Wine review – Long Rail Gully, Villa Maria, Jim Barry

Long Rail Gully Canberra District Pinot Noir 2014 $31.50–$35
Cool Canberra isn’t quite cool enough to make pinot noir to equal Australia’s best. I suspect in the long run the finest pinots in our broader region will come from higher, cooler Tumbarumba. Indeed, Canberra vignerons already source pinot and chardonnay from there. However, Canberra makes very good, if not cutting edge, pinot from several sites, including Long Rail Gully of Murrumbateman. A medium bodied style, it offers pinot’s vibrant red-fruits varietal aromas and flavours on a smooth-textured, dry palate. The finish is soft and dry, with just a hint of pinot’s more savoury flavour pushing through the primary fruit.

Villa Maria Hawkes Bay NZ Merlot 2013 $17–$20
In 1984, on my first retail buying trip to New Zealand, Marlborough’s vineyards were barely a decade old and the world new nothing of its irresistible sauvignon blanc. Auckland remained the headquarters for most wine companies. And the best reds I tasted were at Hawkes Bay, on the North Island. The most impressive of all came from John Buck’s Te Mata estate and Vidal, owned by Villa Maria proprietor George Fistonich. Fistonich, later knighted for services to the industry, still makes exciting reds from Hawkes Bay, including this keenly priced, fragrant, tasty merlot, with distinctive firm but gentle tannins.

Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2015 $13.75–$18
As a late ripening variety, riesling generally hunkers down during Clare Valley’s summer heat before developing delicate varietal flavour in the cool autumn. In the rollercoaster 2015 vintage, Jim Barry’s wine from Watervale, southern Clare, shows full body and strong flavours, while retaining delicacy and distinctive lime-like character. The full body perhaps comes from a February heat wave that “resulted in a historical event that saw our riesling, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon all ripening at the same time”, writes Peter Barry. The February heat wave that brought on the ripening arrived after torrential rain and the coolest January in 23 years.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 3 and 4 October 2015 in and the Canberra Times