Tasting notes for the wines of Margaret River

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Margaret River. For profiles of all of these estates please see Regional report: A wine tour of Margaret River.


VASSE FELIX

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Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
Lovely grassy nose, with a certain lushness, a richness of fig and a nice creamy quality. There’s a delicate herbal note. Around 17% of this is barrel fermented. The palate has lovely balance and thrust, with very fine mineral acidity. The oak adds only a little creaminess and perfume. 12.5% alcohol. 90/100. This wine not in the UK.

Semillon 2009
35% barrel ferment, with a very tight, punchy, citrusy nose. Lots of lime zest, but fine, floral, delicate perfumes too. The palate has lovely clarity too. A fine, structural texture with just a touch of oaky cream and weight. A bit of that freshening, fresh cut grass comes through, moving on from the mid-palate sweetness to a crisp, racy finish. 89/100.

Chardonnay 2008
Another wine with just 12.5% alcohol, no malolactic with lots of solids in the ferment and ambient yeasts. 40% new French oak. Lots of trials with sulphur levels to manage amounts that let yeasts survive. Delicious green fig richness and creamy, dense weight. Terrific lemony zest and pithy character too though with a peach down character. Has a cut of green bean and plenty of zesty acidity, even hinting at that crisp Sauvignon character. 90/100.

Heytesbury Chardonnay 2007
Paul Homes à Court now owns the Heytesbury group, of which Vasse Felix is part (as well as beef and a stud farms). A barrel selection, this has a beautifully rich, all those buttery, figgy overtones. Lots of green fruits, with a fine sense of ripeness but terrific clarity. ON the palate some bright, orangy fruit, and a whilst there’s a creamy, dense texture, the fruit is very punchy. Delicious stuff, and has great balance of power and finesse. 93/100.

Heytesbury Chardonnay 2008
Definitely a more reserved, delightfully fresh style, with a really focused, almost mineral character. The palate has cool apple fruit, with just that creamy, gently toasty and spicy background. Lovely palate weight and texture again, a bit of phenolic bite that fits beautifully. A really lovely shape to this wine already (which won’t be released for six months). Has that gentlest hint of under-ripeness, but this is Virginia’s intention: moving this to a style that uses a lot of solids in the winemaking, keeping it a bit reductive, no malo, natural yeasts, soaks up the oak. 93/100.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
A little Malbec in this too. Difficult vintage, but Virginia really likes a lot of the wines that have come good. Herbal notes here, with a definite character of sage leaves that are in the herbal spectrum, but again Virginia’s argument is persuasive that this is not under-ripeness, but a savoury herb quality of the region. The palate has a fine black fruit quality, with an earthy, juicy quality that powers through. The tannins are ripe, just adding a chewiness to the quite fat berry fruits and well-balanced acidity. 92/100.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
From a really warm year, the herby quality is not so pronounced, but that little smoky, gentle sage leaf character is definitely still there. The fat, sweet fruit, is more glossy and full on the nose and onto the palate, more into the cassis spectrum, the oak building in the finish to give lots of savoury, dry tannin – fruit tannin that is firm but has a certain juiciness. Lovely finish too. Lots of sweetness. 92/100.

Heytesbury 2007
Traditionally a Barrel selection blend of anything and everything that they thought would make the best red, including Merlot and Shiraz. Virginia doesn’t like the combination of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, so now a blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet. Merlot might be used in certain years. No lack of plush, coffee-tinged, ripe aromas, with touches of violet and mint leaf. That intriguing sage note is still there, giving the delicate herbal notes that are a hallmark of the estate. The palate is big and dry, with a savoury, meaty component, and all the cedary, spicy finesse playing against the structure and the sweet, ripe fruit. 94/100.

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CULLEN WINES

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Mangan Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
The Mangan vineyard is a more recent addition to the estate, sited just across the road from the winery and home vineyards. 70% Sauvignon, about 30% of which was barrel fermented. Discreet, subtle nose, the lightly herbal and creamy aromatics along with a very delicate florality. The palate has a bracing core of lemony fruit: a huge streak of it through the mid-palate, and a pithy, lemon finish. Bracing, dry and intelligent stuff. 87/100

Cullen Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
80% Sauvignon Blanc, similar oak regime to the Mangan. More pronounced aromatically, with a bit of leafy, crisp, much brighter and slightly riper fruit, and even hint of herbs. The palate has more vibrancy and weight too, with lots of vivacious punch, a bit of really pithy, piercing green fruit bite and lovely acid. 89/100

Kevin John Chardonnay 2007
Fermented with wild yeasts, and 10 months of oak ageing in new and older barrels, and partial malolactic. Subtly creamy nose, with very nice almond and cashew aromatics, and just hinting at ripe, almost pineapple fruit in the background – though all very subtle. The palate has terrific, juicy, lemon and lime zing. The fruit stays focused and tight, with a really keen edge and just little glimpses of something more peachy and exotic. Linear and long, with lovely balance in the finish. 91/100.

