Tom Barry named GTW Young Winemaker of the Year

Tom won the Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine Young Winemaker of the Year Award in Sydney last night. ‘To be honoured by your peers with an award such as this is a very humbling experience,’ Tom Barry said when he accepted the award. ‘With so many young Australian winemakers making their mark and producing some outstanding wines, this award is something I’m very proud of.’

tom_barry_bannerThe 27-year-old Tom is a third generation winemaker at Jim Barry Wines, founded by his grandfather Jim and his wife Nancy established Jim Barry Wines in 1959. Tom’s father Peter has been the guiding hand of the modern Jim Barry operation.

‘Grandpa would be very proud of me right now — he was always an inspiration — from a young age I used to follow him around the winery and watch what he was doing,’ Tom said. ‘From those moments, I pretty much knew what I wanted to be.

After graduating in 2010 from the University of Adelaide Waite Campus (formally Roseworthy Agricultural College), Tom went to work in with Dr Ernst Loosen in the Mosel Valley in Germany for the 2010 vintage. In 2011, Tom worked through a vintage at Weingut Salomon in Austria. ‘I used the time in Germany and Austria to learn as much about Riesling as I could,’ Tom said. ‘In my opinion, Riesling is still under-recognised in this country. In Clare we have some of the world’s greatest Riesling vineyards, and in the future I can see a huge world demand for these clean, pure bone-dry styles.’

Tom added that ‘Mum and Dad were very emotional when I told them about the award — I’m very lucky to have such a loving and supporting family.’

At BWU$20, we’ve long been huge fans of Jim Barry Wines’ Rieslings. The Watervale Riesling is often up there with the best from Clare, and is often discounted down to $13. As Andrew Mitchell said: ‘The Clare Valley is blessed with the unpopularity of Riesling.’

Tim Kirk from Clonakilla was named Winemaker of the Year for 2013. Iain Riggs, chief winemaker and managing director of Brokenwood won the prestigeous Len Evans Medal for Leadership. Details here


Australia cleans up at Decanter World Wine Awards

Australia won 6 of 32 trophies awarded by the judges, in competition with a staggering 14,000 entries. ‘Australia’s wine industry is blessed with many talented individuals,’ DWWA chairman Steven Spurrier said, ‘and here we see that hard work on both small family-owned vineyards and at larger wineries has kept the country at the top internationally.’ READ MORE

bh-shirazAustralia’s six DWWA 2013 International Trophy winners are:

Riesling over £15Eden Springs, High Eden Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia 2008

Chardonnay over £15Josef Chromy, Chardonnay, Tasmania 2011

White Single-Varietal under £15 – McGuigan, Bin 9000 Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales 2007

Red Rhône Varietal over £15 – Credaro Family Estate, Beach Head Shiraz, Margaret River, Western Australia 2011

Red Blend over £15 – Penfolds, Bin 389 Cabernet-Shiraz, South Australia 2010

Sweet Fortified under £15 – Campbells, Topaque, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia NV

Interesting is that 4 out of these 6 winners come from small wineries. Eden Springs is now called Gatt Wines, but I have no idea where you can buy the trophy winner. Same goes for the Joseph Chromy Chardonnay 2011 – you can buy the 2012 from the winery. The Credaro Beach Head Shiraz 2011 has sold out at the winery and is not for sale anywhere else.

Not surprising is that McGuigan’s Hunter Valley Semillon 2007 is nowhere to be found either. You can buy the current version (2012) for $12 at Winestar, however. Rutherglen Topaque, on the other hand, is available for less than $20 for a 375ml bottle from lots of places. Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2010 is also not hard to get hold of; it’s currently on sale at Dan Murphys for $53.

The DWWA 2013 results are available online now at with the International Trophy results following on 5 September 2013.


Bargain Wines in James Halliday’s 2014 Wine Companion

Yes, it’s out already and James has played it safe by naming Penfolds his winery of the year. No bargains there – we would’ve given Penfolds the GREED IS GOOD, MORE GREED IS BETTER award.

