Yearly Archives: 2014

Wine reviews – Grossett, Perrier-Joët and Hewitson

Grosset Piccadilly Valley (Adelaide Hills) Chardonnay 2013
For very special Christmas drinking, consider one of Australia’s many ultra-fine but opulent cool-climate chardonnays. The world knows little about them. But we now make dozens of beautiful wines the equal of the originals from France’s Burgundy region. The finest Australian styles come generally from higher, cooler sites in NSW, Victoria and South Australia; the cool southern fringe of the continent (east and west); and throughout Tasmania. A consistent top performer is Jeffrey Grosset’s version from the Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills. This is power with finesse – a succulent, silky, barrel-fermented dry white to savour drop by drop.

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne NV $55–$70
We’ve been studying Champagne intensively for 35 years now – awestruck at times by the beauty of the best. Alas, we’re more often than not disappointed by the on-discount non-vintage wines. Many of them show little fruit flavour and scant signs of Champagne’s distinctive structure and texture, derived from long ageing in bottle on spent yeast cells. Perrier Jouet NV, on the other hand, brings delicious, subtle, delicate fruit flavour to the bottle – notably from the pinot varieties (noir and meunier), which comprise 80 per cent of the blend. It’s a delicate, soft, and very youthful aperitif style. This is genuine and good Champagne, albeit without the flavour and structure of long-term bottle ageing.

Hewitson Ned and Henry Barossa Valley Shiraz 2013 $20–$26
Dean Hewitson’s Ned and Henry offers the generosity and distinct flavours of the Barossa shiraz in a subtle, understated way. At a recent tasting, several shirazes out-muscled it. But they, along with several slightly over-oaked wines, didn’t invite a second glass. Hewitson, in contrast, held our interest right to the end. The wine shows the Barossa’s ripe, vibrant and generous fruit character, harmoniously backed by ripe, soft tannins. While it was matured in oak (which no doubt mellowed the tannins), oak flavour remains out of the picture. This is one to savour, lightly chilled at Christmas.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published:

  • 20 December 2014 in
  • 21 December 2014 in the Canberra Times

Wine review – Gallagher, Mount Pleasant, Leo Buring, Schmolzer and Brown, Hardys

Gallagher Shiraz 2013 $30
Gallagher vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District NSW

Canberra’s perfect vintage conditions in 2013 produced a great number of really outstanding shirazes across the district, including Gallagher – a gold medallist at the 2014 regional wine show. The best show greater richness and ripeness of fruit and tannin than normal, while retaining their fine-boned, spicy, medium bodied regional style. Gallagher 2013 excites from the first sniff of juicy, red berries, overlaid with the black pepper of cool-grown shiraz. The bright, intensely fruity palate reveals more of the spicy side of shiraz, cut through with fine, ripe, soft tannins.

Gallagher Riesling 2014 $22
Barton Estate vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Like other Canberra 2014 vintage rieslings, Greg Gallagher’s new release delivers highly perfumed, floral aromas, with generous, juicy, citrus-like varietal flavours. However, there’s a gentle delicacy to the palate and a racy acidity that makes it impressively vibrant and fresh. A modest alcohol content of 11.4 per cent adds to its summer drinking appeal. Based on many earlier vintages, you can enjoy this wine for its youthful fruitiness now, or follow its flavour evolution over the next four or five years – perhaps longer in a cool, dark cellar.

