Chardonnay Stars from Levantine Hill

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit Milford Sound approximately 4 hours from Queenstown, New Zealand during the wet months. There are a myriad of waterfalls that, for me (not so my wife), were fascinating.  I say this because, no two were alike. When you think about it, the whole shape, appearance, and flow of a waterfall is dictated by the journey it took getting to the precipice where it cascades making every waterfall unique.

Same can be said for Chardonnay. Considering the mulititude of climates where Chardonnay is grown and produced in Australia, you know that no two are going to be the same. When it finally reaches its destination (my home) and it cascades from the bottle into my glass, what I know is, I am about to taste and drink something unique to a region, a climate, a soil type. It’s terrior if you like. Even if they come from the same producer, like these two from Levantine Hill, they are individuals in their own right with idiosyncrasies and characteristics unique to them.

2018 Levantine Hill Estate Chardonnay

This is a powerful, elegant and immaculately presented Chardonnay. It boldly stamps its presence on every one of your senses from the intense aromatic introduction to the indomitable stimulation of your taste buds through to the rich, graceful and complex finale.  Generous, mouth-filling fruit flavours, eminently textural, delicate yet impactful acidity and incredible length, it’s a beautifully balanced Chardonnay that needs to be experienced.

Region: Yarra Valley Price: $80 Source: Sample thanks kindly to Levantine Hill

2021 Levant Chardonnay by Levantine Hill

I was immediately intrigued by this wine when I tasted it. It seems to have a business-like air about it yet is wearing chinos and thongs below the sleek suit jacket and stylish open neck shirt. It would sit well in your best glassware at a dinner party but also in an ice-bucket beside a deck chair on the beach.  It has freshness, texture and great fruit weight on the palate. There’s a flavour mix of stone fruit and citrus fruit characters, a slight minerally note and, personality and punch. Plenty to like in this bottled beauty.

Region: Yarra Valley Price: $38 Source: Online purchase

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2019 Golden Grove Estate Mourvèdre

If you are reading this and are 168 years old (not likely of course), your parents planted the seed for you to grow the same year the first Mourvèdre vines were planted in Australia, 1853 in the Barossa Valley, and there were also vines planted in McLaren Vale in the early 1900’s. It was a very popular variety in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s but unfortunately, a lot of it was pulled out in the 1980’s. These days it still doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Wines like this one are bound to changed that.

It looks good in the glass, a lovely deep purple colour. It is very aromatic thanks to an array of dark fruits, slightly herbaceous (and I mean slightly) and just a hint of pepper. The palate is concentrated with generous fruit flavours of blackberry and spicy dark cherry being the mainstays here. There’s a really good mid palate lushness, a savoury element too while tannins and oak play minor roles in the scheme of things. This wine is all about the delicious fruit that just seems to keep on giving.

This one may not have come from very old vines but it is still a Ray Costanzo masterpiece.  Loved it!!

Golden Grove Estate Website

Region: Granite Belt, Queensland     Price: $35 (cheap)     Source: Sample thanks to Golden Grove Estate (cheers Ray Costanzo)

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2017 Grey Sands Shiraz Rosé

The colour of this Rosé got me thinking; how many different colours of the rose flower are there? I googled it (of course) and I was surprised to learn there are only 24 different colours (mind you, there are more than 2500 different varieties). And when you see Rosés in bottleshop fridges and on bottleshop shelves, there is an array of colours that probably total more than 24.

I’m pretty sure the colour of a Rosé is influenced by the grape variety it is made with, and there are many different varieties being used to make Rosés these days. I have my favourites and Shiraz is definitely in the top three.  Here is one that will grab your attention in any bottleshop for its striking colour alone. 

Speaking of colour, this one is so bright it just seems to glow in the bottle and glass. Even at four years of age, it’s still fresh on the nose with bright red fruits to the fore. Being a 100% Shiraz Rosé, those red fruits appear on the palate in a more juicy and generous way, but the wine remains in the Rosé category, if you get my drift, and there is a nice touch of refreshing acidity on the lovely, dry finish. Just how we like our Rosés.

I feel very lucky to have had the pleasure of trying this wine because, unfortunately, it has sold out. Mind you, I am not surprised. 

Grey Sands Website

Region: Glengarry, Tasmania     Price: $40     Source: A generous gift

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2021 Huntington Estate Unwooded Chardonnay

In the last month or so I have seen a fellow playing with a yoyo and a young lady on roller blades. These are things we don’t see much of these days. That’s not to say they haven’t been out there, it’s just they haven’t been as popular as they used to be. Now, I could only do the basics with a yoyo, nothing skilful and, when it comes to roller blades, well, let’s just say we were never friends.

Just like the yoyo and roller blades, unwooded chardonnay has been around for as long as I can remember. It is still out there. You have to look a bit harder for it, that’s all. It’s just that it seems to have become, as a mate said to me, almost the “forgotten white wine”. As far as I’m concerned, it still deserves a place in bottleshop fridges.

It’s fruit forward, fruit focussed and fruitilicious on the nose and palate. It got my attention early on for sure. It’s full of a lovely bunch of fresh fruits such as peach, pineapple, honeydew melon, juicy apple and a squeeze of lemon, that have come together very nicely with balanced acidity in a way that makes it so moreish. Hello unwooded Chardonnay, it’s very pleasing to see you again my friend.

Huntington Estate Website

Region: Central Ranges, NSW     Price: $25     Source: Sample thanks to Huntington Estate

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2019 Angullong Fossil Hill Sangiovese & Tempranillo Releases

If you are a cricket fan, you love it when your favourite batsman scores a hundred (runs) and, when they don’t reach such a milestone, but still make a few runs for the team, we tend to find the positives in their contribution. When Ed Sheeran has a number 1 hit song, we love it and play it over and over again. When he doesn’t quite hit the note with a tune, we are such fans that we still sing along with plenty of verve. And let’s face it, a star cricketer and a talented musician are going to have more hits than misses.

Same can be said for the current release Tempranillo and Sangiovese from Angullong wines. I say that in the context of checking back on my notes of the 2018 vintage of these wines (they were beauties!). As we all know, vintage conditions can vary from year to year which can and do have an effect on the resultant wines. These may not attract the accolades that the 2018s did but they are still very good wines, don’t you worry about that.

Angulong Website

Region: Orange Region, NSW     Price: $28     Source: Sample courtesy of Angullong Wines and Define Wine

2019 Sangiovese

A very attractive colour, similar to the Tempranillo.  It’s quite aromatic where cherry characters dominate, there’s a herbal note too and some berry influence.  Very enjoyable to taste and drink thanks to a good amount of cherry flavour on the medium-ish bodied palate.  I realise it’s only two years old, but there’s a certain youthfulness to it which may be thanks to the additional contribution of fresh, mixed berry characters. There’s a sprinkle of herbs, subtle amounts of tannin and oak as it finishes nice and clean.

2019 Tempranillo

A lovely deep ruby colour in the glass followed by plenty of red fruits on the nose with just a hint of earthiness. On the palate, it leans toward the lighter end of medium bodied, with the fruit flavours more in the ripe red fruits and cherry characters and a pleasant savouriness as well. There’s a nice smoothness to it even if the oak just shows its hand and the tannins present on the moderate length finish.

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2019 Golden Grove Estate Malbec

Put your hand up if you have walked into a bottle shop and asked for a bottle of Malbec. Thought so…not many people have. Okay, so, that’s just an assumption by me but a pretty fair one I reckon. Let’s face it, the main ones that punters handed over their hard-earned dollars for are usually Cabernet, Shiraz, GSM blends and Pinot Noir.  Personally, I think it’s a shame because when you see examples like this one from the Granite Belt, people really need to expand their palates.

The colour, or should I say colours, are terrific! From the middle, it’s a glossy, shiny deep red/maroon, then towards the edges it becomes a vibrant plummy purple colour. The nose and palate exude that same vibrancy. Plenty of black fruits and dark plums present so beautifully and richly yet in no more than a slightly better than medium bodied way if you know what I mean. There’s a smooth and juicy, textural feel that fills every nook and cranny of your mouth. It’s nice and savoury with hints of herbs and spice, the tannins are a little drying but in balance with the abundant fruit and has pretty good length too. My word this is a good wine!!

Region: Granite Belt, Queensland     Price: $35 (Great buying!)     Source: Sample thanks to Golden Grove Estate

Golden Grove Estate Website

2019 Malbec

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Dynamic Rosé Duo from Angullong Wines & Huntington Estate

It’s that time of year isn’t it? In Tassie, weather wise, you just don’t know what the day is going to bring.  Take yesterday for instance.  It was a really nice morning, albeit a bit chilly and then we got wind and some rain.  Not a lot of rain but they were big chunky drops.  By lunchtime, nice and warm with the sun showing its face until grey clouds appeared and more rain but it was quite warm and bordering on humid.  Reading this back, I think the weather people need to introduce the term ‘confusing’ into their forecasts.  It seemed Mother Nature was unable to make up her mind what mood she was in.

It must be said that the Rosés of today are not, and I emphasis ‘are not’, just made for summer drinking.  They are so well made and most in such a style that makes them so universally adaptable, they are compatible to any situation be it weather wise, food wise, circumstance wise or mood wise.  These two really good Rosés seemed to have been made in preparation for anything Mother Nature is prepared to throw at the wine and food world.

2021 Angullong Fossil Hill Sangiovese Rosé

In the words of my wife, it’s a pretty, strawberry colour.  Very inviting aromatically thanks to fresh red berries and a touch floral too.  The palate is the place though.  It’s fresh, it’s juicy and a little savoury too.  Red berries and cherries are the go here, a hint of spice as well.  As you would expect, it’s nice and light in body but there is a nice bit of texture that provides some gentle palate weight, and lovely acid on the good dry finish.  It had me licking my lips for more that’s for sure.

Angullong Wines Website

Region: Orange, NSW Price: $26 Source: Sample courtesy of Angullong wines and Define Wine

2021 Huntington Estate Pinot Rosé

Lovely strawberry aromas get things started and things just move on up from here.  The palate is fresh, vibrant and full of flavour.  Fresh cherries and strawberries are the scene stealers with this gem.  Yes it’s light-ish but, similar to the previous one, it has a creamy/textural addition that seals in the flavour on the palate as it finishes dry, crisp and deliciously long.  With the smile on my face, I was like a cat coming out of the dairy.

Huntington Estate Website

Region: Mudgee, NSW Price: $27 Sample thanks to Huntington Estate

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2015 Grey Sands Pinot Noir

There is a really good, well worn, walking track close by that runs along the edge of the Derwent River.  It provides uninterrupted views of the river, Hobart and Mount Wellington/Kunanyi. Lately, there’s been some upgrading and it’s not as ‘worn’ as it was.  I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I find myself kicking rocks off the track in an attempt to make it more user friendly.  It didn’t take long before it was smooth again and the lumps, bumps and obstacles from the upgrade were ironed out and it was back to being a pleasure to walk on.

I sensed that this Tassie Pinot Noir would have been similar in its youth in that it would have had a few lumps and bumps that, over time and with a little patience, have been ironed out, resulting in a smooth and easily negotiated wine that is a pleasure to explore.  I have no doubt that is why Bob and Rita Richter hold their wines back so they themselves can ‘smooth the path’ for you to enjoy their wines at their absolute best.

Love the colour.  It is so pinot perfect.  The aromas are enticing as much as they are pretty and delicate.  You struggle not to want to look further.  It’s quite bold on the palate, a little meaty too, savoury for sure, dark cherries, blackberry plumpness and a ripe strawberry like character all working well together.  Tannins are, as you’d expect, present but providing support to the wine as a whole rather than a distraction from it, as it finishes long and with a certain elegance too.  From a very good vintage in Tasmania, this is a wine that I have no doubt has plenty of time on its side.

Grey Sands Website

Region: Glengarry, Tasmania     Price: $60     Source: A generous gift

Bottle shot of Grey Sands 2015 Pinot noir
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2019 Golden Grove Estate Granite Belt Joven Tempranillo

Taking nothing away from plenty of other wines I have been drinking, I am really enjoying this style of red wine.  There seems to be quite a few available now that have freshness coupled with plenty of flavour without needing a slab of protein to support them.  I also like that Tempranillos of this style are so easy to sit back and enjoy with a nice long lunch, and are so versatile when it comes to having them with a variety of foods/dishes.  This one, crafted by winemaker Ray Costanzo, fits the bill perfectly, thank you very much!

Mmmmm, the aromas captured my attention with this wine very early on.  A fresh berry and cherry bomb of a nose with just a hint of earthiness.  The medium-bodied palate has a nice, neat, balanced package of fruity, savoury and spicey elements.  Think blackberry, dark cherry, subtle hints of spice and black pepper, that earthiness is here too and a touch of red fruits giving it a sort of brightness kind of lift (if you know what I mean).  It’s very smooth with a touch of tannin sitting pretty, and very little oak influence at all.  It’s a very attractive wine now, so tuck in I say!

Region: Granite Belt, Queensland     Price: $35 (worth every cent!)     Source: Sample thanks to Golden Grove Estate

Golden Grove Estate Website

2019 Joven Tempranillo
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2021 Castle Rock Estate Riesling Triple Treat

We have friends who are triplets, 3 sisters, who we’ve known for many years. All born on the same day, the same year; obviously making them triplets.  Yet, they have such different personalities and idiosyncrasies that was attractive to their respective partners/husbands who themselves are different (meaning personality wise).  Nonetheless, they are very likeable in their own special way. 

These three Rieslings were harvested on the same day and subsequently (pretty much) bottled on the same day.  I reckon that makes them triplets.  Like our friends, they have their own personalities, are likeable in their own way and will each attract particular punters who like their individual characteristics.

(FYI, all were tasted over three days. The Skywalk and Porongurup hardly changed yet the RS21 seemed to develop more flavour and show the excellent balance between acid and sugar even more so).

2021 Castle Rock Estate Skywalk Riesling

A little shy to begin with but soon opened up and showed freshness and good aromatics of citrus, a little musky and floral too.  That freshness is repeated on the palate with rich flavours of lemons and limes, lemon sherbet like characters, mouth-watering acidity and it finishes long and dry.  This is lovely Riesling and great value for money.

Price: $21

2021 Castle Rock Estate Porongurup Riesling

This one is certainly not shy on the nose.  Nicely aromatic straight up in similar fashion to the Skywalk with citrus and floral characters.  Generous fruit flavours on the palate where it’s more limey than lemony, a minerally note there too. The acidity is obvious but is so delicate and fine on the excellent, elegant and lengthy finish.  This is exceptional value for money and would easily sit alongside those in the $30+ range.

Price: $26

2021 Castle Rock Estate ‘RS21’ Riesling

This was a very pleasant wine indeed.  Gee it’s beautifully balanced.  The natural acidity providing freshness and vibrancy while the 21grams residual sugar adding some body to the mid and back palate.  It has lovely, smooth lime characters (yes, that seems odd but it’s true), a nice textural feel as well, and finishes a little crisp and refreshing.  There’s no doubt Rob Diletti has nailed the acid and sugar equilibrium.  Like its two siblings, this too is great value.

Price: $21

Castle Rock Estate Website

Region: Great Southern, WA     Source: Sample courtesy of Castle Rock Estate and Define Wine

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