Wine review — Henschke, Red Knot, Hungerford Hill, St Hallett and Hardy’s

Henschke Johann’s Garden 2010 $36.09–$45
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Stephen and Prue Henschke’s sensational Johann’s Garden 2010 combines grenache (66 per cent), mourvedre (26 per cent) and shiraz from old, dry-grown Barossa vines. In a recent afternoon’s tasting with Barossa wine merchant David Farmer, it equalled JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2007 as wines of the day. The Mosel riesling’s, taut, acid-edged, delicate sweetness contrasted with the voluptuous silkiness of the ripe, spicy, juicy, elegant Barossa red. Most of the world doesn’t know Australia makes wine this good. It’s a gem, delivering amazing drinking pleasure at a fair price – a bargain, in fact, viewed against international competitors.

Red Knot by Shingleback Shiraz 2011 $9.90–$15
McLaren Vale, South Australia
The Davey family’s Red Knot range developed a big following because it offers such value for money – the ultimate accolade being its regular discounting by the big retailers, recognition of its quality-driven pulling power. Like earlier vintages, the 2011 is deeply coloured. However, in this very cool vintage, the flavours lean towards the savoury, rather than fruity, with notably less flesh than normal on the mid palate. It’s a triumph for the vintage and a decent drink, though lacking the flesh and depth of the 2010 vintage.

Hungerford Hill Classic Chardonnay 2010 $30
Tumbarumba, NSW
High, cool, Tumbarumba’s vineyards were established originally for sparkling wine production. However, chardonnay in particular proved suitable for high quality table wine as well and played a part in Penfolds “white Grange” project and the evolution of Hardy’s flagship white, Eileen Hardy. While the big companies’ quest for the best chardonnay moved further south, ultimately to Tasmania, Tumbarumba remains one of the best NSW sites for the variety. Hungerford Hill Classic, newly dressed in the original 1970’s label, shows delicious grapefruit and white-peach varietal flavour, with the spicy, funky edge of good oak and maturation on yeast lees.

St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2010 $34–$40
Ebenezer and Greenock, Barossa Valley, South Australia

There’s room for shiraz across the whole climate-induced flavour spectrum – from the edgy, white-pepper tinged New Zealand styles at the cool-climate extreme to the ripe and opulent warm-climate Barossa styles. What some cool-climate ideologists ignore, however, is the large number of drinkers wed to the richer, warmer styles and the extraordinary finessing of these styles over the last 20 years. Stuart Blackwell’s shiraz is a fine example. It’s ripe, full bodied and Barossa to the core. But it’s also vibrant and spritely on the palate, with deep, sweet fruit flavour and lovely, soft tannins.

Jacob’s Creek Riesling 2012 $6.90–$10
Barossa, Eden and Clare Valleys and Langhorne Creek, South Australia

The latest Jacob’s Creek shows the superior flavour qualities of a great riesling vintage. It won silver medals in the Melbourne and Hobart wine shows, then golds in Adelaide and Canberra’s National Wine Show of Australia. Winemaker Bernard Hickin says the fruit comes from the Barossa, Eden and Clare Valleys and Langhorne Creek. The combination gives the wine well-defined lime and lemon varietal flavours and a delicious fruit sweetness ¬– though the wine remains crisp and dry with only about three grams a litre of residual sugar (below our taste threshold). This is an extraordinarily good wine at the price.

Hardy’s HRB D651 Chardonnay 2010 $25–$30
Pemberton, Western Australia, and Yarra Valley, Victoria
Like the Jacob’s Creek reviewed today, Hardy’s HRB chardonnay won a gold medal at the 2012 National Wine Show of Australia. Where Jacob’s Creek combines riesling from three South Australian regions, Hardy’s crosses the continent, blending richer, fuller chardonnay from Pemberton, Western Australia, with finer, more citrusy material from the cooler Yarra Valley. It’s a pleasing result, showing Hardy’s mastery of chardonnay making and a nice bit of opportunistic blending. But I wonder about the future of cross-regional blends at this price in an age of regional marketing.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 23 January 2013 in The Canberra Times