Wine Spectator top 100 wines 2021


Each year since 1988, the influential and prestigious US Wine Spectator magazine has released its Top 100 list, where the editors select the most exciting wines from the more than 12,500 they reviewed during 2021. Pictured left is the number one wine from the Napa Valley.

Its influence is substantial; many wines that feature highly in the list sell quickly in the following months, often at increased prices. (The selection prioritises quality (based on score), value (based on price) and availability. These criteria are applied to the wines that rated outstanding (90 points or higher on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale) to determine the Top 100 for the year.

Our lives continue to be affected by COVID-19, yet 2021 has been an exciting year for wine. Restaurants are reopening for business, wine retail sales continue to outperform pre-pandemic levels, and demand from wine lovers was strong during lock downs.

But, many blue chip Australasian wines did not get a gong on this years list – the worst ever! Think Grange Hermitage (has previously been no 1 twice!), Henschke Hill of Grace, Te Mata Coleraine Cabernet (NZ) or Torbreck, The Laird from the Barossa.

Instead coming in at number 18 is a Central Otago dark horse, the 2018 Burn Cottage Pinot noir ($65) – the top wine from this part of the world. Three other local wines also featured. At no. 23 the 2019 John Duval Shiraz ($40) from the Barossa, at 49 2018 Hickinbotham Shiraz  ($75) from McLaren Vale and 2018 Thompson Estate  Cabernet from Margaret River ($30) at 74. The John Duval is a ripper and still available. Off you go….

Of course wine is very subjective so to many of you the list is purely academic.


Dominus Estate Napa Valley +
2018 97 $269
Château Pichon Longueville Lalande Pauillac +
2018 98 $198
Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Martha’s Vineyard +
2016 95 $250
Merum Priorati Priorat Destí +
2018 95 $49
Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino +
2016 98 $99
Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne +
2018 95 $200
Château Léoville Poyferré St.-Julien +
2018 97 $104
Cavallotto Barolo Bricco Boschis +
2016 95 $90
Salvestrin Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena Dr. Crane Vineyard +
2018 95 $80
Château de Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape +
2018 95 $105
Aubert Chardonnay Russian River Valley Eastside +
2019 97 $85
Poggio Landi Brunello di Montalcino +
2016 97 $59
Château Carbonnieux Pessac-Léognan White +
2018 94 $44
Alexana Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Revana Vineyard +
2018 94 $55
Giuseppe Nada Barbaresco Casot +
2017 95 $43
Calcareous Syrah Paso Robles Devil’s Canyon +
2018 94 $56
Talenti Brunello di Montalcino +
2016 95 $50
Burn Cottage Pinot Noir Central Otago Burn Cottage Vineyard +
2018 95 $65
Cayuse Syrah Walla Walla Valley Cailloux Vineyard +
2018 96 $92
Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico +
2018 93 $22
Luca Malbec Uco Valley Old Vine +
2019 93 $35
Arterberry Maresh Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Old Vines +
2018 93 $39
John Duval Shiraz Barossa Entity +
2019 94 $40
Ridge Geyserville Alexander Valley +
2019 93 $45
Wittmann Riesling Trocken Rheinhessen Westhofener +
2019 94 $36
Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva +
2016 94 $36
Evening Land Chardonnay Eola-Amity Hills Seven Springs +
2018 93 $35
Three Sticks Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Price Family Estates +
2019 95 $65
Sparkman Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Holler +
2018 93 $32
Cantina del Pino Barbaresco +
2016 94 $45
Filipa Pato Bairrada White Nossa Calcário +
2019 93 $29
Massican Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley +
2020 93 $32
Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Estate Series +
2020 92 $17
Zena Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Slope +
2017 95 $75
Château de Vaudieu Châteauneuf-du-Pape +
2019 94 $49
Bodegas Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva +
2012 92 $30
Rochioli Pinot Noir Russian River Valley +
2019 94 $64
Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba +
2019 92 $27
Vermillion Sierra Foothills-Sonoma County +
2017 92 $35
Mauro Molino Barolo +
2016 92 $30
Rapaura Springs Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Classic +
2020 91 $13
Chateau Ste. Michelle-Dr. Loosen Riesling Columbia Valley Eroica +
2019 91 $20
Carol Shelton Zinfandel Mendocino County Wild Thing Old Vine +
2018 91 $19
Tenute Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva +
2018 90 $18
Quinta do Noval Vintage Port +
2018 97 $100
Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico San Marcellino Gran Selezione +
2016 95 $75
MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville +
2018 98 $185
Domaine de Villaine Bouzeron +
2018 92 $42
Hickinbotham Shiraz McLaren Vale Brooks Road +
2018 95 $75
Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Kamptal Schlosskellerei +
2019 91 $19
Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio Vigneti delle Dolomiti Terra Alpina +
2019 90 $16
Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Brothers Vineyard +
2018 95 $90
Clos de los Siete Uco Valley +
2018 90 $20
Schloss Lieser Riesling Kabinett Mosel Juffer +
2019 95 $31
Philippe Viallet Vin de Savoie +
2020 90 $14
Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Marne 180 +
2017 93 $60
Bodegas Pazo de Barrantes Albariño Rias Baixas +
2019 91 $21
Chehalem Chardonnay Willamette Valley Inox Unoaked +
2020 91 $20
Monte del Frà Custoza Superiore Cà del Magro +
2019 90 $22
Force Majeure Syrah Red Mountain +
2018 95 $85
Ben Haines Syrah Grampians +
2020 94 $35
Stéphane Ogier Côtes du Rhône Le Temps Est Venu +
2019 91 $23
G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero +
2016 97 $100
Concha y Toro Syrah Buin Gravas del Maipo +
2018 94 $70
Bodegas Ateca Garnacha Calatayud Atteca Armas Old Vines +
2017 93 $45
De Martino Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Legado Reserva +
2019 91 $20
Bastianich Friulano Friuli Colli Orientali Vini Orsone +
2018 90 $18
Etxaniz Txakolina Getariako Txakolina Rosado Txomin Etxaniz +
2020 90 $20
Domaine du Clos du Fief Juliénas Tradition +
2018 91 $25
Domaine Chandon Brut Rosé California +
NV 90 $19
Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Sicilia Lagnusa +
2017 90 $22
Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena Panek Vineyard +
2018 95 $110
55 Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard +
2018 91 $25
Thompson Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Four Chambers +
2019 91 $30
Salvatore Molettieri Taurasi Vigna Cinque Querce +
2013 94 $51
Louis Roederer Brut Champagne Collection 242 +
NV 92 $63
Marcassin Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Marcassin Vineyard +
2014 95 $150
Bodega Matarromera Ribera del Duero Crianza +
2018 91 $35
Saxon Brown Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Durell Vineyard +
2017 94 $60
Alta Vista Atemporal Albaneve Vineyard Uco Valley +
2018 90 $22
Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder +
2018 93 $90
Masottina Extra Dry Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore RDO Rive di Ogliano +
2019 90 $28
Graeme & Julie Bott St.-Joseph White +
2019 93 $65
Chalk Hill Chardonnay Sonoma Coast +
2019 91 $26
Louis Jadot Beaune Clos des Ursules Domaine des Héritiers +
2018 93 $95
Boundary Breaks Riesling Finger Lakes Dry No. 239 +
2019 90 $20
Château Pradeaux Côtes de Provence Rosé +
2020 91 $24
Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Calistoga La Voleuse du Chagrin +
2018 96 $195
Luis Seabra Douro Xisto Ilimitado +
2018 91 $27
Graci Etna +
2018 91 $33
Bodegas Emilio Moro Godello Bierzo El Zarzal +
2018 92 $28
De Wetshof Chardonnay Robertson Bon Vallon +
2020 91 $24
Guido Berlucchi Brut Rosé Franciacorta ’61 +
NV 91 $36
Château Berliquet St.-Emilion +
2018 92 $65
Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino +
2019 91 $28
Detert Cabernet Franc Oakville +
2018 92 $95
Domaine Guiberteau Saumur White +
2018 91 $27
Faust Cabernet Sauvignon Coombsville The Pact +
2018 93 $125
Krug Brut Champagne +
2008 99 $309
Kamen Cabernet Sauvignon Moon Mountain District Lava Block +
to Wine Spectator
2018 94 $155
Posted in Features, Uncategorized, Wine News | Leave a comment

Spotlight on non alcohol wines. Part 2 – Australia

Australian Vintages McGuigan Zero range now makes up 10 per cent of sales of the entire McGuigan portfolio.

