This week is so far shaping up to be all about Victorian wine. On Saturday night, we had friends for dinner and opened a magnum of the Wild Duck Creek Estate Shiraz Reserve 2003. It was absolutely sensational. Delicious ripe fruit flavours wrapped in a very balanced, medium body package with superbly integrated tannins, still firm but softened a bit from bottle age. I’m sure the wine could easily handle another five to ten years in the cellar.

Last night I enjoyed another Heathcote shiraz – a wine I wasn’t familiar with, the Syrahmi Climat 2009.  Like 2003, 2009 was a dry, hot vintage in Heathcote. Adam Foster, who makes the Syrahmi range, sourced the grapes for the Climat from the Mt Camel Ranges, 45km north of the Heathcote township. It’s a wonderfully aromatic wine with well defined fruit flavours and fine tannins. Foster opted for a 60% whole bunch fermentation – a technique commonly used in France’s Rhone Valley to enhance the fragrance of their shiraz.

I was lucky to receive a sample of the Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. I’ve always been a big fan of Balgownie’s wines, and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 certainly didn’t disappoint.

Fruit for the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the 33 hectare Bendigo vineyard, situated on a gentle slope overlooking Myer’s Creek at Maiden Gully. Here the alluvial clay soils and continental climate provide ideal conditions for low yields and a long ripening period, which helps to create wines of intense flavours and great ageing potential. Originally founded in 1969 by pioneer winemaker Stuart Anderson, since 1999 the estate has been owned by brothers Des and Rod Forrester, who have expanded the winery and added another vineyard in the Yarra Valley.

The Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman has commented that “even the most highly prized cabernets in Australia can show strong herbal or vegetal characteristics.” Due to cool conditions and spring rains, fruit for 2009 vintage of the White Label Cabernet Sauvignon was picked at optimum ripeness, so the wine shows no hint of herbal or vegetal characters referred to by Steiman. In fact, the ripe fruit flavours of this wine were matched with enough acidiy and tannins to make the vintage a great candidate for ageing. (Steiman was very impressed with the Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, which he tasted in 2008 after ten years of bottle age.) (Aging Australia’s Reds: A Decade in the Bottle: A blind tasting suggests how well the top Australian reds can age by Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator 15 October 2008)

“Favourite” and “bargain” are two common descriptors critics use to describe the Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Campbell Mattinson of The Wine Front scored the 2008 vintage 94 points. Here’s his review:

Balgownie Estate cabernet is a personal favourite and this 2008 edition is a particularly good example.

It’s bold and ripe and tannic but it still manages to feel easy-going and mid-weight; it’s like drinking the best of a few different worlds. It tastes of blackcurrant, roasted cedarwood, chocolate and mint and it feels satiny and polished in your mouth. It’s a classy wine. It does carry quite a deal of chewy tannin but it’s a real cabernet; so it should. It will drink well both young and old. (The Wine Front, 24 January 2011)

Merrill Witt, Editor