Wine review — Seppelt, Henschke, Freeman, Maxwell and Ravensworth

Seppelt Jaluka Chardonnay 2011 $23.75–$27
Drumborg vineyard, Henty, Victoria

The Drumborg vineyard, planted by Karl Seppelt in1964, lies a little to the north of Portland on Victoria’s southwest coast. The cool, maritime climate presented huge viticultural challenges in the early days. But over the decades its managers coaxed ever better fruit from the site, culminating in elegant, charming wines like Jaluka chardonnay. In the very cold 2011 vintage Jaluka shows a particularly delicate face of barrel fermented and matured chardonnay. But that’s delicate in the best sense of the word – a fine-boned, silky, flavoursome chardonnay with considerably cellaring potential.

Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz 2009 $60–$90
Tappa Pass and Light Pass, Barossa Valley, South Australia

At an Ainslie Cellars Henschke tasting towards the end of May, Tappa Pass shiraz seemed the crowd favourite. An irresistible example of Barossa shiraz, it delivers the region’s lush, ripe flavours and tender tannins. Words that came to mind included: round, juicy, vibrant, sumptuous, soft and gluggable. Pretty yummy stuff, but also a wine with depth, layers of fruit and tannin and a medium to long future if well cellared. It’s sealed with Vino-Lok, a glass plug with a synthetic O-ring forming the barrier between wine and air.  The seal was developed last decade in Germany by aluminium giant Alcoa, and manufactured in Worms.

Henschke Peggy’s Hill Riesling 2012 $17–$20
Eden Valley, South Australia

Henschke makes two Eden Valley rieslings – the slow evolving, steel-edged Julius and the drink-now Peggy’s Hill, sourced from growers in the Eden Valley region. Peggy’s Hill presents the dazzling fresh, citrus-like varietal flavour of the vintage on a pleasingly delicate yet intense palate. Peggy’s 2012 provides huge drinking pleasure at a modest price. And given the depth of fruit flavour, it’ll probably drink well for another four or five years.

Freeman Secco Rondinella Corvina 2009
Freeman vineyard, Hilltops, NSW
Rondinella and corvina are the red grapes of Valpolicella, near Verona, Italy. Brian Freeman grows the varieties near Young and emulates Valpolicella’s Amarone style of winemaking – drying a portion of each variety for 10 days before co-fermenting with freshly handpicked grapes. Freeman writes, “Rondinella generously bears large bunches with lower acid. Its partner, corvina, produces smaller, tighter bunches that contribute weight, cherry fruit aromas, intense pigments and robust tannins”. What we get in the bottle after all that is a unique red of medium hue with an intense savouriness cutting through the underlying ripe-cherry fruit flavour. The savouriness comes hand in hand with assertive, mouth-drying tannins, giving a pleasantly tart finish to the wine.

Maxwell Silver Hammer Shiraz 2011$18
McLaren Vale, South Australia

In the cool 2011 vintage Maxwell’s budget shiraz seems more medium than full bodied. But the ripe fruit flavours, with savoury edge, fit the Vale’s mould pretty well. Maturation in seasoned American oak helped flesh out the soft and appealing middle palate. The wine was made by Alexia Roberts and its soft, fruity/savoury palate say, “Drink me now”.

Ravensworth Chardonnay 2012 $30–$33
Revee Estate, Tumbarumba, NSW
Uh oh, I thought. The cues on the label – Tumbarumba, cold vintage, 11.5 per cent alcohol – all pointed to tooth-achingly high acid, a wine judge’s scourge. But instead the wine drank deliciously. Grapefruit-like varietal flavour, rich texture and brisk, but not austere acidity added up to a fine, moreish, cool-climate chardonnay – a full flavoured wine at a refreshingly low alcohol level. Winemaker Bryan Martin says the grapes arrived full of acid and “a little skinny” on flavour. But 52 hours skin contact at six degrees Celsius, reduced the acidity from a searing 13 grams a litre to 9.5 grams. It’s an old German winemaking trick, he says, and completely natural. The skin contact also helped build texture – which was further enhanced by ageing in barrel on yeast lees.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 19 June 2013 in the Canberra Times and