2018 Nautilus Estate Chardonnay release marks 30th Vintage

The wine consumer can be forgiven for being somewhat sauvignon blanc centric when it comes to Marlborough, it is after all the grape and unique style that the whole world identifies with the region. So, no surprises if the audience is a little tone-deaf to media noises of chardonnay on the rise (and pinot noir for that matter) in Marlborough. However, it is visionary vineyards like Nautilus Estate that have been championing chardonnay for thirty years that substantiate the unstoppable progress of chardonnay in region.  

Actually, it’s not just Marlborough that chardonnay is on the rise, it is all of New Zealand, and many of the heavyweights of the wine writing world are saying so, like Jancis Robinson MW in her recent article The world’s great ChardonnaysI have long argued that New Zealand makes even better Chardonnay than Sauvignon Blanc, but market forces are clearly a great deal more persuasive than my bleating…click here for full article.  

Nautilus Estate Renwick Vineyard

Comparisons to France and White Burgundy are inevitable so I’d like to put my hand up early for Chablis, as a generalization of Marlborough’s style of chardonnay with focal points on purity of fruit and pronounced minerality. It makes sense that Marlborough’s ancient river gravels and greywacke soils will impart distinct minerality, particularly on the valley floor, as is the Renwick Vineyard, the source of Nautilus Chardonnay for thirty years. With its high sunshine hours and cool night time temperatures, purity and vibrancy of fruit flavours and naturally high acidities and freshness are the hallmark of Marlborough.

All that said, chardonnay is very malleable in the winery and the temptations of winemaker’s interventions can put an indelible stamp on the wine. Clive Jones, winemaker at Nautilus Estate has made the all of the last twenty vintages of chardonnay and with his experience has evolved the Nautilus style of minimal intervention with whole bunch pressing direct to barrel to give a higher level of solids in the natural (wild yeast) ferments. It is a markedly restrained style with careful use of oak that benefits greatly with bottle age building in complexity yet retaining freshness (see tasting note of 2015 Nautilus Chardonnay below).

What impresses me most with Nautilus Estate Chardonnay is the focus on authenticity; to consistently produce wine expressing its terroir from vintage to vintage from a specific vineyard site. As Clive Jones comments,“Looking back through a vertical tasting, there is a very consistent thread through our Chardonnays…. Nautilus Chardonnay has a true sense of place, driven by our 30-year heritage, at the spiritual home at our Chardonnay – our Nautilus Renwick Vineyard.”  

The 2018 Nautilus Estate Chardonnay should start appearing on many restaurant wine lists soon and is thoroughly drinkable now, however keep a lookout for aged releases. Better still buy a case or two for your cellar and enjoy it as it evolves of the next 5 years plus. https://www.nautilusestate.com/


The Wandering Palate


Nautilus Estate Chardonnay 2018

The nose opens with ripe peach and nectarine with subtle tropical hints of mango and persimmon, some youthful banana-like fermentation esters with almond nougat and a lace of manuka honey backgrounded by zesty lemon and distinct minerally river gravels. The palate is soft and creamy textured with lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, nuances of custard yet refreshingly tangy with nectarine and peach all nicely integrating with nutty oak and buttery malolactic fermentation notes. Overall a perfectly balanced and restrained medium-weight chardonnay that has lovely purity and freshness, pristine handling of oak, and a very minerally mountain-fresh river stone farewell with lingering stone fruits flavours and fresh ginger spiciness.

Nautilus Estate Chardonnay 2015

Alluring bouquet of poached peaches and cream, also sweet ripe mango and a honied beeswax richness with nuances of marzipan icing, nutty rich nougat and a distinct flinty mineral-earthiness. Rich oily palate with wonderful slippery creamy layers of lemon curd and poached stone fruits, sweet crystalized ginger and yet refreshingly steely flinty acidity and invigorating tangy citrus gives way to a buttery honeyed farewell and a long lingering mountain-stream minerally earthiness. A great example how just three years or so bottle age can give great rewards with secondary complexities, I would imagine this wine will continue developing nicely for another three years easily. And yes, I would put it right up there with the very best Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume.

