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One month Down Under

by Phil Shorten, 2003

One month Down Under - what does one do? Spend most of the time visiting wineries of course! Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, Victorian High Country and Rutherglen to be precise, with one or two other cellar doors thrown in for good measure.

I am not a fan of scoring wines, but have rated them on my own scale of POOR through to OUTSTANDING. For those who are users of the 100-point scale, the ratings broadly align as follows:

     74 points and under
75-79 points
80-84 points
85-89 points
90-94 points
95+ points

The highs

The not so highs

stand-out wines


NV Rockford Black Shiraz (1998 disgorgement)
Rare as rocking horse shit, probably because it's the best example of its kind. Even Brits wary of bubbles in red wine could be tempted by this one. OUTSTANDING

2000 Majella Sparkling Shiraz
Dry and well structured with oodles of dark berry fruit. A wine that will develop well. EXCELLENT

1990 Pol Roger
A French ring-in that leaves Australian Pinot Noir Chardonnay sparklers in its dust. OUTSTANDING


Grosset Polish Hill Riesling (1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000)
A mini-vertical of these wines confirmed their ageworthiness. I had been worried about the 1997, finding it a bit tired and flat a couple of years back, but it has come out of its hole and is strutting its stuff as a full flavoured Riesling bursting with lime zest, kaffir lime leaf, grapefruit and talc-like minerality. The 2000 is still a babe, more delicate and perhaps less intense than the older vintages. OUTSTANDING

Petaluma Riesling (2002, 2003)
A contrast in style to the Grossets, mineral driven (think wet stones) - very little of the lemon/lime character that often typifies Clare Valley Riesling. The 2002 needs a good long slumber and the 2003, although more forward, will benefit from a good few years in the cellar as well. EXCELLENT

2003 Clonakilla Viognier
Clonakilla is a small winery near Canberra best known for its Shiraz Viognier. The varietal Viognier is also a very impressive wine, very pure and clean, restrained and refined with fruit pastille, pineapple and apricot. A better wine than the rather oaky 2003 Petaluma Viognier. Look out Condrieu! EXCELLENT

2002 Cullen Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
SSB blends are one of Margaret River's specialties, but very few wineries bother with producing ageworthy wines using some barrel fermented fruit. At this early stage in its life. The wine is Sauvignon dominant and the herbal/grassy fruit comes through on the palate. Still very tightly wound, it should develop well. EXCELLENT

Cullen Chardonnay (2001, 2002)
Both wines are richer than I remember the 1996 (another excellent vintage) being. Quite tight with ripe melon fruit and well judged (i.e. restrained) oak. Australian in style, but no worse for it. EXCELLENT

1993 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon
Classical unoaked Hunter Valley Semillon weighing in at a mere 10% alcohol. Clean, fresh and pure lemon curd fruit with just a touch of honeyed development. Still yet to develop any toasty characters. Why did I drink my other 11 bottles when they were ridiculously young?! EXCELLENT


1998 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz
The best red wine of the trip? Quite possibly. Deep impenetrable purple verging on black. A highly alluring nose of dark berry fruit, black pepper and woodsmoke. In the mouth, full bodied (but restrained and silky smooth), good viscosity (but definitely not thick), intense (but not overextracted) blackberry fruit, liquorice, pepper and tar with an interesting iron/baked earth-like mineral character. Very long. This wine is made from fruit grown in the St Peters vineyard in Great Western and is quite different from Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale Shiraz. Although irresistible now, this is still a baby that will cellar for up to 20 years with ease. At AUD40-45 a bottle I'd take 10 bottles of this over 1 bottle of Grange any day. Unfortunately, I don't think it's exported to the UK! OUTSTANDING

1999 Yarra Yarra Syrah
Yarra Yarra is a small winery in the northern Yarra Valley producing elegant wines. The 1999 Syrah could just as well be a young fuller Pinot Noir - gamy, savoury raspberry fruit with touches of spice just starting to show. Very easy to drink. OUTSTANDING

1997 Yarra Yarra Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Slightly closed, but this is a good wine - woodsmoke married with dark fruits - oak, alcohol and acidity are all in balance - this wine screams for food. EXCELLENT

