Bordeaux, Margaret River, Tusc...
With its silver green olive trees, rolling carpeted hills and rows of pencil thin cypresses, the Tuscan landscape is truly beautiful.
It's a province that's held a steady stream of tourists smitten since the Middle Ages. And with a legacy of influence, power, ambition and art, both Florence and Sienna, still draw them in by the thousands to this day.
Red or white?
The warm scrubby Mediterranean landscape favours reds, with savoury Sangiovese playing the starring role.
White wine production is minimal due to the heat. There's the local Vernaccia di San Gimignano, as well as some Trebbiano and Vermentino.
The best Sangiovese strikes a very agreeable sleek, sappy, and savoury balance of bright red cherry and pomegranate fruit. Flavours go deeper and darker depending on where it's grown and what other varieties it's blended with.
International varieties like Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon and Merlot make some exceptional, powerful wines on the gravelly Tuscan coastal plains of Maremma.
Key areas to look for are Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Bolgheri.
Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet
Vernaccia, Vermentino, Trebbiano, Chardonnay
Isole e Olena, Querciabella, Montevertine, Monteraponi, San Giusto a Rentennano, Biondi Santi, Poggerino (Chianti)
Il Marroneto, San Filippo, Valdicava, Siro Pacenti, Pian dell'Orino, Stella di Campalto, Scopetone (Brunello)
Maritime Bordeaux in the west of France is a large producer of quality wines. Although saying that there's a large gap between the top few who produce ultra-premium wines with hefty price tags (Lafite, Margaux, Y'Quem, Petrus….) and the rest of the field.
The Left Bank with its gravelly composition of soils is more suited to Cabernet Sauvignon while the Right Bank is made up more of clay and this is where Merlot and Cabernet Franc dominate (as they are earlier ripens and don't mind getting their feet wet). In the middle, the Entre Du Meurs provides a slew of whites and reds made for early drinking.
On the right bank outside of St Emilion and Pomerol, there are a lot of well-priced merlots made that are more for early consumption. These come from the satellite Bordeaux regions.
The English built up a thirst for the better Bordeaux reds which they have coined 'clarets'. These are often tucked away for a while in their cellars to age and drunk with a few years under their belts. But not all Bordeaux is built for aging, so choose wisely.
For whites, there are the crisp and easily quaffed whites from Entre De Meurs, or the more ambitious oak-aged Semillion Sauvignon blends from Pessac Legonan. The queen of dessert wines, Sauternes can also call Bordeaux home. French oak maturation is a common thread amongst the elite reds, whites and sweet wines.
White:Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle
Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot
Some of the most highly rated recent vintages are 2005, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2018.
Montrose, Pichon Lalande, Poitevin, D'Yquem, Coutet,
Maritime Margaret River is a beautiful mixing pot of nature, surf and wine. It’s a rare place in that it produces some of Australia’s most stylish and prized Chardonnays as well as some of our most elegant and complex Cabernets. On paper it sounds like a lovechild between Bordeaux and Burgundy, but in reality it’s not.
A few hours south of Perth, Margaret River is home to some of Australia’s greatest wineries – Cullen, Vasse Felix, Leeuwin, Moss Wood and Cape Mentelle. In terms of newcomers, we take our hats off to Nocturne, Dormilona and Flametree.
Chardonnay, semillion and sauvignon blanc lead the charge on the white grapes. Oak is favoured in the premium styles which complements a rich core of nectarines, peaches and orchard fruits. For reds, cabernet is the chosen one, and is often blended with merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. These red blends personify elegance and ageability.
The wines of Margaret River fly the flag for modern Australian wines, a beautiful balance of fruit and workmanship.
The Margaret River wine region (some 240km south of Perth) is the most important region, alon with the Great Southern in Western Australia. Its viticultural history began in the nineteenth century on a very small scale when the grandfather of Dr Kevin Cullen, founder of Cullen Wines established vineyards at Bunbury in 1890, though the vineyard site has now been absorbed by Bunburys unban suburbs. Contemporary Margaret river viticulture began in 1967 when Perth cardiologist Tom Cullity - inspired by papers written by John Gladstones from the University of WA which suggested Margaret River was a good place to grow grapes - planted the first commercial vineyard at Vasse Felix. Moss Wood, Cape Mentelle and Cullen soon followed and since then Margaret River has grown to become regarded as one of Australia's, and the world's great wine-producing regions and today there are nearly 5,500 hectares under vine and over 120 wine producers in the region.
Though warm, Margaret River's proximity to the Indian Ocean provides a moderating effect ensuring a temperate dry climate which is often likened to Bordeaux, in part due to the moderating influence of its proximity to the ocean and also due to the marked similarities between the average growing tempreture in Margaret River and Bordeaux in a dry vintage. These warm even growing conditions allow for the cultivation of a number of diverse grape varieties, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (often blended together) does well here, producing fresh textural white wines best condumed in their youth. However, the real heroes are the world class Chardonnays (headed by Leeuwin Estate and Cullen) and Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends, Cullen and Moss Wood, that have done much to propel both the region and it's star performers on the world stage. Vasse Felix, Voyager Estate, Cullen, Moss Wood, Lenton Brae, Pierro, Fraser Gallop and Woodlands are just some of the benchmark producers.
The Wine Atlas of Australia, James Halliday
Woodlands Wilyabrup Valley Cabernet Franc Merlot 20182018Cabernet Franc, MerlotAustralia432$30.00 As low as $27.00
Chai Saint Etienne Tradition Rouge 201660% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 20% Côt
The Coteaux du Quercy AOC is one of France smallest wine region with only 400 hectares and less than 20 growers. It lies between Cahors & Gaillac. After the Phylloxera, the Quercy, once 50 000 hectares was almost destroyed. Roger Gisbert and his brave mates started their appellation from scratch. With high draining slopes of white clay and limestone soils, Cabernet Franc was chosen to blend with the Merlot, and off course the Cot (aka. Malbec) replanted on the rocky soils. The grapes are harvested and sorted, then fallow slow and gentle traditional fermentation.2016Cabernet Franc, MerlotFrance356$34.00 As low as $30.60
Marie & Sylvie Courselle 'Le Petit Courselle' Vin de France 20202020Cabernet Franc, Merlot, shirazFrance356$34.00 As low as $30.60
Campo al Noce Miterre Bolgheri Rosso 2019Ripe and dramatic, a brooding core of spiced plums and red berries is laced with graphite and violets, thanks to a refreshing dose of cabernet franc. Attention-grabbing structure comes from a plush and chewy flow of tannins that take on an amaro savoury twist, offsetting the velvety core. A medley of complexing flavours comes from marrying four grapes (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and syrah) together in spicy oak. Reminds me of a delicious luncheon claret with Italian accents and attitude. GABRIELLE POY, PWS2019Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, shirazItaly495$53.00 As low as $47.70
The 2015 Senejac is a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. It has a pure, black cherry, pastille-like bouquet with touches of melted tar and licorice. The palate is well balanced with dry, rather masculine tannin on the entry, a good line of acidity, fresh and nicely proportioned with cedar and tobacco furnishing the long finish. This is a well-crafted, capable Sénéjac that deserves 5-6 years in bottle, and I expect it to land at the top of my banded score. NEAL MARTIN2015Cabernet Franc, Cabernet MerlotFrance356$61.00 As low as $54.90
Duemani Cifra 20202020Cabernet FrancItaly495$81.00 As low as $73.00
Cullen Diana Madeline 2020
Another beautiful, soulful release, this one a bit darker, a bit bolder, a mesh of tannins over train tracks and tension, but a wine of significant pedigree and wow factor nonetheless. Dark chocolate and graphite aromas with salted plum, black olive, bay leaf and oyster shell. Flavours ripple with authority in that weave of tannin, dark choc again, panforte perhaps more apt, dark cherry, saline minerality, more bayleaf and cinnamon spice. Succulent in the finish, mouth-watering and very fresh. Compelling stuff. (96) MIKE BENNIE, Winefront
The Australian wine classic that remains a bargain…..
I love the combination of bright dark fruit, savoury notes and ferrous hints in a wine that will cellar well but also offers immediate enjoyment. An impressive 97.5/100 for me. The 2020 vintage was a hot, dry one in Margaret River. producing low yields and wines that were generally aromatic, balanced and pretty. The Diana Madeline is elegant and beguiling. The blend is largely cabernet sauvignon with smidgens of merlot, cabernet franc and malbec, which gives a Bordeaux-like refinement with mulberry, cranberry and salted caramel notes on the palate. It is a vivid wine with an eminently sensible 13% alcohol level. The 50% new French oak is already well integrated and plays second fiddle to the quality dark and fragrant fruit. (97.5) WINDSOR DOBBIN2019Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, MerlotAustralia432$170.00 As low as $153.00
Duemani Duemani 2016A layered and rich cabernet franc with tobacco, blackberries, bark and licorice. Full body, very fine tannins that are polished with beautiful fruit and a long, long finish. Shows muscle yet polish. Needs four or five years to soften. (97) JAMES SUCKLING
This vintage is profound and beautiful. The 2016 Cabernet Franc Duemani shows deep layers of fruit, with levels of crunchiness and complexity that make it memorable. The mouthfeel is silky, long and rich. The maturity of the fruit here is perfect. In terms of appearance, the wine is dark and impenetrable. All around, this Duemani is an extremely tight, focused and elegant expression of Cabernet Franc. (97) MONICA LARNER2016Cabernet FrancItaly495$345.00 As low as $310.50
Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso 2016 MagnumA wine of breathtaking beauty, the 2016 Paleo Rosso possesses off the charts vertical intensity. Sweet floral and spiced notes soar out of the glass in a stunning wine endowed with fabulous depth in all of its dimensions. Cedar, mocha, rose petal, red plum and menthol are bright and beautifully sculpted. Paleo Rosso shows just how profound Cabernet Franc can be on the Tuscan Coast. This is a superb edition of the wine that, in my view, is the Macchiole flagship. The 2016 saw 30-35 days on the skins, followed by malolactic fermentation in cement and 18 months in French oak. (98) ANTONIO GALLONI2016Cabernet FrancItaly495$570.00 As low as $513.00