Life Begins At » Wine Companion Winter 2014
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Wine Companion Winter 2014

[hr]There’s an awful lot to like about the new generation of Australian Shiraz. Sure, richly oaked, rich fruited (typically South Australian) Shiraz may well be the ‘classic’ Australian style, but we’ve seen an extra level of spice and savouriness creeping into wines from across the nation recently that is seriously welcome.[hr]

The Lethbridge Indra Shiraz featured in this issue is the perfect example of just how far this stylistic evolution has come, the wine showing the sort of wonderfully meaty complexity that only makes for improved drinkability – both now and in after several years in the cellar.

Perhaps the only criticism of such an evolution is that tannins are still not getting the attention they deserve, with far too many Shiraz produced locally lacking the tannic drive of comparable wines from around the world.

Then again, do drinkers really love biting tannins or is a plush finish still favoured more than anything? What do you think? 

Drink: 2014-2018
Would I Buy it?: Yes

Cracking Import

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2012 

(Marlborough, NZ)  14%, Screwcap, $40

I’ve always been puzzled why Chardonnay is considered the ugly sister in Marlborough. Even the vignerons seem to treat it like an also-ran, even though the best wines are really, genuinely good.Is it because of Chardonnay’s ubiquitousness? Is Chardonnay that uncool?

Regardless, this new Cloudy Bay Chardonnay deserves celebrating. Over the years, this wine has suffered a little from heavy-handed oak treatment, yet this vintage seems to be almost spot on, despite what was a cool and challenging year.

Part of the secret seems to be some very careful winemaking, with partial malo helping to avoid any stodginess and the new oak dialed back to just 20 per cent.

There is a clay/play-doh white chocolate oak character from the 100 per cent barrel ferment, but it seems to be nose only, the palate driven by fruit richness and underpinned by driving grapefruity acidity (a highish TA of 7.8g/L just backs up the perception of that acid freshness).

I looked at this Chardonnay over the course of about an hour and it continued to impress. It needs 12 months, but no questioning the class and detail of this wine.

Easily the best Cloudy Bay Chardonnay in years. 

[hr]  Top Tassie White 

Drink: 2014-2020
Would I Buy it?: Absolutely

Stefano Lubiana Black Label Riesling 2012

(Tasmania) 12.5%, Screwcap, $27

Riesling is a little forgotten in the context of Tasmanian winemaking, seemingly overtaken by the charms of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Methinks there is considerable scope, however, for more Tassie Riesling’s like this – wines made with a little more palate complexity (derived from barrel fermentation and six months on lees in this case) and/or carefully judged sweetness.

In that context, this Stefano Lubiana is an impressively congruent wine, tasting wonderfully complete and assured with not a hair out of place.

It smells quite Mosel Kabinett-like actually, with cut melon, grapefruit and white pepper, but tastes drier and more grapefruiy, the acid line not distorted by the RS on the palate, everything finishing juicy and luscious, punctuated with a soda water like briny freshness.

This is a very complete wine, needing perhaps just a little more fruit intensity to be absolutely sublime.

Pretty close though (and a mightily enjoyable drink). 



Shiraz fineries 

Drink: 2014-2020
Would I Buy it?: Yes

Lethbridge Indra Shiraz 2010

(Geelong, Vic) 14%, Screwcap, $95

I did a double-take when I saw the price of this. $95? Woah. That’s some serious dollars, even for as celebrated a producer as Lethbridge. Lucky this is damn good. 

It’s difficult to not think about Cote Rotie really, such is the nose of ham, black pepper, deep red fruit, sausage meat and a whiff of the farmyard (the good part of the farmyard – possibly with cows).

It smells… right. The Viognier (2%) is not noticeable, neither the 100% new oak. There’s a masculinity to this red which sets it apart from some other Geelong Shiraz, the leanings more towards Guigal ‘La Las’ than something more fragrant and pretty and Hermitage-esque.

The tannins, too, are long, gritty and serious – serious enough for a $95 wine, with the tannic chew of something twice that amount.

Ultimately I approached this Lethbridge Shiraz with skepticism (again, $95 is not pocket change) but came away more than impressed.

Would love to put this in a blind lineup with some Cote Rotie for I reckon this would be very competitive indeed.

Damn good.


Torzi Matthews Schist Rock Shiraz 2012

Drink: 2013-2019+
Would I Buy it?: Yes

(Eden Valley, SA) 14%, Screwcap, $20

Dom Torzi calls this wine the ‘Son of Frost Dodger’ as it shares the same fruit as the Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz, and is matured in ex Frost Dodger barrels. No dried grapes in this wine though, the style a little more conventional (in context).

What a delicious wine it is too – you really can’t ask for much more Shiraz for $20. Deep and richly purple in colour the nose all fruitcake, blackberry, cola and a liberal dose of black pepper.

The palate is slick and slippery yet with fine chocolatey tannins and sufficient power to stop it falling into fruit bomb territory, a slight alcohol warmth the only speed hump on the admirably intense finish. It’s made without cynicism, just ripe textured Shiraz fruit and careful handling.

Huge thumbs up from me with an extra point for sheer drinkability.



Andrew Graham About Our Reviewer reviewer featured

2009/10 WCA Wine Journalism ‘Young Gun; Wine Judge; Gourmet Traveller WINE and Breathe Hunter Valley magazine contributor; LattéLife columnist; National Liquor News Tasting panellist and Chablis lover who fell into the liquor industry chiefly to buy cheap beer. Over a decade later and I’m still here, now studying towards a Masters of Wine Technology and Viticulture, and still spending all my money on beer and wine.

For more reviews visit my site the Australian Wine Review at which is dedicated to talking about my obsession – everything vinous…

Twitter: /ozwinereview
Facebook: /AustralianWineReview

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