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Monthly Archives: May 2011
Zilzie Regional Collection Victoria Viognier 2009 and Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2010 $14–$16 A couple of years back Murray-Darling based Zilzie branched out into regional varietals, including a Yarra Valley Chardonnay (reviewed last Wednesday) and these two whites. The Viognier comes from warmer parts of Victoria and the deep colour and big palate reflect this. Like most varieties, viognier comes in a spectrum of styles, in the case the warmer end, featuring generous marmalade and apricot flavours and a rich, firm texture. The pinot gris, from the cool Adelaide Hills, presents fresh, vibrant pear-like varietal flavour on a full, dry palate with a pleasantly savoury bite in the finish.
Zilzie Regional Collection Barossa Valley Shiraz 2009, Wrattonbully Merlot 2009 and Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $14–$16 Like the Zilzie whites, these reds deliver regional varietal flavours at a fair price, though, in fairness, probably not to a level offered by the best grower-makers in the same regions. The Barossa wine offers full, plump shiraz flavours with appropriately soft tannin. The merlot appeals because it actually smells and tastes like plummy, earthy merlot – it’s medium bodied, dry and suggests Wrattonbully is a good region for this variety. The Coonawarra cabernet, too, expresses the region and variety – with leafiness and cassis and firm backbone of tannin.
Henschke Barossa Johan’s Garden 2009 $40–$44 Barossa vignerons, including Stephen and Prue Henschke, rate 2009 very highly for grenache, the backbone of this unbelievably, mouth-wateringly, delicious blend. Stephen says it’s from “old vines on the foothills of the Light Pass Range where friable red clay and loam over limestone delivers spicy, elegant, structured grenache with gorgeous silky tannins”. That’s a realistic assessment of this high-toned, aromatic, silk-smooth blend. Grenache (71 per cent) sets the tone, but mourvedre (20 per cent) adds colour depth, spicy notes and savoury, taut tannins, while shiraz fattens up the mid palate. It’s irresistible now but should evolve well for five to ten years.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
At Chateau Shanahan we’ve experienced cellaring joy and disappointments over the years. But consistent pleasure in older bottles of Majella Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon and The Malleea cabernet shiraz, reminded us of this marvellous winery’s interesting transition from farming to grape growing to winemaking.
When brothers Brian and Anthony Lynn made the first Majella wine in 1991, they’d been growing grapes in Coonawarra for twenty-three years. They’d lived all their lives in the area. They’d grown fat lambs and wool long before vines took root on the family farm in 1968. Yet their first step into winemaking was, perhaps, even more tentative than their first step into grape growing had been two decades earlier.
Then, at least, there was a pre-arranged buyer for the grapes. Eric Brand, a good mate of George Lynn (Brian’s and Anthony’s late father), encouraged the planting of six acres of shiraz and agreed to buy the grapes to help satisfy a winemaking contract with Hardys.
The first Majella wine, a 1991 Coonawarra Shiraz, however, had no guaranteed buyers. If you’d asked Brian or Anthony where the business was headed when the wine was released in 1993, they’d not have foreseen Majella’s complete transition from contract grape grower to leading wine estate in just ten years.
“People ask, were we visionary?” says Brian ‘Prof’ Lynn. “And I say, not really”. But Majella’s huge success wasn’t just blind luck either. It’s a success that grew from strong, deep roots in the Coonawarra landscape and community, fertilised by experience, skill, imagination, good management and – during it’s first decade of winemaking at least – by impeccable timing.
The release of Majella’s 1991 shiraz in 1993 came at the beginning of the unprecedented global red-wine boom. The wine was, and still is, a brilliant drop, beautifully packaged (designed by Barbara Harkness) and realistically priced.
I recall my first taste of it on a wine-buying trip to Coonawarra with David Farmer in September, 1993. At a little cook-your-own steakhouse, Nibs – owned at the time by Bill Brand and ‘Prof’ Lynn – the new Majella label caught our eye amongst all the familiar names on display. Who the hell was this we wondered? Nice label.
Nice wine, too – a classy drop, packed with Coonawarra’s unique ripe-berry flavour. Whether it was our huge grins or the label that prompted Patricia Lynn (Prof’s and Anthony’s mum) to approach us, I’ll never know, because we never met again. She died a few years after our visit.
But this former mayor of Penola (the little town at Coonawarra’s southern tip) turned on the warmth and charm for her Canberra visitors with tales of wartime Canberra. “I was the minutes secretary to the Minister’s secretary’, she told us of her job with the Minister for Supply. She knew ‘Chif’ and Nugget Coombs and that “after the bombing of Leeds, that Lithgow was the only remaining .303 manufacturing plant in the allied group”.
And she told us of Majella. In the post war years she met and married George Lynn, moved to the Coonawarra area where they produced wool on a property just to the south of Penola. One night Patricia told George she wanted to name the property ‘Majellan’ – after St Gerard Majellan, the catholic patron saint of mothers. She’d lost her first child and wanted another.
George’s response was pragmatic. ‘Majellan’ was too long to stamp on a wool bale. End of conversation – although a memorable night in other ways, recalled Patricia. Next morning, George offered a solution. Drop the “n”. And so Majella was born as a wool farm. In 1960 it became a fat lamb farm, too, when George bought his uncle Frank’s block in the heart of Coonawarra. In 1968 Majella became a vineyard. And in 1991, a wine name.
The Lynn family’s move into grape growing, recalls Prof, followed a high school geography project on Coonawarra viticulture. With luminaries such as Bill and Jock Redman, Eric Brand and Phil Laffer advising him, the young Prof’s interest shifted from the theoretical to the practical.
With advice and encouragement from Eric Brand of Laira vineyards, Prof and his dad planted six acres of shiraz in 1968. The propagated the vines from cuttings taken, on Bill Redman’s advice, from Arthur Hoffman’s ‘North Block’ (now Redmans). Prof remembers Bill Redman saying, “I’ll take you to Hoffman’s, because they’re the best shiraz in Coonawarra”.
Similarly, when the Lynns decided to add cabernet sauvignon to the mix old Jock Redman of Wynns advised them to take cuttings from vines he’d marked with white paint. These, he said, produced the best wine.
With a steady contract to supply grapes to Eric Brand, the Lynns were happy with those early grape-growing years. But in 1974 George became ill. By the time he died in 1976, the Brand contract had ended and nobody wanted Coonawarra shiraz – only cabernet, which made up only one third of the Majella plantings.
“If we didn’t have wool, we would’ve gone broke”, says Prof. Business improved in the early eighties when Majella began selling grapes to Wynns – an arrangement that lasted until vintage 2001. And it was grapes that saved the Lynns in the wool crash of the late eighties and early nineties. “We would’ve gone broke without grapes, then”, laughs Prof.
So, by the time Majella made its first wine in 1991, it had served a long, tough apprenticeship learning how to grow high-quality wine grapes good enough to sell even in tough times.
Mature red vines on a good Coonawarra plot, and the ability to produce top grapes, says Prof, is the family’s biggest asset – entrusted, in the early days, to his old mates, the Brands and their talented winemaker, Bruce Gregory.
Then in 1999 Gregory joined the Lynn family full time at Majella’s new winery, next to the cellar door, opened in 1996.
Following its complete transition to winemaking a decade ago, Majella cemented its reputation as one of the region’s great winemakers. The wines all bear the regional style stamp.
Not surprisingly cabernet sauvignon ($33), Coonawarra’s great specialty, now sparks more interest than the shiraz ($30) that blazed the way for the label from the 1991 vintage. And the $75 long-lived flagship, The Malleea, a cabernet shiraz blend, hits profound heights. The same blend, in the $18 The Musician label , provides drink-now pleasure without diminishing the Coonawarra signature.
As the world’s wealthiest people pay ever greater prices for Bordeaux’s cabernet-based reds, we can get on quietly drinking estate-made Majella, and other Coonawarra and Margaret River reds, of comparable quality, at a fraction of the price.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2009 $55 Margaret River, Western Australia Our best chardonnays almost invariably show the winemaker’s thumbprint, generally related to fermentation and barrel-ageing options and whether or not the maker allows or blocks the secondary malolactic fermentation (this softens the wines as it converts malic acid to lactic acid). What the best have in common is an intense fruit flavour that easily carries the winemaker’s “seasoning”. In Heytesbury, Virginia Willcock blocks the “malo”, ensuring the citrusy, taut acid sings all the way across the palate. It carries the vibrant fruit flavour and barrel-derived characters gracefully, providing one the most delicious chardonnay experiences imaginable.
Pepper Tree Limited Release Chardonnay 2010 $22 Mount View, Lower Hunter Valley, New South Wales Last week we reviewed Pepper Tree’s chardonnay from the Venus vineyard, Orange – a beautiful white, revealing the keen acidity and intense nectarine-like flavours of cool-grown chardonnay. This week, Pepper Tree Hunter reveals the warmer end of the chardonnay flavour spectrum. It’s as fine and pure as the Orange wine, but it’s more peachy and rounded, with softer acid. It’s finely textured and despite the varietal purity, there’s a background flavour and structure complexity derived from oak fermentation and maturation. Both wines (and another chardonnay from Wrattonbully, South Australia) were made by Jim Chatto.
Kangarillo Road Primitivo 2008 $20–$22 Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale, Fleurieu, South Australia The two Kangarillo Road reds reviewed today reveal different aspects of the primitivo, or zinfandel grape. It’s not widely planted in Australia and perhaps most widely known through the Cape Mentelle Margaret River version. The cheaper of the Kangarilla Road pair, a Langhorne Creek-McLaren Vale blend, focuses on vibrant, fresh fruit flavours and an unusually high level of acidity. This seems to accentuate the fruit and add to the grip and structure of the wine. The flavour’s unique and it’s therefore a must for thrill seekers.
Kangarilla Road Black St Peters Zinfandel 2009 $32 McLaren Flat, McLaren Vale, South Australia Here the Kangarilla Road crew emulate the Californian style, using the American name for the varietal (primitivo in Italy) and making a wine of substance and complexity. It’s from a cooler part of McLaren Vale, says the press release, and certainly the wine shows a fruit intensity consistent with that. It’s aromatic, deeply coloured, deeply fruity and cut through with acidity and a fine, firm backbone of tannin. The layering of tannins and savouriness with the fruit give it a more serious, complex tone than the primitivo reviewed here today.
Tapanappa Cabernet Shiraz 2007 $51 Joanna, Wrattonbully, South Australia After Lion-Nathan’s acquisition of Brian Croser’s much-loved Petaluma Wine, Croser established Tapanappa with Jean-Michel Cazes of Chateau Lynch-Bages, Bordeaux, and Societe Jacques Bollinger, the parent company of Champagne Bollinger. In 2003 Tapanappa acquired Koppamurra Vineyard (established in 1974 by John Greenshields). The vineyard, since extended and renamed Whalebone, contributed the cabernet sauvignon to this blend, the shiraz coming from neighbour, Rob Hooper. Croser made the wine in the Petaluma Winery, Adelaide Hills. It’s very ‘Petaluma’ in style – clean, fresh and ripe but not over-ripe, beautifully balanced and not a hair out of place, so to speak. It’s elegant, restrained and likely to evolve well over time.
Zilzie Regional Collection Chardonnay 2010 $14–$16 Yarra Valley, Victoria Although based in the Murray-Darling region making good value, locally grown wines, Zilzie added a range of regional varietals to its portfolio in 2009. In 2010 they added this Yarra Valley chardonnay to the regional range. It sits well with the other two chardonnays reviewed here today as it offers yet another slant on this complex variety. Like the other two it’s barrel fermented, but the more melon-like flavour comes in a generous, reasonably complex palate that seems all about current drinking – without the delicate structure of the Hunter or finesse and complexity of the Margaret River wine.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
The Kingston Cider Company Hawkes Bay Perry 500ml $9.50 As a cider novice, I’ve sort of come to the belief that pear ciders aren’t as “peary” as apple ciders are “appley”, unless they’re from Normandy. Like the Norman versions, This New Zealand perry, starts delicate and clean with terrific, brisk acidity. The palate, though “pairy” thrills more for that vibrant acidity.
Moa Brewing Company Harvest Beer 2009 375ml $5.90 The subtitle reads, “A very rare beer from Aotearoa”. And what a wonderful beer it is, made from malted wheat, Nelson hops and cherries. The pale lemon colour and luxurious head are typical wheat ale, as is the heady, fruity aroma and zesty, fresh palate. The cherries add an exotic touch in the background.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
At www.beerandbrewer.com winemaker-turned-brewer, Brad Rogers, introduces the French wine concept of “terroir” into the beer dictionary.
