Wine review – Ravensworth, Clonakilla, Helm, Eden Road, Ross Hill and Brangayne

Ravensworth Nebbiolo 2014
Hilltops, NSW

As winemaker Bryan Martin and photographer David Reist launched their book, Tongue and Cheek, in March, guests quaffed Martin’s just-released 2014 nebbiolo. At its best, the Piedmontese variety makes lighter coloured, highly fragrant reds of great power and elegance, with firm tannins that outgrip even those of cabernet sauvignon. Martin’s new wine sits at the darker end of the nebbiolo scale, with alluring fragrance and a rounder, softer palate then the 2013 vintage reviewed last year. The tannins do come back and bite in the end, but this is already a friendly and distinctive drink. It joins Freeman (made by Brian Freeman) as another outstanding expression of the variety from the Hilltops region.

Clonakilla Syrah 2013
Clonakilla T and L vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW


Over the last few years Clonakilla’s syrah (aka shiraz) has grown to rival the winery’s original flagship blend of shiraz and viognier. The unblended syrah, says winemaker Tim Kirk, “comes from our north-east facing T and L vineyard”, named for Kirk and wife, Laura. Kirk de-stems the grape bunches but leaves the berries intact in a single fermenter. A spontaneous ferment begins inside the berries and the wine macerates for a total of one month on the skins before being pressed off and matured for 15 months in French oak barrels. The result is a bright, intensely flavoured, spicy shiraz of extraordinary finesse – a wine to savour drop by drop. It should evolve well for many years.

Helm Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Ken Helm’s latest cabernet shows the perfectly ripe fruit of the outstanding vintage. In our cool district, leafy and herbaceous characters become part and parcel of cabernet’s flavour. However, there’s little sign of these characters in Helm’s latest vintage. Instead we smell and taste vibrant cassis-like varietal characters, backed by cabernet’s assertive tannins, which give backbone and longevity. At this early stage of the wine’s evolution, flavours from maturation in oak are also apparent, but hopefully time will harmonise the fruit–oak combination.

Eden Road The Long Road Pinot Noir 2013
Courabyra and Maragle vineyard, Tumbarumba, NSW

Winemaker Nick Spencer says he sources fruit for The Long Road pinot noir from the Courabyra and Maragle vineyards in high, cool Tumbarumba. Originally planted to pinot noir and chardonnay for sparkling wine production, Tumbarumba soon showed its class with chardonnay as a still table wine. Pinot noir, however, remains a work in progress under makers like Eden Road. The Long Road finds favour in Canberra restaurants. We enjoyed it earlier this year at Restaurant 86, Braddon, and recently at the Lanterne Rooms, Campbell. It remains a lighter style pinot, with bright fruit, stemmy notes and quite a grip from its fine silky tannins.

Ross Hill Tom and Harry Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Ross Hill vineyard, Orange, NSW

Phil Kerney turned out a lovely cool-climate cabernet in 2013. It earned trophies as best cabernet in the 2014 Orange Wine Show and 2014 Winewise Small Vignerons Awards, Canberra. The judges perhaps became a little overexcited and I suspect they didn’t see Tom and Harry alongside Kerney’s Pinnacle Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($40), a wine of much greater dimension. Tom and Harry displays the vivid berry and eucalypt-like flavours of cool-grown cabernet in a fine, elegant, medium-bodied style.

Brangayne Isolde Reserve Chardonnay 2013
Brangayne vineyard, Orange, NSW
Isolde chardonnay comes from Brangayne vineyard. At an elevation of 960–1000 metres, it’s the higher of two sites owned by the Hoskins family. Deep down, the wine shows the flavour intensity and the crisp, high acidity you’d expect of fruit grown at this altitude. However, perceiving this fruit requires the drinker (well, this drinker, anyway) to overlook intrusive woody and resiny flavours, inserted presumably during oak fermentation and maturation. We might politely call the wine “old fashioned”. But Australian winemakers and drinkers moved on from this style long ago.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 16 and 17 June 2015 in and the Canberra Times