Wine review — Brindabella Hills, Simmonet-Febvre, Greywacke, Henschke, Bremerton and Alkoomi

Brindabella Hills Shiraz 2009 $30
Hall, Canberra District, Australian Capital Territory
Can wine resemble its maker? It’s a far-fetched notion, perhaps. But Brindabella Hills shiraz shares a gentle understatement with its creator, Roger Harris. And the wonderful 2009 vintage seems even gentler and more understated than usual. The aroma’s sweet, fragrant and floral with a spicy edge that carries through to the bright, soft, sweet, gentle palate. This is pure, cool-grown shiraz from one of Canberra’s lowest, warmest sites – a wine that grows in interest for days after opening the bottle. Harris’s reserve shiraz 2008 ($35) offers a fuller, slightly firmer variation on the gentle theme.

Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons (Simmonet-Febvre) 2007 $39.80–$41.90
Vaillons vineyard, Chablis, France
Chablis, the northernmost vineyard of France’s Burgundy region, lies at a chilly 48 degrees north. Its distinctive, flinty, dust-dry chardonnays – generally unoaked and instantly recognisable in masked tastings – offer some of the best value drinking on the planet. Thankfully they haven’t hit the stellar prices fetched by the fuller, riper styles made in Burgundy proper. Simmonet-Febvre’s version, imported by Woolworths, delivers all that’s good in this great regional style. Pure, flinty, minerally and succulently bone dry, it’s the perfect oyster wine, although versatile with food. Under French law the name “Chablis” indicates not only the region of origin but also the grape variety, chardonnay.

Greywacke Pinot Noir 2009 $40–$45
Marlborough, New Zealand
As winemaker at Selaks from 1983, Kevin Judd made some of the first New Zealand sauvignon blancs destined for Canberra, under the Selaks and Farmer Brothers labels. Judd later joined David Hohnen at Cloudy Bay, the brand that sold the sizzle of Marlborough sauvignon blanc to the world – and later developed a superb pinot noir. After 25 vintages at Cloudy Bay, Judd left and launched his Greywacke label, based on mature vines on the southern side of Marlborough’s Wairau Valley. All that experience comes to bear in this fragrant, medium bodied, elegant, luxuriously textured pinot.

Henschke Peggy’s Hill Riesling 2010 $15–$22
Eden Valley, South Australia
Eden Valley’s roller coaster 2010 vintage swung from cold to heat and wet to dry. Ultimately, write Prue and Stephen Henschke, “Lower yields coupled with mild ripening period resulted in incredibly concentrated fruit. The signature varieties of the Eden Valley, riesling and shiraz, once again produced exceptional quality with great acid balance”. The Henschkes source grapes for Peggy’s Hill (named for an Eden Valley landmark) from local growers. The wine offers pure, floral and citrus aromas and a zesty, dry palate, saturated with lemon and lime varietal flavours. This is one to enjoy any time over the next ten years.

Bremerton Verdelho 2010 $16–$18
Langhorne Creek, South Australia
Next sauvignon blanc occasion, try verdelho from one of Australia’s warm growing regions. These areas can’t succeed in a sauvy shoot out with cool Marlborough or the Adelaide Hills. But verdelho, first planted in Langhorne Creek in the mid nineteenth century, adapted well to Australian conditions. It retains good acidity in the heat and makes delicious, crisp full-flavoured dry whites. Like sauv blanc, it’s racy and fresh but has what I call a “sappy” note rather then herbaceous and tropical fruit characters. The Wilson family’s Bremerton is an excellent example of the style. Rebecca Wilson made it using only free-run juice from grapes grown on the family vineyard.

Alkoomi Shiraz 2009 $14.30–$15.89
Frankland River, Great Southern, Western Australia
Alkoomi – a 110-hectare estate at Frankland River in Western Australia’s Great Southern region – makes a typically Australian wide range of wine styles. But its best to me are shiraz and riesling. Even their entry-level shiraz bears the regional style stamp – closer to the refined Canberra style than it is to brawny Barossa, but still its own beast. Like Canberra shiraz it’s limpid and medium bodied and based on vibrant berry flavours; unlike the Canberra style, there’s a deep, savoury vein and an associated tight, tannic structure.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011