Wine review — Devil’s Corner, Holm Oak, McWilliams, Mr Riggs and Port Phillip Estate

Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2011 $14.95–$21.90
East Coast and Tamar Valley, Tasmania
It takes grapes grown in suitably cool climates to make ripe and tasty but elegant wines. This rationale, applied particularly to pinot noir and chardonnay, led Brown Brothers of Milawa, Victoria, to buy Tamar Ridge, Tasmania, from Gunns in 2010. The purchase gave Browns a winery, vineyards in the Tamar Valley and on the East Coast, and the Tamar Ridge and Devil’s Corner brands. These were good wines already. But Brown Brothers’ winemaking and marketing skills broadens their distribution and tweaks the quality. The beautifully re-packaged Devil’s Corner range includes this convincing, lighter bodied pinot noir. Spicy, savoury and peppery notes season the vibrant varietal fruit flavour. And fine tannins add their grip to the silky, easy palate. The recommended price is $21.90, but it’s available for as little as $14.95. These are keen prices for cool-grown, high quality, drink-now pinot.

Devil’s Corner Pinot Grigio 2012 $15–19.90
Pinot noir’s white-grey mutant, pinot grigio (or gris) delivers its best flavour when it’s grown in a cool climate like Tasmania’s. Devil’s Corner’s version captures the variety’s elusive pear-like flavour on a richly textured palate, cut with pleasantly tart tannins and acids – the latter at a higher level than we generally see in the variety. This is a positive feature as means greater freshness and suitability with food.

Holm Oak Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2012 $20–$25
Tamar Valley, Tasmania
Winemaker Rebecca Duffy and husband Tim lease the 12-hectare Holm Oak vineyard from Rebecca’s parents, Ian and Robyn Wilson. The Duffys grow, make and bottle all of their wine on site. The excellent 2012 vintage produced a highly aromatic sauvignon blanc, tempered by barrel fermentation of about one fifth of the blend. The barrel component also added texture to an otherwise exuberant, fruity, dry sauvignon, leaning towards the passionfruit end of the variety’s flavour spectrum.

McWilliams 1877 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $65
McLaren Vale and Coonawarra, South Australia and Hilltops, NSW
McWilliams’ flagship red follows an old Australian tradition of blending components from several different regions. In the age of terroir, where wines are expected to exude a sense of place, some might question this approach. But ideology aside, it’s a brilliant, seductive and sumptuous wine built to last. The vinyl-lounge packaging belies the quality within – a ripe, fragrant, elegantly structured, slurpily delicious red, still in the full flush of youth at five years.

Mr Riggs Piebald Syrah 2010 $27
Adelaide, South Australia
The official Adelaide “Super zone” embraces a diversity of South Australian winemaking zones, including the Mount Lofty Ranges, Fleurie and Barossa. Drill down through the zones and the super zone contains every region north of Kangaroo Island and Victor Harbour in the south to the Clare Valley in the north. Winemaker Ben Riggs draws shiraz (syrah) from cooler sites across this diverse landscape to make Piebald – a fine-boned, spicy style of shiraz. In the excellent 2010 vintage this delivers luscious, sweet fruit, layered with fine, tender tannins – a wonderful, drink-now combination.

Port Phillip Estate Chardonnay 2011 $35
Port Phillip Estate, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Winemaker Sandro Mosele’s vintage report recounts the story of a cold, wet growing season, with summer rainfall the highest since 2003 and, ironically, the highest minimum summer temperatures in a decade fanning mildew and botrytis. Ultimately, writes Mosele, by “dropping any fruit that started to show signs of botrytis, we obtained a clean harvest”. The barrel-fermented wine combines grapefruit-like varietal flavour (and accompanying high acidity) with richer underlying white peach flavour, cut through with funky notes derived from barrel fermentation. The wine’s high acid, silky, fine texture and intense flavour suggest some benefits from short-term cellaring.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 27 February 2013 in The Canberra Times and