2001 Petaluma Coonawarra
This 50:50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is the best Coonawarra red wine I've tasted from the 2001 vintage. Superbly balanced, soft savoury ripe plum and blackberry fruit with classy smoky cedary oak. Finishes with very fine ripe tannins. Will develop well. EXCELLENT

1998 Majella Cabernet Sauvignon
Structured Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, well balanced structured wine with dry but ripe blackcurrant/blackberry fruit and well integrated oak. Still young. EXCELLENT

2001 Massena Eleventh Hour Shiraz
Massena is a new boutique Barossa Valley producer. If this is an indication of the way Barossa Shiraz is going, then it's all good news. Deep crimson in colour, smoky blackberry fruit on the nose, full bodied, very silky palate, ripe but not over the top. Shows the iron/baked earth character I also found in the 1998 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz. EXCELLENT

1997 Primo Estate Joseph Cabernet Merlot
Joe Grilli has had to yield to the Italians and remove the reference to “Moda Amarone”. Nonetheless, this is an Australian wine with a Venetian accent. Full bodied, it shows plenty of dark cherry and plum fruit married high toned smoky oak. Drinking well now. EXCELLENT

1997 Tatachilla Clarendon Vineyard Merlot
Most Australian varietal Merlots flatter to deceive, but this wine has got some nice rounded dark plum fruit - St Emilion or Pomerol it ain't, but it's a nice drink all the same. EXCELLENT


Seppelt Oloroso DP38
Neither the Seppelt Fino or Amontillado do much for me, but the Oloroso is delicious. A touch of sweetness on the entry, leading to leather, roasted walnuts and raisins. Finishes dry. Unlike the Amontillado, the spirit is well integrated. Any Spanish Sherry producer would be proud of this wine. OUTSTANDING

For mine, Morris produce best value fortified wines in Rutherglen. The “Cellar Selection” Tokay and Muscat, available only at cellar door, are the equivalent of some producers Rares and constitute excellent value at AUD30 per 50cl bottle. The stand-out wine for me is the Tokay. OUTSTANDING

RL Buller Rares (Tokay, Muscat)
Never mind the hype around these being 100-Parker point wines, both a very good elegant and complex examples of their kind. I detected no heaviness that can detract from lesser quality Tokays and Muscats. At AUD60 per 37.5cl bottle, they ain't cheap, but there's a lot of old wine in the blend (average age 25 years). OUTSTANDING

Seppelt Rares (Tawny Port, Muscat, Tokay)
I find that it's a big step up from Seppelt's mid-level wines to the Rares. There's clearly a lot more older material in the solera. For mine, the Rare Tokay is the best of the bunch. OUTSTANDING

1998 Rockford Shiraz VP
In days past, dry-grown Barossa Shiraz mostly went into fortified wines. Nowadays, they're the exception to the norm. This is a good example of the Australian VP style and not as sweet as some can get. Soft and full with very ripe fine grained tannins. Unlike real Vintage Port, it can be drunk young, but has the stuffing to go the long haul. The only drawback is the price - at AUD60 it's quite expensive. EXCELLENT

1975 McLaren Flat Vintage Port Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz
A bit of an oddity - producer unknown. This evidence that some Australian Vintage Port styles can age well. Not hugely complex, but there's plenty of forward sweet plum fruit and touches of spice. EXCELLENT

The regions

McLaren Vale

We were fortunate to be shown around D'Arenberg by one of the members of the Osborn family. The whole (seemingly endlessly growing) range of 20+ wines were tasted. No formal tasting notes were taken. However, for my palate, the best wines are the Grenache based wines - the ever reliable D'Arrys Original, The Custodian, Ironstone Pressings and a new wine to the portfolio, The Derelict Vineyard. D'Arenberg has more experience with Grenache than pretty much any producer in Australia and it shows. All of the wines display good ripe savoury fruit, well judged oak, are well balanced and will age well.

Of the controversial 2002 Dead Arm, I am not a fan, but lovers of the style should not be put off. I was impressed by the 2002 Galvo Garage. Another new addition to the portfolio, the quirkily named Barbara Says No To Nebbiolo failed to impress. I would be surprised if Nebbiolo shows much potential in Australia - Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Sangiovese would seem to be more adaptable and better suited to the Australian environment.

