Wine review – Heartland, Clonakilla and Chalmers

Heartland Langhorne Creek Dolcetto and Lagrein 2013 $20–$22
Heartland produces a unique blend of dolcetto – an inky deep, low-acid, aromatic Piedmontese red variety – and lagrein, a sometimes rustic, grippy variety from the Alto Adige region, in Italy’s north-east. Winemaker Ben Glaetzer says he captures dolcetto’s fresh, floral notes by fermenting and maturing it in stainless steel. On the other hand, he tames the lagrein component by maturing it in French oak barrels following fermentation. The result is a deeply coloured red, rippling with bright, juicy fruit flavours and cut through with assertive though soft tannins. This is Glaetzer’s tenth vintage of the blend – a 50:50 combination in 2013.

Clonakilla Canberra District Viognier 2014 $45
Although best known for its benchmark shiraz–viognier blend, Clonakilla also sits in the top ranks of Australia’s viognier makers. In warmer climes Rhone Valley white variety tends to make rich, oily whites that age prematurely and taste distinctly of apricots. These can be impressive on the first sip, but, like gewurtztraminer, can be just too much before the bottom of the bottle approaches. Clonakilla’s barrel-fermented version is another beast indeed: rich, plush and velvety but in a restrained, loveable way, featuring subtle, delicious ginger-like flavours. Thanks to a severe frost in late 2013, Tim Kirk produced very little viognier in 2014.

Chalmers Heathcote Nero d’Avola 2013 $29
The Chalmers family cultivates a range of so-called alternative varieties in their vineyards at Merbein (near Mildura) and Heathcote, Victoria. Bruce Chalmers was one of the founders of the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, which grew from 28 entries in 1999 to the current 600. Their vineyard at Heathcote includes the Sicilian variety nero d’Avola, noted for its deep colour, full body, ageing potential and ability to withstand hot, dry conditions. The medium- to deep-coloured 2013 shows a combination of funky and vibrant fruit characters and a taut, tannic palate, very much in the Italian mould.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 30 and 31 May 2015 in and the Canberra Times