Wine review — Balnaves and Redbank

Balnaves of Coonawarra Chardonnay 2011 $26–$28
Balnaves makes a good chardonnay every year, a useful add-on to Coonawarra’s main game – reds. But could chardonnay upstage Balnaves’ reds in the cool 2011 vintage? The cool season accentuated the fruit flavour, shifting it towards the lemon and grapefruit end of the varietal spectrum. And the tingly acid backbone gives a special life and lift to a full-bodied yet elegant white. Winemaker Pete Bissell says he fermented it in oak barriques, about half of them new, using a combination of wild and cultured yeast. It should evolve well for another five or so years.

Balnaves of Coonawarra The Blend 2010 $19–$21
Balnaves of Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot 2010 $24

The Balnaves family produces several reds from its extensive Coonawarra vineyard holdings – ranging from these inexpensive blends to a cabernet sauvignon ($35) and The Tally, its flagship, at $90. ‘The Blend’ shows the lovely fragrance and elegance of merlot married with cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc – the medium bodied palate reflects the aroma and leaves a farewell tweak of fine, but assertive tannin. The cabernet merlot blend delivers vibrant varietal berry flavours on a medium palate, with a quite strong, mouth-drying tannin structure (thank you cabernet).

Redbank King Valley Garganega 2010 $25
Garganega – the principal variety of Soave, the well-known savoury dry white from Soave, near Verona in Italy’s Veneto region – seems at home in Victoria’s little Italy, the King Valley. The Redbank winemakers fermented this, their first vintage, with wild yeast, matured it in older oak barrels and blended it with 10 per cent fiano, another Italian white. The resulting full-bodied dry white pleases with its melon rind and citrus flavours and pleasantly tart, firm finish. It’s a long way from our usual fare and worth trying.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 3 June 2012 in The Canberra Times