Barossa Valley
It was merely a quick sortie through the Barossa Valley en route to the Clare Valley. Nonetheless, there was enough time to call into three wineries:

Charles Melton
We had 45 minutes to spare before calling into Rockford down the road so took the opportunity to taste Charlie Melton's wines. Unfortunately, the 2002 Nine Popes (Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre blend) had not been released, but we got the chance to sample some very good wines. Personally, I find Charlie Melton's wines to be some of the more drinkable wines in the Barossa Valley - oak is downplayed,

2004 Rosé of Virginia
A blend of Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Meunier. Medium-deep cherry red (deeply coloured for a rose). Fresh powerful nose of cherries and plums. Medium bodied, dry (no boiled sweets or confected characters here), a structured rose with ripe cherry fruit, a decent touch of tannin and well balanced acidity. A perfect summer wine that would be a great partner for char-grilled tuna steak. This wine augurs well for the 2004 Barossa vintage. EXCELLENT

2001 Shiraz
This wine is straight out of the Charles Melton mould - supple, rich and soft, full bodied, with all of the components in harmony. Nice dark berry fruit, well judged oak and lingering fine grained tannins. Although approachable now, it will hold. This is no blockbuster, but it is a very good Barossa Valley Shiraz with the emphasis on restraint rather than pure power. VERY GOOD

Rockford Winery
Rockford is a much loved Barossa Valley winery that is in the game for the long haul. In the 1980's, the South Australian Government was paying growers to grub up their old Shiraz vines, but Robert O'Callaghan saw them as a treasure to be protected and established Rockford Winery with a large network of growers throughout the Barossa Valley. Over the past 20 or so years Rockford has built up a loyal customer base and the wines, particularly the reds, are in very high demand. Wines are hand made, full flavoured and traditionally styled. I personally consider the reds to be significantly better than the white wines.

RD Pinot Chardonnay
A blend of the three Champagne grapes, but this is where the comparison ends. Slightly honeyed yellow in colour. Grapey/stonefruit and touches of toast on the nose. Rich mouthfilling wine with a dry finish. Slightly rasping acidity. A big style that does little for me. AVERAGE

2001 Rockford Eden Valley Hand Picked Riesling
Light fresh perfumed lemon drop. Dry, medium bodied with fresh apple fruit, showing a bit flat and four square. GOOD

2004 Vine Vale Riesling
In contrast to the Eden Valley Riesling, the Vine Vale Riesling is made from fruit from the warm valley floor. Full bodied and rich with ripe tropical fruits (pineapple, guava). Good for those who like the style, but personally I like my Rieslings taut and racy. GOOD

2001 Rockford Local Growers Semillon
12 months in large oak. Pale lemon yellow with thick legs. Youthful nose, slightly dumb, characters of lemon citrus and honey and background oak. Supple and soft, slightly dilute. Lacks punch. If Barossa Semillon is your game, there's better to be had elsewhere. AVERAGE

2004 White Frontignac
Very pale silvery white (almost water-white). Grapey, floral, spicy nose. Medium dry (quite a lot of residual sugar), grapey and fruity. A style made for spicy Asian cuisine. AVERAGE

2004 Alicante Bouchet
Bright strawberry/cherry red. Smoky cherries and macerated strawberries. Medium sweet, like raspberry cordial. Lacks refreshment. AVERAGE

2000 Moppa Springs
A blend of Grenache (67%), Shiraz (23%) and Mataro (10%). Mid-raspberry/strawberry red. Dry and savoury but quite light on the palate, possibly a reflection of the weaker vintage. The Moppa Springs GSM blend replaced the Dry Country Grenache in the 1998 vintage and is a decent wine, but based on my experiences to date I believe that there are better Barossa Grenache blends out there. GOOD

2001 Rod & Spur Shiraz Cabernet
A traditional Australian blend of Shiraz (34%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (66%). Cabernet provides the spine of this wine - rich and ripe fruit filled out by the Shiraz. Quite beefy. VERY GOOD

2002 Rifle Range Cabernet Sauvignon
The first of the “big guns”. Although Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon rarely hits great heights, the 2002 vintage was supposedly a superb year for Cabernet. Perfumed nose of mint, ripe blackcurrants and smoky oak - remarkably varietal for Barossa Valley Cabernet. Full bodied, concentrated (inky) dark berry fruit, nice silky texture. Well balanced and well judged. Finishes with very fine grained tannins. Reasonable value at AUD33. EXCELLENT

