Wine review — Cullen, Lanson, Kilikanoon, Oakridge, Ant Moore and d’Arenberg

Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot 2008 $105
Margaret River, Western Australia

What a contrast on the tasting bench – an ink-black, 14.9 per cent alcohol $75 Coonawarra cabernet and Cullen’s limpid, 12.5 per cent alcohol $105 cabernet merlot blend. I’ve no objection to the blockbuster. But, oh my, how can anything beat Cullen’s subtle elegance? Despite the low alcohol, it’s perfectly ripe, with not a trace of the leafiness cabernet sometimes has. Vanya Cullen attributes the ripeness at low alcohol level to structural changes in the soil resulting from biodynamic management – and fastidious berry selection. This is a beautiful wine with the depth and structure to age gracefully for decades.

Champagne Lanson Gold Label Brut Vintage 1998 $68–$85
Champagne, France

In the right conditions, Champagne ages gracefully for many decades – protected by low cellaring temperatures, high acidity, yeast lees and dissolved carbon dioxide. Throw in the region’s unique, beautiful fruit flavours and you get the incomparably mature but fresh delicacy seen in this 12-year-old Lanson. The high acidity’s still there freshening up the deliciously honeyed, mature fruit flavours. In the context of Champagne it’s not of the first order – but it’s knocking on the door, and certainly trumps any Australian bubbly. Imported by Woolworths for Dan Murphy.

Kilikanoon Mort’s Block Riesling 2009 $20–$32
Watervale, southern Clare Valley, South Australia
It’s sold out at cellar door, but we bought our bottle at Candamber, Civic, en route to Flavours of India restaurant. What a perfect wine it was for the hot and spicy food. That’s generically true of dry and semi dry riesling, thanks to its pure fruit flavour and crisp acidity. But Kilikanoon went the extra yard, offering really intense, delicious varietal flavour and a pleasing textural richness that comes to good riesling after a year or two in bottle. Should drink beautifully for a decade at least.

Oakridge “The Parish” Shiraz 2008 $23–$33
Yarra Valley, Victoria

In a recent masked tasting this tasty, supple shiraz rated a tad behind Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Shiraz 2008 (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand), but a length ahead of Hungerford Hill Tumbarumba Shiraz 2008. They were three very good, graceful cool-climate styles. The Oakridge wine focuses on fresh, pure, bright berry flavours, layered with soft, supple tannins. Its softness and delicious, fruity flavours provide good drinking now, but it’ll probably drink well for three or four years. Oakridge makes it for the Coles’ Vintage Cellars chain.

Ant Moore Pinot Noir 2008 $29.95
Central Otago, New Zealand

Ant Moore’s pinot comes without the fancy price tag of many of its Central Otago peers. While the colour’s mid-to-pale, it weighs in at a solid 14.2% alcohol and presents a solid, earthy, savoury face of pinot. The aroma and palate reveal full fruit ripeness, without the floral and musk notes we see in many local versions – it’s more vinous, with a touch of earthy “beetroot” and a savoury note from the oak. The palate’s full and finely textured with savoury pinot flavours and an assertive, tannic bite.

d’Arenberg “The Custodian” Grenache 2007 $19.95
McLaren Vale, South Australia

Grenache is the backbone of France’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation and a star of d’Arenberg’s wonderful red line up – in tandem with shiraz in the classic “d’Arry’s Blend”.  In “The Custodian”, though, grenache stands on its own. It’s earthy, rich and sweet fruited with a savoury dryness that goes well with food – a particularly good example that avoids the tendency to confection-like flavours that can be a turn off. In the concentrated 2007 vintage the savoury tannins feature more than usual, but as they’re backed by loads of fruit sweet, it looks to an age-worthy vintage.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010