Available in all major wine markets and online Visit:  https://www.nautilusestate.com/

Bass Phillip New Release 2017 Pinot Noirs

Tasting through the new release 2017 Pinot Noirs from Bass Phillip has been both fascinating and immensely gratifying. Having known Phillip Jones for some 30 plus years, he was instrumental in my formative years as a Sommelier in Melbourne, exposing me to so many great wines and training my palate in the intricacies of Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, our obsession at the time (and still is). When I think back to those days of Thomas, Thomas & Wilden and cohorts, all the vertical tastings and wine dinners with Table 8 at Maria Walter’s and Paysan, when Henri Jayer and Armand Rousseau Burgundies were relatively affordable, Jones would always say, “Great pinot noir is all about texture…”. This is indelible in my mind and so evident in the precision texture of the 2017 Bass Phillip Pinot Noirs. There is no question Jones is making ‘great’ pinot noir, moreover could teach the Burgundians a thing or two.

It has been 40 years since planting his first vines and it would be fair to say that evolution and accumulative knowledge over these past four decades, Jones has mastered and finessed every facet and detail of viticulture and winemaking at Bass Phillip. We know he is an individualist and perfectionist, but these wines transcend perfection to the sublime.  

My tasting notes hardly do justice to the intricacies and extraordinary balance of these wines, rather a snapshot of my impressions in their youth and reference point as they develop over the years. Of the many attributes there is a consistency of vibrant and concentrated red fruits suggesting that 2017 was an excellent vintage, but vine age and seriously low yields clearly a contributing factor. There is also a thread dark earthiness and an infused minerality, the terroir articulated in both bouquet and palate. All the wines have such incredible power and tension the belies the elegance of silky-smooth textures, indeed the “Premium” an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Bass Phillip “Crown Prince” Pinot Noir 2017

Ambrosial bouquet of bright red cherry, Kirsch-like fragrance, raspberry and pomegranate with hints of clove and cinnamon spiciness, subtle dried herbs amongst a background of cold granite mineral earthiness. Medium-bodied, nicely textured and gentle with a measured plushness and vibrancy of crunchy intense red berry fruits lifted by crisp acidity all engulfing the palate with a wonderful energy as it races across the palate, excellent line and length with persistent fruit and lingering tanginess, dark silky tannins with hints of oolong tea and bark, quite steely and on the farewell with an indelible long finish, a real mouthful of pinot, dangerously drinkable now but will continue to evolve for 5 years or more.

Bass Phillip “Estate” Pinot Noir 2017

Concentrated intense raspberry, red cherry, red currant, rose petal, breaths out to show deeper red berry and blueberry compote notes, builds in complexity with dried herbs, dry grass-summer field nuances, background of spiciness and warmth to the bouquet. Lashings of red cherry coat the mouth, velvety soft layered and creamy palate with an exuberance of red berry fruits glides across the palate, beautifully balanced, harmonious, energized by crisp, tangy acidity and ripe fine-grained tannins, framed with a dark earthiness and granite-like minerality lingers amongst tangy red fruits. Concentrated, dense and full-bodied, picking up more weight and texture as it breaths out, invigorating mouth-staining vibrant acidity and spiciness on the farewell with hints of dark chocolate, great length. With all its charm, balance and youthful energy, a most gratifying drink now but really deserves time in the cellar, at least 5 years if you can keep your hands off it.

Bass Phillip “Premium” Pinot Noir 2017

Penetrating nose packed with red cherry and raspberry, builds to reveal a deeper rich sweet mix of darker red and black berry fruits, background notes of violets, juniper berry, lavender and aniseed youthfulness. There’s a subtle meaty gaminess and earthy forest floor, the bouquet becoming denser and concentrated as the wine breaths with hints of five spice, ground clove and wet bluestone minerality, one can already sense the coiled power in the wine. Fruit laden palate entry, voluminous, layered texture with incredible concentration and purity of saturating sweet red and black berry fruits oscillating between tangy, steely acidity and warming spiciness. Hint of green olive and herbal complexity, subtle charred woods and earthy, fine grained tannins firming up the farewell with a lingering savouriness and mineral earthiness. One can see the synergies with the ‘Estate’ pinot noir, but there’s an extra level of weight and texture in the ‘Premium’, seriously structured core with incredible concentration and yet wonderfully balanced with tension and poise. After 3 hours of breathing, evolving to a monumental wine, indeed the most profound and concentrated Australian pinot noir I have had in memory. Whilst it really needs a few years in bottle, I would try one now for sheer pleasure and a reference point, but make sure you put some in the cellar for 5 to 10 years.  

