Jim McMahon

With Christmas almost here, it’s time to stock up on all your favourite wines plus some new ones to add to the joy of the festive season and beyond. Here is a selection that comes highly recommended.

Clare Valley-based O’Leary Walker has recently released the 2016 O’Leary Walker Watervale Riesling. It’s bright lemon-coloured with green tinges around the rim, and the nose is fragrant with citrus and apricot flavours. These flavours cascade onto the palate and combine with grapefruit and green apple. The finish is dry, with refreshingly crisp acidity and minerality (rrp $20).

Upper Hunter-based Catherine Vale Wines is showcasing the 2015 Catherine Vale Semillon. There’s grassy, gooseberry and green apple notes on the nose, replicated on the palate. With quince and pineapple flavours coming to the fore on the palate, the acidity is not as zesty or lively as one comes to expect from a young Hunter semillon but more restrained, making this wine style more appealing when young. The finish is dry, with reserved acidity. I prefer my semillons with age; this is drinking well now but will reward you with careful cellaring for five to seven years (rrp $18).

Here’s something different from Riverina-based Calabria Family Wines — nero d’avola and tempranillo. Firstly, the 2015 Calabria Family Nero D’Avola: this red grape variety hails from Sicily and is being experimented with in warmer climes here in Oz with only a handful of winemakers (nearly all of Italian extraction) in the King Valley, Riverina and Stanthorpe producing this style.

The wine’s vibrant purple colour gives way to a beautiful pink. The nose is alluring, with dark cherries, blackberry and dark plum, and these flavours are also on the palate. The tannins are minimal as is the oak treatment. Not the greatest structure you would want in a red wine but the fruit-driven, long-lasting mouth appeal and flavour more than compensate.

Also from the same stable comes the 2015 Calabria Family Tempranillo, a red grape variety hailing originally from Rioja in northern Spain but not planted widely in that country. The nose shows sweet dark berry/cherry fruits while the palate is dry with soft red and black spicy fruit in abundance. This full-bodied wine is just that — full-bodied, with lingering fruit and balanced acid and oak tannins giving the wine backbone (rrp $15).

For a winery that has only been going since 1998, Orange-based Angullong has certainly made a name for itself both in Orange and beyond. Here, I offer you the 2016 Angullong Pinot Grigio. The nose oozes perfumed pineapple and citrus. The fruit on the palate is more than generous and the acidity is soft, fruity and refreshing without being tart and tangy.

If you were tasting it blind you’d have thought it was a “gris” and not “grigio” as the palate has depth of flavour and texture to it. Not sure if the winemaker is having a two-bob each way bet on the grigio/gris pull factor but he has created something dynamic in this wine style. Simply brilliant (rrp $20)!

Riverina-based Berton Vineyards have recently released its Berton Vineyards 2016 Sauvignon Blanc. Taking fruit from the Padthaway region of SA, this wine shows a fruit spectrum that cuts through from the nose to the palate. Fruits such as gooseberry, citrus and passionfruit are nicely intertwined with vegetal flavours such as capsicum and asparagus together with a twist of lemon-lime. A fruity style with firm acidity on a clean, dry acid finish. A steal at this price and one you should source for Christmas.

From the same winery comes the Berton Vineyards 2016 Metal Label Viognier, greeny-straw in colour with white peach and apricots on the nose.

The palate is fruit-driven with orange peel, apricots, lemon and lime combined with a nicely textured mouthfeel. The palate is in balance between the acidity, fruit and alcohol and the wine offers nicely textured and lingering fruit. Both wines retail for $12 rrp and both are bargains in a bottle.

From South Australia, the Mount Monster Limestone Coast 2016 Chardonnay is young, green and fresh as a daisy. The fruit on the nose shows lots of fruit salad flavours with no hint of oak. The same goes for the palate — no oak. The rockmelon, nectarine, grapefruit and green apple on the palate show great fruit concentration combined with crisp and refreshing acidity.

This is a sit-up-and-take-note chardonnay. This wine style will persuade those of you who have moved away from this style over the years to return to unoaked chardonnay (rrp $17).

Coming from the same stable and state as Mount Monster is the Jip Jip Rocks 2014 Padthaway Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep purple with a crimson hue, the bouquet is a mixture of wild berries, black olive and capsicum. The palate is nicely textured with hints of licorice, stewed rhubarb and red plums, with palate weight and structure.

The wine displays a dry finish and is full-bodied with vanilla highlights on the finish (rrp $21).

Now to the Gartelmann Hunter Valley 2014 Shiraz. I haven’t tried Gartelmann wines since September 2000 — how nice it is to see them again. Happy to report that winemaker Jorg Gartelmann hasn’t lost his touch in the intervening years. The wine is deep purple with a vibrant pink hue and offers a typical Hunter white peppery nose.

The palate is full-bodied, with intense, ripe blackcurrants and redcurrants (also found on the nose), and with depth and structure nicely balanced by firm tannins and acidity on a long dry full-bodied finish. Welcome back, Mr Gartelmann (rrp $25).

The easy-on-the-eye salmon-coloured De Bortoli NV ‘La Boheme Act Two’ Yarra Valley Dry Pinot Noir Rosé has strawberry, raspberry and spicy Cherry Ripe-like aroma and a palate as dry as a bone, evident from the first sip. The fruit, however, is there for all to taste with strawberry-red cherry spice, the hallmarks of this wine. The finish is crisp and dry with firm acidity. One of the best styles of roses I’ve had in years and consistent at that (rrp $19).

Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE

Winemakers Bill Calabria and Emma Norbiato celebrate

Win a case of Calabria Family Wines!

Last month, Calabria Family Wines’ Emma Norbiato was named 2016 Australian Female Winemaker of the Year. She is part of a wine-making team at Calabria whose work has won seven new gold medals and three trophies in recent wine shows.

Wine critic James Halliday calls the winery “a producer that consistently delivers exceptional value for money across the entire range”.

The vineyard was started three generations ago — it is very much a family business — when Francesco and Elisabetta Calabria emigrated from Italy to become farmers in Griffith, and Francesco started using his wife’s washing tubs to make wine for himself to have a glass to relax with after a hard day in the fields .

Wine-making gradually took over from farming and the business prospered but crashed in the 1980s recession and the family was forced to wash bottles for other wineries to earn an income. The wheel turned, and through indomitable spirit the Calabria family prospered again, making highly-regarded wines from the Riverina and the Barossa.

Here’s your chance to win a mixed case of Calabria Family wines:

Tell us the former name of Calabria Family Wines.

Entries with the correct answer will go in a draw for the prize.

Your entry must include your name, Federation membership number, mobile and home phone number and mailing address for the case of wine. No multiple entries, please.

Send entries to with “Calabria Family wine dozen competition” in the subject line, or mail to: Calabria Family Wine Dozen Competition, Education, NSW Teachers Federation, Locked Bag 3010 Darlinghurst 1300. Entries close on Friday, December 23 and the wine dozen will be delivered early in the new year.