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Monthly Archives: September 2011
Eperosa LRC 2009 $35 Light Regional Council Greenock Vineyard, Barossa Valley, South Australia Some time back Barossa viticulturist Brett Grocke turned to winemaking, determined to capture distinctive characters from “favourite sites throughout the Barossa and Eden Valleys”, he writes. In LRC we taste a unique, generous, elegant, spicy and savoury shiraz that could, at first sip, pass as a Canberra wine. Indeed, one of our blind tasters placed it there. The production of 400 bottles comes from a single row of vines (“144 shiraz, a few riesling, one mataro and a lone unidentified stranger”), a remnant of a larger vineyard, saved from a housing sub-division only by being on land owned by the Light Regional Council.
Eperosa Elevation Shiraz 2009 $30 Bruce and Ros Mibus “Stonehut” vineyard, Eden Valley, South Australia Brett Grocke sources “Elevation” from just eight rows of the Stonehut vineyard, “on the hillside which contained the most balanced vines”, he writes. Like LRC reviewed alongside, he matures it in aged French oak casks, giving the wine the mellowing micro-oxidative effects of oak without inserting strong woody flavours. Presumably the elevated site’s cooler than the LRC site. But the wine appears riper and fuller, driven by delicious ripe-berry varietal characters, supported by soft, fine persistent tannins. Only 1,600 bottles produced. Both wines are available at www.eperosa.com.au
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2008 $13.15–$18.49 Adelaide Hills, South Australia What do we get in sparkling wine at this price, compared to cheaper or more expensive wines? Cheaper wines tend to be neutral in flavour, but fresh and lively. More expensive wines offer greater flavour intensity, finesse and delicacy. Jacob’s Creek Reserve sits in between, offering the discernible flavour and texture of chardonnay and pinot noir, sourced from the cool Adelaide Hills, with a touch of bottle-aged character. This equals great value in the coming silly season, especially as the discounters give the price a haircut.
d’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2009 $18.05–$20 McLaren Vale, South Australia McLaren Vale’s d’Arenberg now produces several reds from grenache, one of the region’s great and proven varieties. In a couple of weeks we’ll be reviewing the new top-end versions ($99 each), but today let’s taste the excellent, affordable Custodian, from the very good 2009 vintage. The colour’s limpid and bright and the aroma leans more to varietal spice and earth than it does to the sometimes “confection” notes of the variety. The palate’s rich, without heaviness or fleshiness, its flavours reflecting the spicy and savoury aroma. Soft, slightly rustic tannins complete the picture of a savoury wine built for drinking over the next ten or so years.
Juniper Crossing Tempranillo 2010 $20–$22 Fergusson Valley, Western Australia Mark Messenger’s tempranillo, from the Fergusson Valley, north of Margaret River, presents a big, ripe, jammy version of this Spanish red variety. The pure, ripe blackberry-jam-like aroma leads to equally ripe, blackberry-like flavours, on a solid, rich palate. The sweet impression of fruit dissipates, however, as the variety’s awesome tannins close in, giving a strong, dry, savoury, firm finish. It’s definitely a red to enjoy with protein-rich food – and yet another variation on a promising variety being worked on by many Australian vignerons.
Shelmerdine Lusatia Park Chardonnay 2008 $48 A Block, Lusatia Park Vineyard, Woori Yallock, Yarra Valley, Victoria The ever-greater dissection of vineyards in our amazingly varied regions contrasts with the pervasive international stereotype of cheap, simple Australian wine. In this wine the Shelmerdine family, aided by De Bortoli’s winemaking, demonstrates the marvellous qualities of fruit from a single block on its highest, coolest Yarra Valley vineyard. At three years’ the wine’s colour remains a pale but brilliant gold-tinted lemon. The aroma and flavour rest on grapefruit and white-peach characters, deeply integrated with flavours and textures derived from fermentation and maturation in older French oak barrels. One bottle isn’t enough.