Cullen Mangan 2007
Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot in roughly equal proportions. Four months in new and older oak. Instantly the nose is very finely balanced, with a cedary, savoury chestnut note to really lifted, cherry and violet scented black fruit. The palate has plenty of creamy, textural density, with the savoury black fruit dry and mouth-filling, with a black plum skin grip and lovely bittersweet balance. Very fine tannins here. 90/100.

Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2007
20 months barrel ageing. This is effectively a second wine of Diana Madeline, and is sold only in Australia. Not singing in the glass, but from an open bottle, so possibly not as fresh as it might be. Good balance – subtle, nice smooth tannins and a pleasantly soft finish. A provisional 88/100.

Diana Madeline 2007
Predominantly Cabernet, with 8% Merlot and 4% each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, aged 14 months in French oak. Nicely spicy nose, with very cool, classy aromatics, lots of black cherry and blackcurrant, and a background that just hints at gentle cedar and a touch of subtle sage. Beautiful mouth-filling fruit, with that dry, savoury tannic structure. Lovely purity and the silky, very finely grained tannins and supple quality just run on forever on the palate. A beautiful wine. 94/100.

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CAPE MENTELLE

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Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2008
Nice punch of herby, grassy notes here, with some underlying white fruit of melon and some juicy passionfruit. The palate maintains a bit of that raw green bean crunch, with very nice citrus fruit – quite lean and savoury, with a pithy lemon but also a bit of limey, almost waxy texture in the background. 90/100

Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2009
Not so much of the capsicum, cut grassy aromatic. More dry, white, apple and pear fruit, but cool and dry, with a hint of nuttiness. The palate has a nice weight, with a bit more creamy weight than the 2008 at this stage I think, but some of that grassy cut does come through. 90/100

Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2005
2005 was a long, dry vintage. Lovely nose, with a little bit of green fig richness and a hint of buttery toast and some spice. Absolutely delicious palate, with terrific lemon zest thrust and fine flavours that punch through the mid palate. A lovely Graves style. 93/100

Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007
Slightly steelier aromatics, with very fine herbs and punchy lime fruit. The palate has more room to develop, at the moment the Sauvignon piercing through with its greener notes, but this will take on some weight in bottle to mature more like the 2005 I suspect. 91/100

Chardonnay 2007
Tim tells me this wine is benchmarked against Chablis and Chassagne-Montrachet. This has a fair bit of oak, but the winemaking team has been working on lowering alcohol, retaining a bit more acidity, and trying to rein back the formerly ‘bigger’, riper style the wine once had. There’s a gentle toast and some cool orchard fruits and a touch of peach. On the palate this has a little bit of orangy, lime-fresh bite, and that hint of waxy, rich textural weight through the mid-palate. Lovely balance here, and a very fresh but fruity style. 90/100

Chardonnay 2008
Oak seems further in the background still in this vintage, with a touch of green bean quality and beneath a gently toasty, grilled peach fruit. The palate is razor sharp, with a real sense of minerality running through the wine, the complex, stone fruit and lemon zest flavours, along a fantastic line of acidity. Beautiful stuff. 92/100 Shiraz 2007
Fantastic colour. Lots of floral, creamy, bright berry and cherry notes. A touch of peppery spice too – very nice qualities here. The palate has a developing chocolaty note, with a firm, cherry skin and plum skin edge to the fruit and the tannin. Fresh, bright fruit marries with that nice structure in a delicious wine. 92/100

Trinders Cabernet Merlot 2007
Although a lot of the fruit comes from the home Trinders vineyard, it is not a single vineyard wine, as fruit from other vineyards in Willyabrup in northern Margaret River add structure to the silky Trinders fruit. Small amounts of Petit Verdot and Malbec in this wine too. Some gamey, vegetal notes to this, but an obvious ripeness, and little lifted notes of violet in the background. Some smoky, dry qualities here, but the lovely fleshy, gamey palate has great richness and a chewy tannin finish, with a chewy, fine finish. 90/100

Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Current vintage in the UK, and may skip on to the 2006. The ‘icon’ Cabernet Sauvignon, when it won the Jimmy Watson trophy in successive years in the early 80s. Only around 2,000 cases all from home vineyards. Fantastic spicy nose, with Bay leaf aromatics and lots of cedary complexity, with a gamey edge and an underlying richness and ripeness. Beautiful purity here and a great deal of sweetness and plush depth, but the edge never leaves the fruit and the cherry ripe acid is beautifully done. 93/100

