Sunday, February 28, 2021


Elderton is known for its classic Barossa Shiraz. It seems it has fallen on harder times. Volume has halved in the last ten years despite having increased its product range. I had an opportunity to taste most of its current wines.

The 2017 Shiraz is quite a lively drink, matured in 20% new oak. The vanilla sweetness is noticeable on the palate. The 2019 Western Ridge Grenache/Carignan is equally light and fresh, whereas the 2020 version has more depth. This wine includes Mataro. It is very pretty and nicely balanced, although the tannins are a bit coarse.

The 2017 Ode to Lorraine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. The capsicum flavour of the Cabernet stands out, and the wine is a bit short on the finish (91 points). The 2018 Grand Tourer is a 100% Shiraz from 70 year old vines of the home block and 40 year old vines from the Greenock vineyard. It sees 60% new French oak. It expresses the blackberry fruit in an elegant fashion, with a slightly light finish (92 points). The 2017 Ashmead Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the home block of 75-80 year old vines. This block is struggling, but still produces good fruit, though at ever reducing volumes. I enjoyed the fresh drive from the 2017 vintage and the linear profile of this wine. There is no hole in the mid palate. Blackberry and cassis is supported by tobacco infused tannins (93 points). 


The top Elderton wine has always been the Command Shiraz. I could compare the 2016 and 2017 editions. The 2016 from the low yielding home block (1t per acre) is matured mostly in new oak lightly toasted puncheons, 2/3 American. Attractive blue fruit dominates the palate. The wine has good energy, and the acidity is well balanced (94 points). By comparison, the 2017 is lighter and fresher, but has enough fruit weight and attractive chocolate notes (94 points).

The 2018 Helbig 1915 wine is a hedonistic expression of Barossa Shiraz. From a low yielding (1/2t per acre) 100 year old block in Greenock, this is a big wine. The 15.5% alcohol gets soaked up by the blackberry and plum fruit and does not stand out on its own. This is a rich wine with layers of fruit and a surprisingly smooth mouthfeel.This wine is not for everybody, but it is well made, and I would happily drink a glass any day (95 points).  

Saturday, February 27, 2021

A Whirlwind Tour Through South Australia

This is my first interstate trip in a year. It is brief: three South Australian wine regions in three days.

Day 1: Barossa Valley 

On the first day, I visited the Artisans of Barossa to taste Spinifex and John Duval wines, the Standish Wine Company, and Elderton.

Something unusual seems to go on at Spinifex. Peter Schell did not respond to my emails. More importantly, there seems to be quite a change in strategy. He used to be the master blender of the Barossa, identifying small plots of the less common Rhone varieties and creating beautiful fresh wines. Now, there is a marked shift to single varieties wines. I am not sure why.

The 2019 Esprit is still 'old school'. It is a fresh, elegant wine, although a little sweet (91 points). Then I am confronted with the drought vintages of 2019 and 2020. The 2020 Garcon is a robust Grenache, with macerated strawberry flavours and a bit confectionary (89 points). Similarly, the 2020 Syrah is broader than usual and a little harsh (88 points).

In moving away from the blends, Peter Schell has also decided to bottle varieties which arguably are better suited to warmer climate. The labels are different, to maybe indicate a more experimental character of these wines. The 2019 Aglianico has relatively weak fruit weight, certainly in comparison to the firm and very dry tannins (87 points). In contrast, the 2019 Tannat is a revelation. Tannat tends to be very robust in France and Uruguay, but here, this red fruited wine has a lifted character, with an elegant palate and a smooth finish. Who would detect this variety in a blind tasting? (93 points).

Finally, I taste the 2018 La Maline. This Shiraz comes from the northeastern slopes of the Barossa Valley, where winds have a cooling effect and temperatures drop at night. There is 4% Viognier in this wine. The wine is fragrant and perfumed, but not overly so. It has a beautiful core of Shiraz fruit and finishes in an elegant style (95 points).

I tasted the three classical wines of John Duval. The 2018 Plexus, a GSM, shows the Grenache component in particular. It is an entry wine, but shows good harmony and intensity (90 points). The 2019 Entity is another example of the drought vintage. In previous years, this Shiraz was exceptional, but in 2019 it is not balanced. The core is quite sweet, and the finish a bit harsh (89 points). This contrasts with the 2017 Eligo, a best of fruit wine, from a cooler vintage. This wine has a big mouthfeel, but remains elegant with great length (95 points).  

to be continued...