First published 28 September 2011 in The Canberra Times Copyright © 2011 Chris Shanahan
Once again our local red specialty stormed home in the recent Canberra Regional Wine Show. Shiraz classes attracted the greatest number of entries (47), won the most medals (30), enjoyed the highest medal strike rate at 64 per cent (after adjusting for one statistical oddity) and produced the champion wine of the show – Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2009. Riesling, the other local favourite, followed a length behind with 19 medals from 33 entries – a strike rate of 58 per cent.
We can thank Coolangatta Estate, Nowra, for the statistical oddity – a 100 per cent medal strike rate for dry semillons. But as it was the only exhibitor showing the variety, the figures simply confirm that Coolangatta grows good semillon and Tyrrell’s, the contract winemaker, remains the best in the game with this variety.
That oddity aside, the accompanying table gives a collective image of the winegrowing areas within the show’s catchment – Canberra, Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Gundagai, Southern Highlands and the Shoalhaven Coast. And by drilling down a bit we see a few regional specialties.
If we view a medal strike rate below 50 per cent as a poor result, then the collective figures suggest little excitement beyond shiraz, riesling and chardonnay. Drilling down, however, we find pockets of excitement everywhere, except in pinot noir, including among niche varieties not covered in the table.
For example, Clonakilla Canberra District Viognier 2010 scorched Class 8 (other varieties 2010 and earlier) with a rarely achieved score of 56.5 out of 60. It’s a magnificent wine, widely recognised as the best of the variety from the district. Good on Tim Kirk for exhibiting a wine of this calibre.
And among the 12 pinot gris exhibited, two Canberra wines excited the judges – gold medallist, Mount Majura Pinot Gris 2011 and silver medallist, Lerida Estate Lake George Pinot Grigio 2011.
A wider range of niche red varieties fared well, with a sprinkling of medals for sangiovese, tempranillo, merlot, a tempranillo-shiraz-graciano (TSG) blend and a couple of cabernet franc-merlot blends.
The gold medallists in this group were Mount Majura’s TSG 2010, Dinny’s Block 2010 (cabernet franc-merlot) and Merlot 2009 and Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast Tempranillo 2009.
Demonstrating that different varieties suit different regions, high, cool Tumbarumba monopolised the chardonnay honours list, winning seven of the eight medals, and all four gold medals, in Class 7 for 2010 and earlier vintages.
Barwang Estate (owned by McWilliams) earned golds for the 2010 and 2009 vintages of its 842 Tumbarumba Chardonnay. The other two gold medallists were Echelon Armchair Critic Tumbarumba 2010 and Hungerford Hill Tumbarumba 2010. Centennial Vineyards, Southern Highlands, the sole non-Tumbarumba medallist, earned silver for its Woodside Winery Block 2009.
But the judges recognised Canberra, too, awarding a gold to Lerida Estate Lake George Chardonnay 2006, the sole entrant in the white museum class.
It takes a lot to fire up judges in sauvignon blanc classes these days. Alas, the local show attracted just 10 entries, largely dismissed by the judges as they awarded only one silver and one bronze medal.
Pinot noir also lacked sizzle, the 19 entrants earning three silver and one bronze medals – all won by wines from the Southern Highlands. Tertini Wines won silver for its 2009 and 2010 wines and bronze for its 2009 Reserve. Centennial Vineyards Reserve 2010 won silver.
Cabernet sauvignon also failed to excite – an example of a variety struggling to find suitable sites across the show’s large catchment. The Hilltops region generally fares better than Canberra and, indeed, produced the only gold medallist – Hungerford Hill 2009 – and two bronze medals. Canberra wines earned three of the medals, including silvers for Pankhurst Wines Cabernet Merlot 2010 and A. Retief Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2008.
Canberra retained its dominance, if not a monopoly, of the riesling classes and a couple of new faces smiled through the crowd. In the 2011 vintage class Four Winds Vineyard and Gallagher Wines, both of Murrumbateman, nabbed the gold medals. Gallagher, a nose ahead of Four Winds, moved into the trophy taste-off.
In the class for 2010 and older rieslings, Lake George 2010 top scored and ultimately won the trophy for best riesling of the show. Winemaker Alex McKay credits the Karelas family, owners of the Lake George Vineyard (the former Madew property) for the quality of fruit from their vineyard. Tertini Wines 2008, Southern Highlands, won the second gold medal in the class.
Helm Wines, often a star of the riesling section, earned silvers for its Half Dry 2011 and Premium Riesling 2010, while the Classic Dry 2011 missed out altogether. Having seen the latter on a couple of occasions, I’d predict big success for it further down the track as austere, high-acid styles like this need time for the fruit to poke through. These styles often miss the show accolades in their youth.
And finally to the variety we’ve all been waiting for – shiraz, the region’s great champion. Interestingly the highly regarded 2009s and 2008s fared less well in aggregate than the supposedly “bony” 2010s.
Seventy five per cent of the 2010s won medals compared to 57 per cent of wines in the 2009 and older class, a rate exceeded even by shirazes in the museum class. Interestingly, the judge’s comments in the results catalogue indicate greater excitement with the 2008s and 2009s than with the 2010s, despite the higher medal strike rate in the latter.
In the 2010 class, the judges’ tastes leaned distinctly towards the juicier, softer styles, with all three gold medals awarded to slightly warmer regions – Eden Road Wines Gundagai Shiraz, Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz and Eden Road The Long Road Gundagai Shiraz. The latter topped the class and moved on to the trophy taste off.
The judges commented they expected some of the wines in this class “to benefit with time”. Undoubtedly Clonakilla’s O’Riada Canberra District (bronze medal) falls in this category – a magnificent drop that reveals it virtues in a leisurely tasting now, if not in the rush of wine show.
In the class for 2009 and older shiraz, comprised mainly of 2009s and 2008s, the judges spread their favours around Canberra, Hilltops and Tumbarumba. They awarded to golds each to Canberra (Lerida Lake George Shiraz Viognier 2009 and Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2009) and Hilltops (Chalkers Crossing Shiraz 2009 and Grove Estate Cellar Block Shiraz Viognier 2009).
In the end the rich, soft fruit and silky tannins of Ravensworth seduced the judges’ palates. It topped the class, then sailed through the trophy taste-offs to be voted best shiraz, best red and best wine of the show. Shiraz showed its class, too, in the museum class where Lerida Estate Lake George Shiraz Viognier 2006 won gold.
Fittingly, we begin and end the show report on shiraz. It’s the big deal around here. The wines in classes 13, 14 and 23 offer some of the best red drinking in Australia – and that’s not even a complete list of top Canberra shirazes.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful one day to see all of our top shirazes in the show. Imagine including Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier and wines from Collector, Kyeema and Nick O’Leary in this already amazing line up.How the varieties fared (dry wines only) Entries Gold Silver Bronze Total % Riesling Class 1, 2010 20 2 3 5 10 50 Class 5, 2010 and older 13 2 3 4 9 69 TOTAL 33 4 6 9 19 58 Sauvignon blanc and blends Class 2, 2011 8 0 1 1 2 25 Class 6, 2010 and older 2 0 0 0 0 0 TOTAL 10 0 1 1 2 20 Chardonnay Class 3, 2011 1 0 0 0 0 0 Class 7, 2010 and older 16 4 1 3 8 50 Class 22, 2006 and older (museum) 1 1 0 0 1 100 TOTAL 18 5 1 3 9 50 Pinot gris/grigio Class 4, other varieties 2011 7 1 1 1 3 43 Class 8, other varieties 2010 and older 5 0 0 1 1 20 TOTAL 12 1 1 2 4 33 Semillon Class 4, other varieties 2011 1 0 0 1 1 100 Class 8, other