Wine review — Crittenden Estate, Coldstream Hills, Dutschke, Majella and Houghton

Crittenden Estate Los Hermanos Tributo a Galicia 2009 $27–$30
Symphonia Vineyard King Valley, Victoria

In early 2009 Australian growers learned that their prized plantings of the Spanish white, albarino, were, in fact, traminer, also known as savagnin blanc. There’d been a gigantic stuff up in Spain decades back and, as a result, the CSIRO imported a woolly pup. Crittenden took the shock graciously, pushing ahead with savagnin and renaming the wine in honour of albarino’s home, Galicia. The partially barrel-fermented wine offers delicious, rich, peachy flavours and a bone-dry, fresh, savoury finish.

Coldstream Hills Chardonnay 2009 $23–$29
Yarra Valley, Victoria

Coldstream Hills has the intensity of fruit flavour and searing acid backbone to match its quite assertive barrel-ferment character. This declares itself in the aroma with a distinctive bacon-rind character hovering over the fruit. The palate springs to life with juicy flavours reminiscent of nectarine spiked with lemon and grapefruit – sweet but also lively and refreshingly acidic at the same time. The barrel-ferment element adorns the lively fruit flavours and adds richness to the texture. Coldstream is a distinguished member of Foster’s recently renamed Treasury Wine Estates.

Crittenden Estate Los Hermanos Tempranillo 2009 $27–$30
Patterson Lakes and King Valley, Victoria

This is an appealing, pure expression of Spain’s tempranillo grape, unburdened by obvious oak – but benefiting from ten months maturation in old barrels. Aromas and flavours of ripe summer berries peek through a pervasive savouriness and spiciness, setting it apart from other red varieties. And on the palate, fresh acidity boosts the fruit flavour, while firm, drying tannins give a farewell tweak. Clearly tempranillo adapts well to Australian conditions – and winemaker Rollo Crittenden’s all over it.

Dutschke Cab Mac Shiraz 2010 $20
Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia

In the early and mid eighties a boom in Beaujolais imports, prompted development of many Australian lookalikes, notably the late Stephen Hickinbotham’s Cab Mac – a name play on the French “maceration carbonique” winemaking technique. In this wine, Wayne Dutschke applies the technique (see for details) to shiraz from old Barossa vines with mouth-watering results. The aroma’s pure, ripe and fragrant and the palate opulent, juicy, slurpy and soft. Dutschke played a part in the original Cab Mac and salutes it by resurrecting the original label.

Majella The Musician Cabernet Shiraz 2009 $17
Coonawarra, South Australia

There’s great excitement in Australian regional wine specialties – glimpsed in today’s diverse selections. Majella’s contribution couldn’t be anything but Coonawarra in its high-toned aroma, sweet, ripe berry flavours and elegant structure. Cabernet, the area’s signature variety, makes up 60 per cent of the blend. It leads the aroma and accounts for the tight structure; and shiraz gently fleshes out the mid palate. It remains one of the best value reds in Australia. It’s sourced entirely from Majella Vineyard, owned by brothers Brian “Prof” Lynn and Anthony Lynn, and the wine’s made on site by Bruce Gregory.

Houghton Gladstones Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 $70
Margaret River, Western Australia

This is about as good as cabernet gets. I’d happily slip it in a masked tasting of top-end Bordeaux reds – including the likes of $1,300-a-bottle Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2005 – and expect an expert panel to see them as peers. At five years’ age, Gladstones, named for visionary viticulturist, Dr John Gladstones, still has the bright crimson colour of youth. It has profoundly, deep, sweet varietal fruit flavour beautifully integrated with superb oak – and the fine, firm structure of great cabernet. It should age well for decades and, from a global perspective, delivers huge value.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010