Wine review — Jacob’s Creek St Hugo, Yarrh, Cullen, Xanadu and Blue Pyrenees

Jacob’s Creek St Hugo Shiraz Cabernet 2009 $45–50
Barossa (shiraz) and Coonawarra (cabernet), South Australia
I don’t believe any Australian cross-regional blend equals the symbiotic pairing of Barossa shiraz with Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon. For example, few wines in the world equal Penfolds Bin 60A 1962, the legendary Max Schubert blend that upstaged Grange. The new Jacob’s Creek may not challenge Bin 60A, but it captures the beauty of the combination: generous, soft Barossa shiraz gives mouth-filling flavour; Coonawarra cabernet provides the wonderful, elegant structure. It’s beautifully balanced and therefore a joy to drink now, but has the depth to age well for many years.

Yarrh Shiraz 2010 $25
Yarrh Vineyard, Yass, Canberra District, New South Wales
Fiona Wholohan’s shiraz presents a lighter side of Canberra’s already medium-bodied red specialty. The colour’s pale and bright and the aroma’s exoticically peppery and spicy – deep inside cool-climate shiraz country. The pepper and spice flavours flow through to a lean, taut, finely structured palate – where the bright fruit, lively acid and fine tannins delivery a clean, dry refreshing finish. The style should pair well with savoury or high-protein food.

Cullen ‘Cullen Vineyard’ Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011 $35
Margaret River, Western Australia
Vanya Cullen’s new releases include two sauvignon blanc semillon blends – one from the Cullen vineyard, the other from the family’s Mangan vineyard. They’re both partially barrel fermented and matured (half the blend for the Cullen vineyard and one-fifth for Mangan). And there’s more new oak in Cullen than Mangan. The Cullen vineyard wine absorbs the oak, though it’s noticeable, adding texture and subtle vanilla-like character to the racy, lemony/grassy palate. It should age well for several years. The marginally fuller, rounder Mangan maintains the grassy character on a still bracingly fresh palate.

Jacob’s Creek St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $35.15–$50
Coonawarra, South Australia
This is a particularly robust vintage (the 28th) for St Hugo, winner of a trophy and five gold medals. It’s deep, dark and powerful, with concentrated ripe-berry varietal fruit flavour, seasoned by leafy and minty notes. The powerful fruit and firm, tannic structure point to a long cellaring life – a given for St Hugo in most years. Winemaker Bernard Hickin writes, “it’s a riper Coonawarra style from a warm-end vintage – should cellar well for 10–15 years”. If you’re looking for pedigreed memento for a special event in the future, St Hugo offers great value as it’s widely discounted.

Xanadu Next of Kin Chardonnay 2010 $16–$20
Margaret River, Western Australia
Alas, the Rathbone family recently slapped a for sale sign on their Australian wineries (Xanadu, Langi Ghiran, Parker Estate and Yering Station). Let’s hope the new owners maintain the amazing standard achieved during the Rathbone stewardship. Take, for example, this appealing, modestly priced chardonnay. A combination of stainless steel and oak fermentation captured the bright, citrus and melon varietal flavours. The barrels added subtly to the aroma, flavour and texture without overwhelming the juicy, delicious fruit flavour. It’s ready to drink now.

Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2009 $14.25–$20
Blue Pyrenees vineyard, Pyrenees, Victoria
From the 177-hectare Blue Pyrenees Estate (established 1963) comes this humbly priced, appealing red. The winemakers leave the supple, spicy, regional shiraz flavours at the centre of the wine – unburdened by any obvious winemaking inputs. It’s medium bodied and ripe, soft tannins support the succulent fruit. Winemaker Andrew Koerner says the wine comes from “parcels of fruit grown on low-yielding exposed vines which results in intense flavours [and] soft tannins”.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 23 May 2012 in The Canberra Times