Pikes The Merle Riesling 2012 $38–$42
Thickett Block, Polish Hill River, Clare Valley, South Australia
Neil Pike’s shimmering, green-tinted riesling delivers all the beauty of this exceptional Clare vintage. Characteristic of the season, it offers pure floral and lime varietal aromas, backed by a juicy, intense palate combining power with delicacy and a taut, racy acidity. The acidity etches the gorgeous flavour into the palate, leaving a tangy, fresh, lingering aftertaste. Its racy, fruity character puts it on the Christmas drinking list – well suited to delicate seafood, asparagus, salad and lightly spicy food. It’s also a terrific gift for a wine lover as it should evolve for a decade or more in a good cellar. Pike ranks 2012 with “recent great vintages of 2002, 2005 and 2009”.
Giesen The Brothers Chardonnay 2011 $24.69–$27
Upper Brancott Valley and lower Dashwood, Marlborough, New Zealand
Marlborough carved itself into Australia’s wine consciousness with its distinctive, pure sauvignon blancs. But the region’s southerly latitude and cool, sunny climate suits other varieties, notably chardonnay and pinot noir, both of which it now produces in large volumes. The Giesen brothers, for example, send stacks of good wine our way from their 280-hectares of vineyards – the type of broad acre planting that sets Marlborough apart from many cool-climate grape regions. The dazzling freshness, full, ripe flavour and rich texture of Giesen chardonnay make it a luxurious but affordable match for Christmas lobster or salmon.
Hewitson Miss Harry 2010 $21.95–$23
Barossa Valley, South Australia
The Barossa often makes big, burly wines. But Dean Hewitson’s blend of Rhone Valley varieties reveals a generous but gentle, medium-bodied side of the valley. Lighter, fragrant grenache comprises 44 per cent of a blend, filled out and softened by shiraz (39 per cent), tightened by mourvedre (eight per cent) and seasoned with small amounts of carignan and cinsault. The sum of the parts is a fragrant, fruity, spicy, soft and seductive wine to suit a wide range of foods – particularly the Christmas ham.
Oakridge 864 Single Block Release Chardonnay 2011 $77
Drive Block, Funder and Diamond Vineyard, Wandin East, Yarra Valley, Victoria
David Bicknell explores the vineyard blocks available to him in great detail – in this instance a north-facing block at 230 metres above sea level, planted to the P58 chardonnay clone in 1990. Bicknell whole-bunch pressed the handpicked, hand-sorted fruit direct to French oak barrels for fermentation and maturation – blocking the secondary malolactic fermentation to preserve the cold season’s high acidity. The high acidity, in tandem with intense grapefruit and barely-ripe nectarine-like varietal character, creates an exquisite flavour sensation. The barrel-derived complexities, including sulphur compounds, add exotic complexities to the fruit flavour. The fruit flavour built in intensity for several days after we opened the bottle. The wine has huge potential. I’d be buying now for Christmas 2014drinking.
Chapel Hill The Chosen Shiraz 2010 $65
House Block, Chapel Hill Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Michael Fragros and Bryn Richard make this potentially very long lived red from an 0.8-hectare block of shiraz planted in 1977 at an altitude of 164 metres – a fairly high elevation for McLaren Vale. It’s a powerful, well-balanced red, leading with ripe-cherry varietal aromas, overlaid with a deep savoury character that flows through to the robust palate. Powerful fruit and layers of firm, fine tannins make a big impact on a nevertheless harmonious palate. The power, complexity and solidity of the wine suggest long-term cellaring and, ultimately, an elegant structure 10 or 15 years from now. In the meantime, all that power and richness works well with protein-rich food. Good for Christmas if you have lamb or beef on the menu; even better as a Christmas gift for a patient wine lover.
Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling 2012 375ml $36–$42
Clare Valley, South Australia
After the atypical botrytis-affected 2011 vintage, Stephanie Toole’s famous sticky returns to its delicate, pristine fruitiness in 2012. The pure floral and lime-like varietal character sets this luscious, refined crisply acidic riesling apart from most other Australian dessert wines. O’Toole suggests serving it with “foie gras or similar savoury-toned appetisers or citrus and stone-fruit desserts”. On a hot Christmas day, moving it up front of the menu with savoury appetisers provides a refreshing and luscious start.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
Firsts published 5 December 2012 in The Canberra Times