First and foremost, this is a massive thank you being with us this year as we’ve celebrated a pretty significant milestone: CellarHand’s 20th Anniversary.
This is also our opportunity to wish you the best for the festive season, with a chance to spend some hugely happy times with those who mean the most to you.
In honour of this send-off to 2019, we’ve put together a list of 20 wines that’ve moved us in our 20th year – wines to toast your accomplishments this year and inspire optimism in what we hope will be a fun-filled and prosperous 2020.
Scroll down to have yourself a merry little read about these wines and why we chose them. And get in touch if you need anything that will make this an even more joyous festive season!
NATURAL WONDER – 2018 Pittnauer Pitt Nat RRP $57
SPARKLING PERFORMER – NV Champagne Jacquesson Cuvée No. 741 RRP $124
CLASSIC HIT – 2017 Geoff Weaver Sauvignon Blanc RRP $29
ORGANIC MATTER – 2018 Bründlmayer Kamptal Terrassen Grüner Veltliner RRP $39
FOUNDING PARTNER – 2018 Frankland Estate ‘Isolation Ridge’ Riesling RRP $43
UNIQUE PERSONALITY – 2016 Heymann-Löwenstein Riesling ‘Schieferterrasssen’ RRP $58
AGEING BEAUTY – 2013 F.X. Pichler Riesling ‘Ried Kellerberg’ Smaragd RRP $149
RISING STAR – 2018 Shadowfax Macedon Ranges Chardonnay RRP $32
MINERAL WEALTH – 2017 Matrot Meursault 1er Cru ‘Les Perrières’ RRP $272
CHEAP THRILL – 2019 Airlie Bank Pinot Noir RRP $23
OVERSEAS OVERACHIEVER – 2018 Dominique Piron Beaujolais-Villages RRP $27
ALTERNATIVE FAVOURITE – 2018 Chalmers Nero d’Avola RRP $27
PRECISION PRIZE – 2017 Stefano Lubiana ‘Il Giardino’ Single-Block Pinot Noir RRP $99
BIG WINNER – 2013 Huber ‘Malterdinger’ Pinot Noir MAGNUM $124
BIO SENSUAL – 2017 Burn Cottage Vineyard Pinot Noir RRP $92
EXOTIC THRILLER – 2017 Zorah ‘Karasì’ Areni Noir RRP $64
BEST NEWCOMER – 2018 Corymbia Cabernet Sauvignon RRP $64
UNSUNG HERO – 2017 Wantirna Estate ‘Amelia’ Cabernet Merlot RRP $87
WARM APPLAUSE – 2017 Glaetzer ‘Anaperenna’ Shiraz Cabernet RRP $55
SWEET THING – 2016 Gunderloch ‘Rothenberg’ Riesling Auslese 375ml RRP $71
THE WINNING WINES, WHYS AND WHEREFORES…
NATURAL WONDER – 2018 Pittnauer Pitt Nat
Gerhard and Brigitte Pittnauer were on cracking form back in February when they came over for CellarHand’s 20th Anniversary tastings. Gerhard has long respected natural-wine traditions and has been realising various styles for over a decade, with a small suite of addition-free wines sitting comfortably inside a range that is confident, free-flowing and soulful.
This méthode ancestrale sparkling blend of Merlot and Syrah from sandy, clayey soils with moderate levels of chalk gets the nod over the Mash Pitt amber wine largely because the latter – spectacularly good in 2017 – is pretty much done and dusted.
There’s just about enough of this triumphant fizz to see you through a crowd-pleasing Christmas period.
2018 Pittnauer Pitt Nat RRP $57
This wine was already in last year’s incarnation fun to drink at breakfast, lunch, dinner, New Year’s Eve, in spring, summer and autumn – nothing has changed there, although the flavours are slightly different. It has the colour of a pink grapefruit and tastes a little bit like it. Furthermore it brings together raspberries, rose petals and watermelon. It is enticing and dynamic. It fizzes fresh and vibrant over the finish line. – Gerhard Pittnauer
SPARKLING PERFORMER – NV Champagne Jacquesson Cuvée No. 741
Our cup frotheth over when it comes to sparkling options but we’ve gone with the original and best in the CellarHand portfolio. Jacquesson’s unique 700 series is as addictive as the most bingeworthy Netflix blockbuster, only with more exacting production values. “Lovely lacy texture but with density underneath… I challenge anyone not to enjoy this,” wrote Jancis Robinson. “Complex, nuanced and multi-dimensional in feel, the 741 is beautifully layered in the glass,” was Antonio Galloni’s comment. “The quality of their ‘non-vintage’ wine is unwavering every year—particularly the 741,” opined Jon Bonné in Punch. Mike Bennie found it “high quality, delicious to drink”.
You get the picture. 741 won’t be around much longer – don’t stop the pop this Xmas.
NV Jacquesson Cuvée No. 741 RRP $124
MAGNUM RRP $297
Disgorged in June 2018 with 2.5 grams per litre dosage, the NV Extra Brut Cuvée No. 741 is based on the 2013 vintage. Unfurling in the glass with aromas of white flowers, fresh nectarine and peach, complemented by hints of warm biscuits and walnut oil, it’s medium to full-bodied, vinous and concentrated, with a textural attack that gives way to a lively, focused core that’s underpinned by a bright spine of acidity, concluding with a long and sapid finish. Complex, expressive and beautifully balanced, this is a superb wine from Jacquesson. 93 points. William Kelley, Wine Advocate August 2019
CLASSIC HIT – 2017 Geoff Weaver Sauvignon Blanc
One of the quieter trends in 2019 was a movement back to some of the classic styles. Sauvignon Blanc, which suffered something of a backlash against the Kiwi “savalanche”, has been one of the beneficiaries of this regained appreciation. When we showed this wine to an audience with Jancis Robinson in November, Stephen Pannell declared this site in Lenswood to be Australia’s finest Sauvignon Blanc vineyard. With the crisp purity, juiciness and perfect line on display, you could hardly disagree.
2017 Geoff Weaver Sauvignon Blanc RRP $29
The bouquet is precise and strongly varietal, but it’s not until the palate that the flavours set sail, and do so in fine style with citrus and apple taking control on the long finish. It’s the outcome of Geoff Weaver’s undoubted skill as a winemaker (and mature vines). 95 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion August 2019
ORGANIC MATTER – 2018 Bründlmayer Kamptal Terrassen Grüner Veltliner
One of our favourite visits of 2019 was that of Andreas Wickhoff MW of Weingut Bründlmayer, who graced these shores in August. It was Andreas’s second visit to Australia, coming a year after Vincent Bründlmayer came for Riesling Downunder and four years after a visit from Vincent’s legendary dad, Willi. You get the picture: these guys love Australia, and Australia loves them.
What’s so special about this family? In a world of fake news and five-minute fads, this Langenlois estate is a haven of all things pure, transparent and timeless. Respect for nature, sanctity of site, sharing wisdom and realising the joy of pristine fruit are de rigueur in today’s top-end, fine-wine scene. But with Willi Bründlmayer, there was never any other way.
With an incredibly dedicated and hard-working team in place, the wines are the best they’ve ever been. As a culmination of their long tradition of farming excellence, the estate is now certified organic. This Grüner is a reference point that all should know and everyone will enjoy. Plus, here’s a strikingly bright Riesling recommendation to complement it.
2018 Bründlmayer Kamptal Terrassen Grüner Veltliner RRP $39
White pepper, pear and apple, hay and caramel. Juicy and full of flavour, spicy and chalky, kind of savoury too with chicken and herbs in the mix. Finish is umami and spicy, and fairly long. Tickle of spritz here too. 92 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front September 2019
2017 Bründlmayer Steinmassl Riesling RRP $64
A totally original dry Riesling form the Danube valley that has a suave and supple feel on the front palate. Then, the firmness from the rocky soil comes through on the cool, lemony finish. From organically grown grapes. Drink or hold. 94 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com October 2018
UNIQUE PERSONALITY – 2016 Heymann-Löwenstein Riesling Schieferterrasssen
It’s easy to forget – though we shouldn’t – that some of our most treasured wines wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the audacity of certain game-changers. Reinhard Löwenstein is one of those. When Caro Maurer MW came over from Germany to present a masterclass on the VDP, she reminded the audience that Reinhard was the original Riesling terroirist. Not only has he exhaustively researched, respected and championed that terroir, but in expressing it he’s espoused for a long time several of the techniques that have been adopted by others claiming natural winemaking (regardless of whether they are – like Heymann-Löwenstein – organically growing their own grapes on their own parcels).
Schieferterrassen is the cuvée that Reinhard and daughter Sarah compose as the precise expression of their Erste Lage (premier cru) holdings in the vertiginous vineyards of the Terrassenmosel. The Winningen sites of Hamm and Brückstück are the heart of the blend, with a very small proportion made up from declassified barrels from the grands crus. Handpicked fruit, skin contact, gravity-fed juice, indigenous yeast fermentation and phenolics naturally and patiently settled out or melded in, rather than stripped away – it all adds up to wines that are as immediate, alive and invigorating as you’ll find.
2016 Heymann-Löwenstein Riesling Schieferterrasssen RRP $58
Ripe pear and white peach deliver a delightful combination of ripeness and primary juiciness, and the midpalate impression is a flattering combination of stuffing and creaminess. Regionally typical suggestions of tarragon and anise cool a lingering finish that gains welcome invigoration by way of lime zest piquancy. Given this wine’s low acidity, the overall effect is quite sumptuous, and a faint but entirely supportive hint of sweetness is engendered by close to seven grams of residual sugar. Fortunately, there is animating freshness, and I was amazed to discover that there is nearly 13% alcohol here, as there is no heaviness. David Schildknecht, Vinous Media January 2018
2014 Heymann-Löwenstein Riesling Uhlen Roth Lay MAGNUM RRP $297
Served from the decanter as a barrel sample, the 2014 Riesling Uhlen R ‘VDP Grosse Lage’ from the Roth Lay plot offers an intensely fruity and lovely flinty/smoky bouquet, with mango flavors and very fine slate and herbal aromas that indicate great purity and intensity. Full-bodied, rich and round on the palate, with a lot of finesse and tension, this is on its way to develop into a beauty that combines contradictory attributes: richness and concentration with purity, density with finesse, and power with elegance. The finish is highly promising. This is one of the Mosel wines of 2014 you shouldn’t miss! 95-97 points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate March 2016
FOUNDING PARTNER – 2018 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling
It would be impossible to go through a hitlist from CellarHand’s 20th year without mentioning a wine from the family that unwittingly kicked off this whole idea. The story is well known: A young somm called Patrick Walsh wins the Frankland Estate International Riesling Tasting scholarship, goes to Germany and Austria and discovers mind-blowing wines that aren’t in Australia. He thinks it’s a travesty. He sets out to rectify it.
This inclusion isn’t naked nepotism, though. Frankland Estate is without doubt one of this nation’s finest Riesling producers. And in 2019 – a year that saw the Smith Cullam family pick up three trophies including Best Shiraz at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards – they also put out their best single-vineyard Rieslings to date. And given the precise character and quality of these wines over the years, that’s really saying something. “This is a lovely young wine,” said James Halliday; “such tension and energy here,” exclaimed Gary Walsh. “This outstanding wine is lovely now and the track-record shows it will age superbly,” declared Huon Hooke. And here’s Nick Stock’s verdict in full:
2018 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling RRP $43
OMG. Incredible complexity on the nose with crushed-stone, slate and lemon character. Some nutmeg and white pepper, too. Full-bodied with a crunchy and creamy palate that highlights the bitter-lemon and mineral flavours. Very, very long. Organic wine. Drink now. Screw cap. 96 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com July 2019
AGEING BEAUTY – 2013 F.X. Pichler Riesling Kellerberg Smaragd
Lucas Pichler, who owns a few pretty smart parcels, calls Kellerberg the “absolute model vineyard”. This vertiginous, barren and pure primitive-rock terrace is exposed from south to south-east and located at the exit of a side valley. It’s pampered by the sun early in the morning; each night, cool air streams in from the bordering woods to foster the complex textures and delicately nuanced, exotic aromas and flavours typical of its wine.
