Wine review — Andrew Thomas, Tyrrell’s, Hewitson, Half Moon, Scarborough and Vasse Felix

Andrew Thomas Kiss Shiraz 2011 $60
Pokolbin Estate vineyard, Hunter Valley, NSW
Andrew Thomas released four Hunter shirazes this month, each outstanding in its own way. But none matches the dimension of Kiss, Thomas’s flagship from a vineyard planted in 1969. The wine presents another unique, and idiosyncratic, face of Australian shiraz, far removed, say, from the sheer power of Grange or savoury twang of Mount Langi Ghiran “The Langi”. Kiss is medium bodied, and its intense, underlying bright fruit flavour is cut through with earthy, savoury notes and fine, soft tannins. The wine grew more interesting and better to drink over four days on the tasting bench – a pretty good guide to future complexity and longevity.

Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay 2009 $69
HVD, NVC and Short Flat vineyards, Hunter Valley, NSW
While the quest for fine chardonnay drew Australian winemakers ever further south, ultimately to Tasmania, Tyrrell’s stuck to the Hunter. Forty years after first producing the variety, the family makes a range of beautiful Hunter chardonnays, including the $13 Old Winery, $20 Moon Mountain, a couple of individual vineyard wines (Belford $35 and HVD $45) and the flagship, Vat 47. The 2009 is probably about as good as Hunter chardonnay can get – a rich, fine, slow-evolving, barrel-fermented style that looks very young at four years.

Hewitson Miss Harry 2011 $22–$24
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Fungal diseases caused by a cold, wet vintage destroyed much of the Barossa Valley’s grape crop. Winemakers salvaged good grapes here and there, but from what I’ve tasted the pickings appear pretty lean – the wines sometimes marred by a lack of fruit flavour and hard tannins. While Dean Hewitson’s 2011 blend of grenache, shiraz, mourvedre, cinsault and carignan lacks the opulence of the 2010 vintage, it nevertheless captures the attractive floral aroma of grenache, followed by a leaner, spicy, peppery palate. The tannins stand out against the light fruit, ruling it out as a standalone wine. But food of any kind masks the tannins, shifting the fruit flavour back to the fore.

Half Moon Eclipse Riesling Pinot Gris 2012 $19.50
Half Moon vineyard, Braidwood, NSW
Canberra winemaker Alex McKay (owner of Collector Wines) makes wine for Braidwood’s 1.6-hectare Half Moon vineyard. This unique white appears to be inspired by the unctuous whites of Alsace, France, where pinot gris and riesling live happily side by side (though not usually blended together). Riesling adds an appealing floral boost to the slippery, round palate. Vibrant acidity balances the wine’s delicate sweetness. This combination probably makes the wine a good match to pork sausages and pate or to the spiciness of Asian dishes.

Scarborough Green Label Semillon 2012 $22
Hunter Valley, NSW
Hunter semillon’s an excellent choice when you’d prefer a light bodied but tasty dry white. Grown in the lower Hunter Valley, semillon develops ripe flavours before grape sugar levels (and hence alcohol levels) climb too high. The warm Hunter region excels at the style but sometimes requires cellaring to soften the austere acids. But Scarborough’s version offers a soft, easy-drinking expression of the variety, with bright, lemongrass-like flavour and snappy, bone-dry finish.

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $30–$40
Margaret River, Western Australia
Virginia Wilcock’s outstanding red combines cabernet sauvignon (88 per cent) with 10 per cent malbec and a splash each of petit verdot and cabernet franc. There’s a violet-like floral lift to an aroma that includes varietal blackcurrant and a sweet, cedary character from the French oak. All these flavours flow through to the elegant palate, which, despite its supple smoothness and fleshy, fruity, core, finishes with the fine, lingering bite of the variety – perhaps a shade more solid than the 2009. It’s easy to drink now but has the intensity and structure to cellar well.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 22 May in the Canberra Times and