My Column

    MY TOP 10 WINES OF 2016

    Chateau d’Yquem 2009 99 points

    Hard to say that this was better than the 2011 and vice versa, for different reasons these two wines have an inner light… lingering, powerful, rich, restrained, fine, expansive, sure… so many words.  Unmisseable.

    Chateau d’Yquem 2011 99 points

    What can be said here…  Compared to the 2001 (confirmed by Sandrine Garbay), this was an astoundingly fresh and complex wine, stratospheric in its flavour explosion in my mouth, and going the distance through the finish.  Even to the lay person this is an exceptional wine: thought provoking, smile inducing and exciting.  I mean this is a seriously cool wine.

    Pierre Peters ‘Les Chetillons’ Blanc de Blancs 2008, 99 points

    Nervously close to perfect.  I can’t think of a thing I would add or take away to this complete wine.  It is walking on a tightrope of acidity, tension, expansive minerality and restrained fruit.  There is finesse and power here at once. Devastatingly, my one and only bottle.  But worth it.  INCREDIBLE.

    Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1996, 99 points

    What more could I want from a champagne? Tight, refined, powerful… delicate flavours of citrus peel mingle with the signature crushed coffee grounds and oyster shell.  Lingering and rendering me somewhat speechless, before inspiring a (largely ineloquent) monologue dominated by fricative consonants and punctuated by laughter… 

    Bartolo Mascarello Barolo 2008, 98 points

    Dazzlingly great, if not young.  But surprisingly awake and even mellifluous now....  bright and spicy, layered and complex but satisfying and approachable... restrained, structured, abundant fruit – this is why we drink nebbiolo.

    Bollinger La Grande Annee Rose 2002, 98 points

    Our anniversary wine.  Dark salmon in colour, more illuminated orange than I expected, dried rose petals, pomegranate, sautéed strawberries, blood orange, hints of star anise, crushed pink peppercorns…. Structured, rich, complex, exciting and ageing so gracefully.  Wow.

    Penfolds Grange 2012, 98 points

    Well I never thought I’d use this word with Grange on release: restraint. “Oh it’s like the o4!” was my first thought.  This I think, is the greatest Grange on release.  Savoury fruit, mulberry, ripe raspberry, hints of blackcurrant, salted black liquorice, spicy pepper, clove, star anise – it’s moorish.  This is desperately moorish.  And elegant.  Restraint and spice.  YES.

    Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 1986, 98 points

    Ageing more gracefully than I am.  Superb example of Margaret River Chardonnay – 30 years old! I wouldn’t say this had more time left in it, but I will say it was the very best version of itself – all things in place and world class. So proud to be WA born and bred.

    Ulysse Colin Les Roises Blanc de Blancs NV, 97 points

    One of four blanc de blancs at dinner, this being tiny production (3600 bottles annually), single vineyard in that even thought this is a NV BdBs, the reserve wines are from this vineyard, and the Burgundy barrels used for maturation are also isolated to this vineyard.  The most full bodied, complex champagne I think I’ve had.  Seriously like Burgundy but it just happens to have bubbles and a wicked acid line.

    Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2014 97 points

    As usual, the nose here is super refined, a clear balance of fruit, and oak, and spice.  A thoroughbred wine with a length of flavour that shimmers, the fruit has exceptional clarity, it is fine and spiced... Length of flavour without bulk.  Elegance.  Longevity.  Purity and precision.  Crystalline.  Length without brawn.


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    My Today

    Margaret River Round Up

    “What a proud week for western Australian wines.” That was my first thought as my colleagues and I embarked upon an epic week of wine tasting and regional exploration through the Geographe region, Margaret River, Pemberton and Frankland River.

    We had the distinct pleasure of tasting our way through 184 wines, and talking with charismatic and knowledgable winemakers who shed invaluable insight into their vineyards and the differences in growing areas and subregions – precious information that would have taken weeks to dig out of books and articles.

    It’s easy as pie to get excited about Margaret River cabernets and chardonnays: the quality is predictably high and the range of producers and styles is impressive.

    We began day two with sixteen Margaret River chardonnays. All of them bar none, displayed good fruit concentration and very good length of flavour. The best wines displayed a seamless flavour journey across the palate, and the oak influence (whilst evident) was restrained and served to enhance the fruit, not smother it. From one extreme to the other, this bracket of wines showed an array of styles. My top picks were the 2012 Cullen ‘Kevin John’ (19.1), 2013 Thompson Est (18.6) and the 2011 Fraser Gallop ‘Parterre’ (18.7).

    After lunch we moved into cabernet territory. 24 of them. What a thoroughly impressive afternoon. All of the greats were there. The best wines were an exercise in chewy supple tannins, ripe sweet fruit, balance and the majority were medium bodied. My top picks here were: 2011 Xanadu Stevens Road (18.9), 2012 Deep Woods Reserve (18.8) and the 2012 Woodlands ‘Thomas’ (18.9).

    We experienced Margaret River as a region rich in living history, and in the midst of vibrantly debating the merits of sub-regionality, laid out by the visionary John Gladstones in 1999. This is a region in its infancy (the first vines were planted in 1968) and some of its pioneers are still alive today. I will continue to watch Margaret River with bated breath, for its future will be dynamic.


    Wines of the week:

    2012 Mandoon Estate “Old Vine Grenache”, Swan Valley.“
    Ah geez. I do love grenache. Ripe raspberries, balsamic, black pepper and lovely charr-y oak. The palate isspectacular. The flavour development through to the finish is intensely engaging and the aftertaste is veryappealing. For now or cellar. 18.5 pts”

    2005 Houghton Cellar Release ‘White Classic’
    “OK now we’re talking. There is complexity and life in the aromas of this wine. Suggestions of orange blossom, fresh apricots, star anise, white nectarine, unripe Nashi pears, and elderflower. The palate has a lovely racy acidity and freshness but also a wonderful element of worked complexity as it travels over the palate and develops into a long and textured finish. 18 pts.”

    John Kosovic Rare Muscat, Swan Valley
    “Cocoa, fennel, star anise, cedar, liquorice, raisin, quince, christmas cake and fig. The length is extraordinary, the flavour consistent and sure, and the intensity unwavering. Yes please. What a treat. 18.7 pts”

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    Independent wine writer, judge, hostess, pen for hire and wine nerd. Always pursuing some kind of award, scholarship, degree or project. Forever tasting and working on the palate. Especially keen if the tasting concerns WA wines, or Champagne. Or Barolo, or white Burgundy… or Pinot…

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  5 Wines  from  3 Producers 

In 2012 I opened a bottle of a the 2004 Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard – Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Shiraz (20%) and Cabernet Franc (10%).  I’ve never forgotten that bottle – it was soft and elegant, complex, spicy and wonderful. They say context is everything, and that bottle was drunk with great friends. In terms of vintages, 2003/2004 was tumultuous and varied, but the Whalebone Vineyard is on average, slightly cooler than the Coonawarra region, which in that season was slightly cooler than average.  So.  I’m sorry I didn’t buy more bottles, and open them over the following years.  From that night grew a great affection and wandering interest in Tapanappa. 


20d 16h ago

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  9 Wines  from  1 Producers 

"2013 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay – This year, the label features the artwork of Tim McMonagle, entitled 'A Fixed Address (fish & marron)'. Previous releases have been true to the established Leeuwin chardonnay style: Rich, intense, powerful and full. The 2011 was a slight deviation in their modern era style, where Leeuwin released a leaner, finer and more spiced chardonnay. The 2012 was spiced, round, tertiary and rich. The 2013 is a continuation of this more fruit/mineral driven style, and very happy about it I am. Red currant, kiwi fruit, pink grapefruit, white peach, salted lemons, ash, white and black pepper, hints of fresh thyme, pistachio and saffron. The palate is fresh and textural – pure pleasure. Plush and ready for drinking now. This has focus, power, density and precision. It’s alive. Absolutely consistent in texture and flavour from first sip to aftertaste. Oak perfectly married to the fruit already. Paul Atwood has created a chardonnay of opulence and minerality: touché Leeuwin. Gorgeous. 96 points"

7m 2d ago

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  10 Wines  from  8 Producers 

Pierre Peters ‘Les Chetillons’ Blanc de Blancs 2008, 99 points /Nervously close to perfect.  I can’t think of a thing I would add or take away to this complete wine.  It is walking on a tightrope of acidity, tension, expansive minerality and restrained fruit.  There is finesse and power here at once. Devastatingly, my one and only bottle.  But worth it.  INCREDIBLE.

8m 10d ago

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  4 Wines  from  4 Producers 

Amongst the hustle, bustle and honour of our week down south, we were treated to a cabernet vertical at Cape Mentelle.

 This included the 1983 vintage: winner of the 1984 Jimmy Watson trophy – clearly well deserved and in pristine condition: 19.5 pts. Winemaker Evan Thomson and Technical Director and Head of Winemaking and Viticulture Frederique Parker Perrin took us through a flight of carefully selected vintages which were all in textbook condition. The wines showed us an evolution in style towards an elegant and long lived expression of cabernet. With such a dynasty to uphold, the current day winemakers are refining and perfecting a proven course of production- not reinventing the wheel.

Together they shed invaluable insight into their vineyards (most specifically the iconic Wallcliff vineyard from which the grapes for the cabernet are solely sourced), and the differences in growing areas in Wilyabrup. Their comments on the choice to include the 1995 due to the first time use of bird nets meant the winemakers were able to pick the grapes when they chose, and not forced to out of protection – precious information that would have taken weeks to dig out of books and past articles. The tasting formed the basis of an illustrative, informative and thrilling afternoon – and confirmed Cape Mentelle’s position as one of Margaret River’s foremost cabernet producers.

1y 1m ago

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  2 Wines  from  2 Producers 

Lunch with Alberto Antonini / Named as one of the top 5 winemakers in the world by Decanter wine magazine, the composed and eloquent Alberto Antonini flew to Adelaide to walk us – the Australian wine media – through a selection of wines from the Alejandro Bulgheroni Family Vineyards portfolio.  Alberto is consultant winemaker to the family group, and currently oversees winemaking in the USA, Argentina, Uruguay, France, Italy and soon, the Barossa Valley in South Australia.

“There are two ways to make wine: you make wine for the market, or you find a market for the wine. The market has become too powerful, homogenisation is common.  In this way, authenticity goes to hell.” – A. Antonini

Alberto is virtually obsessed by the notion of authenticity in wine; many times throughout lunch explaining his views on terroir, site and expression.  Counting off his fingers he said, “There are five enemies to authenticity: 1) over-maceration; 2) over-extraction; 3) over oak; 4) the viticulturist using chemicals in the vineyard and 5) the winemaker and their ego.  A wine should be about style and site over maker.” Discussing the decision to farm organically without chemicals, enhance soil management and boost healthy biodiversity in the vineyards, Antonini explained that these techniques encourage the vine’s roots to dig deeper. “Superficial roots are responsible for very boring wines,” he commented with noticeable derision.   “Pushing the varietal in the label of a premium wine is very superficial.  The grapes are citizens of the world – they go everywhere.  What you should put on the label is the region.  Varieties are broad.  The region is specific.”

This brings us to the reason for our meeting: Oil and gas billionaire Alejandro Bulgheroni has expanded his wine empire to Australia: in 2011 he purchased a 12ha vineyard in the Barossa for $1.95 million.  In partnership with winemaker Amelia Nolan, the Bulgheroni Family Vineyards will release a range of straight varietal wines from the Barossa.  Amelia is GM of the South Australia based Alejandro Bulgheroni Family Vineyards and will be working with Alberto on the 12ha Barossa site, which Amelia described as “a unique and special place to make wine”.  Located a touch further south than the Kalleske vineyard in northern Barossa, “we will build something new from old vines”.  Currently the site – once belonging to Les Kalleske- is composed of 6ha of Grenache, Mouvedre and Semillon, and 6ha of Shiraz (pl. 1998).   They plan to plant a further 18ha of the same in the coming year.  Over a period of 3 years, Bulgheroni, Nolan and Antonini “…looked at all of Australia,” said Nolan, “…we wanted a unique vineyard site that was not only a good fit for our portfolio, but also provided an opportunity to do something new on old bones.”

Unfortunately, the market will have to wait until 2018 for the release of these Barossan Bulgheroni wines, but if they’re anything like the pure, structured, balanced and authentic wines that currently populate the Bulgheroni portfolio, then we’re in for a treat.