His top lists include quite a few wines under $25. They’re all 96 points unless it says otherwise:

Knappstein hand-picked Riesling 2012                                                                 

$17 at Winestar, haven’t tried it, gets 94 points from Stelzer and Stock

West Cape Howe Riesling 2012

$18 at 1st Choice. Looks like 2012 was a great Riesling year over West too.

Plantagenet Mount Barker Riesling 2012

$20 at MyCellars. Plenty of flavour, less lemon, more minerals, tight structure, impressive.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2012                                                                                         

$23 at Dan M’s, not one of our top Rieslings – squeaky clean as usual

Frogmore Creek Chardonnay 2011                                                                          

We’ve listed this as one of our stand-outs, $23 at My Cellars

Mountadam High Eden Chardonnay 2011

$26 at Winestar Not as big as the 2010 but just as well made, elegant with a creamy texture

Fraser Gallop Estate Parterre Chardonnay 2012                                                                          

The 2011 was terrific, and the 2012 is just out –  $26 at WineOnline

Peter Lehmann Margaret Semillon 2007                                                              

This is also on our Best Wines under $25 list. $24 at Kemenys. Great alternative to Hunter Semillons

Chateau Francois Pokolbin Semillon 2007                                                           

Don Francois is still making great Semillons at bargain prices that you can only buy from the winery by mail order.

Terre a Terra Down to Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2012                                          

New label from Wrattonbully. The vineyard is next to Brian Croser’s Tappanappa’s Whalebone vineyard, the wine is made by Christian Bizot (ex-Bollinger) who happens to be married to Brian Croser’s daughter Lucy. The wine is $20 at Winestar.

Delatite Dead Man’s Hill Gewuerztraminer 2012                                             

Long a favourite of ours, it’s just $21 at Dan M’s

The bargain reds are far fewer in number, not sure why

2010 Paringa Estate PE Pinot Noir

$25 at Nicks – big, plush style, 14.5%

Castle Rock Estate Pinot Noir 2011

From the Great Southern in W.A. We haven’t tried it but it gets 96 from Halliday, 95 from Ray Jordan and 94 from the Winefront. $26 at MyCellars

Belgravia Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

From a great winery near Orange, NSW. The wine is about $22 if you can find any – I couldn’t, not even at the winery.

Evans and Tate Metricup Road Cabernet Merlot 2011

I was surprised to see this $16 wine listed ahead of Vasse Felix Heytesbury and Penfolds Bin 389 but, as we keep telling you: 2011 was a tough year in most of Australia, except for the Hunter Valley and the West – Margaret River had perfect vintage conditions for Cabernet and Merlot. When we tasted it, we were not as impressed as JH. We’d probably rate it 91/92. It has good fruit but lacks depth and length.

Seppelt Chalambar Shiraz 2009 – $18 at WineSellersDirect 

Not much of this left, but the 2010 is said to be as good.

Purple Hands Old Vine Grenache 2012 – $23 at MyCellars

From a great year in the Barossa, made by a 5-star outfit. Should be good.

Ducks in a Row Tempranillo Graciano Mataro 2011 – $25 at MyCellars

Not such a great year, but this wine still gets 96 from JH.


By Philip White, August 6, 2013

So before I went off to raise a glass in memory of the great Peter Lehmann, the hero of the small growers of the Barossa, I stood there shaking my head in the newsagency.  In the valley that boasts of its dedication to its peasant-scale grapegrowers, its fine local produce and its Slow Food movement, the valley which would not even permit a McDonalds to open in the industrial zone of Nuriootpa …

The valley which now seems proud to be just another outpost of the Woolworths liquor empire; the centre of a business dedicated to selling, not premium wine, but that brave new commodity called discount.’



Australia’s best wines, for less than $30

We told you so, and 3 new benchmarks prove it again

When we built this site, we said there was little correlation between price and quality, and that $20 wines often beat $80 wines in shows and competitions. We cited these examples from 2012:

·         A $17 Richard Hamilton Shiraz 2010 won the 2012 Visy Great Aussie Shiraz Challenge

·         A $20 Thorn-Clarke red won the 2012 Great Australian Red Challenge against all comers

·         James Halliday gave Teusner’s $18 Riebke Shiraz 96 points, and Penfolds $700 Grange 95 points.

A new trifecta for 2013

This last month, we saw a similar set of results which supported our premise that you don’t have to spend much more than $25 to buy superb Aussie wines:

·         In a South Australian tasting, consumers gave a $17 Robert Oatley Shiraz 2011 the same score as the 2008 (perfect 100 point) $785 Grange

·         In a Winestate magazine tasting for the World’s Greatest Shiraz Challenge VIII, a $30 Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz 2010 beat over 700 reds from France, South Africa, NZ and Australia

·         In a Gourmet Traveller Wine feature tasting of the best Aussie Cabernets, a $28 Xanadu 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon took the top spot against wines costing 4-5 times more.

The Robert Oatley Shiraz sold out pretty fast in South Australia, but you can still buy it for $17 at Kemenys and Dan Murphy’s. Late in June, the Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz 2010 was on sale at Wine Online at 15% off for $25.50. The Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is hard to get now but we tracked it down at Winemakers Choice for $28.

I preferred the 2010, which is still available from Winestar or Dan M’s for $30, and even less at Bonds Corner Fine Wines. If you like a bit more age, Kemenys still has the 2008 in stock for $28.

Why is it always reds?

It’s a macho thing, I suspect. The wine trade is ruled by men, and most of the men seem to see RED when thinking about serious wines. However, we can easily make up a list of 3 top whites ourselves:

·         Pewsey Vale Riesling 2012 is one of the best Rieslings from a great year, and costs just $15. You can pay a lot more for great Rieslings but you won’t find much better in my view.

·         Hoddles Creek Chardonnay 2012 is a lovely Chardonnay you can buy for just $19. I can’t think of a Chardonnay that better than this under $50.

·         There’s one exception: Mountadam High Eden Chardonnay 2010 – still in stock at MyCellars for $29. This wine topped a tasting of Aussie Chardies in London, judged by Andrew Jefford, Anthony Rose and Jancis Robinson. It was up against top Chardonnays from Cullen, Leeuwin Estate, Giaconda, Penfolds (Yattarna), Petaluma, Tapanappa, Coldstream Hills, By Farr, Pierro, Tyrrell’s Vat 47, Oakridge and  Shaw + Smith.

In other words, just about everybody who’s anybody was there.  Nice Going, Con Moshos!

So what do you get for the extra $50 or $100?

A few extras, among them:

·         Wines made from carefully selected fruit

·         Wines that’ve had the full bag of winemaking tricks thrown at them

·         Wines that have been stored in expensive new oak barrels

·         Fancy names / labels / brands, for example Yattarna – also known as the ‘White Grange’

Do these all these things add up to making better wine? Clearly not, or the results would reflect it. Time and time again, they don’t. What you do get, and you can tell that from tasting the wine, is evidence of special treatment – more fruit extract, more aromatics, more fancy oak, more polished mouth feel and so on. It’s the equivalent of a car optioned up to the hilt with walnut dash, leather seats and super sound system.

Winemaking is a tricky business, with more volatile elements in the process than most kinds of productions. That’s nothing to complain of since it’s a big advantage for us. All we have to do is put aside our preconceived ideas of labels and prices, much as we’ve learned to ignore meaningless medals from our broken wine show system. . 

Peter Lehmann dead at 82

Peter Lehmann was the heart and soul of the Barossa, and he was all the things the Barbarians who raided the valley time and time again were not. He spat in the eyes of the corporate raiders, time and again, at great personal risk. He remained the Peter Lehmann everybody knew right to the end.
Photo by Milton Wordley
Here’s more, with some short quotes that say a lot about Peter.
And here’s more from Philip White, in his inimitable style.
Wine-tasting: it’s junk science

Experiments have shown that people can’t tell plonk from grand cru. Now one US winemaker claims that even experts can’t judge wine accurately. What’s the science behind the taste?

