Wine review – Ravensworth, Fox Gordon, Saltram, Scarborough, Wolf Blass and Main Ridge

Ravensworth Nebbiolo 2013 $32
Grove Estate vineyard, Hilltops, NSW
Piedmont’s nebbiolo grape teases with a promise, seldom realised, of sublime, elegant reds, supposedly smelling of tar and roses and offering intense flavours coupled with the mighty tannic grip of a blacksmith’s handshake. On the point of despair some 20 years ago, we finally saw the light at posh Asti restaurant, Gener Nev. There we explored mature (and sublime) Barolos from famed producer Angelo Gaja. They remain our benchmark for a style that too often starts with tar and roses before descending into Mike Tyson tannins. The appealing aromatics of Ravensworth nebbiolo – winemaker Bryan Martin’s first – encouraged a wary sip. The bright fruit promised by the aroma flowed through on the medium bodied palate. The tannins arrived quickly enough. They were firm but velvety and contributed a savoury note as well as nebbiolo’s unique grip.

Fox Gordon The Sicilian Nero d’Avola 2012 $24.95
Adelaide Hills, South Australi
Several Australian producers now cultivate nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most widely planted red grape variety. It produces deeply coloured reds, a characteristic that saw it widely used in the past to add colour to paler wines. However, it’s now commonly used in its own right and in Australia offers an interesting change from our usual red menu. Fox Gordon 2012 delivers the deep colour of the variety, ripe, vibrant, jube-like fruit flavours and rustic, savoury tannins.

Saltram Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $21.85–$25
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Saltram Pepperjack brand is part of Treasury Wine Estates, the now separately listed former wine arm of Fosters. For reasons unknown, you can enjoy the fabulous Pepperjack Barossa Shiraz 2012 for as little as $15.90 (reviewed in my Sunday 30 March column) while paying far more for the also impressive cabernet. The excellent 2012 vintage looks like one of those once or twice a decade seasons where Barossa cabernet matches it with the local specialty, shiraz. The wine offer rich, ripe cassis-like varietal flavours, with a leafy edge, on a plush, juicy palate cut with soft cabernet tannins.

Scarborough Shiraz 2011 $27
Lower Hunter Valley, NSW
At Canberra’s recent Winewise Championship, judge James Halliday commented on the high quality of Hunter shiraz from 2011 – a cold, wet vintage in most of eastern Australia and associated with lacklustre, skinny wines. Scarborough 2011 doesn’t sit with the finest from the Hunter 2011 vintage. But it appeals for its medium body, modest alcohol content (13 per cent) and its rustic, savoury tannin and pleasantly tart finish.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2013 $12.35–$15
Padthaway, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Wolf Blass Yellow Label range occupies the middle turf of the brand’s three colour coded segments – red label for generic blends, yellow label for varietals (chardonnay in this instance) and gold label for regional-varietal matches (for example, Barossa shiraz, Adelaide Hills chardonnay). For these big blends, the company draws fruit widely to achieve an acceptable quality to price ratio. Yellow Label chardonnay sits in the high bronze to silver medal standard as it presents pure melon and peach varietal flavour of great freshness, with a smooth texture and dry, clean finish.

Main Ridge Chardonnay 2012 $50–$55
Main Ridge vineyard, Mornington Peninsula, Victori
What a contrast there is between the Wolf Blass and Main Ridge chardonnays reviewed today. The former provides good varietal flavours, produced to the best standard possible at a set production cost. The latter, on the other hand, presents the best possible product Nat and Rosie White can coax from their vines, then polish in their winery. The exceptional vintage produced a wine of amazingly powerful flavours and luxurious texture – but in the very, fine, delicate Main Ridge style. This is a great Australian chardonnay.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 2 April 2014 in the Canberra Times