There are only a handful of good wine book compilations which review the year just gone.

That being the case, such tomes quickly go out of date as each wine company rolls over another vintage.

For authors it is a writing treadmill because a version must be released annually to update drinkers.

Melbourne writer Jeremy Oliver is on his 25th edition of The Australian Wine Annual, a book which goes one better by continuing to record back vintages, but within reason. The vintage collection usually stops at 15 years though there have been more in existence. Many older wines will have faded, and other than the secondary auction market greats (Langtons, the auction house ratings) the only living examples are in producers’ cellars.

Oliver makes note that he continues to re-taste older vintages through the year and make adjustments to his ratings as a wine transforms from a “vibrant little thing” to a member of a history panel of one variety in a single producers’ portfolio.

One other wine book compiler provides the same style of publication with back vintage recording. That’s Australian Wine Vintages The Gold Book 2010 recently re-written by Rob Geddes MW and now in its 26th edition, one more than Olivers, originally established by the Melbourne-based musician, the insightful Robin Bradley.

Oliver’s book has slimmed down a little this year – some suppliers have dropped off providing him with sample updates and some brands don’t make the book yet as three successive vintages of one wine is the entry point for tasting.

Of interest in wine journalism over the past three years is the little internal battle by wine reviewers to ratchet up the ratings, and be seen giving more and more wines high 90s scores. Part of this new trend no doubt is editorial pressure trying to gain a competitive edge and attract more brands to send the gratis samples for review.

If you wish to know who these trenders are, just look for the bevvy of reviews with wines scored 95-98, 99.

Oliver notes that some brands have dropped off his book in 2010 because they have not received the scores expected and have clearly gone chasing the nouveau writers playing the numbers game.

Other more grounded and mature writers will often be a few points off this pace. And in fact history is the best leveller, and informed writers such as Oliver and Geddes will be the real informants when they re-taste these high scorers when they have aged some more-putting them in a more considered slot in the wine continuum.

The best outcome of this book is to read the list of Best under-$20 wines as the value section, for after tasting wines all year a taster like Oliver gains a perspective of value for money- most importantly to be shared with his readership.

That’s a good read and note there are 7 cabernet & blends, 8 chardonnays, 21 rieslings, 3 sauvignon blancs, 8 semillon and blends, 21 shiraz and blends, 9 other reds (pinot noir, merlot) and 5 other whites.

Clearly this shows how strong Australian riesling, semillon and chardonnay whites can be in that order of priority, and shiraz and cabernet. As shown sauvignon blanc has little relevance and no pinot gris appears.

With the terrific rise in quality of top end chardonnay I thought I’d locate what gems Oliver has discovered.

Look for Giaconda 2006 (97), Kooyoong Farrago 2007 (96), Mountadam 2008 (96), Voyager 2007 (96), Cape Mentelle 2008 (96), Penfolds Reserve Bin 2007 (95), Coldstream Reserve 2007 (95), Moss Wood 2007 (95), Eileen Hardy 2006 (95), Pierro (95), Cullen Kevin John 2007 (94), Penfolds Yattana 2006 (94), Kooyong Faultline 2007 (93), Leeuwin Estate 2006 (93), Tapanappa Tiers (93), Lakes Folly (92), Shaw & Smith M3 (91), Houghton Wisdom (91)-better wine than that, Tyrrells Vat 47 2006 (90), De Bortoli Reserve (87)-overworked.

Add another dozen or so wines and you have all the top chardonnays in the country.

Jeremy Oliver’s The Australian Wine Annual 2010 is from is AUD28.95 by Australia Post or AUD 38.95 by airmail.

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