Mount Pleasant Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir 2013 $43.50
Rosehill and Mount Pleasant vineyards, Lower Hunter Valley, NSW

The McWilliam family, owners of Mount Pleasant, first produced this retro-labelled shiraz–pinot noir blend in 2011. They followed up with a second vintage in 2013. The wine salutes winemaker Maurice O’Shea (1897–1956) from whom the McWilliams purchased Mount Pleasant in two trenches, in 1932 and 1941. O’Shea named Mount Pleasant after buying existing vines there in 1921. He subsequently planted pinot noir at the winery site in 1922 and shiraz at the nearby Rosehill vineyard in 1946. These historic vineyards provide the fruit for this wonderfully elegant red, made by Jim Chatto. The bright, limpid colour and delicate, vibrant, fruity–spicy aroma lead to a gentle, sweet and complex palate, reflecting the aroma. This truly is history in a bottle – perhaps reflective of the superb, long-lived reds O’Shea made in the 1940s and 1950s. (Available at cellar door and

Leo Buring Leopold DW R20 Riesling 2014 $40
White Hills vineyard, Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Leo Buring’s reputation for fine, long-lived Eden Valley and Clare rieslings emerged in the 1960s and 1970s under the ownership of Lindemans and winemaking skills of John Vickery. Today the Leo Buring brand belongs to Treasury Wine Estates, with winemaking in the hands of Peter Munro. Munro continues sourcing riesling from the Eden and Clare Valleys (both located on South Australia’s Mount Lofty Ranges). But the exciting new frontier for the variety is Tasmania. Munro’s 2014 Leopold shows extraordinary flavour intensity and weight for a young riesling – with finesse, despite the flavour intensity and rich texture. The wine should age well for many years in a good cellar.

Schmolzer and Brown Pret-a-Rosé 2014 $26
Beechworth, Victoria

Rosé styles range from sweet and sickly to dry and svelte; and their colour spectrum moves through light and vibrant pink, to light red, to mauve and even onion-skin brown. They can be made from any red variety on earth; though paler skinned varieties like grenache, pinot noir and sangiovese seem to work best. Tessa Brown and Jeremy Schmolzer make theirs from pinot noir and sangiovese, wild fermented (and matured briefly) in old oak barrels. The resulting pale pink wine offers a mouth-caressing, smooth texture with an undercurrent of bright fruit pushing through its savoury flavours. A gentle bite of tannin completes the finish of a very good rosé.

Hardys Sir James Pinot Noir Chardonna9 Cuvee Brut $9.95–$16.65
Riverland, Limestone Coast, Sunraysia and Adelaide Hills, SA and Victoria

Failing Dom Perignon for $10, where do we go for a sparkling quaffer that sits in the sweet spot, between cheap and nasty and good but expensive? It’s most rewarding, I believe, to head for the big companies making top-end wines as well as cheaper, large-volume products. The quality trickle-down effect – combined with strong competition among retailers for popular brands – keeps quality high and prices low. In this instance Hardy’s Sir James delivers the flavour and structure of a bubbly made from the right varieties by someone who knows what they’re doing. With a recommended retail price of $16.65, currently discounted to $9.95, it’s an excellent buy.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published:

  • 16 December 2014 in
  • 17 December 2014 in the Canberra Times

Beer review – Moo Brew and Young Henrys

Moo Brew Hefeweizen 330ml $5
David Walsh’s Moorilla winery, Moo Brew brewery and Museum of Modern and New Art, share a site just a short drive from Hobart. The brewery’s wheat beer, made in the Bavarian style, appeals for its pale lemon, cloudy appearance, distinctive banana-like aroma, fresh, lemony palate and delicate clove-like aftertaste.

Young Henrys Real Ale 640ml $8
Young Henrys of Newtown, Sydney, base their Real Ale on the English best bitter style. Medium, bright-amber coloured, it offers a rich, warming, malty backdrop to its quite assertive hopping. The hops affect the aroma and flavour and give a lingering bitterness to the finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published:

  • 16 December 2014 in
  • 17 December 2014 in the Canberra Times

Canberra-brewed take aways

For a special, ultra-fresh Christmas beer, or a cool gift for beer lovers, consider the take-home offerings of two local brewers, BentSpoke and Zierholz.

BentSpoke, Elouera Street Braddon, sells 2-litre metal “travellers” for $30 plus $24 for the beer. Brewer Richard Watkins says owners can fill up from his regular beers and two of three seasonal beers now on tap: Frenzy, a raspberry infused wheat ale; and Heat Freekah, a Belgian style “saison” ale brewed from the new “freekah” barley.

