Chris Shanahan continues his two-part series on the top 10 best wines produced in Canberra during 2014. Here is his selection for the best whites.
TOP 10 WHITES
Ravensworth 'The Grainery' 2013 $27–$30
Murrumbateman, Canberra District
Winemaker Bryan Martin describes The Grainery 2013 as, "a blend of mainly marsanne, roussanne, chardonnay and viognier, plus a mixture of aromatic varieties, riesling, pinot gris, gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc". Whole-bunch pressing and spontaneous fermentation in oak barrels produced a bright, medium-lemon coloured, full flavoured wine. Richly textured, bordering on viscous, with a pleasantly tart, melon-rind-like bite, it's a most loveable and distinctive dry white.
Rusty Fig Savarino 2014 $16.50–$23
Rusty Fig vineyard, Bermagui, NSW
In 2002, Gary Potts and Frances Perkins planted the 1.6-hectare Rusty Fig vineyard near Bermagui. However, their Spanish white variety, albarino, turned out to be France's savagnin blanc. So they coined the name 'Savarino' for this delicious medium bodied, savoury dry white – made at Brindabella Hills Winery, Hall, by Brian Sinclair. It's available at Plonk Fyshwick, several south coast bottle shops between Moruya and Eden and by the dozen only online (at rustyfigwines.com.au).
Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner 2014 $45
Lark Hill Vineyard, Lake George Escarpment, Canberra District, NSW
The Carpenter family describe 2014 as, "one of the most challenging vintages to date" at Canberra's highest vineyard. Frost and unsettled spring weather disrupted flowering, reducing the crop. But what remained of the Austrian variety, gruner veltliner, successfully weathered the hottest, driest summer and wettest autumn on record. Spontaneously fermented in older oak barrels, the wine offers aromas of spice and melon and a richly textured palate with unique flavours reminiscent of spice, herbs and melon rind. Steely acidity accentuates the flavours.
Coppabella "The Crest" Chardonnay 2012 $20–$30
Coppabella vineyard, Tumbarumba, NSW
Jason and Alecia Brown own the 68-hectare Moppity vineyard in the Hilltops region and the 70-hectare Coppabella vineyard at higher, cooler Tumbarumba. The Browns produce three beautiful chardonnays, including "The Crest". This is genuine cool-climate chardonnay, with grapefruit-like varietal flavour and the thrilling acidity that gives the wine elegance, freshness and great length of flavour.
Courabyra 805 Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier 2001 $65
Gairn family Vineyard, Tumbarumba, NSW
Courabyra is a collaboration between Stephen Morrison and his sister and brother in law, Cathy and Brian Gairn. Together they own some of Tumbarumba's earliest plantings, developed from 1981 specifically for sparkling wine production. As the wine predates the Courabyra brand, we can assume Ed Carr originally made it for Hardy's ill-fated Canberra winery, Kamberra. This gold-medal winner delivers delicate, fresh fruit flavours, brisk acidity and the patina of textures and flavours derived from a decade's maturation on yeast lees. (Available at courabyrawines.com).
Helm Classic Dry Riesling 2014 $35
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
"Our vineyards and some of those in our region and other parts of NSW and Victoria suffered pretty badly as a result of the frosts in October", writes Ken Helm. He salvaged sufficient Murrumbateman fruit, however, to make his excellent Classic Dry Riesling, though not enough to make the flagship premium product. Classic Dry 2014 impresses for its brightness, clean citrus-like varietal flavour, and steely, dry finish.
Mount Majura Riesling 2014 $27
Mount Majura vineyard, Canberra District, ACT
Canberra 2014 vintage rieslings earned several big gongs during October. Four Winds Vineyard won a gold medal at the Melbourne show. And at Canberra's International Riesling Challenge, Mount Majura won trophies as best dry riesling of the show and best Canberra district riesling. It offers aromatic and delicious, full-throttle varietal flavour with quite high acidity that refreshes and accentuates the fruit flavour.
Nick O'Leary "White Rocks" Riesling 2013 $37
Westering vineyard, Lake George, Canberra District, NSW
Canberra winemaker Nick O'Leary sources grapes for White Rocks from one of Canberra's oldest vineyards, planted by Captain Geoff Hood in 1973. These venerable old vines, with huge trunks, produce tiny crops of powerfully flavoured grapes. From them O'Leary makes an extraordinarily concentrated riesling – a wine of great power but also of finesse and delicacy.
Four Winds Vineyard Riesling 2014 $22
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
The impressively aromatic, purely varietal Four Winds riesling won gold at the 2014 Royal Melbourne Wine Show. The intense flavour belies the mere 11.2 per cent alcohol. However, with that intensity comes a high level of acidity that gives some austerity to the palate. This is normal for Canberra riesling and is easily resolved by giving the wine another 6–12 months in bottle.
Jeir Creek Riesling 2014 $25
Jeir Creek vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
Rob and Kay Howell's Jeir Creek Riesling 2014 won a gold medal at this year's Canberra Regional Wine Show. The aroma combines lemony and floral varietal characters that come through, too, on a generous, fruity palate. Typical Canberra acidity cuts through the fruit, giving great freshness in a pleasantly tart lemony way. The combination of rich fruit and high acidity promises a pleasant flavour evolution for some years in a good cellar.