Wine review — Henschke, Innocent Bystander, Picardy, Mount Majura and Mount Horrocks

Henschke Louis Semillon 2009 $28
Eden Valley, South Australia

Named for the late Louis Edmund Henschke, this light-bodied, bone-dry semillon comes from 50-year-old vines on a Henschke vineyard. Like the Hunter style, it’s tank fermented, never goes near oak and is bottled early to preserve the fruit flavour. However, it’s slightly fuller than the Hunter style, with the distinct aroma and flavour of warm-grown semillon – somewhere between lemongrass and wet hessian. Don’t be put off by the latter, though, as there’s a zesty, tart, lemony tang setting Louis apart from other wines. Would be terrific with delicate fish.

Innocent Bystander Chardonnay 2009 $19.95
Yarra Valley, Victoria

Winemaker Steve Flamsteed writes that in the bushfire, smoke-damaged 2009 vintage Innocent Bystander destroyed all of their reds because “nothing made the cut” – but salvaged small quantities of whites through selective hand harvesting and gentle winemaking. The lovely chardonnay we see eighteen months after the fire delivers pure, varietal citrus and melon flavours, set in a textural richness derived from 100 per cent barrel fermentation and maturation. It’s rich, but not heavy, with lively natural acidity.

Picardy Merlimont 2008 $48
Pemberton, Western Australia

This is Dan Pannell’s occasional, special blend of merlot (58 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (26 per cent) and cabernet franc (16 per cent). It’s a beautiful, limpid wine, square in the refined, elegant St Emilion style. Merlot sets the rich, earthy flavour tones, but cabernet franc adds to the aroma intensity, while cabernet sauvignon contributes to the elegant but firm structure. It’s a complex, more-ish wine with a modest (for today) alcohol level of 13.5 per cent. While it drinks well now, it’ll probably evolve well for another decade.

Mount Majura Tempranillo 2009 $35
Mount Majura, Australian Capital Territory

If first impressions count, then Frank van de Loo’s latest tempranillo ranks among the best of the variety in Australia. At first opening the wine impressed for its pure, plush, fruit flavour – a characteristic, it seems of Canberra’s 2009 reds in general. A few days later, pleased we hadn’t quaffed the whole bottle on day one, we sipped on, savouring the intense, blueberry-like varietal flavour and delicious, savoury, persistent tannins. It’s only a matter of time before Spain’s tempranillo variety moves from niche to mainstream. It’s certainly at home on Mount Majura.

Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz 2007 $80
Eden and Barossa Valleys, South Australia

This is a one-off Henschke blend, sourced from growers in the Tappa Pass and Light Pass areas of the adjoining Barossa and Eden regions. Although matured in about 60 per cent new oak, the luxurious fruit simply gobbled the oak up, morphing into a wine of great dimension. In style, it sits between the hot Barossa and slightly cooler Eden – with vibrant, dark berry flavours, tinged with liquorice and spice, layered with soft tannins, and made complex by the subtle, integrated oak. It’s sealed with the German-developed glass Vino-Lok.

Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling 2010 375ml $35
Auburn, Clare Valley, South Australia

Winemaker Stephanie Toole produces two Clare Valley rieslings – a shimmering, lime-like, dry version from her Watervale vineyard (reviewed in Relax last Sunday) and this unique sweetie from nearby Auburn. Cutting the canes, or cordons, of the vines causes the grapes to become sweeter, while retaining pure varietal flavours and high acidity. The result is a pristine, varietal riesling with crisp acidity and very high sugar levels. It delivers dessert wine sweetness without the aid, or extraneous flavours, inserted by botrytis cinerea (noble rot).

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010