Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 $30–$35
Margaret River, Western Australia
Xanadu cabernet covered itself with glory at the 2013 National Wine Show. The 2010 vintage won three trophies – as best cabernet, best dry red and champion of the show. And the 2008 won the best mature-dry-red trophy. The wine tastes as good on the dinner table as it does during the fleeting glimpse it gets during show judging. You’ll find the 2010 in bottle shops. But the just-released 2011 matches the quality. We tasted, then consumed the bottle in a masked tasting, alongside Houghton Gladstones 2001 and Cullen Diana Madeline 2003 – beautiful aged Margaret River cabernets the Xanadu will no doubt bear some resemblance to after a decade in bottle. We served the wines with a simple barbecued, butterflied lamb leg – a wonderful combination.
Hewitson Ned and Henry’s Shiraz Mourvedre 2012 $26
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Hewitson Ned and Henry lifted above the other ripe, warm-climate reds on the tasting bench and graduated to the dinner table – where it held our interest through several glasses. I would describe this as modern, restrained Barossa. It retains Barossa ripeness and generosity, but it’s not overripe, it’s modestly alcoholic at 14 per cent and it’s not overburdened by oak or tannin. The fruit is ripe and reminiscent of black cherry – with a spicy, savoury overlay. The soft, smooth tannins harmonise with the ripe fruit, adding length to the clean, fresh finish. In warm weather, refrigerate lightly to around 18 degrees.
Montrose Stony Creek Chardonnay 2012$20–$24
Craigmoor, Chardonnay Park and Woodbrook vineyards, Mudgee, NSW
Mudgee is among Australia’s oldest wine-growing regions. But, in my view, the nearest it has to a regional specialty is chardonnay. Judged on climate – mild rather than cool or cold – you’d expect tasty, early maturing styles. Instead, and especially from the higher cooler sites (source of Montrose), the chardonnays tend to be fine, complex and long-lived. While not at the cutting edge, the wine is subtle and refined, with ripe melon and peach flavour in a matrix with barrel-derived textures and flavours. It delivers a lot of drinking pleasure at a fair price.
Marchand and Burch Cremant de Bourgogne NV $30
France’s Cremant de Bourgogne appellation covers a huge tract of the Burgundy region, stretching from Chablis in the north to Beaujolais in the south. Total production, though, is said to be less than one twentieth of the Champagne region’s, to the north. Marchand and Burch, an Australian–French collaboration, provides a fresh, tasty, gentle and subtle introduction to the style. The creamy texture and crisp acidity made a good match with Wapengo oysters at a pre-Christmas Chateau Shanahan tasting.
Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Champagne 2002 $86–$114
Champagne region, France
We found two Canberra stashes of Pol’s sublime 2002 vintage in Canberra – both in Coles-owned outlets. 1st Choice, Braddon, offered it at $114 a bottle – a fair price when compared to other vintage Champagnes. But Vintage Cellars Manuka marked it down to $86 as part of a six-bottle buy, making it perhaps the best Champagne buy on the market. We put it in a masked tasting alongside Lanson Gold Label 2002 ($50–$62). Both are wonderful wines and Lanson is perhaps the bargain of the year at $50. But Pol 2002 delivered the supreme elegance and harmony savoured occasionally in the greatest Champagnes – a beautiful creation, brought to near perfection.
Capital Wines Kyeema Vineyard Reserve Shiraz 2011 $52
Kyeema Vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Capital’s reserve shiraz shows its usual touch of class, albeit in a leaner, more spicy–peppery mould than usual. It’s always one of Canberra’s more brooding, slow-evolving shirazes, requiring bottle age or days of airing to reveal all. But in 2011, the aromatic spice and pepper character and lighter body make it immediately approachable. The spice and pepper give life to the underlying ripe-plum fruit flavours. But I suspect its best drinking will be over the next five or six years, rather then in the decades of a fleshier version from a warmer year.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 15 January 2014 in the Canberra Times and goodfood.com.au