The shock of the new

by Matt Walls
When tasting my way through a large number of unfamiliar wines, there are a few tell-tale signs that I’ve encountered something special. Firstly, an involuntary smile creeps over my face....
90

2007 Mount Pleasant Cellar Aged Elizabeth Semillon, Hunter Valley

( £14.95-£17.80, 11%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Hedonism, Slurp )

Not many white wines age as wll as Hunter Valley Semillon and this is well up to speed, as its haul of medals (plastered all over the front label) testifies. It’s just starting to shift into another gear, developing the toasty notes that are so typical of the style. Refreshing, waxy and taut with custard, honeysuckle and citrus peel notes. Long and satisfying.

Drinking window: 2015-20Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Australia, White, Semillon
91

2013 Bleasdale Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills

( £9.95, 12.5%, The Wine Society )

Anyone who doubts that the Australian Chardonnay revolution is one of the most exciting trends in the world, right now, booting the old “sunshine in a glass” cliché into the Great Southern Ocean, should join The Wine Society and get hold of a bottle of this remarkable wine from the cool climate Adelaide Hills. Burgundy could only dream of providing such value at under £10. Fresh, minerally and yeasty, with subtle oak and a savoury undertone, it tastes like a really good Saint Aubin. Drink over the next five years. 

BuyDrinking window: 2015-20Similar Wines: £5-£10, 91-95, Australia, White, Chardonnay
94

2013 Thousand Candles Syrah, Yarra Valley, Victoria

( £45-50, 13.5%, Alliance Wine )

Bill Downie is best known for his extraordinary Pinot Noirs, which rank among the best in Australia, but he’s no slouch when it comes to making Syrah either, as this Southern Yarra Valley example demonstrates. Spicy, refreshing and subtly oaked this is made using what Downie calls “enhanced biodynamics”. The acidity, structure and perfume of the wine, with a savoury undertone from whole bunch fermentation, are deliciously well integrated. 

BuyDrinking window: 2015-20Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, Australia, Red, Syrah/Shiraz
90

2012 Fowles Wine, Are You Game? Shiraz, Victoria

( N/A, 13.7%, Enotria & Coe )

Ignore the nudge nudge, wink wink name of this wine (it’s only a bit of fun anyway) and concentrate, instead, on what’s in the glass. Violets, bramble and some gentle spices, with a touch of cracked pepper make this a refreshing, easy drinking red. A dash of Tempranillo adds extra interest here.

Drinking window: 2014-18Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Australia, Red, Syrah/Shiraz
90

2012 Innocent Bystander Syrah, Yarra Valley, Victoria

( N/A, 13%, Liberty Wines )

Phil Sexton’s Yarra Valley winery is one of the most innovative in the region. It’s got a lot of tourist appeal, but it’s wines are deadly serious, too. This is a typically elegant, refined red, with fine-grained tannins, subtle pepper spice and plush raspberry and blueberry flavours and a minerally, refreshing finish.

Drinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Australia, Red, Syrah/Shiraz
93

2007 McGuigan, Semillon Bin 9000, Hunter Valley, New South Wales

( £14, 11%, Tesco Fine Wine )

The sort of wine that seems to win medals in its sleep, this Semillon is something of a wine nerd’s white. It’s well priced, especially given its quality, and will age beautifully in bottle, too. Smoky, leesy, waxy and toasty with underlying citrus fruit ping, no apparent oak and a lovely lighthness of touch. 

Drinking window: 2014-18Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Australia, White, Semillon
90

2011 McGuigan, No 3659, The Shortlist Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

( £15, 13%, Tesco Wine Online )

One of a series of impressive wines under The Shortlist label, this French oak-fermented cool climate Chardonnay has benefited from a little bottle age and is now showing some developed flavours and aromas. Pear, cinnamon spice and a touch of honey combine well on the palate here. 

Drinking window: 2014-18Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Australia, White, Chardonnay
93

2008 Wynns, Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia

( £15.99, 14%, Waitrose )

Sue Hodder is one of the best winemakers in Australia and bestrides the Coonawarra region with the quality of her reds. This, the 53rd vintage release of Black Label, more than lives up to the example of its predecessors. It’s sillky, elegant and low-key with cool climate finesse, filigree tannins and stylish plum and blackcurrant fruit. The acidity drives the wine here. 

Drinking window: 2014-20Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Australia, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon
90

2013 Thistledown, Thorny Devil, Grenache, Barossa Valley, South Australia

( £15.99, 15% )

Juicy, easy drinking Barossa Grenache that carries its alcohol lightly. The oak is well handled here on this wine overseen by Masters of Wine, Giles Cooke and Fergal Tynan. Raspberry and wild strawberry fruit, a touch of oak and a ripe, satisfying finish. Try it chilled for maximum pleasure. 

Drinking window: 2014-16Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Australia, Red, Syrah/Shiraz