Tyrrell’s Belford Chardonnay 2012 $33.50–$40
Belford, lower Hunter Valley, NSW
Tyrrell’s led Australia’s charge into chardonnay decades ago, albeit misnamed as “pinot chardonnay” for many years on its Vat 47 label. In theory the Hunter ought to be too warm to make cutting edge chardonnay. But Tyrrell’s top version, Belford and Vat 47, easily stand alongside more expensive wines from cooler southern regions. Belford 2012 lifts even higher in quality than usual, offering quite powerful chardonnay fruit flavour on a fine, richly textured palate, subtly seasoned by partial fermentation and maturation in French oak barrels. The wine bears two trophies, four gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
Tim Adams Riesling 2014 $19–$22
Clare Valley, South Australia
Australia’s best dry riesling provide beautiful drinking at modest prices – partly because they’re released young, and therefore not burdened with holding costs, and don’t require expensive treatments such as oak maturation. Clare Valley producer Tim Adams makes a particularly fine and pure expression of the style. Picking fruit early (at around 11.5 per cent alcohol potential) gives an austere, lemony edge to the acidity. This gives life and freshness to delicate but generous lime-and-lemon-like varietal flavours.
Fighting Gully Road Aglianico 2012 $40
Alpine Valleys, Victoria
Winemaker Mark Walpole describes Aglianico as, “my climate change variety. I think the site may be a little cool at the moment, but if things warm up as predicted the hopefully I’ll have some old vine aglianico in the perfect climate”. Aglianico, the most extensively planted red variety of Campania and Basilicata, southern Italy, buds early, ripens late and produces high quality very tannic reds. Walpole’s version, from a cool vintage, displays a limpid colour and vibrant, fresh, berry aromas with a touch of spice and pepper. The medium-bodied, elegantly structured palate reflects the aroma, especially in its berry and pepper character. It finishes with quite firm, fine, lingering tannins. (Available at fightinggully.com).
Hesketh “Small Parcels” Touriga 2014 $25
Tscharke vineyard, Seppeltsfield, Barossa Valley
Jonathon Hesketh and winemaker Phil Lehmann collaborate on the “small parcels” range, sourcing “fruit grown by specialist growers who are friends of either Phil or Jonathon and have a particular parcel that Phil believes will make something special”, write the pair. Their touriga (a Portuguese red variety) comes from the western Barossa’s Seppeltsfield sub-region. The limpid, purple-rimmed wine offers delightful floral and musk-like aromas. The fine-boned palate reveals more musk, a lick of pepper, a pinot-like texture and quite a firm backbone of fine tannins.
Zeppelin Big Bertha Shiraz 2013 $16–$19
Barossa Valley, South
For a modest price, Zeppelin, a brand of the McWilliams family, delivers the power, richness and ripeness of a warm Barossa Valley vintage. Although the wine is in the big regional style with abundant (though soft) tannin, the fruit remains vibrant and lively. Winemaker Andrew Higgins says he makes the wine from “low-yielding vineyards, traditional hands-off winemaking, open fermenters and basket pressing before bottling with minimal fining and filtration”. You can taste its wholesome goodness.
Tyrrell’s Stevens Vineyard Semillon 2009 $32.30–$35
Neil Stevens Glen Oak vineyard, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, NSW
The lower Hunter’s idiosyncratic semillon style divides drinkers into lovers and haters. True believers, agnostics and the uninitiated should be tempted by Tyrrell’s latest release. From the outstanding 2009 vintage, it reveals the power and delicacy of the style: at just 11 per cent alcohol, it combines some of the lemony tartness of a young wine with the first honeyed richness of bottle age. Tyrrell’s source the grape from one of the Hunter’s great vineyards, planted between 1911 and 1966.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 20 and 21 January in Fairfax digital media and the Canberra Times