Wine review — Ravensworth, Tower Estate and Saltram Pepperjack

Ravensworth Murrumbateman Shiraz Viognier 2013 $32
Ravensworth 2013 is one of the greatest reds to come out of the Canberra District, a very fine but powerful expression of the local specialty – shiraz co-fermented with small amounts of the white, viognier. Winemaker Bryan Martin writes, “after a few tough years in the vineyard, this year [2013] saw us all in hammocks reading 90s crime fiction, it was that easy”. The crime, though, would be drinking this wine too early. Tasted soon after bottling, it revealed, in a raw, youthful way, Canberra’s distinctive floral aroma, vivid berry-and-spice varietal flavours and sensuous, supple texture. It appeals now, but will deliver even more with bottle age.

Tower Estate Hillside Vineyard Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2012 $30
Long ago the focus on fine chardonnay shifted to cooler regions, hundreds of kilometres south of the Hunter Valley. However, this warm area continues to produce fine chardonnays, some capable of extended bottle ageing. Tower Estate 2012, sourced from the Cowley family Hillside vineyard at Pokolbin, is a good example of the modern lower-Hunter style. Its 12.5 per cent alcohol indicates fairly early fruit picking. Nevertheless, the wine shows ripe, peachy varietal flavour with typical Hunter roundness and softness – the texture enriched by fermentation and maturation in French oak barrels.

Saltram Pepperjack Barossa Shiraz 2012 $15.90–$20
Judges at last year’s Great Australian Shiraz challenge voted Pepperjack the best of the 300 wines exhibited. That it vanquished wines up to seven times its price shows once again the value of masked tastings and the difficulties even experts encounter discerning between $20 and $140 wines. I noted, though, that some of the pricier wines came from challenging vintages like 2008 and 2009, rather than the wonderful (for Barossa) 2012 vintage. Pepperjack shows just what a good year it was. This is ripe, dense, satisfying shiraz of exceptional quality. It’s a great example of the soft but tannic, potentially long-lived Barossa style.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 30 March 2014 in the Canberra Times

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