Wine review — Capital Wines, Rutherglen Estate, Black Jack, Main Ridge Estate and Lanson

Capital Wines The Frontbencher Shiraz 2009 $25
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales

Winemaker Andrew McEwin sourced fruit for the Frontbencher from Kyeema Vineyard, Ellenvale and Barton Estate. It shows the same touch of class we’re seeing in so many Canberra 2009 reds – a great depth of vivid berry fruit flavours. And in the style long established by McEwin, there’s a generous dollop of tannin forming a chewy, satisfying matrix with the fruit. This’ll help it through a few years in bottle. But it also means you’ll need to glug a bit of air into it to reveal the lovely fruit now.

Rutherglen Estate Fiano 2010 $21.95
Rutherglen, Victoria

A number of Australian vignerons, mainly in hotter regions, now grow fiano, a white native of Italy’s warm, dry Campania region. Rutherglen Estate’s well made 2010, its third vintage, gives a good impression of what to expect from the variety. It’s clean, fresh, zesty, richly textured and dry. The varietal template says to expect “herbal, nutty, smoky spicy notes and hazelnut”. I found herb and spice and touch of pear, a pleasant savouriness and a quite grippy, pleasantly tart finish. This is a long way from our usual fare, but it’s unlikely to be the next sauv blanc.

Capital Wines Kyeema Vineyard Reserve Merlot 2009 $46
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales

It’s not a case of move over shiraz. But Kyeema’s 2009 merlot confirms that Canberra has a second red variety in the very top league. It’s the latest and probably the best from a long line of distinguished merlots made by Andrew McEwin from the Kyeema vineyard. The colour’s limpid, the aroma’s alluring and the palate’s elegant, albeit firmly tannic. But crack the nut of tannin and revel in the kernel of pure, juicy, plummy merlot underneath. It needs a good splash in the decanter before drinking now. But Kyeema will best be enjoyed after another five or six years bottle age.

Black Jack Chortle’s Edge Shiraz 2008 $18
Bendigo, Victoria

It’s dark and big and bold and ripe and juicy and fifteen per cent alcohol. But belying its mammoth size, it’s spicy and savoury and very much in the cool-climate shiraz aroma and flavour mould – a true and big-value example of the Bendigo style. Chortle’s Edge, made by proprietors Ian McKenzie and Ken Pollock, comes from the Turner’s Crossing vineyard, Bridgewater, and Fielding family vineyard, North Harcourt, within the Bendigo region.

Main Ridge Estate Chardonnay 2009 $55
Main Ridge, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Hemingway’s description of wine as “one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection” captures Main Ridge chardonnay – a wine brought to its current beauty over many decades by Nat and Rosalie White. The combination of vineyard work, aimed at perfecting berry flavours, and sensitive winemaking, aimed at capturing flavour and building texture, deliver a full, silky, delicate chardonnay that demands, always, just one more sip. It’s a beautiful wine and from experience, evolves well in the cellar.

Lanson Champagne Brut NV $65
Champagne, France

Most Champagne houses put their base wines through a malo-lactic fermentation, a process that reduces total acidity and softens the wine. There’s good reason to do this in a cold region where austerity in wine is the norm. Because Lanson elects to block this process, their wines present a pleasantly tart but still delicious face of the region. I find it too acidic to enjoy on its own; but well chilled with food it comes to life as a great refresher and teasing foreplay to something more substantial.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011