Spice of life

A sampling of world-winning reds, sublime champagnes and delicious gins, polished off with delectable chocolate.

Written by Ken Gargett

19 January 2021


From exceptional, world-winning reds and sublime champagne that inspires the poet in me – not to forget some great gin and exquisite chocolate – what more could the food and wine connoisseur possibly dream of?


Taylor’s elite

Lauded the World’s Best Cabernet Sauvignon at the International Competition of Cabernets in France, Taylors The Visionary 2014 Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is only the third Australian red to be crowned as such and the fifth release of this wine. Cabernet is not the first grape you usually think of when in the Clare Valley, but Taylors has always focused on it strongly.

A superb cabernet; still very youthful. Cedary, black fruit, chocolate, tobacco leaf. A hint of the herbal, it’s nicely balanced. Silky tannins. Real power and concentration here. The wine maintains this intensity throughout its length, and it is this impressive structure that gives it an edge. A wine with a good ten to 15 years ahead.


There is a matching shiraz, The Pioneer 2014 ($200), which is also impressive, but for me, the real value lies in their brilliant riesling, the St Andrews 2018 ($40). Good Clare riesling is simply one of the greatest wine bargains on the planet.

The St Andrews is young and intense with citrus notes. Spices. The flavours move to a crystalline lemon; bath salts. Fragrant and finely balanced, there’s a bright, clean acidity, a refreshing style. Complexity and length. Will age well – and improve – for 20 years.

Love it.


Pol position

The 2012 is already well on the way to legendary status as a vintage in Champagne. Pol Roger has three stunners, including a Rosé ($195) and a Blanc de Blanc ($195), but for me, the Pol Roger 2012 is the best Pol since 2002. Completely decadent.

With 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay, it was aged for seven years on lees. The grapes were sourced from twenty Grand and Premier Cru vineyards across the Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs. Full malolactic fermentation. Riddling is by hand, which is the exception now.

White peach and grapefruit; a minerally backing. White jasmine. Great length; vibrant acidity. Fine balance. Should drink magnificently for many years.

Reminds me of the perfect Queensland autumn morning. There’s a sea breeze freshness and an intense blue sky; the ocean sparkles as if scattered with diamonds …


Biodynamic beauty

For many, the 2012 vintage in Champagne is the best this century, and the Louis Roederer Cristal 2012 is one of the finest. The culmination of twenty years of trials, it’s also the first Cristal to be 100-percent biodynamic.

Cristal comes from 45 discrete parcels from the house’s vineyards, all of which are located in seven different Grand Cru villages. It is released more often than most flagship champagnes, but Roederer is able to do that because they control so many of the vineyards.

A blend of 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay; 3 percent was vinified in oak barrels. No malolactic fermentation. Dosage is just 7.5 grams per litre, the lowest ever for Cristal.

In comparison to the glorious 2008, the 2012 is more open, more forward, more richly flavoured, more exuberant. It offers an enticing golden hue with a minute bead, opening with alluring stone fruit, toast and hazelnut characters. White peach, orange rind, tropical notes, cinnamon, guava and vanilla.

Wonderfully intense and yet immaculately balanced with great length. The texture is seductively silk and satin. Vibrant acidity.

More approachable than the 2008 at this early stage, a fabulous champagne with a great future ahead.

Cracking spirit

Any lover of great gin will be all too familiar with the delicious Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin. It may have started as a novelty, but has become a must-have, inspiring a range of similar gins.

The Seppeltsfield Road Distillers 2020 Barossa Shiraz Gin is a cracker, and a much riper and richer style than the more elegant Four Pillars.

This is no surprise as it reflects the style of shiraz grown in the Western Barossa. At this stage, production – while growing – is still small.

An inky black/purple, this is plush and full of delicious mulberry and plum notes, black fruits and a little bit of sweetness.

Nicely balanced, with a soft texture and excellent length – a joy to drink.


Gift of the gods

Chocolate coming from this tiny Ecuadorian producer may not be quite as costly as gold, but it is not far short.

To’ak is chocolate, but not as you know it. Each is subtly different, complex, incredibly long in flavour and gloriously delicious.

Mostly made in tiny quantities, there’s the Islay Whisky Cask Aged 3 Years (the cask is from Laphroaig, and the result will change your perception of chocolate forever); the Sauternes Cask 3 Years; the Andean Alder Aged 5 Years (cerebral chocolate, if ever there was one); the Tequila Cask Aged 4 Years; the Rain Harvest 2016; the El Niño Harvest 2016; and more.

The only issue is recalibrating your thoughts to pay as much for chocolate as you might for a glass of great burgundy or a serving of caviar.



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