varieties 2010 and older 4 1 0 3 4 100 TOTAL 5 1 0 4 5 100 Shiraz Class 13, 2010 16 3 2 7 12 75 Class 14, 2009 and older 28 4 3 9 16 57 Class 23, 2006 and older (museum) 3 1 0 1 2 67 TOTAL 47 8 5 17 30 64 Pinot noir Class 11, 2010 7 0 2 0 2 29 Class 12, 2009 and older 11 0 1 1 2 18 Class 23, 2006 and older (museum) 1 0 0 0 0 0 TOTAL 19 0 3 1 4 21 Cabernet sauvignon and blends Class 15, 2010 6 0 1 1 2 33 Class 16, 2009 and older 21 1 1 3 5 24 Class 17, other varieties 2010 1 0 0 0 0 0 TOTAL 28 1 2 4 7 25 Merlot and blends Class 17, 2010 other varieties 5 0 0 2 2 40 Class 18, 2009 and older other varieties 6 1 0 1 2 33 Class 223, 2006 and older (museum) 1 0 0 0 0 0 TOTAL 12 1 0 3 4 33
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 28 September 2011 in The Canberra Times
Eldridge Estate Mornington Peninsula North Patch Chardonnay 2010 $30 Winemaker David Lloyd writes that he and wife Wendy produce just 800 cases of wine a year from their Mornington Peninsula estate – including this beguiling chardonnay. David supports the new ABC (always buy chardonnay) – a club bound to thrive were all chardonnays this good. The wine’s a lovely, bright, green-tinted lemon colour with the juicy, fine, citrus and white peach flavours of cool-grown chardonnay. The fruit’s at centre stage, but it’s supported by the subtle aromas, flavours and textured derived from fermentation and maturation in oak barrels. It’s available at www.eldridge-estate.com.au
Rosedale Wines Chook Shed Barossa Shiraz 2009 $12 Rosedale sources fruit from its vineyard on the south-western rim of the Barossa Valley, stretching from Greenock to Sandy Creek. It takes only a sniff and mouthful of Chook Shed to see these are good vineyards, managed by Syd Kyloh, and that winemaker Matt Reynolds, knows what he’s doing. This is a generous, plump red, offering ripe, sweet-cherry varietal aroma and flavour, with a touch of earthiness and spice and typically soft Barossa tannins. This is our first encounter with Rosedale and we’re very impressed as it offers true regional, varietal character and great drinkability at a modest price.
d’Arenberg McLaren ValeThe Stump Jump Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2010 $8.95–$11.95 D’Arry’s Original Shiraz Grenache 2009 $14.99–$20
d’Arenberg’s Stump Jump reds, including this earthy, rustic, firm blend of grenache, shiraz and mataro, often find themselves in the retail price war cross hairs. We particularly like this blend. It offers good value when fully priced and becomes a bargain when it’s discounted below $10. d’Arry’s Original, combining shiraz and grenache, without mourvedre, provides more fragrant, softer drinking – in this vintage featuring aromatic high notes of grenache, back by richer, earthier shiraz. d’Arry Osborn introduced the blend 40 odd years ago, labelled, at the time as ‘burgundy’. The style ages very well despite its easy drinkability now.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 25 September 2011 in The Canberra Times
Beurrot by Kooyong Pinot Gris 2010 $27–$30 Meres Block and Beurrot vineyards, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria Today’s reviews include two really good, very different expressions of pinot gris, a variety that all too often produces non-descript wines. The first, made by Sandro Mosele, demonstrates the combined power of great fruit and assertive, but skilled, winemaking inputs. Mosele says he whole-bunch pressed the fruit, then moved the juice to old oak barrels for spontaneous fermentation, followed by maturation on yeast lees for 10 months. This approach added a distinct patina of aromas and flavours, including a “struck match” aroma and a considerable boost to the natural viscosity of the variety. These add great appeal to the intense pear and stone fruit varietal flavour.
