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Wine notes with Clive Hartley

July 9th, 2024Wine notes with Clive Hartley

Italian feast - a wealth of opportunities to taste some wonderfully different wines. That is the joy of choosing Italian grape varieties and I’ve recently been able to see a good cross section of wines made in Australia.

Italian feast – a wealth of opportunities to taste some wonderfully different wines. That is the joy of choosing Italian grape varieties and I’ve recently been able to see a good cross section of wines made in Australia.

It might be too chilly at the moment, but you could try some Australian prosecco.

My recommendation is Freeman Prosecco 2023 which has some touches of barrel-fermented fruit to give the wine extra texture and creaminess.

Vigneron Brian Freeman owns 200ha of vines in the Hilltops region of NSW and produces some excellent Italian-inspired wines.

Also check out Heathcote’s Vinea Marson and Mount Towrong Vivace N.V. that uses nebbiolo instead of pinot noir in their more traditional sparkling wine blend.

Pinot grigio and fiano are two leading Italian white grape varieties. Freeman produces both and they have a savoury texture and long palate length that is typical of his wines.

When it comes to textural white wines the Vinea Marson Grazia 2019 fits the bill. A blend of pinot bianco, friulano, malvasia d’Istria and picolit grapes this wine is a different proposition, displaying nuts and a hint of reductive struck match on the nose.

It has saline, nutty, herbal flavour with a hint of orange peel. A complex palate with a creamy, long, elegant finish. Already with some bottle age they are also selling a 2013 back vintage to show how age worthy this blend is.

What captivates me most is Italian red/black grape varieties. I’ve recently had some excellent barbera, sangiovese, nebbiolo and corvina/rondinella.

Barbera wines are usually earthy, meaty, cedar oak driven with black cherry fruit and usually medium to full bodied.

If you get the chance try Skimstone or First Ridge, both from Mudgee. One of Australia’s best nebbiolos comes from Freeman Vineyards and their 2022 is outstanding.

Finally, a unique wine for Australia but takes its inspiration from the wines of the Veneto region. Freeman Vineyard Secco Rondinella Corvina 2017 has a deeply complex nose with dried herbs and fruits, medicinal and blackberry notes.

It’s a rich, silky, full bodied, tannin-driven wine coming from the winemaking process which involves drying a proportion of grapes in a prune dehydrator for 7-10 days then placing them at the bottom of the fermenter before filling it with fresh grapes.

The resulting wine is aged for up to four years in old barrels. There is a special release wine called Robusta (2015). It has a rich, raisin, sultana sweet nose.

Powerful complex palate with a super long, slightly warm finish. You hardly notice the 17% alcohol. Wonderfully different.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. Read more at
www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes

June 25th, 2024Wine notes

Place of Changing Winds vineyard is located between Mt Macedon and Mt Bullengarook in the Macedon Ranges. Different clones of pinot noir and chardonnay vines were planted between 2012 and 2018.

with Clive Hartley

Place of Changing Winds growers series

Place of Changing Winds vineyard is located between Mt Macedon and Mt Bullengarook in the Macedon Ranges. Different clones of pinot noir and chardonnay vines were planted between 2012 and 2018.

Everything in the vineyard is a well thought-out plan to produce the best quality that the cool site can offer.

Vascular or sap flow pruning, three full-time staff to manage a tiny 3.1-hectare site including a Bordeaux trained manager/winemaker and dry grown vines shows their commitment and deep pockets.

The vineyard is owned by Robert Walters, a highly respected importer and distributor in Melbourne. His company Bibendum Wine Co has a stella line up of wines from around the world.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their Estate wines are sought after and mailing list driven. Limited supply made them come up with a novel way of even sub-dividing their mailing list customers into ‘High Density’ ‘Fidelity’ and ‘General’ members.

One way of moving up the ranks of their mailing list is to purchase wines from their Grower Series. After tasting them recently you might simply stop with these as they are very good wines.

The 2022 Harcourt Syrah ($59) is grown on granite soils and matured for nearly two years. It is bright, with floral violets, blackberries and pepper, laced with cedar oak. Medium bodied with licorice, nutmeg spice and plums. Some fine grain tannins complete the finish.

Moving over to Heathcote, the 2021 Syrah ($59) is grown on red Cambrian soils of the Mount Camel Range. It has a surprisingly rich, fruit-driven nose, given that it received 33 months of ageing, with blackberry and black cherries as well as vanilla and a touch of licorice.

Whilst the fruit continues on the palate it comes over slightly more reserved, with fine chalk tannins on the finish. Overall, a well-balanced full-bodied wine.