 In part 1 of this topic we looked at no and non alcoholic wines progression in NZ. In this blog we examine theproduers and methods of producing no and low alcohol wines in Australia. 

It was late in 2018 when the idea of entering the alcohol-free wine category was raised at Australian Vintage after experimenting for more than 20 years.  In 2019 McGuigan Zero was launched comprising a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Rosé and Sparkling. And the response by consumers has meant the McGuigan Zero range now makes up 10 per cent of sales of the entire McGuigan portfolio.

“The popularity of Zero has completely exceeded all our expectations,” remarks Australian Vintage’s chief winemaker Jamie Saint. “The popularity just keeps growing and now our challenge is to make sure we have enough stock to keep supplying  our customers.”

The growth has been phenomenal in Australia. The Endeavour Group recently reported that sales of non-alcoholic drinks in its BWS and Dan Murphy’s outlets increased 83% in the month of June 2021 compared with July 2020, with beer followed by wine the best-sellers in the category.

This demand inspired the recent opening of ‘Sans Drinks’, Australia’s first alcohol-free bottle shop in the suburb of Freshwater, located on Sydney’s northern beaches. Another trail blazer is ‘Brunswick Aces’ non-alcoholic bar in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick East. It boasts more than 100 non alcoholic beers, wines and cocktails.

In the past a lot of the no and low alcohol products have been pretty average and has scared away consumers who thought, ‘Oh, that was terrible, I’m not going back there’.

 Generally, the wine industry has been “lagging behind” in responding to the growth in this segment of the market, largely due to the capital costs involved in producing low and no alcohol wines.

Australian Vintage chief winemaker Jamie Saint with the company’s spinning cone column.

Innovation ‘a problem’

 Smaller players haven’t been able to afford the technology to produce so   innovation is limited to things like piquette, where grape skins are rehydrated, fermented out, then bottled. But that’s not wine — that’s a grape-based beverage.

In Australia, labelling regulations state that a regular wine is anything that contains 4.5% ABV and above; between 0.5-1.15% ABV is regarded as a low alcohol wine, while anything less than 0.5% ABV can be labelled non-alcoholic or alcohol free wine. These regulations vary in overseas markets.

There have been two techniques favoured by most wineries in Australia and around the world to remove alcohol: reverse osmosis and spinning cone column.

The spinning cone column is probably the industry standard for de- alcoholisation down to 0.5% or 0.05% ABV. You generally get a better sensory result using those products. It’s gentler and it’s done at a cooler temperature.”

A global leader in spinning cone column technology is Australian company Flavourtech, based in Griffith, New South Wales, which specialises in the manufacture of technology designed to recover, extract and evaporate aromas for food, beverage and pharmaceutical products. But, one day, Flavourtech co-founder Andrew Craig was asked whether the spinning cone column could also be used to remove alcohol from wine.

“It did work and it worked really well,” remarks Flavourtech’s global sales manager Paul Ahn. “[Craig] was standing next to the condenser at the time and could smell the lovely varietal aromas being extracted. And, so, he decided he should look into this aroma aspect of the spinning cone column as well.”

Now this is interesting.

While a few refinements to the technology have been carried out since, the fundamentals remain the same.  The spinning cone column is a multi-stage distillation process that uses steam to strip, in this case, wine of alcohol.  Inside its stainless steel body lies a central rotating shaft and a number of alternating stationary and spinning cones attached to either the wall of the column or the shaft. Wine is fed into the top of column and onto the first stationary cone. It then falls down the cone by gravity and onto the spinning cone directly underneath whereby it is flung upwards and outwards by the centrifugal forces of the spinning cone. The wine then hits the wall of the spinning cone column and falls onto another stationary cone directly underneath, and the process continues down the column.

At the same time, steam is introduced at the bottom of the spinning cone and flows up, carrying with it the volatiles, namely the aroma compounds and alcohol, from the wine.  These volatiles are then condensed and stored while the de-aromatised and de-alcoholised wine exits from the bottom of the column.  The aroma compounds can subsequently be added back to the wine.

 The temperature of the column and steam are kept low, between 30-45°C. Ahn explains that wine is in the column for less than 30 seconds and this, combined with the low operating temperature, ensures the process has minimal or no impact on wine.

You can see why producing low and no alcohol wines has been a barrier to uptake by smaller producers.  The price starts at just over $400,000.

 It is the application of a spinning cone column that has resulted in McGuigan Zero.

Australian Vintage’s Tempus Two Lighten Up range includes a prosecco, rosé and Pinot Noir which have an ABV of 6.8%.

Australian Vintage’s Tempus Two Lighten Up range includes a prosecco, rosé and Pinot Noir which have an ABV of 6.8%.

Understanding changes and effects

In June this year, Australian Vintage launched a new lower alcohol range of wines under its Tempus Two label called Lighten Up. With an ABV of 6.8%, the range includes a Prosecco, Rosé and Pinot Noir and, like the McGuigan Zero, were made using the same spinning cone column technology.

McGuigan has now grown to become the number one selling alcohol-free wine in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

VAF Memstar is another Australian-based company with a history in the treatment of wine to reduce alcohol using a ethanol reduction process.

Casella Family Brands has applied reverse osmosis in the production of its lower-in-alcohol [yellow tail] Pure Bright wines, which was released in June and trailed since 2015. Comprising a Pinot Noir and Sparkling with an ABV of 10.8% and 8.5%, respectively, the wines were also released onto the US and Canadian market earlier in 2021.

 “The production of [yellow tail] Pure Bright started towards the end of 2019. It was developed to provide a lighter, more refreshing alternative with fewer calories and less alcohol when compared to our core range, which meets consumer demands while also attracting a younger demographic”, explained David Joeky of Casella.

(Left) The [yellow tail] Pure Bright range is currently available in a sparkling and Pinot Noir. (Right) Casella Family Brands winemaker David Joeky.

It is also accepted that regular wine consumers have increased their frequency of wine consumption at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend that is expected to continue for the next few years beyond the pandemic.

 “Our vines are selected and pruned to maximise the leaf protection from the sun, protecting the grapes and slowing their development whilst maintaining fruit flavour and intensity. The grapes are picked earlier, while they have a lower natural sugar content, converting to lower alcohol in the wine. We also implement night harvest to keep the grapes cool and crisp in order to maximise the aroma and flavour” says Joeky.

Joeky says that while white varieties and light-bodied reds have responded better to the alcohol targets, reds have proved trickier to achieve the desired alcohol level without losing balance in the wine and the tannins increasing.

“Some products work better than others. Sparkling wines, whites, they’re probably easier than the reds. Reds present a formidable challenge to figure out how to replicate wine. he said”

“Alcohol is one of the important balancing components in wine. If you just take the alcohol out, it’s like cutting off one leg of a chair. If you think of the legs of a chair as alcohol, tannin, acid and sugar, if you take out just one of them, then you unbalance that wine. And that’s why, consistently, most of the tastings of zero or very low alcohol wines have not been particularly satisfying, because people imagine that you can take a wine, a good Barossa Shiraz or Coonawarra Cabernet, take out the alcohol and then somehow it remains like that. It doesn’t work that way, especially with red.”

