Seppelt St Peters Shiraz 2008 $52.25–$69
St Peters Vineyard, Grampians, Victoria
Legendary winemaker, Colin Preece, managed Seppelt’s Great Western cellars from 1932 to 1963. Although perhaps more famous for his sparkling reds than still table wines, Preece made glorious long-lived reds from the old shiraz vines that still surround the winery. I suspect he’d approve of Emma Woods’ magnificent 2008 from those old vines. It captures the elegant but powerful regional style – vibrant, dark-berry fruit flavours with deep, spicy, savoury vein and a firm but gentle grip of tannin. For a comparatively modest price you get a wine of great complexity with a long pedigree. It’s built to last, but with a good splash in the decanter will provide superb Christmas drinking.
Extra Cuvee de Reserve Champagne Vintage 2000 $81–$114
Great Champagne starts with great grapes but includes the patina of aromas, flavours and textures that come from skilful blending, the inclusion of special reserve wines and prolonged ageing on yeast lees in bottle. In great wines these winemaker add-ons never overwhelm the superior fruit that, finally, separates the greats from the also-rans. Pol Roger 2000 (a 60:40 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay) ranks among the greats. The pale golden colour, persistent mousse, teaming, tiny bubbles, mature pinot and chardonnay aroma and intense but oh-so-delicate palate thrill like few wines do. Few Champagnes at this price match the quality.
Majella Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $30–$33
Majella Vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia
Majella appeals on several fronts, starting with its vivid, crimson colour. But the aroma really draws us in. It really sings, thanks, in part to a perfect matching of oak and fruit. The combination lifts the fruit aroma, adding sweet floral notes to a wonderful cedar-like character that combines oak with Coonawarra’s beautiful, vibrant blackberry-like varietal flavour. The very friendly, juicy palate closely reflects the aromas. It has the harmonious, drink-now appeal for Christmas. But it’s a wine of substance and complexity, capable of cellaring for many years.
Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2008 $48–$54
Curly Flat Vineyard, Macedon Ranges, Victoria
We’ve revisited Phillip and Jenny Moraghan’s lovely 2008 pinot several times this year, bought a case for the cellar and have it on Chateau Shanahan’s Christmas lunch menu. It bears the thumbprint of the hot vintage, but not in the most obvious way – as the alcohol’s just 12.6 per cent. The fruit flavour, however, sits more in the dark-berry and than red-berry spectrum. And the firm tannins holding the fruit in check also reflect the warm growing conditions. So, rather than a big, hot wine, we have a fragrant, complex, savoury, elegant pinot with delicious fruit under the taut structure.
Penfolds Reserve Bin 09A Chardonnay $71.25–$90
Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Penfolds “white Grange” project of the early nineties produced the company’s flagship white, the multi-region Yattarna Chardonnay, and this superb sidekick from the Adelaide Hills. Putting the two in a Burgundy context, we might compare the oh-so-refined Yattarna with Montrachet and the more robust Reserve Bin A with Meursault. In 2009 the style seems a little less powerful than the 2008 – the aroma combining “struck match” character with intense grapefruit and nectarine-like varietal notes. The intense palate presents the same flavour characters, all tied together by lean, taut, brisk acidity. It’s a complex, distinctive wine to enjoy for many years – or luxurious company for your Christmas lobster.
Grosset Springvale Vineyard Watervale Riesling 2011 $36
Despite widespread crop losses to mildew and botrytis, the wet, cold 2011 vintage delivered stunning quality in some white varieties where growers kept disease at bay and processed only clean fruit. The cool growing conditions produced higher than average acidity which, when combined with fully ripened fruit, meant the sort of intense, fine flavours seen in Jeffrey Grosset’s two rieslings from Clare sub-regions Watervale and Polish Hill. For Christmas drinking we favour the delicate Watervale over the more austere Polish Hill wine. We love its delicate lime-like flavours and bone-dry finish.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 21 December 2011 in The Canberra Times