Mount Majura Vineyard – Capital Wines from Australia’s Capital District

28 Dec

Mount Majura Vineyards, CanberraAustralia is a prolific wine producer and exporter, shipping over 1 billion bottles per year to the international market.  Most wine-lovers are familiar with the Barossa Valley, Australia’s best-known wine region, with world renown wineries such as Penfolds and Jacob’s Creek.  Beyond Barossa, other broadly popular wines include the Rieslings of Clare Valley and the bold reds of McLaren Vale.  But perhaps one of the least familiar wine regions of Australia is the Canberra region.  This region within the Australian Capital District (analogous to our Washington DC) has been creating distinct Australian wines for over 160 years, receiving numerous accolades for high-quality value-priced wines, but attracting little notice in the United States.

The region’s vineyards cover a large range of altitudes, averaging from 1000 to 2700 feet. The extremely varied temperatures, vineyard elevations and soil types create a diverse palette of characteristically distinct vineyards and even sub-plots within vineyards.  Varietals such as Sangiovese, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz and (especially) Tempranillo all thrive here and exhibit a strong sense of terroir.

I spent a lovely afternoon at Mount Majura Vineyard, which lies near the top of the Majura Valley just north of the city of Canberra. The valley floor here is too frost-prone in Spring for winegrapes, but on the sun-facing slopes of the valley the cold air drains away, with a wide diurnal temperature range allowing for ripe, fruity grapes that retain vibrant acidity: perfect for wine.

Mount Majura’s vineyard totals just 9.3 Hectares (about 23 acres) which was originally planted with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a field-blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  More recently, grapes of Spanish origin have been proven to thrive and produce wines of great character.  These newer, Iberian varieties including Graciano, Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo.  The flagship grape here is Tempranillo, which makes sense considering the similarities in elevation and climate here to the Rioja Alta region of Spain.

Winemaker Dr. Frank van de Loo has managed the vineyard since 1998 and is producing some of the most terroir-driven and complex wines in the region.  All the wines I tasted were very good to excellent, and all are quite affordably priced:

The Silurian 2017.  Made in the traditional Champagnoise method, this sparkling blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is delicious.  Fresh acidity, light and refreshing.  90

Riesling 2018.  Crisp and pure, a floral and lemon zest bouquet with a long finish.  90

Lime Kiln Red 2017.  A blend of Shiraz, Mondeuse and Touriga, lighter than might be expected but juicy with a light spiciness and short to medium finish.  88

Shiraz 2016.  Dark and rich fruit, soft tannins and a touch of sweet smokiness with an underlying zing of acidity.  89

TSG 2016.  Tempranillo, Shiraz and Graciano. Delicious!  Dark fruit and black pepper on the nose, complex flavors (including a touch of Eucalyptus) with a medium-long finish.  91

These wines underscore the reputation for which Australia is famous: great wines at very affordable prices!

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