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Chateau Lagrange

 Buying an upper range value Bordeaux from the generous 2009 vintage; what can go wrong?

Drinking the 2009 Chateau Lagrange, I find out. The fruit flavours are concentrated. The wine is dark fruited, with blackberry and mulberry notes. Then it hits you. The wine is very developed already, with overripe and confected fruit. The mouthfeel is rustic, and the tannins coarse. The finish is quite long and the aftertaste actually more pleasant than the taste itself.

This wine is an example of how things can go wrong in Bordeaux when producers try to please the American 'Napa' market. I remember drinking this wine on release. It was fine then, but good Bordeaux should improve for 10 years at least, not deteriorate.

Score: 86/- 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

Not much of a label, the Ata Rangi, yet it is iconic by now. I have written about Ata Rangi a fair bit, so let us go straight to the wine. The 2013 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir has all the key elements of a perfect Pinot Noir. Forest berries, Asian spices and forest floor flavours provide a predominant savoury impression without losing the firm dark cherry fruit core. This is quite a rich and powerful, yet elegant wine. The structure is perfect. The silky tannins caress the mouth before an expanding finish delivers a long and delicious finish. This is one of the best Pinot Noirs from the Southern Hemisphere I have ever tasted.

What would make it perfect? A bit more precision, a bit more drive, even more of a peacock's tail. But this is splitting hairs. I love this wine. It drinks perfectly now and will continue to do so for the next three years.

Score: 97/+++   


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Lake's Folly Chardonnay

 The folly was to focus on Chardonnay and Cabernet in a region known for Semillon and Shiraz. It has worked well for Lake's Folly. The wines are not very visible, because they sell largely through the mailing list and the cellar door is closed most times. And it has gone off my radar a bit as a result. However, I have the 2015 Lake's Folly Chardonnay in my cellar. The bottle I opened gave me moderate pleasure.

This Lake's Folly Chardonnay is quite an intense wine. Lemon peel and yellow peach flavours are matched by good quality oak and resultant vanilla notes. This is a fuller bodied Chardonnay than most. It is not buttery, but delivers a full mouthfeel of the mentioned flavours. Acidity keeps the wine lively on the palate. While the 14.3% alcohol is not obvious in isolation, it is clear this is a big wine, maybe not ideal for lunch.

Score: 92/+ 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Soul Growers Mourvédre

 When three winemakers with experience from Penfolds, Barossa Valley Estate, Hentley Farm, and Murray Street get together to make wine, when the plot is some of the oldest Mataro grapes in the world, and when the vintage is 2012, my expectation is high.

Therefore I am slightly shocked when I taste the 2012 Soul Growers Mourvédre. Blackberry, mulberry fruit and black pepper could have delivered an attractive profile, but this full-bodied wine is overripe. Why would you, in a vintage which almost made itself, overextend the hang time of the fruit? Firm tannins bring this syrupy wine to an alcoholic finish.

Score: 86/--  


Saturday, February 6, 2021

Thévenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes

I remain interested in exploring the cru Beaujolais, in particular from Morgon. This is where wine is made for ageing and where one may be able to find a wine similar in quality to a good Burgundy at 25% of the price. I thought maybe the 2018 Thévenet Morgon Vielles Vignes could be such a wine.

Jean-Paul Thévenet was named one of the 'Gang of Four' in the 1980s. The aim was to produce meaningful and complex wines by farming old vines and apply organic and biodynamic principles. There is no fining and filtration, and possibly no sulphur treatment. His wines come close to what some people call 'natural' wine.

And this shows immediately after opening the bottle and pouring a glass. The colour of the wine is ruby, quite intense, and a little cloudy. Red cherry is the dominant flavour, added to by some spice, earth and saltiness. The winemaking approach delivers a big mouthfeel and quite a ripe wine for Gamay. The tannins are quite smooth, and the finish medium to long.

I find it hard to rate this wine. The last paragraph suggests this is a very good wine, but I did not enjoy it that much. The cloudiness made the wine a bit clunky, lacking finesse. I assume the purpose here was to make a serious Gamay with good fruit weight, but this came at a cost, in my view.

Score: 89/-