Thanks for the really positive response to last month's new style WineTalk column. I was buoyed by the amount of interest and enthusiasm you all had about learning more about wine.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a wine writer is "what is a good value for money" wine? This is a tricky one as it can mean different things to different people and takes into account a lot of issues that are pretty individual to each and every one of us. It really means I need to know quite a lot about you before I can answer that question to your satisfaction.
So what is value generally you ask? Well the Macquarie Dictionary defines value, on one view, as "the worth of a thing as measured by the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged". It goes on further to define good value as "something to be considered with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness or importance".
The concept of value is therefore, not unlike beauty, one that ultimately is very likely to lie in the eye of the beholder. It is deeply personal and highly dependant on what intrinsically one feels is close to the mark in context with their own mindset of views. Indeed when equated to the world of wine, these can be hard calls (or indeed very easy ones, depending on the extent of your budget) to make and quite subjective ones at that.
For example, let's say you have two wine consumers both with $500 to spend on some good Australian red wine. One could use it all up on one of the later releases of Penfolds Grange which has a retail price of around $500. The other could use it instead to purchase 2 dozen Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz at a retail price of around $20 a bottle. So does this necessarily mean that the Grange will be 25 times better in terms of value than say the Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz at around $20 a bottle or vice versa? Well yes and no - depending on what personal criteria you place on what constitutes "value". Both people will have equally parted with their $500 each. One person may however relish owning a wine that has the reputation of being the best wine in Australia, intending to savour it for that special occasion at a much later time and in the meantime showing off this iconic wine in their wine cellar or else perhaps even consider treating it as some form of future investment. The other person may equally relish the 2 dozen bottles of Kalimna they will be able to drink from day one, well before the other even ever contemplates opening the Grange and will also be drinking a very good Australian red on many many occasions and storing some of it away for later. So value is personal - but irrespective of what criteria or view you might ascribe to, everyone likes to think that their wine purchase should reflect good value whether it costs $20 or $500 a bottle.
So here is my take on what I think are good value for money wines on the market at the moment based on what I have been tasting lately;
Until next month - happy drinking.
Rating Scale - Points Out Of 100.
98-100 - Exceptional
95-97 - Superb
91-94 - Excellent
88-90 - Very Good
85-87 - Good
Step Rd Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
This Langhorne Creek winery in South Australia has impressed me with the overall quality of their wines. This Cabernet has really hit the mark for me. A dark purple red, it is vibrant and rich red. Full of blackcurrants, chocolate and what I call "rum and raisin" aromas. Intensely fruit driven in an impressive manner with a hint of smoky oak. Overall a smooth and distinctive Cabernet palate of luscious blackcurrants and blueberries. A velvety finish with seamlessly integrated oak and a touch of tobacco, tar and tea leaf adding to what is a complex red and an excellent one that should develop over 5-7 years. About $16. 92/100.
Smithbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2005
This one comes from the cool climate Pemberton region of Western Australia. It is a really fragrant aromatic fruit driven Sauvignon Blanc. Lovely fresh tropical fruits abound from the glass. Lychee, passionfruit, gooseberry and rose petals ensue. Vibrant and lively. Smooth soft well rounded tropical fruits on the palate making it very easy drinking style. Good acidity, not over the top - indeed quite balanced. Drink now. An excellent wine. About $19. 91/100.
Rosemount Shiraz Cabernet 2005
This is a really good quaffing winter red. Blackish purply crimson, it emits lashings of luscious spicy fruit. Distinctively balanced fruit aromas reflect the very good blending. Medium bodied and quite stylish in its presentation, it has ample sweet ripe fruit and smooth tannins. Deliciously soft and fleshy cherry, blackberry, black olive and plum flavours. Drinking well over 2-3 years. About $10. 90/100.
Saltram Next Chapter Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2004
This is a lovely easy drinking delicious white wine blend. Sourced from Barossa Valley and Eden Valley grapes, the wine bears testimony to judicious blending crafted for both pleasurable drinking early on but with the stamina also to last a few years as well. A gorgeous greeny pale yellow in colour exhibiting its youthfulness well. Classic tropical fruit in aroma - passionfruit, pineapple and guava underpinned by citrine and some herbaceous characters. Smooth yet with refreshing acidity on the palate, a hint of creamy finish also. This is just so drinkable. About $16. 90/100.
Rutherglen Estates Marsanne Viognier 2005
A really interesting white blend made in a French style. Pale white straw with an amazing purity emanating from the glass. Fragrant and aromatically spicy. Well blended with aromas and flavours encompassing the spectrum of orange blossom, pears, cinnamon, honey and lemons. Luscious, fresh and lively. A glorious wine to enjoy with food especially with Thai cuisine. Drinking well now for 3-4 years. About $18. 89/100.
Between $20 To $40
Coldstream Hills Chardonnay 2005 - This is a superb well crafted good value Chardonnay. Light pale straw in colour reflecting youth and style. Typically cool climate yet classically varietal. White peach, melon, hints of grapefruit, citrussy lemon and vanilla oak. Fresh acidity complements the fruit and oak - a wine perfectly in balance. Complexity through lees character and well integrated with influential oak that renders a light creaminess to the palate. Delicious to savour. Classic, well balanced and eminently drinkable. Cellar 7-9 plus years easily. Try with lobster tails. About $22. 95/100.
Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2004
This is the poor mans Art Series Chardonnay. At around $30, it is outstanding value for a second label from this prestigious Western Australian wine estate. The 2004 release of this wine is just excellent. A pure watery white to pale straw demonstrates the purity of its origins. An elegant vibrant nose delivering polished fragrant stone fruit characters. The complexity of it emits white nectarine with hints of grapefruit, apple and lemon. Lees character and a whiff of nuts adds to this. This is accompanied by refreshing lively acidity giving the wine a marked backbone. This is a serious Chardonnay -mouth watering and impressive in flavour profile. Stylish and youthful, the wine exudes a long aftertaste. Seamless in balance, the oak is integrated with hints of vanillin. Has at least 5-7 years left in it. Try it with grilled scampi. 93/100.
Shaw And Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay 2004
This is top shelf Chardonnay. This is serious Chardonnay. A Chardonnay that Chardonnay drinkers will want to call their preferred Chardonnay, their Chardonnay of choice. This is special Chardonnay. Martin Shaw and Michael Hill-Smith, the owners of this winery set out to craft the best they could out of their vineyard grapes from the Adelaide Hills and they sure succeeded with this wine. From the first pour out of the gorgeously crafted bottle, the wine exudes class and elegance. Purity of lemon straw in colour, the wine is resplendent in its aromas of classic varietal Chardonnay - its Adelaide Hills origins immediately discernable. Green olive, peach, melon and cashews, a touch of creaminess - all of these entrance the senses - discernable but not over bearing. Influential yes but still a touch restrained, subtle in fact. Soft, well rounded and accompanied with a lively fresh but well integrated level of acidity and vanillin oak influence. Well blended and crafted together resulting in a smooth easy drinking wine that tantalises the taste buds long in finish. Cellar 5-7 years plus. Have it with lobster tails. About $38. 93/100.
O'Leary Walker Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2005
This Pinot Noir is just excellent, proving again the quality of such fruit coming out of the Adelaide Hills especially when it is given the O'Leary Walker winemaking treatment. You get just the right balance of gorgeously soothing rich plums and ripe red cherries delivered in an aromatic manner through a complex inviting nose. This is coupled with a delicious taste on the palate that exhibits and highlights an array of earthy, truffle and game savoury flavours that work a treat and melds with the fruit and oak to provide a well rounded wine that is drinking exceedingly well now. Try it with Peking duck. About $25. 92/100.
Stoneleigh Marlborough Chardonnay 2004 (NZ)
Gorgeously lemon to mid yellow reflecting bottle age. Developed complex fruit flavours - classic peach melon with lees character. Impressive and intense. An ample bodied wine emitting a touch of honeysuckle, nuttiness, spiciness and a swirl of butterscotch. Good pronounced oak, french vanillin with cashews and nutmeg as well. Lively marked acidity - minerally and flinty supports the oak and fruit. A lovely smooth rich creaminess on palate from the fruit and oak seamless integration ensues making this very drinkable. An excellent chardonnay that should cellar 5 plus years. Try it with prawn risotto. About $25. 92/100.
Bremerton Tamblyn Cabernet Shiraz Malbec Merlot 2003
Rebecca Willson from this Langhorne Creek winery knows how to put a good red blend together. This is youthful vibrant fresh spice filled wine that has a glorious set of aromas emanating from it. Rich ripe plums are followed by a litany of dark red fruits. A fruit driven style, well rounded, fullsome wine with a soft smooth velvety finish. Quite seamless in palate. Drinking now for 5 plus years. Try with oven baked macaroni. About $20. 91/100.
Lark Hill Chardonnay 2005
An excellent cool climate Chardonnay from the Canberra region. Pristine pale yellow. Brilliant in presentation. Complex, impressive and vibrant. Delivered with polished pure fruit. Distinctive with young fresh acidity. Delicious and mouthwatering in flavours. Lingering in length. Well balanced and seamless. Think white peach, apple, melon, citrus with lees character and a touch of green olive and minerality. Try with honey prawns. About $28. 91/100.
Paul Ippolito writes about wine for publications across Australia, overseas and the Internet. He speaks on radio and writes a free monthly wine newsletter for consumers. Paul can be contacted by email at Paul_Ippolito@hotmail.com where you can also request to be placed on his mailing list for his newsletter.
or visit his website at: www.paulippolito.com.au
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