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Australia - July 2018 


Brisbane (5 days) 

Arrived in Brisbane from Nouméa, we noticed 3 striking differences: 

  1) the constantly blue sky
  2) the excellent wine
  3) the customer oriented service

It’s incredible how all services here are more efficient, cheaper, friendlier and customer focused compared to France. Monsieur Le Président has still a very big job to accomplish.
It’s our fourth time in Brisbane and our going-out recommendations are still the same! (check Australia December 2017)


Adelaide – McLaren Vale – Adelaide (445 km and 8 days)

As promised, we’re returning to fabulous McLaren Vale to complete our wine tour, started in February. On our “short” list, we still have 11 cellar doors to visit in this wine region … and certainly, there are many more that are worth a visit! But with 90 cellar doors and over 160 vineyards in McLaren Vale, we have to focus... The Mc Laren Vale region is well known for its excellent red wines, especially Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre, but also for pioneering new varietals, styles and blends. McLaren Vale is one of the most geologically diverse regions with more than 40 rock formations like shales, dolomite, limestone, quartzite, sandstone, etc.

After close to 3 hours on the plane, we arrive in Adelaide. Such a difference from the last time we were here. It’s really cold now. We pick up our rental car and en route to Mc Laren Vale. We go to bed with bad news: our whale watching cruise planned tomorrow in Victor Harbor is being canceled due to strong swells. This was our second reason to come back to SA: to witness the Southern Right Whales during their migration and calving period.
During the summer months, the Southern Right Whales spend their time in Antarctica feeding. In late autumn, they begin an annual migratory route to their winter breeding and calving grounds in the warmer South Australia waters. Now, it’s peak season and there are many Southern Right Whales around Horseshoe Bay waiting for us! Unfortunately, there is only one small boat offering this opportunity and the sea is too rough … well, we use this sunny but windy day to visit 2 wineries in Mc Laren Vale. SC Pannell and Maxwell, both located in the same area, in front of each other but totally different in style.

SC Pannell has a huge selection of 20 wines from many grapes (Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cao, Malbec, Shiraz, Cabernet, Barbera …) and is targeting younger people with really good wines and fancy bottles. The cellar door is like a rocker bar. For the traditional customers, they also have a premium range like the Old McDonald Grenache, 14.5% ABV made from 75 years old vines. The generous tasting is 5 AUD: we had 3 whites, 2 rosé and 8 reds!

On the opposite, Maxwell is a traditional small winery (400 tons annual crush) focusing more on excellent authentic, rich and robust Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernets with a cosy quality restaurant that we’re testing tomorrow. Our bests are the 2014 Lime Cave Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% ABV, 20 months in French oak hogsheads; 2015 Ellen Street Shiraz, 14.8% ABV, 24 months aged in French and American oak hogsheads; 2016 Four Roads Old Vine (Grenache vines from 1928) at 14.8% ABV, 14 months in French oak hogsheads and the 2014 Eocene Ancient Earth Shiraz, 14.5% ABC, aged 24 months in French oak hogsheads. To note that the wine tasting of the whole range is free here: we had 1 white, 1 rosé and 4 reds … all outstanding! 

Third day in the area and we start our tasting tour with Coriole vineyards. A free wine tasting of 12 wines. 3 whites (Fiano, Piquepoul, Reserve Chenin Blanc) and 1 fortified (Chenin Blanc fortified with Brandy), 1 rosé (Mourvèdre, Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese) and 7 reds (Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese, 3 Shiraz including an awesome single block Shiraz from vines planted in 1919 and aged 20 months in French oak, Cabernet Sauvignon and MGS: Mourvèdre Grenache Shiraz). Most of the wines are fruity, light (no more than 12.5 % ABV for the whites and 14.5% ABV for the reds), young but with high potential. 

One hour later, it’s pouring rain when we drive to Maxwell for lunch. Ohhh, such a long time we’ve had such a delicious feast … with a bottle of the 2016 Four Roads Old Vine Grenache ... really close to a Michelin-starred restaurant! What a treat. 

Around 16:00, we go and visit Pirramimma, the aboriginal meaning for “the moon and stars”. It’s a big size winery crushing 40,000 tons per year. Here we focus on the reds. A small fee of 5 AUD for the tasting redeemable on purchase. We start with the Eight Carat sparkling Shiraz, followed by 2 Shiraz, a GTS (Grenache, Tannat, Shiraz), an Old Bush Vine Grenache and finish with a 100% Petit Verdot. The wines are very good.

Fourth day in McLaren Vale and we begin our tasting tour at Oliver’s Taranga, a family owned small winery with 100 ha managed by the 6th generation. With a fee of 5 AUD per person, you can taste the whole range of wines. We had an innovative and great tasting of Fiano Méthode Traditionelle ... wow! we never had a Fiano sparkling before! It was followed by 2 whites (Fiano, Vermentino), 1 rosé (Mencia) and 8 reds (Grenache, Tempranillo, Shiraz-Cabernet, 2016 and 2008 Shiraz, Sagrantino, DJ Reserve Cabernet and HJ Reserve Shiraz). With the exclusion of the Fiano and Tempranillo, all wines were very good. 

Then, we visit the Kay Brothers winery, the heritage listed winery is located at the top of a hill 5 km from McLaren Vale township with a great panoramic view. The Amery property was purchased by Herbert and Frederick Kay in October 1890 and there is a meticulously kept diary for every year that the Kay Family has been at Amery. Every day, the page of 100 years earlier is opened and showed at the cellar door. The brothers started to produce wine on 8th March 1895. By 1920, the Kay Brothers were averaging a vintage harvest of 150 tons and today this is exactly the same amount crushed here, every year! Using the original fermenters and basket press to ensure that authentic quality... At Kay Brothers, they don’t produce white wine, the focus is entirely on the best red wines with the exception of an excellent off-dry Grenache rosé. We taste an amazing basket pressed Grenache, a Reserve Nero d’Avola, a basket pressed Mataro, the Museum release Mataro, a basket pressed Merlot, a basket pressed Shiraz, the Iron Monger Shiraz-Cabernet, the Hillside Shiraz, the 2008 Block 6 Shiraz (made 100% from vines dated 1892!) and a sparkling Shiraz. All wines are excellent with the Iron Monger and the sparkling Shiraz being fantastic! To note that the sparkling Shiraz was a unique release to celebrate 125 years of Kay Brothers at Amery. The Shiraz matured 6 years in large oak puncheons. The tasting of the whole range of wine is free! 

After this celestial and extra-galactic wine tasting, we drive to Samuel Gorge, a trendy winery for younger people … well, the prices are astronomic and the quality very low … after tasting 2 wines, we left!

To finish the day, we visit Foggo Wines. A small winery crushing about 300 tons a year. Their vineyards are dry grown with very low yield for high intensity and concentration of flavor. Most wines are fermented in open hogsheads. Foggo only focus on red wines and some tawnies. We focus our tasting on reds: the Old Bush Vine Grenache 15.8% ABV,  Old Vine Shiraz 15.5% from 103 years old vines, the Red Dodge Shiraz 15.5%, a Cabernet-Sauvignon 14.25% and the Hubertus Reserve Shiraz at 16.5% ABV made from 75 and 103 years old vines. All their wines are very concentrated in flavor, the grapes being collected at the maximum ripeness, an interesting expression of a traditional wine making. In summary: very good!

Fifth day in McLaren Vale and our tasting tour starts at Hugh Hamilton Wines. We take a special tasting, pairing some selected wines with cheeses for 20 AUD (10 AUD is the minimal fee for tasting here). It’s a family owned winery in the 6th generation. Richard Hamilton, the founder, was a tailor living in Dover with his wife and 8 children but engaged in a “second business” under the cover of darkness … smuggling casks of Bordeaux wine across the English Channel! A pioneering family who first started growing Grenache, Shiraz and Pedro Ximenez grapes in South Australia in 1837. Hugh Hamilton was the first, planting Saperavi in McLaren, a teinturier-type grape variety (with red pulp) native to Georgia. Our tasting is the Tasting of the Senses with 3 matching cheeses, focusing on terroir, sight, smell, taste and wine texture. We taste one Méthode Traditionelle (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier with the particularity of the dosage done with Shiraz liqueur), 2 whites (Pinot Gris and Chardonnay), 3 reds (Tempranillo, Shiraz, Shiraz-Saperavi) and an “extravagant” wine: Agent Provocateur made from blending reds and whites together (Grenache, Gewürztraminer, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier)! “something” between a rosé and a white wine. A nice experience and first class wine tasting with quite good wines...

Thereafter, direction South to Willunga to taste the wines at Willunga Creek, a very small winery (actually a grower as the wine is not made on site but together with two winemaker friends in McLaren Vale). There, we taste the Grenache, Merlot basket pressed, Shiraz basket pressed, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, GSM (with only 5% Shiraz), Cabernet Sauvignon basket pressed and the Cabernet Sauvignon rosé. The vineyards are only 18 hectares and provide excellent quality wines, all of them! The wines are rich, intense, concentrated, smooth and full of flavor. We spend the entire afternoon generously tasting the wines together with the entertaining and down-to-earth owner Dave … Thanks! Of course as usual in the small wineries: no tasting fee.

After having lowered the alcohol levels, we stop for the last tasting of the day at Battle of Bosworth in Willunga, a small winery with 200 ha. We try the Wanderer sparkling Petit Verdot, Puritan Shiraz, Bosworth Shiraz, Bosworth Heretic (Touriga, Graciano, Shiraz), Cockscomb Cabernet Sauvignon and the White Boar (Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon).  The wines are very pleasant and of good quality. No tasting fee here either. 


Our sixth day in McLaren Valley is a beautiful sunny day! We booked several months ago The d’Arenberg Cube Restaurant and this date was the only option available! It seems to be very popular! And we’ll be finding out why … Before getting to the restaurant, we repeat our visit of the crazy d’Arenberg Cube as well as the extended wine tasting. The tasting is actually free but there is an entry fee to the Cube (10 AUD)… we’re exempted as we’re guests at the restaurant. The tasting at d’Arenberg is very generous and all wines of the entire range including the most expensive are available. We could not make up the 17 wines tasted the last time: we stopped at 15 and with a long break in between the wine tastings! 12:30 - time to access the very exclusive restaurant, close to a Two Michelin Star in Europe. The Pickwickian Brobdingnagian menu is waiting for us ... 190 AUD for an 11-courses sensational degustation menu, lasting the entire afternoon! The exceptional dishes engage the imagination of guests, each aspect of the restaurant has been designed to create an environment that stimulates the senses. It’s very true! A wonderful culinary journey ... 

Today is our 7th day and we make our second attempt for the boat tour in Victor Harbor to see the Southern Rights! Victor Harbor/ Middleton is the most accessible location in South Australia for viewing the Southern Rights. The other being the Head of the Bight, a sparsely populated area in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain, that we visited in January, out of the migration/ calving season. Well, the tour was again canceled last minute due to stormy weather. As we were already there, we tried to see them from the shore, but we had to stop our observations too due to the strong gales and the heavy rain … Back at the hotel, we read in the whale sighting log of the SA Whale Center, that somebody was braver than us! A mother and a calf were seen south of Goolwa Beach at 300m from the shore! Shhhhh … we’ve got to be more perseverant next time! 

On the way back to McLaren Vale, we stop at Angove Winery. This modern and spacious cellar door overlooks the Warboys vineyard, home to 80+ year old Shiraz and 50+ Grenache vines. We take two different wine flights: the Icons at 15 AUD and the Favourites at 13 AUD, for a total of 11 reds (6 Shiraz, 2 Grenache, a Shiraz-Mourvedre, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Tempranillo). Well, a bit disconcerting ... 

As we’re still disappointed for having missed our appointment with the Southern Rights, we stop at another winery: Mitolo. Here, there’s no free tasting. So, we take two different flights: the Paddy Row at 20 AUD and the Flour Mill Road at 25 AUD! Our record price for a wine tasting! We taste a total of 8 different wines between us: 1 white (Vermentino), 1 rosé (Grenache) and 6 reds (Grenache-Shiraz-Sagrantino, Sagrantino, Cabernet Sauvignon, 3 Shiraz). A consolation, the wines are quite good even if they’re made in the Barossa Valley, a long way for the McLaren grapes ... 

Last day in McLaren Vale: we have been informed that our Big Duck tour has again been canceled due to strong swells of 3-5 m and strong westerly winds … too much for the RIB (rigid inflatable boat).

Nevermind … we still decide to drive to Victor Harbor and Middleton to try to see the Southern Rights from the shore. The day is windy with strong gales but sunny … a perfect view. Our first stop is at Freeman’s Lookout: only a couple of sea lions and nothing else. We move to the Surfer’s Beach in Middleton, on the highest point about 15m above the sea level, the parking slot near Miami Blvd … we wait for a while … the rough sea makes it very difficult to recognize anything among the waves. But, this time we’re patient enough ... suddenly, a black shape … is that it? Then, … a V-shaped blow … this cannot be the wind or a wave! We focus more … despite the strong wind … and finally, we see the Southern Right surfacing … and it’s a mother with its calf. Unfortunately, they’re really far, close to 1500 m from the shore. We rapidly move to the Goolwa Beach at Reed Place further SE: good move! Now, we can see them at less than 1000 m from the shore … however, it's not a very good spot as we’re not high enough. So, we move again further, to Goolwa Beach South at the platform near the Beach Road … and here they are again! Right in front us at the beginning at about 600-800 m, then moving fast to East and, after a while, disappearing on the horizon …
We followed them from 11:30 until 13.30 … one time, it's a blow, then a surfacing, a diving, a tailing or a pectoral fin … fantastic! Of course, it would have been more exciting to watch them from the Big Duck, in the sea at only 300 m! … Still, it was thrilling to follow these giant mammals for a few kms along the shore, to find the best spot, to screen thoroughly the rough sea to admire them! We’re so happy! Once in a lifetime experience as those giants can only be seen in very few places in the world.

When leaving Nouvelle Calédonie we had at the airport lounge a Pauillac grand cru classé … by far not able to compete in quality with the excellent Mc Laren Vale wines.

Here's a summary of our experiences:


Winery Quality / Price
Maxwell *****  / $$
Willunga Creek    *****  / $$
Kay Brothers *****  / $$$       
Foggo   ****  / $$
Hugh Hamilton   ****  / $$
Pirramimma   ****  / $$
Coriole   ****  / $$$
Mitolo   ****  / $$$
Oliver's Taranga   ****  / $$$
Battle of Bosworth     ***  / $$
d' Arenberg     ***  / $$
Angove       **  / $$$
SC Pannell       **  / $$$
Serafino       **  / $$$
Samuel Gorge         *  / $$$$

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