Tigs’ pick of wines to buy in Adelaide

Bon voyage Tigs! Any tips?

As I prepare to leave Australia after seven years, friends in Adelaide are asking me which wines I think are the best of the bunch that they can buy here. I believe this is a safe list with some interesting wines at all price levels. Try something you hadn’t thought of – travel broadens the mind – so does trying different styles and varieties of wines.

Wine stores can be confusing, overwhelming and intimidating places. They are a mine of information, jewels to be discovered and minefields to avoid. I could write reams on the topic, but have aimed instead for practicality and simplicity, to share my pick of the crop, the obvious caveat being that I have not tried all of the wines available – an immense task in itself. [1] I have listed wines that can be easily acquired in Adelaide.[2]

The slant here is mostly towards South Australian, NZ and French wines because that is what is available in Adelaide. Also, I have limited knowledge outside these regions – for now! I am not an expert, I am an enthusiaist and as such love to share my snippets of information about wine. Methods, vintages, winemakers and labels change over time though so beware!

I have listed some excellent all-round wineries, and then listed wines by grape variety as an easy reference. Don’t be afraid of whether a wine is a varietal (one grape only) or a blend of more than one grape. This is not an indicator of quality. Note: the locations given for the wineries are not always where the grapes are sourced.

Good all-round wineries

Langmeil (Barossa) – excellent red and white wines, with traditional style winemaking. The second oldest winery in Barossa, with the oldest shiraz vines in Australia and possibly the world. The whole range is good to excellent – including grenache and cabernet sauvignon. See Sprinting the Long Mile! for the whole range and some pics.

Yering Station (Yarra Valley, Victoria) – impressive and elegant pinot noir, chardonnay, sparkling wines, shiraz – everything! Most famous for the shiraz viognier (about 5% viognier, a traditional French blend). See Chill out and get serious in Vic’s Yarra Valley for more of the range and some pics.

Penfolds (South Australia) – an iconic winery for Australia, famous for reds that age well. Grange is the obvious star, but at a much more attainable price I recommend trying the Bin 138 (a Rhône blend) for great value and wonderful flavours – and exceptional aging potential. I opened my 2002 Bin 138 this year – smooth, complex, elegant and long. For an excellent value shiraz try the Marananga. The cabernets are also exceptional – Bin 707 at the top, Bin 407 very good at the next level.

Chandon – sparkling wine made in the style of French champagne (owned by Moët & Chandon). Very good white and rosé sparklings, cheap relative to quality. See Yarra Valley article.

Hugel – this is a French winery in Riquewihr in Alsace. Excellent aromatic wines made from gewürztraminer, riesling, pinot gris and pinot blanc. My personal pick is the gewürztraminer and I blogged this ‘Alsatian Sensation’ specifically – and added some gorgeous pictures of Alsace. It is stunning. In Adelaide, you can also get the riesling and the white blend named Gentil (French word for ‘kind’) – a cheaper option, elegant and aromatic. The other stunner I am familiar with from Alsace is Domaine Zind-Humbrecht – their gewürztraminer is one of the best I ever had.

Bird in Hand (Adelaide Hills) makes a very good sparkling – slightly blush coloured, always good value. I was also impressed by the chardonnays and shirazes – there are no bad wines here, and at reasonable prices. Check them out here.

NZ wineries with unwavering quality: Villa Maria and Babich, both started by Croatians. Both make exceptional white varietals: sauvignon blanc (take care to avoid fake brands, they will put you off sauvignon blanc forever!); chardonnay; pinot gris – round and soft and aromatic, lovely fruit, dry finish; and gewürztraminer. Both make good red wines too. Villa Maria makes amazing syrah (cool climate style of shiraz). Babich pinot gris is beautiful – I bought it from Fassina at $17 a bottle [3]. Villa Maria sauvignon blanc was a similar price – strongly recommended.

Lawson’s Dry Hills (NZ) – Another safe winery from NZ is Lawson’s Dry Hills. In particular the gewürztraminer is dry, fruity, aromatic, with lychee and Turkish Delight. An interesting, crisper, fresher style in contrast to those from Alsace, France.

Pertaringa (McLaren Vale) – this is one of the best wineries in McLaren Vale, with a combination of friendly and knowledgeable staff and very good wines. The whole range is worth trying.

Bremerton (Langhorne Creek) – all excellent wines, and very good value. Famous for the Old Adam Shiraz, although I was even more impressed by the cabernet sauvignon. The entry level cabernet is very good value and the reserve is about $50 – worth $100 – perfect for a treat or an exceptional gift. There is a great sparkling shiraz too.

Lake Breeze (Langhorne Creek) – excellent wines, especially the cabernet sauvignon. Good value range.

Geoff Weaver (Adelaide Hills) – very good sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay. He was the chief winemaker at Hardy’s before going out on his own.

BK Wines (Adelaide Hills) – a New Zealander making wine in the hills. His range of chardonnays is exceptional as is his syrah. The whole range (see here) shows elegance and lets the grapes shine through.

D’Arenberg (McLaren Vale) generally good, very large range (see range here). Best value whites – Olive Grove chardonnay, and the Money Spider and Hermit Crab – made from Rhône grapes of viognier, marsanne and roussanne. The cabernet sauvignons, shirazes, and red blends are all good.

Clonakilla (ACT) produces exceptional wines particularly the shirazes.

Amazing overseas wineries whose wines you may come across include: Guigal (France), Sassicaia (expensive Super Tuscan beauty from Italy – super what? read here…). My pick of French champagnes are Bollinger (with oak fermenting – rare in Champagne), Pol Roger and Taittinger (who use a large portion of aged reserve wines). Piper Hiedseick is good value. I am not an expert in Bordeaux, but it is worth spending a bit extra to get assured quality. Try a bottle of Haut-Medoc – I have never been disappointed. For a riesling treat – try Dr Loosen from Germany – iconic riesling producer.

My picks by grape variety:

Sparkling wines

White sparkling (Australian): (chardonnay, pinot noir) Bird in Hand, Yarrabank, Chandon, Jansz, Oyster Bay.

Red sparkling (Australian): (shiraz) Bremerton, Seppelt’s original sparkling shiraz, Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper, Peter Rumball; (merlot) Irvine, Tapestry; (red blend) Primo Estate ‘Joseph’; (chambourcin) d’Arenberg ‘Peppermint Paddock’.

White wines


South Australia: Penfolds, D’Arenberg Olive Grove; Leconfield; Bird in Hand, BK Wines, Geoff Weaver.
Other Australia: Kooyong Clonale, Xanadu, Yering Station, Pierro (YouTube), Leeuwin, Vasse Felix.
NZ: Kumeu River, Greywacke, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point, Villa Maria, Oyster Bay, Babich.

Sauvignon blanc:

South Australia: Geoff Weaver, Bird in Hand, SC Pannell, Hahndorf Hill Winery.
NZ: Villa Maria, Oyster Bay, Babich, Greywacke, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point, Isabel, Astrolabe.


South Australia: Pauletts, Skillagolee, O’Leary Walker, Geoff Weaver, Grosset.
NZ: Villa Maria, Oyster Bay, Babich, Greywacke, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point.
Other: Hugel (France), Dr Loosen (Germany).

Red wines

Shiraz (cooler climate version is syrah):

South Australia: Langmeil, Penfolds, Bremerton, Dutschke, Barossa Valley Estate, Chateau Tanunda, Serafino, Bird in Hand, Pertaringa, Kay Brothers, John Duval, Bethany, d’Arenberg, Hahndorf Hill Winery.
Other Australia: Yering Station, Mount Langi Ghiran, Clonakilla, Tahbilk.
NZ: Destiny Bay, Villa Maria, Craggy Range, Te Mata, Murdoch James.

Cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends:

South Australia: Penfolds, Bremerton, Lake Breeze, Leconfield, Langmeil, d’Arenberg, Taylor’s ‘Jaraman’.
Other Australia: Moss Wood, Pierro, Leeuwin, Howard Park.
NZ: Church Road, Craggy Range.

Grenache and GSM (grenache, shiraz and mourvedre):

South Australia: Penfolds Bin 138, Langmeil, Charles Melton ‘Nine Popes’, d’Arenberg – range of varietals and GSMs.

Pinot noir:

South Australia: Geoff Weaver.
Other Australia: Yering Station, By Farr, Farr Rising.
NZ: Amisfield, Pencarrow, Palliser Estate, Martinborough Vineyard, Gibbston Valley, Isabel, Mount Difficulty, Roaring Meg, Babich, Oyster Bay, Neudorf, Stoneleigh, Cloudy Bay.

Try something else…

These are beauties that are great value and a taste sensation…

James Irvine (Barossa) merlot/cabernet franc (50/50 blend) – smooth, full, great value.

Paracombe (Adelaide Hills) pinot gris – aromatic, rounded, fruity, dry finish.

Pertaringa (McLaren Vale) aglianico – Italian red, fruity and tannic.

Tar ‘n’ Roses (Heathcote) nebbiolo – drink about 6-8 years old. Will blow your mind.

Turkey Flat (Barossa) mourvèdre – rich, dark, brooding. Delicious.

Waywood Wines (McLaren Vale) nebbiolo – savoury, complex, a rare treat.

All the gewürztraminers listed above! All those listed are dry and spicy and fruity.

Never write off a wine until you have tasted it for yourself – you may be missing a treat.

Drinking wine should never be boring! Get to tastings, ask questions, and like what you like – don’t let others tell you what to like.



Caveat: This is unavoidably a subjective article. These recommendations are mine alone. I have no sponsors and no freebies and no hidden agenda. I simply hope readers find something new and rewarding to enhance their wine repertoire!

[1] The wines I have listed are those I trust. There is no particular order in the lists. I have deliberately not included prices as they will vary widely over time and between stores. There will be omissions of wines I tried a while ago and cannot be confident about recommending now, there will be some I have forgotten and many more that should be on the list but I haven’t got round to trying yet. Some I did not include because I do not rate them – but will not mention these. This is a snapshot of what I would recommend to friends.
[2] I worked in specialist wine stores in Brisbane and Adelaide, on the wine-tasting panel for Fassina stores in Adelaide, worked a vintage, a taster for Delegats and worked in a range of wine research, including wine economics, for the University of Adelaide. I have visited wineries across France, NZ and Australia and tried wines from all over the globe.
[3] Read about Fassina here – their history and what they are doing now.

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Barossa wine, Cabernet sauvignon, Chardonnay, European wine, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Langhorne Creek wine, McLaren Vale wine, New World wine, NZ wine, Old World Wine, Pinot noir, riesling, Sauvignon blanc, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome to the Marquis – a goldmine in the heart of wine country

Wandering around the streets of Adelaide near the iconic Central Market on Gouger Street I happened across a new icon – the Marquis. Glancing inside I was stunned by the sight of the wine wall stretching down the middle of this French-themed restaurant and wine bar – although don’t be fooled, it has an impressive beer and spirits collection too!

