Wine review — Arras, Brown Brothers, Simmonet-Febvre, Cherubino Ad Hoc, Yab Tree and Cherubino

Arras Methode Traditionelle Blanc de Blancs 2001 $80
Pipers River and Upper Derwent, Tasmania
For Champagne buffs the name Salon-sur-Oger conjures images of delicate but powerful and complete sparkling wines made from chardonnay alone – unaided by pinot noir or pinot meunier, the majority varieties in most Champagnes. In good years chardonnay from the Salon sub-region stands alone, creating sublime wines personified in the rare and expensive Krug Clos du Mesnil and Salon le Mesnil. Australian sparkling maker Ed Carr says, “I have always been a fan of this style and to have a 2001 Tasmanian wine for the first release is as close to perfect as one could wish”. Carr has good reason to be excited. His subtle and powerful Arras Blanc de Blanc 2001 is stunning – and so fresh at 11 years.

Brown Brothers Sauvignon Blanc 2012 $17.90
Tamar Valley and East Coast, Tasmania
In August 2010 Victorian-based Brown Brothers purchased the Tamar Ridge Winery, vineyards and several brands from Gunns. The brands included Tamar Ridge, Pirie, Devil’s Corner and Coombend. In 2012, winemaker Joel Tilbrook tapped into this tasty fruit source to make the first Tasmanian wine to appear under the Brown Brothers label. The wine shows pure passionfruit-like varietal aromas and flavours, with an herbaceous note. It’s deliciously fresh, though somewhat softer and plumper than I would’ve expected from the cool season.

Chablis (Simonnet-Febvre) 2010 $22.70–$25
Chablis, France
At a chilly 47 degrees north, Chablis, the northernmost outlier of France’s Burgundy region, makes distinctive, lean and succulent, bone-dry chardonnays. The wines stand out in any tasting and make their own strong argument for the French concept of terroir – that a given location produces unique wine flavours. Simonnet-Febvre, imported by Woolworths-owned Dan Murphys, gives the succulent, rich-but-not-heavy, dust-dry Chablis experience at a modest price. It’s bright, fresh and clean – and presumably it’s the Australian influence that sees it sealed with a screw cap.

Larry Cherubino Ad Hoc Hen and Chicken Chardonnay 2011 $18.05–$21
Pemberton, Western Australia
Winemaker Larry Cherubino sources fruit widely across southwestern Western Australia, in this instance using chardonnay from a Pemberton vineyard planted in 1999.  At 13.5 per cent alcohol, it’s slightly fuller than the Chablis reviewed today, but not heavy by Australian standards. Fermentation with wild yeasts and maturation in new and two-year-old French oak barrels added textural richness and nutty, spicy oak flavours to the lemon-like and melon-rind varietal character. It’s a rich, soft, gentle style, very easy to like.

Yabtree Shiraz 2008 $28
Yabtree Vineyard, Gundagai, NSW
Former Olympian and President of the World Bank, Jim Wolfensohn, lives in New York but owns Yabtree, a grazing property near Gundagai, on the Murrumbidgee. Simon Robertson, formerly of Barwang, near Young, manages Wolfensohn’s small vineyard and Joel Pizzini makes the wine. Robertson believes reflected light from the Murrumbidgee helps ripen the vineyard’s fruit at lower sugar levels, accounting for the wine’s comparatively modest 13.5 per cent alcohol content. It’s a medium bodied, spicy, savoury style, featuring mouth-drying, soft tannins.

Cherubino Shiraz 2010 $65
Frankland River, Western Australia
Larry Cherubino doesn’t take the second best fruit for his signature label as this is as good as Frankland River shiraz gets – and that’s pretty good. Deep down inside the wine there’s a core of sweet, ripe berry flavours, a bit like blueberry and mulberry. But there’s a lot wrapped around that fruit – a seasoning of pepper, a handful of spices (all consistent with top-end shiraz) and layers of soft, persistent tannins providing a luxurious, velvety texture. It’s a joy to drink now. But the flavour concentration and beautiful tannin structure should see it evolve deliciously for a decade or more.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 25 July 2012 in The Canberra Times and Fairfax digital media (The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, WA Today and Brisbane Times)