2019 Giant Steps Pinot Noir

A bit of clarity in labelling. You don’t have to declare grape ingredients below 15% on a label under Australian wine rules but here it’s noted there’s 8.5% Central Otago Pinot Noir as well as the majority Yarra Valley. Kudos for rigour. Sort of apposite to the last Fairbank post as the winemaker has made the move from there to here. Doubly so as both wines that seem to be honest, no fiddling expressions of grapes, season and place. Perhaps this hasn’t the weight and charm of that lovely 2015 vintage. Here there’s mint, a lick of Oz forest, sappy stems and wild strawberries. Some lifted perfume, almost incense or joss stick like. Darker fruit emerges. Just enough flavour to buffer the slightly green stem and acid structure which dries things up enough to warrant another sip or bite of food. Must say I do enjoy Yarra Pinot when it’s young and fresh. Maybe with a bit of Otago richness too? Again a good drink not trying too hard to impress.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 on special.

91 points.

2016 Luke Lambert Nebbiolo

I’ve read that Luke Lambert is obsessed by Nebbiolo, sensible fellow. This is possibly the best non Italian version for me, albeit from a pretty limited sample range. Still some cheerful crimson colour without the tiring orange seen in high PH Australian versions. Touch of typical Luke Lambert reduction clears quickly to fresh sour cherry, raspberry and sweet earthy fruit. Hint of regional mint and forest. The shape is beautiful. Crackling fresh ripe acidity and the sort of ripe, sweet and melting tannin that’s rarely seen in Australian wine. Oddly but in some way not surprisingly, the freshness of fruit and soft depth of tannin remind me of Yarra Cabernet. Obviously not the flavours. Something in the valley season seem to soften the green hardness both these varieties can show in places where they ripen too quickly perhaps? Probably a daft generalisation but looks good here. Like the Socceroos of past generations, there’s quality here to play at international level without embarrassment. Particularly at the price point.

14% alcohol. Diam, extremely difficult to get out of the narrow necked old style Bordeaux bottle and even harder to get back in. $60.

95 points, even in an away game at the Stadio degli Alpi.

2015 De Bortoli The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

From an original Yarra Valley vineyard in Dixon’s Creek, the area not actually the creek itself I think. Full ripe Cabernet smells, almost lush, backgrounds of earth and pencil case austerity too. Just right ripeness in the mouth with black currant, touch of gravel, black olive, all sweet but in no way sugary. Satisfying old style Yarra Cabernet with a fine mesh of milky tannin and natural acidity. Touch of cedar oak in low volume adds seasoning. Another of those that shows just how good 2015 was in the valley where it’s best grape still struggles to be noticed in the sea of Pinot and Chardonnay. Unless you’re from Mount Mary or similar royalty of course.

13.8% alcohol. Screw cap. $27 RRP but discounted to close to $20 and still there’s to be bought.

93 points.

2012 Giant Steps Gladysdale Vineyard Pinot Noir

From a vineyard up in the hills of the beautiful Yarra valley. Living in a big city, you often forget the country on your own doorstep. Lovely name too, the dale of Gladys. Expect scones and a nice cup of tea perhaps. Rather than a play for power and impact, this is light bodied, still fresh and perfumed. Bright red fruits in the manner of strawberries, raspberries and the occasional cherry swell through the nose and mouth. Some spice, sort of sarsaparilla and nice savour from hardly noticeable oak and a twist of sappy stems keep the mouthwatered and then gently dried by their tannin and some ripe acidity. Held up really well over two days. Graceful in a swish of silk.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $45 if memory serves?

93 points.

2014 Dalla Mia Finestra Cabernet Sauvignon

Budget friendly Yarra Valley Cabernet of quality, good oh. Starting to benefit from a rest in the bottle. Opens with the warm friendly smell of polished timber, black currant, leaf, mown lawn, mulberry and sweet green herb. Gentle but firm tug of just about ripe tannin and fresh natural feeling acidity. Maybe a little green if you like warm hearted, traditional Australian Cabernet, maybe quite ripe if you like Bordeaux before global warming started a market for reverse osmosis machinery? Plenty of pleasure and flavour for the price though.

13.5% alcohol. Screwcap. $24.

92 points.

