Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne $85
Some of Australia’s top bubblies provide better value drinking, in my view, than some of the French non-vintage styles. But Louis Roederer, still in family hands, shows why real Champagne remains the benchmark. It has the assertive pinot flavour and structure more typical of a vintage Champagne, with a unique and lovely elegance, freshness and lightness – courtesy of the chardonnay component. There’s nothing hit and miss about this. It gets back to great grapes from the company’s highly rated 190-hectares of vineyards, skilled winemaking and blending – including the use of two-to-five-year-old reserve wines – and a minimum three years’ maturation in bottle.
Giant Steps Yarra Valley Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 $34.95 & Tarraford Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 $39.95. Stonier Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2006 $26.99
This is a trio of wonderful, new-age chardonnays – totally oak fermented and matured but not at all oaky, just vibrantly varietal, if restrained, and luxuriously textured. The first two show a family resemblance but also the subtle flavour difference of two different Yarra vineyard sites. I tried but couldn’t see the ‘pith, pears, mixed nuts’ nor the ‘Anzac biscuits’ and ‘toasted fresh coconut’ flavours described in the press release. But, gee, they tasted good – the Sextons a little leaner and Tarraford with more fruit weight. Stonier’s, too, showed class, with the flavour depth, but delicacy, to wash down a platter of fresh blue-swimmer crabs.
Coriole McLaren Vale Chenin Blanc 2007 $15, Redstone Shiraz 2005 $18.50, Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $18.50
The Loire Valley’s chenin blanc proved versatile in Australia, making good fortified wine and, when makers bothered, good table wine. Coriole embraced it back in 1977, becoming one of its few supporters and making a delicious, tropical-fruit-scented dry white that ages well and provides a change from chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc. The reds are appealing, drink-now regional varietals in the sturdy but not-too-heavy warm-climate mould. The bright, chocolate-rich and firm cabernet offers great value. And the shiraz, with its extra year in bottle, shows a pleasing rustic, savoury character – a feature that, to me, separates the Vale’s shiraz from those made in the Barossa, to the north.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008