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Monthly Archives: April 2010
In 1385 Tuscany’s Antinori family commenced winemaking, Giovanni di Bicci de Medici, founder of the famous dynasty, turned 25 and Columbus hadn’t been born, let alone set sail. And given the squabbles on the peninsula, the notion of a unified Italy might’ve been less imaginable to a fourteenth century Florentine than a fabulous new world across the sea.
Indeed, the new world came and flourished long before Italy united. By the time Tuscany escaped Austrian rule and joined a united Italy in 1860, the American republic was 84 years old and Europe’s winemaking traditions, mainly French and German, had taken root on the planet’s oldest continent.
In 1849, as Antinori celebrated 464 years in the wine trade, an Englishman, Samuel Smith, founded Yalumba wines in the Barossa Valley. One hundred and thirty five years later, Robert Hill-Smith, Smith’s fifth generation descendent, established Negociants Australia – Yalumba’s import and wholesale arm. Hill-Smith included Antinori in his list of imports (now managed by 26th generation Piero Antinori).
Hill-Smith was Yalumba’s marketing manager at the time and driving the company’s modernisation. A year later he became managing director and five years later, with his brother Sam, bought out the other family shareholders.
It was a time of great turmoil in the industry. The end of retail price maintenance ten years earlier had unleashed a competitive wave that drove industry consolidation as producers struggled for market share and margin in a glutted market.
Producer consolidation in turn drove retail consolidation, a process that continues today, delivering Coles and Woolworths ever-greater market power. Retail consolidation then forced more producer consolidation. In conjunction with a currency-driven collapse in exports and overproduction, this consolidation continues to destroy value across the Australian wine industry.
Across these turbulent years, though, Hill-Smith focussed on his brands and along with other larger family owned companies, including Tyrrell’s, Brown Brothers, McWilliams and De Bortoli, gained market share as once-great brand names languished.
In this stable environment, with the long-term focus essential in the wine industry, Yalumba’s wine quality increased steadily. In every market segment they occupy, their quality is as good as it gets – and this includes traditional styles as well the alternative varieties now being pursued.
The Antinori story may be older, but its modern achievements share much with Yalumba’s – patience, innovation and a focus on quality, built from the vineyard up. As trading partners they’re a good match.
Antinori’s modern reputation intertwines with the creation of the so-called ‘super Tuscans’ in the early seventies. In 1971 Antinori thumbed its nose at Italy’s wine classification system. It voluntarily downgraded its flagship Tignanello from “Chianti Classico Riserva” to mere “table wine”.
By adding cabernet to the blend, they’d breached the Chianti Classico rules. However, Tignanello proved to be a great wine and word-of-mouth marketing quickly took it to the world, creating a new genre of Chianti spin-offs – blending classic Bordeaux varieties with the indigenous sangiovese grape. (In 1991 I enjoyed a bottle of the original 1971 Tignanello at a restaurant in the Tuscan town of Tavernelle. It was still drinking beautifully).
But the Antinoris didn’t drop “Chianti Classico” altogether. Indeed, they’ve polished the quality to extraordinary heights – and expanded their range into the nearby appellation of Brunello di Montalcino and to the coastal Bolgheri region.
Twenty-six years after Robert Hill-Smith established Negociants Australia, Piero Antinori’s godson, Jacopo Pandolini, arrived in Canberra, pulling the corks on the latest Antinori vintages for a trade tasting at Italian and Sons, Braddon.
They were jaw dropping, thrillingly good. Few single-maker lines ups in the world could match this range for drinking pleasure.
Peppoli Chianti Classico 2006 $32.90 This is the modern face of Chianti and a salute to the fruity wines of the new world. A little syrah (shiraz) and merlot in the blend, a touch of American oak, sweetens the aroma and fattens out the palate a little (sangiovese, the base wines, can be very austere). An enjoyable wine, but if you’re used to traditional Chianti, you might find Peppoli a little too “new world”.
Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva 2005 $62 This is a single-vineyard wine from the 325-hectare Badia a Passignano estate, purchased by the Antinoris in 1987. Rare for Chianti, it’s 100 per cent sangiovese. – a selection of the best berries, picked late in the season at full ripeness. It’s a beautiful Chianti Classico, austere, bone dry and elegant, with a delicious core of ripe, sweet fruit.
Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2001 $92 This is another 100 per cent sangiovese, sourced from Antinori’s Pian delle Vigne estate, six kilometres south of the town of Montalcino. In a word, it’s stunning – elegant, fine, ethereal. A great wine from a great vintage.
Tignanello 2006 $125 This blend of 85 per cent sangiovese, 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon and five per cent cabernet franc from the Tignanello estate seems soft and juicy in comparison to the straight sangioveses. The cabernets have a big impact on the aroma, flavour and structure – a wine that’s still firm in the scheme of things, but elegant and refined. A distinctive and utterly seductive wine.
Tenuta Guado al Tasso Bolgheri $115 This is a cabernet sauvignon, merlot syrah blend from Bolgheri, on the Tuscan coast. It’s fragrant and sweet fruited, driven by cabernet’s ripe-berry character, and elegantly structured. The sweet fruit flavour lingers on and on.
Solaia 2004 $420 Solaia combines cabernet sauvignon (75 per cent) and cabernet franc (five per cent) and sangiovese (20 per cent) sourced from the top blocks of the Tignanello vineyard. It reverses the Tignanello blend, putting cabernet to the fore, although it doesn’t dominate. This is a powerful, taut wine. But the solid tannins work harmoniously with the intense, fine fruit flavours. It’s another great wine ¬and built for long-term cellaring.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Brindabella Hills Canberra District Brio $20 Sometimes food, company, setting and wine combine in a magical way – as they did at Brindabella Hills late afternoon on Canberra’s mild, sunny Easter Monday. Nibbling Faye Harris’s tapas, taking in the green Murrumbidgee Valley hills and blue Brindabellas from the new cellar door patio, Brio and Argentius couldn’t have tasted better. Brio, meaning verve and vigour, is a pure, unforced expression of sangiovese – medium bodied but with a sweet, ripe kernel of cherry-like varietal flavour and firm, savoury tannins. Roger Harris says this is the noble Brunello clone of the variety, sourced from a neighbouring vineyard at Hall.
Brindabella Hills Canberra District Argentius 2008 $20 Gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot gris? Strange bed partners perhaps, but they work in Argentius – especially washing down fresh, savoury tapas at the winery (and no doubt with the ripe, soft cheese or light, spicy Asian dishes suggested by winemaker Roger Harris). High-toned, musky gewürztraminer dominates the aroma, suggesting perhaps a touch of sweetness and viscosity to come. Yes, to an extent, but the palate’s more complex – citrusy and tangy, velvety and slick. It’s off dry, with a savoury grip of tannin from the gewürztraminer and pinot gris. And thumbs up after a subsequent road test with Thai food. See www.brindabellahills.com.au
Brindabella Hills Canberra DistrictSauvignon Blanc 2009 $18 Riesling 2009 $25 Shiraz 2007 $25
These are big value wines, looking very good indeed six months after release. The riesling is intensely aromatic, with lime and lemon-like varietal character; an intense, lime-like palate backs up the first impressions, finishing long and bone dry – a classy riesling, with good cellaring potential. The sauvy’s light and tangy, tending to herbal, and ready to drink. The shiraz, always one of Canberra’s best, comes in this vintage from Wayne and Jennie Fischer’s Nanima Vineyard, backed by a little viognier from Brindabella. It’s a dark, aromatic, more savoury than usual wine, with the characteristic firm tannins of the season. Atypical but outstanding red.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Heard of Longboard? It’s a new brew, created by Illawarra coast surfing mates, Brendan Bate, Nathan McEwan and Jonathon Crowe.
It’s currently available on tap along the Illawarra Coast, at the Friendly Inn, Kangaroo Valley, and at a couple of Sydney outlets. But Brendan Bate says, “Although we’ve stuck to the area we know so far, we have aspirations for a national brand”.