2019 Oakridge Over the Shoulder Cabernet Merlot

This makes me wonder how easy it is to miss something good by opening a bottle too soon after an early release. This looked just too dry, dusty and green in winter last year and difficult to praise in review. Some six months on and there’s still some leafy green but the earthy notes have receded to a Bordeaux like gravel edge for want of a better description. Mulberry, a hint of cassis and red currents build sweetly in the mouth, nicely balancing the savoury. Some youthful violet and sage. Tannins just get over the ripeness line and are mingling politely with fresh fine acidity. Turning into a good example of the quiet confidence and poise that typifies Yarra Valley Cabernets. The back label says it’s a hand picked blend of Cabernet and Merlot from the Valley sub regions of Coldstream, Gruyere and Seville which makes for some great value considering the production costs. This could even get better in the bottle over the next few years if patient. The choice of “Over the Shoulder” as a name for Oakridge’s basic value range has always puzzled, perhaps delicious in the mouth for the money could be more appropriate.

13.2% alcohol. Screw cap. $24 RRP but often discounted to around $20.

91 points.

2018 Giant Steps LDR Pinot Noir and Syrah

Count my blessings, a place to live where the Covid numbers aren’t troubling the scorer and a bottle to remember very early days in Australian wine when they cared not for variety but made light dry reds by blending. Sadly I’ve never been privy to one of the great Maurice O’Shea blends. Despite an unreasonable prejudice for Pinot the pure, this works a treat. Perfume and cherry Pinot at hello, spice and raspberry arrive late and keep going on a bit. It was at first crack smoky and too reduced for me and needed a day’s air. Second day, there’s still some biscuity reduction, strawberry and roses at the front whilst that Shiraz has a party at the back with berries and toffee. Fine, open meld of acidity and a lick of stem tannin. Graceful in the making. So much for preconceptions, the some of the parts here is more.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. Another bargain from the wholesale clearance.

92 plus a bit for enjoyment.

2012 Murrindindi Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

From a vineyard on the backroad from the Yarra Valley to the Goulburn Valley. Such is flat old Australia that the Yarra flows south toward the sea whilst the Goulburn flows north and inland, wrong way, silly river. Both valleys do grow some good Cabernet and no surprise this one seems to sit well between the cool reserve of one and the generous ripeness of the other. Starts a bit tart and savoury with a bit of truffle. Airing brings a perfume of mulberry, black currant and a back end of sweet ripe cherry. The acidity’s perky and well bound to sweet currant and raisin tannin. The second day, gently oxidising and doing a Bordeaux impression of sorts in seaweed and iodine breezes over some good solid fruit. It’s been a long time since the still mourned Mark Shield reviewed a delicious 1990 Murrindindi Chardonnay. Wine memories linger long.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $25 maybe?

93 points.

2018 Gathering Field Thousand Candles Vineyard Red Blend

A blend of Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and Malbec from a vineyard notorious for its ambitious first release from the wet and mulchy 2011 vintage – for a measly $100 a bottle. Better vintage weather and sensible pricing have prevailed. Very Yarra Valley, this is just ripe enough. Pencils, tobacco, leafy and just ripe black currants. Some mint and a hint of gum leaf. Oak supports but no more than a seasoning. It’s savoury but the tannins are ripe and sweet with just right acidity tucked well in. As it leaves, a dense mouth coating wave of still subdued fruit suggests there may be still lots more fruit depth to emerge with some time. Difficult to say, it may just dry out but I’d be willing to hide one away for a while, in fact I think I will. Optimism being essential to cellaring and definitely in the wider world these days.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $33.

93+

2018 Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Harry’s Monster

Move over expensive Bordeaux, this polished 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 14% Petit Verdot is mellifluous. It harmoniously passes the checklist of what’s to like in Cabernet blends, perfumed, middle weight, soft ripe tannin and seamless natural acidity, finally a touch of vanilla pod oak just needing time to find its way to integration. The extra depth of cassis, berries and leaf push the quality into the Yarra Valley’s best examples. Even better, there’s a sweet black currant edge, lightly minted, that perhaps says Yarra more than anywhere else. Glorious touch of gravel and cedar emerge with time. Complete and focused. The highly pictorial Giant Steps website has a lovely photo of the Sexton Vineyard perched next to a sizeable expanse of water, sort of like Bordeaux.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. A ridiculous brief discount to $20 a bottle from a rrp of $55. Social media suggests the new owners are more interested in Pinot and Chardonnay and are quitting the Cabernet blends. Social media can be wrong, can’t it.

94+ points. Come back in a few years.