It’s impressive to see the volume of Rhone whites in this lineup of Yarra Wines tasted recently. A reminder that the Yarra Valley is more than just Chard/Pinot/Cab/Shiraz and makes some of the best Viognier/Marsanne/Roussanne in the country.
If anything, vintage is the main definer here, with the warmer ’16 harvest producing more open, occasionally simple wines, compared to the classic ’15 season.
Again, the Burton McMahon duo is a standout pair of wines. Affordable in the scheme of Yarra wines too.
Burton McMahon Georges Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2016
Burton McMahon is a joint venture between Matt Burton (Gundog Estate) and Dylan McMahon (Seville Estate). The wines are typically elegant expressions of Victorian styles, with this Chardonnay part of a pair of single vineyard Yarra Chardies (this one from the Georges vineyard in the Upper Yarra). Both of the wines in this set are treated the same way – handpicked fruit, whole-bunch-pressing, plenty of solids in the wild ferment, no malo and 10 months in 30% new French oak. The Georges Vineyard is at Seville East, a little lower than D’Aloisio. Almost identical numbers here on both wines though – TA 6.0, pH 3.21. Compared to the D’Aloisio this seems more creamy, as if the holes have been filled in a little with more white peach fruit. Soft and ripe, a low acid year but its still tight enough to be great. Then, the ripeness gives this more width – and utimately it’s a better, more layered wine because of it. Lovely delicacy to this style – I really enjoyed it. Close run thing for favourite of the two! Best drinking: 2017-2023. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.2%, $34. Would I buy it? Yes please.
Burton McMahon D’Aloisio Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2016
A tighter wine from a higher altitude sight (though I wonder is aspect also plays a part here). Vanilla bean oak pushes forward on this wine, along with understated, just-ripe white peach, the flavours subtle, gently ripe and the acid soft. A lovely face of modern Yarra Chard, the warm vintage giving a gentler edge compared to some vintage. Lovely balance between flavour generosity here. Maybe the oak is a bit forward? Still, so instantly classy and attractive. Best drinking: 2017-2025. 18/20, 93/100. 13.2%, $34. Would I buy it? Yes.
Balgownie Estate White Label Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2015
From Balgownie’s Smedley Lane Block. 30% new oak, half went through malo. 11 months on lees before bottling. There’s an old-school apple peach and pear fruit ripeness here, with cream oak richness here but offset by the fresher, half malo finish. It’s a little warm, but expansive and generous, the oak filling the palate out. Full bodied and a little old-school, but will find many fans (probably because it is old school). Best drinking: 2017-2022. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.6%, $45. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Giant Steps Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2016
One of those wines that I liked slightly less the more I looked at it. From glorious to just very good. Anyway, this is stepping off point for the Giant Steps Pinot range. Typically generous and juicy, with the glycerol fatness and low acid of a warm vintage. There’s still authentic Pinot strawberry here, but the fruit sweetness through the finish and slight boozy warmth ultimately becomes a little tiresome. This is such classy wine though, so only held back by the slightly thicker finish. Good stuff for immediate consumption. Best drinking: 2017-2021. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $40. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Warramunda Estate Yarra Valley Syrah 2015
Warramunda is a newly relaunched property at Coldstream in the Yarra Valley owned by the Magdziarz family, with the wines made by Ben Haines. Early days, but an ambitious project in every way. This Syrah is my pick of the initial release – ripe and fleshy, fuller style Yarra Syrah that is just a bit bulky, but packs in lots of flavour. Purple maroon colour, its blackberry drenched, with full, slightly hot plum fruits. On the one hand, great impact here, on the other, you’re reaching for delicacy. In other words, the definition is missing but the expanse of fruit is great. Save for a dip of sour acid on the back, this is otherwise just ripe and expansive, with light tannins to finish. Lots to like. Best drinking: 2017-2025. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.2%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass would do.
First Foot Forward The Patch Vineyard Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2016
Another value overperformer. A flash of vanilla oak over a light, gentle raspberry wine with a little spritz, minimal tannins and a gentle finish. An entree to light and Yarra Pinot with enough round red fruit flesh to carry things forward. The fruit tends slightly to syrup, but fresher, lightly spicy finish helps right the ship. Lots to like. Best drinking: 2017-2022. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Soumah Single Vineyard Hexham Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2016
On the very elegant end of the Yarra Chard spectrum, this was given just 8 months in barrel. Water clear, the oak is currently the first flavour here; a note of popcorn and leesy oatmeal. Underneath it is gentle, delicate and surprisingly low in acid. An affable light Chard with just the right amount of fruit and acid, though needs more intensity for higher points. Best drinking: 2017-2023. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.7%, $39. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Soumah Brachetto d’Soumah Yarra Valley Brachetto 2016
I’m a big fan of good Brachetto. This is more pink Brachetto rather than the serious Italian styles. But gee it’s delicious, with lovely lifted red candy fruit Turkish delight, strawberry and yet despite the fruit and sugar sweetness it’s quite fresh. Love the rose water aromatics – Gewurtz like. Has some vague late tannins to hold it together. It’s only a simple drink, and it’s sweet, but there is much fun here too. Quaffable!. Best drinking: 2017-2018. 17/20, 90/100. 9.5%, $25. Would I buy it? Sure.
Soumah Cabernet d’Soumah Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Luncheon Claret style at a lunch-worthy price. Dark and proper varietal, complete with hints of capsicum. Mid weight palate is nicely varietal too, complete with sticky Cabernet tannins. A sweet middle lifts up the slightly sour fruit. Good genuine Yarra Cabernet. Best drinking: 2017-2027. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
Soumah Single Vineyard Hexham Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2016
Elegance is definitely the theme at Soumah. Dark cherry/Ribena coloured, this is a light Pinot Noir style that is bony and faintly bitter the red fruit palate backed by lots of acidity. Just a fraction underpowered, but an elegant style and certainly charming. Best drinking: 2017-2022. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $35. Would I buy it? A glass.
Warramunda Estate Yarra Valley Marsanne 2016
Probably the pick of the Warramunda whites. Super light green straw coloured, the delicate nose underplays the honeysuckle of Marsanne. It’s quite pretty, and very refreshing, even if you want a little more flavour to really carry it off. I enjoyed a glass. Best drinking: 2017-2021. 17/20, 90/100. 12.7%, $35. Would I buy it? A glass.
Steels Gate Yarra Valley Blanc de Blancs 2013
Handpicked Chardonnay, barrel matured and disgorged in July 2016. Creamed grapefruit nose. It’s quite expressive and vinous really. Maybe too broad and a little pineapppley with lots of ripe fruit. Plenty of flavour, though just a bit thickset to be really satisfying. Has some complexity though. Best drinking: 2017-2021. 16.8/20, 89/100. 11.9%, $39.95. Would I buy it? No.
Warramunda Estate Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2015
Bright, raspberry red fruit coloured. Menthol and red lolly on the nose, gently oaky, red jellybaby palate with a menthol edge to the palate. Serious structure, but it doesn’t quite feel together, the warm and slightly minty finish just a little unconvincing. Has flesh through the middle though. Best drinking: 2018-2022. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? No.
First Foot Forward Yarra Valley Viognier 2016
Varietal pomp on the nose – proper apricot notes. It’s initially ripe and full, but the tangy, phenolic palate is drawn, firmly acidic and raw, a disconnection between the nose and palate. Some flavour though – some juicy apricot fruit to lift the appeal. Best drinking: 2017-2020. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $25. Would I buy it? I’d go a glass.
Soumah Chardonnay d’Soumah Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2016
A modern, low oak style of Chardonnay showing banana ferment esters and a light, lean and crisp profile. Definitely some new oak-esque richness but doesn’t quite have the generosity to match and a little short. Pleasant. Best drinking: 2017-2019. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
First Foot Forward Steels Creek Vineyard Yarra Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Light and neutral style with metallic acidity and subdued, slightly weedy fruit. Has some leesy textural edges, but rather hard and ungenerous. Stuck between primary and secondary flavours too. Best drinking: 2017. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Soumah Tutto Bianco d’Soumah Yarra Valley White 2016
Savagnin, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Viognier. Has a hint of mothball on a very neutral nose. Light and gently textural palate has the odd hint of Viognier peach juice but hard to make out too much on the fruit salad palate, with a little alcohol warmth on the finish. Not much flavour but refreshing enough. Ok. Best drinking: 2017. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Warramunda Estate Yarra Valley Viognier 2016
Early picked and wild fermented. It’s just too lean to be great, the varietal notes hard to identify. Pleasant, but needs more ripeness to deliver something. Anything. Best drinking: 2017-2021. 16/20, 87/100. 11.8%, $35. Would I buy it? No.