Bass Phillip “Reserve” Pinot Noir 2017

Opulent essence-like perfume of dark cherry and poached red plums, violet florals, sweeter notes of red fruits and blueberry compote amongst a hedonistic melange of dried herbs, sage, lavender, dried mushroom, Autumn forest floor, iron-basalt and dark-earthy minerality with hints of dark chocolate from toasty oak. Mouth-filling rich, creamy layers of red berry fruits, viscous, slippery plush texture, beautifully elegant with silky tannins, this caressing plushness kept in check by underlying brooding power and tension with a brace of fresh acidity and warming spiciness, the purity of the succulent sweet fruit lingering long amongst a beguiling minerally earthiness. Tried alongside as the ‘Premium’ as impressive as it is with its coiled energy, structure and complexity, the ‘Reserve’ has yet another dimension of weight and lavish texture, oozing class and so harmonious with its precision balance, purity and supreme elegance. This is greatpinot noir, unparalleled in Australia and would hold its own amongst the highest echelons of Burgundy. The ultimate expression of a very special vineyard and the genius and perfectionism of winemaker Phillip Jones. This is very seductive now but should really be put in the cellar for as long as you can, it will last decades.

Bass Phillip “Backyard BIN 17K” Pinot Noir 2017

Inviting raspberry and red cherry perfume amongst savoury notes of air-dried meats, subtle herbal scents of rosemary and aniseed, breathing out there’s deep-seated smoky Indian spices and pronounced, flinty-iron fillings minerality, and a whiff of coffee grinds and chocolate suggest toasty oak. Bursting with intense raspberry on the front palate, building in energy and weight with plush red berry fruits oscillating sweet and sour to an intense tanginess and super-concentrated juicy, crunchy raspberry, cool steely acidity and red currant crispness to the farewell amongst a dark earthy minerality. This is seriously concentrated with fine yet assertive tannins, I sense a much tighter structure with a deep core of tension, complexity, savouriness and infused minerality. This was the last of five pinots tasted and after the “Reserve’, to which I realized it would have been more in sync to try after the “Crown Prince”, the fruit from the ‘Backyard being from very closely planted vines. It was good though to see a different profile to Estate Vineyard wines, these densely planted vines showing impressive energy, concentration and purity. Given it is much more tightly bound, I would give this 2 years or more before broaching and should evolve over 5 to 10 years.   

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Bass Phillip – 2016 Vintage Review


Bass Phillip’s vineyards at Leongatha South in Gippsland are close-planted and low yielding with some of the vines now approaching 40 years of age. This combination of factors has enabled winemaker Phillip Jones to produce vibrant, concentrated and balanced wines even in cool wet years such as 2011. In a good vintage such as 2016, the wines are outstanding.


For availability and pricing start with the winery website: http://www.bassphillip.com/




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Pietradolce – White and red wines from the foothills of Mount Etna

Pietradolce is a relatively new winery, established in 2005, by Michele Faro and family. The family’s original small vineyard holdings have been augmented by hard won purchase from local farmers (‘contadini’) and now boast vines up to 120 years of age. The winery and vineyards, in Solicchiata, are a stone’s throw from the crater of Mount Etna on the island of Sicily.

Pietradolce winery with Etna in background

Directly translated ‘pietradolce’ means sweet stone, and this is a reference to the stony, rugged terrain of the foothills of Mt Etna, where the vineyards are often terraced with the volcanic rocks moved to form them. The vines are nourished by rich volcanic soils and flourish in the cool climate of the northern and eastern slopes at between 600 and 900 metres above sea level. Most of the older plantings are “bush” pruned, with younger vines espaliered.

100 year old Nerello Mascalese vines in ‘Vigna Barbagalli’ 900 metres above sea level

These wines are unique, made from native Italian varietals: Carricante with its steely, pure acidity and complex, subtle mineral and fruit notes, and Nerello Mascalese with its misleading pale-ish colour and soft persistent, red fruits, hints of tobacco and fine tannins.

When I say a “stone’s throw” from the crater, the winery is approximately 50 kilometers away from Mount Etna, but its awesome power enables it to send the odd lava bomb over that distance.

Pietradolce Etna Bianco DOC 2014 is entirely Carricante, fermented in stainless steel. Bright, pale and slightly lemon-tinged, shy but vibrant, crisp and savoury with hints of minerals, pear, peach and nectarine. This expressive wine with its cleansing acidity begs for a plate of seafood. 13%a/v, Diam closure – $A35.

Pietradolce Etna Bianco ‘Archineri’ DOC 2014 is again 100% Carricante, this time from vines 100-120 years old, grown at 850m above sea level on the eastern slopes of Mt Etna. Pale colour, lemon tinged, this is super-intense, pure, long and fine showing nectarine and grapefruit nuances, with slaty acidity. This has such poise and balance, it should age well over three to five years. 13.5% a/v, good quality cork – $A65.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC 2014 is made from Nerello Mascalese grown on the northern slopes of Mt Etna. The pale-ish brick red colour is disarming, as the wine is fragrant showing wild berry red fruits over a silky palate framed by firm but ripe tannins. I have never tasted volcanic soil, but with the power of suggestion there is an underlying smoky/earthy/ferrous complexity which is intriguing and alluring. This has spent a modest amount of time in oak and is for current drinking, particularly with roasted white meats. 14% a/v, Diam closure – $A35.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso ‘Archineri’ DOC 2013 is all Nerello Mascalese from 80-90 year old vines grown at 850m above sea level on the northern slopes of Mt Etna. Colour is medium dense and both nose and palate display abundant red fruit characters. Very serious wine, lively, flavoursome and balanced, textured and spicy with fine tannins. It spent approximately 14 months in oak (20% new) and has extra layers of richness and complexity to show for it. Drinking well now this wine has the balance and depth to age for another four to five years. 14% a/v, quality cork – $A65.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC 2013 is no longer available but my tasting notes from October 2014 record a light brick red colour, fragrant red cherry fruit, ripe gentle tannins; quite rich and savoury. Very drinkable wine

These wines are imported into Australia by Trembath & Taylor (www.trembathandtaylor.com.au) and are well worth seeking out for their uniqueness and quality.

E. Guigal – Cotes du Rhone 2011

Guigal is rightly acclaimed for its flagship wines, among them notably La Landonne, La Mouline, La Turque and Chateau d’Ampuis from the Northern Rhone appellation of Cote Rotie. In this company it is easy to forget that the firm also produces fine wines from all corners of the Rhone Valley, including generic Cotes du Rhone.

Etienne Guigal, founder of the firm, first worked for Vidal-Fleury before establishing his own business in 1946; Vidal-Fleury is now owned by Guigal, having been purchased in the mid 1980’s. The gorgeous Chateau d’Ampuis now headquarters of the Guigal business was acquired in 1995 and extensively restored. Other acquisitions have followed.

The foresight, energy and passion of the Guigal family is obvious in everything they do.

For example, not content with the brilliance of La Mouline, first produced by Marcel Guigal (Etienne’s son) in 1966, Marcel, recognizing the quality and possibilities of the vineyards comprising La Landonne went to great lengths to secure them. Quoting from Livingstone-Learmonth & Masters’ The Wines of the Rhone Valley, Marcel says “You can’t imagine the trouble we went to in order to buy up the La Landonne vineyard. It belonged to seventeen small holders, and I am sure I shall never have to be so patient again when it comes to buying a vineyard. It took more than ten years, buying each plot individually…” La Landonne was launched with the 1978 vintage. Read More >

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2012, Waipara, New Zealand

It is definitively a product of old vines or perhaps I am showing my age, as it seems like I have been drinking this wine (Pegasus Sauvignon Semillon) for as long as I can remember.

The Donaldson family, pioneers of the Waipara Valley, declare that 2012 was the latest harvest in memory with the semillon picked in late May, a seriously long hang-time!  Couple this with vines that are over a quarter-of-century old and a low crop, it is an incredibly concentrated wine with a cut and thrust that is exhilarating, yet poised and oozing class and balance with a length of flavour that will outlast your memory.

What I get immediately is an exotic perfume of feijoa and grilled pineapple with a background of mandarin and orange zest; there are some sweeter notes of ripe mango and golden peaches with custard. As the wine breaths it becomes a hedonistic melange of stone fruits and citrus carried wonderfully in a musky fragrance with a fresh ginger and laksa leaf spicy uplift and an alluring nettle/herbal complexity with nuances of shiso, lemongrass, tarragon and thyme along with lurking scents of wet chalk/limestone–the sort of wine you find yourself nosing more than drinking–with such captivating aromas.

The palate is equally exciting and full of energy, indeed a torrent of succulent stone fruits and tantalizing tangy citrus yet gorgeously wrapped in a creamy viscous texture; on the one hand or cheek as it were, racy and invigorating and the other slippery, soft and glycerol caressing the long, long…and penetrating farewell with a spiciness and stinging tanginess.

This is a seriously powerful white wine and clearly semillon is an excelsior in the blend; wonderfully decedent and invigorating, drinking well now but you can sense with its unbridled power and cut it will cellar for 10 years or more. Furthermore, it is an absolute bargain and I am going to order 4 cases now, to put down for my 60th birthday!


I am also going to broach another bottle with some Milford Sound crayfish poached in a curry laksa sauce, which I think will work rather well. And you have to watch this video – click here

I might add, we are going through serious quantities of the Pegasus Aria Riesling at the moment, their late harvest offering which we drizzle over (and drink with it) poached winter fruits like pears, apples and rhubarb along with Manuka honey for dessert–separate article coming on this.

Visit the Pegasus Bay website www.pegasusbay.com to purchase direct and for a list of stockist.

The Wandering Palate is a bit of a fan of Pegasus Bay, see links for further reading, and if you happen to be in the region, lunch and luxuriating around the property is a mandatory.

Red Wine of the Lunar Year – Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna 2009 – Waipara Valley, South Island, New Zealand – click here

Wine Feng Shui – Most Auspicious Wine for the Year of the Black Water Dragon 2012 – click here

I can also say that the legendary Wandering Palate Duck Curry work very well with Pegasus Bay Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir, tried and tested at the winery  – click here for recipe

Mount Edward Riesling 2013 – Central Otago, New Zealand

I’m standing in Paul and Ruth Pretty’s kitchen sipping on a glass of Mount Edward Riesling 2013, whilst Ruth is cooking— in case you haven’t heard, Ruth just cooked for William  and Kate on their recent Royal Tour of New Zealand—so we are feeling rightly regal in her presence. Read More >

The Wandering Palate Wine Feng Shui – Most Auspicious Wine for Chinese New Year 2014 – The Year of the Wooden Horse

M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France Occultum Lapidem 2009 & 2010

What auspicious vinous attributes should we be looking for in the year of The Wooden Horse? Veteran Sommelier and Wine Feng Shui Master, The Wandering Palate, prophesies on the wine that will bring good fortune and enjoyment.    Read More >

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2012 – Canberra, ACT, Australia – Tim Kirk, Gourmet Traveller Wine Winemaker of the Year 2013

A few weeks ago I had lunch at my favourite restaurant in Singapore, Jade Palace Seafood Restaurant with the Reverent Tim Kirk, proprietor and winemaker of Clonakilla vineyard in Canberra, Australia. Read More >

Schubert Block B & Marion’s Pinot Noir 2011 – Martinborough, New Zealand

Having tried the new 2011 pinot noir releases from Schubert at the New Zealand Pinot Noir Celebration back in February, even though only just bottled, one could already sense a brooding concentration in the vintage yet balanced with notably fresh-cool acidities and crunchy fruit. Read More >