On entering I was welcomed by the friendly staff, before chatting with the sommelier, Chi, who came to Adelaide from Sydney, and has worked at the Marquis since it opened in September 2011. We had an informal chat about the philosophy behind the wine choices in this goldmine of wine. We talked about grüner veltliner, categories of French champagne and the China market – it was a treat to talk to someone so knowledgeable and worldly. Here are a few snippets:

What makes you decide which wines to buy in?

Chi: The first thing would be the market. We can get thousands of wines from around the world from our suppliers but what we buy is more market driven. People in Adelaide are still going more for Australian wine, especially their own South Australian wine. Shiraz, riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon are the varieties that are the most popular at the moment. But because we also want something more unusual, something they may never see otherwise, like some of the Austrian grüner veltliners or the German rieslings, or some Spanish or Chilean wines, we have a selection of those.

Around 60% of our wines are Australian. Of course there is nothing wrong with the Australian wines, they are all good, but if you drink the same kinds of wine every week you might get bored. There is a good chance to come here and try something a bit different, something that is quite hard to get in the market.

What are some examples of interesting wines you have here?

Chi: We have a selection of Austrian grüner veltliners, which is quite popular in Sydney and Melbourne but unusual to see it in the Adelaide market. I am personally from Sydney so I know a bit about the market there. Also some of the Italian white wine that people have probably never heard of like trebbiano and erbaluce. With the red we are a restaurant with a French background so we have a fairly big focus on the French red wines. We do have a fair bit of good quality Burgundy, and French champagne of course – even with the champagne, people might get bored with the same ones, so we do have a selection of grower champagnes as well.

What is a grower champagne?

Chi: This is where the people grow their own grapes, and then make their own champagne. Examples would be Jacques Picard, Jacques Selosse and Vilmart, just to name a few. So for example, Möet would buy most of its grapes from the growers to make their champagne. Like Penfold’s Grange, they do not grow their own grapes, they buy from the growers. Something like Bollinger would be a negociant champagne. On the label you can see if it says NM it means it is a negociant champagne, if it is RM it is growers champagne. There are seven classifications but these are the two you see the most.

Detecting a mild accent, I asked Chi where he lived before Sydney. Hong Kong he said. Aha! Hong Kong is the hub of the wine trade in Asia, since there is zero wine tax in Hong Kong so you pay no tax when you buy alcohol. Plus most of the wine buyers will go through Hong Kong because of the wide reach of contacts in the market. In a place whose name means ‘fragrant city’ it is appropriate that it be the hub of trade for a product that enlivens the senses.

I told him that I had been reading that the Chinese wine production is surpassing Australian wine production (by volume) and that they are even exporting wine to Australia, so:

Have you got any Chinese wine in yet?

Chi: No, the industry in China is still at a primary stage at the moment, they are still learning, and they have a range of the more obscure varieties. In 30 or 40 years, there will probably be something iconic coming out of the region but not for the moment.

Back to the Marquis, in your role as a sommelier, when people come in for meal, do you automatically come over to talk to them or do they have to ask see a sommelier?

Chi: It depends – we can see when they walk in how they look at the menu, what questions they ask, as to their degree of wine knowledge. They may look at the wine list and be a bit flustered so we may go over everything, but obviously some of the guests are quite knowledgeable and pick out whatever they like. We need to be flexible. We usually wait until they have ordered their food and we try to get one or two bottles to match with their food.

There are also 32 wines available for purchase by the taste (30ml) or glass (150ml), which on the day I visited included French champagne, French red wine (Côtes-du-Rhône), Argentinian cabernet sauvignon, Italian Soave, and some iconic Australian wines.

As well as over 700 wines, there are more than 100 spirits including whiskies from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, India, Australia and the USA; aperitifs, brandy, rum, gin, vodka, tequila and liqueurs. And fear not beer lovers, there are over 60 beers from all the world! Take a look at the photos below of some of the wines you can buy to drink on the premises or to buy retail (at a 20% lower price). To see the full collection, treat yourself to a visit! Come in for a champagne breakfast or a light lunch, full dinner or nightcap at the bar.

Many thanks to Chi for taking the time to talk to me.


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Posted in Barossa wine, Chardonnay, European wine, McLaren Vale wine, New World wine, NZ wine, Old World Wine, Pinot noir, riesling, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wine and friend pairing! Clarendon Hills Brookman Syrah and the Brook man from Clarendon

My birthday this year was special – not for turning another year older, but for the kindness and inspiration shown to me by someone I recently met. Basic human goodness can be more beautiful than any wine – even a Clarendon Hills!

Wine is the lubricant of a social occasion, a luxury to enjoy with or without food and with or without company, a wonderful gift, and a companion to the lonely. We all have memories of special bottles because they remind us of someone or an event or a time when we were happy, or a bottle that we trust. Then there is: ‘wine and friend pairing’.

Yes I will wax lyrical about the 2006 Clarendon Hills Brookman Syrah that graced my birthday (feel free to scroll straight to it), but bear with me as I briefly take another tack to acknowledge the humanity and generosity of character of the man from Clarendon – Mr Brook – who bought it. After meeting this man just a few times, having some laughs and sharing life experiences, on hearing he was from Clarendon in the Adelaide Hills, I immediately had my wine hat on and said – ‘that is where some of the best shiraz in Australia comes from. I tried some in 2002 and haven’t had any since.’

In 2002 I was living in Wellington, New Zealand, and was keen to learn about wine. I attended a tasting of Australian reds with a friend – my wine guru Roger. He told me to try certain wines first because as the evening wore on the best wines would run out first as those in the know employed the same tactic. He led me to three tables with amazing wines that have stayed with me – the Mount Langi Ghiran shiraz from Victoria, the Irvine Grand Merlot from the Barossa, and three single vineyard syrahs from Clarendon Hills winery in the Adelaide Hills. I was blown away by them all and my passion for wine was fired.

