The final section dedicated to dry reds encompasses any single varietal red wine which isn't a shiraz, cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir.
New varieties, in particular those from Italy and Spain such as sangiovese and tempranillo, are beginning to make a significant contribution to the Australian wine industry. Personally I find many of these new varietals reflect their young vine material, with lack of genuine depth or poor varietal definition, but there are a growing number of standout examples beginning to emerge. My pick of these are the sangioveses of Castagna, Coriole and Pizzini; Cape Mentelle Zinfandel (made from 30+ year old vines), Joseph Nebbiolo and Samuel's Gorge Tempranillo (made from 13 year old vines).
Faithful old merlot also falls under this category. Regrettably it's a bit unfashionable these days, possibly because it's never found a true Australian home. If forced to decide I prefer Coonawarra merlot, where Zema Estate, Leconfield, Majella and Parker Estate lead the charge.
At the moment my favourite 'other' Australian red is grenache from McLaren Vale, a region with some of the oldest plantings of the variety on the planet. Current highlights include d'Arenberg's 2006 Derelict Vineyard and 2006 Custodian (both reviewed below), Oliver's Taranga Cadenzia 2006 (93pts), Samuel's Gorge 2006 (92pts) and Hardys Tintara 2004 (93pts). All mature vine grenache, all well worth checking out.
Technically red wine, roses are also included here. Unfortunately I neither drink enough, nor care enough about rose for it to warrant its own section. Sorry guys! Charles Melton's (reviewed below) is consistently a rare exception.
The wines reviewed here are Cape Mentelle Zinfandel 2005, Chapel Hill Il Vescovo Tempranillo 2008, Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2008, Coriole Sangiovese 2007, d'Arenberg Custodian Grenache 2006, d'Arenberg Derelict Vineyard Grenache 2006, Joseph Nebbiolo 2005 and Morris Durif 2004. The brilliant 2004 Morris Durif and 2005 Joseph Nebbiolo have since been superseded by their 2005 and 2006 wines respectively, as the 2006 Cape Mentelle Zinfandel now backdates the 2005 wine. The rest of the wines are current vintage.
CAPE MENTELLE ZINFANDEL 2005
- Region: Margaret River, WA
- Price: $39-$58
Contrary to what anyone else might say Cape Mentelle IS Australia's best maker of zinfandel. Prior to 2005 the spicy, long, powerful and structured 2004 release (94pts) was a truly memorable drop.
Opening to a stewy fragrance of meaty dark fruits, its nose is supported by intriguing notes of leather, herb and tomato bush, but it just seems to push the ripeness button a little more than ideal. Positively concentrated, heavy and absolutely bursting with depth (how I like zinfandel but something few Australians other than Cape Mentelle regularly achieve), its palate reveals a raisined expression of slightly flat, tarry varietal character, with a finish punctuated by a varnishy flavour of mushrooms and ripe yet drying tannins.
ü Cape Mentelle's 2005 Zinfandel is an exciting drink which would doubtlessly please many (any Robert Parker fans out there?) but it lacks the even ripeness of fruit and tannin to see it reach gold medal status in my view. Drink to 2013.
CHAPEL HILL IL VESCOVO TEMPRANILLO 2008
- Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
- Price: $18-$28
The Spanish variety tempranillo has achieved a particular fondness with certain critics and boutique wineries. This is most notable in the trendy South Australian regions of McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills.
Undeniably exotic, with pleasing aromatic depth, the 2008 Il Vescovo presents a ripe and tarry fragrance of plump mulberries and green olive with wild notes of spice. Young and brash, intense savoury spice, mulberry and cherry flavours are outlined by sour edges with little oak present. It's reasonably full and slightly jammy but the palate is let down by a somewhat astringent finish laced with prickly tannins, raw qualities, pruney notes and sharp, sour acidity.
ü A very intense, good young tempranillo of reasonable balance and ripeness. Its main downfall is it was possibly released on the market too early, as another year in the bottle would've done it wonders. Drink to 2013.
CHARLES MELTON ROSE OF VIRGINIA 2008
- Region: Barossa Valley, SA
- Price: $18-$26
From a quality perspective Charles Melton's Rose of Virginia sits firmly atop the Australian rose tree. After undergoing skin contact, cold fermentation and the use of free run juice in the making process, it certainly deserves its reputation!
A beautifully deep crimson/magenta colour, the 2008 opens to an aroma of pink strawberries, red cherries and rose flower. Delicately balanced, the palate is blessed with good depth and a cascade of vibrantly flavoured red fruits, while its silky texture finishes softly with gentle citric acids and none of the candied aspects so common for the style.
