The Granite Hills (née Knight’s Granite Hills) winery reputation was built on two wines: Riesling and Shiraz. For years, the name was synonymous with peppery, utterly cool climate Shiraz, and juicy, lively cool climate Riesling, both of which were sourced from the estates old vines in the frosty heights of the Macedon ranges.
But of late the brand has all but disappeared, withdrawing from the wine trade and the tasting circuit, almost as if it had fallen into some sort of winery blackhole (which claims wineries from time to time, before they get sold/go broke/withdraw into themselves hermit style).
So when presented with an opportunity to try a small lineup of new release, I ticked the yes box, consciously buoyed by a distant memory of some very tasty late 90’s wines.
And what a disappointment it was.
I’m not sure what has happened to the fine cool climate Victorian wines of old, but these blunt, confusingly overripe examples are such a departure that I had to do a double take to work out whether I was tasting the right wines. Admittedly, there was no Rizza in this lineup, so I’m not going to completely write off the entire range, but I still can’t help but question what the intentions are, given that I see these wines as a departure from the medium bodied style that made the winery famous….
(Please note: These are my personal opinions, and I am absolutely intolerant of what I view as excessively ripe wines, hence the low scores. I urge you to make your own mind up about whether you agree or disagree, and feel free to comment about it below).
Granite Hills Chardonnay 2008 (Macedon, Vic)
$20, Screwcap, 13.5%
I am guessing here, but given that the winery has a bright new website (suggesting a renewed focus), perhaps the somewhat variable older wines (such as the two reds below) are just relics of a slightly unhappy period in the wineries recent history? If so, then you could assume that a newish vintage Chardonnay would be the first place where a paradigm shift would be evident?
But I was wrong, for I think this an unnecessarily old fashioned Chardonnay, with all the trademark foibles that people love to hate in this much maligned variety.
It actually looks quite youthful, with a bright, straw yellow colour, but the brightness is somewhat of a misnomer, for the nose is brassy, broad and dominated by sweet coconut and vanillan French oak, caked with bubblegum and white bread yeast characters. It’s a heady and powerful if unwieldy nose that smells overwrought and slightly lacking in freshness. Still, dig deep enough and there lies minerals in there somewhere, if it is contained by edifice.. (there is hope yet).
Sadly, the story gets worse on the palate, with harsh, extractive and plain unpleasant oak tannins ruining whatever good work the fruit could ultimately yield. What’s left behind is basically stripped of it’s freshness, a wine that is so far from the textured, oak-lite and fine modern Chardonnay benchmark that it not only feels dated, but highlights all the bad things about Australian Chardonnay. 14.5/82.
Granite Hills Merlot 2005 (Heathcote, Vic)
$24, Screwcap, 15%
15% in a supposedly cool climate Merlot? Tell em’ they’re dreaming. Or, at least they’re dreaming if they want any sort of varietal character. I understand that it is quite possible to get grapes really ripe in Heathcote, but I would also argue that it does nothing for the quality of the wine produced, notably at the 14+ baume mark, and especially not for Merlot.
Already bricking at the rim and looking less than youthful, this has a slightly volatile, red fruited nose, showing some of the leaf litter character of bottle aged Merlot, if masked by stressed fruit. Ditto for the palate, which shows a smidgen of ripe fruit, which is ultimately overridden by alcohol and inelegant, stressed fruit flavours, finishing bitter.
Ultimately overripe and on the decline, sadly, this might have been a good wine a year or so ago, but for my tastes this is now rather unenjoyable and going backward at speed. 14.0/76
Granite Hills Shiraz 2004 (Macedon, Vic)
$35, Screwcap, 15%
Once the most peppery Shiraz in the land, yet you wouldn’t have guessed it by this wine, which just smells like ripe Shiraz grapes from an indeterminable origin. Interesting to note that this spent a massive 3 years in oak.
Blood red in colour with a rather light rim. Nose has searing volatility over cherry liqueur, cranberries, roast beef and chocolate. Positively stinks of alcohol. Underneath it starts quite pleasant, sweet and generous, but the alcohol quickly destroys that, leaving just heat and an empty, sweetly oaked carcass. Hard tannins to finish.
The question here is, what is the point of making a Macedon Shiraz, if you get it so ripe that it stops smelling or tasting like Macedon Shiraz?
A confusingly unenjoyable wine that I think is only going to get worse with age…. 15/85