2017 Hickinbotham Vineyards The Nest Cabernet Franc, McLaren Vale, A$75

The Jackson family has breathed new life into the Clarendon Vineyard planted by Alan Hickinbotham Jr in 1971.  Extensive reworking of the vineyard has seen the fruit quality soar with Napa Valley maestro, Chris Carpenter weaving his magic over the wines.  The Nest is a pure cabernet franc that display the variety’s typical raspberry leaf and cedar bouquet with juicy raspberry and redcurrant flavours and a lick of spicy oak.  Cellar for five years or enjoy now with a rack of lamb.

NV Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut, Champagne, France, A$70/NZ$90

In a move to reformulate their flagship non-vintage Champagne, the de Nonancourt family has mailed the brief with their La Cuvée building on the purity and intensity that’s long been the Laurent-Perrier hallmark style.  La Cuvée is a blend of 100 cuv130es led by chardonnay with pinot noir and meunier in supporting roles.  Resting for more than four years and tweaked with a light dosage, La Cuvée is perfectly balanced, fine and long, its intense flavours building to an acid-etched crescendo.

2017 Campo Viejo Tempranillo Rioja DOCa, Rioja, Spain, A$22

Bodegas Camp Viejo was founded in 1959, as Spain shook off the miseries of war, international success came in the ‘90s with Elena Adell, who has been at the winemaking helm for 20 years, focusing on freshness and vitality.  This tempranillo sits at the entry level with the Reserva and Gran Reserva stepping up the quality ladder.  The 2017 has bright aromas of raspberry and red cherry with a whiff of liquorice and kola nut.  It’s mid weight with spicy flavours and a fine tannin spine.

2017 Curly Flat Chardonnay, Macedon Ranges, A$46

There’s been a quiet revolution at Curly Flat with Matt Harrop at the winemaking helm.  While Harrop didn’t make the ‘17s, he nursed them through their élevage and into bottle, and the 2017 Chardonnay is right on the mark.  It still has the hallmark Curly Flat depth and power but with a more refined structure.  The bouquet is of white peach and ruby grapefruit with hints of fennel seed and oatmeal biscuits.  Tight, fine and long with compact flavours of ripe stone fruits and creamy yeast lees.

2018 Foxeys Hangout Red Fox Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, A$30

Brothers Michael and Tony Lee bring their hospitality skills to their understated cellar door that boasts panoramic views across serried vines.  The wines are made on site and can be tasted in the cellar door kitchen.  The 2018 Red Fox Pinot is upfront and welcoming with perfumes of red cherry and wild strawberry backed by a whiff of autumnal undergrowth.  The palate is slinky and soft with both acid and tannins vying to sustain the finish.  Try with barbecued quail.

2018 Rosnay Freedom Grenache Carignan, Cowra, A$20

The Statham family has made a real commitment to sustainable agriculture and the energetic Sam has taken this philosophy a step further with his Freedom range of preservative-free wines now made on site.  There’s plenty of energy in this Rhone-style blend, its sour cherry and bitter chocolate aromas tinged with sun-baked bricks.  It’s a dangerously drinkable red with generous juicy flavours of dark plum and mulberry.

2017 Seppelt St. Peters Shiraz, Grampians, A$80

Adam Carnaby is on a roll, his latest suite of Seppelt wines right on the money.  His trio of 2017 Shiraz is a highlight – be it the Chalambar, the Mt Ida from Heathcote or here, the top-shelf St. Peters.  Carnaby reckons the 2017 vintage was quite classic with good winter rains and a long and warm season. Dark cherry and plum aromas mingle with star anise and white pepper.  Concentrated red berry fruits are framed by a swathe of gently persuasive tannins.  Delicious now, even better in 5 years.

2015 Cheval des Andes, Mendoza, Argentine, A$130

Here, Pierre Lurton (of Chateu Cheval Blanc fame) adds lustre to the Terrazas de Los Andes wines, the joint venture spawning this world-class red.  The super-suave 2015 Cheval des Andes is 69% malbec backed by cabernet sauvignon, intense mulberry and black currant aromas with a lift of dark mocha and a clove-like spice.  Concentration is the key to the palate with an ample volume of dark fruits and profound yet silken tannins to carry the finish.  Cellar for a decade to see its best.

2015 E. Duigal Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge, Rhône Valley, France, A$25

This benchmark Côtes-du-Rhône continues to sustain its reputation as an affordable and highly satisfying red.  The excellent 2015 vintage is a generous red made with 50% syrah, 40% grenache and 10% Mourvedre and unsullied by oak.  Aromas of dark plum and mulberry with a whiff of cinnamon and smoked charcuterie lead to a juicy, fleshy palate that’s tamed by fine graphite-like tannins.  Drink now and often.

