Wine review — Hugh Hamilton, Good Catholic Girl, Topper’s Mountain, John Duval, Best’s and Kingston Estate

Hugh Hamilton The Rascal Shiraz 2010 $25.50–$30
Bethany and Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Hugh Hamilton’s latest Rascal shiraz demonstrates the outstanding quality of the 2010 vintage in South Australia’s warm regions. The wine appeals for its full, ripe, generous flavours, bright fruit and earthy, savoury undertones (typical of top-notch McLaren Vale shiraz). The combination of rich, sweet fruit and soft tannins means easy drinking now, though the wine could be cellared for a few years. Hamilton says it’s a blend of 12 batches harvested from 10 blocks on this three vineyards – two in the Bethany sub-region and one in Blewitt Springs.

Good Catholic Girl Teresa Riesling 2012 $25
Barry Marsson Vineyard, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia

Julie Barry, winemaker and self-titled Head Girl, writes, “I am especially relieved to show you my 2012 Teresa Clare riesling as I did not have one to show in 2011 after the devil did his work in the vineyard”. Barry’s 2012 delivers Clare’s mouth-wateringly delicious fruit flavour and crisp, refreshing acidity – towards the fuller bodied end of the regional style spectrum. The back label describes Teresa of Avila as patron saint of headache sufferers. Go easy then. Available at www.goodcatholicgirl.com.au

Topper’s Mountain Barrel Fermented Petit Manseng 2011$34
Tingha, New England, NSW

The 10-hectare Topper’s Mountain vineyard lies at an altitude of 900 metres on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, between Armidale and Inverell. The vineyard, planted in 2000 and 2002 by Mark and Stephanie Kirby, contains a number of alternative varieties, including the obscure south-western French petit manseng – the latter grafted onto petit verdot vines in 2009. The high acid of the cold year lends a racy, sappy excitement to the delicate, bone-dry palate, subtly and gently fleshed out by the barrel fermentation. Available at www.toppers.com.au

John Duval Eligo Shiraz 2010 $105
Barossa and Eden Valleys, South Australia

Through either modesty or commercial embargo, John Duval declares on the back label, “Over the last three decades in the Barossa I was given the opportunity to make Australia’s most famous wine”. Duval made Penfolds Grange and remained close to its creator, Max Schubert, until Schubert’s death in 1994. But ever confident as a winemaker, Duval offers in Eligo his own interpretation of shiraz – a powerful but elegant French-oak matured blend from the Barossa and Eden Valleys.

Best’s Bin No. 1 Shiraz 2011 $25–$28
Best’s Great Western Vineyard, Grampians, Victoria

It’s the hour of reckoning: what kind of reds has the cold, wet, diseased-ravaged 2011 vintage delivered? Quantities are certainly reduced; and the grapes that made it to the winery produced wines showing the cold-vintage character. In Best’s that means a lighter bodied shiraz than usual (in the medium-bodied regional context) and considerably more pepper-like aroma and flavour (the cold end of the varietal spectrum). But the fruit’s bright and sweet, albeit less weighty than usual, and the wine well balanced and lovely to drink.

Kingston Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 $10.45–$15
Mount Lofty Ranges and Mount Benson, South Australia

Even at this modest price Kingston Estate’s winemakers appear to have snatched victory from the jaws of the troubled 2011 vintage.  First and foremost, Kingston Estate smells and tastes like cabernet sauvignon and has its firm tannin structure. But the cool season translates into less flesh on the bone – meaning a lean, taut, sinewy style, but thankfully not the green unripe flavours that could herald. This style of wine suits roasted red meats and savoury food in general.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 3 October 2012 in The Canberra Times

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