Finally, the 2022 Syrah No2 ($38) is a blend of both the Heathcote and Harcourt sites. It is their least expensive wine, but I ranked it as high as the previous two.

There is a sense of reserve that runs through all their red wines that I liked. It displayed plenty of black fruits again including plum, black cherries and blackberry, some slight raisin and herbal notes as well.

This wine has that characteristic ‘light touch’ on the moreish, savoury, slightly leafy medium plus bodied palate. To round out the wine it has a dry, powdery tannic finish.

Link: www.placeofchangingwinds.com.au

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His 305- page full colour book Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes with Clive Hartley

June 11th, 2024Wine notes with Clive Hartley

The Canberra District is a wine region that often flies under the radar but is well worth visiting. Most of the vineyards are actually in NSW.

Tour Europe via Canberra – a capital with wine

The Canberra District is a wine region that often flies under the radar but is well worth visiting. Most of the vineyards are actually in NSW.

It has an eclectic array of grape varieties but is known for shiraz viognier blends made famous by Clonakilla.

It is a region blessed with characters and engaging winemakers. It was established by a band of highly educated researchers and academics who initially worked in the nation’s capital and then went on to buy country properties and plant grapes.

Two such early pioneering families were Ken and Judith Helm in the Murrumbateman sub-region and Sue and David Carpenter at Lark Hill.

Ken has notched up an impressive 47 vintages and specialises in riesling, having been inspired by the wines of Germany. Putting your nose into a glass of his wine transports you to the Mosel immediately.

They are floral, perfume-driven and have a softer green apple acid profile as opposed to the lemony, lime, citric acid of say, Clare Valley.

Try his 2023 Helm Classic Dry Riesling to see the difference. He also does a superb 2023 Premium Riesling that is more intense and has a longer palate length and lovely minerality, with a touch more acidity and built to age. There is also a Half-Dry Riesling and a pleasant Riesling Rose.

Sue and David have been joined by their winemaking son Chris and are perched at Bungendore overlooking Lake George. It’s the highest vineyard in the area and in their white portfolio they produced an excellent Grüner Veltliner.

It all started in 2002 when wine writer Jancis Robinson visited from the UK and suggested planting
Grüner.

There were none planted commercially in Australia at the time but they finally found a few vines being grown by Tasmanian winemaker Graham Wiltshire.

Lark Hill 2022 Grüner Veltliner is a beautiful intense wine with touches of tropical fruits, struck match and minerality. It has a nutty, textured and fleshy palate with slight creamy notes.

At the Carpenters’ vineyard in the Murrumbateman region they grow shiraz and sangiovese. Their 2022 Scuro is a 50/50 blend of the two grapes and is a lovely cherry and sweet, oak-driven wine with a textured, velvety, medium-bodied palate.

For more on Helm and Lark Hill go to my website.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His 305- page full colour book Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes with Clive Hartley

May 31st, 2024Wine notes with Clive Hartley

The Good Food and Wine Show will be held at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre from today May 31 to June 2.

Yarra Valley

The Good Food and Wine Show will be held at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre from today May 31 to June 2.

Three days to overindulge yourself with hundreds of food and wine exhibitors. There are demonstrations and masterclasses including a Riedel wine glass experience and a beginners’ Champagne class.

I went last year and it can be a very daunting experience with an extensive choice of merchandise on display. My tip is to approach it strategically and only taste a couple of styles of wine. If you are not careful it can become a bit ‘blurry’!

I did this at a recent a fantastic tasting held by Food + Drink Victoria. No, not getting ‘blurry’ of course, but tasting specific styles.

Whilst all regions of Victoria were represented I focused on tasting Yarra Valley wines. The valley has some incredibly good wineries and here is the pick of the bunch out of the 30 wines I tasted.

Let’s start at the top.

Winemaker Sarah Crowe has built on the already impressive reputation of Yarra Yering and tasting her 2021 vintage wines was a stand-out moment. Dry Red No 1 2021 ($155 a bottle) was rich, full bodied with lashings of cedar oak and vanilla with touches of herbs and liquorice on the palate.

Tasting this “Bordeaux blend’ of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and petit verdot transports you to France and sits you on the left bank of the Gironde estuary. Undoubtedly a classic wine.

Not far behind it in quality, but more fruit focused, is the Dry Red No 2 2021 ($135). Predominately shiraz with a smidgeon of viognier, marsanne and mataro, it has a smooth black fruit richness, elegance and a touch of earth and grip on the long finish.

