Yearly Archives: 2011

Fosters releases fourth Crown Ambassador

Fosters released its fourth Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager in mid November. At $89.99 a 750ml bottle, it’s surely Australia’s most expensive beer. But then it’s an extraordinary brew, built for cellaring, Fosters makes only five to seven thousand bottles of it, and it’s positioned to market the Crown Lager brand, not slake a hard-earned thirst.

For the first time in 2011 vintage, brewer John Cozens matured a small portion of the beer in new French oak barrels from one of France’s great cooperages, Dargaud et Jaegle.

The oxidative environment of the barrels and direct flavour inputs from the new oak are certain to influence this year’s beer, despite making up just a few per cent of the final blend.

Like the earlier vintages, it’s high in alcohol (10.2 per cent) and contains fresh-picked galaxy hops from Myrtleford, Victoria. The latter adds distinctive aromas and flavours, and the former boosts the beer’s body and long-term cellaring prospects.

It’s likely to be served in upmarket restaurants and available in some retailers. Past vintages have been outstanding. We’ll report on the 2011 next week.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 7 December 2011 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Lindemans and Peter Lehmann

Lindemans bin range whites $6.65–$10

  • 85 Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Bin 65 Chardonnay 2011
  • Bin 90 Moscato 2011

Lindemans popular bin range began as an export brand in the 1980s, then expanded into the domestic market, only to recede ignominiously following Rosemount’s reverse takeover of Southcorp Wines and Foster’s subsequent swallowing of Southcorp. It’s rebuilding now under Treasury Wine Estates (spun-off from Foster’s). The pinot grigio owes as much to bright acidity as it does to varietal flavour; the chardonnay is excellent at the price with its fresh, crisp, peachy varietal flavour and smooth texture; and the new moscato pleases with its in-your-face but sweet grapey flavours.

Lindemans bin range reds $6.65–$10

  • Bin 50 Shiraz 2010
  • Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

You can expect the whole bin range to be discounted periodically, bringing the price down substantially from the recommended $10. The $6.65 price tag is Dan Murphy’s advertised price, in six-bottle lots, at the time of writing. The reds are both really good wines. Both are built to drink now and focus on pure, vibrant varietal flavours without the deeper, more savoury and tannic notes you’d expect to find in more expensive wines. The shiraz is round and juicy with soft, easy tannins. The cabernet has the variety’s leafy edge and lightly astringent bite.

Peter Lehmann Barossa $12.70–$18

  • Portrait Shiraz 2009
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Peter Lehmann Wines, saved some years back from corporate raiders by Switzerland’s Hess Family, now simply gets on with the job of making good Barossa wines. For about double the price of the Bin 50 and Bin 45 reviewed above, you get wines of notably greater dimension. The shiraz is still plummy, vibrantly fruity and varietal, but the fruit’s denser and more deeply layered with tannins, in the soft Barossa style. The cabernet is strong and assertively varietal, both in flavour and its muscular, firm tannin structure. The wines are often discounted, hence the wide price range.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 4 December 2011 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Arete, Pike’s, Yering Station, Port Phillip Estate, d’Arenberg and Maipenrai

Arete The Chatterbox Shiraz 2010 $18–$20
Andy Kalleske Cemetery Block, Koonunga, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Winemaker Peter Bate’s amazingly delicious, drink-now shiraz comes from a single vineyard in the Barossa’s Koonunga sub-region. It features highly aromatic fruit (floral and musk like) with similar richness, vibrance and freshness on the palate. The juicy, ripe fruit literally ripples across the palate, the essence of the Barossa style ¬– including the soft, almost tender tannins. In short, it captures Barossa generosity and softness while avoiding over-the-top alcohol, tannin and oak. It’s exciting to find such a pure regional style at such a modest price. See

Pike’s Merle Riesling 2011 $38
Clare Valley, South Australia
Pikes produces two Clare Valley rieslings – a $23 blend from the family estate and contract vineyards and this flagship from the family’s “Gill’s Farm” and “Hill” blocks at Polish Hill River, a Clare sub-region. In the cool 2011 vintage Merle seems even more austere and minerally than normal. But under the austerity lies a seam of intense, lime-like varietal flavour on an oh-so-delicate, dry palate. It’s delicious now but destined to evolve for many years as that brisk, steely acidity protects the evolving fruit flavour.

