Wine review — Ashton Hills, Coldstream Hills, Mount Riley, M. Chapoutier and Quarry Hill

Ashton Hills Estate Pinot Noir 2008 $40
Adelaide Hills, South Australia

The highlight of a recent meal at Sabayon Restaurant was Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir 2008. Alas, it’s sold out says winemaker Stephen George. But its cellar mates, Estate 2008 and Reserve 2008 ($60) are still available. The seductively high-toned Estate wine captures the juicy, plush, sexy, naked beauty of this great variety. And the slightly more coy Reserve needs to be stripped back, layer by layer – revealing a glorious, even profound Australian pinot.

Coldstream Hills Single Vineyard Chardonnays $28–$35
Rising and Deer Farm vineyards, Yarra Valley, Victoria

In 2009 winemaker Andrew Fleming applied similar winemaking techniques to two batches of Yarra grapes – one from the high, cool Deer Farm vineyard, the other from the lower, warmer Rising Vineyard. The wines express the distinctive flavours of grapes ripened at different temperatures: full, ripe nectarine and peach from the Rising Vineyard and lean, taut grapefruit from Deer Farm. Of course, this is all in the context of rich, barrel-fermented chardonnay.

Mount Riley Pinot Gris 2010 $17.99
Marlborough, New Zealand

Mount Riley is a 100-hectare vineyard and winery owned by the Buchanan family. Their pinot gris presents the variety’s off-dry, richly textured face. It’s modelled on the originals from Alsace France and quite a contrast to the taut, bone-dry, Italian-inspired Chapel Hill reviewed last week. This Marlborough version captures varietal pear-like aromas and flavours and there’s plenty of acid, plus a twist of tannin, to offset the pleasant, low-level sweetness.

M. Chapoutier Domaine Tournon Syrah 2009 $16.99
Victoria, Australia

Following French “domaine” tradition, Michel Chapoutier sources fruit for his Australian wine from Tournon’s vineyards in Heathcote, Beechworth and the Pyrenees, Victoria. Unusual for an Australian wine it’s matured in stainless steel and concrete tanks – no oak at all. This leaves spicy shiraz at its heart – medium bodied, subtle, supple and plush, with a convincing line of fine tannin for structure. This and Chapoutier’s Crozes-Hermitage, reviewed below, could well serve as proxies for the general  Australian and French styles – the first plush and fruity; the second, lean and elegant.

M. Chapoutier “La Petite Ruche” Crozes-Hermitage 2008 $26.99
Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France

Don’t fret too much about the fancy name, Crozes-Hermitage is just a grape-growing town in France’s northern Rhone Valley famed for its shiraz (or “syrah” in French). The wine’s medium coloured and intensely aromatic – featuring the distinctive pepper-like character of cool-grown shiraz. The pepper comes through, too, on a sinewy, savoury, beautifully elegant palate with its underlying kernel of sweet berry flavours and fine, gripping finish.

Quarry Hill Shiraz 2008 $18.50
Canberra District, New South Wales

Dean Terrell’s Quarry Hill vineyard sells grapes to Alex McKay for his Collector brand. With this connection, it made sense for Terrell to hire McKay as winemaker for the Quarry Hill label, too. In 2008 that resulted in a vibrantly fruity, medium bodied shiraz with a fine, firm backbone of tannin and noticeable touch of oak. It’s an appealing, drink now red sitting high in the three-star range. This is a vineyard to watch. Outstanding value.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011