Wine review — Antinori, Ashton Hills, Tscharke, Guigal, Reichgraf von Kesselstatt and Redbank

Chianti Classico Peppoli (Antinori) 2009 $22.90–$25
Chianti Classico zone, Tuscany, Italy
At the Food and Wine truffle dinner (10 Yards restaurant), we compared Peppoli 2009, an Italian sangiovese, with Ravensworth Le Querce Canberra Sangiovese 2012. The pairing highlighted Ravensworth’s bright and fruity Australian character, albeit with sangiovese’s signature tannic bite. Peppoli, from the 600-year-old producer, Antinori, revealed the elegant structure, savouriness and fine, persistent tannins seen in the best reds of Tuscany’s Chianti Classico region. A touch of merlot and shiraz in the blend adds a little flesh to the bone. And maturation of a small portion of the blend in American oak barrels contributes subtly to the aroma and mid palate. It proved irresistible and I confess to nicking editor, Kirsten Lawson’s, glass.

Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 $65–$75
Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
For all the talk of “terroir”, the best wines, in any region, come from those making the fewest compromises in every little step through vineyard, harvest, grape transport, winemaking, maturation, bottling and storage. Stephen George’s wines show these perfectionist traits year after year. So, on a recent visit to the cellar, it was no surprise to taste pinots probably as good as they’ll ever be out of the Adelaide Hills – each showing the character of its vintage. George’s Estate Pinot Noir 2011 ($30) showed the edgy, just-ripe flavours of the cold season, albeit with pinot’s slick texture and fine tannins. The reserve 2012 revealed the beauty of an exceptional year – pinot with extra fruity depth, flesh, power and layers of flavour; all without losing its “pinosity”, that hard-to-describe character separating pinot from other varieties.

Tscharke Barossa Grounds Collection Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2012 $22
Marananga, Barossa Valley, South Australia
At Damien Tscharke’s cellar door we tasted a range of reds from the 2011 and 2012 vintages. Tscharke made decent, though lighter reds in the cold 2011. But the 2012s offer riper, fleshier, more satisfying drinking. His grenache-shiraz-mourvedre appealed for its bright, spicy aroma, medium body and delicious, sweet, juicy fruit flavours. Typically Barossa in its generosity and soft, easy tannins, it’s ready to drink right now.

Cotes du Rhone Blanc (Guigal) 2009 $20–$25
Rhone Valley, France
At the Food and Wine truffle dinner we paired Guigal’s Rhone blend with Alex McKay’s Collector Canberra District Lamplit Marsanne 2011. Overall, diners preferred the livelier, younger, oak-fermented Canberra wine, made principally of marsanne with a little viognier and roussanne. But the French wine had its admirers, too. It’s a tank-fermented blend of viognier (55 per cent), roussanne (20 per cent), marsanne (10 per cent), clairette (10 per cent) and bourboulenc. Viognier leads the blend, giving it weight and viscosity and a touch of apricot-like flavour. It’s not a wine to drink on its own, nor would the flavours and texture familiar to the Australian palate. But its weight and texture worked well with the lovely, sweet pumpkin and goat curd ravioli.

Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Auslese 2005 $85–$90
(Reichgraf von Kesselstatt)
Piesport, Mosel valley, Germany
For some, this wine proved the highlight of our truffle dinner – enjoyed not necessarily with the excellent dessert, but after it as a meal in its own right. The shimmering, pale, lemon-lime colour and equally shimmering, intense fruit and dazzling, fresh acidity make it unique among sweet wines. This is a classic Mosel wine with decades of cellaring ahead of it. It comes from the ancient Goldtropfchen vineyard, located on the steep slopes opposite the village of Piesport. Wine has been grown on the vineyard since at least Roman times and the riesling grape has dominated plantings since the 1760s.

Redbank The Long Paddock Merlot 2012 $12.95
Predominantly Ovens Valley, Victoria
Redbank is part of the Hill-Smith family portfolio, which also includes well-known brands such as Yalumba, Heggies and Pewsey Vale. The Redbank brand is Victorian based, drawing fruit from the King and Ovens Valleys and, for some of its lower priced wines, from warmer Victorian regions as well. This merlot comes primarily from a cool site in the Ovens Valley and contains about five per cent sangiovese from the King Valley. The latter presumably explains the savouriness and quite firm, tannic grip in an otherwise bright and fruity, medium bodied red wine.

Copyright Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 28 August 2013 in the Canberra Times and