My Column

    Scoring can be very confusing for consumers - so, what is the best way to do it?

    There will always be an element of the subjective in wine. Personal preferences are paramount, though surely we can all recognise a great wine when we see it, whether or not it is a style we enjoy? It is, of course, not so simple. One look at experts' scores for a great many wines tell a story of considerable divergence of opinion. So too, do vintage ratings. It is all part of the fun, but it can be very confusing for consumers. 

    The Australian Wine Show system, currently undergoing some serious navel-gazing, is probably the most sophisticated of its type in the world, but certainly not perfect. Originally established as part of the agricultural show circuit to 'improve the breed', it has largely been hijacked by marketing departments, keen to festoon bottles in gold gongs. The evidence suggests that it does help sales. It has resulted in far too many shows, more than one a week, but the genie is out of the bottle. 


    For those not familiar, a typical Australian show operates as follows. Shows might be wide-ranging, like capital city shows, regional or even varietal. Each judging panel – in small regional shows there might only be one, while for capital city shows, there could be five panels or more – consists of three judges, one of whom is panel chair. There will be an overall chairman, and often associate judges (associates are there for the experience: their points don't count, though their input is welcomed).

    All wines are tasted blind, though varieties and vintages are usually known. So one panel might be doing 50 Sauvignon Blanc from the current vintage while the next panel tackles 100 Shiraz, two years or older. The judging is done individually. When finished, the judges and associates sit down and the marks, usually out of 20 though some shows are moving to the Parker-inspired 100-point scale (it is hard to imagine that this won't be the norm very quickly), tallied. An average of 15.5 scores a bronze; 17 a silver and 18.5 and higher, a gold medal. Any wine that scores gold medal points from any judge will be recalled for tasting and that judge will have the opportunity to speak for the wine, and try and convince the other judges it is worthy of a gold medal. Or not. Much discussion takes place here and judges are free to defend their scores or attack others. This is the time for horse trading. Later, there will be an across-the-board judging of the top wines for trophies. In the old days, there was only one gold, silver and bronze awarded, but for many years now, any wine scoring the requisite points gets the gong. So all wines in a class could theoretically score gold. Or nothing. 

    The scores were largely “understood” amongst judges. A perfectly acceptable commercial wine could expect to score around 14 to 15 points from everyone. Not quite a medal but enough to show that there were no faults and it was pleasant drinking. 13 or below would tend to indicate a problem. From viewing certain offshore publications, who also use the 20 point scale, it is clear that not all scores equate. 14 to 15 points for these magazines represent a wine of considerably higher quality. 13 points does not suggest any problems.

    Once, most judges were winemakers working with large producers. It is an unpaid position, so they were the only ones who could spare the time. The big companies wanted their winemakers on panels as it was the best way to follow trends, to ascertain what was working and what was not and then to modify their own practices accordingly. No one would ever be so crass to suggest it was a form of industrial espionage but it wasn't far short. 

    Eventually, members of the wine media were included – for me, judging in the small regional shows is extremely useful as it provides an instant overview of the district's wines and how they have handled recent vintages. International judges were also included to add a different perspective. Sometimes this was most useful; on other occasions less so. There is a famous tale of a female international Judge who simply refused to budge when it came to scores and discussions. For her, that 'perfectly acceptable wine' was worth 5 to 6 points at most, and a poor one, was lucky to get 2 points. This, of course, threw out the totals terribly. No matter how it was explained, she was intransigent. The story goes that the chairman, the inimitable Len Evans, came up with a plan for day two of the judging. An associate was promoted replace her, while another given the task of convincing the visitor that day two was cancelled and that she had been nominated to take her shopping for the day. It worked.


    There are a couple of issues with scoring and the 100-point system in particular, though I’ll confess to not only favouring it, but using it for many years when possible. It has become near universal. Whereas with the 20-point system, there seemed to be considerable consistency across experts, judges and writers, I do not see the same with the 100-point system. I have no idea why this should be but I also believe it won’t take much for this ruffle to be satisfactorily ironed out.

    Something else puzzled me. I would see certain writers (and this is very much restricted to wine writers), undoubtedly competent tasters, giving extremely generous scores, often across the board. Were these writers simply more benevolent than myself (and I should state that I consider my scores often to fall towards the higher side of the scale – a 'glass half full' thing, if you like – and following the scores awarded by some of the other writers for 'Fine Wine Magazines' and on thetastingbook.com, I am definitely more generous than many)? It was explained to me that at least some of the writers gave scores on the higher side because they would be the scores the marketing departments would use in their advertisements, leading to name recognition of the reviewer with the general public and, in turn, elevating the profile of that reviewer. It all seems a little bit too Machiavellian to me. Surely, this just means reviewers paint themselves into a corner when a better wine comes along? Consumers are not stupid. If the thoughts of a reviewer fall short too many times, then all credibility is lost.


    What it boils down to is that each consumer should work out which reviewers suit their palates and their preferences – yet another reason why thetastingbook.com is so valuable. 








    My Today

    Mornington Peninsula Wineries – Top Ten

    Mornington Peninsula is part of what has become known as the dress circle of wine regions around Melbourne in Victoria (along with Macedon, Geelong and the Yarra Valley). Like most of these surrounding regions, a number of varieties excel but none more so than the Burgundians – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Some of Australia’s best examples of both are found here. 

