St Hugo Shiraz 2012

St Hugo ShirazI’ve always associated the St Hugo name with the Coonawarra and its spicy Cabernet, so when I recently opened a bottle of “St Hugo” expecting the familiar peppery nose, I was understandably surprised to be confronted by a bouquet of dark chocolate and ripe plums! This was no ordinary Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon I thought to myself…..and I was right. Because the “St Hugo” was in fact a 2012 Shiraz from the Barossa, sold under the same St Hugo label.

The 2012 St Hugo was still under cork and sold under the “St Hugo” and Gramp & Sons badge.  Gone is the Jacob’s Creek label along with the screw cap, and any hint of Cabernet for that matter!

Ironically, despite the change in genus, the 2012 St Hugo is typical of a high end Rowland Flat or Moorooroo Shiraz…just like those at Jacob’s Creek (whose branding has now left the label)!

It’s a powerful Shiraz with rich Christmas cake and dark red fruits surrounded by an aura of opulence. On the mid-palate, there are hints of a raisinesque jubiness that is somewhat subdued by cedary clove and moderate tannins. It’s still a mouth filling and generous style that has a sweetness on the edges, but enough structure to keep it respectable.

It will be interesting to see what the transition to the Gramp & Sons brand does to its price – but at sub $40 a bottle, it’s a pretty good buy!

TarraWarra Estate 2012 Merlot

TarraWarra Estate Merlot2Often described as soft, mellow or subdued, Merlot is a style of red wine that is naturally low in tannin yet still graced by youthful red fruit characters that make it velvety smooth and easy to drink; even if you’re not a red wine lover.  In the Bordeaux region in France, Merlot is the most widely grown grape; hence its prominence in those delightful blends like the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines that combine all the best features of Merlot, Grenache and Shiraz.

In many ways it’s a shame that Merlot is under-represented in this country.  By area under vine in Australia, we have over four times as much Shiraz and two and a half times more Cabernet than Merlot.

The winemakers at TarraWarra in Victoria’s Yarra Valley have long recognised the great qualities of the Merlot grape and have crafted an outstanding TarraWarra Estate Merlot in 2012.  The cool, damp soils in the TarraWarra K Block have produced a perfect vintage in 2012 as the lush, ripe fruit has enabled a fuller bodied wine to be produced without any of the tannic astringency that we sometimes see in other styles.

Plums, blackberries, raspberries, leafy herbs and cloves: from the nose to the tonsils, it’s a seamless integration of fruit to a light but lively conclusion.

There’s a lashing of cedary oak at the back end to balance out the voluptuous qualities of the fruit but sadly, the vintage may prove a little hard to find as its value (at $35 a bottle) has made it popular with critics and collectors alike.

Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Wynns Black Label Cabernet SauvignonThere is a twinge of irony in the name of the Limestone Coast’s premier wine region that only a red wine drinker would understand.  The Aboriginal word “Coonawarra”, means “honeysuckle” yet there is not a hint of blossom of the twining climber in any of the vinous product of the region’s terra rossa soils.

But don’t let that stop you from sampling a bottle of the 2013 release of Wynn’s Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon which is currently on the shelves.  It’s a Coonawarra favourite and a wine that delivers quality year on year and is made in a style that will stand the test of time.  If you’re not the patient type, you will still enjoy the intensity of the blackcurrant and dark cherry flavours which are cloaked in a sage and violet morning suit.

On the nose there are hints of Provençal Tapenade but across the palate the red fruits take a hold and integrate with cedar and white pepper characters before fine tannins ultimately embrace a long, though slightly acidic finish.

The 2013 release is perhaps slightly leaner than some of the previous ones I’ve tried, but it is nonetheless austere, sophisticated and will only improve over the next decade or so.  Once again, the 58th vintage of the Wynns Black Label Cabernet justifies its $40 price tag.