Tasting Notes: Top Yarra Valley drops

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Taste Food and Wine 2009 by Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer

Taste Food and Wine 2009 by Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer

Take a tour of the Yarra Valley at your local bottle shop - you'll find De Bortoli are the stars of the show. The lads from Taste Food and Wine 2009 found 15 great wines in the last vintage release that you must try if you're touring the region.

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Gulf Station Chardonnay     2007    $17.00   
The only problem with this wine, as you will see when you reach the Pinot Noir as well, is that it will take six more months to reach its ideal drinking period. Far from a problem, you'll just have to drink something else in the meantime. That’s why we’re here! You have much to look forward to in this very restrained, textured style, made to a much more serious specification than any Gulf Station that has gone before it.   

De Bortoli Estate Grown Yarra Valley Chardonnay     2007    $28.00   
One of Steve Webber’s most incredible talents is that when he builds a wine of this quality, he doesn’t spoil the movie by showing everything in the trailer. So, you have to wait and the wine will take you through its story at its own pace. Keep your wits about you, though. It's got that Will Smith thing going. Tick, tick, tick, tick, boom!

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Release Yarra Valley Chardonnay  
   2007    $43.00   
The alarm has gone off but this wine hasn’t even got out of bed yet. This is exceedingly serious Chardonnay and it's incredibly young. It's very compact and honed but with plenty of space in its folds for all manner of barrel- and vineyard-derived complexity. It’s so good because it’s so restrained, unlike so many other Chardys that are fat and ugly. It's a mega-good and mega-well-priced wine.   

PHI Lusatia Park Chardonnay   
  2007    $50.00   
So utterly coiled up was this wine when it landed on our tasting bench that we were initially in two minds as to whether it should make the selection this year. But we kept it on the table and tasted it at the end of the flight – between Art Series, Giaconda and Yattarna (at double the price). The initial concern was that its fruit austerity kicked the oak out of balance. But we shouldn’t be afraid of youthfulness in top Aussie Chardonnay. We accept it in Burgundy, after all, so we should here as well! On second tasting it was every bit good enough to steam into this book. Phee, PHI, pho, phum. It stood shoulder to shoulder with the giants.   

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Release EZ     2008    $38.00   
Absolutely wicked. Edelzwicker is the name in Alsace for a white blend. It’s only really used for inexpensive wines because most producers prefer to bottle single varietals, commanding higher prices. By contrast, Steve Webber has used this for his ultimate blended creation of Gewurz, Pinot Gris and Riesling. So clever, so EaZy. It’s assembled like an intricate piece of marquetry, beautifully textured, finely detailed and blessed with wisps of spice, hints of honey and curls lemon pith.    

De Bortoli Gulf Station Yarra Valley Pinot Noir     2008    $16.00   
More intense and with a tad more wood and more tannin than Windy Pants, what would we do without De Bortoli's Pinots? They both come in uder the rest of the Pinots in our list and the black cherry, spice and grippy but supple tannins make this an impressive creation. Gulf Station is  more closely related to De Bortoli Pinot than it is to Windy Pants, though. You can’t buy a Bourgogne Rouge at this price so this is one of the best value and best tasting Pinot Noirs on the planet.

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Grown Pinot Noir     2007    $36.00   
In a world of terribly skinny 2007 Victorian Pinot Noirs, this is the only one, after a long line, which had balance. So many of its competitors have tragically fallen in this vintage of drought, frost and all of the plagues of Egypt. You know, like we do, that competition is rife around the planet, and now is the time to strive for excellence, not mediocrity. Let the weak fall by the wayside. With lots of complexity and spice and great length and tannin texture, this wine is going to take until Christmas '08 to even start to flatter, but it will run and run for five more years.   

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Release Pinot Noir    
2007    $50.00   
Steve Webber manages to upholster his wines with so much plushness and texture without ever becoming gaudy. They are so classy and enviable that in order to complete the picture when you are drinking a glass of this wine, all you need is an Aston Martin DB9 to drink them in. Such is the complexity of this wine that it can only be compared with bresaola, wild heather honey, fresh picked mulberries and Provençal wild cherries - hoorah!    