I tried plenty of chardonnays and what stood out was Giant Steps 2022 ($50). It was outstanding, with rich toasty oak with overlays of yeasty lees and stone fruits giving the wine texture. Simply delicious.

More tropical fruit driven, but enjoyable, was the St Hubert’s Chardonnay 2023 ($55), as well as the more elegant Tarrawarra Estate 2022 ($40) and Oakridge Hazeldene 2022 ($48)

Finally, there were plenty of pinot noirs on offer. No standouts but Oakridge Hazeldene 2022 ($48) and Toolangi 2023 ($36) were both good, fruit driven wines.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His 305- page full colour book Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes with Clive Hartley

May 14th, 2024Wine notes with Clive Hartley

It is not something I’d normally recommend, serving a white wine (chardonnay) with steak, but I had it the other night and it made a comparatively good match.

White wine with steak


It is not something I’d normally recommend, serving a white wine (chardonnay) with steak, but I had it the other night and it made a comparatively good match.

Normally, choosing what wine to have with a dish can be as simple as applying long-established rules such as white with fish and red with red meats.

However, there is so much more to consider; the cooking method, sauces and impact of vegetables, accompaniments and farinaceous sides can all change the impact on the taste of the wine and the main ingredient.

Working out the overall dish’s intensity and matching it with a similarly intense wine is a good starting point and ground rule. Light food with light wines etc. But wine can also be used as a palate cleanser, which is what happened in the steak vs chardonnay incident.

Understanding the style of wine and not just the grape variety is another consideration. The chardonnay I had was extremely light and cool climate in style with plenty of acidity. It would have been a different story if the wine had heavier buttery malolactic notes and toasty oak.

I read a comment from Clare Burder, from Eminence Vineyard in the King Valley recently, about the time she was in Japan where a sake producer said to her ‘sake doesn’t fight with food’.

I think many of our wines ‘fight with food’. Our major grape varieties and warm to hot climate produce intense fruit flavours and high alcohol wines. Attributes that don’t marry with the savoury nature of food. Clare thinks that pinot blanc is the closest the wine world has to the matching ability of sake.

It has low aromatics and flavours, gentle structure and can sit in the background rather than dominating the flavour of food. Italian white grapes such as pinot grigio, garganega, fiano, vermentino, verdicchio can also be classified in the same basket.

Locally you can try an outstanding 2023 Pinot Blanc from Granite Hills and Mount Towrong Vineyard produce an attractive 2023 Vermentino and a saline, herbal, light-bodied 2023 Grillo, a white grape found in Sicily.

Red wines that don’t fight with food would be grape varieties like sangiovese, nebbiolo, some gamays and pinot noir. These are light to medium bodied wines that have good levels of acidity, useful in food matching as it acts like seasoning.

Looking over my recent notes, Mount Towrong Nebbiolo 2022, Best’s Pinot Noir 2022 or J.P Trijsburg Pinot Noir 2021and Vinea Marson Sangiovese 2018 fit the bill.


Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His 305 page full colour book Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes

May 5th, 2024Wine notes

Winemaker Peter Fraser from Yangarra Estate in the McLaren Vale is passionate about some grape varieties you might not be too familiar with.

with Clive Hartley

Yangarra’s Rhône Crusade

Winemaker Peter Fraser from Yangarra Estate in the McLaren Vale is passionate about some grape varieties you might not be too familiar with.

His white wine is simply called ‘Blanc’ and is a blend of grenache blanc (80%) with splattering of roussanne, bourboulenc, clairette, grenache gris and piquepoul blanc.

All these varieties originated in the southern Rhône Valley and Yangarra planted them in 2014.

“These white grapes have a huge potential in the McLaren Vale as they like a warm coastal climate and are late ripening, in fact, last year we picked piquepoul later than our red wines,” Peter said.

Piquepoul blanc has been picked up by other producers such as Coriole and Lloyd Brothers. Both wines are highly recommended.

The Yangarra Blanc 2022 ($30) is not a fruity wine, but a fleshy, juicy, nutty wine with a lot of minerality. Grenache blanc and roussanne is also used to make their Ovitelli Blanc 2022 which is fermented and matured in a large ceramic egg. These eggs are a feature at Yangarra.

“Using ceramics gives the wine a sense of purity and brightness of fruit that is not achieved in stainless steel or oak. They allow air to penetrate, but not as much as a barrel does.”

A portion of the wine undergoes over 100 days on skins. The result is a fleshy, rich and complex wine that is firm and textured. It’s a more serious drink at $68 a bottle.

Yangarra Noir 2022 ($30) is another blend from the Rhône. This time they use grenache noir, carignan, cinsaut, counoise, shiraz and mourvèdre.

