Wine review — Helm, Heartland, Scorpo Estate, d’Arenberg and Dowie Doole

Helm Premium Riesling 2013 $48
Lustenburger family vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Mid way through the 2011–12 growing season, Ken Helm’s friend, neighbour and grape supplier, Al Lustenberger, died in a tragic accident on his property. Lustenberger’s family, however, assumed management of the vineyard, sole source of Helm Premium Riesling, and supplied fruit to Helm for the 2012 vintage. Again in 2013 the family produced the goods, although Helm now has a lease over the vineyard, his most treasured grape source. I tasted the wine shortly after bottling – perhaps the worst time for a delicate, aromatic riesling. But it looks good already – pale but brilliant, highly aromatic and intensely dry and acidic on the palate. Behind the acid, though, lies the tightly wound-up lemony varietal flavour, ready to unfurl in the years ahead – just as previous vintages have done consistently.

Helm Half Dry Riesling 2013 $25
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Whether you call it it half sweet or half dry, or even halb trocken, as the German’s do, a little sugar helps the riesling go down. In Helm’s version, 15 grams of natural grape sugar per litre fattens out the middle palate, accentuates the citrus-like varietal flavour and offsets the acidity that would dominate a dry riesling of this age. The overall impression is of an ultra-fresh, fruity, soft wine – a light (11.2 per cent alcohol), pleasing drink on its own or good company for hot or spicy food.

Heartland Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $19–$20
Langhorne Creek and Limestone Coast, South Australia
Langhorne Creek, near Lake Alexandrina, and the Limestone Coast, stretching for hundreds of kilometres south of the lake, produce large quantities of high-quality cabernet sauvignon. While many Langhorne Creek wines disappear anonymously into multi-region blends, Ben Glaetzer’s bear the region’s name. Glaetzer’s 2010 shows clear varietal character, reminiscent of cassis and black olive, with a touch of mint, often associated with Langhorne Creek. The fleshy palate, too, is typical of Langhorne Creek cabernet, though the variety often lacks this generosity elsewhere. The wine finishes with firm, slightly tough, dry tannins – but nothing a good steak won’t resolve.

Scorpo Estate Grown Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 $45–$47
Scorpo Vineyard, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Even in the cool 2011 season, Scorpo produced a most seductive pinot noir. It’s underpinned by vibrant berry flavours. But the wine goes many steps beyond that into true pinot territory as the fruit comes deeply interwoven with firm but fine, savoury tannins. It appealed as much for its savour, texture and grippy, fine tannins as it did for its fruit.

d’Arenberg the Dead Arm Shiraz 2009 $61.75–$70
McLaren Vale, South Australia
No other beverage enjoys the mystique of wine. In this d’Arenberg the mystique stems from red a disease – eutypa lata – that kills off one side, or arm, of a vine. Hence the name, dead arm. But the disease doesn’t affect the fruit from those stately old vines, described by winemaker Chester Osborne as “truncated and gap-toothed”. Rather, they produce a sturdy, friendly, bear hug of a wine, with a deep, tannic, savoury undercurrent. The flavour intensity is truly remarkable. But it’s not overwhelming. It’s a sturdy, friendly bear hug of a shiraz, with a deep, tannic savoury undercurrent.

Dowie Doole Vermentino 2013 $25
Wetlands Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Vermentino (also known as favorita and pigato) is the most important white variety of Sardinia, Italy, and is also grown in Liguria, Piemonte and in southern France. A number of Australian makers now cultivate vermentino, which seems suited to warm, dry climates. Dowie Doole’s version, from a small, trial planting (less than half a hectare), attempts to rev up the variety with wild-yeast fermentation in barrels – followed by lees stirring and further maturation in barrel. The resulting vibrant, savoury dry white drinks pleasantly enough, though I suspect it’s a quaffing variety requiring few such winemaking tricks.

Copyright Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 24 July 2013 in the Canberra Times and