Chris Shanahan: Canberra link to McWilliams' Appellation Series Syrah 2014

Chris Shanahan


McWilliam's Appellation Series Syrah 2014
Canberra district, NSW
Points: 90

Last year McWilliam's launched its "appellation" range, devoted to wines from the southern NSW high country. But the company staked its first major claim in the region in the 1980s when it acquired Young's (now Hilltops region's) oldest vineyard, Barwang, from the Robertson family. The new range offers wines from Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Orange and this supple Canberra syrah (aka shiraz). A medium-bodied style, it offers typical Canberra red-currant-like fragrance and spice on a finely textured, supple, smooth palate.

De Bortoli Deen Vat 1 Durif 2013
Riverina, NSW, and King Valley, Victoria
Points: 88

McWilliams Appellation Series Syrah 2014 (Canberra region).
McWilliams Appellation Series Syrah 2014 (Canberra region). Photo: Supplied

Durif is an accidental cross of shiraz and peloursin, first identified by Francois Durif at Montpellier, France, in 1880 and brought to Australia by Francois de Castella in 1908. It thrived in our hot growing regions, notably at Rutherglen, Victoria. There it became the region's signature red variety – loved by many for its porty ripeness, inky colour, burly tannin structure and long cellaring life. Modern versions like De Bortoli's retain the variety's generous, ripe flavours and deep colour, while mellowing the tannins for early consumption. It's a big, loveable mouthful of a wine at a fair price.

Jacob's Creek Classic Riesling 2015
South-eastern Australia
Points: 90

Humble Jacob's Creek often upstages more expensive wines in Australian wine shows. In the 2015 National Wine Show of Australia, for example, this riesling's cellar-mate, Classic Pinot Gris, topped the pinot gris class and won the trophy as the best "Dry white, other variety" in the show. Jacob's Classic Riesling, an even better wine on my score sheet, captures the aromatic appeal and lime-like flavour intensity of this great variety – on a delicate, dry and beautifully refreshing palate. It's consistently one of the best value whites on the market. In great vintages like 2015, it steps up another notch to give outstanding summer drinking at a low price.

Penny's Hill Skeleton Key Shiraz 2012
Penny's Hill vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Points: 94

With bottle age reds move away from primary fruit flavours towards savouriness, while retaining the essential "sweetness" of the grape. Coming up to four years' of age, Penny's Hill 2012 sits in this delicious drinking stage. It remains bright and fresh, but the deep, sweet fruit flavours are now edged with a black-olive-like savouriness and layered with satisfying fruit- and oak-derived tannins. It's a big and rich but harmonious wine, best chilled to around 18 degrees to capture its many flavours.

Leo Buring DWR18 Leonay Riesling 2014
Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia
Points: 96

Leonay is Australian riesling royalty, descended from beautiful, long-lived whites created by John Vickery in the 1960s. Amazingly, and despite numerous changes of ownership and management over the decades, the wine retains its integrity. And, thanks to the screw cap (championed by Vickery while working for rival company Richmond Grove in the late '90s), the wines evolve magnificently for many years. We recently tasted the 2014 for the second time and love its intensely lime-like, yet delicate, fruit flavour and very long, fresh finish. It's a special drink indeed and should evolve for many years in a good cellar.

Bream Creek Chardonnay 2012
Bream Creek vineyard, Marion Bay, Tasmania
Points: 94

Tasmanian vineyard consultant, Fred Peacock, grows grapes on his beautiful Bream Creek vineyard, then collaborates with Winemaking Tasmania to produce wine. Peacock holds his wines back for a few years before release. He says they're a bit shy at first and need time to develop. We tested his 2012 vintage chardonnay with local oysters and Lake Conjola prawns recently and found a fine match in the chardonnay's fine structure and racy acidity. The rich fruit flavours came through deliciously, too, with the fuller flavour of fresh prawns.