The cool 2013 vintage was a model harvest for Austria – to date, the best of the 21st century. The 2017 vintage of this wine – the last bottles still up for grabs – clocked in at 99 points chez James Suckling (a point less than the ’16, but that’s life). This 2013 was described at the time as “Crystalline… Gorgeous” by Jancis Robinson, whose drinking window ran conservatively to 2018. Around about now, its kaleidoscopic charms would be utterly mesmerising…
2013 F.X. Pichler Riesling Kellerberg Smaragd RRP $149
From the estate’s parade vineyard, the 2013 Riesling Smaragd Dürnsteiner Kellerberg displays a very rich and intense aroma of super-ripe and concentrated Riesling berries. Rich and powerful, but also precise, impressively concentrated and piquant on the palate, this well-balanced and highly elegant Riesling with its lemon and orange aftertaste is another signature wine of both the Wachau and the 2013 vintage. Its aging potential should be terrific. A serious, tension-filled Riesling of great expression, which I highly recommend. 95 points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate April 2015
RISING STAR – 2018 Shadowfax Macedon Ranges Chardonnay
It was a great year for Shadowfax for a number of reasons. This family-run estate has been with CellarHand since day one. It also shares a birthday with us. As well as turning 20 in 2019, Shadowfax also cemented the reputation of its Little Hampton vineyard. The 2018 was the only Pinot Noir to win back-to-back golds at both Sydney and Melbourne, and over the course of four vintages winemaker Al Timms has put this on the map as one of Australia’s finest Pinot Noir sites.
Macedon Ranges is mainland Australia’s emphatic answer to Tasmania, and there are some star growers nestled among its chilly, high-altitude vineyards. These days Shadowfax is leading the charge with value, consistency and quality.
2018 Shadowfax Macedon Ranges Chardonnay RRP $32
$34. Australia, I love you. Chardonnay is what we do best. Make hay. A bobbie dazzler of a wine. Excellent intensity and mouthfeel, good length, complex without getting all uppity about it. Straw-coloured, peach-driven, toasty, sparked with mineral. Celebratory Chardonnay. 94 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2019
2018 Shadowfax Little Hampton Pinot Noir RRP $62
Gold Medal, 2019 Sydney Royal Wine Show
Gold Medal, 2019 Royal Melbourne Wine Awards
MINERAL WEALTH – 2017 Matrot Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières
CellarHand’s foundations are steeped in natural acidity and set deep in slate, schist and limestone. That makes singling out a mineral winner from our portfolio a little tricky.
The one we’ve gone for comes from Domaine Matrot, whose wines shone like Elsa Matrot’s gleaming smile during our 20th Anniversary celebrations back in February. The 2017 shipment from Elsa and sister Adèle – who fully grasped the reins from their parents with the previous vintage – are a treasure trove. And there are plenty of gems still to discover from this stupendous sister act – with limited stocks of Perrières ’15 and ’16 still available, for instance. Organically farmed vines with an average age of 56 years, indigenous fermentation, no new oak, pure mineral awesomeness – that’s what makes this such a pulsating Perrières.
2017 Matrot Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières RRP $272
The 2017 Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières is excellent, offering up notes of lemon oil, white flowers, crushed oyster shell and wet stones. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, ample and layered with tangy acids, a tensile and tight-knit core, excellent mid-palate amplitude and a long, mineral finish. This is one of the most promising young white Burgundies I’ve tasted from Matrot. 94 points. William Kelley, Wine Advocate February 2019
CHEAP THRILL – 2019 Airlie Bank Pinot Noir
The intrigue and insane value offered by the Airlie Bank range made this a shoo-in for this title. Among the ‘19s, it’s perhaps between the skin-contact Gris and the Pinot – but we’re splitting hairs. What cements this as the cheap thrill of the year is impishly audacious Tim Shand going that extra mile once more – this time full revamping the range so a bolder, contemporary label mirrors the ingenuity, creativity and originality inside the bottle.
“I love the fact that it reflects our newfound confidence as winemakers,” Tim Shand told us. “The labels are inspired by Bauhaus design, a German art school (1919 to 1933) which encouraged artists and designers to collaborate with architects and builders to rebuild Germany after WW1, using only the simplicity of triangles, circles and squares.”
And so from relative simplicity – grapes grown on the estate’s vineyard in the Yarra Valley – Shandy has composed these delightfully engaging minor masterpieces.
2019 Airlie Bank Gris Fermented on Skins RRP $23
The 100% skins ferment is 30%, and we only kept this portion of the wine on skins for 48 hours. Conversely, we extended the 100% whole bunch ferments to 14 days as they were bright and robust. The increased intensity and fruit weight are fortunate, because it is required to match the texture and funk. All in all, it’s like the 2018 was, dialled up a few notches. So less ‘wet’ than the 2018, but pound-for-pound a better wine; there’s much more to chew on here. Lovely aromatics – musk, ripe strawberries, vanilla. – Tim Shand, Punt Road
2019 Airlie Bank Pinot Noir RRP $23
I love a wine that’s made for drinking pleasure first and foremost, and these Airlie Bank wines have that goal set firmly in their sights, or more specifically, perky-faced winemaker Tim Shand does. Nuts, cherry, raspberry, a little spice and sap. Fresh, bright, straight-down-the-line and juicy, some fresh strawberry acidity flavour and brightness on the finish, along with a gentle rasp of tannin. In some respects, has the easy drinking appeal of a bigger rosé, if you take my meaning. Regardless, it’s fun and very good to drink. And it’s nearly springtime, as I write. Spot on. 92 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
OVERSEAS OVERACHIEVER – 2018 Dominique Piron Beaujolais-Villages
Dominique Piron has been president of the Beaujolais growers’ association for the past few years, helping to see off its daggy, has-been image and usher in a new phase of accessibility with integrity. He, too, came over in February for our 20th Anniversary celebrations and won tasters over with his avuncular charm.
Dominique is the last person to lay claim to coolness, even as his beloved region seems to have been adopted by a pretty happening crowd. But he is accessible, exudes integrity and just gets it. What Beaujolais has is a versatile signature grape that makes anything from light, playful juice to serious, profound, structured cru-specific wines that tickle the fancy of the journeying wine nerd.
The Beaujolais-Villages features here for the ridiculous value; the Morgon is there to show the strength in depth of this 14th-generation (!) grower. And there, too, just check out that price/quality ratio!
2018 Dominique Piron Beaujolais-Villages RRP $27
They seem to have had a string of good vintages in Beaujolais, and I think I like the playful and fruity 2018s quite a lot. Fresh, raspberry and cherry, floral perfume. It’s light and juicy, but sports a bit of ‘mineral’ stuff and fine dusty tannin to keep it on the straight and narrow. Finish is fresh. It’s easy to like. 90 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front October 2019
2018 Dominique Piron Morgon Côte du Py RRP $46
MAGNUM RRP $92
Standing on the top of the blue schist terroir that is Morgon Côte du Py on a wonderfully sunny but utterly freezing morning is something that will live long in the memory. Côte du Py has upwards of 100 growers sharing it, Piron being well placed with 7ha, all planted at 10,000 vines per ha.
ALTERNATIVE FAVOURITE – 2018 Chalmers Nero d’Avola
Chalmers wins the alternative vote – that’s supposed to count as news? OK, point taken. But it’s predictable precisely because they’re the logical and worthy winners. Plus, as well as upping their game in a sport they’ve dominated for years – growing the best grapes from ahead-of-their-time varieties – they also gave the entire range a vital and brilliant makeover in 2019. The labels now hint at the personality and vibrancy of the Chalmers family, as well as championing their history, Heathcote dirt, organic grape-growing and low-fi winemaking.
The Nero is the hero for 2019, as we wanted a tip-top chillable red option on this list – but overlook at your peril one of the best Aussie rosés going.
2018 Chalmers Nero d’Avola RRP $27
Fleshy, jovial, gently sweet but fresh feeling wine of vim and vigour. Cherry-cranberry scents and flavours, more cranberry tang to taste, right through to tart-crunchy finish. Summery kind of wine with huge drinkability. Joyous stuff. 90 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front April 2019
2018 Chalmers Rosato RRP $27
Rosé made with 59% Aglianico (fermented in old oak), 31% Nero d’Avola and 10% Sagrantino. It’s both extremely pale and extremely characterful. It tastes of ripe, sweet cherries, anise, orange oil and blossoms, and grapefruit; it sounds odd, but it tastes delicious. 93 points. Campbell Mattinson, Halliday Wine Companion 2020
PRECISION PRIZE – 2017 Stefano Lubiana ‘Il Giardino’ Pinot Noir
Wow. As with the mineral wine, this is a category with so many candidates. As winelovers, we love geography and discovery. We love to zero in and, once we’re up close and personal, to see the dimensions expand. That’s what happens with the best vine parcels and most deft, unobtrusive custodians. And we’re so bloody lucky at CellarHand to have so many of these kinds of wines.
