Wine review – Majella, Holm Oak, Frankland Estate, Clonakilla and Illuminati

Majella Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $33–$36
Majella Vineyard, Eastern Coonawarra, South Australia
The Lynn family’s Majella vineyard produced grapes for some of Coonawarra’s best reds, including Wynns, before the family finally turned to making wine under its own label in the early nineties. Majella quickly built a big reputation, while maintaining modest prices. In the excellent 2012 vintage, for example, Majella cabernet offers wonderful drinking and outstanding long-term cellaring at a fair price. This is elegant, perfectly balanced Coonawarra, built on deep, cassis-like varietal flavours backed by firm but ripe tannins – all the elements required for longevity.

Holm Oak Ilex Pinot Noir 2013 $23
Australian pinot comes in many styles, from the comparatively burly and tannic to more highly fragrant, lighter bodied fruity versions like Holm Oak’s Ilex. It’s not trying to be a complex Burgundy look alike, but more a fragrant, fresh and fruity expression of the grape variety – of a style achievable only in a cool growing region like Tasmania. It captures pinot’s lively raspberry-strawberry and red cherry flavours, but at the same time offers a little texture and a fine backbone, based on tannin and acidity.

Holm Oak Arneis 2013 $25
Holm Oak vineyard, Tamar Valley, Tasmania
The Piedmont white variety, arneis, now grows in several Australian regions. But Holm Oak’s Bec Duffy claims to be the only Tasmanian vigneron currently doing so. She writes, “Being the coolest areas where arneis is grown in Australia, we tend to get more floral, melon and citrus characters as opposed to the peach and almond characters this variety is generally known for”. Duffy’s style is most appealing, offering a tangy, melon-rind-like tartness with mouth-watering lemony flavour, on a soft, richly textured, fresh palate.

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2013 $28.50–$35
Frank Estate Isolation Ridge vineyard, Frankland River, Western Australia
Although it weighs in at a modest 11.6 per cent alcohol, Frankland Estate’s single-vineyard riesling delivers big loads of aroma, flavour and texture. Indeed, the aroma and flavour volume seems particularly generous for the generally delicate riesling variety, suggesting a warm ripening period in 2013. The big aroma, however, remains pure varietal riesling in an appealing lemon-like way. The lemony varietal character flows through to the round, soft palate and slightly grippy, dry finish.

Clonakilla Shiraz 2013$35
Hilltops, NSW
Clonakilla’s cash cow, to be released 2 September, reveals all the ripe and juicy glory of the warm 2013 vintage. From the Hilltops district, centred on Young, it’s reminiscent in its sweetness of ripe, black cherries, the other irresistible regional specialty. The fleshy, chewy fruit comes with an exotic spicy character and the sleek, silky texture of well-ripened tannins. All that fruit, sweetness and soft tannins means easy drinking now. But the wine’s intensity and harmony suggest good cellaring for perhaps a decade in the right conditions.

Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2012 $9.49–$12
Abruzzi, Ital
Dino Illuminati’s medium-bodied, savoury red accompanied our recent drive from Darwin, south to Katherine, west to Kununurra, WA, down to the Bungle Bungle Range, up to Kununurra, then west along the Gibb River Road, north to the Mitchell Falls, then south and west on the Gibb road again to Windjana Gorge. A Chateau Shanahan favourite since its Australian debut in 1991, the wine proved itself (lightly chilled) in the great Australian outback. It starts with clean, fresh fruit flavours, then a delicious, teasing, Italian savouriness sets in, distinguishing it from the generally more fruity Australian styles.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 6 August 2014 in the Canberra Times