Wine review — Lark Hill, Red Knot by Shingleback, John Duval and Pewsey Vale

Lark Hill Chardonnay 2008 $35
Lake George Escarpment, Canberra District, New South Wales
If Lark Hill makes chardonnay this good in a warm year, then we’ve much to look forward to in the 2011, now bubbling away in barrels at the winery. At three years the 2008 seems barely to have begun life, it’s so vibrant, youthful and alive with juicy, ripe varietal flavour. The palate has breadth, depth and rich texture – attributable, says winemaker Chris Carpenter, to glycerol from an indigenous yeast fermentation and extended contact with yeast lees after fermentation. High natural acidity, however, tightens the structure and, in combination with the pure, intense fruit flavour, suggests a long, graceful evolution with bottle age.

Lark Hill Pinot Noir 2008 $35
Lake George Escarpment, Canberra District, New South Wales
It’s been a long time between drinks, but Lark Hill seems to be nailing pinot noir again. On the Chateau Shanahan tasting bench recently the 2008 (for release in June) and 2010 (for release in June 2012 as there’s no 2009), drank well for days. The delicate, refined 2010, with its distinctive tight tannin structure, appealed most. But the darker, chunkier 2008 also rated well. It’s far removed from Australia’s generally more aromatic pinots, featuring instead earthy, savoury notes and quite firm (but fine) tannins. The more we drank it, the more we liked it. It’s pushing up to four-star pinot quality – and the 2010s already there.

Red Knot by Shingleback Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $10.45–$14.99
McLaren Vale, South Australia
Red Knot Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Davey family’s Shingleback vineyard, McLaren Vale, evokes words like ripe, juicy, fruity, varietal and soft – a bright, fresh, flavoursome, lovable, red made to enjoy now. But it’s a bit more than that too – a great example of the sophistication of modern Australian winemaking. Why? Despite the low price it’s not propped up by over-extraction, over oaking or over-ripeness as we used to see. It’s a graceful, lovely, modestly priced wine, based on fruit quality not winemaking tricks.

John Duval Entity Shiraz 2009 $46–$48
Krondorf, Ebenezer, Tanunda and Eden Valley, Barossa Zone, South Australia
What comes after making Grange? John Duval faced that question a few years back after stepping down from the top winemaking job at Penfolds. Thankfully he stayed put in the Barossa making wonderful wines like “Entity”. It’s at the elegant end of the Barossa shiraz spectrum – partly due to inclusion of material from the higher, cooler Eden Valley (part of the Barossa zone) and partly due to a season noted for fragrant, “pretty” reds. Matured in a mix of old and new fine-grained French hogsheads, Entity presents a fragrant, medium bodied, smooth, spicy and savoury face of Barossa shiraz.

John Duval Eligo Shiraz 2008 $105
Barossa and Eden Valleys, South Australia
John Duval doesn’t reveal precise vineyard locations for Eligo, just that it’s sourced from “some excellent vineyards in the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley regions”. But the wine speaks for itself. It’s a more powerful expression of Barossa shiraz than Entity, darker in colour, matured longer in barrel and with more new oak (80 per cent versus 39 per cent). It’s a beautiful, big but graceful wine, deeply coloured but not opaque. It’s saturated with ripe, blueberry-like varietal shiraz, cut through with savoury, spicy oak – the flavours rapidly merging together. The deep, sweet fruit flavours linger on, layered with fruit and oak tannins. Be in no rush to drink this.

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2010 $14.99–$22.99
Pewsey Vale Vineyard, Eden Valley, South Australia
It won’t be long before the 2011 rieslings trickle into the market. But if you’re after absolutely outstanding drinking right now, mop up the rest of Pewsey Vale’s extraordinarily delicious 2010. It’s widely discounted, as low as $14.99, but more commonly to around $15–$16 (though you can pay more if you want). It’s from the Hill-Smith family’s 50-hectare Pewsey Vale vineyard, located on the edge of the Eden Valley. Louisa Rose makes the wine just a few kilometres down the hill at the Yalumba Winery, Angaston, centre of the Hill-Smith wine operations.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011