IN 12 months in which a host of superb 2011 Hunter Valley reds hit the market, my 2013 Wine of the Year is a shiraz from a seven-year-old wine venture established by the owners of a 5870-hectare South Tamworth cattle stud.
The Leogate Estate 2011 Western Slopes Reserve Shiraz, crafted by winemaker Mark Woods from grapes grown on the western slopes of what was the Rothbury Estate Brokenback vineyard in Broke Rd, Pokolbin, is my Wine of the Year, Red of the Year and Shiraz of the Year.
At the 2013 Hunter Valley Wine Show it won the Len Evans Trophy for best named vineyard wine and the Drayton Family Trophy for best named vineyard dry red and I awarded it five and a half stars in my August 21 review.
The review noted that the wine has 14per cent alcohol, with deep, dense purple hues and cassis and bouquet garni scents. Intense blackcurrant flavour rolls onto the front of the palate and Satsuma plum, dark chocolate, molasses and cloves fruit characters meld with vanillin oak on the middle palate. Persistent fruit flavour and minty tannins come together at the finish.
I awarded five and a half stars to only seven other wines, three of which come from the Hunter – the Brokenwood 2011 Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, the Pokolbin Estate 2004 Hunter Valley Semillon and the Audrey Wilkinson 2006 Museum Reserve Semillon (2), which is my Wine of the Year runner-up, White Wine of the Year and Semillon of the Year.
My other five and a half stars wines were the $115 2010 Moss Wood Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, the $31 Mount Langi Ghiran 2010 Cliff Edge Shiraz, the $150 Wynns 2010 John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon and the De Bortoli 2008 Noble One Botrytis Semillon, priced at $33 a 375ml bottle.
Leogate’s owners Bill and Vicki Widin are long-time wine enthusiasts who took the plunge into wine production in 2007 and 2008. They bought the two sections of what was the Rothbury Estate Brokenback vineyard, recognised as a special piece of dirt by Len Evans during his reign as chairman of Rothbury between 1968 and 1996.
The Widins have built a new high-tech Leogate winery, a spacious cellar door, tasting rooms and the Villa du Pays Restaurant and Function Centre.
The Leogate Estate 2011 Western Slopes is still available at the 1693 Broke Rd, Pokolbin, cellar door or on leogate.com.au and sells for $115 a bottle or $80.50 to Leogate club members.
It comes out of a Hunter shiraz harvest that rated 10 out of 10, in dramatic contrast to the rain-drenched wipeout of 2008 and poor 2011 red vintages throughout the rest of NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
The other 2011 Hunter shiraz reds to vie with the Western Slopes are the Leogate 2011 The Basin Shiraz, the Brokenwood 2011 Graveyard, the Brokenwood 2011 Mistress Vineyard Shiraz ($75), the $60 Andrew Thomas 2011 Kiss Shiraz, the $35 2011 Sweetwater Shiraz, the Hart and Hunter 2011 The Hill Shiraz ($47), the $190 Meerea Park 2011 Black Shiraz and the $45 Oakvale 2011 Single Vineyard Shiraz.
Shiraz reds from other regions that rated highly with me were the $180 Grant Burge 2008 Meshach Shiraz, the $65 Nugan Estate 2006 Matriarch Shiraz, the $120 Kalleske 2010 Johann Georg Shiraz and the $65 McWilliam’s 2008 1877 Shiraz.
IF 2011 Hunter reds excelled, the same can be said of the region’s 2013 semillons, wines like the $36 Andrew Thomas 2013 Braemore Semillon, the $25 Gartelmann Hunter Estate 2013 Benjamin Semillon, the $30 Gundog Estate 2013 Poacher’s Semillon, the $50 Lindeman’s 2013 Reserve Bin 1350 Hunter Valley Semillon and the $22 Krinklewood 2013 Hunter Valley Semillon.
Top of the tree, however, are these bottle-aged semillons – the $50 Pokolbin Estate 2004 Hunter Valley Semillon, the $50 McGuigan 2006 Bin 9000 Hunter Valley Semillon, the $40 Margan 2008 Aged Release Semillon, the $35 RidgeView 2009 Generations Reserve Semillon and the $100 Audrey Wilkinson 2006 Museum Reserve Semillon.
The Audrey Wilkinson 2006’s amazing vibrancy and freshness made it my choice as White Wine of the Year and Semillon of the Year and it is available at the De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin, cellar door or on audreywilkinson.com.au.
It is green-tinted light gold and has lime zest scents with a whisper of lantana. Beautiful, elegant lemon flavour comes through on the front of the palate and elements of mineral, Granny Smith apple and sherbet, with as-yet restrained honey and toast, chime in on the middle palate.
Slatey acid refreshes at the finish.
At the 2013 Hunter Valley Wine Show it won the Petrie-Drinan Trophy for best white wine, the Maurice O’Shea Trophy for best currently available dry white and the McGuigan Family Trophy for best premium-vintage dry white and scored the 97-point top gold in 2011 and older semillon class.
It was made by Tyrrell’s chief white winemaker Andrew Spinaze, while Tyrrell’s was contract winemaker for the brand.
The Pokolbin Estate 2004, which is available in limited quantities at the McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin, cellar door or pokolbinestate.
com.au, has the extra distinction of being judged the champion semillon in Winestate magazine Wine of the Year awards.
THE Wynns 2010 John Riddoch (3) is my Cabernet Sauvignon of the Year, winning by a whisker from the 2010 Moss Wood.
I was much impressed by the $80 Wynns Messenger 2010 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, the $65 Lake’s Folly 2011 Hunter Valley Cabernets, the $40 Wild Duck Creek Estate 2011 Vat 1 Alan’s Cabernets from Heathcote, the $40 Katnook Estate 2011 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, and the $32 Hamelin Bay 2009 Five Ashes Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River.
Made from Tasmanian Huon Valley grapes by Hunter-based former Wirra Wirra and Tower Estate chief winemaker Samantha Connew, the $50 Stargazer 2012 Tasmania Pinot Noir (5) is my Pinot Noir of the Year.
Others in my top rank are the $60 Holm Oak 2010 The Wizard Pinot Noir from Rowella, north of Launceston, and the $45 Shaw and Smith 2012 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir.
My choice as the top Other Red Varieties wine is the $40 Margan 2011 Limited Release White Label Hunter Valley Barbera (7), edging out the $55 Cape Mentelle 2011 Margaret River Zinfandel, the $45 Kalleske 2011 Old Vine Barossa Grenache and the $38 Topper’s Mountain 2010 Nebbiolo from Tingha.
ANOTHER Hunter barbera, the $20 Catherine Vale 2011 Winifred Barbera ( 11, page 27) wins the Red Bargain of the Year title.
Owners Bill and Wendy Lawson planted vines from this classic Italian variety in 1998 and this is 2011 is the best barbera they’ve produced. It can be bought at the 656 Milbrodale Rd, Bulga, cellar door or on (02)65791334 or catherinevale.com.au.
Two $15 reds made from the Spanish tempranillo variety, Mr Mick 2010 Clare Valley Tempranillo and the Chalkboard 2011 Adelaide Hills Tempranillo, are great-value drinking, as is the $19.95 Grant Burge 2010 Daly Road Shiraz Mourvedre.
The Red Blend of the Year is the $49 Cape Mentelle 2010 Wilyabrup (9), a mix of 48per cent cabernet sauvignon, 41per cent merlot and 11per cent cabernet franc from within the Wilyabrup sub-region of Western Australia’s Margaret River area.
A close contender is another Western Australian wine, the $40 Frankland Estate 2010 Olmo’s Reward. It’s a combination of 58per cent cabernet franc with 35per cent merlot and minor infusions of cabernet sauvignon and malbec.
The $60 Robert Stein 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz from Mudgee and the $40 Hunter-sourced Meerea Park 2011 Indie Shiraz-Pinot deserve commendation.
Rosés have been growing in popularity over the past year and wine companies have been putting extra effort into the style.
The Rosé of the Year in my book is the $19.95 Domaine Chandon 2013 Pinot Noir Rosé (14), an elegant strawberry flavoured drop with nuances of cherry, musk and anise. It is from the Yarra Valley arm of the giant French Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy group.
