Wine review – Seppelt, Sugarloaf Ridge, Penfolds, Paxton, Yalumba and T’Gallant

Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 $35–$45
Drumborg, Henty Region, Victoria
Former Seppelt winemaker Ian McKenzie once described Drumborg as the first landfall north of Antarctica. Indeed, the cold vineyard site near the southwestern Victorian coast struggled for decades after Karl Seppelt established it in 1964. During the two-decade McKenzie era from the early 1980s, the vineyard was renovated and extended, with significant pinot noir plantings added in 1986 and the mid nineties to those Seppelt had established in 1966 and 1968. McKenzie passed the winemaking baton to Emma Wood in the early 2000s and it passed, via Adam Wadewitz, to Adam Carnaby in 2012. The latter two produced this exceptional wine in 2012 from the 1986 and mid 1990s’ vines, says Carnaby. An exceptional wine, it offers a refined, harmonious and sensuous, but tightly tannic expression, of pinot noir, in keeping with the cool 2012 vintage.

Sugarloaf Ridge Pinot Noir 2010 $35
Sugarloaf Ridge vineyard, Carlton River, Tasmania
We enjoyed Sugarloaf Ridge pinot recently with tender, juicy duck at Malamay Restaurant, Barton. The sweetness of the duck matched the opulent fruit of the wine, though a leaner, more tannic style of pinot might have dealt better with such a fatty dish. Certainly the wine’s on the big, fruity side of pinot, and clearly varietal. But there’s more to good pinot than fruit, so hopefully the style might evolve so that savoury flavours and tannins restrain the overt fruitiness in future vintages. Fruit for the wine is grown at Sugarloaf Ridge vineyard, Carlton River, and the wine is made by Julian Alcorso at Winemaking Tasmania.

Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2012 $31.90–$40
Coonawarra, South Australia
Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2012 was a standout in a recent tasting of the Penfolds bin-number reds released in March. Among the most cellared, traded and talked about wines in the country, the best vintages (like Bin 128 2012) age well and provide satisfying drinking. The 2012 is a particularly fragrant wine, mixing floral and red-berry aromas, with a touch of mint, often seen in Coonawarra reds. The supple, deep fruit on the palate pushes up through the substantial but soft tannins. The richness and harmony of the wine suggests fairly long-term cellaring potentially given cool, stable conditions.

Paxton The Guesser Cabernet Shiraz 2011 $15
Paxton vineyards, McLaren Vale, South Australia
The Guesser comes from three of the Paxton family’s biodynamically managed McLaren Vale vineyards, Thomas block, Jones block and Quandong Farm. This is the second vintage of the family’s modestly priced red blend, made by Michael Paxton, son of founder, David Paxton. A blend of cabernet sauvignon (52 per cent) and shiraz 48 per cent), wild-yeast fermented The Guesser delivers the Vale’s rich, ripe, vibrant fruit flavours mingled with a load of rustic, satisfying, firm tannins.

Yalumba Christobel’s Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 $10.45–$16
Barossa, South Australia
Yalumba’s popular Christobel’s blend (named for proprietor Robert Hill-Smith’s mother) has seen a number of identities in the 20-odd years since it was created. The current version – in its bright, botanical label – combines Barossa semillon (66 per cent) with Barossa sauvignon blanc (34 per cent). It’s a world removed from the lighter versions of this blend from the cooler Margaret River region. But the warm-grown semillon component provides its own enjoyable lemony flavours and body – without the herbal tang these varieties show when grown in cooler regions.

T’Gallant Imogen Pinot Grigio 2013 $18–25
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Pardon me for being sceptical of pinot gris (or grigio). It’s a variety I’ve tried but failed to love since first encountering it in the mid 1970s – labelled at the time as Tokay d’Alsace – and in the mid 1980s with Italy’s leaner styles. T’Gallant Imogen draws its inspiration from the strong Alsacian style, offering rich, ripe flavours and a level of viscosity. The flavours are more savoury than fruity, with perhaps a hint of pear, and certainly with alcohol after burn. A lot of people like these wines and this is a pretty good version of that bigger, riper style.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 14 May 2014 in the Canberra Times