Wine review — Brand’s Laira, Tar and Roses, Juniper Crossing, Holm Oak, Katnook Estate and Marchand and Burch

Brand’s Laira One Seven One Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $65
No. 1 block, Brand’s Laira vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia
Reminiscent of a digger on Anzac Day, the bottle bristles with hard-won gongs; 19 golden stickers, representing 12 gold medals and seven trophies. The wine, previously released as The Patron, comes from a block of vines planted by Eric Brand in 1971. McWilliams owns Brands now and clearly provide all the resources Peter Weinberg requires to coax the best from the vineyard and capture fruit quality in the wine. This is intense, elegant cabernet of a very high order. High alcohol makes the finish a little hot – one tiny blemish in a near perfect wine. The 2010 vintage won the cabernet section of the recent Winewise Championships.

Tar and Roses Sangiovese 2012 $21–24
Heathcote, Victoria
Don Lewis and Narelle King make wine in Spain as well as in Victoria, offering Miro, a multi-varietal Spanish blend and, from Australia, nebbiolo, sangiovese, shiraz, tempranillo and pinot grigio. Lewis and King note the balance between tannin and acidity in Italy’s thin-skinned sangiovese and write, “It is known for its earthy more than fruity notes”. Their comments sum up this delicious red. It’s medium bodied with ripe, cherry-like fruit flavours tightly bound by the assertive, fine tannins and brisk acidity. The earthy, savouriness and persistence of the tannins sets it apart from Australia’s generally more fruity red wine styles.

Juniper Crossing Chardonnay 2011 $20
Juniper Estate vineyards, Margaret River, Western Australia
Juniper Estate’s entry-level chardonnay is fermented and matured in oak barrels, 15 per cent of them new. But the lively freshness of the wine and juicy fruit flavour demonstrate the easy drinking beauty of modern Australian chardonnay – where oak barrels build texture and add only subtly to wine flavours, enhancing, not belting the fruit. For $20, perhaps less if the retailers give it a run, you get absolutely delicious, satisfying drinking.

Holm Oak Wild Fermented Riesling TGR 2012 $22
Holm Oak Vineyard, Tamar Valley, Tasmania
Forget everything you know about Australian rieslings before trying Rebecca Duffy’s version. She picks the grapes early, with high acidity and low sugar, then allows the unclarified juice to undergo a spontaneous fermentation in oak barrels. This is in contrast to the conventional method: fermenting at least partially clarified juice in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with a selected yeast strain. The result is a sweet (30 grams per litre of sugar), low alcohol (eight per cent) riesling of intense, apple-like varietal flavour with dazzling acidity offsetting the sweetness. A low-level but persistent earthiness reminds us of the wild ferment, though this becomes just part of a unique and appealing sweetie.

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $34–$40
Coonawarra, South Australia

Katnook Estate, Coonawarra’s second largest vineyard owner after Treasury Wine Estates, is part of Wingara Wine Group, owned by Spain’s Freixinet. Despite changes of ownership, however, Wayne Stehbens remains winemaker after thirty-odd years. In 2010 he made the best cabernet I’ve seen from the estate in several years. It’s Coonawarra cabernet as it should be – fully ripe, with precise, black-olive varietal aromas and flavours and sufficient flesh on the mid palate to carry the firm but fine tannins inherent to the variety. It should drink well over the next ten years.

Marchand and Burch Chardonnay 2011 $73
Porongurup, Great Southern, Western Australia

Marchand and Burch is a collaboration of Burgundy’s Pascal Marchand and Western Australia’s Jeff Burch, owner of Howard Park Wine. For this wine, the pair sourced fruit from Porongurup, a small, elevated region about 50 kilometres north of Albany. The comparatively cool site produces intensely flavoured chardonnay capable of responding well to wild-yeast fermentation in oak barrels – a more thought-provoking wine, for example, than the easy-drinking Juniper Crossing chardonnay reviewed today. The power of the fruit, in conjunction with the barrel work, produced a multi-layered wine to linger over and marvel at.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 13 March 2013 in The Canberra Times and