Wine review – Andrew Thomas, De Bortoli, Chalk Hill, Larry Cherubino, Soumah, Pike and Joyce

Andrew Thomas Synergy Shiraz 2014
Lower Hunter Valley, NSW
Hunter winemaker Andrew Thomas writes, “There’s talk of 2014 being the best vintage since 1965. Well I was only a twinkle in my old man’s eye back then, but it’s safe to say that 2014 is certainly a once or twice in a generation kind of vintage – the best I’ve made in all my time up here”. That’s a big call for a bloke just completing his 30th Hunter vintage. Synergy, the lowest priced of six Thomas 2014 shirazes on the Chateau Shanahan tasting bench, packs a huge, chewy wad of ripe, earthy Hunter shiraz flavour. It’s fuller bodied than usual for a Hunter, and more firmly tannic, though completely harmonious and a great joy to drink. Released on 16 May, this may be one of the best red-wine buys of the year.

De Bortoli Riorret “The Abbey” Pinot Noir 2013
Abbey vineyard, Tarrawarra, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Some wines make a good first impression but don’t invite another glass. Others, like Riorret, taste OK at first, then grow in interest and, glug glug, the bottle empties all to quickly. Riorret’s sweet mid-palate fruit and soft tannins created the initial, easy-drinking impression. A few glasses in and the pure varietal flavour emerges, along with underlying stemmy and savoury characters – and a rich, smooth texture created by the tannins. It’s a delicious pinot noir experience, one to linger over and savour. A little bottle ageing might add another dimension to the wine, but it’s already irresistible. “Riorret” is simply “terroir”, the French term for a vine’s total growing conditions, spelled backwards.

Chalk Hill Luna Shiraz 2014
McLaren Vale, South Australia

Chalk Hill steps away from the traditional, more fleshy McLaren Vale shiraz in this lean, taut style, spiced up with a small amount of the Italian variety, barbera. While barbera comprises just five per cent of the blend, its potential influence is consistent with the wine’s vivid colour, summer-berry fruitiness and fresh acidity. The acidity, in conjunction with tannin, gives the wine a strong backbone and savoury finish.

Larry Cherubino Pedestal Pinot Gris 2015
Wilyabrup, Margaret River, Western Australia


Larry Cherubino’s impressive pinot gris treads a line between fatter pinots gris and leaner versions, generally selling under the Italian name pinot grigio. Pedestal shows fresh and apple- and pear-like varietal flavour on a medium-bodied, yet smoothly textured palate. Although the texture comes from fermentation and maturation in year-old French oak casks, the wine shows little oak flavour and instead relies on delicious fruit flavour.

Soumah Savarro 2015
Yarra Valley, Victoria
In 1989 the CSIRO bought a woolly pup from Galacia, Spain – a fact it learned some twenty years later. What the CSIRO believed to be the Spanish white variety, albarino, turned out to be savagnin. By then Australian vignerons, including the Butcher family at Soumah, had about 150-hectares of “albarino” in the ground, all of it sourced ultimately from the original CSIRO holdings. But the Butcher family moved on, and created Savarro as its name for the savagnin variety. It produces much the same style of wine as albarino – close enough that even experts struggle to tell the difference. The 2015 pleases with its full body, smooth, juicy texture and vibrant, spicy finish.

Pike and Joyce Pinot Noir Rapide 2015
Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

From Lenswood – a high, cool sub-region of the Adelaide Hills – Pike and Joyce make two pinots: a serious $38 version and the drink-now Rapide. It’s light in colour and body and offers vibrant, strawberry-like varietal aroma. However, the palate delivers more of the pinot flavour spectrum than the aroma suggests – from fruit, through savour and a stemmy character, perhaps derived from inclusion of whole bunches (stalks included) in the ferment. Surprisingly strong, albeit very fine, tannins give real grip and dryness to the finish of this pleasing, light, luncheon red.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 12 and 13 April 2016 in and the Canberra Times