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Monthly Archives: November 2010
Lindemans Coonawarra — $55Pyrus Cabernet Malbec Merlot 2008 St George Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Limestone Ridge Vineyard Shiraz Cabernet 2008
It was telling at a recent lunch how few people recognised Lindeman’s pedigreed Coonawarra trio. From the heart of the original terra rossa soils along the Riddoch Highway, the three once excited drinkers of top-end wines. Sadly, however, they disappeared into the vast Foster’s machinery. But they remain beautifully polished wines, each with its own personality – the fragrant, elegant Pyrus with its malbec high notes; the pure, varietal, authoritatively structured cabernet, from the St George Vineyard; and the fuller, rounder (but still elegant) shiraz cabernet blend, from the Limestone Ridge Vineyard, with its distinctive vanilla-like, oak-derived undertones.
Ducketts Mill Denmark Riesling 2010 $16 If you’re visiting Denmark, in Western Australia’s Great Southern wine region, be sure to visit the Lewis family’s combined Ducketts Mill cellar door and Denmark Farmhouse shop. Collectively, Ross and Dallas Lewis, with sons Ben and Matt, tend the eight-hectare vineyard, and produce a range of excellent cheeses (made from fresh, local milk), fudge, preserves and ice cream. Their wines are made off site at nearby Harewood Estate by James Kellie. The standout is the pristine and delicious riesling 2010, priced at a bargain basement $16. The family offers its wine and farm products by mail order through www.duckettsmillwines.com.au and www.denmarkfarmhouse.com.au
Capital Wines The Whip Canberra District Riesling 2010 $18 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2010 $20 In a mini riesling shoot out, Jim Barry’s Clare Valley wine, from the Lodge Hill Vineyard (one of the highest in the Clare Valley), gained the upper hand over Capital Wine’s The Whip – sourced from Yass River Vineyard and Lambert’s Tallagandra Vineyard, Gundaroo, and made by Andrew McEwin. The Clare wine shone on all fronts – floral aroma, vibrant lemon-like varietal flavour, fine texture and zingy fresh finish; all the marks of a good riesling. The Whip couldn’t quite match it – pleasant enough and definitely riesling, but didn’t match the purity and vivacity of the Clare wine. It may be a vintage thing as the 2009 was impressive.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Margaret River’s Bootleg Brewery (the oldest of six in the area) bills itself as “an oasis of beer in a desert of wine”. And like the local wineries, it’s set in the magnificent bush landscape, offering its products in a distinctly cellar-door setting.
Brewer Michael Brookes says the bit he loves about his job is introducing people to “different styles of beer in a beautiful environment” – in this case a tame patch in the scrub, complete with lake, offering a tasting tray ($12) or individual beers brewed on site, and food served inside or on the lawns sprawling between the brew house and lake.
Thomas Reynolds founded Bootleg in 1994 and Brookes took over brewing in 1998. The beers win medals consistently, and on the day we visit the entire range seems exciting – Sou ‘West Wheat, Hefe Wheat, Tom’s Amber Ale, Wils Pils, Settlers Pale Ale, Moses Extra Special Bitter and Raging Bull.
While they’ll never taste better than they do on site (Bootleg’s a must-visit if you’re in Margaret River), the packaged versions now make their way to the east coast, including Canberra, under a new distribution arrangement with Australian Boutique Beverages.
Bootleg Brewery Sou’West Wheat 6-pack $19.50
You might call this the spaetlese riesling of beers – a delicate, ultra-fresh ale featuring the subtlety and zesty acidity of wheat and herbal and floral high notes (but not the bitterness) of Hersbrucker and Willamette hops. A gentle kiss of residual sugar sits well with the beer’s acidity and herbal hops.
Bootleg Brewery Raging Bull 6-pack $22
It’s dark and alcoholic (7.1 per cent), but the alcohol doesn’t intrude on the luxuriously malty, coffee-like flavour and smooth, verging on syrup-rich, palate. Pride of Ringwood hops offset the great richness and sweetness of the palate to some extent – perhaps explaining why the finish is so sweet, but not at all cloying.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
In Denmark, Western Australia, we’re heading out to vineyards thinking shiraz and riesling – the highlights of thirty years’ tasting from the vast Great Southern region. Chardonnay and pinot noir barely blip on our radar; and even cabernet sauvignon’s low on the list, though we’ve tried a few beauties from the area. But our first stop smashes those preconceptions.
Just five minutes drive north of town, Howard Park, founded 1986, lies a little short of the 35th parallel – several degrees north of Australia’s cool chardonnay and pinot noir hot spots like the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania.
We ease in, tasting riesling with winemaker Andrew Milbourne – Canberra raised and, for a time, a colleague of Alex McKay at Kamberra Winery. The 2009 Great Southern pleases for its predictable lemony brightness and delicacy. Our preconceptions hold. But the soon-to-be released 2010s set a subtle new course – sub-regional styles.
The first, from Porongurup (a small range of hills between Denmark and Albany, about an hour’s drive north east of Howard Park) is floral and lime-like, with a taut, delicate-but-keen, lingering acidity. The subtly different 2010 Great Southern (mainly from the Mount Barker sub-region, 40 minutes north, north east of the winery) seems slightly fuller and rounder, but still delicate. All three are first-class rieslings.
We move on to Howard Park Western Australian Chardonnay 2007, a predominantly Great Southern wine with a component from Margaret River (a degree further north and a couple of hundred kilometres to the west). This is very well made barrel-fermented chardonnay, lively, fresh, varietal and richly textured, with noticeable oak flavour. We’re giving this a silver medal score – a way above average wine, but not in the top ranks.
Just before our prejudice sets, Milbourne comments that after 2007 Howard Park’s chardonnay winemaking style changed. “We moved to hand picking and sorting and whole-bunch pressing to barrels. We introduced a lot of wild ferment, and it’s now 100 per cent”. The changes extended to reds, too, with a basket press and open fermenters for pinot noir and hand sorting of bunches even for machine-harvested reds.
The changes, he says, flowed from a partnership between Jeff Burch, Howard Park owner, and Montreal born Pascal Marchand, a winemaker in France’s Burgundy region for almost thirty years.
We’d read about but hadn’t tasted, Marchand and Burch’s wines, made in Western Australia by Burch and in Burgundy by Marchand. How good could they really be?
Well, the 2009 chardonnay, sourced from a cool, south-facing slope in Porongurup, killed our preconceptions stone, cold dead. What a beautiful wine – so delicate but powerful and perfectly balanced.
The equally exciting Mount Barrow Pinot Noir 2009, comes from a ridge-top site at Mount Barker.
What makes the wines so good? Site selection and vineyard management seems to be a key, giving Burch very high quality grapes to work with. After that it’s attention to detail: picking at the right moment, handling and transporting the grapes protectively and hand sorting to remove damaged berries and leaves.
For delicacy and purity, the chardonnay relies on gentle, whole-bunch pressing and a short period of settling before being racked to oak barrels for a spontaneous primary fermentation. Half of the wine underwent a natural malolactic fermentation (this converts malic acid to lactic acid, softening the wine and adding complexity to texture and flavour).
The chardonnay matures on yeast lees in barrel for 11 months, with individual barrels selected for the final blend.
To build a fine, silky tannin structure, without over extraction, the pinot undergoes maceration on skins (source of all the colour and tannin) for five days before and for several weeks after fermentation in small open vats (one to four tonnes capacity). The makers hand plunge and pump juice over the skins from two to four times daily.
The wine matures in oak barrels (a mix of new and old) for about seven months before blending of selected barrels.
A brief, single tasting of these wines, though, isn’t enough to place them precisely in Australia’s pinot noir and chardonnay hierarchies. But we can say with certainty that they’re worthy of comparison with the best, and we intend to do so in the coming years. A good sign is that we’re busting to buy a few bottles and put them to the full-bottle test (will they hold our interest from first drop to last?).
Andrew Milbourne’s final nudge to our preconceptions is the flagship Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($85). This is Howard Park’s top cabernet, blended from the best material from their extensive holdings in Margaret River and the Great Southern region.
It’s an outstanding, powerful but elegant wine sourced principally from an old vineyard at nearby Mount Barker – with only a small proportion from Margaret River, Western Australia’s premier cabernet region.
The dominance of Mount Barker material in the blend seems fitting, if challenging. We recall our first visit to Denmark many years ago with John Wade, a founder of Howard Park. Before moving to Denmark, John had made one of the greatest Australian cabernets of all on the other side of the continent – the still magnificent, Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 1982.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Alkoomi Frankland River Riesling 2009 $18 Frankland River, Great Southern, Western Australia In three days based in Denmark, Western Australia, we covered all too little of the vast Great Southern region and none of Frankland River, one its five sub-regions. The Denmark Liquor store, however, helped fill the gaps with its wide range of local wines, including this lovely dry riesling from Sandy and Rob Hallett’s Alkoomi. It delivers crystal-clear citrus varietal aroma and flavour and fine, delicate, finish – the perfect after work (or travel) refresher.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2007 $82.50–$100 Margaret River, Western Australia If $90–$100 retail, or even $82.50 a bottle cellar door seems out there for chardonnay, even a world-class drop like Leeuwin, how about $20 for a generous glass at Leeuwin’s restaurant? It’s worth it for a wine of this calibre – a luxurious drop, big on nectarine-like varietal flavour and backed by the complexity of high quality oak, and all the textural and flavour nuances it brings. Should’ve bought the bottle we decide after four glasses! (Erroneously rated four-stars in my Canberra Times review. This was a production error, the actual rating is five-stars).
Voyager Estate Girt by Sea Cabernet Merlot 2008 $24 Margaret River, Western Australia Voyager Estate’s ‘Girt by Sea’ is to Margaret River what Majella’s ‘The Musician’ is to Coonawarra – a richly flavoured, finely structured, medium-bodied red built to drink now but without losing regional identity. ‘Girt by Sea’ reveals Margaret River’s greatest winemaking strength – blending cabernet sauvignon and merlot to produce a harmonious red, based on ripe berry aromas and flavours and backed by fine, savoury tannins – a delicious luncheon red. It’s sourced from Voyager’s ‘north block’ vineyard and the vines are up to 15 years old.
Glenpara Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2006 $25 Barossa and Clare Valleys, South Australia In 2007 Foster’s sold its historic 185-hectare Seppeltsfield property to a group of investors led by Clare Valley based Kilikanoon Wines. Seppeltsfield now offers table wines under its Glenpara label – in this instance one of those rarest of all beasts, a red with bottle age. The blend of grenache, shiraz and mataro (aka mourvedre) provides juicy, earthy, spicy, soft and satisfying current drinking. The bottle age moves it out of the primary fruit spectrum square into satisfying real-red territory.
Rochford Pinot Gris 2009 $28–$33 Macedon, Victoria The hot, dry 2009 vintage kept pinot gris yields in Rochford’s Macedon vineyard to less than 2.5 tonnes per hectare. This partly explains the richness of fruit flavour that, in combination with great textural richness, gives an impression of sweetness. Yet the wine carries a barely-detectable five grams a litre of residual sugar. This is true, cool-grown pinot gris – with a light rinse of bronze-pink colour, clear varietal flavour, silky, slightly oily texture and very fresh, lively acidity.