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LEEUWIN ESTATE

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Art Series Riesling 2008
Dry, gently herbaceous, clean limey fruit. Lovely palate, delicate with a light talcumy, floral feel. The palate has fine lemon and lime fruit, with a gentle acidity and a delicate style. 88/100

Siblings Sauvignon Semillon 2009
Semillon is fermented in old barrels. Nicely peachy, light, peach down and gooseberry cut, a hint of herbaceous quality, but in that nice peach mid-style. The palate has a layered texture and depth, with lots of herbal quality but a great thrust and cut of crisp lemony acidity. 89/100

Prelude Chardonnay 2007
This has a very attractive green bean, punchy edge to the fruit, with some background of green fig and smokiness. On the palate this has a beautiful balance and a really tight, lemony, beautifully focused fruit and the core of acidity slices through the slightly creamier, leesy notes of the finish. 90/100

Art Series Chardonnay 2007
Beautiful, fresh but full palate, a lovely ripe Ogen melon breadth to this. Fantastic fruit and clarity here. Tangy and juicy but has a breadth of fruit. 92/100

Art Series Chardonnay 2006
Like the Prelude, all crushes and pressed – no whole bunch – but has skin contact. Barrel ferment, and this gets 100% new oak as opposed to 40% for the Prelude. Similarly green bean and ripe fig nose with lots of weight and a bit of buttered toast, but there’s a piercing green fruit quality beneath. Delicious palate, lots of sweetness to the fruit here, lots of depth, but the edge of the acidity and the long, clean linearity is delicious. 93/100

Art Series Chardonnay 2005
A smooth toasty quality, with a touch of mint even, buttered mint humbug. There’s fine fruit and quality here, with juicy sweet fruit, just punching through with tropical fruit notes, Lovely acidity, and the warming, creamy, toffee apple notes too. Delicious and structure. 93/100

Art Series Chardonnay 1989
Re-bottled 18 months ago under screwcap from the cork. Big percentage (50%) oxidised and thrown away. Fantastic depth of figgy, baked apple fruit and delightful orangy fruit. Beautiful freshness, with plenty of vim and vigour, fantastic balance and depth. 95/100

2007 Art Series Shiraz
Shiraz was planted here from the start, when it was called hermitage locally. It didn’t really work in the sites where it was planted, but now they have new vineyards and buy some fruit from Willyabrup. Glossy, touches of pepper and spice, with delicious, fat cherry fruit. The fat, sweet mouth-filling fruit has a lovely edge of chocolate. 93/100

Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Has a touch of Malbec too. Already bottled but pre-release. Lovely cedar, but really nice blackcurrant fruit and a brighter, redcurrant to-note. Very bold and bright. The palate shows the young oak a little, that needs to integrate more, but the glossy weight of the fruit is all there, backed up by a sinewy, bold blackcurrant richness. Beautiful; 94/100

Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Has a fine cassis weight and depth, with a dusty, very deep and dark feel to it. The palate has chocolaty richness, with real depth and that cedary, edgy, rich but savoury character. 94/100

Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
The current release. Cedary, gravel-edged, but has a plushness too, with the really ripe, plush black fruit. The palate has great fruit too, and the black core of sweet cassis and mulberry goes on and on. Deliciously moreish. 95/100

Cabernet Sauvignon 1982
Mature, slightly leafy, iron oxide quality but still some fine, sweet fruit at the core and a touch of gamy quality, as well as some deep, coffeeish oak. 92/100

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HOWARD PARK

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Mad Fish Gold Turtle Chardonnay 2007
Margaret River fruit. Fine, herb-spiked, nutty nose with a nice streak of something like green fig. The palate has very nice fruit, with a touch of leesy, waxy weight, but fine clarity and a zesty finish. 89/100

Howard Park Chardonnay 2007
Mostly great Southern Fruit. Much more toast and rounded vanillin. The palate has a big sour lemony fruit and really good orangy acidity. Lovely bit of structure here. 91/100

Howard Park Chardonnay 2008
Mostly great Southern Fruit. Lots of toast and nutty warmth, a little hint of espresso. Big, concentrated palate with layers of lemon pith, nuttiness and that core of fruit that has real intensity and punch. More focused that the 2007 and more vibrant perhaps. 93/100 Marchand & Burch Chardonnay 2008
All great Southern Fruit. More subtle than the Howard Park, with refined, lightly toasty notes and a good deal of minerality. Has lovely pithy grapefruit acidity and a very fine palate. 93/100

Mad Fish Gold Turtle Tempranillo 2008
Matured in large, old oak hogsheads. Nice and leafy, tobacco character with lots of bright fruit and good concentration. Lovely sweet fruited palate with lots of nice tannin, fresh acidity and sweetness. 89/100

Mad Fish Gold Turtle Shiraz 2007
Frankland river fruit. Lovely coffeeish oak over deep, quite plumy fruit. Nice spicy quality. Very fine, mouth-filling palate, lots of grip and a spicy black cherry quality. Nice wine with lots of grip. 89/100

Howard Park Scotsdale Shiraz 2007
Frankland River fruit. Nice grilled meat quality, a touch of cedar, and a smooth, fairly voluptuous fruitiness. Very nice, lithe, tight and muscular character. Tight and concentrated with good dry extract and a savoury, grippy finish. 92/100

Marchand & Burch Shiraz 2007
Mostly Margaret River in this vintage. Very smooth, silky, black cherry and chocolate-touched fruit. The palate has a fantastic black chocolate richness. This is lovely, with round and voluptuous quality. 94/100

Howard Park Leston Shiraz 2007
Big, strapping, rich and concentrated with a bold, concentrated, fruit and a really meaty structure. A big, powerhouse style, but very good. 92/100

Madfish Cabernet Merlot 2007
Nice touch of leafiness to this blend of various regions in WA. Nice touches of earthiness and gentle cedar from old oak. On the palate there’s a really chewy texture and plenty of dry, grippy, earthy tannins and spice. Delivers a big, quite serious glass of wine at £8.99 in the UK. 90/100

Mad Fish Gold Turtle Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Quite earthy too, with a similarly dense and cedary black fruit nose. The palate is loaded with tannin – wonderfully dense and chocolaty quality, but the fruit staying pure and quite glossy. A layered, dense wine that maintains an edge. 92/100

Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Quite warm, round nose, with a thick, sweet fruit and plenty of spice and a touch of toast. Very sweet, fat, mouth-filling black fruit, lots of glossy sweetness but masses of grippy, black fruit and fine structure. Like the life and elegance to this. 92/100

Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
This picks a really leafy, green olive herbaceous quality of Cabernet. Lots of tight, thick blackcurrant fruit again, with quite full, earthy quality. Has lots of grip and lots of bright red cherry and a lifted quality to this, but finishes with great style and grippy length. 92/100

Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Great Southern and Margaret River, around 40% new oak for this top Cabernet. Beautifully bright, rounded, glossy black fruit. The palate has that really solid core of black fruit again. There’s a juicy, firm blackness to the fruit, and a big kick of very grippy, in some ways lean but focused and svelte tannins. Nice acid structure too, and has a long, really nicely focused finish with terrific balance. Lip-smacking, savoury and juicy stuff that needs time. 94/100

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EVANS & TATE

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Evans & Tate Zamphire NV
Brand new, sparkling wine made from Margaret River fruit, but bottled at one of McWilliams sparkling wine facilities elsewhere. The wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. In a brand new zork closure that is re-sealable. Apple-freshness of the Chenin comes through, and big, bold lime fruited palate. Easy to drink but delicious and well balanced. 87/100. Not in UK, but would sell around £9.99

Evans & Tate Classic Semillon Sauvignon 2008
A 60/40 blend. Quite green and herbaceous, with a touch of sweatiness. A lot of good, lemony fruit comes through, and has some really nice herbaceous punch. Maybe a touch harsh on the finish in terms of the acidity, but easy to drink at 12.5% alcohol. 86/100. £7.99 on Tesco.com, often on promo at £5.99.

Evans & Tate Classic White Semillon Sauvignon 2009
A bit tanky and pear droppy, but the bold lemony fruit and grassy edge coming through. Has fine balance, and decent length too. 86/100. £7.99, Tesco.com.

Evans & Tate Split River Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Branded as ‘Gnangara’ in Australia, this new entry level range are Western Australian wines rather coming exclusively from Margaret River. It will sell for around £6.99 of it comes to the UK. Nicely punchy nose, with a gooseberry and herbal crunch. The palate has a slightly confected quality, with a touch of sugar just causing a little disjointed character towards the finish. 85/100.

Evans & Tate Split River Unwooded Chardonnay 2008
Nose has melon and some lemony fruit, with a fairly stripped palate. Again I don’t like the sugar, but this has a bit of easy drinking charm. 84/100. Will sell for £6.99

Evans & Tate Margaret River Chardonnay 2006
From one of the region’s coolest but longest growing seasons on record, this is aged in 50% new French oak, with another 20% or so spending time in Older Russian oak. Quite a smoky, toasty touch to the nose, but still some of Margaret River’s green, cool fruit comes through. A little bit of oily green bean quality, and onto the palate lots of punch and verve, but also a broad, juicy fruitiness. 89/100. £9.99, Tesco Fine Wine and Tesco.com.

Evans & Tate Margaret River Chardonnay 2007
Toastier, and seems a little less green than the 2006, with a real freshness again, though again I feel the sugar is slightly high in this vintage. 88/100.

Evans & Tate Stellar Ridge Chardonnay 2006
This and next wine are part of a single vineyard project, with wines made from different vineyards which might change each year. This is the second year of this project, and the second time the Stellar Ridge vineyard has made it into bottle. Fine, smoky, buttery nose, lots of quality French oak. Palate has a lovely sour lemon quality, a bit of cashew and oatmeal, and very fine. 91/100. Not exported, but sells for 35 AUS $35

Evans & Tate Wildberry Chardonnay 2005
From a 50/50 combination of new and one-year-old French oak, this has a complex, slightly wild and herbal nose, with exotic incense notes and a touch of green fig. Delicious palate – full of fruit that is quite peachy and weighty, but constrained by a keen, cool, apple acidity. 92/100.

Evans & Tate Reserve Chardonnay 2005
Fermentation and ageing in new and used French oak gives a nice crushed almond and cashew nose. Lots of oatmeal and just a touch of that green bean crunch in the background. The palate has richness and full-bodied weight. Creamy and rich, the French oak adding toast and nuttiness, but maintains a nice, crisp edge. 91/100. £19.99.

Evans & Tate Classic Red Shiraz Cabernet 2008
Bold raspberry fruit, a touch of pepper, very bright and zippy. The palate has lots of fleshy, plum and cherry sweetness. Tangy and fresh, there’s enough acidity and a nip of roughening tannins to balance the slightly too sweet finish. 86/100. £7.99, Tesco.com

Evans & Tate Split River Shiraz 2008
Peppery spice, with a touch of raspberry and cherryish fruit. Big, bold, creamy sweet fruit and a dollop of sugar. Delivers a lot of big fruit and spice at a modest price. 86/100. Would be £6.99 if in the UK.

Evans & Tate Split River Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Nice nose, a touch of leather and spice, and a slightly gravelly, earthy quality perhaps? Decent, bold fruit on the palate. 87/100. Would be £6.99 if in the UK.

Evans & Tate Margaret River Shiraz 2007
Big, bold, creamy and vanillin nose, with lots of ripeness and plushness. The palate has that creamy quality too, but this has a nice bit of racy background, with a chocolaty note too and a certain plushness. Plenty of spice and richness. 90/100. £9.99.

Evans & Tate Reserve Shiraz 2005
A wine awarded a clutch of top awards at the Royal Sydney Show last year, at which I was a judge, it is great to taste this again now. A touch of briary, schisty quality, with lots of cool climate briar and leafy quality, but very bold. Long and very, very fine. 93/100. £19.99.

Evans & Tate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Big, bold, crunchy nose, with lots of chocolate and ripe, thick blackcurrant fruit. The fruit on the palate is beautifully balanced and sweet. Real structure and grip too here though, with a silkiness to the tannins and a good, pithy, lemony acidity. 92/100. £19.99.

Evans & Tate Classic Moscato 2008
An extremely surprising blend of around 50% Sauvignon Blanc with 30% Shiraz, Chardonnay and less than 15% Muscat. Great fun, with the bold, strawberry fruit and the Sauvignon adding maybe a touch of greeny grip. Would be £8.99 if in the UK – but with only 15% Muscat in the blend, let’s hope they’d rename it if they do. 87/100.

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CLAIRAULT

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Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Vineyard has three creeks running through it, and seems to be cooler than its latitude would suggest, helped by breezes from Southern ocean only five miles away. Really juicy, gooseberry and herbal punch. Lots of fruit and fantastic verve, as Will Shields keeps acid and sugar both pretty low to let the fruit show through. Only 12.5. alcohol. 89/100. In Marks & Spencer.

Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Sixty five percent Semillon, with no oak. Adds a lot more lemony punch, with a big streak of lime and a touch of straw-like character. The palate has fantastic pithy lemon acidity, with a real pithy dryness. Deliciously drinkable. 13%. 90/100. With Waverly.

Estate Chardonnay 2006
250-500 cases, The black label estate wines are the flagships of the range. Comes from the ‘L’ block. Chardonnay is prone to wind damage in this area, but this block is protected. Like many Western Australian Chardonnays, this is a clone called ‘Gingin’ (named after a town north of Perth where the mother vineyard is sited). The all French oak (33% new) gives a wonderfully buttery, slightly herbal green bean quality, and the fruit is focused and cool. Lovely acidity (all natural). Long and beautifully balanced. 92/100

Shiraz 2005
Will Shields says “Cabernet is more of our focus, and we don’t grow any Shiraz on the property.” For this wine he uses older French oak. This has a green, herbal and menthol character, with savoury cherry fruit and olive. The fruit on the palate is savoury and chewy, with a tobacco and leathery touch, and a nice tangy finish. Fairly easy drinking but has a good bit of spice and structure. 87/100. In Waverly.