A third seasonal beer, Spicy Baubles (a herb, spice and fruit infused pale ale), is available only on-premise.

Zierholz Premium Brewery offers five-litre, recyclable kegs for $40 through the brewery at Paragon Mall, Fyshwick and its Canberra University outlet.

For the festive season Christoph Zierholz recommends his German style pilsner or Hefeweizen (wheat beer), modelled on the southern German style.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published:

  • 16 December 2014 in
  • 17 December 2014 in the Canberra Times

Wine review – Majella, Oxford Landing Estates and Peter Lehmann

Majella Coonawarra Sparkling Shiraz 2008 $30–$35
At the 2014 Limestone Coast Wine Show, Chinese judge Fongyee Walker awarded her International Judge’s Trophy to Majella sparkling shiraz. ABC Rural quoted Ms Walker, “It is the one wine of the whole set [of 418 wines] that I could safely give to every single person in China and they would like it”. Majella make and barrel age a normal Coonawarra shiraz, before being bottled for secondary fermentation and maturation on yeast lees for about four years. After they disgorge the spent yeast cells from the bottle, the winemakers add a splash of fortified wine and reseal it. The result is Australia’s traditional Christmas sparkler: an effervescent but real red with a lick of sweetness and a load of fruit flavour.

Oxford Landing Estates Shiraz 2013 $8–$9
Few wines at this price originate from a single vineyard. But Oxford Landing actually exists. Established on South Australia’s hot Riverland in 1958 by Yalumba’s Wyndham Hill-Smith, it remains in family hands today and is the base of the Oxford Landing Estates wine range. From a hot, dry growing season, 2013 delivers notably richer, riper fruit flavours than the previous two vintages, especially the leaner 2011. A small amount of white viognier co-fermented with the shiraz gives an aromatic lift to this generous, soft, drink-now wine, with flavors reminiscent of juicy, ripe, black cherries.

Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Wigan Riesling $28.50–$32
In November, the Griffith based Casella family announced its purchase of Peter Lehmann Wines. Across all the years, from the building of the winery in 1979, Andrew Wigan, worked as winemaker, then as chief winemaker, eventually giving his name in 2003 to the company’s reserve riesling. The 2009 vintage, from the Petney family’s Eden Valley vineyard, pours a shimmering, green-tinted, pale golden colour. The flavours are fresh and lively and lime-like, with the delicious “toasty” note of bottle age – providing glorious Christmas drinking at a modest price for a wine of such rare dimension.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published:

  • 13 December 2014 in
  • 14 December 2014 in the Canberra Times

Wine review – Lerida Estate, Tyrrell’s, Freeman, d’Arenberg, Xanadu and Houghton

Lerida Estate Shiraz Viognier 2013$49.50
Lerida Estate vineyard, Lake George, Canberra District, NSW
Lerida Estate led an impressive Canberra District performance in the 2013 shiraz class at the 2014 National Wine Show of Australia. Eight of the 64 wines in the class came from Canberra. Six of the eight wines won medals. And Canberra wines won three of the seven gold medals awarded – one gold each to Nick O’Leary Bolaro Shiraz 2013, Collector Reserve Shiraz 2013 and Lerida Estate Shiraz Viognier 2013. Judges rated Lerida as top wine of the class. And it went on to win the Chair of Judges’ trophy. Clearly it tickled Chair Jim Chatto’s fancy. A slow-evolving style, it offers bright, red-berry fruit, seasoned with typical Canberra spice, with underlying savoury characters and quite tight, though fine, tannins. Owner Jim Lumbers expects to release the wine mid 2015. Put this one on your wish list.

Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Shiraz 2012 $19–$22
Tyrrell vineyard, Heathcote, Victoria

In a recent shiraz tasting, Rufus Stone 2012 appealed for its lovely fruit and sheer, juicy drinkability. Reds from Heathcote tend to be medium bodied and loaded with savoury tannin. But, perhaps as a result of the cooler season, Tyrrell’s 2012 shows less of that savoury character which, in turn, allows the supple, bright fruit to flourish. Tyrrell’s grow fruit for the wine on their 26-hectare vineyard at Heathcote, Victoria, and truck it to the Hunter Winery, where it’s fermented, matured, blended and bottled.

Freeman Dolcino 2013 $35 500ml
Freeman vineyards, Hilltops region, NSW

Brian Freeman’s luscious and lovely Dolcino won the trophy as best sweet wine at the 2014 Winewise Small Vignerons Awards. Freeman made the wine from viognier grapes harvested at very high sugar levels (42 per cent of the berry weight, he says) fermented by wild yeasts in a combination of old and new oak barrels. The intensely luscious result shows viognier’s distinctive dried-apricot and ginger-like flavours, subtle overlaid with orang-peel/marmalade character derived from the presence of noble rot (botrytis cinerea) on about half of the harvest. Despite its lusciousness, the wine remains delicate, with a high level of acidity balancing the sweetness. It would be wonderful with a stinky, ripe blue cheese.

d’Arenberg The Dry Dam Riesling 2014$16–$18
McLaren Vale, South Australia

At the 2014 National Wine Show, the Dry Dam Riesling 2014 won a gold medal and the Best Value White Wine trophy. And to prove its provenance (and keeping ability) the 2008 vintage won a silver medal and 2010 vintage a bronze. The success demonstrates yet again the outstanding drinking, and value, offered by Australian dry rieslings. The 2014 offers floral and citrus varietal aromas and flavours on a full but delicate palate.

Xanadu DJL Chardonnay 2013 $24
Margaret River, Western Australia

Xanadu won gold medals for four of its chardonnays at the National Wine Show of Australia, plus a trophy for its flagship Stevens Road Chardonnay 2012. DJL Chardonnay 2013’s national gold followed similar success at the 2014 Perth Royal Wine Show. The wine – named for Xanadu founder, Dr John Lagan – comes from several vineyards in Margaret River’s Wallcliffe and Karridale sub-regions. DJL delivers flavour-packed refreshment in the sophisticated modern Australian chardonnay style: brilliant, pal-lemon colour; medium bodied; fresh stone-fruit and citrus-like varietal flavour; subtle textural and flavour influences from oak fermentation and maturation.

Houghton Crofters Shiraz 2013 $16–$18
Frankland River, Western Australia

Crofters won a gold medal in the same National Wine Show shiraz class topped by today’s wine of the week, Lerida Estate Shiraz Viognier 2013. Just half a point out of 60 (55.5 versus 56) separated the two wines. The quality gap, however, is greater than that slim margin suggests – highlighting what a “bumpkin calculus” wine scores can be. If the Houghton wine lacks the finesse of the Lerida, it offers – at one-third the price – pure drinking pleasure with its sweet, perfumed aroma, vibrant palate and fairly solid, savoury tannins, typical of Frankland River.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published:

  • 9 December in
  • 10 December in the Canberra Times

Beer review – Otway Brewing and Feral Brewing Co

Otway Brewing Prickly Moses Chainsaw Ale 330ml $4.45
We pushed past the murky, bilge-water colour to find a refreshing ale, with the light body and pleasantly tart acidity derived from brewing with malted wheat. Wheat ales often come with sweet, fruity notes. Instead, Chainsaw gives the pleasant herbal, spicy notes of hops – but without pronounced bitterness.

Feral Brewing Co Boris Russian Imperial Stout 330ml $7.25
As black as the local swans, this Swan Valley stout, at 9.1 per cent alcohol, storms onto the palate with its intense dark-chocolate and roasted coffee bean flavours. The alcohol lends a sweetness to the overall opulence of a stout meant to be enjoyed in small doses, perhaps with a plate of nuts or Christmas cake.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published:

  • 9 December 2014 in
  • 10 December in the Canberra Times

When beer isn’t booze

As VB (4.9 per cent alcohol) and XXXX Gold (3.5 per cent alcohol) vie for Australia’s most-popular beer crown, Coopers announced a sales surge in the very different zero-alcohol beer market.

The Adelaide brewer says sales of Holsten 0.0% increased by 20 per cent in the last year. Coopers expect consumption to continue growing following decisions by national liquor outlets to range it alongside normal beers, not soft drinks.

Cooper’s Scott Harris said increasing sales in Australia, “reflect the situation in the rest of the world, where no alcohol beers make up to 13 per cent of total beer sales in some European countries”.

Market research group Mintel recently reported particularly strong interest in zero alcohol beer in Spain and Germany. European commentators attribute growing success largely to health consciousness and improved flavour. German-made Holsten, for example, is brewed like a normal beer, with the alcohol removed afterwards.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published:

  • 9 December 2014 in
  • 10 December 2014 in the Canberra Times

Wine review – Jacob’s Creek, Majella and Leo Buring

Jacob’s Creek Barossa Pearl $12–$15
In his 1992 book The Grapes of Ralph, UK cartoonist Ralph Steadman sketched a matronly, imaginary “Barossa Pearl” presiding over a Barossa soup kitchen. Alas, Orlando Barossa Pearl – once fruity, sweet, vibrant and sparkling – had popped her last bubbles nine years earlier, in 1983. Today’s wine industry owes much to Pearl. Released in 1956, she and similar lightly sparkling “pearl” wines introduced a generation of beer and fortified drinkers to table wine. Resurrected Pearl is made, like the original, from Barossa riesling and semillon grapes. Whether it’ll click with grandchildren of the original drinkers remains to be seen. It’s a blander and sweeter drink than I remember the original being. But that’s a long time ago. And sweet, sparkling wines under various guises remain one of the perennial winners of the Australian wine market.

Majella The Musician Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz $17.10–$20
The Lyn family’s song of fruit, The Musician, provides a floral, juicy expression of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz grapes grown on their eastern Coonawarra vineyard. The wine delivers Coonawarra’s deep, ripe, berry flavours, medium body and elegant structure, without the overlay of oak or other winemaker inputs seen in wines made for cellaring. The 2013 vintage seems even juicier and fruitier than the excellent 2012 reviewed last year and would make an excellent Christmas lunch wine, served slightly chilled.

Leo Buring Eden Valley Dry Riesling 2014 $18–$20
The Leo Buring brand goes back to the first half of last century. But its reputation for fine, long-lived riesling came during the sixties and seventies after Lindemans bought the business following Leo Buring’s death. Winemaker John Vickery, still active today, made all those early Burings, setting a standard still admired and emulated today. Burings now belongs to Treasury Wine Estates and under winemaker Peter Munro, continues to make exceptionally fine rieslings. This version, from the company’s own Eden Valley vineyards, displays floral and citrus varietal character and a generous, finely textured palate. Vibrant acidity gives a juicy, dry, refreshing finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 7 December 2014 in the Canberra Times

Canberra and surrounding districts – top 10 reds, top 10 whites of 2014

The maturity and breadth of our local wine industry shows in this selection of the top-10 whites and top-10 reds of 2014.

The selection could easily have come from the Canberra district alone, so rich are the pickings from vineyards spread at altitudes varying from around 550-metres to 860-metres above sea level.

However, our surrounding regions on the Great Dividing Range, share much with Canberra. They too reveal a spectrum of shades of flavour driven by different grape varieties, different altitudes and latitudes and different approaches to grape growing and winemaking.

The choice, then, remains mostly within the Canberra District, but includes wines from higher, cooler Tumbarumba and Orange, the warmer Hilltops region and one outlier from near sea level at Bermagui, on the NSW south coast.

The mix of regions and winemakers takes us well beyond Canberra’s red and white specialties, riesling and shiraz, though they, deservedly, comprise the majority.

The coast gives us savignan, a savoury white, originally thought to be Spain’s Albarino. Tumbarumba provides two of its specialties – chardonnay and bubbly. Hilltops gives us a purely varietal cabernet sauvignon and an excellent example of Piedmont’s noble red variety, nebbiolo. And Orange contributes a fragrant, silky pinot grown at around 900-metres above sea level.

A spectrum of rieslings and shirazes leads the Canberra line up. But the region’s versatility shows in a marsanne-led white blend, a high altitude local expression of Austria’s gruner veltliner, a tempranillo (Spanish red variety), a sangiovese (Italian red variety), and a red blend of the Rhone Valley varieties grenache, shiraz, mourvedre and cinsault.

These are all small producers and wines may not be widely distributed. Their websites and cellar door generally offer direct sales and, of course, you can phone for details of retail distribution. Half of the thrill is in the hunt.


Ravensworth ‘The Grainery’ 2013 $27–$30
Murrumbateman, Canberra District
Winemaker Bryan Martin describes The Grainery 2013 as, “a blend of mainly marsanne, roussanne, chardonnay and viognier, plus a mixture of aromatic varieties, riesling, pinot gris, gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc”. Whole-bunch pressing and spontaneous fermentation in oak barrels produced a bright, medium-lemon coloured, full flavoured wine. Richly textured, bordering on viscous, with a pleasantly tart, melon-rind-like bite, it’s a most loveable and distinctive dry white.

Rusty Fig Savarino 2014 $16.50–$23
Rusty Fig vineyard, Bermagui, NSW

In 2002, Gary Potts and Frances Perkins planted the 1.6-hectare Rusty Fig vineyard near Bermagui. However, their Spanish white variety, albarino, turned out to be France’s savagnin blanc. So they coined the name ‘Savarino’ for this delicious medium bodied, savoury dry white – made at Brindabella Hills Winery, Hall, by Brian Sinclair. It’s available at Plonk Fyshwick, several south coast bottle shops between Moruya and Eden and by the dozen only online (at

Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner 2014 $45
Lark Hill Vineyard, Lake George Escarpment, Canberra District, NSW

The Carpenter family describe 2014 as, “one of the most challenging vintages to date” at Canberra’s highest vineyard. Frost and unsettled spring weather disrupted flowering, reducing the crop. But what remained of the Austrian variety, gruner veltliner, successfully weathered the hottest, driest summer and wettest autumn on record. Spontaneously fermented in older oak barrels, the wine offers aromas of spice and melon and a richly textured palate with unique flavours reminiscent of spice, herbs and melon rind. Steely acidity accentuates the flavours.

Coppabella “The Crest” Chardonnay 2012 $20–$30
Coppabella vineyard, Tumbarumba, NSW

Jason and Alecia Brown own the 68-hectare Moppity vineyard in the Hilltops region and the 70-hectare Coppabella vineyard at higher, cooler Tumbarumba. The Browns produce three beautiful chardonnays, including “The Crest”. This is genuine cool-climate chardonnay, with grapefruit-like varietal flavour and the thrilling acidity that gives the wine elegance, freshness and great length of flavour.

Courabyra 805 Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier 2001 $65
Gairn family Vineyard, Tumbarumba, NSW
Courabyra is a collaboration between Stephen Morrison and his sister and brother in law, Cathy and Brian Gairn. Together they own some of Tumbarumba’s earliest plantings, developed from 1981 specifically for sparkling wine production. As the wine predates the Courabyra brand, we can assume Ed Carr originally made it for Hardy’s ill-fated Canberra winery, Kamberra. This gold-medal winner delivers delicate, fresh fruit flavours, brisk acidity and the patina of textures and flavours derived from a decade’s maturation on yeast lees. (Available at

Helm Classic Dry Riesling 2014 $35
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

“Our vineyards and some of those in our region and other parts of NSW and Victoria suffered pretty badly as a result of the frosts in October”, writes Ken Helm. He salvaged sufficient Murrumbateman fruit, however, to make his excellent Classic Dry Riesling, though not enough to make the flagship premium product. Classic Dry 2014 impresses for its brightness, clean citrus-like varietal flavour, and steely, dry finish.

Mount Majura Riesling 2014 $27
Mount Majura vineyard, Canberra District, ACT
Canberra 2014 vintage rieslings earned several big gongs during October. Four Winds Vineyard won a gold medal at the Melbourne show. And at Canberra’s International Riesling Challenge, Mount Majura won trophies as best dry riesling of the show and best Canberra district riesling.It offers aromatic and delicious, full-throttle varietal flavour with quite high acidity that refreshes and accentuates the fruit flavour.

Nick O’Leary “White Rocks” Riesling 2013 $37
Westering vineyard, Lake George, Canberra District, NSW

Canberra winemaker Nick O’Leary sources grapes for White Rocks from one of Canberra’s oldest vineyards, planted by Captain Geoff Hood in 1973. These venerable old vines, with huge trunks, produce tiny crops of powerfully flavoured grapes. From them O’Leary makes an extraordinarily concentrated riesling – a wine of great power but also of finesse and delicacy.

Four Winds Vineyard Riesling 2014 $22
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

The impressively aromatic, purely varietal Four Winds riesling won gold at the 2014 Royal Melbourne Wine Show. The intense flavour belies the mere 11.2 per cent alcohol. However, with that intensity comes a high level of acidity that gives some austerity to the palate. This is normal for Canberra riesling and is easily resolved by giving the wine another 6–12 months in bottle.

Jeir Creek Riesling 2014 $25
Jeir Creek vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Rob and Kay Howell’s Jeir Creek Riesling 2014 won a gold medal at this year’s Canberra Regional Wine Show. The aroma combines lemony and floral varietal characters that come through, too, on a generous, fruity palate. Typical Canberra acidity cuts through the fruit, giving great freshness in a pleasantly tart lemony way. The combination of rich fruit and high acidity promises a pleasant flavour evolution for some years in a good cellar.


Capital Wines “The Ambassador” Tempranillo 2013 $25
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Though volumes remain small, the Spanish variety, tempranillo, may become another Canberra red specialty. Outstanding examples from Mount Majura, Capital Wines and Quarry Hill, all hit the excitement button. At a masked tasting, Capital Hill The Ambassador 2013 and Quarry Hill Lost Acre 2013 thrilled the tasters and split the table over first preference. Finally, Capital Hill pulled in front, to my taste, as it captured the vibrant, blueberry-like fruitiness of the variety while weaving in savoury notes and finishing firm and tight – another of the variety’s signatures.

Four Winds Sangiovese 2013 $25
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
A recent tasting of Canberra sangiovese demonstrated this Italian variety’s great potential in the region. But it’s not an easy variety, says Winemaker Bill Crowe. In 2013 he dropped much of the crop on the ground – reducing the yield from an unripen-able 20-tonnes to the hectare to just under nine perfectly ripe tonnes. The medium-bodied, drink-now wine, shows exuberant, bright fruit flavours, cut through with the variety’s tight, fine, savoury tannins.

Swinging Bridge M.A.W. Pinot Noir 2012 $38
Rowlee Vineyard, Orange, NSW
Tom and Georgie Ward’s impressive M.A.W. pinot comes from the Rowlee vineyard, Orange, 910 metres above sea level – an altitude with growing temperatures suited to chardonnay and pinot noir. Tom Ward says he made the wine from two pinot clones, and matured the wine in a combination of small and large French oak barrels. The wine offers bright, fragrant, cherry-like varietal character, with attractive savoury undertones and a silk-textured tannins. (Available from

Freeman Nebbiolo 2012 $35
Freeman Altura vineyard, Hilltops, NSW

Brian Freeman gave Piedmont’s notoriously difficult nebbiolo a head start by grafting it onto thoroughly established 40-year-old pinot noir vines. And in 2012 he made from them an elegant, distinctive red well removed from Australia’s generally fleshy styles. The wine shows nebbiolo’s typically pale colour, floral- and -savoury aroma and taut, firmly tannic, medium bodied palate. Delicious, ripe fruit flavours push teasingly through those tannins ahead of the firm, savoury, lingering finish.

