Victoria’s very many charming wines

The fourth of several Key Review of Wine reports focuses on the wines of Victoria.

The outpouring in January/February will be a cleansing of all the reviews I wrote but was not able to publish in 2016.

What better place to start a short article on reviews of Victorian wine than The Vineyards of Victoria as Visited by Ebenezer Ward in 1864.  

Towards the end of 1863 Ward found himself unemployed having resigned as sub-editor of the Daily Telegraph then based in Adelaide. The reason he gives being paid irregularly and “occasionally pinched for money.” Some 154 years later it reminded me of working for The Key Report.

Ward starts his journey at Geelong moving westwards to Ballarat and up to Bendigo the vineyards are plentiful and shows if Phylloxera hadn’t struck and the vineyards uprooted how strong the region would have become.

Ward covers the Bendigo region in some depth estimating in 1864 some 400 hogsheads of wine would be produced comparing it to 1861 where little wine was made for home consumption.

As interesting as Ward’s account is the reason for the extent of the clearing of vineyards is of more interest. For that I skip to David Dunstan’s Better Than Pommard! Published in 1994

“It may be that social, economic and political factors have more to do with the industries decline than Phylloxera.”  

Some self-interest political moves appear to be involved so we will move along. The Yarra Valley was proving a successful place for viticulture. Started in the late 1830s within 20 years the area had increased to house 3000 acres of vines but the last reported vintage of the first  era was said to be Yeringberg in 1924 recorded by H.E. Laffer in The Wine Industry of Australia published in 1949. The current Yarra Valley era staring in the 1960s

Post WW1 up until the end of the 1950s was a dismal time for table wine in Victoria, although the 20/30s were good for fortified, prompting Dr WS Benwell to write, Journey to Wine in Victoria, published 1960 saying, “it seemed likely that by the end of the century the subject matter would have almost disappeared.”

Fortunately it didn’t, jumping on a couple of decades James Halliday wrote The Wines of Victoria in 1982 where he says his research led him to visit the Yarra Valley.  So taken with the region he moved from Sydney and established Coldstream Hills. In this small volume Halliday shows in 1980 Victoria was responsible for 72,000 tonnes of grapes out of a national crush of 502,000 tonnes.

The story of the past 30 years has been well documented so little need for me to add greater detail. Victoria is an exciting state for the diversity of wines it offers. No consumer, rich or poor, deeply interested in wine or not, should be unable to find a suitable bottle of Victorian wine to satisfy both pocket and palate, providing the bottle shop has a well thought out selection.

Happy drinking


Gris & Grigio

Santa & D’Sas ‘Little Helper’ King Valley Pinot Grigio 2016: Not a great deal on the nose therefore I was surprised to discover so much flavour on the palate.  Plenty of spicy character, works well at the table 92 points and value at $22

D’Sas King Valley Pinot Grigio 2016: Fuller style of PG, rolled across the palate, in a heavy way, OK but unexciting 89 points and pricey at $32

D’Sas King Valley Pinot Gris 2016: Still in a youthful stage but one can detect there is potential so a mean 89 now but with more to come whether its $40 worth, I’m not convinced


Handpicked ‘Regional Selection’ Yarra Valley Rose 2016: Delicate on the upper level but that makes the drinker think deeper about the wine and there is an underlying power, it’s a neat combination, 94 points top price at $29 but worth it

Santa & D’Sas King Valley Rosato 2016: Made from sangiovese, this is a delightful wine, crisp with a savory edge, good to drink solo but also works well at the table, 94 points and well worth $22

Gapsted Wines ‘Limited Release’ Alpine Valleys Touriga Rose 2016: Almost a light red wine but better drunk chilled. This is a great Rose wine, a tumbling array of savory characters reaching all parts of the mouth, it’s a joy to drink and of very high quality 95 points and worth $28, sold via Vinomofo.

Gapsted Wines ‘Tobacco Road’ King Valley Sangiovese Rose 2016: A gaudy pink insipid wine. To be fair I put the bottle in the fridge after tasting to look at it afresh the next day I didn’t want judgment clouded by the beauty of the Touriga. But the next day it was little better, not badly made or having any faults just bland 89 points and plenty of wine around at $16

Handpicked ‘Regional Selection’ Yarra Valley Rose 2016: A fascinating blend of pinot noir and marsanne, it works, there is a fine savoury edge to a dry yet flavoursome core, 91 points top of the price range at $29

Shiraz blends

MWC Victoria Shiraz-Mourvedre 2014/2015: (Export only) The 2014 is on sale now in the USA and is a fantastic wine, its wine that reaches down and touches the soul as well as warming the heart, full of slightly wicked flavours like top quality dark chocolate, 93 points and well worth US$15 fortunately the 2015 is heading along the same path and when the vintage changes and its shipped it will be the same

Glenlofty Pyrenees Shiraz Viognier 2013:  (New website coming) Good mulberry nose with earthy undertones, spice on the palate good depth and length 93 points and very good value at just $19


Allegiance ‘The Artisan’ Rutherglen Shiraz 2013: It’s a biggie at 15% but copes with the high alcohol well, rich and sun kissed as only Rutherglen shiraz can be it’s a well-made wine and I hope still has fans who enjoy the style as I still do on occasion, 94 points top price at $40

Glenlofty Pyrenees Shiraz 2013: (New website coming) Very soft to start but it opens like a flower one petal at a time, its rather gorgeous 94 points and $19 is good value

Mount Avoca ‘Old Vine’ Pyrenees Shiraz 2013: It hit all the right spots for me, flavours that are complex and run deep, it ripples across the palate giving pleasure all the way, 96 points and worth the $47.50 asked

Mount Avoca ‘Malakoff’ Pyrenees Shiraz 2013: Yet another top quality wine from Mount Avoca. The Pyrenees region has never acquired the reputation of the Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula, which is a pity as it deserves to be better known. The upside for consumers is this the equivalent of this wine from those regions would be $10 to $20 more expensive. It’s around $47 and great value, 95 points

Mont Avoca ‘Estate Range’ Pyrenees Shiraz 2013: Great spicy nose, very slow delightful journey across the palate delivering pleasure all the way 94 points and worth $30

Glenlofty Pyrenees Shiraz 2013: Very soft to start but it opens like a flower one petal at a time, its rather gorgeous 94 points and $19 is good value

Domaine Chandon Yarra Valley Shiraz 2014: It benefits from some air especially the nose, on the palate it’s a very classy number, not big and opulent more slender with an edge 93 points $32 is high but within bounds

Blue Pyrenees ‘Richardson’ Victoria Shiraz 2014:  the wine is a tribute to Colin Richardson, who worked for Blue Pyrenees until his death in 1999, I had many a great time with Colin long lunches copious amounts of wine and Havana cigars with cognac after. Good if wild times before political correctness and a glass of mineral water lunches took over. Assembled from the finest parcels pf wine Blue Pyrenees can source, it’s all one requires in a finely crafted wine that delivers pleasure all the way 94 points and worth $38

Santa & D’Sas ‘Valentino’ Heathcote Shiraz 2015: It’s strange to think 40 years ago Heathcote was not really considered a place for shiraz, in fact hardly a place for wine, how far it has come. This wine almost radiates pleasure it’s like a cat purring, and that’s from the nose alone. It’s cat like as it stretches across the palate by this time the drinker is purring, good karma all round 95 points and worth $40

Santa & D’Sas ‘Reserve’ Heathcote Shiraz 2015: Such an interesting wine, so many hints of flavour flashing in and then fading out, sweet red fruits combined with savoury earthy hints, it’s a smart wine but not sure its $60 smart 94 points

Santa & D’Sas Heathcote Shiraz 2015: Good fruit and acid components underscore dried fruits top notes, the only issue I had was the oak is nudging the whole slightly out of kilter $40

Tallarook Central Victoria Shiraz 2015: A hint of oak on the nose that is well within bounds therefore pleasant and enticing especially as it combines mixed spice and lavender. In the mouth it’s a gentle start fruit notes of black plum and other black fruits, it’s a soft wine but not weak the power building as the wine travels, its pleasure all the way 95 points and worth $42

Cabernet blends

Blue Pyrenees Estate 2013: A Bordeaux blend dominated by 73 per cent cabernet the rest made up in descending order merlot, shiraz and malbec. A traffic blend and judicious use of oak results in one very fine wine, it crosses the palate in a measured elegant way giving pleasure just where pleasure is best received, 95 points and worth $42

Delatite ‘Devil’s River’ Mansfield Cabernet Merlot 2014: The nose has to be worked at, it comes to the fore slowly but it’s worth the wait. Its cool climate clean mountain air with many hints and suggestions, several of which can’t be defined as they flit in and out quickly, but overall its good, restrained on the palate also but if lingered over and played with the complexities show through, a very mean 92 now but I believe several more to come as it develops and $35 is a fair price

Cabernet Sauvignon

MWC Victoria Cabernet Sauvignon 2015: The MWC is McPherson Wine Company, a bold simple yet hipster label, fronting very sound wine 92 points. This is destined for the USA with a retail price of US$15, it’s a good price and should do very well, we need more of them over there

Glenlofty Pyrenees Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: Along with the 2013 the winery sent 2012 and 2011 samples for comparison, non over impressed but having said that none were poor and all had cool climate cabernet character and were easy drinking 90 points and a lot of competition at $19

Mount Avoca ‘Estate Range’ Pyrenees Cabernet Sauvignon 2013:  Black fruits nose and flavour all the way nice balance as it travels 94 points and worth $38


Star Lane Beechworth Merlot 2014: I like the edge on this merlot, makes it much more attractive when taken to the table, its flavours are on the feral savoury side 94 points the winery have it priced around the $50 mark and I think that is high but I understand it may be available at Vinomofo around $27 and that is good value.

Mount Avoca ‘Estate Range’ Pyrenees Merlot 2015: A merlot with savoury character unusual but it works for me and I think will work for those into wine I’m not sure about its wide appeal. Not to worry it will find its own market, 94 points top of the price range and $37

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