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Monthly Archives: August 2011
Chapel Hill Il Vescovo Tempranillo 2010 $20 McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills, South Australia Today we review two tempranillos, each emphasising a different facet of this Spanish variety. Chapel Hill’s version, made by Bryn Richards, leads with fruit – big, joyous buckets of it, ripe and mulberry like, gushing from the glass, up your nose and down your throat. Delicious stuff. Then tempranillo’s tannins kick in, adding another dimension to the flavour, not to mention a firm, but not hard, savoury finish. This is happy, slurpy tempranillo to enjoy in the full glory of its youth.
Tar and Roses Tempranillo 2010 $24 Alpine Valleys and Heathcote, Victoria Winemaker Narelle King writes, “the exceptionally low yields in 2010 from our tempranillo vineyards has produced a wine of deep concentration and powerful varietal character showing rich, ripe raspberries with classic chalky tannins”. The wine’s power, tannin and concentration contrast with the juicy fruitiness of the Chapel Hill tempranillo reviewed today. Vibrant red-berry fruit flavours mollify the pervasive tannins. Together they make a distinctive, well-balanced wine, probably with some cellaring ability.
First Creek Winemaker’s Reserve Semillon 2010 $35 Hunter Valley, New South Wales Hunter Valley winemaker of the year, Liz Jackson, made this delicious, delicate semillon. It’s a really high quality example of the lower-Hunter style – low in alcohol (11.5 per cent), light bodied and delicate, with distinctive lemony and lemongrass flavours and even a hint of lanoline. It’s a style that gathers weight, texture and gravitas with extended cellaring. Indeed, at one year we detect first signs of maturing texture – though the best remains a decade off.
Stefano Lubiana Primavera Chardonnay 2010 $28–$30 Lubiana Vineyard, Derwent Valley, Tasmania Steve Lubiana writes the big 2010 vintage compensated for a 2009 vintage reduced by poor flowering and fruit set. And in a rare double at this latitude, he rates quality among the best in his 20 years on the property. It’s a wonderful example of modern Australian chardonnay – vibrant, subtle and refined, but with deep flavour, full body and rich, fine texture. The underlying varietal flavour of white peach and grapefruit reflect the cool growing climate – as does the taut, fresh acidity.
First Creek Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz 2008 $42 Canberra District, New South Wales Several Hunter winemakers sniffed around Canberra for shiraz in 2008 – a disastrous year for the variety in their district. In this case the Silkman family’s First Creek and winemaker Liz Jackson struck gold. The wine’s at the bigger end of Canberra’s medium bodied style, combining really classy oak with vibrant, fresh, spicy fruit flavour. It’s a great example of oak and fruit working together. In this instance the oak seems to boost the fruit flavour, making the palate that little bit plumper and juicier.
Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $30 Bowen Estate Vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia Doug and Joy Bowen established their 33-hectare vineyard in 1972. In recent years daughter Emma joined the family business, boosting the workforce and probably contributing to a lift in wine quality. The Bowen’s latest release shows the particularly aromatic fruit of the vintage – in this instance a pure mulberry-like varietal fragrance meshing perfectly with a sweet cedary note of oak. This sweet, cedary fruit-oak combination carries through to the rich, elegantly structured palate.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 31 August 2011 in The Canberra Times
Rutherglen Estates Rutherglen Durif 2008 $19–$21.95 This is a comparatively tame expression of durif, a variety noted for its impenetrable colour, colossal tannins and high alcohol – endearing features to its die-hard fans. The estate’s marketing manager, Patrick Gehrig writes the wine, “is deliberately picked at varying levels of ripeness, not only to maximise the broad spectrum of flavours and aromas that the variety can display, but produce balanced, well structured and refined wine without the excessive alcohol levels which durif is often associated with”. It’s refreshing to find such a forthright and honest press release. It captures the essence of this big, warm, tannic but soft red.
