Wine review – Robert Stein, Cockburn, Domain Day, Irvine, Majella, Van Volxem

Robert Stein Riesling 2015
Stein and Mirramar vineyards, Mudgee, NSW

With his 2015 vintage, winemaker Jacob Stein takes us away from traditional floral, delicate Australian rieslings. Thirteen per cent alcohol puts it at the bigger end of the variety’s style spectrum. Then spontaneous fermentation on skins of a component, and barrel-fermentation in old oak barrels of the pressings, bring extra weight and grip to the palate. The result is a ripe, full, dry (if not bone dry) white that retains citrus-like riesling flavours and racy acidity. This is an impressive and interesting riesling, heading off in its own direction.

Rockburn Pinot Noir 2013
Gibston and Parkburne, Central Otago, New Zealand


At two degrees south of Australia’s southernmost vineyards, Central Otago produces wines of greater body and ripeness than we might expect at the latitude. But the area’s dry, sunny, continental climate produces distinctively powerful pinots that fetch high prices in world markets. Rockburn provides a taste of the style in a warm year. Vibrant, dark-cherry-like varietal flavours back an assertive palate, comprising fruit, warming alcohol (14 per cent) and strong, fine, drying tannins. Winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis writes, “This pinot is generously proportioned but remains taut for the moment”. I agree. A year or two in bottle should bring all the flavour elements together.

Domain Day “S” Saperavi 2004
Mount Crawford, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Impressed by its longevity, winemaker Robin Day planted the Georgian red variety saperavi at Mount Crawford. Day writes “I have my vineyard and cellar door on the market as I aim to retire and write (an anecdotal travelogue is half written)”. While we wait for Day’s hilarious stories, his wines seep into the market, sometimes at very low prices. His 2004 saperavi, for example, can be found on for $24 by the dozen, while Dan Murphy offers the 2005 vintage at $28–$29. The 2004 appeals for its warm, earthy, mellow aroma and rich, firm, medium-bodied palate. It’s fully mature now and a delight to drink.

Irvine “The Estate” Shiraz 2014
Barossa Valley, South Australia
The Wade and Miles family recently purchased Jim Irvine’s brand and Eden Valley property. The revamped label now draws fruit from wider sources, including the Wade and Miles family’s Barossa Valley vineyards. Sam Wade writes, “The wine styles are also moving towards a fresher, brighter style in response to the changing palate of the consumer”. However, the Barossa’s warm-to-hot climate hasn’t changed. So the new, lighter style shiraz belies the reality of its warm origins. It’s a very pleasant, clean, fruity red of medium body, soft tannin and drink-now appeal.
Majella Shiraz 2013
Majella vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia

Majella shiraz caught our attention from the very first vintage, 1991 – the year the grape-growing Lynn family began its gradual, and now complete, transition to winemaker. Their shiraz, though elegant and fine boned in the Coonawarra style, nevertheless requires cellaring to bring out its best, perhaps even more so in the powerful 2013 vintage. Behind the light, vivid, limpid colour lie deep, sweet berry fruit flavours, tightly bound up in fine but assertive fruit and oak tannins. The wine has its charms now, but from past experience we can expect the delicate and lovely fruit to flourish with a decade or so of cellaring. First reviewed in July 2015, the 2013 vintage looks even better half a year later, especially given its outstanding cellaring record.

Van Volxem Saar Riesling 2013
Saar River, Mosel wine region, Germany
Roman Niewodniczanski’s historic wine estate, at Wiltingen, Germany, makes a range of single-vineyard rieslings as well as this dazzling blend from steep sites on the Saar River. At Manta Restaurant, Woolloomooloo, bone-dry Van Volxem 2013 served both as an aperitif and company for a variety of juicy, NSW oysters. Delicate yet intensely flavoured, with a laser edge of acidity, the wine suited the food, the moment and the setting. The unique combination of power and delicacy of Saar and Mosel rieslings comes from the very cool growing conditions at around 49 degrees north. The Saar flows north into the Mosel near Trier. Wines from both rivers belong to the official Mosel wine region. Imported by Fox Beverages and available by order through fine wine retailers.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 30 March 2016 in the Canberra Times