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The Wines of Canberra

By Alex Russell on February 27, 2013 in Food

Photo: Cheryl-Racquelle Strewthson

Last year I spent one night in Canberra (or, more precisely, Gundaroo) for the wedding of a couple of good, wine-loving friends. They chose the destination because of its popular restaurant. Grazing.

While we waited for the bride to arrive I stumbled upon the cellar door for a winery called Capital Wines. Their main range of wines is the ‘Ministry Series’, which includes aptly names drops including ‘The Senator’ (Chardonnay), ‘The Backbencher’ (Merlot) and ‘The Whip’ (Riesling). All of the wines are interesting and well worth a try. They’ll set you back around $19-27 per bottle.

The real jewels in the crown here though are from the Kyeema Vineyard range, which consists of a reserve Merlot and Shiraz (both around $50ish and both excellent wines), along with the surprise packet, a delightful Chardonnay Viognier ($36). I could quite easily sip a fair bit of this pleasant drop at some barbecues over summer.

There are plenty of other wineries in Canberra that are worth checking out. The always-popular Clonakilla has been putting out sensational wine for years. Their famous Shiraz Viognier is right up there with the best Australian reds and it’s one that I collect. The Hilltops Shiraz is absolutely sensational value for money at $30ish and is one of those wines I can’t recommend enough. It will keep everyone happy and will cellar pretty well. In the whites, the Viognier and Riesling are brilliant.

There are some other sensational wines in the Clonakilla line-up too if you care to seek them out. Of late, winemaker Tim Kirk has been releasing some new labels. His ‘Viognier Nouveau’ is a refreshing, zingy style of Viognier, designed to be drunk in its youth on hot days. For just $22, you’ve really got to try it, especially if you’re over Sauv Blanc but still like it fresh and fruity. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for experimental or small volume wines from Clonakilla, such as the rare Pinot Noir or Grenache Shiraz that were released last year.

Wine lovers may also know of Ken Helm’s Rieslings (he makes a few – Premium, Classic Dry, Half Dry, Botrytis). The Classic Dry at $30 is a steal (as are most Rieslings, really) and the Premium at $48 is great for those who want to put something in the cellar. Both win awards all over the place. I haven’t tried his reds, but if someone wants to have a word to him on my behalf about that, go nuts.

Need a lunch break? If you’re not near Grazing in Gundaroo, try stopping into Lark Hill for a bite to eat between 12noon and 3pm and try a few of their exotics, like their Gruner Veltliner. They’re also pushing Sangiovese, which seems to be popping up at a lot of cellar doors these days. To really understand Sangiovese, have it with pizza or pasta. Tasting it without food doesn’t do it justice.

Finally, Eden Road wines have been making a few waves. With four different Shirazes ($22-50), this place is speaking my language. Grab a bottle of each and have a steak and Shiraz party with some friends while you’re in the nation’s capital – it’ll give you a new appreciation for the Canberra nightlife!

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