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Monthly Archives: March 2011
Wine review — Lawson’s Dry Hills, Hesketh, Brown Brothers, Water Wheel, Black Jack and Parker Coonawarra Estate
Lawson’s Dry Hills Riesling 2008 $19–$21 Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand There’s an echo of Germany’s Mosel in this juicy, off-dry white. It’s aromatic and delicate with amazingly luscious fruit, a subtle overlay of mandarin-like flavour, courtesy of botrytis – all balanced by racy, fresh acidity. Australia’s warm conditions generally can’t produce this style successfully. But in the Waihopai Valley, a feeder arm of Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, a sunny but very cool ripening period retains that crucial acidity, at the same time producing intense grape flavours. Despite the salute to Germany, Lawson’s remains entirely its own beast – a unique and lovely wine with a modest residual grape sugar of 11 grams per litre.
Hesketh Perfect Stranger Gruner Veltliner 2009 $23.35–$25.95 Krems, Austria Gruner veltliner, Austria’s most widely planted variety, is gaining a toehold in Australia, including Canberra, at Lark Hill vineyard, high on the Lake George escarpment. It’s an aromatic variety, one of its parents being traminer, and generally made for early consumption, although long-lived versions exist. It can be thought of as a fat riesling. This one – made by Australia’s Hesketh family, in conjunction with Austria’s Berthold Salomon – comes from Salomon’s Wachtburg and Sandgruber vineyards, near Krems. It’s pleasantly citrusy and spicy with a plump, soft and fresh drink-now palate.
Brown Brothers Patricia Chardonnay 2008 $39.90 Whitlands and Yarra Valley, Victoria This is the first chardonnay in five years in Brown Brothers flagship Patricia range – based on multi-regional sourcing. The idea seams old hat now as Australia shifts to regional, sub-regional and individual vineyard marketing. But there’s no denying Patricia’s beauty. She’s an oak fermented and matured blend from two very cool sites – Brown Brothers vineyard at Whitlands, on a plateau above Victoria’s King Valley, and the Coombe Farm vineyard, Yarra Valley. The cool sites provide Patricia’s core, delicious, white-peach flavour and bracing fresh acidity. It’s a fine textured, slow evolving chardonnay with several years of life ahead of it.
Water Wheel Shiraz 2009 $18 Bendigo, Victoria Water Wheel’s Mark Murphy says the vineyard owner, Peter Cumming demanded “more berries and fewer plums”. Roughly translated that means picking red grapes earlier to capture the more vibrant berry end of the varietal spectrum. The approach shows in this pure, fragrant, vibrant, berry-laden shiraz from the very small 2009 vintage. Murphy says they harvested just 1.2 tonnes a hectare across Water Wheel’s 120 hectares of vines. Sounds like a lot of effort for a small amount of wine at such a modest price. What a great bargain it is.
Black Jack Major’s Line Shiraz 2008 $22–$25 Faraday, Bendigo, Victoria What a contrast this is to Water Wheel shiraz, the other Bendigo red reviewed here today. Black Jack – from a different site (David and Ruth Norris’s vineyard at Faraday) and a much hotter vintage – moves squarely to the ripe plum and black cherry end of the varietal spectrum. Despite being big and powerful, it’s balanced, complex and satisfying with discernible spice and black pepper cool-climate characters. Winemakers Ian McKenzie and Ken Pollock describe 2008 as, “our vintage from hell, easily the most difficult one we have experienced in Blackjack’s 20-plus years”.
Parker Estate Terra Rossa Merlot $40 Southern Coonawarra, South Australia
Merlot earned its confused identity in Australia by being too sweet, too simple, too oaky, too soft or too extracted – and sometimes by not even being merlot at all, but cabernet franc. Parker’s, though, is the real thing, from a small clay pan in Southern Coonawarra. Winemaker Peter Bissell pointed the vineyard out to me once, theorising that the clay retarded growth of the vines and its canopy, allowing them to concentrate on the fruit. Having recently visited Bordeaux’s home of merlot, Chateau Petrus, with its boot-clogging clay and spindly vines, the theory gelled. More importantly, the wine stacks up – so fine, so elegant, so fragrant, so packed with berries, yet so firm and assertive.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Nothing de-romanticises wine like TV footage of white-clad show judges spitting perfectly good wine into buckets. It just seems so far removed from the simple enjoyment of wine with food.
