Wine review — Bay of Fires, Howard Park, Vasse Felix, Shaw Vineyard Estate, Heartland and Shingleback

Bay of Fires Tasmania Pinot Noir $35
East Coast, Coal River Valley and Derwent Valley, Tasmania

For a glimpse of Tasmania’s winemaking future, grab a bottle of this beautiful, silk-smooth, trophy-winning pinot before the price heads north. It’s part of Constellation Wine’s portfolio and made at their Bay of Fires Winery, Pipers River. Winemaker Fran Austin sourced fruit for the wine from a variety of clones grown on several vineyards on Tasmania’s East Coast, Coal River Valley and Derwent Valley. Fran’s been tweaking the wine for about a decade, and in that time we’ve seen it evolve from a nice drop to jaw-dropping good. It joins a growing number of distinguished wines destined to make Tassie Australia’s pinot capital. Added gold and trophy to its credits at the recent National Wine Show.

Howard Park Porongurup Riesling 2010 $30
Porongurup, Great Southern, Western Australia

This year Howard Park added a second riesling to its range from Great Southern. The wine, tasted at the Denmark winery and again in Canberra, comes from a pair of 25-year old vineyards in the Porongurup sub-region. In its purity and intensity it’s comparable in some ways to the standard blend (also $30 and principally from Denmark). But there’s an extra dimension and length of flavour to the new wine suggesting that the two will diverge as time emphasise their now subtle differences.

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2008 $50
Margaret River, Western Australia

The inherent fruit flavour in Margaret River chardonnay is, I suspect, delicate, not powerful; and the greatest examples coming out of the area now reflect this. Cullens is a great example of capturing that delicacy without sacrificing complexity. And next door at Vasse Felix winemaker Virginia Wilcock crafts Heytesbury to a comparable level. It’s all wild-yeast fermented in 70 per cent new oak and matured on yeast lees. While this adds a funky note, and some spicy oak character, the core flavour is intensely, vividly varietal and of great freshness – thanks in part to blocking the malolactic fermentation and maintaining acidity.

Shaw Vineyard Estate Premium Riesling 2009 $22
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wa
Graeme Shaw’s modestly priced 2009 provides quite a contrast to all the bright new 2010 rieslings arriving on market. It’s remarkable what that extra year in bottle does. Age is already giving the pure riesling varietal aroma an interesting toasty note. And the toastiness comes through in the flavour, too. The texture is slightly thicker than in the younger wines and there’s a little grip in the still fresh and lively palate. The flavour shift and extra weight the wine now has moves it away from the aperitif style – something you might enjoy with a rich terrine.

Heartland Shiraz 2008 $17
Langhorne Creek and Limestone Coast, South Australia

Ben Glaetzer’s Heartland wines are consistently seductive and beautifully made. I’ve never been disappointed. Even in the difficult, hot 2008 vintage, Glaetzer captures shiraz’s clear varietal flavour, generous flavour and soft tannins. And even though it’s fairly big wine it’s tremendously vital and fruity, but not heavy. It’s a blend of about two-thirds Langhorne Creek shiraz and one third from the Limestone Coast, a little to the south. It’s matured in three to five year old barrels, hence the red-wine mellowness without overt oakiness.

Shingleback Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 $24.95
McLaren Vale, South Australia

The drought affected 2007 vintage produced small crops across much of southeastern Australia. The resulting wines tend to show a strong tannin structure, but in general they’re better than the heat-affected 2008s. Shingleback, from the cooler southern end of McLaren Vale shows the flavour concentration of the vintage. But for such a warm area the wine’s not blocky and big. It’s fragrant and varietal, showing a touch of the Vale’s chocolate character. The palate’s generous and ripe and fine tannins give an elegance to the structure.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010