The odd red bunch impresses

Dr Frank van de Loo (pictured) has plied his trade for 20 years, turning out a very smart array of pristine, refined, beautifully-made white and red wines. (Photo: Twitter @BattleofVines)

Mount Majura Vineyard tempranillos were among the most compelling wines in my recent mega-tasting of ‘odd red varieties’. Mount Majura is one of the very few vineyards in the Canberra District which are located inside the ACT boundary. (Most are just outside it, in NSW, at Murrumbateman and Bungendore.)

None of Mount Majura’s wines is expensive, but the value buy is the TSG.

Indeed, the new ring-road that you take to go around Canberra city to travel from Sydney to the snowfields runs right past the Mount Majura Vineyard. Here, Dr Frank van de Loo has plied his trade for 20 years, turning out a very smart array of pristine, refined, beautifully-made white and red wines from the small 9.3 hectare vineyard beside the winery. These wines won him a nomination in the Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine Winemaker of the Year this year.

There are two AUD $45 single-block tempranillos, Little Dam and Rock Block.

I tend to rate the 2016 Little Dam slightly higher, and remark that it doesn’t have the eucalyptus/mint aroma note that the 2016 Rock Block shows. Both are excellent, though, and the 2016s are every bit as good as last year’s 2015s.

None of Mount Majura’s wines is expensive, but the value buy is the TSG, a blend of tempranillo, shiraz and graciano. A lovely wine, again with some eucalyptus but more ready-drinking than the single-block wines, and costing AUD $34.

The third single-block wine, Dry Spur, did not make an appearance in 2016 because it wasn’t up to scratch. There’s also an ‘estate’ wine, simply labelled tempranillo. The 2016 tasted a year ago was very good if a touch immature, and the ’17 is due out later this year.

The vineyard also produces varietal graciano, mondeuse and touriga. The 2017 Graciano and 2017 Mondeuse tasted earlier this year are also fine wines in the trademark clean, pure-fruit, if slightly callow style that van de Loo has trademarked.

Also making waves at this tasting were two 2017 Margan Hunter reds, the barbera and the tempranillo graciano shiraz blend, both under the Breaking Ground label, at AUD $40 each.

Vinaceous Voodoo Moon Malbec 2016 at AUD $25 is a bargain for such a cracking malbec; Hardy’s 2016 Tintara Reserve Grenache is not cheap at AUD $70, but it is an outstanding wine. The same could be said for the 2016 Wendouree Malbec, yet another ripping Wendouree from this strong vintage.

Top scorer in the tasting of 126 wines was the Aphelion Rapture 2017, a grenache shiraz mataro blend from McLaren Vale. Just 75 dozen were bottled. It is a ‘best of vintage’ blend and saw 25% whole-bunch fermentation. It’s AUD $60 and utterly gorgeous.

The new up-market trio of Languedoc-Roussillon reds from Jean Claude Mas, the Arrogant Frog man, also made their appearance. Named Clos Astélia, Laurinya and Silenis, they are all 2016s, all different, and will soon be retailing at Dan Murphy’s for AUD $50 if they aren’t already there. A most impressive debut for Mas into the super-premium league. Is there anything this man can’t do?

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