2012 Tarrawarra Estate Reserve Chardonnay

Set in the lush hilly end of the Yarra Valley a bit north of Healesville, Tarrawarra seems suited to sophisticated Chardonnay as well as having a extraordinarily beautiful private gallery which has hosted some of the best of modern Australian art. This reserve bottling from the cool season of 2012 opened pale and surprisingly unwrinkled by age. Spice and oak clear away to let grapefruit, quince and some fancy tickling floral honey combine in both smell and taste. Not huge in concentration but suave in shape and glide. Comparisons may be odious but this grape variety, its oak barrels and making methodology were born in France, so perhaps the Burgundy allusion is unavoidable and just? The acidity has the soft cool elan and delicious cut of its now unaffordable mentors. Thankfully barely any of that reductive spent matchstick that the fashionistas of modern Chardonnay deem essential. Hopefully the pendulum of trend will settle somewhere around this sort of confident balance. Lovely work of modern Australian wine art.

12.8% alcohol. Upmarket Luxe screwcap. $60 spoil at the cellar door.

94 points.

2013 Jamsheed Seville Syrah

Whole bunch Shiraz from the cool volcanic soil end of the beautiful Yarra Valley. Sure, there’s some mulchy almost tequila like aromas but mostly it’s lots of dark raspberries, cherries and aniseed tinged earth. A bit of bottle age has helped the typically rich but fresh Yarra fruit swallow up the stalky tannin and crisp acidity. It’s all very svelte and dress circle Yarra Valley.

13.50% alcohol. Diam. $45 a few years back.

94 points.

2018 Hoddles Creek Yarra Valley Merlot

Bright purple red, inviting fresh raspberry leaf, sprig of mint and cool rain soaked forest. A mouthful starts quietly as raspberry and plum build and then are swept up in a very crisp acid and pinpoint tannin end. Just flavour ripe but as crunchy as perhaps a Loire or cool year Bordeaux. Some more used to full whack Australian richness will recoil. If this puts on a bit of fat with age, like most of us, then it’ll cut across a cut of red meat with precision.

13.20% alcohol. Screwcap. $20.

90 points.

2008 Pierre Naigeon La Reserve Yarra Valley Shiraz

A brief Dan Murphy’s flirtation with an own label under the name of a visiting Burgundian winemaker. Rumour at the time suggested it was made by the excellent Gary Mills of Jamsheed renown from fruit picked at the impeccably run Sylvan Vineyard. It certainly looks that way with a lift of whole bunch mulch, then some beautifully ripe dark red fruit and fine brown spices. The palate adds a fine mature draw of just right acidity and the finest silky tannins. The poise of good North End Rhône but with the extra richness of typically gentle Yarra fruit. Tenez ça messieurs!

14% alcohol. Screwcap. $19 on clearance, originally $39 and still a bargain at that!

92 softly mature and just right to drink points.

2018 Black Sheep Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

A cleanskin of sorts from Boccaccio Cellars and so maybe from Hoddles Creek? A wine by any other name would smell as good? Classic leafy, red fruited gentle Cabernet with some serious acidity that’s still just the right side of ripe in a Bordeaux or Loire cool year way. Not sour. Gravelly too. Good mouthwatering drink and tastes like it hasn’t been mucked around with, astonishing for $8. Not going to appeal to those used to big boy Shiraz.

13.1% alcohol. Screwcap. $8.

88 points.

2017 Terrason Cabernet Franc

A stuck record belief, well vinyl is trendy, that the Yarra Valley’s a proper place for the Cabernet family and a bit of a fascination with the Franc member led to this. Opens with a blast of smoky whole bunch, fresh green leaves and dark raspberry to blackcurrant fruit. Across the palate it’s at once light of being and then rich of fruit. Terrific mingling of acid, stem and skin tannin carry the fruit to a medium weighted finish. Special mention to the beautifully crafted oak inclusion which adds a delicious seasoning of savoury spice and a hint of chocolate. If there was just a bit more intensity to the fruit weight and this would be Cabernet aristocracy. For the money though, very good indeed and a bit cheaper than Cheval Blanc.

13% alcohol. Diam. $28 and well recommended by the Fish at Blackheart and Sparrow.

92 points.

2012 Hoddles Creek Yarra Valley Pinot Noir

Another Hoddles Creek from the cellar. Such irresistible value means there’s a lot stashed away. Better get drinking then. Just like its upmarket sibling the 1er version, it opens shyly and needs a lot of air and time to peek out from the reductive wine making. When it does decide to come out and play, there’s the usual cherries and undergrowth on a light to medium bodied swell of nicely judged tannin and fresh cleansing acidity. As always it possesses a coolness that’s perhaps rare in Oz Pinot. Subtle and valuing poise over brute size. Enough fruit to balance the touch of sulky sulphide winemaking which nonetheless avoids a too bitter ending. Twenty four hours after a brutal double decant and no hint of oxidation, goodness.

13.20%. Screwcap. $20 in 2013.

92 points.