Wine review — Skillogalee, Hahndorf Hill, Mount Majura, Chrismont, Mount Langi Ghiran and Cracroft Chase

Skillogalee Riesling 2012 $21–$25
Skillogalee vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia
Skillogalee, established in the early 1970s, first caught my attention when the 1978 vintage won a trophy at the national wine show. Its dazzling freshness and shimmering fruit character sent a ripple of excitement across the wine trade. The now mature vines, planted at around 500 metres in south-western Clare, make even better wines today – in this instance a blend of many individual parcels picked for optimum ripeness at different times during vintage. The wine pulses with life – the thrilling, juicy, intense lime-like varietal flavour cut with racy acidity on a nevertheless soft, deeply textured palate. This is another remarkable Clare riesling from the outstanding 2012 vintage. It drinks well now and should age deliciously for at least ten years if well cellared.

Hahndorf Hill Winery Gruner Veltliner 2012 $28
Hahndorf Hill vineyard, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Hahndorf Hill owners Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson pursued the great Austrian dream when they established vineyards in the Adelaide Hills. Research, they say, identified a fit between Austria’s late-ripening gruner veltliner and their elevated, continental-climate vineyard site. In Austria, they write, “vignerons all place huge emphasis on one crucial quality-defining factor – significant diurnal variation… the combination of good ripening days and cold nights that allows for an extended growing season… coaxing out its famously pure flavours and aromatics”. Well, the proof of the gruner is in the drinking of this dazzling, fresh 2012. It’s highly aromatic and flavoursome, with texture, savour and a pleasant bite to the finish.

Mount Majura Shiraz 2010 $28–30
Mount Majura Vineyard, Canberra District, ACT

Canberra’s 2010 vintage, the last of a run of warm seasons, included a couple of cool spells. Though the reds seem generally less opulent and more firmly tannic than the 2009s, winemaker Frank van der Loo notes in his 2010 “more spice than some years” – a flavour component normally associated with cool ripening. Indeed the spice cupboard dominates the aroma and flavour of this medium bodied red. But that’s an adornment to the underlying bright varietal fruit flavour. The texture’s particularly silky – partly a result, no doubt, of including a high proportion of whole bunches (including stalks) in the ferment. Firm but fine tannins rein the fruit in, giving a tight and savoury finish to a most appealing wine.

Chrismont La Zona Sangiovese 2011 $17–$22
Whitfield, King Valley, Victoria

Under the influence of Brown Brothers, Arnie Pizzini and his son Arnie jnr converted from tobacco to grape growing in the early 1980s. In 1984 they planted the Italian variety barbera and followed with sangiovese in 1999. The, operation now run by Arnie jnr and wife Jo, includes a range of Italian varieties and the Spanish tempranillo. Their 2011 sangiovese pleases for its medium body, subtle cherry-like fruit flavour and earthy, savoury tannins – an unobtrusive wine to accompany food, not be the centre of attention.

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz 2010 $100
Mount Langi Ghiran vineyard, Grampians, Victoria

Australia’s great diversity of shiraz styles range from the inky black colour and full bodied power of those from warm climates to more subtle, medium bodied versions from cooler areas. And even within the subtle cool-climate versions, styles vary widely. Somewhere out on its own sits The Langi, a limpid, perfumed, peppery, comparatively delicate shiraz sourced from old vines at Mount Langhi Ghiran. The musk, pepper and spice of the aroma and flavour come with an intriguing stalky note, probably from whole-bunch maceration. The delicate, harmonious palate weaves all these flavours in with the finest, silkiest tannins imaginable – a brilliant, unique wine.

Cracroft Chase Blue Sun Pinot Gris 2009 $15
Cracroft Chase vineyard, Canterbury, New Zealand

Cracroft Chase’s Wilma Laryn visited Canberra recently, chasing business for her small Canterbury winery. The five-hectare vineyard produces only pinot gris, a variety that clearly suits the cool site. This is pinot gris as you seldom see it in Australia – in your face with its pear-like flavour, full body, syrupy-rich texture, grippy finish and pungent hit of lees-derived character that may overwhelm some palates. I can imagine this with soft cheese and dishes laced with rich, creamy sauces. It’s available at Braddon Cellars.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 24 October 2012 in The Canberra Times