2002 Basket Press Shiraz
Medium to deep crimson with thick slow falling legs. A alluring perfumed musky nose of fresh raspberries and cherries overlaying eucalyptus. In the mouth, soft, supple and rich with oodles of raspberry/blackberry fruit and structured fine grained tannins. I wrote that it was quite elegant and was surprised when it was revealed that the wine hit 15% alcohol. For mine, this is a very good Basket Press, but time will tell how good it really is. For mine, the 1999 remains the best young Rockford Basket Press I have ever tasted - dry, seriously structured and very savoury. VERY GOOD

NV Black Shiraz (2004 Disgorgement)
Not too many words needed for this one - plenty of liquorice, tar, raspberries and spice - rich and well judged (unlike some other Sparkling reds it avoids the trap of being too rich or sweet). Rated EXCELLENT now, but with several years in the bottle it will undoubtedly graduate to OUTSTANDING.

The purpose of visiting Seppelt was to taste the range of fortified wines for which it is justly famous. Seppelt has a proud history producing a wide range of fortified wines including Sherries, Ports, Muscats and Tokays. A brief tour of the cellars was followed by a tasting of the following wines.

Fino DP117
Clear bright lemon yellow. A yeasty nose also showing baked sourdough and lemon zest. Good mouthweight, lemon drop (quite fruity for a Fino), slightly yeasty but lacking the intensity of flor character and refreshment value that one gets in a really good Fino. It tastes more like a dry white wine that has been flavoured by flor. Perhaps this wasn't a fresh or representative sample. I'd like to try the same wine from a new bottle. NOT RATED

Amontillado DP116
Tawny gold. Wood polish, leather and nuts - it certainly smells like Amontillado. Medium bodied. Quite a nutty palate (toasted hazelnuts), together with leather and dried orange peel. The spirit is slightly aggressive on the finish. The wine would merit a higher rating but for the fact that the spirit wasn't as well integrated as it could be. VERY GOOD

Oloroso DP36
Deep mahogany with hints of olive. A complex bouquet of raisins, furniture polish and grilled nuts. Medium bodied, initially sweet, but quickly moves to dry - figs, raisins, walnuts and leather with a nice orange peel zing. Finishes dry and very long. A complex and extremely well balanced wine of which any Spaniard would be proud. OUTSTANDING

1983 Para Tawny
Bright deep mahogany. Raisins, liquorice and vanilla, sweet toffee and caramel. Quite simple and not great value at AUD47.50. GOOD

Rare Tawny DP90
Australia's most awarded wine. Burnt toast, raisins, honey, toffee and grilled nuts. At one complex and elegant. Significantly better than the Para Tawny but leaves me wanting a bit compared to good Portuguese 20 year old Tawnies. EXCELLENT

Rare Tokay DP59
Deep, thick molasses black with touches of olive green on the rim. Black tea, mocha, raisins, caramel, toffee, burnt toast, scorched almonds, treacle. Very complex and very, very long. OUTSTANDING

Grand Muscat DP63
Raisins, tinned apricots. Extremely sweet, very rich, thick and unctuous. Lacks the rancio character that one gets in the Rare Muscat. Needs to be served with something rich and chocolatey or an espresso coffee to balance the sweetness. VERY GOOD

Rare Muscat DP113
Dark, deep mahogany in colour. Multi-dimensional nose of coffee grinds, grilled nuts and dried peel. Full bodied, rich and sweet, toffee/caramel, crème brulée, dried apricot and dark chocolate. A significant step up from the Grand Muscat with the aged material adding a lot of complexity and length. EXCELLENT

1904 Seppelt Vintage Tawny
One of Seppelt's legendary wines. Verging on black in colour with glimpses of deep amber on the rim. Burnt sugar, espresso coffee beans, prunes and roasted chestnuts on the nose. Thickly textured (like engine oil) palate of molasses, burnt toast, marmalade, dark chocolate and prunes. Pleasant bitterness on the finish. All in all, a very interesting and complex wine, but there's no way I'd ever front with the cash to buy any. For mine, it's a bit like drinking Eszencia - interesting to try once in one's lifetime, but for drinkability I'd sooner go for the Rare Tawny. NOT RATED

There is no doubt that Seppelt produces some superb fortified wines, though personally I find that you have to go up to the Rare level to find complexity in the wines. For mine, the standout wine is the Rare Tokay. Of the Sherry styles, I think the Oloroso is rather good.

