Monday, November 18, 2019

When is half price the real price?

About now I reckon with these two Eaglehawk reds.

I wandered into the Liquorland store at Budgewoi last week and noticed they had the Eaglehawk range at a mere $5. HALF PRICE the signage screamed! I resisted the temptation  to see which price the quality of the wines really warranted. I yielded on Sunday when I paid a visit to Dan Woolworths in Bankstown [I get around, you know] and saw them at $4.99.

My decision was rewarded at the checkout when I said “There appears to be a price war on Eaglehawk”. She replied, with commendable corporate loyalty that someone had it at $5 and as always her company beat it. “We always do” she emphasised with eyes sparkling with pride. It was impossible not to respond to her enthusiasm “Yes, you SMASHED it” thinking how fortunate I paid by card for that two cent savings. 

And the wines ………….

The two I purchased were both 2018, both reedy thin and verging on transparent. One was a Shiraz, the other a Merlot. At least that's what the labels said. I suspect most cask reds offer far better quality and certainly better value.
How anyone would pay $10 for these in today's market is beyond me. Even $5 is hard to justify.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

It was a different world in 1977

In their second anniversay issue Wine and Spirit Buying Guide magazine reviewed red wine offered in casks and flagons. This was the time when the newly invented "bag in a box"was still struggling with problems of leaking and oxidisation.
The panel tasted 110 wines - 74 flagons and 36 casks.
They culled this down to just 30 flagons and just 9 casks that they considered worthy of reviewing.

The top wines were: Penfolds Rose, Orlando Coolabah Burgundy, dÁrenberg Dry Red  and Tyrrells Hunter River Dry Red flagons along with the Orlando Coolabah Rougolais cask. It was the time when it was sadly acceptable to label Australian wines claret and burgundy while      shiraz was regularly called Hermitage

I love their conclusion
"The moral seems to be - buy casks for everyday drinking but buy carefully, and buy flagons whenever the situation allows"

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

4 things you should know about Fiano

1. Native Italian white grape variety from Campania, Italy. It's the region surrounding Naples.

2. Almost became extinct last century due to its low yields. It survived due to a resurgence in interest in native varieties and a recognition of its quality.

3. Probably first introduced to Australia by Coriole's Mark Lloyd in 2005. That's McLaren Vale. Now it's all over the place with styles ranging from dry and flinty to more textural and complex. Some feature wood while others don't

4. It's characterised by loose bunches, thick skins and high natural acidity. That gives winemakers plenty of opportunity to spin their magic. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

No wonder the French got upset

We spent a week in 2018 touring around Epernay in the heart of Champagne. Each day we hopped onto a mini bus that took us to tour and taste at champagne houses I'd never heard of. Some were simply houses in villages with cellars and production facilities that must have extended under all the neighbour's houses. We wandered around Epernay where many of the larger producers offered tasting flights for around 10 euro. 

The number one thing I learnt is no-one can afford to produce bad champagne. The Champagne Police keep a close eye on things. Plus he price of land is so high it virtually dictates a minimum price for the stuff . And as we all know, that's not cheap. Unlike Carrington which always seemed to be available somewhere at $4.99.

So I had to laugh when I came across this ad in a 1980 issue of TIME magazine. No wonder the French got upset even though it doesn’t excuse nuclear testing in the Pacific. Champagne is made in Champagne, not Australia or anywhere else in the world. Not even in other parts of France. Ironically a French multi national, Pernod Ricard, took ownership of the company and the brand a few years ago. The word champagne was rightfully dropped from the label a few years prior to that. 

New Bargain Rose From Aldi


This is a new addition to Aldi's shelves and it's a beauty. It's crisp and dry with delicious fruit on the nose and palate. Palate weight is light and yet there's enough to make this a really satisfying wine.
Cabernet Franc is THE red grape of France's Loire Valley and used to make all types of styles from full flavoured reds to sparkling wines. And of course delicious roses.
Very highly recommended.

REGION: Loire Valley, France
A/V: 12%
PRICE: $7.99
FROM: Aldi
RATING: 5/5 from me

Thursday, June 13, 2019

One for the red wine drinking dog lovers.


This is a Liquorland own label that I found last week in their Broome store. The vintage, price and origin surprised me. The fact that it was a multi blend didn't - those Portuguese just can't help themselves.