Cabernet Merlot 2005
A touch of leafy, under-ripe fruit quality (60% Cabernet), with a certain herbal streak and lots of red plum fruit. Big and plush on the palate, and again although there’s a slightly tobacco and ashy quality, the softness of the fruit and the breadth is good. The tannins are quite soft, but give a chewy texture offset by good acidity and a keen core of blackcurrant that comes through. 88/100.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Quite a lot of the fruit for this comes from the ‘A’ Block, which is 30-year-old fruit and constitutes the Estate Cab Sauvignon. Lovely Cabernet nose, with that green, herbal edge that is so typical, a touch of floral quality and plenty of black fruit. The palate develops lovely depth, with hints of chocolate and smokiness, but there’s a cherry bright edge that plays against the spice too, keeping it fresh despite a whopping 15% Alcohol. Deliciously moreish. 90/100. In Marks & Spencer.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Again has that slightly ashy, green-tinged quality, but the tight core of black fruit comes through powerfully. There’s a lovely fruit here, and lots of racy, punchy tannin and spice. Seems a touch leaner than the 2005 perhaps, but also riper and sweeter at its core. Lovely length and oak quality too. 91/100

Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Double gold winner at IWC 2009, comes from old vines and has some Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, adding around 3% each. Around 40% new oak. Big, plush nose, with much less of the greenness, and a rounded, plummy, but fresh and sweet fruit. Lovely big, broad, bloody palate, with plenty of depth and smooth, elegant tannins that are quite chocolaty and sweet. Lovely balance and acidity. 94/100. In Marks & Spencer.

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STELLA BELLA

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Skuttlebutt Sauvignon/Semillon 2008
From bought-in fruit, vineyards spread around WA, that provide lots of components. Big, juicy, passionfruit nose, lots of grapefruit and orange and plenty of zing. The palate has a nice waxiness from the Semillon and has a lovely bright acidity with a pithy dryness. 88/100

Stella Bella Semillon/Sauvignon 2008
60% Semillon, with 10-15% of the blend fermented in new oak. Big green bean punch, with a nuttiness and a peachy fruit behind. The palate has lovely fruit sweetness – a real sweet pear and peach pushing through with a waxy, lemon rind acidity. Concentrated and focused. 90/100

Stella Bella Sauvignon Blanc 2009
20% barrel ferment Margaret River fruit, with lovely grassiness and that peachy fruit behind. There’s a bright, zingy focus with lots of lime-spiked, grassy fruit and a lovely savoury punch, just a tiny hint of spice and interesting minerality. 91/100

Stella Bella Semillon/Sauvignon 2003
Quite a lot of nutty, figgy influence, with a real lemon curd ripeness, and mouth-filling textural weight lovely punch and sweet fruit at the core and terrific savoury balance. 93/100

Stella Bella Chardonnay 2007
Fermented in older oak, but has a powerful toasty, malolactic, creamy nose. Lots of fig and green fruit. The mouth is filled with sweet fruit, really quite intense and rich, loads of texture but a great juiciness and minerality in amongst the ripe fruit and swirling oak. 92/100

Stella Bella Chardonnay 2002
Lovely nose, maybe slightly suppressed and the nutty, savoury character coming through. The palate has delicious, savoury, tight lemony character, and a creaminess in the background and all that savoury, almost cedary character. 91/100

Stella Bella Viognier 2007
Fermented in old oak. Slightly warmer ferment, no malolactic. Fantastically expressive, typical nose with dried apricot and fresh, juicy pear, but there’s a whimsical suggestion of something exotic, almost spicy and lychee-like. The palate is juicy and fresh, with lots of texture and punchy, fresh fruit. No blowsiness, and has touches of spice and lovely acidity. 90/100

Suckfizzle Sauvignon / Semillon 2007
The “terroir” wine from eight hectares on the southern coastal tip of Margaret River region. All barrel fermented (50/50 new and old) 15 months in oak with battonage, but no malolactic. Extraordinary, aromatically expressive wine, with lots of nutty, nut husk notes, green bean notes, and complex fruit hinting at tropical and lemon, with bracing acidity on the palate. 92/100

Suckfizzle Sauvignon / Semillon 2005
Toasty, more mellow than the 07, with a herbal notes and a waxy lemon rind, very attractive. The palate is riven with beautiful lemony fruit and acidity, and a really mineral, clean undertone. Beautiful, expressive wine. 93/100

