Life Begins At » Australia’s best Winter wines & whiskies
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Australia’s best Winter wines & whiskies

The demand for our red wines has never been higher. Here are Australia’s best wines and whiskies for enjoying in winter.

WITH JAMES HALLIDAY

WINES

Hoddles Creek Estate Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2017
Multiple approaches to vinification have been repaid with this medium-bodied wine’s exceptional drive, length and focus. The purity of its flavours – zesty, spicy small red fruits – is the mark of a glorious vintage, and a great site handled by an exceptional winemaker, Franco D’Anna.
13.2% alc, screwcap / 96 points, $24, drink to 2029 / www.hoddlescreekestate.com.au

Oakdene Bellarine Peninsula Pinot Noir 2017
Estate-grown, fermented in small open fermenters, matured in French oak for 11 months. A highly expressive bouquet reflects the vinification (some French oak in particular), and the quality of the fruit. The palate is rich and textured. There’s lots on offer here, now or in 10 years’ time.
13.1% alc, screwcap / 94 points, $24, drink to 2029

T’Gallant Cyrano Pinot Noir 2017
Mid-depth colour; a scented wild berry bouquet and finely textured palate that builds a bridge between the savoury/stemmy/spicy components on the one hand, and dark cherry on the other. That ’17 vintage spinning its magic once again.
– 13% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $30, drink to 2032 / www.tgallant.com.au

Bay of Fires Eddystone Point Pinot Noir 2017
This deeply coloured, full-bodied pinot is a serial winner of gold medals. It needs years to reach its zenith, which it will do so in 10+ years, when a parade of exotic spices will march in step with the dark cherry and plum fruit. It calls to mind the wines of Pommard in Burgundy.
13.5% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $31, drink to 2032 / www.bayoffireswines.com.au

Sidewood Estate 777 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2017
30% whole bunches, 70% destemmed, matured in a mix of used French barrels. The cool vintage was tailor-made for the early ripening 777 clone, which dominates the whole bunch in this wine. The luminous clarity of the colour, the carry of the vibrant red fruits and the attention to detail make this close to perfection.
– 12.5% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $35, drink to 2033 / www.sidewood.com.au

Serrat Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018
MV6, wild-fermented with 25% whole bunches, 13 days on skins, only pumpovers (no plunging), matured for 11 months in French puncheons (25% new). Abundant varietal fruit flavours; quite rich, this will repay cellaring as floral, spicy notes appear.
13.5% alc, screwcap / 96 points, $44, drink to 2033 / www.serrat.com.au

Bream Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2016
Exceptional colour; a best-barrel selection from its ’16 siblings, with more depth and intensity to its array of dark cherry fruits.A showcase of gold medals, six from Asian competitions and three from reliable sources including Sydney and Melbourne.
– 13.3% alc, screwcap / 96 points, $59, drink to 2036 / www.breamcreekvineyard.com.au

Dexter Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2017
Open-fermented, three-day cold soak, one fermenter for whole bunch fermentation (8% of the blend), the rest destemmed and matured for eight months in French oak. Clear crimson-purple; wastes no time in laying siege to the fruit bouquet and palate. A truly outstanding pinot.
– 13.5% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $60, drink to 2032

Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2018
Multiple clones hand-picked and sorted, 25% whole bunches, gentle destemming, 13-15 days on skins, matured in French puncheons (25% new) for 11 months. Juicy red and purple fruits; ready soonish although the balance underwrites cellaring.
– 13.5% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $64, drink to 2030

Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
Deep, brilliant crimson-purple; this is quite simply awe inspiring, with layer upon layer of succulent fresh and poached dark cherry and satsuma plum accompanied by spices and supple tannins. I suppose there’s new oak in the mix, but it’s not obvious.
– 13.8% alc, screwcap / 99 points, $75, drink to 2037 / www.homehillwines.com.au

Larry Cherubino Ad Hoc Middle of Everywhere Frankland River Shiraz 2017
A plume of exotic spices is threaded through the fragrant bouquet of plum and blackberry fruit, and the vibrant palate follows the lead with enthusiastic support. The texture and structure of the mouthfeel add a further dimension. A knockout at this price.
– 13.8% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $21, drink to 2032 / www.larrycherubino.com

West Cape Howe Frankland River Shiraz 2017
The spicy black cherry/berry aromas of the bouquet show the way for the palate to follow, and it does just that, also adding its own character to the fine but persistent tannins, part from fruit, part from the new and used French oak in which this estate-grown wine was matured.
14% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $22, drink to 2037 / www.westcapehowewines.com.au

