Wine review — Bay of Fires, Houghton, Penfolds, Wicks Estate and Jim Barry

Bay of Fires Pinot Noir 2011 $32.30–$37
In November, Bay of Fires 2011 won the National Wine Show pinot noir trophy, repeating the success of the 2009 vintage at the 2010 show. We tried it over dinner recently alongside Giaconda Yarra Valley Beechworth 2008 ($85.49) and Eileen Hardy Tasmania Yarra Valley 2008 ($61.75). Eileen Hardy, Bay of Fires cellar mate, won the day. But runner up, Bay of Fires, ticked all the pinot boxes, except that of maturity. It’s a baby now, but a beautiful one, and only needs time for the intense, fine, fruit to take on secondary savoury, earthy notes. Some stores still carry the 2009 vintage, an equally beautiful wine revealing where the 2011 might go with bottle age. These are remarkable wines for the price.

Houghton Red Classic Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2011 $8.55–$10
Western Australia
Houghton’s popular, keenly priced red earned its National Wine Show gold medal in the classes for commercial, large-volume wines. Wines in these classes do not need awards from other shows to enter. The wine’s floral and musky fragrance give it instant appeal – an appeal backed by the bright, fruity palate. Fresh acidity and fine tannins give life and structure to the medium-bodied palate. It’ll never be better to drink than it is right now.

Penfolds Thomas Hyland Cool Climate Chardonnay 2011 $15.25–$24
Predominantly Adelaide Hills, South Australia
We could call Thomas Hyland the forgotten Penfolds range – sitting quietly in the shade of the much-hyped bin and icon wines. The chardonnay debuted in 2001, an offshoot of the “white Grange” project that delivered the flagship Yattarna and Adelaide Hills Reserve Bin chardonnays. The style evolved with the times, and in the 2011 vintage we enjoy a trim, taut wine that looks a steal when the big retailers discount it below $20. At a modest 12 per cent alcohol, it delivers the acid backbone and lemon and grapefruit varietal flavour of the cool vintage. Fermentation and maturation in French oak barrels added nutty and spicy flavours and a smooth, rich texture to support the fruit. Gold medallist at the National Wine Show.

Wicks Estate Shiraz 2010 $16.15–$20
Wicks Estate vineyard, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
This gold medal winner from the Royal Adelaide and National wine shows offers absolutely delicious drinking right now. Estate-grown and made, it shows the ripe-berry, spice and medium body of cool-grown shiraz – the fresh, juicy, berry flavours, in particular, light up a gentle, completely seductive palate. The winemaker says, “the elegant fruit and tannin structure will reward careful cellaring”. This may be true. But it’s hard to imaging the wine every being more charming than it is now, just bristling with fruit. Originally reviewed in May 2012, and retasted in November, Wicks offers quite a thrill for the price.

Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2012 $13.85–$19
Florita vineyard, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia
Jim Barry’s Watervale tasted good on its release last June and even better now as the beautiful fruit flavours unfold – evidenced by its National Wine Show gold medal. From the former Leo Buring Florita vineyard (purchased from Lindemans by the Barry family in 1986) the 2012 hits the palate with impressive lime-like briskness. Dry as a plank, but intensely fruity, it teases and satisfies the palate at the same time. The high acid and fine, intense, lime-like fruit flavour make it an excellent oyster wine. But it’ll mellow and flesh out with cellaring, providing drinking pleasure in various guises for a decade or more.

Bay of Fires Riesling 2012 $25.65–$30
Derwent and Coal River Valleys, Tasmania
The Bay of Fires winery at Pipers River is the Tasmanian arm of Accolade Wines (formerly Constellation Wines and Australia and before that, BRL Hardy). The winery makes table wines and base wines for the wonderful bubblies Ed Carr produces in Adelaide for the Sir James, Bay of Fires and House of Arras labels. This delightful gold medal winner at the National Show, shows a cool-grown face of riesling. It shares some of the apple-like character of German riesling in its own Tasmanian way – with a lean, tight, mineraliness and dry, citrusy, riesling finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 16 January 2013 in The Canberra Times and