Wine review — Clonakilla, Jim Barry, William Fevre, Louis Latour and Derwent Estate

Clonakilla O’Riada Shiraz 2010 – wine of the week $35–$45
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
In a recent tasting we paired each of Clonakilla’s three Canberra District wines with another fine shiraz, either from Australia or France – stepping through the wines in pairs. O’Riada, a blend from four vineyards, and containing five per cent viognier, thrilled with its high-toned floral, spice and musk aroma. A stalky note, presumably from including whole bunches in the ferment, threaded through the aroma and beautifully silky, smooth palate. It’s the most upfront and charming now of the three wines – a marked style contrast to its companion wine, the earthy but magnificent Meerea Park Hunter Valley Hell Hole Shiraz 2007 ($37).

Clonakilla Syrah 2009 and Shiraz Viognier 2010 $85–$100
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
Forced to pick between Clonakilla’s flagship reds, Syrah from the great 2009 vintage edges slightly ahead of the Shiraz Viognier blend – but it’s a tight call and in any group there’ll be preferences either way. The Syrah’s highly fragrant but also savoury, brooding and tannic, in a seamless, perfectly balanced way. Shiraz Viognier 2010 leads with a distinctive violet-like aroma. This comes through, too, on the vibrant, red-berry-laden, richly textured, smooth palate. These are extraordinary wines requiring cellaring – or a good splash if you’re drinking them now. (Companion wines were Mount Langi Ghiran Grampians Langi Shiraz 2007 and Cote-Rotie 2007 (Les Vins de Vienne).

Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz 2009 $18–$20
Lodge Hill Vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia
The Barry family’s Lodge Hill Vineyard sits high up in the Clare Valley’s eastern ranges and consistently produces very high quality, good value riesling and shiraz. We loved the 2009 at a shiraz and curry night – its pure, plump, fruity softness carrying deliciously through a range of spice and chilli flavours and heat. Lovely fruitiness seems to be a hallmark of the vintage in South Australia’s warmer regions. Peter Barry writes, “vintage 2009 was one of the finest, most rewarding and classic in recent memory”.

Chablis Champs Royaux (William Fevre) 2009 $18.99
Chablis, Burgundy, France
The back label suggests Costco imported this wine direct, bypassing the distributor, Negociants Australia – hence the wonderfully low price. Chablis, the northernmost point of Burgundy, makes distinctive, pebble-dry chardonnay. In this version, clever barrel maturation added a little flesh and texture to the mid palate without inserting any woody flavours, or interfering with the distinctive minerally flavours and dryness. In the world of Chablis we’d rate this three stars; but in the wider chardonnay market, and taking account of the price, we give it four stars.

Puligny-Montrachet 2008 (Louis Latour) $42.99
Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France
The commune of Puligny-Montrachet abuts the legendary Montrachet vineyards, source of Burgundy’s greatest chardonnays. This wine, another Costco direct import, captures a little of white Burgundy’s magic, albeit discounted by a moist and slightly leaky cork. Despite the slightly darker than appropriate colour (presumably oxidation caused by the poor cork), the wine still shows Puligny’s unique combination of power with finesse. On a Puligny-Montrachet scale it’s a three-star wines, but earns four stars in the general chardonnay market. Dear French winemaker, please switch to screw caps.

Derwent Estate Chardonnay 2008 $29.99
Derwent Estate Vineyard, Derwent Valley, Tasmania
Highly regarded Tasmanian viticulturist Fred Peacock rates Derwent Estate among the best vineyard sites in the state – with part of its fruit going to the production of Penfolds flagship chardonnay, Yattarna. However, the Hanigan family engages Winemaking Tasmania’s Julian Alcorso to turn part of the crop into wine for their own label. We notice the 2009’s available at cellar door, but we picked this bottle up at Dan Murphy, Phillip. We tasted it alongside the two French wines reviewed here today and rated it best by a comfortable margin. It’s amazingly intense, pure and unevolved – showing cool climate grapefruit-like varietal flavour and matching brisk acidity.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 10 August 2011 in The Canberra Times