The best wines for winter 2019
Cappellano ‘Barolo Chinato’, aromatised nebbiolo, Piedmont, Italy
($95 – 500ml, $130 – 750ml)
It’s hard to think of a drink that’s more wintry and comforting than Barolo Chinato, based on nebbiolo from this notable producer. There’s varietal red fruit and tannin, bolstered by a closely guarded recipe of macerated spices, roots and herbs. The significant bitterness is balanced by a liquorous sweetness. With heady cinnamon, clove, cocoa and liquorice root, it’s dark, complex and warming. The benchmark.
Olivier Horiot ‘En Barmont’, 2014 Rosé des Riceys pinot noir, Champagne, France ($100)
From Champagne, but not champagne. Rosé, but not pink. The rare and historic Rosé des Riceys is something of a curiosity, born of a subregion closer in soil to Chablis than the pure Champagne chalk. Only the very best sites of Les Riceys are permitted for this appellation, and dynamic (and biodynamic) young producer Olivier Horiot is passionate about the ageing potential for this pale, still pinot noir. The south-east facing slopes of En Barmont provide a deceptive depth of flavour – Amarena cherry, rose petal and sandalwood, almost Burgundian in its earth and undergrowth. Long and lacy, this is the most delicate and translucent of red wines.
Rocky Gully, 2015 shiraz, Great Southern, Western Australia ($22)
For a touch over $20, it doesn’t get better than this. There’s no trickery here; you won’t find lashings of oak chips, unbalanced alcohol or the overripe fruit that might be seen in lesser cousins. Instead, you’ll discover pure and varietal cool-climate spice. Red plum and blackberry. Savoury, powdery tannin. Poise and concentration in a midweight frame. A wine handcrafted by a multigenerational family in one of Australia’s most remote (and exciting) regions. What’s not to like?
Luna Estate, 2016 pinot noir, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand ($30)
Martinborough’s small vineyard area means that few of the wines make it across the ditch. Fruit is sourced from across Luna Estate, blending the structure and acidity of the gravel soils of Martinborough Terrace with the supple fruit of the vineyards planted on the ancient seabed. The result is lifted Morello cherry and raspberry fruit, lavender and dried rose. Silky tannin gives way to savoury notes of briar and fresh tobacco. The perfect gateway to this exciting region.
Sigurd ‘White’, 2018 riesling blend, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($32)
This is new-school Barossa. A bit cloudy, a bit skinsy and made from a carefully composed fruit salad of grape varieties. Less oxidative than an old-world amber wine, here the whole-berry fermentation adds chalky structure and savoury spice, extracting an abundance of flavour from the aromatic grape skins. Tangerine, red apple skin, exotic guava and pineapple abound, balanced by fresh acidity and gently chewy tannins.
Brave New Wine ‘Magical Animal’, 2018 chardonnay, Great Southern, Western Australia ($38)
Behind Magical Animal’s glitzy hand-drawn label you’ll discover a stunning expression of WA chardonnay. The fruit is sourced from a single vineyard in the Porongurup hills of Great Southern. Fine and gently flinty, with white peach, grapefruit pith and a creamy, lemon curd-like texture, it’s complex and persistent, marked by the character of the region and the vineyard, rather than the hand of the makers.
Terada Honke ‘Kameno-o’, 2019 junmai kimoto muroka nama genshu, Chiba, Japan ($75 – 720ml)
Sake brewery Terada Honke is anything but a new kid on the block – the current master brewer Terada Masaru comes from the 24th generation of a family tradition that stretches back to 1673. Terada-san utilises methods that are far from common in the modern sake industry – organic rice production, ambient yeasts and ancient brewing techniques – to produce cult sake of finesse and personality. Kameno-o is a sake made uniquely for the Australian market, from a heritage rice variety of the same name. Alluring aromas of apple blossom and fresh-cut pear transform on the palate, where the focus is soft texture, mineral salts and impeccable balance.
Philippe Chevarin ‘Le Souffle’, 2017 melon blanc, Loire Valley, France ($48)
The vast majority of melon blanc is made as plain white wine: light, simple and acidic. A valued few are made with low yields and intent, resulting in stony, earth-driven wines for seafood. And then there’s Le Souffle. Chevarin’s old vines contribute intensity and concentration, but this is still a fairly light-bodied wine, true to place. Long slow pressing and the avoidance of sulphur contribute to a fruit profile full of character, with baked apple, golden pear and nougat.
Chalmers, 2018 rosato, Heathcote, Victoria ($28)
Southern Italy’s aglianico, nero d’avola and sagrantino are raised in Heathcote’s old, stony soils by forward-thinking growers. There’s lovely balance between fragrant rhubarb and grapefruit, a silky texture like fresh cream, and appetising, chalky grip. Rosé that justifies a spot on the table all year round.
Little Reddie ‘Bannockburn’, 2017 shiraz, Geelong, Victoria ($40)
Every vintage, in an effort to hone his craft, Pat Underwood makes a wine that he won’t be able to replicate. In 2017 Pat was given access to a parcel of fruit grown at Bannockburn Vineyards. This isn’t Geelong shiraz dressed up as Barossa Valley, or McLaren Vale, or Crozes-Hermitage. There’s ripe blueberry and sour plum fruit, with a lift of violet; undergrowth, wet earth and cured venison. It’s comfortably and undeniably Victorian.
Elios ‘Modus Bibendi’, 2017 grillo, Sicily, Italy ($43)
It’s all too easy to get carried away describing this grillo. Even if it wasn’t one of those romantic summer holiday discoveries, it has the ability to transport you directly to the Med. Fragrant with honeysuckle and orange blossom, it’s ripe and dry, with fresh mandarin and green fig, warm from the sun. Coastal herbs, bay laurel and olive leaf; a lick of brisk acidity like a salty sea breeze.
Damien Laureau ‘Les Genêts’, 2015 Savennières chenin blanc, Loire Valley, France ($75)
From the banks of the Loire River comes one of France’s most compelling appellations: Savennières. The fruit for Les Genêts comes from rising star Damien Laureau’s vineyards with sand and grey schist soils. The power and intensity of grapes grown organically on schist provide balance to the naturally piercing acidity of chenin blanc. With salt, stone and bitter lemon, Les Genêts is undeniably mineral, complemented by a richness of yellow plum and ginger spice that speaks clearly of the quality of 2015 in this region
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 22, 2019 as "The best of winter". Subscribe here.