The three partners developed Longboard with Andrew Gow – chief brewer at Five Islands Brewery, North Wollongong. Bates said they borrowed features from their two favourite ales, Cooper’s and Little Creatures, aiming for a brisk, full-bodied ale with citrus-like hops high notes and clean, lingering bitterness. – something with character plus easy drinkability.
We test drove it over lunch at the Scarborough Hotel (383 Lawrence Hargrave Drive) – distracted by sweeping coastal views, south towards Wollongong and north to the Royal National Park, with the steep escarpment looming to the west.
Our mixed group of men, women, Germans and Australians gave Longboard the thumbs up. We liked its dazzling freshness, aromatic hops, clean bitterness and even the slight sweetness that came with the mid-palate malt richness. It’s a long way in style from our standard lagers, but easy to love. See www.longboardbeer.com for stockists.
Longboard Pale Ale 425ml schooner $5.00 Thank the Scarborough Hotel’s stunning ocean views for one star of our rating for Longboard – a full-flavoured, naturally conditioned beer made in the Australian pale ale style. The late addition of Cascade hops gives the beer its distinctive, citrusy flavour and tangy fresh finish. It’s available at various outlets on the Illawarra Coast.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
One of Canberra’s oldest vineyards is about to make a comeback under the Little Bridge Wines banner. In December last year Stephen Dowton, one of the Little Bridge partners, bought Brooks Creek Vineyard, at Bywong, from George Brownbill.
The 2.8-hectare vineyard includes a block of mourvedre, and possibly other survivors of the original 4-hectare vineyard planted there in 1973 by Max Blake, a research officer at the John Curtin School of Medical Research. In Wines of the Canberra District, Brian Johnston reports Blake had previously planted a trial block of 100 vines near Bungendore in 1968 — three years before Drs Riek and Kirk established vineyards at Lake George and Murrumbateman in 1971.
I recall tasting wines, including mourvedre, at the vineyard with Blake in the late eighties. At the time the vineyard was known as “Shingle House”. Later it became “Brooks Creek” and ownership passed to the Brownbill family (probably in 1992, Dowton believes).
The partners intend restoring Brooks Creek vineyard to full production over the next three or four years. It’ll then be the third vineyard contributing fruit to the Little Bridge label. The other two are John Leyshon’s 2-hectare Mallaluka vineyard, at Dog Trap Road, Murrumbateman, and Roland Clark’s 2-hectare Folly Run vineyard at Butmaroo, southeast of Bungendore.
Roland Clark says he and the other three partners – Stephen Dowton, John Jeffrey and John Leyshon – kicked off the Little Bridge venture in 1996. “You could say we were a fishing group – a men’s drinking club that went wrong”. Fourteen years later, they continue to make major decisions over drinks – generally on an annual trip to the Clark family farm near Bega.
In fourteen years they’ve done everything from scratch – establishing vine rootlings, planting vineyards and making and selling wine – even designing the wine label. They grew the original cuttings at a farm, since sold by Stephen Dowton, on Dicks Creek Road, Murrumbateman. Cuttings from these later populated Clark’s Butmaroo vineyard.
Partner John Leyshon makes the red wines at his Mallaluka property Murrumbateman. But the Carpenters make the Little Bridge pinot noir at Lark Hill from grapes grown on Clark’s Folly Run vineyard – one of the highest in the district, at 860 metres above sea level. And the whites are made by Greg Gallagher and Rob Howell at Canberra Winemakers, a contract production facility located at Jeir Creek Wines, Murrumbateman.
The three Little Bridge vineyards, totalling about seven hectares, produce an unusually wide range of varieties for such a small holding – riesling, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, sangiovese and mourvedre; and a couple of hats full each of gamay, petit verdot and malbec.
Whether the partners maintain the diversity remains to be seen. But at least the minor varieties can be blended with others (for example, mourvedre with shiraz; or malbec with cabernet). As well, we can expect the varieties to perform differently at the three unique sites. Over time this may lead to specialisation, especially as the three vineyards feed into one brand.