Diagrams explaining how VAF Memstar’s technology removes alcohol: (left) this highly magnified schematic cross-section of a wall of a tubular membrane shows the migration of alcohol through microscopic pores, from a high concentration stream to a lower concentration stream on the inside of the tube; this process is known as evaporative perstraction and (right) alcohol reduction by reverse osmosis and evaporative perstraction where water is used to strip alcohol from the permeate stream of reverse osmosis processed wine. This permeate is then recombined with the wine from which it was extracted, thus lowering the alcohol of the blend.

Left: Flavourtech’s Spinning Cone Column is a multi-stage distillation column that employs steam as the stripping medium. It consists of a stainless steel body, central rotating shaft and  cones.

I hope you found this series interesting. I learnt alot from my research. But I am off now to drink a nice 15%  Barossa red. Care to join me?

Thanks to Sonya Logan in Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine. Article edited.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spotlight on non alcoholic wines. Part 1 – NZ

 Above: John Forest from Forest wines in Marlborough, NZ with The Doctors range of wines.

You may not like to drink them but the fact is there is a growing demand for no and low alcohol wine around the world. 18 wine companies in NZ for instance, formed the  ‘New Zealand Lighter Wines’ initiative which has led to the release of a range of initially low and more recently no alcohol wines called NOLO wines for short.  

 New Zealand wine producer John Forrest, became a NOLO pioneer in 2006.  “I had zero interest in lower alcohol wine up until 2006 because, quite frankly, I quite enjoyed a big 14.5-15% Aussie Shiraz and still do. But, because I’m a Riesling-file, and I didn’t have a Kabinett style Riesling in our portfolio I made one”.

The Kabinett-style Riesling was bottled under its own label called The Doctors’ and launched at a tasting in Christchurch in September 2006. “Everybody commented that it was a nice Riesling, but they loved the idea of good wine with less alcohol. I thought if I could make a lower alcohol, high quality Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc typical of its style, you would be onto a sure winner, given that Sauvignon Blanc was the biggest volume and biggest value white wine in the world at the time. But in the first two years I made “some pretty average wine samples”.

Giesen’s Ara Zero Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which was launched in mid-2020.

Turning attention to the vineyard

An abstract from a research article out of Germany’s Geisenheim University described some success by reducing alcohol levels via leaf removal.

For two or three years he selectively removed leaves according to different timings and the number and position in the canopy. He found that a certain set of leaves at a certain time clearly slowed the rate of sugar, but when you tasted the juice, it tasted ripe.

Secondly, he changed the shoot positions in the canopy structure so that the leaves he wanted to trim off were above the top of the trellis posts.

The first Sauvignon Blanc under The Doctors’ label was released in 2009 at 9.5% alcohol and three years later the 2012 vintage picked up the wine’s first gold medal. Success followed with UK supermarket chain Waitress, taking a contract for 40,000 cases a year and then local viticultural consultant David Jordan came knocking. Jordan was aiming to make the New Zealand wine industry the international leader in the production of premium lower-in-alcohol wines.

David Jordan, program manager for New Zealand’s Lighter Wines initiative.
 Forrest Wines would become one of 18 New Zealand wine companies that contributed either cash or in-kind support to the research and development that became known as NZ Lighter Wines.
Beginning in 2014, it was led by New Zealand Winegrowers, with the support from the participating wineries supplemented by industry levy funding and the NZ Government, bringing the total funding pool to $15 million (AUD) in dollar terms. The largest research initiative ever undertaken by the New Zealand wine industry. Its challenge was to solve how to naturally lower the alcohol content without compromising the quality, flavour and style of wine.

“We wanted to hold true to what New Zealand wines are internationally renowned for: that they be vibrant and flavoursome, still refreshing and have all the quality attributes of the wines that has enabled us to have an export profile and sell significant volumes which are now achieving NZ$2 billion worth of export earnings around the world,”  Jordan explained.

“We wanted to better understand the role of alcohol as you come down the scale to less than 10%. Model Sauvignon Blanc wines were developed to understand exactly what aspects of the sensory experience were affected by reductions in alcohol. A reduction in alcohol from 12.2% to 9.5% increased the perception of acid and conversely decreased the perception of sweetness, bitterness, full-bodiedness, smoothness and palate length” he said.

 They found the aromas and flavours better than at a higher alcohol level   and subsequent work revealed that some of the more tropical flavours that Sauvignon Blanc is known for, present better at a lower alcohol.

Various techniques were trialled for their ability to delay sugar accumulation and impact on other wine parameters: short periods of deficit irrigation at key vine growth stages; fertiliser treatments; reducing canopy size through shoot thinning or leaf removal; and clones that were naturally lower in acidal selection.

“Technically, what we’re talking about is delaying ripening so you can pick with the same flavours, same acid but at a lower sugar, in combination with the role of clones,” Jordan says. “

Investigating winery manipulations 

It gets a bit technical here but stay with me please!

Winery manipulations were also investigated as part of the Lighter Wines initiative: the influence of skin contact to substitute the loss of texture, body and heat in reduced-alcohol wines; whether there was an optimal fermentation temperature to minimise the ethanol produced by yeast while maximising wine body and aromas in early harvest grapes; the effectiveness of different inoculation methods in reducing the conversion of sugar to ethanol in producing lower alcohol wines; and whether non-Saccharomyces yeast species could be used early in ferments to reduce the amount of sugar available to S. cerevisiase to ferment; and the role of oxygen during fermentation in reducing ethanol.(I hope you are still with me!)

Because the Lighter Wines initiative was based around producing lower alcohol wines naturally, this meant the lowest limit that could be achieved in wines like Sauvignon Blanc was 9-9.5%.

“It’s very difficult to have wines of all the appealing character, aroma and flavour of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris if you go below that. If you’re down to near 0%, you’ve transformed the beverage immensely and  you’ve got an even more significant challenge to actually get a wine to look wine-like,” he explains.

But now an increasing number of lower and zero alcohol products have hit the shelves. A number of them have wines at the mid strength level of 5-7%. with some down at zero.

In 2018, Giesen released a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris at 9% alcohol under the label Pure Light. In early 2020, the company also released the Giesen 0% Sauvignon Blanc, with stocks in New Zealand and Australia selling out shortly after release. Then in mid 2020, Giesen released its Ara Zero Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Giesen’s 0% Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Thanks to Sonya Logan in Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine. Article edited.


Posted in Features, Uncategorized, Wine News | Leave a comment

Grange tasting

We were very privileged indeed to have Peter Gago, the Chief Winemaker at Penfold’s join seven of us for a unique tasting of Grange Hermitage at Melbourne’s Kelvin Club.

The entry was that each attendee bring a bottle of Grange from their cellar. After all, many of us hoard Grange but never seem to find the opportunity, courage or occasion to open it!


Peter very kindly opened the batting with a special bottling of 2012 Champagne Thienot X Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru. Not being a champagne drinker, this wine blew me away. I frankly never knew champagne could be so delightful. Pale yellow with peach aromas with flavours of peach, apricot and grapefruit. Long with crisp acidity, great texture and and flavour. 19.5/20. $280.00. No auction price available.

We then settled in to work our way through eight bottles of Grange ranging from 1969 to 2016. Peter explained that his policy is always drink and serve wine from the oldest to the youngest.

He reminded us to always stand older vintages upright 24 hours before opening to allow sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle. Extract the cork carefully and slowly decant the wine into a clean jug in a continuous stream ensuring the sediment is not disturbed. He recommends double decanting by rinsing the original bottle out with clean water to dispose of the sediment, hold the bottle upright to drain any surplus water and carefully re-pour the jug back into the original bottle. Re- cork and keep your fingers crossed.

Sterling Wine auction last sales range follow the assessments. 

1969 Grange Hermitage. A very wet growing season followed by a mild wet vintage. 12.5% in a 1 pint 6 fl oz bottle. Faded and past its best. Peter agreed with this. 12/20. $1200-$1499.

1983 Grange Hermitage. Ullage was to lower shoulder on this bottle which found it slightly oxidised and Peter commented that it would not make it at the bi-annual Penfold’s top up clinic. Whilst past it was still sweet on the palate. In good condition it would have the hall marks of chocolate, blackberry, hazelnut and and fine lacy textures. You may recall the dry northerly winds which led to the Ash Wednesday bush fires followed by February rains and March flooding. This bottle 15/20. In good condition 18.5/20. Peter says drink to 2040. It is recommended that you always try a wine in the mid of the drinking maximum range he says. $612-$1066.

1989 Grange Hermitage. Nose slightly closed but showed fresh dark chocolate, cherries, plum. Was sweet but soft with persistent acidity. Beautiful despite a burst of very hot weather in February that shrivelled the grapes, followed by heavy rains which made for a difficult vintage. 18/20. Drink now to 2030. ( Note the last vintage which has Grange Hermitage on the label. Future vintages simply say Grange). $545-$790.

1996 Grange.  A Cracker. Bright and elegant. Blueberry and blackberry fruits with generous dark cherries. Rich, with fine firm tannins – even apricots. Rated one of the best vintages in the 90’s.  Hot summer and damp March conditions. 19/20. Drink window to 2050. $670-$900.

1998 Grange. Opened slightly corked and was dull and sappy. Disappointed as this year is rated an exceptional vintage. Peter explained an early mild growing season followed by very hot dry weather laced with plenty of dam water. Should have been rich and full bodied showing all the classic fruits a Grange should have. Dark plum, mulberry, blackberry, liquorice, chocolate and black cherry. This bottle 14/20. Peter 19.5/20. Drink now to 2055. $670-$900.

2005 Grange. Was slightly closed and oxidised but underneath wow! Deep colour, long rich fruit and nicely balanced through the spectrum. Not a typical Grange said Peter but still developing. 18/20. Drink 2028 to 2050. (opposite is the 1969 bottle). $520-$760.

2008 Grange. Youthful and exuberant with cassis, bitter chocolate,  violet and liquorice overtones. Chewy and grippy tannins. Great power and density. Apparently a difficult, remarkable year marked by the longest heatwave ever recorded in South Australia. A run of 15 days above 35 degrees. An outstanding result and one of the great Penfold vintages.  19.5/20. Drink 2025 to 2060. $625-$760.

2016 Grange. What a way to finish. Easy to describe. Gorgeously  seductive with dark cherry, blackberry, dried plum fruits, rich dark chocolate with ripe tannins. long with density and power. Everything in harmony. The weather conditions allowed the Barossa Shiraz (97%) and Coonawarra Cabernet (3%) to to ripen perfectly. Drinking the latest release gave us an insight to the beginning of a life that will span 2030 to 2070. Remember if you live that long good luck but remember at the end of the day it is a bottle of wine that requires you to drink it and not leave it to the grand kids. 19.5/20. Drink 2030 to 2070. $660-$740.


While a couple of the bottles bought along had wine faults due to storage, heat, corkage or cellaring, it was interesting to see how this affected the complexity of the wine. To have Peter Gago with us for four hours to listen to his world wide travel experiences and share his vast knowledge was  to behold. Thank you.

Posted in Features, Wine tastings | Leave a comment

Penfolds Masterclass – the real review

You may recall I previously reviewed the recent releases of the Penfold’s collection in 2019 in this blog. The 2021, ‘101 Masterclass’ was a slick affair held in May. It was evident at the masterclass that the domestic marketing of Treasury Estates has gone up a notch or two. Probably due to the China impact.
Generous pours, non stop hors d’oeuvres, an informative colourful 20 page brochure, (no ‘Rewards of Patience’ though) and hosted by Jamie Sach, Penfold’s Global Ambassador. The 65 attendees were treated to nine of the recent releases starting with 2021 Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling and 2018 Max’s Chardonnay.

2020 Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling
From Eden Valley it is highly aromatic, spicy and quite zingy and with just 3-4 grams of sugar it finished beautifully on the palate. Off dry. $25.00. 16/20.

2018 Max’s Chardonnay
A complex Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills. The range is a tribute to Max Schubert but this wine was over oaked for my palate.Underneath was rich lemon sneaking onto the palate.

2019 Bin 311 Chardonnay
This wine sits behind the flagship Yattarna and is known as the ‘baby Yattarna’. The first Bin 311 vintage was in 2006. This vintage comes from 3 of the Penfold’s best cool climate Chardonnay regions of Tasmania, Adelaide Hills and Tumbarumba. Balanced mouth watering acidity with nice finish of citrus stone fruits. Will continue to mature over 5 years added by a screw cap. BUY. $50.00. 17.5/20.

2018 Bin 23 Pinot Noir
From parcels sourced from Tasmania, Adelaide hills and Henty. This was light/medium in colour, light bodied, rose petals, hints of strawberries and soft finish throughout the palate. A very delicate style for those who like a softer rather than full bodied pinot. $50.00. 17.5/20.

2017 Cellar Reserve Tempranillo
Tempranillo is a variety of black grapes and mainly used to make full bodied reds. This ‘noble grape of Spain’ is from McLaren Vale. I found the nose quite closed with dark lifted cherries and strawberries coming through and nicely balanced on the finish. I was reminded by the Chair to vigorously decanter young wines to release the aromatics something which I preach. Also for older wines the shorter the breathing the better, as oxygen is the enemy of old wines and will escalate oxidation. $85.00. 17/20.

“Numerous questions were asked and the answers were very informative in response. I asked about the pricing structure of Penfold’s wines and the continued increase in price each year. That the prices were now getting beyond long and loyal buyers who were now seeking quality value under $30. I pointed out that not so many years ago Bin 389 could be bought for under $50 and Grange at $250. The answer lies in the hands of accountants we were told.”

2018 Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz
This work horse was first made in 1959 and is the oldest wine in the Bin range. It was the highlight of the night for me delivering on price and quality. Now stand by as the grapes were blended from parcels from Barossa, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Fleurieu, Robe, Mt Lofty, Adelaide Hills and Langhorne Creek! Wow what a massive undertaking. Dark deep colour, it was big, bold and robust showing cedar, peppermint, chocolate, raspberries and hints of spice. Wonderful full mouth hit. Cellar for up to 15 years if you dare!  BUY.$50.00. 19.5/20. Cheaper if you hunt around the liquor chains.

2017 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz
Another ripper blended from 6 regions. Touted as the ‘Baby Grange’ it was first made by Max Schubert in 1960. Bin 389 matures in the previous vintages of Grange barrels. It is also listed as Australia’s no 1 most collected wine by Wine Ark. Big and bold it does not hold back. Loaded with cherries, chocolate, blackberries, spice and mint. Has a delightful balance of sweetness (Cabernet Sauvignon) and savoury (shiraz). It leaps out of the glass and we were told it will be at it’s peak in a band of 15-20 years. BUY. $100.00. 19.5/20. Hunt around for price. Pity about the continuing price rises!

2017 St Henri Shiraz
You might classify this as a stylish, old fashioned aristocratic wine made in the same mould as previous vintages. Deep black brooding colour before you are hit with purity of fruit laced with chocolate, blackberries, cherries and black olives. Long on the palate with a hint of mint on the front of the tongue.
At the moment it is certainly stylish and seductive but ideally needs a band of 10- 30 years. I will hop into it much, much sooner than that. BUY. $135.00 19.5/20. Once again check the internet for a better price.

Grandfather Rare Tawny Port
Comes in a gift box. 14 year old barrels worked in the solera maturation method. There was raisin, fruitcake and liquorice on the palate but I think spoilt by the high level of alcohol over powering on the nose. Nevertheless rich, powerful and nutty but that alcohol over rides this wine. $100.00. 16/20

There is no doubt that this Penfold’s release is a class act particularly with the BUY recommendations indicated.  Top of the list and best value is the 2018 Bin 28 Shiraz followed by the 2019 Bin 311 Chardonnay for white wine lovers. If you can afford the others go for it but I suggest not, if you are approaching your 80th year as the wine will outlive you. Refer to the 2019 review in Posts.

Add your comments below.

Posted in New Releases, Wine tastings | Leave a comment