(2019) What a great example of how Margaret River is helping to redefine Austalian Chardonnay. Whole-bunch pressed, fermented in French oak with natural yeasts, and matured in a combination of small and large French oak barrels for nine months. It opens with a whiff of flint and gunpowder over ripe peach and pear, just a touch of creamy oak too. In the mouth it is sweet-fruited and intense, but there is great clarity and drive here too, the acid nicely judged and a taut precision to the finish. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.
(2019) Voyager Estate's 2016 Chardonnay is a class act, matured in French oak for 11 months (only 36% new barrels), and a complex blend of nine Chardonnay clones, naturally fermented with native yeasts. In many ways it is an exemplar of modern Australian Chardonnay, not over-ripe or over-oaked, with earlier picking lowering the alcohol and increasing the flinty, mineral-etched character of the wine. Some toasty and coffee-ish oak sets against stony, salty notes and lemon fruit, before the palate punches through, bright star fruit and Asian pear against more tropical fruits, the dazzle of pithy, zesty acidity, and all the time a lightly spicy and tobacco-infused infill from the time in barrel. A lovely Chardonnay, drinking well and it's savoury character bringing broad food-friendliness. Note: stockist at time of review is for an earlier vintage.
(2019) Just 6% merlot and 4% Petit Verdot qualify this as a Bordeaux blend, the 90% Cabernet Sauvignon hand harvested from the best vineyard plots and matured in fine grained French oak barrels for 20 months, 50% of the barrels new. A particularly dry and fine ripening season for the fruit, from 1978- and 1995-planted blocks. The colour is a deep crimson, and the nose is fragrant with a plush black berry fruitiness, intense cassis and lift of violet, and just a sheen of chocolaty oak. In the mouth the wine is concentrated, refined and juicy, there is a big backbone here, tight, fine tannins and crisp-edged acidity, as well as the tobacco and exotic spice of the barrel, but pure black fruit drives through the mid-palate. A wine that drinks beautifully now, but which will cellar for a decade and more. Note, stockist quoted at time of review is on a previous vintage.
(2019) Masterminded by David Hohnen, this wine was made for Sainsbury's using the combined output of eight wineries in Western Australia. It's a big (14.5% abv) and bold style, a touch meaty to dense black fruit on the nose, but not hugely aromatic. There's more sweetness from the black fruit on the palate, but it all seems a touch over-extracted to me, the finish a little tart and abrupt. Not a favourite wine from a producer I hold in high regard, but I guess it was designed to a price-point.
(2018) Margaret River is a small, high-quality appellation in Western Australia. Its ocean-influenced climate is one secret to its renowned Cabernet Sauvignon wines, which often makes a nod towards a European style. Howard Park's 2012 from the Leston single vineyard is a beauty. Eighteen months in French oak has given a polished sheen to the deep pool of glossy blackcurrant fruit, with a hint of mint and cocoa, but also a little dusty briar and olive so typical of Cabernet Sauvignon. In the mouth that really lovely combination of the supple, plush black fruit with creaminess of oak, but firm tannin and the whole picture tensioned by keen acidity to give structure and extra length. Finishing on fruit, spice and fine-grained tannins, a really terrific Cabernet. Watch the video for more information, and note that by the case the price falls to around £20 per bottle.
(2018) When David Hohnen contacted me to say this wine he'd made had just gone into Aldi stores at £5.99 I just had to try a bottle. David's track record is formidable: the first winemaker for Cloudy Bay, on to Cape Mentelle, and now producing some fabulous wines under his own McHenry Hohnen label. To put a wine from premium Western Australia on the shelves for £5.99 is a coup, David explaining that the "South West Australia" designation allowed him to source fruit from an expansive area encompassing Margarent River, Mount Barker, Frankland River and many other appellations. It's a beautifully pitched wine, with a touch of pea-pod and nettle characater, but much more focused on the pure lime and luscious nectarine fruitiness, exotic touches of mango and lychee too, but the creamy-textured palate finishes on whistle-clean acidity. A terrific bargain really. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2018) Made from the Gin Gin clone, this spend 10 months in new and older French oak, both barriques and larger puncheons. Mealy and almondy, a touch of roasted orange, lovely nuttiness and a touch buttery. Ripe and full, on the palate - much more so than the Lenton Brae - verging on the tropical, but still with gorgeous acids. Stockist and price quoted at time of review is single bottle equivalent, but available only by the case.
(2018) A higher proportion of fruit from the south of the region than the first two wines. This was whole-bunch pressed to extract only free-run juice, fermented and aged 11 months in new and older barrels, with regular lees stirring. It's the first wine to exhibit the complex sulphide character, a touch of flint and roasted quality, but again very clean. Fine, balanced, quite fat lemon rind character, delicious balance again, the mint and vanilla just filling in against that salty background. Only 12.5% alcohol here, perhaps a combination of the cooler southerly vineyards and earlier picking
(2018) Another wine that is 100% Gin Gin clone, whole-bunch pressed into French oak (25% new) with spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts. No malolactic. Very subdued, a touch of saltiness but very subtle - too subtle? The palate has plenty of lemony fruit, good drive from the acidity, just a touch of nuttiness filling in
(2018) From an estate-grown single vineyard, and predominantly from the Gin Gin clone. The wine was barrel fermented and aged in a mix of new and used French oak. Very discreet, just gentle spearmint and toast but the fruit fresh and pristine. Juicy and firm on the palate, the acid is the spine of this, apple and taut and fresh salt and mineral flavours persisting into a balanced finish.