Another Yarra Valley wine, the $20 De Bortoli 2013 La Boheme Act Two Pinot Noir Rosé ranks highly.
TWO wines from Western Australia’s Margaret River Region, one from the Hunter and one from Orange vied for my vote as Chardonnay of the Year and the winner comes from the beautiful wine estate established in 1991 by Michael Wright, the son of Lang Hancock’s partner in WA iron ore discoveries.
The $45 Voyager Estate 2010 Chardonnay (4) displays lovely ripe golden peach front palate flavour, followed up on the middle palate by pear, citrus and macadamia shortbread fruit characters underpinned by cashew oak.
Michael Wright died at the age of 74 in 2012 and his family has maintained his commitment to exemplary winemaking.
Wine of almost equal merit to the Voyager 2010 are the $42 Cape Mentelle 2012 Margaret River Chardonnay, the $69 Tyrrell’s 2009 Vat 47 Hunter Chardonnay and the $35 Cumulus 2011 Chardonnay from the 508-hectare Orange area Rolling vineyard controlled by the big Portuguese Berardo wine group.
A chardonnay is my White Wine Bargain of the year and it comes from Jason and Alecia Brown’s Moppity winery, south-east of Young.
The $17 Lock and Key 2012 Tumbarumba Chardonnay (12) is available at moppity.com.au or at the cellar door in Moppity Rd, Young. It is made for the Moppity second label from grapes from the 71-hectare Coppabella vineyard at Tumbarumba, purchased by the Browns in 2011.
My pick as 2013’s Best Other White Varieties wine is the $16 Two Rivers 2013 Hidden Hive Verdelho (8), which was awarded the Jay Tulloch Trophy for best current-vintage verdelho and won a gold medal in 2013 verdelho class at last year’s Hunter Valley Wine Show. It’s available at the 2 Yarrawa Rd, Denman, cellar door, on tworivers.com.au and in shops and restaurants.
Other good ’uns are the $36.59 Pierrepoint 2010 Pinot Gris, from Jennifer and Andrew Lacey’s vineyard in western Victoria’s Henty area, the $22 Mitolo 2013 Jester Vermentino and the $20 Catherine Vale 2012 Emmi’s Arneis, which can be bought at the 656 Milbrodale Rd, Bulga, cellar door or on (02) 6579 1334 or catherinevale.com.au.
AT $23 a bottle, the Leasingham 2012 Bin 7 Clare Valley Riesling (6) is a brilliant buy and top of my Riesling of the Year list.
It’s a perfectly focused white and was judged the best dry white at the 2012 National Wine Show in Canberra.
My other favourite rieslings are the $28 Pokolbin Estate 2007 Hunter Valley Riesling, Sam Connew’s $30 Stargazer 2013 Tasmania Riesling, the $22 Jim Barry 2013 The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling and the $45 Frankland Estate 2012 SmithCullam Riesling, From Western Australia’s Frankland River area.
The year’s White Blends category is dominated by sauvignon blanc-semillon wines from Western Australian Margaret River, with my best being the $34 Juniper Estate 2011 Aquitaine (10).
It is 60per cent semillon and 40per cent sauvignon blanc and has crisp lemony front palate flavour backed up by gooseberry, mineral and lime zest fruit characters integrated with subtle cashew oak on the middle palate. It is in wine stores and on juniperestate.com.au.
Other admirable ones are the $45 Suckfizzle 2009 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon and the $21.95 Bussell 2012 Grace Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon, which is available on bussell.com.au, email@example.com, and 1300543543 and in some bottle shops and restaurants.
THE De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis semillons have a place among the great dessert wines of the world and so it comes as no surprise that my Sweet Dessert Wine of the Year is the $33 De Bortoli 2008 Noble One Botrytis Semillon (13).
The first Noble One was produced 32 years ago in the De Bortoli winery at Bilbul by De Bortoli managing director Darren De Bortoli and his father Deen.
The $13.90 De Bortoli 2008 Deen Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon, the $22 Margan 2010 Botrytis Semillon and the $25 Shottesbrooke 2011 1337 Adelaide Hills Botrytis Sauvignon Blanc were others that scored well with me.