Michael Godel’s Australian wine report and more March 30th VINTAGES release recommendations

By Michael Godel, with notes from David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S. and Sara d’Amato

In the previous Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES for March 30, 2019, John Szabo M.S. introduced the WineAlign crü’s top picks, 16 wines strong to represent a good cross-section for our readers to carry in pocket for LCBO shopping. David and I share a generous handful of more solid values that just recently hit the VINTAGES shelves. In that Szabo Preview for March 30th John noted that it has “been a busy few weeks at the WineAlign office as we’ve ramped up our tastings outside of the LCBO, tapping multiple sources to bring you ever-expanding coverage of the worldwide wine scene – Canadian government store shelves are just a part of the mix.”

Related – John Szabo’s Vintages Preview: Tuscan Previews 2019

We are also out there on the road, not just in faraway places like Tuscany, where John and I recently tasted and reviewed hundreds of wines to share with our readers back home. We also graze in the local fields, attending events and tasting examples from all over the world, including those from Australia.

Feature – A dozen in-market Australian picks

Why do we taste so much Australian wine here in Ontario? Unbeknownst to so many it is because of that vast country’s multifarious regional and varietal exploration. Aussie wine is not one thing, or two, or three. It’s a staggering, grape-net entangling, micro-climate diversifying set of intention and circumstances, all adding up to a remarkable sum of its parts.

In Ontario we in the media and trade are also fortunate to have access to a broad array of Australian wine choices, much of it owed to the work of Mark Davidson. We taste Australian wines with thanks to the intrepid Wine Australia ambassador, traveller and purveyor of everything you could ever want to know about that country’s wine scene. Davidson passes through our parts on manifold missions each calendar year and delivers them to us, with perspicacious aptitude, aided and abetted by the local importers. Each time Mark comes through the murmurs can be heard as speaking the unspoken profound.

Just a few weeks ago Davidson and Wines of Australia rolled back into town, as they are want to do at least twice a year. The winter trade tasting titled “Australian wine, made our way” came barreling in on the heels of a comprehensively designed education program “Australian wine discovered,” a FREE online set of tools, materials, resources and detailed guides you really need to use. Download the FREE program at www.australianwinediscovered.com. Australian Wine Discovered is a new website and educational tool that brings to light the foundations of Australian wine, varieties like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, Sparkling wine, regions such as Barossa and Margaret River and Australia’s old vines.

Many of you know Mark Davidson, the man, the myth, the omnipresent legend who for more than 10 years has served as Education Manager/Market Development Manager, North America at Wine Australia. Six weeks ago I had the pleasure of judging with Mark at TexSom in Dallas, along with Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia’s Head of Market EMEA/Regional Director, Europe. We were all invited to preside over 3,500 wine entries at this most exceptional competition at the invite of James Tidwell M.S. At the judging awards and Sommelier retreat Texsom unveiled the Australian education program with this introduction, “Creating educational materials for the trade is an integral part of marketing for the beverage business. Oftentimes it is a labor intensive process to compile all the necessary information. It is almost unheard of for a region the likes of Wine Australia to create this for you, but they have.”

We also remember back to Friday, July 22, 2016, to the opening of the LCBO’s newest “Products of the World” specialty store. The destination boutique at 65 Wicksteed Avenue in Toronto offers around 200 Australian wines, including one in four that are unique to this location. This selection is believed to be one of the best single-store assortments available outside of the Australia. Many of the wines are from LCBO’s Consignment Program, which means they are available to customers for the first time outside of bars and licensed restaurants. The selection is regularly refreshed to keep the assortment interesting. This is a terrific place to locate hard to find Aussie wines.

As for the March 30th release, in the absence of temporarily being able to taste the wines in the traditional setting of the LCBO sensory lab we have worked hard to gain access to the wines via other channels. Ontario agents have provided us with many examples and LCBO store tasting bars are yet another way to have a go.

March 30th Picks

White Wines

Two Rivers Convergence Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough, New Zealand($19.95)
David Lawrason – This is a Vintages Wine of the Month selection, which means it is available in large quantities at a moderate/mean price and expresses the style well – although hardly a home run. The wine is blended from vineyards astride the cooler Awatere River which creates lime and dill aromas, and the Wairu River prone to creating passion fruit scents. Both are present on the nose. It is a straightforward, fairly intense, juicy, tart-edge and dry sauvignon with strong grapefruit/lime flavours. Some bitterness results but it is not out of sorts.

Pierre Sparr Sol Grès Riesling 2016, Ac Alsace, France ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Off-dry but just slightly on the lesser side with quality acidity making good work to hide the sweetness and an herbal pesto making most of the welcoming. Quite a mix of lime and tannin, more in control than even the acidity. A complex riesling from Sparr to be sure and one that should develop some petrol interest, though the fruit is not so strong. An example to feed the polarizing discussions that pop up concerning riesling from time to time.

Two Rivers Of Marlborough Convergence Sauvignon Blanc 2017   Pierre Sparr Sol Grès Riesling 2016

E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2016, Ac Rhône, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A rich and well defined Côtes du Rhône of significant value. Great intensity here, with more power than expected. Lovely floral and peach notes along with a little pithy bitterness at the end. Best with summery food of good intensity.
John Szabo M.S. – This is a nice and fleshy, ripe yellow fruit, cherry and cherry blossom-flavoured white Rhône, Well rounded and balanced. It fits the spot nicely between fresh unoaked whites, and full-on barrel fermented versions, and will be highly versatile at the table. Very good length.

J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2017, California ($21.95)
Michael Godel – A touch of closed door demure may not be the hallmark entry of pinot gris but for California that sort of restraint is a good way to begin. A sulphide-led flint takes a moment to step out of the wing tips, peel away the curtain and reveal a ripening orchard of pear and apple. Good palate presence and freshness takes over and replays the fruit-flint notes with a pinch of salt. Nice lean style for the west coast.

Domaine Des Fines Caillottes Pouilly Fumé 2017, Ac Loire, France ($30.95)
David Lawrason – The aromatics are not very intense, but intriguing nonetheless with fine sauvignon gooseberry, subtle herbs, spearmint and a touch of Fume flint. It is medium weight, nicely firm, balanced and dry with vague bitterness. The focus and length are excellent.

E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2016 J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2017 Domaine Des Fines Caillottes Pouilly Fumé 2017

Red Wines

Morandé Adventure Vigno Vignadores Old Vines Dry Farmed Carignan 2015, Maule Valley, Chile ($21.95)
David Lawrason – The Carignan grape of southern France and northwest Spain is enjoying a New World renaissance where old vines – as in Chile’s southern Maule Valley – are creating wines of considerable energy and depth. Several of those winemakers in Chile have joined together to market under the Vigno trademark. Carignan always seems to express an incredible sense of raw energy on the palate, with almost iron-like rusty earthiness. The nose here is intense too with sour red cherry, pomegranate, sage and background minerality.

La Ferme Du Mont Le Ponnant Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2017, AC Rhône, France ($22.95)
David Lawrason – This is a generous, well-proportioned Cotes du Rhone with typical aromas of candied plums, pepper and licorice. It is medium-fullbodied, nicely rounded, a touch warm with drying, firm dusty tannin. The length is very good. Typical fare from a solid producer.

Giacomo Mori 2015, Chianti, Tuscany($22.95)
David Lawrason – The sparse, traditional Chianti label promises a similar wine, and delivers. It is thankfully not too soft and lush, indeed it has energy and vitality. The nose shows piquant currant/raspberry fruit with well integrated, herbal and woodsy notes.

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Famiglia Zingarelli 2016, Tuscany, Italy ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Classic firm and over delivering entry for a Zingarelli Riserva built to last. Succulent of red fruit rolling round beneath a hard savoury candy fruit shell. Such a rich edition with lights flared and motor running. I’d wait a couple of years for the richness of 2016 fruit, the warmth and the bones to get together.

Morandé Adventure Vigno Vignadores Old Vines Dry Farmed Carignan 2015   La Ferme Du Mont Le Ponnant Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2017   Giacomo Mori Chianti 2015   Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva Docg Famiglia Zingarelli 2016

March 30th Picks – Australia

White Wines

Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Riesling 2015, Clare Valley, South Australia ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a great buy in gorgeous, dry Aussie riesling. The fruit gets very ripe Down Under so this sports all kinds of tropicality – passion fruit, papaya, apricot, lemon blossom, honey (there is some maturity here) petrol and riesling’s unique spice. It is full body, creamy and elegant at the same time.

Gilbert + Gilbert Single Vineyard Riesling 2015, Eden Valley, South Australia ($27.95)
David Lawrason – Not only is riesling is a specialty of Eden Valley, a slightly cooler sub-region of Barossa, this riesling by Simon Gilbert celebrates the legacy of the first Eden plantings by ancestor Joseph Gilbert in 1842. It is a classic, bone dry riesling with a fine, fragrant, creamy if not overtly intense nose of peach, lemon blossom and vague maturing honey. Serious stuff.

Kilikanoon Killerman's Run Riesling 2015   Gilbert + Gilbert Single Vineyard Riesling 2015

Red Wines

Riposte The Dagger Pinot Noir 2017, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Winemaker Tim Knappstein of has been part of the Adelaide scene for over 35 years. Made 100% from Adelaide Hills fruit by Tim and his son Nick at Riposte, this is fresh, fruity pinot that is largely whole berry fermented and aged in stainless steel (not oak). It has a generous nose of strawberry-sour cherry jam, vague tea-like herbality and a touch of forest floor earthiness.<

Elderton Barossa Shiraz 2016, Barossa, South Australia ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Aged 24 months in used American oak this shiraz shows classic pepper, cherry jam, vanilla and spicy aromas, all nicely integrated. It is medium-full bodied, quite smooth and almost velvety thanks to the long barrel ageing, with soft tannin, almost salty earthiness and cedary notes on the finish.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Coonawarra, South Australia($34.95)
David Lawrason – This staple from the cabernet ­famous Coonawarra region remains a great value even as the price moves towards $30. It has a gorgeous lifted nose of blackcurrant, blueberry, violets, menthol, black licorice, warm dark chocolate oak and  spice. It’s full bodied, dense and quite firm with a salt and pepper ying­-yang tension on the palate.

Riposte The Dagger Pinot Noir 2017   Elderton Barossa Shiraz 2016   Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

More Australia

#aussiewine time with @vintagemarkdavo and esteemed panel for @wineaustralia

#aussiewine time with @vintagemarkdavo and esteemed panel for @wineaustralia

Meanwhile back to Australia’s most recent visit during which Davidson led an esteemed panel (of three) through 12 Aussie wine stars chosen by the four of them with inspiration provided by way of a November 2018 journey down under. Christopher Sealy (Alo + Aloette), Joshua Corea (Archive Wine Bar) and Toni Weber (Giulietta) joined Mark for some of the best discourse any masterclass has provided in a very long time. Australia got into these sommeliers’ hearts and minds, as did the energy, structure and grace of this set of Aussie wine on display make their way into mine. The seminar once again offered a welcome respite from my monthly treadle of reviewing. It is always refreshing to taste wines that are not exaggerated or sentimental. Such a gathering of Australian wine delivers the preponderance of form, with the incantatory capacity of narrative to bring truth to light and fullness out of pleasure.

More than 100 wines were then available to taste at the walk-around portion of the event.  The wines were nothing short of exceptional. Once again Australia delivered, not only in terms of quality but also with deferential diversity. The possibilities are now coming into fruition, urged forwards by the effects of restraint and change beginning to trickle down to less expensive and more commercially produced wines. Australia is the new, neo-global force to be reckoned with.



In-market Australian picks

Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Margaret River, Western Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This flavourful, blackcurrant, floral, minty and chocolaty cabernet nicely captures the ambiance of the cooler Margaret River appellation, yet in an approachable style. It is medium-full bodied, fairly smooth and warming with some woodsy tannin and mint on the finish. (VINTAGES)

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, South Australia ($69.95)
John Szabo – Intended as an entry point to, and inspired by the great Bin 707 cabernet, Bin 407 made its debut with the 1990 vintage in response to the growing availability of high quality cabernet fruit. Always a multi-regional blend, the 2013 is a terrific wine, dark and brooding, spicy, inky black, firmly structured, evidently concentrated, with masses of very ripe but authoritative tannins. Wood is of course a feature, but not excessive, such is the density of fruit to match and best the flavour profile. Fully rich and satisfying, and capable no doubt of 20+ years in the cellar. Great length.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate The Siding Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Coonawarra, South Australia ($23.95)
David Lawrason – Lovely poise and integrity here, along with drinkability. Expect fairly lifted blackcurrant/cassis candy with mint, dill, some florality and just right oak vanillin and spice. Lovely sense of purity pushes it over 90. It is medium-full bodied, firm, lively and a touch hot, but the aromas stay focused to the end. (VINTAGES)

Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2017   Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013   Wynns Coonawarra Estate The Siding Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2017, South Australia ($20.00)
David Lawrason– One of Australia’s most enduring brands – since 1976 – captures the Penfolds ethos of richness yet restraint with a lovely nose of well woven mulberry, eucalyptus, hay, vague pepper and oak vanilla. It is full bodied, dense and smooth with very fine tannin and some alcohol heat on the finish. (LCBO General List)

Henschke Henry’s Seven, Barossa 2015, South Australia ($49.95)
Sara d’Amato – A meaty blend of shiraz, grenache, mataro and viognier. Cedary and smoky flavours enhance the still zesty fruit on the palate that includes cassis and blackberry. There is no shortage of pep and freshness which mitigates any warmth from alcohol. Tannins are supple but still punctuate the palate with a lightly tacky feel. Flavours of blueberry, violet and black pepper make for a compelling old vine blend. A classic with elegant appeal not to be missed.
John Szabo – The smell of good wine is often immediately recognizable, before cognition can catch up and make sense of it all. This wine is such a case. It smells good, and then one sets about unravelling the why and how. At first it’s pure, neither encumbered by wood or clumsy, overripe fruit. The perfume fills the nostrils and titillates the olfactory bulb at many points, equally dispersed and spread about. The palate shows that elegance and finesse, that fine-grained tannic structure, that savory-saltiness that only comes from careful cultivation in a great terroir. Length and depth, and complexity, are exceptional. This is wine (and value) of the highest order. Grenache-shiraz-mataro-viognier blend.

Sidewood Shiraz 2015, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – This peppery shiraz offers an expressive aromatic component due to its higher altitude grown fruit offering plenty of refreshing green herbal notes. Sweet violet, cassis and white pepper make this a dead-ringer for the northern Rhône. Mid-weight, fresh and zesty with a pleasant dynamic tension on the palate. A terrific value.

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2017   Henschke Henry's Seven 2015   Sidewood Shiraz 2015

Don’t Tell Gary Shiraz 2016, Grampians, Victoria, Australia ($21.95)
David Lawrason – This impressive shiraz from the less often seen Grampians region of Victoria features a nicely lifted, savoury and peppery along with ripe black cherry fruit, vanilla and a touch of Aussie mint. It is medium to full bodied, quite juicy and warm with fine tannin.

The Lane Vineyard Block 14 Basket Press Shiraz 2016, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($29.95)
John Szabo – This is serious quality, complex shiraz here, made with the gentle basket press method to yield a wine with supple tannins, ripe and fleshy texture, balanced by fresh acids. The flavour profile is complex and appealing, featuring typical cool(ish) climate licorice, smoke, cold charcoal, and black pepper, alongside blackberry and black currant fruit, lightly compoted. Length and depth are excellent. Quality wine, attractively priced.

Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2016, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($61.95)
David Lawrason – This has a gorgeous, ripe and pure nose of blueberry/blackberry jam, with violet, vanillin and a touch of Barossa menthol. It is full bodied, very dense and satiny smooth then reaches a drier conclusion with some tannin and earthiness. (VINTAGES)

Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz 2014, Barossa, South Australia ($99.95)
Sara d’Amato – A meaty and rather dense shiraz, lightly peppery with a concentrated flavour of dried black currant. Notes of violets add a seductive dimension to the palate of notable complexity. Generous and exceptionally well concentrated, this shiraz offers enough stuffing and structure to last well into the next decade.

Don't Tell Gary Shiraz 2016   The Lane Vineyard Block 14 Basket Press Shiraz 2016   Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz 2016   Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz 2014

John Duval Plexus White 2016, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($36.95)
Sara d’Amato – A wildly appealing Rhône inspired blend of marsanne and roussanne with a deliciously reductive nose featuring a compelling flinty-peppery aroma. The palate is much more generous and gregarious with ample weight yet still with mouth-watering appeal. Very good quality fruit with a light-handed and carefully-guided treatment. Difficult to forget.
John Szabo – A marsanne-roussanne-viognier blend from the Barossa, Duval’s white features significant floral and ripe, white orchard fruit character, lifted and fresh although clearly ripe, with the right measure of reductive-flinty character and no obvious oak. The palate is full-ish and savoury, lightly salty, inviting and engaging and saliva-inducing. I like the weight and depth allied to freshness and the considerable length. Premium wine.

Brokenwood Hunter Valley Sémillon 2016, New South Wales, Australia ($22.95)
John Szabo – A brilliant wine, or at least it will be in about a decade, this is classic Hunter semillon, deceptively powerful with just 10.5% alcohol, sharp acids and excellent length. It’s surprisingly good now, however, I can see the future clearly here with the hot butter and honey-drenched toast flavours that will emerge. Very tidy stuff, just be patient, at least until the early ’20s.

Domaine Naturaliste Floris Chardonnay 2015, Margaret River, Western Australia ($33.95)
John Szabo – Open, fragrant, balanced, silky and soft, this is classy and refined chardonnay from Margaret River, a sweet spot for the variety, with a lovely balance between fruit and wood, and flinty-stony – oxidative character, complex and inviting. Length and depth are impressive. Drink or hold into the mid-twenties.

John Duval Plexus White 2016   Brokenwood Hunter Valley Sémillon 2016   Domaine Naturaliste Floris Chardonnay 2015

Michael Godel’s February 26th Australian seminar reviews

Shaw + Smith Riesling 2018, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Pewsey Vale The Contours Old Vine Riesling 2004, Eden Valley, South Australia

Brash Higgins Chenin Blanc CHN 2017, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Giant Steps Chardonnay Wombat Creek Vineyard 2017, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

Ten Minutes By Tractor Chardonnay Wallis 2016, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, South Australia

Vasse Felix Chardonnay Heytesbury 2017, Margaret River, Western Australia

Mac Forbes Pinot Noir Coldstream 2017, Yarra Valley, Australia

Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Tasmania, Australia

Henschke Giles Lenswood Pinot Noir 2016, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Ochota Barrels Grenache Syrah The Green Room 2017, McLaren Vale, Australia

Yangarra Grenache High Sands 2015, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Jamsheed Syrah Seville 2015, Yarra Valley, South Australia

Thanks for reading up about the great multiplicity of Aussie wine. The WineAlign team will return over the next two weeks with previews for the VINTAGES April 13th release and extensive coverage of Ontario wines from Cuvée 2019.

Good to go!


Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview