Best of 2018

Chardonnay Red Wine Shiraz Sparkling White Wine

With the year nearly over its time to look take a good hard look through the bottom of the empty glass at the year that was.

There’s been a few noticeable trends this year, some of which have actually lined up with my predictions from the end of last year – that rosé will continue its steady rise and broaden its flavour profile to make wines that men will happily drink during summer, and that beer brewers would start to return to forgotten or uncool styles, Gose beer has skyrocketed with some excellent examples out there on the market, and there has been a slow but steady return to lager. The resurgence of Premium Spirits and niche drinks did surprise me. The growth of Pink Gin and Prosecco for example, both continue to grow with the younger market, and it’s coupled with the desire to drink premium labels. It’s risky though, because once tasted, these drinks can be quite polarising.

Next year I would expect to see more movement in that niche area, along with more experimenting in the spirits world or “hybrid drinks” like whiskeys aged in beer barrels or things like “foie gras and salted caramel Manhatten” cocktails, along with more movement in that gin segment – ginnovation we’ll call it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole new movement in the vermouth segment either, with the increase in premium spirits driving the desire to have a high end blending vermouth. With the beer market, I would expect there will be more growth in the “one off brews”, special seasonal releases and a move to reuse yeast from winemaking or cider, and bars moving further toward seasonal and local lists (I personally cant wait to see some of the better local beers on more taps).

We will see a lot of movement in the wine industry. The drought will affect a lot of vineyards, and we are already coming off the lowest crush since 2015. Australia’s 2018 vintage produced only 1.79 million tonnes, the ’19 vintage will be smaller, and it will be interesting to see how the larger players will market and supply their chains with stocks stretched so low. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a larger than usual cellar release program over the next year or so.

But to onto the best wines of the year, and because I get to see so many different labels and brands over a year, it is very difficult to pick a best of anything, however I’ve gone back over my jumbled mess of notes and come up with my top picks. Selections are made on quality, real world price (not RRP) and, over the last few years, I have decided to limit my selections to only labels that are readily available either at your local bottleshop or online, not drinks that have been created in such super limited amounts that you need to know someone who knows someone to get it, or that are so expensive you need to sell a kidney to afford a bottle.

Red of the Year.

Tim Stevens Signature Shiraz 2016 – a wine that is accessible from independent bottleshops or online.  At a $100 a bottle it starts to move into that “sell a kidney” area, and it’s not something that most of us will drink as a regular go to, but if you are buying as a one off or as a special present, commemorative year etc, then it’s a perfect choice. Made only when the fruit is perfect, and even then it’s selected only from various parcels of the vineyards. It’s the Huntington Estate’s flagship wine, bearing the owner/winemaker’s name on it and it does what the area should be known for – big, ballsy, full bodied reds that are complex but not complicated.   It’s thick on the tongue, with a velvety smooth suppleness, yet has a heavy, weighty feel on the tongue where all those aromas are delivered. Dense plummy fruits, dark chocolate, blueberry and dried herbs and a touch of clove. Stood head and shoulders above another bottle of the same vintage, from another big name winery when tasted side by side.

White of the Year.

Robert Stein Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2017 – another wine that’s easiest to find online or at independents, its powerful, and chock-a-block full of citrus and juicy stone fruit, buttered toasted brioche and a cashew nut creaminess to it. The acidity dances across the palate and accentuates those stone fruit notes in the finish. The oak work has had a gentle touch and some interesting complex yeasty notes. It will age well over the next 5-8 years.

Sparkling of the Year

Charles de Cazanove Millesime 2007 – a superb vintage sparkling, and with ten years of age its showing toffee and toasty notes, fig and dried apricots with hints of vanillin. On the tongue its surprisingly fresh, with an underlying nuttiness all wrapped around a wonderful acid backbone. As it warmed there were notes of buttery brioche, strawberries and cream and light tobacco. This is a superbly complex and wonderful drinking wine, that I would expect to pay around $100, so at RRP $75 its extremely good value. I nearly fell over when I saw it at First Choice for $55

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