Sidewood Estate Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2017
Five clones, mainly Selectiv’-harvested, a small portion hand-picked and vineyard-sorted for whole bunches, matured in French oak (25% new) for 13 months. Seriously satisfying, every aspect explored and finessed, ripe black fruits the core.
14.5% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $25, drink to 2045

Hentley Farm Villain & Vixen Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017
The positive colour and voluminous bouquet of multi-coloured fruits lead into a super-elegant palate brimful with red and black fruits. There’s no hint of the savoury/earthy/green notes of some from the ’17 vintage, only a gentle skein of ripe tannins.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 96 points, $27, drink to 2035

Balnaves of Coonawarra Shiraz 2016
Comes from the 43-year-old Punters Corner Vineyard. As ever, a sure hand, but one with a twist hitherto seldom used in Coonawarra: 30% whole bunch inclusion in the ferment. This has added spice and a singular tannin structure supporting the rich fruit and supple oak. So easy to enjoy.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $28, drink to 2031 / www.balnaves.com.au

Patritti Lot Three Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz 2016
Lot 3 was purchased by the Patritti family in 1960, and by ’69 10ha of shiraz had been planted. The wine, matured in French puncheons and demi-muids, has plum and blackberry fruits rolling across the mouth in a chariot of ripe tannins and French oak. All this power, yet only 14% alcohol. All this wine, and only $35.
– 14% alc, cork / 97 points, $35, drink to 2046

Whispering Brook Single Vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz 2017
Hand-picked, cold soak, five-day ferment, basket-pressed to French oak (30% new) for 16 months maturation. Excellent colour; a virtuoso display of variety, vintage and place – thus a great Hunter shiraz from a great vintage, full-bodied but balanced.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $45, drink to 2047

Shirvington The Redwind McLaren Vale Shiraz 2016
This was a selection of the best five puncheons of the Estate Shiraz, hence 60% new French oak. It is clearly the best wine, the fruit firmer and more interesting, with lines of spice and black licorice on a notably long palate that speaks of its place and vinification.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $45, drink to 2046 / www.shirvington.com

John Duval Entity Barossa Shiraz 2017
From old vines in five districts, fermented with submerged cap, matured in French hogsheads (32% new) for 15 months. Complex and rich from the first whiff, it doesn’t waste a single berry of this great vintage. So much power, such elegance.
– 14% alc, screwcap / 99 points, $50, drink to 2047

Shingleback Local Heroes McLaren Vale Shiraz Grenache 2016
The blend percentages are irrelevant because the flavour and balance are so good. Blackberry and cherries lead the discussion, but the final judgment is delivered by delicious acidity that freshens the finish and aftertaste.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 96 points, $25, drink to 2031 / www.shingleback.com.au

Turkey Flat Butchers Block Barossa Valley Red Blend 2017
Shiraz, grenache and mataro are sourced from some of the 150-year-old vines on the estate. Red, blue and black berry fruits are woven together by a gently savoury film of tannins and subtle oak. The price is extremely low for a wine with such history.
14.1% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $21, drink to 2027 / www.turkeyflat.com.au

Z Rustica Barossa Valley Grenache 2017
Excellent crimson hue and clarity. A truly beautiful grenache; elusive hints of cinnamon on the bouquet, juicy red fruits of every description flowing seamlessly across the supple, light-bodied palate. Glorious wine, unbeatable value.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 96 points, $20, drink to 2027 / www.zwine.com.au

Robert Oatley G-17 McLaren Vale Grenache 2017
In full-on Joven style, this wine bypasses oak altogether, giving the fresh and juicy fruit flavours free rein, bothered neither by tannin nor oak. Lovers of pinot noir will quickly understand the dynamics of this wine.
– 13% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $23, drink to 2023

Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 2 2017
Follows Bailey Carrodus’s method of co-fermenting small amounts of viognier with marsanne (adding floral notes) and mataro (spice). Another exquisite wine from ’17, capturing all the senses. Only just into medium-bodied territory but mouthwatering in its intensity, red fruits flying high like a gaudy scarlet kite.
– 13.5% alc, screwcap / 99 points, $105, drink to 2042 / www.yarrayering.com

Patritti Section 181 Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Grenache 2017
Hand-picked, crushed, open or closed fermentation, matured for 11 months in French oak. A glorious display of red fruits of all kinds dancing on the palate. It’s no wimp – there are plenty of tannins and acidity to keep the attention, and better still, there are no oak armpits to avoid. Special value.
– 14.5% alc, cork / 97 points, $40, drink to 2037

SC Pannell Smart Clarendon Grenache 2017
From 62-year-old vines, small batch open-fermented, 10 days on skins, 11 months in French oak. This is the bee’s knees, the bouquet surging from the glass and gathering pace on the vibrant palate and lingering aftertaste. Fine but persistent tannins sweep up cherry, pomegranate and wild strawberry as they pass through.
– 14.2% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $60, drink to 2032

