Wine review — Draytons, Tar & Roses, Winbirra, Stanton & Killeen, Mount Beautiful and Crittenden Estate

Draytons Vineyard Reserve Shiraz 2009 $30
Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, New South Wales

John Drayton and winemaker William Rikard-Bell say they made this from the Drayton family’s unirrigated Bull Paddock Block, planted in 1965. At a refreshingly modest 13 per cent alcohol, it’s medium bodied and spicy with a substantial grip of savoury, youthful tannins. It’s a world removed from the plump, juicy styles of other warm areas. While it’s enjoyable now with high protein food, it’ll settle into the unique and beguiling “Hunter Burgundy” style with a few years’ bottle age.

Tar and Roses Pinot Grigio 2009 $18
Strathbogie Ranges and Nagambie, Central Victoria

Call it “grigio” or  “gris”, it still means grey – although the skins of this pinot noir mutant can be pink, too. Hence, the pale grey/pink rinse in Tar and Roses, attributable, write winemakers Narelle King and Don Lewis to, “the exposed fruit being affected by the extreme conditions of 2009”. Behind the colour rinse, though, is a thoroughly enjoyable, bone-dry white, with the backbone and grip of pinot, a pleasing pear-like varietal flavour and a textural richness derived from partial barrel fermentation and maturation.

Winbirra Le Marechal Viognier 2008 $25
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

In Canberra we’re more likely to see the white viognier as a minor component with shiraz. On its own it tends to make fat, slightly oily-textured whites, dripping with apricot-like varietal flavour. But there’s a finer version, too, exemplified by the barrel-fermented wines of Condrieu, in France’s Northern Rhone Valley. Winbirra approximates this style. It’s fine boned but silk smooth with crystal-clear, delicate apricot-and-ginger varietal flavour – backed by subtle barrel-derived aromas, flavours and texture.

Stanton and Killeen Fortified Vintage 2005 $45
Rutherglen, Victoria

Inspired by Portugal’s elegant, ethereal, long-lived vintage ports, the late Chris Killeen, led the way in their Australian equivalents. He adopted classic Portuguese varieties and moved decisively away from our traditional heavier, jammy styles. The 2005 is simply beautiful – magnificently luscious, with complex, subtle spirit notes, silky, ethereal texture and, though sweet, finishing dry, thanks to the spirits. It’s destined to age beautifully, becoming more ethereal and elegant as the decades roll by. It’s made from shiraz (32 per cent), durif and the Portuguese varieties tinto cao, tinta roriz and touriga nacional.

Mount Beautiful Pinot Noir $34.95
Cheviot Hills, North Canterbury, New Zealand

This is an exciting start for a new producer. David and Leigh Teece planted vines at Cheviot Hills (about 100km north of Canterbury on the South Island) in 2004 and mad their first pinot in 2007. Their second vintage sits at the pale, delicate end of the pinot spectrum – quite a contrast to the burlier styles from Central Otago, to the south. It’s highly perfumed and purely varietal with an attractive earthy undertone. The palate’s fine-boned with a sweet core of fruit and assertive but soft tannins providing a proper red-wine backbone.

Crittenden Estate Los Hermanos Homenaje e Cataluna 2009 $30
King Valley and Patterson Lakes, Victoria

Garry Crittenden and his son Rollo have been great pioneers of alternate varieties in Australia. In this blend, a tribute to the reds of Spain’s Catalonia region, Rollo combines the Spanish variety tempranillo with mataro (monastrell) and grenache (garnacha). The aroma’s vibrant – built on ripe berries and spice with a touch of pepper. The lively, medium bodied palate reflects the aroma.  And firm, savoury tannins check the lovely, plush berry flavours. It’s a wine that slips down easily and you wonder where the bottle went.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010