Wine review — Gaelic Cemetary, Brand’s Laira, Montalto, Richmond Grove and Cumulus

Gaelic Cemetery Vineyard Riesling 2012 $20
Gaelic Cemetery Vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia
Well-known Clare Valley winemaker Neil Pike makes two rieslings from Grant Arnold’s Gaelic Cemetery Vineyard, five kilometres north of Clare township. The first reviewed, today is made in a fresh, fruity style for current drinking; the second, for review next week, treads a different path. For $20, the fruity style delivers mouth-watering lime and lemon freshness. It’s soft, round, juicy and seductive but dry and cut through with zesty acidity. This is a style to enjoy over the next three or four years, but never better than now.

Brand’s Laira Tall Vines Shiraz 2010 $22–$27
Brand’s vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia
At the recent Winewise Championship, Tall vines scraped in one point behind Wolf Blass McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010 ($34). They were my top two wines in a group of seven, all gold medal winners from Australian wine shows. I rated the Blass wine slightly ahead of Brand’s, though the price difference makes Brand’s really good value. At just under 15 per cent alcohol, it’s big for a Coonawarra shiraz. But it retains the region’s ripe, distinctive berry flavours – in the 2010 vintage coated with quite firm, satisfying tannins. Though attractive, I believe the style could do with fine-tuning to express the finer face of Coonawarra shiraz.

Brand’s Laira Stentiford’s Shiraz 2008$55
Brand’s Stentiford vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia

I had a dream. Nick O’Leary and Alex McKay appeared in Brand’s Stentiford vineyard (planted 1893) just weeks before vintage. They harvested grapes a little earlier than usual, capturing their extraordinary, intense, bright berry flavours. They included whole bunches in the ferments, hand-plunged the cap of skins and held back on the new oak (all French of course) as the wine matured. The razor-edged varietality of the bright, elegant, silky, medium-bodied wine they made amazed everybody. Robert Parker and James Halliday rated it 100/100. Then I woke to the real, more burly Stentiford – its oaky, 15 per-cent alcohol, furry tannins blurring the fruit within. Yes, it’s a gold-medal wine to some judges, silver to me. But where’s the finesse and shimmering beauty glimpsed occasionally from this great vineyard?

Montalto Pennon Hill Chardonnay 2012 $23–$25
Pennon and Hawkins Hill vineyards, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Montalto rates among the best producers on the Mornington Peninsula, their second label, Pennon Hill, delivering regional style and quality at a fair price. The 2012 chardonnay impresses for its lovely underlying varietal flavour, reminiscent of melon rind, tweaked with grapefruit. But barrel fermentation with indigenous yeast, a natural malolactic fermentation (a secondary fermentation converting malic acid to lactic acid) and maturation on spent yeast cells all add to the rich, but fine, texture of the wine and patina of subtle flavours coating the underlying fruit.

Richmond Grove Riesling 2012 $19–$22
Watervale, Southern Clare Valley, South Australia
Richmond Grove is riesling royalty – combining the long, distinguished pedigrees of Leo Buring-Lindemans and Orlando. The two streams combined in the nineties and included riesling luminaries Bernard Hickin (Orlando) and John Vickery and Phil Laffer (Buring-Lindeman). Today Rebekah Richardson makes the rieslings under Hickin, continuing the delicate, brisk, dry style, with its distinctive lime-like flavour and potential to age well for many years. I rate this the best vintage since the outstanding and still delicious 2002.

Cumulus Shiraz 2010 $35
Orange, NSW
Cumulus comes from a 508-hectare estate belonging principally to Portugal’s Berardo family, owners, too, of several Portuguese estates. Cumulus 2009 shiraz, reviewed a year ago, showed more classic, fine-boned, cool-climate style. But the 2010 seems notably fuller in style, with stronger firmer tannins – albeit silky, smooth and easy to drink. Winemaker Debbie Lauritz says, “We included 10% whole bunches in the press for the 2010, giving the tannins a savoury twist and increasing the texture”.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 20 March 2013 in The Canberra Times and