Wine review — Ara and Penfolds

Ara Marlborough Composite Pinot Noir 2007 $24–$27
Ara Marlborough Pathway Pinot Noir 2008 $19–$22

Nowhere is the old saying ‘by their fruits shall you know them’ more apt than in winemaking – a wine that speaks for itself beats even the fruitiest press release. And these two new releases from Ara did just that -– ‘Pathway’ presenting a particularly bright and zesty face (but still with savouriness); and ‘Composite’ focusing more on savouriness (but still with bright fruit). They’re absolutely outstanding – wines that build in interest as you sip through the bottle. Encouragingly, both blossomed for a few days after tasting, a good indicator of cellaring ability. They’re from a terrace on the junction of Marlborough’s Wairau and Waihopai Valleys.

Ara Marlborough Composite Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $19–$22
Ara Marlborough Pathway Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $16–$19

Like the pinot above these come from a large terrace near the junction of Marlborough’s Wairau and Waihopai Valleys. The terrace covers some 1,600 hectares and contains vines of varying ages. And like the pinot’s they’re outstanding wines. ‘Pathway’ is on the pungent, high-acid side of sauv blanc – but has a fruity depth to make these attributes tantalising. ‘Composite’ shows a wider spectrum of sauv blanc characters – a bit pungent, a bit tropical fruit and with an appealing, minerally dry finish. Ara is an exciting new face on the Marlborough wine scene. It’s headed by Dr Damian Martin. What an impressive debut.

Penfolds Grange 2004 ($550) and other ‘icon’ wines, various prices
Don’t look for massive discounts on the just released Penfolds Grange 2004. Global demand, shortage and stellar quality should kick this vintage off at around $550 a bottle – and it’s up there with the best. The other wines are as sublime, each in its own way: the powerful, cellarable Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 707 2006 ($185); the fragrant, opulent, gorgeous RWT Barossa Shiraz 2006 ($170); the graceful Magill Estate 2006 $100); the taut, elegant, low-oak St Henri 2005 ($95); the elegant, refined Yattarna Chardonnay 2006 ($130) and the bold, complex Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2007 ($90).

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009