Wine review – Gramp and Son St Hugo, Penfolds, Pikes, Ross Hill, Red Knot, Jim Barry

Gramp and Son St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – wine of the week
Coonawarra and Barossa, South Australia

In the fickle world of corporate wine marketing, St Hugo began life in the 1980s as a Coonawarra cabernet under the Orlando banner. Early this century, it joined cellar mate Jacob’s Creek’s portfolio in a failed bid to add an upmarket layer to the budget brand. Now, a revenant St Hugo stands in its own right, albeit with a nod in subtext to Gramp and Sons, Orlando’s founders. The new release – a blend of Coonawarra cabernet and Barossa shiraz – hits the right balance between fleshy, earthy, soft shiraz and elegant, firm cabernet. It’s a completely satisfying, elegant red with long-term cellaring potential.

Penfolds Max’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Wrattonbully, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Barossa Valley, Padthaway, South Australia

Max’s cabernet continues the Penfolds tradition of multi-regional blending to achieve a particular wine style – in this instance a typically full, chewy cabernet that combines savoury richness with bright fruit and elegant structure. The bright blackcurrant-like varietal fruit and elegance probably comes from the cool-grown Limestone Coast components (Wrattonbully, Coonawarra and Padthaway) – with savour and chocolaty richness from warmer McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. It’s a bright and fresh modern red, with distinctive Penfolds solidity.

Pikes The Assemblage Shiraz Mourvedre Grenache 2014
Polish Hill River, Clare Valley, South Australia

From Clare’s cooler Polish Hill River sub-region, Pikes blend combines summer-berry-like fruit aromas with spice, and an underlying earthy, savoury character. The medium bodied palate reflects the aroma, giving richness without heaviness and finishing with soft, fine tannins. Winemaker Neil Pike writes, “The 2014 vintage was another really good year for shiraz-based reds in the Clare Valley”.

Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Pinot Gris 2014
Ross Hill Wallace Lane vineyard, Orange, NSW
It doesn’t get much higher or cooler in Orange than Ross Hill’s Wallace Lane vineyard at 1015 metres altitude. The cool site brings out the varietal character of pinot gris, and winemaker Phil Kerney captures it. He presses juice from whole bunches direct to tank for fermentation by ambient yeasts. The wine is pale and bright, with delicate pear-like varietal aroma and succulent, finely textured palate. Fresh acidity and a little bite of tannin give a clean, drying, savoury finish.

Red Knot Classified Shiraz 2014
Shingleback vineyards, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Shingleback makes a couple of reds for Woolworths under the Red Knot label. “Classified” is a new product in the range, priced at about $6 a bottle above the standard McLaren Vale shiraz. Unlike the standard wine, “Classified” is all estate grown, selected for its greater flavour depth and body and all matured in oak barrels. The result is a very good McLaren Vale shiraz, offering medium-to-full body, rich, clean varietal flavour and solid tannin structure.

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Riesling 2016
Jim Barry Lodge Hill vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia
Just four months after vintage the Barry family’s riesling’s in bottle and ready to drink. Bottling often mutes riesling, but this one wafts from the glass with exuberant floral and citrus aromas. The equally vivacious palate absolutely sings with the same floral and citrus varietal character. The sheer fruitiness takes the edge off the acidity, and makes for joyous, bone-dry drinking right now. But there’s flavour intensity, delicacy and texture here, too, and this points to good cellaring potential. It’s a wine to give drinking pleasure now in its youth and across the next decade as the flavours change with time.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 15 June 2016 in the Canberra Times  and CT app