Wine review – Ross Hill, Peter Lehmann, El Toro Macho, Howard Park, Lark Hill and Penfolds

Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Shiraz 2013
Ross Hill Griffin Road vineyard, Orange, NSW

A year ago, as the 2014 bubbled along in its small, open fermenter, winemaker Phil Kerney drew samples of the 2013 from the French oak barriques they were resting in. A year on, and in bottle, the wine blended from all those barrels impresses even more than any of the individual samples did. Dazzling, aromatic fruit and a buoyant, youthful palate headline a much deeper wine. Gamey notes and a hint of stalkiness (from the inclusion of whole bunches in the ferment) build on the vibrant fruit. Finally, silky tannins, derived from the skins, stalks and oak give the wine texture and a solid backbone. This is an exceptional, medium bodied, cool-climate shiraz, requiring another year or two in bottle to blossom. I suspect it’ll continue to evolve in lovely ways for many years.

Peter Lehmann Portrait Riesling 2014
Eden Valley, South Australia


The last few years have been a tumultuous time for Peter Lehmann wines. Founder Peter Lehmann died in June 2013. A year later his son Doug, a former managing director and current non-executive chairman, died. Then in November 2014, Casella Wines, owners of Yellow Tail, bought Lehmann from the Hess Group Australia and minority shareholders, including Peter Lehmann’s widow, Margaret. However, under the new ownership, we’ll continue to enjoy Peter Lehmann wines, including this zesty, dry riesling from the Eden Valley. It’s full flavoured, light bodied (at only 11 per-cent alcohol) and should drink well over the next four or five years.

El Toro Macho Tempranillo 2013
Utiel Requena, Valencia, Spain

Aldi’s el cheapo red comes from Spain, home of tempranillo. It’s a clean, fresh version of the variety, with all the focus on fruit flavour, and no sign of oak or other winemaking add-ons. Grape tannins give a gentle bite to the finish of this medium-bodied, easy drinking red. Aldi shows its understanding of the Australian market by importing stock sealed with screw caps – a quality standard rival retailer Costco might emulate for its Australian customers.

Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Great Southern and Margaret River, Western Australia

Owner Jeff Burch notes a connection between Howard Park’s first cabernet, made from Great Southern fruit in 1986, and his company’s flagship Abercrombie. The early wines, made by John Wade (maker, too, of the legendary Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 1982), came from Great Southern vines planted in the mid seventies. Burch now owns those old vines, which join Margaret River material in Abercrombie. It’s a class act from the first sniff: seductively floral cabernet marries seamlessly with sweet oak in the aroma and on the extraordinarily concentrated but harmonious and elegant palate.

Lark Hill Riesling 2014
Lark Hill vineyard, Lake George escarpment, Canberra District, NSW

Lark Hill’s riesling vines, planted in 1978, sit a couple of hundred metres higher than most of their Canberra district peers. The higher altitude means cooler, later ripening and, for the resultant wine, subtle flavour and structural differences to those grown on lower, warmer sites. This shows, to my taste, as an apple-like tartness and flavour mingling with the otherwise lemon- and –lime-like varietal characters. A year after vintage, the fruit really sings and, combined, with the racy acidity, gives a thrilling drink.

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Limestone Coast, McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek, South Australia
Penfolds introduced Bin 407 as a cheaper cellar mate to its $350 flagship Bin 707 cabernet. Bin 707, like its shiraz counterpart, Grange, offers enormous depth, power and very long term cellaring potential. Bin 407, on the other hand, shows a more approachable and purely varietal face of cabernet – albeit in the sturdy Penfolds mould. The 2012 vintage combines the variety’s ripe, cassis-like flavours with subtle herbaceous notes, reminiscent of tomato leaf. Deep, strong tannins intersect with the fruit, giving layered, multi-dimensional flavours and textures and firm finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 19 and 20 May in and the Canberra Times