Wine review — Wolf Blass, Domain Day, Cullen and Stonier

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2011 $28.85–$35
McLaren Vale, South Australia
Wolf Blass chief winemaker Chris Hatcher rates McLaren Vale shiraz as South Australia’s best in the cold, wet 2011 vintage. Blass Grey Label 2011 is classic McLaren Vale in style – densely coloured and crimson rimmed with deep, ripe fruit flavours cut through with mouth-watering savoury character, both oak and fruit derived. It’s a beautiful, modern wine – clean, fresh and vibrantly varietal, but also dark, brooding, savoury and layered with soft tannins. The oak and fruit work particularly well together, and the overall harmony, richness and structure suggest good medium-term cellaring potential.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz $16.90–$20
Barossa and Eden Valleys, South Australia
If ever you want to taste the difference between Barossa and McLaren Vale shiraz, try Wolf Blass’s Gold and Grey Label shirazes side-by-side. Grey Label presents McLaren Vale’s brooding, savoury character; Gold Label shows the fragrance, fleshy fruit and tender tannins of the Barossa – even in the difficult 2011 vintage. Crop losses were significant in the Barossa. But, as Gold Label demonstrates, some vineyards delivered decent fruit.

Cullen Diana Madeline 2011 $115
Cullen Vineyard, Margaret River, Western Australia
Like Penfolds Bin 707 2010 reviewed in June, Cullen Diana Madeline enjoys a cellaring potential measured in decades, not years. But the wines contrast starkly in style. Bin 707 shows an impenetrably dark, powerful face of cabernet – overwhelmingly dense and tannic as a young wine but becoming increasingly elegant as the decades pass by. Cullen is limpid and approachable on release – a wine of delicate violet-like aroma and seductive, subtle, supple, fine-grained palate. It’s a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot, planted forty years ago by winemaker Vanya Cullen’s parents, Kevin John and Diana Madeline. The fruit flavours are particularly pure and concentrated in 2011.

Domain Day “l” Lagrein 2010 $30
Domain Day vineyard, Mount Crawford, South Australia
Lagrein is a red variety cultivated in Alto Adige and Trentino, Northern Italy. Recent DNA analysis revealed it as a cousin of shiraz, though that’s unlikely to have been in Robin Day’s mind when he established lagrein at Mount Crawford. Day says, “At its best, it is intensely coloured, rich in flavour and yet soft and easy to drink, so the style is not at all difficult for many consumers to relate to”. And that’s exactly how it went down – people enjoyed its savoury, rustic tannins.

Stonier Pinot Noir 2011 $19.70–$25
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
One of Mornington’s older wineries continues to impress with the quality of its pinots and chardonnays. It produces a range of very good pinots, starting with this very well priced version that’s often on special at about $20 a bottle. The 2011, though a touch lighter than usual because of the cold season, is nevertheless ripe and silky textured with the perfume, flavour and structure that add up to real pinot. The 2012, due for release at the end of October offers a little more flesh and power.

Stonier Chardonnay 2012 $20.89–$25
Mornington Peninsula
Wolf Blass used to say of red wines, “No wood, no good” – a slogan that applies equally to chardonnay. Unoaked versions, in general, simply don’t cut the mustard. And Australian winemakers have long since learned how to use oak beneficially in chardonnay without injecting overt woody flavours. Stonier’s is an excellent example of the modern, cool-climate style. It uses an unoaked component for fruit purity, but ferments and matures the balance in oak barrels for the texture and complex aromas and flavours this gives. The result is a vibrant, rich, smoothly textured wine of great appeal.

Copyright Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 11 September 2013 in the Canberra Times and