Wine review — Gallagher, Rochford, d’Arenberg, Terra Felix and Smith and Hooper

Gallagher Riesling 2011 $18
Four Winds Vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
If wine show results are any guide, then Four Winds vineyards grows some of Canberra’s best riesling. At last year’s regional show, both gold medallists in the 2011 vintage class came from Four Winds – one under their own label (reviewed here 8 February) and this beautiful wine made by Greg Gallagher. It’s certainly one of our standout rieslings of the cool vintage, delivering huge volumes of pure, floral riesling aroma, with a slight German accent. The bone-dry palate delivers on this promise, with the scintillating acidity of the season intensifying the pure fruit flavour.

Rochford Chardonnay 2010 $28–$33
Briarty Hill Vineyard, Yarra Valley, Victoria
This is full-bore chardonnay, in all the right ways – full-bodied but not heavy; showing oak influence but not dominated by it; packed with vibrant melon-like varietal flavour; showing the buttery influence of malolactic fermentation, but not overwhelmed by it; and delivering the slippery, silky texture of a wild-yeast ferment, without becoming cloying. Winemaker Mark Lunt writes, “[this is] the first Rochford chardonnay from the Briarty Hill vineyard purchased in December 2009. Wild yeast, spontaneous partial MLF [malolactic ferment], Sirugue oak. 781 dozen, bottled February 2011”.

Rochford Cabernet Franc 2011 $28–$33
Coldstream, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Cabernet franc, a Bordeaux variety related to cabernet sauvignon, usually contributes to blends, both in Australia and Bordeaux. We see the occasional straight cabernet franc in Australia, and in France’s Loire Valley it flies solo in the delicious, medium bodied reds of Chinon and Bourgueil. Rochford’s 2011, the first to escape the blending vat, offers an enticing, raspberry-spicy-earthy aromas and flavours on a medium-bodied palate, cut with fine, savoury tannins.

d’Arenberg Stephanie the Gnome Rose 2011 $18
Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale, South Australia
What can we expect of a wine called “Stephanie the Gnome with Rose Tinted Glasses”, blended from pinot noir, cinsault and mourvedre? Fortunately, all the right things for rose – a pale, but not too lurid colour; a pleasant varietal note from the lead variety, pinot noir; and a tasty, richly textured dry palate with a satisfying tweak of tannin in the finish. Winemaker Chester Osborne says the pinot comes from a high, cool vineyard in the Adelaide Hills and the cinsault and mourvedre from warmer McLaren Vale.

Terra Felix Prosecco $20
Gentle Annie vineyard, Dookie, Central Victoria
Prosecco is the grape name, though in its home, Italy, authorities renamed it “glera” for producers outside the official high quality production zones in Friuli and Veneto. It’s a light bodied, fairly low alcohol style and usually gets its bubbles through a secondary fermentation in tank, before going to market as young and fresh as possible. Terra Felix captures some of the subtle, apple-like flavours of the variety and the pleasant tartness that distinguish it from other bubblies. It’s a happy quaffer and goes with pretty well any food.

Smith and Hopper Cabernet Merlot 2009 $15.10–$22
Wrattonbully, South Australia
Wrattonbully begins at the northeastern end of Coonawarra and runs north to Naracoorte on South Australia’s Limestone Coast. With cheaper land than Coonawarra, the area expanded rapidly in the nineties as wineries sought high quality grapes to feed the export boom. As the vineyards mature, we’re now seeing what wonderful fruit Wrattonbully produces – in this instance an elegant, pure blend of cabernet and merlot, revealing red berry and plum varietal flavours, overlaid with cabernet’s leafiness. This is very classy drinking at the price.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 29 February 2012 in The Canberra Times