Wine reviews — McWilliams, Helm, Clonakilla, Mount Avoca and Cofield

McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2006 $14–$22
Hunter Valley, New South Wale
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Surprisingly for such a northerly, warm region, the lower Hunter produces delicate, low-alcohol semillon of great flavour, individuality and longevity. If the idiosyncratic style is to your taste (tart and lemony when young; toasty and honeyed with great age), then top-notch Hunter semillon, like Elizabeth, can be the inexpensive corner stone of a cellar. At four years, the just-released Elizabeth (10.5 per cent alcohol) is lemony and bone-dry, with distinctive lemongrass-like varietal flavour and the first signs of toasty bottle age. It has years of cellaring ahead of it, too.

Helm Canberra District Premium Riesling 2010 $45
Murrumbateman, New South Wales

Ken Helm’s Premium Riesling won a silver medal in this year’s Winewise Awards. But I’d be surprised if it doesn’t win gold in future. Typically, it begins life pretty tart and austere, but over time the fruity intensity and palate weight build. It’s on the lean side anyway, as it’s just 11 per cent alcohol – and tastes just ripe, with a lemony, herbal edge and bone-dry finish, with varietal flavours beginning to push through. The fruit comes from Helm’s Murrumbateman neighbour, Al Lustenberger.

Clonakilla Canberra District Riesling $25–$30
Murrumbateman, New South Wales
Clonakilla’s thirty-fifth riesling provides quite a contrast to Helm’s. It’s riper (12.5 per cent alcohol versus 11 per cent), pushing the aroma more to the floral end of the riesling spectrum and filling the palate with more upfront fruit flavour. However, the palate’s still delicate and restrained – deliciously varietal and fine textured, with a vibrant, brisk acidity. Winemaker Tim Kirk says he’s entering it in the regional show in September, his first entry in over ten years. We’re backing it for a decent medal.

Mount Avoca Reserve Shiraz 2007 $59
Pyrenees, Victoria

What’s an ugly cork like you doing in a beautiful wine like this? The ProCork – a natural cork with a wrinkled, protective plastic membrane on each end – has the aesthetic appeal of a burst blister. And in our sample bottle the wine had already travelled up the cork beyond the protective membrane. So what’s the point of it? The wine, though, is exciting. It’s a blend of the first crop from new ‘Bests’ clone shiraz vines with material from the vineyards original old vineyard. It’s taut, elegant and savoury with a delicious core of sweet, varietal fruit. Our bottle drank beautifully for five days after opening, suggesting a long cellar life should the cork hold. Only 130 cases produced.

Cofield Max’s Footstep Moscato 2010 $13
Rutherglen, Victoria

The promiscuous muscat grape has its genes in clones of just about every other variety, injecting its grapey, musky flavour wherever it shows up. Here it flaunts its naked, sweet grapiness unadorned. Damien Cofield used the same muscat a-petit-grain rouge that goes into Rutherglen’s famed fortified muscats. But here it’s pink, light (six per cent alcohol), musky and flagrantly, fragrantly fruity, with zesty, fresh effervescence – a frivolous wine for life’s fruity moments.

Clonakilla Shiraz 2009 $24–$30
Hilltops, New South Wales

Tim Kirk’s shiraz viognier did more than any other wine to build Canberra’s reputation. But the larger-volume, lower-priced Clonakilla Hilltops shiraz brings home the Kirk family’s bacon. The 2009’s sourced from three vineyards near Young and shows Tim’s magic touch. Its pure, ripe-berry, spice and musk aroma gets the juices flowing. The palate delivers similar pure varietal flavour and its woven with gentle, fine tannins. I rate this the best yet of this wine and recommend it for drinking now or cellaring for up to a decade.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010

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