Wine review — Yangarra, Hewitson, Cullen and Shelmerdine

Yangarra Estate Vineyard Roussanne 2010 $25
McLaren Vale, South Australia
Roussanne, a Rhone Valley white variety, occasionally appears on its own in Australia, but more often in tandem with viognier or marsanne. Jancis Robinson called it the “shy” member of the trio as it avoids the viscosity of viognier or tannins of marsanne. In this version, vigneron Peter Fraser subtly sets the comparatively delicate roussanne fruit flavour in a web of barrel-ferment characters that add more to texture than flavour. A soft but bright and savoury white with a difference, it keeps inviting another sip. Fraser says it’s estate grown and made, with quality selection drilling down to individual, healthy berries.

Hewitson Gun Metal Riesling 2011 $21.50–$26
Eden Valley, South Australia
Our first 2011 white review gives exciting hope for the vintage. In this cool season, Dean Hewitson’s austere, stony, elevated Eden Valley site, near Mengler’s Hill, delivered a highly aromatic white (lemony and floral) with high natural acidity and intense, lingering, citrus and apple-like varietal flavours. The delicate but austere acid intensifies the wine’s flavour, and adds to the clean, fresh, brisk, dust-dry finish. It’s a style to enjoy now in its lively, fresh youth – or, alternatively, during its evolution over the next decade.

Cullen Mangan Malbec Petit Verdot Merlot 2010 $39–$45
Margaret River, Western Australia
The deeper, fuller and more overtly fruity of today’s two Cullen wine draws its firing power from malbec and petit verdot. Together they make comprise 70 per cent of the blend. The two varieties “provide the middle palate with richness and depth, while the third [merlot] adds lovely aromatics and good acidity, which contribute to the excellent structure of this wine”, writes winemaker, Vanya Cullen. The excellent structure includes an assertive line of ripe tannins in harmony with the rich, lively black-cherry fruit flavours. Mangan is a strong but elegant red at a modest 13 per cent alcohol.

Cullen Diana Madeline 2009 $105
Margaret River, Western Australia
Vanya Cullen regularly achieves what so many Australian winemakers seek – fully ripe fruit flavours at comparatively low sugar levels. Low sugar levels, of course, mean less alcohol – in this beautiful red, just 12 per cent. It’s a blend of cabernet sauvignon (88 per cent) with six per cent cabernet franc and four per cent merlot – the cabernet sourced from vines planted by Vanya’s parents in 1971. Vanya writes, “the wine was naturally fermented and matured for 13 months in French oak, of which 55 per cent was new”. It’s an extraordinary, harmonious, elegant cabernet, easily among the best yet made in Australia.

Shelmerdine Shiraz 2008 $29–$32
Heathcote, Victoria
What are we to make of two wines from the same producer, same variety and same region, but one selling at $32, the other at $65? What we found on the tasting bench were significant style differences but a tough call on quality variance – the majority of tasters rating the cheaper wine ahead of its more expensive cellar mate from the Merindoc vineyard. The $32 wine rated highly for its bright fruit, exceptionally lively palate and fine, savoury tannins – a big but balanced shiraz, relying as much on acidity as tannin to give structure.

Shelmerdine Merindoc Shiraz 2008 $59–$65
Heathcote, Victoria
Winemaker Sergio Carlei made this from a four-tonne, hand selection of shiraz from the Merindoc vineyard – a three-hectare, amphitheatre block in the southern foothills of Victoria’s Heathcote region. It’s slightly deeper coloured than the cheaper Shelmerdine shiraz – and from the first sniff we’re enjoying gamey, earthy notes in with the underlying fruit. The fruit gives sweetness to the generous palate and the gamey, earthy, mushroom-like flavours add a distinctive savour to the richly textured palate. Both wines blossomed for five days after opening. In the end we rated Merindoc half a star ahead of its cellar mate.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011