NV Lustau Pedro Ximenez “San Emilio” 17%

Amber in colour, this fortified, sherry wine from Jerez (spain) pours with honeyed viscosity.  The grapes have been sun-dried, concentrating the sugar to an amazing degree- perhaps 400 g/l. And for around $65 (full bottle), it was worth a try.

nv lustau PX

Pedro Ximenez -often shortened to just PX – can make a fairly neutral dry white wine, or via botrytis, something very sweet.  Labour costs in Australia make the mat-drying approach uneconomical.

This wine  has voluminous scents of raisin, white rum, fig, cocoa, and a pleasant touch of cough mixture. Its lush flavours include raisin, prune, fruitcake and slightly bitter mocha, and thankfully there is enough acidity to keep this wine tasting vibrant. The texture is dense.

It’s similar in some ways to Australian fortified muscats, with comparable flavour descriptors, and made in a similar solera-blended fashion.

While this style and its incredible balance between sugar and acid is highly appealing, without extended barrel aging, it can look very straightforward.

Drink now, and due to this wine’s relative simplicity, 88 points.


Stoney Goose Ridge crushes the craft beer market

Hector Lannible –“live” from the lavish launch ceremony at Bondi.

“Press, TV, radio and other media acolytes, as always, I am humbled by your presence along with the distinguished A-list guests that we have invited, plus the high-vis local trend-setters. And of course our VIP parliamentarians, mayors, and assorted dignitaries, of all gender-situations are also welcomed under traditional ancestral land commemoration respectfulness.

I’ll just say a few short words, and some long ones too, to paint the scene.

At Stoney Goose Ridge, we don’t just keep an eye on market trends; our data-crunching tragics obsess with finding nimble opportunities to boost our profitability and add significantly to my bonus.

Of course we’re well-known for our incredibly successful strata of super wines; growing market share, share of wallet and extraordinary ROI and EBIT. But we are not only fixated on wines; our mandate incorporates other beverages.

One salient trend has been growth in the “craft beer” market, which has displaced some of the traditional  beer brands. With much of our own outrageously expensive industrial equipment being critically underutilised at certain times of the year, our array of book-keepers, accountants, and auditors wanted stern action.

Plus, I’m weary of constantly disciplining our easily-distracted support crew of wine fabricators. My assessment was to exploit the agile path to synergistic joyousness – an echelon of market-beating beer-based beverages!

OF course Stoney Goose Ridge doesn’t take cavalier decisions made on whimsical gut-feel. I inspire the group of MBA-credentialed juniors that synthesise the market research, and apply remorseless statistical logic to the massed spreadsheets. It’s been the devil’s own task to ensure that these new beer brands don’t cannibalise our existing and intended wine markets, but that’s my forte in my specialised gig as the CEO.

And so, after trialling our creations with demographic disciplinary forensic fervour, we are fully ready with four new products that will take their righteous place in the elite pantheon of crafty beers.

There is little need to dwell on their technical or sensory characters; the most important efforts went into nomenclature and packaging, the incisive media campaigns and multifocal uplift sales incentives. It’s so tough to create brand names that haven’t been occupied by cyber-squatters, but that’s yet another of my monumental talents.

All these products will be available on-premise as draught on tap, stubbies and of course cans. Stoney Goose Ridge is can-do and canny, so cans make complete concrete sense. Plus we had this packaging option available through a cunning visionary purchase at a distressed bankruptcy liquidation receivership fire-sale.

Here’s the roll-call of soon-to-be household names;

  • One Tasty Blonde – a beer squarely aimed at the fashion-savvy. Easy drinking that doesn’t impact the waist-line or the bottom-line- except ours. Low carb, yet full of delight. Gluggable, especially with friends. Ask for it by name – available now.
  • Bullant Lager– authentically true-blue ridgy-didge dinkum Aussie as can be; a beer to quell the hard-earned thirst. And there is a not terribly secret ingredient incorporated in the manufacture that adds unique bitey piquancy. Be patriotic, get this quirky quencher down your gullet. Everyone’s a winner.
  • Brett’s Ale – we sometimes let the wine folk have their little idiosyncratic indulgences, and they came up with – let’s see if I can pronounce this – a brettanomcyces beer. Anyway this is strong stuff, and the target market literally just lapped it up during the marketing taste test trials, so perhaps they knew something. Truly addictive. Kudos to me for making it happen.
  • Seasonal Smashable. Fondly called “SS” by the development team, this beer uses a range of hopping varieties depending on what’s available in the market, and by style it’s an IPA-lite. Citrus, passionfruit, and not at all bitter. That’s what the autocue says. To everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose, and the purpose is drinking. A fighting beer. Try it – you’ll like it.

Now we confront a serious challenge- many venues are locked into onerous exclusivity agreements with alternative suppliers that restrict our ability to get our awesomely new beers on tap in front of the public. But to join the party, you must face the music.  We throw down the gauntlet to extend the olive branch. For us,  It’s not a matter of life or death- it’s much more serious. Venue managers – we’ll help to get you back in the race, so you don’t miss the boat onto the paddock of dreams – our legal practitioners are standing by to overthrow outrageous contracts that discriminate against Stoney Goose Ridge.

So that’s the first four Stoney Goose Ridge beers launched, with more waiting in the wings, plus a cider in progress; we can’t let apples lie fallow when the market gate price is so low. They are itching to be plucked, and fermentised into a life-style brewed fluid. And we’re pondering timings to introduce waters, teas and other ever-healthy non-alcoholic alternatives. That should stir up our complacent competitors- just you wait and watch it happen; or wonder what happened? And did I mention spirits – whoops- ooh what a giveaway!!

But for now, be upstanding, raise your glasses and salute my team gathered behind me on the dais; photogenicity ain’t everything; talent counts; especially mine – our staff, contractors, consultants and interns  are universally hugely proud of my incisive leadership. We aim to monopolise beer shelf-space, crowd out cool-room stacks, put Stoney Goose Ridge on everyone’s lips, and give a real buzz to the punters.

We’re fanatical about our wines, as are our legions of devoted admirers; this new range of beers provides further lustre – and lucre –  to our image, reputation and brand inventory. We launch with pride, continuing the numerous endeavours Stoney Goose Ridge is notorious for”.

1988 Chateau Coutet 14%

The picture shows the cork inside the bottle – my technique with the ah-so failed.


Bright medium gold colour (excellent for age); this is not the richest Barsac you will encounter, but it provides plenty of drinking pleasure. It’s still showing freshness after nearly 30 years, and while beginning to dry up, its full of interest thanks to its lovely balance. Botrytised fruit, oak and bottle age are in harmony.

This wine is a blend of 75% semillon, 23% Sauvignon blanc and 2% muscadelle, 100% barrel-fermented in new French oak – detailed in the informative Chateau Coutet website. 1988 was an excellent year in Sauternes and Barsac with widespread botrytis.

Medium bodied, and not as sweet as its modern counterparts, it’s clean and shows tropical notes (mainly pineapple) and orange rind. The palate is more oriented to barley sugar and quince paste, with some raisined, and glace fruits; plus a bit of marmalade and syrup fills the picture. A light touch of oak is present to contribute further mouthfeel and aid its complexity. Lively acidity really proves its class.

My only bottle, a speculative auction purchase – drink to 2020, although some bottles will live much, much longer and 92 points

2007 Dirler Gewurtztraminer Saering vendages Tardives 14%

A late-picked wine from a Grand Cru Alsatian site.  It’s too easy to typecast Gewurtztraminer as a beginner’s wine, but it can interest more than neophytes, especially when  the wine is from Alsace.
The cork was in immaculate condition, and the wine a bright clear medium  gold colour. The excitement begins- intoxicatingly floral- tropical fruits, ripe apricot, mandarine, ripe pear, musk-stick and cinnamon; the palate continues this interest- it’s extensive, with enough acidity to carry the 54 g/l of residual sugar. The wine is beginning to dry, and was likely to have been better a year or two ago (with cork vagaries, a bottle consumed a year ago was not as lively, showing some oxidation).

