A Christmas drink list

Seppeltsfield Flora Fino DP 117 375ml $22
Until recently this sensationally fresh, zesty, tangy, aromatic wine was labelled as ‘sherry’,  a name now reclaimed by the Spanish. It’s an overlooked gem on the Australian wine scene and a treat to sip, lightly chilled, during hot weather. It’s bone dry savouriness make it a great match to tapas and other savoury foods.

Mt Horrocks Watervale Riesling 2009 $30
Stephanie Toole’s Mount Horrocks, from the Clare Valley’s Watervale sub-region, shows young riesling’s amazing lime-like briskness. It’s rich, purely varietal, bone dry, light and delicate. It’s a wonderfully refreshing style that can be enjoyed on its own, with delicate food as an aperitif or, thanks to its fruitiness and zesty acidity, with spicy Asian food.

Stefano Lubiana Tasmania Chardonnay 2005 $39
Steve and Monique Lubiana’s vineyard, on the Derwent River, is in one of Australia’s great chardonnay-growing hot spots. The climate, combined with attention to detail in the vineyard and winery, produces wines of extraordinary intensity and finesse. The natural, fresh acid, intense flavour and a few years bottle age make this one of the most complex and enjoyable chardonnays on the market. And the price is modest given the TLC behind it. See www.slw.com.au

Clonakilla O’Riada Canberra District Shiraz 2008 $35
This delicious, fine-boned shiraz viognier is an offshoot of Clonakilla’s $75 flagship shiraz viognier. The wine comprises about 40 per cent of components ‘declassified’ from the flagship blend plus material from three local growers favoured by winemaker Tim Kirk: Phil Williams of Hall and Long Rail Gully and Quarry Hill Vineyard of Murrumbateman. At a few dinners where it was served alongside other Canberra wines the O’Riada glass was the one that I returned to again and again. It’s outstanding and a great joy to drink.

Curly Flat Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir 2006 $46
Each vintage Phillip and Jenny Moraghan produce numerous barrels of pinot from their estate-grown fruit. Over time they separate the barrels into ‘Curly Flat’ and ‘Williams Crossing’ components. At $24 Williams Crossing is to my taste the best value pinot in Australia. But Curly Flat is the flagship – a pinot of real substance and dimension with the ability to develop beautifully for years in the bottle. I’ve consistently awarded the 2006 gold medal scores in the Macedon regional show and have confirmed those impressions over several bottles at Chateau Shanahan.

Hewitson Barossa Old Garden Mourvedre 2007 $70
The international language of top-quality wine focuses on vineyard location. It’s a concept inherent in every estate-grown wine and, increasingly, in offerings like this highly distinctive Dean-Hewitson-made red. Back in 1853 Friedrich Koch planted mourvedre vines on a sandy site at what we now call Rowland Flat, in the southern Barossa Valley. Koch’s descendents still hand prune and harvest those venerable old vines (each an individual bush) and the fruit goes to ‘Old Garden’. It’s a magnificent, powerful-but-elegant red that’s seamlessly absorbed its maturation in new French oak barrels. This is a national treasure.

Mt William Winery Macedon Ranges Blanc de Blancs 2001  $35
This ultra-fine, elegant, marvellously fresh all-chardonnay wine earned gold medals at the last three annual Macedon regional wine shows. Macedon’s extremely cool growing conditions delivers a delicate flavour and structure found in very few Australian regions. It’s a delightful aperitif style and now beginning to show some pleasant bottle aged character. See www.mtwilliamwinery.com.au

Red Hill Estate Mornington Peninsula Blanc de Noirs 2006 $35
Made entirely of red grapes, Red Hill’s Blanc de Noirs shows the slightest stain of colour in its otherwise lemon-gold hue. There’s a touch of strawberry in the aroma and flavour of this gentle, very fine, dry bubbly. It’s fuller bodied than the Mt William, and has the backbone and savouriness of the red varieties, albeit in a fine and delicate way. See www.redhillestate.com.au

Brown Brothers Patricia Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier 2004 $56
Patricia comes from the cold Whitlands vineyard on a plateau above the southern end of Victoria’s King Valley. It’s cold enough to produce the intense but delicate flavours essential for top-end bubbly. This is juicy and fresh but very delicate, with a special textural richness and roundness probably attributable to the use of pinot meunier, a relative of pinot noir.

Bay of Fires Tasmania Arras Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2002 $50–$65
Made by Ed Carr, this is as fine, flavoursome and delicate a bubbly as Australia makes. Ed’s quest for bubbly perfection took him from the mainland to Tasmania, where fruit sourcing is drifting from the north to the cooler southern regions. The wine is to be rebadged as ‘House of Arras’ in the new year. The Bay of Fires and Arras brands belong to Constellation Wine Estates, formerly BRL Hardy.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne NV $85
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 vineyards, skilled winemaking and blending – including the use of two-to-five-year-old reserve wines – and a minimum three years’ maturation in bottle.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009