Blends are more fun than single grape varieties and this one is fruit driven with plums and floral notes. It’s a pleasant surprise to find a nice tannin spine in the wine that gives a bit more structure than one would expect.

Grenache is in the spotlight at the moment and when handled well, like at Yangarra, it makes wines similar to pinot noir or even nebbiolo. Sadly, Peter tells me it only represents 6% of plantings in the region.

“Grenache is drought tolerant and grows well in the sands of Blewitt Springs. There is currently a resurgence here and it will increase in plantings. Currently it has the highest grape price in the McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley.”

Yangarra Ovitelli Grenache 2021 ($80) is sourced from dry grown 1946 bush vine fruit that is fermented and aged in ceramic eggs. It has lifted aromas of red fruits and floral touches.

On the palate it is supremely elegant, textured with fine tannins and a long finish. These wines exemplify Yangarra Estate’s approach to winemaking. Their wines have flavour and texture with a lighter touch than most McLaren Vale wines.


Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His 305 page full colour book Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes with Clive Hartley

April 14th, 2024Wine notes with Clive Hartley

If you look closely at a label from the wine producer Sutton Grange its motto or byline is 'wines that stand alone’ and tasting through their line-up recently they lived up to their name.

Wines that stand alone

If you look closely at a label from the wine producer Sutton Grange its motto or byline is ‘wines that stand alone’ and tasting through their line-up recently they lived up to their name.

Sutton Grange is located in the Bendigo region, sitting in the shadow of Mount Alexander, a 20-minute drive south of Bendigo and just 13 minutes from Harcourt. It is the same distance to Metcalfe, due south, which is the junction where the regions of Bendigo, Macedon Ranges and Heathcote converge.

The wines coming from this estate cannot easily be seen as Bendigo wines, they have nuances of Macedon Ranges, being grown on granite soils, but are hard to compare because they don’t make a chardonnay or a pinot noir. They make a shiraz (labelled syrah), but not like the full-bodied monsters you get from Bendigo or the brooding, intense Heathcote reds.

There is a theme running through their range. Whites are light, subtle and fresh, signalling the impact of a couple of recent cool vintages. The reds are elegant, medium-bodied and savoury with welcoming lower alcohol, compared to their neighbours. They stand alone, possibly aloof.

Their portfolio is a simple two-tier approach. At a lower price point is their brand Fairbank (the 19th Century name for the property) and then their pricier Estate Range. Here are the wines that caught my attention. 2021 Fairbank Ancestrale Sparkling Rosé was juicy, full of cherries, apricots and nutty lees contact.

The palate is creamy with fresh red apple and yeasty bread notes. Ancestrale means it finishes its primary fermentation in the bottle and then disgorged, leaving some yeast lees in the bottle, so it appears slightly cloudy.

Fairbank 2022 Rosé is a classic dry wine with plenty of red fruits such as strawberries, red cherries and a dash of red apple. Palate is long, firm and a touch savoury. It is simply delicious and has been recognised by some major wine commentators, so don’t just take my word ($35).

They do an interesting sangiovese in a light drink-early Beaujolais style which is very fruity, but dry, as well as a nice, light-bodied but savoury Vino Rosso which is a blend of aglianico and cabernet sauvignon. Both are Fairbank wines and priced at $35.

So far, the wines have all been estate grown, but in 2020 they had to buy in fruit due to a savage frost, so the Fairbank Syrah 2020 was sourced from Heathcote. It’s a lovely medium-bodied wine with blackberry, blueberry and cassis aromas. Some liquorice and plums on a soft tannin, medium bodied, elegant palate.

The final two wines were from their Estate Range and they really hit the mark. 2021 Syrah ($65) had a complex nose with black pepper, blackberry, floral and struck match notes. It was rich but reserved at the same time, with some green and black peppercorns and well-balanced acidity on a medium-bodied palate structure.

Incidentally, I first went to this winery in 2012 and tasted their 2007 estate Syrah and it was outstanding. Price was $60. So only a $5 increase in 12 years.

Finally, their 2019 Aglianico ($65) was elegant and savoury with plenty of ripe tannins that are indicative of this southern Italian grape variety. There are plenty of cherries and rose petal notes mixed in with dried herbs. Again, medium bodied and elegant on the palate.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His 305 page full colour book Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www. australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes with Clive Hartley

April 3rd, 2024Wine notes with Clive Hartley

Cool climate cabernet sauvignon can be a disaster. It is a late ripening grape variety, so to grow it successfully the vintage needs to be a long one with a warm sunny autumn.