Woman tasting red wine

Photograph: A G Holesch/Getty Images/Imagebroker RF

‘Results from the first four years of the experiment,’ says the article, ‘showed a typical judge’s scores varied by plus or minus four points over the three blind tastings. A wine deemed to be a good 90 would be rated as an acceptable 86 by the same judge minutes later and then an excellent 94.’

Another quote that is telling: ‘Only about 10% of judges are consistent and those judges who were consistent one year were ordinary the next year … Chance has a great deal to do with the awards that wines win.’

(This story feeds into the same problem the next story exposes from a very different angle.)


Rudy Kurniawan: the biggest wine scandal of them all

So big it will poison the auction market for rare Burgundy for years

‘Millions if not tens or hundreds of millions of counterfeit wines are sold every year,’ said energy billionaire William Koch after he won a lawsuit against a consigner who’d sold him counterfeit bottles of old Bordeaux, some of it from Jefferson’s time. ‘The counterfeiters don’t want anyone to know, for $100 they make it and mark it up to $15,000, I myself paid $100,000 for a counterfeit wine. To me the whole industry is corrupt.’

Wine scandals are pretty common, perhaps because wine is such a fickle commodity. Even experts and experienced people in the trade are often taken in, which brings us back to one of my favourite topics: the difficulty of judging wine. The older the wines are, the more difficult they are to judge.

The usual kind of wine scam involves passing off cheap wine as something better and getting more money for it. That’s what happened from 2006 to 2008 in the USA, after the movie Sideways had ridiculed Merlot and Americans turned to Pinot Noir. E & J Gallo was found to be selling an $8 French Pinot Noir under its Red Bicyclette label that was mostly made from Merlot and Syrah – some 18 million bottles of it, worth nearly $5.5 million.

High Rollers, Big Stakes

At the other end of the quality scale, the stakes were sky high. The Koch vs Greenberg case that produced the quote above involved a German collector called Hardy Rodenstock who’d supplied the wines to Greenberg, and proved extremely unhelpful when it came to nominating the source he’d bought them from. Benjamin Wallace wrote a book about the episode under the title ‘The Billionaire’s Vinegar,’ which would drag UK fine wine expert Michael Broadbent into the affair. Broadbent successfully sued the book’s publisher Random House for defamation of character.

The Rudy Kurniawan scandal played out on an even tighter high wire, among the high rollers of fine wine, among auctioneers of fabled labels, among wealthy hunters and collectors. It played out in the finest restaurants in Los Angeles and New York, in the auction rooms of houses with big reputations and in a private home where a skilful blender rebirthed great bottles of the finest wines in the world.  

In March 2012, FBI agents arrested Kurniawan at his home in Arcadia, a suburb of Los Angeles, and charged him with multiple counts of wire and mail fraud. Apparently the FBI agents discovered a fully equipped counterfeiting factory, with scores of bottles and thousands of fake labels for top wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux. It didn’t take long for the fine wine trade to realise that this scam was so extensive it would leave the market for rare old wines corrupted for decades.


Grant Burge Filsell 2010 voted World’s Greatest Shiraz

Winner of Winestate Magazine’s World’s Greatest Shiraz Challenge VIII

5 June 2013

The Filsell Shiraz 2010 beat over 700 international Shiraz reds from France, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. ‘I couldn’t be prouder of our Filsell Shiraz,’ Grant Burge said as he celebrated the award. ‘We’ve won 5 major trophies, 22 gold medals and 47 silver medals since Filsell’s release in 1992.’

Grant attributed the wine’s success to the unique Barossa vineyard which gives the wine its name. The vines are over 90 years old, planted in the traditional style, and still bearing exceptional quality fruit. ‘It is one of the few significant survivors of the vine pull scheme of the early 1980s,’ says Grant, ‘and it crams character into each berry.”

He said the 2010 Filsell Shiraz had incredible depth of colour and a rare purity of fruit in the bouquet. ‘The 2010 vintage was a great year and it has all of those ripe blackberry and blackcurrant aromas infused with rich vanilla and milk chocolate notes. The palate is beautifully weighted, with optimal balance between concentrated fruit flavours, sweet spices, tannins and acidity.’

What does this award really mean?

These Best of comps are extremely silly, and usually produce pretty odd results. We don’t know what wines were included in the 700 tasted by Winstate – Grange 2008? Grant’s own Meshach? The details will be published in the September edition of Winestate Magazine, due out in Ausgust.

Photo source:

James Halliday gives it 94 points and so does Gary Walsh at the Winefront. Campbell Mattinson gives it 93 and Mike Bennie gives it just 90, finding the oak a bit much – spicy, nougat, toasty, chocolatey.

For once, we’re with the high scorers except that we think the 2010 Filsell deserves at least 95 points. It’s a classy Shiraz with fragrant sweet fruit and seamless cedary oak. It has depth and length and surprising finesse. 14%. Good to drink now but will improve for a few years. Its’just $28.50 at Dan Murphy’s in a mixed half dozen.


Buying Wine Online – the smart way

For once, the lazy way is the best way to shop

last week, one of our subscribers wrote in and asked why I didn’t mention BWS as a wine retailer. He and his partner buy most of their wine there, because there’s a BWS right next to the Woolworths supermarket they buy their groceries at. The answer is terribly simple: You won’t find good deals at BWS unless they have a 30% off sale on.

Sure, there are lots specials in the shop but they’re usually modest discounts off inflated retail prices. We’ve left out Liquorland for the same reason. Just to recap, Woolworths owns Dan Murphys, BWS and Cellarmasters, while Coles owns Vintage Cellars, Liquorland and 1st Choice. More details in Woolworths and Coles, Masters of Wine?


Decanter World Wine Awards 2013 – Everyone’s a winner, babe


Decanter tells us that judges at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards ‘tasted a record-breaking 14,362 wines and awarded nearly 10,000 medals … This year, 219 wine experts from 27 countries, including 75 Masters of Wine and 13 Master Sommeliers, gathered in London in April to taste 14,362 wine entries from around the world …

This is fascinating, and proof of the ridiculous waste of time these events are: ‘A total of 9,873 wines were awarded a Decanter medal: 156 Regional Trophies, 229 Gold medals, 1,665 Silver medals, 4,165 Bronze medals, and 3,658 Commendeds.’

That means 2 out of 3 wines at this Galah Event scored a medal of some sort. I rest my case.


Perfect Grange in Ugly Discount War


The Perfect Grange was off to an imperfect start today

Today, Grange 2008 was finally offered for sale to the public, along with Penfolds’ other icons and luxury goods. ‘Rock stars, restaurateurs and loyal mum and dad fans rubbed shoulders at the cold crack of an Adelaide dawn this morning,’ News Ltd reported, ‘ waiting for celebrated winemaker Peter Gago to open the Magill Estate doors and officially pull the first cork on the much anticipated Penfolds 2008 Grange.’

A few hours later, Fairfax media reported that ‘a price war has broken out among retailers hoping to lure buyers of the “perfect” 2008 Penfolds Grange with the lowest over-the-counter price.’ Dan Murphy’s started the war at $669, and then dropped the price to $649.99 to match Costco. Even the normally sensible Winestar got into the act with a $679.99 offer. READ MORE

Penfolds Icon and Luxury Goods 2013


Phantasy, Propaganda and Profiteering

Today is the official release of Penfolds 2013 Icon and Luxury Range, accompanied by the usual hype about the exulted status of these wines. Wines? No, we’re dealing with nectar from the gods. That’s what most of our wine writers tell us. Lisa Perotti-Brown from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave the 2008 Grange 100 points, and Penfolds promptly cranked the price up another $100.

In this post we examine what happens when wine becomes a status symbol, or Haute Couture to be paraded in front of an audience of admiring fans, wealthy investors and aspirants. It stops being wine, for one thing …  READ THE REST