Wine review — Hewitson, Tyrrell’s, Chalk Hill, Clonakilla, Ravensworth and Mount Langi Ghiran

Hewitson Miss Harry 2012 $21.85–$23
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Dean Hewitson’s delightfully savoury, spicy Miss Harry combines the Rhone Valley varieties, grenache, shiraz, mourvedre, carignan and cinsault. Much of the fruit comes from “historic 100-year-plus, dry-grown bush vine vineyards dotted throughout the valley”, writes Hewitson. The venerable old vines gave their best flavours in the wonderful 2012 vintage. Grenache (60 per cent of the blend) forms the base of this medium coloured, medium bodied red, while the other varieties collectively add fruit flavour, spice and earthy, fine tannins. Together, they deliver an harmonious, elegantly structured, satisfying red revealing the warm Barossa at its best. This is a lot of wine for not a lot of money.

Tyrrell’s Brookdale Semillon 2013 $17–$20
Tyrrell’s HVD vineyard, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, NSW
Tyrrell’s makes a spectrum of Hunter semillons – at one end the austere, slow-evolving Vat 1, capable of evolving for many decades; and at the other end, the softer, drink-now Brookdale. It’s from Tyrrell’s HVD vineyard, which, says Bruce Tyrrell, “always produces wines that are floral, softer and more approachable than [wines from] our other vineyards”. The 2013 offers the variety’s distinctive lemongrass-like aroma and crisp, fresh, lemony flavours. It’s light bodied at 11 per cent alcohol and a very small amount of residual grape sugar (5.4 grams a litre) helps round out the mid palate.

Chalk Hill Shiraz 2012 $19–$25
Slate Creek, Wits End and Chalk Hill vineyards
McLaren Vale, South Australia

To compare opposite ends of the Australia’s amazing shiraz spectrum, taste two wines reviewed here today – gutsy, full bodied Chalk Hill and elegant, medium bodied Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge. Chalk Hill’s dense, crimson-rimmed colour signals what’s to come – a big, ripe, flavour packed palate combining ripe fruit and strong, savoury, rustic tannins. The wine comes from vines aged between 20–45 years and is matured in a combination of new and older French oak barrels.

Clonakilla Chardonnay 2013 $45
Revee Estate Tumbarumba, Murrumbateman, NSW
In a mini chardonnay shoot out over the long weekend, we compared the 2013s from Clonakilla and Ravensworth. Although Clonakilla drew a little fruit from two Murrumbateman vineyards, the two wines come predominantly from a single batch of Tumbarumba grapes. Our tasting therefore compared the different flavours resulting from two distinct winemaking approaches. This sort of comparison makes a nonsense of any scoring system, so let’s just say both drink deliciously in their own ways – Clonakilla in the classic Burgundian style and Ravensworth more on the wild side. I describe the differences under the Ravensworth heading.

Ravensworth Chardonnay 2013 $32
Revee Estate Tumbarumba, NSW
During the tasting, winemaker Bryan Martin (winemaker for Ravensworth and Clonakilla) tweeted, “Same fruit, whole bunch V skin contact” – shorthand for fermenting juice low in phenols (Clonakilla) versus juice higher in phenols (Ravensworth), extracted by allowing juice to remain in contact with grape skins. The Clonakilla is classic cool-climate barrel fermented chardonnay with varietal fruit to the fore (grapefruit and melon), with very fine texture. In Ravensworth, the funky, wild aromas and flavours hit first, then the slightly grippier texture – and finally, the fruit pushes through. We shifted our preferences from one to the other over the weekend. But both bottles emptied at the same time – a dead heat for sure.

Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz 2012 $23.75–$30
Mount Langhi Ghiran vineyard, Grampians, Victoria
The back label describes Cliff Edge as “baby Langhi”, a reference to the Mount Langi’s superb $100 flagship, “Langhi” shiraz, made from the oldest vines on the property. A chip off the old block, Cliff Edge offers its own expression of the Langi Ghiran and regional style. Medium bodied and flavour packed, it shows the unique flavours of shiraz grown in this part of the Grampians. The ripe-berry flavours are woven through with spice and pepper and cut with silky but quite assertive, savoury tannins. This is a complex and loveable shiraz that should evolve in the cellar for another decade.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 26 March 2014 in the Canberra Times