Wine review – Blue Pyrenees, Jacob’s Creek, Mount Pleasant Elizabeth, Red Knot, Wolf Blass and Moppity Vineyards Lock and Key

Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2012
Blue Pyrenees vineyard, Pyrenees, Victoria
Every so often a wine comes along that runs off the value-for-money scale. The latest, Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2012, provided camp-fired comfort during a wintery outdoor party. The bottle sat unloved on the bar, ignored as other reds came and went. What turned people off; perhaps the blue capsule or the unprepossessing label? Ah, but the wine inside couldn’t have been better for the occasion: medium bodied, fruity, spicy and savoury all at once – and oh, so soft, gentle and more-ish. It’s a triumph for the bargain hunter, and a salutary lesson not to judge wine by its label. A string of gold medals and trophies (awarded out of sight of the label) confirm the wine’s drink-now appeal.

Jacob’s Creek Riesling 2014 $9–$12
Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek, Clare and Eden Valleys, South Australia

From Blue Pyrenees, a label many may never have seen, we come to Jacob’s Creek, a brand as familiar as Vegemite, but also delivering amazing quality for the price. And little wonder. The grapes come from the best South Australian addresses for the variety (Barossa, Clare and Eden Valleys) and, increasingly, from Langhorne Creek, to the south near Lake Alexandrina. Jacob’s Creek 2014 shows the floral and citrus aroma and flavours of riesling on a brilliantly fresh, dry palate. A very good riesling, but modestly priced, Jacob’s Creek often outscores pricier products in wine shows.

Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2014 $11.90–$20
Hunter Valley, NSW
In another time and labelled as riesling, not semillon, Elizabeth rated among the biggest selling white wines in Australia. Sometime during the switch from generic to varietal labelling (but not because of it) Elizabeth’s popularity waned. Yet it remains much the same, if a little brighter, fresher and younger at release. The aroma suggests lemongrass, and the light, bone-dry, lemony palate appeals in its tart, zesty, savoury and idiosyncratic way. Some will love this style; others may hate it. Watch for the retail specials and confidently cellar it to enjoy the extra richness age brings.

Red Knot by Shingleback Shiraz 2014 $12.40–$15
McLaren Vale, South Australia
The Davey family of Shingleback Wines, McLaren Vale, makes Red Knot for export markets, cellar door sales and for retail in Australia exclusively by Woolworths (Dan Murphy, BWS and Woolworths Liquor). They make an equivalent and interchangeable wine, Vin Vale by Shingleback, for Woolies’ archrival, Coles (Vintage Cellars, 1st Choice and Liquorland). Shingleback’s winemakers reliably capture the ripe, earthy flavours of McLaren Vale shiraz, with its savoury undertones and soft, drink-now tannins.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 $9.40–$16
Padthaway and Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Wolf Blass made his first Yellow Label wines in 1966 and over time built one of Australia’s enduring wine brands, loved for their fruitiness and soft, easy drinkability. Blass sold the business decades ago, but the brand lives on under the ownership of Treasury Wine Estates. A recent note from winemaker Chris Hatcher says the wines now all bear regional labels. The delicious 2014 chardonnay, for example, combines from Padthaway (an hour’s drive north of Coonawarra) and Adelaide Hills, on the Mount Lofty Ranges, abutting Adelaide’s eastern suburbs. It’s an amazingly good, bright, loveable chardonnay, often discounted to around $10 a bottle.

Moppity Vineyards Lock and Key Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 $14–$18
Moppity vineyard, Hilltops, NSW
In 2004 Jason and Alecia Brown bought the 78-hectare Moppity Vineyard from the receivers. Established in 1973, and the second oldest in Hilltops, the vineyard was mature but run down. After much TLC in the vineyard, and several changes of contract winemaker, we’re seeing a period of stability – and the best wines yet from what is clearly an outstanding vineyard. This is perhaps best seen when a great vintage like 2013 comes along. For a modest sum, Lock and Key provides a pure, fruity expression of cabernet, with cassis-like flavour, subtle, complementary oak and an elegant structure. You get a lot of wine for the price.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 2 and 3 June 2015 in and the Canberra Times