Yelland & Papps Second Take Grenache 2013

I’ve always been particularly drawn to this producer’s Grenaches, feeling they capture the easy appeal and drinkability of the variety especially well. This wine, from the Second Take range, represents an attempt to diverge from standard winemaking practices, although in this case the process used is starting to look rather mainstream: some whole bunch, no fining, no filtering. A fair bit of new French oak (36%) rounds out the regime.

Not that it’s especially evident, such is the exuberance of the fruit. This shows the expressive aromatics of Grenache to full advantage, with red fruit and flowers taking centre stage, supported by some sap, coffee grounds and spice. It’s appropriately fresh at this stage, smelling like the young wine it is and, such is the appeal, one would have to gain something pretty interesting with bottle age to compensate for the vibrancy of its youth.

In the mouth, correspondingly transparent and fresh. It’s not a heavy wine, being just medium bodied and briskly acidic. Fruit is boldly sweet and verges on confected, but steps back into a network of savoury spice and sap in the nick of time. The after palate becomes progressively tauter, with flavours darkening slightly as the finish concludes on mostly oak-driven terms, some loose-knit tannin adding welcome texture. Still, it’s a wine that will reward lovers of fruit-forward styles, and won’t dominate a meal or demand too much contemplation.

Update: holding up remarkably well after a couple of days; in fact, it’s more coherent than it was when first opened. Deceptive longevity.

Yelland & Papps
Price: $A40
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Cherubino The Yard Acacia Vineyard Shiraz 2011

A counterpart to the Riversdale Vineyard wine, this is a catalogue of things that are good about Frankland River Shiraz. It’s also by far the more accessible of the two Cherubino wines, being a more suave, slinky wine than the rather forbidding Riversdale.

The nose is dark, as befits a wine of the region, yet it expresses the most wonderful range of spice notes alongside concentrated, savoury berry fruit. Despite its spiciness, there’s a restraint at play and a sense of full ripeness that allows fruit to cushion more angular notes, including some fairly glossy oak. Mostly, though, this smells cool, pure and vibrant, hallmarks of this region’s Shiraz at its best.

The palate’s structure strikes me as beautifully balanced, and tannins in particular are a highlight. On entry, a bright, brisk expression of red and black berries, flowing to a mid-palate that remains taut while allowing the fruit’s considerable intensity to shine. It’s only medium bodied, but such is the impact of the fruit and deliciousness of the tannins, it quite fills one’s mouth. The after palate connects cleanly and carries through to a savoury, slightly oak-driven finish.

This is my favourite of the various Frankland River Shirazes I’ve tasted of late and, at $35, is good value.

Update: a couple of days on and this is still firing on all cylinders. Wonderful velvet tannin.

Cherubino Wines
Price: $35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Castelli Frankland River Shiraz 2009

Given the isolation of Great Southern, it’s not surprising several producers don’t bother with a cellar door. Shame, though, for those who do make the effort to visit, as I did last year. Not much to do other than order a mixed dozen or two, as I recently did from Castelli Estate. This is the second Castelli wine I’ve tasted from my experimental order, the first being a 2010 Shiraz that seemed quite lean and mean alongside a selection of other cool climate Australian Shirazes of the same vintage.

This edition is, if my memory is any sort of guide, a tad more generous, though it remains a firmly savoury wine. The aroma is quite lifted, with some fairly blunt oak alongside dark fruit, twig-like vegetation and less spice than one might expect of Frankland River Shiraz. I wish it were more defined and precise in the placement of its aromas. Although it’s distinctive and, in its lean way, regional, it’s also a pretty difficult aroma to warm to, mostly due to the directness of its oak component and the aggressiveness of its lift.

The palate is more satisfying, primarily due to an acid structure that delineates each flavour clearly and provides the wine with shape and articulation. There’s also a bit more substance and flesh to the fruit here that rounds out what threatens, aromatically, to be a fairly lean experience. Tannins are well-placed and slightly hard, giving the wine a firm finish. There are flashes of humanity here and there, some fruit to sink into, but these are the exception. The style here is, generally, rather unyielding.

I’ve certainly tasted Frankland River Shiraz with greater purity of fruit, vibrancy and complexity, and respect the region’s potential. Although this shows a genuine sense of place, for my palate it lacks the tension and interest that characterises really exciting Shiraz of the region.

Update: day 2 and the wine has settled somewhat. The aroma remains dark, with a hint of reduction I hadn’t initially noticed, while the palate has evened out and is showing brighter, quite attractive fruit. Still lacking in definition, but I suspect some time in a decanter will help it show to its best advantage.

