Wine review – Chatto, Castro’s Ligador, Bleasdale, Stella Bella, Tapanappa and Mount Horrocks

Chatto Pinot Noir 2013 $50
Huon Valley, Tasmania

Canberra-raised Jim Chatto now heads the winemaking team at McWilliams. On the journey to that position, Chatto fell in love with Tasmanian pinot noir while making wine there from 1998 to 2000. Though subsequently Hunter based, he established a small pinot noir vineyard in the Huon Valley from 2007 following a six-year search for the right location. He describes the site as “warm, well-drained but in a very cool region, right on the edge of viticultural possibility”. At a recent masked tasting, Chatto 2013 displayed the beautiful fruit of the site in vivid detail – a shimmering, bright wine of medium body and tight structure, with underlying savoury character. It has what can only be described as “pinosity” – an elusive, defining character that pinots either have or don’t have. It’s a brilliant wine from young vines, suggesting the best are yet to come.

Castro’s Ligador Shiraz Mataro 2012 $18–$20
McLaren Vale, South Australia

Ben Riggs’s new release suggests a parallel between the blending arts of a cigar maker (ligador) and a winemaker. Both craftsmen, says Riggs make “the whole greater than the sum of its parts”. Riggs argues his case with this blend of shiraz and mataro (aka mourvedre) from various parts of McLaren Vale. Not having tasted the parts, we can only say the whole is very good: a full-bodied red with considerably more tannin structure than we’d expect from shiraz alone, thanks to the mataro component.

Bleasdale Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $16–$20
Langhorne Creek, South Australia

We don’t need to look far to see the relationship between a maritime climate and top quality cabernet sauvignon: France’s leading cabernet region, Bordeaux and Australia’s two cabernet stars, Coonawarra and Margaret River. Less trumpeted, but source of outstanding material is Langhorne Creek near Lake Alexandrina. Here Bleasdale winemaker Paul Hotker writes, “I’ve learned in my time here that the cooling lake breezes make our cabernets themselves”. His budget-priced Mulberry Tree demonstrates this with its clear varietal aroma and flavour and firm but not hard tannins. It provides excellent drinking at a fair price

Stella Bella Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 $19–$22
Margaret River, Western Australia

We could call Margaret River the Bordeaux of the south – not only for its cabernet-based reds, but for its pungent, refreshing complex dry whites, blended from semillon and sauvignon blanc. The better examples like Stella Bella barrel ferment a portion of the blend to build the texture, body and complexity of the wine. Many vineyards contribute to this blend and all are fermented separately (one third of every batch in barrels, says the winemaker). The final blend offers ultra-fresh citrus-like fruit flavour, with the pungent and herbal character of the varieties and a fine, soft texture.

Tapanappa Chardonnay 2013 $39–$45
Tiers vineyard, Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Brian Croser’s 2013 chardonnay delivers the rich, ripe, peachy varietal flavours of the warm vintage. Although Croser fermented then matured the wine for 10 months in oak barrels (30 per cent of them new), Tapanappa stands apart from many contemporary barrel-fermented chardonnay styles. Missing are the sulphur compounds that season so many others, and the flavours associated with the secondary malolactic fermentation, which Croser blocks. His approach leaves ripe varietal flavour at the centre, lifted by fresh natural acidity and coated with the sensuous texture derived from the time in barrel.

Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Cordon Cut Riesling 2014 $39
Clare Valley, South Australia

Stephanie Toole’s delicious sticky always impresses for its pure, varietal riesling aromas and flavours – reminiscent of fresh limes. The wine’s lime-like, racy acidity cuts through the luscious sweetness, accentuating the flavour, offsetting the sweetness and providing a stunning, fresh, clean finish. The wine is just 11 per cent alcohol, giving appropriate lightness to such a delicate and irresistible drop.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 15 October 2014 in the Canberra Times