Wine review — Xanadu, Richmond Grove, d’Arenberg, House of Arras, Stefano Lubiana and Heartland

Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $29.45–$35
Xanadu Vineyard, Boodjidup Valley, Margaret River, Western Australia
The Lagan family planted Xanadu in 1977 and under Rathbone family ownership since 2005 makes beautiful cabernet sauvignons. Winemaker Glenn Goodall attributes the 2009’s near-perfect varietal flavour, ripe tannins and elegant structure to “amazing Indian summer conditions”. A blend of 88 per cent cabernet sauvignon, eight per cent petit verdot, two per cent each of merlot and cabernet franc ¬– the 2009 delivers pure varietal aromas (black olive and blackcurrant) subtle supported by cedary oak. The same flavours come through on a delicious, juicy fine-boned palate, meshed with fine, soft tannins.

Richmond Grove Riesling 2011 $18.05–$21
Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia
Richmond Grove is a descendent of the great Leo Buring rieslings of the 60s and 70s. In the early 90a, Orlando relocated the brand from the Hunter to Buring’s old Chateau Leonay winery in the Barossa Valley. Orlando’s recently-recruited Phil Laffer, a Lindemans-Buring veteran, engaged former Leo Buring riesling master, John Vickery. The collaboration produced Richmond Grove Watervale riesling, sourced for the first decade from the Barry family’s Florita vineyard, formerly owned by Leo Buring. The style is lime-like, dry and delicate, with a particularly fine acid backbone in the cool 2011 vintage. It has tremendous cellaring potential. Indeed we’re still savouring the 1998, 1999 and 2002 vintages at Chateau Shanahan.

d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2008 $61.75–$68
McLaren Vale, South Australia
No other beverage enjoys the mystique of wine – in this d’Arenberg red based on a disease – eutypa lata – that kills off one side, or arm, of a vine. Hence the name, dead arm. And as soon as we see, smell and drink Dead Arm, we love what winemaker Chester Osborne calls, “these truncated, gap-toothed old vines”, for the drinking satisfaction they deliver. The flavour intensity is truly remarkable. But it’s not overwhelming. It’s a sturdy, friendly bear hug of a shiraz, with a deep, tannic savoury undercurrent.

House of Arras Brut Elite Method Traditionelle NV $42.75–$48
Upper Derwent and Huon Valley, Tasmania
Arras is part of Accolade Wines (formerly Constellation Wines Australia, and before that BRL Hardy). Hardy’s created the brand for the superb Tasmanian sparkling wines created by Ed Carr – bubblies that I rate, alongside those of fellow Tasmanian Stefano Lubiana, as Australia’s best. Brut Elite NV comes 98 per cent from the 2004 vintage – a blend of 58 per cent pinot noir and 42 per cent chardonnay, aged six years on yeast lees. A pale, golden colour it delivers the power and structure of pinot noir, the zest and buoyancy of chardonnay and the deep but subtle flavour and texture of prolonged ageing on lees – a remarkable, delicate, complex sparkler to savour.

Stefano Lubiana Brut Reserve NV $34–$38
Lubiana Vineyard, Granton, Derwent Valley, Tasmania
A few weeks I reviewed Steve Lubiana’s spectacular 2004 vintage. His non-vintage product – from the 2008 vintage, with small components of reserve wines, vintages 2003 to 2007 – shows similar delicate fruit flavours, but with less bottle-aged character. The 60:40 chardonnay-pinot noir blend shows a light and spritely acidic freshness on the palate, underpinned by superb, delicate fruit flavours – a product of the cool climate. But there’s structure and texture here, too, making it a better buy, I believe, than many real non-vintage Champagnes.

Heartland Wines Dolcetto Lagrein 2010 $19–$22
Langhorne Creek, South Australia
Good fruit and very clever winemaking here from Ben Glaetzer, produces unique flavours and enjoyable drinking. It’s a blend of the northern Italian varieties dolcetto and lagrein – the former noted for its aromatics and brilliant colour, the latter for its sometimes-intimidating tannins. The blend is highly perfumed and mulberry-like on the nose with a peppery note; the vibrant fruit and pepperiness continue on the generous palate before the savoury, persistent tannins roll back in. Heartland is the creation of Ben Glaetzer, Grant Tilbrook, Scott Collet, Geoff Hardy, Vicki Arnold, Gino Melino and John Pargeter.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 21 March 2012 in The Canberra Times