Castelli Estate
Price: $A28
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Topper’s Mountain Red Earth Child 2011

As perhaps the only Nebbiolo, Shiraz, Tempranillo and Tannat blend made in Australia (the world?), this piques one’s curiosity simply because of what it is. Such a blend might scream “left overs” to some, but this is Topper’s Mountain’s flagship red blend, which in itself signals a seriousness of intent. The project here, as was discussed in my review of the 2009, is to create the best blend possible in any given year from the Topper’s Mountain vineyard. The approach is appropriately responsive – this blend bears little resemblance to the earlier wine in its varietal composition.

And, indeed, there are marked sensory differences too. This is a bright, fragranced wine, the aroma infusing one’s senses with tea leaf, red fruit, brown spice and the sort of intensely aromatic florals that suggest eucalypts rather than anything more exotic. There’s quite a lot going on in fact, the whole light and transparent. It’s a nice wine to smell.

In the mouth, the wine’s light weight and high toned flavours are immediately evident. This is such a delicate wine, with more red fruit and spice winding their way around fine acid and subtle tannin. Yes, despite Nebbiolo and Tannat in the mix, this doesn’t come across as especially tannic, though the tannins present are fine and ripe, more velvet than grain. For me, this wine’s pleasures centre on its gentle, savoury flavours — which are surprisingly intense — and a general sense of effortlessness.

Another interesting entry in the Red Earth Child project, then, if not one inclined to call attention to itself.

Topper’s Mountain
Price: $A38
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Dandelion Vineyards Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling 2012

Ancient vines, single vineyard, etc. Boxes ticked, for what that’s worth. But oh, this is an interesting wine. It’s very Eden Valley in a lot of ways but is anything but middle-of-the-road, stylistically.

First of all, there are all sorts of textures going on — chalky, tingly, delightful textures that pass over the tongue in waves from quite early in the wine’s line. Working back from here, a taut flavour profile sits atop this catalogue of mouthfeels, very delicate in nature with as much minerality as fruit. It’s like a talcum powder softly fragranced with green apple, pretty but fundamentally dry and savoury. I feel a tension at play, partly a texture-flavour one, but equally between flavours, and I wonder if there’s some marginal ripeness here. Certainly, some tastes strike me as edgy and green, though this never overwhelms the experience of the wine. Acid is fine and firm, and surely contributes to the wine’s impressive length.

This certainly isn’t going to convert anyone to our dry Rieslings, but it’s a really characterful example of the intellectual end of the genre.

Dandelion Vineyards
Price: $A27.50
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Toppers Mountain Gewürztraminer 2013

Today’s delightfully unnecessary luxury product comes to me courtesy Topper’s Mountain Wines in New England. I first tasted wines from this producer about two years ago and it was immediately obvious there’s a slightly off-centre point of view at play. Not just some unusual varieties, but unusual handling of familiar varieties. This Gewürztraminer is a good example.

I fear Gewürztraminer a little because, with its monoterpene-heavy Muscat vibe, it can go from fragranced to Grandma in the slip of an incontinence pad. This treads that line finely. The aroma is, indeed, classic Gewürztraminer. Lychee and rose petals, musk and must. As with the best perfumes, though, there’s something delightfully rotten at its core, a subtle note of civet perhaps that drags the shamelessly florid dimensions of the aroma back into uncomfortable territory.

The palate is strikingly fine. What I like most here are its balance and form, which showcase a fullness appropriate to the flavour profile without ever broadening too much through the mid-palate. Flavours aren’t grotesquely proportioned either; there’s almost incredible restraint considering the variety, though this doesn’t come at the expense of any flavour ripeness. A chalky texture roughs up the after palate, absorbing some of the wine’s excesses and allowing the finish to be clean, vibrant and long.

A really excellent expression of Gewürztraminer and one I’d be happy to drink with an extravagant salad.

Toppers Mountain
Price: $A35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Blue Poles Allouran 2010

Although its Reserve Merlot is positioned as the flagship, Blue Poles Vineyard’s Allouran is usually my favourite in the range. For starters, I do enjoy a bit of Cabernet Franc. To this label, it contributes a light elegance that has always struck me as especially attractive, and this 2010 vintage wine is no exception. This might be the most refined expression yet.

Aromatically, this blends the floral and ripe red capsicum notes I associate with Cabernet Franc with the graphite I associate with Merlot from this vineyard. It’s a good combination, the aroma profile capturing a full range of notes from high toned to bass. It’s not especially fruit-sweet, but there’s a core of the prettiest, most luxurious red berries surrounded by ripe flowers. Oak is there, providing a few extra notes around the edges.

