2020 Halliday Wine Companion
Points and tasting notes for the 2020 edition of the James Halliday Wine Companion have recently been released, with a number of gold and silver medals given to recent vintages from our Australian producers.
Gold – 97 points
2016 Lloyd Reserve Shiraz, Coriole * – 97 pts
From the 1919 estate planting, hand-picked, whole berries open-fermented, 10 days on skins, matured for 19 months in barrel and 2 years in bottle before release. An extremely focused and regal wine, its future virtually unlimited. Savoury black fruits, earth and dark chocolate are joined together at the hip, a bond that won’t be broken.
Gold – 96 points
2018 The Merle Riesling, Pikes – 96 pts
Sourced entirely from Pikes’ Polish Hill River vineyard. It may well be, as Neil Pike says, made for the 8 to 10-year long haul, but I’d be very happy to have a glass tonight. It’s beautifully balanced and spacious – not a word that I use often – thus allowing the complexity and texture to build with grace.
Gold – 95 points
2018 Eden Valley Riesling, Rolf Binder – 95 pts
It has just the right hit of florals, ginger spice, lemon zest and a dab of buttered toast to please. And enough freshness and lift across its gentle palate to satisfy.
2016 Heysen Shiraz, Rolf Binder * – 95 pts
While all the parcels of a rich, ripe Barossa shiraz are strutting their stuff, they’ve come together well to create a balanced wine. Full-bodied, ripe, plump tannins and a freshness overall.
2017 Chardonnay, Bird in Hand – 95 pts
Hand-picked from four separate sites, whole-bunch pressed to French barriques and wild ferment, 9 months on lees in barrel with mlf. A wine that exudes top-shelf quality without being overly showy. Citrus and stone fruit mesh seamlessly with nutty, creamy oak on the bouquet and palate, the flavours, mouthfeel and acidity combining in easy, unforced complexity.
2016 Old Adam Shiraz, Bremerton * – 95 pts
Deceptive, because it is so harmonious and perfectly balanced it is easy to sip and enjoy. This is Bremerton’s flagship wine, the supple purple and black fruits laced with a trace of dark chocolate, oak that has been swallowed by the fruit, and tannins that are, as ever, soft.
2016 Mary Kathleen Reserve Cabernet/Merlot, Coriole * – 95 pts
A 95/5% blend, the cabernet planted in ’66, the components separately open-fermented and blended after mlf, in all 20 months before bottling, then 2 years in bottle before release. Conceived as elegant and concentrated compared to normal opulence of McLaren Vale, I’ll split the difference and agree that the hallmark of the wine is concentration, indeed extreme concentration.
2017 Jeu de Fin Shiraz, The Pawn Wine Co. * – 95 pts
A field blend of four clones, hand-picked, fermented with a small portion of whole bunches and whole berries in small 2t fermenters, matured in used French oak. It’s elegant, lively and fresh, sparkling with spice, black pepper and licorice, the bigger picture a black cherry and blackberry tapestry.
2018 Riesling Traditionale, Pikes – 95 pts
Employs estate and contract-grown fruit from Polish Hill River, Watervale and Sevenhill. It’s a delicious wine with lime juice the dominant fruit, backed by balanced acidity. Some vignerons fared better than others in the vintage, Pikes on the good side.
2017 Shotfire Shiraz, Thorn-Clarke * – 95 pts
Good colour; an immaculately balanced and elegant medium-bodied shiraz, benefiting from the cool vintage that has blown freshness into so many wines. Blackberry and red cherry both in the ring.
2016 William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon, Thorn-Clarke – 95 pts
Open-fermented in small fermenters, each treated separately and matured in French oak (40% new) for an average of 18 months. The best barrels went to make this wine, its fragrant bouquet opening proceedings. The medium to full-bodied palate rides on typical cabernet tannins that lengthen the palate and its core of blackcurrant fruit.
Silver – 94 points
2014 Nest Egg Shiraz, Bird in Hand * – 94 pts
Matured in French barriques (75% new) for 20 months, and that regime has had a major influence on the wine. The depth and richness of fruit is there, displayed as almost liqueur-like ripe blackberry and plum with some peppery spice in play as well, but at present it’s playing second fiddle to the toasty, mocha oak. Demands (and will reward) time in the cellar.
2017 Tamblyn, Bremerton – 94 pts
A very attractive medium-bodied 45/38/11/6% blend. Here ’17 has worked hand in glove with the vintage. Outrageous bargain. Drink steadily.
2018 Estate Fiano, Coriole – 94 pts
Half machine-harvested to facilitate extraction, half hand-picked, destemmed and pressed. A success. Fiano always has something to say, but more is need across more regions to nail its worth in this country. So far, we know good fiano has structure and texture if vinified with care.
2017 Estate Shiraz, Coriole * – 94 pts
Mainly 50yo vines, some 100yo, 10 days on skins, matured for 20 months in French oak (25% new). Medium to full-bodied, spicy nuances throughout layers of red and black fruit, lifts on the textured, juicy, finish.
2017 Estate Barbera, Coriole * – 94 pts
Delicious, medium to full-bodied, red and dark fruits, soft tannins, well judged oak.
Silver – 93 points
2017 Halliwell Shiraz/Grenache, Rolf Binder – 93 pts
There’s a core of squishy juicy fruit, spices, licorice root and black olives yet this has an appealing savouriness, too. Supple tannins, sort across the palate and best enjoyed in its youth.
2018 The Austrian Attack Gruner Veltliner, The Pawn Wine Co. * – 93 pts
Right in the groove of the zippy, zesty examples of this variety being produced with great success in the Adelaide Hills. There’s a feeling of tautness and precision about this wine, the flavours of green pear, herb and citrus propelled along the palate by mouthwatering lemon pith acidity, the finish persistent and peppery.
2015 Tasmania Pinot Noir, Trentham Estate – 93 pts
A wine that shows its cool climate origins with brambly, foresty aromas and a grip of fine but firm astringency on the finish, but in between it’s quite a juicy, generous offering. Ripe cherry flavour provides the fruit sweetness and there’s a lick of French oak spiciness. The hallmark Trentham drinkability is very much in evidence and it’s in the zone now.
Silver – 92 points
2017 Jeu de Fin Chardonnay, The Pawn Wine Co. * – 92 pts
A 50/50% blend of the musque (Entav 76) clone and I12V1. There’s more colour than you might expect, but there’s no problem with the stone fruit and roasted nuts, and even less with the powerful citrus/grapefruit flavours of the long palate.
2016 Los Compañeros Shiraz/Tempranillo, Pikes – 92 pts
Has the basic structure of a soft and juicy Clare shiraz, but the more savoury elements of the tempranillo provide the point of difference. Along with the ripe plum there’s a touch of cherry cola, and a peppery, herbal character seems to be something the combination of the varieties has produced. An attractive tartness on the finish is a complement to the ripe fruit.
2016 Eastside Shiraz, Pikes * – 92 pts
Fruit from Polish Hill River. A sleek and glossy sort of wine, but it doesn’t lack distinctive regional and varietal character for that. Aromas and flavours of plum and blueberry are the theme, with a ferrous, earthy quality adding a more savoury inflection, polished by a light veneer of oak. Smoothly textured and fleshy, the clip of acid and tannin completes it well.
2017 Vue du Nord Pinot Noir, Pike & Joyce * – 92 pts
At the lighter end of the spectrum colour-wise for the variety, and there’s a lightness of touch in general about this wine. Typically pinot aromas and flavours of cherry and cranberry provide the basis, and wound around these are elements of sweet spice and gently stemmy notes. It breezes along the palate, soft in texture with well balanced astringency to finish.
2014 Noble Taminga, Trentham Estate – 92 pts
One of the stalwarts in this category and rarely misses a beat. Classic apricot aromas associated with botrytis and wafts of peach nectar and creamed honey fill the bouquet. Lusciously sweet on the palate, it may not be especially complex, but there’s depth and richness to the flavours and some freshness of acidity to provide a counterpoint.
Silver – 91 points
2016 Bull’s Blood Shiraz Mataro Pressings, Rolf Binder * – 91 pts
Starts with spicy dark plums, licorice dipped in chocolate, sweet dedary oak then moves into a savoury spectrum with firm tannins and a drying finish.
2017 Two in the Bush Shiraz, Bird in Hand – 91 pts
Ripe red fruit is the theme here; you can start with plum and find blackberry, mulberry, and cherry along the way. Combined with that there’s some cool climate varietal characters which display more spicy, savoury notes, and a touch of chocolate and mocha, perhaps a contribution from the French oak. Even and supple on the palate, it’s drinking well now.
2017 Special Release Malbec, Bremerton * – 91 pts
As Mrs Beeton would have it, ‘first take your plums’. A spicy, savoury edge to the plum/plum jam fruit helps the wine take its expected flavour dynamics. Easy to enjoy.
2017 Estate Sangiovese, Coriole * – 91 pts
From five vineyards, seven clones, various fermenters, 8 days on skins, matured for 11 months in used oak. Light, but bright, red; spicy red cherry fruits with a faint dusting of spice, very good balance. Antipasto here I come.
Silver – 90 points
2017 Two in the Bush Chardonnay, Bird in Hand – 90 pts
Hand-picked fruit, wild ferment in a combination of stainless steel and seasoned French oak. Part mlf and 9 months on lees for all batches. Regional varietal characters of white peach and grapefruit are very much to the fore, a touch of oak sitting quietly in the background. Texture and acidity are the drivers on the palate, and those elements sustain well through the finish.
2015 Nest Egg Joy, Bird in Hand – 90 pts
A significant degree of thoughtful and meticulous viticulture and winemaking has obviously gone into the production of this wine, reflected in the price. It has good qualities: there are attractive toasty and strawberry aromas, and there’s quite decent depth and length to the palate. Ultimately it just falls short of being the top-shelf sparkling one might expect it to be.
2017 Selkirk Shiraz, Bremerton * – 90 pts
Always a wine of terroir, with the malleability that means there is pleasure to be had no matter how young or old the wine may be. Add a swirl of dark chocolate borrowed by McLaren Vale and away you go.
2018 El Desperado Pinot Grigio, The Pawn Wine Co. * – 90 pts
A highly floral wine; pear, citrus, almonds, white peach; good length and balance.
2017 En Passant Tempranillo, The Pawn Wine Co. * – 90 pts
Fruit from Macclesfield, open-fermented with half (separately) as whole berry, aged for 9 months in old French and new Hungarian oak. An eclectic Mediterranean blend which has the sort of savoury feel you might expect. Plenty of red fruit, but there are hints of tobacco, black olive, and tar as well. It’s juicy and fresh with just enough grip to keep things right. Fun to drink.
2016 William Randell Shiraz, Thorn-Clarke – 90 pts
The fruit was crushed into a number of small fermenters, each kept as a separate lot, and after fermentation pressed to American barriques (40% new) for 18 months maturation, the best barrels chosen for this wine. It’s very rich, too rich, and need a light (at least) fining. Doubtful whether time will do the trick.
* vintage not yet available in the UK