Bowen Estate Coonawarra Shiraz 2009 $27.55–$30 There’s been some criticism of high alcohol in Australian red wines. It’s a complex subject, as even comparatively low-alcohol wines can appear hot and alcoholic, while in others like this beautiful Bowen Estate shiraz, high alcohol (15 per cent) simply disappears without trace into the sweet, ripe, supple fruit. It might be big, but it’s still graceful and elegant – a great joy to drink now and probably for a decade or more into the future. It seems even juicier and fruitier than the previous vintage. It’s made by father and daughter team Doug and Emma Bowen and at the bigger end of the current Coonawarra shiraz spectrum.
Jim Barry Clare ValleyLodge Hill Riesling 2011 $16–$20 Watervale Riesling 2011 $13.99–$18
In a generally flat riesling market, Peter Barry reports a 40 per cent increase in riesling sales over the last year. He crows, too, about 2011, “as a wonderful vintage in Clare for riesling”. Now we can judge for ourselves in these two rieslings from the Barry family estate – one for the elevated Lodge Hill vineyard near Clare township, the other from the Florita vineyard at Watervale in the valley’s south. The Lodge Hill wine shows lemony varietal flavour, delicacy and length. The Watervale wine seems more minerally with some background lime-like flavours. Both impress for their delicacy and lively acidity – features of this cool vintage.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 28 August 2011 in The Canberra Times
Stanton and Killeen Classic Muscat $40 (500ml) Rutherglen, Victoria Every so often this classic wine passes our lips and we fall in love with it all over again. It’s produced from the variety muscat a-petit-grains-rouge and fortified with spirit shortly after fermentation begins. This leaves a strong, sweet red wine that takes on a magic lusciousness over many years in barrel. “Classic” sits on the second rung of the age-based quality ladder, requiring 5–10 years barrel age and 200–280 grams per litre of residual grape sugar. Stanton and Killeen’s, average age 12 years in barrel, combines luscious, vivacious raisin like flavours with lovely patina of barrel age.
Louee Nullo Mountain Chardonnay 2010 $25 Louee Vineyard, Nullo Mountain, Rylstone, New South Wales Mudgee winemaker David Lowe made this unique wine from early-picked grapes grown at 1100 metres above sea level. At this altitude the grapes develop adequately ripe flavours at low sugar levels (as they do in, say, France’s very cool Champagne region). The result is a tasty, dry chardonnay at just 10.5 per cent alcohol. Lowe compares it in style to Chablis (Burgundy’s northernmost chardonnay outpost) – and there’s certainly an echo of this in the wine’s delicious, light, minerally flavour and bone dry finish. We might call it a Chablis style with Australian characteristics.
Stefano Lubiana Primavera Pinot Noir $27–$34 Lubiana Vineyard, Derwent Valley, Tasmania More and more we’re seeing Tasmania as Australia’s pinot-central, especially this special little site on the Derwent – next door to the equally promising Derwent Estate. Steve and Monique Lubiana producer several pinots on site – this early drinking style, the more substantial “Estate” ($45) and exquisite “Sasso” ($90). This year’s Primavera presents a seductive musk, spice and savoury aroma – characters that continue in the elegant, utterly delicious, finely structured palate. It drinks well now, but for all its upfront charm has the depth and structure to age for five or six years.
Barwang Shiraz 2009 $15.19–$20 Barwang Vineyard, Hilltops, New South Wales Barwang continues the style we’ve noted in other Hilltops shirazes from the 2009 vintage – aromatic, rich and fleshy with heaps of soft tannins. Farmer Peter Robertson planted the first vines on Barwang (and the region) in 1969 and by the late seventies occasionally drove his ute over to Canberra looking for customers. Even in those early days we could see the fruit quality. Robertson sold the vineyard to McWilliams in 1989, they expanded it to 100 hectares and now produce big volumes of amazingly good value reds like this.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riparosso 2009 (Illuminati) $11.99 Northern Abruzzi, Italy Dino Illuminati’s winery sits on a high ridge with stunning views east to the Adriatic and west to the Apennines. With his son Stefano, he specialises in rich, earthy reds made from the local variety, montepulciano – styles he’s restlessly polished and perfected in the vineyard and winery over a lifetime. He offers two entry-level reds – Riparosso 2009 at $11.99 and Ilico 2008 at $13.99 – imported by Dan Murphy. Riparosso is the earthier, firmer of the two – a great wine with roasted red meats; and Ilico offers similar rich flavours but with softer, rounder tannins.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Riserva Zanna (Illuminati) 2006 $39.99 Illuminati’s flagship red comes from the Zanna vineyard. Like the other Illuminati wines reviewed here, it’s made from the montepulciano grape. But it comes from the Colline Teramane zone and qualifies for Italy’s highest wine classification, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guarantita. At five years’ age, the colour’s remains a deep, vivid red and the aroma suggests black cherries, with herbs and spice. The palate’s juicy, deep and cut through with firm, savoury, drying tannins. This is a distinctive, thoroughly enjoyable red with a good cellaring life ahead. It’s imported by Woolworths and sold through Dan Murphy outlets.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 24 August 2011 in The Canberra Times
Red Knot by Shingleback McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010 $9.40–$14.95 Shaw and Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2009 $40 Brothers Kym and John Davey own and manage the 100-hectare Shingleback vineyard – a big enough operation to produce outstanding regional wines across a range of price points. Their entry-level Red Knot shiraz presents a bright and fruity face of the Vale, backed by savoury and earthy notes. It offers huge value, especially during periods of intense discounting. Shaw and Smith produces the Adelaide Hill’s benchmark shiraz – distinctly cool climate in its fine, elegant style. In 2009 the fruit seems particularly aromatic with a floral note boosting the vibrant red-berry character. There’s great flavour depth and an amazingly silky, smooth texture.
Tahbilk Nagambie Lakes Shiraz 2008 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $16.15–$19.95 The Tahbilk property sits on an anabranch of Victoria’s Goulburn River – rich, gently undulating country, spotted with massive, ancient eucalypts. It’s been in the hands of the Purbrick family since early last century and for a great deal of that time was run by Eric Purbrick, grandfather of the current custodian, Alister Purbrick. The extensive vineyard plantings cover many eras – starting with a block of shiraz planted in 1862. Even in a hot year like 2008, this comparatively cool region produced limpid, elegant wines with the property’s signature backbone of firm tannins. These are delicious, tight, savoury wines, far removed from Australia’s generally “fruit bomb” style.
Tulloch Hunter Valley Semillon 2011 $16 Fresh from the vine comes this lovely example of the Hunter Valley’s idiosyncratic, love-it or hate-it semillon style. It’s a comparatively soft expression of the style and therefore suited for early drinking – unlike some of the more austere versions that show their honeyed, toasty best only after 10, 15 or even 20 years in the bottle. It hits the scales at a modest 11.3 per cent alcohol, making it a particularly good company with lunch. The flavours are lemony and lemongrass-like, particularly brisk and fresh, but soft and refreshing in this light-bodied style – ready to drink now or over the next two or three years.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 21 August 2011 in The Canberra Times
Early in August, Lark Hill Winery bought an established 3.6-hectare vineyard at Murrumbateman. The purchase coincided with the release of Lark Hill Shiraz Viognier 2010 and Viognier 2011 (top drops today), both sourced from the vineyard.
Chris Carpenter commented, “We purchased the vineyard in order to secure our long-term supplies of these varieties, and have renamed it ‘Dark Horse Vineyard’. We will be converting this vineyard to biodynamic and organic farming this year”.
Carpenter says the vineyard comprises about 1.2 hectares each of shiraz and sangiovese, about 0.8 hectares of viognier, 0.4 hectares of marsanne and a small patch of roussanne (part of the Rhone Valley white family, along with marsanne and viognier).
The purchase increases the Carpenter’s vineyard holdings to about 10 hectares – the balancing being on their original vineyard, planted in 1978, on the Lake George escarpment, overlooking Bungendore. At 860 metres it’s Canberra’s highest, coolest vineyard.
Over the years David and Sue Carpenter pared back varieties that didn’t work on this cool site. As a result they now focus on the proven winners – riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir and, from 2006, Austria’s specialty white variety, gruner veltliner. By this time their son, Chris, had joined the business and shiraz had entrenched itself as Canberra’s standout variety.
The site being too cold for shiraz, the Carpenters sourced material from lower, warmer Murrumbateman for several years before taking the plunge and buying their own vineyard this month.
The vineyard was one of two blocks in the Ravensworth operation, associated with Bryan and Jocelyn Martin and other business associates over the years.
Martin says the Ravensworth name belonged originally to Brendan Ryan and an American partner.
Later, Michael Kirk, brother of Clonakilla’s Tim Kirk, bought Brendan Ryan’s section of the vineyard and converted Ravensworth from a partnership to a company, with Kirk and the Martins as shareholders. Kirk leased his section of the vineyard to the Martins.
In this month’s transactions, the Carpenters bought Kirk’s section of the vineyard and the Martins bought Kirk out of Ravensworth, to be become sole owners of the name as well as the other section of vineyard.
Martin says he planted the vineyards and knows every vine by name. But he’s relieved to be managing only one vineyard from now on. While the Carpenters vineyard includes the marsanne vines behind Ravensworth’s highly regarded dry white, Chris Carpenter says they will sell the fruit to Martin.
The Carpenters intend to convert the Murrumbatemen vineyard to certified biodynamic – an expensive process, expected to take about five years.
Chris Carpenter says they made no shiraz from the vineyard this year but expect to produce a shiraz viognier under the Dark Horse label in 2012. Lark Hill produced sangiovese from the site in 2007 and 2009 ¬ – the latter, still being offered at cellar door.
The Lark Hill Shiraz Viognier 2010 reviewed below came from the vineyard but had been bottled and labelled before the purchase, so doesn’t have the Dark Horse name on the label.
Lark Hill Canberra District Shiraz Viognier 2010 $40 Grown at Murrumbateman and made at Lark Hill, this wine combines shiraz and the white variety viognier (six per cent of the blend) fermented together. It’s a highly fragrant combination, inspired by the wines of Cote-Rotie in France’s northern Rhone Valley. In the 2010 vintage the floral, spicy and peppery aromas and flavours come with a marked savoury streak and quite firm tannins. That’s firm in a slinky, elegant, medium-bodied context. It builds in interest over time – always a good sign.
QR codes – smarties are onto them
Lark Hill introduced QR codes to their back labels with the release of their 2011 vintage whites – riesling, gruner veltliner and viognier.
QR stands for “quick response” code and refers to a little, square white-on-black pattern, readable by special scanners or smart phones. They’ve been a big deal in Japan for yonks and now seem certain to spread in Australia with the rapid uptake of smart phones – including Apple’s iPhone and other brands, such as Samsung Galaxy, using Google’s Android operating system.
Free scanning apps for the phones read QR codes, which can be encoded with a variety of data, including a link to a website. This is what the Carpenters use in their codes.
Chris Carpenter writes, “I believe we are the first Canberra wine to use QRs. Our aim is to provide what amounts to after-sales support for people – so if a bottle is picked up in a bottle shop, restaurant or similar, anyone with a smart phone can find out more about the wine including its RRP, reviews and our tasting notes.
We will be keeping these links as permanent pages on our website and continuing to add reviews and tasting notes as the wines age – so the QR codes should be useful even if somebody picks up a bottle in their cellar in 10 years (or 20!)”.
Using Bakodo (a free app) we zapped the Lark Hill codes on the Chateau Shanahan iPhone – and bingo, strait through to the detail on the website.
If you have a smart phone try scanning the QR code on Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner back label, pictured.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 17 August 2011 in The Canberra Times
Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner 2011 $40 Lake George Escarpment, Canberra District, New South Wales Following a suggestion from Jancis Robinson, a visit to Austria tasting its signature variety – and the fortuitous discovery of two vines in Tasmania – the Carpenters of Lark Hill propagated gruner veltliner from cuttings, then planted 1,000 vines in 2006. The Carpenters say the wine sits in style somewhere between the delicacy of riesling and opulence of chardonnay. The third vintage, from the cool, wet 2011 vintage, says they’re on a winner. It’s a pale lemon-green colour, with an appealing aroma like melon rind and spice and a full, richly textured palate, with a refreshing line of acidity.
Maipenrai Vineyards Amungula Creek Pinot Noir 2009 $13.33–$18 Sutton, Canberra District, New South Wales Maipenrai’s Brian Schmidt describes this unfined and unfiltered (but limpid) red as “not your typical inexpensive pinot”, and adds it “will be best in five years”. In the warm 2009 vintage Schmidt produced just 10 barrels of pinot noir – four destined for the flagship Maipenrai label (released in December) and six to the second label, Amungula. And he’s right that it’s not your fluffy, strawberry-like cheapie. It’s a solid pinot, the aroma showing earthy, stalky pinot aromas laced with oak – and the palate revealing similar flavours, plus a rich texture. Firm tannins permeate the wine, giving it a rustic charm. Footnote, 5 October 2011: Congratulation Brian on your Nobel Prize for physics.
Lark Hill Viognier Dark Horse Viognier 2011 $25 Dark Horse Vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales Today’s wine story discusses the Carpenter family’s recent purchase of the Dark Horse Vineyard, Murrumbateman. The acquisition gives them a stake in the main game in town – shiraz – and its sometimes fermentation companion, viognier. But viognier has a life of its own, too. In this case it’s a comparatively low-alcohol version (12.5 per cent), fermented with wild yeast. At this level of ripeness, viognier doesn’t present its full-bore, apricot-like flavour or viscosity. It’s a far more subtle wine, richly textured but not over the top, with an echo of apricot and ginger.
Balnaves Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $35 Dead Morris and Walker Vineyards, Coonawarra, South Australia What a close call it was between Balnaves and Majella in this week’s tasting – two outstanding Coonawarra cabernets, both definitively regional, but different nevertheless. Balnaves appealed for the power of its tannin coated varietal flavours – reminiscent of blackcurrant and black olives. Despite its power, the wine’s elegantly structured and capable of ageing well. Its cellar companion, The Tally 2009 ($90), seems even more tight-knit and concentrated, requiring years in the cellar – a big, elegant, multi-dimensional red, firmly in five-star territory. Both wines are sealed with ‘Pro Cork’ – a natural cork protected by a thin polymer membrane.
Majella Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $31–$33 Majella Vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia In the tasting-bench arm wrestle with Balnaves, Majella gained the advantage on several fronts, starting with its slightly more vivid, crimson colour. But it was the aroma that drew us in. It really sang, thanks, in part to a perfect matching of oak and fruit. The combination lifted the fruit aroma, adding sweet floral notes to a wonderful cedar-like character that combined oak with Coonawarra’s beautiful, vibrant blackberry-like varietal flavour. The very friendly, juicy palate closely reflected the aromas. But for all its harmonious, drink-now appeal, it’s a wine of substance and complexity needing time to reveal its best.
Peter Lehmann Semillon 2010 $9.50–$11.90 Barossa, South Australia Semillon grows well in Australia’s warm regions although its identity varies from era to era. In the eighties as the chardonnay boom took off, it found a marriage of convenience in blends, principally filling in for the chardonnay shortfall. For a time it found favour in oak-matured Clare and Barossa “white burgundy”. And today, it’s more likely to be seen in company with sauvignon blanc – a far more compatible union than its old one with chardonnay. Then there’s straight semillon, like this lovely, light, lemon, lemon-grassy, low alcohol (11 per cent) dry style developed by Lehmann as an affordable white with distinctive regional, varietal flavour.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 17 August 2011 in The Canberra Times
Clonakilla O’Riada Shiraz 2010 – wine of the week $35–$45 Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales In a recent tasting we paired each of Clonakilla’s three Canberra District wines with another fine shiraz, either from Australia or France – stepping through the wines in pairs. O’Riada, a blend from four vineyards, and containing five per cent viognier, thrilled with its high-toned floral, spice and musk aroma. A stalky note, presumably from including whole bunches in the ferment, threaded through the aroma and beautifully silky, smooth palate. It’s the most upfront and charming now of the three wines – a marked style contrast to its companion wine, the earthy but magnificent Meerea Park Hunter Valley Hell Hole Shiraz 2007 ($37).
Clonakilla Syrah 2009 and Shiraz Viognier 2010 $85–$100 Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales Forced to pick between Clonakilla’s flagship reds, Syrah from the great 2009 vintage edges slightly ahead of the Shiraz Viognier blend – but it’s a tight call and in any group there’ll be preferences either way. The Syrah’s highly fragrant but also savoury, brooding and tannic, in a seamless, perfectly balanced way. Shiraz Viognier 2010 leads with a distinctive violet-like aroma. This comes through, too, on the vibrant, red-berry-laden, richly textured, smooth palate. These are extraordinary wines requiring cellaring – or a good splash if you’re drinking them now. (Companion wines were Mount Langi Ghiran Grampians Langi Shiraz 2007 and Cote-Rotie 2007 (Les Vins de Vienne).
Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz 2009 $18–$20 Lodge Hill Vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia The Barry family’s Lodge Hill Vineyard sits high up in the Clare Valley’s eastern ranges and consistently produces very high quality, good value riesling and shiraz. We loved the 2009 at a shiraz and curry night – its pure, plump, fruity softness carrying deliciously through a range of spice and chilli flavours and heat. Lovely fruitiness seems to be a hallmark of the vintage in South Australia’s warmer regions. Peter Barry writes, “vintage 2009 was one of the finest, most rewarding and classic in recent memory”.
Chablis Champs Royaux (William Fevre) 2009 $18.99 Chablis, Burgundy, France The back label suggests Costco imported this wine direct, bypassing the distributor, Negociants Australia – hence the wonderfully low price. Chablis, the northernmost point of Burgundy, makes distinctive, pebble-dry chardonnay. In this version, clever barrel maturation added a little flesh and texture to the mid palate without inserting any woody flavours, or interfering with the distinctive minerally flavours and dryness. In the world of Chablis we’d rate this three stars; but in the wider chardonnay market, and taking account of the price, we give it four stars.
Puligny-Montrachet 2008 (Louis Latour) $42.99 Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France The commune of Puligny-Montrachet abuts the legendary Montrachet vineyards, source of Burgundy’s greatest chardonnays. This wine, another Costco direct import, captures a little of white Burgundy’s magic, albeit discounted by a moist and slightly leaky cork. Despite the slightly darker than appropriate colour (presumably oxidation caused by the poor cork), the wine still shows Puligny’s unique combination of power with finesse. On a Puligny-Montrachet scale it’s a three-star wines, but earns four stars in the general chardonnay market. Dear French winemaker, please switch to screw caps.
Derwent Estate Chardonnay 2008 $29.99 Derwent Estate Vineyard, Derwent Valley, Tasmania Highly regarded Tasmanian viticulturist Fred Peacock rates Derwent Estate among the best vineyard sites in the state – with part of its fruit going to the production of Penfolds flagship chardonnay, Yattarna. However, the Hanigan family engages Winemaking Tasmania’s Julian Alcorso to turn part of the crop into wine for their own label. We notice the 2009’s available at cellar door, but we picked this bottle up at Dan Murphy, Phillip. We tasted it alongside the two French wines reviewed here today and rated it best by a comfortable margin. It’s amazingly intense, pure and unevolved – showing cool climate grapefruit-like varietal flavour and matching brisk acidity.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 10 August 2011 in The Canberra Times
For a report card on small Australian winemakers, check out the Winewise website, www.winewise.net.au
The competition, judged here in Canberra in July, opens its door to wineries crushing 250 tonnes or less for their own labels. The independent event began as an outlet for small makers off the radar of the big, prestigious capital wine shows, including Canberra’s National.
From last year, however, Winewise offered a potential route into the National Show for these small makers. The national’s organisers, attempting to attract small makers, declared that wines winning gold or silver medals qualified for the national event – and some winemakers seized the opportunity.
While many of our most recognised small makers don’t enter wines in shows, the Winewise event nevertheless attracts a great diversity of wines from across Australia.
The awards list therefore covers a lot of territory, and invariably includes surprises from little known wineries and emerging varieties.
The list of trophy winners gives a hint of the diversity. But it’s rewarding to scroll through the entire list, noting the gold, silver and bronze medallists – as well as highly regarded wines that missed the boat. That always happens in wine shows.
The trophy results can take us away from well-trodden paths. The best riesling, for example, comes not from the Clare or Eden Valleys, but from the Coal River Valley Tasmania – Pooley Wine Margaret Pooley Tribute Riesling 2010. It’s no secret that Tasmania makes good riesling, but in the bigger shows the bigger company wines tend to dominate – and that generally means Clare or Eden Valley.
For the most part, though, Winewise trophy winners reflect well-known regional specialties – cabernet and bends and semillon-sauvignon blanc blends from Margaret River, semillon from the Hunter Valley, sticky from Riverina, liqueur muscat from Rutherglen, pinot noir from Tasmania and sparkling wine from the Adelaide Hills.
But by the nature of the show they’re not household names – in some cases they’re names not familiar even to wine enthusiasts. Heard of Hutton Margaret River, Warner Glen Estate Margaret River, Barringwood Park Tasmania or Sandhurst Ridge Bendigo? They’re all among the trophy winners.
And how often would a saperavi (Russian red variety) win a trophy – or a blend of tempranillo, shiraz and sangiovese. Hugh Hamilton won the “best other red variety” trophy for The Oddball McLaren Vale Saperavi 2009; and Canberra’s Mount Majura won the “best other red blend” trophy for its delicious Tempranillo Shiraz Graciano 2010.
If a Bendigo wine won the shiraz trophy (Harcourt Valley Vineyards Barbara’s Shiraz 2009), the warmer Barossa valley retained its honour, too. Sons of Eden winery won the trophy as most successful exhibitor, winning gold medals for its Kennedy Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2009, Zephyrus Shiraz 2009, Remus Shiraz 2008 and Romulus Shiraz 2008. Now that’s a powerful performance – no trophy for any individual wine but a powerhouse performance.
As we scroll to the individual wine classes, we see just 13 rieslings from the 2011 vintage made it to the show. Ken Helm topped the class with a silver medal for his Classic Dry. It’s young and acidic now, but I’ll predict gold medals ahead as the fruit sticks its head through the acidity over the next few months. Mount Majura won bronze. But in the way of show judging, in the 2010 vintage class, Helm Premium Riesling, a darling of last year’s shows, missed out altogether.
Among the chardonnays, Bourke Street 2010 (a budget brand, made by Canberra’s Nick O’Leary and Alex McKay) won a silver medal. But a couple of other beautiful Canberra wines missed the medal cut – Mount Majura 2010 and Lark Hill 2009.
However, neighbouring cooler growing regions, Orange and Tumbarumba, won gold medals for Philip Shaw No 11 2009 and Hungerford Hill 2009 respectively.
Pinot gris and verdelho failed to excite the judges. The best either of those varieties could muster was silver. However, two viogniers earned gold – Baillieu Mornington Peninsula 2010 and Topper’s Mountain New England Wild Ferment 2010.
In the “other single white varieties” class, Tscharke Girl Talk Savagnin 2011 (thought to be albarino when planted) earned the top gold medal with Alex McKay’s Collector Lamp Lit Marsanne 2010 just half a point behind winning the other gold medal in the class.
Several pinot noirs won gold medals – Seville Estate Yarra Valley 2010, Paringa Estate The Paringa Mornington Peninsula 2010, Cannibal Creek Gippsland 2010, Paringa Estate Mornington Peninsula 2009, Freycinet Tasmania 2009, Laurel Bank Tasmania 2009 and Barringwood Park Mill Block Tasmania 2008 (the trophy winner).
Many regions, warm and cool, won gold for shiraz – Barossa, Langhorne Creek, the Adelaide Hills, the Hunter Valley, Hilltops, Canberra District, Bathurst, Orange, Geelong, Mornington Peninsula, Heathcote, Bendigo, Pyrenees, Margaret River and Geographe.
Included in shiraz’s show-stopping performance were three Canberra District wines, Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2009 (the district’s top scorer), Bourke Street 2009 and Lerida Lake George Shiraz Viognier 2009. The district’s gold medal parade may have been long had some of our other makers entered the shiraz classes – Clonakilla, Collector, Nick O’Leary and Capital Wines. Next year, maybe?
Cabernet sauvignon, Australia’s next biggest red variety after shiraz, also fared well but not so universally as shiraz. The gold medal winning districts were: Coonawarra, Mudgee, Strathbogie Ranges, Pyrenees, Margaret River (the star, with five golds), and the Swan Valley (perhaps – the region of Heafod Glen 2009 isn’t given, but the winery address is Swan Valley).
It was disappointing to see Mount Majura Tempranillo 2010 miss out on a medal. But having tasted this wine very carefully over several days I predict better ratings in future. It’s a very, very good wine.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 10 August 2011 in The Canberra Times
In May Lachie McOmish put Canberra’s unique Wig and Pen brewpub on the market. There’s been no sale yet, though we understand there’s at least on suitor in the wings.
So it’s business as usual, as we learned one busy Friday lunch time as patrons picked through the impressive range of brews, all made on site.
Behind the bar McOmish dispensed brimming glasses and lengthy opinions, while Richard Watkins took time out from the brewery to show the ales reviewed below.
We didn’t have time to taste the delicate Knocker’s Perry, made from Packham pears, nor the spiced ale, infused with fresh local truffles.
Watkins said his cherry-chocolate stout was due for release in the last week of July. And he’ll soon be releasing his 2000th brew – a hoppy, Belgian golden strong ale style, now ageing in barrel in the cellar.
Wig and Pen Dubbel Trubble 355ml $9 The brilliant mahogany colour and luxuriant head on the Wig’s Belgian ‘double’ style point to the amazingly good beer that follows. How can ale of this calibre come from such an unassuming place. It’s sheer brilliance. And at five months’ really delivers on this unique, opulent, velvet-textured style.
Wig and Pen Russian Imperial Stout 355ml $9 There’s a rasp of Rasputin’s beard in the Wig’s black and brooding Russian Imperial — a massive, 10 per-cent alcohol brew, pitting malt sweetness and syrupy, smooth texture against bitterness derived from hops and strongly roasted grains. It’s an impressive brew to sniff and savour — wisely served in 355ml brandy balloons.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 10 August 2011 in The Canberra Times
Ten Minutes by Tractor Mornington Peninsula Pinot Gris 2010 $28 Ten Minutes by Tractor offers a range of individual vineyard wines and “estate” blends, like this one, sourced from several Mornington sites – in this instance from the Northway Downs, Spedding and Wallis vineyards. It’s a well-made wine, capturing all of the essential features of good pinot gris – including a bit of grip and slippery texture, courtesy of the grape itself plus fermentation and maturation on yeast lees in older oak barrels. This textural side of the variety’s very important to its overall impact, as the flavour’s subtle – pear-like, with lemony freshness and a pleasant spicy note.
Jim Barry The Cover Drive Coonawarra and Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $18–$20 Cover Drive joins a growing list of beautifully made, inexpensive Coonawarra cabernet sauvignons that really show the unique flavours of this great cabernet district. Jim Barry’s wine adds a little Clare cabernet to the mix, but the aroma, flavour and structure really all say “Coonawarra” – perhaps plumped out a little by the Clare material. Sourced mainly from the Barry family’s southern Coonawarra vineyard it’s a lovely, juicy fruit festival – starring subtly mint-tinted, cassis-like varietal flavour. Flavour input from oak maturation is minimal, serving rather to build the palate and mellow the tannins. It’s ready to drink right now.
Shaw Vineyard Estate Canberra District Winemaker Selection Shiraz 2008 $16 and Cabernet Merlot 2008 $16 Graeme Shaw’s Murrumbatemen vineyard is one of Canberra’s largest with the capacity, says Shaw, of producing 25,000 cases of wine a year. Shaw segments the wines into three price ranges, including the entry-level Winemaker Selection range. The shiraz, a triple silver medallist, seems pretty big for a Canberra wine, showing the heat of the 2008 vintage, the flavours now leaning towards savouriness, with quite a firm tannin structure. The cabernet merlot (one gold, two silver medals) shows both the leafiness of cabernet and chocolate richness of merlot on a soft and easy, drink-now palate.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 7 August 2011 in The Canberra Times