Wine review — Shelmerdine, Chalmers, Cape Mentelle, Mitchell and Zonte’s Footstep

Shelmerdine Riesling 2010 $24
Heathcote, Victoria

Really fine riesling is just that – delicate and finely textured with not a trace of hardness derived from skin contact. Shelmerdine is as finely textured as they come, thanks to hand harvesting and whole-bunch pressing. The gentle handling technique also allows the fruit flavour to flourish. In the warm 2010 vintage this means big, lovely wafts of orange-blossom varietal aroma and flavour. Coming from the cooler southern end of Heathcote, the wine also has the acid spine to carry the flavour, brighten the fruit and leave a lingering freshness.

Chalmers Fiano 2009 $27
Euston, New South Wale
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The Chalmers family specialises in alternative varieties, grown on their vineyard in the Murray-Darling region at Euston, New South Wales. Their partially oak-fermented fiano (a native of Avellino, Campania, Italy), offers unique flavours and a texture aptly described by the Chalmers as “bees-waxy”. The wine shows citrus-like flavours, waxy texture, savouriness and a racy, dry finish. It’s unique and well removed from the typical plump Australian white style.

Chalmers Lagrein 2006 $27
Euston, New South Wales

Italy’s Lagrein variety, grown mainly in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, makes deeply coloured tannic reds. Even at four and half years, Chalmers version retains its blazing crimson colour. And the palate comes jammed with juicy, ripe berry flavours, in a matrix with abundant, silk smooth, savoury tannins. What a sexy, seductive and different wine it is. It’s matured only in older oak barrels, gaining the benefits of maturation without intrusive oak flavours.

Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2008 $40
Margaret River, Western Australia

Cape Mentelle’s shiraz sits in the “needs time, be patient” category. Its spicy, savoury fruit seems all bound up in taut, lean tannins – pleasant enough, but a great contrast to, say, the gentle fruitiness of a Hilltops shiraz, or the deep tender depth of the Barossa. Winemaker Robert Mann says it’s sourced from the company’s Wallcliffe and Trinders vineyards and a 38-year-old vines at Wilyabrup. He matures in large old vats initially, then transfers it small oak casks, about 30 per cent of them new. The wine should show its best after about five years bottle age.

Mitchell McNicol Shiraz 2002 $40
Clare Valley, South Australia

No misprint – this really is an eight-year old shiraz, safely sealed under screw cap, from one of Clare Valley’s great makers. The McNicol, named for Andrew Mitchell’s grape growing dad, Peter McNicol Mitchell, shows the special lift, fragrance and complexity of bottle age. At the same time it retains vibrance and freshness. It shows the elegant structure of the cool 2002 vintage, supple underlying fruit and firm but fine drying tannins. Mitchell Peppertree Shiraz 2007 ($28) shows the more robust tannins of the drought year, with fruit to carry it through years of cellaring.

Zonte’s Footstep Baron Von Nemesis Shiraz 2008 $22
Barossa Valley, South Australia

A gang of enthusiasts behind Zonte’s Footstep, working under the slogan “the truth is out there in the vineyard, but the proof is in this bottle”, produce a terrific range of regional varietals. This one, from the Baron Von Nemesis vineyard, southern Barossa, presents a comparatively elegant face of Barossa shiraz – bright and fresh, with instant, drink-now appeal and a farewell kiss of fine tannins.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010

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