Toi Toi Brookdale Reserve Pinot Gris 2010 $17.09–$19 Brookdale Vineyard, Omaka Valley, Marlborough New Zealand Toi Toi’s pinot gris focuses on pure, fresh varietal flavour, enriched by a modest amount of residual grape sugar and textural richness derived from maturation on yeast lees. To preserve the varietal character, winemaker Chris Young fermented only the free-run portion of the juice at low temperatures in steel tanks, using a selection of yeast strains. This produced a, fresh, highly aromatic, richly textured off dry white, featuring pear-like varietal flavour.
Toi Toi Clutha Pinot Noir 2010 $16.15–$18 Central Otago, New Zealand Central Otago’s reputation for pinot noir stems largely from higher priced classics like Felton Road. But the growing production of this cool region at 45 degrees south means not every drop wins a place on the top shelf. Toi Toi, made intentionally for this modest (for pinot) price, offers terrific value. The colour’s pale (not unusual for pinot) but the palate presents convincing, and delicious, red-berry varietal flavour, supported by fine, firm tannins and brisk acidity. It’s a drink-now style.
Massale by Kooyong Pinot Noir 2010 $25.95–$30 Haven and Ballewindi Vineyards, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria Massale offers a significant step up in pinot quality without a massive price increase. The colour’s perhaps half a tone deeper than Toi Toi pinot, with a vibrant crimson hue at the rim. The aroma suggests ripe, black cherry with savoury and earthy notes. The vibrant, juicy palate reflects these flavours in a savoury way that only pinot achieves. Fine fruit and oak tannins permeate the fruit, providing structure and convincing red-wine finish.
Brothers in Arms No. 6 Shiraz Cabernet 2006 $17–$24 Adams Family Vineyard, Langhorne Creek, South Australia Whether by design or slow sales, the Adams family still offers the 2006 vintage of their generous shiraz-cabernet blend – when most retail red-wines come from 2009 or 2010. The extra age softens and completes the wine for current drinking. There’s a touch of Langhorne Creek’s “eucalyptus” in the aroma – but, more importantly, oodles of fleshy fruit and soft tannins. The wine’s subject to bouts of discounting and offers great value at the lower end of the price range, and not so good at the higher end.
Eperosa Totality Mataro Shiraz 2009 $25 Rosedale and Moppa Springs, Barossa Valley, South Australia There’s a wonderful movement flourishing in the Barossa, where talented young winemakers with good local knowledge source wine from small, high quality vineyards. Eperosa’s Brett Grocke writes, “We source wine grapes from our favourite sites throughout the Barossa and Eden Valleys”. In this instance, spicy, firm mataro (75 per cent) from Rosedale joins plump, soft shiraz (25 per cent) from Moppa Springs. It’s a big, fine-boned, beautifully proportioned red revealing an irresistibly delicious face of the Barossa. Only 800 bottles made; available at www.eperosa.com.au
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 21 September 2011 in The Canberra Times
Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz 2008 $14.25–$18 The Rathbone Wine Group owns some of Australia’s great regional brands – Yering Station Yarra Valley, Parker Coonawarra Estate, Xanadu Margaret River and Mount Langi Ghiran Grampians. Winemaker, Dan Buckle, and viticulturist, Damien Sheehan, look after production at the Langi Ghiran operation, producing the sensational “The Langi” shiraz and this budget blend from the Grampians, Swan Hill and Bendigo. It’s a clever blend, keeping the price down by using cheaper, warm-grown, grapes, but retaining the lovely savouriness and spiciness of the cooler regions. That savoury, spiciness cuts through a rich, fruity palate. Should drink well for three or four years.
Tim Smith Eden Valley Riesling 2011 $25 The first wine we’ve seen in the Eden Valley’s new proprietary bottle comes from Tim Smith, former Yalumba winemaker. Smith says the wine comes from a low-yielding vineyard, planted in 1922 at 450 metres above sea level. The cool, wet 2011 vintage presented huge challenges for grape growers with widespread crop loss and difficulties in ripening red varieties in some areas. However, we’re seeing some exciting whites with intense flavours, delicacy and higher than normal acidity. Smith’s is one of the good examples – an aromatic riesling, with just a touch of floral, but leaning more to lemon varietal character and rich but very delicate palate.
Barwang Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $13.90–$19.99 Peter Robertson founded Barwang, the first vineyard near Young, in 1969 but sold the vineyards to McWilliams in 1989. McWilliams extended the plantings and over the years took the Barwang and Hilltops name to drinkers across the country. It’s an important brand for the region because of its reach. If the Hilltops winemaking high ground has been taken over by small makers like Clonakilla and Eden Road, Barwang continues to make really good wines at fair prices. Their 2009 cabernet is really stunning for a red under $20 ¬– packing in absolutely lovely, mulberry-like varietal flavour and retaining cabernet’s distinctive, firm structure.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 18 September 2011 in The Canberra Times
Tim Gramp Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $21 Gramp Vineyard, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia I’m not sure how a wine this good at this price makes commercial sense. By my reckoning Tim Gramp’s yield of just .076 tonnes to the hectare implies production of just 57 dozen bottles from a hectare of vineyard. But let’s not argue. This is a brilliant, distinctive, drink-now (or over the next five years) cabernet. Fruit aroma pours from the glass – pure and sweet with varietal red berry, mint and herbal notes. These are reflected, too, on the terrifically lively, elegant palate, but coated in juicy, soft tannins, courtesy, says Gramp, of gentle basket pressing.
Grosset Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2011 $32 Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills, South Australia Cross-regional blending is alive and well in Australia – and makes perfect sense when you try Jeff Grosset’s latest release. It combines semillon from the warmer Clare Valley with sauvignon blanc from the higher, cooler, more southerly Adelaide Hills (both on the Mount Lofty Ranges). Semillon tempers the in-your-face fruitiness of sauvignon, adding body and depth to the palate. The focus remains on shimmering, fresh fruit, but more in the lemon-citrus spectrum, with brisk acidity.
Madfish Sideways Chardonnay 2010 $16.70–$22 Yallingup and Karridale, Margaret River, Western Australia Madfish, part of Jeff and Amy Burch’s Howard Park operation, presents amazingly good regional wines at fair prices. Their pure, vibrant chardonnay is loaded with white peach and melon-rind varietal flavour, backed by the rich texture and subtle complexity added by fermentation and maturation in older oak barrels. While richly flavoured the wine skips lightly over the palate. Amy Burch says she sourced the fruit from Margaret River’s Yallingup and Karridale sub-regions
Maximus Premium GSM Cadenzia 2009 $24.99 McLaren Vale, South Australia Roland and Shelley Short bought their McLaren Vale vineyard only recently. With the help of winemaker Tim Geddes and a few extra parcels of local grapes, they made this gold-medal-winning blend of grenache (50 per cent), shiraz (35 per cent) and mourvedre (15 per cent). It works particularly well as none of the components dominates. While the sometimes musk-like grenache boosts the aroma, it’s from start to finish a deep, earthy, savoury red with a fleshy, juicy mid-palate countering the abundant tannins. It’s available at Canberra Cellars and www.maximuswinesaustralia.com.au
Turkey Flat Grenache 2009 $25 Turkey Flat Vineyard, Tanunda, Barossa Valley, South Australia The Maximus wine reviewed today showcases grenache harmonising with shiraz and mourvedre. In Turkey Flat, grenache sings solo – hitting the musk and floral aromatic high notes of the vintage. On the palate, a piquant spiciness cuts through the sweet, fleshy fruitiness, with soft tannins completing the red wine tune. Turkey Flat owners Pete and Christie Schulz say they make the wines from low-yielding 90 year-old vines, pruned into a goblet shape. Have a look at them next time you’re in the Barossa.
Yering Station Pinot Noir 2010 $31.35–$38 Upper and lower Yarra Valley, Victoria Yering Station was planted to vines in 1838 by the Ryrie brothers, a branch of the family that set up first at Braidwood and Michelago. Today it’s part of the Rathbone Wine Group, alongside Mount Langi Ghiran Grampians, Parker Coonawarra Estate and Xanadu Margaret River. Yering Station 2010’s red-berry, savoury, subtly stalky varietal flavours underpin a lively, elegant pinot. It grows more interesting with every mouthful – a medium bodied, elegant wine with a fine but firm structure. It should evolve very well over time in the cellar.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 14 September 2011 in The Canberra Times
Chablis (Michel Bouchard) 2009 $14.99 This is one of three French chardonnays we bought from Cosco recently – a direct import, along with other two, Chablis (William Fevre) 2009 $18.99 and Puligny-Montrachet (Louis Latour) 2008 $42.99, already reviewed in my Wednesday column. Like the other two, Michel Bouchard’s wine presents really good value as it offers the key characteristics of Chablis at a low price. Chablis, the northernmost and coolest outpost of Burgundy makes comparatively austere, bone-dry chardonnays noted for their minerality – and once described as like sucking pebbles. This one fits the template but also has some mid-palate texture, presumably from ageing on yeast lees.
Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Bush Vine Grenache 2009 $30 What a beautiful wine this is, capturing the rich, earthy flavours of old McLaren Vale bush vines (vines grown as individual bushes, without trellising) planted in 1926 and 1952. Winemakers Michael Fragos and Bryn Richards say the grapes were hand picked and the wines made in small batches in open fermenters “to facilitate a long, slow, gentle extraction”. Subsequent maturation in older French oak hogsheads further ameliorated the tannins. The result is a pure grenache featuring the buoyant fruit aroma and flavours of the vintage – with a background of spice and soft, earthy tannins. Rachel Steer looks after the venerable old vines.
Shaw Vineyard Estate Canberra District Shiraz 2009 $22 Shaw Vineyard Estate of Murrumbateman offers a rich cellar door experience – including food by Flint in the Vines and a range of colourful direct-import Italian ceramics. Several quality tiers of wine on offer include this “premium” shiraz at $22 – a fair enough price, though I wonder what “premium” means. It’s a fairly big, ripe shiraz in the Canberra context, with quite strong, deep fruit flavours pushing up through the also solid tannins and slightly hot affect of alcohol. It’s a style to drink over the next four or five years. The estate is owned and run by Graeme Shaw and family.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 11 September 2011 in The Canberra Times
Wine review — Dopf au Moulin, Richard Meyman Wines, Villa Maria, Chapel Hill, Mount Avoca and De Bortoli Bella Riva
Alsace Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenburg 2008 (Dopff au Moulin) $24–$30 Schoenenbourg vineyard, Riquewihr, Alsace, France Approach this glorious Dopff wine with an open mind. Forget Australian riesling, or German. The floral, citrusy nose says riesling – but the accent’s unique, suggesting power and weight. The palate delivers this – intense flavour, subtly viscous texture and a seductive, sweet kiss (but not too sweet) of residual grape sugar, offset by harmonious, assertive acidity that attenuates the flavour and gives a lingering, fresh, dry finish. Its dessert-sweet cellar mate, Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Sporen 2008 ($26.40–$33) is of the same calibre. Imported by Dan Murphy.
Richard Meyman Wines Colebrook Road Pinot Noir 2010 $27–$35 Coal River Valley, Tasmania Richard Meyman buys selected batches of grapes and has wine made for his own label – much as Australia’s great earlier wine merchants did. In this case it’s pinot noir grown in the Coal River Valley, near Hobart, and made into wine at Frogmore Creek by Alain Rousseau. It’s a complete success – bright and medium coloured, with fragrant, musk and cherry varietal aroma, a faint stalky note and a delicate, juicy, soft, loveable palate. It’s available from Glebe Liquor, Annandale Cellars and at www.richardmeymanwines.com.au
Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2009 $24.69–$30 Marlborough, New Zealand When I first visited New Zealand in 1984, George Fistonich, Villa Maria’s owner, produced some of the country’s best reds at his Vidal Winery, Hawkes Bay. Across all those year’s Fistonich’s wines maintained their quality edge, even after expanding south to Marlborough, where Sir George’s team now makes some of the region’s best value pinot noir. The new release offers generous but elegant, pinot flavours and structure at a fair price. The Cellar Selection 2009 ($38–$46) offers more intensity, tannic grip and longevity.
Chapel Hill Parson’s Nose Shiraz 2010 $15.20–$17 McLaren Vale, South Australia It’s deep and purple with an amazing pure, sweet, fruitiness – like crushed, ultra-ripe black cherries, seasoned with a lick of liquorice and bag of spices. On the palate, Parson’s Nose moves from fruitiness to “wineyness”, the deep, lush fruit pulsing up through the strong, firm tannins. Winemaker Michael Fragos says it’s all McLaren Vale and all matured in French oak. It’s a very good regional varietal, easy to drink now because of its plush fruitiness, but capable of developing savouriness with a year in bottle.
Mount Avoca Shiraz 2009 $25–$27 Pyrenees, Victoria Winemaker John Harris writes, “As we come off the back of the incredibly challenging 2011 vintage, where no reds at all were made from our estate vineyard, it is extremely pleasing to be able to release wines from one of the best red wine vintage in the last 10 years”. And to John, we say, it’s extremely pleasing to drink a wine of this calibre – buoyant and ripe, red-berryish with spice and a touch of black pepper, full but elegant palate and firm, savoury tannins. It’s a strong, distinctive wine built for the cellar.
Bella Riva Pinot Grigio Vermentino 2010 $15–$17 King Valley, Victoria The King Valley’s vines took off in the nineties as the area’s Italian-descended families turned their backs on tobacco growing – changing vices, so to speak. And two Italian winemaking families from Griffith, New South Wales, joined them – Miranda and De Bortoli. Among De Bortoli’s vines are pinot grigio, a mutant of pinot noir, and the Italian white variety, vermentino. De Bortoli’s low alcohol (12.5 per cent) blend of the two provides richly textured, pleasantly tart, savoury drinking, very much in the Italian style.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 7 September 2011 in The Canberra Times
Lark Hill Canberra District Riesling 2011 $30 What sort of riesling do we get from Canberra’s highest, coolest vineyard in a wet, cool growing season? Probably the sort of riesling Lark Hill made in previous cool periods. It’s pale coloured and aromatic in a pure, minerally, lemon-citrus way. The minerality and lemon-citrus flavours come through, too, on a pure, scintillating palate of great delicacy. High acidity accentuates the fruit flavour. The Lark Hill website notes, “A cool summer and mild autumn resulted in a return to our normal long-term average heat summation, giving delicate flavours, vibrant acidity and a lower final alcohol”.
Tar and Roses Central Victoria Pinot Grigio 2011 $18 Pinot grigio (= grey) lives up to its name here, giving this “white” wine a pale grey-pink tint. It’s sourced from the Nagambie Lakes (74 per cent) and Strathbogie Ranges (26 per cent) and matured on yeast lees in older oak barrels for one month. This treatment accentuates the wine’s rich, smooth texture, an important element in wines made from this variety. It’s a little more perfumed than most pinot grigios, revealing a touch of pear-like character and even a hint of strawberry. The palate’s rich, soft and delicious – another very good wine from winemakers Don Lewis and Narelle King.
Campbells Rutherglen Tempranillo 2010 $18.90 The total volume of the Spanish red variety, tempranillo, remains small. But plantings are widespread and the variety performs well in a range of climates, including Canberra’s – notably at Mount Majura. It’s a niche variety that may well move mainstream in the long run as it offers the full, upfront fruit flavours Australian drinkers are used to, but with a difference. Campbell’s version is in the drink-me-now style, offering mouth-filling, vibrant blueberry like fruit flavours – quite distinct from, say, cabernet or shiraz. After the initial hit of fruit, quite firm, savoury tannins move in, adding to the savoury impact of the wine.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011 First published 4 September 2011 in The Canberra Times