The UK's No.1 Australian Wine Specialist
Did you know that Australia has over 60 wine growing regions?
How many could you name? 10? 15? Maybe 25?
Perhaps this is a challenge I should set myself – one Aussie region at the time, we will take a close look at each region's unique style. As the winemaker of Vasse Felix, Virginia Willcock once said:
“It’s the region that creates a wine style, while wineries add nuance.”
So here is my first pick of the bunch, Adelaide Hills. Packed with world-class restaurants, award-winning wineries, incredible local food producers, picture-perfect country views and lush, leafy towns, it’s a whole world away from the hustle and bustle…
Enjoy the read and please do let me know your thoughts - which region would you like to explore next? I'd love to hear from you.
Less than a 30-minute drive east of Adelaide in South Australia, Adelaide Hills is a long and narrow wine region that stretches from the Barossa to its north down to McLaren Vale. Home to picturesque orchards and farmland, hillside vineyards and bushland spiked with towering gums, their unique setting provides a distinctive point of difference to other South Australian regions.
Sandwiched between some of Australia’s most famous warm-climate regions, the Adelaide Hills has a distinctly cool climate thanks to its elevation. Roads twist and turn through the undulating landscape, the steep hills and valleys creating an array of mesoclimates and microclimates. The region’s altitude and cool conditions help produce grapes bursting with flavour and varietal character, whilst retaining good natural acidity.
Adelaide Hills is one of the coolest and most elevated wine regions in Australia, with a climate similar to Tasmania and parts of northern Victoria.
Climate & grape varieties, in a nutshell
Adelaide Hills boasts one of the biggest diurnal temperature variations in Australia. Diurnal variation is the difference between the maximum day temperature and the minimum night temperature. This variation is sought after by winemakers, as it helps grapes ripen in a more balanced way. A large diurnal range allows grapes to slowly build their sugar levels during the warmth of the day, while giving the vines rest during cool nights. The cool nights during ripening season help the grapes retain balancing acidity and aromas. As a result, Adelaide Hills’ wines are fresh and vibrant, elegant yet complex.
Although this is the perfect setting for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (indeed, many world-class examples are produced here), the Adelaide Hills’ climatic and soil diversity, coupled with its innovative culture, have led the region to embrace an array of alternative grape varieties. Producers such as Chris Coulter at Coulter Wines are experimenting with a range of different varieties which is one of the most exciting developments happening in the Adelaide Hills today.
Coulter Wines C1 Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 2019
97+ – 98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “What an explosive and heavenly bouquet filled with candied peel, citrus oil, sea spray, fennel seed and confit lemons. The sweet and alluring scent of jasmine creeps in with more aeration. Take a sip, swallow, sit back and enjoy the complexity. The palate feel is simply glorious, expansive, richly textured, powerful (without being heavy), multi-layered and almost endless. Crystal-like definition kicks in and provides structural finesse along with mouth cleansing acidity (more confit lemon than searing grip). There’s pristine detail on show and the finish goes on for many minutes. Again, we finish with sea spray, confit lemon and mineralité. In summary, this is perfectly balanced, a joy to drink today but has the structure to evolve for another 6-8 years and delivers waves of textural finesse. Very, very, very good indeed. Do not overchill. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”.
97+ Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Immediately, the vibrant perfume oozes and fills the surroundings with an abundance of ripe citrus, sweet figs and yellow peaches. Rich notes of sea spray and salty minerals frame the plentiful fruit beautifully, while a whiff of white flowers, beeswax and vanilla add exuberance. I keep coming back to the glass admiring this rather flamboyant perfume. Honeyed pears emerge with aeration and those elegant floral elements prevail. So much energy without losing its composure. The palate is equally rich and layered, laced with grapefruit, confit lemon, minerals and a creamy chalkiness. Superb weight with nutty complexities and mouthcoating texture. This is lip-smackingly delicious! Drinking amazingly now, but it certainly has the structure to evolve over the next 6-8 years. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware after 30 minutes of decanting and again on the next day."
*** 5 Star Customer Review ***
Gavin J - "OH YES, this is a brilliant wine. I’m not hugely qualified in all things Chardonnay but have recently been drinking Hardys Eileen so have a decent benchmark. This has a classic Ch. backbone along with a welcome freshness; even a floral quality. Super enjoyable and a great example of jumping on any experienced wine makers personal project. Thinking they naturally put just a little more of their heart and soul into the winemaking..."
Coulter Wines C5 Barbera Adelaide Hills 2019
95+ - 96 Points - Stuart McCloskey “Blue and black fruits in abundance, gift-wrapped in a velvety robe of sweet spice (black liquorice too). Like the Shiraz, this is another charmer and will please all those seeking textural richness, generosity and fun. On a serious vinous note, this maybe quaffable, but the wine has a serious edge. The lasting fruit flavours impress, there’s ample texture and acidity that is always an important component to a good Barbera (but not too much). Harmonious in a word… Decant for an hour. Served using Bordeaux Zalto glassware”
96 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "A vibrant medley of red and blue fruits dominates the perfume with a good dusting of sweet spices and vanilla. The palate is more plush than I was expecting and lacks the harsh acidity often associated with Barbera. The sweetness of its ripe fruit is quite delectable and the texture bright and super smooth. This is dangerously easy-drinking and perhaps the perfect wine to have alongside easy, fuss-free suppers like pizza or sausages and mash. Perfectly enjoyable in its youth. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware following one hour of decanting."
JC's Own Lobethal Chardonnay 2019
97+ - 98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “There is so much to like about JC’s new release; texturally the wine is on point for me which is a direct result of the wine being aged on the lees for 18 months. Bottling without fining or filtration adds another layer of textural interest. The bouquet expands with ripe apples, poached pear, Florence fennel, a little salinity, confit lime and minerality. I recommend some time in a decanter which will help the perfume to expand. Warming ginger creeps through. JC prefers to have fun with his wines however, there is a serious edge to this one. Medium to full-bodied, expansive and oozes generosity. There’s an oxidative character which I really enjoy – the textural grip, firm structure and vein of acidity are fabulous. It’s refreshing to see an Aussie winemaker producing a Chardonnay which exudes character. I am tired of sampling fashionably shy, limp and searing acidic wines. For me, this is as ‘texturally’ perfect as a young Chardonnay gets. There is tangible mineralité character which works tunefully with zips of lemon, lime, a light spicing and oxidative orchard fruit. The way the flavours fan out on the finish is delightful – the length is super impressive. The sculpted, textural personality makes this one of the top Aussie Chardonnays of 2020 / 2021. Sold out domestically (no wonder) and I believe we are the only ‘physical’ stockist.’ Do not overchill. Drink from now to 2030. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.
98 Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Always lots of joy bottled under JC’s labels. The perfume is vibrant and complex, abundant in orchard fruits and orange marmalade. The aromas build in the glass as the wine aerates revealing a graceful vein of minerality and beeswax. The palate is equally compelling. On entry, zesty citrus and juicy yellow peaches open up before the show is stolen by cascading confit lemons, minerals and ginger with a dusting of warming spices. JC’s wines are packed with intrigue and vivacity, which I absolutely love. The Lobethal Chardonnay is no different – it is exciting, beautifully textural, grippy and full of charisma. Stunning! Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware without decanting."
JC's Own Morialta Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019
Jaysen Collins "I spent a few years living in the eastern foothills of Adelaide and would regularly grab a beer at the pub at the top of the hill, watching the sunset move across the city to the coast. I used to pass a newish vineyard on the way there, but never gave it much notice. Now twenty years later, after seeking out a new pinot vineyard in the Adelaide Hills, I found myself back at the same pub after sampling or picking grapes at this vineyard. A little full circle moment for me.
Leading up to harvest, I had been ruminating on a style of medium bodied pinot that reflected the vivid intensity the sun gives shimmering off the ocean. I always chase brightness in wines, so high altitude fruit suits this as a start – box ticked. I had imported a few concrete fermenters for the clarity and energy they give to Grenache. As Grenache ripens after pinot, i had a chance to ferment this wine in cement, to see if it would give the same vitality. The style is pretty much as I intended - is it the vineyard, is it the fermenter – a bit of both? Pull a cork and decide for yourself."
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “Another domestic sell out with only 576 bottles being produced. This is our second bottle in two days as it fascinated the hell out of us – bottle one was consumed throughout a day as the flavours developed (we forgot to write our notes if truth be known). I hate to say ‘this will suit a certain type of wine drinker’ as I feel this is disrespectful. However, and for the very first time (perhaps the ‘only’ occasion), this is a Pinot Noir for all lovers of bright, enthusiastic Grenache. The bouquet is epic and so different to most Aussie Pinot Noirs. Wild, savoury, lavender, sweetly spiced, dehydrated strawberry, dusty earth and orange peel. In short, the bouquet is heroic. The palate is savoury, incredibly satisfying, filled with juicy, spiced fruits juxtaposed with woody herbs. Overall, it is alive with waves of freshness – the sorbet-like blood orange finish is a dream. Ludicrously good and will convert non-Pinot Noir fans across to the dark side. Drink from now to 2030. Served using Zalto Burgundy glassware.”
A little bank holiday weekend inspiration...
Soumah Equilibrio Pinot Noir 2019
5 Star Review, David C
"Epic. Up there with the Burgundy's twice or more the price. Delicious sweet juicy flavours and great length."
Soumah Equilibrio Chardonnay 2018
Decanter World Wine Awards 'Best in Show' 2020
98 Points - Stu & Magda
Only 9 bottles left
Gemtree Wines Bloodstone Shiraz 2019
96 Points - Stuart McCloskey “How daft of me to sample the most junior wine after the magnificence that is Subterra. Another way of looking at it is – is there breadth and depth to Gemtree’s entire portfolio? In short, the answer is affirmative as this is a joyous beauty strutting with confidence, despite its respectable price tag. The nose offers some warmth from clove and sweet spices. Brooding and actually proving more adult than I expected. The palate is washed with sweet, ripe fruit. Interestingly, this wine lacks the ‘coolness’ of its big brothers, but it misses nothing for it. This is a really joyous slap and tickle of delicious quaffable Shiraz (I have omitted using our Aussie friends’ description, ‘smash-able’). It’s drenched with plums, blueberries, blackberries, mint, vanilla, coconut, kirsch and olive all wrapped in a gentle hug of tannin. The length is super-impressive. In fact (and a little secret) I have a few wines at 25 quid which are not as good! Decant for a few hours and serve using Zalto Bordeaux glassware (this will make all the difference). Drink now to 2025+.”
*** 5 Star Customer Reviews ***
Mike B "Yum!"
Gavin J - "If an alien landed and wanted to try wine I would dig out a Gem Tree. I am still working through the range but in my mind they get back to the basics of preserving grape juice for enjoyable drinking and living which may make your eight legs go a bit funny after a few glasses of the stuff. Out of the two ‘foundational’ reds this wowed the most at this stage. Penetrating fruit smartly wrapped up in a gentle and moreish softness that made this an exceptional and cheery end to the weekend. Big respect to GT for basic lightweight bottles and simple labels showing an eco-friendly confidence in the purpose of these wines."
Artisans of Barossa Small Batch Graciano 2018
96+ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "It’s great to see Artisans venturing onto alternative varieties, which is no gimmick here as they know their craft. It includes a dash of Tempranillo (14%). The perfume exhibits the purest form of red and black cherries which dominate the nose in a most alluring way. A touch of violets and crushed minerals complement the bursting cherries. The palate follows suit although it displays a much more savoury tone than expected. A great touch of cooling minerals, dried herbs and a perfectly judged zip of acidity add a lift to the flavoursome, round structure. Those juicy cherries linger forever with a little black liquorice and minerals. Sampled without decanting and using Zalto Bordeaux glassware, which brings out more savoury complexities I find."
Villa Maria Clifford Bay Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2019
The bouquet soars with blackcurrant leaf, pea-pod, passionfruit, gooseberry, grapefruit, lime and a murmur of minerality. Equally, the palate flies with greengage, stone fruits, citrus, herbs and expands beautifully across my palate. Mouth-watering and fully charged to provide immediate satisfaction. Very good value.
Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Chardonnay 2019
Stone fruits intermingle with a little grapefruit, lemon oil and that wonderful jasmine character which appears to be the Domaine Naturaliste signature. Textural and the flavours fan out fabulously – the finish is admirably long which emphasises the excellent quality to value ratio. Pristine and no shortage of fruit. Overall, so enjoyable, so much pleasure.
Ghost Rock Fume Blanc 2018
96-97 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz “The perfume exudes with aromatic elderflower, tropical notes of guava, lychee and freshly cut pineapple. There is also a beautifully floral lift with a whiff of slaty minerals, which provides an elegant sheen. The texture is impressive, and not only a nod to the quality of the fruit but the barrel fermentation and barrel ageing. Delightfully juicy with some of the same floral characters unfolding with elderflower, lychee and hints of spiced pear in the background. Almost a crack of black pepper. The finish is impressive and long – the flavours expand and continue for several minutes. This will keep a few years in the cellar however, I enjoy today’s youthfulness. Served using Zalto Universal glassware.”
Latta Vino Granite Riesling 2019
97 Points "The bouquet is immensely appealing, offering scents of orange and rose blossom, orchard fruit, quince, spring flowers and a little citrus. More classical and missing those petrol aromas found in some Aussie Rieslings. Bracing acidity is missing which allows the pure fruit flavours of apricot and tangerine peel to shine. Rose petal and jasmine (essence of Gewürztraminer) which is fascinating. The profile is pure, spiced and I love the dash of white pepper and phenolic grip."
Shadowfax Macedon Ranges Pinot Gris 2019
97 Points "Sampled without decanting. Super aromatic with honeysuckle, peaches, honeyed pears and sweet citrus. Toasted almonds underline its complex perfume. The palate mirrors the aromatics beautifully with additions of ripe figs and sweet spices. The balance of ripe and refreshing components is spot on. What a wonderful varietal expression, one which is not under or overdone, but just perfectly harmonious. Thanks to its superb balance, it will convince those who had a mixed experience with Pinot Gris before."
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