Rogers, a partner at Stone and Wood Brewery, Byron Bay, writes of the pale ale style and “how we’re making it our own”.
He describes how pale ales, across a wide range of styles, can’t be beaten at revealing the complex world of hops. He mentions uber hoppy American pale ale, the highly aromatic Little Creatures from Australia and English and Indian versions.
He introduces wine’s “terroir” concept, writing, “with hops different conditions do translate to different flavours. The Cascade hops grown in the Pacific Northwest and the Cascade hops grown in Tasmania’s Bushy Park… display different attributes”.
The growing numbers of hop-season beers released are a practical revelation of hop varieties and hop “terroirs”.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Peter Lehmann Eden ValleyClassic Riesling 2010 $9–$12 Eden Valley Riesling 2010 $13.49–$18
We’re not sure what “classic” means any more, certainly it gives no clue about what lies inside the Lehmann “classic” bottle. Pour it in the glass, though, and we have delicious, soft, delicate low-alcohol riesling with a pleasing, moderate sweetness, balanced by crisp acidity – a pleasant, easy-drinking wine, whatever it’s called. But Lehmann’s dry riesling represents what I would call the “classic” Eden Valley style – a beautifully aromatic riesling with intense citrusy varietal flavour and a tight and tangy line of acid creating a mouth watering desire for another glass. It’s a wine to enjoy any time over the next four or five years.
Rosemount District Release Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $18–$20 Rosemount enjoys a long connection with Coonawarra, having owned a substantial vineyard towards the southern end of the famous “terra rossa” strip. It’s now part of Treasury Wine Estates, spun out of Foster’s. Treasury owns large tracts of Coonawarra, but whether the wine comes from the original Rosemount vineyard is not stated. Not that it matters, because the wine’s utterly delicious – a fine-boned, pure expression of elegant Coonawarra cabernet made specifically for early drinking. That means lots of vibrant, ripe, varietal fruit upfront and soft tannins – although there’s still a cabernet feel to them. An outstanding regional varietal at this price.
Rosemount District Release Robe Chardonnay 2010 $17–$20 Back in the 1990s Southcorp Wines established a vineyard on the Woakwine Range, a low ridge running parallel to the coast near Robe, South Australia. It’s slightly north and to the west of Coonawarra on the Limestone Coast. The vineyard produced graceful, elegant chardonnays under various labels, but now finds a home, it seems, in the Rosemount cellar. This is beautiful chardonnay, built on intense nectarine-like varietal flavour and delicate, bracing acidity. Fermentation and maturation in new and older oak barrels adds subtle, background leesy characters and a pleasing textural richness. This is drop-dead gorgeous for the price.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
In 1967 Wolf Blass winemaker, John Glaetzer, received a load of “beautiful, concentrated” cabernet sauvignon from Bill Potts’ vineyard, Langhorne Creek. Glaetzer turned those grapes into the first Wolf Blass Grey Label Cabernet Sauvignon.
Seven years later, inspired by those beautiful grapes, Glaetzer (still working for Blass) made John’s Blend No. 1 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, using fruit from Bill Potts’ vineyard.
Glaetzer’s small-production wine developed a loyal following, its reputation spread mainly by word-of-mouth. And in Canberra, the word spread mainly through wine merchant Jim Murphy, a long-term supporter of Wolf Blass and John Glaetzer.
A couple of weeks back, a disparate group of 11 Canberra followers – led by Charlotte Galloway, an ANU lecturer in Art History and Curatorship – raided their cellars to hold a John’s Blend vertical tasting: all the vintages, bar 1992, from 1990 to 2006.
No, not a sniff and spit tasting, but a leisurely stroll through the sequence over lunch on a crisp, sunny autumn day – hosted by Warwick McKibbin and fiancée, Renee Fry, and attended by Galloway, Jac and Kathy Cousin, Jenny and Peter Gibson, James Horne, Heather Smith, Martin Parkinson and yours truly.
A confession here: Chateau Shanahan contributed the 2002 and 2003 vintages, but John Glaetzer had given these to us some years back – we’d seldom tasted John’s Blend, so entered the tasting with few preconceptions.
We tasted the wines in pairs from oldest to youngest, therefore starting with the 1990 and 1991 and finishing at 2006. It’s an effective tasting method as there’s no rush, no palate overload and a natural pairing of wine with food.
We found wonderful consistency of style across the vintages – the thread linking all of the wines being a distinctive mint-eucalypt note associated with cabernet sauvignon from Langhorne Creek.
The wines go through an interesting transition from oakiness to fruitiness as they age. In the fully mature wines, oak seems barely detectable; and in the young vintages it’s an oak-fruit arm wrestle – a style that’s not in vogue today.
In this regard, the wines reminded me of a tasting, with Wolf Blass and John Glaetzer, of all the Wolf Blass Black Label wines a few years back. The veteran tasters, remembering the dark, oaky young Black Labels of the mid seventies, wondered where the oak had gone. All we could taste now were supple, mellow old wines with fruit to the fore.
Similarly, John’s Blend reminds us that it’s all a matter of balance – powerful fruit’s capable of gobbling up lots of oak over time, and the symbiotic combination produces complex long-lived wines.
John Glaetzer says there’s been no significant change to his winemaking technique or oak-maturation regime over the years. He ferments the wine a little cooler than industry standard, to preserve vibrant fruit flavours. He believes warm temperatures “boil off the fruit”.
And in a technique picked up from Wolf Blass (in turn learned by Blass from Grange creator, Max Schubert) Glaetzer finishes the ferments off in oak barrels.
Glaetzer continues to source fruit from Bill Potts’ Langhorne Creek Vineyard. However, in 1992 and 1993 he and Potts established the 32-hectare Pasquin vineyard nearby. In recent years, says Glaetzer, John’s Blend comes about 50:50 from the two vineyards. He makes only 1,000 cases of John’s Blend each year – but made none in 2011 for lack of suitable fruit.
Langhorne Creek, near Lake Alexandrina (south east of McLaren Vale), is one of Australia’s largest premium wine grape regions. A massive expansion there in the late nineties saw most of its fruit blended anonymously into multi-region blends. Blass reputedly called the region, “Australia’s middle palate”.
The Potts family pioneered the area from 1850 and remain in control today of Bleasdale Winery and vineyards. Bill Potts, one of the family, supplies Glaetzer from his own vineyard.
One of the most enduring reds from the area is Stonyfell Metala Shiraz Cabernet. It was made from 1932 by Jack Kilgour, and marketed originally as Stonyfell Private Bin Claret. Kilgour’s successor, Bryan Dolan, put the vineyard name, Metala, on the label. Dolan won the inaugural Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1962 with the 1961 Metala, the first vintage to bear the new label.
Langhorne Creek triumphed again in 1974, 1975 and 1976 with Wolf Blass’s historic Jimmy Watson trophy hat trick. But Blass’s powerful branding of his Black Label overshadowed the regional credentials.
In John’s Blend, Langhorne Creek cabernet sauvignon reveals its idiosyncratic charm consistently across the decades, with little peaks and troughs driven by vintage variations. With so much focus now on regional specialties, Glaetzer’s 37-year-old brand (like Kilgour’s 1932 Stonyfell Private Bin Claret) reminds us that this is not a new idea at all, but the perennial wine theme.
The current-release 2007 vintage John’s Blend (not in the tasting) is available at Jim Murphy’s for $29.95 and Kemeny’s of Sydney offer the 2006 at $29.99. Few wines at this price offers such a pedigree and proven long-term cellaring potential.
John’s Blend No 17 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 A perfect start to the tasting with this mature but still lively, sweet-fruited vintage with distinctive Langhorne Creek minty-eucalypt cabernet sauvignon to the fore. Has years ahead of it.
John’s Blend No 18 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1991 Looked, smelled and tasted older than the vibrant 1990 to its left, but nevertheless an appealing, if fading, old wine.
John’s Blend No 20 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 Tasted at the end of the lunch when our host, Warwick McKibbin, generously retrieved a magnum from the cellar. 1993 was a wet, disease-ridden vintage, comparable to 2011. But the wine defied the vintage stereotype, with its complex aroma and lean, taut palate still revealing mint-eucalyptus varietal flavour. Drying out a bit but still thoroughly enjoyable.
John’s Blend No 21 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 One of the standout vintages, seventeen years old but still red rather than brown with vibrant mint-eucalypt cabernet aroma and a juicy, elegant palate, finely-sculpted palate. Many years left.
John’s Blend No 22 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 One of the most talked about wines, championed by Charlotte Galloway and notable for its strident, chunky style, flanked on either side by the elegant 1994 and 1996 vintages. The mint-eucalypt character seemed particularly strong in this wine, matched by a firmer tannin structure.
John’s Blend No 23 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 My favourite drinking wine on the day, a particularly elegant, ethereal expression of its style – all sweet fruit, grace and suppleness. Long and delicious finish, many years of life ahead, but right now showing both youth and maturity.
John’s Blend No 24 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 A lesser vintage but in terrific condition, its lively palate notably leaner than the 1996 before it, but still sweet and supple.
John’s Blend No 25 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 Generally considered a great vintage but our first bottle seriously cork tainted and the second bottle showing a strange vegetal character and hollow palate. John Glaetzer reckons we struck two dud corks. He regards it as one of the greats. Down with cork.
John’s Blend No 26 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 A beautiful wine with a limpid, youthful colour, seductive ripe blackcurrant aroma pushing through the by now familiar mint-eucalypt. Despite the generous nose, the fruit on the palate comes teasingly wrapped in firm tannins – a delicious and elegant combination, suggesting heaps more drinking pleasure in the years to come.
John’s Blend No 27 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Looks, smells and tastes older than the exceptional 1999. Aged, autumn-leaf aromas join the mint-eucalypt notes and the palate seems old and tiring – a lesser vintage, remarkable that it’s still going after 11 years.
John’s Blend No 28 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 A bit of a closed shop this one, some chocolate joining the mint-eucalypt theme on a full but tight, tannic palate – though there’s fruit peeking through and probably a long life ahead of it. Seems to be neither young nor mature, so best left for a few more years.
John’s Blend No 29 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 First bottle cork tainted. Second bottle in good condition and just a baby – the first wine to show obvious oak aroma and flavour (the older wines had simply gobbled up all the oak, leaving fruit to star). A lovely aroma combining mint-eucalypt with cedary oak – these characters come through, too, on the tightly-bound palate. One of the greats but best left to mature for a few more years.
John’s Blend No 30 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 We’re now squarely among the young, oaky wines. Ripe mint-eucalypt-chocolate-blackcurrant fruit joins the oak but there’s not the length of flavour. It needs more time but probably won’t rate among the best.
John’s Blend No 31 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Well, yum yum, this one’s saturated with fruit – and oak, too, after three years in new French and American barrels. But as the old wines demonstrate, the oak will fade over time as the wine becomes finer and the fruit steps to the front. A very good vintage.
John’s Blend No 32 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 A big, ripe, crimson-rimmed wine: juicy, vibrant summer-berry flavours mingle with the regional mint-eucalypt. Big and chocolate-rich on the palate in an oak-fruit arm wrestle – but we know the winner in the long run, don’t we.
John’s Blend No 33 Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 A magnificent, deeply coloured, crimson-rimmed wine to finish. Enough oak to build a weekender, but in a complex matrix with deep, ripe varietal fruit (yes, tinted with mint-eucalypt). There’s great depth to the supple fruit and despite the wine’s youth and power, the structure’s poised and elegant. One of the greats.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
The Gate by Shingleback Shiraz 2006 $30–$35 McLaren Vale, South Australia The bling-laden label raises expectations – four gold and five silver medals from wine shows around the world. Pull the cork, thankfully no cork taint, pour the wine and instant joy. This is beautiful McLaren Vale shiraz, grown on the Davey family’s Shingleback vineyard, made in small, open fermenters and matured in a mix of new and one-year-old American and French oak hogsheads. It’s full bodied and at five years combines layers of vibrant varietal berry flavours with fine tannin, the unique “winey” character of bottle age and a deep, satisfying savouriness. Was the first bottle emptied at a recent tasting – the ultimate review.
Geoff Merrill Cilento Sangiovese 2005 $27 McLaren Vale, South Australia Generally it’s only the big-ticket wines released with bottle age. But here we have a modestly priced, very attractive six-year-old from veteran McLaren Vale winemaker, Geoff Merrill. Geoff writes that the wine spent three years in three and four year old American oak puncheons – it’s therefore had another three years mellowing in bottle. It’s Australian in style – meaning there’s more upfront sweet fruit than you see in its Italian sangiovese counterparts. But there’s a deep savouriness, tart acidity and tight tannic structure setting it apart from other varieties. It’s named after Merrill’s Italian great grandfather, Joseph Cilento.
Peppertree Venus Block Reserve Chardonnay 2010 $30 Orange, New South Wales Canberra-raised winemaker Jim Chatto rates 2010 “the best yet” from Peppertree’s Venus block vineyard at Orange. This is what good modern chardonnay is all about – grown in a climate cool enough to produce intense nectarine- and fig-like varietal flavour and high acidity. The intense, fine fruit and acidity drive the wine, easily carrying the flavours and textures woven in during oak fermentation and maturation on spent yeast cells. That combination of bright fruit flavours and barrel complexity, held together by a tingly spine of acidity, gives Peppertree 2010 tremendous appeal. Chardonnay doubters should try this for real drinking excitement.
Tyrrell’s Wine Single Vineyard Shiraz 2008 $27–$38.50 Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales During the Hunter’s disastrous 2008 vintage, Tyrrell’s bought eight tonnes of shiraz from Barton Estate, Murrumbateman. They trucked the grapes to the Hunter, made the wine and matured it in new 2,800-litre French oak casks. The wine turned out beautifully, winning a gold medal and trophy at last year’s National Wine Show, Canberra. In a recent masked tasting the Tyrrell’s wine and two other Canberra shirazes, Collector Reserve 2009 and Clonakilla O’Riada 2009, showed their class. The 2009s topped my scoresheet, but the Tyrrell’s rated highly, too, with its vibrant fruit, and tight, spicy elegant palate.
Pio Cesare Il Nebbio 2009 $33–$44 Langhe, Piedmont, Italy Pio Cesare, based in Alba, Piedmont, owns about 50 hectares of vines in key appellations, including Barolo and Barbaresco, source of perhaps Italy’s greatest red wines, made from the nebbiolo variety. But the Pio Cesare family also offers a fresh, fruity (and less expensive) face of nebbiolo in Il Nebbio. Early picking, carbonic maceration, low-temperature fermentation in stainless steel and bottling after only few months in the steel tanks, captures the variety’s vitality. The alluring, fruity aromatics are matched by a juicy, jube-like fruity palate – for a brief and lovely second before nebbiolo’s legendary firm tannins move in. These rule out Il Nebbio as a drink-alone wine. But with food the tannins vanish and the delicious fruit rules.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
The rapidly growing cider market includes a proliferation of niche brands and an increased demand for products made from fresh apples and pears – not juice and sugar.
At nearby Orange, Gail and James Kendell, adopted a winery-like approach, growing and making all of their product on site.
James Kendell says they’ve planted a wide range of English heritage cider apple varieties, including Kingston Blacks. The special varieties, he says, produce better cider than eating varieties partly because of their distinctive flavours but also because they contain skin tannins and high natural acidity – important components in cider’s flavour and structure.
The diversity, he says, allows him to produce a range of ciders (see www.smallacrescyder.com.au) based on traditional English styles. The still Somerset style reviewed today, for example, combines 13 apple varieties in the full and delicious west-country style.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
Small Acres Somerset Still Cyder (Orange, New South Wales) 750ml $16 This delicious cider comes from Gail and James Kendall’s property at Orange. James says they grow traditional English heritage cider varieties on the property and make the cider on site from fresh-picked apples. Somerset Still, says James, approximates England’s west country style. It’s made from 13 different varieties, pulped, pressed through cloth into stainless steel vats and fermented dry using an aromatic white wine yeast. The result is just lovely – a still, earthy, slightly grippy cider, unquestionably made from apples, and finishing with fresh, natural acidity.
Daleside Old Leg Over Yorkshire Beer 500ml $8.20 Gentle sweet fruity, malt aroma leads the away into Daleside – flavours that continue on the lively, rich, balanced palate. A touch of malted wheat injects its own briskness, independent of the hops bitterness and bite that that subtly finish off this delicious, one-more-glass Yorkshire ale.
Westons Premium Organic Pear Cider 500ml $7.60 The cliché-riddled website reveals little about cider growing or making. The cider, however, is wet and refreshing – not as crystal clear in its peariness, nor as delicate, as the best Norman versions across the Channel, but solid, rich, refreshingly low on gas and finishing with keen, tart acidity.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011