The best wines of winter 2018
Wynns Coonawarra Estate ‘The Siding’, 2016 cabernet sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia ($14-22)
The sloping gables of the label are recognisable even if one has never ventured to the Coonawarra, such is the pervasive nature of Wynns in retail stores across the country. The Siding speaks of old-school terra rossa – midweight, dark cassis fruit, balanced oak spice and tacky tannin. Comforting midwinter, midweek drinking, from a classic producer kicking goals.
Eric Bordelet ‘Authentique’, 2016 poiré demi-sec, Normandy, France ($28)
Bordelet retired from Parisian restaurant life to take over his family’s historic orchard in Normandy and is now producing some of the world’s finest cider and perry. Authentique is gently sweet, delicately sparkling and perfectly balanced by crisp acidity, with the purest essence of pear.
Yangarra ‘Ovitelli’, 2016, grenache, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($72)
Yangarra have been producing genuinely special grenache for years now, but the ’16 Ovitelli is a standout. Featuring silky-soft tannin, warm earth and undergrowth, it’s both open and restrained, with real freshness and fragrance. One of the most memorable wines I’ve tasted this year.
Si Vintners ‘Sophie’, 2017 pinot noir rosé, Margaret River, Western Australia ($38)
Far flung from frivolous summer drinking, Sophie is a deeper, bronze-hued rosé for winter. Made from older-vine pinot noir, there’s fragrant rosehip and sour rhubarb, skinsy grip and slippery texture. It’s not perfect (that’s a good thing) – this is pink wine with real personality.
Curly Flat ‘Cumulus Inc’, 2017 pinot noir, Macedon Ranges, Victoria ($35)
Classic Macedon Ranges pinot noir – concentrated Morello cherry and redcurrant, with dark earth, fallen leaves and warm spice. A collaboration between Cumulus Inc. and long-time favourite producer Curly Flat, in celebration of 10 years of all-day, late-night Flinders Lane dining. It feels fitting to celebrate with something delicious.
La Raia, 2016 Gavi cortese, Piedmont, Italy ($30)
Shimmering green fruit, white flowers, grapefruit and young almond bitterness, this is classic cortese from a committed biodynamic producer. A vibrant aperitif, a bright alternative to your normal glass of pinot grigio, just in time for the peak of oyster season.
Moonlit Forest ‘Unfiltered’, 2017 pinot gris, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria ($30)
Featuring ripe red pear and lemon blossom and pith, this is pinot gris with poise and intent – aged in older oak and bottled without filtration to retain flavour intensity and flesh. It’s one of those satisfying wines that disappears all too quickly.
Fromm, 2016 riesling spätlese, Marlborough, New Zealand ($35)
There is some incredibly exciting riesling coming out of New Zealand’s Marlborough region, and this is no exception. All care and attention has been taken to hand harvest the extra-ripe grapes to avoid botrytis completely. Instead there’s modest alcohol, concentration aplenty, all fresh apple and Meyer lemon, and a genuinely thrilling balance of sweetness and racy acidity.
Sutton Grange ‘Fairbank’, 2016 syrah, Bendigo, Victoria ($25)
Ripe dark fruit and fleshy black olive, with warm spice, lavender and woody herbs – there’s plenty of flavour concentration here for wintery drinking, with enough freshness as thoughts turn to spring. Classic central Victorian shiraz, in a modern syrah frame.
Fontanet ‘Les Terrasses’, 2016 grenache blanc blend, Languedoc, France ($20)
The sunny, southerly coastal reaches of France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region are home to swaths of local and international varieties, often producing great value wines. Las Terrasses combines the white-skinned grenache’s ripe white nectarine and slippery texture, with the bright citrus and fresh-cut grass of sauvignon blanc.
Mutemuka Shuzō ‘Mutemuka’, 2016 junmai muroka nama genshu sake, Kōchi, Japan ($72 – 720ml)
Could sake be a better match for cheese than wine? Mutemuka makes a strong argument for the affirmative. With a full-flavoured style, without fining or pasteurisation, the saline, umami savouriness and creamy texture is a wonderful complement to firm, nutty Alpine cheeses.
JC’s Own ‘Freestyle’, 2017 marsanne, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($33)
Skinsy, hazy gold in colour, redolent of dried chamomile, ripe peach and sourdough. Slippery, mouth-filling texture, enough freshness to balance the ripeness of fruit – this is a wine destined for the table. It’s a compelling expression of next-generation Barossa Valley.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 30, 2018 as "The best of winter". Subscribe here.