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Vintage 2017 update

Hunter Valley, NSW

Tyrrell's Wines - Bruce Tyrrell, Managing Director

The outlook is great for our winemaking friends in the Hunter Valley, including Tyrrell's Wines whose Managing Director, Bruce Tyrrell wrote in his report when their Hunter vintage finished in February:

"As I write this our Hunter Vintage is over apart from 3 tonnes of Cabernet, which has got at least a week to go and hopefully it survives the rain this weekend. We finished picking this morning with Pokolbin Hills Shiraz, the end of Stevens Glen Oak and DeBeyers Sangiovese."

"It is only 35 days since we started picking Chardonnay for sparkling, and I think we will all remember this Vintage for the joy of picking clean fruit, and no mud. At the end of the day we have some very good wine in the cellar, our tonnages are about spot on budget, and we have a month to wait until we start in Heathcote."

You can read Bruce's full vintage experience here .

Yarra Valley, VIC

Rob Dolan Wines - Rob Dolan, Managing Director/Winemaker

It's a 9/10 at the half way mark of Vintage 2017 and it looks like the Yarra Valley has been fortunate on the weather front. After a cool early summer and a nervous January/Feb an amazing early Autumn spread through the Yarra. It looks like a vintage from the "naughty nineties" - cool/mild with evenly balanced crops, excellent acidity, ripe flavours and tannin structure.

Pinot Noir will be a standout with crops on most vineyards down 20% however some vineyards will achieve their expected average. Chardonnay/Pinot Gris have bountiful flavour and fresh, crisp acidity and balance. Picking of Shiraz/Cab Sauv and other red varietals is now underway after a few days of thundery weather and light rain.

A Yarra vintage to put in the "black book" as there will be some beautiful wines across all vineyards and wine companies.

McLaren Vale, SA

d'Arenberg Wines - Chester Osborn, Chief Winemaker

It's been a very late vintage compared to recent years. The last part of summer and the start of autumn were very dry. What normally is cool climate here in the McLaren Vale, leading to fragrant floral wines, has been aided by the very dry weather. The deep geology and water availability in the roots leads to greater concentration of fruit.

Whites are looking outstanding, the best for years and the reds - where do I start? Shiraz is looking beautiful, very aromatic and spicy, with strong fragrant length. Many are elegant, but strongly persistent. Bolder. Great fragrant fruit length. Cabernets and Grenache also looking outstanding, but it's still early days for those varieties. All reds have great potential this year.

Margaret River, WA

Flying Fish Cove - Brett House, CEO

Vintage 2017 has been a more traditional year than the past few, with whites throughout the region being harvested later in February and well into March, yields have been strong on most white varieties, after being lower than normal over the past few years. Whilst it is still too early to predict the quality of the year, all signs appear to suggest another strong one.

The reds are still some time off, again signifying a more traditional harvest. There has been a small amount of rain during March, which also slows down the ripening process, all grower reports have been positive to date.

Redgate Winery - Joel Page, Head Winemaker

It's been a relatively mild summer with good yields on all varieties. The fruit flavours have developed early considering the baumes, but late considering the date. All the whites have shown higher levels of malic acid considering the cooler year. The whites are brightly aromatic and look great.

On to the reds; we are expecting some lower baumes, but well developed flavour and tannin structure. Hopefully, some soft, elegant styles.

Geographe, WA

Willow Bridge Estate - Kim Horton, Senior Winemaker

A much cooler and wetter spring of 2016, and cooler conditions in 2017 have led to a delayed vintage in the Geographe region, almost 3 weeks later than historically. The result is a superb batch of white wines, with excellent flavour at lower sugar levels, however, some caution was required to ensure acid levels were palatable. Yields generally are higher than last season. Chardonnay looks outstanding.

A small amount of red has been harvested in the region, however, likely to be in full swing at the beginning of April.

#girlpower on the tractors! #vintage2017 is underway! 🍾#fergusonvalley #geographewineregion

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Great Southern, WA

Plantagenet Wines - Luke Eckersley, Senior Winemaker

The vintage thus far for Plantagenet and the Great Southern is what the locals are calling 'normal' - late in comparison to recent times, but normal if gauged over the last few decades! Along with that, we have had milder conditions bringing about longer, slower ripening, so the whites thus far are very fine with good acid length and elegance! We have received a few parcels of Pinot Noir that are showing intense colour (so could be a good one for Pinot) and the Cabernets are ahead on seed development, making it neck and neck with Shiraz and Cabernet as to who will cross the line first!

