This is the slightly overdue write-up for the University of Melbourne Student Wine Society’s Introduction to Wine Tasting session held back in April. We ran two concurrent sessions with the same line-up of wines. One group was led stumbling down the path by yours truly, and we convened in the quiet confines of University House. This is where academics gather, and one is occasionally graced by the spirits of Nobel prize winners. I got word of wanton cross blendings of unfinished wine in the other session; there was to be none of that in my presence!
I had selected a simple, straight-forward line-up with the intention of showcasing Australian interpretations of common international varietals. And it was only fitting that we included a Hunter Valley Semillon, it is truly an under-appreciated Australian wine. These wines are easily accessible and all purchased from DM. I think the wines were of sufficient quality to speak for themselves, within an affordable price range. They highlighted the more obvious wine-producing regions of Australia, and only TAS was left out (price was part of that decision). A couple of the wines had a story or two behind them; but I wasn’t revealing all my private gossip on the night. So without further ado, here are the wines.
Knappstein Riesling 2013, Clare Valley, SA
$17 from DM. This is Riesling, clear and simple. There is no subtlety to Australian Riesling. It is the thorny dragon in the Australian Outback. The weather does not permit small white flowers; for that head to Germany.
Closed initially, but opens into an intense lemon concentrate, spritzy, roughly grated lime fruit, notes of chalky talc and citrus florals. 12.5% alc. The acidity is bold, it hits you then gives way to the sweet citrus fruit, lemon candy, lime powder. Nice clean finish. Drink now, or 2022-2025. 89-90/100. I’d have this with a cucumber/lettuce/poached chicken breast salad, or a melon-centric fruit salad.
Forester Estate Chardonnay 2011, Margaret River, WA
$25 from DM. Not from the best of vintages for Margaret River, but representative nonetheless. This might change your mind of oaked Chardonnays if that is your massive turn-off. Oak can work, as long as it is reined in by the fruit. This 2011 vintage is a fruit-driven wine that actually does well sitting on some oaky notes. A youthful nose of peach, lime, cand that touch of slightly toasted oak staves. A medium+ bodied wine, good acidity but it falls over slightly on the broader mouthfeel. Clean stone fruit flavours with that generous squeeze of lemon/lime. Probably better priced <$20. Drink now. 87/100. Would be nice with a prawn/capsicum/chorizo salad.
Tyrrell’s Single Vineyard Stevens Semillon 2009, Hunter Valley, NSW
$34 from DM. If you want to try Semillon in Australia, there is only one winery to go for: Tyrrell’s. 11.5% alc. Pale lemon colour with a green tinge. A developing nose, notes of lemon, mandarin rind, apple sprtiz and slight jasmine florals. A medium-full bodied dry white wine, the sheer acidity is impressive, although a sense that it is softening slightly with age. Lovely rich citrus fruit flavours form an impenetrable core but should mellow out over the next 10 years. Drink now – 2025. 92/100.
One of the pioneer producers that put Hunter Valley on the map, Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillons are showcase material in the right vintages. The Hunter has suffered from poor vintage conditions which has decimated the bank accounts of many producers, but hopefully that is behind them, and a return to form is soon to follow. I would highly recommend checking out Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay and Shiraz too. For another fine Semillon producer, check out McWilliam’s Mt Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon.
Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir 2011, Mornington Peninsula, VIC
$28 from DM. The Massale is the 2nd tier Pinot Noir produced by Sandro Mosele under the Kooyong label. It is accompanied by the Clonale Chardonnay and Buerrot Pinot Gris. They also produce 2 single vineyard Chardonnays and 3 single vineyard Pinot Noirs. Lots of rain in the 2011 vintage, making it difficult to obtain good fruit ripeness and concentration. The 2011 Massale is a pale-medium ruby colour, with notes of red cherry, red currants and earthy undertones. It manages good acidity, with a low level of fine grained tannins. 13% alc, it has a lighter than usual body, with flavours of red berry tart and cherry fruit. Drink now. 87/100.
NB. Do not be put off by Victorian wines from the 2011 vintage. The 2012 are a huge step up in quality and fruit weight; and if still available, try the 2010 wines.
Chris Ringland CR shiraz 2012, Barossa Valley, SA
$25 from DM. Part of the Parkerisation movement of the late 90s – early naughties, Chris Ringland’s shiraz make for legendary stuff. I had the privilege of meeting this gentle giant of a Kiwi years ago, and the richness of his wines embody the his great passion for winemaking. The $25 CR shiraz is one of the most accessible, easy drinking wines you can find on the market. Fresh blackberry, red plum, purple fruit notes with oak vanillin and slight pepper hints. It’s medium+ to full-bodied, and despite the 15% alc, doesn’t burn out your throat if you have this with a slow-cooked lamb shank or a minced beef pie. Rather weighty on its own, rich dense dark berry fruit with plums, hint of dark chocolate. The fine dusty tannins work well, and persist into the finish. Drink now. 92/100.
Parker Coonawarra Estate Coonawarra Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, SA
$23 from DM. This is the inaugural vintage of the Coonawarra Series Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit comes off vines planted in the earlier ripening northern part of Coonawarra, fermented in static fermenters before maturation in French oak followed by final blending and bottling. Dark ruby-purple colour. Youthful aromas of blackcurrant liquor, dark chocolate, liquorice with flashes of cigar tobacco and violets. Dry, full-bodied wine, high acidity with dry grainy tannins. 14.6% alc. The fruit profile is typical, displaying varietal characteristics of blackcurrants, dark chocolate and spice. Good finish, although lacking that depth to sustain the initial power. Drink now – 2017. 89/100.