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Wine Reviews:
Levantine Hill, d’Arenberg, Ashton Hills

Wine serves a number of purposes in our lives. Sometimes it needs to be the marker of a moment, something rare and special. Other times it’s a comforting hug, a reason to sit in your armchair and reflect. Or it can just be everyday awesome, no reason required.

Levantine Hill

2016 Samantha’s Paddock Mélange Traditionnel
RRP $200

‘Tis the season for icon wine releases and here is a cracking Bordeaux blend from Victoria’s Yarra Valley that should be on the radar of anyone who enjoys top-shelf cabernet-based wines.

This is the fifth release of Levantine Hill’s flagship signature red blend that comes from a very steep vineyard strewn with underground rocky seams and outcrops. It’s a tough plot to farm but to the victor go the spoils.

The blend here is cabernet sauvignon (86%), merlot (8%), petit verdot (3%), cabernet franc (2%) and malbec (1%) and the resulting wine has an elegance, purity and sense of refinement that only comes with beautiful fruit, considered winemaking and fastidious attention to detail. That’s three big ticks for Levantine Hill.

Deep brick red in colour, the wine shows captivating aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, cassis and kirsch with secondary hints of tobacco leaf, forest floor, baking spice and bay leaf, along with a waft of jasmine, sandalwood and sage. There are some beautiful French oak notes in the mix, at first more percussive with spice-laden, pencilcase tones that slowly retreat back into the rich fruit with a bit of time in the decanter or glass. Stemmy/bunchy notes lie further in the background.

It’s a beautifully weighted wine, concentrated yet focused, vivid and light on its feet. The characters from the nose transpose neatly over to the palate. Plenty of texture and mouthfeel here but there is a wonderful balance and cadence to its flow, supple tannin, pure fruit and dreamy oak notes fading gradually into the distance. My, the Yarra Valley can do cabernet well.


d’Arenberg

2017 The Dead Arm Shiraz
RRP $75

Many moons ago in an alternative universe in Sydney, I spent a year working as a sales representative for a wine distributor. It wasn’t a job for me but I have two fond memories of my time schlepping wine around the city.

One was breaking the windscreen wipers off a courier van after he cut me off during a torrential downpour in the CBD. That felt really good. The second was when I had the pleasure of driving d’Arry Osborn around to sales calls when he was in town. He’s an absolute gem and, without fail, about three quarters of the way through the day he’d turn to me and say, “Dave … What do you reckon we go down to Bondi, get a chocolate milkshake and look at the sea for a while?” It was always a good idea.

In these cooler months, there is nothing quite like a glass of d’Arenberg’s famous The Dead Arm Shiraz to lift the spirits. It’s like slipping into your favourite armchair. Comforting and endearing, bringing back memories of great meals, friends and chats over glasses of wine.

The 2017 version is a ripper, deep red/ purple in the glass and resonating with aromas of ripe blackberry, satsuma plum, dark cherry and just a smidgen of mulberry lift. There are hints of bramble, freshly turned earth, dark chocolate and abundant spice in the background.

Weighty in the mouth with a sense of latent power, plenty of ripe fruit and gravelly tannin for structure and a swift gait to the lingering finish. I’m happy to drink it now but you know it has plenty of gas in the tank if you’d like to lay it down for a few years… like 10 or so.


Ashton Hills

2019 Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir
RRP $35

I’ve long been a fan of the Ashton Hills wines, greedily taking more than my fair share whenever a bottle was opened within pouring distance of me. This, I know, is not a very attractive quality for a human to possess, but sometimes life is like that. You’ve gotta be quick.

I had a chance to pop up to the Adelaide Hills and visit Stephen George last year, chatting about vineyards and clones and such wine geekery, trying the range of wines and generally being blown away by how uniformly awesome the range was. The standard 2019 Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir is one of the best I’ve seen from the winery. It is a cracker.

A light, bruised purple/red colour in the glass, aromas of raspberry, cherry and strawberry burst forth followed by hints of Asian spice, ginger cake, rosewater, raspberry tart, purple flowers and some underlying amaro herb complexity, no doubt from a small percentage of whole-bunches in the ferment. In the mouth it is airy and spacious with a gorgeous clarity to its fruit profile. Again those high-toned red fruits come to the fore, raspberry and red cherry with some light macerated strawberry and cranberry crunch making their presence felt. It flows across the palate with a pure, driven intensity. Everything is perfectly poised and in balance – savoury, restrained and beautifully composed. An absolute bargain and wonderful drinking.

Dave Brookes

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