Wine review — Vasse Felix, De Bortoli, PHI, Oxford Landing Estates and Dopff au Moulin

Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot 2010 – wine of the week $20.89–$26
Northern Margaret River, Western Australia
At a recent cabernet tasting Virginia Willcock’s shimmering blend attracted drinkers to it like gold diggers to a new lode. Fragrance, purity, deliciousness and finesse drew many of us back for second and third helpings. Willcock says cabernet sauvignon provides the structural tannin and blackcurrant fruit flavour and merlot adds a soft, luscious mouth feel. A splash of malbec contributes another layer of fruit, fragrance and tannin. It’s a seductive example of Margaret River’s specialty, made to enjoy young – quite a contrast to Vasse Felix’s more powerful Heytesbury reviewed here today.

Vasse Felix Heytesbury 2009$85.49–$90
Northern Margaret River, Western Australia
Vasse Felix’s flagship cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec blend presents the powerful but elegant, potentially very long lived side of the Bordeaux style. We use descriptors like fragrant, pretty and delicate for the drink-now blend reviewed alongside. But for Heytesbury we move to deep, brooding, ripe, leafy, intense, firm, grippy and multi-layered. It’s a potent, well-proportioned blend of cabernet sauvignon (69 per cent), petit verdot (16 per cent) and malbec (15 per cent) needing many years in the cellar. Winemaker Virginia Willcock says the cabernet’s from their oldest vines, dating from the late 1960s.

De Bortoli Windy Peak Chardonnay 2011 $11.25–$14
Yarra Valley, Victoria
The trickle-down effect almost invariably means that bigger companies making the very finest wines also make the best cheaper wines. In this instance, for a modest price, we enjoy a scrumptious, fine-boned, silky-textured Yarra chardonnay that’s a spin-off from decades of vineyard and winery work on De Bortoli’s top end products. Leanne de Bortoli and winemaker husband, Steve Webber, write, “where something is grown dictates the aroma and flavour”, hence the decision, arrived at over many years, to source Windy Peak chardonnay exclusively from the Yarra Valley.

PHI Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 $38–$45
Shelmerdine Lusatia Park Vineyard, Woori Yallock, Yarra Valley, Victoria
The Phi brand combines the winemaking and viticultural skills of the De Bortoli and Shelmerdine families respectively. Hand-picked, hand-sorted bunches from the Shelmerdine’s Lusatia Park vineyard were whole-bunch pressed and the juice, after overnight settling, went to oak barrels for spontaneous fermentation (followed by malo-lactic fermentation). It’s all a very natural affair, resulting in a really beautiful drink – deeply, smoothly textured; intensely flavoured (grape fruit and melon-rind varietal, integrated with the leesy background of barrel maturation); with brisk acidity holding the flavour and structural elements together.

Oxford Landing Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2010 $7–$9.50
Riverland Region, Murray River, South Australia
Yalumba’s Wyndham Hill-Smith established Oxford Landing vineyard on the Murray River, South Australia, in 1958. In the 1980s Hill-Smith’s son, Robert, launched the Oxford Landing Estate range as a fighting brand to take on the big companies. The meticulously managed estate still contributes grapes to a brand that sits with the best in its price range. But the company also sources grapes from other growers in the region – hence the subtle rebranding from ‘estate’ to ‘estates’. This is all you could ask for at the price – clean, fresh, deliciously fruity and clearly made from cabernet, fleshed out with a touch of shiraz.

Dopff au Moulin Riesling 2010 $13.29–$14
Alsace, France
Alsace riesling provides a tasty contrast to Australian style. Sourced from Dopf’s vineyards in the vicinity of the lovely old town of Riquewihr. It’s a highly aromatic wine with a distinct musk note, reminiscent of gewürztraminer, if not as rampant. The deeply fruity, fresh palate reflects the aromatics and has a viscosity unique to Alsace wines. It finishes dry, though not bone dry. Woolworths imports the Dopff au Moulin range for sale through its Woolworths Liquor, BWS and Dan Murphy outlets.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 11 April 2012 in The Canberra Times

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