Yelland & Papps Devote Greenock Shiraz 2010

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Yelland & Papps wines is their lack of pretention; these are wines made for drinking, at all levels of the range. On the downside, they have sometimes shown a lack of intensity and impact that, for me, has held them back from being fully satisfying. This wine, and the accompanying Grenache, seem just a bit more structured and flavoursome than some of their predecessors; for me, they are are some of the best wines I’ve tasted from this producer.

All the benefits of a luscious, easy drinking Barossa red are here. The aroma is expressive and dark, showing a mix of plum and fruit cake plus a dash of enthusiastic oak. It’s not yet entirely integrated, nor would I expect it to be, but the flavours are classic and coherent. I like that the fruit appears to be ripe but not overly so; in fact, it seems particularly well judged in this regard. It’s not going to convert anyone to the style but will be very pleasing to fans of this region’s Shiraz.

The palate shows fresh acid and a thickness of flavour appropriate to the style. As with the nose, the flavours are ripe and full without tipping over into porty, overripe territory. The middle palate is especially attractive, its abundant fruit flowing easily over the tongue, given just enough shape by the wine’s structure. The after palate shows some young oak that should calm with time. You could probably age this for a while, but I can’t see why one would bother beyond a couple of years. It tastes so good now.

Spot on.

Yelland & Papps
Price: $A32
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Gilligan Shiraz Grenache Mourvèdre 2010

It’s sometimes said that first impressions are the truest, and I think that is often the case in wine as in life. But wine can be a funny thing, moving around under your nose, proving you right and wrong in equal measure. It’s one of the fun things about the drink, that it can be hard to pin down, and often those wines that defy you are the most alluring.

I note these thoughts because this wine, clothed in typically handsome Gilligan packaging, showed an initial face that didn’t have me swooning. The most striking aspect of the aroma profile was a stinky sulfur reductiveness, and the palate seemed dominated by an acid line that was both unbalanced and disjointed.

An hour in glass has seen a fascinating transformation, though. The aroma has lost its feral edge, though not so much as to deny the funky presence of Mourvèdre. It is angular and in two halves, bright red fruit colliding with darker, slightly vegetal notes that are as unsettling as the red fruits are cuddly. This is not an easy wine, but I will never begrudge a wine that asks the drinker to meet it half way. I keep smelling it, never quite capturing all its components in a way that makes easy sense.

While this is a brisk, bright style in terms of structure, the initially overwhelming acid has definitely folded back into the rest of the wine. There is a lovely texture that runs the length of this, acid and tannin weaving around one another in a lively dance. Above floats the sort of slightly challenging flavour profile suggested by the aroma. It is simultaneously dark, fruity, angular and oak-influenced, not pandering but at the same time showing a crisp deliciousness that encourages further tastes. The finish is particularly it notable for its harmonious mix of dried fruits and chocolate.

This certainly isn’t the sort of slutty blend some drinkers might expect, but it’s a compelling wine and one that is worth trying, especially at the price. It will benefit from a good deal of air this early in its life, and perhaps some bottle age if you have the patience. I retasted this two days after opening and it was even more cohesive, darkening a touch in flavour profile and thickening in texture.

Gilligan Wines
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Yelland & Papps Devote Old Vine Grenache 2010

This grapes for this wine are sourced from a site near Greenock that bears vines planted in the 1960s. As I taste this, I am imagining what the vineyard was like as it was being planted those 50 or so years ago; who was doing the planting, what they were wearing (essential detail), and the thought that what I’m doing right now — blogging about a wine they, in a sense, gave birth to — must have been unimaginable.

Whoever dreamed of great things for the vineyard would surely be pleased by how sympathetically its grapes have been treated here. This is a surprising wine in many respects, although I’ve long thought Yelland & Papps do Grenache especially well, so that this wine is a refined, savoury, delicate example of the varietal should not come as such a shock. But given its tendency to blow out into excess, I’m still grateful this wine has such attractive dimensions.