But as greater volumes come on stream, Little Bridge will benefit by paying serious attention to wine quality. Very small makers hand selling wine might get away with making middle of the road wines. But to build a reputation and really prosper, mediocrity won’t do. The district’s reputation rests on the outstanding wines, led to date by shiraz and riesling.
The acquisition of Brooks Creek also gives Little Bridge a cellar door – the physical presence it needs to reach the public. The partners say they’re launching Little Bridge at Brooks Creek on mother’s day, Sunday 9 May, with wine, food and music from 12.30pm to 6.00pm.
Here’s a run down on the current Little Bridge offerings:
Little Bridge Canberra District Riesling 2008 $20 A bright, fresh riesling with ripe, citrus-like varietal aroma and flavour. It’s soft and easy drinking, but the flavours are a touch mature for a riesling this young. Drink up.
Little Bridge Canberra District Riesling 2009 $20 A vibrant, floral-scented riesling, quite intensely flavoured but delicate. A significant step up from the 2008
Little Bridge Canberra District Pinot Noir 2009 $26 Made at Lark Hill using fruit from the 860-metre Folly Run vineyard. To my taste it’s the best made of the Little Bridge reds. It smells and tastes of pinot, albeit at the leafier end of the spectrum, and has the texture, too.
Little Bridge Canberra District Sangiovese 2008 $15 Little Bridge Canberra District Shiraz 2008 $20 Little Bridge Canberra District Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $20 I noted blemishes in these three reds that made them unpalatable to me.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Red Knot McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $13–$15 McHenry Hohnen Tiger Country Margaret River Tempranillo Petit Verdot Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $28–$31.50 Here we have the quintessential and quirky of Australian winemaking. Red Knot Cabernet, from the Davey family’s Shingleback vineyard, McLaren Vale, evokes words like ripe, juicy, fruity, varietal and soft – a bright, fresh, flavoursome, lovable, red to enjoy now. McHenry Hohnen’s quirky blend of Spain’s tempranillo with Bordeaux’s petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon leads with the green, unripe aroma of cool-grown cabernet – then a more attractive funky, earthy note kicks in, suggesting a substantial palate. Alas, though, the green cabernet flavours take over again, diminishing, to my taste, the wine’s other virtues. It’s an adventurous style that may work with a little more ripeness.
Dowie Doole McLaren Vale G & T Garnacha Tempranillo 2009 $22–$25 McHenry Hohnen Margaret River 3 Amigos 2007 $21–$24 We love our grenache, shiraz, mourvedre blends. They’re Rhone in origin but thoroughly adapted to Australia’s hot, dry climate. But now we have to throw another variety in the blending pot – Spain’s tempranillo. In Spain, it’s often blended with garnacha (aka grenache), as it is in this attractive McLaren Vale red – a plush, lively youngster with a surprisingly savoury, dry richness. In 3 Amigos, a blend of shiraz, grenache and mourvedre, earthy, spicy fruit flavours lurk beneath the pleasantly astringent tannins. It’s intensely dry and savoury and works well with savoury food.
Main Ridge Estate Mornington PeninsulaChardonnay 2008 $52 Half Acre Pinot Noir 2008 $65
Few pinot noirs and chardonnays in the world match the purity and finesse of those made by Nat and Rosalie White at Main Ridge Estate, Mornington Peninsula. They’re subtle, harmonious wines, built on deep, sweet, pure fruit flavours and barely revealing the hand of the winemaker. The rich, but delicate 2008 chardonnay combines pristine, cool-climate varietal flavour with the texture and complexity that could only come from full barrel fermentation and maturation – but the flavour components are inseparably combined. The equally glorious pinot 2008 starts with ripe varietal flavour; then, as you sip the silky texture builds and the assertive, fine tannins declare it as a classic for long cellaring.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
YouTube could be onto something. They revamped their website recently, paring the five-star user-rating system back to a stark “like/dislike” choice for content. It seems that under the old system most voting viewers hit the five star button, only a handful voted one star and just about no one voted in between. Overwhelmingly, viewers liked or disliked what they saw. Is it any different for wine drinkers? Do we simply like or dislike wines? Should reviewers follow YouTube to a thumbs-up or thumbs-down approach?
Hugh Johnson, one of the world’s most popular wine writers – and an admitted “relativist” – might be a supporter. After judging at the Royal Sydney Wine Show some years back he commented, “I judge wine by loving it or hating it and there’s not much in between. I love vitality in a wine, the sort of wine where one bottle is not enough. So giving wines points creates a spurious sense of accuracy and if you can believe it means something when someone gives a wine 87 points out of 100, then you would believe anything.”
But Johnson’s subtle approach won’t help everyone, notwithstanding his elegant, meaningful wine descriptions. Faced by thousands of wine labels, most of us become confused and insecure when buying wine. Little wonder then that we seek direction. For example, endorsements – such as awards, reviews and ratings from trusted, disinterested experts – give us direction and security. These ratings tend to be expressed in stars, points or show awards.
As a lapsed retailer I’ve seen gold medals and trophies boost sales. But buyers care nought for silver and bronze medallists – winemakers shouldn’t bother putting them on labels. Paralleling YouTube, gold medals and trophies become the “like” button for some drinkers.
Largely through the influence of American critic Robert M. Parker, many critics now use a 100-point rating system – although the five-star scale survives and a 20-point scale dominates Australia’s wine show system (15.5 equals bronze; 17.0 equals silver; 18.5 equals gold – however, the public seldom sees the scores, just the medals).
Even if we agree with Hugh Johnson that scores out of 100 give a spurious sense of accuracy, it’s hard not to accept that critics need some sort of rating scale and that whatever we use ought to give meaningful help to drinkers. If scores can’t describe wine styles they should at least reflect the relative quality of wines.
Wine shows build this principle into their medal-rating systems – and drill it into trainee wine judges. The first message an associate judge hears is, if you like a wine give it a high score; if you don’t like it give it a low score; if you think it’s middle of the road give it a middling score; if you thinks it’s seriously faulty, give it a very low score – in short, let your scores reflect the quality.
But the 100-scale rating system seems to push sales towards wines scoring 90 points or more – perhaps the YouTube phenomenon again. But, confusingly, critics seem to use very little of the 100-point scale.
In a recent advertising catalogue, the Dan Murphy tasting panel awarded 92 points to a $16 Cotes-du-Rhone and 94 points to a $60 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Despite the price gape, that’s a plausible quality difference – a well-made Cotes-du-Rhone could equal or better a mediocre Chateauneuf-du-Pape
But I’d recently tried both wines and noted a big quality gap. They’re made by reputable Rhone Valley producer, Michel Chapoutier, and imported by Dan Murphy. One was a rich, rustic, slightly rough but enjoyable country wine; the other fragrant, subtle, silky and elegant – a classy example of a much abused appellation. As Johnson says, scores can’t be precise; but they shouldn’t mislead us and they ought, at least, reflect relative quality. On a 100-point scale, that’d be more like 75 for the Cotes-du-Rhone and 90 for the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
As wine drinkers we quickly decide our likes and dislikes. But I suspect we have more than two buttons. If we’re interested in our wines, we invariably like some more than others. And the more we explore wine and the wider the range we drink, the more likely we are to develop complex rating systems in our minds.
When we head down this track, someone else’s score means less than a clear description – a note written in plain English, describing a wine’s provenance, style, and an opinion on where it rates within that style. This gets closer to the Johnson relativist view, and it opens the door to increased drinking pleasure.
While rating systems can be useful sources of information, they’re best taken with a grain of salt – and not used as Navmans that keep us on the narrow 90-point, gold-medal, five-star path.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Vat 47 Chardonnay 2007 $40 Coldstream Hills Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2008 $29 Printhie Orange MCC Chardonnay 2008 $35 Voyager Estate Margaret River Chardonnay 2008 $38
This is a run of beautiful, luxurious chardonnays, all fermented and matured in oak barrels – but in every case the oak simply disappears into a wonderful amalgam of fruit-led flavours. My pick, by a small margin, is Tyrrell’s ultra fine, ripe-but-taut Vat 47 – a proven keeper. The others run in a tight pack, with Coldstream and Printhie sharing intense nectarine-like varietal flavour – the Printhie being a little tighter and steelier in structure. Voyager Estate delivers riper, peach-like flavours but, as in all of the above, harmoniously enveloped in barrel-derived complexities.
