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Rothvale Vineyards, Australia

by Tom Cannavan, 04/03

I was contacted recently by World of Wine, who are the UK importers of the wines of Rothvale Vineyards, a "boutique" winery in Pokolbin, a sub-region of the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia. Rothvale is essentially a father and son operation, with old vines and very traditional winemaking techniques. This six wines below were sent for me to taste.
 

White

Rothvale Reserve Chardonnay (French Oak) 2001 - £17.75
There is a lovely vegetal edge to this wine, with little hints of green bean and wax to nutty, leesy, butterscotch-rich fruit with citrus and more tropical aromas. On the palate there's a creamy texture, with plenty of creamy flavour too; cashew and figgy richness with pineapple and ripe melon fruit, then plenty of citrussy cut with grapefruit and orange-pith acidity. The oak is smoky in the background of the finish, with fine fruit quality persisiting. Excellent, and delicious now though seems to have the structure to repay cellaring for a few years.

Rothvale Reserve Chardonnay (American Oak) 2001 - £17.75
Slightly darker colour. Fuller, much sweeter on the nose, with more distinctive woody aromas of coconut and marzipan. There's a buttery quality, and something almost floral, as well as sweet, tropical fruit. On the palate the oak is less integrated at this stage, washing over the palate as a sweet, unctuous, layer beneath which there is a ripe, juicy quality of fruit; plenty of orchard fruit flavours, as well as hints of guava and mango-like richness. A much more full-on presence with this wine, multi-layered with unctuous fruit and oak, yet with good acidity to provide balance. Very good indeed, possibly excellent if you like this highly-charged style; certainly impressive.

Rothvale Lightly Oaked Chardonnay 2001 - £13.75
I decided to taste the lightly-oaked version - which spends only 10 weeks in French barriques - after the two reserve wines, to see if it presented a "fresher" picture. Indeed it does, with the nose still displaying a good deal of nutty, butterscotch and honeysuckle character, but far more expressive of sweet, pure, very intense tropical fruit and a little lifting zip of lemon. On the palate it has an unctuous quality, with thick texture and a honeyed, sweet edge to ripe fruit. There are notes of juicy nectarine and mango, a pineapple ripeness and a long, fruit-focused finish. Delightful, and really nice drinking. Very good indeed.

Rothvale Barrel-Fermented Sémillon 2001 - £18.75
Above all else the Hunter Valley is famed for its Sémillon wines, and Rothvale ferment and age this example for one year in French oak barrels - the same barrels that were used for the previous vintage of the French oak Chardonnay. The colour is a very pale green, and the nose is intriguing and delightful; there's a definite peachy, downy sweetness, nuts, and a touch of honey as well as a wonderfully warm toasty character, hinting at grilled figs and toasted almonds. On the palate a big, solid dense core of lemon fruit punches though the centre of this wine, with the toasty, nutty nuances in the background. There's quite a rich, oily texture, with a hint of waxiness, but a fine balance of citrus acidity really keeps it fresh. Quite a subtle style really, that slowly works its magic. Should also age very well, gaining honey and toast character. Very good indeed/excellent.

Red

Rothvale Luke's Shiraz 2000 - £18.75
The grapes are hand-picked from vines which are selected clones of those that produce Penfold's Grange. It is aged in French barriques, both new and used. It has a very vibrant, deep cherry colour. The nose is wrapped in creamy vanilla; a big, lush, amalgam of sweet, ripe berry fruit and overripe mulberry character, with just a touch of volatile acidity (not unpleasant). On the palate a savoury, leathery character has plenty of sinew and structure, with mouth-filling texture, bags of fruit and ripe, silky tannins. Good acidity keeps it fresh. This is an impressive Shiraz with some complexity. Very good indeed.

Rothvale Tilda's Shiraz 2000 - £18.75
The Tilda's is aged in one- and two-year-old American oak, so an interesting contrast once again, just like the Reserve Chardonnays. Similar colour to the Luke's, with a more subdued nose, suggesting subtle blackberry and black cherry fruit, some spice and an earthy, cedary quality. On the palate lovely fruit sweetness again, and possibly more savoury than the Luke's Shiraz, with tight, grainy tannic structure and a real bittersweet raspberry and cherry edge to the fruit. This seems a little leaner than the Luke's, with a savoury density, but is also very good indeed.

An impressive set of premium wines from a producer new to me.