Since moving to Adelaide in 2007 I sampled many wines from Irvine, and met the man himself. I also partook of several bottles of Mount Langi Ghiran shiraz over the years. But the obvious gap was the third winery at that tasting.

Clarendon Hills Brookman 2006 Syrah

Clarendon Hills Brookman 2006 Syrah

Imagine my surprise when this man from Clarendon invites me to a barbecue and produces a bottle of 2006 Clarendon Hills Brookman Syrah. Not only was I shocked because it is not cheap at around A$100, but even more so that he had remembered what I said and wanted to do something special for me.

Now I get to the crux of why I am mentioning all this. This man of advanced years is currently undergoing chemotherapy after a second cancer scare. When I met him he had just come from the hospital having had chemotherapy treatment. He told me after our first chance meeting that having a nice chat with me that day had brightened his mood. He had laughed on a day when he hadn’t expected to, and he came home happy. What a wonderful thing to have done, yet I didn’t realise it at the time. It just shows that being friendly is far-reaching and can mean so much.

Not only is he fighting cancer himself – the prognosis is good thankfully – but he lost his wife to cancer just a few years ago. Yet his whole outlook is sunny and positive and even more astounding – he oozes compassion for others and loves good company. He could see that I was having some problems of my own and wanted to do something nice for me. It was heartfelt and pure, just to make me smile.

My friendliness to him lifted him, his kindness to me lifted me. At first sight you would have thought that both of us were problem-free because that is how we both choose to present ourselves to the world. This has shown me that we all have a story, we all have a cross to bear because that is life. But we can all still put on a smile and show kindness and compassion and be a companion. That is what matters. We can then cope better with the harshness of life and help others to do the same.

Thank you to my friend, the Brook man from Clarendon. And now to the Brookman from Clarendon Hills!

2006 Clarendon Hills Brookman Syrah

An excellent wine from one of Australia’s very best wineries, this cool climate syrah – cool by Australian standards, not global! – at seven years old was still lively yet brooding. A mesmerising deep dark crimson in the glass, complex and tantalising on the nose with spicy blackberry and raspberry, soft leather and a hint of liquorice. There were definite aged characters developing but this spring chicken of a wine still had many years left. Never mind!

Clarendon Hills syrah in the glass

Clarendon Hills syrah in the glass

The wine was savoury and dry and long – three of my favourite characters in a good red. The dark and intense fruit flavours were complemented by dried herbs and gentle spice, the mouth assertively massaged with notes of leather and soft grain tannins. Smooth but not shy, it softened in the glass.

Clarendon Hills winery is most famous for its Astralis syrah – I love the description on the winery’s website: “Lifted florals dance with rich meats, coffee, cola, chocolate, pan forte, Turkish Delight, graphite, bitumen, cigar tobacco, black cardamom, good quality soy sauce and crushed rocks. It is dense, yet creamy smooth.”

Blimey!! Unfortunately it is also not cheap and outside the realms of most of us mortals. The Brookman however is an attainable treat.

Best wishes to my readers.



Posted in Adelaide Hills, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

If you’ve got it flaunt it – the stunning dry gewürz from Marlborough’s Johanneshof

My readers know that I am a lover of gewürztraminer, especially the great producers of Alsace and New Zealand. If in doubt see the articles for Hugel, Brookfields and Coopers Creek. I haven’t indulged this passion for a while so it is time!

Johanneshof 2008 Dry Gewürztraminer

Johanneshof 2008 Dry Gewürztraminer

On my recent trip to NZ the good man Dean at Centre City wine shop in Wellington recommended the Johanneshof 2008 dry (trocken in German) gewürztraminer from Marlborough. I generally prefer the drier styles of gewürztraminer – anyone who tells you it has to be sweet is – how shall we put it – wrong! Of course a touch of sugar is left in the winemaking, as it is with the Alsatian examples like Hugel, and this helps keep the palate soft and luscious – but the palate detects very little sugar, just fruit weight and full mouthfeel.

Check out the beautiful deep sparkling golden colour on this five-year old wine. The nose just blows your mind – it is lifted and perfumed, bursting with dried stonefruit and cherry blossom, with lashings of lychee and Turkish Delight. There are sturdy secondary characters of ripe juicy fleshy peaches and herbs, with an edge of minerality and tinge of smokiness. Since it has had no oak, my guess is that the smoky touches have come from the yeast strain(s). Please correct me if I am wrong – I am an enthusiast not an expert.

On the palate it is up there with the best gewürztraminer I have ever had – and I have had more than I can remember. The stonefruit comes through with honeysuckle and dried herbs and the gentle minerality. It is luxuriously soft and long, a peaches and cream treat with complexity and class. I groaned many times drinking this wine. Mmmmmm!!!

The winemakers trained in Germany and it shows, as this is reminiscent of the Alsatian aged beauties I have tried. The fruit quality is outstanding and winemaking masterful, allowing the wine to display its amazing qualities like a strutting peacock. It can show off to me any time!

This wine was perfect with matured cheeses, nuts and dried fruits. It would also partner well with spicy food. Or just drink it on its own.

Check it out at: www.johanneshof.co.nz/wines/2008-gewurztraminer/



Posted in Gewurztraminer, New World wine, NZ wine, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Marzemino! Mozart loved this wine!

Mozart must have loved his wine because this is a true wine-lover’s wine. This New Zealand beauty was my first taste of this Italian red grape, which features in one of Mozart’s most well-known operas, Don Giovanni:

Versa il vino!

Eccellente Marzemino!

Church Road Marzemino 2009

Church Road Marzemino 2009

This particular drop is from Church Road winery in Taradale, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. The first impression is its dark deep plum colour and its lovely earthy nose, with lots of spice, deep ripe berries and plums and soft leather. The nose is surprisingly aromatic and enticing and the wine opened up beautifully as we supped. As my drinking colleague Brian said, “the more you drink it the nicer it gets!”

On the palate the earthiness and leather wrap around ripe plums, lots of berries and dark cherries, filling your mouth with generous flavours. This is a soft and smooth wine, with the leathery texture of a pinot noir, but a touch more ripe and fruity.

Marzemino in the glass

Marzemino in the glass

Technical term – yummy!

The grape is from northern Italy, particularly Trentino, and it is the first time I have ever seen it in the southern hemisphere. Church Road have done a masterful job. Known already for many years for their fine Hawke’s Bay reds, this wine should be tried by those who are wine-obsessed like me and by those who just love a tasty easy drinking red with some complexity and pure yumminess.

Plus it is a bargain at just NZ$25 or thereabouts.

Alcohol 13.0%, unfiltered. Senior winemaker Chris Scott.

Posted in European wine, New World wine, NZ wine, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

BK Wines – reigniting the passion and firing the senses!

Brendon Keys with wife Kirsty and their range of wines

Brendon Keys with wife Kirsty and their range of wines

Brendon Keys of BK Wines reminds me of the day I first got that ‘wow’ factor from a wine and of all the standout wines I ever tasted. This is artisan winemaking at its best. It reawakens that excitement and childish glee that comes when you discover a wine that is different, surprising and just plain delicious.

The Adelaide Hills is Australia’s largest wine region with a huge diversity in altitude – and therefore climate – and soils. Brendon chooses grapes from the best sites for each grape. All of his wines are single site and he lets the grapes speak. That is such an important part of the winemaking process that I believe has been lost by many in the industry in search of a coin.

Go back to your passion and let your senses decide.

I attended a tasting of BK Wines at the Barker Hotel in the Adelaide Hills on a beautiful sunny summer’s day, already very well aware of this winery’s quality. I was with a group of wine club members and staff from the Fassina family liquor stores.

The range includes a pinot grigio and pinot gris – and Brendon does differentiate the styles clearly. The gris is richer and fuller than the grigio, with some creaminess and pleasingly dry. The grigio is a lighter, fresher style preferred by the Italians.

There is a fresh and zesty gewürztraminer – a grape which is a personal favourite of mine as my followers will know (click on the Hugel link in this paragraph). This is not necessarily a sweet wine as some people seem to assume. In Alsace it is typically dry, oily and spicy with white blossom and rose petal aromas and white fruit flavours. A good example is the Hugel gewürztraminer from Alsace which you can buy in Australia and NZ and is well worth a try if you have never come across it. Brendon’s is more along the lines of a New World gewürztraminer, very light in colour with a highly perfumed nose and fresh fruit and floral flavours, with old French oak giving it the texture reminiscent of an Alsatian and a crisp fresh and long finish. It is rare to find a good gewürztraminer in Australia as it does better in cooler climates and with minimal intervention from the winemaker, but this qualifies as Brendon ticks both boxes.

One of my loves is good chardonnay. Brendon more than delivers with his One Ball and Swaby – both named after the vineyards from which the grapes are sourced. The One Ball has had 10% new French oak and the Swaby had 30% – both are fermented in the oak with wild yeasts – this gives a funkiness and complexity, and a touch of nuttiness and creaminess. Both are elegant, soft, long and delicious. Chardonnay has been maligned in the Australian press in recent years, but it is time to discard that uninformed, out-of-date and just-plain-wrong reputation and see what Australian chardonnay is really like and why we should be world beaters with this grape. I strongly recommend trying one or other (or both) of these wines – available from South Australia’s Fassina stores.

If you prefer your reds – Brendon more than delivers with his range of pinot noirs and syrahs, again, all French oak and single site wines. Brendon’s New Zealand heritage may explain why these wines stand out as being so good and so true to the grapes he carefully sources. The Rosetta and Cult are just two of the range:

The Rosetta pinot is soft and savoury with lively red cherries and a touch of spice on the palate and a delicate tannic structure, all in perfect balance.

The Cult syrah was a major hit with all of the Fassina group and was awarded 96 points by critic James Halliday. This wine really does have that wow factor. Made from Lobethal fruit, it has a beautifully generous nose of deep dark fruits with a touch of spice. It is warming, delicious and long. Or if you fancy something a touch lighter on a summer’s day, try the Syrah Nouveau lightly chilled – giving white pepper and raspberry, having had no oak treatment it is drunk young. Perfect for barbecues, or on its own.

So give these beauties a try – you really do get bang for your buck with reasonable prices and astounding quality. And no – I do not get commission – this is all from the heart. Enjoy the slideshow!

Tigs xxx

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Posted in Adelaide Hills, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, New World wine, Pinot noir, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chill out and get serious in Vic’s Yarra Valley!

As a lover of good wine residing in South Australia and regularly visiting New Zealand, and therefore thoroughly spoiled with an endless supply of great wines, it was time I reminded myself of other iconic wine regions in Australia. So I visited the Yarra Valley.

Not only was I not disappointed but I was blown away by the high standard and classic winemaking mentality of the wineries I visited. Being a long-time wine lover it is that bit more impressive for a wine to amaze you. In the Yarra Valley I was like a kid again, consumed with wonder and delight.

Our little group of wine tourists consisted of ten people on a minibus driven by Barry of Chillout Wine Tours.

Tigs enjoying a glass of bubbles at Chandon – comfy chairs too!

