Wine review — Freeman, Soumah, Greywacke, A Retief, De Bortoli Windy Peak and McWilliams Hanwood

Freeman Rondinella Corvina Secco 2008 $30
Freeman Vineyards, Hilltops, NSW
In 1999 Dr Brian Freeman established near Young several blocks of vineyards totalling 40 hectares. He included in the vineyard rondinella and corvina, the red varieties behind Verona’s famous red, Valpolicella, and its illustrious offshoot, Amarone, made from dried berries. A decade ago Freeman launched his own interpretation of the Amarone style, made from fermenting raisened grapes (dried in a neighbour’s prune dehydrator) with whole berries. Like the originals from Verona, the wine’s pale coloured but powerful and well removed in style from mainstream red drinking. The aroma’s earthy and savoury, with fungal and bitter cherry notes. These come through too on an elegantly structured palate with delicious, sweet and sour cherry-like flavours. The fruit sweetness quickly gives way to strong, savoury drying tannins.

Soumah Chardonnay 2011 $33–$35
Butcher family vineyard, Gruyere, Yarra Valley, Victoria
The Butcher family owns vineyards in the Gruyere-Coldstream sub-region of the Yarra Valley and created the acronym Soumah (south of the Maroondah Highway) as its brand name. Wines released under this label include Savarro (savagnin blanc), pinot noir, pinot grigio and shiraz. And the Butchers have plans to make nebbiolo and brachetto. The chardonnay sits at the delicate end of the varietal spectrum at just 12 per cent alcohol, perhaps reflecting the unusually cool 2011 vintage. The wine displays delicate grapefruit varietal flavours, pleasantly supported by spicy oak and the textural richness derived from barrel fermentation and maturation.

Greywacke Pinot Noir 2010 $45
Southern Valleys, principally Yarrum vineyard, Marlborough, New Zealand
Winemaker Kevin Judd took Marlborough to the world with the stunning wines he created for Cloudy Bay, pinot noir included. The same class reveals itself in Judd’s Greywacke wines. The latest pinot noir, a blend of components made from various clones, delivers beautifully ripe, cherry-like varietal character – tinged with the subtle stalky character of whole-bunch fermentation. The palate’s silky smooth and quite firm tannins provide the structure and finish to go with the deep, sweet fruit flavour.

A. Retief Shiraz 2009 $28
Winbirra vineyard, Gundagai, NSW
Winemaker Alex Retief sources grapes from growers in Canberra, Hilltops and Tumbarumba, but makes this wine from his parent’s vineyard near Wagga, in the Gundagai wine region. His parents planted the vineyard in 1997, it was certified organic in 2003 and biodynamic in 2005. Retief writes, “On what used to be quite compact hard ground, you can now dig up handfuls of rich brown soil that is teeming with soil”. Whatever they’re doing in the vineyard, they should keep doing as this wine reveals juicy, ripe and spicy fruit flavours layered with soft, easy-on-the gums tannin.

De Bortoli Windy Peak Cabernet Merlot 2010 $11.40–$14
De Bortoli vineyard, Yarra Valley, Victoria
De Bortoli recently revamped its big-value Windy Peak range, brightening the labels and focusing on regional varietal wines linked to food suggestions – in this instance slow cooked garlic and rosemary lamb shanks (recipe on It’s a brilliant wine at the price, featuring the sweet fragrance and delicate berry flavours of cool-grown cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The palate’s rich but not heavy, elegantly structured and a sensible 13 per cent alcohol. It’d be very easy to drink too much of it.

McWilliams Hanwood Estate Chardonnay 2009 $7.95–$12
Riverina, Tumbarumba, Hilltops and Hunter Valley, NSW
Alpine Valleys, Victoria; and Margaret River, Western Australia

Chardonnay sales must be slow at McWilliams. Why else would they be offering a three-year-old, drink-now commercial style? However, thanks to the screw cap and some pretty fancy fruit sourcing, the wine still drinks very well. Riverina fruit forms the base of the wine, but the other little bits and pieces, especially the ten per cent of the blend from Tumbarumba, give it the flavour intensity, structure and legs to hang in there. It’s a bright and fruity style, quite full, round and peachy, but not fat; and still with fresh, bright acidity. As I write Dan Murphy’s offer it at $7.95 each as part of a six bottle buy.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 4 July 2012 in The Canberra Times