Wine review — Balnaves, Williams Crossing by Curly Flat and Hewitson

Balnaves of Coonawarra

  • Shiraz 2009 $24
  • The Blend 2009 $18
  • Cabernet Merlot 2009 $24

We have a winter-warmer red fest here today, starting with these big-value reds from the Balnaves family, Coonawarra. The shiraz appeals because it doesn’t try to be bigger and burlier than it really do – as we sometimes see in overworked Coonawarra shiraz. The wine’s limpid, vibrant with ripe-berry flavours, medium bodied and simply a delight to drink right now – an ideal luncheon red. The slightly more potent blend combines cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. It’s clearly cabernet based, with a slight leafy edge, elegant structure and firm tannins – characters that come through, too, in the riper, more concentrated Cabernet Merlot.

Williams Crossing by Curly Flat Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir 2009 $24
Curly Flat owners Phillip and Jeni Moraghan are about to replace the recently reviewed 2008 vintage with the 2009 – a serious pinot at a modest price. Each vintage the Moraghans make multiple small batches of pinot noir from estate-grown fruit, every batch intended for their $48 flagship blend. As the wines mature in oak barrels, however, they declassify some components. These become Williams Crossing, perhaps the best value pinot noir in Australia as it’s about 80 per cent as good as the $48 wine but half the price. The 2009 is a fragrant, ripe, pinot with a tight tannin structure and fine but rich texture.

Hewitson Mad Hatter McLaren Vale Shiraz 2009 $65–$70
Winemaker Dean Hewitson developed Mad Hatter from the 2002 vintage on, trialling various winemaking techniques and oak maturation regimes. It’s from a single, low-yielding north-west facing vineyard in McLaren Vale’s Blewitt Springs sub-region. Hewitson’s new release shows the great fragrance of the vintage. And the wonderful, deep fruit flavour simply belies its two years in 100 per cent new French oak barrels. Vivid, ripe-cherry fruit flavour underpins the wines, but it’s woven in with fruit and oak tannins and subtle, sweet and savoury inputs of the oak. It’s an intense, elegant shiraz, magnificent to drink but with years of development ahead.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 17 July 2011 in The Canberra Times