Skuttlebutt Shiraz Cabernet 2007
Rich, pepper and spice-marked black fruit. Black cherry and a smoky tobacco note, with lots of grip and a savoury character. Dry and savoury and a very serious wine at its price. 88/100

Stella Bella Shiraz 2007
Little touch reductive, but a schisty, smoky quality too. The palate has strikingly fresh fruit, with delicious fruit sweetness and then that big, dry, savoury spice and smoke. Lovely, intelligent stuff. 91/100

Stella Bella Tempranillo 2007
Big, seductive, black cherry nose, with some roast meat and a touch of chocolate. There’s a deal, of dry, quite inky tannic heft: it’s a big, dry, savoury style. But the sweetness of the fruit is there, and a lip-smacking juiciness definitely comes through. 90/100

Stella Bella Sangiovese / Cabernet 2007
This has 85% Sangiovese, so could be labelled simply as that. The palate has a black cherry bite, intermingled with some smoke and a touch of chocolate, but the tannins are smooth and silky and the cool, pure fruit powers through. Beautiful stuff. 91/100

Stella Bella Cabernet / Merlot 2007
Terrific, herbaceous but ripe and cassis-laden cabernet nose, with spices and a subtle vanilla. The palate has some olive savouriness and plenty of thick, sweet black fruit of black cherry and cassis. The tannins are ripe, and this is grippy, but silky in the finish. 92/100

Suckfizzle Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Single vineyard, picked twice. Big, wonderfully smoky, spicy, sage-like quite mineral nose, with fantastic fruit sweetness and juicy blackcurrant ripeness. Lovely ripeness and a dense, plush wine with superb balance, the spice of the tannins and cherry acidity lifting the finish. 94/100

Suckfizzle Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
A herbaceous, Cabernet edge to this, with hints of mint and eucalyptus, a touch of sage. Really bright, juicy black fruit beneath – super ripe blackcurrant. The palate has great sweetness – wonderful elegance but a juicy, mouth-filling dryness with a hint of umami, earth and leather. 93/100

Skuttlebutt Savvy Sauvignon Blanc 2009
A lovely 70g/l sugar frizzante with beautiful peachy notes, lovely sweetness but really quite punchy too. The acidity is great and the fruit too. 87/100

Stella Bella Pink Muscat 2009
Nicely medicinal edges of cherry and a touch of clove, and all the floral notes. There is a ginger beer character and really nice sweetness and a delicious cherry fruit. 90gl sugar. Great acidity and a spine of lovely Muscat fruit. 89/100.

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VOYAGER ESTATE

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Voyager Sauvignon / Semillon 2008
Semillon sees a little barrel ferment. Nice creamy lemon rind fruit, with a nicely herbal touch, and has fine texture: quite creamy and savoury, with the texture and savoury structure. 88/100

Voyager Sauvignon / Semillon 2009
Waxy, apple peel and lemon nose, a lot of texture and grip, with a lemon zest character, and there’s a pithy acidity. This still has two months before release and is perhaps slightly closed. Spicy and moreish, with good acidity. 88/100 but would need to be reassessed.

Chardonnay 2007
From a warm year, harvested quite early in February before the heat struck. 100 percent new oak, 15% malo. Lovely green fig and quince like fruit, lots of smoky quality. Some orange and ripe melon. The palate has great acidity and lots of creamy, lemon curd fruit. Fantastic intensity and savoury quality. 90/100

Chardonnay 2006
From one of the coldest, latest vintages harvested one month later than normal. The nose picks up a little floral, delicate with a really fine, almost Chassagne quality. 92/100

Chenin Blanc 2009
6.2g/l sugar. Fine orange blossom, crunchy green apple fruit. Very juicy and delicious. 87/100

Tom Price Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2005
Made only in exceptional years, this flagship white is in the smoky Graves mould, with masses of green olive and mineral against sweet oak and lemony fruit. Rich and full, but balanced and long, it is a baby that needs time. 93/100.

Shiraz 2006
There is ripe, rich, bramble fruit here, but lovely cool climate pepper and lighter, schistier nuances and a touch of leaf, earthy character. An edge of liquorice, but has a real juiciness 88/100

Girt by Sea 2007
50% Cabernet with Merlot, Malbec and Shiraz. A touch of baked plum and fine cassis. Really nice tension to this wine, with a linear quality to the fruit and tannins, and very lithe and juicy. Delivers a lot for £9.50 per bottle. 90/100

Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Rich, sweet, thick and ripe black fruit. Smoky, a bit of bittersweet black fruit skins. Nice tannin length, good weight and freshness. Lovely weight and balance. 91/100

Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
A touch of tobacco and a little elegant, smoky and mineral quality to juicy cherry skin and rich, dark, damson fruit. The tannins and ripe and pretty grippy, but there’s a juicy, savoury and edge to the fruit. Cool and classy, with fantastic freshness as well as spice. 93/100

