling has been grown at Clonakilla since 1970. The fruit for the 2017 Riesling comes from estate-owned vineyards around the winery, planted on fertile soils on a bed of decomposed granite. 8 | THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES PETALUMA WHITE LABEL SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 ADELAIDE HILLS FINE WINE PARTNERS, £15 Distinct, nettle-flavoured Sauvignon Blanc with zip and tang that the judges liked. Described as “limey and leafy” with the slightest whisper of spice to the fruit. It packs quite a punch for a Sauvignon. Grapes are harvested from the cool-climate vineyards of the Adelaide Hills and Coonawarra. Primarily fermented in stainless steel, a small proportion was popped into French oak barriques, which gives the wine a touch more weight. SHAW + SMITH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2017 ADELAIDE HILLS LIBERTY WINES, £16.99 A wine with “style and flair” in the words of Colin Thorne, who also enjoyed the wine’s leesy texture. Peter Mitchell found much to like in the “grassy, citrus and wild flower” fruit flavours. Freddy Bulmer noted the “elegance and finesse” and found it to be exactly what he was looking for in a top Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes were sourced from the estate vineyards at Balhannah and Lenswood, complemented by fruit from a small number of highly-valued growers. The wine was matured on the lees for a short period of time before bottling.

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TYRRELL’S WINES SEMILLON 2016 HUNTER VALLEY FELLS, £18.99 Greg Andrews was taken with the “rich, luscious stone fruit”, while Peter Mitchell found it to have “fine honeyed notes”, despite being “bone dry”. Others commented on the wine’s linear quality, freshness and balance. Semillon is sourced from some of the finest plots in the Hunter Valley, and much of the wine’s richness can be attributed to lees ageing. DOMAINE NATURALISTE SAUVIGNON BLANC / SEMILLON SAUVAGE 2014 MARGARET RIVER HAYWARD BROS, £25 There was a lot of love for this broad, textured Sauvignon / Semillon blend that Freddy Bulmer found had “a great smell … flinty, toasty. Lovely and drinkable”. Peter Mitchell’s verdict: “Flint, smoke, stone fruit with oak.” Sauvignon Blanc (70%) and Semillon (30%) grapes are harvested from the gravelly soils of the Margaret River and are both fermented and matured in 500-litre French oak puncheons. The wine remains on its yeast sediment during ageing. FOX GORDON PRINCESS FIANO 2016 ADELAIDE HILLS HALLGARTEN DRUITT & NOVUM WINES, £19.49 Pretty, agile, herbal and green apple-like were some of the adjectives used to describe this lovely and quite different Australian Fiano. It was richer than some of the judges might have expected but that was very much to the wine’s credit. The wine hails from the Kersbrook Vineyard to the north of the Adelaide Hills where the soils are shallow and have a high proportion of iron. James Halliday awarded the wine 91 points in his 2017 Wine Companion and Jancis Robinson MW gave it 17 points. THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES | 9

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LAST TRY WINES LONDON I can really see that Australian winemakers are producing wines that are more elegant in style and akin to some of the European classics in a bid to escape their reputation of heavily-oaked wines, particularly Chardonnay. Personally, I love Grenache and I'm extremely pleased to see Tomfoolery Young Blood Grenache in the top 50 as it was my favourite on the day. Grenache is a great variety for Australian winemakers to play with because it’s not typically well known as a single varietal outside of France and Spain. I find the sour cherry characters extremely pleasant and generally speaking I think it’s a very approachable variety for consumers looking to try something a little different without it being too alien. We have quite a large following for Australian wines already, largely because there are a lot of Aussies living in Twickenham, but also because we have customers from the USA and South Africa who prefer that kind of flavour profile. Some consumers are also becoming more interested in organic and biodynamic wines – and these are wines that Australia does well. “GRENACHE IS A GREAT VARIETY FOR AUSTRALIAN WINEMAKERS TO PLAY WITH … I FIND THE SOUR CHERRY CHARACTERS EXTREMELY PLEASANT 10 | THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES Ashley Tuiri

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MCPHERSON WINE CO SUNBURNT CHARDONNAY 2016 CENTRAL VICTORIA LANCHESTER WINES, £12.99 Ashley Tuiri’s verdict on this wine was “fun, light and fruity” and she gave it full marks. Judges were pleased with the restrained use of oak and enjoyed the wine’s clean, crisp, easydrinking quality. Grapes were sourced from vineyards in Central Victoria and the Murray Darling region. Vinified by parcel, each had a slightly different treatment – be it extended lees contact, malolactic fermentation or ageing in French oak. The final blend brings together the best qualities of each parcel. LARRY CHERUBINO AD HOC HEN & CHICKEN CHARDONNAY 2016 PEMBERTON HALLGARTEN DRUITT & NOVUM WINES, £16.49 “Nice smoky notes and orchard fruits” was Peter Mitchell’s view on this wine, with Freddy Bulmer finding it “elegant”. Kent Barker described it as “excellent … cracking wine with a lovely mineral quality … well balanced.” Larry Cherubino’s Ad Hoc wines are made from top-quality fruit sourced across Western Australia from Margaret River to Pemberton, where the team has identified the best sites for each variety. The wine is aged in new and twoyear-old French oak prior to bottling. YERING STATION VILLAGE CHARDONNAY 2015 YARRA VALLEY BIBENDUM / WALKER & WODEHOUSE, £17.99 Ashley Tuiri found much to like here and described the wine as “elegant with an approachable style and lovely fruit”. For other judges, there was appeal in the wine’s creamy, bright-fruited nature. Eighty per cent of the grape must is fermented in oak barrels, the remainder in stainless steel. The wine is then aged in barrel for nine months before bottling. Yering Station was Victoria’s first vineyard. James Halliday has rated the winery as a five-star producer. THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES | 11

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Wine Merchant Top 50 Australian Wines x Tomfoolery Young Blood Grenache 2017 Barossa RRP £20 New-wave Barossa winemaker Ben Chipman uses a minimilistic approach with 20% wholebunch maturation, half in old French hogs and half in stainless steel. The essence of Young Blood is transmitting the raw flavours from the vineyard to the bottle. Wine that is “grown” and not “made”. Light, juicy and delicate Grenache, almost Pinot-like in style. x Domaine Naturaliste By Bruce Dukes Discovery Syrah 2014 Margaret River RRP £20 “Using whole-berry fruit in order to capture the juiciness and carbonic maceration notes from this variety … this is a cru-Beaujolais shaped Syrah, with some softness and brightness … this fabulous and genial wine.” 17.5/20 www.matthewjukes.com; 95 points – James Halliday x Domaine Naturaliste By Bruce Dukes Sauvage Sauvignon/Semillon 2015 Margaret River RRP £25 2/3 Sauvignon Blanc, 1/3 Semillon. Wild ferment, approx 12% new oak. Consistent trophy and award winner, a thrilling and daring SBS that is leading the way for Aussie white blends. 96 points – James Halliday: “A hauntingly complex bouquet” Top 100/Blue Gold/Sydney International; 95 points – Margaret River Wine Show Imported by Hayward Bros 0207 237 0576 wine@haywardbros.co.uk 12 | THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES

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MOSS WOOD CHARDONNAY 2015 MARGARET RIVER LAYTONS, £27.95 There was plenty of praise from the judges for this “nutty, complex Chardonnay with good length”. For Kent Barker, the wine’s winning quality was the marriage of oak and fruit, while Colin Thorne enjoyed the “gingerbread, honey flavour and full-on personality”. Fruit was whole-bunch pressed and the juice racked to stainless steel to commence fermentation and afterwards to 228-litre French oak barrels (45% of which were new). Here the wine stayed for 19 months and during that time it underwent malolactic fermentation. GIANT STEPS CHARDONNAY 2015 YARRA VALLEY LIBERTY WINES, £19.99 Colin Thorne’s verdict: “Feels like a pure vision of the terroir … subtle smokiness”. For Freddy Bulmer the wine has a “lovely hint of straw and herbs with stone fruit and lemon zest”. A full-bodied, nutty Chardonnay with a good backbone of acidity. The fruit is hand-picked and fermented in 500-litre French oak puncheons, of which 20% are new. Lees stirring is carried out for around two months. The wine is then aged for 11 months in 20% new and 80% used French puncheons. OCEAN EIGHT VERVE CHARDONNAY 2015 MORNINGTON PENINSULA HALLGARTEN DRUITT & NOVUM WINES, £30.49 “Finesse and elegance with the body to back it up. Evolves well on the finish” was Freddy Bulmer’s view. Kent Barker described it as “gorgeous” and “cracking!” A wine with a great intensity of fruit while remaining fresh. The vineyard is one of the most northerly on the Mornington Peninsula where the sandy loam soils are known as “brown chromosols”, characterised by their moderate fertility. The fruit is whole-bunch pressed and fermented in old oak barrels. The wine spends about six months in oak before being bottled. THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES | 13