A faint touch of hardness probably reflects a combination of its age and alcohol level. Absolutely no complaints overall, as the bottle contents vanished rapidly.

Drink now, 91 points


Snippets, again

Maybe not thematic, but these fragments deserve a note; on the cork front, an unusual  run in the past six months yielded only 2 wines affected by taint or obvious oxidation–  a “meagre” 3.7%. Not many industries would accept this level of wastage. The degree of TCA in both wines was amazing- textbook examples.

  • 1993 Craiglee Chardonnay – replaced
  • 1996 Baileys Shiraz – no response from winery

And quick notes follow about wines that impressed

2015 Tolpuddle Chardonnay 12.5%
“Full malo” is a phrase that normally makes me run away, but served masked (of course) this Coal River valley (Tasmania) wine astonished. It’s a modern melon and smoke style- such as Oakridge or Seville Estate- cashewy oak, mineral-drenched fruit and the Tasmanian acidity powers through this utterly delicious wine.
From the Shaw and Smith stable, it’s around $60 a bottle retail – I ordered 3 bottles on the spot. Wonderful, and will hold for quite a while.

2015 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 13.5%
This is the 60th release of this label; a few years ago, I tasted the 1960, 1965, 1966 and 1972; there is no doubting the longevity of the style; its affordability makes it deservedly popular among wine-drinkers (not just unicorn-collectors). This release is ripe, beautifully manicured and balanced; blackcurrant and other dark fruits, chalks; it flows gently, deliciously and juicily along. Lovely, with a huge future. Coonawarra, and unforced.

2012 Giant Steps Applejack Pinot Noir 13.5%
This is a wine that nearly won the notorious Jimmy Watson trophy, but there was insufficient volume. At  5 years old, this  Yarra Valley wine has time on its side. Its amazingly fragrant, with small, succulent, sweet red berry scents, plus seasoned oak. The palate shows much more ripe strawberry, and again the oak is present, somehow making a savoury impact. But where this wine stands out is for its prodigious, long-lasting, ultra-refined finish. Another 5 years at least, and 95 points

2002 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz 14%
Wonderful wine. Cork was not the greatest visual composition, but no travel.
2002 was a cool year in Victoria, and this wine is special. My records indicate I paid $35; some key notes; the colour is deep black/red, and there is no browning even at the rim; the wine is beautifully poised with vibrant, intense fruit, oak very much a background factor. Its ripeness is spot-on; blackberry, mixed spices and mocha, some very faint herbal tannin bitterness, and just powers along. Easy, hedonistic drinking, and will remain so for another 15 years – or more. Instant gold medal score, and another example of Grampians Shiraz seduction.

1995 Guigal Hermitage
From a great year in the Northern Rhone; power+, ripe +, slinky old-vine mouthfeel. Dry herb, chalk, iron filings and spices, powdery tannins, touch of bitterness. At plateau and another 10 years will not tire it. Outstanding, 94 points


And a few rarities from a very special dinner

2002 Bollinger RD disgorged 24/6/2014
Served at a “just right” temperature in appropriate glassware (flutes are NOT proper stemware for Champagne, any kind of tulip-shaped glass is better). It’s a light straw colour; Immediate sense of class. There are scents of pastries, fruit tingles, strawberries dusted gently with icing sugar (the Pinot dominance roughly 60/40 is felt); a touch of oak/chalk/cream, a touch of almond. Then the palate lights up with exuberance, tiny bead, and the flavours just linger on, the wine seems bone dry (4 g/l is very dry even for a prestige champagne). This is just a wonder, so sensual and so compelling- finally it just powered along with more nuances with each refreshing sip. A wine that could accompany many foods, and was not elbowed aside by a truffled croquette. 96 points.

1990 Trimbach Clos st hune Riesling 14%
Approached with some trepidation as a bottle tried in 13/5/2013 unexpectedly threw me in to delivering a perfect score.

Was I delusional? Would another bottle disappoint?This wine from Alsace has a bright clear gold colour; but amazingly, almost pungently floral. Light honey, lemon peel, bottle age, flint ripeness. Palate, silky, fluffy, candied dried fruits, flint, stone, mineral. The magic combination of richness and freshness.

Another 20 years in sight. 98 points.  (Notes were similar)

1990 Jaboulet Hermitage la Chapelle 13.9%
Everyone’s favourite in a bracket of 3 Hermitages including 1990 JL Chave and 1990 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavilon, and so easy to love. Very dense colour, with trivial bricking; barnyard, earth, butterscotch, then the palate runs rampant with dark cherry, tar and more earth, some smoky, dried meaty aspects. Oak is entirely vanished, we’re left with a slinky vinous old-vine palate of fine, fine tannins. Memorable and contemplative – mature wines don’t really come better.
Drink to 2040, 98 points

1972 Gayfer’s (Chiltern) Durif Port

I doubt that the Gayfer’s vineyard still exists; it made way for a highway upgrade. I have not found information on the internet, apart from a passing reference to the “Roscoe’s fortified; I’ll need some serious prowling through my old books unless readers can assist.

Durif makes some very long-living, inky-coloured, robust red table wines in North-east Victoria, and I have examples from All Saints, Anderson, Baileys, Campbells, Morris, and Stanton in & Killeen in my cellar. In recent years, I think there has been more sympathetic winemaking, providing more finesse and complexity in the wines. As well as a standalone varietal wine, its colour and tannins makes Durif a useful blending component in a table wines – usually with Shiraz, and can readily be crafted into a vintage fortified, or a sparkling red. Its use as a varietal fortified is less common now, as more winemakers are enthused by fortifieds incorporating Portuguese grape varieties.

Chiltern is an outlier of Rutherglen, only 20km away, and the wine is an excellent effort from the region. Cork was pretty good – after 45 years, and this bottle had thrown a very heavy tea-leaf-like deposit.

1972 Gayfer'svp

Ruby coloured, with an amber/khaki rim, the aromas are in the mocha plus caramel plus coffee spectrum; sweet spirit is present too. The fruit and spirit combination is quite sweet, and though this wine may seem old-fashioned now, its a charming example of a mature, vintage fortified. The palate smoothly melds the mocha with some vanilla bean, rum and raisin chocolate and sweet brandy spirit- altogether this wine was just the ticket for a winter afternoon with a few ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out)  – although not everyone fitted this category exactly.

The wine will endure on its plateau for many more years, and I have not added any points for historic interest – even though tempted.

Drink to 2030, 91 points

2006 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese goldcap #9, 7.5%

This is wonderful estate, and a magnificent site (commonly abbreviated to BJS). The goldcap indicates a richer selection -other wineries may employ different colour, or lengths of capsules, or stars to show “extra”.

2006 in the Mosel was a high botrytis vintage, but as usual, better makers achieved better results.


The wine itself is a bright lemon/gold, and has some – entirely harmless- tartrate crystals. The bouquet sang with tropical fruits – mango and more, plus ripe pear, apricot and citrus, and steeliness.

The palate is bursting with vitality, with more passionfruit and stonefruits – principally apricot and yellow peach. Dense, and mouthfilling, the flavours are very persistent, and the high degree of residual sugar ( perhaps 130g/l) is in harmony with the minerally acidity. Pure, fresh Riesling with a long future.

Alas, my only bottle – drink to 2032, and a well-deserved 93 points