Certainly wine judging holds little appeal for spectators. But for judges it opens the door ever wider on the vast world of wine. And, from experience, the pleasure of drinking wine increases as our frame of reference expands.
Our frame of reference expands every time we taste a new wine. The more adventurous we become, the more we learn. And even in normal drinking situations we can move faster up the ladder by doing little things like serving wine in pairs for comparison. When we do this we become our own wine judges.
And if we conceal the bottles as we serve pairs of wine to our dinner guests, we have a masked tasting – a mini wine show. When we can’t see the bottles, don’t know what’s served and don’t know what the price is, we’re left only with our senses. Do the wines look, smell and taste good? Do they please us? Can we tell if they’re chardonnay or riesling; pinot noir or shiraz; young or old?
It’s a terrific way of widening our exposure to wine in its natural setting with food. And if you’ve like-minded friends, you can take turns hosting wine-tasting dinners. It’s a great way of throwing the wine door wide open.
For a decade now we’ve been part of a tasting group that formed some years earlier. Six couples gather six times a year – each couple hosting one event annually.
The host couple prepares a main meal and select and buy the wine. The others in the group bring a plate and their own glasses and contribute money for the wine. But the wine selection is entirely up to the host. And none of the other guests, and generally the wine buyer’s partner, don’t know what’s on the wine list.
We kick off with an aperitif as people arrive, usually a sparkler or sherry from a masked bottle or decanter. Between the chitchat, we offer comments on the wine, often prompted by questions from the host – simple stuff like “is it Australian or imported?”, “OK, it’s imported, do you think it’s French?” And so it goes until the wrapper comes off.
At the dinner table, the wines arrive in decanters, usually in sets of three but sometimes in pairs. We launch into the food, two or three glasses of wine in front of every person.
By now we’re well into a rollicking dinner party for 12 – and the conversation goes everywhere. Prompted by the host’s questions, though, it eventually returns to wine. We compare the wines, describe them and gradually drill down to what they are, led by the host’s questioning and acknowledgment of correct answers. Some folks pay more attention than others. But it doesn’t matter. We’re all enjoying the wines.
We’re all learning something, too. And we’re all put on the spot, in gentle kind of way: OK, so you have three wines in front of you. What are they? Are they all the same variety? Yes. So what are they, riesling or semillon?
The latter question came up at our most recent gathering. We had in front of us a pair of very dry, acidic whites, the first quite austere, the second a little more fruity. Only one taster spotted riesling (correctly) at first glance and held steady throughout the quiz. The rest of equivocated, thrown off by the austerity of the wines.
The first was Eden Road Canberra District Riesling 2010 – a pale, low-alcohol, bone dry white that may or may not develop richer flavour over time. It’d be an act of faith to expect so. But this is a respected winemaker, so we can’t write off the chances. The second wine was Helm Classic Riesling 2010.
After this unexciting start, though, the second pair of whites threw riesling into perspective. Here was the value of masked tasting, a couple of sniffs and sips bringing instant enlightenment, and huge drinking pleasure.
The first wine offered a beautiful fragrance – floral and excitingly limey at the same time, followed by the most delicate, pure lime-like flavour and zingy, fresh acidity. This was pure, distinctive Watervale – a sub-region of South Australia’s Clare Valley.
Its companion offered a more powerful expression of riesling, less revealing of its fruit flavour but with the structure and fine but intense acid backbone of Polish Hill, another Clare sub-regions.
What classics they were and so readily identifiable – a mark of great regional specialties. The wines were Grosset Springvale Vineyard Watervale Riesling 2010 and Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2010 – Australia’s most revered rieslings.
We moved on to reds and after a pair of mediocre pinot noirs, one from Willamette Valley Oregon, the other from Coal River Valley Tasmania, enjoyed two more pairs of beautiful regional specialties.
The group fairly quickly honed in on the glorious Best’s Bin O Shiraz 2005 and Seppelt St Peter’s Vineyard Shiraz 2005 – spicy, savoury wines from neighbouring vineyards at Great Western, in Victoria’s Grampians region.
Then Cullens elegant, refined Cabernet Merlot 2008 and Moss Wood’s powerful Ribbon Vale Cabernet Merlot 2008 provided contrasting, but recognisable, examples of this great Margaret River style.
