Wine review — Nicholson River, Black Jack & Santa Barbara

Nicholson River Gippsland Pinot Noir 2004 $15
Thirty years ago science teacher-turned social worker, Ken Eckersley, planted vines at Nicholson River, East Gippsland, Victoria. It was pioneering stuff at the time. And today Ken and wife Juliet produce a range of wines, including their specialties, pinot noir and chardonnay. Ken says they built their reputation on chardonnay originally. But today, adds Ken,  ‘I like to make a nice pinot and sell it at $15’– inverse snobbery, he calls it, with top pinots pulling $60 and more a bottle. And it’s an understatement, as this is probably the tastiest, most genuine pinot you’re likely to find at $15. See

Black Jack Bendigo Shiraz 2005 $35, Block 6 Shiraz $35, Major’s Line Shiraz 2005 $25
Shiraz has so many expressions in Australia, ranging from the just-ripe, white-peppery styles like Mornington Peninsula’s Wildcroft Wild One Shiraz to the suck-the-water-from-you-eyes blockbusters of northeastern Victoria. Bendigo’s Black Jack Vineyard produces a style that might be called robust cool climate – rich, warm soft wines that sit somewhere between the burly Barossa style and, say, the refined elegance of Canberra shiraz. These, juicy, gentle, appealing wines, made by owners Ken Pollock and Ian McKenzie, reflect the character of different vineyards – the first two being estate grown while Major’s Line comes from David Norris’s vineyard at Faraday, about six kilometres to the south. See

Santa Barbara Le Vaglie Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi 2006 $28
We plucked this bone dry Italian white from the wine list at Da Noi, the legendary Sardinian restaurant in South Yarra. Made from the indigenous verdicchio grape — grown on the coastal plain, near Jesi in the Marche region – it’s a full-flavoured, utterly dry style with a tart, bordering on bitter, edge that grew in appeal as successive portions of a sensational antipasto arrived. This is as good a Jesi verdicchio as I’ve seen, if not a match for the best from the more elevated Matelica region to the west. Available direct from the importer, call Maurizio at Arquilla Wines 03 9387 1040.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008