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Wine

Discover our Top 12 Reds of 2017

2017 was a super-busy year for our Panel who tasted and rated over 4,000 wines. With so many wines in the running, the Best Wines of the Year is always a hotly contested list and this year was no exception.

From tried and true varietal champions like Hunter Valley and Great Southern Shiraz, to fabulous blends such as Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre from the Barossa, plus magical Margaret River Malbec, here are the Top 12 Reds that really stood out from the crowd and wowed all of our Panellists.

View our Top 12 white wines here.

Howard Park Flint Rock Shiraz 2015, Great Southern

In the glass: Deep purple. 
On the nose: Black plum, blackberry, pepper and vanillin oak. 
On the palate: Black, blue and purple fruits, subtle peppery depth and great balance of tannins and acidity. Rich, flavoursome and intense yet elegant.
RRP $26 or $22.10 per bottle in any dozen.  

Kaesler Stonehorse Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2014, Barossa Valley

In the glass: Medium density red. 
On the nose: Complex lift of dark berry, plum, cedar and earth. 
On the palate: Medium to full bodied with a core of black fruit and layers of cassis and vanilla. Silken with balanced tannins giving a rich, velvety texture. 
RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen. 

Lou Miranda Leone Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Barossa Valley

In the glass: Full red garnet. 
On the nose: Bright plum, currant, cassis, mint and cedar. 
On the palate: Full bodied with a core of black and blue fruit, firm yet ripe tannins and vibrant acidity. Savoury with hints of liquorice, spice and dried herb. 
RRP $22.95 or $19.51 per bottle in any dozen. 

Erin Eyes Gallic Connection Cabernet Malbec 2015, Clare Valley

In the glass: Deep red.      
On the nose: Blackberry, mulberry, bay leaf and vanillin oak. 
On the palate: Powerful yet poised with saturated black fruits, well-judged supporting oak, fine and persistent tannin drive and balancing acidity. 
RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen. 

Leconfield Merlot 2016, Coonawarra

In the glass: Bright red black. 
On the nose: Powerful aromas of black cherry concentrate with flashes of spearmint and eucalypt.  
On the palate: Generous kirsch, mulberry and cassis with dense inky power, a velvety core and deluxe 
oak harmony.  
RRP $26 or $22.10 per bottle in any dozen. 

Helen & Joey Inara Pinot Noir 2016, Yarra Valley

In the glass: Pale to mid ruby. 
On the nose: Pure, fresh red berry, floral perfume. 
On the palate: Vibrant and silken with delicious strawberry and blueberry depth, tea-like notes, fine tannins and a complete finish. Packs so much flavour into a lighter-bodied wine. Gorgeous. 
RRP $23 or $19.55 per bottle in any dozen. 

Tyrrell's Wines Special Release Shiraz 2014, Hunter Valley

In the glass: Brilliant deep purple.
On the nose: Violet, plum, blackberry and black pepper. 
On the palate: Shows power and finesse. Loaded with spicy black fruit depth with on-point acidity and savoury tannins driving the long finish. 
RRP $40 or $34 per bottle in any dozen.

Dandelion Vineyards Red Queen of the Eden Valley Shiraz 2013, Eden Valley

In the glass: Deep purple. 
On the nose: Plum, blackberry, graphite, pepper and clove. 
On the palate: Layered and complex, it opens with savoury black fruits, an alluring spice complexity and fine yet deep tannins.
RRP $100 or $85.00 per bottle in any dozen

David Hook Reserve Barbera 2016, Hunter Valley

In the glass: Medium density red. 
On the nose: Plum, bramble, black olive and tobacco aromas.
On the palate: Medium weight with typical varietal freshness showing vibrant plummy fruit, savoury tannins and a touch of cigar box on the finish. A lovely young Barbera with plenty potential. 
RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen. 

Kimbolton Fig Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Langhorne Creek

In the glass: Full dark red. 
On the nsoe: Classic Cabernet red berry, currant, cassis and cedar lift. 
On the palate: Beautifully textured and deep yet only medium weight with a varietal core of black fruit, cassis and crushed leaf. 
RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. 

Hay Shed Hill Malbec 2015, Margaret River

In the glass: Intense red black scarlet. On the nose: Hugely concentrated black cherry with interwoven complex notes of black pepper, currant and spicy oak. 
On the palate: A gentle giant with super-ripe, glossy black cherry fruit power, beautiful velvety texture and deluxe spicy oak support. Classy! 
RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen. 

