WINE REVIEWS – McHenry Hohnen, Stella Bella, Leeuwin Estate, Vanya Cullen, Howard Park, Cape Mentelle
by Paul Howard
Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, McHenry Hohnen. 2009. 12.5%
David Hohnen is famous for establishing the Cape Mentelle winery in Margaret River back in 1976 before creating the iconic Cloudy Bay winery in New Zealand in 1985. In 2003 he established McHenry Hohnen Vintners with partner Murray McHenry. This is a classic Margaret River SSB. There’s gooseberry and grass, with a hint of lime and honeysuckle on the nose. The semillon (51%) rounds out the aromatic sauvignon (49%), leaving a broader and softer texture, citrus fruit with green fruit and vegetal notes (think nettles and peas). There’s weight, generous fruit and intensity yet finesse too. Perfect now but will hold for 2-3 years.
The Wine Society, £8.50
Sauvignon Blanc, Stella Bella. 2009. 13%
Established in 1999, Stella Bella is one of the newer wineries with a reputation for innovation. Their sauvignon blanc has a third of it barrel fermented and the rest made in stainless steel. This brings a fleshier and fuller style with added complexity, making an outstanding example of Aussie Sauvie. Green-tinged, the nose is floral and herbaceous, with citrus, gooseberry and passionfruit. It’s not as pungent as a Kiwi Sauvie, being broader and creamier in the mouth. Finishing very dry and with the usual mouth-watering acidity, it has an unexpected subtlety. Drink now and over the next couple of years.
The Wine Society, £11.50
Chardonnay, Leeuwin Estate, Prelude. 2007. 14%
Encouraged by no lesser light than Robert Mondavi in the early seventies, Leeuwin Estate made their first commercial vintage in 1979. They make arguably the finest and most iconic chardonnay in Australia, the Art Series wine rivalling top white burgundy, with longevity and prices to match. Here is their Prelude series chardonnay – a second label that is better than most firsts, with the wine withdrawn from the Art Series production. Pear, stone fruit and grapefruit are the hallmarks here, precision alongside sheer depth of fruit – French oak is mandatory for the style, but it is well judged. It brings a lactic texture, leesy complexity and cashew nut/toast flavours. Bottle age will suck more of the remaining oak up; this is still relatively youthful with 4-5 years ahead to peak.
Uncorked, London, £20.00
Red, Cullen. 2007. 13%
Vanya Cullen is one of the world’s great winegrowers. This is her entry level red blend. In 2007, 76% Malbec and 24% Merlot were given 15 months maturation in old French oak. A deep ruby red with a crimson rim. Mulberry, plum and spices on the nose, reprised again on the palate. Soft and inviting, a great balance of lively acidity, soft tannins and restrained alcohol – such finesse is very much the Cullen house style, as is the pure fruit and a long fade. This is skilful blending where the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts. Made for earlier drinking over the next couple of years or so but will hold for longer quite easily.
Hoults, Huddersfield, £13.99
Cabernet Sauvignon, Howard Park, Leston Vineyard, 2007. 14%
Howard Park is really improving and may be best known for their Madfish entry-level brand. About one third of their Leston vineyard is planed with Cabernet Sauvignon. Given 18 months in French oak (50% new), this makes a varietal wine with lovely structure; glossy texture, intense blackcurrant and mulberry fruit mixed with cedar and a milk chocolate finish. It is still young and best left for another year or so and will improve over next 5-6 years.
Cabernet-Merlot, Cape Mentelle. 2007. 14%
Cape Mentelle is an iconic winery in Margaret River, established by David Hohnen and now owned by luxury giant Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey (LVMH). This classic Bordeaux blend has cabernet sauvignon (58%) as the majority shareholder over merlot (34%), together with splashes of petit verdot (4%), malbec (2%) and cabernet franc (2%). After fermentation the wine is aged in French and US oak (25% new) for 15 months. Blending always adds complexity; there are violets on the nose entwined with blackcurrant and cherry and a tobacco note. The palate majors on cassis with a clear herbaceous/leafy undertow. Refined and bright yet plump, there is a savoury finish with some mocha/cedar notes to complete the package. Drinking now with easily 5-6 years ahead.