    The universal problem with any Top Ten list is that if you are asked for the same list the following day, there is every chance that it will change. A Top Ten list of Mornington Peninsula wineries is tough enough to compile in the first place, but every time I find ten with which I am happy, I think of a few more deserving of a place. So before we get into the top ten, here are some cracking wineries, all worth visiting and definitely worth drinking – Port Phillip Estate, Dexter, Polperro, Quealy, Scorpo, Elgee Park, Montalto, Willow Creek, Dromana, T’Gallant, Crittenden Estate, Ocean Eight and Principia. And that doesn’t include ‘outsiders’ who source fruit from the region, such as William Downie. If you ask me tomorrow, half of these are just as likely to be on my list. And I’ll have thought of a few more. 


    Pinot Noir seems especially at home on the Peninsula, though there are very different styles. They range from fragrantly elegant to rich, full-flavoured, complex efforts. The cooler sub-regions tend to the softer tannins with gentle red fruits, cherries, strawberries and raspberries. The warmer sub-regions are giving Pinot that is more tannic with darker fruits, not least plums. Chardonnay can be wonderfully complex with great intensity and a lingering persistence. Alluring, supple texture and with citrus and stonefruit notes. They also have the knack of ageing extremely well, which must be partly attributed to the high level of natural acidity found in the ripe grapes. Malolactic fermentation is the rule. It appears that the Peninsula is one of the better regions for Pinot Gris and even some stunning Shiraz.  

    The sub-regions are, at this stage, unofficial and commonly referred to as ‘down the hill’, which is more northerly, and ‘up the hill’, the more southerly. The ‘north’ includes places such as Main Ridge, Red Hill and Moorooduc and sits at the higher altitudes. 

    Altitude ranges between 25 and 250 metres above sea level. The seasonal rainfall sits between 12 and 15 inches. So much surrounding water ensures a maritime climate. This maritime influence may mitigate any serious climate change that may occur in the forthcoming years to a degree, but the ultimate impact remains to be seen. 


    The wines listed here are not all current vintages (some are) but all are recent and most should still be found if you search hard or check cellar door. In no particular order…



    Stonier Wines was founded by Brian Stonier, back in 1978, which surely grants it elder status, but it remains a vibrant, relevant and important winery for the region. And one continually making excellent wines, especially their various Pinot Noirs. With almost 70 hectares either under ownership (these days, ownership is with Lion) or under their management, they are one of the more serious players in the district. 

    Stonier is famous for their annual International Pinot Noir Tasting (SIPNOT) which pits their own offering against the best from around the globe, all tasted blind, of course. It is rare that their wine is not one of the cheapest in the tasting and even more rare that theirs is not considered one of the very best. 


    KBS Chardonnay 2013 ($45). A style with 50% malolactic fermentation, this is very much a youthful wine. An appealing mix of mineral and citrus notes, especially grapefruit. Has some underlying power and richness and it maintains intensity throughout, with a long finish. A full-flavoured yet balanced Chardonnay. Like it a lot. 93. 


    Main Ridge Estate

    A small but universally admired and much loved estate, Main Ridge Estate was one of the very first wineries in the district. Established by civil engineer and world’s nicest guy, Nat White, and his wife, Rosalie, back in 1975, it is a mere 2.8 hectares. All fruit used come from the estate, so it is immediately obvious that quantities will be limited. This wine is one of the very last made by Nat as the property has finally been sold. There will be a lot of winelovers with an eye on the place to see if standards are maintained but so far the new owners, the Sexton family, are saying all the right things. Mind you, if anyone has ever had a bad word about anything to do with this wonderful tiny winery, I’m yet to hear it. There’d be few critics not have it firmly ensconced in their Top Ten for all Australia. 

    Choice of wine? It really could be pretty much anything made here. They never miss a beat. 


    Chardonnay 2014 ($65)

    100% wild yeast fermentation, malolactic and barrel fermentation in new and one-year-old Sirogue. This is an exciting Chardonnay. Offers nuts, ripe peach pit notes, grilled cashews. There is depth and intensity with a wonderfully supple texture. Bright acidity sits under waves of flavours. Excellent persistence, indeed, serious length. This is youthful but offers an exciting future. Should drink well for a decade. 95. 



    Part of a Pinot empire, which it forms with Port Phillip Estate, and under the gifted hand of Sandro Mosele, Kooyong is about to enter its third decade. In that time, it has established a well-deserved reputation as Pinot royalty. The stars of the range are the three single vineyard offerings – Haven, Meres and Ferrous – but there are numerous wines to love.  They have some 40 hectares, the majority devoted to Pinot Noir with a significant section to Chardonnay. 


    ‘Ferrous’ Pinot Noir 2012 ($75). A dense, complex Pinot with an array of characters – gunflint, warm earth, animal hides and dark berries. A gentle and receding oak influence. Finely balanced and delightfully aromatic. Juicy acidity, silky tannins and impressive length. A complex, yet elegant Pinot with time ahead of it. Much to like here. 95. 


    Yabby Lake Vineyard

    Serious winemaking and wines reside here. Established in the late 90s by Robert Kirby, this 50-plus hectare estate is a shrine to Pinot Noir, though of course, they do other varieties, and rather well, of course. Right from the early days, one of our best young winemakers (well, he was young then), Tom Carson, has been in control. As group winemaker, he also looks after their Heathcote Estate. Perhaps the ultimate accolade for this winery came recently, when, for the first time ever, a Pinot Noir won Australia’s most coveted wine trophy, the Jimmy Watson. The wine was the Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir 2012. 

    Why this wine? Because 2011 was a rather ordinary vintage across so much of Australia and if you can make a wine like this in a poor year, it gives a glimpse into the massive potential of this producer. 

    Mornington Peninsula ‘Single Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2011 ($60)

    The extra time has given this wine a slightly red/brown edge. This has an array of spice notes, animal hides, gamey touches. Some delightful complexity. A long, gentle and pleasing finish. This is one of the least ‘New World’ style Pinots you’ll find in the Mornington Peninsula. 93


    Eldridge Estate

    The focus of this winery in the Red Hill sub-region is very much on Pinot Noir, though David Lloyd also produces one of the country’s more interesting Gamays. Sadly, David’s very popular wife, Wendy, passed away a few years ago. She was an integral part of the Estate but after some time, David is back and focusing on his fascinating wines. Eldridge is always tinkering and experimenting, often in cahoots with the team at Paradigm Hill. The wines tend to the subtle end of the spectrum, elegance rather than brute force. The vines are some of the oldest in the region. 

    Pinot Noir 2014 ($60)

    Bright and fresh. This is quite a vibrant style with delicious cherry flavours and also notes of cherry pits. The first impression is of a pretty wine, but it is soon apparent that there is much more to it than that. Gentle fresh acidity. Good persistence. Delicious now and for the next few years. 93. 


    Paringa Estate 

    Lindsay McCall has operated Paringa for more than three decades and in that time, gained an international reputation for superb wines. Aside from 4.2 hectares at the estate, they have leased a further 13 hectares to cover requirements. There are several levels of quality, though the wines at all strata both excel and represent excellent value. One curiosity is that they make, in this adopted home to the Burgundian varieties, one of the country’s best Shiraz. 

    This is a must-visit on any trip to the region. They understand the tasting process perfectly, making it a really pleasurable experience. Add to that, an absolute superb restaurant. 

    A regional icon. 

    The Paringa’ Pinot Noir 2009 ($90). 

    Paringa Estate may be even more famous for their Shiraz (partly because it is a stunner and partly because they have mastered a grape that has seen others struggle in this region) but they have a number of Pinots, all worth a look. This is the pinnacle of them. From a thirty-year-old vineyard (old for here), there is power and richness in abundance. Black fruits, spices, coffee bean and dark berry notes here. All kept well in check. Great length. Something special and with an exciting future ahead. Already exhibiting complexity and with more to come. Notwithstanding the power and concentration here, it retains surprising elegance. 96. 


    Paradigm Hill

    Ruth and George Mihaly moved from successful careers in food and medical research respectively (their paradigm shift) to establish their small winery at Merricks. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Shiraz are all grown, but it is the Pinot Noir where the real excitement lies. 

    One thing worth knowing about George’s labels is that he provides more information than possibly any other winery in the world. If you can think of a question about his wines, he has already answered it, probably down to several decimal points. Neither George nor Ruth have completely left their former careers behind – Ruth is undoubtedly one of the best cooks in the region and George can’t help researching every tiny aspect of his vineyard and winery. It all leads to better and better wines. 

    ‘L’ami sage’ Pinot Noir 2012 ($65). The work done by George and his team have been rewarded as their recent wines show a finer texture, more elegance and better balance than ever before. This wine has some coffee grind and briary touches, spices and cherry notes. Good structure and silky tannins with some early complexity. The more time in the glass, the more it opened up to reveal glory after glory. 94. 


    Ten Minutes by Tractor

    If there was one word I’d associate with this curiously named estate, it would be ‘professionalism’. Everything is done immaculately. And the wines have never been better. Established back in the 90s, there are three vineyards totalling around 35 hectares. And, needless to say, they are around ten minutes by tractor from each other. The attention to detail that Martin Spedding and his team have exhibited for so long, in every aspect of viticulture and winemaking, is being rewarded with a long string of some of the most exciting wines, not just in the region but across the country. Toss in a superb restaurant with a wine list that many Three Starred establishments would bow down before and this is, put simply, one of our best.

    One small pea under the mattress – they have crossed to the dark side and do produce a Sauvignon Blanc. For me, a waste of prized vineyard that could be devoted to something so much more rewarding. 


    ‘Wallis’ Chardonnay 2012 ($65). I find the Chardonnay from this vineyard to be slightly more elegant and refined than that from the McCutcheon Vineyard, but always happy to drink either. This offers oodles of lemon pie notes, freshly baked. Florals, notably jasmine. A wine that lingers beautifully. Excellent length, balance and intensity. Good future. seriously impressive Chardonnay. Love it. The fans of white Burgundy may scoff but given that the famous region has had so many problems over the last decade or two, why would anyone risk a small fortune on a bottle that is often little more than a pig-in-a-poke when you can have a wine like this. Great value. 96. 


    Moorooduc Estate

    Dr Richard McIntyre established this very popular estate back in 1983, but it is in the last decade that it has really stepped up to its current status as one of the very finest wineries in the region. Whether that is because of the move to wild yeast fermentation, the greater involvement of daughter, Kate (an MW), a revision of grape sourcing, increased vine age and/or winemaking expertise, or a combination of these factors hardly matters. Top of their tree (top Duc, if you like) is ‘The Moorooduc McIntyre’. Follow this estate. The wines are already superb but they are only heading for greater heights in the coming years. And they are seriously good value. 

