Wine review — Helen’s Hill, Yangarra Estate, Yalumba, O’Leary Walker, Capital Wines and Louis Roederer

Helen’s Hill Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 $30
Helen’s Hill “old block” vineyard, Coldstream, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Helen’s Hill, established in 1997, is an elevated 60-hectare Yarra property, with 44.5 hectares under vine and a winery producing under two labels – Ingram Rd and Helen’s Hill. When they established the vineyard, the owners paid great attention to matching grape varieties to soil types and microclimates – successfully, judging by this wine. There’s a floral high note over the ripe, cherry-like varietal aroma. The cherry character follows through on a ripe, juicy palate, with earthy, savoury undertones and firm but velvety tannins.

Yangarra Estate Cadenzia 2010 $28
Yangarra Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Some years back, a number of McLaren Vale producers adopted the name “Cadenzia” to promote its blends of grenache, shiraz and mourvedre. Yangarra’s version, based on grenache from old bush vines planted in 1946, offers generous, ripe flavours in a supple, fleshy palate, cut by the savoury, firm tannins of mourvedre. The 100-hectare Yangarra vineyard, consisting of 35 blocks, is located in McLaren Vale’s Blewitt Springs sub-region.

Yalumba Y Series Shiraz 2010  $9.49–$14.95
South Australia
Wineries around the world use animal-derived products to soften their wines. These “fining” agents include egg white, casein (dairy) and isinglass (fish). In a vegan-friendly move, Yalumba’s Y Series wine now come free of these products, meaning a little more grip in the whites and perhaps a rustic bite to the reds. The latest shiraz delivers full, ripe, vibrant, plummy shiraz flavour, with a spicy note and a good load of drying, slightly edgy tannins.

O’Leary Walker Watervale Riesling 2011 $17.50
Grace family vineyard, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia
David O’Leary and Nick Walker produce two Clare rieslings, one from the Watervale sub-region, the other from the cooler Polish Hill River, nine kilometres away. In the cool 2011 vintage we prefer, by a small margin, the Watervale wine. It appeals for its intense, pure, delicate, lime-like varietal flavour and racy, fresh, drying acidity. It’s an aperitif wine now, with the bracing acidity to handle the briny attack of oysters; with bottle age the texture and fruit flavour will build, making it suited to a wider range of foods.

Capital Wines The Whip Riesling 2011 $19
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
Canberra’s 2011 rieslings need bottle age. They have flavour. But as the lovely Whip riesling demonstrates, the flavour’s still pushing through the austere acid of the cold season. I find the Whip a little too austere to enjoy in its own right now, although all that acidity and lemony varietal flavour work well with salty, savoury and fatty foods (fish and chips, for example). But the powerful riesling flavours underlying the acidity ought, with time, dominate and push the mature wine higher up the star-ratings.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne $75–$85
Champagne, France
Family-owned Louis Roederer shows, deliciously, why real Champagne remains the benchmark. It has the assertive pinot flavour and structure more typical of a vintage Champagne, with a unique and lovely elegance, freshness and lightness – courtesy of the chardonnay component. There’s nothing hit and miss about this. It gets back to great grapes from the company’s highly rated vineyards, skilled winemaking and blending – including the use of two-to-five-year-old reserve wines – and a minimum three years’ maturation in bottle. This was our favourite of several New Year’s eve NVs.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 1 February 2012 in The Canberra Times