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MARCHAND & BURCH CHARDONNAY 2016 GREAT SOUTHERN ENOTRIA & COE, £32.50 Judges had plenty of warm words for this expressive Chardonnay. For Freddy Bulmer it was “big and ballsy” while Kent Barker praised its balance. Peter Mitchell appreciated this too, as well as the “good use of oak and touch of leesy-ness”. Colin Thorne commented on the “grassy, meadow flowers and the powerful leesy fruit”. The fruit comes from the Mount Barrow Vineyard at Mount Barker. The juice is wild-yeast fermented – half in French oak, half in stainless steel – and then matured for nine months on the lees. A proportion of each batch undergoes malolactic fermentation. 14 | THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES D’ARENBERG MONEY SPIDER ROUSSANNE 2017 MCLAREN VALE ENOTRIA & COE, £13.95 Greg Andrews loved the “sprightly, yet textured” personality of this wine. Ashley Tuiri said “it’s approachable, has an easy drinking style with lovely white peach flavours” and gave it top marks. Judges felt it would be a hand-sell wine, but one whose style would be liked by customers. The first crop of Roussanne from the 2000 vintage was covered in tiny money spiders. It’s said that if you show them kindness, you’ll be brought good luck, and so the decision was made to leave them be. By 2001 the money spiders had relocated and the first wine was made. No oak, no malolactic; just careful crushing and a long and moderately cool fermentation to retain the fresh fruit. YERING STATION LITTLE YERING PINOT NOIR 2016 YARRA VALLEY BIBENDUM / WALKER & WODEHOUSE, £11.99 This Pinot “ticks the boxes” and was praised for its quality relative to the price. Ashley Tuiri commented that “this light Pinot could be served lightly chilled” and anticipated it would be a fast seller. The Yarra Valley-sourced Pinot Noir fruit comes from young vines, and grapes are open-top fermented before being aged in barrels for nine months prior to bottling.

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JEROBOAMS LONDON There are now a lot more red wines with greater freshness and less obvious winemaking. Overall I felt the most successful red wines [at the tasting] were the Cabernet-based ones, which showed good regional variation and nice balance, and were generally good value in a global perspective. The Italian varietals section shows promise … many of these varieties should thrive in the Australian climate. Many of the whites have a lean feel to them and greater elegance than they did a decade ago. A couple of the Chardonnays were very good, with nice weight and balance, and I have tasted others recently that show elegance and freshness more associated with Burgundy. Premium Australia deserves more space on shelves … very few consumers are aware of how brilliantly many of the top wines age, or ever get the chance to taste or buy mature wines. It would also be good to see more of the premium brands, as opposed to smaller producers, making wine that is not quite so squeaky-clean and with a bit less alcohol and overt ripeness in them. The odd peppery or mild herbaceous note is not a bad thing. Short harvests in Europe and the ever-rising price of classics should be a great opportunity, and Australia needs to make sure that its pricing is not too ambitious if it wants to make the most of it. “I FELT THE MOST SUCCESSFUL RED WINES WERE THE CABERNET-BASED ONES, WHICH SHOWED GOOD REGIONAL VARIATION AND NICE BALANCE Peter Mitchell MW THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 50 AUSTRALIAN WINES | 15

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