Simao and Co Vintage Fortified 2014
Alpine Valleys and Glenrowan, Victoria
This is the story of a seventh-generation winemaker, six grape varieties, purple feet and a totally slurpy wine inspired by Portugal's vintage ports. In 2013, winemaker Simon Killeen left the old family business, Stanton and Killeen, and shortly afterwards struck out on his own. Like his late father, Chris Killeen, Simon loved Portuguese port. Inspired by a vintage in the Douro Valley in 2012, he made Simao 2014 by applying traditional Portuguese techniques – including foot-stomping of crushed bunches, stalks and all, and hot fermentation – to shiraz, tinta roriz, alicante bouschet, tinta barroca, durif and touriga nacional. He fortified the wine with neutral brandy spirit. This brought the alcohol content to 20.5 per cent, arrested the fermentation and left around 60 grams per litre of sugar in the finished wine. The result is a ripe and vibrantly fruity wine, made even juicier by its slight sweetness and cut by the racy tang of brandy. It's in the approachable, elegant style of Portuguese vintage port, but should age gracefully for some decades.
Vickery Riesling 2015
Zander family Quarry and Kosi blocks, Eden Valley, South Australia
Last year MD Wines launched Vickery Watervale Riesling 2014, made jointly by former Leo Buring riesling maker, John Vickery, and Phil Lehmann. In 2015, the pair produced two rieslings, one from Watervale (reviewed two weeks back), the other from the Eden Valley. The Eden Valley lies a little further south on the Mount Lofty Ranges than Clare and, being cooler, produces a different style of riesling. The 2015 shows a highly aromatic, floral side of the variety with a strong but delicate, dry palate combining apple and citrus-like varietal flavours and powerful acid backbone.
West Cape Howe Two Step Shiraz 2013
WCH Langton vineyard, Mount Barker, Great Southern, Western Australia
For good reason shiraz remains Australia's most widely planted grape variety. Our vignerons harvest around 400 thousand tonnes of it every year, putting it a nose in front of chardonnay's 380 thousand tonnes, but streets ahead of nearest red rival, cabernet sauvignon's 220 thousand tonnes. Almost every region has its shiraz, in styles driven largely by climatic differences. In Western Australia's deep south, West Cape Howe 2013 combines bright, fresh red-berry flavours with the black pepper character seen in cooler climates. There's a savoury element, too, so it all adds up to an appealing, distinctive expression of our national red specialty.
Toolangi Chardonnay 2014
Toolangi vineyard, Dixon's Creek, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Garry and Julie Hounsell planted Toolangi vineyard at Dixon's Creek, Yarra Valley, in 1995. They hand the fruit over to various winemakers including, for chardonnay, David Bicknell of Oakridge and Willy Lunn of Yering Station. Bicknell makes the higher priced "Estate" chardonnay ($38), while Lunn makes this classy drop, which is also estate grown. It shows the juicy nectarine-like varietal flavour of Yarra chardonnay bubbling through the textures and flavours derived from fermentation and maturation in oak barrels. Taut acidity pulls all the flavours together into one enjoyable whole.
Schild Estate Grenache Mourvedre Shiraz 2013
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Who can resist the sweet, ripe fruit flavours of the Barossa in a favourable vintage like 2013 – a year marked by warm, dry conditions "but without any significant periods of severe heat", write the Schild family. Their 2014 blend leads with the appealing aromatics and ripe, red-currant-like flavours of grenache. The other varieties come into play on a solid, earthy palate, backed by mourvedre's rustic tannins and spice and the generous flavour and softness of shiraz. This is an easy wine to love – and the price is right.
Willow Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013
Willow Creek vineyard, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Established in 1989, Willow Creek arrived in the comparatively early days of Mornington Peninsula pinot noir. At the time grape growers and winemakers were learning how to manage the variety in the vineyard and winery. The blossoming really began in the 1990s, followed by a great finessing this century, as ever-better fruit arrived in wineries. In Willow Creek 2013, winemaker Geraldine McFaul captured the fruit flavour of a warm season in a cool climate. The seasonal heat shows in the great ripeness and richness of fruit flavour and firm, grippy tannin structure. This powerful combination should nourish the wine through a long cellaring life.