We had a welcoming glass of bubbles at our first stop – the prestigious and world class Chandon of the Moët and Chandon group. What an incredibly beautiful place – I recommend you clicking the Chandon link to see the 360 degree view of the cellar door and surrounding vineyards and lake. We kicked back and savoured the traditional method 2008 vintage and the rosé. Relatively dry with about 7 grams of residual sugar and true class to match the French champagnes.

On to Train Trak – a much smaller winery, making stunning chardonnay and consistently good quality wines including a moscato and a shiraz. I am not a moscato drinker generally, preferring a drier wine, but this was fresh and lifted with pretty fruit and with a cleansing palate. Delicious.

Then onto the winery that exuded that wow factor in every wine – Yering Station. Most wineries have some good wines. At this winery all of them were excellent. The Yarrabank sparkling is a national favourite, deservedly so. I adored the 2005 chardonnay – and was rewarded with a taste of the even more spectacular 2010 reserve chardonnay – elegant, soft and complex, and proof of Australia’s enduring ability to produce world class chardonnay. The pinot noir was equally elegant and rewarding – savoury, long, and proof that the Yarra Valley is a pinot force to be reckoned with. The sangiovese was exceptional – savoury, bursting with flavour, long and supple. Even the rosé impressed me – with zero grams of residual sugar it was bone dry and perfect for my taste.

Of course the shiraz viognier, the flagship wine of Yering Station, lived up to its reputation, as I knew it would (I have had a sneaky few tastes in the past!).

What impressed me most about Yering Station was the philosophy of the winemaking, going back to letting the grapes speak and the winemaker interprets. Furthermore, chief winemaker Willy Lunn’s stated philosophy is “no compromise for quality”, born from his days at Petaluma in South Australia under winemaker Brian Croser, where he worked for 15 years.

The wines were all impressive and jumped this winery right up into my top five Australian wineries. I will wax lyrical about these wines for ever more!

And did you know? The first vineyard in Victoria was planted at Yering Station in 1838.

The last stop on our trip was the world famous De Bortoli – their Noble One botrytis semillon never ever fails to delight – delicious drops of intense sunlight in a glass, full bodied, funky, luxurious. Mmmmmm!!! No wonder it has a cult following.

And finally a shout out to all the staff who served us at these four wineries – all friendly, helpful and informative. Yarra Valley has left a very sweet taste in my mouth – even the wines with no residual sugar!

Check out the lovely photos…

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Cheers from Tigs

Posted in Chardonnay, New World wine, Pinot noir, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine events, Wine news | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

An oldie but goodie! Angove of South Australia wins big with its aged Clare riesling

2006 Angove Vineyard Select Clare Valley Riesling

Angove Family Winemakers – one of South Australia’s oldest and most renowned wineries and winemaking families continues to impress the world, winning a haul of trophies at the 2012 International Wine Challenge in London for the 2006 Vineyard Select Clare Valley Riesling. It won: the Clare Valley Riesling trophy, the Australian Riesling trophy, the Australian White trophy and most impressive of all the International Riesling trophy for best riesling in the world.

How did it all start?
The story of the Angove Family Winemakers starts in 1886 when William Thomas Angove and his family arrived from Cornwall in south-west England (of Doc Martin fame today!) to start a new life. Being from neighbouring Devon myself I feel some affinity with this story as I also relocated to South Australia.

William Angove, a medical doctor by profession (like Doc Martin!), initially planted vines and made wine as a tonic for his patients. He planted vines in Tea Tree Gully, a few kilometres north-east of Adelaide. His son Thomas was a pioneer of winemaking in the Riverland, further north from the city, and the Renmark winery remains today. Urban sprawl saw the demise of the Tea Tree Gully vineyards in the 1970s. The family’s major vineyard holdings today are in McLaren Vale and Renmark, and impressive welcoming cellar doors are at both locations.

The flagship wine
The Angove Family Winemakers produce a wide range of wines, from shiraz to riesling and from grapes sourced from all over South Australia. Most recently released is the Angove flagship wine called The Medhyk, which in Cornish means ‘the doctor’, in a nod to the founder. First released in 2011, it is produced from old vine McLaren Vale shiraz and is at the higher quality end of the range.

The 2006 Vineyard Select Clare Valley Riesling
Being a lover of old rieslings I have shared this passion on my wine travels. Imagine my surprise and delight when a lovely English lady from the Renmark cellar door contacted me recently to say she had been inspired by my love for old rieslings and started trying more of them herself. She has found the exercise more than rewarding it seems and has sent me a bottle of the 2006 Vineyard Select Clare Valley Riesling to try!

Of course I am biased because they are such a great company and wonderful staff when you visit the cellar door. Plus I am biased because it is an aged riesling from one the best riesling producing areas in the world.

The climate and soils in the Clare Valley produce sensational and distinctive rieslings, with fresh fruit flavours cut through with crisp minerality. The company’s managing director and descendant of founder Dr Angove said: “Tony Ingle our chief winemaker was very particular about the parcels of riesling he sourced from the Clare Valley, looking for the unmistakable ‘mineral’ characters overlayed with complex citrus characters that proclaim Clare in every glass.”

The riesling comes from two vineyards in Clare Valley with very different characteristics which typify the region – “One has slate and loam soil and faces the north-east at a high elevation. This gives the mineral characteristics to the wine and tightness to the palate. The other vineyard has a terra rossa soil with limestone and is westerly facing, contributing the lovely aromatic aspects to the wine. The two parcels combine to provide an outstanding example of the Clare Valley style.”

So what is it like?
I shared this wine with a select group of tasters at Fassina in Somerton Park, south of Adelaide. Immediately striking is the colour – a deep luscious and brilliant golden yellow – the archetypal sunshine in a glass! The nose is generous with honeysuckle and a touch of sweet fruit with just a kiss of kerosene (that’s a good thing!) which is typical of aged rieslings.

