Tahbilk in North Central Victoria is actually the first winery the walkabout crew decided to visit. We liked it so much we go back regularly – there is too much to try in just one visit.
Before we get into the reviews there are a couple of things we should note for this winery: 1. Join their wine club (we all have) to get regular newsletters (nice) and a price-match guarantee plus free delivery on dozens (very nice) and 2. There is so much on taste at this location, including so many that are cellar door only that not everyone in our group was able to taste everything, so some of these reviews are the opinion of individual tasters rather than the group consensus.
2017 Marsanne: OUR PICK FOR BEST VALUE WHITE. If you have never experienced this white variety (has its origins in France but Tahbilk now has the largest planting anywhere, dating back to 1927) get onto it! As a young example of the variety, this release is a nice light colour in the glass with perfect clarity. The yellow-green colour gives the age away (Marsanne turns a brilliant gold colour as it ages) and the citrus in the nose screams Marsanne very loudly. The palate is pleasantly softer than the nose suggests and the finish is very long. Even at a year old, there is some honey flavour developing there (something aged Marsanne is famous for). The retail price for this wine is $18.95 per bottle, at which it is a bargain, but through the wine club there are even better ($12 per bottle if you join the plus program but look out for end of vintage discounts during the year as well…) bargains to be had. At that price, this is a bargain not to be missed.
2011 (Museum release) Marsanne: This wine is proof of how well Marsanne ages as a variety and how it develops over time in the bottle. The vibrant gold colour shows amazing depth and the nose is akin to a well aged Semillon, very rich and inviting. Despite the time in the bottle, the palate still shows a fair amount of acid, suggesting some further cellaring is possible. The finish is actually not as long as the current release (we would have been surprised if any wine could match the long finish of the 2017) but the honey notes have become exceptionally well developed. $23.95 per bottle.
2018 Roussanne: In the glass, this wine more closely resembled the Verdelho or Viognier than the Marsanne or Riesling, being a brilliant soft golden colour with some hints of green. The nose screamed “young” but with many Tahbilk whites this is not an issue as they drink well young but also mature very well and for many years! A touch of sourness cut through the minerality in the palate, adding to the interest. Kiwifruit is probably the best description of the dominant flavours and bouquet, but there is definitely something else in there as well, be it white peach or nectarine. The finish brings a second level of flavour but stops painfully short before building again with a spicy aftertaste that is draws you to a second taste. Very nice. $16.50 per bottle.
2017 Riesling: The Marsanne is a difficult act to follow, but thankfully Riesling is a versatile grape and the Tahbilk winemakers have managed to show off the difference wonderfully. Again, the colour is light with a green tinge, but the floral nose with some green apple announces that this is a very different wine. The crispness of the initial taste shows restrained acidity and the aftertaste is pleasant. The length of the finish is shorter than the Marsanne, which in our opinion makes Marsanne better value for money (they are usually the same price, but we did find the Riesling as cheap as $15 per bottle on special).
2016 RMV: Rousanne, Marsanne, Viogner. A pleasant enough wine which produced a few nods of approval from the group. Well rounded palate but not our favourite. $27.95 per bottle.
2017 Verdelho: ONE OF OUR FAVOURITES. This is a cellar door exclusive, and well worth an hour’s drive to sample. The stone-fruit in the nose suggests this is no ordinary white wine, although the extra level of green compared to the other whites should have been a clue. Upon a swirl, the nose became almost tropical as we passed the glass around to debate whether or not pineapple could be detected (the consensus was yes). Upon first sip, the passionfruit flavours normally found in the best Sauvignon Blanc examples come to the fore before being run-over by pineapple and peach flavours. Summer in a glass! $17.95 per bottle.
2018 Grenache Mouvedre Rose: We have had mixed experiences with Rose wines, but the pink rather than orange colour of this wine gave us hope. Upon learning that it was Grenache based rather than Pinot Noir or Shiraz we were even more hopeful. Mouvedre is often blended with Grenache to give an extra dimension and in this wine it really worked. The nose is very fresh and the first taste is salivating. After the complexities of the palate are realised, a strawberry-like aftertaste comes through in a beautiful length finish, making this an excellent Rose. $22 per bottle
2010 Museum Shiraz: A brick-red colour greets you from the glass, suggesting a medium-bodied Shiraz. The nose is rich, giving an impression of mellowing with bottle-age. The typical shiraz flavours are all present, but the tannins have softened very nicely, producing a long finish. $26.95 per bottle.
2014 Shiraz: A beautiful mulberry colour greets the eye and the nose is unusually heavy (which is not a bad thing!) Despite this, the wine tastes more medium-body style, which is what we have come to expect from Tahbilk. The tannin structure is reasonable and there is some earthiness present, but not the leafiness of a Cabernet. As is typical for Tahbilk Shiraz, the finish is excellent. $22.75 per bottle.
2016 GSM: ONE OF OUR FAVOURITES. We decided to try this one over lunch at the Café (which by the way is excellent dining, overlooking the waterways) and were not disappointed. The red-purple colour looked a bit light and had started to brown at the edge and the nose is very similar to the 2015 Shiraz. The palate is very round and there is an unusual aftertaste that we debated until the end of the meal but couldn’t reach a consensus on, perhaps the slight acidity was confusing our senses. But what really makes this wine a favourite is the way the complex flavours evolve in the mouth and through the finish, making it a perfect “quaffer”. $27.95 per bottle.
2014 Shiraz-Cabernet: ONE OF OUR FAVOURITES. This is another cellar door exclusive, so we made sure to take a few home. The 50-50 blend shows excellent colour and depth and looks to be on the heavier side of the Tahbilk reds. The nose is very pleasant, with Shiraz dominant. The mouthfeel is very rich although the structure tends to fade before coming back again briefly in the finish. Our consensus is that this goes very well with Indian cuisine, especially vegetarian dishes. $21.95 per bottle.
2015 Old Vines Cabernet Shiraz: OUR PICK OF THE REDS. The first thing to notice about this wine compared to the previous blend is the use of new oak barrels (50%, French and American) which the first sniff gives away in the big, bold entry. The fruit flavours in this wine are exceptional and the tannin structure is well rounded. Some lingering in the finish before dying away with dignity makes this wine a wonderful experience. The advice from Tahbilk winemakers is that this wine could cellar for up to another 15 years. I doubt ours will make it that far, because it is drinking so well at the moment. $44.95 per bottle.
2016 Cabernet Franc: ONE OF OUR FAVOURITES. This wine is SMOOTH. The word “velvet” is over-used sometimes to describe soft tannins, but this wine really is that smooth. The colour in the glass is immaculate, and the strong, deep aromas draw you into the glass expertly. The length is a bit shorter than some of the other Tahbilk reds, but it manages a perfect balance and a very pleasant aftertaste all the way through. $17.50 per bottle.
2016 Merlot: The deep purple colour is typical Merlot, but the nose on this wine does not immediately announce the variety and is a bit quiet in doing so. The palate is reasonably complex, although drinkers expecting a lot of fruit in the front palate of their Merlot may be a bit disappointed in the way the tannin seems to dominate in this wine. The finish is well structured, but again the tannin seems to dominate just a bit too much for what is usually one of the grape varieties which prides itself on finesse rather than force. $17.50 per bottle.
Dalfarras Nero D’Avola: The Dalfarras range of wines are usually alternative varietals, and a lot of them are Italian or Spanish grape varieties (the artwork on the bottles is brilliant and so you may find yourself collecting rather than recycling the empties…). Nero D’Avola, we learned, is from Sicily originally and is a big looking, but light drinking aromatic red wine. This wine was discussed for an hour over lunch and we still couldn’t decide what all the flavours were. Light in nose and initial flavour with some hints of sweetness, the palate on this wine really grows in savoury layers. We debated at length whether it was a truffle flavour present but were unable to name the unique aftertaste. The balance in the finish is excellent, despite very little tannin. $17.50 per bottle.