Wine reviews: winter reds

A fine selection of mid-winter reds to savour over the coming month as reviewed by wine writer, Dave Brookes.

As I venture outside at first light, crunching through the frosty grass of Eden Valley with my trusty hound, I am reminded that during these chilly months there is nothing more uplifting and soul warming than a glass of red wine. Perhaps not first thing on a frosty morning, but you get my drift.   Brash Higgins 2014 Nero DAvola Amphora RRP $42 Nero D’Avola seems to have made itself comfortable here in Australia. It certainly seems to flourish in our conditions and the crop of wines currently available from this slurpable, Sicilian variety are testament to its potential. None more so than this beauty from ex-New York City sommelier, and now, McLaren Vale resident, Brad Hickey. The grapes are de-stemmed, fermented with wild yeasts and then aged on skins for six months in locally produced, 200-litres bees-wax lined clay amphora. The resulting wine is stunning. Bruised red/purple in the glass, there’s a sense of earthy wildness to its aromas. Scents of rich black and dark fruits certainly, but it shows exotic souk-like spice notes along with hints of dried tangerine rind, rosemary, kirsch, citrus blossom and a resonant bass-line of herbal notes redolent of Italian digestive tipples. Medium-bodied and pure of fruit, it cuts a lovely line across the palate, showing great tension between the spicy, heady fruit and fresh, uplifting acidity. Great drinking. This drop is proof that Nero D’Avola is a variety that requires further investigation for the intrepid wine sleuth, perhaps several more glasses.   Katnook Estate 2010 Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon RRP $100 Last week, my head was buried in a 1976 edition of Harry Waugh’s Wine Diary, an impossibly poncey, yet endearing wine tome, detailing a renowned English wine-trade taster’s meanderings through the wine world. Coonawarra gets a lot of love… in fact “Coonawarra is the area where some of the greatest of all Australian reds are produced”. Coonawarra doesn’t seem to get the same amount of love these days, yet its best wines are deeply satisfying; like slipping into your favourite armchair in front of the fire. Katnook’s Odyssey is one of those wines. Rich, opulent blackberry, blackcurrant fruits, with hints of cassis, black licorice, baking spice, Old Jamaican chocolate, a fair lick of sexy vanillin oak and a waft of eucalyptus. There is a sense of latent power to the fruit in the mouth. The aromas on the nose are transposed neatly onto the palate, but it’s not just a big glob of flavour, there is form, flow and a sense of brightness to its step, but that rich Cabernet engine keeps humming away under the hood. A curtain of ripe, super-fine velvety tannin provides ample structure and bodes well for its future in the cellar. Lovely.   Domaine Gramenon 2014 Poignee de Raisins Côtes du Rhône RRP $42 Poignee de raisins translates to a fistful of grapes, and this impossibly moreish wine from one of the Rhone Valley’s most exciting producers is an absolute joy to drink. They’ve been around since 1978, have been farming organically since the mid-80s and are certified as biodynamic by Demeter. Today, the estate is run by Michele Aubery and one of her children, son Maxime-Francois, and drinking this delicious blend of Grenache and Cinsault, it is easy to see why they have become one of the region’s hottest names. Bright purple/red in the glass, aromas of vibrant red and dark fruits leap from the glass — red cherry and juicy plums with high-tones of blueberry and cranberry. Hints of exotic spice, jasmine, crushed stone and a scattering of herbs complete the picture. Showing the exuberance of youth, it bounces around the palate with boundless energy, all juicy, crunchy fruit underscored with spice and floral flecks. Perfectly weighted in the mouth with a curtain of fine, chalky tannin this is just pure, vinous fun and a delight to drink. For stockists, try East End Cellars or visit   Tscharke Wines 2013 The Master Montepulciano RRP $25 Varieties that end with ‘o’ have certainly made their presence felt over the last few years and here is a superb Montepulciano from a champion of alternative grape varieties in the Barossa, and all-around nice bloke, Damien Tscharke. Dedicated to his father, Glen Tscharke, who persuaded Damien to plant the then little known Tuscan grape, it has quickly become a benchmark for the variety in Australia and one that provides a great deal of enjoyment for the wine drinker. First impressions upon sticking one’s schnoz in the glass are how perfumed and aromatic the wine is. Fruit aromas of dark cherry, plum and raspberry are bathed in lifted spice, citrus rind, purple flowers and Cherry Ripe characters, along with earthier shades of leather, roasting meats and sarsaparilla. Medium-bodied in the mouth, the wine shows an abundance of ripe, perfumed dark cherry and spicy, plummy fruit on the palate, but those floral tones from the nose have segued into meaty/savoury characters which continue throughout the wines length to its bright, persistent finish. A meaty pasta dish and a glass of this and you’ll be in a happy place.

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