The palate is dry, oily and full bodied, giving honeysuckle cut through with lime and a light toastiness. It is long and rounded and soft with a a pleasant acid balance running through it. The consensus was that it is a great example of Clare riesling, pleasingly varietal and a bargain – if there was any more to be had!

Tasting notes from the Angove website: “Brilliant crystal clear in colour with some green hints, this riesling is fresh and crisp. Abundant lime and lemon aromas leap from the glass, preceding a palate showing all the complexity of the riesling grape grown in perfect conditions. Juicy lime and lemon fruit flavours balance with a mineral backbone and fresh acidity. This refreshing wine finishes long and clean.”

Sadly this vintage has sold out 😦  The current vintage available from cellar door is 2008 🙂


Posted in McLaren Vale wine, New World wine, riesling, Riverland wine, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine events, Wine news, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crazy, bonkers, mad, brilliant and brave!

This may not be the punchline we normally associate with Jamie Oliver, England’s quirky no-nonsense Essex-born chef, restaurateur and celebrity, or with a classy winery from South Australia – but in this case that’s exactly what it is!

Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools (Juliette) were well chuffed with the wines from the Clare-based winery Some Young Punks, particularly the Monsters Monsters Attack! riesling, as shown in the comment he posted online:

Jamie’s comment

Monsters Monsters Attack! riesling by Some Young Punks

Apart from great wine and crazy names and eye-catching labels, what else is interesting about the Some Young Punks winemakers? They are all affiliated to the University of Adelaide.

Who are they?
The Some Young Punks winemakers are Nic Bourke, Jen Gardner and Col McBryde, and assistant winemaker Sarah Little.

What is the link with the University of Adelaide?
Jen Gardner studied biochemistry and genetics at the University of Adelaide (finishing in 1995); Nic Bourke and Col McBryde studied oenology together, finishing in 2001. Jen and Col also completed both their Honours and PhDs at Adelaide. Jen is actually from Adelaide too, while Col is from Auckland, NZ, and Nic is from Orange NSW.

How did Some Young Punks get started?
Jen and Col started Adelina Wines in 2002 in Clare, about 130km north of Adelaide, and in 2005 they started Some Young Punks (‘Punks’) with Nic.

Tell us about the Punks wines…
While the Punks has its roots in Clare, they also make wine using grapes from the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale. Col tells me:

“Essentially we work with varieties that we find exciting/intriguing… we like working with varieties that we think are well suited to the particular climates of individual regions.” Hence the Clare riesling!

But if the region and variety are not obvious combinations? “If we’re still intrigued/interested we’ll have a bit of a crack, hence why we make a sangiovese/shiraz from the Barossa”.

Despite the amusing, shocking, unique labels and names of wines, the Punks and Adelina take a serious approach to their winemaking, with a minimalist intervention approach, handpicking small lots, using indigenous yeast, some basket pressing and limited filtration.

Why the crazy labels?
Cols says: “The ranges of wine all stem from a story, the Pulp Fiction range are adaptations of actual Pulp novels from the ’20s through ’50s, and the T’n’T range bound by two fictional characters Trixie and Tessa Love, and a pictorial representation of what hi-jinx they get up to. The Live and Rare conceptually brings the concepts of femininity beauty and strength, not only for package, but also the stylistic winemaking direction.”

But make no mistake the labels are fun and eye-catching but the wine is serious. Here are a few examples:

Passion Has Red Lips Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (based on the Pulp Fiction theme) – ‘Turn, splash and savour. Unfiltered confessions follow as the sin glows red and passionate like those lips.’

The Squid’s Fist Sangiovese/Shiraz 2011 – ‘A Battle in the Deep as two foes collide! The Squid’s Fist lands hard against the crude steel of the submersible, the force buckles, kinks and crushes it as an old rivalry comes to a head 750ml under the seal.’

Naked on Roller Skates – started life as a barbera, and morphed into a shiraz/mataro – a much more serious wine than its label might suggest and a more discreet label than the name might suggest!

Startling and a little shocking – all wrapped up with a passion for making good wine – a great South Australian combination born out of our great winemaking tradition.



Posted in New World wine, riesling, Sangiovese, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine news, Wine2030 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chinese wine consumption today – through the eyes of a Tianjin retailer

Many of the traditional wine markets around the world, such as the US and European countries exhibit relatively mature total demand characteristics, although patterns of demand are constantly shifting. Wine marketers wishing to capitalise on expanding wine markets are tending to focus on Asia, and within that, the huge Chinese market gets the most attention, with its growing prosperity and rapidly increasing demand for wines, including imported wines.

In China, consumer tastes and attitudes to wine are rapidly evolving. This article provides a snapshot of customer behaviour through the eyes of a lady who works in the wine industry in north-eastern China who has kindly answered some questions. Some helpful data are provided where relevant to expand on some of the points she makes.

Ruolin Zhu, Wine Sales Specialist, METRO Jinjiang Cash & Carry

Ruolin Zhu is a Wine Sales Specialist at METRO Jinjiang Cash & Carry in the Tianjin Region of China. Her main duties are to sell wine and other alcoholic beverages, to answer questions from customers, and promote the featured wine producers.

METRO is a supermarket chain based in Germany. It is the largest of the chains selling alcohol in the region and offers high quality ‘official’ imported alcohol. With the issue of fake wine being sold in China, customers trust this chain, and buy imported alcohol and the more expensive Chinese alcohol from these stores.

For those less familiar with Chinese geography, Tianjin is a metropolis in north-eastern China, bordering Hebei Province and Beijing Municipality, with the Yellow Sea to the east. The population in 2010 was 13 million (census data). The largest coastal city in northern China, it also boasted the highest GDP per capita in 2011 at around US$13,000, above that of Shanghai and Beijing and more than double the national average. Its sheer size and wealth makes Tianjin an interesting market to focus on for wine consumption patterns.

Key features of the wine consumers in Tianjin

Q1: What are the most popular alcoholic drinks?

Wine is not the most popular alcoholic drink in China, it is the range of Chinese distilled alcoholic beverages known as baijiu or white liquor. This is also commonly called shaojiu (‘hot liquor’ or ‘burned liquor’) – the heat is from the burning sensation in the mouth during consumption, the fact that they are usually warmed before being consumed, or because of the heating required for distillation. This liquor typically contains at least 30% alcohol by volume and can be unflavoured or flavoured. The primary ingredient of baijiu is usually sorghum, although the primary ingredient of rice baijiu is rice.

The prices of Chinese alcoholic beverages are higher than for grape wine on average. Consequently, Chinese alcoholic beverages are highest in terms of total financial revenue, while wine is highest in total quantity.

Tigs: National data: in 2011 grape wine sales (value terms) accounted for 56% of total wine sales in China, surpassing non-grape wine sales for the first time in 2010. The volume of grape wine sales was 45.3% of the total. The strongest growth is in grape wine sales, up 220% between 2006 and 2011 (compared to growth of 36% for non-grape wine).

Note also that Tianjin will exhibit regional characteristics of consumption – it is likely that relatively more wine is consumed in the large cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou than in Tianjin, which might be considered a more traditional Chinese city.

Q2: How would you describe consumer preferences for red versus white wine?

They prefer red wine. In summer, the sales of white wine increase but they are still lower than for red wine.

Tigs: Red wine accounted for 75% of total grape wine sales in 2011.

Q3: What do consumers (and suppliers) choose by – price, region, variety, brand, etc.?

French wine is ranked the highest, followed by Australian wine. Most people like French wine, but people with knowledge in wine also like to purchase wines from Australia, America, Chile and South Africa. There is a preference for Old World wines and increasingly for imported wines.

Tigs: In 2010 France accounted for 46% of Chinese wine imports by value (26% by volume). Australia was second with 19% by value and 20% by volume. Chile and Spain were close behind Australia in terms of volume, but with significantly lower unit value than for Australian wine.

The statistics show that cabernet sauvignon (and its blends) is by far the favoured red grape accounting for 47% of sales of red wine in 2011, followed by merlot (17%). Chardonnay is the favoured white grape (43% in 2011), followed by riesling (24%).

Q4: What are the key brands of Chinese wine? How would you characterise this wine? Has the quantity or composition of sales of Chinese wine been changing?

The most popular wine is from Dynasty Wines Ltd, which is seen as a high quality wine supplier. The prices are generally lower and the age of the wine is better (i.e. older). Due to increasing customer education, more and more people prefer to buy the imported wines.

Tigs: Dynasty Wines was the fourth largest national brand owner by volume in 2011 behind Yantai Changyu, COFCO and Yantai Weilong. Dynasty was established as a Sino-French joint venture between Tianjin City Grape Garden and Remy Martin. It was one of the earliest Sino-foreign joint ventures in China and the first in Tianjin.

Dynasty’s best selling item is its Dry Red Wine, made from cabernet sauvignon and other red grapes. The Dynasty website describes the style as “Deep in colour, clear in appearance… a rich cabernet flavour. It is smooth, full bodied and solid, leaving a lingering after-taste on the palate.”

Q5: Is Australian wine seen as different in its product characteristics or branding compared to wine from other countries?

More and more people like the wine from Australia because of the ‘good taste’ and the low price. Its popularity is increasing because of the increased advertising in the media. In the view of consumers, Penfold’s represents Australian wine.

Q6: What influence does alcohol content have?

Male customers usually prefer a higher alcohol content and female customers prefer lower alcohol.

Q7: Which wines do you think are mostly bought for home consumption and which for gifts?

Most customers buy lower priced wine for drinking at home. Popular wines for gifts are Chateau de Costis from France, and Penfold’s from South Australia.

Q8: Do people mostly consume wine before a meal, during a meal, or after a meal? Or do you think they usually drink wine on its own?

Most people consume wine during a meal and some female customers drink before sleeping.

Tigs: It appears that Chinese women believe that a glass of red wine every evening before bed is helpful for sleeping and also for general health and good for your skin too! See this article by a Chinese lady – one of many I have come across in my research:

Wine and Chinese women

Q9: Have you noticed consumers becoming more aware of wine countries, brands, varieties and styles? Are people showing more interest than they used to? Do people like to discuss their wine choices in the stores?

Yes, consumers are more and more aware of wine countries, brands, varieties and styles. Some of them come to the shop to discuss their wine choices. More and more Chinese people consume wine now.

Tigs: Imported wine is in increasing demand in China, as shown by its self-sufficiency in wine dropping from 93% to just 80% between 2000 and 2010. China’s own wine production is expanding rapidly, but imports are expanding far more quickly, as evidenced by these figures. Wine consumption is soaring, with estimates varying widely by source, but whichever figures you believe, China provides an enormous and exciting opportunity for Australian wine producers.

And finally – I would like to thank Kai Du at the University of Adelaide for conducting the interview in China on my behalf and Ruolin Zhu for sharing her observations for this article. The answers quoted have been edited for clarity but the meaning has been preserved.

Posted in Cabernet sauvignon, New World wine, Old World Wine, South Australian wine, Wine news | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments