April has been another busy month for the Walkabout crew. Several unplanned day and half day trips, revisiting some of our earlier purchases and debating our favourite examples of other grape types. In many ways, April and September are wonderful months for wine since the weather is in change-over so big reds and aromatic whites both get consumed and the fortified wines are brought out of hibernation… here are some thoughts that have arisen during our experiences this month:
The alternative or lesser known varieties are improving, but not quite making it. Yet. We discovered what Bon Blanc is this month (pictured above). Savagnin or Savarro, depending on which part of Italy you come from, is known as Bon Blanc as well. A nice wine in many ways, but we came to the conclusion that you really can’t beat the top Riesling and Chardonnay examples when it comes to quality white wine. Sure Pinot Gris (or Grigio if made the Italian way) is making itself known in a big way and is a pleasant enough drink in many ways, but the white wines we have consistently given the biggest scores to have been Chardonnay and Riesling without fail. Prosecco is dominating the shelves in many of the larger wine retailers, but we haven’t been convinced they are any better than the Pinot Noir Chardonnay blends found in traditional sparkling wine; sure the King Valley Prosecco is impressive – the Tasmanian sparkling remains in top spot though, for now.
Complex trumps aromatic and fruit-driven when it comes to quality red: There are some beautiful Pinot Noir wines being produced in Geelong at the moment and what really sets them apart from lesser-quality wines is not their aroma nor their ability to push the red fruit to the front, but rather their complexity. Our highest-rated Pinot Noir tastings all come with notes about how the palate builds in layers and grows in complexity. Similarly for other varieties; there may well be some big fruit examples of Shiraz coming onto the market, but the structured and infinitely complex wines such as (from our April tastings) Ultihorne Unicus Shiraz (SA) or Wills Domain Cuvee d’Elevage Cabernet Sauvignon (WA) are simply on another level when it comes to the whole wine experience.
Really big bargains can be found if you know where to look: Tahbilk had a members-only (remember though that membership is free and there is no requirement to regularly purchase) offer recently: 18 bottles of 2018 Marsanne and 6 bottles of 2012 “1927 vines” Marsanne for $300 delivered. When you consider that the RRP of this bundle is above $500 and even if you were to go to a popular “lowest price guarantee” wine store you would pay around $450, this is quite a bargain; albeit one that seemed to sell out rather fast! We also managed to source some Giant Steps Known Pleasures Shiraz for around $180 per 6 pack (RRP $60 per bottle) and some Ulithorne Unicus Shiraz for the same price (RRP $85 per bottle). If you know how much you are prepared to pay and stick to it, online auction sites can be a great way to shop, especially for the lesser-known but amazing quality wines.
Our wines of the month for April 2019: This was a difficult month as we had some seriously good reds and some absolute bargain price-to-quality whites. In the end we decided our white wine of the month is Rob Dolan White Label Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley in Victoria and our red wine of the month is Wills Domain Cuvee d’Elevage Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River in Western Australia.