Yangarra Estate Vineyard High Sands McLaren Vale Grenache 2016
This is the king of Australian grenache, and it’s not to be taken lightly. Deep but clear in colour, it has a rainbow of flavours, its deep roots probing the soil for sustenance that will provide tannins and all things needed for the grapes to provide the magic evolution of the red flowers and spices of this wine.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 98 points, $150, drink to 2036 / www.yangarra.com.au

Jericho Selected Vineyards McLaren Vale GSM 2017
An 86/11/3% blend, the grenache from 40-year-old dry-grown vines at Blewitt Springs. The bouquet is positively luscious with plum and rhubarb tempered by spices, the palate following suit, long and satisfying.
– 14.4% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $26, drink to 2025

Bleasdale Vineyards Wellington Road GSM 2016
A 49/45/6% blend. The grenache and shiraz were co-fermented, blending and bottling taking place within six months of vintage. This has kept the fruit fresh without diminishing the overall complexity of a lovely wine.
– 14% alc, screwcap / 96 points, $29, drink to 2026 / www.bleasdale.com.au

Charles Melton Nine Popes 2015
An iconic label and iconic wine that’s been a feature of the Barossa Valley for the better part of 45 years. Dry-grown bushvine grenache is the dominant variety, co-fermented with old vine shiraz and a small percentage of mataro, and matured for two years in French barriques. There’s a great depth to the mouthfeel.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $86, drink to 2030 / www.charlesmeltonwines.com.au

Robert Oatley Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
From the warmer districts of Wilyabrup, Carbunup and Cowaramup in WA, matured for 12-15 months in French oak. The climate shows through very clearly with velvety mouthfeel, plum and blackcurrant fruit, and a brocade for the velvet. Small wonder it won two gold medals.
– 13.5% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $25, drink to 2032

McWilliam’s McW Reserve 660 Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Full crimson-purple; a cassis/blackcurrant and spice bouquet adds another dimension on the richly flavoured palate overflowing with sweet berries. It tastes as if it was only taken from the barrel a few days ago, the tannins superfine, the finish long. A high quality wine.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 96 points, $25, drink to 2036

Victory Point Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Estate-grown blend of 87% cabernet, 11% petit verdot and 2% malbec. Hand-picked, small open ferments, 13 days on skins, matured for 16 months in French barriques (40% new). This wine is destined to be an elegant, medium-bodied Bordeaux blend with silky mouthfeel and ultra-fine tannins.
– 14.5% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $45, drink to 2041

Deep Woods Estate Reserve Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Matured for 18 months in new and used French oak. Excellent colour; the wine has a fragrant dark berry bouquet, the palate sheer perfection. So well balanced it seems suspended in the air, the fruit supported by featherlight tannins, oak an absorbed spectator. This is a beautiful wine.
14% alc, screwcap / 99 points, $70, drink to 2036 / www.deepwoods.com.au

Juniper Estate Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Includes 5.5% petit verdot, 3.5% malbec and 3% merlot; it spent up to 36 days on skins, matured for 18 months in French barriques (50% new). An exceptional cabernet, as intense as it is elegant with great mouthfeel from superfine tannins.
– 13.5% alc, screwcap / 98 points, $70, drink to 2045 / www.juniperestate.com.au

Singlefile Great Southern Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2017
91% cabernet sauvignon, cold-soaked for 12 days before fermentation and extended maceration, matured in French barriques (40% new) for 10 months. Supremely elegant and long, with black and red berry fruits, and cedary flavours ex oak and fine tannins. Extraordinary value.
14.2% alc, screwcap / 96 points, $25, drink to 2037 / www.singlefilewines.com

Higher Plane Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2016
A blend of 68% cabernet sauvignon, 29% merlot and 3% cabernet franc. Cabernet rules the roost with blackcurrant/cassis dominant on the bouquet and palate alike, making light work of the French barriques in which it spent 15 months. The balance is perfect.
– 13.5% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $25, drink to 2036

Brookland Valley Estate Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2015
Hand-picked, open-fermented, matured in French oak for 13 months. An elegant wine that reflects the “do nothing” philosophy in its crafting. It’s only medium-bodied, but the bouquet tells you something’s up; the purity of its cassis flavour is the allure on the long, lingering finish.
– 13.5% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $59, drink to 2035 / www.brooklandvalley.com.au

Lake Breeze Arthur’s Reserve Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot Malbec 2016
An estate-grown 88/7/5% blend. It is such an elegant wine, the purity of the cabernet sauvignon (the other bits and pieces don’t count) is smashing, as is the structure, thanks to superfine tannins and oak.
– 14% alc, screwcap / 97 points, $45, drink to 2041 / www.lakebreeze.com.au

