Wine review — Helm, Balnaves and Seppelt

Helm Canberra District Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 $45
Balnaves Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 $31

As Canberra’s shiraz reputation soars, Ken Helm remains a cabernet true believer. And his latest release certainly has merit. It’s riper, fuller and more youthfully coloured than earlier vintages – attributes of the warm vintage and modified winemaking and viticultural practice. But measured against a good, but not top-shelf, Coonawarra of the same vintage, in my view it fails to stack up. There are blemishes to the Canberra wine, good as it is, that leave the elegant, supple-but-firm Balnaves wine a length or two in front. Others may disagree – Ken certainly does – but I’ve seen little evidence to support the cabernet-in-Canberra argument. Our best don’t compare with good-average-quality Coonawarras, let alone the elites from that area or Margaret River.

Seppelt Victorian Shiraz 2005 $16–$19
Seppelt became part of Foster’s as a result of its 2005 acquisition of Southcorp wines. But the wine styles have remained intact, thanks to the suite of outstanding Victorian vineyards and continuity in winemaking under Arthur O’Connor and then Emma Wood. Shiraz is the winery’s benchmark red. And while there’s a Victorian focus and familial rich-but-medium-bodied style, there’s also considerable diversity within that theme.  Victoria Shiraz – from Grampians, Glenlofty, Bendigo and Great Western – sets an affordable pace with its spicy and savoury varietal aroma and supple and rich palate. The focus is on fruit flavour with a modest tannin grip and no overt oak.

Seppelt Heathcote Shiraz 2005 $50–$55
Seppelt Benno Bendigo Shiraz 2005 $50–$55
Seppelt St Peters Grampians Shiraz 2005 $65–$70

The top-shelf Seppelt shirazes reflect the different flavours derived from varied vineyard sites in Victoria. They’re appreciably more concentrated and purple-hued than the Victorian blend. The Heathcote wine shows the red-berry end of the shiraz spectrum, tinged with an appealing spiciness. Benno (named after Benno Seppelt and sourced from Bendigo) delivers opulent blackberry-like varietal flavour. It’s a striking, big but lovely mouthful of a wine and highly distinctive.  The flagship, St Peters, has become finer in recent years, shedding a little oak and showing its sensational fruit. This is pure class, a wonderfully peppery, spicy, intense and elegant red with probably decades of cellaring ahead.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008