Wine review — Seppelt, Zarepath, McWilliams Hanwood, Capital Wines, Terra Felix and Domaine A

Seppelt Jaluka Chardonnay 2009 $22–$27
Drumborg Vineyard, Henty, Victoria

A generation ahead of his time, Karl Seppelt planted a vineyard for the then family company at Drumborg in 1964. It’s a cold site, near Portland in southwestern Victoria. Some say it’s the first landfall north of Antarctica. The vineyard grows beautiful chardonnay – high in natural acid, with intense flavours at the cool, grapefruit and melon end of the spectrum. Winemaker Emma Wood fermented and matured the wine in a mix of new and seasoned oak barrels, adding attractive but subtle complexities to one of the best value whites in Australia.

Zarephath Riesling 2007 $25
Porongurup, Western Australia

As the 2010 rieslings come on stream it’s refreshing to come across a maturing wine, currently available at Sage Restaurant or direct from Zarephath Wines, located in the very cool Porongurup region, just north of Albany  – see www.zarephathwines.com).
The pale colour belies its three years’ age. But the age becomes apparent in the intense, citrusy aroma with its little edge of “kero”, commonly seen in aged rieslings. The palate, however, pulses with life – it’s powerful, juicy, taut, lively, and steely dry, with a distinctive lime-like varietal flavour.

McWilliams Hanwood Estate Shiraz 2008 $9–$12
Gundagai, Hilltops, Heathcote, Limestone Coast, Orange, Riverina, Western Australia and Yarra Valley
The label bears only the broad appellation, Australia. Typically this indicates a blend from many regions. And in the case of well-resourced companies like McWilliams the mix includes components from some of our best regions. These add depth to components from higher-yielding vineyards. The combination means good flavour at a low price. The result, in Hanwood, is a fragrant, generously fruity red showing pure, high-toned varietal flavour and the round, soft tannins necessary for early drinking. This is a very, very good red at the price.

Capital Wines Ministry Series “The Foreign Minister” Sangiovese 2009 $25
Pialligo, Australian Capital Territory

This is Capital Wines’ first sangiovese – sourced from three clones of the variety, including two of the noble “Brunello”, grown at Pialligo Estate. It’s pale-to-medium in colour and the aroma and flavour reveal the appealing fruitiness of the 2009 vintage – a character shining through across all the red varieties I’ve tasted. Although it’s medium bodied, there’s good, fleshly depth to the berry fruit flavours; and these are held in check by fine, savoury tannins and high acidity. The acidity adds to the structure and boosts the brightness of the fruit flavours.

Terra Felix Sagrantino 2009 $21.50
Euston, New South Wales

It’s been almost twenty years since I’ve had the pleasure, but I still recall the palate-wrenching, tannic grip of Sagrantino di Montefalco – a sturdy, impenetrably inky-black drop from Umbria, Italy. Winemaker Terry Barnett’s version starts more seductively than the Italian original. It’s highly aromatic, combining pure, sweet berry aromas with a touch of spice. So far, so good. The palate starts with the same delicious fruitiness – then the jaws of tannin snap shut. The tannin, however, doesn’t swamp the fruit entirely and we find ourselves coming back again and again for just one more glass.

Domaine A Pinot Noir 2006 $70
Coal River Valley, Tasmania

Dense, crimson-rimmed Domaine A seems in a different pinot orbit than its Australian peers. It’s not pale. It’s not strawberry aromatic. And it’s not soft and rearing to go now. In pinot, deep colour sometimes points to over-extraction and hardness. But in Domaine A it’s a prelude to an extraordinary concentration of aroma and flavour – a deep, sweet, ripe, chewy opulence that grows over time: layers and layers of interwoven powerful fruit and powerful tannin. It’s balanced and you can drink it now. But it’s really built to cellar and I suspect it’ll do so with distinction.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010

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