Brown Brothers Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier NV $18.95–$22
King Valley, Victoria
At the top end, Australia’s cutting edge bubblies, like Arras, come up against the French originals in both price and quality. At the bottom, any number of clean, fresh, but fairly bland bubblies do the trick. In the middle ground, Brown Brothers impresses because skilled winemaking adds a patina of complex flavours and textures around exactly the right type of fruit flavours. This comes from the classic Champagne varieties grown in cooler parts of Victoria’s King Valley and Whitlands Plateau.
Terra Felix E’Vette’s Block Mourvedre 2009 $17.50–$25
Lake Marmal (near Bendigo), Central Victoria
We associate the late-ripening mourvedre with much warmer regions than Bendigo. But, though not as inky black as a Barossa version, the wine delivered full, ripe flavours, with mourvedre’s undercurrent of spice, earth and quite firm, savoury tannins. The combination of bright fruit and savoury, fine tannins worked particularly well with the mildly spice food served at Ethiopia Down Under, Pearce shops.
Golden Ball Shiraz 2008 $50
Golden Ball Vineyard, Beechworth, Victoria
We tend not to go all the way on a first date. But James and Janine McLaurin’s wines push straight to the top shelf. Their 2005 and 2008 Gallice (cabernet-merlot-malbec) impressed for intense flavour, smooth tannins and elegant structure. But good as they were, the shiraz kept drawing us back – a ripe, full flavoured wine (14.4 per cent alcohol) but with delicious, spicy, savoury cool-climate flavours and fine-boned, silky tannins. It’s available at www.goldenball.com.au
Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 2010
(Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben) $15.79
Urziger Wurzgarten vineyard, Mosel River, Germany
Thank you Costco for importing this pristine, screwcap-sealed Mosel. We visited the Mosel in September, renewing our love for the region’s unique, delicate rieslings. But this is by far the cheapest, high-quality version we’ve found in Australia. From the Wurzgarten vineyard, near the central Mosel village of Urzig, it captures the region’s unique, exquisite, delicate balance of acidity, sweetness and intense varietal flavour. Food match: none. Chill and enjoy on its own (alcohol just eight per cent).
Barolo (Araldica Flori) 2006 $17.49
Barolo, Piemonte, Italy
Like the Mosel reviewed above, the price of Costco’s Barolo seems delightfully at odds with prevailing market expectations. Perhaps it reflects Costco’s great buying power. Certainly it demonstrates smart buying, for these are good, if not cutting edge, examples of their styles. If you’re into gamey meats, this light-coloured, austere, tight and tannic red could be just what you’re after. It may not appeal to lovers of big, round, juicy wines (like Barossa shiraz). But if you love ‘em with a bit of thrust and bite, this could be it.
Dominique Portet Fontaine Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $20
Yarra Valley and Heathcote, Victoria
Some time back veteran winemaker Dominique Portet handed over to his son, Ben, maker of this beguiling blend. It’s one of those “don’t mind if I do” wines, where the first glass, hardly noticed, becomes two – or three. Suddenly the bottle’s gone, and you want more. A bright and aromatic wine, Fontaine combines the elegance and backbone of Yarra Valley cabernet with the power and savouriness of Heathcote shiraz.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 14 December 2011 in The Canberra Times