Wine review– Lerida Estate, Lowe and Swinging Bridge

Lerida Estate Shiraz Viognier 2009 – $65
Lerida Estate vineyard, Lake George, Canberra District, NSW
Inspired largely by Dr Edgar Riek’s pinot noir, Jim Lumbers and Anne Caine established Lerida Estate in 2000, next door to Riek’s Lake George vineyard (acquired by the Karelas family in 1998). However, in a run of warm vintages in the new century (until 2011, that is) shiraz generally outperformed pinot – hitting an impressive peak in 2009. Its awards, to date, include gold medals in the Canberra Regional, National, Winewise Small Vignerons, NSW Small Winemakers and Sydney International shows. And it takes only one glass to side with the judges. It’s a thrilling wine – fragrant, juicy, fruity and seasoned with cool climate spiciness. Despite its 14.9 alcohol, Lerida remains elegant, medium bodied and seductive now. But it tastes so young, so fresh and so vibrant it’ll probably age well for many years.

Lowe Reserve Zinfandel 2009 $75
Lowe Vineyard, Mudgee, NSW
In 1995, with the aid of California’s Ridge Vineyards (Lytton Springs), David Lowe planted zinfandel at Mudgee – the connection being the hard, quartz and shale soils of these two former gold-mining regions. The vines took well in Mudgee, as they had in California 150 years earlier. But, says Lowe, they’re prolific, growing like crazy even in hard soils. In a typical season he harvests just one tonne to the hectare, leaving double that amount on the ground. In a recent tasting of the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009 vintages, the 2006 and 2009 in particular impressed – the 2006 for refinement and elegance; the 2009 for generosity and fine-boned structure.

Lowe Tinja Organic Preservative-free Merlot 2012 $20
Lowe vineyard, Mudgee, NSW
This is David Lowe’s fifth Tinja preservative-free merlot – targeted, he says at young people and people allergic to sulphur dioxide, the preservative used in almost every wine on the market. It’s a not easy capturing and preserving vibrant fruit flavours without sulphur. But Lowe’s latest vintage does just that: the colour’s limpid and vibrant and the aroma and flavour are all about pure, fresh fruitiness. Lively acidity and firm tannins help preserve the fruit. It’s like Beaujolais with balls, and ready to enjoy now.

Swinging Bridge Chardonnay 2010 $16–$20
Canowindra, Central Ranges, NSW
On a visit to Canberra in late May, winemaker Tom Ward showed five vintages of his Canowindra chardonnay. They’re terrific wines and a reminder that the Cowra–Canowindra area has a long history of making very good chardonnay at comparatively low prices. While the 2010 reveals a tightening of the style, it shares delicious underlying peaches and melon varietal flavour with the older, slightly bigger wines. The older vintages, especially the 2007, all continue to drink beautifully – especially. This reassures us that a case of the 2010 purchased now might give drinking pleasure for perhaps another decade.

Swinging Bridge Reserve Chardonnay 2011 $32–$36
Orange, NSW
Tom Ward’s reserve chardonnay comes from a chilly Orange vineyard located 900 metres above sea level. It’s only a short distance from Ward’s family vineyard at Canowindra. But the rise in elevation shifts chardonnay’s varietal flavour from plump and juicy peaches and melon to lean and grapefruit-like. To preserve this flavour, he favours cultivated yeasts over wild yeasts for the fermentation in barrels. The resulting pale-coloured wine has the body and rich texture of chardonnay cut with intense, grapefruit-like varietal flavour – in all, an elegant, refined drop to savour.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 13 June 2012 in The Canberra Times