1994 Seppelt Show Sparkling Shiraz, and more….

1994 Seppelt Show Sparkling Shiraz 13.5%
Under crown seal, this wine is outstanding, (but unfortunately my last bottle).

1994 seppelt sparkling red

A terrific Australian style; old vines from the St Peters vineyard at Great Western (Victoria)  and around 8 years on lees. Plenty of mousse, a touch of brick on the deep colour but wonderfully good for its age; a multitude of spices, black cherry, and plush leather; the palate is sensual, super rich, ripe and creamy; the combination of freshness and bottle development, blackberry, complex dark fruits, spices and a super, long, long finish is stunning. Around  25 g/l residual sugar meshes harmoniously with the evident, fine tannins.

Drink anytime over the next 20 or so years; some mushroom development will appear, but the fruit power, balance and freshness make this wine an absolute winner and a complete delight to drink.

Drink to 2035, 95 points

2007 Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 8.5%
From the Nahe (adjacent to Mosel). Light-to medium gold in colour, the wine displays cumquat, petroleum, white peach, white flowers and honey. Red apple and redcurrant are more accessible on the palate with steely acidity. Exceptionally well balanced, this is ultra-easy to drink- in the zone- with a few more years of pleasure ahead.

Drink to 2025, and 91 points

2007 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Domherr Riesling spatlese 8.5%
Mosel, with a light gold colour, tropical fruits (predominantly pineapple) meshed with lemon

There is abundant residual sugar (even for a spatlese) but the acidity is well judged. Mouthfilling, vibrant citrus and a touch of mineral and spices makes this wine easy to consume.  A touch of hardness on the palate suggests caution about further cellaring.

Drink to 2022, and 88 points


Sparkling reds extravaganza

Just one evening after Australia day, a small group tried 8 sparkling reds (aka sparkling Burgundy). It’s not quite a unique Australian style, but near enough; many European tasters are perplexed. It’s a style that seeks to balance ripe fruit, and acidity. Residual sugar via liqueuring, typically  with “port” styles  between 15-30 g/l being common – and necessary – to balance the tannins. Time post-disgorgement helps, although “how long?” is a matter of personal preference.

Sparkling reds are a surprisingly food-friendly style; anything “gamy” succeeds; turkey, duck, pork, some cheeses, or merely as an interlude; even beef succeeds; I am not at all in favour of deployment as a “breakfast style”, or with bacon and eggs; this underplays its potential seriousness and quality.

Time on lees helps, but earthy and mushroom aspects seem to emerge up after about 10 years; 15-20 years on lees seems too much based on the few samples I’ve had. Brett needs close attention, as it thrives in the environment of sugar.

The interplay of these elements, plus temperature makes a big difference.

Extended time on lees means there is more chance that the wine has had several winemakers involved through its path to release.

Australia has generally used Shiraz for the style, but I’ve seen examples with Cabernet Sauvignon, Durif, Pinot noir and Merlot, plus assorted blends. Wines were served in brackets of two, and my notes are impressions, not fully contemplative.

2008 Castagna (Beechworth 13.5%) – 89 points

NV Rockford (Barossa) disgorged August 2010 – 92 points

The immediately noticeable difference is that the Rockford seems richer and sweeter. It’s creamier, oakier with raspberry red fruits. A real crowd-pleaser, while the drier Castagna showed some light mushroom, and fine mousse.

I have had worrisome experiences with leakage with Rockford in the past; this bottle was pristine.

2005 Peregrine ridge (Heathcote) 14% – not rated

2005 Peregrine ridge (Heathcote, late disgorgement, 6.5 years on lees) 14% – 94 points

This was a useful exercise, with the later-disgorged style showing a creamy texture, raspberries, violets and Its had well-deserved success in some wine shows. Lovely drinking, and perhaps even better with a little less r/s.  I thought the standard release was very dull in comparison – a faulty bottle is suspected.

2002 Andersons (Rutherglen) 14.5% – 96 points

1998 Leasingham Classic Clare 14% – not rated

The Anderson’s is a lurid healthy bright red colour. Dense, creamy with has balanced mushroom, its bursting with ripe blackberry dark fruits; there is compelling deli meats and charcuterie, and spiciness. To my bafflement, its still available at cellar-door for a derisory $49. Lots of well-merited show bling. Extraordinarily good VFM.

The Leasingham has alas, died.

1991 Seppelt Show (Grampians) 13%, 6.5 years on lees – 96 points

2004 Seppelt Show (Grampians)  13.5% 8 years on lees- 96 points

It’s just as well these two wines were not masked, as they were just so good and so different. Seppelt has a long history with sparking reds, even their standard vintage sparkling red (available for less than $20 to canny buyers) will surprise – even better if it was under crown seal)

The 1991 was at a lovely stage; certainly more developed with some honey, hay, camphor, truffle, leather and dried mushroom. But fruit is still present; a very appealing package, but to drink, not to keep.

The 2004, from the St Peters, Imperial and McKenzie blocks) is a ripper, albeit embryonic. Its very ripe and somehow balances bright red berry fruits with a gentle touch of capsicum and tomato-leaf, without veering into greenness. The plate is darker, some chocolates, an array of mixed spices and so finely manicured!  Leave it for 5 years to soften, and it will be very, very special. Or leave for much longer, safe with a crown seal to make it almost indestructible.

All in all, however, a stimulating set of wines, that deserve those terrific scores.

Campbell’s “1870” sparkling shiraz 14%

With a crown seal – hooray.  This was a one-off from Campbells of Rutherglen released a few years back that we paid $55 for- must have been in a good mood. (so its more serious than the Campbells $30 nv sparkling red).

The label claims its blended from vintages going back 40 years – likely Shiraz. Its vigorous in the glass, deeply coloured, lightening on the rim. It boasts an array of savoury, earthy scents – mulberry and perhaps aniseed, and old leather, with a faint touch of mushroom . The palate mirrors this, thankfully drier than most wines made in this style, with clean acidity, and welcome creaminess.  Residual sugar is difficult with sparkling reds- I think around 15 g/l is needed to balance the tannins; more than 25 is unwelcome; guessing that is around 20g/l.

nv campbells sparkling red

Another glass beckons….. yes there are wines with better QPR , but well worth a try.

Drink now- 2020, score 89 (92 with duck!)

NV Pondalowie special release sparkling shiraz 14%

From near Bendigo in Central Victoria. Goldfields areas, so often a portent of wines of amazing colour and depth of flavours. Appropriately I opened this bottle on Australia’s “spurgle” (sparkling red) day. While this style is not – quite- unique to Australia, we’ve given it a home, and when I’ve shown examples to some European tasters they have been baffled. Generally made from Shiraz, but sometimes other varieties are used- Cabernet Sauvignon, Durif, even Merlot. Like other sparkling wines, time on yeast lees really makes a difference, as does ripeness, as does time in oak. A bit of sweetness is necessary to balance the tannins- anywhere from 10-50 g/l, but I think less successfully when over 30g/l. And they can age very well, under cork or increasingly common crown seal (think of the seal on a beer bottle…).


Enough preamble- the Pondalowie is a blend of several vintages. It’s a very dense blood red/black colour. The bubbles are not very persistent, but thankfully the wine is at the drier end of the spectrum – my guess is about 15g/l. incidentally the label depicts a stylised dog – not barbed wire as I once suspected, and is sealed with a diam cork. Its all about intense ripe blackberry, fruitcake spices, other dark fruits including cherry. It walks the line of combining long savoury notes and the creaminess of the palate. How could anyone not enjoy this? Score 91, Drink now- 2020

This wine is currently available on the Pondalowie website for $40. If you enjoy this wine style – which matches extremely well with duck, and other red meat roasts, – try the 2012 Seppelt or if you are not constrained by cash or availability, the Primo estate “Joseph” in its extraordinary tall bottle, or the NV Rockford Black Shiraz, or sparkling reds from Anderson’s in Rutherglen.