Mount Majura Shiraz 2011 $32
Mount Majura Vineyard, Canberra District, ACT
No vintage is all good or all bad. Even Canberra’s cold, wet, disease-ravaged 2011 season produced highlights, including Mount Majura’s superb shiraz – a winner of one gold, one trophy and three silver medals. Sure, it shows the peppery character of the cool season. But pepper simply joins the spice rack in a highly aromatic, beautifully fresh shiraz, underpinned by sensuous, ripe berry flavours and a supple, silky, fine-boned structure. Winemaker Frank van de Loo reveals the secret to success, writing “Disease pressure was high and our pickers spent far longer than usual, ensuring that only clean fruit entered the winery. Quality of these reduced yields was very high, with wonderful aromatics and natural acidity”.
Grosset Springvale Riesling 2013 $39
Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia
Two of Jeffrey Grosset’s trio of 2013 rieslings reveal different faces of the Clare Valley’s sub-regions – Watervale and Polish Hill River. The third, Alea, demonstrates the easy-drinking pleasure of crisp, off-dry riesling – though I suspect this style will be better from much cooler regions, like Tasmania (or Germany’s Mosel and Rein Rivers). Grosset’s Springvale, from Watervale, starred in a pre-Christmas riesling tasting, appealing for its juicy, limey, delicacy – a wine of enormous appeal now, both with years of cellaring ahead. In a New Year tasting, Grosset Polish Hill appealed for its intensity and steely backbone – a wine for the long haul.
Airlie Bank Cabernet Merlot 2010 $10
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Punt Road’s budget cabernet merlot blend provides good summer drinking for $10. Medium bodied, modestly alcoholic at 12.5 per cent and with varietal flavours reminiscent of blackcurrant (with undertones of leaf and herb), it doesn’t overwhelm in the heat and, in fact, drinks best lightly chilled to around 15 degrees. I see it as a luncheon wine or a terrific “throwing juice” when the petanque set comes out.
Zeppelin Grenache 2012 $17–$22
Northern Barossa Valley, South Australia
Young Barossa winemaker, Kym Teusner, made this opulent, juicy red using grenache grapes from 60–80 year old vines, growing between Greenock and Ebenezer in the northern Barossa Valley. Teusner says he used a hands-off approach, fermenting the wine in open fermenters, pumping the juice over the floating cap of skins twice daily, basket pressing the wine and maturing it in older oak barrels for 12–18 months. Teusner’s approach captures the aromatic fruity, spicy character of the variety, with soft tannins and an earthy, savoury note.
Holm Oak Riesling 2012 $20–$25
Tamar Valley, Tasmania
Rebecca Duffy’s riesling reveals cool Tasmanian origins in its delicacy, racy acidity and vein of apple-like flavour cutting through the lime we see in warmer-grown riesling. Duffy says she ferments two batches for later blending. Each component has its own yeast strain – one aromatic, the other “to metabolise malic acid”, presumably to tame the wine’s high natural acidity. The wines nevertheless naturally high acidity seems a key to its great freshness, delicacy and fruitiness at two years’ age.
Lanson Gold Label Champagne 2004 $50–$61.90
Champagne region, France
Woolworths-owned Dan Murphys imports Lanson and before Christmas offered the 2002 vintage for as little as $50 and as much as $61.90 a bottle. We enjoyed it in a pre-Christmas masked tasting, alongside Pol Roger 2002 ($86–$114). The latter won the day by a comfortable margin and joined our Christmas table. But the Lanson nevertheless offered outstanding value, showing the complexities of extended ageing on yeast lees and subsequent bottle ageing. For New Year, we moved onto the 2004 Lanson, a significantly fresher, more fruity beast than the 2002 and a bargain, especially during its bouts on special at Dan Murphys.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 29 January 2014 in the Canberra Times