Wine review – Lark Hill, Serafino, Madfish, Freeman, Mount Majura and Hardys

Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner 2014 $45
Lark Hill Vineyard, Lake George Escarpment, Canberra District, NSW

Even in the difficult 2014 season, Austrian variety gruner veltliner made an outstanding wine at Canberra’s highest vineyard. The Carpenter family call 2014 “one of the most challenging vintages to date”. Frost and unsettled spring weather disrupted flowering, reducing the crop. But what remained of the gruner veltliner, say the Carpenters, successfully weathered the hottest, driest summer and wettest autumn on record. Spontaneously fermented in older oak barrels, the wine offers aromas of spice and melon and a richly textured palate with unique flavours reminiscent of spice, herbs and melon rind. Steely acidity accentuates the flavours, gives a long finish and suggests a medium to long cellaring life.

Serafino Sorrento Shiraz 2013$18–$20
McLaren Vale, South Australia

Steve Maglieri’s mid-priced shiraz looked good at a recent tasting alongside several more expensive wines, including the remarkable d’Arenberg Dead Arm McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010 ($65). Not surprisingly, tasters preferred the powerful d’Arenberg wine. But for less than a third of the price, Serafino gives the more-ish, ripe and earthy flavours and soft, savoury tannins of McLaren Vale shiraz.

Madfish Premium White 2013$13.30–$18
Great Southern and Margaret River, Western Australia

Behind the vague “premium white” name lurks a decent dry white, made mainly from chardonnay grown in very good Western Australia’s vineyard regions. The wine shows the bright, fresh, citrus-like flavours of chardonnay fermented in stainless steel, rather than oak barrels. Although semillon comprises just four per cent of the blend, its presence shows in the aroma and, to a lesser extent, in the zesty, smooth-textured palate. Madfish is the budget brand of the Burch family’s Howard Park Wines.

Freeman Nebbiolo 2012 $35
Freeman Altura vineyard, Hilltops, NSW

In 2012, Brian Freeman coaxed something wonderful out of Piedmont’s noble and notoriously difficult red variety, nebbiolo. He writes, “Five years ago we decided to graft nebbiolo onto dry-grown 40-year-old pinot noir vines, effectively tapping into amazing vine maturity. Subsequently, the ideal 2012 season produced low yields of fully ripe nebbiolo grapes with exceptional flavour and balance”. The wine shows nebbiolo’s typically pale colour, floral- and -savoury aroma and taut, firmly tannic, medium bodied palate. Delicious, ripe fruit flavours push teasingly through those tannins ahead of the firm, savoury, lingering finish. This is an elegant, distinctive red well removed in style from Australia’s generally fleshy styles.

Mount Majura Vineyard Shiraz 2013 $32
Mount Majura vineyard, Canberra District, ACT

In a recent masked tasting of 2013-vintage Canberra shirazes, Mount Majura was one of the deepest coloured, fullest bodied and, at 15 per cent, probably one of the most alcoholic of 21 wines. In that fairly rushed tasting I ranked it about bronze medal standard, with the caveat that wines of this dimension require bottle age. A week later judges at the local show perhaps felt the same when they awarded it a bronze medal. However, a more leisurely tasting, with the bottle open for a few days, revealed a big but harmonious wine with great depth of bright, spicy fruit flavour and silky tannins. Based on that tasting, I’m shifting up to a silver medal score and suspect the wine will distinguish itself after more bottle age.

Hardys The Chronicles Butcher’s Gold Shiraz 2012 $15.99
McLaren Vale, South Australia

Hardys is now part of Accolade Wines, controlled by Champ Private Equity, and headquartered at Reynella, South Australia, home of the former Hardy Wine Company. Reynella is next door to McLaren, where Thomas Hardy founded Hardys in 1853. That the winemakers know a little about McLaren Vale shiraz shows in this delicious new Butcher’s Gold release. It’s a rich, full red wine, built on ripe, earthy shiraz flavours with the savouriness and soft but pervasive tannins we expect of the region.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 7 October 2014 in and 8 October 2014 in the Canberra Times