1y 6m ago

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a wine moment

““From a small producer in the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger comes this wonderful, rare, powerful wine. For those not familiar with the wines of Pierre Peters, you can expect Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) of incredible length, purity and finesse. We had this wine over dinner at a Chinese restaurant on Gouger street in Adelaide last Friday, and it was possibly one of the most enjoyable champagnes I’ve had. It has a ‘shapely’ nose: a kelpiness, a chalky character… salty, briny. Crushed oyster shell, preserved lemon, a clap of chalk (from the famous soils of Le Mesnil), green walnut, full of minerality: this is alive. It glistens. Contrary to common belief about Les Chetillons, it is not a single vineyard, but a blend of 3 adjacent vineyards. This has richness and depth, but delicacy as well. 2008 was one of the great vintages – if you see any, my advice is to buy them on spec – this is a gift to the champagne lover, as was 2002, as was 1996 before it. At $200 it might not be everyday drinking… but at 99 points I’m going to do my best to track down another bottle.”

1y 10m ago

1 Wines 1 Producers

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  9 Wines  from  1 Producers 

"2014 Penfolds Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay /100% Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills “The oak on the nose here is spicy, salted, sitting on top of the fruit. Intense and alive this has got flavour in spades. Not the understated delicacy of Yattarna, but a vibrancy and density of flavour that put it on its own. Dry roasted pine nuts, pink grapefruit, quenching yellow peach and a taut yet subtle tension of acidity across the palate. This is great. Brilliant length. Another great Reserve Bin A! This wine is whole bunch pressed and undergoes initial fermentation and subsequent maturation in French oak (82% new), 100% malolactic fermentation, and the fruit despite this retains a sharp focus and line. This is the premium Chardonnay from Penfolds that you know you should be cellaring, but it’s too delicious to last very long. Utter pleasure here. 12.5%ALC. 96 points, $100”

1y 11m ago

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  5 Wines  from  4 Producers 

"If you’ve ever been down to the Denmark wine region, you’ve probably driven down the wonderful Scotsdale Road, and chances are you’ve stopped in at Duckett’s Mill for cheese. The fruit for this riesling is from the vineyard directly next door to Duckett’s Mill. Winemaker and owner James Kellie has made this a streamlined and elegant wine… racy and lithe, this is a spiced and refreshing riesling with a racy acid back bone and burst of bright fruit on the palate. Lime pith and white pepper. Green apple skins and a swoosh of cleansing, tightly coiled acidity. It deservedly won a Gold medal at the 2015 Qantas wine show. A cracking bargain – perfect with white meats through summer. 92 points drink now or med-long term cellar."

2y 13d ago

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a wine moment

“Ochota Barrels, Fugazi Vineyard, Grenache, Blewitt Springs/McLaren Vale 2012
Single Vineyard
“Purchased in 2013 on release, each bottle is individually hand numbered. This was bottle number 1482 of 2256. 2012 was an excellent vintage in McLaren Vale, and the ’12 Fugazi Vineyard grenache forms a part of a collection of McLaren Vale grenaches purchased from this vintage. This is a lighter bodied style of McLaren Vale Grenache than I’m normally accustomed to – Szechuan pepper, black raspberry and fine tannins make for an almost delicate wine. Hints of toffee apple and marzipan lace their way through the finish. Super interesting and a surprising focus of flavour for the relatively pale colour… this could have gone longer in the cellar, however drinking it at 4 years was about right for my taste – complex and the fruit still very much alive. 94 points and $40. Current vintage is 2014.”

2y 3m ago

Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  4 Wines  from  2 Producers 

"THE rose of the summer : A new addition for Deep Woods – this is their purpose built Estate Rose. Unfortunately Julian Langworthy (winemaker) didn’t make the Olympic swimming pool size quantities I was hoping for… With limited time on skins, this is a soft and pale blush pink, aromas of rose petals, strawberries, pink peppercorn, pomegranate, red apple skins, hints of savoury spice and ripe raspberries, all balanced by white pepper and a dry finish. Interestingly, the tiny white grape component of Vermentino is barrel fermented for texture, and the major blend of Tempranillo (texture and aromatics) and Shiraz (savouriness and colour) work together to create a Rose of suppleness, spice, complexity and life – THE rose of the summer. 93 points drink now."

2y 3m ago


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