(2019) A keen price in Sainsbury's for that Australian peculiarity, sparkling Shiraz. From the reliable de Bortoli, it is aged for only around six months in tank, but these wines are not about long lees exposure: with 17g/l of residual sugar it is designed to be an inexpensive crowd-pleaser. Deep, saturated red in colour, the nose is the melange of forest berries and chocolate that one expects from this genre, the palate exhibiting more of that dark, cocoa, berry and plum fruit. The sweetness sits against quite a bitter tannin and acid framework, and for me this really needs to be matched to some strong flavoured food - try a bittersweet chocolate dessert, or maybe even a powerful Indian curry.
(2019) Sealed with soft, yellow wax (and closed with a DIAM cork), this looks immediately inviting and, on opening, the fragrance just leaps from the glass: lots of redcurrant and cherry, but floral notes, spices, hints of gaminess and roasted chestnuts, altogether it displays a dazzling complexity and lots of charm. In the mouth it is substantial and yet ethereal. Grounding tannins and spice are layered through the decisive acid structure, yet there is gorgeous sweetness to the juicy red berry fruit, a tang of grapefruit or bitter Seville marmalade orange, and a hint of smokiness weaves through the finish. It's a classy Pinot that has everything: all-embracing sweet fruited charms, structure, gentleness and unfolding finesse. Terrific.
(2019) A wine that brought a smile to my face, Cienna is a cross of Summol and Cabernet Sauvignon, here the fermentation stopped at 7.5% alcohol, to leave this deep red wine distinctly sweet and mildly spritzy. Aromas of cola, cherry and chocolate are echoed on the palate, where plenty of sweetness moves this into the dessert wine category for me, though Brown Bros suggest Indian Curry is a good match. Interesting, though I couldn't be a regular drinker of it I confess.
(2018) From vineyards at 485 metres in the Banksdale Vineyard, King Valley, Victoria, this Chardonnay at 12.5% alcohol will have been picked quite early and handled reductively (without exposure to oxygen) to give a lightly flinty character in the modern New World Chardonnay idiom. The nose has a little whiff of cheesiness that's not altogether unwelcome, as the lime and red apple fruit is good. In the mouth it is maybe just a trifle less sharply focused that one might hope, and perhaps lacking a dimension of complexity, but having said that it is nicely weighted between creaminess and citrus freshness, and is well balanced into quite a long finish.
(2017) At 18.0% abv and made in the style of a Port, this is a glorious Muscat made from an average of 12-year-old wines, with delicious lift and lightness aromatically, quite different from their neighbours, Campbells, with its leafier notes, but fabulous full richness (over 270g/l of residual sugar). Viscous and filled with sweet, dark and chocolaty flavours with that raisin lusciousness and good supporting acidity, this will take chocolate desserts or Christmas pud in its stride. Price for 37.5cl.
(2017) One of the stars of this excellent range, a prime example of the 'new' Australian Chardonnay eschewing the excesses of ripeness and oak, but at the same time avoiding becoming too lean or ungenerous. The pitch is perfect, with ripe pear and juicy melon aromas, a touch of sour green apple to give bite, and the gentlest creaminess of oak. In the mouth there's fine fruit sweetness but balanced by a great core of acidity, a lick of salt, and a balanced, long finish.
(2017) There's such a range of 'alternative varieties' planted in Australia now, and Victoria seems to be home to more than most. Indigenous to northern Italy, this Barbera is typically deep and vibrant in colour, and driven by its racy, Indian inky cherry skin fruit that is bittersweet with the bite of cherry skin tannin and acidity against the sweet flesh of the fruit. There's a pleasing herb or coal dust dry mineral quality to add interest too in a highly quaffable style.
(2017) The Yarra is a real Pinot Noir stronghold in Australia, and this has been the star of previous Blind Spot releases - as it is here in my opinion. Made in older barrels using wild yeasts, it has that fresh, gentle, cranberry and pomegranate delicacy that's so appealing in Pinot, touches of beetroot and earthy truffle. In the mouth the light fruit caresses rather than bludgeons, racy and refined, enough creaminess and hints of vanilla to add richness, but the combination or red fruit, sappy spice and elegant structure leads the way.
(2017) Another outlier variety from the King Valley, this is Garganega, the grape of Soave, here given extra oomph (though only 12.5% alcohol) in the Australian sunshine. It has some youthful pear-drop aroma, centred around orchard fruit, a hint of lemon and some light floral background notes. On the palate it is pure, dry and zippy, just ripe peach and apple, and a hint of drying (and welcome) saltiness in the finish.
(2017) A very familiar Wine of the Week, a stalwart of Brown Bros' range and deservedly popular. It blends two grapes, Orange Muscat and Flora (related to Gewurztraminer) which are harvested late for extra ripeness, then the fermentation is stopped at 10.0% alcohol, leaving residual sugar behind. It is definitely sweet, but feather-light and not heavy or cloying: this is a wine to match with fruity desserts, not sticky toffee puddings, where the bright tropical fruit, vivacious acidity and elegant balance comes into its own. Delightful and stuff in half bottles, and widely available. Watch the video for more information and more food-matching ideas.