Wine reviews – Clonakilla, Damien Coquelet, Huia, Pizzini and Pikes

Clonakilla Riesling 2015
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
The first of Canberra’s 2015 vintage whites flowing onto the market gives us an opportunity to judge the merits of a much-loved season. As the last of the grapes rolled in earlier this year, Ken Helm declared, “The 2015 has outdone even 2013. It ticked every box and is the best across all varieties”. And Clonakilla’s Tim Kirk wrote of “perfect ripening conditions”. Kirk’s 2015 riesling, to be released on 1 September, could be the finest of the 40 vintages made to date. Very young rieslings tend not to reveal all their fruit flavours and take many months, sometimes years, to flourish. However, the 2015 already reveals great purity and intensity. It’s clearly of gold-medal standard now even though its best drinking lies in future.

Morgon Cote du Py (Damien Coquelet) 2014
Cote du Py vineyard, Morgon, Beaujolais, France

In 1395 Duc Philippe le Hardi banned the gamay grape from Burgundy, writing, “And this wine of Gaamez [gamay] is of such a kind that it is very harmful to human creatures, so much so that many who had it in the past were infested by serious diseases”. Gamay retreated to Beaujolais, at Burgundy’s southernmost extremity, where it now brings happiness, rather than serious disease, to the many who love it. It can be joyous, light and fruity. Or there are more cerebral versions, like this limpid, medium bodied 2014, made by Beaujolais star, Damien Coquelet. The wine captures a darker, stronger side of gamay, with quite assertive tannins separating it from the finesse of pinot noir. (Gamay is a natural offspring of pinot noir and gouais blanc). It’s available through the importer,

Huia Chardonnay 2008
Marlborough, New Zealand

Whether by design or accident, I don’t know which, we can still buy Huia’s seven-year-old chardonnay. We took our bottle to the outstanding 2 Yummy restaurant, Belconnen, where it washed down wholesome, tasty dishes, including dry-roasted eggplant with chicken mince. The wine remains fresh and delicate, despite the bottle age, with full, ripe varietal flavour, a patina of barrel-derived flavours and viscous, silky texture. This is a distinctive, ageing chardonnay at a fair price.

Pizzini Forza di Ferro Sangiovese 2013
Pizzini vineyard, King Valley, Victoria

To accompany the crunchy, juicy perfection of 2 Yummy’s roast duck, we generally choose top-notch Australian pinot noir. It’s a great combination: simple, inexpensive, well-prepared food and a sumptuous, elegant wine style well suited to it. For a change, we tried Pizzini’s flagship sangiovese, Forza di Ferro – and it worked. This is a lighter coloured, highly fragrant red of great flavour intensity, with firm, silk-smooth tannins gripping the supple fruit. Natalie Pizzini says the release date is undecided, but it may be before Christmas. Watch for announcements.

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2014
Hilltops, NSW

Winemaker Tim Kirk says he’ll release the new vintage of his popular Hilltops shiraz on 1 October. However, for the impatient, or thirsty, the slightly better 2013 vintage remains available in retail outlets and direct from The chances of the 2014 vintage bettering the amazing 2013 were non-existent. But in a tasting alongside two other of Kirk’s 2014s (O’Riada Shiraz and Shiraz Viognier), Hilltops rated highly indeed – albeit in a notably chunkier style than the delicate, spicy O’Riada or plush, elegant Shiraz Viognier. However, it remains medium bodied in the Australian shiraz spectrum. And, appropriately for a red from Young, the ripe fruit flavour is reminiscent of black cherry, laced with spice and savour, with quite firm, fine tannins.

Pikes “The Assemblage” Shiraz Mourvedre Grenache 2013
Pikes Polish Hill River vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia
Pike’s red blend reflects it origins in the Polish Hill River, a higher, cooler sub-region of the Clare Valley in an outstanding vintage. By proportion, shiraz leads the blend. But grenache upstages the leader with its attractive floral, fruity aroma. However, shiraz takes over on the palate, spreading its fleshy richness, albeit buoyed up by lively grenache, then, finally, being cut through with the satisfying tannins of mourvedre. The three varieties add up to a single, joyous, medium bodied, fruity red of great appeal.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 11 and 12 January 2015 in  and the Canberra Times