Mitchell McNicol Shiraz 2006
Mitchell vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia
Winemakers regularly "fine" red wines using various agents to remove hard tannins. But bottle age remains the greatest fining agent of all for a high-quality red like McNicol. Released at nine years' age, it reveals the wonderful transformation time brings. Born deep, burly and crimson-rimmed, it's now a shade lighter in colour and ruby red at the meniscus. Deep, sweet flavours retain remnants of the original fruit, but tinged with the earthy characters of bottle age. Silk-smooth tannins add to the drinking pleasure of a distinguished, full-bodied but elegant red. Forty-five dollars seems a modest price indeed for a perfectly cellared Clare shiraz of this dimension.
Mouton Cadet Sauvignon Blanc 2013
With annual exports of a $NZ1 billion, most of it sauvignon blanc, Marlborough now sits at the middle of the sauvignon universe. But long before winemakers set foot in New Zealand, the variety thrived in France's Loire Valley and around Bordeaux, where the locals continue to blend it with semillon and muscadelle. In Mouton Cadet, however, sauvignon flies solo, giving us a zesty, fresh and affordable French variation on the varietal theme. Full marks to importer Woolworths' Dan Murphy chain for insisting on screw caps.
Capital Wines Kyeema Tempranillo Shiraz 2013
Kyeema vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Our tennis, red-wine and curry group leans to big, soft, warm-climate shirazes – fruity wines that retain flavour in the presence of the entire Indian spice cabinet, and even chilli. Surprisingly, Capital Wines Tempranillo Shiraz pleased our hard-core shiraz group at a recent dinner. Most of the eight tasters rated it wine of the night, over shirazes from McLaren Vale and the Barossa and Clare Valleys. Although lighter bodied than the shirazes, it showed the ripe, spicy fruit flavour of the warm vintage, with shiraz adding flesh to offset tempranillo's firm tannins.
Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale, South Australia
Wolf Blass, now part of Treasury Wine Estates, produces large volumes of its Yellow Label range. The wines recently shifted to regional labelling, perhaps partly in response to demand, but no doubt also acknowledging how multi-regional blends eventually drift to regions best suited to the variety. In this instance, fleshy, varietally well-defined cabernet from Langhorne Creek marries with earthier, firmer McLaren Vale material to produce a soft, fruity, drink-now cabernet of very high quality for the price.
Main Ridge Estate Chardonnay 2013
Main Ridge Estate vineyard, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Nat and Rosie White's new chardonnay seduces with its pure, ripe, succulent, varietal flavour. It shows the ripeness of the warm season. But its finesse, delicacy and ethereal lightness reveal this as the comparative warmth of a cool region. And the wine's textural richness, which adds so much to the drinking pleasure, comes from spontaneous fermentation, then maturation, in new and one-year-old oak barrels. In White's accomplished hands these potentially intrusive winemaking approaches make the wine more buoyant and delicious, subtly adorning the very attractive fruit flavours.
Thomas Two of a Kind Shiraz 2013
Hunter Valley, NSW, and McLaren Vale, South Australia
Hunter winemaker Andrew Thomas makes a range of distinctive, cellarable Hunter shirazes, including the remarkable flagship Kiss, as well as this drink-now blend. Thomas says it comprises 58 per cent Hunter shiraz, the rest McLaren Vale shiraz. He ferments the two components separately, and then blends the two for maturation in oak barriques for almost two years. The result is an harmonious, smooth red, combining the fleshy richness of McLaren Vale with the savoury, earthy character of the Hunter. It's medium bodied, with delicious, fleshy, mid-palate fruit, soft tannins and savoury aftertaste. It's "dangerously drinkable", warns Thomas.