We are thrilled that Australian Gourmet Traveller has included our 2016 Estate Chardonnay Yarra Valley as part of their Best Buys. Read their review:
“With its complex, roasted bread and toasted hazelnut bouquet, this is a beguiling wine. Delicious and refined with the full gamut of chardonnay complexities. Generosity delivered with finesse.” 94 points.
Read some of the exceptional reviews for the new release Single Vineyard Shiraz from Balgownie Estate's Bendigo Vineyard.
James Halliday's Review:
"This is a looser knit single-site Bendigo shiraz than its brethren. The result is a choir of violet, iodine and blue fruits, lifted by a skein of white pepper melded to transparent acidity and moderate tannins. Slightly reduced, echoes of Northern Rhone in its potential, floral aromatics. Will age beautifully. 96/100"
Jeremy Oliver's Review:
“Assertive and sumptuous, this powerfully flavoured shiraz tempers its intensity with elegance and savoury qualities. Scented with musky spices, cracked pepper and deep dark plum, blackberry and cassis-like scents, it’s supported by fresh, smoky cedar/chocolatey oak. Its intense core of black, blue and red fruit extends long and assertive down a firmish, powdery spine, culminating in a long, faintly mineral finish." 94/100.
"Dark fruit gets in deep. Really deep. Whiffs of sandalwood plays its hand but sits alongside the fruit. Still tight through the mouth, aging beyond a decade is not out of the question. Soft baking spices curl around the mouth with dark chocolate dotted amongst the landscape delivering a wine oozing charisma. Oh, I could kick back by the fire with a glass or three of this.
Drink now but it will be better with more time in bottle for a decade." 93/100
Cellar Door Price $65 per bottle
Platinum Wine Club $48.75 per bottle
James Halliday's Review:
“The most concentrated of the single block Shiraz pillars, this leaves the lifted, floral aromatics behind in a journey to shiraz’s world of spice: clove, anise, turmeric and black pepper. There are generous fruit flavours from the blue to black spectrum, yet the overall experience is one of energy, herb and power." 94/100.
"Hold in two hands and embrace. What a beauty this is! The first release of the Railway Block and what a debut!
As with the Centre Block and Rock Block, this is dense, generous but carries a luscious factor all to its own. Milk chocolate, dark plums, sandalwood and baking spice aromas - so much going on. Things just mesh in a relaxed and effortless manner. The mouth is filled joyously tinged with delicate spices on exit which hang long. An absolute beauty.
Drink now to a decade." 94/100.
Huon Hooke's Review:
“Deep red colour with a good tint of purple. The bouquet is fragrantly spicy and ripe, rich and plummy, with some undergrowth accents. The wine is medium to full-bodied and soft, fleshy and savoury, the palate finishing with some peppery graphite notes and a trace of pleasant bitterness. It's really nicely balanced and approachable now." 91/100 Drink 2018 to 2030.
Cellar Door Price $65 per bottle
Platinum Wine Club $48.75 per bottle
James Halliday's Review:
“This site is a tough position in which the vines struggle to embed their root system. The wine is a highly savoury blend of black olive and anise, impeccably balanced and sinuous, spiralling across the mouth as it tries to shed its firm carapace of moreish tannins and marked acidity." 94/100.
"Cedar, black olive, cola, plums, dark berry fruit. Some cured meat too. There's a tension in the mouth which time should release. Chalky and dusty tannins to finish." 91/100.
Cellar Door Price $55 per bottle
Platinum Wine Club $41.25 per bottle
Currently these wines are only available online as an exclusive pre-release offer to members of the Platinum Wine Club for a limited time (August 31st).
Despite being grown in Australian vineyards since the arrival of the First Fleet, chardonnay really only became popular in the 1970s and subsequently sales boomed through the 1980s. Today chardonnay is the second most widely planted variety in Australia (behind shiraz), with almost 32 000 hectares currently under vine.
Chardonnay is not only loved by wine drinkers, but it is also a favourite of winemakers and grape growers alike, and there are two major reason for this. The first reason is its ease of cultivation. Chardonnay is able to adapt to many conditions and hence is found in vineyards with very diverse climates – from the cold of Tasmania to the warmth of the Riverland. Many grape varieties are not capable of this, with varieties like pinot noir performing best in a cooler climate.
The different climates where chardonnay is grown are also reflected in the finished wine. Chardonnay from cooler climates taste more of gooseberry, grapefruit and lime, while warmer climates produce chardonnay with flavours of tropical fruit and rockmelon.
The second reason that winemakers love producing chardonnay is due to its malleability. There are a range of different winemaking practices that can be utilised in its production. This gives winemakers the opportunity to endlessly experiment with these different techniques. Some of the major winemaking techniques used in the production of chardonnay are:
Wild Yeast. Most wine is produced using cultured yeasts that have predictable behaviour, produce known characters and aromas in finished wine, and will tolerate a high alcoholic-strength environment. But wine can also be produced using the natural yeast strains that occur in the vineyard and winery. These wild or indigenous yeasts often produce some unusual flavours (often termed funky) that can add extra complexity to the finished wine.
Time on Lees. Called sur lie in French, this involves leaving the dead yeast cells, skin, pulp and grape seeds (collectively known as lees) that collects at the bottom of a vessel after fermentation in contact with the wine for two to twelve months (in some styles, even longer). The presence of the lees improves mouthfeel, by creating a creamy texture in the wine, as well as adding cream and yeast flavours. Often times lees-stirring (or bâtonnage), where the lees are regularly mixed in the barrel or tank, is also cemployed: this prevents the formation of off-putting hydrogen sulphide characters in the wine. Leaving a wine on lees also encourages malolactic fermentation to commence (see below).
These are a variety of these techniques that the winemakers at Balgownie use in the production of out two Estate chardonnays. As these two wines originated from two very different climates – the Yarra Valley and Bendigo – they employ slightly different winemaking techniques.
Grown in the cooler Yarra Valley, this chardonnay was fermented with wild yeast to add complexity to the finished wine. It spent 11 months on less while maturing in French oak barrels – a combination of 30% new barrels and 70% old barrels. To maintain the freshness of the wine and its crisp acidity, the Yarra Valley Chardonnay did not go through malolactic fermentation.
The warmer climate in Bendigo tends to produce riper and richer fruit that results in a heavier wine. The Bendigo Chardonnay was partially fermented with wild yeast and partially with cultured yeast before spending 11 months on lees. The wine was matured in a combination of new and old French oak barrels. This wine also did not go through malolactic fermentation to preserve the natural grape acidity and freshness.
Visit the Yarra Valley Cellar Door over the holidays and try our fabulous new relesase 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
Read the oustanding reviews:
“Born from vines that average almost 50 years of age, this is a big bold cabernet of deep concentration, lavish, palate-sticking tannins and ferrous, savoury character. It’s heady in perfume of blackcurrants, plums, gum leaf and blonde tobacco. The palate is an assertive thrust of choc-berry flavours, sweet earthiness and rib-sticking, tacky-textured tannins. It’s a wine of immense presence now, and should be tamed gradually with cellaring, to reveal more nuance and detail.” Mike Bennie, Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine June/July 2017
"It’s a big black beast of a red, hints of bitumen accentuating the ripeness. Again, however, it’s pulled back from the edge of overripeness by the depth of fruit and grippy tannins. It’s just a fraction too warm this vintage, a little bit soupy on the edges. Impressive concentration can’t be sneezed at however – it goes on and on, and deserves plaudits on depth of flavour alone. Best drinking: 2019-2033. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass." Andrew Graham, Australian Wine Review.
James Halliday’s 2018 Wine Companion - Rating 91
Visit the Yarra Valley Cellar Door over the holidays and try our fabulous new relesase 2014 Estate Shiraz.
Read the oustanding reviews:
“As ever a big wine, but not ugly. Dark fruit, dark chocolate oak, dark, warming flavours. There’s an effortless blackness here – a deep, all consuming black, licoricey, almost tarry width. It’s fractionally boozy, but not dessicated, just driven by black, almost molasses intensity. Packs a massive wallop of flavour, with a length that is something else. Impressive, but can you forgive the alcohol warmth in a quest for length like that? I can. Will live forever too. Best drinking: 2020-2034. 18/20, 93/100. Would I buy it? A glass or two now, more later.” Andrew Graham, Australian Wine Review.
James Halliday’s 2018 Wine Companion - Rating 93
2016 Ballarat Wine Show Trophy for Best Wine of Show
2016 Ballarat Wine Show Trophy for Best Shiraz
2016 Ballarat Wine Show Trophy for Best Regional Shiraz
2016 Small Winemakers Show Top Gold in Two Year Old Shiraz
Merlot is one of the most planted premium grape varieties in the world, best known for being a component in Bordeaux blends. The Merlot grape is thought to be the result of a natural cross between Cabernet Franc and another unidentified grape, making it a sibling (or step-sibling) to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Regularly vinified together, Merlot has several advantages over Cabernet Sauvignon as it ripens earlier and more quickly, as well as providing slightly higher yields. The finished wine that Merlot produces is softer and rounder with gentle tannins that provides a contrast to the heavier more structured Cabernet Sauvignon. These characteristics have seen the grape being widely planted in both Old and New World countries.
Merlot is in fact the third most planted red variety in Australia behind Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, with 10 537 hectares under vine. Despite this popularity Merlot is yet to really find a definitive regional home in Australia, with most of the fruit being used to soften Cabernet Sauvignon. When used in a varietal wine the results have tended to produce soft and fruity wines designed to be drunk young.
The first Merlot vineyard was planted in the mid 70’s at Balgownie Estate on clay soils with alluvial gravel at Bendigo. As the vines matured the potential for Merlot grown in Bendigo became apparent and led to further plantings in 1997. The objective at Balgownie has always been not to make a Merlot in the typical soft, fruity, easy drinking style, but to make a bigger, richer, age worthy style that would demonstrate the capabilty of the variety and the potential of the vineyard site.
To produce our Estate Merlot it is crucial that all the elements come together in the vineyard. This is such a unique wine that it can only be produced in an outstanding vintage where the levels of sunlight, warmth and rainfall all conspire to produce flawless grapes. The yields in the vineyards are kept very low, around one tonne to the acre, to build flavour, complexity and intensity in the fruit. To retain these qualities, the fruit is hand picked before being transported immediately to the winery.
Once in the winery the fruit is destemmed and gently crushed to open fermenters where it slowly fermented over 21 days. During the fermentation process, traditional hand plunging techniques were used to maximise extraction from the skins. The finished wine was aged in a combination of new and old French barriques for 14 months before being bottled.
The new release of the 2015 Estate Merlot is faithful to our objective and is a rich and opulent wine with layers of complex flavours supporting an appealing and savoury palate with fine tannins. This a wine to enjoy with a good meal and good friends or it will comfortably cellar for 6 to 8 years.
Cellar Door Price $45 per bottle
Platinum Wine Club Members $33.75 per bottle
Wine Club Members $38.25 (as part of a dozen bottles)
I have posted before (Is Old Wine Better than Younger Wine?), about aging wine and the changes that wine goes through over time, and whether all wine will benefit from spending a period in the Cellar. If you enjoy aged wines and decide that you would like to cellar bottles yourself, there are a number of factors you must consider.
Patience is the first and most important consideration for any wine collector; there is no substitute for the time that wine spends in the cellar. There are many gadgets on sale that claim to speed up the aging process, but they often spoil the wine by making it look stewed or cooked. The only way to age wine successfully is with the necessary time...and the will power to allow the wine to mature.
Wine needs to be stored at a constant cool temperature, ideally between 10 and 15˚ Celsius. If the temperature is too hot the wine will mature too quickly, and there is the possibility that it will developed a cooked character. Conversely, storage at temperatures too cold will slow the maturation process. The temperature should be constant, as fluctuations can cause the cork to expand and contract which may result in oxygen ingress that will spoil the wine.
A good level of humidity, around 75% is also an important requirement for cellaring wine sealed with a cork. Without adequate humidity the cork can dry out, which will allow the ingress of oxygen and lead to the deterioration of the wine. This is the reason why long tern storage in a household refrigerator is not advised, as they tend to remove humidity and moisture. An excess amount of humidity on the other hand, will not really harm the wine, but can have detrimental effect on the labels.
The most problematic light comes in the form of UV radiation from the sun, this is why most of the wines that are designed for long term cellaring are found in dark brown or antique green bottles. Sunlight or excessive normal household light (such as in a commerical fridge) can speed up the aging process and ultimately spoil the wine.
Lay wine on its side. This is very important for wine that is sealed with a cork. Keeping the wine in contact with the cork will ensure that it remains moist and forms a good seal that will not let any air enter the bottle. Wines sealed with other closures, such as screw caps or vinoloks, do not need to lie down and can be stored upright
As well, do not disturb the bottle at all. Allowing it to lie untouched will allow the sediment to form naturally, which will eventually make the wine simpler and easier to decant when it is ready for drinking.
How long to Age?
The best way to answer is to buy a dozen bottles and then drink them over time – this way you can watch the wine as it develops and hopefully you will never be caught with wine that is too old to enjoy. Of course it is not always practical nor financially viable to buy so much wine and most of the time a bottle or two is all that will be cellared. In this case it is best to rely on the advice of wine producer or retailers. Both these sources tend to be very conservative when predicting the length of time to cellar a wine, as they would much prefer that the wine was drunk a little too young (and you can marvel at how youthful it looks) rather than drinking it too old when it may have lost a lot of interesting characters (and you will be disappointed).
Where to Cellar
Most wine lovers would like to have an underground cellar that was temperature stable and could hold their wine collection (I know I would). Sadly, however this is not always possible or practical. A good alternative is to invest in a dedicated wine storage unit; there a number of different brands available that vary considerably in capacity, price and quality.
However, if you are just starting your wine collection, then storing the wine in an appropriate environment in the home is the best place to start. Choose a cool area, not on an outside wall (that the sun may warm) and definitely not in the kitchen or the lounge room (generally the warmest places in the house). A spare bedroom or the bottom of the linen cupboard are ideal – dark, undisturbed and not prone to temperature changes.
Finally a word of warning – wine collections have a tendency to grow and proliferate, so don't underestimate the space you may eventually need.
Making a fortified shiraz takes time and patience; the wine needs to mature and develop the complex, aged aromas and flavours that are derived from long aging in oak barrels.
The warm climate in Australia is ideal for ripening grapes to produce fortified wines and much of the current Australian wine industry was built on their production. The incorporation of spirit into the wines initially occurred to act as a preservative and this enabled much of the wine produced in Australia to be exported to Great Britain during the last century,
While this cool weather persists, Balgownie’s Tawny Fortified Shiraz will keep you warm after a hearty, slow cooked dinner. Drink with a little farmhouse cheddar or dark chocolate; this rich and luscious wine has flavours of plum, raisins and Christmas cake. Made exclusively from Shiraz grapes, the wine has an average age of seven years and exhibits barrel aged complexity with intense fruit character and a long lingering finish.
Balgownie Estate is elated to have achieved a five-star rating in the 2018 James Halliday Wine Companion. We are especially pleased that 11 of our wines were rated 90 points or over, with the 2015 Centre Block (96 points) and 2014 Old Vine Shiraz (95 points) being stand outs. (Both these wines are due for release in the near future).
Here are all our ratings:
Join the Balgownie Estate Wine Club and be the first to find out when these fantastic wines are released.
"I’m a sucker for sparkling Shiraz and this is such a beauty. Sweet red and black berry fruit, vanilla oak and a seemingly endless choc berry flow. It’s a bolder, riper style of sparkling Shiraz (elegance isn’t the game here), but with pure hedonism, depth of flavour and real tannins. It does feel like a red with bubbles than a true sparkling Shiraz, but gee it’s delicious. Will likely be even better in a year or two when it settles down further, as it’s just a little too overt, too big, too sweet fruited for absolute smashability.
Best drinking: 2018-2028+. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 14.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Yes, yum."