When it comes to all things wine, James Halliday is the most prolific wordsmith in Australia. His knowledge, not just of Australian wines, but of the world of wines is truly amazing. Each year he produces the eagerly awaited James Halliday Australian Wine Companion. The 2016 edition features detailed tasting notes for 3859 wines with ratings and advice on optimal drinking. Drink-to dates, ratings and prices are given for a further 2629 wines. The best wines by variety are named and a list of the five-star wineries with vintage charts for each region is included. Just the go for Christmas at $39.95 from bookshops.
You’ll find below a fine selection of wines for the festive season from some well-known names.
From the Hunter comes Tyrrell’s 2014 HDV Chardonnay — pale lemon-coloured with a mixture of rockmelon, grapefruit and citrus on the nose. The palate exhibits a generous textural mouthfeel with the lees contact evident, with ripe tropical flavours combined with almond, baked bread and nutty vanilla notes. The acidity is firm and the fruit is long and generous (rrp $24). Also try the Tyrrell’s 2013 Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz, deep red with a lovely pink rim, the nose offers ripe plummy, dark cherries and a whiff of vanillin oak. The palate is rich with robust tannins and the same fruit flavours found on the nose. The oak is evident but not overly so. A full-bodied wine with hints of minerality (rrp $25).
From out west, the Angullong vineyard in Orange has the Angullong 2015 Pinot Grigio, vibrant lemon colour with green hues around the rim indicating youth, the nose offering a myriad of tropical fruits and the palate refreshingly crisp with lots of citrus, pineapple and green apple flavours. A refreshing wine with purity of fruit. The palate has a dry, clean, crisp finish (rrp $19).
For those of you who would like to buy someone a special bottle of wine this Christmas, this is it: the Patina 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep purple-garnet in colour, the nose oozes blackcurrant and plummy fruit. It is rich and dense with a silky, mouth-filling palate. It displays length with a mixture of French and American oak adding texture and flavour. A wine of sophistication, it is simply a stunner with nearly 10 years’ oak maturation. The winemaker has done the hard yards for you. All you have to do is buy it and drink it, but it will have another five years left if you want to cellar it some more. A drop in the vat for $30 (rrp).
It is not too often, in fact it’s rare that you taste pinot noir from Mudgee but here I offer you the Lowe 2013 Nullo Mountain Pinot Noir (Biodynamic under conversion BFA), obviously coming from high altitude vineyards at Nullo Mountain near the Wollemi National Park. The aromatics are intense with lavender, red cherry and raspberry-strawberry notes in full flourish and the mid-weight palate is soft with lots of spicy red cherry and fleshy red fruits. Tannins and acidity are nicely integrated. A great reflection of what the high altitude (1100m) vineyard and cool climate area can deliver (rrp $30).
Chardonnay is one of two white wine styles the Hunter does best, the other being Semillon. Oakvale’s Abington Vineyard 2014 Chardonnay — has a wonderful mouth-feel with leesy, ripe melon and mandarin flavours combined with nicely integrated oak, soft tannins and vanilla notes. The finish has a slight citrus tone with firm acidity. A Hunter Valley classic and a chardonnay of sophistication (rrp $33).
Now a sticky — Calabria Family Wines’ 3 Bridges 2013 Botrytis Semillon has a palate rich with fruit intensity — spicy quince, fig and honey together with marmalade and vanilla characters. The finish is long and sensual (rrp $25 for 375ml). Why not also try the 3 Bridges 2013 Durif? The nose has dark berries and chocolate with hints of vanilla spice. The palate is rich and textured with a countless array of dark and red berry fruits. A superb alternative style (rrp $25).
Finally, Berton Vineyard 2014 Foundstone Merlot from the Riverina region: the palate shows ripe mulberry, raspberry and red currant fruits. It is soft, silky and easy drinking with hints of cinnamon and vanilla and generosity of fruit on a soft, dry finish. A fruit bomb for a paltry rrp $8.
Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE.