New vintages from Australia: white, red & fizzy

This was a tasting of Australian wines organised by the Oddbins retail chain of wine shops in the UK. Oddbins were truly one of the pioneers in bringing Australian wines to the UK high street and there current line up still puts most other retailers in the shade. Some cheaper Australian wines I’ve tasted recently have been rather obvious, over-commercial efforts, but general impressions of this tasting – at a slightly higher price level – suggests the Australians are making the most of their reliably ripe fruit to make really tasty and concentrated wines, without erring into over-blown new oak flavouring as they so often did in the past. The tasting was not blind.

The wines

Seppelt Salinger sparkling wine 1992 – £8.99
Pale straw colour and good stream of tiny bubbles. Very toasty nose, with pronounced citrus fruit. Very crisp on the palate, with no great substance to the mousse, but really sharply defined lemon and lime fruit, apple acidity and a pleasant touch of sweetness in a good length of finish. Excellent summer-in-the-garden style of wine.

Lindemans Bin 70 1997 – £4.49
Pale lemony yellow. Very attractive, slightly waxy nose of ripe pears and lemons. Quite full-bodied with gentle oakiness and good, fresh acidity. A very nice wine with a clean, fruity finish. I think its a blend of verdelho, semillon and chardonnay – maybe something else too.

Rothbury Hunter Valley Verdelho 1997 – £6.99
I’m a big fan of Rothbury wines and this didn’t let me down. The verdelho is one of the major grapes that make Madeira, but here it is made into a dry white wine with a light, delicate, boiled-sweet nose and a palate of lush, tropical fruit flavours. There is still a delicate, flowery edge amongst all the ripe fruit that keeps the whole thing very keen and interesting. A lovely lime acidity shows up in the lingering finish. Good stuff.

Saltram Mamre Brook Chardonnay 1995 – £6.99
Pale straw colour and an almost Burgundian, slightly cabbagey nose. Super-ripe, peach, melon and citrus fruit on the palate. There is some toasty, vanilla oak too and the wine is well balanced with quite a chewy, dense texture. Good.

Hardy’s Padthaway Chardonnay 1995 – £7.99
Medium gold colour. Lovely leesy, complex nose with bready, bone-dry aromas. Classy peach and citrus fruit on the palate, with some complexity showing spice and buttery flavours, nuttiness and a very fresh, fruity finish. Very nice.

Yarra Valley Hills Chardonnay 1996 – £8.99
The nose on this wine was all nettles and herbacious pungency. For a moment I thought this bottle wasn’t quite a clean, but there was no sign of it on the palate and I guess it’s just the style. It would be interesting to try another bottle some time (or to hear another opinion on it). Fresh and lively fruit on the palate with a rounded, buttery mouthfeel. There is fine, balancing acidity and good length, with a complexity that would suggest this might mature quite nicely over a couple of years.

Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz 1995 – £8.99
Attractive nose suffused with spicy, peppery, leathery notes with some subdued black fruit. Creamy on the palate, a little mid-palate hollowness, but I think it just needs some time. Good tannic structure and length.

Wirra Wirra Church Block 1995 – £8.99
A blend, mainly cabernet/shiraz. Extreme volatile acidity on the nose of first bottle. Second bottle opened was fine. Good quality here, with ripe, blackcurrant and plum fruit, nicely integrated oak and fine, claret-like structure. There is a fleshy quality in the mouth and good balance. Decent length too a showing some spice. Quite a serious wine.

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 1996 – £8.99
First bottle corked. Second displayed a nice, meaty nose with plenty of earthy, dark crunchy berry fruit. Quite lean on the palate, but a bit of creaminess to the texture too. Good concentration of succulent fruit and a spicy edge. Chewy and savoury. Lovely.

Robertsons Well Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 – £9.99
Packed with deep and dusty blue/black fruit on the nose. More black fruit and creamy, vanillin oak on the palate and although the flavour is concentrated, there seems to be a little flatness about it mid-palate. Good length.

Penfolds Bin 389 1995 – £11.99
Gorgeous depth on the nose – dense black fruits, sweet oak, spice, nutmeg and clove. A leathery, sun-baked quality too, but not at all stale – very fresh and appetising. Tremendously round, big and oaky wine at the moment, with mouth-coating tannins, structure and great length. A very good 389 in the making I’d guess.

Chateau Reynella Basket-Pressed Shiraz 1995 – £11.99
Another winery I’m already a fan of from previous vintages. Really superbly lush, ripe and inviting nose of soaring blackberry fruit that is sweet and minty, and jammy in the best possible sense. Velvety texture on the palate with a little less body than I’d expected, but loads of ripe fruit flavour, great length and purity. A class act that I’d allow to come-together in bottle over the next year or two.