Wine review – Moorilla, Brothers in Arms, Quara Estate, Port Phillip Estate, Xanadu and Mount Horrocks

Moorilla Muse Pinot Noir 2012 $48
Moorilla vineyard, Derwent Valley, Tasmania
David Walsh bought Moorilla from the Alcorso family in 1995. But it’s only in recent years we’ve seen the wines consistently achieving outstanding quality under winemaker Connor van der Reest. Two new-release pinots demonstrate that quality. Praxis 2013 ($30), from the Matthias vineyard, Tamar Valley, presents the fragrant, fruity, silky and soft drink-now face of pinot – with a pleasing, fine tannin structure. But Muse 2013, from the original Derwent site (now also home to Walsh’s MONA gallery) presents some of pinot’s profound beauty – a wine of greater dimension, with more concentrated fruit flavour and a chewier, built-to-last tannin structure.

Brothers in Arms Side by Side Malbec 2012$27
Metala vineyards, Langhorne Creek, South Australia
Malbec remains a niche variety in Australia, with just 2,500 tonnes harvested in 2013 (about 180 thousand dozen bottles). Though widely used as a blender, it makes sturdy, satisfying wines in its own right. Brothers in Arms, grown and made by the Adams family, owners of the historic Metala vineyard, offers a fragrant, rich and joyous expression of the variety – a big, friendly, fruity wine with loads of soft tannins.

Quara Estate Malbec 2012 $19
Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina
Malbec, the black grape of Cahors, France, arrived in Argentina in 1852. Today, plantings in Argentina total around 31 thousand hectares, dwarfing France’s 5,000 hectares. The country’s signature variety is easy to love. First, it’s big, rich and delicious. And second, with such large volumes being made, the price is reasonable. Quara Estate’s is a lovely example, providing excellent drinking at around $19. Canberra importer, Alex Stojanov, of Latin Grapes, says it’s sprinkled around Canberra retailers (including Plonk, Fyshwick Markets, where I tasted it) and restaurants. He expects the 2013 vintage (not tasted yet) to replace the 2012 shortly.

Port Phillip Estate Quartier Arneis 2013 $26
Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
A number of Australian winemakers, principally in Victoria’s King Valley, now cultivate arneis, a white variety first documented in Piemonte, Italy, in the fifteenth century. Port Phillip Estate’s version, from a vineyard at Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula, presents a lively, full-flavoured expression of the variety, with unique, sappy, slightly pear-like flavours and savoury, vigorous dry finish. The 2013 seems a little fleshier than the 2012. Winemaker Sandro Mosele writes, “[the wine] comes from a 0.61-hectare parcel planted in Red Hill. Handpicked fruit is whole-bunch pressed, tank fermented without inoculation in stainless steel tanks”. Four months lying on spent yeast cells rounds out a delicious wine.

Xanadu Next of Kin Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013 $16–$18
Margaret River, Western Australia
Margaret River’s signature blends of sauvignon blanc and semillon come in a spectrum of styles – ranging from sip-and-savour, long-lived oak fermented versions like Cullens, to bouncy, light and fruity styles like Next of Kin. It captures the pungent, penetrating side of sauvignon blanc (sometimes described as “canned pea”), filled out on the palate by the semillon component. It’s a love-it or hate-it style, made to drink icy cold and as close to vintage as possible.

Mount Horrocks Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $30–$38
Clare Valley, South Australia
In this elegant cabernet, winemaker Stephanie Toole demonstrates the great finessing of Australian regional wine styles now underway. Clare Valley makes good cabernet. But more often than not in the past they’ve tended to be on the burly side. Nothing wrong with burly on a cold winter’s night. But Mount Horrocks lifts the style to a higher level, delivering even more drinking pleasure. The pure varietal perfume and flavour, balanced palate, and smooth tannins put it way above the pack, although the wine seems somewhat leaner than the 2010 reviewed two years ago. O’Toole sources the fruit from a single vineyard on her estate.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 28 May 2014 in the Canberra Times