Wine review — Majella, Glaymond, Tower Estate, Giesen and Swinging Bridge

Majella The Musician Cabernet Shiraz 2010 $15.90–$20
Majella Vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia
The new vintage maintains The Musician’s status as one of Australia’s most delicious under-$20 reds — with a clear regional identity. There’s very little oak influence in Musician, allowing Coonawarra’s vibrant, ripe-berry aromas and flavours to sing. It’s a medium-bodied blend of 56 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 44 per cent shiraz – the cabernet providing classic Coonawarra elegance and blackcurrant varietal flavour and the shiraz subtly plumping out the mid palate. You can drink Musician time and again without tiring of the unique, pure, Coonawarra flavours. It’s made by Bruce Gregory from fruit grown on the Lynn family’s Majella vineyard.

Glaymond “Landrace” Shiraz Mataro 2008 $32
Marananga, Barossa Valley, South Australia

If you’ve visited that great Barossa Valley landmark, Seppeltsfield, then you’ve been to Marananga, one of the valley’s loveliest sub-regions and source of magnificent reds. Winemaker Damien Tscharke grew up there and continues a multi-generation family connection – expressed in this ripe and powerful blend of shiraz and mataro (aka mourvedre). It’s blacker than a dark hole, and features sumptuous, ripe, black cherry shiraz flavours and wrapped in layers of firm but not hard tannins, contributed, to a large extent, by the mataro.

Tower Estate Panorama Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 $55
Panorama Vineyard, Huon Valley, Tasmania

Tasmanian wine made in the Hunter Valley? You bet, says winemaker Samantha Connew. With so much fresh produce coming out of Tasmania it’s easy to load a refrigerated truck with hand picked grapes from Michael and Sharon Vishacki’s Panorama Vineyard, Huon Valley. The truck drives and floats north, arriving about three days later at Tower Estate for a warm-to-hot ferment, maceration on skins and maturation, on lees, in French oak barrels. The result: a delicate but intense savoury, earthy, richly textured pinot, with the subtly stalky overtone of whole-bunch ferment. This is just the beginning says Connew. There’ll be a Derwent Valley version as well from next year.

Giesen “The Brothers” Pinot Noir 2009 $28–$40
Marlborough, New Zealand
Giesen’s Marlborough pinot provides a marked style contrast to Tower Estate’s Tasmanian one — same vintage, same variety, different locations, both recognisably pinot but one opulent, the other lean and savoury. Giesen The Brothers, a selection of the winery’s best pinot of the season, weighs in at 14 per cent alcohol (compared to Tower’s 12.5 per cent). This adds body to the already fuller, rounder fruit flavours, albeit held in check by fine tannins and a fairly high level of acidity.

Swinging Bridge Chardonnay 2009 $17.95
Canowindra and Orange, New South Wales
Swinging Bridge’s tasty, cleverly made chardonnay, sits somewhere between the lean, tight, cool-climate style and the plump, peachy versions from warmer areas. Being built mainly on warm-grown material, the juicy, white peach varietal flavours dominate the generous palate. But winemaker Tom Ward says he “tightened” the wine up, using a component (nine per cent of the blend) from high, cool Orange. This adds a zesty citrus flavour and tang and probably accounts for the wine’s beautiful freshness at two years’ age.

Swinging Bridge Merlot 2010 $19.95
Orange, New South Wales
Swinging Bridge’s vineyard holdings extend from the lower western slopes, at Canowindra, to the high country near Orange — source of this very good merlot, distinctly not of the bland, sweet style rejected by Miles in the movie Sideways. Mind you, merlot remains a step sideways from mainstream cabernet or shiraz, so it’s not to everyone’s taste. This one’s big on plummy varietal perfume. This flavour comes through on the palate, too, mixed with earthy and chocolate-like flavours. These give the  kernel of sweetness peeping through merlot’s quite assertive, firm tannins. They’re distinctly savoury and work well with casual, savoury food like pizza.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 13 July 2011 in The Canberra Times