Tag Archives: Victoria

The Next Best’s Thing

Wayne: The Shitty Beatles? Are they any good?
Tiny: They suck!
Wayne: Then it’s not just a clever name.

Call me odd, but that exchange sprang to mind years ago when I first drank a bottle that crammed the word’s “Best” and “Great” side by side on the label. As with the not-so-Fab Four from Wayne’s World, Best’s Great Western isn’t just a clever name. In my experience the wines merit just about any superlative you can throw at them.
Founded in 1867 in the Grampians region of Victoria, some 200km west of Melbourne, the winery is especially noted for its Shiraz. The wine it crafts from the world’s oldest Pinot Meunier vines is a treasure, while its Riesling also has its fans (you’re reading one).
But we’re here today to talk about Cabernet Sauvignon – yup, boring old Cab. I was discussing the recent Bonnezeaux Gonzo post on this prickly old character with a prickly old character I work with, who related the agony and ecstasy of polishing off his last remaining bottle of 2010 Best’s Cabernet. The logical conclusion to that conversation was to try to track down any surviving family members. It wasn’t easy but we managed to salvage a dozen to split between us.
Sure enough, the wine’s a beauty. But its main appeal as a blog subject was the way it drew attention to an underappreciated variety/region pairing at a non-threatening price point. If you can’t get hold of the bloody stuff, it kind of defeats the object. What’s more, the bloke who made the 2010 has since fled to the (Adelaide) hills. So it was that, in the name of research and fair access, I had to go get me more wine.
Adam Wadewitz, author of the ’10, is now penning a new chapter of his impressive winemaking journal at Shaw + Smith, leaving Justin Purser to plot the 2012. Purser sees a tendency in Australia to treat Cabernet like Shiraz, or else earmark it for blending. “My philosophy is that you’ve got to treat it differently from other varieties,” he says. “Cabernet has its own charms and off-putting points as well.”
To start with the negatives, flowering and fruit set can be troublesome and it ripens late in the season, which can make it a touch-and-go proposition in a cool region rising to 440m above sea level. Cabernet wines can be short on mid-palate fruit weight and long on tannin, so if you’re not careful you get something with a hole in the middle and a pile of grit around it. In any case it needs a fair bit of time in bottle to get its act together. But then Purser reels off the pluses: perfume, elegance, distinctive varietal character, neat expression of site and the promise of beauty with age.
Best’s didn’t make this wine in 2011, a problematic vintage from which the winery still managed to crank out a Jimmy Watson-winning Shiraz. But thankfully the Cabernet grapes ripened well in both 2010 and 2012. Purser says his objective was an elegant, structured and generous medium- to full-bodied wine. This entailed a preference for hand-plunging whole berries in open-fermenters, then ageing the wine for 14 months in hogsheads (5% new oak).
“It has more tannin than Shiraz and that should be expressed in the wine. So it’s got real intensity to it without being too heavy,” he says. “As a style we’re looking for nicely balanced, lifted herbal and juicy berry characters with fine, silky, velvety, rolling flavours through the palate.”
Shiraz may be king round these parts. But watch out for this fair prince; it has a stronger claim to the throne than many realise.

Best’s Great Western Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Deep purple in colour. The nose is fairly pronounced, floral and fresh-fruited. Red, blue and blackberries, blackcurrants, roses, geranium, oak and a hint of fresh mint. Lovely, smooth entry with juicy mulberry, then generous, fresh, fleshy berries and some peppery spice follow on the mid-palate. It’s a touch more than medium bodied, with tannins that are firm, fruit-tinged and ripe. The back palate exhibits more cassis and leafy characters, as well as a graphite note, with good acidity carrying it fairly long.

Costs $25 from the winery website – Alcohol 14% – Tasted 06/04/14

Best’s Great Western Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Pretty ruby hue with a nose of rose petals, raspberries, blackcurrant, mint and a whiff of cedary oak. An attack of sweet red berries is followed by darker fruits that glide across the silky, supple, medium-bodied palate. A clear but soft acid line and fine sandy tannins guide it to a fairly long conclusion with typical notes of blackcurrant leafiness. There’s no shortage of flavour intensity in what is a lean, gentle, structured and very pretty Cabernet.

RRP $25 – Alcohol 13% – Tasted 30/03/14

Call That A Challenge?

I’m writing this post on a Friday night with a glass of Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay to keep me company. I can’t say too much about how good it is, as I do casual work for its producer and don’t wish to stand accused of bias. It’s a bit like refusing to save a drowning man because you work for the company that makes the lifejackets, but there you have it.
Bonnezeaux Gonzo is in its infancy, and there are certain strategic points that have yet to be worked out. One of these is how to tackle the Chardonnay thing: does its brilliance need a bombshell or is it a question of attrition, a barrage of allusions to its wondrousness to leave readers dumbstruck?
For now I’ll go for the latter, because it’s getting late and I’m onto my second glass. So here’s a little rave about some already raved-about wines, based on my notes from the recent Sommeliers Australia tasting of trophy-winning wines from the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge at Vue de Monde.
We blind tasted three flights of four wines, all of which came top in their region. Discovery of the day for me appeared in the first bracket. It was the Ridgemill Estate WYP Chardonnay 2012 from the Granite Belt in Queensland. It has a floral, orange-blossom nose with grilled nuts, leading into a full-bodied palate of ripe peach, apricots and honey and finishing long with apricots and lemon slice.
The second flight was all Victoria, and a strong showing it was, too. The most distinctive was the Galli Estate Pamela Chardonnay 2011 ($60) from Sunbury. This was taut, mineral and intense, with ruby grapefruit and green apple followed by a pure citrus and stone fruit finish. The acid was bracing, hard even, but it worked for me. I was also very taken by the Seville Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (RRP for the 2011 was $33) from the Yarra Valley, which I liked even better than the previous vintage, which recently came up trumps at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards. Full-bodied with nuttiness, cream, peach and grapefruit, what really took me here was the way it powered through the back palate. Such drive to back up that generosity.
But my favourite of this bracket was the A.Rodda Smiths Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 from Beechworth ($38). It all seemed to be on show from the first sniff – smoke, nuts, peach and lemon – and yet the palate was toned and restrained, with fresh, pure nectarine and citrus fruit meted out ahead of a finish that was creamy, long and moreish.
Then the final flight, which featured Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay 2009 ($70) from the Hunter Valley (for some dumb reason I’m always surprised by how much I love this wine – and the 2009 is looking super fresh), and the Xanadu Chardonnay 2010 ($35) from Margaret River (which seemed a bit obvious and plump at first, but in time showed depth and nuance). It also contained the Penfolds Reserve Bin 10A 2010 ($95) from the Adelaide Hills, a wine with quite a reputation – well won, I’d have to say. It had complexity in spades – spice and zing, a bit of grip and a gamut of pure-fruit aromas powerfully expressed. Gorgeous.
The 10A was my preferred wine of the bracket, followed by the wine that came top in the Halliday Chardonnay Challenge: the Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 ($40) from Henty. It was flinty and fine-boned with a lovely lemon-lime acid line, great fruit purity, and – a feature of many of these wines – effortless drive. It was complete and utterly delicious.