Clonakilla Riesling 2013

I’m partial to a good Canberra Riesling, and the Clonakilla version tends to be pretty reliable. No wonder I’ve ended up with a bit too much in my cellar. Nice problem to have, I guess. Still, it remains a mystery to me how I can like a variety so much and drink it so little. Perhaps Riesling is the cauliflower of the wine world. To me, at least.

This isn’t the subtlest of wines right now. As it currently presents, there are powerful citrus rind and floral aromas that overlay some slatey subtleties. It’s a forthright, savoury aroma that shows this variety’s manlier side, as if the aroma has been carved from a solid block Riesling Flavour. Still, a valid style and one that has a lot of impact.

In the mouth, all that the nose promises. This is piercingly acidic, a fact underlined by strands of mineral-slate flavour that drag the wine into some pretty serious territory. Over the top, more lemon rind and powdery flowers. If I’ve a criticism of the wine as it stands now, it’s that the flavour presents as rather too emphatic and a bit shouty, which makes for some pretty tough drinking. I doubt this is at its best, though, and I think as an aged wine it will be considerably more pleasurable.

Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Dodgy Brothers Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2012

The last of Dodgy Brothers’ three new releases to grace my tasting bench and one that, in some ways, I’ve been slightly apprehensive about tasting. You see, I’m a fairly recent convert to McLaren Vale Cabernet. I used to feel the Vale’s warmer climate did strange things to Cabernet and its siblings, smoothing out some of the edges that I enjoy with this variety and substituting a certain Shiraz-like roundness. It’s true this region doesn’t produce the sort of spiky, angular wines one associates with “classical” Cabernet style. Working in the region last year, though, I saw quite a few parcels of Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Yes, these wines can be structurally quite cuddly, but at their best they are astonishingly fragranced, showing recognisably varietal aroma profiles with a rich, regional twist.

And that sums up this wine quite well. It is unquestionably expressive aromatically, and the dominant Cabernet Franc component contributes a lovely red capsicum note alongside a range of florals, spices and purple fruit. There’s a relaxation and composure to the way this wine smells that is very accessible and should be quite crowd-pleasing.

In the mouth, quite a rounded presence that seduces at first with its volume before ushering in the sort of tannin structure Cabernet lovers demand. Tannins are abundant and slightly rambunctious, giving the wine some texture and helping the wine’s darker flavour notes to persist through the after palate and finish. Flavours are full and ripe, with berries tending towards purple and black, and oak making a toasty, spiced contribution. This is very much the hedonist’s Cabernet blend, one that is unashamedly voluptuous without sacrificing the fragrance and tannin structure that makes these varieties so wonderful.

Dodgy Brothers Wines
Price: $A29
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Dodgy Brothers Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre 2012

Six parcels from four different vineyards make up this wine. Having seen winemaker Wes Pearson at work, I know the lots were probably quite small, perhaps just a few hundred kilos each. The work’s in the number of parcels rather than their size, so a wine with this many components takes a fair bit of effort despite being made in tiny quantities. Still, it’s an approach I find interesting and one, as I noted in my review of the 2012 Shiraz, with considerable heritage in Australia.

Unlike the Shiraz, this opens with a range of savoury, borderline difficult notes. To be sure, there’s fruit too; I smell raspberries and plums. But the wine’s crack of undergrowth, licorice and sea spray speak of some seriously characterful fruit and it’s only with some fairly vigorous swirling that the wine finds, to my palate, its balance. Once settled, the aroma is charged with complexity, and expresses wisps of vanilla oak in counterpoint to dense, not-overly-sweet fruit and further savoury nuances. If the Shiraz is exuberant, this is sexier, slinkier and edgier too.

In the mouth, a wine of real line and length. It slips onto the tongue with a lick of dark spice and darker fruit. The mid-palate is quite taut, held in check by both acid and tannin that betray this wine’s youth, but nothing can disguise the power and density of the fruit here. I like the tannin structure more than I did in the Shiraz. It’s finer, more textured and more even. The after palate is full of dense black berries which continue right through to the back of the mouth. Length is a highlight.

Restraint isn’t a word typically associated with McLaren Vale Grenache, but this wine demonstrates how Grenache-dominant blends from this region can show ripeness and flavour while remaining savoury and well-structured. Again, delicious, and a considerable step up from the interesting 2011 edition.

Dodgy Brothers Wines
Price: $A27
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Dodgy Brothers Shiraz 2012

Wes Pearson and the Dodgy Brothers; it could be the name of an 80s cover band. Wes, though, is the winemaker for one of the more intriguing new labels out of McLaren Vale. I tasted the 2011 Dodgy Brothers Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre and felt it in many respects transcended the well-documented difficulties of that vintage. It’s with some anticipation, then, that I taste the first of three Dodgy Brothers releases from the kinder 2012 vintage.

The Dodgy Brothers approach is to source numerous small parcels of fruit from vineyards across McLaren Vale. In many respects, this is the classic Australian way – blend-driven wines with material sourced from a range of vineyards. The twist here, though, is these vineyards are dragged into the foreground and given the respect they are due. This blend is from two vineyards, both located in the Sellick Foothills, both duly named on the informative back label.

The aroma is so regional it brought a smile to my face. Full-fruited and fresh, this shows a range of notes, from plum to blackberries, spice to Kirsch. Although it’s very fruit forward, there’s immediate complexity and the dense aroma profile is quite difficult to tease apart, such is its coherence. This, more than anything, smells like McLaren Vale Shiraz.

The palate, though flavoursome, is surprisingly restrained, and there are quite prominent, slightly grainy tannins that run right down the wine’s line. This gives the wine shape and tension as well as emphasising a range of more subtle, savoury flavours. As the nose suggests, there’s plenty of fruit packed into this wine, and it flows freely on entry only to be held somewhat in check from mid-palate onwards. It’s clearly a young wine and one that should become more generous with short to medium term bottle age. I’d be reluctant to leave this for a long time, though. One needs to taste these attractive fruit flavours while fresh and vibrant.

A truly delicious wine.

Dodgy Brothers Wines
Price: $A29
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Collector Reserve Shiraz 2007

Considerable hesitation before deciding what to drink tonight. For some reason, my wine rack (the high-throughput, on-site portion of my cellar) is full of white wines at the moment, none of which I felt like drinking. This, therefore, stood out, and when I looked up my previous note I saw a reminder to try it again about now.

On the basis of this and the recently tasted 2006, I’d say the later vintage is drinking better right now. While the 2006 is still quite youthful, this is developing some really attractive tertiary aromas and flavours that complement its full plum fruit and spiced edges well. The nose has an appealingly ripe richness, with dark plum flesh and brown spice now accompanied by truffled notes and leather. These are the flavours of good old red wine, polite enough to make themselves felt without taking centre stage. The effect is harmonious; I like where this aroma is at.

The palate is similarly balanced, though the primary fruit here is perhaps more assertive. In particular, there’s a lift of plum juice through the after palate that remains fresh. Black pepper falls over the wine’s entry and mid-palate, along with an increasingly dense thread of fruit and underlying coat of leather and earth. There’s a lot going on here, all quite discernible even if the wine lacks an ounce of precision and definition. Tannins are mostly plush, with a slight bite of astringency through the finish, while acid feels reasonably relaxed.

One would lose nothing by drinking this wine now.

Price: $A46
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Stefano Lubiana Black Label Riesling 2012

Now we’re talking. This wine, made from estate grapes grown biodynamically, is also the product of several purposeful winemaking choices: the grapes were crushed, some skin contact allowed, fermentation occurred in French oak puncheons, all this followed by six months of lees contact. All of these techniques will typically create texture and weight, as well as the development of some secondary flavours, facts that are easy to discern when tasting this wine.

The aroma is flinty and tight, with notes of citrus flower and stone dust overlaying hints of richer fruit flavour. I like the sense this wine gives of not yielding too easily; flint and smoke give the aroma profile a real blade, and it never entirely gives way to a sense of softness. Nice tension indeed.

In the mouth, a story of texture and fruit ripeness. This has plenty of flavour. Indeed, the mid-palate swells with rich candied citrus peel and luscious fresh juice, yet it is preceded by a taut entry and followed by swathes of savoury texture through the after palate, dusty and rough like a well-used walking trail at the height of Summer. Earthy, musky notes float through before the finish reverts to lemon juice and chalk. It’s a curious narrative, moving as it does from such fullness to such angularity, yet I appreciate how each taste tells a story that covers such ground.

A pretty unconventional style in Australian terms, but those who enjoy texture, or who have already acquired a taste for Alsatian Riesling, needn’t hesitate. Cellar door only.

Stefano Lubiana
Price: $A32
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

S.C. Pannell Tempranillo Touriga 2012

I purchased this at Brisbane’s excellent Craft Wine Store on the recommendation of a learned friend, who said it would be delicious.

And indeed it is. It’s funny how that can sometimes get pushed to the background with wine. Not that I believe an instinctive, hedonistic response is the only way to appreciate wine, but it’s certainly one way, and wines that immediately communicate a sense of deliciousness don’t always do so by way of simplicity. Unpicking what makes such a wine so appealing is actually far from easy.

A case in point, this one. It’s not simple — the flavour profile is quite layered — but it’s unreservedly accessible, due mostly to a core of purple fruit that I find impossibly tasty. Certainly, the wine’s fruit-forwardness is a big part of the appeal here. But there are plenty of fruit driven wines that don’t approach the attractiveness of this blend, so I think its appeal is not so much a question of balance as of the particular qualities — vibrancy, freshness, expressiveness — of the fruit here, as well as its combination of sweet and savoury elements. One might be tempted to intellectualise the flavours if they didn’t communicate so directly and, in doing so, be so resistant to study.

Structurally, tannins are a particular point of interest. They’re plentiful as well as ripe and fine such that, rather than contribute astringency to the palate, they simply create volume and density, carrying fruit to all corners and contributing a velvety opulence to the wine’s mouthfeel. There’s simply no angularity that doesn’t also have an equal and opposing answer, not to cancel out difficulty but to accompany it, to make sense of it.

It’s easy to believe great wines have to be somehow challenging, or inaccessible, in need of age, unyieldingly savoury, overtly structural, fruit-backward, and so on. Great wines can indeed be some or all of those things. But they don’t have to be. This is none of them yet I’d argue that, in its deliciousness, it exemplifies the sort of wine many of us seek out more often than not, a wine for drinking with abandon, for generous pours over dinner, for exclamations of enjoyment, each less inhibited than the next.

S.C. Pannell
Price: $A27
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Alkoomi Cabernets 2011

I lingered a little in Frankland River last May. Of all the sub-regions in Great Southern, this felt the most isolated and pastoral and, in being so, made flesh what I had until that point only been able to imagine about the region. To drive from Manjimup to Frankland River is in some ways to travel into the vastness of Australian agricultural life. Magnificent forests of impossibly tall trees give way to farmland that, in its cultivation, shows another side of the landscape’s beauty. I’d say it’s a pity it’s so isolated, but that isolation is an integral part of Frankland River’s appeal. To know you’re hours from a city of any significance makes the experience of being there so much more vivid.

I sometimes wonder about the challenge of marketing Great Southern wines. It’s as if the region’s remoteness translates to an equally remote connection those of us on the east coast feel for the producers who toil there. In any case, even a cursory taste of the region’s wines is sufficient to demonstrate this vast region, with its varied sub-regions, is capable of wines of exceptional quality. I had great visits with Alkoomi and Frankland Estate while in the sub-region, and was lucky to spend some time with Alkoomi’s winemaker Andrew Cherry when I popped in on a Sunday. Lots of wines impressed, but this particular wine stood out not just for its taste but for the value on offer.

It’s a real Bordeaux blend, this one, with all fruit harvested from the estate’s vineyard in quite a warm year. The aroma is thick with purple and black berries, and the floral lift I associate with Petit Verdot in particular. There are darker edges too, of damp twig and black spice, that add depth and savouriness to the aroma. What marks this, perhaps, as a wine of value is a certain lack of definition, of delineation between notes, that means the aroma tends to blurriness. Nonetheless, a nice wine to smell.

The palate tells a similar story. Berry flavour floods the mouth and is of a quality and character that far transcends its price point. This wine has especially good continuity down its line, with no unseemly peaks or troughs. It’s medium bodied and fresh-tasting, with ripe tannins that tighten the after palate and introduce a welcome textural dimension. As with the nose, flavours tend to blur into one another, and the wine lacks the sort of precise articulation one sees at higher price points.

Still, a real bargain at $18 and a great taste of Frankland River Cabernets.

Price: $A18
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Robert Stein Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2009

I’m quite sure the tide will turn in favour of Australia’s heritage styles eventually. Right now, the (often deserved) attention being paid to our Chardonnay and Pinot wines comes at the expense of wine styles with genuine lineage. I’m thinking of dry Riesling, fortified wines and, of course, the Cabernet Shiraz blend. As things stand today, this wine from Mudgee is firmly on the wrong side of fashion.

Which is a shame because, as many have remarked before me, there’s a lot to commend this particular blend. Shiraz’s tendency towards flesh on the mid-palate can work well with a leaner Cabernet, giving weight to the latter’s focus and structure. I sense when tasting this wine that the components are working in harmony. The dominant influence is certainly Cabernet, and the wine is quite linear on the palate. But there’s some sweet juiciness too, a swell on the mid-palate, that screams Shiraz. The balance struck between the two seems right to me and, while it’s not a wine that prioritises finesse, it does retain an elegance of fruit despite its fundamentally ballsy character. The wine’s region also sings loudly, with a characteristic red dirt/dust note featuring on both nose and palate.

I do find, though, that oak plays a fairly strident role in the wine’s flavour profile at present. It’s glossy and glamourous for sure, yet I can taste it quite separately from the fruit, which suggests a bit of time for it to integrate would be of benefit. Acid is also a smidge disjointed at the back of the palate, leading to an orange juice, sweet-sour impression as the wine moves through its final moments. So, a wine that remains youthful and edgy, in need of time.

Robert Stein
Price: $A60
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Leasingham Bin 7 Cellar Selection Riesling 2000

I’ve been steering clear of Riesling since my return from the Mosel. Not that I’m sick of it; indeed, quite the opposite. I enjoyed the Rieslings there so much I’ve been hesitant to dive back into different expressions of the grape. For my return foray, I opened this, an older wine and one that I’ve documented here on Full Pour in the past.

As with my tasting in 2008, this bottle had a Stelvin cap that was fairly welded onto the bottle. It shed a fair bit of crust once I finally wrangled the thing loose. You’d never know it from the condition of the wine, though, which was pristine and youthful.

Shockingly youthful, in fact. Clearly, wines do develop under screwcap (let us not even entertain the contrary notion), but if this wine is any indication they can age slowly, gracefully and cleanly. I don’t regard any of these attributes as bad; indeed the wine exploded from my glass with a mixture of fresh and tertiary aromas. Lime, toast, honey, spice; a range of notes that are both totally correct and very fine. I’ve tasted some Australian Rieslings that showed an unattractive broadness in middle age; this, though, is still tight and linear, even as its developed flavours express.

In the mouth, still taut with acid and lean of line. I don’t imagine this was one of those especially intense wines as a youngster, which translates to a fairly gentle experience now in terms of impact and density of flavour. Unlike the Elizabeth Semillon I had the other day, this wine’s lack of intensity sits better within its style. This is about lightness of countenance and delicacy above all else.

Welcome back.

Price: N/A
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail