Wine review — Chalmers, d’Arenberg and Pikes

Chalmers Murray Darling Nero d’Avola 2009 $24–$30
As irrigators rip out traditional grape varieties along the Murray Darling, there’s a counter movement afoot as plantings of drought-hardy varieties – like fiano, sagrantino, lagrein, vermentino and nero d’Avola – increase. Bill Mason, proprietor of Z4 Wines, Canberra, offers a range of these made by the Chalmers family of Mildura. Indeed, a bottle of Chalmer’s first nero d’Avola, a red variety from Sicily, went down well with a group of determined white drinkers at a recent tasting. Because of its alluring, soft, earthy fruitiness, Australian now has a couple of new red converts. It’s due for release in early February, says Bill Mason.

d’Arenberg McLaren Vale “The Censosilicaphobic Cat” Sagrantino Cinsault 2007 $25–$29
It’s been almost twenty years since I’ve had the pleasure, but I can still remember the palate-wrenching, tannic grip of Sagrantino di Montefalco – a sturdy, impenetrably inky-black drop from Umbria, Italy. Thankfully, d’Arenberg’s first shot at the variety tempers the legendary sagrantino tannin with the softer, southern French variety cinsault, sourced from vines planted back in 1958. It’s a vibrant, herby, full-of-character red with a bit of push-pull going on between the firm tannins and delicious fruit. I can’t recall every trying a wine with this sort of tart, but pleasing tannin structure. It’s definitely worth a try.

Pikes Clare Valley

  • “Traditionele” Riesling 2009 $17–$23
  • “The Merle” Riesling 2009 $33–$38

“Traditionele” and “The Merle” present slightly different, but dry, faces of Clare riesling. “Traditionele” is the softer of the two, being less acidic but still vibrantly fresh with pure, citrusy varietal flavours. It’s slightly rounder and fuller flavoured than “The Merle” but still, clearly, its sibling. “The Merle”, shows the more acidic, dry austerity of Clare’s Polish Hill sub-region. And hand-in-hand with that goes an extraordinarily intense-but-delicate lime-like varietal flavour – setting it apart from ordinary rieslings. Both have the capacity to change in pleasing ways with cellaring. But “The Merle”, I suspect, will still make us smile thirty years from now.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010

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