Yering Station Little Yering Pinot Noir $17
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Wines of this calibre, at the price, surely play a role in making pinot noir Australia’s fasting growing major red wine variety (retail volume up 21 per cent in the year to September), albeit off a small base. In the past, cheaper pinots tended to present bright fruit flavours without underlying savouriness or structure. Yering Station, one of our best pinot makers, captures all of these elements in this drink-now version sourced from its own vineyards and selected contract growers.

Port Phillip Estate Salasso Rose 2011 $18.90–$22
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
We’re not great fans of vegemite or rose, though we taste both periodically just to make sure. Vegemite remains in our yuk bin. But this year we’ve enjoyed at tastings (not yet at the dinner table) several flavoursome, soft, dry roses, including Port Phillip Estate’s Salasso. It’s made from shiraz kept on skins just long enough to pick up a rinse of attractive pink-to-onion-skin colour. The fruit flavour’s strawberry like, but checked by a pleasant savouriness on a palate’s that’s soft, fresh and dry but richly textured.

d’Arenberg The Beautiful View Grenache 2009 $99
The Beautiful View sub-region, McLaren Vale, South Australia
At a recent tasting we compared five McLaren Vale grenaches – d’Arenberg’s The Beautiful View 2009, Derelict Vineyard Grenache 2009 ($30) and Blewitt Springs 2009 ($99) plus Noon Eclipse 2007 (no longer available) and Wirra Wirra The Absconder 2010 ($65). The flavours ranged from primary fruit (waiting to become wine) to the more earthy, savoury, winey and mature. d’Arenberg’s The Beautiful View (a McLaren Vale sub-region) appealed as the most complete and subtle – an exciting, if fully priced wine, with probably long-term cellaring potential.

Maipenrai Pinot Noir 2009 $30–$32
Maipenrai Vineyard, Sutton, Canberra District, New South Wales
Canberra’s Nobel laureate, Brian Schmidt, made just 10 barrels of 2009 pinot with just four elevated to the flagship Maipenrai label. Maipenrai opens a little coy and guarded. But with aeration, its full-blown, savoury pinot noir aroma blossoms, evoking dark fruits, beetroot and earth. On the palate, the savoury, earthy flavours are supported by a brisk acidity – which gives life and vibrancy to the fruit – and assertive, fine-boned tannins – which add to the wine’s silky texture. The savouriness and strong tannin backbone set Maipenrai apart from many of its Australian peers and suggest excellent medium to long-term cellaring prospects. See

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 30 November 2011 in The Canberra Times

National wine show delivers its verdict

Australia’s capital city wine shows date from the early nineteenth century when local agricultural societies included wine among the many agricultural products judged by experts. Today these “royal” agricultural society events compete like mad to be the biggest, the best, or in some way different from each other – a healthy competitiveness that sees the quality, style and status of each slowly evolving.

Canberra’s National Wine Show of Australia bills itself as “Australia’s premier wine show” and grand final. The grand final claim rests partly on its timing (early November) and partly on entry qualifications. Wines need medals from recognised wine shows to enter the premium, premium gold and single vineyard classes.

Inconveniently for Canberra, Hobart and Sydney host their events after the so-called grand final – in mid November and early February respectively. On this basis, as the final show before the new vintage wines arrive, Sydney might rightly claim grand final status.

Royal Melbourne claims to be “the benchmark for Australian wine and at the forefront of wine style evolution and winemaking trends”.

Rather less boastfully, and with an air of commercial reality, perhaps instilled by sponsor Macquarie Group, Sydney Royal, dating from 1822, seeks for winners “recognition and a valuable opportunity to shine the spotlight on their wines”.

Royal Adelaide, representing the wine state, seems content to be “one of the pre-eminent wine shows in Australia”. Royal Queensland shares this sentiment as “one of the oldest, most prestigious shows”, while noting special status as the first major post-vintage event of the year (but, by being so close to vintage, limiting access to the new wines).

Royal Hobart, “one of the most significant events on the Australian wine industry calendar”, pulls away from its peers with a nod to its specialty red variety, pinot noir, noting “the award for pinot noir wine is the most prestigious in the show”.

Alone of the capital city shows, Perth Royal makes no claims whatever regarding its status (as far as I could find on its website) – and simply lists this year’s results.

Where shows once equated entry numbers to status (“mine’s bigger than yours”), the National (judged at EPIC in November), many years ago moved in the opposite direction, restricting entries in an attempt to raise the standard of entrants.

As a result, this year’s four judging panels enjoyed the fairly leisurely task of judging 1,444 wines over three days. A revitalised Melbourne, by comparison, attracted 3,298 entries this year. Canberra’s work rate of around 120 wines a day per panel, sits well inside the industry’s recommended maximum of 150. This is good, of course, because it minimises palate fatigue and allows time for judges to evaluate wines properly.

And what did the judges find among the entries that organisers claim, “include only the best of the best Australian wines”?

Among the trophy winners we find several wines that, based on long-term observation, clearly rank among the best of their styles in Australia: House of Arras 2004 Brut Elite, made by sparkling master Ed Carr; Coldstream Hills Yarra Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 201; Tyrrell’s HVD Semillon 2005; Leasingham Classic Clare Sparkling Shiraz 2005; and Morris Old Premium Rare Liqueur Muscat.

Then we have a layer of outstanding trophy winners that’ve been in the spotlight before and are now pushing assertively into the elite ranks: Audrey Wilkinson Winemakers Selection Hunter Semillon 2011, Vasse Felix Margaret River Heytesbury Chardonnay 2010, Brown Brothers Milawa Patricia Noble Riesling 2009, Xanadu Wine Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and De Bortoli PHI Pinot Noir 2010.

After that we see the democracy of a wine show at work, rewarding wines that may be little known to many drinkers (or not perceived to be in the top ranks), but in a masked tasting trump other better known labels: Domaine Chandon Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2010, McWilliams Wines Eden Valley Riesling 2009, Xanadu Wines Next of Kin Shiraz 2010, Amelia Park Cabernet Merlot 2010, Juniper Estate Tempranillo 2010, Coolangatta Estate Semillon 2006, Clairault Margaret River Estate Chardonnay 2010, Houghtons Wisdom Chardonnay 2009 and Madeleines Wines Nangkita Shiraz 2009.

The show organisers must be pleased with the solid representation of small makers in this line up.

Trophy lists often throw up anomalies, too. This year, for example, I can’t help wondering how Rosemount Estate District Shiraz 2010 topped the premium shiraz classes. It’s a delightful, juicy style to enjoy now, certainly deserving its gold medal. But, to me, it lacks the deep, savoury vein of a really top-notch shiraz.

But controversy and differences of opinion always have been and always will be part wine judging. What we can say for sure, though, is that the medal winners from the show are above average wines. Whether or not you and I will like some of the award winners, though, remains a matter of personal taste. It’s worth downloading the catalogue of results from as lists all of the wines and their scores.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 30 November 2011 in The Canberra Times

Growlers seen in Fyshwick

Plonk, at Fyshwick markets, now offers “growlers” – two-litre bottles filled on demand from 30-litre kegs. Growlers became a big part of America’s craft beer scene years ago, but made their Australian debut only last year in Melbourne.

Growlers give drinkers access to fresh, take-home draft beer from small brewers. For small brewers they mean a new route to market. Or, for those reluctant to take on the expense of bottling their product, growlers could be their only take-home offering.

Plonk owner, Anthony Young, says he sells the empty growlers for $10 each. Staff fill the bottles and buyers return with washed bottles for refills.

In late November, Plonk offered growlers of Bridge Road Brewers Galaxy IPA at $20 (compared to $4.90 for a 330-ml bottle – equivalent to $29.70 per two litres). Young intends to expand the range of beers available.

Bridge Road Brewers Galaxy Single Hop IPA 330ml $4.90
India Pale Ale (IPA) – originally a robust, generously hopped ale built for the journey, in cask, from England to India – remains a favourite and widely interpreted style. Brewer Ben Kraus’s version leads with the pleasantly pungent, resiny aroma of galaxy hops. The hops flavour cut through the smooth, rich, intensely palate.

Henney’s Vintage 2010 Still Cider 500ml $7.50
As cider’s popularity grows, we’re seeing many more high-quality versions made entirely from apples – in this case from cider varieties grown in Herefordshire, England. Made in autumn and stored over the winter, Henney’s delivers the full, ripe, mellow slightly rustic flavour of apples with a firm, dry finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 30 November 2011 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Henschke, Gipsie Jack and Pio Cesare

Henschke Julius Eden Valley Riesling 2011 $26.90–$34.80
The technical specs read more like something from the cool slopes of Germany’s Mosel than from Australia’s Eden Valley – pH2.88 and acidity of 9.4 grams per litre. A result of the cool 2011 vintage, the unusually high acidity in Julius provides a lean, taut backbone that accentuates the wine’s intense, delicate lime-like flavour. The bone-dry finish and delicious, lingering lime flavours make it a great stand-along pre-dinner drink or good company for delicate seafood. The combination of intense flavour, high acidity and delicacy means potentially long cellaring ability. It’s packaged in the Eden Valley’s new regional bottle.

Gipsie Jack Langhorne Creek “The Terrier” Shiraz Cabernet 2007 $15–$17
Winemaker John Glaetzer’s ties with Langhorne Creek (near Lake Alexandrina) stretch back to the 1960s and his days with Wolf Blass and the creation of the famous grey and black label reds. The area has been called “Australia’s middle palate” – a salute to the generous, rounded flavours of its reds wine so loved by big-company blenders. But in this collaboration between Glaetzer and Ben Potts, Langhorne’s unblended richness stands on its own – a big, warm, friendly wine with a couple of years’ bottle age. Ripe, earthy shiraz leads the flavour, but cabernet’s backbone and distinctive eucalypt notes make an appearance, too.

Barolo (Pio Cesare) 2006 $95–$100
Piedmont’s great red comes from nebbiolo vineyards in the vicinity of Barolo. Typically, it’s deceptively pale in colour and takes on an orange hue around the rim with a little bottle age. The aroma is often floral (rose-like) and voluminous. But the palate, after a cursory sweet kiss, usually attacks with firm tannins that seem completely at odds with the colour and aroma. Pio Cesare’s version ticks all the Barolo boxes (indeed, one of our masked tasters identified it instantly). There’s an elegance to it, and the strong, savoury tannins never quite overwhelm its sweet core of fruit.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 27 November 2011 in The Canberra Times

Book review — Great, grand and famous Champagnes

Great, grand and famous Champagnes
Jane Powell, Fritz Gubler and Dannielle Viera
Arbon Publishing, Sydney, 2011

We can’t all be like Marilyn Monroe and fill our bathtubs with 150 bottle bottles of Champagne”, declares the accompanying press release. But neither the press release, nor Great, grand and famous Champagnes, reveal the sequel to this intriguing romance: did the winemakers really fill 151 bottles from Miss Monroe’s tub? We’ll never know.

The Monroe story sets the tone for a colourful, if uncritical, portrayal of the romance, glamour, mystique, history, hard-nosed commerce and science underpinning the wine world’s greatest luxury brand. If, like me, you rate the best Champagnes among the world’s greatest wines – and feel that even Gruen Planet couldn’t improve the marketing proposition – then the book’s as easy to swallow as its topic.

The third in Fritz Gubler’s series of ‘great, grand and famous’ books (after hotels and chefs), Champagne appears, like its topic, to be a clever, even sparkling, blend (or assemblage) of information from a wide range of sources.

After being drawn by the press release to the Marilyn Monroe snippet (page 168), we return to the cover. Here, Scott Cameron’s evocative close up of a crystal flute – teeming with the famous, tiny bubbles – reinforces brand Champagne and prepares us for the richly illustrated 240 pages that follow.

We all look at the pictures first. And in Great, grand and famous Champagnes, it’s eye candy from cover to cover – starting with Champagne sipping Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca, 1942) and finishing with a couple of art nouveau postcards of women drinking Champagne (circa 1900).

Every spread in between illustrates Champagne across the ages, capturing its history, commerce, followers and strong brand marketing. The latter includes several reproductions of unique art deco posters, including a classic for Champagne Joseph Perrier, created by Jean d’Ylen in about 1920.

The early part of the book, tracing Champagne’s intimate connections with French royalty and power brokers, portrays some of its great patrons, including luxuriously robed Pope Urban II, the Sun King, Louis XIV, and his mistress Madame de Pompadour.

In the book Jane Powell writes that de Pompadour, “had strong family links to the Champagne region and already understood the difference between sparkling and ordinary champagne. She loved Moet’s wine and soon became one of his most valuable customers, ensuring that Moet’s champagne was served at every important function at Versailles”.

A full-page image of Champagne’s famous wine priest, Dom Pierre Perignon (1638–1715), from a relief at Hautvilliers Abbey, depicts the cellarmaster holding a bottle of the then new-fangled sparkling wine.

Other famous Champagne tipplers portrayed in the book include Sir Winston Churchill (with Odette Pol Roger), Salvador Dali, Robert Redfern with Mia Farrow, Elizabeth Taylor with Montgomery Clift, Sean Connery, and Ingrid Bergman with Cary Grant.

Numerous vineyard and cellar photos give a feeling for Champagne’s landscape and production techniques. But I wonder why we still see shots of blokes hand-riddling bottles in wooden racks. Surely we’re grown up enough to see the less romantic gyro pallets that took over from hand-riddling thirty years ago (the book actually describes the modern technique).

