Wine review — Quarry Hill, Mount Majura, Balnaves, St Huberts, Brookland Valley and Running with Bulls

Quarry Hill Lost Acre Tempranillo 2013 $18
Quarry Hill vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
In a tasting of eight Australian tempranillos, two Canberra wines appealed strongly in utterly different ways. In the serious, complex, sip-and-savour mould, Mount Majura 2012 topped the list. But Quarry Hill 2013, the first from this Murrumbateman vineyard, strutted the naked beauty of the variety fresh from the vine. Quarry Hill’s Russell Kerrison described “the delicate juggling at harvest to get good fruit without going either side of it [neither over- nor under-ripe]”. Winemaker Alex McKay praised “the quality of fruit in a very good year”. The excellent balance of fruit, acid and tannin in the fruit, he said, suited production of a fruity, early-bottled style. Kerrison and McKay both see boldness, and an element of risk, in a style outside the mainstream for the variety in Australia. The risk paid off, as this is a joyous, fruity wine with tempranillo’s strong but rounded tannins.

Mount Majura Tempranillo 2012 $42
Mount Majura Vineyard, Canberra District, ACT
Alex McKay made Quarry Hill’s first tempranillo in 2013. At Mount Majura Frank van de Loo crafted his tenth in 2012. Now Mount Majura’s flagship variety, tempranillo, says van de Loo, “covers more area in our vineyard than any other single variety”. Cool conditions in 2012 produced a light-to-medium bodied style (compared to seven other tempranillos in the tasting), with just-ripe cherry and plum varietal flavours and delicious spicy and peppery notes. A day after the tasting we paired it with baked salmon in pastry, cooked by Linda Peek . The medium body, fruity-spicy-peppery flavour and savoury but fine tannins folded deliciously in with the food. See Linda’s recipe.

Balnaves Shiraz 2010 $24–$26
Balnaves vineyards, southern Coonawarra, South Australia
The 2010 vintage Coonawarra reds passing across Chateau Shanahan’s tasting bench point to an exceptional vintage. A few recent highlights include Majella Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, several Wynns reds (Black Label Shiraz 2010, John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Messenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and Michael Shiraz 2010) and this voluptuous, silky shiraz from Balnaves. Although it’s rich, full, round and silky, it retains Coonawarra’s elegant structure. A small amount of viognier in the blend might account in part for the notable silkiness. Should age well for a decade despite its seductive appeal now.

St Huberts Roussanne 2012 $30
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Roussanne, perhaps the least known of the Rhone Valley’s white trio – roussanne, marsanne and viognier – makes a more subtle wine than its peers. In this instance, winemaker Greg Jarratt barrel fermented juice from handpicked fruit in French oak barrels. The wine shares textural characteristics with other barrel fermented whites, but the flavours head off in their own direction, well removed from those of say chardonnay, marsanne or viognier. It’s a distinctive, full-flavoured (but not heavy), smooth-textured dry white with subtle, pear-like flavour and tangy, slightly tart finish. St Huberts is a brand of Treasury Wine Estates.

Brookland Valley Unison Chardonnay 2012 $17–$22
Margaret River, Western Australia
Brookland Valley is one of many brands of Accolade Wines, the successor of Constellation Wines Australia and before that the Hardy Wine Company. Brookland’s entry-level Unison shows us the leaner, even skinny, face of modern Australian chardonnay – an overreaction, perhaps to the fat, buttery styles of old and to the dominance of sauvignon blanc. It’s a clean and pleasant enough wine. But to my taste chardonnay needs more flesh on the bone.

Running with Bulls Tempranillo 2012 $16–$20
Barossa, South Australia
In the same tasting as the other two tempranillos reviewed today, Yalumba’s Running with Bulls revealed yet another side of this versatile variety – consistent with the general Barossa red style. Though a touch less aromatic than either of the Canberra wines, the palate delivered an initial hit of delicious, ripe, round, juicy cherry-like varietal flavours. But tempranillo’s abundant tannins soon closed in on the fruit, giving a satisfying grip to the finish. The Barossa, incidentally, is home to 135 hectares of tempranillo, the largest plantings of any Australian region.

Copyright  Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 2 October 2013 in the Canberra Times and