Wine review – Sevenhill, Bowen Estate, Yalumba, Penfolds, d’Arenberg and Sassafras

Sevenhill Cellars Inigo Riesling 2014 $18.80–$20
Sevenhill Cellars vineyards, Clare Valley, South Australia

In 1851 the Society of Jesus established Sevenhill Cellars, the Clare Valley’s first winery. The Jesuits still run Sevenhill from magnificent stone cellars where they make amazingly concentrated wines from their own extensive vineyards. Inigo – the cheaper of their two rieslings (the other, St Francis Xavier, sells for $35) – seduces the palate with a sensuous, drink-now opulence. Seduction begins with the pure citrus-and-floral varietal aroma. But it’s the slick and slippery palate that makes the earth move. More please.

Bowen Estate Shiraz 2013 $28.50–$33
Bowen vineyards, Coonawarra, South Australia

For a cool-climate Coonawarra shiraz, Bowen’s is of heroic proportions: high in alcohol at 15.5 per cent, pulsing with rich, very ripe fruit flavours, made even more succulent by a mother-load of soft tannins. If these descriptors seem at odds with Coonawarra’s demure template, they come with a few caveats. Despite the wine’s size and power, the fruit flavours remain in the regional ripe-berry spectrum and there’s an elegance to the structure, albeit obscured slightly by the high alcohol.

Yalumba FDR 1A Cabernet Shiraz 2010 $36.10–$43
Eden Valley, South Australia

“We have a new deal on FDR”, announced the sales rep in nineteen seventy something. Undeterred by collective groans in Farmer Brothers’ buying office, he poured samples. We duly applauded what was to be one of the few successes of the Barossa’s appalling 1974 vintage. That was the first vintage of a blend that, on the strength of the Eden Valley cabernet component, became 100-per-cent Eden from the 2010 vintage. At five years’, it tastes young and fresh, with the deep berry, mint and firm tannin character of Eden cabernet, rounded and softened by shiraz. It’s an outstanding red with decades of slow evolution ahead of it.

Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2013 $34.80–$40
Tumbarumba, NSW

In the early nineties Penfolds put its mind to making a white flagship – a white equivalent to Grange, eventually released as Yattarna, from the 1995 vintage. Though the search began with semillon, riesling and chardonnay, the latter fairly quickly became the sole focus. During this search, Tumbarumba chardonnay made the initial cut, but soon bowed out to components from the Adelaide Hills and, later, Tasmania. However, Penfolds didn’t abandon Tumbarumba altogether and the region generally contributes partly or solely to the brilliant Bin 311 – a rich, fine and sophisticated chardonnay. It has immediate drinking appeal and potential to evolve in the cellar for several years.

d’Arenberg High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $18–$20
d’Arenberg High Trellis vineyard, McLaren Vale South Australia

Only a comparatively small proportion of under-$20 reds have the stuffing to cellar well. But an earthy, fruity, richness and savoury, rustic tannins give High Trellis cellarability as well as grippy, drink-now appeal. The wine, produced from a nineteenth-century vineyard, shows clear varietal cassis- and mint-like varietal flavours and firm but friendly tannins. The chewy, richly textured palate has a wholemeal goodness, partly because winemaker Chester Osborne doesn’t fine of filter the wine before bottling.

Sassafras Gamay Ancestral 2014 $24
Johansen vineyard, Tumbarumba, NSW

In 2014, Quarry Hill’s Paul Starr branched out and produced a sparkling rose by applying the ancestral method to red gamay grapes. The method involves a standard fermentation, with just enough skin contact to extract the pink colour. The maker refrigerates the wine to arrest the fermentation while it retains a small amount of residual sugar. After bottling, the sugars undergo a secondary fermentation, creating carbon dioxide and a very fine haze from the spent yeast cells. Starr’s wine, sealed with a stainless steel crown, offers an attractive pink colour, a modest level of effervescence and gamay’s alluring strawberry-like aroma and flavour. The zippy, fresh, fruit-sweet palate finishes pleasantly tart and dry.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 5 and 6 May 2015 in and the Canberra Times