My top five wines of the year: Australia
The end of the year is an opportunity to reflect on which wines made the most lasting impression. This week, find out which wines really captured my imagination for my areas of focus: Australia, the Loire, Portugal and South Africa.
First up is Australia – you’ll find my top five wines of 2010 below (in no particular order). And what about yours? Why not post a comment with your top five?
Helm Wines Premium Riesling 2010 (Canberra District, New South Wales)
Ken Helm’s Rieslings took my breath away – why hadn’t I heard of these wines before? This, his flagship single vineyard Riesling, is positively tensile ‘n tightly coiled, with a flinty quality to its brilliant bright but subtle lime on the palate. Very, very good with incisive length and great precision.
Kooyong Farrago Chardonnay 2008 (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria)
A lovely nose, mineral with a clay tang as well as flowers and lemon zest. In the mouth, it’s tightly coiled with a backbone of citric acidity, as yet barely fleshed out with applely fruit and lemon zest. A long if tight finish shows hints of dried honey – tons of potential. A terrific example of contemporary Australian Chardonnay.
La Violetta La Ciornia 2008 (Great Southern, Western Australia)
The first Shiraz to convince me that Western Australia can come up with the goods Shiraz-wise. It’s a little animal, with smoky bacon on the nose and palate, balanced by a lovely, sublime even, lift of violets and subtle spice, also the freshness and purity of its well-defined blackberry fruit. Intense not dense, this is a delightfully nuanced, characterful, mid-weight Shiraz with a dash (2%) of Viognier.
Tyrrells 4 Acres Shiraz 2006 (Hunter Valley, New South Wales)
A stellar example of a new breed of Australian less is more wines. First, because it hails from a block next to the winery planted in 1879 from which every second row was pulled in 1964 to allow for cultivation by tractor, leaving only 2.2. acres under vine. Second, because, until 2004, the grapes disappeared into Vat 9 Shiraz. And third, because it’s deliberately made in a traditional “Hunter Burgundy” medium to lighter-bodied style. Quite pale and weighing in at a bantam-like 12.4% abv, its long and seductive palate shows a lovely purity and saturation of creamy red and black cherry and berry fruit supported by supple tannins.
Wendouree Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (Clare Valley, South Australia)
Wendouree has been going its own, glorious, individual way since forever, without regard to fad or fashion. It’s been a bit of a Wendouree tasting bonanza this year (see here) so it’s hard to single out one wine, but this is the one. With its leesy, feral nose and lean entry, it’s not in a hurry to impress, but then it makes its presence known, building in the mouth with an impressive show of intensity. A visceral wine. With time to tame, 3-5 years, I reckon this will start to strut its stuff and reveal its true potential. One for the long haul.