Home » Wine Reviews by Denman Moody

The Wines Of South Australia

The author and John Duval, possibly the most famous winemaker in Australia

By Denman Moody


Australia burst onto the international wine scene in the mid-1990s with some of the most coveted wines in the world — an occurrence similar to the lauding of vino from Italy during themid-1980s and Spain in the early 2000s. I first sampled Australia wines in the land Down Under at the Third Triennial Convention of the International Wine and Food Society in 1980. My wife and I were fortunate to be attendees along with an international wine group at the first luncheon held at the Sydney Opera House, hosted by Sir Zelwyn Cowan, then governor general of Australia. At that time, Australian wines were only popular in Australia.

During the summer of 2011, I visited Adelaide, which contains, among other regions, Barossa Valley,McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley, all of which are within an hour’s drive of the coastal city.

While a future Travel feature will describe some of the best places to see, stay and eat in theregion, I will focus here on the wineries I visited, reporting on the best of the best wines tasted.

Penfold’s Magill Estate Winery restaurant, which overlooks Adelaide

A must-visit is Penfold’s Magill Estate Winery and Restaurant inside the Adelaide city limits. The top wines tasted with the winemaker prior to dinner:

Thomas Highland Chardonnay 2010 — Mostly from Adelaide Hills vineyards. Citrus and crisp. $22

Tumbarumba Chardonnay Bin 311 — Spicy, complex, long, citrus finish. $41


Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir Adelaide Hills 2009 — Bright fruit, cherries and mushrooms. $50

Koonunga Hill Seventy Six Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 — Juicy, yummy. $22


“Dr. Denman,” having successfully blended his version of a top Penfold’s wine

Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz 2008 — 50-plus-year-old vines and 50th anniversary for this wine. Picked at perfect time during the 2008 heat wave. Spectacular bargain at $50

Grange 1999 — All-American oak since Grange production started in the early 1950s. From low-yielding, old vines. Tremendous character and richness. Noticeable tannins that will smooth out in five years or so. Oak and fruit will further harmonize. $600 plus

The gourmet dinner served at Magill Estate was oenophile heaven. Course one was paté with Krug Grand Cuvée Champagne and course five was perfectly cooked Wagyu beef with Grange 2002. I’ll leave a little to the imagination!

Kibminye Wines and Krondorf Rd. Café — Here lives the great wine experimenter who, along with his wife/chef, serves up some excellent wine and food. Top wines:

Kerner 2010 — Bone dry rendition of little-known grape. Zingy pear and citrus. Oysters, anyone? $22

White Frontenac 2010 — Great acidity for food pairing. Spicy. $18.50

Ken & Neville 2008 — Grenache, Cinsault and Mouvèdre. Floral, juicy. $23.50

Hubert Shiraz 2008 — 18 months in French oak. Dark fruit and spice. $42.50

Rusden Wines—Unusual for Barossa, because Cabernet is more dominant than Shiraz.

Driftsand 2009 — Grenache and Shiraz. Climate mirrors Southern Rhone. Chicken or duck? $26

Good Shepherd 2009 — Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec — Lovely, harmonious, ready. $36

Grenache Christine’s Vineyard 2009 — 40-year-old vines. Starting to show chocolaty and sweet tobacco overtones. Beautiful expression of Grenache. $40

Sandscrub Black Guts Shiraz 2008 — About as good as Shiraz gets at any price! 500 cases. $45

The Willows Vineyard — Property has been in the family since 1845 (Adelaide was founded in 1842).

Barossa Riesling 2011 — Valley floor fruit. No pressing, just free-run juice. Flinty, fruit-driven, fresh, zesty, clean. Best Aussie Riesling I’ve tasted. Sugar right at threshold (.4 percent). $16

Semillon 2010 — No oak. No malo. Minerality and richness on palate. Should improve. $16

Semillon 2006 — Even better. Evidence that age is beneficial for Semillon here. Library Reserve.

Bonesetter Shiraz 2008 — The family specialty was setting bones, all the way back to great-great-great-grandfather who was a bonesetter in the Prussian army, and whose descendants did the same when they settled here! Rich and exotic. Only 280 cases. Winemaker Peter Scholz’s brother is winemaker at St. Supery in Napa Valley. $50

Hentley Farms — “A boutique, single-estate vineyard that produces distinctive wines reflective of the exceptional site.”

Riesling 2010 — From cool Eden Valley. Lovely with excellent acidity. $21

Stray Mongrel 2010 — Grenache, Shiraz and Zinfandel. 14.6 percent alcohol. All components present. $32

The Beauty 2009 — 97 percent Shiraz, 3 percent Viognier. 40 percent new French oak. Power and elegance. $52

The Beast 2009 — All Shiraz. 80 percent new French oak. Chocolaty, bigger, broader but supple. Complex with tremendous future. $77

Artisans of Barossa — The most consistent range of wines I tasted from any winemaker were the wines of John Duval, former winemaker for the famous Penfold’s Grange.Plexus (white) 2010 —62 percent Marsanne, 26  percent  Roussanne, 12 percent Viognier. Pear, white peach and citrus flavors. Vibrancy and texture. $30

Plexus (red) 2008 — 50 percent Shiraz, 30 percent Grenache, 20 percent  Mourvedre. Low-yielding bush vines. Supple tannins, blackberries, plums and spice. Finishes with a nice hint of oak. Exceptional value. $35

Entity Shiraz 2008 — Even more blackberries. Excellent balance of all components. French oak instead of the American oak used for Grange. $35

Eligo 2008 — The very finest expression of Shiraz from the best, small parcels of the best vineyards. Almost purple-black. Intense with wonderful texture in mouth. Blackberries and blueberries. $100

Hobbs and Teusner — Two other family wineries here whose wines I enjoyed.

Langmeil Barossa — The oldest surviving Shiraz vineyard in the world! This vineyard was planted in 1843 by the owners’ Lutheran ancestors who were escaping religious persecution and war in Prussia. The Freedom 1843 Shiraz was hand-picked, of course, with gentle crushing, open fermentation and basket pressing. Sixty-three percent new French oak aging for two years. Medium, deep-red crimson color, with raspberries, plums, and hints of vanilla and spice in the luscious finish. Bottled in screwcaps! Outstanding! $100

Three of the big names in Australian winedom are Robert Hill-Smith, owner of Yalumba Winery; Michael Hill-Smith, the first Australian Master of Wine; and Michael’s cousin/partner Martin Shaw, one of Australia’s premier winemakers. The latter two own Shaw+Smith Winery, which is ensconced in Adelaide Hills. Because Adelaide Hills is cooler than Barossa, their specialties are:

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 — No malolactic fermentation and no oak. All about the fruit, balance and crisp, lengthy finish. Possibly the best in Australia. Screwcap, which I love. $25

Chardonnay M3 2009 — Low yields, wild yeast ferment, partial malo, hand-picked, whole bunch pressed. Aged in 50 percent new French oak for 10 months. 13.5 percent alcohol. A beauty. $45

Shiraz 2009 — Cool-climate Shiraz (still 14 percent alcohol). Only two tons/acre yield. Won a tasting of all-gold medal-winning Shirazes in a Northern Rhone contest. Great food wine. $45

Just a 25-minute flight from Adelaide is Kangaroo Island, home of the unique Southern Ocean Lodge (see Travel feature in this issue). Very new wine scene—just started in 1980.

Bay of Shoals — Rieslings 2010 and 2009 — Both around .5 residual sugar—bargains! $12.50

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 — Beautiful bouquet. Smooth as silk. Pleasing to the palate. 13.5 percent alcohol. Fun, colorful label. A great value. $22

Shiraz 2008 — Dehydrated grapes because of the heat. Although 15.3 percent alcohol, one of my favorites at this price anywhere. 250 cases produced. $20

Springs Road Shiraz 2006 — Almost as good as the 2008 Shiraz. A big surprise for me! $20

Andermel Marron/Two Wheeler Creek — Best wines: Sauvignon Blanc 2010, $20; Chardonnay (no wood) 2008, $18.50; Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, $20

There is one other wine I tasted on this trip that was so good, I had to include it. It is Samuel’s Gorge Grenache McLaren Vale 2009. To me, this is the quintessential South Australian Grenache. It was pure, juicy, substantial, hedonistic and classy. As I recall, it cost $40, and was worth every penny.

Kangaroo Island Estate — One wine here knocked my socks off. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is in the barrel, about to be bottled. It is 15.3 percent alcohol but in balance with seriously good flavors, exhibiting richness and an excellent structure. The last Cabernet produced here sold for $20. The Kangaroo Island Cabernet lovers will probably hunt me down for voicing my favorable opinion, but I told the owner the 2009 is worth around a 93 score and he should raise the price to $40.


Comments are closed.