Wine review — Domaine Chandon, Quarry Hill, Curly Flat, Houghton and Mount Majura

Domaine Chandon Shiraz 2009 $33.95
Colbinabbin Vineyard, Mount Camel Range, Heathcote, Victoria
This was my pick from a recent tasting of five shirazes – one each from Coonawarra, Margaret River, Heathcote, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. It appealed for its enticing, floral aroma, vibrant ripe-cherry fruit flavour and assertive, savoury tannins – a complete and satisfying red that pulled away from its impressive company as the tasting lingered on. Winemaker Lilian Carter says it “comes from a longstanding collaboration with the highly regarded Colbinabbin Vineyard located on the eastern slope of the Mount Camel Range”.

Quarry Hill North Block Dry White 2011 $20
Quarry Hill Vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
A wine region’s sophisticated when it makes both world-class flagship wines and beautifully made and presented affordable wines like Quarry Hill’s North Block. It’s a collaboration between Professor Dean Terrell, grape grower, and winemaker Alex McKay. An unoaked blend of 40 % sauvignon blanc and 60 % savagnin (thought to be albarino when planted), the wine is brilliantly clear and pale – and as crisp and fresh as a granny smith apple, complete with a subtly apple-like aftertaste. It’s bone-dry, softly textured and beautifully clean and fresh. Available at www.quarryhill.com.au

Curly Flat Chardonnay 2009 $42
Curly Flat Vineyard, Macedon Ranges, Victoria
We test drove our Curly Flat at Artisan, Narrabundah – definitely worth the $15 corkage, and the excellent food made the wine even more enjoyable. It’s a bigger style of chardonnay and quite a contrast to the more austere 2007 vintage and subtle 2008. But it’s a case of big being good – the generous, ripe, citrus and nectarine varietal flavours melding deliciously with the very high quality oak. The rich, fine texture and subtle undertones of oak fermentation and maturation only added to the appeal.

Houghton Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2010 $8.55–$11
Western Australia
Good luck to the new owners of Houghton, that venerable Western Australian brand – once independent, then, over time, part of Thomas Hardy, BRL Hardy, Hardy Wine Company, Constellation Wines Australia and now Accolade Wines. Fortunately, Houghton had access to a huge range of top vineyards spread through Western Australia’s south west. The quality of fruit shows in this often-discounted red. It offers ripe, plummy flavour, medium body and elegant structure, albeit with a slight rustic edge to the tannins. Great value here.

Mount Majura Tempranillo 2010 $40
Mount Majura Vineyard, Canberra District, Australian Capital Territory
Winemaker Frank van de Loo says tempranillo has become Mount Majura’s signature variety – “even as our most expensive wine, it is the wine that many customers seek us out for”, he writes. And they won’t be disappointed in the 2010 when it’s release early next month. It’s of medium colour and body with appealing, vibrant blueberry-like aroma, with a touch of spice. The same lively fruit and spice comes through on a concentrated, juicy palate – the fruit quickly enveloped by tempranillo’s signature firm, but not hard, tannins.

Mount Majura TSG (Tempranillo Shiraz Graciano) 2010 $28
Mount Majura Vineyard, Canberra District, Australia Capital Territory
In this exotic blend, Frank van de Loo sandwiches Australia’s good old workhorse shiraz, between the Spanish varieties Tempranillo and Graciano. Frank says that tempranillo and shiraz work best on the site, but graciano “proves to be a good partner in the blend, adding spice and lift”. It’s a highly aromatic red, tempting with its sweet, spicy red-berry character – and completely delicious on the palate, combining the soft generosity of shiraz with the tannic bite of tempranillo and buoyancy of graciano.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 20 July 2011 in The Canberra Times

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