Wine review – Clonakilla, Craggy Range, Tate, Yalumba, Jacob’s Creek

Clonakilla Ceoltoiri 2015
Clonakilla vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Clonakilla’s push into Rhone Valley wine styles began with shiraz and now extends into varieties once thought to be too late ripening for the Canberra climate. However, in warm seasons like 2015, grenache, mourvedre and cinsault ripen fully and join shiraz in the fragrant, light-coloured Ceoltoiri (musicians), modelled on the Rhone’s Chateuneuf-du-Pape. The grapes come, “From a one acre block personally tended by Clonakilla founder and Irish fiddle player John Kirk”, writes winemaker Tim Kirk. The 2015 leads with the sweet, inviting fragrance of grenache. Delicious grenache flavours flow onto the palate, too, backed by spicy and earthy flavours and amazingly slick, slippery tannins. It’s very young and fruity now but should take on more earthy, savoury character with even short-term cellaring.

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2015
Hilltops, NSW


What if Canberra had been located at Young, centre of the Hilltops region? Would our winemakers be known fuller, rounder styles in the warmer climate? And would they have used grapes from Murrumbateman for their secondary wines? We’ll never know. We can be sure, however, that winemaker Tim Kirk’s entry-level red captures the deep, sweet, black-cherry-like flavours of Hilltops shiraz. The intense fruit flavour comes with spice, savour and satisfying, smooth tannins.

Craggy Range Chardonnay 2015
Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

The spare, stony soils of the Gimblett Gravels wine region, likened by some to hydroponic growing, produce unique wines, some of breathtaking quality. From those soils, Craggy Range gives us a particularly delicate, refined take on chardonnay. Fermentation and maturation in barrels impinge not at all on the soft, delicious, lemony palate – other than providing a deep, smooth texture and subtle barrel-influenced aftertaste.

Tate Franklin Tate Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2015
Margaret River, Western Australia

The Tate family founded Margaret River’s Evans and Tate in the early seventies. The business now belongs to McWilliams, but Franklin Tate continues to make Margaret River wine under his own label. His version of the region’s much-loved sauvignon blanc-semillon blend gives lashing of fresh, vibrant fruit flavours, with typically pungent, herbaceous edge. It’s fresh, dry and made to drink now.

Yalumba Y Series Tempranillo
South Australia

Yalumba’s work on its more expensive wines, combined with extensive grape sourcing, results in cheaper wines of very high quality. For as little as $10 (you can pay more if you want) Y Series gives a big mouthful of juicy, ripe tempranillo flavour. It’s clean, fresh and vibrant, soft enough to drink now but with sufficient tannin to give structure and finish.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Barossa, South Australia
A third certainty, after death and taxes (large companies excluded), is the perennial discounting of Jacob’s Creek wines. The now confusing array of wines under the label includes this extraordinarily rich, solid cabernet, anointed with the two apparently meaningless terms “reserve” and “signature”. While we choke on the superlatives, we can happily drink this sturdy, sweet-fruited Barossa cabernet and marvel how much pleasure we get from such a modest outlay.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 27 April 2016 in the Canberra Times