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Jasper Hill, Penfolds, Molly Dooker, Vasse Felix, Greenock Creek, Henschke, Yalumba, Pewsey Vale, Aussie Riesling, Australian Shiraz

More Australian Selections

 

LANGMEIL

This winery may have vines as old as their history!

It's a prominent Barossa Valley winery started in the 1840s by a Prussian migrant named Christian Auricht.  This enterprising fellow engaged in agriculture and more, apparently, planting Shiraz vines in 1843, along with having a bakery, butcher shop and cobbler shop.

Around the time of World War I the name of the town, Langmeil, was changed as German-named places were routinely dropping this connection with Europe.  It was then called Bilyara and today the town is called Tanunda.  In the 1930s a descendant of Auricht launched the Paradale winery, being sold in 1972 to the Bernkastel Winery.  They fell on hard times in the 1980s and closed their doors in 1993.

In 1996 the place was purchased by three Barossa residents and today one of those guys and his family own what is now called Langmeil.  


Richard Lindner and his partners set about renovating and invigorating the modest estate and in the process discovered a very old patch of vineyards.  It's from that little site that their "The Freedom 1843 Shiraz" comes from.  We've tasted a few vintages of this and it is mighty impressive!

Lindner, his wife Shirley and their sons Paul and James run the estate.  Paul is the winemaker, while James deals with marketing and sales.


A snapshot of the Lindner family taken in 2016

Here are some photos of the "Before" and "After" in the restoration of the Auricht property:

We recall a blind-tasting of Aussie Shiraz some years ago and we had included a Langmeil Shiraz called "Valley Floor."  It handily won the tasting and was exceptional.

Maybe a year or two later we organized another blind-tasting of Aussie Shiraz but left out the Langmeil, thinking maybe we could discover another stellar bottle.  But, in fact, that tasting flight was a disappointment as nothing was as exceptional as had been the Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz.

The winery changed importers a few years ago and we lost contact with them until the Pandemic year of 2020 when their wine resurfaced with a favorite importer.  

We recently had a look at the 2017 Valley Floor Shiraz and this is magnificent and as good as we remember it!

The youngest vines for this were planted maybe a decade ago, while the oldest at more than a century old!  The wine is medium-full bodied, but it's not the fruit bomb, sweet red wine imported around the US in an effort to cater to people who drink wine in place of a cocktail (often high in alcohol and usually with a bit of residual sugar).  The Langmeil is dry and has a touch of tannin to go with its plummy, dark fruit character.  There's a bit of spice from both the grapes and the wood barrels in which this was matured.  French and American oak, with maybe 10% new American cooperage.  

It's a really stellar bottle for $30...worth every penny!

We have some bottles of the 2014 vintage of The Freedom 1843 Shiraz...old vines...small yields...they had a difficult growing season as winds during flowering reduced the size of the crop.  With dry weather through the growing season, there was a nice bit of rain in February which, as it turned out, did not damage the crop but helped slow the pace of maturation which benefited the grapes.  This site was harvested on the 3rd of March and the wine is remarkably deep but not over-the-top ripe.  It's got lots of black fruit elements with a nice bit of oak, as nearly 3/4s of the barrels were brand new.  And while many Australian wines are a bit shy in terms of acidity, this seems to have enough backbone to be able to cellar handsomely for another decade, or so.  It's expensive, as you might imagine, but it's not stupidly expensive like some iconic Shiraz bottlings.


As noted previously, the Langmeil property had a "cobbler shop" on it thanks to the efforts of the founder, a blacksmith of sorts.  So to honor that heritage, the Lindners make this rather elegant Cabernet from 10 to 20 year old vines.  It's entirely Cabernet and it's matured entirely in French oak, with 15% of the barrels being brand new.  There's dark fruit of the Cabernet and a whisper of wood on the nose and palate.  The tannin level is mild, so pairing it with a steak or lamb will soften the wine nicely.  It's a good $30 bottle and compares favorably to Napa Cabernets costing a bit more.

The 2014 "Jackaman's" Cabernet is named after an old World War II veteran named Arthur Jackaman who tended this small vineyard for a number of years before retiring.  The wine is matured in French oak and you'll get a sense of some wood here, but the dark Cabernet fruit is in the spotlight.  Very fine and elegant.

Currently in stock:  2017 LANGMEIL "Valley Floor" SHIRAZ  $29.99
2014 LANGMEIL "The Freedom 1843" SHIRAZ   Sale $149.99
2017 LANGMEIL "Blacksmith" CABERNET SAUVIGNON  $29.99
2014 LANGMEIL "Jackaman's" CABERNET SAUVIGNON  $69.99


 
 
 

 



JASPER HILL

Located in the Heathcote area of central Victoria (due north of Melbourne) is the Laughton family's Jasper Hill winery.

The winery was founded in 1975 by Ron & Elva Laughton.  Today they dry-farm about 60 acres of vineyards divided amongst three sites.  Two of these are named for the Laughton's daughters, Emily & Georgia.

Ron Laughton has a degree in Chemistry and one in Food Science.  He worked for Kraft Foods and then for a large Australian dairy firm before trading milk for grapes.

Having made a regular commute near Heathcote, one day Laughton stopped in town and happened by a real estate company office with a "Vineyard for Sale" posting.  He made an inquiry and shortly thereafter found himself to be a 'farmer.'
It's clear he gave great thought to the prospects of cultivating grapevines.  Laughton realized the top vineyards in Europe were dry-farmed, so planting grapes in an area requiring irrigation was out of the question.  Secondly, the figured planting vines using American root-stock would fundamentally change the character of the resulting fruit, so that option was nixed early on.
Third, though he had a background in commercial "agribusiness," the notion of "better farming through chemistry" had little appeal, so Laughton is an early pioneer in cultivating grapes using organic techniques.  Today their vineyards are largely farmed using biodynamic principles.

The "home" base is called Emily's Paddock.  It's planted primarily to Shiraz with a few rows of Cabernet Franc.  Then they have a ten acre patch called Cornella Vineyard and this is devoted to Grenache.  Well-known is the Georgia's Paddock and there one finds about 42 acres: Shiraz mostly, with Riesling and a patch each of Semillon and Nebbiolo.

The Jasper Hill wines tend to receive great critical acclaim and they're not easy to find.  

We're fans of their Shiraz and it's typically a more refined and elegant wine than most from Australia.  You won't find the 2005 vintage of Georgia's Paddock Shiraz, for example, to be inky in color, teeming with gobs of fruit and showing more wood than you can shake a stick at.  
Instead, it's a well-mannered wine, with bright ruby red color, aromas of cherries and a faintly earthy tone.  The tannin level is moderate, so it's enjoyable now and should continue to grow for several more years.
 
Currently in stock:  2005 JASPER HILL "Georgia's Paddock" SHIRAZ  Sale $69.99


 




HENSCHKE
henschke.gif (3193 bytes)An old and fabled producer, Henschke is a family-run business, founded in 1868 in South Australia's Adelaide Hills.  Though they make a range of whites and reds, it's a couple of reds on which the legend of Henschke is based.  

The 5th generation runs the show, but the 6th generation of the Henschke family is now learning the ropes.  
The "Hill Of Grace" (Shiraz) has been the heavy hitter bottling from Henschke.  But they make an impressive range of wines and we've noticed they're not quite as sought after in our market as they were some years ago...

It's not that the wines are in any way inferior.  It's simply they're no longer the "new kid on the block" and many wine drinkers are more impressed by the wines of current fashion which tend to be deep in color, high in alcohol and perhaps with a touch of sweetness.  

Stephen Henschke has been the winemaker, though we understand his son Johann is overseeing the cellar and vinification of their grapes.  Stephen's wife, Prue is a viticulturist and has been overseeing the vineyards.

Though you might think they'd only produce wines such as Shiraz, Semillon and Cabernet, in fact, the Henschkes have great curiosity about other "foreign" grapes.  As a result, you'll find some rows of Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Barbera, Mataro, Grenache and Counoise in their vineyard plantings!

The vineyards have been farmed organically for many years and some biodynamic cultivation is being done, as well.  For some growers biodynamics is a bit of "religion."  The Henschkes are willing to test the various practices, utilizing biodynamic techniques where beneficial.

We have a few Henschke wines in the shop.

The 2006 Henry's Seven is a Rhone-styled blend.  It's named honoring a grape growing pioneer, Henry Evans, who's planted vineyards at Keyneton way back in 1853.  When he died, his widow uprooted the vineyards as alcohol was, we understand, against her religion.  
The wine is a blend based on Shiraz, with Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier in the mix.  It's a fairly potent wine, having 15% alcohol.  Dark in color, we like the blackberry-like fruit and mildly spicy undertones in this wine.
It's quite enjoyable right now, though it can probably be held for several more years.


We also have some bottles of their Keyneton Estate wine.  It's a Shiraz blended with Bordeaux varieties.  It's got 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc in the mix with the Shiraz.  Twenty percent new French oak gives a light woodsy tone to the wine which features dark fruits (plums, blackberries with a touch of cassis).  It's quite good presently and ought to cellar well for 5 to 10 more years.

Currently available:
Henschke 2006 "Henry's Seven" (List $45) SALE $39.99
Henschke 2005 Keyneton Estate "Euphonium" (List $45) SALE $39.99




 



PENFOLDS
Penfolds is an iconic wine brand and it has a long history as a leading producer of wine in Australia.  It had been bought in 1976 by a beer company and this ownership morphed into what was called "Southcorp."  From there it changed to Foster's Group and then was spun off into what's now called Treasury Wine Estates.  This portfolio comprises 44 wineries other than the Penfolds brand.  In California they have labels such as Etude, Beringer, Beaulieu Vineyards and Stags' Leap Winery.  Coldstream Hills, Rosemount and Lindemans, all once-upon-a-time were fierce competitors and now they're under the same, large umbrella.

Though they often make good wines, the marketing department seems to have a lot of "say" in the production of Penfolds wines.
Maybe we are wrong on this perspective.

We are sad to see this company use once-prestigious wine brands for cheap, marketing-driven products.

In 2021 they launched a new portfolio of California wines bearing the Penfolds brand name!
And they are working on making a wine in Bordeaux and a sparkling wine in Champagne.
Winemaker Peter Gago has been quoted as saying they're making these wines "through a Penfolds prism."




How will these wines be received by consumers?
Are wine drinkers looking for wines which are crossing international borders?

The folks at Chateau Lafite have invested in various wine regions, but they don't label their Chilean wines as "Lafite" or "Rothschild," but as "Los Vascos."

The Perrin family who own Rhône Valley vineyards launched a winery in California's Central Coast, but they have not used the prestigious Beaucastel name for the wines of their Tablas Creek winery.

The Kendall Jackson family from California owns vineyards in foreign lands, but each has its own, unique winery name.

And perhaps this company is smart to cash in on their fame using Penfolds for wines made outside Australia???

We read a review of the 4 new Penfolds' wines by local critic/wine guru Karen MacNeil from early March of 2021 who praised the wines.

A friend who's a wine educator in Australia and who travels around the world responded to my query about his view of these wines...
Penfolds have had more name changes, downgrades in profits, management scandals than the Kardashians. As far as I’m concerned this wine is a very poor collaboration or marrying of partners’ Barossa/Napa and in my view is not worth the money. It’s a PR exercise and anyone in the trade would not pay the asking price. It’s AUS$220 here. It got some airtime on the TV news a few months ago and that’s about all. Haven’t seen it advertised in any of the liquor shops or any write ups about it the in press. I think we can safely assume it's Penfolds just trying to keep the brand alive under very difficult trading circumstances.

It's a con job if you ask me!



But they do have some terrific Australian wines.
Grown in Australia and vinified & bottled in Australia.


The BIN 389 is a Cabernet/Shiraz blend, nicely oaked and medium bodied.  A good, solid Aussie red at a somewhat reasonable price.  Unfortunately, it seems this wine had suddenly become popular in China...as a result, it's become a more costly bottle.  It has been pretty nice, though.

Bin 707 had been fabulous!  I think it's a benchmark wine for Australian Cabernet.  If you recall the deep, haunting fragrances of Napa Cabernets such as 1968 Heitz, 1968 BV Private Reserve or the 1970 BV Private Reserve and liked those wines, then this is a must-taste!  We have not had this in the shop for a number of years now...


Their Magill Estate is called by some "Baby Grange," but I don't find it similar in style at all. Magill is as heavy or brawny as the Grange.  In fact, in some blind-tastings, I've tabbed the Magill Estate over the Grange.  The Magill Estate Shiraz is typically matured for a bit more than a year in new French and American oak  It is a single vineyard of relatively old vines, located in South Australia.  We don't currently have this.


 
The St. Henri wine has been made since 1956 and is not the big oak monster typical of many Aussie Shiraz.   They usually mature this in large casks or puncheons and the wood is seasoned so it doesn't impart much oak.  St. Henri comes from Shiraz grown all over...Barossa, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Eden Valley.
It's quite a different animal from their famous "Grange," as the wine is elegant and doesn't show oak as the first feature which you encounter.  The 2015 is the current bottling and it's 100% Shiraz.  The wine offers hints of brown spices and some ripe, almost jammy fruit notes.  Drinkable now, it ought to cellar well for a decade or so.


 
 
 
 

"Grange" used to be called "Grange Hermitage," a tip of the cap to the Rhône Valley Syrah of the Hermitage appellation.  It was first produced in the 1950s after their winemaker, Max Schubert, visited France and tasted extraordinary wines...I suspect he was tasting Bordeaux, since Grange Hermitage was never much of a Rhône-styled wine, despite it being made from Syrah.  It was big and ripe, having lots of cedary oak to it.  In those days nobody aged their Northern Rhône Syrahs in small oak barrels.  Anyway, Grange was the "ambassador" from Australia, a wine which changed the minds of many wine drinkers that the land Down Under could, in fact, make stellar, showy wines.
Over the years it continues to be an impressive wine.  Very fine and very cellar-worthy and stratospherically-priced.   Still, it finds an appreciative audience of consumers willing to pay for a bottle which rivals top California Cabernets, French Bordeaux, major Super-Tuscans, etc., as a wine for a special occasion.
 
RWT is an interesting concept.  As Grange comes from various vineyard sites, RWT (red wine trial) comes from the Barossa Valley.   The wine spends a bit more than a year in small oak and about two-thirds of the barrels are new.  The wine shows a lovely plum-like fruit...dark fruits...blueberries?   Nice wood and a bit of spiciness...good now and it ought to cellar nicely for a number of years.  The 2016 is the current offering.
 

 

 
 
 
The fortified wines are quite nice, especially the very old "Grandfather" so named because of its age. It's a solera styled Tawny (no longer bearing the designation "Port" out of respect for producers in Portugal's Douro Valley.  It's said the Solera has wines from 1960 through 2004 and they claim this is roughly a 20 Year Tawny.

 As you can imagine, the "Club" bottling is younger, but it's still an impressive sweet wine given its quality/price ratio.


 
Currently available:  
2015 ST. HENRI SHIRAZ  Sale $109.99
BIN 389 Cabernet/Shiraz  Sale $65.99
2002 GRANGE Sold Out
2016 RWT Sale $159.99
2008 BIN 707 Cabernet Sold Out
CLUB "Tawny"   $13.99
"GRANDFATHER'S 20 Tawny"   $74.99

 


PEWSEY VALE
The Pewsey Vale brand has been around for many decades and the vineyard site is in the hills neighboring the Barossa Valley in what's called the Eden Valley.

The history of this locale dates back to the mid-1800s and grapes were, in fact, planted there in those days.  Today the estate comprises about 145 hectares of vineyards, with about 50 planted to vineyards.

Riesling is what this place is all about.  And how!

The property has had its ups and downs over the past century-and-a-half, being abandoned as a vineyard until the late 1950s when the owner collaborated with the Hill-Smiths who wisely realized this cooler-climate site might be best suited to something like Riesling rather than Cabernet and Shiraz.

They set about planting the vineyards in a particular fashion to catch as much sunshine as possible, hence the contoured rows of vines (as you can see in the art work posted above).  
 
They make several Rieslings at this property and we're delighted to feature their "top of the line" bottling called, appropriately, "Contours."  This comes from their coolest site.

It's a Riesling which would cause a good German Riesling producer (or one from Alsace, Austria or Italy) to raise an eyebrow.  And the wines tend to have the bracing acidity which gives them a long life if you don't open them when they're young.

I could have written "pull the cork" for that last line, but Pewsey Vale has long been an advocate, well before it was even a bit popular, to use screw-capped closures.

The Rieslings had been bottled with Stelvin closures way back in 1970, rolling the rock up the hill every year by trying to convince skeptical consumers that this closure was beneficial.  In 1984 they abandoned the screw-cap but have since returned, finding the wines age handsomely with a Stelvin closure.

Our course we now see some good German and Austrian wines with closures other than a cork (especially those glass stoppers) and so it's not as difficult for consumer to buy a non-cork-finished wine.

Currently in stock is the 2011 and 2012 Contours Riesling.  Contours is always given at least 5 years of aging before they release it.  The wine is quite complex and displays beautiful floral notes of classic Riesling, but all sorts of other tones:  lemongrass, exotic spices, pineapple and you might even sense a hint of a greenish herbal note.  Dry, too, so it pairs handsomely with Roasted turkey, Asian-styled foods, Dim Sum, Sausages, etc.

The 2012 is the fuller bodied of the two.  It's low in alcohol and quite crisp, but the 2011 has a mere 11% alcohol, even lower.  
Both wines display the fragrances of petrol, a classic hallmark of aged Riesling.

They are both still young, though.  The 2011 is remarkably tart...probably too austere for all but the most stalwart tasters.

 
Currently in stock:  2011 PEWSEY VALE "Contours" RIESLING  $33.99
2012 PEWSEY VALE "Contours" RIESLING  $33.99




 
 
 

 
JIM BARRY
Jim Barry was Number 17.  In an era when people all want to be Number One, Number 17 seems a bit odd...But Jim Barry was the 17th person to graduate from Australia's famous Roseworthy College with a degree in winemaking.

This fellow worked for a couple of wineries before he and his wife Nancy launched their own wines in the mid-1970s.  Barry had long realized his job as a winemaker was much easier if he had good grapes to work with.

The couple amassed a fair bit of acreage in the Clare Valley, though today the company, still owned by the Barry family, has a few acres in the Coonawarra region, too.
 

We had long been fans of Jim Barry's Armagh Shiraz, a Clare Valley icon.  It's escalated in price over the years and no longer carries a price tag...the bottles come with ransom notes!

The Armagh comes from a vineyard Jim Barry planted in 1968 from a vineyard site which routinely allows the Shiraz to attain a measure of maturity.  It's usually a high octane wine and this vintage is well over 15% alcohol.  The wine is matured in both French and American oak cooperage and the wood is quite present in the wine, but still the fruit seems to soak up a lot of the oak.

It's showing well now and these are said to age handsomely...I can't say, since I've not had one with a lot of bottle aging...but I suspect it will continue to grow with cellaring.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 


Slightly more reasonable is a Cabernet called Benbournie, after a small settlement first inhabited back in the 1850s.  

The 2005 is a recent release, spending about 14 months in oak and then several years in bottle before being deemed worthy of sale.  This has been the philosophy from the start in making a wine of cellar-worthiness and then actually giving it some bottle aging so the consumer can buy a bottle that's ready to put on the dinner table.

It's a fairly powerful red, being well more than 14% in alcohol.  There's a good measure of dark fruit to this wine, but a mildly herbal aspect, too, reminding you that it's Cabernet (and not Zinfandel or Shiraz).   The oak adds a bit of spice and cedar.  

It's a robust red without being over the top.  And it's certainly drinkable now.  Especially with lamb or a steak.

 

 
Currently in stock:  2005 JIM BARRY "Benbournie" CABERNET  Sale $99.99
2006 JIM BARRY "Armagh" SHIRAZ  Sale $199.99

 

 



MOLLYDOOKER
"Mollydooker" is a sinister Aussie term for left-handers.

What may seem gauche to you is perfectly right for Sarah and Sparky Marquis.

This couple has spent quite a few years in the Australian wine business, having started at Sarah's parent's winery, Fox Creek.  They've developed other labels along the way, including Henry's Drive, Marquis Phillips, Parson's Flat and Shirvington.  Now they've launched their very own brand and have been receiving accolades from numerous wine critics.

Their mantra is "Wines that make you 'Wow!'"

Mollydooker wines are made for today's wine consumer who is looking for something striking and a bit extreme (or intense, if you prefer).  The wines all are rather high in alcohol, so fasten your seatbelt when sitting at the dinner table. 

Our late colleague Bob Gorman asked why we had this in the shop and I told him some years ago "Watch...people will be asking for these wines...they're high octane, a bit flabby and slutty...just watch."  And the first day,  some years ago now, the wine was on the Aussie rack, two different customers immediately brought bottles to the counter to take home...

Currently in stock: 

2011 THE BOXER (Shiraz) Sale $27.99
2010 THE MAITRE D' (Cabernet) Sale $27.99
CARNIVAL OF LOVE SHIRAZ
Sale $84.99
GIGGLEPOT 
Sale $49.99
2 LEFT FEET 
Sale $27.99







YALUMBA
A sizeable, old, well-established winery, Yalumba is located in the Barossa Valley.  Owned by the Smith family (that's their real name), they make a serious quantity of wine.  

The range of wines made by this company is extraordinary!

They have solid, if simple, entry level wines...there's good mid-range wines and serious upper-echelon bottles.

From dry table wines to late-harvest wines to fortified, sweet wines, these folks cover all the bases.
 
We were privileged to attend a vertical tasting of Yalumba's "The Signature," a blend of Cabernet and Shiraz.  The wines hold up amazingly well and the 2002 was spectacular in 2013!

The 2013 is a terrific wine, too.  Cabernet and Shiraz from both the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley are blended and then matured in a remarkable array of cooperage.  But first they encourage the indigenous yeasts in starting the fermentation and then have cultured their own proprietary yeast to assure the fermentation reaches its completion.  

French oak, American oak and Hungarian wood are employed in producing this wine.  Thirty percent of the barrels are brand new and they strive to produce a balanced wine.  It's under 14% alcohol, too.

The 2013 can probably be cellars for another 10 to 15+ years.

The Yalumba label also produces some very fine fortified wines.  
 
We have some bottles of their 50 Year Tawny Port, a lovely rarity...they started putting down a stock of fortified sweet wine in the 1930s, we're told.  The wine is made of a range of grapes, including Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre, Dolcetto and Muscadelle.  The brandy used to fortify the wine is even made by Yalumba!
I find a seriously nutty, Sherry-like note in the wine and it turns out they've been blending in a bit of Amontillado to balance the wine and keep it from being too cloying on the finish.

There's a delightful 21 Year Tawny as well.  It's a somewhat similar blend to the rare 50 Year Tawny, except that a few Portuguese varieties make their way into this blend...Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao and Tinta Molle (this is probably the Listan Negro from the Canary Islands, by the way)...
The wine displays lots of 'sweet' notes so there's caramel and toffee with honey, a note of molasses, maple syrup and such...

Show Reserve Muscat is also delicious and rather unassuming compared to the Tawnies...but don't let it fool you!  This wine is just as dangerous...

They blend old, well-aged Muscat with younger renditions, producing this magnificently aromatic, sweet Muscat which would be appreciated by a winemaker in Setubal or one in Jerez.  It's sweet and aromatic, so a small pour in a nice sized wine glass at the end of a meal is ideal.
Currently available:  
YALUMBA "Show Reserve" Muscat  $17.99 (375ml)
YALUMBA "21 Year" Tawny $52.99 (375ml)
2013 YALUMBA "The Signature" Cabernet/Shiraz  Sale $52.99









 





 

 

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