Wine review – Yalumba, Brown Brothers, Lark Hill, Brokenwood, AC Byrne and Second Left

Yalumba The Octavius Barossa Old Vine Shiraz 2009 $85–$112
Barossa and Eden Valleys, South Australia

Yalumba made its first Octavius in the outstanding 1990 vintage. Named for and matured in 100-litre oak octaves, coopered at Yalumba, it quickly earned the sobriquet “oaktavius”. However, Yalumba’s winemakers soon adapted to the high oak-to-wine ratio inherent in using such small barrels. Later vintages maintain a distinctive oak stamp, but in an harmonious, symbiotic way. The just-released 2009 vintage captures the power of Barossa Valley shiraz, tempered by fruit from the cooler, adjoining Eden Valley – in beautiful harmony with the oak, which seems to lift and magnify the fruit flavours. At six years it looks and tastes young and should evolve beautifully for decades to come. This is a wine of rare dimension and beauty.

Brown Brothers Ten Acres Shiraz 2012 $25–$30
Brown Brothers vineyard, Heathcote, Victoria

Yalumba Octavius, today’s wine of the week, and Brown Brothers Ten Acres, demonstrate two very different points on Australia’s remarkable shiraz spectrum. The power and richness of Octavius contrasts with the medium body, lighter colour, gentle fragrance and elegance of Ten Acres. They’re both made of shiraz. They’re utterly different in style. But both provide great drinking pleasure. Ten Acres appeals for its pure, sweet berry flavours, spice, and fine-grained tannins that all sit so lightly and tastily on the palate.

Lark Hill Viognier 2014 $25
Dark Horse vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

In August 2011 Lark Hill’s Carpenter family purchased the 3.6-hectare Dark Horse vineyard at Murrumbateman. The purchase secured supplies of shiraz and viognier, varieties they are unable to ripen on the high, cool Lark Hill vineyard on the Lake George escarpment. While some of the viognier goes into a shiraz–viognier blend, the Carpenters make an attractive, fairly full-bodied dry white from the variety. The 2014 vintage, partly oak fermented, provides soft and gentle drinking – a round, smooth wine, with subtle apricot- and ginger-like varietal flavour and slightly viscous texture. People either love or loathe this distinctive wine style.

Brokenwood Latara Vineyard Semillon 2009 $55
Latara vineyard, lower Hunter Valley, NSW

Brokenwood’s lovely, maturing Latara vineyard semillon demonstrates the staying power of this distinctive style and the great benefit to drinkers of the screw cap. The fate of older cork-sealed wines rests on the individual cork in every bottle. Will the cork taint the wine? Will oxygen break the cork barrier and degrade the wine? You never know until you open the bottle. And if there’s low-live oxidation and you have only one bottle you may never know the wine could’ve been much better. Our screw-capped Latara still showed a glowing, green-tinted lemon colour and great vitality and freshness. Yet the richer flavours of bottle age gently swelled the mid-palate of this lemongrass-like, glorious six year old.

AC Byrne Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2014 $9.99
Margaret River, Western Australia

Recent analysis of Australian retailing suggests Aldi’s continued growth will like force significantly lower margins on Woolworths and Coles. We’ll all welcome lower prices of course. And we can glimpse in the quality-to-price ratio of the two Aldi brands reviewed today, just what the bigger players are up against. AC Byrne semillon sauvignon blanc sits comfortably around the bronze medal mark – a rating earned in several wine shows. The rating indicates a fault free wine displaying all the main characteristics of its category. In this case a bright, fresh, medium-bodied dry white with the grassy, herbal and citrus tang of this classic Western Australian blend.

Second Left Cabernet Merlot 2013 $8.99
Eden Valley, South Australia

The Eden Valley sits on the Mount Lofty Ranges, immediately north of the Adelaide Hills. It forms the eastern boundary of the slightly warmer Barossa Valley. Together, the two regions form the Barossa Zone. In general reds from the cooler Eden Valley are a little more elegant and refined than their Barossa counterparts. Aldi’s foray into Eden produced this fragrant, medium-bodied, deliciously fruity cabernet–merlot blend of fine tannins and elegant structure. It’s significantly better than you’d expect for nine bucks – exactly the perception Aldi wants us to have.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 31 March 2015 in and 1 April 2015 in the Canberra Times