Reviewed by Jim McMahon

The Clare Valley, including sub-region Watervale, is noted the world over for producing some finely structured rieslings that are made to last. From Jim Barry Wines comes just such a wine, The Lodge Hill 2013 riesling. Straw in colour it has a vibrant green hue indicating its youth. The nose offers fragrant citrus, orange blossom and grapefruit flavours. The palate is crisp and as dry as a bone with mouth-watering acidity nicely interwoven into the pristine limey, peach flavours which dance across the palate. A firm dry riesling style with racy acidity on the finish. (rrp $22)

Another Clare Valley producer who has a Midas touch when it comes to making wine is Tim Adams. Besides producing the usual Clare Valley styles such as riesling, semillon, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, Adams makes other varieties including viognier, pinot gris and tempranillo. Here I offer you one of his wines under the Mr Mick portfolio — the Mr Mick 2010 tempranillo. A lovely pink hue combined with a deep purple/crimson colour is a drawcard to the eye. The nose offers a slightly herbal flavour while ripe spicy plum and dark cherries also come through, together with some cashew and vanilla flavours from the French oak. The fruit on the palate is soft and juicy with the oak playing a supporting role by adding to the palate weight and texture. The finish on this full-bodied wine is long and intense with balanced oak/acid and tannins in check. The wine is a steal at $15 (rrp).

Tumbarumba, NSW, is emerging as our answer to the Marlborough region of New Zealand for producing excellent sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir. I don’t know how Bill Calabria (owner/winemaker at Westend Estate) can produce such excellent pinot noir from this region for the paltry price of $15 (rrp). If you know anything from reading this column over the past 18 years it’s that pinot noir is a fickle and pedantic grape variety that can fall over at the last hurdle before picking. Westend Estate 2012 Cool Climate Tumbarumba pinot noir has a lively pink hue and bright see-through red colour which gives way to herbal, rhubarb and black cherries with hints of mint and liquorice flavours adding to the mix on the nose. The palate is fairly light-on in terms of weight and minimal oak, but the cherry ripe fruit flavours combined with spicy cinnamon add to the enjoyment of this style of wine. A soft silky finish with minimal tannins and balanced acidity is assured on this light-bodied wine. I had the wine with pork belly and caramelised onions and the wine stood its ground as a wonderful accompaniment to the meal. I predict that the next Kiwi wave will see even cheaper and cheaper pinots heading our way. Perhaps the people at Westend Estate are firmly ahead in this regard.

Another wine from the same stable is the Westend Estate 3 Bridges 2011 cabernet sauvignon. This wine won the 2012 Royal Queensland Wine Show Stodart Trophy. It is deep red/purple in colour with a crimson hue. The nose is awash with blackcurrants, mulberries and plummy flavours with a whiff of cigar-box adding to the mix. The full-bodied palate offers intensity of dark berry fruits combined with spicy, savoury characters and vanillin oak/tannins which are all nicely balanced. A wine of sophistication, elegance and balance. While drinking well now, this is either one for the cellar or one to impress (rrp $25). The wines from Westend offer real value for money!

I find that nearly all the De Bortoli wines from the VAT range are wines of excellent quality and over deliver for the prices paid. The De Bortoli VAT 8 2010 shiraz is a lovely vibrant crimson colour on the eye with ripe fruity red/blackberry fruits on the nose. The palate is soft and silky with ripe voluptuous fruit and silky tannins being the hallmark of these wine styles. A great ‘quaffer’ at the price (rrp $13). Also from the same stable is the 2012 VAT 9 cabernet sauvignon. Deep purple with a pink rim in colour, the ripe berry fruit on the nose jumps out of the glass. The palate is soft and fruit driven with plums, wild berries and minimal oak evident. The finish is dry with expressive and lingering fruit combined with soft velvety tannins, firm acids and minimal oak if any (rrp $13).

Alternative grape varieties such as viognier are what I like best because they’re different and always seem to surprise. Berton Vineyards 2013 The White Viognier is a vibrant green straw colour which gives way to a nose of orange blossoms, white peach and apricot flavours. The refreshingly crisp palate is alive with citrus, white peach and apricots which are very distinctive. The wine displays a nice textural mouth-feel with vibrant acidity on a dry finish (rrp $12). Another wine from the Berton Vineyards stable is the 2013 sauvignon blanc which is pale straw in colour with a green tinge. The nose offers both tropical fruits and green grassy flavours which follow through onto the palate along with passionfruit and green pea. The succulent mouth-watering acidity clinches it with a firm, racy dry acid finish (rrp $12). While sourcing these wines, don’t overlook the Berton Vineyards 2013 vermentio, an exceptional white, or the Berton Vineyards 2012 Classic Chardonnay. All represent great value at $12 (rrp) a pop!

South Island-based Mudhouse Wines is one of my favourite wine houses in New Zealand mainly because its wines are of consistent quality and good value for money. Here I offer you the Mudhouse 2012 pinot gris. A light straw yellow in colour, the perfumed nose is awash with honeysuckle, white pear and hints of mineral overtones. The palate is nicely textured with yeasty wild honey, white pear and sweet pineapple flavours. The acid is balanced, not sharp, and with no oak in sight. An excellent example of pinot gris. (rrp $22)

Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE.