Wine review – Xanadu, West Cape Howe, Shaw and Smith, Majella, Moppity Vineyards and Pig in the House

Xanadu Stevens Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 $57–$65
Stevens Road vineyard, Margaret River, Western Australia

Xanadu’s classy cabernet comes from “21 rows of Houghton clone cabernet at the bottom of Block 3” [of the Stevens vineyard, planted 1989], says the company’s website. This tiny batch of grapes made one of the purest, most elegant and harmonious cabernets imaginable – a wine of great flavour intensity and assertive tannin structure, yet so satisfying and lovely to drink now. At a recent office tasting, drinkers preferred it decisively over the also excellent, and similarly priced, Lindemans St George Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. The winery has sold out, but some retailers have stock.

West Cape Howe Riesling 2014 $18–$20
Langton vineyard, Mount Barker, Western Australia

Western Australia’s remote Mount Barker region produces outstanding riesling largely thanks to the cooling effect of the ocean, 50km to the south. West Cape Howe 2014 shows the stunning freshness of the new vintage. The lime-like varietal flavour comes with a sharp and thrilling acidity that cuts through the palate, adding vibrance and length to the flavour and a pristine, dry finish. The wine’s intense, flavour, fine structure and high acidity all point to good medium-term cellaring.

Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2014 $23–$25
Balhannah, Woodside and Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Cousins Michael Hill-Smith and Martin Shaw celebrate Shaw and Smith’s 25th anniversary with yet another fruit-laden sauvignon blanc. The cousins launched their product just as New Zealand’s Marlborough sauvignons gained traction in the Australian market – but long before the variety overtook chardonnay as Australia’s favourite white wine. Shaw and Smith became (and remains) the benchmark for Australian sauvignons, in a field now totally dominated by Marlborough. Like a bottled fruit festival, the 2014 smells, tastes and delights like a mouthful of fresh, tangy, tart and sweet passionfruit.

Majella Merlot 2012 $28
Majella vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia

Majella’s reputation for cabernet sauvignon and shiraz might well be matched one day by merlot. This is only the fourth vintage under the label, says proprietor Brian Lynn, but already we see in it the Coonawarra stamp of power with elegance. It’s an appealingly perfumed expression of the variety, and very fine-boned, despite its underlying gamey and earthy notes.

Moppity Vineyards Lock and Key Shiraz 2012 $12.99
Moppity vineyard, Hilltops region, NSW

Moppity Vineyard owner, Jason Brown, recently launched a Canberra sales push, through local independent retailers. Cut-case displays of Brown’s entry-level Lock and Key range seem to be popping up everywhere, including at the city Supa Barn, where we bought our bottle for $12.99. A seriously good red at the price, Lock and Key 2012 won a gold medal at this year’s Royal Sydney Wine Show. It shows the floral, spicy, varietal aroma of the cool 2012 season and a medium-weight, smooth palate, reflecting the aroma.

Pig in the House Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $18–$25
Pig in the House vineyard, Cowra, NSW

In the early 1990s David and Elizabeth O’Dea planted vines on their Cowra property, Windowrie. They later built a substantial winery and switched from grape selling to winemaking. Their son Jason works in the family business and, with wife Rebecca, owns the separate, certified-organic Pig in the House vineyard nearby. Their 2012 cabernet (winner of the inaugural NASAA Certified Organic Wine of the Year Award) provides a lighter, vibrantly fruity expression of cabernet, with a leafy note that’s part varietal and part result of a cool growing season.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 27 August 2014 in the Canberra Times and