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Monthly Archives: January 2011
Binbilla Hilltops Good Friday Shiraz 2009 $25 Binbilla is a tiny, hand-tended vineyard near Young, owned by Gerard and Bez Hines. Nick O’Leary makes the wine and describes the 2009 as a “leaner style” than the typical Hilltops shiraz. He picks the grapes comparatively early, “when the vines are healthy, before the leaves turn yellow” – thus capturing the fruit at its vibrant best, before it shrivels. The result is a fragrant, lively, bright, medium bodied shiraz with a firm, fine, silky, tannic structure. It’s wonderful to see so much innovation and excitement in Canberra’s backyard. Watch this vineyard. See www.binbillawines.com
Wignall AlbanyPinot Noir 2009 $31 Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $18.50
At only 35 degrees south and just 33 metres above sea level, Albany ought not be cool enough to make good pinot. But high humidity helps retain varietal aromatics. And, says Rob Wignall, the “Albany doctor”, whistles in from the Antarctic, dropping afternoon and nighttime temperatures dramatically, further enhancing varietal flavour. It shows in Wignall’s highly aromatic, vibrant 2009 – a deliciously fruity drop probably best enjoyed in the first five years from vintage. Likewise the 2010 sauvignon blanc delivers clear but subtle varietal flavour in a distinctive zesty but soft way. See www.wignallswine.com.au
Bourke Street Canberra DistrictPinot Noir 2010 $21 Chardonnay 2010 $21
Local winemakers Alex McKay and Nick O’Leary launched their Bourke Street brand last year with a lovely Canberra District shiraz 2008. They recently added to the range pinot noir and chardonnay, sourced mainly from Bob Knight’s high-altitude, low-yielding vineyard. While on the light and elegant side, the pinot shows good varietal character and has the flavour depth and structure to be taken seriously. The chardonnay is a notch better again. It’s on the tight, lean side, but packed with delicious nectarine and grapefruit varietal flavour – barrel fermentation and maturation added subtly to the texture and complexity. Both wines are bargains.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Thirst Riesling 2010 Bottle $28, Glass $6.50 Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales Hot, thirsty and running early for dinner, we paused for a cold riesling at Thirst Wine Bar and Eatery (West Row, Civic). Winemaker Nick O’Leary says grapes for the wine came from several vineyards at Murrumbateman. He says it’s a blend of various components, including material not suited to his own brand. It’s racy, tasty, vibrant and dry – good enough to sip on its own, as we did, and perfect with Thirst’s Thai food. Full marks to Thirst for selecting and offering its customers such a delicious, inexpensive local specialty.
Bourke Street Shiraz 2009 $19–$21 Yass Valley and Hall, Canberra District, NSW and ACT This will be one of the great red wine bargains of the year – a juicy, vibrant, spicy, medium-bodied shiraz from Canberra’s outstanding 2009 vintage – made by two of our leading winemakers, Nick O’Leary and Alex McKay. The pair buy grapes together, principally for their own brands, Nick O’Leary and Collector Marked Tree. They blend Bourke Street from components not suited to those brands. Clearly, these were of extraordinary quality in 2009. O’Leary says the grapes came from Wallaroo Vineyard, Hall, and the McKenzie vineyard, Yass Valley.
Tower Estate Riesling 2010 $23.80–$28.00 Windmill Vineyard, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia Tower Estate was a vision of the late Len Evans and a fitting site for his extraordinary wake in 2006. A visit to the Hunter Valley cellar door gives an insight into Evans’ quirky creativity. And a taste of Tower wines reveals another Evans’ legacy – a commitment to stellar quality. He would’ve loved this pristine, intense, lime-like dry riesling, sourced from Chris and Darry Honey’s Windmill Vineyard at Watervale, Clare’s southernmost sub-region.
Chalmers Sagrantino 2008 $32 Euston, Murray Darling Region, New South Wales Sagrantino, originally from Umbria, Italy, tends to make powerful, tannic reds, suited to madmen, heroes and Godzilla. But the Chalmers family’s version stops short of sucking the water from your eyes – tempered, temporarily, by its bright, sweet fruit, before the sturdy, mouth-drying tannins kick in. They also offer a dry, savoury barrel-fermented rose version (Sagrantino Rosato 2010, $22) with an assertive, but not aggressive, tannic tweak to the finish.
Chapel Hill Il Vescovo Pinot Grigio 2010 $22 Adelaide Hills, South Australia When making whites from this mutant of pinot noir, Australian winemakers generally use “pinot grigio” for dry, austere styles made in the north eastern Italian mould, or “pinot gris” for richly textured, sometimes sweet expressions modelled on those of Alsace. In this version winemaker Bryn Richards really captures pinot grigio’s elusive varietal aroma and flavour. It’s a pristine, lively, shimmering, dry style with a mouth watering, savoury finish.
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 $49.90 Adelaide Hills, South Australia Peter Gago made Penfolds’ first Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir in 1997. Since then it’s evolved considerably in style from sturdy Penfolds red to a fine, deeply layered, top-shelf pinot. It’s made in the original open fermenters at Magill Estate – the same ones Max Schubert used for Grange. In this case they’re cradle to a substantial pinot – highly aromatic and varietal, intensely flavoured, fleshy, vibrant, silky textured with an exotic undertone of “stalkiness”, derived from whole grape bunches included in the ferment.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Overproduction, slash-and-burn retailing and our strong dollar should keep a lid firmly on mainstream wine prices throughout 2011. Adding to that chaotic mix are rising volumes of clean skins and labels owned or controlled by retailers, a dollop of parallel importing and the less-obvious but increasingly important activities of online retailers, auctioneers and direct marketers.
An indication of the pain ahead, for some, came last year when John Geber, proprietor of the Barossa’s Chateau Tanunda and successful wine exporter, claimed the strong dollar was slaughtering Australia’s exports and could ruin Australian producers. Geber didn’t say it, but our failed exports stays at home, adding to the oversupply, depressing domestic prices and putting further competitive pressure on established brands.
The oversupply also fuels the explosion of new labels and cleanskins sprinkled throughout the retail, online, auction and direct-marketing worlds. Confusing as this proliferation of new labels might be for wine drinkers, it tends in aggregate to increase competition and lower prices.
In the hands of skilled marketers, unknown labels can both protect and mask retail margins in a way that could never be achieved were all retailers to sell the same brands. Cellarmasters, Australia’s leading direct marketer, led the way with exclusive labels in the 1980s. Big retailers are now headed down a similar path.
Cellarmaster persuaded wine producers to supply exclusive variants of their branded products. This enabled them to fetch a premium on well-known brands by avoiding price comparisons with the regular label sold by other retailers.
On the other hand mainstream retailers today tend to create their own labels from scratch or arrange exclusive import arrangements with overseas producers (although they sometimes offer products exclusively from well-known local producers).
Liquor retail consultant David Farmer says that in the UK, over half the products sold by Tesco are house brands. But on a recent visit there he noted how shabby and degraded Tesco’s merchandising appeared – a downside he attributes partly to stripping out more glamorous, strongly marketed brands and partly to the poverty of the house labels on offer.
This suggests that if retailers drop the carefully built brands from their offer, the glamour, and ultimately the value of the retail offer goes with it. But we’re a long way from that point in Australia as big retailers rely on discounting strong brands to drive traffic – albeit in a quickly changing way.
In a recent presentation to independent Australian retailers, Farmer highlighted a technique Woolworths now uses to build the credibility of its house wine brands: positioning them in advertisements alongside comparably priced national brands – a simple way to suggest equal quality and, at the same time, to milk perhaps a century of goodwill behind the known label.
