Wine review — Helm, Printhie, Domain Day, Willow Creek and Tim Adams

Helm Botrytis Riesling 2012 $30 375ml – wine of the week
Murrumbateman, NSW, Canberra District
In 2012, for only the second time in 36 years, Canberra riesling specialist Ken Helm produced a botrytis-affected sticky. Winemaking mates in Germany helped Helm confirm the presence of botrytis cinerea, otherwise known as noble rot, in a 3.5 tonne batch of riesling grapes. From these he made just 800 luscious litres of wine containing 13 per cent alcohol and 100 grams per litre of residual sugar – balanced by a mouth-tingling 12 grams per litre of acid. It’s a luscious riesling, featuring extraordinary passionfruit-like high notes and aftertaste with underling apricot-like flavours from the botrytis.  Despite the sugary flavour intensity, the wine remains delicate and ethereal and will probably age for decades.

Printhie MCC Shiraz 2010 $35
Printhie Vineyard, Orange, NSW
Like Canberra, Orange wine region covers a wide range of microclimates, determined largely by altitude. In Orange, that’s a minimum of 600 metres, but can be over 1000. Printhie’s Dave Swift says the biggest volumes of shiraz in the area grow at the lower altitudes and his own vineyard is at 620 metres. As the altitude increases, says Swift, the variety shows greater cool-climate white pepper and spice character, but beyond 900 metres, it’s unlikely to ripen. Printhie 2010 shows attractive black pepper and spice with vibrant, ripe-berry flavours and fine-boned, elegant structure. It won a gold medal and trophy in the 2011 Orange wine show.

Domain Day Garganega 2011 $18.05–$22
Domain Day vineyard, Mount Crawford, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Garganega is the key grape in Verona’s famous dry white, Soave. It’s an Italian native – and perhaps one of its most promiscuous as recent DNA studies suggest it’s a parent of seven other varieties. Robin Day says his planting was Australia’s first. From it he makes a full-bodied, distinctively flavoured dry white which, in the cool 2011 vintage, seem particularly aromatic and intensely flavoured. A touch of passionfruit in the aftertaste adds zest to a vibrant, savoury dry white whose basic fruit flavour defies description. Day calls it preserved pear; I see more melon rind. Whatever you call it though, it works. And it’s a world away from chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.

Domain Day One Serious Sangiovese 2007 $30
Domain Day vineyard, Mount Crawford, Barossa Valley, South Australia
One of Tuscany’s great sangioveses, Brunello di Montelcino, inspired Robin Day to plant the variety at Mount Crawford, a comparatively cool site at 450 metres, on the border of the Barossa and Eden Valleys.  Day’s is an earthy, savoury expression of the variety – the savouriness wrestling with its core of ripe, sweet and sour cherry flavour. Day sums it up accurately, writing, “with a pleasantly drying, fine tannin finish that underlies the more rustic varietal character and keeps the wine rather polite and elegant”. That’s it: savoury, rustic and elegant.

Willow Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 $36–$40
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Good pinot doesn’t belt you over the taste buds. It sneaks up – tastes good, then the drinking pleasure builds, glass by glass, as it does in Willow Creek 2010. The colour’s pale and the aroma’s pure pinot, combining ripe, red-berry with gaminess, earthiness and a touch of beetroot. The palate reflects all these varietal characters and seduces even more with its fleshy, slippery, velvety texture. Now that’s good pinot – made by Geraldine McFaul.

Tim Adams Riesling 2012 $18–$22
Irelands, Rogers and Bayes vineyards, Clare Valley, South Australia
Tim Adams generally makes low-alcohol, dry, austere rieslings requiring a few years to fill out and soften. But in 2012 the aroma and flavour’s already there, bursting like a genie from the bottle. And the alcohol level is still just 11.5 per cent. The beautiful aroma and juicy, intense, lemony varietal flavour comes with a load of refreshing natural acidity and not a sign of the fatness that can accompany forward young rieslings. 2012 looks to be a great riesling vintage in the Clare Valley. This one is sensational at the price.

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