    ‘The Moorooduc’ McIntyre Pinot Noir 2013 ($65)

    Stunning wine. Has depth and complexity. Darker fruits to be found here. Spices, plums, black fruits, leather. A delightful mix of fragrant elegance and coiled power. Great length. Very fine tannins. Youthful. Terrific now, just fabulous drinking, but this will be a seriously fine wine with more time. Impeccable balance. This wine has some of that elusive peacock’s tail, the explosion of flavours on its finish. Love it.96. 


    Hurley Vineyard 

    One might think that working as a Judge on the Victorian Supreme Court might occupy all of His Honour, Mr Justice Kevin Bell’s time but he and his wife, Tricia Byrnes, a senior solicitor herself, also managed to develop a high quality Pinot Noir winery and vineyards, with the wines improving almost every vintage. Although only a tiny property, there are a several releases. The ‘Garamond’ is especially highly regarded, but ‘Lodestone’ and ‘Hommage’ are also popular. There is an ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir, as well. These are wines much in demand – a situation that is only likely to increase.

    Corks, or more specifically Diam stoppers, are used, as opposed to the almost universal adoption of screwcaps, but I guess we can’t have everything. 

    Garamond’ Pinot Noir 2013 ($85)

    Fresh, with spices. Lovely raspberry and red fruit notes. Beautifully balanced, it maintains its intensity for a very long time. Promises an excellent future. Supple and delicious. It would be very hard to stop at a single glass of this wine. Very silky tannins, with underlying fresh acidity. A joy now and a wine that will be even better in time. 95. 


    My Yesterday

    MY TOP 10 WINE IN THE 2016 - The difficulty for such a list is not finding ten wines; it is narrowing it down to ten.

    What criteria should be used? Wines that gave the most pleasure? Highest scoring wines? Most interesting? A wine like the new Jim Barry Assyrtiko from the Clare Valley, for example. Thoroughly enjoyable but hardly going to knock the greatest in the world off their perches, but it is the first Assyrtiko made in Australia and shows what promise the variety has here. I'd have no problem including it. What of the 2001 Yquem? Every time I see it, I can’t help but fall under its spell. From the most thrilling young Yquem to an immaculate teenager, but it probably gets boring including it every time/every year. Also, I doubt that there is any serious winelover who does not know of its glories, so to include it does little. Some of the most exciting wines I saw this year were in barrel in Jerez and surrounds. But again, including them hardly helps anyone. Not as though they are being sold by the barrel.

    And if you asked me to do this list tomorrow, I might well have ten different wines. However, in no particular order, here goes…


    Penfold's Bin 60A Cabernet Shiraz 1962 –

    For me, the best wine at Pekka’s extraordinary tasting in Helsinki in August (and may I be allowed a smidge of national pride that an Aussie wine has topped the comp two years in a row)! 

    But then, this is a truly famous and fabulous wine. There was a time when every bottle seemed to be heaven-sent but in the last decade, the great ones have been not quite so apparent so often. Age? Corks? Luck? 

    Fortunately, they simply don’t come better than the bottle we had this year. Glorious (the only thing better would be a Redskins Superbowl win followed by a Springsteen concert – at least we have Bruce touring in 2017 because fat chance of a Skins win in the foreseeable future). Black cherries, aniseed, mint, chocolate. This was in brilliant condition. Supple texture. Just stunning. The aftertaste lingered for minutes. How can this possibly be so alive? As good as I have ever seen it. I'm not sure wine can get much better.



    Latour 1959 –

    Every year, a group of us select a theme, submit a wine or two of the highest order and have a day of it. The tasting of the wines kicks off 10am, and it is followed by a long lunch (a different group of wines for it). We have winemakers, retailers, friends and winelovers all join in. Over the years, we have focused on Taylors Vintage Ports, Rhônes, Vosne Romanée Grand Cru, Chambertin, Barolo and this year, Bordeaux (or the TGWM lunch, standing for the thin, green, weedy muck lunch, as some non-believers called it).

    The wines went back to 1928 and included some stars such as Lafite 1948, Margaux 1985, Mouton 1986, Mouton, Cheval Blanc and Pichon Lalande 1982, a few Sauternes back to 1945 and more. A disappointingly high number were destroyed by cork taint (and yes, I would very much prefer to see screwcaps on First Growths than have them stuffed with mouldy tree bark and am yet to hear any creditable argument to the contrary).

    The 1959 Latour was the wine of the day. Unchallenged. Usain Bolt had more trouble winning the Olympics. Amazing colour – deep red (for those concerned that this might fall into the fakes bin, it came from a friend who had cared for it for many decades, having purchased it back in the day when the very idea of faking a wine would seemed like lunacy – and this would have cost an abysmally small amount). Amazing condition. It was an utterly compelling, brilliant wine. Seamless, complex, balanced, great length. Richly flavoured. Roast meats, chocolate, dry vegetation. Incredible stuff (needless to say, no mention of TGWM once this was served). A very great wine, from a prodigious vintage. 



    Perrier-Jouet ‘Belle Epoque’ Blanc des Blancs 2002 –

    It took great restraint not to follow Richard J’s example and fill the stocking with wonderful champagnes. There were certainly more than enough. Pekka’s tasting alone could have filled the bill. Some of the stars of the year – Salon 1996, Krug 1996, Krug Clos des Mesnil 1998, some wonderful Clos des Goisses, 1996 Taittinger Comtes, Pol Sir Winston 2002, a totally surprising and brilliant old one-off release from Billecart-Salmon, their ‘Columbus ’92’ (not a 1992 vintage, but a wine made to celebrate the 1492/1992 500th anniversary of Columbus), which was opened with a considerable degree of trepidation but stunned us all (at a Vin de Champagne Competition Winner’s reunion, so it was not as though they’d enjoy anything served, even if dripping from a Formula One driver’s sweaty boot – definitely an ultra-critical crowd).

