Category Archives: Australian Wine Icons

Sep 09 2015

Clonakilla Syrah 2013: “As good a Murrumbateman Shiraz as we have ever made”

Posted on September 09, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you’ve ever wondered what NSW wine regions like the Canberra District and Burgundy have in common, you don’t have to look much further than vintage variation. Both regions are subjected to notoriously fickle weather. The wild swings in weather conditions keep vineyard managers on their toes and wine connoisseurs and critics endlessly guessing about the prospects of a particular vintage. In both regions, for example, unexpected severe frosts during the ripening period can almost wipe out crops!

But as the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown notes, “fickle weather makes interesting wine.” If you’re looking to drink wine that expresses both its time and place, then you’re naturally inclined to seek out the best vintages for the region and perhaps throw in a dud vintage or two for interesting comparisons!

At the Canberra District’s Clonakilla, 2013 turned out to be the greatest vintage to date for its Clonakilla Syrah. According to winemaker Tim Kirk, “This is as good a Murrumbateman Shiraz as we have ever made.” Warm days followed by cool nights allowed the grapes to “develop great colour, dramatic aromas and profound texture and flavours.”

A small production single vineyard wine from Clonakilla’s North-East facing T&L vineyard, winemaking was kept as simple as possible to allow the unique qualities of an exceptional vintage to shine through. Whole berries were fermented warm by their own native yeasts. The wine also spent a month macerating on its own skins and 15 months maturing in fine-grained French oak.

I had the opportunity to try this outstanding wine at Clonakilla’s Cellar Door last week. It proved to be one of the highlight wines of a very rewarding two day tour of the best Canberra District wineries.

Here’s Perrotti-Brown’s 95+ review:

Medium to deep garnet-purple in color, the 2013 Murrumbateman Syrah flaunts a beautiful nose of crushed blackberries, warm black cherries and black raspberries with hints of star anise, pepper, violets and cumin seeds. Possessing a wonderfully elegant, medium-bodied frame that is fleshed out with black and red berry flavors,.. [Read More]

Aug 08 2015

Long Live Penfolds Bin 389: Notes from a Vertical Tasting

Posted on August 08, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Penfolds Bin 389 is sometimes referred to as ‘Baby Grange’ or ‘Poor Man’s Grange’. Like the iconic Penfolds Grange, Bin 389 shares the same legendary creator, Max Schubert, who first produced the wine in 1960, nine years after unveiling his experimental 1951 Grange.

In fact, a significant portion of the wine that goes into the Bin 389 is aged in the same American oak hogsheads used for the previous vintage of Grange. Twenty to 30 percent of the wine sees new oak treatment… [Read More]

May 05 2015

Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon: One of Australia’s most elegant and complex cabernet sauvignons

Posted on May 05, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In recent years a series of great vintages in Bordeaux and burgeoning Chinese demand for First Growths have put the spotlight back on cabernet sauvignon – sparking renewed reverence for its potential to produce the world’s most complex, elegant and age-worthy wines.

The return to popularity of cabernet sauvignon has also encouraged Australia’s top winemakers to narrow their product range and focus attention on perfecting their cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends. Virginia Willcock, chief winemaker at Vasse Felix in the Margaret River, for example, told wine critic Huon Hooke,.. [Read More]

Jun 06 2014

2010 Penfolds RWT Barossa Shiraz: Another winning wine from the stellar 2010 vintage!

Posted on June 06, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Gourmet Traveler Wine recently assembled an expert wine tasting panel to judge 58 shiraz wines from the Barossa and McLaren Vale. The entrants were across vintages so the overall winner cannot be declared best of vintage. But the fact that Penfolds RWT Barossa Shiraz 2010 received the highest score of 96 points is a testament to the success Penfolds has so far achieved with the release of its icon and luxury 2010 shiraz wines. As you may recall, the Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2010 recently received stellar reviews and is flying off the shelves!.. [Read More]

Jun 06 2014

Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz upgraded to ‘Exceptional’ in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VI

Posted on June 06, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz was recently upgraded to ‘exceptional’ in the recently released 6th edition of Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine. Its elevation puts it in rarefied company that includes its more celebrated sibling, the Henschke Hill of Grace and, of course, Australia’s most famous wine, Penfolds Grange.

Fans of Mount Edelstone were no doubt surprised that its inclusion in the top tier had taken so long! Indeed, 2012 marked the 100 year anniversary of the planting of Henshke’s historic 16 ha Mount Edelstone vineyard in the Eden Valley,.. [Read More]

May 05 2014

Penfolds Grange 2009: Reviews are Impressive!

Posted on May 05, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Today the Penfolds Grange 2009 was officially released to the public. Most of the reviews have already been written and after last year’s fanfare over the 2008, response to 2009 has been pretty muted. You may recall that the 2008 Grange garnered a 100 point review from the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, precipitating a controversial, hefty price hike! (Penfolds Grange 2008 and the 100 point review, Cellarit Wine Blog, 2 June 2013)

Not that reviews for the 2009 aren’t generally impressive… [Read More]

Apr 04 2014

Australian Wine Icons: Jim Barry Wines The Armagh Shiraz

Posted on April 04, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Armagh vineyard was planted in 1968 by the winery’s founder Jim Barry. Today, the almost 50 year old vineyard on a north-west facing slope about 400 metres above sea level is dry farmed. For a site that receives less than 600 mm of rain a year, the decision not to irrigate necessarily  keeps yields low (less than 4 tonnes per hectare) and creates fruit capable of  making a rich and concentrated wine with great ageing potential.

British wine critic Matthew Jukes gave the 2006 vintage a rare 20/20 score,.. [Read More]

Mar 03 2014

Australian Wine Icons: Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz

Posted on March 03, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Single vineyard wines have a special mystique. After all, top producers will release a single vineyard wine only because they believe the vineyard uniquely expresses the ‘terroir’; that is they are convinced that the site’s micro-climate, soil characteristics, exposure and orientation are capable of creating a wine unique in character.

First made in 1983, the Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz has more than proven that the Graveyard Vineyard offers up something special. It has been described by Langton’s Andrew Caillard as the “Hunter Valley ‘s greatest red wine of the contemporary era,”.. [Read More]

Mar 03 2014

Top reviews for the 2010 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz generate excitement

Posted on March 03, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Wine Advocate reviews of the icons of the Penfolds range are always widely anticipated.  As one of the world’s most influential wine magazines, a high scoring Wine Advocate review can move markets. Indeed, last year Penfolds raised the price of the 2008 Penfolds Grange on the back of its 100 point review by the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown! (see my post Penfolds Grange 2008 and the 100 point review)

This year the spotlight has moved to the excellent reviews for the Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2010… [Read More]

Sep 09 2013

The Great Australian Red Tasting – An Opportunity to Try the Remarkable Penfolds Bin 60A 2004

Posted on September 09, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The opportunity to try the Penfolds’ legendary Bin 60A doesn’t come around very often. Only two vintages of this exceptional cabernet shiraz blend have ever been made. The inaugural 1962 vintage, made by Grange creator Max Schubert, is widely regarded as Australia’s greatest ever wine and the follow-up 2004 vintage scored an impressive 99+ points when it was reviewed by the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown in 2010.

The beautifully balanced, luscious yet exquisitely elegant Bin 60A 2004 certainly set the benchmark high at this week’s The Great Australian Red tasting,.. [Read More]