Wine review — Greywacke, Cumulus, Helm, Shaw Vineyard Estate, Kirrihill and Chapel Hill

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2011 $23–$28
Brancott Valley and Wairau Plains, Marlborough, New Zealand

Greywacke’s Kevin Judd and sauvignon blanc go back to 1983. As winemaker at Selaks, Auckland, Judd made some of the first New Zealand sauvignon blancs to be promoted in Australia, starting here in Canberra under the Selaks and 1984 Farmer Brothers labels. Judd then joined David Hohnen at Cloudy Bay, the brand that sold the sizzle of Marlborough sauvignon blanc to the world. After 25 vintages at Cloudy Bay, Judd left and launched his own wines – including this brilliant example of the variety. It offers pure, in-your-face varietal aroma, a fleshy, juicy mid palate and mouth-watering vitality.

Cumulus Chardonnay 2010 $30
Blocks 14B and 15, Cumulus Vineyard, Orange, New South Wales

Orange covers an even wider range of altitudes than Canberra. To be included in the region, vineyards need to be at least 600 metres above sea level – and some sit above the 1,000-metre mark. Because of its extent (508-hectares) and variations in altitude, Cumulus vineyard rolls in and out of Orange. The higher sections contributed to this delicious chardonnay, made by Debbie Lauritz. Oak-fermentation and maturation added texture and spicy oak character to the intense grapefruit and white peach varietal flavour. Looks very young and fresh now and should age well for five or so years.

Helm Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $35
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales

In the shadow of shiraz, Ken Helm maintains a faith in Canberra cabernet, working tirelessly with neighbouring grape grower Al Lustenburger to bring out the best in the variety. In the outstanding 2009 vintage, Helm’s is an elegantly structured wine, built on pure, just-ripe, delicate, cabernet flavours. Helm’s inclusion of French oak, along with his previously favoured American oak, sits more sympathetically with the elegant fruit – lending a pleasant cedary note. However, the oak slightly outweighs the fruit at this stage (though the two may integrate with time).

Shaw Vineyard Estate Premium Riesling 2011 $22
Shaw Vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
In the tough 2011 vintage, Graeme Shaw produced just 300 cases of Premium riesling – a bronze medal winner at the 2011 Canberra Regional Wine Show. The wine displays the marginal ripeness and high acidity of the cold vintage. This pleasant tartness, and a low alcohol content (11.5 per cent), make it a good aperitif, especially with cold, savoury food.

Kirrihill Single Vineyard Tullymore Vineyard Shiraz 2009 $16.15–$19
Tullymore Vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia

Kirrihill is a large operation, sourcing grapes from over 1,300 hectares of vineyards, located 350–550 metres above sea level in the Clare Valley. Winemaker Donna Stephens sourced grapes for this wine from the Tullymore Vineyard, to the east of Clare township. It’s a generous, ripe, plummy, juicy red with a touch of Clare’s distinctive mint character. A load of soft tannins adds richness and structure to this attractive, drink-now, traditional Australian shiraz.

Chapel Hill Shiraz 2009 $28.49–$30
McLaren Vale, South Australia

Chapel Hill delivers an especially vibrant, satisfying drinking experience, capturing the earthy richness of McLaren Vale shiraz without going over the top on tannin or oak. The lovely, perfumed varietal aroma and lively, fruity palate suggests winemakers Michael Fragros and Bryn Richards harvested at the peak of ripeness. A long post-ferment maceration on skins, gentle basket pressing and 20-months maturation in a combination of new and old oak integrated the firm but smooth tannins completely with the fruit. The result is a generous, savoury regional shiraz of a very high order.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 7 March 2012 in The Canberra Times