House brand wine labels these days don’t say “house brand” or “Coles” or “Woolworths”, “Aldi” or any other retail name. They look just like regular wine labels, more often than not with regional and varietal information on them. Coles, for example, offers Two Churches, its own Barossa brand, through their 1st Choice, Vintage Cellars and Liquorland outlets.
This growing shift to labels they own or control gives the big retailers more market power than the big producers. It must horrify them to see their biggest customers became their biggest competitors. The retailers have them over a barrel.
But it’s not just the big guys offering exclusive labels. For example, Kemeny’s, a high-profile Sydney independent retailer, now peppers its advertisements with its Hidden Label brand – no doubt to avoid the fight it can’t win: going head to head with the majors on strong brands. And these days every retailer, large and small, offers cleanskins – unbranded bottles.
Farmer believes cleanskins have grown at the expense of wine casks which have plummeted precipitously from 46 to 40 per cent of total Australian wine consumption in just a few years.
On www.glug.com.au, Farmer ranks cleanskins of various kinds in five of the top 25 positions of Australia’s biggest selling bottled wines. He estimates the volume of these top five categories of cleanskin at around 800 thousand cases annually.
As these are sold on price, tempered by hope (we all want Grange for $5) cleanskins selling in this volume inevitably maintain pressure on wine prices within their general price category.
Among all this chaos, though, some wine brands prosper, partly because many drinkers feel insecure buying unknown or no-label wines. Jacob’s Creek, for example, weathered the GFC and private label storm in the UK and, after a battering, is now growing again.
And in Australia, there’s a far more gentile wine scene operating out of sight of mainstream retailing. Every region now has its small volume, high quality producers like our own Clonakilla.
And across the regions, including tiny Canberra and massive Barossa, keen young winemakers without vineyards continue to team up with established growers to make exciting, single-vineyard wines in small quantities.
This activity offers better returns to grape growers, a living for winemakers and really interesting, generally inexpensive wines for drinkers. On a larger, long-term scale, this new wave of small winemakers exerts an influence beyond their size on the style of wines we’ll enjoy in the future.
These guys think long and hard about what they’re doing. And because more often than not they’re not making to a template, they bring welcome changes to regional style – just look, for example, at what Tim Kirk, Nick Spencer and Nick O’Leary are doing for the increasingly fine style of shiraz coming out of nearby Hilltops.
So, the prediction for 2011: lots of wine, lots of cheap wine, lots of good wine, lots of imported wine, greater diversity of top regional specialties, and increasing parcels of exciting stuff from our small makers.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
d’Arenberg McLaren Vale “The Cadenzia” Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre Tempranillo Cinsault 2008 $22–$25 d’Arenberg’s seductive blend contains four of the 13 varieties permitted in the reds of France’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape region – and throws in Spain’s tempranillo, too. The blend contains roughly equal portions of grenache, shiraz, mourvedre and tempranillo and just a hatful of cinsault. No single variety stands out. Instead we have a medium bodied dry red that’s subtle, soft, flavour packed and easy to drink. But it’s also savoury and complex with satisfying red wine structure – and it’s oh, so hard to screw the cap back on once it’s opened. It captures McLaren Vale’s generous flavours without the heaviness sometimes associated with our warm areas.
CorioleMcLaren Vale Sangiovese 2009 $22 McLaren Vale Barbera 2008 $30 Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo 2008 $35
Mark Lloyd’s Italian varieties offer a flavour world far removed our usual menu of shiraz, cabernet and pinot noir. The limpid sangiovese appeals for its medium body, savoury flavours and taut, grippy tannins – such a good combination with char-grilled meat of all kinds. The barbera startles with its vivid crimson colour and high-toned aroma – always reminiscent of summer berries, but in this warm vintage resembling very ripe mulberries. The palate is soft and round, but not without a tannic twist to finish. The deceptively pale nebbiolo offers deep, earthy flavours, tightly bound with firm, lingering, drying tannins.Pikes Clare “Traditionele” Valley 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 2011
In December 2010 Philip Laffer handed the winemaking reins of Jacob’s Creek to Bernard Hickin. But Laffer, now 70, retains a globe-travelling role with Jacob’s Creek’s French owners, Pernod-Ricard, giving valuable advice to the company’s winemaking enterprises in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Spain and France.
Laffer’s career spans, on a large scale, every imaginable aspect of Australian wine, including viticulture, winemaking, research, commerce, trade, marketing and management. Even within Pernod-Ricard’s Australian operations, Laffer’s influence stretched beyond the flagship brand, Jacob’s Creek, to the company’s other brands, Wyndham Estate and Richmond Grove.
Laffer’s career began in 1956 with the decision, at age 16, to become a winemaker. He studied agricultural science then oenology between 1957 and 1962 and in January 1963 began working for Lindemans, one of only two publicly listed wine companies at the time (the other was Penfolds).
Lindemans leader at the time was Ray Kidd, a visionary, presiding over a widespread winemaking enterprise. Australian taste had its shift from fortified wine to table wine and Kidd was positioning the company to develop this emerging market.
Lindemans had recently acquired Leo Burings with its strong Leonay sherry brand and emerging table wines, led by the new wave of bright, fresh, slightly sweet sparkling wines, inspired by Orlando’s Barossa Pearl, launched for the 1956 Olympics.
Lindeman’s winemaking extended to the Hunter Valley (the company’s original base), with its strong focus on shiraz and semillon (though marketed in those days under generic names like Chablis and burgundy), to its increasingly popular multi-region blends, including Cawarra Claret.
So in 1963 when Laffer started work at Lindemans Corowa winery (across the Murray from Rutherglen) he was in the heart of fortified wine country and came under the influence of local legends, including Mick Morris. Bob Menzies was Prime Minister, Australians drove mainly Holdens and Falcons, men drank beer and women enjoyed a shandy or sherry. But table and sparkling wines were catching on.
By the time Laffer moved to Lindeman’s Sydney head office and cellars in 1969, he’d played a key role developing the company’s Coonawarra vineyards and selecting the site for the massive Padthaway vineyard, an hour’s drive north of Coonawarra, near Naracoorte. Ultimately this vineyard, planted in 1970, provided fruit for Lindemans hugely successful export brands of the 1980s (notably Bin 65 Chardonnay).
The huge Sydney cellar brought together wine for Australia-wide blends but was also home to regional specialties from the Hunter, Coonawarra, Padthaway, Barossa Valley, Eden Valley and Clare Valley.
The cellar, at Nyrang Street Auburn (now home to Tooheys) also gave its name to two popular blended reds, Nyrang Hermitage and Auburn Burgundy.
Located at the heart of the enterprise, Laffer now had a hand in making and developing the whole range of company wines embracing fortifieds, sparklings, whites, and reds.
During these years he worked closely with well-known winemakers including Gerry Sissingh and Carl Stockhausen in the Hunter, Greg Clayfield in Coonawarra, John Vickery (Mr Riesling) at Leo Burings in the Barossa and Albert Chan and Philip John in head office.
He was there for the birth of chardonnay in Australia and helped develop both large-volume commercial styles and cutting edge oak matured versions, initially from the Padthaway vineyard – a style he was still influencing when he handed the Jacob’s Creek winemaking reins to Bernard Hickin last month.
Laffer moved quickly through the ranks across a diversity of roles, including Technical Director, Sales and Marketing Director and General Manager. Laffer was perceived as a successor to Ray Kidd, but a boardroom mood swing in New York ended that possibility.
Philip Morris Limited had acquired Lindemans in 1971 at about the same time as a number of internationals, including Rothmans and Heinz, piled into Australian wine production. They all departed.
To prepare Lindemans for sale, Philip Morris placed one if its successful tobacco executives, Peter Barnes, at the helm. Following its sale to Penfolds Wine Group, Laffer left Lindemans in 1990.
Shortly afterwards Orlando Wyndham, (as the Jacob’s Creek owner was then called) approached Laffer. He joined company as Production Director but within three years had become Chief Winemaker.
Laffer transferred thirty years’ experience to his new employers and with characteristic cheer and energy drove significant quality improvements in vineyards, winemaking, production and storage.
His experience dovetailed with Orlando traditions, too, based on technical innovations by Colin Gramp in the 1950s, and carried on by Gramp’s successor (and German import) Gunther Prass and by other long-term employees, notably Stephen Couche, Mark Tummel and Robin Day.
Laffer was instrumental, too, in hiring former Leo Buring riesling master, John Vickery (he’d worked with Buring from the 1950s), and acquiring Buring’s Chateau Leonay as home for Orlando Wyndham’s Richmond Grove brand.
Vickery added to Orlando’s already substantial riesling making skills. And in developing riesling as Richmond Grove’s flagship variety, Vickery purchased grapes from the Florita vineyard at Watervale, source of many legendary Leo Buring rieslings. Philip Morris had sold this strategic asset to the Barry family as it trimmed Lindemans down for sale.
Between them, Laffer and Vickery used Richmond Grove riesling to launch one of the most significant technical successes of the twentieth century. In 1998 they released the first commercial-scale bottling of top-shelf riesling under screw cap since the failed efforts of the 1970s. Consumers embraced the seal. Thirteen years it’s the dominant seal on Australian wine.
Laffer was also there across the years steering Jacob’s Creek – finessing the style of existing wines and setting the stage for future development. In 2000 the company launched a “reserve” range and then in 2005, with an eye to the regional focus of future marketing, brought the company’s flagship regional varietals under the brand – Steingarten Barossa Riesling, St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon and Centenary Hill Barossa Shiraz. They also included in this range two upmarket cross-regional blends – Johann Shiraz Cabernet and Reeves Point Chardonnay.
Laffer probably suffered at being wrenched from Lindemans after almost thirty years in 1990. And must look back now with sadness at the subsequent terrible destruction of those brands, ultimately consolidated under Fosters.
In contrast, Pernod-Ricard steadily built wine brands capable of surviving even the financial crisis. Behind the brand lies almost two centuries of Australian winemaking tradition and the best of modern innovation – building on knowledge acquired by past generations.
Phillip Laffer is one of those great builders and expanders, influenced by those who’ve gone before, and a continuing mentor for new generations coming through.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Tahbilk Marsanne 2010 $13.00–$16.45 Nagambie Lakes, Victoria
In the me-too line up on most retail shelves, Tahbilk marsanne stands out. It’s become a signature wine style for Tahbilk and under Alister Purbrick (his great grandfather bought the already established property in 1925) the style has become finer. Marsanne, a Rhone Valley white variety, tends to be fat and slightly hard. But the long-lived Tahbilk style takes the rough edges off. The 2010 is fresh and bright, with lemon/lemon zest notes, a bone-dry, savoury palate a little tweak of tannin in the finish.
Tahbilk Marsanne 2001 $35.95–$43.00 Nagambie Lakes, Victoria
In Tahbilk’s mature marsanne we smell and taste the signature, often written about “honeysuckle” character of the variety. Like the younger version, the veteran is bone dry and savoury. But for its age, the colour’s still a vibrant, pale gold and the palate’s lively and fresh – albeit with pleasant honeyed, aged flavours, a familiar bite of tannin in the finish, and not a trace of the oiliness sometimes seen in old marsanne.
Leo Buring Riesling 2010 $19.99 Clare Valley, South Australia
Leo Buring (part of Fosters-owned Treasury Wine Estates) recently released a pair of 2010 rieslings – this dry version from the Clare Valley and a medium dry style from the cooler Eden Valley. The dry wine offers Clare’s pure, delicate, floral and citrus flavours and fresh, dry finish at a modest 11.5 per cent alcohol. It’s an attractive aperitif wine. The medium dry wine, containing about 11 grams per litre of unfermented grape sugar, works well, too. High acidity offsets the sweetness, emphasising the wine’s delicious grapiness.