It's a medium weight red in perfect condition with the promise of further cellaring rewards. It may be a little feral barnyardy for some tastes which is why I scored it a 4. I suggest grabbing a bottle and tasting it over 3 days. See what you think. You may be rushing back for more.

GRAPE VARIETIES: A quadruple blend of Castelao, Tempranillo, Shiraz and Touriga Nacional
REGION: Lisboa, Portugal
A/V: 13%
FROM: Liquorland
RATING: 4/5 from me

Two Outstanding Bargains from Zilzie

These two are currently on offer from Liquorland at a mere $8. And since I reckon anything under $12 for these is good value, $8 must be a bargain worth having a look at.

Both are medium weight reds in perfect balance. The shiraz shows a little more charry oak than I'd prefer but that hasn't stopped it from picking up a gold and silver medal. The cabernet shows plenty of cassis fruit and will probably find more admirers. 

REGION: Karadoc, NW Victoria
A/V: 13.5%
FROM: Liquorland
RATING: 4.5/5 from me

REGION: Karadoc, NW Victoria
A/V: 14%
FROM: Liquorland
RATING: 5/5 from me

What would Dr Lindeman have thought of this nonsense?


I hope I've put everything in the right order but this is a wine you need to drink with an iPhone rather than a glass. Turn to the back label and do this, scan that and experience something or other.

The front label is an absolute nonsense but then so many are nowadays. They're coming from big producers who need to keep their marketing staff occupied. And despite the addition of fortified wine it's an OK drink at $12. It's chunky and solid with absolutely no dazzle. You may enjoy it but don't pay anymore than this.

REGION: South Eastern Australia
A/V: 14.5%
PRICE: $12 discounted from $22
FROM: Liquorland
RATING: 3/5 from me at $12

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

This wine is an absolute crime


This aberration is on a heavily reduced price promotion this week at Liquorland. Don't be tempted. 

The big hook on the label is that its been "Aged 30 days in rum barrels". Now who thought that was a good idea? The back label reveals that "a portion"copped that treatment and that's the only detail about the wine that appears.

Now I regularly bang on about balance in a wine. It's important. The only reason to buy this is to see what I'm not looking for. It's one dimensional with jammy sweetness that made me think of McGuigan's Black Label on steriods.

GRAPE VARIETIES: Who knows? Who cares?
REGION: South Eastern Australia
A/V: 12%
PRICE: $12 marked down from $18
FROM: Liquorland
RATING: 1/5 from me

Another Outstanding Winner from Taylors


Like the others in this range this wine suffers from huge price fluctuations. It's also a strong buy recommendation at this price and below.
And like the Shiraz it's a beautifully balanced mid weight red but featuring French oak instead of American.

REGION: Clare Valley, South Australia
A/V: 14%
PRICE: $15
FROM: Liquorland
RATING: 5/5 from me at this price

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


The Jim Barry Cellar Door is an absolute MUST to visit. For me they are to Riesling in the Clare Valley, like Tyrrells are to Semillon in the Hunter. Their tasting lineup is more a priceless education than an enticement to buy. With extraordinary generosity they offer the opportunity to taste their current vintages, from a variety of diverse riesling vineyards, with old vintages from the same vineyards. 

Their reds are equally impressive with a $40 offer on the McCrae Wood impossible to resist. You''ll also be offered a taste of back vintages. It really is a WOW experience

You'll have no trouble finding their 2018 Watervale Riesling pretty much everywhere. It's the one with the distintictive W label and the 2018 features a substantial amount of gold bling

GRAPE VARIETIES: Riesling, 2018 vintage
REGION: Watervale,Clare Valley, South Australia
A/V: 12.5%
PRICE: $20 maximum
FROM: just about everywhere
RATING: 5/5 from me


The severe market price variations of this wine distract from how good it really is. The cellar door price is $20 and I've seen it as low as $11 in the last year. Dan Woolworths have it at $16 at the moment while Liquorland pip them by a dollar.
At $15 this is a very worthy red to either drink now or cellar. There's lashings of flavour on a rich mid weight palate. The slightly overt American oak can be forgiven at this price plus it will settle down with time. Well worth a try.

REGION: Clare Valley, South Australia
A/V: 14%
PRICE: $15
FROM: Liquorland
RATING: 5/5 from me


Liquorland have this on their shelves marked down from $22* to $11. Is it worth $22? No way. Is it worth $11? Definitely but only if you like the style which is far removed from the popular mainstream Marlborough taste.

