Wine review — Vasse Felix, Courabyra, Chapel Hill, Half Moon and Grant Burge

Vasse Felix Heytesbury 2010 $86–$90
Margaret River, Western Australia
Dr Tom Cullity established Vasse Felix at Margaret River in 1967. He selected the region largely on Dr John Gladstones’ 1965 paper likening the Margaret River climate to Bordeaux’s. The Homes a Court family purchased the property in 1987. And today winemaker Virginia Willcock seems well on the way to perfecting the Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and malbec –the latter sourced from Cullity’s 1967 plantings. This is a beautiful, elegant cabernet blend that grows in interest with every glass and should cellar well for decades.

Courabyra 805 Pinot Noir
Chardonnay Pinot Meunier 2001
Gairn family Vineyard, Tumbarumba, NSW

Courabyra is a collaboration between Stephen Morrison and his sister and brother inlaw, Cathy and Brian Gairn. The Gairns planted their vineyard in 1993. And Morrison owns Revee Estate, a vineyard planted by Ian Cowell in 1981 and originally named Tumbarumba Champagne Estates. A significant player in Australia’s quest for cool-grown fruit suited to sparkling wine production, the vineyard provided fruit to Seppelt (later part of Southcorp, which owned the vineyard for a time) and Hardys. This gold-medal winner, presumably originally made by Hardys for Kamberra, delivers delicate, fresh fruit flavours, brisk acidity and the patina of textures and flavours derived from a decade’s maturation on yeast lees.

Chapel Hill Parsons Nose Shiraz 2011 $15.20–$19
McLaren Vale, South Australia
This is a great triumph from the cold 2011 vintage – no doubt the result of collaboration between viticulturist Rachel Steer and Chapel Hill’s two winemakers, Michael Fragos and Bryn Richards. The bright and savoury fruit gives delicious sweetness to the generous mid palate – made even more attractive, even irresistible, by the round, soft, juicy tannins meshed in with the fruit.

Half Moon Chardonnay 2012 $19.50
Braidwood, NSW
Tiny Half Moon vineyard (1.6 hectares) currently offers the 2010 and 2012 vintage chardonnays, though they kindly sent the unreleased 2011 to compare with the other two. The wines share an elegance and finesse, though three distinct growing seasons left their marks. The 2010, still very young and fresh, shows a delicate, butterscotch-like character (probably derived from malolactic fermentation); the pale, high-acid, austere 2011 needs years more to evolve and probably will; and the 2012 appears the most complete. Its pale colour and taut structure suggest years of cellaring ahead. But the intense grapefruit-like varietal flavour and barrel-derived flavours and textures give it great drinking appeal now.

Half Moon Riesling 2011 $19.50
Braidwood, NSW
Rhine Valley move over. In the cold 2011 season, Braidwood’s Half Moon vineyard produced riesling of gum-searing acidity. That’s not a bad thing, though, as the acidity accentuates the limey, grapefruit-like varietal flavour. And winemaker Alex McKay balanced the acidity with residual grape sugar – much as Rhine and Mosel River makers do in their traditional styles. The result is an intense, taut, racy, light-bodied wine, featuring a delicious tension between the acidity and delicate sweetness.

Grant Burge Holy Trinity Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2010 $28.50–$42
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Grant Burge made the first Holy Trinity blend in 1995. But, following a trip to France’s Rhone Valley with winemaker Craig Stansborough, he refined the style dramatically over the following vintages. In particular a move to extended post-fermentation maceration created silky, soft tannins; and a shift away from American to older French oak meant an altogether more subtle wine. The beautiful 2010 vintage matches anything else to date under the label, and provides smooth, satisfying, supple, spicy, vibrant drinking. It’s an excellent example of this distinctive Barossa style.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 29 May 2013 in the Canberra Times and