The nose is refreshingly savoury, even as it expresses some luscious dark berry fruit. There’s a depth and sense of layering to the aroma that encourages repeated sniffs – first some berry, then turned earth, then pointed oak. It’s neither ingratiatingly expressive nor muted; rather, the aroma expresses steadily and with confidence. The palate seems underdone at first. I thought intensity was mismatched to its other elements, but a few sips sees my sense of this wine readjusting to its dimensions. It’s actually really well proportioned, and the palate unfolds in a precise series of steps. Entry is relatively high toned, showing some florals alongside red fruit. The middle palate becomes more expansive, though never sloppy, thanks in part to a firm structure that keeps the wine focused as it moves through to an oak-driven after palate. The finish becomes quite pretty and it’s here that the wine comes together in a final flourish of notes, high to low, singing beautifully.

This is elegant and controlled, and its 14% ABV remains contained within the wine’s other elements. Excellent, adult Grenache.

Yelland & Papps
Price: $A32
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Domaine de la Bongran Viré Clessé Cuvée Tradition 2002

I have a few Jean Thévenet wines in my cellar and they always provide a completely different view of white Burgundy from pretty much anything else. This wine, from the Mâconnais, is startlingly young for its age and shows the distinctive, botrytis-tinged character that I’ve come to enjoy from Thévenet.

I experienced not-entirely-irrational anxiety as I was opening this wine, based partly on a ridiculously oxidised 2005 white Burgundy I was excited, then disappointed, about last week. This wine’s cork, on extraction, proved to be long and of an apparently high quality. Colour in the glass is beautifully golden, with not a hint of the distressing brown hue that I had feared. So far so good.

What’s really enjoyable about this wine is how it flips between the mineral-driven austerity of tighter Chardonnay styles and the opulence granted it by a hint of residual sugar and botrytis. The palate is grippy and textural, combining with a grapefruit-accented flavour profile to give the impression of pith and pips. So it moves between modes, tight then loose, acid and slight bitterness an intriguing foil to notes of marmalade and richer, riper fruit. If there’s something missing here, it relates to intensity of both aroma and flavour. This isn’t a blockbuster as its 14% ABV and slightly hot finish might suggest. Instead, the wine’s demeanour is laid back, and I suspect what it loses in impact it makes up for in food friendliness.

Cleverly made and provocative in style. Given its freshness, I might taste this again in a few years’ time.

Domaine de la Bongran
Price: $35 (ish)
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Clayfield Ton Up Moyston Shiraz 2010

This smells unbelievably good.

First, some background. Those of you who have visited Clayfield’s cellar door know how low key the whole affair is. The tasting bench and winery are one, and the adjacent vineyard, far from being a feature of the property, is almost hidden away. Simon Clayfield is a friendly, chatty fellow too, quite self-effacing, though with a charming smile and a devastating palate. It’s all very pleasant and quite inadequate as preparation for this wine, a product of the small estate vineyard.

Back to the smell. It’s not enough to describe this as regional, because that implies a sort of correct genericism that is misleadingly reductive. Yes, it’s spicy; but oh, what spice. Yes, it’s plummy; and how. This is Grampians Shiraz refined and amplified, showing an intensity and definition of aroma that is quite remarkable. There’s plenty of black pepper alongside other spices — clove, nutmeg, star anise — layered above dark, concentrated fruit and an important, well integrated layer of oak. This is a very assertive wine to smell, yet it shows absolute control despite its expressiveness. As with the best wines, it keeps changing too, each smell showing a different side of the wine.

The palate is quite classical in shape and surprisingly restrained in terms of body, which is medium rather than full. It gives the impression of being acid driven rather than primarily tannic, though tannins are abundantly present. Perhaps it’s a function of how fresh the fruit tastes. Entry is dark and textural, slipping layers of flavour onto the middle palate, where the wine sings with acid and vibrant berry fruit. This is a very young wine, so it’s not surprising that some oak sticks its neck out, slightly raw and yet to fold back into the rest of the wine. This should happen with some time in bottle. Intensity of flavour is remarkable, as is the pure line this wine follows through the after palate to its very long finish. Even though I’m predisposed to liking the region’s Shiraz, I’m having a hard time faulting this wine. It’s excellent, and I will be buying some.

Update: I’ve renamed this post to reflect the label (Ton Up Shiraz) under which this wine will be released in October. I’ve also added a retail price, below. The wine itself has barely moved over two days, tannins becoming marginally more plush, but otherwise still looking as attractive as ever.

Clayfield Wines
Price: $50
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Chardonnay 2011

When I taste a Chardonnay nowadays, my mind seems first to go to the style in which it has been made. There seems much more variety within as well as between regions compared to many other varietals. My view is that this stylistic variation is a reflection of how unsettled we are with respect to the grape, and that style is sometimes seen as synonymous with quality (or lack thereof). Ultimately, that’s a distraction that stops us from seeing these wines for what they are.

And yet I do it too and, as I sniffed this wine, I was first most curious to know how worked a style it is. The answer is: pretty worked. The nose is very young-smelling, with pineapple and grapefruit notes in equal measure. underpinned by determinedly funky smells and a lot of oatmeal. The aromas exist in layers at the moment, not intermingling as much as they might, and perhaps will with a bit of time. It’s a vibrant aroma profile, though.

The palate is, initially, overwhelming and unbalanced in its texture. It’s as if a big ball of oatmeal protrudes in the middle palate, rudely dwarfing everything else around it. This feeling never quite goes away, but the wine’s dimensions do balance out with some air, and this allows citrus and light tropical fruit flavours to emerge with the same clarity and crispness seen on the nose. Intensity is decent, especially through the after palate, where citrus flavours are joined by some nice herbal, basil-like notes. Despite the texture being quite worked, the wine isn’t over complex in flavour. Good thrust and aromatics through the finish.

Not entirely convincing, then, but there’s no getting away from the power of that fruit. I wonder what this would be like if it were made in a purer, simpler way?

Ross Hill Wines
Price: $A35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Canberra isn’t a region known for its Cabernet, although I admit I’ve always felt warmly about the few that I’ve tasted, most notably Clonakilla’s Ballinderry. This one from Shaw Estate Vineyard is an expressive, varietal Cabernet that has a lot going for it, I think.

The nose is typically dark fruited and leafy, with some surprising and welcome gravel notes too. There’s an elegance without being excessively lean or green that marks this as, for me, a stylish wine, even if angular too. No, this is what Cabernet should smell like: masculine, a bit challenging, putting aside plushness for well defined form.

The palate is more of the same, except the fruit is much more prominent here than on the nose. There’s a mellifluous streak of bright fruit that runs right down the line, perhaps simple and DMS-like but still attractive. Around this gather more leaf and gravel notes, as well as tannins that will delight texture freaks, though which may prove forbidding to less adventurous drinkers. I like their chewy confidence. Oak is present but feels subservient to the fruit’s contribution. A nice, linear finish ends the wine well. I thought this wine was a little hard at the back palate when I first tasted it but this is softening with each sip, so just be sure to give it a good swirl in the glass.

Good Cabernet and good value at $25.

Shaw Vineyard Estate
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Stefano Lubiana Estate Pinot Noir 2010

There are all sorts of lovely wines coming out of the 2010 vintage, which is always a fun thing for a wine lover (though perhaps not for his or her wallet). To my great shame, I don’t taste all that many Tasmanian wines, so when this arrived in the mail I got straight into it.

A very masculine style. I’m aware that masculine and feminine are two of the more contested, and potentially meaningless, terms in the wine lexicon, but that’s the first impression this wine gave when it threw its aroma, and one that persists on tasting. The nose is firm, dark, brooding, with a firmly savoury profile and an uncompromising stance. This is light years from seductive, pretty Pinots and, for me, asks quite different questions. Not to suggest there isn’t perfume here; far from it. It’s actually quite expressive, but its aroma is well built, full of mighty columns and firm oak.

The nifty thing about this wine is that it takes a more challenging stance, flavour-wise, without losing its suppleness in the mouth. This has delightful flow over the tongue and a voluptuous mouthfeel that caresses with its fullness and fine texture. Savoury red fruits are more in evidence here than on the nose, showing a medicinal character as well as the influence of some stalk (though I was surprised to read only five percent whole bunches went into this). Acid brightens the after palate and keeps the finish vibrant and fresh. A hint of caramel closes each mouthful.On the downside, this tastes exceptionally young and its elements are not as well connected as they will be in a little while. Hardly a flaw; more like a promise.

Top Pinot.

Stefano Lubiana Wines
Price: $A50-55
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample