Wine review – Vickery, Tar and Roses, Balnaves, Xanadu, Bream Creek, and Taittinger

Vickery Watervale Riesling 2015
Brazel, Castine and Koerner vineyards, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia
This beautiful riesling is a collaboration between riesling master John Vickery (first vintage 1951) and Barossa based Phil Lehmann, winemaker for the WD Wine group, owners of Hesketh Wines, St John’s Road and Parker Coonawarra Estate. Vickery’s involvement extended from fruit selection to “the final classification, where only the very best components were selected by Phil and John for the finalised wine”, writes their partner Jonathon Hesketh. Vickery 2015 is full-bodied style at 13 per cent alcohol. But at the same time it’s refined and delicate, with the juicy, irresistible, lime-like varietal flavours unique to this Clare Valley sub-region. What a great bargain it is.

Tar and Roses Sangiovese 2014
Heathcote, Victoria


Italy’s sangiovese grape makes an enormously wide range of styles in Australia, depending on clone, growing climate and winemaking approach. Don Lewis and Narelle King source their sangiovese from Victoria’s warm Heathcote region. These grapes have, “consistently given us a rich, full style that we like, always highlighted by assertive tannins, true to the variety”, they write. The medium coloured 2014 starts with bright and vibrant, sour-cherry-like varietal flavour. However, very strong tannins wash in through the fruit, giving a grippy, savoury and very dry finish.

Balnaves “The Blend” 2013
Balnaves vineyards, Coonawarra, South Australia

“The Blend” combines merlot (52 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (46 per cent), and a splash of petite verdot from several Balnaves family vineyards. The wine provides a contrast to the similarly priced, prettier, cabernet from Xanadu, also reviewed today. The chocolate-like, earthy richness of merlot leads the blend, which reveals both the ripe-berry character of Coonawarra and deeper, more savoury flavours, backed by quite firm, though gentle tannins.

Xanadu Next of Kin Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Margaret River and Frankland River, Western Australia

Xanadu’s early-drinking cabernet comes principally from the company’s vineyards at Walcliffe, Margaret River, “supplemented with a small portion (13%) of cabernet selected from a mature vineyard in the Frankland River region”, writes winemaker Glen Goodall. The medium-bodied red shows an aromatic, floral side of cabernet. The palate reflects the aroma, and throws in a mint-like seasoning with the fruit, some spice from oak maturation and the variety’s fairly astringent, drying tannins.

Bream Creek Pinot Noir 2011
Bream Creek Vineyard, Marion Bay, Tasmania

The beautifully sited Bream Creek vineyards rolls down a mild slope, giving visitors panoramic views east to Marion’s Bay and Maria Island. The cool site, on Tasmania’s lower east coast, was planted to vines in 1974 and purchased by one of the state’s best-known viticulturists, Fred Peacock, in 1990. Peacock’s 2011 pinot reveals the great purity and finesse of the variety grown at this latitude. Bright, cherry-like varietal aroma and flavour underpin a juicy, fine and elegant red, of silky texture and lingering, dry finish. The wine looks very young at four years, with barely a sign yet of the gamier pinot flavours likely to emerge in the years ahead.

Champagne Taittinger 2008
Champagne, France
There’s sparkling wine and there’s Champagne – the real thing from France’s Champagne region. But the latter isn’t always better than the former. Indeed, too many undistinguished wines bear the prestigious Champagne label. However, really good Champagne, like Taittinger 2008, still sets the world standard. In this instance a 50:50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir from top-ranking Champagne vineyards forms the base of a remarkably intense, fine, vigorous wine. Completing the picture is six years’ ageing on yeast lees in bottle – the magic bit that gives Champagne so much more flavour and structural dimension than the base wine alone could give.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 29 and 30 September in  and the Canberra Times