2015 Innocent Bystander Syrah

When this was first released it was a cracking buy close to $20 when discounted. The very good 2015 vintage fruit looked round, poised and filled the senses with vinous joy with the whole bunch herb and woody spice adding a satisfying counterpoint. I must admit to fretting a bit about how these cooler, or should that be less hot, vineyard Shiraz progress with time in the bottle? Must admit to enjoy calling it Shiraz, it seems to add to the debate, hee hee. Let’s see. Dusty bottle age lifts to perfumed spice, stems or Shiraz spice or a bit of both? Loads of tart red fruits like an English pudding sit fat on the tongue, still fresh and bright. Some pepper and more of that spice too. The end and overall texture are drawn tight by some sour green stem tannin and acidity. Wether this is a pleasant tension or a distraction from some beautiful fruit is open to discussion for me. I found a tech sheet that says 40% whole bunch, so it’s there to some extent. I think I preferred this in its bouncy youth as I do a lot of Australian red wine. Fascinating to get the chance to compare and contemplate. Serious business this wine thing.

13.8% alcohol. Screw cap. $26 at auction.

91 to 93 points depending on whole bunch enjoyment?

2020 Oakridge Over the Shoulder Cabernet Merlot

Last bottle from the Dan Murphy’s October six buy and in some ways the best. Well, that’s if you’re convinced the Yarra Valley is best suited to the noble Cabernet family? Seems bouncy and keen to escape the bottle with a perfume of raspberries and blackcurrants, like a waft of passing aftershave but much nicer. An overlay of tobacco and green leaf, fresh and refreshing. Finished with a rich note of just turned sod for want of a better phrase. Mineral and sweet ripe tannin and acidity mingle well. The sort of fruit and earth you’d want from Bordeaux but closer to home and much better value.

13.3% alcohol. Screw cap. $19 Dan’s member special.

91 points.

2021 Hoddles Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

You may have read it, er..reddit here before but there’s a spawned fondness for Yarra Cabernet that keeps me coming back. It’s obvious that the Upper Valley is perhaps a bit cool for Cabernet to ripen to the richness many expect in Australia but if you fancy crisp acidity and a bit of leaf that lead to some food friendly succulence bear with me. Bright, frog pond fresh and clean to open. Loads of red fruit, cherries, almost strawberry and blackcurrant leaf. So bright maybe some whole berries in the brew? Appealing savoury undercurrents of sweet earth and almond paste add length like Medoc gravel does to good claret. The acidity sits a little high as the surprisingly sweet tannin calms the end. Reminds me of Loire red ripeness, mouthwatering and ripe enough for me, maybe not you though?

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $20 but a ridiculous $24 for two on the shelves of those credit card terrifying Boccaccio Cellars. Balwyn calling.

92 points, easy.

2019 Giant Steps Pinot Noir

Nice to see 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 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 plenty 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.