Clare Valley
Onward to the Clare Valley for a two night stay at Martindale Hall (treating the missus), which provided a pleasant base for visiting some of the region's wineries.


2003 Blackets Eden Valley Riesling
Clean fresh and youthful. Pleasant lifted floral aromatics together with lime and chalky minerality. Intense and tightly wound, lime fruit, zesty acidity, interesting herbal notes. VERY GOOD

2004 Morts Block Riesling
Forward passionfruit and pineapple on the nose. Quite a forward style. Nose as per palate. A decent Riesling but personally I prefer my Clare Valley Rieslings to be leaner and tauter. GOOD

2004 Killerman's Run Sauvignon Blanc Semillon
Pale straw with green tinges. Intense nose of tropical fruits, grassy and herbaceous notes. Quite intense on the palate, acidity provides good structure. Grassy, capsicum, lemon zest and tropical fruits. Clean and refreshing. VERY GOOD

2004 Second Fiddle Grenache Rosé
Pale to medium cherry red. Cherry, strawberry and eucalyptus on the nose. Good depth of fruit and flavour. Most importantly the wine is dry - just a touch of residual sugar. Spice adds a wee bit of complexity. GOOD

2002 Medley GSM
Deep plum verging to crimson. Blackberries, cherries and plums intermingled with five spice, liquorice and wood. Warm (but balanced) alcohol on the finish. A richer earlier drinking style with soft tannins. GOOD

2002 Prodigal Grenache
Deep plum red verging towards crimson. Ripe cherries, chocolate and aniseed on the nose. Rich with sweet berry fruit, subtle oak and noticeable but fine tannins. The 15% alcohol lends warmth on the finish that is marred by rasping acidity that seems out of place with the wine. AVERAGE

2002 Blocks Road Cabernet Sauvignon
Deep inky plum red. Slightly earthy nose also showing blackcurrants and liquorice. Full flavoured palate with touches of mint. Nicely structured. GOOD

2002 Covenant Shiraz
A blend of fruit from 5 vineyards. Ripe, rich sweet plum fruit, mint and creamy vanilla oak, figs and cloves. Warmish alcohol on the finish. A rich open wine for drinking over the medium term. GOOD

2002 Oracle Shiraz
Toasty oak, dill, vanilla, plums, coffee and chocolate on the nose. Big, rich and thick but avoids being over the top. Plenty of oak and plenty of fruit. Finishes with fine grained tannins. Acidity and alcohol are both in balance. 96 points from Robert Parker. Not my style, but I can see why others would like it. VERY GOOD

All in all, Kilikanoon offer a range of generally well made full flavoured wines in the modern style. Personally I prefer the whites. The reds, particularly the two Shiraz are full flavoured and generously oaked. Undoubtedly these wines have their followers but I find this style to be much of a muchness in a world of wine increasingly dominated by fruit forward, higher alcohol and heavily oaked wines.

Leasingham is part of the Constellation Brands (formerly BRL Hardy) empire. Compare to other cellar doors in the Clare Valley, the cellar door has an unmistakeably big company feel about it.

2003 Bastion Clare Valley Riesling
The Bastion series is Leasingham's budget label, sold in the UK under the Magnus label. Clear, bright very pale silvery lemon. Fresh youthful lime and talc. Dry, light to medium bodied, soft, light and fresh. An uncomplicated, fresh and lively early drinking style. GOOD

2004 Bin 7 Riesling
Pale silvery lemon. Perfumed nose of musk, rose petal and chalk. Dry, fuller style (for a Riesling), passionfruit and guava. Good acidity. VERY GOOD

2002 Bastion Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark fruits on the nose, slightly confected notes. Soft and simple but full flavoured (blackberries), background oak, slightly harsh acidity. Reasonable BBQ wine and decent value at the price (AUD12.45). GOOD

2002 Bastion Shiraz
Easy drinking full flavoured wine - not vastly different to the Cabernet Sauvignon. At the price-point it also constitutes reasonable value for money. GOOD

2000 Bin 56 Cabernet Malbec
Ripe and silky smooth with oodles of gutsy fruit - dark plums and blackberries - touch of eucalyptus. Plenty of punch. Decent if somewhat traditional wine for drinking over the next 2-3 years. GOOD

2001 Bin 61 Shiraz
Deep plum red. Menthol, toasty oak, toffee and ripe dark berry fruit. A bigger style. Very youthful primary characters of blackberries and plums together with toasty oak. Structured tannins. A robust wine that will age. GOOD

2001 Classic Clare Shiraz
Perfumed nose revealing blackcurrants/blackberries, menthol and eucalyptus. Very chewy (unpleasantly so) palate, dry dark berry fruit, eucalyptus (like sucking on a eucalyptus leaf), structured tannins. A very rustic and robust style. Not particularly good value at AUD47. AVERAGE

2001 Classic Clare Cabernet Sauvignon
Mid-crimson with thick slow falling legs. Slightly closed nose. Supple and round on entry leading to a very chewy mid-palate, hints of blackcurrant fruit (overwhelmed by eucalyptus) and smoky oak. In the same mould as the Classic Clare Shiraz and questionable value at AUD47. AVERAGE

1995 Classic Clare Sparkling Shiraz
The front label of this wine is literally festooned with gold medals. Black cherries and woodsmoke on the nose together with lifted spice aromatics (cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg). Very sweetly fruited, soft sweet plums and cherries and oak spice. Too much residual sugar for my palate but it might work with the right food, say Peking Duck. VERY GOOD

I can't say that I'm a fan of the Leasingham range. The Bastion (Magnus) series are reasonably good value for money crowd pleasers. However, I find the Classic Clare series to be overpriced, rustic and chewy. They undoubtedly have their fans but I doubt that they would travel particularly well in the UK market.

Wilson Vineyards
The Wilson winery enjoys a spectacular view over vineyards and a large lake - a picturesque vista that sums up the Clare Valley. In one word, Wilson can be described as quirky. Having said that, some of the wines are very drinkable and offer good value for money. Moreover, the wines are more restrained than some and I suspect would appeal to the Europhile palate. Dr Wilson's son, a really nice guy, is slowly taking over the reins and will be doing a bit of a makeover of the range and label design. Unfortunately, this will mean the demise of the Hippocrene sparkling red.

2004 DJW Riesling
Ripe floral aromatic nose also showing honeysuckle and rose petal. A delicate Riesling with pleasant fresh green apple fruit and touches of citrus. Good length. A few years in the cellar would do this wine no harm. VERY GOOD

2004 Polish Hill River Riesling
Ripe powerful bouquet of honeysuckle and lemon sherbet, floral notes. Zesty citrus fruit and crab apples. More powerful than the DJW Riesling, but still tightly framed and needing time. VERY GOOD

2001 Merlot
Interesting perfumed nose. Soft, supple and savoury palate, dry damson/plum fruit, touches of smoky oak. While nothing earth shattering, this is a very pleasant savoury wine that would show quite well with food. Likely to appeal to those with a palate leaning towards the Old World. Personally I'd like to see the fruit a tiny bit more forward. GOOD

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon
Deep ruby/crimson. Blackcurrants on the slightly earthy nose. Elegant and restrained, dry blackcurrant fruit. Quite Bordelaise in style- not a bad thing. Although no blockbuster and somewhat one dimensional this is a very drinkable wine that would be very nice with food. VERY GOOD

NV Zinfandel
The Wilson's planted Zinfandel a few years back from which this interesting wine was fashioned. A blend of two vintages. Deliberately made as a late harvest style retaining a touch of residual sugar, weighing in at 15.5% ABV (I'm actually told the real alcohol level is somewhat higher). Sold only in 37.5cl bottles. Deep cherry red with thick slow falling legs. Powerful nose of liqueur cherries and raspberries. Medium dry (not overtly sweet) full bodied silky smooth palate of glace cherries, raspberries and black pepper. A very well balanced and idiosyncratic wine. EXCELLENT

All in all, the Wilson wines are interesting and I personally like the slightly quirky nature of the operation.

Mitchell is a long standing Clare Valley producer making very reliable wines.

