Wine review — Yalumba, Saltram & Wither Hills

Yalumba Eden Valley Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2005 $16 to $18
I’ve mentioned before the ‘trickle down effect’, where wineries spend decades developing their top wines at great expense and how this learning trickles down to lift the quality of cheaper wines. This is unquestionably the case with this wine – a junior sibling to Yalumba heavyweights like Heggies and The Virgilius. It delivers the flavour benefits of superb fruit masterfully captured and complemented by sophisticated use of wild-yeast ferment, partial barrel fermentation and maturation on yeast lees. It’s a powerful wine, but not heavy. And while those winemaking inputs add assertive flavours and texture, they remain interesting adornments to the fresh varietal flavour.

Saltram Winemaker Selection Limited Release Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 $65
In the Barossa Valley, cabernet sauvignon tends to make sturdy reds without a great deal of varietal character. But in the cool 2002 vintage the area produced many solidly structured, clearly varietal cabernets. The best that I’ve tasted yet is this huge but graceful single-vineyard wine under a special Saltram label. It comes from the Dorrien sub-region, about half way between Tanunda and Nuriootpa. It was fermented in small, open fermenters then matured in French oak for 20 months. It’s a hefty price tag. But this is a heavyweight wine promising very long-term cellaring given ideal conditions.

Wither Hills Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004 $45-$50
At least one corner of Marlborough produces wine of a quality to challenge Martinborough and Central Otago in New Zealand’s pinot noir ratings. On the cooler, southern side of the Wairau Valley, Wither Hills — run for Lion Nathan by long-time Marlborough vigneron Brent Marris – makes what I believe are some of the best commercial pinots in the world. It didn’t happen overnight. But with maturing vines, a diversity of clones, multiple sites and a purpose built winery, Brent now makes bright, pure, beautifully fragrant and intense pinot like this stunning 2004. I’ve yet to taste the $50 French Burgundy that could hold a light to it.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2006 & 2007

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