Wine review — Capital Wines, Stella Bella, Hewitson, Yangarra and Turkey Flat

Capital Wines “The Ambassador” Tempranillo 2010 $27
Kyeema Vineyard Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
The two tempranillos reviewed this week, though of comparable quality, reveal different faces of this Spanish variety – and its potential to go mainstream in Australia in the long term. The Ambassador, from six-year-old vines, emphasises vibrant, red-berry varietal flavour and the variety’s naturally assertive, but fine and soft tannins. It starts fruity, then the tannins move in reassuringly. Jennie Mooney writes, “It is the first year that we had the depth of fruit to allow the wonderful tempranillo tannins to start to sing. In previous years we have softened them off in barrel”.

Stella Bella Tempranillo 2008 $30
Karridale and Rosabrook, Margaret River, Western Australia
Where Capital Wines tempranillo focuses on vibrant, youthful fruit and natural grape tannins, Stella Bella’s brings in the influences of additional oak and bottle ageing. Winemaker Stuart Pym writes that it, “leans towards this style [of Toro, Spain] – showing brighter sweeter characters, but in the Riserva style – being at least three years old with eighteen months in oak as a minimum”. The red-berry varietal flavours are off in the background and now showing secondary, aged character in a matrix with barrel-derived flavour and textural influences.

Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre 2009 $120
Koch Family Vineyard, Rowland Flat, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Mourvedre, aka mataro, is a very late ripening variety and a great survivor in Australia’s hot, dry growing regions. This version, from Dean Hewitson, comes from a vineyard planted in 1853 by Friedrich Koch and still tended by his descendents. Hewitson believes it may be the world’s oldest mourvedre vineyard. Though the palest colour of three mourvedre’s reviewed today, its fruit is clearly very powerful as it effortlessly gobbles up 18 months’ maturation in all-new French oak. There are cherry- and chocolate-like fruit flavours in this deep, savoury red. It seems even more lifted and aromatic than usual in the 2009 vintage.

Yangarra Estate Mourvedre 2009 $32
Yangarra Estate Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Peter Fraser’s 100-hectare vineyard focuses predominantly on shiraz and grenache, but with significant plots, too, of other Rhone Valley varieties – including the white viognier and roussanne and the red mourvedre, cinsault and carignan. The mourvedre’s a deep, purple-rimmed, dense, spicy wine – its ripe dark-berry fruits deeply layered with its assertive but soft tannins. Fraser writes of mourvedre, “early on it has beautiful aromatics with angular tannins, but as the seeds go brown and the tannins become rounder and softer, the alcohol becomes prominent and brightness and aromatics are dulled. 2009 is the first vintage where we think we have got the balance of ripeness spot on”.

Turkey Flat Mourvedre 2009 $32
Turkey Flat Vineyard, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Peter and Christie Schulz’s Turkey Flat vineyard has shiraz vines dating from 1847 as well as mature, dry-grown mourvedre vines, source of this wine. It’s deeply coloured, purple rimmed and on first opening the oak influence is obvious (20 months in new and seasoned French puncheons). But tasted over several days the beautiful, ripe and spicy fruit dominates a rich but gracefully structured wine – and the oak becomes background seasoning, adding as well to the substantial tannin structure of the wine.

Stella Bella Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $21
Margaret River, Western Australia
This is a distinctive Margaret River twist on the ubiquitous sauvignon blanc style – quite a departure from those we see from Marlborough, New Zealand. Semillon accounts for a large part of the difference in aroma, flavour and texture. From this neck of the woods semillon leans to a distinctive grassy, “canned-pea” aroma. Barrel ferment some components at higher temperatures, tank ferment others at lower temperatures, throw in sauvignon blanc, keep all of the components on yeast lees – and then blend it all together. You get a distinctive, pungent, dust-dry white with greater textural richness than straight sauv blanc.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published in The Canberra Times 29 June 2011