Tom Price Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Cabernet Sauvignon, all southern Margaret River. Fabulous, glossy blackcurrant fruit, with huge opulence, but also has a cedary, complex character. Beautiful fruit on the palate and great fruit and balance with beautiful, dark, sweet edged but savoury fruit. Long and fantastically pure, this is a huge wine so much you like it might depend on your love of this style. 94/100

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DEVIL’S LAIR

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Fifth Leg Chardonnay 2009
Oliver Crawford tells me this is his “response to the popularity of New Zealand Sauvignon. It’s a wine that offers the nice fruits of Chardonnay, but has a really clean, fresh, zippy finish.” Nice touch of green, but a big lemony palate, lovely punch. 88/100

Devil’s Lair Chardonnay 2008
All of the fruit for this comes off of the estate vineyards. Oliver employs 50% new French oak, 100% malolactic. Picked a little bit early, but has a lot of weight and fat through the mid palate. There’s a refined green fruit quality and plenty of zip and lemony sharpness. Impressive. 92/100

Fifth Leg Rosé 2009
Shiraz/Merlot/Cabernet blend. Elegant, fresh, cherry flower and strawberry. Soft, sweet cherry fruit holds a nice line through the finish with a hint of residual sugar, but holding really nice acidity and has softening tannins in the finish. 87/100

Devil’s Lair Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Lots of capsicum and grassy character. Oliver had done a lot of research on malolactic inoculation and yeasts whilst at Penfold’s, so this is made with an overtly grassy character. Lots of quite aggressive, herbaceous character, but very crisp and fresh, with a lot of punchy, vibrant lemon and lime flavour. Dry and a determinedly Marlborough style. 89/100

Devils Lair Cabernet Merlot 2007
“It’s a $65 bottle of wine, so it needs to deliver,” says Oliver. Made from 100% estate fruit, it spends 22 months in oak. Schisty black cherry, with some green edge, with a nice black fruited edge. There’s a creamy weight and texture, and the tannins are a touch chalky, but the wine holds together very nicely. 90/100

Devils Lair Cabernet Merlot 2008
16 months in oak, added around 20% non estate fruit. No real sign of any greenness. A touch of black cherry and a more plump feel to the fruit. The palate has a broad acidity and nicely savoury edge, but the juicier finish has some real bite and a bit of tobacco and black plum skin tang and brightness. 92/100

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XANADU

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Xanadu, Exmoor Drive Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009
Quite powerful, apple and citrus nose, any more vegetal Sauvignon character well in the background. The palate has a gooseberry bite and intensity, a touch of leafy green herbs and a more unctuous, almost pineapple fruit in the background. Quite richly-textured and balanced by zesty acidity, this drinks well and has a nicely balanced style with only 12.5% alcohol. 87/100

Xanadu, Exmoor Drive Chardonnay 2008
There’s a green fig and pleasantly hazelnut note to this wine, with orchard fruits beneath. Wild yeast fermentation does give a nicely funky, earthy character too. On the palate the barrel influence is quite prominent, with a sweetness of fruit also dominant. That vanilla and tropical fruit attack is met rather abruptly by a bold, lemony acidity. This keeps the wine fresh, but perhaps a touch disjointed too. 86/100.

Xanadu, Chardonnay 2008
Again, wild yeast fermentation and ageing in French oak barriques (25% new) are part of the equation here, and the nose displays that funky, complex character with a trace of something earthy and meaty that’s verging on being indistinct, but a nuttiness and green-fruited quality begins to come through. On the palate this comes together well: there’s a big, pithy, almost sour acidity at the core of this, but wrapped around it are softly toasty, nougat flavours and some ripe, sweet fruit, in a wine that ends up quite complex and with good balance. 89/100.

Xanadu, Exmoor Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
There’s a fine, sweet, almost blood-streaked gamey edge to the black fruit on this wine, with a classic hint of Margaret River herbaceousness. On the palate ripe black fruit – cassis and black cherry – are tinged with some smoky oak and a hint of bittersweet cocoa. There’s a certain freshness too thanks to good acidity and a tight, grippy line of tannin. 88/100.

Xanadu, Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
This handsome, tall bottle contains Cabernet that spent 14 months in French oak, around 55% of it new. That herbal quality is here again, but this time joined by more subtle, integrated notes of cedar and incense, and a coffeeish warmth to the black fruit character. On the palate this has a fairly grippy, stern core of acid and tannin that should help it to age positively, as the fruit is sweet and has a nice density. It perhaps lacks a touch of flesh on the mid-palate, but is a wine with very good components and a certain elegance. 90/100.

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