Moppity Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 $30
Moppity vineyard, Hilltops region, NSW
Canberra’s neighbouring and slightly warmer Hilltops region rivals us in shiraz quality but appears to have the edge with cabernet sauvignon. Jason and Alicia Brown’s 2013 Moppity, with three trophies and three gold medals, shows what the region can do. The medium-bodied, elegant red displays pure, bright, ripe-berry varietal aroma and a palate to match – complete with juicy mid-palate flesh that easily carries the firm backbone of tannin.

Clonakilla Ceoltoiri 2013 $36–$45
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Tim Kirk’s Ceoltoiri (the musicians) combines “grenache, shiraz, mourvedre and a tiny splash of cinsault”, writes Kirk, adding, “it may surprise you”. It’s certainly different from last year’s release from the cool 2011 vintage. The warmer vintage offers the alluring, sweet, musk-like fragrance of ripe grenache, seasoned with spice and pepper. The brisk, medium bodied palate reflects the aroma, though the spicy character asserts itself through the fine, soft, savoury tannins.

Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2013 $32
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Ravensworth 2013 is one of the greatest reds to come out of the Canberra District, a very fine but powerful expression of the local specialty – shiraz co-fermented with small amounts of the white, viognier. The wine reveals in a youthful way Canberra’sdistinctive floral aroma, vivid berry-and-spice varietal flavours and sensuous, supple texture. It appeals now, but will deliver even more with bottle age.

Mount Majura Shiraz 2012 $32
Mount Majura vineyard, Canberra District, ACT
As everyone swoons over Canberra’s 2013 reds, Mount Majura’s 2012 reminds us of the limitations of vintage generalisations. The 2012 won gold medals in the 2013 Canberra and Region Wine Show and Winewise Small Vignerons Awards. Then five judges at the 2014 Winewise Championship rated it as the best in its category. The highly aromatic 2012 shiraz shows varietal spice and a strong stemmy character, derived from the inclusion of whole bunches in the fermentation. The medium bodied, silky palate reveals good fruit, seasoned with stem and spice.

Nick O’Leary Bolaro Shiraz 2013 $55
Fischer family Nanima vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Nick O’Leary’s makes Bolaro from Great Western clone shiraz, grown on Wayne and Jennie Fischer’s Nanima vineyard, Murrumbateman. His 2013 vintage reveals the great flavour intensity and solid tannin structure produced by these outstanding vines. A quick encounter with the wine hints at the delicious, spicy fruit held by those firm tannins. Tasted over a couple of days, however, the fruit’s alluring sweetness reveals itself fully, albeit integrated with the wine’s spicy, savoury character and beautiful tight but silky tannins. (Gold medal, national wine show 2014).

Lerida Estate Shiraz Viognier 2013 $49.50
Lerida Estate vineyard, Lake George, Canberra District, NSW
Lerida Estate led an impressive Canberra District performance in the 2013 shiraz class at the 2014 National Wine Show of Australia. Rated the best of three Canberra gold-medal winners, it went on to win the Chair of Judges’ trophy. A slow-evolving style, it offers bright, red-berry fruit, seasoned with typical Canberra spice, with underlying savoury characters and quite tight, though fine, tannins. Owner Jim Lumbers expects to release the wine mid 2015. Put this one on your wish list.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published:

  • 2 December 2014 in
  • 3 December 2014 in the Canberra Times