Of course, we can drink and enjoy these wines on their own. But serving them in masked pairs or trios, selected by someone else, increases the mystery, sharpens our senses, challenges our assumptions and ultimately widens our experience. Indeed, the more adventurous we become the more we enjoy ourselves.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Brewpubs tempted to package take-away beer face the dilemma of how to do it without degrading quality. While bottles seem an obvious choice, it’s a risky option, requiring expensive equipment and new processes, often beyond the resources of small operators.
Canberra’s Wig and Pen, for example, brews, kegs and serves its delicious beers on site in the city, but makes and packages its only bottled product, Kemberry Ale, at De Bortoli’s William Bull brewery in Griffith, New South Wales.
Taking another tack, Zierholz brewpub, Fyshwick, recently launched take-away five-litre steel kegs. Brewer Christoph Zierholz packages these on site presents few difficulties.
He offers the full range of Zierholz beers in the kegs at the brewery. And the Local Liquor chain offers Zierholz German Ale through about 15 of its outlets. Zierholz hopes soon to widen distribution through independent retailers.
Chateau Shanahan successfully road tested five-litre kegs of Zierholz German Ale and Pilsner for this column.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Zierholz German Ale 5-litre keg $40 Like bread straight from the oven, beer from the vat gives a thrilling freshness. Zierholz five-litre kegs deliver the near-vat experience, in this instance with a German Kolsch style – a mild, fruity golden ale with a lager-like delicate, crisp, smooth flavour and clean, lingering hops bitterness.
Murray’s Whale Ale 330ml $3.98 Port Stephens-based Murray’s brews this in the American style – a toned down version of Bavarian styles, with their strong banana-like fruity esters. Taking away the esters leaves a light, tangy, ale with the abundant froth, smooth, creamy texture and tangy lemon freshness typical of wheat ale.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Pizzini King ValleySangiovese Shiraz 2009 $17.50–$19 Il Barone 2006 $40–$43
Fred and Katrina Pizzini’s vineyards, in Victoria’s King Valley, reflect the family’s Italian heritage. They offer straight Italian varietals, but sometimes blend Italian grape varieties with old Australian favourites, of French origin. These are Italian in style, with an Aussie accent. In the sangiovese shiraz blend, shiraz adds a fruity g’day to the mid palate of a wine generally dominated by the lean, savoury, dry sangiovese. It’s a lighter style for pizza, pasta and picnics. Il Barone, a serious blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, sangiovese and nebbiolo, delivers huge drinking satisfaction in a unique rich and fruity but dry and savoury way.
McWilliams Mount Pleasant “Jack” Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $14.99–$17.99, Coldstream Hills Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $27.99–$34.99
Coonawarra cabernet at $17.99 or less? Yes indeed, and it’s a decent, drink-now drop, made from McWilliams large holdings in the area. It smells and tastes like cab sauv – ripe berry flavours and elegant structure – with a clever touch of oak filling the mid palate, and finishing firm and dry. McWilliams named it after Jack McWilliam, founder of the Riverina’s first winery. Riverina and Mount Pleasant (Hunter Valley) are both a long way from Coonawarra, so I wonder about the label. For double the price Coldstream Hills delivers a highly polished, deeply flavoured cabernet for the long haul. It’s a gem.
Tim Adams Clare Valley Riesling 2010 $19–$25 Grosset Springvale Watervale Riesling 2011 $37
Riesling’s unique finesse and delicacy show in these two lovely but very different Clare Valley whites. Tim Adams’ version, at a low 11.5 per cent alcohol, starts a little on the austere side with the delicious, teasing, racy, lemony edge of just-ripe riesling. But a core of delicate fruit offsets the lemony tartness. Great value and potentially long cellaring here. Grosset’s classic appeared in a masked tasting held by Jeir Creek’s Kay Howell. This is perfection: classic Watervale (a Clare sub-region) floral and lime aroma; amazingly fine, gentle, juicy, limey palate and clean, fresh, lingering acidity.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
It’s probably hard to imagine fear and trepidation in a wine reviewer’s life. Certainly wine never speaks back, no matter how much we loathe or love it. But wine can be somebody’s life work and sinking the boot in can be, as a colleague once quipped, like saying your daughter’s ugly.
Well, the samples arrived from a winery never visited, from a winemaker never met and the editor’s tight deadline called for a quick response — and no option to move onto something else. These wines had to be reviewed.
Out from the case came the nine bottles of red, cork sealed (why cork?) with moulded plastic completing the closure – like those old waxed bottles.
Cut the plastic, pull the corks, pour the first wine – one of four pinot noirs from various sites in the Adelaide Hills. Instant relief. Anton van Klopper your daughters are beautiful. A beautiful, sumptuous wine, so gentle, so complex and easy to drink. Nice stalky note from whole bunch ferment (perhaps; smells and tastes that way).
The fetching label, based on a child’s drawing of a small girl offering her mum a flower, reads “Domaine Lucci, Basket Range, Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2010”. No back label. But we read on the website about Basket Range being part of the Adelaide Hills, home to one of Anton van Klopper’s vineyards.
Little Creek Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir 2010 presents a fuller flavour and other bits of the pinot spectrum. It’s equally sumptuous and lovely to drink. And so Jim’s Vineyard 2010 and Monomeith Vineyard 2010 sketch more of the pinot story – Jim’s from the Uraidla Valley, with its pure strawberry highlights and Monomeith, from Ashton Hills with its sweet, earthy, complex Burgundian notes.
We learn little from the label of Domaine Lucci Red 2010. No variety. No location. But it’s a Rhone style blend – another plush, spicy, lovable red, but with firmer tannin the pinots. The next, labelled simply and colourfully as Gramp Ant 2010 Blewett Springs (a sub-region of McLaren Vale), continues the sumptuous theme, albeit with tight tannins. What is this wine?
We shift gear into Danby McLaren Vale Grenache Mataro Shiraz 2010 – same theme, but here we enjoy the fragrant grenache highlights and rich, earthy softness of the blend.
Domaine Lucci McGunya Vineyard Adelaide Hills Mere Syrah 2010 is brilliant – a supple, spicy, elegant cool-climate style to sip forever. More please.
And finally Domaine Lucci Basket Range Adelaide Hills Merlot 2010, a leafy edged, idiosyncratic, plummy, plush red with the firm, lingering tannins of the variety.
These are wonderful wines – the four pinots being the highlights. Anton van Klopper calls them natural wines, spontaneously fermented, unfiltered with no additives save a squirt of sulphur dioxide before bottling.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Watch out beer, is cider stealing your fans? In March 2010 AC Nielsen reported cider as the “fastest growing liquor category in 2009” with the value of sales jumping by 37.2 per cent in the December 2009 quarter alone.
Cider’s growth continued in 2010 and in the cool summer of 2010–11 may have stolen sales from beer. Both Foster’s and Coca Cola Amatil’s brewing arms recently attributed slow sales to the cool summer.
But in an interview for the Adelaide Advertiser, Coopers Brewery chairman, Glen Cooper, said his company was trying to assess whether cider is “robbing from beer 100 per cent or is it robbing from wine or alcopops”.
Then in the same article cider maker Steve Dorman said he believed cider growth came from beer drinkers having “a cider as a spacer”.
Whatever the truth, there’s no denying the increase in numbers of ciders on retail shelves and on tap in bars.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Bridge Road Hans Klopek’s Hefe Weizen 330ml $4.05 With wheat beers we look first for a big, fine-textured, long-lasting head. Alas, Hans Klopek flopped, dead flat – an experience completely at odds with Bridge Road’s high reputation. The aroma and mildly acidic palate also lacked the style’s usual aroma and punch. A bit of QA needed here.
Coldstream Brewery Apple Cider 330ml 6-pack $16.99 Coldstream claims to ferment its ciders from fresh Victorian apples, not concentrate as used in some brands. Using cool ferments and cold filtration, they aim for a pure expression of apple. The aroma’s light and pure; ditto the light but crisply apple-like palate with its crunchy acidity, countered by natural fruit sweetness.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
No vintage is all bad or all good. Even in the current cool, wet, mildew-riddled season endured by Canberra vignerons, bright spots and hope remain among the devastation, albeit with an anxious eye on the weather.
After a decade-long run of hot, early vintages, Canberra looks distinctly cool climate in 2011, with harvest times likely to revert to those experienced in the seventies, eighties and early nineties.
In the Nanima Valley, Murrumbateman, Ken Helm says he escaped the mildew losses and has a good crop on the vines. He expects to begin the riesling harvest in early April, several weeks later than in 2010.
At nearby Jeir Creek, Rob Howell says he harvested pinot and chardonnay for sparkling wine from Hall on 7 March – weeks later than similar material in recent years. Howell says the crop, being processed at his Murrumbateman winery, is for a commemorative bubbly to be released for Canberra’s centenary in 2013.
Kay Howell says the Jeir Creek vineyard remains in good shape, despite some minor fruit loss early in the season. Timely spraying against mildew did the trick, she says, nervously eyeing clouds building up to the east. “But we don’t want any more rain”, she adds.
At Lerida Estate, Lake George, co-owner Anne Caine laughs, “The application of large sums of money saved the day. We have a pretty good crop”.
Caine’s husband Jim Lumbers hopes their luck will hold. He says, “In August we looked at the long range weather forecast and planned for a wet, cool vintage.
We bought a year’s supply of sprays, a hedging bar for our tractor and hired more people. It’ll push our production costs from $800 to $5,000 a tonne”. “We’ve hedged, shoot thinned, fruit thinned and leaf plucked”, says Lumbers – all aimed at exposing fruit to the air and not overburdening the vines’ ripening capacity.
When I spoke to Jim on 14 March he was harvesting pinot noir for rose. He said, “it’s coming in at 10–11 Baume [around 11 per cent alcohol potential] with lovely fresh flavours. We’d normally be picking material like this in the last week of February”.
Like others in the district, Lumbers views botrytis as the main threat. “It’s heart-in-mouth stuff”, he says, grateful that recent rain fell at night. If it comes during the daytime “we’re sunk”, he believes,
But at the moment the vineyard’s looking beautiful as a result of all the work, neatly hedged, green and laden with big, fat bunches. Lumbers reckons the sheer size of bunches and berries could compensate for the fruit thinning they’ve conducted. He adds, “I’ve never seen anything like the merlot. The berries are as big as plums”.
Nick Spencer, winemaker at Eden Road Wines, in the Kamberra complex, describes 2011 as “bizarre – what looked like being a very, very scary vintage because of disease is now shaping up to be possibly stunning if we can avoid botrytis”.
More rain, says Spencer, brings two risks to quality: botrytis and flavour dilution. Botrytis damage, provided it’s not too rampant, can be mitigated by hand sorting fruit in the winery, discarding bunches affected by the disease. But nothing can be done about dilution. He’s hopeful the region may scrape through March without significant rain.
Spencer sees an atypical, but exciting, ripening pattern in Canberra and nearby Tumbarumba this year. “The flavours are ripe, but the sugar’s not there – it’s more like cooler parts of France and Europe”, he says.
Typically in Australia, sugar (and therefore potential alcohol content) develops early. This is one measure of ripeness. But as sugar builds, winemakers sweat on the arrival ripe fruit flavour, accompanied by ripe tannins.
This year, says Spencer, he’s tasted beautifully ripe Tumbarumba chardonnay and intensely floral Canberra riesling with potential alcohol of just 11 per cent. He expected pinot gris to be the first Canberra fruit he’d harvest, just after the Canberra Day long weekend, closely followed by the first of the riesling.
He believers the very ripe 2008 and 2009 vintages tended to blur regional differences, but anticipates in the cooler 2011 season “expressive wines, revealing regionality and site characters”.
Spencer estimates that by December 2010 Canberra district had already lost about 50 per cent of its crop to downy mildew. Subsequent mildew outbreaks and the potential for botrytis to develop could result in total losses of 60–70 per cent across the district.
At Brindabella Hills, Hall, Roger Harris expects a quiet time after processing fruit from his own vineyard. Harris makes wines for many other grape growers in the district. But this year, he says, “My clients don’t have any fruit”, mostly because of downy mildew.
The losses, however, are not uniform across the district. Stories of success and failure in 2011, he believes, had much to do with the timing of flowering, rainfall and spraying.
“Like everyone else in the district”, says Harris, “we seemed to spend most of the year spraying”. And for Brindabella Hills, at least, the spraying proved effective. Harris says he expects a normal yield across the vineyard of 7.5 to 10 tonnes a hectare – with one exception. Cabernet sauvignon, a late flowerer, failed totally last spring, so there’ll be no crop at all.
By 14 March, Harris had already harvested a “good yield of sauvignon blanc of exciting quality”, with modest but normal sugar and higher than normal acidity. He says the high acidity really accentuates the fruit flavour.
Riesling, he says, shows the first signs of botrytis but it’ll be in the winery out of harm’s way by Wednesday 16 March. Samples of juice looked terrific, with acidity even higher than in the sauvignon blanc – a positive for flavour intensity and longevity, even it means reducing acidity in the winery.
