Wine review — Arete, Pike’s, Yering Station, Port Phillip Estate, d’Arenberg and Maipenrai

Arete The Chatterbox Shiraz 2010 $18–$20
Andy Kalleske Cemetery Block, Koonunga, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Winemaker Peter Bate’s amazingly delicious, drink-now shiraz comes from a single vineyard in the Barossa’s Koonunga sub-region. It features highly aromatic fruit (floral and musk like) with similar richness, vibrance and freshness on the palate. The juicy, ripe fruit literally ripples across the palate, the essence of the Barossa style ¬– including the soft, almost tender tannins. In short, it captures Barossa generosity and softness while avoiding over-the-top alcohol, tannin and oak. It’s exciting to find such a pure regional style at such a modest price. See www.aretewines.com.au

Pike’s Merle Riesling 2011 $38
Clare Valley, South Australia
Pikes produces two Clare Valley rieslings – a $23 blend from the family estate and contract vineyards and this flagship from the family’s “Gill’s Farm” and “Hill” blocks at Polish Hill River, a Clare sub-region. In the cool 2011 vintage Merle seems even more austere and minerally than normal. But under the austerity lies a seam of intense, lime-like varietal flavour on an oh-so-delicate, dry palate. It’s delicious now but destined to evolve for many years as that brisk, steely acidity protects the evolving fruit flavour.

Yering Station Little Yering Pinot Noir $17
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Wines of this calibre, at the price, surely play a role in making pinot noir Australia’s fasting growing major red wine variety (retail volume up 21 per cent in the year to September), albeit off a small base. In the past, cheaper pinots tended to present bright fruit flavours without underlying savouriness or structure. Yering Station, one of our best pinot makers, captures all of these elements in this drink-now version sourced from its own vineyards and selected contract growers.

Port Phillip Estate Salasso Rose 2011 $18.90–$22
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
We’re not great fans of vegemite or rose, though we taste both periodically just to make sure. Vegemite remains in our yuk bin. But this year we’ve enjoyed at tastings (not yet at the dinner table) several flavoursome, soft, dry roses, including Port Phillip Estate’s Salasso. It’s made from shiraz kept on skins just long enough to pick up a rinse of attractive pink-to-onion-skin colour. The fruit flavour’s strawberry like, but checked by a pleasant savouriness on a palate’s that’s soft, fresh and dry but richly textured.

d’Arenberg The Beautiful View Grenache 2009 $99
The Beautiful View sub-region, McLaren Vale, South Australia
At a recent tasting we compared five McLaren Vale grenaches – d’Arenberg’s The Beautiful View 2009, Derelict Vineyard Grenache 2009 ($30) and Blewitt Springs 2009 ($99) plus Noon Eclipse 2007 (no longer available) and Wirra Wirra The Absconder 2010 ($65). The flavours ranged from primary fruit (waiting to become wine) to the more earthy, savoury, winey and mature. d’Arenberg’s The Beautiful View (a McLaren Vale sub-region) appealed as the most complete and subtle – an exciting, if fully priced wine, with probably long-term cellaring potential.

Maipenrai Pinot Noir 2009 $30–$32
Maipenrai Vineyard, Sutton, Canberra District, New South Wales
Canberra’s Nobel laureate, Brian Schmidt, made just 10 barrels of 2009 pinot with just four elevated to the flagship Maipenrai label. Maipenrai opens a little coy and guarded. But with aeration, its full-blown, savoury pinot noir aroma blossoms, evoking dark fruits, beetroot and earth. On the palate, the savoury, earthy flavours are supported by a brisk acidity – which gives life and vibrancy to the fruit – and assertive, fine-boned tannins – which add to the wine’s silky texture. The savouriness and strong tannin backbone set Maipenrai apart from many of its Australian peers and suggest excellent medium to long-term cellaring prospects. See www.maipenrai.com.au

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 30 November 2011 in The Canberra Times

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