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The wines of Coldstream Hills, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

If you are going to start a winery, it helps your marketing strategy if you happen to be Australia's most famous wine writer. James Halliday, who previously had a stake in Brokenwood in the Hunter Valley, established Coldstream Hills in the trendy Yarra Valley, near Melbourne in Victoria. With market visibility not a problem It has gained a good reputation for its wines and was taken over by Southcorp a few years ago. I was impressed by both the Chardonnays, really liked the Cabernet- and Merlot-based reds, and was rather underwhelmed by both the Pinots. The basic Chardonnay and the Briarston are lovely wines and good value for money, and my favourite wine was the reserve Cabernet.

1997 Chardonnay
Partial barrel fermentation in new and used French oak. Big barrel-ferment nose. Toasty oak dominates a light, fresh, fruity Chardonnay. Nice stuff with great balance. Very good. (7.99)

1997 Reserve Chardonnay
100% barrel fermentation in 50% new French oak, and 15% malolactic fermentation. 10 months barrel fermentation and extended lees contact. Deeper colour. Once again, the wine displays good balance. There is plenty of spicy, toasty oak and some nice fruit. Very good. (14.99)

1996 Briarston
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc. 18 months ageing in French oak. Lovely leafy, herby nose. On the palate there is just a touch of greenness, but otherwise there is really nice leafy character. Good stuff. (7.99)

1997 Merlot
16 months ageing in 25% new, 75% old French oak. Nice rich nose. There is a touch of leafiness, with good concentration and sweet fruit. Very moreish. Some tannins on the palate, but overall this wine has a soft mouthfeel. (9.99)

1998 Pinot Noir
Fermentation begun in small open fermenters and finished in new French oak barrels. Light nose, with some nice varietal character on the palate and a bit of tannin. Good, not overblown, but perhaps a bit one dimensional. (10.99)

1997 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Deep red/black colour. Concentrated cassis nose. Lots of fruit and a lovely, thick tannic mouthfeel. Very good. (14.99)

1998 Reserve Pinot Noir
Sweet fruit backed up by some tannins. Structured, balanced wine, but perhaps needs time to develop some real interest. Good. (16.99)