Wine review — Tahbilk, Balnaves & Peter Lehmann

Tahbilk Nagambie Lakes Shiraz 2003 $17-$22
‘I predicted a crop loss of 50% – the bad news is that is more like 70–75% which is a disaster’, writes proprietor Alister Purbrick of the 2007 vintage (see my column in next Wednesday’s Food & Wine for more info on Australia’s 2007 grape harvest). The problem has not been quite so severe as a whole, but a small vintage, and consequent drying up of the surplus, means that prices have begun to firm. Hence, stocking up on big-value wines like Tahbilk’s shiraz makes sense. The 2003 is in the typical Tahbilk medium-bodied style with focus on savoury shiraz flavours and firm tannins to match – a very natural, low oak, real red.

Balnaves Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 about $35
Long-time Coonawarra grape grower, Doug Balnaves, turned to winemaking more than a decade ago, hiring former Wynns winemaker, Pete Bissell. With Doug running the vineyards and Pete calling the winemaking shots, the business has produced consistently outstanding wines including the current release 2005 Chardonnay ($30), 2004 Shiraz ($26), 2004 The Blend ($21), 2004 Cabernet Merlot ($26) and especially this 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s what Coonawarra ought to be – definitively cabernet sauvignon in aroma, flavour and structure with the mid-palate fruit richness to balance the variety’s naturally firm tannins. In fact, it slips down all to easily at present, belying the depth that’ll see it through a decade or more in the cellar.

Peter Lehmann Barossa Semillon 2005 $11-$14
Peter Lehmann describes this appealing white accurately as sitting ‘beautifully between the freshness of Riesling and the greater weight of Chardonnay’. It represents a style evolution that began with fairly heavy, oak-matured Barossa semillons — like Basedows White Burgundy – and morphed to a more approachable no-oak, lower alcohol version, largely through the work of Peter and Doug Lehmann’s winemaker, Andrew Wigan. Wig, as everyone calls him, reminds me, too, that the even more wonderful Lehmann Reserve Semillons (2001 and 2002 both won gold at last year’s Barossa show) are also made without oak and not with it as reported in this column earlier this year.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007