Craggy Range Hawkes Bay Block 14 Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2007 $28–$32 Hermitage (Domaine des Martinelles) 2005 $72–$80 Collector Canberra District Reserve Shiraz 2008 $45–$50
And for luxurious fine-boned, cool-climate shiraz try these contrasting styles from New Zealand, France and Canberra, all purchased in local liquor stores. NZ and shiraz, you ask? Isn’t it too cold? Yes, generally, but at Hawke’s Bay a little pocket of land, the Gimblett Gravels, makes intense, succulent, fine versions of our favourite variety in warm, dry years like 2007. Craggy Range is a good example of it. Hermitage, Rhone Valley home of shiraz (syrah to the French), makes a more potent, sinewy style – well illustrated in this modern, clean example. And Collector Reserve shows the fine, spicy intensity of the Canberra style at its best.
Pewsey Vale Vineyard Eden Valley Riesling 2009 $13.49–$23 It won’t be long before the 2010 rieslings trickle into the market. But if you’re after absolutely outstanding drinking right now, mop up the rest of Pewsey Vale’s extraordinarily delicious 2009. I’ve seen it as low as $13.49 but more commonly on discount at $15-$16 (though you can pay more if you want). It’s from the Hill-Smith family’s 50-hectare Pewsey Vale vineyard, located on the edge of the Eden Valley. Louisa Rose makes the wine just a few kilometres down the hill at the Yalumba Winery, Angaston, centre of the Hill-Smith wine operations.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
You don’t have to own vineyards or a winery to make your own wine. Ask Nick O’Leary, owner of one of Canberra’s hot new brands. You’ll find his wines on Canberra retail shelves and wine lists. But there’s no winery and no cellar door, just a web site (www.nickolearywines.com.au). And even that bears a ‘sold out’ sign.
Little wonder there’s no wine left, though, given the quality O’Leary achieved so quickly and the accolades that followed. These include rave reviews from Australia’s leading commentators, and an impressive string of awards at reputable wines shows – four gold medals for the current-release 2008 shiraz and a gold and two trophies for the 2009 riesling. Though sold out on O’Leary’s website, both can be found in stores and wine lists around town.
So what propels a newcomer so decisively into the limelight? The answer lies in careful fruit sourcing, attentive winemaking and sound judgement. Clearly, by the quality of his wines, O’Leary knew what varieties to use, where to source top-notch grapes and how to convert them to medal-winning wines. How come he knew all this at a tender 26 years?
Like his mentor and mate, Alex McKay, O’Leary worked at Kamberra Winery until late 2006 when Constellation Wines Australia (formerly BRL Hardy) sold up and made him redundant. But by then he’d served his winemaking apprenticeship under McKay, starting in 2003 as a cellar hand and working through the ranks to cellar supervisor then vintage assistant winemaker, running night shift for the whites. O’Leary says he’d always wanted to be a winemaker and when Constellation left town he decided to stay on and build his own Canberra brand. By the end of 2006 a good grounding in winemaking made the decision natural. As well, he understood Canberra’s strengths and knew where to source good grapes.
He says, “Hardys gave me a good exposure to new technology and new techniques. I gained a good overview of wine and from where we were, we had a good ear to the ground”. And as well as making wine, O’Leary tasted widely and continues to do so. “I drink a lot with Alex and others who are not winemakers”, he says, finding inspiration in German riesling and “I love rieslings from the Clare and Eden Valleys”.
He and McKay assembled enough good shiraz from the 2006 vintage to blend and launch their own Nick O’Leary and Collector labels in 2007. Then in vintage 2007, O’Leary bought about 10 tonnes of riesling and shiraz from growers he’d worked with during the Kamberra years, making the wine at Affleck Winery, owned by his in-laws, Ian and Susie Hendry.
The wines hit the mark immediately, largely attributable, says O’Leary, to the grape quality. He sources these principally from Wayne and Jennie Fischer’s Nanima Vineyard, Murrumbateman, but buys as well from Mike and Denise McKenzie’s Murrumbateman vineyard and from Wallaroo Vineyard, Hall.
These growers all understand the connection between fruit quality and wine quality, O’Leary explains. They’re prepared to do the hard work of shoot thinning and crop thinning – essential in getting crop levels just right, maximising flavour and balance. O’Leary works closely with his growers, “spending lots of time in the vineyard, especially just before harvest”, he says.
O’Leary and McKay maintained their connection after leaving Kamberra. In 2007 both joined the Karelas family at Lake George. They embarked on a major rejuvenation of the vineyard and made wine there in 2007, 2008 and 2009 – initially in Dr Edgar Riek’s original winery, then in the larger cellars next door after the Karelas family acquired David Madew’s property. The two left Lake George in late 2009.
But the Collector and Nick O’Leary labels live on. And they’re about to be joined by a joint brand to be launched in May or June. The initial wine, says O’Leary, is a 2009 vintage Canberra shiraz, likely to sell at a modest $18 a bottle. It’ll be joined later by chardonnay and pinot noir, both from the 2010 vintage. While these will be from Canberra, O’Leary anticipates sourcing future material from Tumbarumba as the cooler climate there better suits these varieties.
And what’s in store from Nick O’Leary wines in 2010? He says, “It was a challenging vintage. I haven’t seen one like this with rain towards the end of harvest”. But there’ll still be good wines from good producers, O’Leary says. In general whites came in ripe at lower sugar levels than usual and made sound, delicate wines. The reds “are not as robust as the 2009s, but they’re balanced. Whether they’ll live as long, I don’t know”.
We’ll see O’Leary’s 2010 riesling in a few months. And the 2009 shiraz should be a cracker when it’s released later this year. The riesling will sell at about $25 and the shiraz at $28.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Montana South Island Pinot Noir 2008 $18–$22 Vintage Cellars Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 $12–$17 Montana – Marlborough pioneer, New Zealand’s largest wine producer and now part of France’s Pernod Ricard group — set its sights on large-scale pinot noir production in the late nineties. They planted broad acres of the variety and developed winemaking systems specifically for this difficult-to-make variety — with convincing results. The latest vintage delivers pleasing, clearly varietal fruit and flesh and sufficient red-wine structure, albeit in pinot’s medium bodied way. Vintage Cellar’s version presents the less fleshy end of the pinot spectrum — the perfume and varietal flavour are there, but the palate’s more taut tannin, again in pinot’s fine-boned way.
Michel ChapoutierCotes-du-Rhone 2007 $16.90–$17.80 Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2006 $59.80–$62.90
These clean, modern wines from France’s Rhone Valley feature grape varieties familiar to Australian drinkers – grenache, shiraz and mourvedre, and probably half a dozen more in the Chateuneuf. This is a fine wine indeed – medium bodied, subtle, earthy, savoury and elegant; a wine that grows on you with every sip, and is quite unlike any Australian grenache based red. It’s fully priced, but a genuine and good example of the style. The cheaper wine’s fuller flavoured, if a little rough around the edges. It’s enjoyable enough but not in the league of its cellar mate – though the importer’s catalogue (Dan Murphy) scores them almost equally, which is nonsense.
Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2008 $25–$34 Max Schubert made the first Bin 128 in 1962, maturing it in American oak barrels. But in 1980 Don Ditter switched to French oak. This proved more in tune with Coonawarra’s comparatively delicate fruit. In the 2008 vintage Bin 128 sits at the ripe end of the Coonawarra flavour spectrum. It’s very bright with sweet berry flavours, wrapped in layers of soft tannins. But if it shows the bigger, riper side of Coonawarra, it’s not over ripe and the elegant structure is already emerging. I suspect it’ll really strut its origins and class within three or four years and drink well for decades.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010