Wine review — Shelmerdine, Yealands Estate, Running with Bulls, Dandelion and Penfolds

Shelmerdine Pinot Noir 2010 $26–$36
Yarra Valley, Victoria

Stephen Shelmerdine writes, “Between the drought-affected vintage 2009 and rain-influenced vintage 2011, vintage 2010 is now shaping up as an absolutely classic year”. I’m not sure what “classic” means, but Shelmerdine delivers the goods in this lovely pinot from his family’s Lusatia Park Vineyard, high in the Yarra Valley. The buoyant, red-fruit perfume of pinot leads to a medium bodied palate, featuring vibrant fruit, spice and savouriness, cut by quite firm but fine-boned tannins. The wine grew in interest over several days on the tasting bench, eventually joining us for dinner on day four.

Yealands Estate Pinot Noir 2009 $17–$22
Awatere Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand
In Australia we can make pretty good regional shiraz and cabernet for around $10. But the starting price for half decent pinot seems to be around $20, and exclusively the domain of cool growing regions. This puts Marlborough, New Zealand, in a dominant position to capture the emerging pinot noir market. Yealands is one of a growing number of producers there putting out the genuine article at a fair price. From Marlborough’s Awatere Valley, it captures much of pinot’s unique perfume and flavour. It’s medium bodied and savoury with a structure as much dependent on high acid as it is on tannin.

Running with Bulls Vermentino 2010 $17–$19
Barmera, Murray River, South Australia
This Italian white variety from the coasts of Liguria, Sardinia, Tuscany and Corsica is attracting some attention in our hot inland regions, like Barmera. “The conditions are perfect for a variety like vermentino, which thrives in the heat”, writes Yalumba, owner of Running with Bulls. Yalumba’s version preserves the freshness of the grape and adds a little texture through skin and yeast-lees contact. It’s a simple, savoury and appealing wine to quaff with basic food – to me a more sympathetic approach than the Chalmers’ more highly worked version.

Running with Bulls Tempranillo 2010 $14–$19
Barossa and Wrattonbully, South Australia
Shhhhh! Don’t tell the editor but this is actually a review of two equally good but different tempranillos under Yalumba’s Running with Bulls label – one from the warm Barossa, the other from somewhat cooler Wrattonbully. The Barossa version presents heaps of blueberry and plum-like varietal fruit flavour in the aroma and flavour. But firm, savoury tannins move in very quickly, giving an authoritative red-wine grip and finish. The Wrattonbully wine seems more savoury and earthy from start to finish, without fruity high notes – a tight and grippy red to enjoy with roasted red meat.

Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth Shiraz Riesling 2008 $27–$30
McMurtrie’s Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia

The Dandelion label presents wines from mature single vineyards in the Barossa, Eden Valley, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale. Lion’s Tooth, from the very hot 2008 vintage, comes from Nat McMurtrie’s McLaren Vale vineyard. Dandelion Partner, Zar Brooks, says hand picked shiraz was “naturally fermented in open fermenters on top of some riesling skins for seven days”. After a good aeration, this deep and brooding red began releasing its sweet, ripe-dark-cherry aromas. The ripe black-cherry flavours carried through to a deep, layered savoury and fruity palate – a rich and sturdy but not plump style.

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.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011