Bodegas Sonsierra ‘Perfume de Sonsierra By Davidelfin’ Rioja 2010


Style over substance? For me this was the ultimate test. I’m a bit of a perfume nut, so as soon as I saw this, I gushed a bit and made some funny noises that I’m not proud of, and put a bottle aside to purchase.

It’s a 100% Tempranillo, Rioja wine, and one of the Bodegas’ premium releases. It costs about the same as a bottle of good perfume. While those may go a lot further for the dollars, they (probably) won’t get you drunk.




A description of the packaging – since it’s so limited that you’ll probably never see a bottle – the wine comes bound in a white cardboard box wrapped in ribbon. The bottle is blue, heavyset and thick. It has a screwcap with a fat cork underneath. The box describes the chemical composition of the wine, as a perfume box often will (except it’s in Spanish). I’m positively certain that the packaging accounts for a large fraction of the retail cost.

A description of the winemaking process. 40 year old Tempranillo vines. Fermented in new French oak from 8 different cooperages, and aged for 16 months, then more in bottle.

A description of the contents. Dark, meaty and leathery aromatic profile. I expected floral, light, red fruits, but this is not the case. Dark cherry, caramel and medicinal. A trace of tarry, campfire smoke completes the picture. Fairly dense and tannic, it opens up with black fruit and plenty of chewy, savoury clout. As can be expected with premium Rioja, oak is a big player. It finishes with notes of coconut and vanilla, but without the length I expected.

Yes, it’s slightly disappointing. But it’s also a special, exciting wine. I bought this as a treat and the whole experience of having it,opening it, drinking and sharing it was positive. It’s a gift wine, and there is a real place for those in the market. I had a preconception of a super aromatic, light bodied, red fruited Temp, but instead I got a classic, robust Rioja Reserva. And yet, as a person who would normally avoid a product that lashes out on packaging, I’d still suggest that you buy a bottle if you see it. Why? Because it’s fucking cool, that’s why.

Very Good – Excellent / 92 points

Price: $100

Source: Retail

Closure: Cork

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Joseph Drouhin ‘LaForêt’ Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2011


Curious that this wine is clearly available under screwcap, however the bottles I’ve seen in Australia are under DIAM. You’d think that we’d be the primary market for that closure.

Takes its time to open up and even then, it’s a shy, understated wine. You get a whiff of strawberry and redcurrant fruit but also some stalk, star anise and baked clay aromas. Plums creep in as it takes in oxygen.

I like that mouth-watering strawberry note being the centrefold character. Slinky and composed; nothing juts out on the palate but it’s graceful yet flavoursome.  The magic of Burgundy is alive and kicking here, yet Joseph Drouhin has freed the wine from the swell of costliness. Compare it with Australian and NZ Pinot at a similar price point and you’ll probably find that this is a stride ahead, at least in terms of quality. Not necessarily drinkability – it needs a little more attention than some. A tad more intensity would bring this in line with a lot of Village level Burgundy. *golf clap and a nod of approval*

Very Good / 91 points

Price: $35

Source: Retail

Closure: DIAM

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Si Vintners ‘Lello’ Chardonnay 2012


Orange Chardonnay from Margs. Not even joking. It’s orange and it’s from Margs.

It’s the colour of a barley sugar from extended skin contact. Will shock you if you don’t know what you’re getting, so don’t order it blindly. Or do. Just be warned; it’s not a buttery ol’ skool fatboy nor a ‘Chablis-esque’ wateracidbomb.

It’s not ‘varietal’ but it got me thinking; is our definition of the word based only upon white varietal wine that’s mostly made without skin contact and from red varietal wine made with skin contact? If more Chardonnay was made with this degree of skin contact, would I consider this wine varietally representative? I don’t know.

Anyways, it’s beaming with a gorgeous tangerine and orange (Fanta!) scent that’s tailed by limestone and the faintest of peach aromas. Lush, but with tartness. Ruby grapefruit and some acetic acid is there in the mouth.Texture without tannin. Looooong. If you’re a believer in length being an indicator of a quality wine, and this doesn’t make your grade, then, well, you’re a lost cause. It’s a prime candidate for the argument that natural, skin contact whites can be as valid as, well, Margaret River Chardonnay.

Excellent / 92 points

Price: $50

Source: Taste

Closure: Screwcap

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Michel Lynch Bordeaux Rouge 2011


Bargain Bordeaux. You don’t hear that very often. No fancy appellations needed here. Just good, honest wine. A blend of left and right bank Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Some youthful vanillin oak, then a sniff of tobacco, pencil shavings, dark chocolate, boysenberry, fennel and Dutch licorice, of which the latter can also be found on the palate. Complex, as you can probably guess from my notes.

The segue from nose to palate is seamless, but the youthful, firm tannins jump in to finish. Pretty good to drink now, even better in a year, and probably will jump a notch or two in three years.

Good / 88+ points

Price: $25

Closure: Cork

Source: Retail

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Jauma ‘Pet Nat’ Chenin Blanc 2013



The method: Pétillant Naturels are made by bottling a wine that hasn’t finished fermentation and allowing it to finish its fermentation in bottle, which creates a sparkling wine from the Carbon Dioxide remaining in solution. No sugar or liqueur is added unlike the Methode Champenoise style of sparkling. Cloudy and unfiltered.

This sparkling is yeasty and nutty to smell, with some preserved lemon aromas poking though. Some aldehyde and VA wine faults for the trainspotters/nitpickers/archaic. A spicy and textural palate gives flavours of ginger, Tequila, green apple, bread and lemon squash. It’s mildly salty too which keeps the tastebuds salivating. It has two breeds of bubbles – there’s the initial charge of the sorts of bubbles you’d expect from a $25 fizz, but also an ultrafine, but sluggish, Krug-on-Valium bead that seems to emanate directly on the yeast sediment in the bottom of my glass.

This wine opened up after 90 minutes of being open, so it might even be worth gently decanting. Yeah, it’s not brilliant but neither is it something you’ll just quaff and forget about.

89 points / Good

Closure: Crown Seal

Price: $25

Source: Retail

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Russian Standard Gold Vodka


I hardly ever drink Vodka, unless I get a bottle of this, in which case, it’s gone within a week. It’s made with an addition of ginseng, but in reality, it’s just a superior version of the regular Russian Standard for about $3 more. The label is also so shiny, you can’t read it under bright lights.

I believe it’s made with wheat. Winter wheat, if that makes a difference to something that’s distilled multiple times. A bit like saying ‘I love my haircut, even though I always wear this hat’. Oh, wait…

There’s a caramel edge to the nose of this. Again, I don’t know where that comes from. Pretty neutral and fresh to smell. A touch of spearmint and cream on the palate, where all the action lies. It’s smooth and the flavour does linger. Served from the freezer, it’s very easy to drink neat but doesn’t feel like you’re dumbing it down by doing so either.

Apart from Wyborowa and the bison grass flavoured Zubrowka, there’s not much else in the way of cheap Vodka that I will bother with. Good stuff.

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Price: $38

Source: Retail

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Ampel Tasmanian Pinot Noir 2012


This one from Sydney distributor Vinous has got to be one of my favourite label designs. The Pinot Gris is great too. Not often you get to mention a pink map of Tassie without getting into trouble.

Mostly unfiltered, so cloudy. Upfront oak at this stage. It’s toasty and spicy to begin with. All about the red fruits with succulent glacé cherries, strawberries and redcurrants dominant on the nose and palate. Cherry cola on the finish, along with very mild tannins. A nod toward entry level Bourgogne in style with 30% whole bunch inclusion and use of oak. Give it a bit of time tucked away, if you happen to buy a few bottles.

It’s more interesting than a lot of Tasmanian Pinot Noir, whilst being a relatively simple wine; something that just heightens its drinkability. I’d choose this over a lot of $30-50 Tasmanian Pinot Noir because, firstly, it’s cheaper and secondly, it has a point of difference. Definitely a wine that I can heartily recommend to those looking for good, modestly priced Pinot Noir. Aren’t we all?

Good – Very Good / 90 points

Price: $25

Source: Tasting

Closure: Screwcap

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Markowitsch Blaufränkisch 2011


A simple combination of blueberry, black pepper and capsicum aromas. Sort of smells like a Shiraz Cabernet actually. Rubber and a hint of strawberry.

It’s medium bodied and fruit forward, and shows blackberry and dusty tones on the palate. Not particularly lengthy but should please the average Australian palate. Not much to say. Decent wine and varietal in nature. Proper good schnitzelwein.

88 points / Good – Very Good

Price $30

Source: Retail

Closure: Cork

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Domaine Cornu Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2011


Not the correct bottle image and not much info on the winery available. Imported by Pure Fine Wines.

The Domaine Cornu is a family-run operation. Alexandre is a fourth generation winemaker, taking over from Claude Cornu. The Domaine is located between Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune, in a little village of the Hautes Côtes, three kilometres from Ladoix Serrigny, which allows us to have “terroirs” which are very diverse and distinct. The Domaine spreads out over 19 Ha of vines with no less than fourteen different appellations, and pays particular attention to the environment, organic products, a moderate used of chemicals and mechanical care of the soil so as to leave a healthy soil to our descendants. The wines are vinified following the traditional method.

Big ripe strawberries tucked under a blanket of apparent whole bunch influence that smells of smoky, grilled green peppers. Continues onto the palate where dark cherries and young, stem tannins join the flow. Reasonably chewy and with commanding posture and length, finishing a bit creamy.

Love drinking this. A good departure from local Pinot and it’s reasonably priced. Should show more symmetry with another two years bottle age.

Very Good / 92+ points

Closure: DIAM

Source: Tasting

Price $50

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Brash Higgins ‘ZBO’ Zibibbo 2013


On the winemaking process of this very limited wine, the following says it all, really. Except for the fact that Zibibbo, or Muscat of Alexandria, is also known as Fruity Lexia in Australia. Only 660 bottles made.

The BH ‘ZBO’ was one of the surprises of 2013. Grower, friend and viticulturist, Ashley Ratcliff, planted the seed about perhaps using some of his 70-year-old bush vine zibibbo from his Ricca Terra Farms in the sunny Riverland. Making a white in amphora, it was vital to use grapes that showed promise to create intrigue with longer skin contact, and this fragrant member of the Muscat family definitely fit the bill.
A 12-hour trip from HQ in the Vale in early March to collect one and a half tons of handpicked grapes in the town of Barmera set the tone for the wild adventure to come. After collecting the fruit and swerving down the M20 in an exhilarating white knuckle drive, I arrived back at base at night and quickly destemmed the golf ball sized, bronze fruit into waiting amphorae. A wild ferment ensued, and as the grapes broke down, I hand plunged the caps twice daily until the skins sank 16 days later.
The skins, seeds and juice remained covered in situ for five months. We siphoned the ‘free run’ off and combined it with the pressings for a further four months ageing in four-year-old French barriques, racked only before bottling. No fining or filtration was used, 20ppm of free SO2 was added at bottling.

Please, drink this at a temperature just colder than you’d serve a Pinot Noir, i.e maybe 30 minutes in the fridge from room temperature. It’s yellow and not as cloudy or orange as you’d anticipate from the winemaking. Very aromatic, but not floral like I expected it to be. Instead, aromas of peach and apricot nectar are quite assertive, and there’s a note of lemongrass, almost citronella, combined with some macadamia and an unexpected flinty reductive smell that seemed to dissipate with air. You get salinity straight away on the palate, without it being a salty, faulty wine. Works in its favour completely. Some more apricot and perhaps some lime to taste. It’s dry and textural, but the key point is that the phenolics are perfectly judged and it’s not at all bitter.

When do you drink it? Well, it’s probably best suited to be consumed as an aperitif. Food is not really needed, but in saying that, it’s probably more versatile than you’d expect from a Fruity Lexia. It’s certainly got a Fino like umami quality and moreishness, but plenty of fruit and tang as well. Without doubt, it’s one of Australia’s best in its class. It must be said that it’s still not going to please everyone. My partner hated it and described it as medicinal. There you go. One of those wines again. I’d really just suggest that if natural, orange/skin contact whites are your thing, then you’ll love it.

Outstanding / 94 points

Closure: Screwcap

Source: Retail

Price: $44

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