Wine review – Bleasdale, Heemskerk, W Gisselbrecht, Clonakilla, Mad Fish and Turkey Flat

Bleasdale Old Vine Verdelho 2013 $29
Bleasdale 1930 vineyard, Langhorne Creek, South Australia
The jury’s still out on the origins of the white variety verdelho. It may be a native of Portugal’s sub-tropical Madeira, it may have come from the European mainland and it may be a relative of France’s savagnin. Whatever its origins, it arrived in Australia from Madeira in the 1820s and in 1850 the Potts family planted it at Langhorne Creek, South Australia. They’ve used it ever since in both fortified and table wines. In recent years, the family rejuvenated its oldest verdelho vines – a one-hectare block planted in 1930. Winemaker Paul Hotker saved the precious grapes from the blending vat and now makes a tiny quantity of wine from those venerable old vines. What a lovely, rich wine it is – the aroma and flavour suggest melon rind and lemon, and the smooth, medium-bodied palate finishes crisp, citrusy and dry. It’s available only at the cellar door, phone 08 8537 4022.

Heemskerk Abel’s Tempest Chardonnay 2012 $21.50–$25
Heemskerk is the Tasmanian face of Treasury Wine Estates, the troubled wine arm of Fosters, spun off in 2011 to become a separate company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Despite its shortcomings – which, some speculate, may lead to the company being split up and sold off as separate brands – Treasury continues to make beautiful wines across its many brands. At a modest price, Heemskerk reveals the special qualities of Tasmania’s chardonnay – pure, intense and fine-boned, with delicious grapefruit and white peach varietal flavours at its core.

Alsace Riesling (W. Gisselbrecht) 2009 $16.99
Schiefferberg vineyard, Alsace, France
This Costco import shows all too clearly why cork should never be let near delicate, aromatic white wines. We’ve tried several bottles of this Alsace riesling. The best have been pretty good, while others have been flattened by oxidation (a result of cork failure) and another spoiled by trichloroanisole, or cork taint. At its best, it’s a full-flavoured riesling, in the distinctive Alsace style, enhanced by bottle age. At its worst, it’s undrinkable; and in between, it’s, well, in between. The message for wine drinkers: expect bottle variation. The message for Costco: on behalf of your customers, lean on your suppliers for screw caps as Australian retailers do.

Clonakilla Syrah 2012 $90–$110
T and L vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Tim Kirk built Clonakilla’s and Canberra’s international reputation for shiraz with its fine-boned blend of shiraz with the white viognier – modelled on the reds of France’s Cote Rotie region. Kirk later followed with another class act, a straight shiraz. He says, “Each year we fill a single fermenter with pure shiraz from our north-east facing T & L vineyard. The winemaking is kept as simple as possible. Whole berries are fermented warm by their own native yeasts. The wine spends three weeks soaking on skins and fifteen months maturing in fine-grained French oak”. Followers of the style, myself included, put the straight shiraz (or syrah) up there with the shiraz–viognier flagship. The 2012 is an elegant cool-climate shiraz, showing the lighter body of the cool season, but nevertheless with the depth to age for many years.

Mad Fish Premium Red 2011 $14–$18
Margaret River, Great Southern and Geographe, Western Australia
Mad Fish is the budget brand of the Burch family’s Howard Park Wines, one of Western Australia’s leading producers. Cabernet sauvignon and related varieties, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot comprise 90 per cent of the blend, giving distinct cabernet berry flavours and elegant structure to the wine. While it’s hard to say with certainty what the other components (tempranillo, seven per and pinot noir, three per cent) add to the blend, I suspect tempranillo contributes the firm, grippy tannins cutting in at the finish over the lovely, bright fruit flavours.

Turkey Flat Vineyards Grenache 2012 $21.85–$28
Turkey Flat vineyard, Barossa Valley, South Australia
The 2012 vintage seems to have coaxed the best possible fruit from Christie Schultz’s grenache vines, mostly more than 100 years old. The aroma mixes varietal musk and cherry flavours with spice. But it’s on the palate the true sweetness and richness of the fruit shows up in syrup-like concentration. The potent fruit flavours, however, come with savouriness, spice and soft but abundant tannin. The ripe, juicy combination adds up to a unique Barossa wine, with some cellaring potential.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 30 April 2014 in the Canberra Times