This is rare in Australia, but common in parts of New Zealand. Harris says he’s done it only once before, to fruit from a grower in Tumbarumba.
Harris says the tropical rain pattern coming our way threatened outbreaks of botrytis. However, his remaining variety, shiraz, still a few weeks from ripening, offered some resistance to the disease because of its thick skin and loose, open bunches.
Harris expects the vintage to produce exceptional whites, with reds “very cool climate in style”. Like all of Canberra’s vignerons, he’ll be monitoring his vineyard closely and hoping for the best.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Philip Shaw The Architect Chardonnay 201 $20 Koomooloo vineyard, Orange, New South Wales It takes just a few sips of “The Architect” to see why Orange and chardonnay intersect. The area’s cooler sites produce pristine, intense varietal flavours. And, as Philip Shaw demonstrates, these flavours can be captured and delivered for our pleasure at a modest price. He sources the wine from “our younger vines, planted in 1995” – a particularly cool, south-facing block. It’s a tingly, fresh white with a delicate core of citrus and nectarine varietal flavour, tightly wound with natural acidity and underpinned by a subtle textural and flavour influence of yeast lees.
Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2010 $33.99–$39.99 Tumbarumba, New South Wales In 1982, Ian and Juliet Cowell established vines for sparkling wine in high, cold Tumbarumba. Others followed, and by the late eighties Seppelt was sourcing high quality sparkling material from the area. Adelaide Steamship later blended Seppelt and Penfolds together, giving Penfolds access to Tumbarumba fruit. Subsequently, chardonnay from Tumbarumba became a key player in the “white Grange” project that culminated in the company’s flagship chardonnay, Yattarna. Bin 311, a virtual poor person’s Yattarna, is a spin off of that project – an ultra fine, taut, elegant, utterly delicious, chardonnay.
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Gewurztraminer 2008 $29.99–$33.99 Woodbury Vineyard, Eden Valley, South Australia The Woodbury vineyard, planted by Tollana in the 1960s, ultimately became part of the conglomerate of assets owned by Foster’s Treasury Wine Estates. One part of the vineyard, prosaically named Bay F1 Block, produces wonderful gewürztraminer – the muscat clone of traminer. Despite having identical DNA they taste totally unalike – traminer being vinous and savoury, and gewürztraminer sensuously muscat like. This dry version, captures the variety’s pure, heady musk and Turkish delight aroma and flavour. While a few months maturation on yeast lees added textural richness to a wine that seems made for Asian food.
Philip Shaw The Idiot Shiraz 2009 $20 Koomooloo vineyard, Orange, New South Wales In a wine industry first, an idiot won a gold medal and three trophies at this year’s Royal Sydney Wine Show. It wasn’t just any idiot, but a pure, vibrant, peppery, fine-boned, medium-bodied shiraz from Philip Shaw’s Koomooloo vineyard, located 900 metres above sea level at Orange. Shaw, former chief winemaker for Rosemount, planted the vines in 1989 and grafted them to shiraz between 2003 and 2005. “The Idiot”, an appealing drink-now wine, is one of several in Shaw’s character series. Shaw says, “with the lighter, livelier food of today, I believe wine should be a match for that”.
Punt Road Airlie Bank Cabernet Merlot 2008 $18 Yarra Valley, Victoria Like the two Philip Shaw Orange wines reviewed today, Airlie Bank delivers true regional, varietal character at a realistic price. The Yarra Valley, because of its diverse sites, produces high quality in an unusually wide range of styles. Airlie Bank, for example, combines the ripe, bright cassis-like flavour of cabernet with merlot pluminess. It’s a seamless, medium-bodied combination, leading with vibrant fruit in the aroma and palate, and finishing with the fine but quite firm tannins of the two varieties. It’s made to enjoy young.
Helm Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $52 Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales Long-term collaboration between winemaker Ken Helm and neighbouring grape grower, Al Lustenberger, ultimately produced outstanding riesling. A similar collaboration on cabernet sauvignon, however, hasn’t scaled the same heights – despite significant quality shifts in recent years. The 2008 is probably the best yet, built on sumptuous, ripe varietal fruit, boosted by the obvious but not too intrusive flavour of Missouri oak. Helm says he and daughter Stephanie “have been working hard to balance the oak and fruit” and from 2009 have been trialling French oak alongside the American. This is good wine, though I baulk at the price when classics like Majella Coonawarra are available at $33.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011