Wine review – McKellar Ridge, Four Winds, Swinging Bridge, Hay Shed Hill, Pike and Joyce, Toppers Mountain

McKellar Ridge Shiraz Viognier 2015
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Due for release at the April Harvest Festival, Brian and Jane Johnston’s shiraz-viognier shows the exceptional fruity depth of Canberra’s 2015 vintage. ­­Round, plush and seductive, the palate ripples with vibrant, ripe-berry flavours. Brian Johnston says he accentuated the fruit flavour by using more new French oak than usual, but reducing the time in oak by about five months. It’s a noticeable change and one that worked deliciously in the outstanding 2015 season. The wine remains medium bodied and spicy in the Canberra mould, with a special buoyancy and depth.

Four Winds Vineyard Shiraz 2014
Four Winds Vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Graeme and Suzanne Lunney planted the 13.4-hectare Four Winds vineyard in 1998 and 1999, during BRL Hardy’s tenure in Canberra. Hardys are long gone, but the family now makes and markets wine under the Four Winds label. Daughter Sarah Collingwood looks after marketing and husband John Collingwood manages the vineyard. Another Lunney daughter, Jaime Crowe, and husband Bill Crowe, make the wine. The family’s 2014 reveals a fragrant and gentle side of Canberra shiraz. Vibrant, berry fruit flavours, a touch of spice and savoury oak, and a round, soft, palate complete an appealing, medium-bodied style.

Swinging Bridge Mrs Payten Chardonnay 2014
Orange, NSW


Tom Ward’s Swinging Bridge chardonnays demonstrate the varietal intensity achieved in Orange’s high-altitude vineyards. His current releases include this lovely Mrs Paytens 2014 and a reserve bottling (4.5 stars–96 points, $38), also from the 2014 vintage. Mrs Payten – a richer, rounder style for Orange – seduces with ripe, nectarine-like varietal flavour and refreshing, brisk acidity. The reserve version echoes those nectarine-like flavours in a leaner, tighter style of great intensity. These are classy drops from a region that makes excellent wines, yet struggles to create a clear style identity as Canberra has with its shiraz and riesling.

Hay Shed Hill Shiraz Tempranillo 2013
Margaret River, Western Australia

Michael Kerrigan fermented and matured shiraz and tempranillo separately before combining the two in this solid, loveable blend. At 86 per cent, shiraz dominates the blend, giving a sweet, mid-palate ripeness and flesh. But the tempranillo brings earthy, savoury characters and assertive tannins that cut through the bright, berry flavours, giving a long, grippy finish. Kerrigan writes, “Margaret River has experienced an unprecedented sequence of outstanding vintage – all with their own twists and turns but all of the highest quality. 2014 will prove to be another highlight in this run”.

Pike and Joyce “Separe” Gruner Veltliner 2015
Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Austria’s national white variety, gruner veltliner, now grows in several cool Australian regions, including Canberra and the Adelaide Hills. The Clare based Pike family source theirs from Lenswood, a particularly cool part of the Adelaide Hills which, like Clare, lies on the Mount Lofty Ranges. The 2015 gruner tingles and pleases with its richly textured palate and tart melon-rind and pear-like flavours. It finishes dry and refreshing with a distinctive spicy aftertaste.

Toppers Mountain Gewurztraminer 2015
Toppers Mountain vineyard, Inverell, New England, NSW
Gewurztraminer’s remarkable aroma – reminiscent of musk and lychee – tends to attract at first, then repel with its unrelenting attack on the senses. I’ve toyed with the variety for about 40 years, since falling in and out of love, in one evening, with a particularly heady version from Alsace. The fascination returned recently with tastings of the 2014 and 2015 vintages from Mark Kirkby’s Toppers Mountain vineyard. The 2014 tasted so pure and delicate at the Winewise Championship; and a few days later the new-release 2015 showed similar class. This is dry, intense gewürztraminer of the highest order. It’s a wine to admire, but probably not drink much of.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 8 and 9 March 2016 in  and the Canberra Times