Wine review — Tahbilk, Frankland Estate, Xanadu, Quilty and d’Arenberg

Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne 2003$45
Tahbilk vineyard, Nagambie, Victoria
Winemaker Alister Purbrick’s late grandfather, Eric, built Tahbilk’s reputation for marsanne, a Rhone Valley white variety. Alister worked alongside his grandfather after graduating as a winemaker, eventually taking the reins. Over time, he finessed the potentially long-lived style, brightening and freshening the fruit in the basic marsanne and absolutely mastering it in this special bottling from the estate’s oldest marsanne vines. At ten years it remains absolutely fresh and vibrant – the mouth-watering, citrusy flavours showing barely a hint of honeyed aged character. At 11 per cent alcohol, it sits lightly on the palate and invites another mouthful.

Frankland Estate Poison Hill Vineyard Riesling 2012$27
Poison Hill Vineyard, Frankland River, Western Australia
Frankland Estate makes three rieslings from individual vineyards within the Frankland River region. Last time we drove through the area, in late 2010, it was baking hot and the countryside look dry as a plank. It didn’t feel like riesling country. But the saviour is a cool ocean breeze, pushing in from the south, ameliorating the hot breath of the continent, and making delicate riesling like this possible. It’s full flavoured for riesling, but the low alcohol (10.5 per cent), bright, fresh citrusy varietal character and dusty, dry finish give it a delicious, appealing lightness and pleasant tartness on the palate.

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Shiraz 2010 $32
Isolation Ridge vineyard, Frankland River, Western Australia
Frankland River gives yet another Australian interpretation of medium-bodied shiraz – different again from, say, Canberra, Hunter and the Pyrenees. The palate’s strikingly pure with spicy, ripe-berry varietal flavours. But there’s a savoury undertone and a supple, silky texture contributed by the fine-boned tannins. The tannins also dry out the finish with a savoury bite that seasons the lingering berry fruit flavours.

Xanadu Shiraz 2010 $29
Xanadu Stevens Road vineyard, Margaret River, Western Australia

Like Coonawarra, Australia’s other great maritime cabernet specialist, Margaret River makes decent shiraz, too – albeit not as consistently well as it does cabernet. This version comes from a single vineyard and included whole berries in the ferment, partial barrel fermentation and a touch of the white variety, viognier. It’s a solid shiraz that remained intact for days after opening – a slightly chewier, chunkier wine than its WA mate, Frankland Estate, reviewed today, and with some alcoholic heat in the finish.

Quilty Black Thimble Shiraz 2011 $28
Burundulla, Mudgee Region, NSW
Des and Emma Quilty make just 450 cases of wine a year, says their website, “hand plucking the best possible grapes from the most interesting parcels of land. In this instance Des Quilty made just 175 dozen bottles from “low-yield vines in the hills just south of Mudgee. Now Mudgee’s a generally warm area, but this wine shows a pepperiness normal associated with much cooler places – suggesting the influence of the unusually cold season. There’s a bit of magic to this medium-bodied, idiosyncratic wine.

d’Arenberg Vintage Fortified Shiraz 2006 $40
McLaren Vale, South Australia
In the old days we would’ve called this vintage port. But the name now belongs exclusively to Portuguese winemakers, while our fortified makers revert to regional and varietal naming. This is a traditional Australian style, made from very ripe shiraz, sourced from old, low-yielding vines. It was partially fermented before the addition of fortifying brandy arrested the fermentation. This created a big, sweet wine, combining intense, juicy, ripe shiraz flavours, integrated with clean, heady brandy character. At seven years, it’s soft, approachable and still very fruity – and set for a long, long flavour evolution in the bottle. It should drink well for decades.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 13 February 2013 in The Canberra Times and