This is a very good merlot from Shaw Wines and the Canberra district. The aroma reminds of cedar, black fruits, dusty plums and soy. The palate continues the cedar character, but is balanced by ripe fruit and medium-long length on the finish. Approachable now, it should improve with a further five years in the cellar. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14%. Price: $28. Website: shawwines.com.au. Source: Sample.
This is an outstanding cabernet sauvignon from Shaw in the Canberra District. Who knew this region was capable of producing this level of quality with cabernet sauvignon? Deeply coloured, it opens to classic cabernet aromas of clove and cassis. The palate has fresh acidity, prodigious length and quite approachable tannins. This wine can be approached now, and should drink well over the next 5-8 years. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $65. Source: Sample.
Lerida Estate have 9.6 acres of pinot noir in the Canberra District. I think of Canberra as shiraz viognier territory and, for whites, riesling and grüner veltliner. The reality is, as with many of Australia’s wine regions, a number of grape varieties are given their chance. As a case in point, this producer produces several pinot noirs, and has planted half their estate to it.
Lerida Estate Cullerin Pinot Noir 2014, Canberra District
The “Cullerin” is the better of the two wines. From the steeper slopes, it has aromatics that remind of stem and leaf, with cherries in the background. The palate has cherry, vanilla, butter and lactic characters which require some integration; resolving in this case into a gentle expression of pinot noir. Rating: Acceptable to Good
Lerida Estate Lake George Pinot Noir 2014, Canberra District
The “Lake George” has muted aromatics of blood and bone, earth and glacé cherries. The palate is quiet in expression. Rating: Acceptable
Pencil it in. The Canberra District can do four grape varieties consistently well – shiraz/viognier blends, riesling and grüner veltliner. Lark Hill have fashioned the benchmark grüner veltliner for this region and dare I say Australia, and the 2015 continues the seam of form. Aromatics of white florals, star jasmine, lime and meal. The palate is medium bodied with a delicate expression of stones and minerals. Another excellent release. Very Good
Abv: 12.5%, Price: $25, Source: sample, Vendors and website: http://larkhillwinery.com, Tasted: 2015
I have grown quite partial to white Rhône blends, and happily, a few local versions have arrived on the doorstep over the past week or so providing quite impressive quality/value propositions. The grape varieties involved are marsanne, roussanne and viognier in varying styles and proportions, with each satisfying in their own way.
But first a brief note on the grape varieties themselves. Marsanne makes full bodied white wines and tends to higher yields, forming part of the blend in white St-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage in the northern Rhône and in white Côtes du Rhône more generally. It can tend to produce flabby wines, left to its own devices. In Australia, it finds homes in Nagambie and the Yarra Valley, as well as a smattering of other regions. Roussanne is also allowed in blends of white Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and St-Joseph, but suffers more from issues in the vineyard than marsanne (irregular yields, powdery mildew and rot, among others). It is aromatic and has some acidity, and adds these characters in blends with marsanne, which contributes the body. Its Australian footprint is small. Viognier tends to produce wines that are high in alcohol and colour, low in acidity and with powerful aromatics of apricots and stone fruits. Its finds its most famous homes in Condrieu and the tiny Chateau Grillet in the northern Rhône valley. In Australia, it is grown all over but appears to perform best in cool to temperate regions with great care applied in the vineyard and winery.
Here are a few local versions that impressed.
d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2014, McLaren Vale
A blend of 74% viognier and 26% marsanne from McLaren Vale fruit. Golden in colour, with highly aromatic expressions of apricot and honey. The palate has nice length and balance, with mid range acidity, a full body and some spritz on the finish. Very drinkable, and great value at only $15. Good
Abv: 13.2%, Price: $15, Source: sample, Vendors and website: http://www.darenberg.com.au, Tasted: 2015
Lark Hill Mr. V Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier 2014, Canberra District
A completely different style here. A blend of the 3 varieties with fruit from the Canberra District. Also golden in colour, it has aromatics of apricot, quince, fig and yellow apples. Towards full bodied, the palate has good length and balance. Partial fermentation on skins adds some texture and interest. Good wine. Good to Very Good
Abv: 13%, Price: $35, Source: sample, Vendors and website: http://www.larkhillwinery.com, Tasted: 2015
Lark Hill Viognier 2015, Canberra District
Picking early is usually a risky thing to do, but it succeeds here. The result is a viognier with very delicate floral, stone and apricot aromatics. The palate is finely poised and mid weight, with a floral and apricot expression. A very enjoyable style of viognier at a low alcohol level that disappears quickly in the glass. Good
Abv: 11.5%, Price: $25, Source: sample, Vendors and website: http://www.larkhillwinery.com, Tasted: 2015
This is another excellent shiraz viognier release from Lark Hill in the Canberra District. The 4% viogner contribution is co-fermented with the shiraz, and adds some texture, weight and a stone fruit kernel character. If Clonakilla has set the benchmark for the S-V blend in this region and probably for Australia, this one isn’t at all far behind at less than half the price. It has aromatics of pepper, plum and spice. The palate seems Rhône influenced with flavours in that peppery red plum spectrum with hints of apricot stones from the viognier, good length and a likeable purity of expression that left me wanting more. Very Good
Abv: 13%, Price: $40, Source: sample, Vendors and website: http://www.larkhillwinery.com, Tasted: 2015
Jasmine. There’s something exciting about seeing a consistent and unique floral character evolve in Lark Hill’s riesling from the Canberra District. Terroir is frequently spoken of, but this is the real thing. This is a super enjoyable new release, with its aromatics of jasmine, white flowers and lemon rind. The palate is dry, the alcohol modest and there is a lovely balance between its acid and flavours; neither too racy, nor too obvious. Very Good
Abv: 11.5%, Price: $35, Source: sample, Vendors and website: http://www.larkhillwinery.com, Tasted: 2015
Viognier works in the Canberra District. It avoids, in good hands such as those of Lark Hill, the oily and flabby characters that it can take on elsewhere. Clonakilla opened my eyes to the potential of viognier in the region, and Lark Hill continues to affirm it here with another good viognier release at a much gentler price. Grown biodynamically, part of the grapes are fermented in old oak with wild yeasts. In the glass, there are aromatics of soft apricot, talc, stone and white nectarine. The palate has a balance and harmony to it, with good length on the finish. This is a very fresh style of viognier that appeals.
Jasmine. At least, that’s what seems to come to mind when I taste a riesling from the Canberra region. Since a tasting of several vintages of Canberra riesling some years ago with Tim Kirk, when Clonakilla was still only almost famous, I have find myself partial to the potential of this region with the riesling grape. This example from Lark Hill seems more or less a vin de garde, with aromatics of lemon, yellow grapefruit and that floral edge. The palate is framed by high acidity and its medium length finish is a firm and youthful expression of lemon and yellow grapefruit. A good riesling for the cellar.
This is a very good shiraz viognier release from Lark Hill, certainly the most complete rendition of this Canberra region speciality that I have tasted from this producer. Deeply coloured, it has aromatics of cherry, red plum and plum skins intermingled with some raspberry and earth characters. There’s long length and depth on the palate, with some peppery characters emerging with air. Should this description prove insufficiently alluring, I have miscommunicated. One to buy.