St John’s Road is a small scale winery in South Australia’s Barossa making a small range of three Barossa Valley reds and a solitary Eden Valley white. Their wines undoubtedly reflect their origins, but also a European sense of balance and elegance – possibly due to the time their founders spent in the south of France.
Grapes for the red wines are mainly sourced from long-term partner growers in Stonewell, Light Pass, and Gomersal, plus their own small holdings.
St. John’s Road Motley Bunch GMS 2016
GMS is a twist on the classic Southern Rhône GSM blend, with Mataro (a.k.a. Mourvèdre, 36%) overtaking the Shiraz (27%) in the blend, but Grenache narrowly staying up front with 37%. It’s not just a case of chucking all the grapes into a fermenter, either; they are selected, vinified and matured to give an end wine that is more than the sum of its parts. Grenache doesn’t shine with new oak nor lots of oxygen so it’s matured in old 500 litre French oak puncheons. The Mataro and Shiraz elements are aged in smaller, 300 litre hogsheads, though only 10% of this oak was new.
How does this translate in the glass? To kick off, it pours a bright, glowing ruby. The nose shows lifted strawberry aromas and perfumed redcurrants, tinged with notes of spice and earth. The palate is lithe and delicious, with delightful red and black fruits to the fore, and a touch of oak in the background. There are also savoury, gamey notes which stop this wine running away with itself, and plenty of structure to frame everything nicely.
There’s no doubt that this is an Aussie wine, but it’s a modern, food-friendly wine which speaks firmly and produly of its origins but doesn’t shout.
Stockists (2017): jnwine.com; La Touche Wines, Greystones
Lidl Ireland are launching their Christmas wines in two separate parts, the first of which is already underway. In addition to those limited release wines – marked * below – they are stocking up on new vintages of regular favourites. My reviews below are not unqualified recommendations; other wines of the same type are available which offer better quality, though not better value. I let you, dear readers, decide on whether each wine sounds like its worth putting in your trolley.
Disclosure: bottles were kindly sent as samples, but opinions remain my own
Clare Valley Riesling 2019*
This is a gentle Riesling, very drinkable and with no sharp edges. When compared to the best Clare Valley Rieslings such as Grosset Polish Hill or Petaluma Hanlin Hill it’s a much simpler wine, with a shorter finish and even has a touch of residual sugar. However, this is aimed at the casual drinker and I doubt that many people would be in the market for both styles; Lidl’s example is actually more approachable so might actually be more preferable for those looking for an easy-going (and less expensive) tipple.
When to drink: Whenever you like!
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2020
While the Riesling above isn’t very “Riesling” this 2020 Gran Reserva is VERY “Sauvignon Blanc”! By this I mean that it is very young and expressive, and needs a little more time before settling down. The key is one of the “Gs”, the aromas and flavours found in this Chilean Savvy:
Green (bell) pepper
For me the green pepper sticks out a little too much at the moment, so if you aren’t fond of that flavour then this wine isn’t for you. However, if you are ambivalent or like green capsicums then you might be a fan. Try decanting!
When to drink: With a fresh green salad or with goats cheese.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Il Santo Bevitore IGT Isola Dei Nuraghi 2019
This wine was a total unknown to me so I had to do a little research. Isole dei Nuraghi is an IGT which covers the whole of Sardinia. Many international grapes are used plus a few local specialities. My guess was that this was a Syrah / Merlot blend but I was unable to confirm this. The nose is smoky with red and black fruits. The palate has black cherries and sour red cherries, overlain by a touch of vanilla. Acidity is medium to high but not jarring.
When to drink: With just about anything apart from fish or seafood.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017*
In a similar vein to the Clare Valley Riesling, this is a very approachable, easy-going wine that doesn’t demand too much from its drinkers – it’s made in a deliberately commercial style. The nose shows blackberry, blackcurrant and a little vanilla. These notes continue through onto the palate but adding a little stewed fruit to the fresh. Light tannins round off the wine nicely, though the finish is a little short.
When to drink: Very quaffable on its own, or pair with richer foods.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Carménère Gran Reserva 2020
Carménère is one of Bordeaux’s six black grapes, though it’s hardly grown there at all these days. Instead it has become the flagship black grape of Chile, where it was mistaken for Merlot for over a century. In the glass it pours a bright purple, typical of the variety. The nose is lovely, with rich cassis, spice and blackberry. These notes are repeated on the palate though they are somewhat barged out of the way by our friend green pepper; these green pepper notes tend to appear in Carménère when the grapes are picked before they have reached full phenolic ripeness, often when they are harvested at the same time as the earlier-ripening Merlot. In this case, seeing the 14.5% alcohol, I wager that this wine was made from very warm vineyards where the sugar outpaced the flavours. At any rate, the finish is nice and smooth.
When to drink: Beef or lamb stew.
Stockists: Lidl Ireland
Corte Alle Mure DOCG Chianti Riserva 2015*
2015 was an excellent year throughout most of Italy so I was eager to try this Chianti Riserva. This isn’t what I’d call a polished wine, but it is very Chianti, by which I mean it has typical tobacco and liquorice on the nose, Morello cherries and a hint of oak on the palate. Acidity is prominent which makes it a food wine rather than a comfortable sipper
When to drink: Charcuterie or mixed Christmas leftovers.
In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:
A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it
It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.
The latest installment of The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series is hosted by new California resident Sharon L. Though she calls herself a diva on her social media handles she is knowledgeable on wine and fun to talk to.
On discussing this guest post she mentioned that she likes lots of different kinds of music, including hip hop. Though I am far from an expert on the genre – despite avidly devouring all the episodes of Hip hop evolution on Netflix – there are some tracks which feature heavily on my playlists. One such track is 93 ‘Til Infinity by Souls of Mischief. I originally discovered this as part of the excellent Another Late Night compilation by Zero 7. As suits the idea of late night listening, it’s a very laid back “head-nodding” track, not too far removed from the trip hop of Massive Attack and Tricky in style.
When it came to wine, there was an amazing wine that Sharon had tweeted about in the last few months: Penfolds RWT. RWT stands for Red Winemaking Trial which was an experiment that went right. Whereas their flagship Grange is made from parcels all over South Australia and matured in American Oak, RWT is just from one region – the Barossa Valley – and is matured in French oak. It is made to be drunk a little younger than Grange and is released earlier, but it is still a monumental wine.
I was very excited when Frankie approached me for a wine and music guest post. Wine is so evocative for me, and so is music. Pairing the two felt only natural. I love nothing better than to come home after a long day and pop a favorite old school vinyl into my record player, while sipping on a glass of vino.
Souls Of Mischief’ – 93 ‘Til Infinity
To be honest, the first time I heard Souls Of Mischief’s 93 ‘Til Infinity was when Frankie sent it to me for this article (I was still living in China when it came out and a bit too young), but I was immediately hooked – the smooth beats, the “chill-ness” of the song – just made me want to sit back, relax, and not think too much about anything at all. This is why I think it pairs perfectly with a natty wine like Broc Cellars Chenin Blanc.
Broc Cellars makes exclusively “natural” – think spontaneous fermentation, unfiltered, unfined wines – from organic grapes. They are an urban winery operating out of a warehouse building in Berkley. Chris Brockway, the winemaker, produces some of the most interesting and unique wines in California today, with grapes both familiar (Zinfandel) and obscure (Counoise).
Broc’s chenin is flavorfully complex but well balanced, with floral and fresh summer fruit notes and refreshing acidity on the finish. It’s the absolute summer porch sipper, or pounder, if you will. I don’t think it would be difficult imagining the wine as an embodiment of Souls Of Mischief: the producer of chill beats and smooth complicated rhyme flows. Moreover, they both all from Northern California! But again, I have been known to make eccentric analogies. Both wine and music are subjective, after all.
Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2008
The wine Frankie picked is none other than the Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2008. I happened to have bought 2 of them of 5 years ago. I opened a bottle in 2015, and the other this year. It’s amazing to see this wine develop over time. The flavors of dark chocolate, moss, cigar, and earth were all present 5 years ago, but in such a tightly wound and sequestered state. However, this year the wine was ready for its full debut. Darker notes of peat, leather, tobacco leaves, and cigar box opened up after 1-2 hours of decanting into a supple, juicy number bursting with cherries, blueberries, plums, and chocolate, enrobing your tongue like plush velvet, ending with lasting, chewy tannins. It’s a plush, rich wine that would be most delicious with any bloody carnivorous meal.
The way Penfolds RWT crescendoed with time reminds me of the building up of psychological intensity in the song Blinding Lights by The Weeknd. You have to see the music video to understand fully (and please do watch it – it’s a masterpiece directed by Anton Tammi).
The Joker-esque short film begins with the singer speeding through empty streets in a city with his psyche progressively spinning out of control, until he ends up with gruesome slathering of blood dripping down his face. If you want to inject some intensity into your life, drink the Penfolds to the reel of Blinding Lights.
Sharon discovered the incredible world of wine while living in Cambridge, Massachusetts after college. Its boutique wine shops opened her eyes far beyond the realm of boring supermarket selections. Though far from being an expert, she enjoys learning about wines by traveling and drinking her around the globe. These days Sharon works as an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon in Northern California. Outside of work, she is an intrepid adventurer; always on the hunt for interesting wines to drink, challenging activities to conquer, and new locales to explore. Depending on her mood, she can be a painter as well. You can find her on Twitter (DivaVinophile) and Instagram(Divavinophile) to share in her experiences.