2017 Warramunda Estate Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, A$50

Planted in the late ‘90’s by Rod Vogt, the Warramunda vineyard was then purchased by the Magdziarz family is 2007.  Things have happened fast with Ben Haines appointed winemaker in 2013.  Needless to say, with the gifted Haines in charge, the wines are terrific.  Fine and fragrant, the cranberry and maraschino cherry aromas are backed by a whiff of autumnal leaves.  The palate is precise and pleasing with generous red fruits and a savoury aftertaste.

2018 Spinifex Syrah, Barossa, A$29

Peter Schelle is a well-deserved finalist in the 2019 GT WINE Winemaker of the Year Awards.  His 2018 Syrah is an adroit counterpoint to Schell’s deeply complex Béte Noir yet still follows his typical methodology with a portion of whole bunches included – 30% in this case.  The oak regime is gentle allowing the fragrant red fruits to shine – lots of currants and cherries with a whiff of clove and allspice.  Juicy (red fruited) flavours abound with sleek tannins supporting the finish.  A delightfully approachable. Red.

2017 Vasse Felix Classic Dry Red, Margaret River A$19/NZ$19

The Vasse Felix wines just get better and better with the ode to its founder, the Tom Cullity at the pinnacle.  The flow-on effect is felt down through the ranks to this (oft overlooked) Classic Dry Red and its companion Classic Dry White.  The 2017 is shiraz-based with 12% malbec adding an extra oomph.  The bouquet is of ripe mulberry and dried sour cherry with a touch of dark chocolate.  Generous flavours and gentle tannins frame this dangerously drinkable red.

2014 Flowstone Queen of the Earth, Margaret River, A$74

Queen of the Earth is Stuart Pym’s top drop, a cabernet sauvignon sourced from an old vineyard in Wilyabrup. It shows all of the subregion’s characters with an abundance of blackcurrant and sour cherry, mocha and cedarwood aromas and a whiff of the region’s tell-tale seaweed. The palate is tightly coiled and responds to some air to reveal wild blackberry and boysenberry, cedary tannins an everlasting finale. Will happily cellar until 2030 and beyond.

2016 Pierre Gaillard Clos de Cuminaille Saint-Joseph, Rhône Valley, France, A$78

Pierre Gaillard’s eponymous brand dates back to 1985 following his apprenticeship at Vidal Fleury and E. Guigal. Clos de Cuminaille is a three-hectare east-facing, walled vineyard in Chavanay. The syrah vines are almost 30 years old with 30% new oak introduced in the élevage. Precision is the key with an amazing vitality and energy. The fruits are blackberry and Damson plum with cinnamon, clove and star anise. The tannins bring a plush textural richness to the elegant, fine-boned palate.

2017 Bernard Metrat Chiroubles, Beaujolais, France, A$30

Bernard Metrat presides over 10 hectares of vines, predominantly in the prestigious area of Fleurie called La Roilette. Metrat’s splendid Chiroubles comes from a plot of 60-year-old vines facing full south on a sandy granitic patch of soil. 2017 was a small hail-affected vintage but the few grapes harvested were superb. Bright crimson red set the scene with perfumes of red cherry and raspberry and succulent flavours to match. The finish is bright and breezy driven by a spark of juicy acidity.

2018 Gemtree The Phantom Red Blend Nine, McLaren Vale, A$50

The Phantom returns – for the ninth time. Mike Brown makes this elusive red each year, the blend crafted to evoke the best of the vintage. The inaugural Blend One, from the challenging 2009 season, was a Bordeaux-style red while the Blend Nine, from the more benign 2018 vintage, is mourvèdre’s turn in the limelight. It’s a surprisingly elegant wine with gorgeous red fruit aromas, hints of clove and aniseed. Medium weight with juicy mulberry flavours and a fine, energetic finish.

2016 Mitchelton Crescent SMG, Nagambie Lakes, A$28

It’s terrific to see the Mitchelton wines back on top form, and the value-packed Preece range is a winner. The Crescent is a characterful blend of shiraz, mourvèdre and grenache. Lifted dark cherry and plum aromas meld with plumcake spices and hints of sun-baked bricks. The flavours are ripe and juicy with good depth and richness with fully resolved tannins extending the finish. A joy now but will happily cellar for 3-5 years.

2017 La La Land Garnacha, Victoria, A$18

This is a rare gem – an easy drinking yet characterful red with a Spanish flair. La La Land is a standalone brand from the Wingara Wine Group, which boasts a solid portfolio of Australian vineyards and brands with Katnook Estate at the apex. Vermentino, tempranillo and a savoury rosé are just part of the La La Land range with this luscious Garnacha the headline act. Ripe cherry and raspberry aromas morph to cinnamon and paprika spices. Generous red fruit favours fill the mouth with a raft of fine tannins sealing the deal.