ü+ Definitely the deepest, smoothest rose I've encountered this year. I sincerely hope it continues to spawn imitators. Drink now.
CORIOLE SANGIOVESE 2007
- Region: McLaren Vale, SA
- Price: $18-$27
Coriole is one of Australia's flagship producers of sangiovese, the red Italian grape at the forefront of this country's movement to make different wines from new (to Australia) varieties. Perhaps unsurprisingly to some but certainly of interest to me is that they add a small amount of shiraz to their sangiovese. The 2007 is clearly Coriole's best since the magnificent 2004 (92pts).
A touch ripe and cooked on the nose but that can be forgiven for the vintage, Coriole's 2007 is scented with a rich fragrance of cherry, plums and prune overlying that unmistakable McLaren Vale chocolate character. Medium in body, the jammy yet savoury palate is coated in firm, astringent and dusty tannins, as its smooth flavours of cherry, tomato bush and pepper finish with an influence of bacon-like oak.
ü The challenging 2007 season has produced another fine Coriole Sangiovese of genuine varietal character. It helps to underline their status as a leader with the variety and justify their decision to release a reserve sangiovese from 2007. Drink to 2011.
D'ARENBERG THE CUSTODIAN GRENACHE 2006
- Region: McLaren Vale, SA
- Price: $17-$28
In suitable seasons like 2006 d'Arenberg's entry level grenache The Custodian can really over deliver on price.
Perfumed and floral, this varietal grenache reveals a spicy, savoury fragrance laced with notes of redcurrants and earth. In true house style it contains generously ripened yet rustic flavours, with juicy nuances of redcurrants and blueberry overlying a measured influence of seasoned oak. It finishes elegantly with unobtrusive tannins, sour edges and dry, savoury qualities.
ü+ Outstanding value; one of the best, most genuine grenache wines you could fathom for less than $20. Drink to 2014.
D'ARENBERG THE DERELICT VINEYARD GRENACHE 2006
- Region: McLaren Vale, SA
- Price: $28-$40
If it's delicious grenache based wines you're after, then you need look no further than McLaren Vale's d'Arenberg. The Derelict Vineyard is their premium release of varietal grenache.
Ripe and plummy, its well integrated perfume presents cherry, plum and blueberry fruits with an undercurrent of spicy chocolate oak complexity. Its savoury, firm and rustic palate delivers complex, meaty characters supported by a restrained use of sweetened oak. Although a tad closed now it's just waiting to unravel with age, as it finishes with lively acids and spice, guaranteeing further development for up to a decade.
ü+ Bright, meaty, complex and nicely structured; d'Arenberg's 2006 Derelict Vineyard is a certifiable example of why McLaren Vale is better suited to grenache than any other Australian region. Scrumptious. Drink 2012-2018.
JOSEPH NEBBIOLO 2005
- Region: McLaren Vale, SA
- Price: $60-$90
When I first encountered Joseph's Nebbiolo in early 2008 I was shocked by its astronomical price ($75rrp), but one taste and Joe Grilli's industry shaping intentions were clearly realised. Of the new wave of varieties flooding Australia it's possibly the best I've had. The follow up 2006 Nebbiolo (92pts) is fine also.
Light in colour (akin to pinot noir), its fresh, delicate nose displays savoury red cherries, lush vanilla oak and just a hint of mint in a beautifully balanced, elegant fashion. Barely medium in body but blessed with outstanding depth, it's understated and soft, with savoury small red berry flavours finishing exceptionally clean and long with a tight rod of fine-grained tannins and easy spice characters. Its drive, subtlety, balance and mouthfeel are all exceptional.
ü+ An understated, gentle red which is presently unique to the Australian environment, Joseph's 2005 Nebbiolo is something of a benchmark. Drink to 2017.
MORRIS DURIF 2004
- Region: Rutherglen, VIC
- Price: $19-$28
Durif is an old French variety notorious for producing darkly coloured, full-bodied, robust and long living table wines. The fortified specialists of Rutherglen have shown a passion for the style matched by barely anyone on earth.
Still radiant in colour, the 2004 Morris Durif reveals a tidy, evenly fruited nose of dark plums and berries supported by soft vanilla/chocolate/coconut oak. Full and heavy without being thick, its dark, spicy palate is measured and balanced, showing nuances of ripe fruit over meaty/chocolate undertones. A polished presence of fine tannins extends the wine into a long, brightly flavoured, more savoury finish.
ü+ This is a very polished, vibrantly fruited and kindly structured durif (petit syrah to Americans) with a long future. Top bargain. Drink to 2024.