Top drops: December 2016

Author: Max Allen

No eggnog here: this December, we're drinking a seven-apple cider blend, a spicy durif, and a luscious sweet Riesling. These drops are perfect for a Christmas lunch, or for unwinding from the silly season at home.

Numbered from top to bottom, left to right:

1. VERY QVEVRI

2014 Iago's Wine Chinuri, Kartli, Georgia, $60

The standout wine at a recent tasting of traditional Georgian whites, most fermented on skins in qvevri clay pots: clear, pale amber in colour, with fresh flavours of apple and meadow flowers. A gorgeous wine, full of life. Imported by vinous.com.au

2. GLUGGABLE RED

2015 Monte dall'Ora Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy, $32

Sometimes you come across a light-bodied, juicy-but-savoury red wine that is so delicious, so gluggable that you have to keep reminding yourself to slow down because it is in fact an alcoholic beverage. Imported by addleyclarkfinewines.com.au

3. KEEP THE FAITH 

2014 Bloodwood Chardonnay, Orange, NSW, $35

At a time when the trend is still towards rather austere, minerally chardonnays, it's good to see some producers sticking to their guns, releasing a chardonnay with generosity, richness and a seductive, moreish quality. bloodwood.biz

4. TRAD CIDER

The Cheeky Grog Co Secret Seven Cider, Goulburn Valley, Vic, $6

Made from a blend of seven European cider-apple varieties grown in central Victoria this barrel-fermented, unfiltered cider is strong (eight per cent alcohol), dry and tangy, like chewing the skins of a particularly ripe golden apple. cheekygrogco.com

5. WESTERN RED

2014 La Violetta "Up!" Shiraz, Great Southern, WA, $32

Many of grape-treader Andrew Hoadley's wines are deliciously unusual, but this is a straightforward shiraz - albeit an uncommonly characterful expression of the grape, full of dark spice and gamy notes. laviolettawines.com.au

6. NAKED CLARET

2011 Maison Blanche, Montagne-Saint-Émilion, France, $92

This adventurous organic Bordeaux estate bottles some of its top wine without preservatives. It's fascinating to taste the two expressions side by side: both are superb, elegant clarets, but this, the no-SO2 version, has more depth and vitality. theotherbordeaux.com.au

7. GRUNT WITH GRACE

2014 Scion Durif Viognier, Rutherglen, Vic, $42

Adding a few bunches of white viognier can do wonders for shiraz - why not durif? Why not indeed, says winemaker Rowly Milhinch: this is a terrifically perfumed spicy red wine, with firm, grippy tannins yearning for rare steak. scionvineyard.com

8. WESTERN WHITE

2016 West Cape Howe Riesling, Mount Barker, WA, $22

The 2016 vintage was a cracker for rieslings from the Great Southern region. I've tasted terrific examples, but this one is particularly good value: a jumble of flowers and citrus, with crystalline precision and refreshment. westcapehowewines.com.au

9. PINOT FOR THE AGES

2015 Yarra Yering Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Vic, $92

New Yarra Yering winemaker Sarah Crowe produced some great wines in 2015, and, while I like all of them, this is the one I enjoyed the most: a pinot of great depth, concentration and complexity that will evolve magnificently in the cellar. yarrayering.com 

10. SUPER SWEETIE

2016 Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling, Clare Valley, SA $40

This has long been a super-reliable sweet wine, with lots of bright, luscious candied-lime flavour, vintage after vintage, but the 2016 edition seems to have just a little more brightness and lusciousness than usual. mounthorrocks.com







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