The one we’ve singled out is one of Steve and Monique Lubiana’s single-block releases from 2017. In fact we could equally have chosen any one of the three!
The beauty of it all is, of course, that you could buy the Primavera Pinot for a wonderful regional expression. You could buy the estate as a kind of ‘1er Cru Granton’. Or you can take the pick of those grand-cru climats, and right the way up the pyramid you’re onto a winner that marries place and variety with admirable definition.
2018 Stefano Lubiana Primavera Pinot Noir RRP $43
Juicy, bright Pinot Noir of dark cherry sour-sweetness in bouquet and palate, whiffs of clove and cinnamon, good sense of elegance and finesse, succulent tannin profile and good length of flavour. Power and grace hand-in-hand here. Lovely expression. 93 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front April 2019
2017 Stefano Lubiana Estate Pinot Noir RRP $69
Tasted blind. Savoury, an earthy Moroccan-spice scent sitting deep in the glass. Real bite and more friction in the tannins than most of the Pinots in this blind line-up. Sumac. Tamarind. A charge of pure red fruit, taut as a bow. Masses of undertow, building in intensity on the finish, rippling out like tiny seismic tremors. 18/20 Tamlyn Currin, jancisrobinson.com February 2019
2017 Stefano Lubiana ‘Il Giardino’Pinot Noir RRP $99
A Pinot built around a twine of whole cluster clove and cardamon-clad tannin, racing along a verdant undercarriage of cool climate acidity and biodynamic energy. Spiky and refreshing. Shins and elbows, but boy will this grow. Just give it time! This is Pinot for those who appreciate texture, while dwelling on intrigue. Lots of stuffing, poise and immense potential. 96 points. Ned Goodwin MW Halliday Wine Companion 2020
BIG WINNER – 2013 Huber Malterdinger Pinot Noir EN MAGNUM
There’s been a surge in uptake in magnums across the board, as there always is at this time of the year. (New Year’s resolution: Think big all year ‘round!) Plenty of 1.5-litre bottles filled with good wines leaves a lot of contenders here. “I always think there’s something rather wonderful about Riesling magnums,” Jancis Robinson said to us the morning after ’13 A. Christmann Idig GG was served at a Sydney dinner. Well, our winner is from Germany, but a rizza it ain’t.
This Malterdinger has enticing development, albeit arrested to a degree by the large format. And more to the point, it’s practically a Christmas giveaway at an RRP of $124!
2013 Huber Malterdinger Pinot Noir MAGNUM RRP $124
Spicy and sappy, smoky cherry and plum with oak well in the background. Light to medium bodied, spicy and undergrowthy, with crunch of acidity and a fine dusting of tannin. A bit minerally and has precision, without being too strict. Finish is good too. Likely better with a couple of years on it too, though attractive now. 92 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2016
BIO SENSUAL – 2017 Burn Cottage Vineyard Pinot Noir
A strong field with the likes of Wittmann, A. Christmann, Pittnauer, TWR, Stefano Lubiana, Ostertag and more in the mix for biodynamic wine of the year – with Ostertag’s ’17 Muenchberg Grand Cru Riesling just pipped to the title.
It’s Burn Cottage that takes the spoils. Alongside the ’17 from the estate’s original site in Cromwell, Central Otago, we’re giving special mention, to the ’16 Moonlight Race, which graced Jancis Robinson’s list of best festive buys in the Financial Times.
2016 Burn Cottage Moonlight Race Pinot Noir RRP $68
A light, fresh New Zealand answer to red burgundy. Very subtle, savoury and appetising. A great imprint on the palate. Long. 17/20 Jancis Robinson, Financial Times December 2019
2017 Burn Cottage Vineyard Pinot Noir RRP $92
This has very attractive, ripe red-cherry and plum aromas with spicy and sappy complexity, sitting in such a pure mode. The palate has a very composed and compact, layered feel with pristine blueberry, dark-cherry and plum flavors, delivered in an elegant, regal style. From biodynamically grown grapes. Drink or hold. 96 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com October 2019
EXOTIC THRILLER – 2017 Zorah Karasì Areni Noir
Zorik Gharibian and his wife Yeraz Tomassian were a pair of wildcard superstars at our 20th Anniversary. On a basic level, it was cool to have an Armenian producer in the mix with the Aussies, Kiwis, French, Italians, Germans and Austrians. But we didn’t quite anticipate how worldly, warm-hearted and fun-loving they were, splashing their classy, characterful ancient-vine wines around. They made so many friends and didn’t stop smiling. Life and soul the party, and a highly auspicious addition to the CellarHand family.