One would have to enjoy a bit of acid to really love this wine and, as it happens, I do. Entry is bright with red fruit and sap, moving to a mid-palate of good focus and precision. There’s a hint of expansiveness here that suggests the wine will grow in weight and generosity with time. Even now, it’s intense and complex. The after palate is strikingly savoury and presents a mix of red capsicum and coffee grounds that move naturally into a tannin structure of considerable finesse. Indeed, texture becomes the primary pleasure as the wine moves through its extended finish.

Although this is a 2010 vintage wine, it’s not yet released and rightly so — it’s still incredibly young-tasting. Very good value. I do believe I’ll be buying some.

Blue Poles Vineyard
Price: $A28
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Mitchell Harris Sauvignon Blanc Fumé 2013

Mitchell Harris has evolved a clever direction for its Sauvignon Blanc. Whilst remaining recognisably varietal, this wine benefits from a range of winemaking inputs including a portion of wild fermentation and maturation in oak. The result is a style that contains the variety’s signature flourishes in a slinky, sophisticated package.

The aroma is equal parts gooseberry and wood, each well balanced with respect to the other, all underlined by some subtly funky notes. There’s something substantial yet crystalline about the aroma profile. Its notes possess the freshness of the variety, giving up some of the sharp distinctiveness of a Marlborough wine in exchange for an attractive depth and gloss. I can see a lot of happy noses buried in this wine in Summer.

In the mouth, a slippery, bright experience. Entry is slick, fruit flavour riding a glossy texture through to a mid-palate that broadens with tropical fruit and caramel. It’s not a confrontingly complex wine, but there’s a good range of sweet and savoury notes, and the whole is quite expansive. Texture becomes progressively more layered as the wine progresses, the after palate showing a really substantial mouthfeel, slightly reminiscent of a caramel chew. The finish is clean and herbal.

This is such a nice style.

Mitchell Harris
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Stefano Lubiana Estate Pinot Noir 2012

My esteem for this producer grows over time. Never a maker of easy Pinot styles even at entry level, this Estate wine, made entirely from biodynamically grown fruit, has something to say about Pinot from the Derwent Valley.

On opening, the aroma is deeply ferrous, smelling of blood and rust and all things manly, telling a confronting story that gradually softens with the emergence of dark cherry fruit. This is rich, almost liquerous, in character, and sits below the aroma’s savouriness, like wool undies under a suit of armour. There are other notes too — undergrowth and crushed leaf — that fold easily into a nose that is a strip tease of forbidding lusciousness. Personally, I love how different this smells from so much Australian Pinot. It’s unabashedly savoury, with a muscularity that continues to flex even as the aroma evolves with air.

In the mouth, predictably structured and intense. Stylistically, this is a “take no prisoners” wine, presenting on entry with firm acid and good density of fruit. Despite some heft and generally dark flavours, the palate structure is quite sprightly, thanks in large part to that acid, but also to tannins that are chalky and firm towards the back of the palate. Flavours flow well with nary a peak or trough, though they are, understandably for such a young wine, not as integrated as they will be in time. Even an hour or swirling brings notes closer together, so give it plenty of air if drinking now. Length is there, needing a slight attenuation of structure to fill out.

This speaks so strongly of place, and I’m drawn in by its narrative. A terribly good wine, then, with its best days firmly ahead.

Stefano Lubiana Wines
Price: $A50
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Domaine Denis Mortet Marsannay Les Longeroies 2009

From the “value” village of Marsannay comes this lieu-dit by Gevrey Chambertin-based producer Denis Mortet. It was recommended to me and my dining companion by the affable Alan Hunter at E’cco Bistro. I probably would have glanced past this on the list, but Alan’s recommendation was spot on; this is why we love good sommeliers.

The wine itself is tremendously honest and full of flavour. Aromatically, it begins with rustic spice and undergrowth, joined quickly by some bright fruit notes, mostly in the red berry spectrum. I like the sinewy character of the aroma; it’s quite complex, with plenty going on, but there’s always room to move between notes, such that it never smells overwhelming.

In the mouth, a palate structure that complements its flavour profile perfectly. Here continues a run of berry fruit and lignified twigs, supported by a frame of tannin that feels expansive and textural. Although only medium bodied, the wine’s architecture is spacious and allows flavours to articulate cleanly on the palate. The overall impression is of a certain rusticity, which isn’t code for anything unpleasant, more a reflection of the wine’s straightforward character and lack of artifice.

Enjoyed this one a lot.

Domaine Denis Mortet
Price: $A200 (wine list)
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail