Current Issue #488

Wine Reviews:
Arfion, Howard Park,
Quin Wines

South, east and west, these winter wines are best. From an ever-changing complex white blend in the east to a beguiling shiraz in the west and home for a classy Eden Valley take on the same grape, this journey doesn’t let closed borders hold it back.


2019 Fever
RRP $30

If you seek a wine that is savoury and dry – like sucking on a smooth river stone, minerally dry – is wonderfully textural and riffs on the gestalt principle, where the organised whole perceived on the palate is more than the sum of its parts, then I think this little beauty from the Yarra Valley could be right up your alley.

Arfion, Scottish Gaelic for ‘our wine’, is the brainchild of Kiwi-born winemaker Dave “Bro” Mackintosh. After time at Oyster Bay and Brokenwood wines, Mackintosh settled in the Yarra Valley working with Steve Flamsteed at Giant Steps before striking out on his own. His wines are gorgeous. Soulful, vivid, speaking clearly of the land from which they spring. The entire range is cracking and, if you get a chance, make sure you check out the small-batch Smokestack Lightning wines for skin-contacty greatness.  

The blend in this delicious wine changes with each growing season. In 2019, it weighs in at pinot gris 40%, gewurztraminer 24%, riesling 17%, chardonnay 7%, savagnin 6% and pinot noir 6%.

The colour is a mashup of orange and pinks, and it smells wicked. Grapefruit, blood orange, rosewater, turkish delight, frangipani, dried tangerine peel, glazed cherry and an array of souk-like spice. It’s like a collision between a fruit cart and a flower seller in a medina. Slinky and textural with a gentle tug of chalky tannin and a line of tubular, porcelain acidity, it is wild-eyed, captivating drinking. Wonderful gear.

Howard Park

2017 Scotsdale Great Southern Shiraz
RRP $50

I’ve got a bit of a thing going with this Great Southern Shiraz from WA lately. Mid-weight, blue-fruited and floralflecked, they seem to be sitting in my sweet spot of winter consumption.

It’s a pretty stretchy wine region. I mean, if we were going by area alone, it would be Australia’s largest, some 150 kilometres east to west and 100 kilometres north to south. That said, it only has 1950 hectares under vine, the subregions are spread out and there is considerable diversity of climate and style throughout its length.

From the coastal, maritime subregions of Albany and Denmark to the inland, continental subregions of Mount Barker, Porongurup and Frankland River, you’ll find some superb wines. In particular, I’d be getting acquainted with the Riesling and shiraz from this stunning part of the country.

The Great Southern Shiraz comes from a selection of the best batches of shiraz grown on the Howard Park vineyards in Frankland River and Mount Barker.

Deep in colour, the wine displays aromas of deep red and blue fruits with hints of Asian spice, violets, sarsaparilla, blueberry pie, dark chocolate and some resonant, meaty complexity.

In the mouth the wine opens up, light and airy; the aromas are neatly transposed onto the palate, which is bright and vibrant, pure of fruit yet with a savoury finish that is dry with fine, gypsum-like tannins and gentle oak nuance as it trails away into the distance… Great drinking.

Quin Wines

2018 Eden Valley Shiraz
RRP $55

Another shiraz that fits into the bloody delicious, medium-weight and pure of fruit category. This one is from the wee Hampton Vineyard on Mengler Hill , 450 metres above sea level on the western boundary of the Eden Valley.

Quin Wines, the brainchild of Skye and Andrew Quin, is an exciting new addition to the Barossa wine scene. Andrew is the head winemaker at the ace Hentley Farm Wines over on the western ridge of the Barossa and the range of wines that he and Skye now produce under their own label are terrific across the board.

Eden Valley wines tend to be a bit finer and high-toned than their revered cousins from down on the valley floor. You’ll find fruit more in the blue spectrum, more floral tones, sometimes sage aromas and a tannin profile that is both compact and kinetic.

By kinetic I mean there is elasticity to the way the tannins present on the palate. They seem to have ‘give’ in the mouth and aren’t merely plinths of structure plummeting through the fruit. I often describe it as akin to walking on a beach and feeling the give of the sand at the water’s edge underfoot; a fleeting impression that fades over time as you look back at your trail.

But enough wine-geekery! All you need to know is it tastes wicked. It is fragrant and perfumed with blossom and jasmine notes hanging over the pure blueberry and red plummy fruits. Plenty of spicy notes, vanilla bean, a lovely bright, spacious mouthfeel with those delightful kinetic tannins. It’s a cracker.

Dave Brookes

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