Last week we had the privilege of tasting a many of the top 100 wines of 2016, according to the wine guru himself, James Halliday. The annual event, held at The Glasshouse, Olympic Park, Melbourne was a welcome break to the working week. Guests were greeted warmly at the door before being issued with our Riedel tasting glasses and comprehensive list of exhibits.
First stop: Champagne, closely followed by the best sparkling wines that Australia had to offer. I must admit that having discovered ‘dosage,’ the extra sugar added to a sparkling wine for the the second ferment, I have neglected bubbles a little and I was excited to discover the range of aromas and flavours they offer in contrast to whites, pinks and reds. The difference between the traditional French and New World bubbles was very clear and I could see why some of these wines were so coveted.
The Champagnes were incredibly elegant, though often very earthy on the nose. There was a new favourite scent for my collection: brioche, coming through. ‘Brioche,’ the thought of that delicious aroma has me salivating as I write. Delicate florals and citrus notes were evident in some too. In contrast, the Aussie wines were typically lighter, fresher and more heavily citrus led on the nose. On the palate, the Champagnes proved to be the more complex with well balanced acidity and a kind of mineral smoothness. They were delightfully moreish and long lasting. The Sparklings were brighter, slightly less complex and though also well balanced, had a notably sharper mouth feel.
Our favourite bubbles:
- Champagne – 2006 Dom Perignon Vintage Brut. Ready to drink now, with the aforementioned brioche, almond and ‘lifted’ florals. Eloquent and just a little bit mind blowing
- Aussie Sparkling – House of Arras Grand Vintage 2007, Tasmania. Layers of complexity with a toasty aroma that took me back to childhood suppers of spaghetti hoops on toast. A flinty minerality and strong mouth feel.
- 2008 Veuve Clicquot Vintage. Again brioche, nutty oak and cucumber freshness. Fruity on the palate.
- 2006 Pol Roger Rose Brut. Inescapable strawberries leaving a long zesty impression.
After our delightful journey around the best of the bubbles, we were looking forward to delving into the best of the Australian still wines. These wines were set out around the edge of a glass fronted room with high ceilings and a great view of Olympic Park. Wine enthusiasts like us relished the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best winemakers in the country, whilst the whole room buzzed with excitement. No sooner had we begun our journey, the news came that tastings would end in an hour’s time! This is one of my only suggested improvements – chatty and curious amateurs like us need more time! Oh and more delicious nibbles – you had to be on the ball to spot them in time.
Standout flavours amongst the best of the whites for me were the tropical notes of the Sauvignon Blancs; always bursting with passionfruit, but often with guava and gooseberry too. The wines themselves were split into two categories: those under $20 and those over $20, though mixed throughout the room, which was arranged by winery. All participants were kept on their toes as we frantically leafed back and forth through the brochure.
Our favourite whites:
- Under $20 – Stella Bella Skuttlebutt Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016. Strong passionfruit and guava notes of the Sauvignon are perfectly balanced by the savoury Semillon on the palate.
- Over $20 – Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2016. Totally tropical with hints of kiwi and green pineapple too. Lasting fruit on palate and easy drinking.
- Riposte The Scimitar Clare Valley Riesling 2016. (<$20) Cleansing mineral aftertaste had me back for more.
- Vasse Felix Heytesbury Margaret River Chardonnay 2015. (>$20) Fruity and sharp, but perfectly balanced acidity and super length.
Unfortunately, we did not have as much time as we would have liked to venture into the wonderful world of reds, but let’s be honest, we would really have liked to try them all! Though we did try a good range, most impressive were those in the over $20 category, and we found ourselves tending a little towards the shiraz varieties. It was during the red phase of the evening that we got particularly chatty. Here we met Julian from Giant Steps and Jess from Mount Langi Ghiran, makers of two of the standout wines for us. Once again the positive encouragement I have received from the people living my dream has been overwhelming.
Our favourite reds:
- Under $20– Hoddles Creek Estate Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2015. Fruity and well balanced with a long palate.
- Over $20 – Yarra Yering Dry Red No.1, 2014 Yarra Valley. A medium dry ‘Bordeaux’ style blend: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Malbec & 5% Petit Verdot. A complex bouquet of blackberry, aniseed and marzipan meets a layered fruity palate.
- Best’s Wines Sparky’s Block Shiraz 2015, Victoria. Apparently cellarable for twenty years, the tannins of this wine were perfect. Next level elegance.
- Bondar Rayner Vineyard Grenache 2016, SA. The 65 year old vines gave rise to a subtle sweetness reminiscent of a good handful of trail mix.
- Giant Steps Tarraford Vineyard Yarra Valley Syrah 2015. Black fruits, spice, pepper and a hint of licorice, combine beautifully; I must admit, I thought of beetroot relish.
- Mount Langi Ghiran Vineyards, Langi Grampians Shiraz 2014. Cool climate shiraz with soft tannins resulting from the older vines. Spicy and floral.
- Penfolds RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz 2014. Awesome of course; powerful and long lasting.
As if that wasn’t enough. The evening ended on a crescendo of delicious cheeses, accompanied by a glass of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, however, these bubbles paled in comparison to the Dom. We managed to secure a drop of Yarra Yering’s Underhill Shiraz to enjoy with our late night nibbles instead, which was the perfect end to a fabulous evening.
Readers can obtain more details from the link below. See you next year!