Wine review — Thirst, Bourke Street, Tower Estate, Chalmers, Chapel Hill and Penfolds

Thirst Riesling 2010 Bottle $28, Glass $6.50
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales

Hot, thirsty and running early for dinner, we paused for a cold riesling at Thirst Wine Bar and Eatery (West Row, Civic). Winemaker Nick O’Leary says grapes for the wine came from several vineyards at Murrumbateman. He says it’s a blend of various components, including material not suited to his own brand. It’s racy, tasty, vibrant and dry – good enough to sip on its own, as we did, and perfect with Thirst’s Thai food. Full marks to Thirst for selecting and offering its customers such a delicious, inexpensive local specialty.

Bourke Street Shiraz 2009 $19–$21
Yass Valley and Hall, Canberra District, NSW and ACT

This will be one of the great red wine bargains of the year – a juicy, vibrant, spicy, medium-bodied shiraz from Canberra’s outstanding 2009 vintage – made by two of our leading winemakers, Nick O’Leary and Alex McKay. The pair buy grapes together, principally for their own brands, Nick O’Leary and Collector Marked Tree. They blend Bourke Street from components not suited to those brands. Clearly, these were of extraordinary quality in 2009. O’Leary says the grapes came from Wallaroo Vineyard, Hall, and the McKenzie vineyard, Yass Valley.

Tower Estate Riesling 2010 $23.80–$28.00
Windmill Vineyard, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia

Tower Estate was a vision of the late Len Evans and a fitting site for his extraordinary wake in 2006. A visit to the Hunter Valley cellar door gives an insight into Evans’ quirky creativity. And a taste of Tower wines reveals another Evans’ legacy – a commitment to stellar quality. He would’ve loved this pristine, intense, lime-like dry riesling, sourced from Chris and Darry Honey’s Windmill Vineyard at Watervale, Clare’s southernmost sub-region.

Chalmers Sagrantino 2008 $32
Euston, Murray Darling Region, New South Wales

Sagrantino, originally from Umbria, Italy, tends to make powerful, tannic reds, suited to madmen, heroes and Godzilla. But the Chalmers family’s version stops short of sucking the water from your eyes – tempered, temporarily, by its bright, sweet fruit, before the sturdy, mouth-drying tannins kick in. They also offer a dry, savoury barrel-fermented rose version (Sagrantino Rosato 2010, $22) with an assertive, but not aggressive, tannic tweak to the finish.

Chapel Hill Il Vescovo Pinot Grigio 2010 $22
Adelaide Hills, South Australia

When making whites from this mutant of pinot noir, Australian winemakers generally use “pinot grigio” for dry, austere styles made in the north eastern Italian mould, or “pinot gris” for richly textured, sometimes sweet expressions modelled on those of Alsace. In this version winemaker Bryn Richards really captures pinot grigio’s elusive varietal aroma and flavour. It’s a pristine, lively, shimmering, dry style with a mouth watering, savoury finish.

Penfolds Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 $49.90
Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Peter Gago made Penfolds’ first Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir in 1997. Since then it’s evolved considerably in style from sturdy Penfolds red to a fine, deeply layered, top-shelf pinot. It’s made in the original open fermenters at Magill Estate – the same ones Max Schubert used for Grange. In this case they’re cradle to a substantial pinot – highly aromatic and varietal, intensely flavoured, fleshy, vibrant, silky textured with an exotic undertone of “stalkiness”, derived from whole grape bunches included in the ferment.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011