Wine review – Capital Wines, Quarry Hill, Trinity Hill, Mount Monster, Bleasdale and Forester Estate

Capital Wines The Ambassador Tempranillo 2013 $25
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Though volumes remain small, the Spanish variety, tempranillo is perhaps the strongest contender to be Canberra’s second specialty red variety after shiraz. Outstanding examples from Mount Majura, Capital Wines and, from 2013, Quarry Hill, all hit the excitement button. At a recent 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.

Quarry Hill Lost Acre Tempranillo 2013 $18
Quarry Hill vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
I rated this very highly in a tasting of 18 tempranillos last year. It impressed again at another recent tasting, alongside today’s wine of the week from Capital Wines. Quarry Hill 2013, the first from this Murrumbateman vineyard, struts the naked beauty of the variety fresh from the vine. Quarry Hill’s Russell Kerrison described “the delicate juggling at harvest to get good fruit without going either side of it [neither over- nor under-ripe]”. Winemaker Alex McKay praised “the quality of fruit in a very good year”. The excellent balance of fruit, acid and tannin in the fruit, he said, suited production of a fruity, early-bottled style. Kerrison and McKay both see boldness, and an element of risk, in a style outside the mainstream for the variety in Australia. The risk paid off, as this is a joyous, fruity wine with tempranillo’s strong but rounded tannins.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2012 $38–$40
Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Decades ago Hawkes Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand’s north island, emerged as a producer of high quality reds. And in recent years the Gimblett Gravels sub-region emerged as the hottest spot within Hawkes’s Bay. Elegant, fine-boned shirazes, like John Hancock’s Trinity Hill, excite with their intensity of spice and just-ripe, peppery varietal flavours. In the cool 2012 vintage the wine sits on the cusp of ripeness, which means wonderful aromatics and white as well as black pepper character. The wine’s medium bodied and despite the white pepper character (sometimes a pointer to unripeness), fills the mouth with deep, sweet berry flavours and a satisfying, rich texture.

Mount Monster Shiraz 2012 $15–$16
Padthaway, South Australia
The Bryson family owns two vineyards, totalling 170 hectares, at Padthaway on South Australia’s Limestone Coast, about an hour’s drive north of Coonawarra. The vineyard hold could produce, by my estimate around 120 thousand dozen bottles in a good year – fairly large production for a family holding in Australia. The family manages the vineyards and marketing of its Moorambro Creek, Jip Jip Rocks and Mt Monster brands. The 2012 shiraz provides earthy, plump, juicy drinking, with varietal plummy, spicy flavours and shiraz’s tender tannins.

Bleasdale Potts’ Catch Verdelho 2013 $15.20–$19
Langhorne Creek, South Australia
Like Australia’s red hero, shiraz, the white variety, verdelho, shifts seamlessly from fortified to table wine production. The Potts family have used it for both styles since they first planted the variety at Bleasdale, Langhorne Creek, in 1850. Over the last 30-odd years, verdelho survived the onslaught of changing consumer tastes, first for chardonnay, then sauvignon blanc. In Langhorne Creek’s comparatively warm climate, the variety delivers appealing flavours, while retaining acidity. The 2013, at a modest 12 per cent alcohol offers teasing, fresh, sappy flavour and zingy, fresh acidity.

Forester Estate Chardonnay 2012 $28–$33
Margaret River, Western Australia
Northern Margaret River’s Forester Estate produces one of the region’s tastiest semillon-sauvignon blends as well as this lovely, ripe chardonnay. In 2012 the fruit came from a neighbouring 34-year-old vineyard. The juice was fermented partly in French oak barrels and partly in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats (before maturation in oak). The technique captured chardonnay’s fresh, appealing melon and peach varietal flavour, and built its rich, smooth texture.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 16 April 2014 in the Canberra Times