Redbank The Long Paddock Chardonnay 2007

I’m not familiar with this label but, according to the winery’s tasting note, grapes were sourced from across Victoria after bushfires affected its traditional regional base of the King and Ovens Valleys. That’s some pretty cool one off-ness for a paltry $9.50. I remember the days (not very long ago) of cheap Chardonnay oaked so heavily one practically got splinters in the mouth. I’m sure they’re still out there, but the vogue for tighter, finer wines seems to to have stimulated a fresh breed of cheapies. Or so I hope.

A high toned, slightly spirity nose that is decidedly vinous without being especially distinctive. A subtle layer of butter and vanilla cream indicates equally subtle malo and oak inputs. This is perhaps a relief, though it also clearly exposes simple fruit flavours of apple and white stonefruit. For all that, quite nice to sniff. Entry has good immediacy of flavour and shows just enough fine acid to retain shapeliness. The mid-palate is of medium body and plentiful flavour, with a clean, round mouthfeel. More white stonefruit, hints of malo and cream vye for attention; it’s all straightforward and very easy to drink. The butter and cream takes over on the after palate, and the finish is of medium length, showcasing the wine’s soft, easy style above all else. There’s also a bit of heat (14% ABV), but it’s not ruinous. 
This wine is terribly easy to drink and strikes me as well made and well judged. Some texture would be a welcome addition, as it would add interest to the wine’s simple, slightly anonymous flavour profile. Good quaffer.
Price: $A9.50
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: August 2008

Tatachilla Growers Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Anecdotally, Sauvignon Blanc, alone and in blends, seems to be the quaffer of choice for casual work lunches and similar occasions. It’s not hard to see why; flavours are for the most part easily discerned and unchallenging. There are some quite lovely versions of the “classic dry white” blend. The Grosset springs immediately to mind, and the Margaret River style seems especially prized by the lunchtime crowd. Most examples, though, seem to express more modest vinous aspirations. This one, from McLaren Vale based winery Tatachilla, is made from fruit sourced across South Australia.

Angove's Long Row Shiraz 2006

I’ve got a head cold, am slightly cranky and, quite frankly, couldn’t take another cheap wine last night. So instead I opened a bottle of Collector Marked Tree Red. Thus sated, I can once again turn my attention to our value priced offerings. Here is a South Australian Shiraz from Angove’s, a Renmark-based winery with a broad portfolio of products. At $A6.60, it’s one of the least expensive wines in the dozen.

An attractive deep ruby colour, not overly dense. The nose speaks of black pepper and spice as much as fruit. Not the high toned floral spice of a cooler climate wine, but deep, rich spice that tends towards the brown, nutty type. Fruit character is subservient, dark and straightforward. The palate has good impact and its upfront acid brings more spice to the fore, at least on entry. Fruit emerges on the mid-palate as dark and slightly jubey in character, simple but certainly clean.

Tahbilk Marsanne 2002

Amazingly, I managed to get the cork out of this bottle without breaking my corkscrew. Ouch! That sucker was really stuck in there, but I digress…If there was ever a wine that smelled of lanolin, this is it. One whiff and I’m back in Rotorua watching a tourist sheep-shearing show; afterwards, you can’t escape the gift shop without rubbing some of the local produce on your hands, and this is what it smells like. The aging here has also contributed a sort of butterscotch and must that’s not too bad: it’s kind of like your grandparents’ house, actually – imagine a dish of slightly moist hard candy that’s a souvenir of the Brussels World Fair, but again I digress…The color has wound up at a beautiful gold the color of fresh Oregon apple cider. Once you drink some, it doesn’t taste at all like you’d expect, I reckon: there’s a quick start of something like Granny Smith apples with an underlying steel; then, it’s on to quince and pears with an appealingly full mouthfeel. Supporting acidity is very good indeed, veering towards Clare riesling territory, but it all winds down on a lovely note of warm apple pie (or tarte tatin if you prefer a Francophone air to your wine tasting notes).With some time and air, notes of smoked salt and poire also surface.What was a relatively simple wine in its youth is, I think, better for having waited. It’s hard to imagine this being any better than it is right now, especially considering the price.

Price: around US $10; aged releases typically A$17 from the winery
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: August 2008

Sirromet Perfect Day Burnbelt 2005

Sirromet, located about twenty minutes from my house, is a winery I’ve driven past on many occasions but never visited. I thought I’d browse its website as part of writing this note, and in doing so discovered a rather large range of wines. Whilst there is a vineyard at the cellar door facility in Brisbane, I gather its fruit comes primarily from vineyards located in the Granite Belt region, near Stanthorpe. This wine, a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, is part of Sirromet’s entry level “Perfect Day” range, and is made from Granite Belt grapes.

I tasted this over two evenings, which is just as well as the wine improved markedly overnight. At first, I wasn’t terribly inclined to taste in depth; it struck me as all stalk, with very little underlying fruit. The second night brings things somewhat back into balance, although I still think the stalky/vegetal notes are overplayed. Funky, prickly aromas of stalk, with some spice and a hint of red fruit. It’s different, but whether in a good way will depend on your tolerance for greener flavours. The palate is quite bright, with more funk and stalk overlaying subservient yet attractive red and black berry flavours, and powdery vanilla oak. The wine veers from astringent greenery to sweet oak, without the depth of fruit to harness and make sense of this progression. Structure is quite well judged, with balanced acid and just enough dry tannins to round off the unremarkable finish.
I don’t have enough experience with this label or region to know how this wine sits in the overall scheme of things. It’s certainly interesting enough in its way, and I’d prefer to drink this, flaws and all, to a mass-produced wine of technical correctness but absolutely no character.

Arrogant Frog Lily Pad White Viognier 2006

Full marks for creativity. As a name and label concept, the “Arrogant Frog” range is all very New World, and I’m sure you don’t need me unravel the various ironies here. The angle is “best of both worlds;” New World approachability combined with Old World character. This is so fraught with stereotypes that I won’t even attempt to engage it, but I can certainly taste and write about what’s

Somerton Shiraz Cabernet Merlot 2006

Surely, at $4.25, I’m tempting fate. The bargain dozen has gone quite well so far, with some unexpectedly unusual wines and a bit more character than I dared to hope for. Here, then, is a red blend from that vaguest of “regions”, South Eastern Australia. Having barely escaped a critter wine encounter with my sense of wine still intact, I’m interested, if a little apprehensive, regarding this equally inexpensive label.

A hint of black pepper and spice on the nose, backed up by smooth, rather flat berry fruit and a bit of toasty oak. Bland to be sure, but it smells more or less vinous. The palate reveals the extent to which this wine emphasises round, easy fruit. Relatively sweet, slightly confected berry fruit hits the tongue early and travels easily down the line. Some vanilla jumps on board as the wine chugs steadily towards the finish, and it all sort of disappears before you’ve had an opportunity to think about how you really feel. There’s not much in the way of structure, but neither are there off flavours or anything that makes you stop and think. In other words, it drinks like a good soft drink.
We’ve definitely jumped into “extreme value” territory with this wine, and style has shifted gears accordingly. At $10, it’s possible to get some sense of individuality. At $5 or under, I’ve yet to see it.

Peter Lehmann Chenin Blanc 2007

Barossa Chenin Blanc. I’m guessing it won’t bump Pinot Gris from fashionably derivative restaurant wine lists any time soon. However, Chenin Blanc interests me as a variety because, as lovely as it can be in the Loire Valley, it seems to leave its personality at home when it travels. And yet, the loveliness of a nice Vouvray keeps me hoping for greater things in our local wines. At under $10, at least this wine makes it inexpensive to test the waters.

Served cold, this wine smells of prickly lemon, green apple, a hint of honey and a slightly waxy note that adds some softness to the aroma profile. Closer to room temperature, the aroma stays remarkably static, gaining in richness but not losing its fundamentally bright, aromatic character. There’s nothing especially wrong with the way this wine smells, but it’s also a bit bland, the way an IKEA bookshelf is bland. You know it will do the job, but you can’t really love it.
The palate seems more strongly influenced by temperature. Initially, this wine displays a tight, almost overwhelmingly lemon-like palate, bright and refreshing in its sharpness and acidity. Mouthfeel is nicely textured, with a blanket of well-judged acidity providing a nice sense of freshness, if not a terribly sophisticated structure. At first, I thought I detected a hint of oxidative flavours, but this seemed to fade through the evening. As it warms, the wine shows notes of honey and round, slightly sweet fruit, all of which provides enjoyment on the mid-palate. Perhaps a hint of minerality too. There’s certainly a good deal of flavour. Acidity carries the wine cleanly through the after palate, where the flavour profile reverts to citrus-driven astringency, clean and satisfactorily long.
A fuller, yet still refreshing Summer white to serve with lunch. I’m not seeing the depth and complexity of a top Chenin Blanc, but on its own terms I think this wine succeeds well, and manages to present a degree of character one might not expect at this price point. It is interesting to note the label encourages bottle age. Excellent value.
Price: $A9.40
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: August 2008

La Cantina Dry Red NV

This wine stood out on the shelf as an oddity: a non-vintage red table wine made from the pressings of miscellaneous (and unspecified) varieties, proudly advertised as unfiltered and preservative free. All this strangeness for $10.15 — now that’s value. According to its website, La Cantina is a family-run producer in the King Valley of Victoria. Its range includes a number of very reasonably priced labels made from predominantly Italian varietals. This wine is the baby of the range.

A dark, dense colour, apparently garnet/ruby, some flashes of brilliance. The nose is immediately offputting and, initially, I thought the wine was tainted with brett. As I smell it more, though, its savoury funk translates to a slightly vegetal note that, in the end, is moderately attractive in its way. Certainly not a clean style, though. On the palate, more surprises. The nose’s savouriness is

Gunn Estate Pinot Gris 2007

Time for an experiment. I’m not afraid of wine made for the price conscious consumer, perhaps as much out of necessity as anything else. But I tend to stick with tried and true favourites; those acknowledged bargains that, in terms of quality, consistently sit above their price points. I also tend to shop in the $15-20 price range for my everyday wines. Habit can mask new opportunities, so this evening the other half and I decided to visit our local 1st Murphy and purchase one dozen bottles, the total of which was not to exceed $120.