The Right Hook

By Fergal Gleeson*


David Hook De Novo Rosso Reserva, Central Ranges 2014

Barbera, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese

Now it’s hey Mambo, Mambo Italiano! Chiantis get me a little excited. Bottles from Piedmont make me giddy. What would an Australian version taste like? This week I tried one of the new breed, an Australian take on an Italian job by David Hook.

David Hook has an impressive CV with stints at Hunter Valley blue bloods Tyrells and Lakes Folly as well as vintages in France and the US. David Hook Wines was established in the Hunter over 20 years ago and is best known for high quality renditions of the Hunter classics: Shiraz and Semillon. He has caught on to the Mambo Italiano trend in Australia with this wine from the Central Ranges of NSW, a zone that incorporates Mudgee, Cowra, Orange and the Hunter. While plantings of red Italian grape varieties in Australia are miniscule the volume is growing. David Hook De Novo Rosso Reserva 2014  ticks all the right boxes: Medium bodied, savoury fruit, dusty tannins and lively acidity all present and correct. Very pleasing and true to style.

Expect Italian varietals to be a much bigger part of the wine scene in Australia in 10 years’ time and David Hook right in the middle of it. Now it’s Hey Mambo, Mambo Australiana!

Rating: 3.5/5. RRP $30.  For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist- New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA /Gourmet Traveller WINE


A Flamin’ Good Pinot Nwahh


Bay of Fires Pinot Noir 2015 – Tasmania 

By Fergal Gleeson*

Tasmanian wine has a bright future. It’s anointment as the flag bearer for premium Pinot Noir seems just a matter of time. Tasmania’s cool climate is also an excellent incubator for Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. But there is relatively little of it. Tasmania accounts for just 0.5% of Australia’s total wine production. So if even you’re big in Tasmania you’re still a small producer in the scheme of things. The largest and one of the longest established wineries on the island is Bay of Fires which was started in 2001. This Bay of Fires Pinot has won gold medals and trophies galore from the major wine comps. Just as important to wine buyers, it is well priced and often available below RRP.

Why the fuss? Bay of Fires Pinot Noir 2015 is rich and smooth but with a touch of savoury elegance. There is nothing lean or wiry about this style. It has the power which you associate with the top wines of Central Otago rather than Van Diemen’s Land. This Pinot Noir has enough fruit to please the crowds but also some delicacy for those who admire such things. A class act I would like to try it in the future with some bottle age. Unfortunately I had only one. Listen for the sound of the tiniest violin and don’t make the same mistake.

RRP $48. Rating 4/5.

For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist- New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA /Gourmet Traveller WINE


Margaret Noir

By Fergal Gleeson*

Moss Wood Wilyabrup Margaret River Pinot Noir 2011, RRP $60

In social media speak (which is a euphemism for gibberish) Pinot Noir is trending. It’s one of the few French grape varieties in Australia where plantings are increasing (the others being Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris). Saying you love pinot nwahh is a way to acquire instant sophistication. It makes you nuanced and ethereal just like the grape. But it’s not all that long ago that the view was that Pinot Noir was too finicky a grape to grow in Australia and best left to the Burgundians. You will be surprised to hear then that Moss Wood have been making Pinot at Margaret River since 1977. Clare Mugford, joint owner and winemaker, was telling me that customers still remark “Oh I didn’t know you make Pinot?” which I have to admit was exactly what I was thinking. She added that we are missing out on one of the dark horses in the Moss Wood stable.

You see Margaret River built it’s fame on Cabernet Sauvignon. The region is not known for Pinot in the way that the Yarra Valley or Tasmania are but Moss Wood demonstrate even fickle Pinot can do just fine here. Keith Mugford, mentioned that they benchmark Burgundy for inspiration rather than Australian, Kiwi or American pinots albeit he is not trying to recreate Burgundy in Western Australia.

Moss Wood Pinot Noir 2011 is a polished and highly drinkable wine. It tastes of red fruits and has the lightest of dusty tannins.  It’s not showing many signs of it’s 6 years of age and still has years ahead of it if you wish. It will hold it’s own in any company. 4/5.

For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist- New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA /Gourmet Traveller WINE

Terra Sancta Estate Pinot Noir Rose

By Fergal Gleeson*terra-sancta-rose

Terra Sancta Estate Pinot Noir Rose

Bannockburn, Central Otago 2015

Bannockburn! At the mention of the word I reach for my War Sword, Bagpipes and my Susan Boyle “I Dreamed a Dream” CD ready to throw off the Saxon yoke!  “They can take our land.. “ Well anyway Bannockburn in New Zealand is not the site of a great Scottish military victory but the place where Terra Sancta Estate do their thing. Terra Sancta is a quality oriented, mid sized winery in Central Otago that produce a range of wines from top shelf Single Block wines through to crowd pleasers.

On a sweltering night in Sydney, conditions were perfect to try their Pinot Noir rose. Rose is experiencing a renaissance in interest that started in swanky parts of London and was transferred by flying hipsters to Paddington in Sydney from where it has dispersed.

Terra Sancta Estate Rose is all about strawberries; from the colour, the nose, right through to the fruit flavours. It’s not a sweetie wine. This is in the modern style of rose – it’s clean and refreshing with a lifted finish and lots of texture.

Would you walk into a bar with a group of rugger buggers and order “a glass of your froootiest rose please?” Probably not. The sort of sweaty, singlet wearing blokes who appear in VB commercials wouldn’t drink it either. But the word “Brose” was coined to reclaim rose from the girly girls so why not? Man up and drink it with the boys!

Rating 3/5 RRP c$25. For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist- New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA /Gourmet Traveller WINE



Summer Whites from Moss Wood

By Fergal Gleeson*

It’s been hot and steamy of late. Feels like we’ve got more bugs in the house than the KGB have. Christmas Beetles are propagating in biblical proportions and come crawling under our door like we’re a bunch of Pharaohs. The clumsy bumpkins then capsize on their backs, wriggle around and refuse to get up. A bit like an elderly relative if you ply them with too much alcohol.

It will be a hot Christmas and most likely a hot Summer.  As a remedy may I suggest you have a look at Moss Wood’s white wines?

I had a chat with Keith and Clare Mugford, long time owners and winemakers of Moss Wood recently. The determination to make the best wine possible vintage every vintage is what keeps them trucking on. Keith Mugford considers the Moss Wood Semillon 2016 to be dollar for dollar the best value wine they produce. Its age worthy, it’s complex and it’s made without any winemaking trickery. You will probably have tried Hunter Valley Semillon, which is innocuous in it’s youth but can reach legendary status after 5 or 10 years. Because of the milder maritime climate of Margaret River Moss Wood’s Semillon is an entirely different breed. It has the familiar lemon and citrus flavours but the climate allows the grapes to be picked much riper which make for a full bodied, rich and complex wine in its youth. The 14% alcohol of the Moss Wood vs the 10-12% you’d see in Hunter Semillon underscores the difference. Interestingly the extra complexity now doesn’t affect it’s age ability. In the language of Ladbrokes this is a great each way bet- drink now or keep. 3.5/5.

Next to Moss Wood Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016. Margaret River is the godfather of Australian Sauvignon Semillon Blends. The Sauvignon Blanc is more prevalent on the nose being an aromatic extrovert. Semillon is more the strong silent type providing texture and roundness to Sauvignon’s vivid fruit and acid. The inspiration is white Bordeaux but don’t be afraid of the “B” word this is fruit forward but precise. Moss Wood don’t do mindless quaffers. It would make an interesting alternative for the many Australian drinkers of quality Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. 3.5/5.

Fans of old style Australian chardonnay are often disappointed by it’s modern incarnations. The lack of fruit and excess acid in scrupulously modern chardonnay wines is unrewarding. Dry humour can be good – really dry chardonnay not so. Moss Wood Chardonnay 2015 avoids the (make inverted commas with your fingers) modern style and is one of the best Australian chardonnays I’ve tasted. It walks the line expertly between round, full bodied white peach and lime flavours and the fresh, clean lively acidity of the modern. Clare Mugford called out the Moss Wood Chardonnay as worthy of special attention. It’s not hard to see why. 4/5.

Moss Wood are renowned masters of Cabernet but their white wines share the same qualities. They are generous in flavour yet refined; drink very well now but built to last. Buy the Chardonnay for a special occasion. Buy a few bottles of the Semillon and Sauvignon Semillon and make your rellies wriggle!

Moss Wood Wilyabrup Margaret River Semillon 2016, RRP $38

Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Vineyard Wilyabrup Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016 RRP $32

Moss Wood Margaret River Chardonnay 2015 RRP $65

For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist- New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA /Gourmet Traveller WINE

Masters of Margaret River-Moss Wood

By Fergal Gleeson*

I was a little bit excited. T’was my birthday and my anticipation was rising about tasting some Moss Wood Cabernets. The problem was that it was 8.30am in the morning… damned inconvenient. Is it acceptable to have wine with muesli on your birthday? Would the dark berry flavours compliment the rolled oats and sultanas? By the time you get to 40 you’ve learnt a lot about selflessness and delayed gratification. So with the fortitude of a martyr I crawled through the day trying to distract myself with other things.

Firstly a little about Moss Wood. Moss Wood is one of the founding wineries of the Margaret River along with Vasse Felix and Cullen. They hold a Red 5 Star rating from Halliday and a Langton’s rating of “Exceptional” which are the highest accolades available. They are also a little under the radar. You won’t see Moss Wood on a billboard on the way to the airport or with a prime time TV ad. You have to discover them.

I started with the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, now in it’s 40th vintage. This wine is considered one of Australia’s finest and can last for 40 years and more. The sweet blackcurrant nose was very promising. What I found remarkable for a wine built to last was just how good it tasted now. What a lovely balance of fruit and silky smooth savoury tannins. This was full of flavour but all in a medium weight wine. I’d managed to hold back until the early afternoon. So there really is no good reason to keep this wine for 10 years not to mind 40 when it’s going so well. Retailing at a touch over a $100 this isn’t for the faint hearted or the hard up. I’m not going to argue about a $100+ wine being value for money but when you consider Penfolds 707 Cabernet has an RRP of $500, the price is not out of bounds for a world class wine. …. 5/5.

The next wine I tried was the Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. This wine is made using the same techniques but the grapes are sourced from the Ribbon Vale Vineyard about 1.5 kilometres away. This features slightly more prevalent tannins that coat the tongue and has a hint of tarry, leafy flavour going on. It’s a little darker and more powerful. You could call it a sensual beast if your mind works like that. It retails for c.$60. From a quality, cellaring potential and enjoyment perspective there’s less than a fingernail between it and the flagship. 4.5/5.

Finally we come to Moss Wood Amy’s 2015 which is Moss Wood’s entry level Cabernet, blended with petit amounts of Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec. This has noticeably less tannin than Moss Wood’s bigger brothers. It is fruit driven with bright refreshing acid. Despite the fact that it is consciously made in an accessible style it is not “dumbed down” and could easily go for 10-15 years. Like the other wines it is ready to go now if you like your wines fresh and bright and don’t want to worry about that cellaring palaver. . 3.5/5.

There’s an old Flann O’Brien story about a bully who glued a tiny student to the schoolmaster. In a cruel twist of fate the victim got in trouble for sticking to his principals. Think about it!  Well dodgy puns aside, Moss Wood have stuck to their principles making high quality wine in a style that is approachable early, complex and age worthy. Worth drinking whether it’s your birthday or not!

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, RRP $125

Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, RRP $60

Moss Wood Amy’s 2015, $35

For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist- New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA /Gourmet Traveller WINE

What Did They Ever Do For Us?

By Fergal Gleeson*

Neropasso Biscardo, Rosso Veneto IGT 2013

Corvinone, Corvina, Cabernet

There is an Italian invasion afoot. Not the unwelcome sort like the Romans used to inflict on their neighbours in the open toe sandals era. But a wine invasion which is bringing some very interesting wine styles to our shores. History’s rock stars, the Ancient Romans, made the original plantings of  Valpolicella, a pleasing light red wine, in Northern Italy near the city of Verona.

In the time since Russell Crowe was a General the locals have developed a pumped up version of the wine call Amarone della Valpolicella. Ever heard of making wine from raisins? That’s pretty much what the makers of Amarone do to power up the flavour of their red wine. By air drying the grapes they increase the relative amount of sugar in the juice which means more alcohol and power. Warmer regions like the Barossa don’t have to worry about such techniques but in cooler Northern Italy this is the sort of thing you might do to lift your wine from Fiat to Alfa Romeo status. Amarone is a classic Italian wine style but like a Barolo it’s not one that you can drink cheaply. It starts at $60 and rises steeply. To be fair Amarone uses twice as many grapes per bottle.

If spending that amount on a bottle of wine gives you sweaty palms and a guilt trip try Neropasso Biscardo at a more everyday price. Raisined grapes are used but I’m guessing it is IGT because it’s not from the designated area. Enough scene setting, this wine is hedonistic pleasure. It’s a mouth filling red, with smoky complexity and is highly drinkable. The finish is a little short but really let’s not be pedantic about such a delicious wine. Use Mr Google to help you find Neropasso Biscardo and buy a case. If you can’t track it down have a look out for any Valpolicella Ripasso, where they mix Valpolicella with used Amarone grape skins to add complexity. You’ll get the Amarone style without the price. Saluti!

Rating: 3.5/5. RRP $25. For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist- New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA /Gourmet Traveller WINE

With a Rebel Yell!

By Fergal Gleeson*

Murray Street Vineyards

Black Label Barossa Valley Shiraz 2010

When he heard that Donald Trump was elected my 7 year old boy cried. The next day when I collected him from school, he told me that he and a gang of 6 other Year 1’s (mostly girls) were leaving school the next day to go to America to fight Donald Trump. I had no idea that our local Catholic school was such a hotbed of political radicals! I explained about how democracy works and the will of the people but he wasn’t having any of it. He told me that Trump was going to start World War 3 and was on record as saying that he was declaring war on Mexico and Australia. He also said that Trump owned a gun and had shot a man and a greyhound. Apparently in separate incidents. The source of these revelations was some other Year 1 whose dad was American or who might have visited America once. Clearly Hilary’s team failed to capitalise on some dynamite material.

She could do worse than reflecting on that over a bottle of Murray Street Vineyards Black Label Barossa Shiraz from 2010. The wine is red rather than orange in colour which is a good start. Also there is nothing half-baked or bombastic about it. Thorny, bramble tannins walk hand in hand with the dark fruit. This is an elegant, medium bodied Shiraz that’s all about balance. It is a classy wine.

To park politics for a moment sportspeople like racehorses can have good genes. Long legs proportionate to body size helps runners. Height and a long arm span will give an NBA player the edge. But can genetics make you a good winemaker? Well yes if this wine is anything to go by. Murray Street Vineyards’ winemaker is Andrew Seppelt, is a descendent of Benno Seppelt. Benno developed Seppeltsfeld, the sprawling historic winery in the Barossa, into Australia’s largest winery at the turn of the 20th century. Then it might be about craft. Andrew Seppelt spent his “10,000 hours” making wine at St Halletts, Rockford as well as American and French sojourns before Murray Street.

Genetics, technique, terroir, whatevas ..… this wine is a cracker. Hillary will need cheering up. The Murray Street Black Label Shiraz would be a good place to start. My son will have to stick with cordial and rereading Chicken Licken.

Rating: 4/5. RRP $25. For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist- New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA /Gourmet Traveller WINE

A Whale of a Wine!

By Fergal Gleeson*

Véronique Old Vine GSM

Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro. Barossa Valley 2013.

Captain Ahab chased the great white whale. His obsession proved his undoing. Wine Epicureans feed their compulsion by buying a hobby winery in the Hunter Valley or hunting down the ultimate bottle of Burgundy. Either one will turn your bank balance from black to red. However amongst the ranks of the mass affluent the search is for a great Australian red for $20. Is this possible? You can bet your Riedel glasses it is!

There are 9 million bicycles in Beijing and there’s a lot of good Shiraz in Australia so that would be the obvious place to look. Regular readers will know that we shun the obvious here! Though there are worthy contenders, this week’s wine recommendation as one of the best for 20 bucks is not one of the 9 million bicycles. Get your hands instead on the Véronique Old Vine GSM from the Barossa. It is a real discovery.

This GSM has beautiful, ripe, silky fruit in the style of Penfolds or Teusner. The lightness of the Grenache, the dark fruit of the Shiraz and the leathery tannins of Mataro/Mouvedre show just how good this blend can be. The secret is that the grapes are sourced from 70 year old vines and in the careful winemaking. Véronique is a small producer making just four wines- the GSM, a Shiraz, a Cabernet and a Sauvignon Blanc. Small they may be but well worth seeking out.

There is a joy to putting a wine away for a few years and watching how it develops. I wanted to do this with the Véronique. But it was so luscious and gluggable we finished the 3 bottles I’d bought within a week. A special call out also for the back label of the wine. It says: “Véronique is our name and the wine is our soul”. Beautifully put. All this for $20 a bottle. Well really – lets just buy the winery!

Ahab wouldn’t have left port if this bottle was around – get it into you Captain….

Rating: 4/5. RRP $20. For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA Gourmet Traveller WINE

The Victorians

By Fergal Gleeson*

Scotchman’s Hill Norfolk Vineyard Bellarine Peninsula

Pinot Noir 2008

Melbourne is a city of boundless creativity. When they are not opening small bars next to dumpsters and fire escapes, they are roasting small batch coffee beans or pushing giant balls of wool around the city for touristic purposes.  For wine lovers the vineyards of Victoria are an adult’s playground. The state is a patchwork of wine regions offering a wide variety of climate and wine styles.

Victoria can make a claim to be Australia’s greatest wine state! Really? Think about it. It’s pre-eminence for Pinot Noir in Australia is indisputable. It’s there or thereabouts on Chardonnay. Victoria’s cool climate, peppery Shiraz is on fleek (whatever that means). Admittedly Margaret River would get the nod on Cabernet though the Yarra Valley offers some fine individual examples to match. Italian emigrants to the King Valley such as Pizzini have led the development of Italian varietals such as Sangiovese and Nebbiolo in Australia. QED?

If you had to pick only one varietal from Victoria you’d pick Pinot Noir. A good place to vouch stamp that fact is by trying a wine from one of the early developers of Pinot in Australia Scotchman’s Hill. The winery is located in the Bellarine Peninsula across the bay from Melbourne. Who is the “Scottish man” of Scotchman’s Hill? A famous early settler from Caledonia or a local who loves Chivas and Laphroaig? Don’t know but Scotchman’s Hill is a Halliday Top 100 Winery and have been making Pinot since the 1982.

Wine reviews often include long lists of fruit and vegetable descriptors which can be tedious but if you insist… This is a clean and elegant, mid weight wine with some dark cherry and mushroom flavours. Good Victorian Pinot typically ages well for 8-10 years and the brown tinges around the glass and the aforementioned ‘shrooms tell that this Pinot is at the end of its natural life. The fruit and tannin have integrated fully with age but the wine still maintains fresh tangy acid flavours. Much like human beings a wine’s fruitiness subsides with age! Good wines acquired what are referred to as tertiary characteristics instead.

Scotchman’s Hill Norfolk Vineyard is a rather fancy single vineyard wine but Victoria produces a wide range of good pinots in the $20-30 range. Spring may finally have sprung so have a glass of Pinot young or old made on the doorstep of arty, crafty, “more European”, AFL loving Melbourne.

Rating: 4/5. RRP $55. For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!

*Finalist New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA Gourmet Traveller WINE