Wine review — Neudorf, Port Phillip Estate, Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Maxwell and Clonakilla

Neudorf Tom’s Block Pinot Noir 2011 $31–$39
Moutere, Kina Beach and Lord Rutherford vineyards, Nelson, New Zealand
Driving through Nelson in summer, tall stands of hops stand out before the neat rows of vine come into focus. In this lovely, sunny-but-cool spot on the south island’s north-western edge, Tim and Judy Finn make beautifully elegant table wines, first imported to Canberra in the early nineties. Their entry-level pinot noir displays the great delicacy and beauty of this variety when grown in the right climate and made with tender loving care. This is a lighter style of pinot, but deceptively so as the juicy richness and silky texture grow in attractiveness as you sip through the bottle.

Port Phillip Estate Salasso Rose 2013 $21-85–$29
Port Phillip Estate vineyard, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Like sauvignon blanc, rose shows it best when it’s fresh from the vine, with fruit in overdrive. Port Phillip Estate’s latest takes that vibrant, fresh fruitiness – in this instance the strawberry-like flavours of pinot noir – then adds a slick and slippery texture that boosts the overall exuberance and juicy pleasure of the palate. Fermentation with wild yeasts in a mix of old oak barrels and concrete tanks, followed by maturation on the spent yeast cells, accounts for much of the texture.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate
John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $100–$150

Northern Coonawarra, South Australia
Wynns new releases include this stunning John Riddoch Cabernet – as good a wine as any in the line up since the first vintage in 1982. The outstanding 2010 vintage arrived a decade or so after viticulturist Allen Jenkins and winemaker Sue embarked on a complete makeover of the parent company’s extensive Coonawarra vineyards. And Hodder took full advantage of the new small-batch winery, husbanding grapes from the Alexander area, near the winery, and O’Dea vineyard, through fermentation and into top-quality French oak barrels. The result is a marvellously aromatic cabernet stamped with class and built for long cellaring. The wide range of retail prices indicates how little power parent company, Treasury Wine Estates, has over market pricing.

Maxwell Four Roads Grenache 2011 $16–$22
McLaren Vale, South Australia

Maxwell’s seductive grenache comes from vines approaching 90 years of age – grown originally as individual bush-pruned vines, but trained to a trellis in recent years. They’re hand pruned, hand picked and converted into a fragrant, fruity, spicy, medium-bodied dry red with soft, mouth-caressing tannins. Australian grenache sometimes shows a confection-like character – a big turnoff fore red wine drinkers. But this one’s red wine all through, stamped with the marks of the variety, the region, the vineyard and the maker – and all at a modest price.

Clonakilla Riesling 2013 $32
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

While Tim Kirk’s Clonakilla led the way with Canberra shiraz, neighbour Ken Helm carried the riesling banner, ultimately establishing the variety as the district’s great white specialty – and Helm Premium Riesling as one of Australia’s benchmarks. While it’s far from being a two-horse race – Canberra now makes many fine rieslings – recent Clonakilla vintages ride comfortably with Helms at the front of the pack. Kirk’s latest release, from the warm and sunny 2013 vintage, impresses for its delicate, intense floral and citrus varietal character, carried refreshingly across the palate by brisk natural acidity.

Hope Farm Mataro 2010 $17.99
McLaren Vale, South Australia

Mataro, also known as mourvedre, arrived in Australia 180-odd years ago. The variety thrived in our warm, dry, wine-growing regions where it performs as well in fortified wines as it does in table wines – in the latter generally blended with shiraz and grenache. However, a recent tasting demonstrated mataro’s appeal in its own right. Drinkers, some of them unfamiliar with the variety, preferred the rich, ripe flavours and earthy, rustic tannins of Hope Farm over several more polished and expensive reds. Barossa wine merchant, David Farmer, bottled just one puncheon of the wine and offers and sells it through his website.

Copyright Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 25 September 2013 in the Canberra Times and