Wine review — Cullens, Majella, Shaw Vineyard Estate, Turkey Flat, Grove Estate and Mount Horrocks

Cullens Kevin John Chardonnay 2008 $75
Margaret River, Western Australia

Our best winemakers invariably bring a wide frame of reference to their work. Vanya Cullen, for example, stages a tasting of the world’s best chardonnays every year in the family winery. It’s a benchmarking exercise that’s helped lift Cullens Chardonnay, named for Vanya’s late father, into Australia’s top tier. It’s a subtle, fine, beautiful wine that grows on you, building in intensity and interest with every sip. We savoured our bottle over a trout salad at Yellow Bistro, Potts Point.

Majella Shiraz 2008 $28
Coonawarra, South Australia

Excuse the disgusting slurping sounds. But you have to chew, even frolic, in a shiraz this voluptuous. It’s a surprising wine for Coonawarra – big on alcohol at 15% and big on fruit. But there’s no heat in the alcohol and no jammy, overripe flavours in the fruit – just pure, varietal berries. And typical of Majella there’s a well judged dollop of oak meshed with the fruit flavours. This is a seductive drop indeed; simply irresistible.

Shaw Vineyard Estate Premium Cabernet Merlot 2008 $25
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales

Graeme Shaw and Bryan Currie make both a straight cabernet sauvignon and this blend with 15 per cent merlot – all sourced from Shaw’s Murrumbateman vineyard. They’re polished wines featuring pristine varietal fruit flavours. But the blend, to my taste, is the more complete wine of the two. There’s a little more plummy ripeness in the aroma and a tasty bulge of ripe fruit on the mid palate, presumably the merlot, filling out the famous cabernet hole.

Turkey Flat Mourvedre 2008 $35
Barossa Valley, South Australia

Turkey Flat vineyard dates from 1847. The Schulz family bought it in 1870. But the Turkey Flat label appeared only in 1990 when Peter and Christie Schulz took over. In recent years they’ve spared a portion of wine from their old mourvedre vines for special bottling. It’s a late ripening variety and Schulz reckons this, and a vigorous canopy, saved it from the Barossa’s savage March 2008 heatwave. The resulting tiny, black berries made a distinctive, delightfully fruity, savoury wine.

Grove Estate The Italian Sangiovese Barbera 2008 $20
Hilltops, New South Wales

What do you get when you cross two Italian varieties – taut, savoury, pale, tannic sangiovese with fruity, fleshy, crimson-rimmed, acidic barbera? Well, for Brian Mullany and the gang at Grove Estate you get a tasty medium-coloured, medium bodied Italian-style quaffer. There’s a nice core of fruit laced with the sort of savoury, drying tannins that go well with savoury food and char-grilled meats of all kinds. This is just the entry wine for this impressive vineyard. Watch for more.

Mount Horrocks Semillon 2009 $27
Clare Valley, South Australia

They say the word “semillon”, unaccompanied by “sauvignon blanc” on a label is the kiss of death. Perhaps “they” haven’t tried Stephanie Toole’s glorious Clare Valley version. It’s completely oak fermented and matured – a process that, sensitively executed, accentuates the pure, lemony varietal flavour while adding structure, texture and complexity, but not oakiness. It’s a mile away from the idiosyncratic, austere Hunter style of semillon; but not as full bodied as chardonnay. It’s a must try if you enjoy full-flavoured but fine-boned whites.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010