William Downie Yarra Valley     2007    $50.00   
It’s as much about texture with Bill’s wines as it is about flavour. This is one of the most thoughtfully assembled wines in this book and it requires patience and some effort to coax the full array of flavours and aromas out of the glass this early in its lifetime, but this is a challenge well worth the effort.  In an ideal world you would wait five years, but this wine sells out in seconds so grab a case, try one bottle, put your mind at ease about its enormous potential and extraordinary introvertedness and then save the rest of the bots for some very smart dinner parties. With very fine black cherry fruit and grippy, textured tannins, this is a serious wine with staggering length. Bear in mind all of these notes when you taste this wine and then think of one more mightily important point – this is a Pinot Noir. It doesn’t say this on the bottle, because Bill wants you to enjoy it as a celestial red wine without any prejudice whatsoever. Adding this thought to the mix, go back to the glass and taste it again and then marvel at just how captivating this wine is.   

De Bortoli Gulf Station Shiraz Viognier    
2007    $17.00   
Remember to drink Windy Pants SV before you start screwing around (or rather 'off') with Gulf Station SV because it is a very different and far more grown up proposition indeed. This and the other Gulf Station wines are far more concentrated and engaging than they used to be, and they are edging ever closer to the top wines from this estate, which at this price is utterly incredible.  With a ridiculously impressive dark chocolate nose and a monsoon of black fruit flavours, urged on by layers of spice on the palate, the only problem you'll have with this wine is trying to keep your hands off it!  Good luck, we are having the same issues, too.   

Luke Lambert Yarra Valley Syrah   
  2007    $31.00   
We have very similar palates, almost unnervingly so, when we write notes and find similar words popping up here there and everywhere, but this is the only wine in the book where opinion is divided between us, not about the quality of the wine but the extent of its overall brilliance. In order to play this game, you'll have to buy a bottle, which in itself might be a challenge because there was bugger-all made. But when you do, send us your vote. The wine leads out with delightfully perfumed fruit but then closes in with stalky tannins that need time in the cellar to soften. The question is whether there is too much stalkiness (were too many stalks used in the ferment with the grapes) or is the freshness and aroma spot on for you? Either way, Luke Lambert is a precocious talent and we will be following him eagerly, glasses in hand.

De Bortoli Estate Grown Yarra Valley Shiraz Viognier     2007    $37.00   
This profound wine is made all the more seductive by the fact that on the label it states that it is made from Shiraz and Viognier but on the palate the texture is more Pinot-esque than any Shiraz we have ever seen. This is not surprising when you consider that De Bortoli is a Pinot Noir academy, but we have never before seen such levels of silkiness. There is no doubt that this wine will mature beautifully over the next decade but, by golly, it tastes phenomenal right now.

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Release Syrah     2006    $52.00   
This wine is a sniper and not an elephant gun. By this we mean that you cannot use the word "blockbuster" about it, even though some might group it with wines three times the weight and five times the width. If bigger means better to you then you are not going to understand just how superior this wine is by comparison to the clumsy blunderbusses of the wine world. Those of you who understand the finer things in life will absolutely adore this wine.

Shelmerdine Yarra Valley Pinot Noir Rosé     2008    $19.00   
Very fine, minerally and savoury with a great texture, there is no confected sweetness here, just stylish, fine, minerally strawberry juice fruit. Gorgeous and white-wine-like throughout, if you shut your eyes it drinks like a white wine, but if you open them it is a hauntingly pale Pinot Noir.

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Pinot Noir Rosé   
  2008    $21.00   
Gorgeous and breath-taking by comparison with some of the more macho wines in this section, the quality of Pinot Noir fruit on show here is very plain to smell and taste. DBYVPNR is intellectual rosé for Pinot freaks, and that doesn’t happen very often, so pick your moment well and only pour this wine for great mates. Its pretty, elegant bouquet and dry, finely textured palate make more of a statement about crafted shape than they do about overt fruit.


Reproduced with permission. © Copyright Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer 2008

VisitVineyards.com Members can purchase Taste Food and Wine 2009 from our online partner Seekbooks at a 12.5% discount, postage and handling extra.



  • Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
  • Yarra Valley (Wine) (VIC)
  • Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and the Ranges (VIC)

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