    But none thrilled me as much as this entrancing champagne. I’ve seen it a number of times over recent years and it only disappointed on one occasion, when the bottle was lightstruck (a clear bottle, so if you come across one ‘unprotected’, avoid it). This is an ethereal champagne with endless finesse and complexity. Knife-edge balance on a very long finish. Florals, almonds, hints of grapefruit. Elegance with a steel backbone. A champagne that dances. Put simply, a great champagne. 



    Chave Hermitage 1990 (magnum) –

    A local group of wine mates meet once a month for a themed lunch – I only made three this year but all three provided a wine for this list (the others being the Rousseau and the Conterno). The most recent was one where there were only about nine of us but, as they say in the classics, the boat was pushed out. Way out! Second place shared by two extraordinarily good wines, the 2001 Rayas and the 1990 Lafite. First across the line was this truly monumental wine, and in magnum! A wine with a legendary reputation and it more than lived up to it.

    Served blind, this was wonderfully expressive, elegant, complex and mature. Red fruits here. Leather, spices and mushroom/truffly notes. So supple and seamless and so very long. This felt like the hordes of heaven had arrived. If any one wine went close to bringing me to tears this year, this was it.



    Donnhoff ‘Oberhauser Brucke’ Riesling Eiswein 2004 –

    A friend must have gone close to cornering the market on this unimaginably exquisite sweetie (it sounds so dismissive to call it a sweetie, but it is definitely a term of endearment in this case) and he has been incredibly kind, opening it for us several times (there are two different labels, tiny differences, so things can be confusing, but I don’t think any difference in the wine?). Every time, it blows everyone away. It is the only wine I think I have ever seen put the 2001 Yquem in the shade (I guess we have different degrees of 100 points, if that is possible).

    It is, quite simply, utterly spellbinding. Honey, cumquat, coconut, marmalade and more. Dense, has serious weight, tightrope balance and delightful freshness. Hard to imagine that this won’t go for many decades. 

    The balance is truly immaculate and the length is astounding. Is this the longest wine in the world?

    In a word, perfect.



    Penfold's Grange 2012 – 

    It seems appropriate to include a couple of new release wines – this one and the Brokenwood. 98% Shiraz and 2% Barossa Cabernet (but not Block 42). Concentrated, dense, intense, powerful. Richly flavoured. Black fruits, axle grease, black olives, oolong tea. Cloves, chocolate and blackberries. Lot of tannins here, but it is seamless and supple. This is undoubtedly a great Grange. Had it not been for the 2010, it would be the undisputed heavyweight champ of the last decade (’04 is pretty special, and so is ‘08). One suspects that ’10 and ’12 will be inextricably linked for the next few decades, much as 1990 and 1991 have been. Which is better? Pity the poor 2001, already condemned to a future as little more than a footnote between these two giants.

    For me, at the moment, I prefer 2010 by the proverbial bee’s appendage, but if you ask me in 25 years, I suspect that I might have swung to the ’12 by then. 2010 is so approachable and so lovely now, I can’t go past it. 2012 is fabulous but a little more old-fashioned in some senses. Has everything but needing time to reveal all its glories.



    Brokenwood Graveyard 2014 –

    Anyone so privileged to have tried wines like the 1965 Lindeman's Hunter twins will know just how brilliant Shiraz can be from this region. 1965 has become a somewhat mythical vintage, and (despite what certain winemakers would have you believe) there has been nothing really close to it since then. Until 2014. And 2014 might be even better. In fact, with the considerable advances in winemaking in that interim, we should expect better. If you are serious about red wine, you should have an array of the top Hunter reds from 2014 in your cellar.

    And none better than this one. Florals, black olives, cigar box notes, warm earth, roses, chocolate and black fruits. Intense and complex, and very finely balanced. Great length and maintains the intensity throughout. Should exceed their legendary 1986. A wine that will drink exquisitely for fifty years. If Australia can offer a better wine from any region from 2014, I can’t wait to see it.



    Rousseau Chambertin 2005 –

    Some fabulous Burgundies over the year – a 2002 DRC Grands Echezeaux very tough to beat – but this was sublime. Still youthful but alluring and seductive. A lovely mix of florals, spices, fungals and truffles. Even a hint of tomato bush and cowhide. Extraordinary aromas. Plush, nicely balanced and with very good length. This is an exquisite Burgundy with a great future. Confirms the quality of the vintage, the producer and the vineyard. Special. 



    Giaconda Chardonnay 1998 –

    In Australia, we have a number of candidates for the very best Chardonnay made here, but there is never a discussion where Giaconda is not very high on the list (usually top). Older examples are a bit of the hen’s teeth stuff and the legendary bottle is the 1996. Crawl over broken glass to get it, if you have the chance. At a lunch early this year with some friends, I pulled out the 1998, fingers crossed for good things but, remembering that at this stage they were still under cork and so we are afflicted by the lottery of dodgy tree bark, that was more in hope than expectation. Some days, you get lucky. The wine was still vibrantly alive. Beautifully complex with a sweet core of citrus, nuts and orange rind. Impressive length, finely balanced. Anyone ever doubting Aussie Chardy can age can rest assured. It was served, blind, with top examples of white Burgundy and Chablis and left them in the dust. And it is one of those wines that is still being referenced in subsequent lunches. That must count for something.



    Aldo Conterno Granbussia 1998 –

    My contribution to our monthly Saturday wine lunch group, for the Italian event, was the ‘97 and ‘98 Granbussia (sadly, not something I can repeat). I was delighted with both (has anyone ever had a disappointing Granbussia?) and there was much discussion, and fairly evenly split opinions, on which was the better wine. For me, this pipped the ’97 but not by much.

    Spices, dense chocolate notes, florals, warm earth. Silky, ever so silky tannins. Dark fruits. Great length. Such a lovely wine to drink now, though the end is not yet in sight. Barolo of the highest quality. 






    Born and bred in Brisbane, Queensland. A non-trendy, perfectly happy childhood, in a family convinced alcohol meant instant condemnation to Hades.  Studied Law at Queensland Uni. On a break fishing on the Great Barrier Reef, someone opened a good bottle of port (I think it was Yalumba’s Galway Pipe but it is long lost in the midst of time) and so commenced a serious obsession. Studied more Law in London, then worked London, Washington DC and Sydney in banking law (pleased to be out of that now, even if my bank manager, and family, disagrees). Returned to Queensland and was asked to do some occasional wine writing by friends who knew of the obsession. Eventually, it took over. 

    Needless to say, I am a grave disappointment to my family. My mother once, when told I was off to a 'vertical tasting', was overheard muttering that at least you'd think these people could afford chairs. Later, she severely chastised me, for drinking Pol champagne, disgusted I’d drink anything made by a Cambodian dictator. It has not been easy. 


    Now, I mostly write on wine (did weekly columns for the Courier Mail for many years, plus various mags, occasionally contributions to magazines, books etc) – a little on cigars, fishing, travel and food. 

    When not writing, fly-fishing for trout in NZ and bonefish on the flats of Cuba; travel; cigars; following a variety of sporting teams – the once glorious Queensland Reds rugby, the previously dysfunctional Washington Redskins, the Arsenal (what can you say?) and especially revelling in the optimism of a world restored to its proper axis with the return of the Ashes to their rightful home, fingers crossed.

    Read More

    Pro Me

    Email: kbgargett@bigpond.com

    Wine (also cigars/travel/food)

    1. Writing. 

    Managing Editor of “Fine Wine & Champagne, Australia/NZ” and contributor to other magazines in the Fine Wine stable 

    Wine writer for the Courier Mail (Qld) from 1999, and for the Paper's weekend magazine, 'Qweekend' from its inception in October 2005. Both as a freelance contributor until all such columns taken in-house by News Ltd.  

    Previously Brisbane News (1997 – 1999) and City News (1992 – 1997). Also, for the Sunday Magazine for the Melbourne Sunday Telegraph and Sydney Sunday Herald Sun (2006 – 2007).   

    Also regular contributor to Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine, the Fine Group (www.fine-magazines.com), Crema (formerly Café), Drinks Magazine,  Ocean Magazine, the UK World of Fine Wine, the UK Decanter website and others. Occasional or past contributions to National Liquor News, Men’s Health, Hospitality Review Quarterly, Adelaide Advertiser, Winestate, Australian Table, Meininger's Wine Business International website, Hilton Magazine, Divine, Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide, Sommelier India and various other publications, including food and travel articles. In the past, also, Queensland Property Report, Australian Doctor, Australia-Thai Chamber of Commerce, Savvy (Central Queensland) and Seaspray Magazine. Also overseas magazines and websites including Goldarths and Revolution. 

    Co-founder of www.spitbucket.com


    Books –   ‘Don’t Buy Wine Without Me, 2008', Text Publishing.

    - Contributor to Random House book, ‘Discover Australia – Wineries’.

    - Contributor to Global Publishing International Wine Book – ‘The Global Encyclopedia of Wine’ (2000) – (areas – Qld, NSW, Champagne). Also, major contributor to the attached CD which won Gourmand World Cookbook awards for the "Best wine CD ROM" in the World and the best in the English language; and to paperback update. 2004 – revision of Aust and NZ sections. Wine touring sections of 2006 update. 

    - Contributor to Mietta’s ‘Eating and Drinking in Australia 2000’ and ‘2001’.

    - Contributor to ‘AGT Restaurant Guide’, 2000 – 02, 2008.

    - Australian consultant – ‘KISS Guide to Wine’ (Dorling Kindersley) 2001. 

    - Contributor to Stuart Gregor’s ‘Don’t Buy Wine Without Me’. 2005, 2006.

    One of two senior writers for the now defunct Vine, Wine & Cellar. 


    2. Wine Presentations and Education (current and former).

          Various corporate presentations over many years. Others include – 

    Lecturer from Tourism and Hospitality (Wine Studies courses) at Griffith University, Gold Coast campus (2003). 

    Conducted wine appreciation courses and staff training for restaurants and hotels, both in Australia and overseas. Wine education classes for Beringer Blass and Southcorp. 

    Presentations and lectures at the Brisbane Club, Heritage Hotel and Brisbane Polo Club and others. Regular Presenter at the Negociants’ Working with Wine seminars from 1998 to present. 

    Presenter at Noosa Food & Wine Festival 2008 to the present.  

    Presenter at NZ Winegrowers National Red Wine seminar, Brisbane – 2003.

    Presenter at Hamilton Island Masterclass Weekend – 2004. 

    Presenter at Masters seminar – 2000. 

    Queensland lecturer for the Wine Society.

    Training for Stewart’s Hotels (plus general consulting and contribution to web site), also consulting for Port Office Hotel. 

    Committee member Courier Mail Hilton Masterclass from 1999. 


    3. Overseas Promotions

    Conducted Australian wine promotions, seminars and masterclasses in Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and India.


    4. Memberships (past and present)

    Australian Society of Wine Educators

    Queensland Wine Press Club

    Queensland Wine Guild (previously member of Education Committee, currently Honorary Member)

    Main Beach Food & Wine Society (founding member)

    Broadbeach Beefsteak and Burgundy Club (former Winemaster).

    Circle of Wine Writers (from 2002)


    5. Awards

    1993 Vin de Champagne Award (prize included a two week study tour of Champagne).

    2003 – inducted as a Chevalier of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. 

    2005 - recipient Len Evans Scholarship. 


    6. Other 

    Judge at Canberra Riesling International Competition, 2007, 2008, 2009.

    Judge at Winewise Small Vigneron's Show, ACT. 2009. 

    Judge (panel chair) at Margaret River Show, 2010. 

    Judge at Orange Wine Show 2010.

     Judge at Macedon Wine Show, 2008, 2010. 

    Judge at Perth Sheraton Wine Awards, 2010. 

    Judge at McLaren Vale Show, October, 2001. 

    Judge at 2003 Top 100 Sydney International Wine Show, (judged October 2002). Also 2005 (judged Oct 2004). 

    Judge at 2000 Barossa Wine Show (associate judge in 1999). 

    Judge at the 1999 Burnett Wine Show.

    Judge at Brisbane Courier Mail/Sheraton Wine Awards, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009. 

    Judge (panel chair) at Hawkes Bay Wine Show, 2006. 

    Associate judge at Royal Sydney Wine Show, 2006. 

    Associate judge at Hunter Valley Wine Show, 2006, 2007. 

    Associate judge at Brisbane Courier Mail/Sheraton Wine Awards, 1999, 2000.

    Judge for Tucker Seabrook Australian Wine List of the Year Awards, 1999 – 2004. Fine Wine Partners Wine List of the Year, 2008 – present (China Wine List of the Year – 2012 to present). 

    Judge for the Australian Liquor Industry Awards Professional Panel 2000 – 2003. 

    Judge for the Hyatt Regency (Coolum) McWilliam's Food and Wine Challenge 2001 – 2002. 

    Associate judge at Royal Qld Wine Show (and International Rhone Challenge) 2001. 

    Associate judge at the Brisbane Wine Festival 1997 – 1999.

    Former consultant to an Australian company (AFF) exporting wine and food to Asia.

    Presenter and MC at various dinners, events, tastings etc, in Brisbane and Sydney.

    Visits to most of the major wine areas throughout Australia and the world, including previous Vinexpos in Bordeaux. 

    Committee member for Brisbane Hilton Masterclass, 2001 – 2008. 

    Patron – Gold Coast Wine List Awards, 2001 – 2002 (Judge 2004). 

         Consultant for wine lists, including the opening of Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast. 

    Len Evans Tutorial Scholarship – 2005.

    Moderator – www.friendsofhabanos.com (world's largest cigar forum). 



    Contributions to 'Fishing Wild'. 



    BA. LLB from University of Queensland (1984). 

    LLM from University of London (1987).

    Worked with firms in Brisbane, Sydney and Gold Coast in Australia and with firms in London and Washington DC. Locums – mortgage lending practice. Firms include Baker & McKenzie (Sydney), Shaw Pittman Potts & Trowbridge (Washington DC), Corrs (Brisbane), Richards Butler (London). 

    Areas of practice include banking law, securities, international finance, property and commercial law.

    Formerly, a consultant with Adamson, Bernays, Kyle & Jones, Southport. 



Wine Moments

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

Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  21 Wines  from  1 Producers 

Penfolds Grange 2018 – For me, it is simply one of the greatest young Australian wines I have seen. Truly stunning. It is a classic and cracking Grange. 

Like most Granges, a dollop of Cabernet is added to the Shiraz – this time just 3%. Multi-regional but Barossa dominant (69%), with material from McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley, the wine spent 18 months in new American hogsheads. 2018 was simply an outstanding vintage for South Australia. We have seen it with many wines and now we see it here with the Grange. 

Deep magenta in colour, near opaque. The immediate impression here is of great intensity but even more so, impeccable balance. A glorious nose, complete and complex. Black fruits are to the fore, and there is certainly oak evident, but of the finest quality and integrating superbly. The palate is fresh but dense and yet supple and seamless and with such length. Powerful, yet it sings and dances. The tannins are abundant yet so lace-like and silky that they are near invisible. Such an incredibly long finish, with the intensity maintained for the full length. Chocolate notes emerge on the finish. This should sail through 50 to 60 years in good cellars and could probably do up to 80 – not that this will be relevant to many of us. What was fascinating was that after tasting and scribbling notes, I realised that I had hardly identified any specific flavours, such is the overall balance and the way that nothing dominates to any extent, the wine already being such a complete entity. Retracing steps and with further investigation, look for mocha, blackberries, coffee bean notes, cassis, licorice, chocolate, charcuterie, beef stock and soy. Every taste brought forth new and evolving flavours. This is a truly magnificent wine, well on its way to becoming a legend. Not just a legendary Grange, but a legend in the world of wine. 100p.