The book lists three authors – Jane Powell, Fritz Gubler and Dannielle Viera. Gubler appears to be the driving force behind the book, pulling together its many components. Powell wrote much of the content, including the early chapters on Champagne’s history and commercial success. And Viera contributed to profiles on various Champagne houses and personalities.

Powell begins her chapter, “Growing the market”, with this quote from British writer, Nicholas Faith, “Champagne is a luxury brand made and sold by a hard-headed, hard-working, rather cold-blooded bunch of people, fully aware that no one needs to drink Champagne”.

Powell summarises the long winemaking history of Champagne, the region’s at-first tentative move away from table wine production to sparkling wines, the emergence of the first great Champagne houses in the early eighteenth century, their consolidation and growth in the nineteenth century and the emergence of dry Champagne in the late nineteenth century.

She covers the at-times bitter tensions between growers and Champagne houses early in the twentieth century, culminating in the statute of champagne in 1927 and the formation of a central body (the Comite Interprofessionel du vin de Champagne) representing the interests of the industry and regional as a whole.

The region now produces over 300 million bottles of Champagne annually and vigorously defends its brand at all levels – from the ground breaking Perelada case that stopped “Spanish Champagne” in its tracks fifty years ago, to the more recent action by Veuve Clicquot to stop tiny Tasmanian producer Stefano Lubiana using an orange label. This is the hard-nosed phenomenon Nicholas Faith referred to.

The book also has a terrific section on Champagne’s famous women, including Louise Pommery, Nicole-Barbe Ponsardin Clicquot and Lily Bollinger.

It’s a good introduction to Champagne, blended from many sources, including the classic Champagne: The wine, the land the people, Patrick Forbes, 1967 and Christie’s world encyclopedia of Champagne and sparkling wine, Tom Stevenson, 2003.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 23 November 2011 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Paxton, Toolangi, Pikes, Yealands Way, Port Phillip Estate and Yalumba

Paxton Quandong Farm Shiraz 2010 $21–$30
Quandong Farm, McLaren Vale, South Australia
David Paxton’s biodynamic management of Quandong Farm, located in McLaren Vale’s Seaview Road, focuses on “soil health, bio-diversity and non-chemical weed control”, he writes. All of which he directs at producing excellent grapes – with the flavours displayed in this beautiful shiraz. It has pure, vibrant fruit, great depth, distinctive McLaren Vale savouriness and plush ripe, soft tannins that complete the red wine picture. This is a wonderful, generous warm climate shiraz that seduces rather than overwhelms.

Toolangi Chardonnay 2009 $25
Dixon’s Creek and Yarra Glen, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Garry and Julie Hounsell own the Toolangi vineyard but also source grapes from other Yarra sites controlled by their own viticulturist. They outsource the winemaking, in this instance to Willy Lunn at nearby Yering Station. It’s a fine, restrained, delicious example of modern cool-climate chardonnay – with the focus on white-peach-like varietal flavour subtly adorned with the structural and flavour inputs of barrel fermentation and maturation.

Pikes Traditionale Riesling 2011 $20–$23
Polish Hill River, Watervale and Sevenhill, Clare Valley
Pikes is another outstanding 2011 riesling, characterised, writes winemaker Neil Pike, by “amazing natural acidity and excellent varietal definition of the fruit. The only time in my 30 or so vintages in Clare that we did not have to acid adjust the musts”. The natural high acidity accentuates the intense mineral and lime-like varietal flavour and adds delicacy and length to the clean, dry finish.

Yealands Way Premium Selection Pinot Noir 2010 $19–$21
Marlborough and Central Otago, New Zealand
Last week’s feature story mentioned the growing availability of good, modestly-priced pinot noirs rolling in from New Zealand – wines like Yealands Way. The 2010 vintage, combining material from Marlborough and Central Otago, provides pleasant, medium-bodied drinking, with plummy varietal flavours and a tight backbone of fine, savoury tannins. It’s available at Jim Murphy’s, Candamber, Canberra Cellars and Local Liquor, Hughes and Kingston. Yealands belongs to Peter Yealands a pioneer of mussel farming and a successful large-scale deer farmer before venturing into wine production.

Port Phillip Estate Pinot Noir 2010 $38
Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Winemaker Sandro Mosele sources this from a single estate vineyard planted in 1988. He de-stems the fruit (many pinot makers include stems) and allows the wine to ferment spontaneously before moving it to French oak for 16 months. The resulting wine displays vibrant red-berry varietal flavour with a unique, earthy, pinot undertone. These flavours come through on the palate and, with aeration, the flavours and texture expand under the tight framework of fine pinot tannins.

Yalumba The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2010 $18–$22
Barossa, South Australia
Yalumba really nails Barossa wine styles now – capturing the distinctive, generous, ripe fruit flavours, while avoiding over-ripe porty character or the over-extracted, over-oaked styles that predominated for a while. In this classic blend, made by Kevin Glastonbury, we’re seduced by fragrant, floral grenache high notes, then satisfied by the full, juicy, slurpy palate and dry but soft, earthy finish. Shiraz fills out the palate; mataro (aka mourvedre) delivers the earthy tannins.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 23 November 2011 in The Canberra Times

Hops on the hill

In 2005 Karen and David Golding established hops at Red Hill on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. This satisfied local regulations requiring would-be liquor licence holders to be primary producers.

They harvest the four varieties – Hallertau, Tettnanger, Golding and Willamette – around March each year for use in their Red Hill Brewery products.

These include three beers produced year round (Golden Ale, Wheat Beer and Scotch Ale) and seasonal specialties like the upcoming releases, Bohemian Pilsner and Christmas Ale, reviewed below, and Temptation, a seriously good strong Belgian blonde style.

Wheat Beer shows the classic fruity esters of this delicate style with a subtle, lovely tang of estate-grown Tettnanger hops.

Golden Ale delivers complex, refreshing, full flavours, cut through with the delicate flavour and soft bitterness of Hallertau and Tettnanger hops.

And big, bold, chocolaty Scotch Ale benefits from a lick of goldings and Willamette hops.

Red Hill Brewery Bohemian Pilsner 330ml $5.50
Red Hill takes a distinctive approach to this classic, full-bodied, hoppy, Czech style. It’s a little stronger than normal at 5.9 per cent, it’s unfiltered (and therefore has a yeast haze) and utterly delicious. From nose to finish, pungent hops wrestle with opulent, sweet, malt flavours, finishing strong, bitter and alcoholic.

Red Hill Brewery Christmas Ale 330ml $7
This ale salutes Chimay Red, one of the great Belgian abbey beers. It combines full, malty body with high alcohol (7.5 per cent) and a strong aroma input from hallertau and tettnanger hops flowers. It’s a sip and savour style, its opulence and silky texture a good much for Christmas cake or pudding.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 23 November 2011 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Evans and Tate, Heartland and Jacob’s Creek St Hugo

Evans and Tate Classic Margaret River Shiraz Cabernet 2010 $13–$15
Now part of McWilliams Wines, Evans and Tate Classic offers big-company reliability, correctness and value – if not excitement. The wine’s aroma reveals a floral, sweet-fruited side of shiraz. This bright fruitiness comes through, too, on the palate. But here a little cabernet astringency kicks in, adding not only grip, but an elegant structure suited to this medium-bodied style. This is an extension of the “Classic” range, a term originally used in the eighties in conjunction with light, crisp, blended white wines. Notable early adopters were Wolf Blass and Evans and Tate.

Heartland Wines Langhorne Creek Dolcetto Lagrein 2010 $19–$22
Good fruit and very clever winemaking here from Ben Glaetzer, produces unique flavours and enjoyable drinking. It’s a blend of the northern Italian varieties dolcetto and lagrein – the former noted for its aromatics and brilliant colour, the latter for its sometimes-intimidating tannins. The blend is highly perfumed and mulberry-like on the nose with a peppery note; the vibrant fruit and pepperiness continue on the generous palate before the savoury, persistent tannins assert themselves in the finish. Heartland is the creation of Ben Glaetzer, Grant Tilbrook, Scott Collet, Geoff Hardy, Vicki Arnold, Gino Melino and John Pargeter.

Jacob’s Creek St Hugo Barossa

  • Shiraz 2008 $49.99
  • Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2010 $49.99

Half a decade ago, partly in a nod to regionality, parent company Pernod Ricard moved several upmarket Orlando wines, including St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, into the Jacob’s Creek range. Now they’ve extended the St Hugo range with these two magnificent Barossa wines – the aromatic, savoury, earthy blend and the opulent, soft, classic shiraz. At these prices, though, I can’t help thinking they should be more specific about fruit sourcing, especially regarding components from the company’s significant holdings in the vicinity of Jacob’s Creek (yes, it really exists). This was the birthplace of Orlando, creator of the Jacob’s Creek brand.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 20 November 2011 in The Canberra Times