Wine review — Stella Bella, Tamar Ridge, Printhie, All Saints and Paxton

Stella Bella Cabernet Merlot 2008 $25–$33
Margaret River, Western Australia
Stella Bella; stellar quality, too, doing what Margaret River does best: combining the Bordeaux varieties cabernet sauvignon and merlot in a powerful but elegant potentially very long-lived red. The 2008, made by Stuart Pym from vineyards near the town and further north at Cowaramup, is sensational – an extraordinarily sweet perfumed, seductive cabernet. Though the aroma borders on floral, with the intensity of violets, the deep, sweet fruit comes in a tight, firm matrix of tannin – cabernet’s indelible thumbprint. You can pay a lot more for cabernet of this calibre.

Tamar Ridge Devil’s Corner Pinot Grigio 2010 $18.95
Tamar Valley and East Coast, Tasmania
In August 2010 Brown Brothers of Milawa, Victoria, bought Tamar Ridge Estates from Gunns Limited. The move, says Ross Brown, fitted a company strategy to mitigate the effects of global warming by sourcing grapes from cooler areas. And cool it is, demonstrated by the pristine, pear-like varietal flavour and spritely acidity of Devil’s Corner 2010. Pinot gris simply doesn’t deliver this purity and racy freshness in warmer areas. It’s a wine to enjoy right now; trade up to the 2011 this time next year.

Printhie Chardonnay 2010 $16.15–$18
Orange, New South Wales
Really good, regional wine needn’t cost the earth. There’s proof in Printhie’s 2010 chardonnay, sourced by winemaker Drew Tuckwell from five vineyards located between 650 and 1060 metres above sea level. The high altitude and consequent cool conditions suit early-ripening chardonnay, concentrating the varietal flavour and retaining acidity. The wine’s tight acid backbone lends vitality to its intense melon and citrus varietal flavour – a full bodied but elegant style to enjoy young.

Tamar Ridge Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2010 $18.95
Tamar Valley and East Coast, Tasmania
Brown Brothers purchase of Tamar Ridge from Gunns Limited also gave it entrée to the pinot noir market, the fastest growing red wine style, says Brown. The variety makes up 30 per cent of Tamar’s harvest. Devil’s Corner, the cheapest of Tamar’s three pinots, rates among the best sub-$20 versions on the market. It presents the variety’s high-toned fragrance, delicacy, silkiness and elegant, fine-boned structure – but not the too-simple, confection-like fruit of many budget pinots. Yes, it’s at the lighter end of the pinot spectrum. But that just means good early drinking: now to 2013.

All Saints Durif $25
Rutherglen, Victoria
Durif, also known as petite syrah, is an accidental cross of shiraz and peloursin, first identified by Francois Durif at Montpellier, France, in 1880 and brought to Australia by Francois de Castella in 1908. It thrived in Rutherglen’s hot climate and became the region’s signature red variety, tending to a porty ripeness and burly tannic structure. Where some might politely be called “rustic”, All Saints’ highly polished version packs the variety’s aromatic, very ripe, plummy flavours into a supple, smooth palate, albeit underpinned with a truckload of tannin.

Paxton Quandong Farm Vineyard Shiraz 2009 $30
McLaren Vale, South Australia

David Paxton established vineyards in McLaren Vale in 1979 and in recent years used Quandong Farm vineyard “as the test-bed for the Paxton biodynamic programme that focuses on soil health, bio-diversity and non-chemical weed control”. His son Michael makes shiraz from the vineyard, using wild yeast and extended maceration on skins. He matures it in mainly older French oak barrels and bottles it without fining or filtering. The result is a limpid and lovely McLaren Vale red of a modest 13.5 per cent alcohol. It’s rich and pure, with gentle but abundant tannins and an appealing earthy, savoury undertone.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011