Wine review — Barwang, Illuminati, Louee, Lubiana and Stanton and Killeen

Stanton and Killeen Classic Muscat $40 (500ml)
Rutherglen, Victoria
Every so often this classic wine passes our lips and we fall in love with it all over again. It’s produced from the variety muscat a-petit-grains-rouge and fortified with spirit shortly after fermentation begins. This leaves a strong, sweet red wine that takes on a magic lusciousness over many years in barrel. “Classic” sits on the second rung of the age-based quality ladder, requiring 5–10 years barrel age and 200–280 grams per litre of residual grape sugar. Stanton and Killeen’s, average age 12 years in barrel, combines luscious, vivacious raisin like flavours with lovely patina of barrel age.

Louee Nullo Mountain Chardonnay 2010 $25
Louee Vineyard, Nullo Mountain, Rylstone, New South Wales
Mudgee winemaker David Lowe made this unique wine from early-picked grapes grown at 1100 metres above sea level. At this altitude the grapes develop adequately ripe flavours at low sugar levels (as they do in, say, France’s very cool Champagne region). The result is a tasty, dry chardonnay at just 10.5 per cent alcohol. Lowe compares it in style to Chablis (Burgundy’s northernmost chardonnay outpost) – and there’s certainly an echo of this in the wine’s delicious, light, minerally flavour and bone dry finish. We might call it a Chablis style with Australian characteristics.

Stefano Lubiana Primavera Pinot Noir $27–$34
Lubiana Vineyard, Derwent Valley, Tasmania
More and more we’re seeing Tasmania as Australia’s pinot-central, especially this special little site on the Derwent – next door to the equally promising Derwent Estate. Steve and Monique Lubiana producer several pinots on site – this early drinking style, the more substantial “Estate” ($45) and exquisite “Sasso” ($90). This year’s Primavera presents a seductive musk, spice and savoury aroma – characters that continue in the elegant, utterly delicious, finely structured palate. It drinks well now, but for all its upfront charm has the depth and structure to age for five or six years.

Barwang Shiraz 2009 $15.19–$20
Barwang Vineyard, Hilltops, New South Wales
Barwang continues the style we’ve noted in other Hilltops shirazes from the 2009 vintage – aromatic, rich and fleshy with heaps of soft tannins. Farmer Peter Robertson planted the first vines on Barwang (and the region) in 1969 and by the late seventies occasionally drove his ute over to Canberra looking for customers. Even in those early days we could see the fruit quality. Robertson sold the vineyard to McWilliams in 1989, they expanded it to 100 hectares and now produce big volumes of amazingly good value reds like this.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riparosso 2009 (Illuminati) $11.99
Northern Abruzzi, Italy
Dino Illuminati’s winery sits on a high ridge with stunning views east to the Adriatic and west to the Apennines. With his son Stefano, he specialises in rich, earthy reds made from the local variety, montepulciano – styles he’s restlessly polished and perfected in the vineyard and winery over a lifetime. He offers two entry-level reds – Riparosso 2009 at $11.99 and Ilico 2008 at $13.99 – imported by Dan Murphy. Riparosso is the earthier, firmer of the two – a great wine with roasted red meats; and Ilico offers similar rich flavours but with softer, rounder tannins.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Colline Teramane Riserva Zanna (Illuminati) 2006
Illuminati’s flagship red comes from the Zanna vineyard. Like the other Illuminati wines reviewed here, it’s made from the montepulciano grape. But it comes from the Colline Teramane zone and qualifies for Italy’s highest wine classification, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guarantita. At five years’ age, the colour’s remains a deep, vivid red and the aroma suggests black cherries, with herbs and spice. The palate’s juicy, deep and cut through with firm, savoury, drying tannins. This is a distinctive, thoroughly enjoyable red with a good cellaring life ahead. It’s imported by Woolworths and sold through Dan Murphy outlets.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 24 August 2011 in The Canberra Times