8d 16h ago

Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  15 Wines  from  3 Producers 

Hugh Hamilton Loose Lips III NV – This wine goes against all the rules of conventional wisdom. A non-vintage red that blends Malbec (40%), Mataro (14%) and Grenache (8%) with the white grapes of Viognier (20%) Pinot Gris (11%) and Sauvignon Blanc (7%). Is there any other wine on the planet made up of this combination? It sounds like a trainwreck but the result is surprisingly good. Pale crimson in colour, this is soft and fragrant with notes of florals and herbs, red fruits and blackcurrant leaves. Some hints of undergrowth. Bright, fresh and exuberant with a soft, lingering finish. Drink now for a year or two. 91.

6m 7d ago

 Bec Hardy  has news

Vintage 2023 - WINEMAKING VINTAGE WRAP UP Vintage 2023 was a real rollercoaster ride; the in  more ...

6m 9d ago

 Penley Estate  has updated producer and wine information

6m 9d ago

Vintage  1949  has new information

7m 19h ago

 Fonseca  has updated producer and wine information

7m 19h ago

Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  14 Wines  from  7 Producers 

Graham's The Master Single Harvest Tawny 1950 – This Tawny is from a cooler vintage, with the fruit largely sourced from Graham’s legendary Quinta dos Malvedos. What a stunning Tawny this is! The age is immediately apparent in the color, burnt orange with green tinges around the edge. An ancient fortified, not dissimilar to some of the old gems from Rutherglen.

Wonderful elegance, there is a gentle sweetness here. Mocha, coffee bean, cigar box, orange peel, walnuts, fudge, chocolate, spices, and stone fruit. This is concentrated and complex and yet it dances. Incredibly intense, deliriously supple palate, extraordinary length, and it finishes with that amazing peacock’s tail with the explosion of flavors. A great fortified. 98.

7m 19h ago

Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a wine moment

“A brilliant champagne, remembering that every bottle is fractionally different and that there are several threads of flavors that have emerged. One of these threads for me is most represented by a character I often see in old examples of Bollinger’s R.D., a lovely, truffly, mushroom note.

A wonderfully enticing golden color. The nose was immediately gloriously complex with coffee bean notes. The wine is both fresh as the proverbial daisy and showing serious development. Great intensity with notes of spices, nougat, stone fruit, dried figs, and fresh ginger. Excellent focus and great length.

It did not take long but all of these different characters soon gave way to what proved the most dominant of all: a magnificent aroma/flavor most reminiscent of a freshly baked apple pie or a dish of rich, cinnamonny, stewed apples. Gorgeous. This character never left, and even when I finished the bottle the next day it was still to the fore!

This baked apple character is another of the threads that Boutillat has seen in the wines; he talks of “balance and harmony” and he is spot on. A hint of toast flickers through as well. It is exhibiting more freshness and balance to continue to age under cork for probably another 10, or even 20 years if you want, but there is simply no conceivable reason not to drink it today. 99/100.

Finally, the team at Piper-Heidsieck have put together a cracking playlist if you are in need of something to listen to while you enjoy your ’71. It comprises some of the best songs released in 1971, including John Lennon, Nina Simone (I know it is sacrilegious but I have always preferred her version of “My Way” to Frank Sinatra’s), Leonard Cohen, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Rodriguez, Pink Floyd, Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie, Tom Jones, George Harrison, and more. Everyone will have favorites that missed out (no “Mr Bojangles,” seriously?), but perhaps “Here Comes the Sun” (the Richie Havens version from 1971, not the earlier one by the Beatles) could have reflected vintage conditions and surely the number one song of the year, Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World,” would have been the perfect accompaniment to such a stunning champagne.”

7m 22d ago

1 Wines 1 Producers

Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  13 Wines  from  8 Producers 

Salon is simply one of the most thrilling champagnes available, though only made in tiny quantities and only as a vintage wine. It was different to the Comtes, as one would expect, but I could not say which was better. Both so good. This 1995 Magnum was like glacéd lemon and hazelnuts with frangipani notes. Like drinking liquid crystal (as opposed to Cristal). Balanced and elegant, with crunchy acidity and a neverending finish. 99+.

8m 4d ago

Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  had a tasting of  9 Wines  from  3 Producers 

Cullen Vanya 2016 also reflects its vintage conditions, more powerful and muscular. Another superb wine but at this stage, still a little reticent. Red fruits, especially red currants, and tobacco leaf.

Again, immaculate balance and seriously impressive length, although at this early stage perhaps not as long as its predecessor. It does have plenty of power and there is a long future ahead. I rate it a 97.

8m 17d ago

Upgrade your membership now, it's quick and easy. We use PayPal, the world's largest payment system, it accepts all credit cards. Once you've chosen your membership level, you'll go directly to PayPal. You can cancel your membership at any time.
Thank you for your support!

Pro Member


Winemerchant Member


Winery Member





We recommend you to share few minutes for watching the following video instructions of how to use the Tastingbook. This can provide you a comprehensive understanding of all the features you can find from this unique service platform.

This video will help you get started

Taste wines with the Tastingbook

Create Your wine cellar on 'My Wines'

Explore Your tasted wines library

Administrate Your wine world in Your Profile

Type a message ...
Register to Tastingbook
Sign up now, it's quick and easy.
We use PayPal, the world's largest payment system, it accepts all credit cards.
Once you've chosen your membership level, you'll go directly to PayPal, where you can sign up for a free 7-day trial period. You can cancel your membership at any time. We wish you a rewarding journey to the world of Fine Wines.

Free 7 days Member trial




Pro Member


Winemerchant Member


Winery Member