Gumdale Shiraz

Compared to the Mallee Point this stuff is gold.

This is a cheap shiraz from *somewhere* in South Eastern Oz, which means it’s a lot o’ junk fruit from the Riverina. Still, they’ve managed to create something that’s at least drinkable here; soft, fruity, cough-syrupy and it doesn’t make me sneeze. Ahem.

As others note, it’s a one-dimensional drink. Think of a boxer with a one-note punch that’s well telegraphed. Everyone inside and outside the ring knows what’s coming, so who’d pay to watch? Some, obviously, but mostly friends and family and those who don’t know better.

Take fruit, ferment it, add oak(!) and bottle. Low quality fruit, low acids and low tannins don’t give it much of a foundation to build upon, but you know what you’re getting. This is not a house that can withstand a tornado – nor a boxer who will win many bouts – but neither are you paying for one.

Fair value at $8.49

Davey Family Aficionado Shiraz 2015

Memories of being nine years old and Sunday afternoons return with each sip of this wine.

Here’s an astonishingly accurate description:

Opaque black ruby color. Bright, nutty aromas and flavors of butter roasted nuts, blueberry pie crust, and blooming forest floor with an even, tangy, dry-yet-fruity medium-full body and a warming, complex, medium-length peppercorn, vanilla praline, cedar, and hint of caramelized bacon finish with crunchy, woody tannins and moderate oak. A mellow, crunchy shiraz for carefree enjoyment.
My vision is more personal, of still air, lingering dust on unpaved roads through vineyards, shadows from a low sun, and chills of happiness.
McLaren Vale is a state of mind, which is an awful marketing-sounding description of something that really exists. Well, that exists in memory, which is almost the same thing.
This wine was like a country road in McLaren Vale on a windless day. A car would drive past, leaving disturbed dust in the air, which would remain suspended in shafts of light created by the sunlight leaking through gaps between eucalyptus trees. Australians call them gum trees, but, whatev.
A high-pressure system would be sitting above South Australia for this to happen, a happily frequent event in late summer and throughout the winter. I wonder if grapes react to the weight of the atmosphere above them?
Dry and fruity ( not easy to pull off), dried figs and dried strawberry, cedar, that pie crust thing, vanilla (light) and very mild black peppercorn. In spirity, it’s SA, in style it’s more France.

Hans Schiller Liebfraumilch 2015

Müller-Thurgau and riesling in this slightly mysterious blend. Just what is Müller-Thurgau? Here’s Jancis Robson’s description.

And that seems accurate. Complexity isn’t this wine’s strong suit, but it is admirably straightforward, just as Jancis suggests. On the nose I found just-ripe summer fruits, pear, peach and apricot, which followed to the palate. Nice Bartlett pear-skin undertones, and green apple-style acids.

In short, she’s an easy on the interpretation kind of wine, one where we don’t need to go searching for meaning or nuance. Fruit, ferment, fool about with the bland, and force into a bottle. I will remark that other tasters seem to describe her as light-bodied, but that was not my experience; medium at least.

One thought: if you’re not up for the gigantic awesomeness of a Sauternes, or similar, this wine would absolutely do the trick, even as a dessert substitute. It would also work with fresh cut fruit, apples or dried apricots. It’s just an idea.

And another thing. The aromas of this glass are way in advance of its price. As she warms, I note some nice almond undertones, which partly account for the solidity of the structure. That nutty thread continues the idea of tart summer fruits, like a plate of freshly harvested or picked produce.

The key here is a lack of acid, which might be a relative criticism rather than a global slam. A glass like this creates no expectation, so any balanced acid contribution comes as a kind of bonus; a coupon for free sophistication. Zing and fruity together is under-rated.

Sweetness is a mantrap in the world of recommending wine. Problems abound with communication gaps between words and taste. Connecting palate and vocabulary is a tortured link. Here’s a wine that is not really crisp (acidic), neither is it sweet (although it is fruity) and then it’s understatedly interesting with plenty of food matching ideas.


Dr Heidemanns Blitz Reisling 2015

Mmmm, more Rhine deliciousness here. Ripe nectarine and apricot on the nose, aligned with blossomy florals make one think that summer days on a mighty Germanic river are all ripe stone fruits and leafy trees.

Perhaps they are.

Slight minerality on the palate and those yellow peach meat and juicy acids give this glass of wine a more-ish feel, to make sure the next sip was as good as the last.

Interestingly this isn’t as sweet as the QbA; not as outright plush with elbow-juicy fruits, but in some respects that’s a good difference. A little more of that tang is just about the right amount.

Some tasting notes hint at pear and green apple, but for the moment I don’t find that. Perhaps when she warms a little. In the meantime, what a delightful acquaintanceship we’re making with the Lightning.

Ah, wait. Now there’s the zinging lime people talk about, and what a nice thing it is. And after a day open and in the fridge, the pear and green apple is definitely there. Thank you screw tops.

$9.99. Well worth it.

Michel Gassier Syrah Les Piliers 2013

The back of the bottle says:

This wine is seductive, brooding and elegantly aromatic. Chock full of violet, red fruits and bacon, it’s herb palate marries a wide range of food, from barbeque to spicy international fare. Delicious and hard to put down.

Call me callous, but that wasn’t written by a Frenchman. I smell the hand of a marketing genius at work here, because only a douche with an expense account would use the phrase spicy international fare. Just what kind of non-English is that?

Decanting this bottle came with a lungful of something that smelt pretty darn good. Dark and aromatic…wait, maybe that advertising goose was right.

Here’s a well-made young Rhone-influenced syrah. Opaque and dark, with an engaging nose, this is a tempting wine. From an initial wet cedar campfire, she opened into dark cherry skins and cedar with some cocoa undertones. No intimidating complexity, however, simply delicious and interesting engagement.

That all followed onto the palate, with syrah dryness, medium plus body and acidity that came and went in like a well choreographed stage show. Tannins were pretty soft I thought, and the smoky vanilla gave away some toasty oak treatment.

$14.99 and completely worth it.

Bougrier ‘V’ Vouvray 2015

Somewhere in the Loire Valley live a bunch of people keeping a secret about their wines, and how individual they are.

This, my first Loire chenin, was a revelation, both because of how unusual it was, and also how disparate elements can work together. Let’s add sheep’s milk, hazelnuts, coleslaw dressing, grassy cream together, make it so that’s it’s off-dry (and notably not dry) and give it a long acid finish.

It wouldn’t work, right? Well, I am astounded to say that it does, and how. From the distinct ovine nose to the zingy palate feel, this is wonder, worthy of much more exploration. Matched with the right food, I can see this thing transporting people somewhere wonderful.

Ah, those clever French have made grapes glorious yet again.


Spier Chenin Blanc 2016

Oh, well now, here’s a wine to make you sit up.

Chenin blanc, another French grape exported elsewhere in the galaxy and shaped into something new and delicious. Bless those adventurers from centuries past for taking the risk to move about the place and taking grape vines with them.

Really inviting nose here, pungent, almost. Lemon juice, tangerine zest, minerals, passionfruit meat, there’s a lot going on, all of it wanting to take you further. Fresh cut pineapple and honeycomb are there too.

She’s a dry number, and relatively high in acid, making for a juicy mouthful. There’s oak there, vanilla and continuation of the tangerine and minerally passionfruit theme. Fresh pineapple finds its way in there too.

The impression of sweetness comes from the acidity, in my opinion, not directly from sugar: this is not a sweet wine, but it’s a sweet experience at a delicious price.


Oak Grove Viognier Reserve 2015

Big body, big heart, big huggy finish.

With an inviting nose, we find ourselves in the embrace of this gentle, low-acid wine from California. Less cut down than the Sobon Estate, I’d venture that the fruit used in this one was more ripe, the handling less about emulating the old world and settling into a more plump American style.

We keep the distinctive oily and big-bodied structure of classic viogniers, with the apricot stone and steel architecture and add white peach fuzz, some under-ripe nectarine and that whisper of dried petals; the high-meadow potpourri.

Next day, just as good. There’s something comforting about this wine, and I think it’s the lack of acid. That makes it less juicy, so there’s less going on in your mouth, despite the big body.

A wonder at $8.99.


Sobon Estate Viognier 2015

Sometime around 1999 it must have been, when I first had viognier. It was a decent restaurant in the Sydney CBD, one with a sommelier. He recommended a viognier, and I remember thinking the wine was arresting and well chosen for our meal.

Eighteen years later, and here I am, at my second bottle.

This one is part of a pattern I note here of wine producers not keeping their wine data sheets up to date. The last one available was for the 2012 vintage, many years ago.

Here’s what they said:

This may be our best Viognier yet. Our Estate Vineyards are now fully mature. The vines are not irrigated, and produce a small crop of intensely flavored grapes. The wine has a very alluring aroma, reminiscent of fresh Sierra meadow flowers, with a hint of peach and honeysuckle.
The flavors are rich and spicy – full bodied and richly textured with a long, lingering finish.
Uhhh, no. The 2015 is very clearly a different wine. There are no fresh Sierra meadow flowers here. What we have is apricots and steel, with a nice bowl of dried petal potpourri on the side. We’re into austere territory here with a cut-down wine of fruit, fermentation, oak and bottling.
After a few days of contemplation, I think I see what’s happening. The winemaker is paying homage to that first Alsatian viognier I drank, which was minerally and alive and amazing. With fruit from Amador County, one can only do so much, so going as far as one can to make a wine true to that fruit is the only path…and likely a good one.
Frankly, I don’t like this as an aperitif. With the right food pairing, this wonder would absolutely shine.

Rock View Riesling 2015

No, we’re not in Germany, Hortense.

Riesling again demonstrates why we love her with this edition from WA. Last night I drank the Petals, a perfectly decent supermarket riesling from Nahe, but this…this is not that.

What it is, is a new world riesling. No, it’s not a Jim Barry Clare Valley slice, nor it is something from a small vineyard in the Eden Valley, a couple of hours south. But it is something.

To begin, it’s barely off-dry. It’s like that guy at work you don’t instantly like, but after a few months you find you have much in common. The relationship grows as you figure out how you mesh; something that’s not obvious at the beginning.

It took me a while, but the nose is of a bruised Golden Delicious apple. You remember that smell from school lunches your mother gave you. She snuck in that apple, and being eight years old, you didn’t care how poorly you treated that lunchbox, letting it bang all over the place. At noon you had your sandwich, and then bit into the apple, which was bruised and brown: that’s what we have here. They made a wine that tastes like the bruised bit.

At first I thought it was tennis ball held close to your nose, which actually amounts to the same thing. It’s that kerosene/oxidized fruit set of molecules that keep us wondering whether the damn thing is off or not.

Yep, she’s interesting. The acids are muted, not nearly as obvious as the German side of the family, and the finish reminds me of siphoning gas out of a car – in a good way. I wasn’t stealing it or anything, it was my car. The mysterious part of this is that the fruit has turned, gone from ripe to slightly off, but the wine remains palatable and worth the price of entry.

No, not as straightforward as you’d imagine. With that hydrocarbon undertone and oxidized fruit, on face value you’d tip the thing down the drain, but don’t do that, it’s a waste.