Wine review — Taltarni, Yalumba, Shaw and Smith, Ballabourneen, Best’s and Grosset

Taltarni Shiraz 2008 $30–$39
Heathcote, Victoria
We put this in an office tasting alongside several far more expensive reds, and for me it was the wine to come back to for a couple of glasses – each one as interesting as the first sip. Heathcote reds can be a bit heavy, alcoholic and over the top. But Taltarni, to me, captures the area’s best features – especially, the deep, spicy savouriness behind the sweet, ripe fruit flavour. A touch of mourvedre in the blend probably accounts for some of the spicy, savoury character and fine, persistent tannins.

Yalumba Christobel’s Classic Dry White 2011 $9.49–$16
Barossa Zone, South Australia
The new Christobel’s is a revamped version of wine introduced by Yalumba’s Robert Hill Smith in the 1980s. Behind the vibrant floral label lies a tingly fresh dry white based on the Barossa’s workhorse, semillon. Semillon gives the wine its lemony aroma and flavour; sauvignon blancs adds pungency, zest and a pleasing tropical-fruit note; and savagnin contributes weight and texture. At a modest 11.5 per cent alcohol it’s a terrific all-purpose refresher and food wine.

Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2011 $21–$27
Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Ahh, such honesty in winemaker Martin Shaw’s press release, “With the exception of sauvignon blanc our vintage 2011 was a shocker by any standards”, he writes. The cold, wet season completely wiped out his shiraz and 90 per cent of his chardonnay – big losses for a small maker to bear. The cold conditions might have delivered one of those capsicum-like sauvignons, in the Marlborough mould. But the 2011 retains the brand’s tropical-fruit character, albeit more subdued than usual. The racy, fresh, bone-dry palate also introduces a pleasing herbal note.

Ballabourneen Gamay Noir 2011 $25
Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, New South Wales
The late, fruity, bubbly, ebullient Len Evans planted gamay – the Beaujolais region’s equally fruity, ebullient red variety – on his family vineyard at Pokolbin. After Len’s death, Ballabourneen’s Daniel Binet leased the vineyard and now makes a wonderfully, juicy, fruity, succulent red from the gamay grapes. It’s a fruit festival in a bottle, but has sufficient tannin and savouriness to be a real red and great company with food. Serve lightly chilled. Drink a toast to Len.

Best’s Riesling 2011 $20–$25
Rhymney Vineyard, Great Western, Victoria
Surprising for such a young riesling from a cold vintage, Best’s 2011 riesling delivers buckets of upfront floral and citrus fruit aroma and flavour. Although the wine clearly has minerality and fairly high acidity, it’s offset by deep, juicy, sweet fruit flavour and rich, smooth texture. This delicious interplay between high acidity, sweet fruit flavour and rich texture is perhaps what winemaker Adam Wadewitz had in mind when describing it as “a wine with great tension”.

Grosset Nobel Riesling 2011 $45 375ml
Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia
On the Mosel, German winemakers embrace botrytis cinerea, or noble rot, as part of the humid landscape, an integral force behind their noble sweet rieslings. In the dry Clare Valley the fungus seems more of a curse than an asset as it can wipe out some varieties almost instantly. In the cool, wet 2011 season Jeffrey Grosset surrendered a hectare of riesling to the rot to make his first botrytis riesling since 1999. It’s a beautiful, succulent wine of luscious apricot-like flavours, cut by bracing lime-like acidity, with an ethereal, floating, delicate texture.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 12 October 2011 in The Canberra Times