TarraWarra Estate Pinot Noir 2009 $22 Yarra Valley, Victoria and Tumbarumba, New South Wales Clare Halloran makes very fine, graceful Yarra Valley pinot noir. But faced with a shortage of good grapes in the severe heat and savage bush fires of 2009 she looked beyond TarraWarra for suitable fruit. The resulting one-off blend combines Yarra pinot (55 per cent) with material from a single vineyard in Tumbarumba (45 per cent). It’s in Clare’s pale-coloured but punchy style – delicately perfumed, with deep berry, savoury, gamey varietal flavours and fine but grippy structural tannins. It’s a joy to drink now and should hold for three or four years.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Cape Grace Margaret RiverChenin Blanc 2010 $20 Shiraz 2007 $34 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 $48
We recently visited Cape Grace Wines, a 6.5-hectare estate established by Robert and Karen Karri-Davies at Wilyabrup, Margaret River, in 1996. Robert looks after the vineyard, Karen the marketing and contract winemaker Mark Messenger makes the wines on site. Their chenin blanc 2010 offers an attractive, chalk-dry alternative to mainstream varieties at a modest price. The 2007 Shiraz reveals yet another fine-boned face of the variety with its spiciness and fine tannins (the soon to be released, plush and supple 2008 shades it, though). And the graceful cabernet combines olive and blackcurrant varietal flavours with cedary oak. Available at www.capegracewines.com.au
Langmeil Eden Valley Dry Riesling 2009 $19.50 Langmeil’s Paul Lindner sources the fruit for this beautiful wine from old, dry-grown vines high up in the Eden Valley, on the Barossa’s eastern flank. At a modest 11.5 per cent alcohol, with residual sugar of around seven grams per litre, it offers soft, fresh easy drinking. It’s the sort of wine that disappears quickly. But with every sip it grows in interest, revealing the pristine, delicate-but-intense flavours of this great variety. While the 2009 vintage is all but sold out the soon-to-be-released 2010 promises to be at least as good.
Zema Estate CoonawarraCluny Cabernet Merlot 2006 Shiraz 2007 $23–$25
Cluny – a blend of 60 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 25 per cent merlot, nine per cent cabernet franc and six per cent merlot – offers the bright, fresh aromas and flavours of ripe berries, in the unique Coonawarra mould. The palate’s medium bodied, elegantly structured and with four years’ bottle age, it’s ready to enjoy now and over the next four or five years. The shiraz, too, is medium bodied and built on bright berry flavours – but with varietal pepper and spice accent. These are beautifully made wines, allowing Coonawarra’s elegance and berry flavours to star.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
From the comfort of Google maps, Western Australia’s southwest looks a doddle. A nice little green chunk in Australia’s bottom western corner, criss-crossed by decent roads, with wineries sprinkled, albeit sparsely, across almost the entire landscape.
Close up, though, it’s a large swathe of country – three hours drive from Perth to Margaret River, via Capel; more than an hour and half from Margaret River southeast to Pemberton; another half hour up to Manjimup; and from there two and a half hours southeast to Denmark on the coast.
And Denmark, a pretty seaside town, makes a beautiful base for exploring the vast Great Southern wine region. But visiting even a handful of its 60-odd wineries, widely dispersed across hundreds of kilometres, eats up large slabs of time. And then there’s the five-hour drive back to Perth airport when the tastings end.
Even for the traveller hell bent on wine tasting, the landscape throws up its own natural distractions – from the awe of so much bush, dotted here and there with farms and vines; to the towering Karri and Red Tingle forests, to the endless seascapes. This is the wild west – a unique, sparsely populated setting for so many fine wines and a growing local-food culture.
Margaret River wine region sprawls about 100 kilometres from north to south (almost two hours drive end-to-end), from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin. It’s bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north, west and south, with a man-made eastern boundary stretching about 27 kilometres into the hinterland, parallel to the sea. The boundaries enclose around 270 thousand hectares, of which only about 5,360 hectares – perhaps two per cent of the land surface – were covered in vines by 2008.
Margaret River township sits roughly in the middle of the official wine region. But its reputation rests largely on the long-established strip of vineyards immediately to the north around Wilyabrup and Cowaramup (for example, Vasse Felix, Cullens and Moss Wood) and a few more, notably Leeuwin and Voyager Estates and Cape Mentelle, just to the south of town.
In 1967, Dr Tom Cullity planted Margaret River’s first vines, at Vasse Felix (now owned by the Holmes a Court family). In 1999 the area produced 13 thousand tonnes of wine grapes (equivalent to roughly 900 thousand dozen bottles), and output almost tripled to 36,600 tonnes (around 2.5 million dozen) by 2008.
The production peak coincided with the global financial crisis. At the same time Australian wine exports tanked and New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc surplus flooded the eastern states – sparking a price war that continues to affect Western Australian semillon sauvignon blanc blends.
Some producers left unwanted fruit on the vines. However, Nick Power, CEO of the Margaret River Wine Industry Association, says that only a few owners removed vineyards during the glut and the broad response to oversupply has been “to re-work vines and or graft over to more suitable varieties for the vineyard. For example cabernet sauvignon and shiraz south of Margaret River [town] is being grafted to sauvignon blanc or semillon”.
Proving the benefit of regional specialisation, though, Power reports, “some wineries are planting – as cabernet sauvignon is in heavy demand and forecast to be so for a few years to come”. In the wider market, cabernet continues to run a distant second to shiraz.
Certainly as we tasted around, cabernet blends proved to be the predictable highlights, if not the only bright spots on the scene. But with 140 wineries and six breweries now operating in Margaret River, a vignette is the best any casual visitor can hope.
Arriving too late in the day for cellar door visits, our tasting began at Must wine bar, in the main street. Offering dozens of Western Australian wines by the glass or half glass, it allowed us to sip a few old friends and discover, on the sommelier’s recommendation, a couple of nice new drops, including Bellarmine Pemberton Riesling 2010 and Thompson Estate Margaret River Andrea Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2005.
Must’s food focus, too, is on local produce, beautifully prepared – including succulent asparagus and delicious pork cutlets and chorizo.
The food theme continues among the wineries, too, with any number of eateries attached to cellar door. The offers range from the simple, largely outdoor, casual setting at McHenry Hohnen, to the luxury of big-money estates like Voyager, Leeuwin and Saracen.
The McHenry Hohnen Farm Shop serves as cellar door, restaurant and outlet for pork and lamb farmed by David Hohnen – founder of Cape Mentelle, Margaret River, and Cloudy Bay, Margaret River. Hohnen’s wife, Sandy, runs the shop and his daughter Freya and partner Ryan make the wines.
When Hohnen sold Cape Mentelle to Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, he had the good sense to keep the vineyards he’d planted in the region from around 1970. These now provide fruit for the graceful McHenry Hohnen wines.
We tasted and loved the wines, but raided the meat fridge, packed with tasty bits and pieces of fresh Arkady Farm, grass-fed, Wiltshire lamb and Jarradine Farm free-range pigs (a composite herd of Tamworth, Berkshire and Duroc breeds).
It’s obligatory to lunch in the grandeur of Leeuwin Estate, sipping the opulent and legendary chardonnay (a match for the rich XO butter sauce that, alas, outweighs a delicate, fresh marron) and watching Kookaburras feed their young on fat worms from the vast green lawn.
And what an utter contrast it is motoring up the road to Rob and Karen Karri-Davies tiny (6.5 hectares of vines) Cape Grace Wines, in the Willyabrup Valley. Nothing posh here – just a humble winery and cellar door set among the bush and wildflowers. Rob Karri-Davies attends the counter serving the very good, estate-grown wines – notably a 2007 cabernet sauvignon and yet-t-be-released 2008 shiraz – made by Mark Messenger.
We see here that a chalk-dry chenin blanc offers an interesting alternative to mainstream varieties.
And at Vasse Felix we glimpse in three glasses the spectrum of Margaret River’s ubiquitous semillon-sauvignon-blanc-blend styles: The crisp, fruity, straightforward $20 Classic Dry White 2010; the similar but weightier, more complex, partially barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010; and the delicate, texturally rich, delicious Semillon 2009 – about one third of it barrel fermented.
We taste, too, the highly-regarded Heytesbury Chardonnay 2008 and note how it’s going down the funky, “struck-match” style loved by some show judges (more on this in a later article). We also enjoy a taut, pure, dry, savoury Tempranillo 2009, one of the few non-estate-grown wines in the line up.
But the highlights are the big-value 2008 Cabernet Merlot, convincing 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (with nine per cent malbec) and the stunning 2007 Heytesbury, a cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec blend. This style is Margaret River’s greatest wine achievement, and it’s true signature.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Holgate Brewhouse Pilsner 330ml $4.05 Holgate Brewhouse, in Keatings Hotel, Woodend, Victoria, produces a range of beer styles, including this attractive pilsner. It’s pale coloured, medium bodied, smoothly malty and finishes with the distinctive flavour and clean bitterness of Saaz hops. It’s in the lighter, Euro style, not the robustly bitter Pilzen style.
Brasserie Caulier Bon Secours Myrtille 330ml $7.65 Bon Secours is a bottle fermented Belgian ale seasoned with blueberries. It’s in the traditional sweet and sour style and features high alcohol (seven per cent), the zest and lightness of wheat, and the sweetness of blueberries foiled by a pleasant tartness. Ingredients are barley malt, wheat, water, yeast, hops and blueberry juice.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Australia’s craft brewing industry owes much to the west. The comparatively large-scale success of Matilda Bay, and later Little Creatures, fanned widespread consumer interest in beers very different from mainstream styles.
Matilda Bay’s Redback popularised the highly distinctive flavours of wheat beer to a lager-quaffing nation. And Little Creatures spread the gospel of highly aromatic, late-hopped ale.
The fact that both operations sold out, or partly sold out, to Australia’s two big brewers, doesn’t diminish their contribution to our varied beer scene. Matilda Bay, now owned by Foster’s, continues to make distinctive brews and distribute them widely. And Little Creatures, partly owned by Lion Nathan (itself wholly owned by Japan’s Kirin), continues to excite with its compact range, still brewed at the orginal Fremantle site.
But the Western Australian brewing scene isn’t limited to these two larger operators.
There’s Gage Roads, partly owned by Woolworths, and nationally distributed. But perhaps more excitingly for tourists, there’s now a flourishing of small regional operators in Bridgetown, Bunbury, Capel, Donnybrook, Dunsborough, Fremantle, Ferguson Valley, Pemberton, Perth, Margaret River, Mindarie, Myalup, North Fremantle and the Swan Valley – note the crossover with wine producing regions.
We’ll report back on some of these brewers over the next few weeks as we visit tour the southwest.
Copyright © Chris Shananan 2010
Bress Cider Brut 750ml $20 Harcourt Valley, Central Victoria Emulating the cider makers of Normandy, Adam Marks and Lynne Jensen, bottle ferment their ciders to a wine-like 10 per cent alcohol. They use the specialty cider varieties Kingston Black and Bulmers Norman, in conjunction with Pink Lady and a touch of Perry pears. Bottle fermentation and maturation adds to the texture and provides fine bubbles. The result is a full flavoured, richly textured cider with delicious, clean apple flavours and clean, fresh lingering finish.
Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2010 $33 Hanlin Hill Vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia Petaluma’s sensational 2010 riesling rates among the finest in the brand’s 30-odd year history. Made by Andrew Hardy, the 2010 seems luxuriously rich and delicious, showing smooth texture as well as the usual shimmering, lemony varietal tang. It’ll almost certainly age well for decades. And from past experience it’s best drinking will be either now, in the early, fruity glow of youth, or many years down the track as it becomes fully mature.
Wolf Blass Yellow Label Riesling 2010 $15–$22 South Australia The ever-reliable Yellow Label won a gold-medal at the recent Canberra International Riesling Challenge. It’s a lighter, more delicate style than the Petaluma 2010, weighing in at 12.5 per cent alcohol, versus Petaluma’s 13.5 per cent. It’s lightly floral in aroma, with a taut, lemony palate and delicate, dry, refreshing finish. The label gives the origin as “South Australia”. But this suggests only that the makers are keeping their blending options open in what is generally a Barossa-Eden-Clare product. The price varies widely because of retailer discounting.
Rochford Sebastian’s Paddock Pinot Noir 2008 $54–$60 Macedon Ranges, Victoria Rochford is a Yarra based maker with 24 hectares of vines near Lansfield, in the Macedon Ranges, and 14 hectares in the Yarra (before its recent purchase of the Briary Hill vineyard). The wine reveals a wide spectrum of pinot aromas and flavours, from ripe, red berries to a slight stalkiness to earthy and savoury notes. The palate’s generous and complex and showing the assertive, firm tannins of the hot 2008 vintage.
Hewitson Baby Bush Mourvedre 2009 $28 Barossa Valley, South Australia Dean Hewitson makes Baby Bush from a young mourvedre vineyard he propagated from vines planted in 1853. Like the still-producing 1853 vines, the young vines are unirrigated and untrellised. The 2009 is a beautiful expression of mourvedre, including what Hewitson calls a “rustic” note. I interpret that as an earthy or even slightly animal-like smell that hovers over the vats during fermentation and lingers in the finished wine. It’s not a fault – just a stamp of this highly distinctive variety. It’s full flavoured, vaguely blueberry-like, but juicy and spicy and gripped by fine, lingering tannins.
Zema Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $28 Coonawarra, South Australia Zema sits in the heart of Coonawarra’s terra rossa soil, on the western side of the Riddoch Highway. Nick and Matt Zema manage the estate, founded in 1982 by their parents Demetrio and Francesca, with former Lindemans winemaker Greg Clayfield calling the shots in the winery. The 2008 cabernet shows the purity and intensity of varietal cabernet flavour that made Coonawarra our cabernet capital. It’s rich and fleshy, with considerable power and concentration, but at the same time elegantly structured. It’ll no doubt age well, but this vintage has an appealing, drink-now lusciousness.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Brokenwood Belford Block 8 Semillon 2006 $36 Belford is a sub-set of the Lower Hunter Valley and the Block 8 vineyard lies “not far from the famous ‘Village of Belford’ sign (there isn’t a village)” writes winemaker PJ Charteris. The wine sits at the very delicate end of the Hunter semillon spectrum – still pale and green tinted at four and half years’ age, with light, grassy, herbal aroma and most delicate palate imaginable. Age has added a little richness to the texture, but the wine remains strikingly youthful, fresh and purely varietal. It’s a delight to drink now but has many years, perhaps decades, to evolve in the bottle.
Zonte’s Footstep Langhorne Creek $22Lake Doctor Shiraz 2008 Canto di Lago Sangiovese Barbera 2008 Avalon Tree Cabernet 2008
The Zonte’s Footstep range, made by Ben Riggs, captures regional varietal flavours from a number of sites in South Australia. Their current releases include this trio from Langhorne Creek in the hot 2008 vintage. While the cabernet lacks the fleshiness often seen from the variety in the region, it has clear varietal flavour, a core of sweet fruit and a firm, tight tannin structure. The earthier, slightly plumper shiraz also has fine, firm trying tannins. And the Canto di Lagos blend combines the vibrant summer-berry flavours of barbera with the savoury, drying tannins of sangiovese.
Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2010 $15–$17 Don’t like riesling? Think it’s sweet? Time then to try this bone-dry, mouth-watering version from Jim Barry. It’s from Watervale, the Clare Valley’s southernmost sub-region, source of many of Australia’s greatest, long-lived dry rieslings. The wine’s pale but delivers big volumes of distinctive lime-like varietal aroma. The same brisk, lime-like flavours come through on the dry, fresh palate, leaving a clean, lingering aftertaste. There’s a lot of flavour packed into the bottle for a modest amount of money. And while it drinks well now as a delicate aperitif, it’ll take on weight and develop juicy, honeyed flavours with bottle age.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010