2004 Mitchell Watervale Riesling
Clean fresh aromatic nose of lime, green herbs and grapefruit rind, floral notes. Clean fresh palate of limes and minerals, lively acidity. Long refreshing finish. Elegant. VERY GOOD

2002 Mitchell Semillon
30% of the must is barrel fermented, lending richness and body to the wine. Silvery lemon in colour. Clean youthful nose of lemon butter/curd and vanilla oak. Soft supple palate, fruit character reflects the nose (lemon curd). Oak is well integrated and there is a nice balance of richness and refreshing acidity. A nice food wine. VERY GOOD

2001 Grenache
90% Grenache with a dash of Sangiovese (5%) and Mourvedre (5%) added to the blend to provide structure, finesse and complexity. Bright mid-ruby red. Some development on the bouquet, black pepper, cloves and raspberries. Soft and spicy, although sweet fruited the flavour profile is savoury (no confected Grenache fruit here). Good length. Nice drinking wine. Good value at AUD18. VERY GOOD

2003 Peppertree Shiraz
Clear bright medium-deep crimson. Youthful nose, quite bretty (is this an Australian wine!?) but in a nice way. On the palate, liqueur cherries and raspberries, tar and liquorice. Like the other Mitchell wines, this is more restrained than most, and better for it. VERY GOOD

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon
Clear bright mid-crimson. Youthful nose of violets, damsons and spicy oak. Supple rich fruit forward palate, sweet blackberry/blackcurrants. Grippy tannins on the finish. Quite pleasant, but when it comes to Australian Cabernet I think Margaret River, Coonawarra and the Yarra Valley (ripe years) do it better. GOOD

While there are no blockbuster or ball-tearing wines in the range, the Mitchell wines all offer good drinking and are well priced.


2004 Clare Valley Riesling
Light fresh aromatic nose of tinned pineapples and apples, floral notes. Light bodied palate of pressed apple juice with a touch of residual sugar. A light early drinking style. AVERAGE

2004 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
A blend of Semillon (65%) and Sauvignon Blanc (35%). Pear, fresh herbals and cut grass on the nose. Medium bodied, dry and supple, slightly lacking fruit intensity. Inoffensive unoaked SSB blend. AVERAGE

2002 Chardonnay
Pale silvery lemon. Youthful nose of spicy oak, toast and tropical fruit. Medium bodied, tropical fruit (guava, pineapple, melon) and toasty oak. Finishes slightly short. AVERAGE

2003 Grenache Shiraz
Weighs in at a powerful 15.5%. Raspberry red in colour. Spicy/peppery nose, jammy raspberry fruit. Super ripe jammy sweet raspberry fruit, black pepper, warm alcohol. Somewhat simple, but some will undoubtedly like it. GOOD

2002 Cabernets
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), Merlot (15%), Cabernet Franc (10%) and Malbec (5%). Bright deep crimson. Clean youthful nose of plums, blackberries, mint, eucalypt and smoky oak. Full bodied, good fruit intensity, blackberries and plums, slightly “gummy” (eucalypt). Lots of mouthcoating tannins. Finishes with warming alcohol (at 14.5% it's assertively ripe). GOOD

NV The Cronies Tawny Port
Made more as a Ruby Port style. Plums and macerated cherries. Sweet, simple one-dimensional palate. Well integrated spirit. AVERAGE

So ends our brief visit to the Clare Valley. While the region is capable of producing some very good reds, particularly Shiraz and to a lesser extent Grenache (I find Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to be too often dominated by mint and eucalyptus with the exception of a few, such as Jeffrey Grosset's Gaia), Riesling is undoubtedly the star of the show. While there are some very good ageworthy Rieslings being produced I think there is still considerable upside potential in terms of quality. Greater exposure to the best wines of Alsace, Germany and Austria would surely do no harm in raising the bar for Clare Valley Riesling.

go to part II

(Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek, Coonawarra, King Valley, Rutherglen)

  Phil is a wine lover who lived for many years in sunny Australia, but now call's London home. His interest in wine arose when growing up in the Adelaide Hills during the 1980's. He has visited wine regions throughout the world and enjoys all good wine, particularly from the Rhône, southern France, Italy, Austria and Australia, with a particular affection for Hungary's Tokaji Aszú. He is also an ardent fan of cask conditioned ale, Trappist beers and Islay Single Malts. Phil has worked through the WSET's course program and will shortly complete the Diploma.