Cool local cabernet

Cool climate cabernet sauvignon can be a disaster. It is a late ripening grape variety, so to grow it successfully the vintage needs to be a long one with a warm sunny autumn.

If it fails to ripen sufficiently you get an abundance of obnoxious green herbaceous characters driven by a compound called methoxypyrazine.

This compound is more commonly found in sauvignon blanc and can be attractive, in moderation. The two grapes are related as cabernet sauvignon is the offspring of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc, so it is not surprising they can share some traits.

In the Macedon Ranges we have a small band of producers who persist in growing cabernet sauvignon, even though the climate could be considered too cool. Why?

The answer lies in the different sub-regional climates that exist, and there are pockets of vineyards that achieve enough warmth to ripen the grapes, sometimes.

There is a history of cabernet in the region with Tom Lazar planting it in 1968, alongside other reds, at Virgin Hills at Lauriston West.

At Drummond North, Zig Zag Road has some 50-year-old cabernet vines that were nearly pulled out in 2019. They have been retained and the 2022 Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) is leafy, herbaceous, minty and earthy with touches of red cherry fruit.

Medium bodied at the most, this is a classic example of cool climate cabernet. Another local example can be found down the road at Wombat Forest Vineyard.

Its 2019 ($35) is a light and leafy medium bodied wine with smoky, tobacco and menthol notes. It’s a bit too oak-driven in style, but there is an elegance to the palate that I liked about this wine. The sad news is that the vines have been grafted over.

Blends do seem a more successful option in the region with Glenhope Vineyard’s Gervergizian Cabernet Merlot Shiraz 2022 ($65) showing plenty of pepper, spice and black fruits.

At Granite Hills, vigneron Llew Knight does a couple of red blends involving cabernet. I particularly like his 2017 MCC ($30) which is a classic ‘right bank’ Bordeaux blend of merlot (57%), cabernet sauvignon (28%) and cabernet franc (15%).

It has lovely, sweet plum aromas with floral and peppery undercurrents. The palate displays ripe red fruits on an elegant, medium bodied structure with soft tannins and a long finish. A wonderful cool climate red drinking extremely well.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His 305 page full colour book Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes

March 18th, 2024Wine notes

In wine education circles we have a standardised acronym that covers the questions of determining quality in wine – it’s call BLIC and stands for balance, length, intensity and complexity.

with Clive Hartley

Looking for wine quality

In wine education circles we have a standardised acronym that covers the questions of determining quality in wine – it’s call BLIC and stands for balance, length, intensity and complexity.

These four headings are a neatly packaged way of tackling the thorny topic of how to judge wine quality. If you are reading this column it is what you are interested in. Finding a good quality wine that also represents value for money is the best of both worlds.

When we look at balance, it is referring to the skeleton or structural components of a wine. Where applicable, it should have great balance. The word well-balanced is often thrown around, it means the wine’s constituents – sugar, acid, alcohol, flavours and tannins should all be there but in balance with each other.

Also, an aroma or flavour should not dominate in a negative way. Wine, both red and white, shouldn’t have too much acidity nor too little. Red wine should not be too tannic but just the right amount, depending on the style of wine. The same applies to alcohol.

Next comes length and finish, which are vital. A great wine should travel across your palate (length) and have a long aftertaste (finish) after you have consumed it.

Short palate with no finish will never be a good quality wine. Intensity is related to the aromas and flavours as well as the overall concentration of the wine. The aromas of a sauvignon blanc can be intense. It’s better to have intense flavours than none at all.

A young full-bodied shiraz has great intensity, often too much, and requires ageing to soften it. Alcohol can add to the intensity or power of the wine. Mouth filling or textured are other key words relating to intensity.

Finally, a great wine should display a complex array of aromas and flavours and make you burst into a poetic sonnet as you express them all. Young wines should have primary aromas that are commonly fruit based or vegetal, herbal or floral in nature.

Young wines could also display secondary aromas and flavours, coming from time in oak barrels and other winemaking techniques. Primary and secondary characteristics are what notch up the complexity rating.

If the wine has been aged then you might encounter tertiary aromas and flavours such as dried fruits, honey or toast in white wines and undergrowth, leafy, meat or leathery nuances in red wines. Occasionally you get all three – primary, secondary and tertiary in a single glass.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes with Clive Hartley

March 4th, 2024Wine notes with Clive Hartley

Go out and visit a wine region. A leading wine CEO is pleading with Australians to buy local red wine in support of grape growers facing tough years ahead.

Go out and visit a wine region. A leading wine CEO is pleading with Australians to buy local red wine in support of grape growers facing tough years ahead.

“The best thing that consumers here in Australia can do is to get out and go to a region and visit a cellar door,” said Lee McLean, chief executive officer of Australian Grape & Wine, Australia’s national association of winegrape and wine producers.

Many larger producers and their army of growers are suffering. They once relied upon the Chinese export market worth $1.2 billion, but those days are over.

There is now a wine glut and red grapes will not be picked this vintage. You might not have noticed this glut in our local regions. The majority of these are populated with small, boutique wineries and it is not these that are suffering.

McLean is talking about larger areas such as the Murray-Darling which covers areas in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

A petition entitled “Save Riverland Wine” has begun, requesting government to cover the cost of harvesting shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Not to be made into wine, but to be picked and dropped on the ground. Such is their plight.

So, plan a road trip along the Murray and call into some cellar doors. Grabbing a bargain is often hard to achieve these days.

Sadly, wines are often cheaper at the big wine retailers than direct from the winery, but at least you get to taste them before buying. At the cellar door it is worth asking the question – “is this exclusive to cellar door or is it available in retail and, if so, why should I buy direct?”

Maybe weigh up the benefits of joining a cellar door club. Often you are rewarded with discounts or special offers. One of the best clubs in Victoria is run by Tahbilk at Nagambie.

Trentham Estate on the Murray has a range of wines including a good varietal example of sauvignon blanc and nebbiolo. Or simply delicious on a hot day is their Frizzante Maestri, a sweet red that is served chilled.

Andrew Peace Wines in the Swan Hill region produce a quaffable range of well made wines under the Masterpeace brand priced at $15 a bottle. Some other brands in their portfolio are sold as low as $75 a case through the website.

Alternatively, look further afield at McLaren Vale wines. With the next vintage upon them they are moving the 2022 and 2023 vintage reds out.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes

February 20th, 2024Wine notes

Apply within! There is a vacancy in Australian red wine styles at present. Shiraz has lost its Midas touch but there are plenty to choose from and one of them applying is grenache.

with Clive Hartley

Grenache offering a fresh approach

Apply within! There is a vacancy in Australian red wine styles at present. Shiraz has lost its Midas touch but there are plenty to choose from and one of them applying is grenache.

It is ideally suited to the hotter regions around the country, being a late ripening variety and having the ability to withstand drought and heat. Globally, grenache is a widely planted grape variety, found principally in southern France and Spain.

It had its origins in Spain and is often blended with tempranillo to produce Rioja and Navarra (Navarre) wines.

In France it goes into Châteauneuf-du- Pape and Côte-du-Rhône wines, as well as contributing to the production of Tavel Rosé. It is found throughout Southern France, so any of our Mediterranean climate
regions are likely to produces some good wines.

McLaren Vale springs to mind and I was recently there and talking to Yangarra Estate winemaker Peter Fraser.

Yangarra specialises in varietals grown in southern France such as roussanne, piquepoul, cinsault, mourvèdre, carignan and counoise. In fact they grow 15 different grape varieties spread over 87 hectares of sandy, sun- drenched soils.

Yangarra Estate is located in the Blewitt Springs subregion. Chester Osborn, winemaker at d’Arenberg, first alerted me to this subregion as a good breeding ground for grenache.

“The sand and clay soil works well. When they haven’t been fertilised the sands give very good aromatics and when the yields are kept right back they get very solid vibrant tannins.”

To add to his use of some lesser-known grape varieties Peter Fraser has heavily invested in the use of 675-litre ceramic eggs for fermentation and maturation. These are used for his Ovitelli Grenache that sees over 130 days on skins.

No oak is used and tasting its elegant and textured fine tannin structure you don’t miss it at all.
Whilst single varietal grenache can be attractive, it is when the grape is used in blends that it really hits the spot as an alternative wine style and brings out the best in the grape variety.

Normally we see grenache used in a GSM blend, but what Yangarra Estate is doing differently is to reduce to a minimum the often-dominant shiraz and mourvèdre.

They replace it with carignan, cinsault and counoise to make a fragrant, floral, light but textured, red fruit-driven wine with a tannin finish.

At the $30 mark the wine is a modern McLaren Vale wine that offers a wine drinker a fresh approach.


Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes

February 5th, 2024Wine notes

Sauvignon blanc can separate a room of drinkers. It is a grape that you either love or loathe. It is disliked, partially, because of the deluge (or savalanche) of wines from New Zealand where it makes up 63 per cent of total plantings and 85 per cent of all exports.

with Clive Hartley

A case of love or loathe

Sauvignon blanc can separate a room of drinkers. It is a grape that you either love or loathe. It is disliked, partially, because of the deluge (or savalanche) of wines from New Zealand where it makes up 63 per cent of total plantings and 85 per cent of all exports.

I’m a fan of the grape. It has its place as a vibrant aromatic refreshing drink, especially in summer. But there are also other expressions of the grape to explore such as barrel-fermented styles. In cool climates, like New Zealand, sauvignon blanc commonly displays herbaceous green capsicum, gooseberry, or even (at its worst) asparagus aromas.

A young tank-fermented sauvignon blanc should leap out of the glass with flavour. Light, dry and crisp on the palate. Alternatively, we have the ‘fume blanc’ style that sees maturity in oak and these styles are more intriguing and subtle with toned down aromatics. Another way of diluting these strong flavours is to blend the grape with semillon.

Whilst the French regions of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, both located in the Loire Valley, were for many years the leading international homes of sauvignon blanc, Marlborough in New Zealand took the world by storm in the late 1970s.

Australian sauvignon blanc is not usually as pungent as New Zealand examples. Aromas associated with local wines include herbaceous, grassy, gooseberry or tropical fruit. Adelaide Hills began as a specialist area but other regions have caught up to them. In our locality, look at wines from the Pyrenees.

Recommended examples come from 2023 Mount Avoca which was nicely aromatically driven with fresh grassy and gooseberry aromas. Or as an alternative the 2022 Mitchell Harris Sauvignon Blanc
Fumé which is driven by struck-match aromas and minerally acidity. In the Macedon Ranges, Hanging Rock consistently produce an attractive, partially barrel fermented wine with their Jim Jim label.

One last word of caution, beware of bottle age with styles that were made to drink early. If you leave these wines in the cellar they can develop an unappealing ‘tinned (canned) pea’ bouquet which is one good reason to drink them within the first few years.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes

December 25th, 2023Wine notes

'Tis the season to be jolly. So here are some recommendations to enjoy the festive season that can be sourced locally.

with Clive Hartley

Christmas specials

‘Tis the season to be jolly. So here are some recommendations to enjoy the festive season that can be sourced locally.

You don’t need an excuse to drink Champagne and sparkling wine but Christmas and New Year is generally the most popular time to pop a cork.

I like a couple of Australian sparkling wines, but I often gravitate towards Champagne. My favourites
are Louis Roederer NV or Taittinger for a pre-meal drink and Bollinger to have with a meal. Roederer is elegant, a tad lighter is Taittinger, whilst Bollinger is heavier and more autolytic in style.

One Australian example I’d recommend is our Hanging Rock Macedon Brut Cuvée XIX NV. This is a complex wine made from 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay. Half the wine goes through malolactic fermentation and is then barrel aged, the other half is fermented in tank.

They use reserve wine to add more complexity. Another local wine, which I got to taste recently and can recommend, is the Blue Pyrenees Vintage Brut selling for a modest $28.

My suggested white wines for Christmas include a bunch of fresh and light wines for a hot day. Granite Hills do a lovely aromatic Pinot Blanc 2023 – this Alsace grape variety is becoming popular in Australia. Best’s Great Western do a great riesling and their 2023 is on special at the moment, two for $50.

Brown Brothers Wine Maker’s Series Fiano 2021 comes highly recommended. The wine has strong lime and lemon zest aromas. On the palate it is dry, fleshy with pear skin and lemon flavours on a well balanced, medium bodied framework, currently on special at $20 a bottle.

With red wines I’d keep them light to medium bodied in style. Pinot noir, gamay, and sangiovese are all suggestions. Try Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2021/2020 or the lighter Scotchmans Hill Pinot Noir 2021.

Lyons Will Estate are specialists gamay producers so I’d drink their 2022, or you could try a cru village Beaujolais such as Morgon. For sangiovese I’d recommend Vinea Marson from Heathcote.

Local producers Red Hare and Musk Lane also do recommended sangiovese (both from the 2021 vintage). If you require something heavier then try Majella’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 from Coonawarra which offers blackcurrant and ripe mulberry aromas wrapped around cedar, mint and earthy notes.

The palate is rich, full bodied with black cherry fruits and a tannic finish. Or the Blue Pyrenees Richardson Shiraz 2019 for a more full-bodied rich, concentrated red with bags of Black Forest cake-inspired fruits.


Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. Read his Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) available from Paradise Books, Daylesford, Stoneman’s Bookroom, Castlemaine or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes …

December 11th, 2023Wine notes …

Once people know I’m a wine educator and have published books and articles on wine I dread their next question, which invariably comes. What’s your favourite wine? My stock answer is “what today…or yesterday?

with Clive Hartley

Once people know I’m a wine educator and have published books and articles on wine I dread their next question, which invariably comes. What’s your favourite wine? My stock answer is “what today…or yesterday?

I enjoy practically every style and the diversity of wine out there means you can never get bored or stuck on the same thing.

However, increasingly when given a choice of wine, say in a restaurant or in a friend’s cellar I do gravitate towards chardonnay for white wines. I’ll caveat that statement as my choice will change if I’m food and wine matching. But chardonnay has the potential to offer more complexity and flavour than many other varieties.

It is also the grape variety that best shows off the expertise of a winemaker. The time spent in a barrel and its contact with the dead yeast cells from fermentation (lees) can produce yeast, vanilla and cedar notes. The amount of times a winemaker stirs those lees can also build complexity in a wine.

Whether the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and its exposure to air are other weapons in the arsenal.

Traditional Australian chardonnays were full bodied displaying heaps of butter, toast, oak with peach, apricot flavours and soft acidity. This has been toned back, and sometimes too far, with wines stripped back to citrus-focused, light-bodied acidic driven wines with some struck match sulphur notes to offer complexity.

Macedon Ranges is an excellent region for chardonnay and we have gifted winemakers to bring out the best in the fruit. Curly Flat, Hanging Rock, Granite Hills and Passing Clouds all come highly recommended. Throughout Australia’s 60+ regions you can find excellent chardonnays at all price points and styles.

For instance, in the Pyrenees region I tasted a modern styled well-made wine from Dalwhinnie – their Mesa Chardonnay 2022 and if you want that traditional Australian chardonnay, try the Mount Avoca 2021 Chardonnay.

Price points vary and range upwards from around $35, but if you want to halve that and still get a well-made wine, then try Larry Cherubino’s Folklore Chardonnay 2022 at $15. It is a blend of Pemberton, Porongurup and Margaret River fruit from WA, fermented in old French oak and matured for 10 months.

It is slightly on the light side with plenty of acidity but enough to sustain the palate length. We did go through a time when ABC was the war cry (Anything But Chardonnay)…but not now.


Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. Want to learn more about wine? Try his Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) now available for purchase from Paradise Books, Daylesford, Stoneman’s Bookroom, Castlemaine or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

Wine notes …

November 26th, 2023Wine notes …

Glenhope Vineyard is both an old and new vineyard. It was planted in 1995 by Tom Lazar from Virgin Hills, so it is coming up to 30 years old and in its prime.

with Clive Hartley

Glenhope Vineyard is both an old and new vineyard. It was planted in 1995 by Tom Lazar from Virgin Hills, so it is coming up to 30 years old and in its prime.

It is the largest vineyard in the region, with 94 acres under vine, but probably you haven’t heard of it – it has had owners from outside the region for most of its life.

But in recent times it has finally fallen into the hands of people who care about the land and vines. Firstly, the vigneron Scott Harrington who has been caring for the vines since 2018. Secondly, the land has new custodians, Melbourne entrepreneurs James and Marlin Gevergizian bought the property in 2021.

The vineyard is on a number of different soils including decomposed granite and sandy, iron-rich loams. It is located in the Baynton area on the Burke and Wills Track, heading towards the Heathcote region in the slightly warmer northern part of the Macedon Ranges. These factors allow the vineyard to grow a range of grape varieties including reds such as cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and shiraz as well as the traditional chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir you would expect.

With such a large vineyard most of their grape production is sold to other local winemakers including the likes of Matt Harrop, Owen Latta and Michael Dhillon. But for the first time they have released a collection of wines made by Scott, and they have had instant success in being awarded the trophy for the Best Red Variety (other than pinot) and the Best Winery at the recent Macedon Ranges Wine Exhibition.

The winner was the Glenhope Vineyard Granitic Shiraz 2022. It’s a cool climate example displaying raspberry, nutmeg and a host of cake spice aromas. Some cool climate white pepper also develops with hints of graphite. On the palate there is a bag of sweet, black, brambly stewed fruits, with hints of spice to accompany the dry, powdery, tannic finish. Scott only uses old oak, he wants the fruit to do the talking.

Other recommended wines out of their range include a smooth, plummy merlot, a floral cabernet franc (which received a gold medal at the show), a cabernet sauvignon, merlot, shiraz blend, and a wine for summer, the 2022 rosé. This old vineyard is one to watch with wines available soon through their website.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. Want to learn more about wine? Try his Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) now available for purchase from Paradise Books, Daylesford, Stoneman’s Bookroom, Castlemaine or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

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