The latest wines arrived only recently. We’re now on our fourth vintage of the amphora-raised red, while the ’17 of the white is our second look at the equally individual, utterly enticing Voskì.
2017 Zorah ‘Voskì’ Voskeat Garandmak RRP $64
Ancient indigenous varieties, archaeological evidence suggests that both Voskèat and Garandmak have been present in Armenia for millennia. Voskèat translates as “golden seed” and is considered queen of Armenia’s grapes. It’s a delicate, gold-coloured grape with small, compact, relatively thin-skinned berries and bunches in the shape of a cross. Garandmak means “fat tail” and is one of the most popular grapes. It’s a much hardier variety, greenish yellow in colour, with larger, thicker-skinned berries and compact bunches.
Although both varieties are present throughout Armenia’s territory, the exceptional terroir of Vayots Dzor – with its high-altitude, low-vigour, phylloxera-free, rocky, sandy soils coupled with wide diurnal temperature range – yields distinctively balanced fruit. The grapes for Voskì are sourced from old vineyards at altitudes of 1400m from vines grown on original, ungrafted roots.
Fermentation with indigenous yeasts occurs in large, temperature-controlled concrete vats which are left rough deliberately to favour micro-oxygenation. Ageing then continues in concrete vats for eleven months with a further six months in bottle. Concrete is preferred to stainless steel as it allows the wine to breath over the maturation period. – Zorik Gharibian
2017 Zorah Karasì Areni Noir RRP $64
MAGNUM RRP $140
Redcurrant jelly, charred meat, cement, dried roses and dried herbs, black fruits in there too. It’s dry and meaty, with dry tannin, but does possess an intriguing perfume, sappy, and brambly, it’s somewhat uncompromising, yet charming too. Some cranberry like crunch to the acidity, with the fresh dry feel that cranberry juice has on a solid finish. Raspberry too, and a t urkish delight fragrance following. If you’re interested in the wider world of wine, I’d recommend giving this a go. 93 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front November 2019
BEST NEWCOMER – 2018 Corymbia Cabernet Sauvignon
Essentially the full range from Rob and Gen Mann are newcomers, and all of them newsworthy. This was quite a year for the Manns, whose Chenin Blanc was declared “the Next Big Thing” by Mike Bennie around about the time their 2017 red blend was winning WA Good Food Guide Wine of the Year and Jancis Robinson was gushing over the freshness, purity and accessibility of their inaugural Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River.
The new addition in 2019 was the Cabernet Sauvignon, from their Calgardup vineyard near Redgate Beach. It’s dazzlingly pure, with immaculate Cabernet fruit rippling with energy and a lick of Indian Ocean spray – an absolute tour de force.
2018 Corymbia Chenin Blanc RRP $32
This is bloody marvellous Chenin Blanc. It was made by Rob and Genevieve Mann from fruit grown on Tony Mann’s property. Sure, it was a very good year, but it has been handled deftly to capture all those essential goodies from a variety that sings from the Swan. Controlled tropical fruits, with minerally citrus character and a lively fine acidity, are in perfect balance. Just love the palate. 95 points. Ray Jordan, The West Australian February 2019
2018 Corymbia Tempranillo / Malbec / Cabernet RRP $43
Highly perfumed, pretty almost floral scents, violets come to mind, whiffs of blueberry/mulberry, green olive, a touch of clove woody spice, sarsaparilla and anise. Just lovely. Medium weight, sinewy feel, succulent and beautiful, fine web of clove-licked tannins, great energy here, bright and lengthy, fine, tight finish here. Has a ‘serious’ feel but also deliciousness. 95 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front November 2019
2018 Corymbia Cabernet Sauvignon RRP $64
Tannin. The final frontier for Australian wine, and here we boldly go. Split infinitives and superlatives to surely follow. Blackcurrant, dried herbs, nori, flowers. Medium-bodied, ample fruit, but dry and controlled, rolls of deep earthy and gravelly tannin, savoury flavours in the main, and a long finish, freshened with raspberry pip acidity. Beautiful expression of Cabernet here. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front June 2019
UNSUNG HERO – 2017 Wantirna Estate Amelia Cabernet Merlot
Maybe unsung hero doesn’t quite capture it – I mean the class and finesse of Wantirna Estate is hardly a well-kept secret. At the same time Reg Egan isn’t the type to big-note himself, and daughter Maryann has inherited that same modesty and discretion. Reg is exceptionally astute and has been tending this vineyard since 1963; it’s not like he doesn’t know how good these wines are. It’s just not his style to make too big a deal of it.
