Wine review — Pepper Tree, Grant Burge, Vasse Felix, Chrismont and Rutherglen Estate

Pepper Tree Limited Release Chardonnay 2010 $22
Wrattonbully, South Australia
Yes, this is the third Jim Chatto-made chardonnay reviewed here in as many weeks – expressing yet another facet of the variety. First we saw the thrilling acid spine and intense nectarine-like flavour of Orange chardonnay; then the generous, round, softness and delicacy of the Lower Hunter version. Now we finish with what Chatto calls a Burgundian style, made with the French “Bernard” clones grown at Wrattonbully, near Coonawarra. The underlying varietal flavour seems more melon- and fig-like, but it’s bound up in a tight, fine structure. The barrel and lees influences are subtle indeed, but the overall impact is of restrained power with elegance. All three Peppertree chardonnays deliver rare quality at their prices.

Grant Burge Thorn Riesling 2010 $15–$17
Thorn Vineyard, Eden Valley, South Australia
Grant Burge first bought fruit from the Thorn family’s Eden Valley vineyard in 1988. Now 30 years old, the vines produced magic in 2010 – a peculiar vintage, says Burge, ending with a very cool ripening period, ideal for white varieties. In Thorn this translates to a beautifully aromatic riesling, featuring floral and lime-like varietal character. The intense, zesty, lime character carries through on a pure, delicate, shimmering, dry palate. Provides exciting drinking at the price.

Grant Burge Meshach 2006 $104.50–$155
Filsell Vineyard, Southern Barossa Valley, South Australia
Today’s two five-star reds (Burge and Vasse Felix) couldn’t be more different. They’re chalk and cheese – but brilliant, highly polished examples of long-established regional styles. Grant Burge’s Meshach tells the traditional Barossa Valley shiraz story. Sourced from old vines, mainly at the southern end of the valley, it’s partially barrel fermented and all matured for 22 months in American (85 per cent) and French oak, 70 per cent of it new. While that makes a dark and potent wine initially, at five years Meshach is blossoming with its wonderfully complex aromas, deep, sweet fruited palate and layers of soft tannins. It’s big, for sure, but harmonious and, over time, it’ll become increasingly refined and elegant.

Vasse Felix Heytesbury
Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot Malbec 2008 $75–$88

Vasse Felix Vineyard, Margaret River, Western Australia
We watch in wonder as China’s billionaires drive up prices of Bordeaux’s top reds. Nick’s wine merchants, for example, offers Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2009 at $1,999 a bottle pre-arrival in Australia. Is any wine worth that much? It’s great business for the French. But if we’re more interested in the wine in front of us than the label, several Australian cabernet blends, including the sublime Heytesbury 2008, easily bear comparison with their far more expensive Bordeaux counterparts. It’s a blend of cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and malbec grown at Vasse Felix (owned by the Holmes a Court family) and made by Virginia Willcock. The three varieties combine harmoniously with French oak, delivering a fragrant, complex, powerful-but-elegant, world-class red.

Chrismont La Zona Barbera 2010 $26
King Valley, Victoria
La Zona Barbera 2010 and Rutherglen Estate Durif 2008 are just two of more than 120 wines on tasting at Taste of Two Regions (King Valley and Rutherglen) at Rydges Lakeside on Sunday, 3 July, 10am to 5pm. Entry fee for the tasting of regional produce and wine is $25. Chrismont, owned by Arnie and Jo Pizzini, represents the King Valley’s Italian heritage with this delicious, medium-bodied barbera. It’s purple rimmed with summer-berry fruit flavours as vivid as the colour. Typical for barbera, the structure relies as much on high acidity as it does on tannin, differentiating it from mainstream varieties.

Rutherglen Estate Durif 2008 $21.95
Rutherglen, Victoria
Although durif emerged in southern France in the nineteenth century, it took well to Rutherglen “as it is a late ripening variety, requiring a warm climate and an extended ripening period to develop its full flavour and structural potential”. It became Rutherglen’s idiosyncratic signature red variety, noted for its dense colour, formidable tannins and ability to age for decades. Rutherglen Estate’s version turns down the volume slightly, avoiding the variety’s sometimes port-like alcohol and impenetrable colour. However, it’s still recognisably durif with its ripe, full palate and firm tannins.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011