2009 Firebox Ridge Vineyard Selection Tempranillo

Made by the Australian winemaking and export company Winetrust Estates under its Firebox Ridge label, the 2009 Tempranillo is the first commercial release from its Swan Hill vineyards in northern Victoria and a winner of a number of awards at the 2010 Inland Winemakers Exhibition.

A long ripening season together with minimal vineyard intervention plus maturation in French and American oak has produced a modern Australian interpretation of this classic Rioja region varietal.

An attractive ruby red colour leads to a somewhat restrained bouquet of spice, vanillin notes and forest floor. It took time to elicit those aromatics as the nose was so tight. The same went for the palate as the profile of herbaceous wild berries, white pepper and chocolate notes didn't get started until the following night's libation. No amount of medical intervention could have revived this wine on the first night!

That said, this medium-bodied expression of Australian tempranillo is attractive and offers a long, pleasant finish with all the hallmarks of the variety. Do give it an airing before pairing it with any lighter style meat dish.

Source: Retail Purchase. 87 Points. Website: www.winetrustestates.com.au

2011 Chalmers Montevecchio Heathcote 'Bianco'

There are some varietals that are compatible with each other and go on to have wonderful marriages. Western Australian Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blends are examples, as are the increasingly popular Shiraz and Viognier combination where the perfume of Viognier meets the power of Shiraz. Some marriages let's be frank, may not be a successful sum of their parts such as a recently tasted Verdelho, Viognier and Semillon blend that for me was lost somewhere in translation, perhaps better confined to the cardboard box variety of wine consumption.

The Montevecchio Bianco is a field blend of the Italian varietals Fiano, Vermentino and Moscato Giallo from the Chalmers vineyard at Heathcote and is one of the three wines in their Montevecchio range. The translation 'old mountain' refers to Mt. Camel and the ancient Cambrian soils that run through the Heathcote wine region in central Victoria.

The Chalmers family has pioneered southern Italian varietal wines at their Euston property in south-west New South Wales' Murray Darling region for the better part of a decade. The vines at their Heathcote vineyard were planted in 2009 with the inaugural release this year of a range of easy drinking wines under the Montevecchio label.

The Bianco is a superb blend of some of Italy's most ancient grape varieties grown in some of the world's most ancient soils and to me, a pleasure to experience for the first time.

Vermentino is a white grape variety grown in Sardinia and along the Ligurian and Tuscan coastlines and is known for its profile of savoury, herbal aromas, its dry, chalky palate and zesty preserved lemon characteristics.

A white grape variety that dates back to Roman times, Fiano grows predominantly around Avellino in the southern Italian region of Campania. A perfumed and appealing flavour profile, Fiano exhibits aromas of stonefruit, pears and apples with citrus fruit, toasted nuts and honey notes on the palate.

A clone of Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, the Moscato Giallo (Yellow Muscat) is another ancient grape variety grown in the Italian regions of Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige. It is renown for its intense musky, floral aromas and dry citric acid flavours.

This is an appealing wine that blends all of its component varietal parts into a harmonious whole and whose texture will marry well with a broad range of cuisine styles. The floral aromatics, the dry, tangy, honey zest on the palate leads to a long crisp, clean finish that should be a real crowd-pleaser for the upcoming warmer months.

Source: Retail Purchase. Rating: 90 Points. Website: www.montevecchio.com.au

2009 Tahbilk Marsanne

Consistently one of Australia's most popular white wines and always at a competitive price, the marsanne from the historic Tahbilk winery in central Victoria's Nagambie Lakes Region comes from plantings dating back to 1927. Indeed, Tahbilk claims to hold the largest, single holding of this, one of the world's rarest grape varieties.

The Marsanne grape arrived in Australia in the 1830's, was introduced into Victoria in the 1860's and now accounts for just over three quarters of its growth in the world. Without wanting to ruffle French feathers, it appears that this northern Rhone Valley varietal has found a more 'bountiful' home here in Australia.
In its native Hermitage AOC, Marsanne is the most widely planted white wine grape and is often blended with Roussanne. It forms the majority share in the white wines of the Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph's AOCs. Marsanne is also one of the eight grape varieties allowed in the Cotes de Rhone appellation. In Australia, it is also blended with the other of the northern Rhone white grape trifecta Viognier, to produce some really intriguing and award-winning blends.

Pale straw yellow in colour, this 2009 example is best served with roast chicken. More aged Marsanne can cope with heavier white meat dishes or even cheeses. It is indeed a versatile, food friendly white varietal that can and does stand the test of what father time throws at it.
A lemon, green apple nose is followed by a palate packing sweet spice, minerality and a dry, zingy acidity. Hints of pear and peach emerge with the familiar honeysuckle notes. Clean, fresh fruit flavours linger on the long finish.

This lovely, well-balanced, medium-bodied wine can be drunk now but could easily be put away for a decade to experience the golden hues and honeyed, nutty, dry fruit complexity associated with an aged Marsanne.

Source: Retail Purchase. Rating: 90 Points. Website: https://www.tahbilk.com.au/