Wine review — Eden Road, Ross Hill, Cullens, Brancott Estate and Innocent Bystander

Eden Road The Long Road Shiraz 2009 $21
Canberra and Hilltops districts, New South Wales

There’s a distinct winemaking style at Eden Road under Nick Spencer. The intense, pure restrained wines tend towards austerity in youth – a character notable in the Canberra Riesling 2010, Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2008 and Canberra Shiraz 2009. But the underlying fruit richness suggests they’ll evolve into worthy wines over time. The Long Road Shiraz seems the fleshiest and most easily approachable of the line up. It’s a delicious, fine-boned, cool-climate style showing little oak influence and the appealing aromatics and juicy, fleshy fruit flavour contributed by shiraz from the Hilltops region. It’s a really lovely, juicy quaffer at a fair price.

Eden Road RHE 2009 $21
Canberra District, New South Wales

The fine print on the back label says, “the wine is made up entirely of viognier from Canberra”. A Rhone Valley white variety, viognier makes the complex whites of Condrieu, towards the valley’s northern end, and co-mingles in the vineyard with shiraz in nearby Cote-Rotie – ultimately making up a few per cent of the red wine. Tim Kirk modelled Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier on this wine style. Viognier on its own tends to make richly textured, sometimes oily white wine. But Nick Spencer’s zesty, partially barrel fermented Eden Road captures the variety’s fragrance, juicy apricot-like flavour and rich texture without heaviness.

Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Pinot Noir 2009 $40
Orange, New South Wales

In a recent tasting of the Ross Hill Pinnacle Series, chardonnay and pinot noir performed best, to my palate. The pinot’s pale coloured but delivers so much of the special aromatics, flavours and textural richness of the variety – in its own comparatively high-acid style. We found drinking pleasure galore, but alas not the complexity we’d expect at this price. I see great promise in the wine (it’s only their second attempt at pinot), but don’t see great value in $40 for a one year old – especially when you can buy three and four year old wines of provenance, like Curly Flat, for $48.

Cullens Cabernet Merlot 2008 $38
Margaret River, Western Australia

In a recent masked tasting, Jeir Creek’s Kay Howell paired this absolutely beautiful, elegant red with its more powerful Margaret River neighbour, Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Vineyard Cabernet Merlot 2008. They’re very good regional wines, but I found the Cullens wines considerably more appealing. Its keynotes were elegance, poise, balance and, of course, lovely, ripe berry flavours. Descriptors like “gentle”, “elegant”, “fine” and “pass the bottle – again” paint the picture. This is a really beautiful wine to savour over the next ten years — and just 12 per cent alcohol!

Brancott Estate Ormond Chardonnay 2009 $24.29–$26.99
Gisborne, New Zealand
On a buying trip to Gisborn once, a local told me these were the world’s easternmost vineyards – and therefore the first to see the sun each day. That romantic view failed to crystallise sales as Marlborough, even back in 1984, proved the stronger drawing card. But Gisborn (at about 38 degrees south on the North Island) makes big, juicy chardonnays like this 2009 made by Brancott Estate (formerly Montana). It’s an unapologetically full-bodied, barrel-fermented style with significant, but balanced oak flavour. It’s a more in-your-face style than is currently fashionable in Australia, but avoids the excesses of those big butterballs we used to make.

Innocent Bystander Sangiovese 2009 $20.65–$22.95
Gateway Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Innocent Bystander is the second, big-value label of Giant Steps Winery, located in the Yarra Valley. Where the Giant Steps label focuses on top-end, single-vineyard Yarra Valley pinot noir and chardonnay, Innocent Bystander is a free soul, wandering happily wherever its whims take it. The range includes shiraz, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot rose, pinot noir, syrah, sangiovese, pink moscato and cordon cut viognier. To date it’s been a 100 per cent reliable choice, offering really good drinking at around $20 a bottle. Their latest sangiovese is on song, too, offering fleshy, cherry-like varietal flavour, meshed with sangiovese’s savoury, persistent tannins.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011