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Embracing isolation with Frankland Estate’s Hunter Smith
To celebrate the Frankland Estate Riesling 2015 being our October Wine of the Month, we caught up with winemaker Hunter Smith to talk isolation, organics and a special Guinea fowl. What was it like growing up in Frankland River – WA’s most isolated wine region? Looking back, amazing! The concept of isolation was not there, we had total freedom after school (a thriving 60-student primary school) to go horse riding, rabbit trapping and yabbie catching, help out on the farm, kayak down the Frankland River, camp, fish and explore on the spectacular south coast and have big farm picnics where friends would join us at the farm and the folks would drink magnums of red well into the evening around a big fire.   Your parents weren’t always in the grape-growing game – how did that come about? Farming and the land are a big part of both my father’s and mother’s family histories in Australia. My father Barrie grew up on a vineyard in South Australia’s Riverland and his family moved to a farm in the Frankland River region back in the 50s, so I guess it was always in his blood. Fast forward a little and Judi and Barrie met in Perth and purchased a farm in Frankland River down the road a bit from my grandparents and started farming sheep and wheat. Dad was always making a barrel of wine a year and in the early 1980s, Judi and he went on a trip through France with Bill Hardy and let’s just say they got the bug to plant some vines. The first vines were planted in 1988 and, over time, sheep numbers have gone from 15,000 to pretty much just a handful now as the wine business has become our main focus. Did you always imagine you’d end up working in the wine industry? Standing in 5ºC pruning vines in the middle of a Frankland River winter would make any teenager look for greener pastures. I was adamant I would do anything but winemaking and grape growing. I spent 10 years after school in university and travelling and this made me realise how much I loved the industry and the region in which we farm our vines. A vintage with Eric and Bertold Salomon in Kremstal, Austria was probably the point in time when it all changed for me. Given how pristine the Frankland River region is, and the fact that it’s virtually pollution free, is there a commitment among local growers to organic viticulture? I think generally, viticulturists are looking to be as sustainable as possible and this region is very much that way inclined, we have a very complementary climate to help with this. While we remain the only certified organic vineyard and winery in the Frankland River region, there is a big move in this direction.
One of the more unique members of your team is Gladys – what contribution does she make to the vineyard? As a family, we don’t believe in hierarchy in the workplace, but Gladys is the matriarch of our amazing Guinea fowl flock. Every year, Barrie incubates eggs found by the vineyard workers and a breeding program sees a few hundred new birds added to the team. Under Gladys command, they help control pests such as weevils. It’s all the one percenters that help make a successful organic farming system. What difference do you think your organic approach made to the 2015 Riesling? I could bang on about organics for hours, but what I will say is, we have seen vine health improve remarkably through the attention to detail in every aspect of nutrition, soil biology and climatic conditions. As a result, we are seeing very exciting developments to fruit balance and we are finding natural acidity is retained nicely. We have also been able to increase ripening a fraction, giving this wine delicious generosity of flavour, while maintaining that delicate and a nervous framework of acidity that make Frankland Estate Rieslings a stand out. In our 2017 calendar, your Riesling is matched with steamed snapper with Asian flavours – what’s your favourite meal to enjoy with it? That sounds pretty good! Being just an hour’s drive to the Southern Ocean, I love sitting on the beach catching fresh whiting and the humble herring, these cooked over an open fire with a Riesling (with a couple of years’ age) is spectacular.   What’s your favourite wine memory? Gosh, too many great wine moments to pin it down to one, but a very memorable night was 10 years ago when our great late friend and wine importer to the USA John Larchet, with his great friend Ray Harris and a group of fellow Australian winemakers, spent an unbelievable evening enjoying some of Ray’s finest bottles in his New York apartment overlooking the NYC skyline. I remember thinking I would never see some of these wines again and I couldn’t help but think how amazing it was to be sitting on the other side of the world in a city so far removed from our Isolation Ridge vineyard in Frankland River, a special memory! What’s your favourite… Way to spend time off? With the family on the farm or at the beach. Holiday destination? Bremer Bay (south coast WA) whales, fishing, spectacular white beaches and probably even more remote than Frankland River! It’s a must see for anyone that’s never been. Wine and food match? I don’t get too caught up with that, if there’s food and wine, I’ll be there! Sporting team? Wallabies (sometimes!) Book? Something with a bit of Australian history – I always enjoy reading, nothing too dry!  I’m reading Peter FitzSimons’ Eureka right now, which is a good read.
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Showcasing Shiraz with Australia's First Families of Wine
Words by Paul Diamond on 14 Oct 2017
A fabulous Wine Selectors dinner with Australia’s first families of wine revealed the bright future of this incredible variety. A red wine dinner in the middle of a chilly Melbourne August seemed like a highly appropriate thing to do and what better variety than Shiraz to chase the cold away. And so a four-course menu by the team at Neale White’s Papa Goose restaurant was devised and 12 great Shiraz from Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) were sourced and the tables set. By the time the Wine Selectors faithful started arriving, it was clear that the dinner was going to be one to remember. Designed to celebrate Shiraz through the expressions of 12 wines from the 12 families that make up the AFFW , the diversity of flavours and expressions from one grape variety was quite remarkable. On paper, the line-up looked simply yummy, but as the wines were being opened and tested before the guests arrived, the reality of what we were pouring and tasting started dawning on us; we were privy to a multiplicity of smells, flavours and textures that were being represented from 10 different regions and 1300+ collective years of winemaking experience. A Family Affair
On hand to help host, pour and manage 1000-odd glasses of Shiraz were Katherine Brown, Brown Brothers winemaker and Chairperson of the AFFW Next Generation, Justine Henschke, PR for Henschke Wines , Justin Taylor, export manager for Taylors Wines, Sally Webber, DeBortoli family ambassador and Jeff McWilliam, CEO of McWilliam’s Wines . The food was awesome and the wine a perfect foil for the cold and wet. And as the family anecdotes from each of the AFFW members were told, the conversation eventually found itself reflecting on the future of Australian Shiraz. “Shiraz is the past and it’s also the future,” Justine Henschke noted emphatically. “It’s the past in that it has established a lot of wine communities and it’s the future in that we now know how Shiraz thrives according to climate.” “So now it’s all about educating people on what style comes from where, so they know where to go for something specific.

Look at tonight, we have tried 12 different wines of the same variety across many different regions, showing small nuances from where they have been sourced and that’s pretty incredible.

- Justine Henschke, Henschke Wines
Sally Webber agreed that diversity is a key and that blends are going to play a big part in strengthening its appeal for future generations. “I love that it’s such a diverse variety and can blend beautifully with so many other varieties.” “The future for Shiraz is in blends,” she added. “It’s such an intense variety, you have pepper and spice and there are some varieties you only need a little of and it brings out all these other great characters. “Rhône varieties like Grenache and Mourvedre, and even varieties like Gamay and Tempranillo really add different expressions to Shiraz and as the Australian consumer becomes less conservative and more experimental, we’ll get to see the variety’s real potential.” A hint of spice
For Katherine Brown and Brown Brothers, fine, spicy cool climate Shiraz is the future and Heathcote is their chosen region. As Katherine described, “We think customers understand that Shiraz doesn’t need to come from a warm climate and we are on the search to make a Shiraz that you can call refreshing.” “Something you can drink at lunch, something that is more about pepper and spice than big jammy fruits. That’s where I see the future of Shiraz, we are starting to see these cooler climates like Heathcote, Eden Valley and Margaret River delivering these flavours.” So what about hot areas, those that built the wines that put us on the map like Barossa , McLaren Vale and the Clare ? Justin Taylor thinks that Shiraz is a variety that can deal with the heat and with careful winemaking, the future for warmer styles is still bright.

“Australia’s getting hotter whether you like it or not, and Shiraz loves heat, so we can keep making more Shiraz for the global market, we can do it with rationality, and we can do it with diversity. Our quality has never been as good as it is right now, it’s a great story for this country.”