Majella The Musician Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz 2017
A 70/30% blend fermented in stainless steel and oak barrels. It is a freakish wine that has been selling for around $17-18 since it was first released in ’04 and has won seven trophies and 79 medals to date. It’s fresh, fruit-driven and medium-bodied, the tannins incidental.
– 14% alc, screwcap / 95 points, $18, drink to 2027 / www.majellawines.com.au


WHISKEY

Aberlour A’Bunadh Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
“Cask strength” whisky, bottled without watering down, is many a purist’s choice, and this is one of the finest examples. Aromatically complex and clearly showing the effects of maturation in old oloroso sherry casks, it has notes of rum and raisin chocolate, pain d’épices, clove-studded oranges, lavender, burning fruit wood and butterscotch.
– $125, 700ml, 61% alc

Ardbeg Uigeadail Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
A typically full-throttled offering from a distillery sticking to the idea, like a limpet adheres to a wave-washed rock, that Islay is not for everyone and that’s OK. Smells like bacon bones and forgotten fires, clumps of kelp and dried figs. Complex and layered with a finish shaped by lingering smokiness and edgy salinity.
– $85, 700ml, 54.2% alc

Glenmorangie Allta Highland Single Malt Scotch whisky
Fermentations driven by wild yeast produce some of the most interesting wine. Glenmorangie’s visionary distiller, Dr Bill Lumsden, wanted to know if the same applied to whisky. He isolated a yeast strain found on the Cadboll barley unique to Glenmorangie and set it to work. The result is this explosively expressive dram, with notes of butterscotch, pannacotta and poached fig.
– $125, 700ml, 51.2% alc

Cladach The Coastal Blend Blended Malt Scotch whisky
Draws on single malts from coastal distilleries: Clynelish, Caol Ila, Oban, Inchgower and Talisker. Crackling fires on the beach, dried kelp and driftwood, iodine and oyster shell, ships’ ropes and preserved lemons. It has grace and freshness on the palate, a deceptive delicacy and a lick of creamy sweetness on the lingering finish.
– $250, 700ml, 57.1% alc

Eagle Rare 10-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey
A brilliantly balanced bourbon, it has a nimbleness and deftness of touch that sets it free from the cumbersome oaky sweetness that hinders many others. Wistful and delicate, it offers aromas of lacquered wood and toasted coconut. The palate has restrained butterscotch roundness and notes of cedar and baking spices.
– $84, 700ml, 45% alc

Sullivans Cove Double Cask XO
Tasmania’s booming distilling scene neatly intersects with its dynamic wine industry in this intriguing brandy that draws on the distilled marc of chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, gewürztraminer, cabernet sauvignon and merlot to tell its story. That delicious tale touches on elements of cedar and sandalwood, spiced oranges and crema catalana, with a fresh and thrilling drive to the finish.
– $190, 700ml, 47.7% alc

St Agnes XO Grand Reserve 40-year-old
If you bottled Bradman, poured three fifths of Phar Lap, drank Angus Young on the rocks, it would taste like this. Australia’s greatest brandy is a liquid of uncommon complexity and beauty, with flavours of roast pineapple and cardamom, spiced pears, clove, butterscotch and coffee cream. It begins beguilingly smooth, the effects of age tapering through an imposing finish.
– $750, 700ml, 43% alc

Charles Oates Fine Apple Brandy Tokay Single Cask
Tasmania’s nod to Calvados, with an intriguing twist thanks to maturation in old tokay barrels. The apple characters sit front and centre, with warming spice notes, some hints of lemon peel and pith and a delicate floral lift like an orchard bursting with blossom. The best deployment of an apple’s charm since the Serpent invited Eve to take a bite.
$95, 350ml, 40% alc

Delamain Les Tres Venere Cognac Grande Champagne
This is a blend of 55 years’ average age, a profoundly layered, intricately detailed liquid that seeps into the soul and soothes its sore spots. Dried orange peel, dried mushrooms, hints of fennel seed, star anise and white peppercorns. There’s the faintest aromatic suggestion of a dark cellar full of old barrels. Amazing presence and poise.
$400, 700ml, 40% alc

Delamain Pale & Dry Cognac Grande Champagne
Delamain’s signature offering, produced since 1920 and with an average age in the blend of 25 years. Delicate colour, with aromas of vanilla pod and sandalwood, orange peel and almond milk. It passes across the palate with balletic momentum. The incredibly fine, powdery quality to its drying finish is captivating.
$155, 700ml, 40% alc


This article appeared in the Autumn 2021 edition of Life Begins At… Click here to read or here to subscribe and never miss an issue!


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