Which is where we come in. This Amelia is absolutely purring with purity, exuding elegance from every last infinitely fine grain of tannin.
2017 Wantirna Estate Amelia Cabernet Merlot RRP $87
Cabernets and Merlot from the original 1963 plantings, with 5% Petit Verdot coming off the 1989 plantings. All dry grown. Yarra Valley Cabernet from 2017 strikes me as being a more dense, compact year, with fine bones and lithe structure, and I like that very much.
Glorious Cabernet perfume of violet and pencil shavings, mint, blackcurrant and boysenberry, with the theme being intense small black fruit, I guess. It’s medium-bodied, dense and tightly knit, juiciness of blueberry and blackcurrant, layered in with more savoury tobacco flavour, graphite tannin, cool acidity, and a long, almost chocolaty finish. What a delight. Superb. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front October 2019
WARM APPLAUSE – 2017 Glaetzer Anaperenna
We’ve acknowledged the cool-climate “acid bias” in the portfolio – which is inevitably reflected in this list. So the least we could do is round out the reds with something from warmer climes.
With every release from Ben Glaetzer, we wonder anew at the wonders of these extraordinarily old vines and the intensity and depth they muster – allied to an almost uncanny elegance and evenness. It’s a dichotomy from which tremendous pleasure flows. Anaperenna edges the four releases from 2017, though as always it’s a close-run thing. This is the wine to gift those big-red lovers in your life if you care enough to give them some deft with the heft.
2017 Glaetzer Anaperenna Shiraz Cabernet RRP $55
I love what Glaetzer’s inclusion of Cabernet brings to the 2017 Anaperenna Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, giving it additional fragrance and length. Lifted aromas of mint, raspberries and dark chocolate mark the nose, while the full-bodied palate is rich and velvety but never heavy, framed by supple tannins that turn silky on the long, long finish. Showing great focus, energy and intensity, expect it to still be going strong in a decade. 97 points. Joe Czerwinski, Wine Advocate June 2019
SWEET THING – 2016 Gunderloch Rothenberg Riesling Auslese 375ml
You can’t get through the festive period without several sweet options up your sleeve. Thankfully we’ve got a few – Moscato d’Asti from G.D. Vajra and La Spinetta; rare, rack-dried Lambrusco from Chalmers; Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise from Pierre Amadieu; cane-cut Pinot Gris from Scorpo; even Vin de Paille Chardonnay from André Bonhomme. That’s before you get to the Auslese, BA, TBA and Eiswein options from Germany and Austria.
Of these latter we’ve picked Johannes Hasselbach’s lush and racy Auslese from the Rothenberg vineyard in Nackenheim. It’ s pure, distilled, concentrated joy in a bottle. But before you hoe into the dessert or blue cheese – both of which are heavenly pairings for this – you’ll find plenty of occasions to splash round Gunderloch’s exhilarating Spätlese from the same vineyard.
Sweet festive dreams, everyone.
2017 Gunderloch Rothenberg Riesling Spätlese RRP $74
That tension, that tussle between sweetness and acidity is just so well fought here. Compelling. It’s viscous, juicy, explosive and ‘mineral’. Honey, smoke. pineapple, candied ginger, and a wee bit of savoury cheese stuff. It moves on glistening rails of sugar and acidity: barley sugar and green apple acidity, to be more prosaic. Finishes long, sweet, but etched with acidity and powdery texture. Outstanding. 95+ points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front November 2018
2016 Gunderloch Rothenberg Riesling Auslese 375ml RRP $74
Lush and exotic in the nose, but oh so racy and brilliant on the palate, this is a stunning Auslese with a mineral finish that is filigree and intense. Best from 2018 through 2040. 95 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com September 2017