Wine review — Thomas, St Hallett & Pol Roger Champagne

Thomas Hunter Valley Braemore Semillon 2005 $24, Kiss Shiraz 2004 $48
Former Tyrrell winemaker, Andrew Thomas, now makes wine for Hungerford Hill and a range of Hunter clients as well as sourcing outstanding material for his own label. The two reviewed here are superb regional specialties. The intense, delicate, vibrant and potentially very long-lived Braemore semillon comes from the alluvial soils of Hermitage Road, in the lower Hunter. And Kiss, from mature shiraz vines near Brokenwood’s Graveyard vineyard, Pokolbin,  is a remarkable red in the classic Hunter mould: generous fruit flavour but medium bodied and with soft, silky tannins. It’s seductive and lovely now but has the depth to age well for a decade or more. Cellar door phone 02 6574 7371.

St Hallett Gamekeepers Reserve Barossa Shiraz Grenache 2004 $12 to $16
Launched by big Bob McLean in the early nineties, Gamekeepers Reserve always offered good value but has evolved constantly under winemaker Stuart Blackwell. It’s made for early drinking, so the focus is on bright, fresh berry flavours with soft tannins. Stuart attributes the floral aromatics and fresh berry flavour to Grenache and a touch of Touriga Nacional (a Portuguese port variety). Aerobic winemaking, he says, helps to smooth the tannins, while shiraz fills out the mid palate. It’s made without oak maturation and this seems to suit this very slurpy, grapey style. It’s a style to enjoy at room temperature in cooler weather or lightly chilled as the thermometer rises.

Pol Roger Champagne Vintage 1998 about $100
Pol’s a Chateau Shanahan Champagne favourite, loved for its purity of fruit flavour and lovely delicacy. It’s a blend of pinot noir (60 per cent) and chardonnay (40 per cent) from twenty of the highest rated vineyards in the Champagne region. What always amazes me about these top Champagnes is how young and fresh they taste with considerable age. In this instance seven years in the bottle seems to have harmonised the delicious fruit flavours and subtle, lees-aged character into a luxurious, delicate mouthful of stunning freshness. From past experience Pol vintage seems to develop favourable for another five or six years if correctly cellared.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2005 & 2007

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