Wine review — Ravensworth, Crittenden Estate, Innocent Bystander, Hungerford Hill and De Bortoli

Ravensworth Marsanne 2010 $21
Ravensworth Vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
Riesling’s our local white specialty. But vignerons seeking an alternative, might look beyond the usual suspects, like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, to the Rhone Valley varieties, marsanne, roussanne and viognier – whether blended or solo. Bryan Martin grows all three and enjoys quite a following for marsanne in particular. In 2010 a light crop ripened to a higher sugar level than usual, says Martin, producing a full-bodied expression of the style. Wild-yeast fermented in older oak barrels, it delivers the rich, verging on viscous, texture of the variety, with underlying delicious, honey-like and stone-fruit flavours – and a savoury, bone-dry finish.

Crittenden Estate Pinocchio Sangiovese 2010 $20–25
Heathcote, Victoria

Garry Crittenden made his first wine from an Italian grape variety (dolcetto) in 1992 – and went on to become one of Australia’s leading producers of Italian varietals. He now works with his son Rollo, who writes that the Pinocchio story – “of a wayward son and his ever tolerant creator Geppetto” – symbolises their working relationship. The Crittenden’s wild-yeast fermented sangiovese captures the bitter-sweet character of sangiovese and its dominating, savoury, mouth-drying tannins.

Innocent Bystander Mule Sangiovese 2010 $30
Paxton’s Gateway vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Well-known McLaren Vale grape grower, David Paxton, established the Gateway vineyard (now certified biodynamic) early last decade. He sells fruit to Yarra-based Innocent Bystander for their new single-vineyard range comprising viognier, shiraz and this very good sangiovese blend. Presumably it’s the seven per cent cabernet franc in the blend giving the initial un-sangiovese-like perfume. But on the palate, sangiovese takes over, weaving its dry, savoury tannins through the bright fruit flavours.

Hungerford Hill Fishcage Chardonnay 2010 $18
Tumbarumba, New South Wales

Grow the right grapes in the right regions and you get beautiful results. In this instance, chardonnay from high, cool Tumbarumba reveals its tasty white peach and grapefruit varietal flavours and zingy, fresh acidity. The winemaker fermented a small portion of the blend in oak barrels. Together with maturation on yeast least lees, this added a rich texture and subtle “leesy” notes that season the pristine fruit character.

De Bortoli La Boheme Act Two Dry Pinot Noir Rose 2011 $20
Yarra Valley, Victoria

Leanne De Bortoli and winemaking husband Steve Webber share a love of southern France’s pale, soft, dry roses. The couple are also leaders of the rose revolution, a social-media-led annual campaign to promote this style of rose. De Bortoli offers two Yarra pinot-based versions of the style – a slightly more tart and tangy estate-grown version ($22) and La Boheme, named for Puccini’s opera. It’s pale coloured and offers light, strawberry-like pinot flavour on a richly textured and fresh but very soft palate.

Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2010 $30
Ravensworth Vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
After the succulent and fleshy 2009 vintage, Ravensworth 2010 presents a more sinewy side of cool-climate shiraz. Winemaker Bryan Martin says the shiraz grapes raced ahead early, then stopped, then struggled to ripeness, while retaining good acidity. This resulted in a fairly bony, just-ripe red, emphasising the peppery and spicy varietal flavours of the cool season. A high proportion of whole-bunches in the ferment injected a subtle stalky note that boosted those cool-climate flavours and added silkiness to the sinewy structure. It’s an edgy, irresistible wine and grows more interesting with every glass.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 4 April 2012 in The Canberra Times