Wine review — Coldstream Hills, Gilberts, Pizzini, Bodegas Palacio and Ferngrove

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2012 $26.60–$35
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Coldstream makes several pinots. In 2012 this included the sensational “reserve” ($85) and two single-vineyard bottlings, The Esplanade ($50) and Deer Crossing ($50) – both of which I rated slightly ahead of the lower priced standard blend. The reserve is built for the long haul, and both single vineyard wines also offer good cellaring. However, the standard blend, often on special at under $30, shows the sophistication of a wine honed and polished over a quarter of a century. It’s well removed from the “strawberry and raspberry” simplicity of many Australian pinots. Instead it presents a deeper, darker side of the variety – more akin to ripe cherry and plum – in a savoury, earthy coat of silky tannin, partly oak derived, and seasoned with a subtle stalkiness derived from whole-bunches included in the ferment. This wine, too, will cellar in the medium term. It benefits from a good aeration now, revealing a little more with every glassful.

Gilberts 3 Lads Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 $18
Mount Barker, Western Australia
Bev Gilbert whizzed through Canberra in September, promoting wines from her family vineyard at Mount Barker. She and husband Jim planted vines on their farm in 1985 and over time built a solid wine business – though they continue to run sheep. They also raised three sons, inspiration for the label of this intensely flavoured cabernet. Cassis like varietal flavours come wrapped in the region’s tight, dry savoury tannins. The Gilberts send their grapes to Cath Oates at nearby Plantagenet Wines for winemaking.

Pizzini Prosecco 2013 $19.50
King Valley, Victoria
Although the variety probably originated in Istria, Croatia, prosecco is best known as the grape of north-eastern Italy’s light, fresh sparkling wines. Italian-descended vignerons in Victoria’s King Valley have adopted it as their own and now make light, fresh, fruity versions like this 2013 vintage from the Pizzini family. The fruit was hand picked and whole-bunch pressed and the juice cold fermented – techniques that preserve pure, fresh fruit character. It’s an aperitif style designed for drinking immediately on release.

Pizzini Nebbiolo 2010 $45
Pizzini vineyard, King Valley, Victoria
Pizzini’s nebbiolo accompanied us to Pulp Kitchen, Ainslie, where it upstaged the food. Piedmont’s noble red variety can do that – though more often than not it falls flat, a victim of its intractable tannins. Pizzini’s, however, revealed the charming, elegant side of the variety with an enticing perfume, matched by delicious bittersweet cherry-like flavours. The distinctive, tight tannins arrived, too, but in harmony with that kernel of lovely fruit.

Glorioso Rioja Reserva (Bodegas Palacio) 2007 $27
Rioja, Spain
Vintage Cellars, a retail brand of Coles Liquor Group, imports this 100 per cent tempranillo from Spanish producer, Bodegas Palacio. Under Spanish law, to be called ‘reserva’, Rioja reds must be aged a total of three years, at least one in oak barrel – in this instance French barriques. The oak, however, contributes subtly to a mellow, medium-bodied red that remains vibrant, fruity and fresh six years after vintage. Age seems simply to have rounded off the edges of the tannin, which can be quite pronounced in tempranillo.

Ferngrove Limited Release Malbec 2011 $20
Frankland River, Western Australia
Malbec (also known as cot) is the dominant red grape variety of Cahors, France, and is the national red specialty of Argentina. It originated in France, and shares a mother with the Bordeaux variety, merlot, making the varieties half-siblings. It makes dark, fruity, tannic wines and in Australia is generally blended with other varieties. However, it stands on it own, as demonstrated in Ferngrove’s satisfying, ink-dark, deeply fruity, firmly tannic 2011. Ferngrove, controlled by Hangzhou businessman Xingfa Ma, focuses on exports into Europe, North America and China and recently appointed Angoves as national distributor in Australia, putting the wines in reach of a larger audience.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 16 October 2013 in the Canberra Times and