Wine review — Mount Majura, d’Arenberg, Curly Flat, Printhie and Ross Hill

Mount Majura Vineyard Graciano 2010 $25
Mount Majura, Canberra District, ACT

Frank van de Loo’s lovely graciano won a gold medal and two trophies at this year’s regional wine show. Van de Loo says he bottled the late-ripening variety separately, rather than blending it with other varieties, for the first time in 2006 – but the 2010 is “probably the first that has been turning heads”. He adds that because it ripens so late “we only get it to this level of ripeness by severe crop thinning. Even in the warm 2010 vintage an exotic and intense peppery aroma says, phew, just made it. But sometimes wines that just struggle across the ripeness line bring more pleasure – it seems the just-ripe peppery notes emphasise the vibrant, fresh berry flavours underneath. In this instance it means a medium-bodied, savoury red that drinks deliciously now.

d’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz 2010 $16.15–$20
McLaren Vale, South Australia

The wine bears the name of Footbolt, a racehorse whose success helped Joseph Osborn fund the purchase of d’Arenberg’s first vineyard in 1912. Osborn’s descendents, d’Arry and son, Chester, continue to run the business. The Footbolt remains one of Australia’s big-value wines. It offers robust McLaren Vale shiraz flavour and savouriness, supported by mouth coating but soft, ripe tannins. It’s exceptionally rich and satisfying at this price and has the depth to age well for five to ten years if well cellared.

Curly Flat Pinot Noir $48–50
Curly Flat vineyard, Macedon, Victoria

Vigneron Phillip Moraghan says, “Vintage 2010 was a joy after the incredibly low yielding 2009”. We could add it’s a joy to drink too, and likely to remain so for a few decades. I place it in the very top ranks of Australian pinot noir – and all the more appealing because it moves well away from the strawberry-like fruit flavours we see in so many. Fruit sweetness remains crucial, but top pinot should also be earthy, savoury and richly, smoothly textured with a quite firm but fine tannin backbone. This pretty well describes the outstanding Curly Flat. Released in November and available cellar door and at George’s Liquor Stable, Phillip.

Curly Flat The Curly Pinot Noir 2010 $48–$50
Curly Flat vineyard, Macedon, Victoria

In 2010, under the influence of a visiting winemaker from Domaine Dujac, Burgundy, Curly Flat produced 244 dozen of The Curly – a variant on the other Curly Flat pinot reviewed today. The Curly enjoyed a slightly longer pre-fermentation maceration (five days versus 2–3 days); 100 per cent whole-bunch fermentation (versus 11 per cent); a 20-day fermentation (versus 12–17 days) and maturation in 100 per cent new French oak (versus 31 per cent new).  The wines share a common thread; but  surprisingly The Curly gobbles up all the new oak, which seems to add more to the tannin structure than flavour. The wine’s also a little earthier, more ethereal and a teasing bit of stalkiness that emphasises the underlying fruit flavour. Due for release in March-April 2013, it will be available by allocation only, so email expressions of interest to

Printhie MCC Chardonnay 2010 $35
Orange, NSW

This and the Ross Hill chardonnay reviewed today are my picks of a range of wines tasted ahead of the Orange Wine Week, being held 19–28 October. The Swift family owns vineyards but also sources grapes from other growers. Drew Tuckwell makes the wines – in this instance a barrel fermented and matured selection of the best chardonnay grapes available from the vintage. It’s fuller bodied than the Ross Hill wine (from the cooler 2011 vintage), revealing grapefruit and white peach varietal flavours, deliciously meshed with all that comes from fermentation and ageing in barrel.

Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Chardonnay 2011 $35
Ross Hill Home Block vineyard, Orange, NSW

Terri and Peter Robson established Ross Hill in 1994 and planted chardonnay on their home block in 1996. In 2008 Greg and Kim Jones joined the business “to build the Ross Hill winery and plant further, higher elevation vines on the slopes of Mount Canobolas”.  Since 2009 wines have been made on site by Phil and Rochelle Kerney. The wines are among the best from the region. For this wine whole bunches were pressed and the juice run directly to oak barrels for spontaneous fermentation. It’s a classy chardonnay, showing the lean, acidic structure of the cool vintage, underpinned by intense grapefruit-like varietal flavour, infused with the funky notes and rich texture of barrel fermentation and maturation.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 17 October 2012 in The Canberra Times