This is quite textural and full bodied with the palate weight you're more likely to find in New Zealand Pinot Gris. If you like those you'll rate this much higher than I do. 

GRAPE VARIETIES: Sauvignon Blanc
REGION: Marlborough, New Zealand
A/V: 12.5% 
PRICE: $11
FROM: Liquorland

* What annoys me about this most of all is that this is a Liquorland controlled label. So they are determining, what appears to me to be, a vastly inflated regular shelf price. The market isn't setting the price, they are. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Our first taste of 2019 and it's a beauty

                                          JACOB'S CREEK 2019 RIESLING

This is a dazzling little crisp dry white that I picked this up at Liquorland in Broome for just $8. I then did a search and discovered Dan Murphy have it and the range on at a mere $5,95. That really is ridiculous but make sure you are buying the new vintage. It's very possible they may still have the 2018 on their shelves. I haven't tasted that but it would be unlikely it's better than this.

A/V: 11.7% 
PRICE: $5.95 - $8
FROM: Dan Murphy/ Liquorland
RATING: 5/5 from me at anything under $10

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


If you're planning a visit to a wine area make sure you visit one of the big producers. They set a benchmark against which the smaller winemakers can be evaluated. Sometimes the big guys surprise you and often they disappoint. Which is why we had to visit Taylors and we are so glad we did. This family owned winery has achieved so much in 50 years and with what we tasted the future looks outstanding. 

Most wine drinkers would be familiar with their Estate Label featuring the sea horse logo. Sadly it's become a  label at the mercy of the volume retailers who manipulate the market with huge variations in price. Their Jaraman range is far more obscure but even that is currently on some retail shelves for 60% of their cellar door price. The vintages we tasted were outstanding.

Our Cellar Door visit highlight was tasting their two ranges that aren't on retail shelves: the TWP and Taylor Made Range. Contact the winery for these on 08 8849 1118 or email

We tasted a lot of wines. Here are the ones that scored the 5/5 rating from us. It's a long list  with their cellar door prices. Be careful of the vintages, the ones listed are what we tasted. Insist on those.

ESTATE RANGE [$20]  lowest I've seen in the last 12 months is $11
2018 Sauvignon Blanc [Adelaide Hills] 
2018 Tempranillo

JARAMAN RANGE [$25 for chardonnay, $32 for reds] Currently $20 to $23 at Dan Murphy, but check the vintages.
2017 Chardonnay
2017 Pinot Noir [Yarra Valley]
2017 Shiraz 
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon [Coonawarra/Clare Valley]

2017 Riesling $25
2015 Tasmania Pinot Noir $40
2017 Shiraz $25
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

2016 Pinot Noir [Adelaide Hills]
2017 Malbec
2017 Shiraz
2017 BDX [Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet Franc blend]

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Nobody says it better than Bill

Even though it was the middle of vintage we were fortunate enough to score a private tasting with owner Bill Shrapnel [thank you Leigh]
The passion he has for his block of paradise a kilometer above sea level is best expressed in his own words:

We tasted nine wines and I scored eight of them at my maximum score. I'd recommend them as "must tastes" to everyone. The star is probably his riesling but then again his gewurztraminer is possibly the most perfectly balanced I've ever tasted. Then there's his Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc which are all outstanding.

Colmar Estate is at 790 Pinnacle Rd, Orange NSW
Ph 0419 977 270
Cellar door 1030 to 1700 Sat and Sun. Other times by appointment 

A MUST visit Cellar Door in Orange NSW

Rowlee produce a small range of outstanding premium wines at high altitude in Orange. As dazzling as their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay are, their 2018 Arneis really stood out for me. It's as good as I've tasted anywhere in the world. It's a delicate, yet powerful dry white with a tantalising perfumed nose that follows through on the palate. 

I'm not a huge fan of the Fume Blanc style but Rowlee's 2017 is talented winemaking with the perfect marriage of fruit and oak which raises it well above a mere wooded sauvignon blanc. On top of that you'll love the cellar door experience. Wonderful hosts who are passionate about their contribution to establishing Orange as one of the premium wine regions in Australia.

Check for cellar door opening times plus they do lunch by prior arrangement
19 Lake Canobolas Rd Orange NSW 2800
ph 02 6365 3047