Well hasn’t this been a strangely disconcerting year? I hope we never have to experience anything like 2020 again. But there have been some good things experienced through the year and one of them is the excellent wine that I have enjoyed in the past 12 months. Let me share with you my wines of 2020. You will see from those chosen they are predominantly from Western Australia – well, that is a reflection of where I live and what wines I mostly buy and try – but there are wines from other States and a smattering of overseas examples as well.
Looking back over the year I was tempted to put together a top dozen but that would have meant leaving out so many great wines, so instead I have looked at a top 12 in several categories – reds, whites, sparkling, rosé and two groups that I have grown to love – skin contact and Pet Nats. I haven’t tried a dozen fortified wines, but the 6 below are all well worth a taste. So – the top 2020 wines of note coming up… remembering these are only wines that I have tasted during the year.
Top Red Wines of 2020
The top red tried this year was not surprisingly for me a Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon. I tried a number of older vintages over the year, all excellent, but rather than rank them all I have selected one of them, the 2000, as my top red – it may be hard to find, however, but any of their more recent vintages that can be sourced through liquor outlets will repay the investment. They are superb wines that age with grace and finesse.
So, moving on from Moss Wood, I have been very impressed by all of these wines listed below – from Margaret River, Perth Hills, Great Southern and the Swan Valley. One I tried relatively recently on a trip to Albany was the absolutely outstanding Morrisey from Dukes in the Porongurups. A blend of Cabernet and Shiraz, beautifully balanced, blackcurrants, plums, mulberries, tobacco and spice all playing their part in this memorable wine.
And a new grape to WA, Montepulciano, from Perth Hills producer, Lion Mill, also kicked a lot of goals for me – dark berry aromas, plums and sour cherries on the palate.
1. Moss Wood 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
2. Dukes 2017 The Morrissey Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, Great Southern
3. Blind Corner 2017 Bernard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
4. Trevelen Farm 2017 The Tunney Cabernet Sauvignon, Great Southern
5. Amato Vino 2018 Cabernet Nebbiolo, Margaret River
6. Windfall Wine 2017 Ivor Reserve Merlot, Ferguson Valley
7. Lion Mill Wines, 2019 Montepulciano, Perth Hills
8. Pinelli, 2013 Reserve Shiraz, Swan Valley
9. 3Drops 2016 Cabernets, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Great Southern
10. Swan Valley Wines 2019 Rhun Lavell, Mataro, Swan Valley
11. Fairbrossen 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
12. Myattsfield 2018 Shiraz, Mouvedre, Viognier, Perth Hills
Special mention: Windy Creek 2019 Grenache, Swan Valley – won a gold for the 2018, this is just as good and what’s more it is such good value.
Top White Wines of 2020
Some absolutely outstanding wines among these – for me Chalari with their excellent Vermentino just edged out the acclaimed award-winning Chenin from Corymbia, but both are stunning examples of the respective variety. Having a look over my choices it seems that Riesling and Chenin Blanc have impressed the most – it is great to see how much Chenin has grown in popularity in recent years. It produces lovely wines, of widely differing style, and is especially suited to the Swan Valley – and of course both Riesling and Chenin age so beautifully.
1. Chalari 2019 Vermentino, Perth Hills
2. Corymbia 2019 Chenin Blanc, Rockets Vineyard, Swan Valley
3. Dukes 2020 Riesling, Magpie Hill Reserve, Great Southern
4. Castle Rock 2020 Riesling, Porongurup, Great Southern
5. John Kosovich 2014 Chenin Blanc, Swan Valley
6. Woodvale 2016 Riesling, the Khileyre, Clare Valley
7. 3Drops 2020 Riesling, Great Southern
8. Vinteloper 2019 Pinot Gris, White Label, Adelaide Hills
9. Cherubino 2019 Riesling, Porongurup, Great Southern
10. Chalari 2020 Riesling, Frankland
11. Ferngrove 2018 Riesling, The Cossack, Frankland
12. Cullen 2016 Chenin Blanc, Margaret River
Top Sparkling Wines of 2020
My standout is the award-winning 2015 Grand Vintage from Swan Valley producer Sittella, a wine awarded a Gold at the Perth Royal Wine Show and a trophy at the Swan Valley Show. A complex and multi-layered wine of great finesse. One of my perennial favourites came in second; Dorham Mann produces two sensational sparkling wines, and both feature here.
1. Sittella 2015 Grand Vintage Marie Christien Lugten, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Pemberton
2. Mann 2018 Rosé Brut, Cabernet Sauvignon, Swan Valley
3. Swan Valley Wines, NV Borghesi, Chenin Blanc, Swan Valley
4. Mann 2018 Cygne Blanc, Swan Valley
5. Bollinger Special Cuvée NV, France
6. Dukes 2018 Magpie Hill Vintage Sparkling Riesling, Great Southern
7. Alpha Box and Dice Zaptung Prosecco, NV, South Australia
8. Sittella Sparkling Chenin Blanc, NV, Swan Valley
9. Blind Corner 2017 Cremant, Chenin Blanc, Margaret River
10. Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV, France
11. Upper Reach 2018 Sparkling Chardonnay, Swan Valley
12. Sittella NV Sparkling Shiraz, Swan Valley
Top Rosé Wines of 2020
We drink a lot of rosé from all over the world. There are so many fine examples to choose from and after puzzling and tasting it seems I have a preference for Australian rosé, despite all those beautiful wines from France, Italy and elsewhere.
Swan Valley newcomer Chouette has produced a ripper, and this takes pride of place over Surfer Rosa, from the late Taras Ochota.
1. Chouette 2020 Bonnie Rosé, Grenache, Swan Valley
2. Ochota Barrels 2020 Surfer Rosa, Pinot Noir and Grenache, Adelaide Hills
3. Nocturne 2020, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, Margaret River
4. Mon Tout 2020 Strange Love, Grenache, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Swan Valley, Margaret River, Mt Barker
5. Dormilona 2020, Rosado, Tempranillo, Margaret River
6. Vine Collective 2019, Pinot Rose, Margaret River
7. Mann 2019 Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Swan Valley
8. Marq 2019, Serious Rosé, Grenache, Margaret River
9. Express Winemakers 2019, Grenache and Mouvedre, Margaret River
10. Pinelli 2020 Breanna, Swan Valley
11. Mazza 2020 Bastardo Rosé, Geographe
12. John Kosovich 2020 Cabernet Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Swan Valley
Special mention: Small Things produced a very drinkable 2018 Margaret River Shiraz rosé in a can!
Top Skin Contact Wines of 2020
I have had some amazing skin contact wines over the year with my winner occurring very early on – In February, before the apocalypse I was in Sydney for business and stopped in at a brilliant little wine bar in Elizabeth Street, Fix, and it was there I had the opportunity to taste one of the greatest skin contact wines I have experienced, Bloom from South Australian producer Brash Higgins. 2012 McLaren Chardonnay aged for six and a half years in oak in the sous-voile style of Jura, picking up a lot of oxidative notes redolent of sherry, and then another 8 months in the bottle – golden amber, a bouquet similar to manzanilla and fino, a little honey, dried orange peel, saline, nutty, with a lick of iodine and peat. Only 46 cases made so may be very hard to find, but worth it and when the next vintage appears, I for one will be trying to get some.
Second on the list is a ripper from the Swan Valley’s Vino Volta – Garth and Kristen are turning out some wonderful wines and this fabulous expression of Swan Valley Chenin Blanc fermented under flor, Beneath the Flor is one of them. Aromas of honey, nuts and cidery apples; a palate of apples, almonds, grapefruit, with a saline finish.
1. Brash Higgins 2012 Bloom, Chardonnay, McLaren Vale.
2. Vino Volta 2018 Beneath the Flor, Chenin Blanc, Swan Valley.
3. Swan Valley Wines, 2020 Assemblage, Vermentino and Malvasia, Swan Valley.
4. Cullen 2018 Amber, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River
5. Brian 2019 Rizza Riesling, Tamar Valley
6. Brackenwood 2018 Skin Contact, Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills
7. Blind Corner 2020 Orange, Pinot Gris, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Margaret River
8. Mica 2019 Dejo, Verdejo, Ferguson Valley
9. Brave New Wine 2019 Sunshine and Hercules, Riesling, Great Southern
10. Local Weirdos 2020, Turbulent Juice, Semillon, Swan Valley
11. Swan Valley Wines 2020, Skins, Chenin Blanc and Semillon, Swan Valley
12. Express Winemakers 2020 L’Orange, Riesling and Semillon, Frankland
Top Pet Nats of 2020
A lot of Pétillant Naturel has been consumed at our Guildford headquarters this year and we have been amazed by how many of this style are coming onto the market. A couple of years ago they were few and far between but their popularity has grown exponentially and so it should. They make for excellent summer drinking under our patio.
1. Side Project 2019 Petillant White, Vermentino, Perth Hills
2. Unico Zelo 2020 Seafoam, Vermentino, Riverland
3. Swan Valley Wines 2020 The Missing Piece, Semillon and Zibibbo, Swan Valley
4. Dormilona 2020 Teachers Pet, Tempranillo, Margaret River
5. Windance 2019 Wild Things, Shiraz, Chenin, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River
6. Black Cocky 2019 V on Yay, Viognier, Margaret River
7. Vino Volta 2020 Chenin Blanc, Swan Valley
8. LS Merchants 2020 Fools Gold, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Margaret River
9. BK 2020, Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills
10. Freehand 2019 Pink Nat, Merlot, Great Southern
11. Chalari 2020, Chenin Blanc, Perth Hills
12. Sittella 2020 Avant Garde, Chenin and Pinot Noir, Swan Valley and Pemberton
A Six Pack of Fortified wines
1. Windy Creek, Reserve Frontignac, Swan Valley
2. Olive Farm, Liqueur Verdelho, Swan Valley
3. John Kosovich 2019 Fortified Shiraz, Swan Valley
4. Windy Creek, Ximénez, Pedro Ximénez, Swan Valley
5. Myattsfield 2018 Kenneth Green, Touriga Nacional, Shiraz, Durif, Perth Hills
6. Mazza 2017 Fortified Bastardo, Geographe
…..and that is all folks…2021 is looming!!