- Jeff McWilliam, McWilliams Wines
Jeff McWilliam agrees and is happy that the diversity we are seeing has extended to a place where the expressions of Shiraz that emulate the O’Shea Hunter River Burgundies that the Hunter Valley does so well are gaining popularity again. “We are going back to medium bodied wines, just like the great old wines that came from Mt Pleasant,” said Jeff. “I love McLaren Vale and Barossa Shiraz , but I know the wines we do best are in that style of the old O’Shea wines. “We are talking about vineyards and the special wines they produce, but the Hunter is like that, you can have a great vintage and you can have a really poor vintage and that’s the excitement of it, just like the diversity of Australian Shiraz.”
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Discover our Top 12 Whites of 2017
In 2017, our Panel tasted and rated over 4,000 wines. The Best Wines of the Year is always a hotly contested list and this year was no exception. From tried and true favourites like Howard Park Margaret River Chardonnay, to fabulous alternative varietals such as Fiano from Chalk Hill’s McLaren Vale vineyard, plus Trophy-winning Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier, here (in no particular order) are the Top 12 Whites that really stood out from the crowd and wowed all of our Panellists. View our Top 12 red wines here.
In Dreams Chardonnay 2015, Yarra Valley In the glass: Pale lemon green.  On the nose: Apple, grapefruit, oatmeal and almond aromas.  On the palate: Fine and elegant and yet it has power and drive with a delicious core of white and yellow fruits. A savoury, almost salty layer adds complexity, velvety texture and racy acidity.  RRP $23 or $19.55 per bottle in any dozen.  Chalk Hill Fiano 2016, McLaren Vale In the glass: Bright straw.  On the nose: Opulent white fruit with honeydew, Tahitian lime and guava.  On the palate: Remarkably bright and focussed core of juicy white fruits with satiny, delicate texture and length from start to finish and crunchy, almost salty acidity running to a thrilling finish.  RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier 2015, Nagambie Lakes In the glass: Pale lemon green. On the nose: Stonefruit, florals, ginger.  On the palate: A light to medium weight and fine wine with loads of stonefruit and citrus zest underpinned by zesty acidity, mouth-coating texture and good length.  RRP $27.95 or $23.76 per bottle in any dozen.  Long Rail Gully Riesling 2016, Canberra District   In the glass: Bright pale yellow straw.  On the nose: Lime zest and fresh herb. On the palate: Delicate yet intense and flavoursome with strong citrussy varietals and notes of talc and mineral. Mouth-feel is supple and lightly creamy with vibrant acidity. A really classic Riesling with delicious purity. RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen.  Cape Barren Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Adelaide Hills   In the glass: Vibrant pale lemon.   On the nose: Lime juice, nettle, grapefruit, vanilla.  On the palate: Stylish and intense lime, passionfruit and cut grass varietals, tempered by a light nutty layer with minerally acid dryness on the finish.  RRP $19 or $16.15 per bottle in any dozen.  De Iuliis Special Release Grenache Rosé 2017, Hilltops In the glass: Very fine pink with green and copper flashes.  On the nose: Hints of pink flower and Turkish Delight.  On the palate: Elegant and savoury with juicy fruit and green olive-like astringency creating a dry finish.  RRP $28 or $23.80 per bottle in any dozen.
Howard Park Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River/Great Southern In the glass: Beautifully vibrant lemon with a green hue.  On the nose: Delicate lime juice, light stonefruit, grapefruit and cedary oak.  On the palate: Refined yet intense with juicy layers of stonefruit and citrus with creamy yet poised acidity. RRP $54 or $45.90 per bottle in any dozen. Tinklers Mount Bright Semillon 2017, Hunter Valley In the glass: Pale lemon green.  On the nose: Bright citrus, white melon, mineral and lanolin perfume.  On the palate: Driven by beautiful tingling acidity, it’s deliciously layered with an amazingly vibrant fruit core and quinine-like texture. RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen. Heggies Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2015, Eden Valley In the glass: Pale lemon, green hue.  On the nose: Fresh yellow fruit lift with spice and grilled nut complexity.  On the palate: Slightly spicy and strongly varietal with nectarine, green melon and marzipan, subtle background vanillin oak, fresh leesy depth and ginger spice.   RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen Gatt High Eden Riesling 2011, Eden Valley In the glass: Pale lemon straw. On the nose: Still vibrant lemon and lime lift with very faint hints of kero development. On the palate: Still so youthful, pristine and precise with a multi-layered, savoury and vibrant core of fruit and just the start of secondary development.  RRP $40 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen. Umamu Sparkling Chardonnay 2005, Margaret River In the glass: Youthful lemon straw.  On the nose: Buttered toast, preserved lemon and background smokey notes.    On the palate: Full-bodied, layered and rich yet still vibrant with a strong undercurrent of leesy depth under a butterscotch-like core of fruit.   RRP $63 or $53.55 per bottle in any dozen. Bunnamagoo Estate Kids Earth Fund Autumn Semillon 2013 (375ml), Mudgee In the glass: Medium to full gold. On the nose: Lifted toffee, butterscotch and crème brulee.  On the palate: Luscious and viscous, with sweet layers of candied fruit complemented by bright lemony acidity.  RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. 
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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