Pepper Tree Coquun Shiraz 2010
Tallawanta vineyard, Hunter Valley, NSW
$55
Five-star
Australia’s unique heritage of old vines continues to gain recognition as vignerons seek out and market venerable old sites. Certainly the most extravagant example is Penfolds Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – from vines planted in the 1880s – and offered globally at $168,000 (see facing page). For a more modest sum, we can enjoy Jim Chatto’s beautiful Coquun shiraz from the Tallawanta vineyard – planted in 1920 by the Elliot family at the foot of the Hunter Valley’s Brokenback Range. One of three single-vineyard Hunter shirazes Chatto released in May, Coquun captures the essence of the Hunter’s unique, very long-lived style. It’s medium bodied and amazingly gentle and caressing on the palate. The bright, spicy varietal flavour comes seasoned with a distinct Hunter earthiness.

Mount Horrocks Shiraz 2010
Mount Horrocks vineyard, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia
$33-$38
Four-star
Winemaker Stephanie Toole presents a lively, bouncy, happy face of Clare shiraz – rich but not heavy, and emphasising the variety’s pure, sweet aromas and flavours. Clare shiraz can be heavy and dense, but Mount Horrocks manages to be fine-boned and elegant, without sacrificing ripeness or complexity. A pleasantly tart, spicy edge to the fruit hints at the use of high-quality oak barrels, without tasting of oak. What a joy it is to drink.

Ad Hoc Wallflower Riesling 2012
Great Southern, Western Australia
$15.90-$21
Four-star
As a Hardys winemaker, Larry Cherubino worked with a wide range of grapes from across south-western Western Australia.  ‘‘Over the years I reckon I’ve got a pretty good handle on what works where,’’ he says. Everything I do reflects my strong belief that when you get the right varieties in the right sites you’re well on your way to making good wine.’’ In Ad Hoc Wallflower, riesling from Great Southern works deliciously – with a special Cherubino twist. A wild yeast ferment to the free-run juice adds texture and grip to a mouth-wateringly fine, delicate dry white.

Tahbilk Marsanne 2011
Tahbilk vineyard, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria
$12.35-$17.75
Three-star
Historic Tahbilk, on an anabranch of the Goulburn River, claims to have the largest planting of marsanne in the world, with some vines dating from 1927. At Tahbilk this Rhone Valley variety makes a distinctive, potentially very long-lived dry white. The aroma and flavour have often been described as honeysuckle-like – something I don’t always detect, but do in the 2011. The style’s grown slightly finer and more delicate over the last decade. But behind the honeysuckle and citrus flavours lie tangy acidity and a firm, savoury bite.

Rymill the Yearling Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Rymill Vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia
$11.40-$15
Three-star
The Yearling is one of a number of inexpensive, elegant Coonawarra reds being made for current drinking. Fruit comes from Peter Rymill’s vineyards, and Sandrine Gimon and Amelia Anderson make the wine at the striking winery and cellar-door complex – located towards the northern extremity of Coonawarra’s famous terrra rossa soils. It captures Coonawarra’s bright berry aromas and flavours – in distinctive style that says, ‘‘I’m not going to suck the water from your eyes’’, as some do. The soft, round tannins contribute texture to the fruity suppleness of the mid-palate.

Coriole Vita Reserve Sangiovese 2009
Coriole 1985 vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia
$50
Five-star
Coriole’s Mark Lloyd planted sangiovese in 1985 and in good seasons makes a reserve bottling under the Vita Reserve label. He says it’s from the best-performing vineyard of the vintage. In 2009 he made the fifth Vita reserve, sourced from the original 0.8-hectare vineyard. It’s fleshy for sangiovese – satisfyingly full, ripe and fruity. But savoury, firm tannins cut through the fruit, giving Vita the bite, thrust and elegant structure the variety produces at its best.

Chris Shananan is a wine judge, former liquor retailer and Canberra Times wine writer.