Riorret Lusatia Park Pinot Noir 2016, Yarra Valley

In the glass: Vibrant mid-red. 
On the nose: Sweet cherry and raspberry fruit with notes of stalk and spice. 
On the palate: Vibrant and fresh, supple and juicy with ripe cherry and plum, subtle stalky complexity, warm earthy notes and integrated vanillin oak. 
RRP $50 or $42.50 per bottle in any dozen.

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Wine
Intellectual property
Words by Mark Hughes on 8 Apr 2016
There’s something remarkably special in the hills outside of Canberra. With a truly unique heritage, this ‘thinking person’s wine region’ has taken just four decades to emerge as one of Australia’s premium wine areas. What do you get when two etymologists meet with a biochemist to talk about wine? It almost sounds like the opening line to a joke, but it is in fact a crucial moment in the birth of the Canberra District wine region. In 1970 CSIRO etymologists Dr Edgar Riek and Ken Helm found they had a mutual interest in wine and started up a wine club. Biochemist Dr John Kirk came along to the first meeting. Within a couple of years the three of them had started their own vineyards, and in so doing, began what is recognised today as one of Australia’s most exciting wine regions. In 1971 John planted in Murrumbateman, founding Clonakilla, while Edgar planted on the shore of Lake George for Lake George Winery. Ken set vines not far from John in a tranquil setting now referred to as Helm’s Valley in 1973. Other wine interested folk followed suit, setting up vineyards, including more scientists, helping the Canberra wine region to blossom. These include Lark Hill Winery’s Sue and John Carpenter who have doctorates in statistics and applied mathematics respectively, Dr Roger Harris, who founded Brindabella Hills Winery, and Lerida Estate’s Jim Lumbers, both CSIRO alumni. With so much collective brain power, the Canberra District really is the thinking person’s wine region. It is a unique history and something that truly sets Canberra apart from any other wine region in Australia, perhaps the world. But as Ken, who still mans the cellar door located in a former 19th century schoolhouse at Helm Wines, says, it has been a both a blessing and a hindrance. “Many other wine regions are started by medicos and barristers with high disposal incomes. Canberra was started by academics, who didn’t have much money, so it was really a bootstrap operation,” he says. “It was one of the difficulties because the district had very good research minds, but not a lot of commercial knowledge. It wasn’t until 1980 that the first qualified winemaker came to the district. We were fascinated – having that academic background we learned to question and think and be innovative. If there was a seminar or short course we went to it, slowly developing techniques of how to get the best out of the area.” Initially, the district had to fight against critics who said it was too cold, or suffered from too many frosts, that the wines were green and that it would never be a premium wine region. The scientist put themselves through wine courses, where most probably knew more than their teachers. The winemaking improved and the wines started to confirm the enormous potential of the region. Ken started turning heads with numerous awards for his Riesling, Edgar earned rave reviews for his Pinot Noir, while John won awards for his Clonakilla Shiraz. His son, Tim, who took over as chief winemaker in 1996, made the wine world stand to attention when his Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier won Wine of the Year Award at the New South Wales Wine Awards.Canberra’s Eden Road Winery did likewise when they won the 2009 Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for best red in the country with their Shiraz. Nowadays, the Canberra District is regarded as one of the best in the country, confirmed by the fact that 75 per cent of the region’s 40 or so wineries have a four star or more rating by esteemed wine critic James Halliday. The lay of the land It is a curious feature of the Canberra wine region that only one winery, Mount Majura, is actually located within the Australian Capital Territory, the others are located north of the city in NSW. Frank van der Loo, winemaker at Mount Majura, champions Spanish varietals Tempranillo and Graciano alongside the region’s flagships of Riesling and Shiraz . He says their vineyard site was actually chosen by Edgar Riek. “Edgar chose the site from a geology map and was attracted to a patch of limestone on an east-facing slope. It is quite a unique little patch of dirt, and a great site for vines,” says Frank. The rest of the Canberra wine district falls into three sub-regions. The first is just 15 minutes out of Canberra along the Barton Highway at Hall. This area is situated at around 550 metres high and is blessed with gorgeous rolling hills that fall away to a twisting Murrumbidgee River. It is here that Roger and Faye Harris set up Brindabella Hills in 1986. “The main concern in this district is frost, so we looked for a spot with good cold air drainage,” Roger tells me over a glass of Riesling. “The vineyard is actually on a ridge that juts out over the Murrumbidgee Valley and there is a 100-metre drop to the valley floor, so that absorbs the cold area for most frost events.” As well as Shiraz, Cabernet and Riesling (ask Roger for some glorious aged Riesling he is hiding), Brindabella Hills is experimenting with the Italian Sangiovese varietal, which is ideal to sip at their picturesque Tuscan-inspired cellar door that has breath-taking views over the Murrumbidgee.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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