Wine review – by Farr, De Bortoli, Rymill, Wolf Blass, Swinging Bridge and Brothers in Arms

Chardonnay by Farr 2012 $68
Geelong, Victoria
Australian chardonnays are the best they’ve ever been. Given their abundance, diversity and excellence, they are arguably our second national specialty – our white equivalent of shiraz. They cover a spectrum of styles from the lean and austere through to a handful, including Chardonnay by Farr, that reveal the true grandeur of this noble grape variety. Father and son team, Gary and Nick Farr, specialise in the Burgundian varieties, with winemaking experience in Burgundy, California and Oregon. Nick also worked in Central Otago, New Zealand, another of the world’s pinot centres. The Farr’s small production chardonnay delivers the succulent fruit flavour of an outstanding vineyard in a great vintage – richly meshed with flavours and textures derived from fermentation and maturation in high quality French oak barrels. This interplay between the oak and fruit is a key to the world’s great chardonnays.

De Bortoli Estate Grown Chardonnay 2013 $20.90–$30
De Bortoli Dixon Creek Vineyard, Yarra Valley, Victoria

The wine deserves its $30 recommended price, but the quality of the wine, and its appeal to drinkers, mean the retailers nearly always price it in the low $20s, meaning outstanding value. Winemaker Steve Webber describes 2013 as “a riper season due to warmth”. That means a generous wine, built on juicy, melon and citrus varietal flavours. It also carries the smoothness and pleasing background flavours introduced by barrel fermentation and maturation. Brisk acidity and elegant structure gives it a lightness on the palate and suggest good cellaring for three or four years.

Rymill The Yearling Cabernet Sauvignon $12.35–$15
Rymill Vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia
Ribena anyone? Well, not quite. But Rymill The Yearling captures the ripe, cassis-like varietal flavours of cabernet sauvignon so often at the heart of Coonawarra’s best reds. However, in this drink-now version of the style, fruit remains all the way across the palate, undistracted by oak or the more powerful tannins required in long-lived wines. There’s an attractive leafy edge to the fruit – another part of cabernet’s varietal spectrum, and the tannins are fine and easy on the palate in this elegant and seductive wine.

Wolf Blass Red Label Chardonnay 2013 $8.55–$14
South Eastern Australia
The internationally recognised appellation South Eastern Australia reflects the Australian practice of blending large-volume commercial wines from multiple regions, crossing state borders. However, the compendium name doesn’t rule out the use of grapes from some of our top growing regions. These are often used to bolster the quality of mass blends made to a price point. In this instance Wolf Blass, part of Treasury Wine Estates, makes a delicious, bright, modern chardonnay with generous peach and melon varietal flavour, smooth texture and vibrant, fresh, dry finish.

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. These cooler, more elevated sites, seem likely to produce the region’s finest pinots and chardonnays, while the lower, warmer sites better suit varieties like shiraz and cabernet. 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 flavour, with attractive savoury undertones. The palate reflects the aroma and finishes with savoury, dry tannins. (Available from

Brothers in Arms Side-by-Side Shiraz 2012 $27
Metala vineyards, Langhorne Creek, South Australia
Brothers in Arms wines come from Langhorne Creek’s Metala vineyard, established in 1891. The vineyard provided fruit for Jack Kilgour’s legendary Stonyfell Private Bin Claret from 1932 until 1959, when Kilgour’s winemaking successor, Bryan Dolan, renamed the wine Stonyfell Metala. Dolan’s 1961 Metala won the first Jimmy Watson memorial trophy in 1962, the year of Jimmy Watson’s death. Treasury Wine Estates owns the Metala brand, but the Metala vineyard, now greatly expanded, belongs to the Adams family, descendants of founder, William Formby. Guy and Liz Adams produce Side-by-Side shiraz, a generous, earthy expression of the variety, with plump mid palate and firm, fine tannins.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 8 June 2014 in the Canberra Times