Wine review – Dawson and James, Longview, Vasse Felix, De Bortoli, Matteo Corregia

Dawson and James Chardonnay 2011 $48
Gerald Ellis’s Meadowbank vineyard, Derwent Valley, Tasmania
Gerald Ellis grows great fruit. Peter Dawson and Tim James do their best not to muck it up. They write, “Ultimately we see the vineyard as the driver of quality and our winemaking approach is to support fruit quality through the avoidance of potentially obtrusive secondary characteristics. We willingly tread a fine line in this regard, recognising the supporting role of quality oak and natural fermentation”. In truth, making great wines always requires more than great fruit. But the fruit flavour, plus the winemaker inputs (in this in this instance, natural fermentation, then maturation in oak barrels), must exceed the sum of the parts. The second vintage of Dawson and James chardonnay reveals the beauty of this fruit and oak combination, keeping the pure, fine fruit flavour as the focus.

Longview Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 $14.25–$17
Longview Vineyard, Macclesfield, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Longview delivers straightforward fruity drinking pleasure. Unlike, say, the Dawson a James chardonnay reviewed today, Longview is made in a way that preserves the aromatics and flavours of the two varieties in the blend, leaving little trace of winemaking inputs. Although sauvignon blanc comprises just one third of the blend, it contributes the key passionfruit-like aromas and flavours. Semillon, however, turns that down to an acceptable volume, and gives a refreshing citrus-like zest to the finish.

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2011$32–$40
Vasse Felix vineyards, Margaret River, Western Australia
Vasse Felix’s fortieth cabernet combines cabernet sauvignon (94 per cent) with Malbec (five per cent) and 0.5 per cent each of petit verdot and cabernet franc. A highly perfumed, seductive aroma brings together cabernet’s bright, blackcurrant-like varietal flavour with a touch of leaf and herb and well-matched oak. These characters come through, too, on a superb, surprisingly sturdy palate, with strong, persistent varietal tannins. Winemaker Virginia Willcock attributes some of the deep colour and strong tannin to the small but potent malbec component.

De Bortoli Estate Pinot Noir 2013 $21–$30
De Bortoli Dixon Creek Vineyard, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Southern Victoria’s 2013 pinots seem generally plumper and juicier than the 2012s. De Bortoli shows the vintage character, but that’s in the context of a medium bodied red – meaning you get a plump, fruity mid-palate in a finely textured, subtle sort of way. Reflecting the warm season, the fruit presents more of the ripe-cherry than strawberry side of pinot’s spectrum. The fruit is meshed with fine tannins and a pleasing savoury character.

Farrside By Farr Pinot Noir 2012 $68
Farrside vineyard, Geelong, Victoria
Father and son team Gary and Nick Farr make three single-vineyard pinots under their By Farr label. At a recent Melbourne tasting, we compared their about-to-be-released Farrside 2012 with Mermerus Bellarine Peninsula 2012 and Dawson and James Derwent Valley Tasmania 2011. Mermerus showed the pretty, strawberry-like fruit character of the variety; Dawson and James showed a leaner, tighter side; and Farrside showed greater power – ripe, bright fruit, backed by firm tannins and a rich, savoury character.

Matteo Corregia Roero Nebbiolo 2011$35
Roero, Piedmont, Italy
The very cool City Wine Shop, 159 Spring Street Melbourne, offers wine by the glass (or by the bottle from its wide range), for enjoyment in-store, including at its convivial communal long table out back. Here we discovered this lean, elegant, savoury nebbiolo from Piedmont’s Roero district. It’s a thoroughly bright, clean, modern expression of nebbiolo, nicely capturing its varietal fragrance and flavours and retaining the firm, assertive tannins without the hardness that sometimes takes over. The wine is imported and distributed by Prince Wine Store ( A new shipment is expected in June.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 11 June 2014 in the Canberra Times