Red Knot by Shingleback Shiraz 2009 $10.90–$14.99 McLaren Vale, South Australia
Brothers Kym and John Davey own and manage the100-hectare Shingleback vineyard – a big enough operation to produce outstanding regional wines across a range of price points. Their entry-level Red Knot shiraz really captures the Vale’s style. It’s a big, warm, generous wine built on ripe, varietal flavours, with earthy, savoury undertones and firm, but not hard, tannins. Because it’s balanced and harmonious, it’s not at all heavy. It’s ready to drink now.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate “The Siding” Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $21.99 Coonawarra, South Australia
How unfortunate for Wynns that the release of this beautiful, elegant new cabernet coincided with the retail slaughter of its classic, long-lived, black-label cellar mate at around $18. We should all buy a truckload at that price, as the regular tag is around $31. The new wine focuses on drinkability now, and captures purity of varietal aroma and flavour in the most fragrant, elegant, delicious style imaginable. This is a class double act from winemaker Sue Hodder and vineyard manager Allan Jenkins.
Pipers Brook Estate Pinot Noir 2008 $41.50 Pipers Brook and West Tamar, Tasmania
This is another Tasmanian pinot to step away from mainstream aromatic, fruity styles. First impressions are of a substantial red combining deep, sweet, ripe, black cherry varietal flavour with the assertive flavour and tannins of very high quality oak. The sheer depth of fruit flavour, however, suggests the oak will ultimately be subsumed into the wine. Even now, though, with the oak so apparent, it’s a satisfying wine that invites one more sip.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Brown Brothers King ValleyPinot Grigio 2010 $18 Limited Release Single Vineyard Pinot Grigio 2010 $30
All too often pinot gris (or grigio) comes with residual sugar filling the hole where the fruit flavour ought to be. Like other members of the pinot family (pinots blanc, noir and meunier) gives its best flavours when grown in cool climates like Whitlands (a high, cool plateau above the southern end of Victoria’s King Valley), source of Brown Brothers flagship. The sheer quality of fruit makes this wine one of Australia’s best. A little lees contact adds texture to its taut, pure, crisp palate. The cheaper version, sourced from Whitlands and Bankside, offers a slightly softer, rounder version, still with pure, fresh varietal flavour.
d’Arenberg Adelaide HillsThe Lucky Lizard Chardonnay 2008 $20–$25 The Feral Fox Pinot Noir 2009 $24–$36
Lucky Lizard is a very fine example of modern Australian chardonnay making. It’s all about fermenting and maturing top-quality, cool-grown fruit in high-quality oak barrels – some old some new. The technique captures wonderfully intense varietal character and adds textural richness and flavour complexities – but not overt woodiness. Gentle fruit handling and juice extraction also means that though full flavoured, the wine is delicate and fine. Feral Fox is very much a solid, chewy, savoury and smooth d’Arenberg red – a complex and enjoyable expression of pinot, albeit without the high-toned aromatics of most leading Australian styles.
Coriole Vineyards McLaren Vale Fiano 2010 $25
Coriole’s Mark Lloyd was an early pioneer of Italy’s red sangiovese, later moving to other so-called “alternative” varieties, including barbera, nebbiolo, sagrantino and this savoury white of Roman origin. Jancis Robinson says Fiano “provides the latterday incarnation of the wine known as Apianum to the Romans and makes a splendid, very individual dry white in the hills above Avellino” – a description that seems apt for this McLaren Vale version. It’s crisp, clean and fresh in the Australian style but reveals an Italian touch in its grippy texture and pleasantly tart finish.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Bleasdale Langhorne Creek “Second Innings” Malbec 2009 $15 Cullen Margaret River Mangan Vineyard Malbec Petit Verdot Merlot 2009 $45
Malbec, Argentina’s signature red variety, barely hits the scale in Australia, account for just two thousand tonnes of our annual 900-thousand-tonne red harvest. But its attractive perfume and generous flavour shines in these two contrasting styles — the first a great bargain from Bleasdale, Langhorne Creek’s oldest winery. There’s no artifice here — just buckets of bright fruit flavour, reminiscent of very ripe mulberry, laced with soft, velvety tannins. The limpid, delightfully aromatic Cullen ripples with delicious berry flavours. It grows in interest with every sip, gradually revealing the taut, elegant structure (partly attributable to petit verdot and merlot in the blend) underlying the bright, supple fruit.
Ten Minutes by Tractor Mornington Peninsula “Judd”, McCutcheon” and “Wallis” Pinot Noirs 2008 $70
Whether you’re interested in the mysteries of “terroir” or simply love a good pinot, these are three extraordinary wines, sourced from individual vineyards, in close proximity to one another, on Mornington’s Main Ridge. They share family characteristics – pale to medium colour, terrific fragrance and intense varietal flavours. They also vary subtly but distinctly in style, covering a spectrum from the refined, delicate “McCutcheon” to the savoury, earthy “Wallis” to the more opulent “Judd”. These are really high-class wines. Once opened the cap never goes back on. See www.tenminutesbytractor.com.au for details of the three vineyards and factors behind the flavour differences.
Chapel Hill McLaren Vale “Il Vescovo” $20Sangiovese Rose 2010 Sangiovese 2009
If you’re going to make rose, it’s best to use varieties – like sangiovese, pinot noir and grenache – that tend to make pale coloured wine anyway. This allows a little skin contact, without extracting too much colour, but sufficient to extract a little tannin and extra flavour. Chapel Hill’s 2010 captures sangiovese’s flavour and savouriness and a bracing tweak of tannin to rev up the dry finish. The red is medium bodied with a juicy flavour, reminiscent of bittersweet black cherries. Fine but earthy, savoury tannins offset the underlying sweet fruit and gives a bone-dry finish.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
St Hallett Barossa Valley Faith Shiraz 2008 $12.80–$16 St Hallett, now part of Lion Nathan, continues to produce high-quality Barossa wines like the big, juicy, tender Faith shiraz. The grapes going into Faith come from around the Barossa and include components from the cooler Lyndoch Valley, at the Barossa’s southern end, and the elevated Eden Valley, forming the Barossa’s eastern boundary. These components probably add to the vibrancy of the wine’s generous fruit flavours. Maturation for 16 months in mainly older French and American oak barrels softened the wine and added to its texture without injecting overt woody flavours. It’s a full, lively, fruity style to enjoy now.
Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $15.90–$19 The name salutes the Barry family’s 12-hectare vineyard located at the site of an old cricket ground at Penola, towards the southern end of Coonawarra. While the label reveals no region of origin, the wine does indeed come primarily from the Coonawarra vineyard, combined with a little from the family’s Clare Valley vineyards. Coonawarra really drives the style with its ripe-blackberry varietal flavour and elegant structure. It’s a drink-now style, with sweet mid-palate fruit and soft tannins. The regular price is around $19, but it specials occasionally for less than $16.
De Bortoli Windy Peak Victoria Chardonnay 2009 $11.90–$14.90 This is a terrific example of bright, modern Australian chardonnay, where oak plays a role, but only in support of the fruit. It’s made at De Bortoli’s Yarra Valley winery by Steve Webber (husband of Leanne De Bortoli) using fruit from the Yarra and King Valleys. Steve ferments the juice in both oak and steel tanks – the oak component giving savoury complexity while the tank component provides vibrant, fresh varietal flavours. Further complexity is added by warm fermentation of some components (adding to texture), maturation on yeast lees and partial malolactic fermentation. The result is a soft, fresh white with a bone-dry, savoury finish.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011