Wine review — Shingleback, Geoff Merrill, Peppertree, Tyrrell’s and Pio Cesare

The Gate by Shingleback Shiraz 2006 $30–$35
McLaren Vale, South Australia
The bling-laden label raises expectations – four gold and five silver medals from wine shows around the world. Pull the cork, thankfully no cork taint, pour the wine and instant joy. This is beautiful McLaren Vale shiraz, grown on the Davey family’s Shingleback vineyard, made in small, open fermenters and matured in a mix of new and one-year-old American and French oak hogsheads. It’s full bodied and at five years combines layers of vibrant varietal berry flavours with fine tannin, the unique “winey” character of bottle age and a deep, satisfying savouriness. Was the first bottle emptied at a recent tasting – the ultimate review.

Geoff Merrill Cilento Sangiovese 2005 $27
McLaren Vale, South Australia
Generally it’s only the big-ticket wines released with bottle age. But here we have a modestly priced, very attractive six-year-old from veteran McLaren Vale winemaker, Geoff Merrill. Geoff writes that the wine spent three years in three and four year old American oak puncheons – it’s therefore had another three years mellowing in bottle. It’s Australian in style – meaning there’s more upfront sweet fruit than you see in its Italian sangiovese counterparts. But there’s a deep savouriness, tart acidity and tight tannic structure setting it apart from other varieties. It’s named after Merrill’s Italian great grandfather, Joseph Cilento.

Peppertree Venus Block Reserve Chardonnay 2010 $30
Orange, New South Wales
Canberra-raised winemaker Jim Chatto rates 2010 “the best yet” from Peppertree’s Venus block vineyard at Orange. This is what good modern chardonnay is all about – grown in a climate cool enough to produce intense nectarine- and fig-like varietal flavour and high acidity. The intense, fine fruit and acidity drive the wine, easily carrying the flavours and textures woven in during oak fermentation and maturation on spent yeast cells. That combination of bright fruit flavours and barrel complexity, held together by a tingly spine of acidity, gives Peppertree 2010 tremendous appeal. Chardonnay doubters should try this for real drinking excitement.

Tyrrell’s Wine Single Vineyard Shiraz 2008 $27–$38.50
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
During the Hunter’s disastrous 2008 vintage, Tyrrell’s bought eight tonnes of shiraz from Barton Estate, Murrumbateman. They trucked the grapes to the Hunter, made the wine and matured it in new 2,800-litre French oak casks. The wine turned out beautifully, winning a gold medal and trophy at last year’s National Wine Show, Canberra. In a recent masked tasting the Tyrrell’s wine and two other Canberra shirazes, Collector Reserve 2009 and Clonakilla O’Riada 2009, showed their class. The 2009s topped my scoresheet, but the Tyrrell’s rated highly, too, with its vibrant fruit, and tight, spicy elegant palate.

Pio Cesare Il Nebbio 2009 $33–$44
Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Pio Cesare, based in Alba, Piedmont, owns about 50 hectares of vines in key appellations, including Barolo and Barbaresco, source of perhaps Italy’s greatest red wines, made from the nebbiolo variety. But the Pio Cesare family also offers a fresh, fruity (and less expensive) face of nebbiolo in Il Nebbio. Early picking, carbonic maceration, low-temperature fermentation in stainless steel and bottling after only few months in the steel tanks, captures the variety’s vitality. The alluring, fruity aromatics are matched by a juicy, jube-like fruity palate – for a brief and lovely second before nebbiolo’s legendary firm tannins move in. These rule out Il Nebbio as a drink-alone wine. But with food the tannins vanish and the delicious fruit rules.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011