Ran into a old friend recently-Cockatoo Ridge, a brightly-painted corporate brand created over twenty years ago and now powering under a new owner.
The wines have always carried the livery of an Australian critter-the sulphur-crested cockatoo, and remained respectable value for money. Geoff Merrill was the original creator.
Their origin lies in the South Australian Riverland, now better known as the Murray Valley, and included in the clutch was a terrific sparkling, non-vintage white. The bubbles range has been expanded now.
About a year ago, a distressed Cockatoo Ridge was bought by the Riverina-based Beelgara wine group, and now it is flying up there with new life.
I caught up with Cockatoo Ridge’s South Australian-based winemaker, Rod Hooper, during the recent Fine Wine Partners swoop in Brisbane with their Festival for the Senses extravaganza.
Cockatoo Ridge Pinot Grigio 2010; 13% (USD 9.50); +++, has bright colours for this grape which may go brassy, not this one, lots of pear on the nose to remind that this is varietal, then a clean, dry, fruit-cup taste with lots of nectarine grip and juciness. Drink very cold, it’s rejuvenating.
Cockatoo Ridge Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010; 12% (USD 9.50); +++, is pale as I’d expect, very much in sync with modern crisp whites, it shows the lower alcohol and zippy acidity I’d expect of this style, has the greenness that the palate needs to remain acid-austere, it clicks, 80% semillon and still tight.
Cockatoo Ridge Chardonnay 2010; 12.5% (USD 9.50); +++, has pleasant appeal, the modern type, unwooded, but succulent and not over-peachy from six months on its yeast garnering up some nice nutty flavours, good austerity which new chardonnay drinkers (no fatness) and all-round good stuff.
Cockatoo Ridge Moscato2011; 6% (USD 9.50); +++1/2; this wine sings, the new vintage made from frontignan blanc, a muscat variant, oozy, juicy, low alc in sync with the style which pleases drinkers of the wine, smaller headaches, lots of barley sugar ripeness flavours, slightly fizzy (frizzante as the Italians say), clean and neat (120 g/L sugars too).
Cockatoo Ridge Chardonnay NV; 11% (USD 9.50); +++; the standard bearer for the brand, value bubbles, this a blend of two chardonnay years, 2010 and 2011, a good sparkled white wine, some brassy colour because 10% of the wine is shiraz, good fizz grip and fair dryness (14 g/L residual), closed with the resealable Zork cap which has gained popularity. Anything without cork is a blessing.
Cockatoo Ridge Black NV; 13.5% (USD 9.50); ++++; a terrific wine, jammy notes and creaming over with flavour, just great, a cabernet merlot shiraz blend with a range of great components (some Coonawarra 2007) to give it a value proposition. Sweetness is 35 g/L.
Cockatoo Ridge Shiraz 2008; 13.5% (USD 9.50); +++; competently-made, lots of aromas of plummy shiraz which is the varietal personality in warm growing regions, plump in the mouth and softly drying. Has cred and flavour, drink now only.
Cockatoo Ridge Cabernet Merlot 2009; 13.5% (USD 9.50); +++; minty, sweet anise and jam, low oak on nose, palate has black fruits and gentle tannins, red wine for those enjoying milder cabernet or repeat business, plump and fruity.
Rod Hooper says: “My winemaking philosophy is to make technically very good wines that have honest expressions of varietal fruit” which is a pretty good quote from a fellow who once made wine for an Australian wine college.
And that’s how the wines come up.
Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator www.uncorkedandcultivated.com.au
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