I recently attended a dinner at the excellent restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh, where the wines of the Stella Bella estate were presented. Stella Bella is a privately owned company in the Margaret River region of Western Australia – a hot bed of fine wine, best known for established estates like Leeuwin, Cullen and Cape Mentelle. The winemaker is Janice McDonald, who resurrected old vineyards and released the first vintage of Suckfizzle only in 1997.
Suckfizzle comes from a small vineyard in Augusta, close to the Indian ocean. Only two Suckfizzle wines are made, a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines have developed what can only be described as a cult following, with a string of top awards and glowing reviews. The Stella Bella range was added later: a bigger range including exotics like Pink Muscat and Sangiovese. Recently, an entry-level range called Skuttlebutt has joined the line-up.The tasting was not blind. Approximate prices are given in pounds sterling.
Stella Bella (Australia) Sauvignon/Semillon 2003
Beautifully limpid, with a passionfruit and green fig nose, some gooseberry amd a touch of nettly character. It is powerful and sweet on the palate, but beautifully balanced and harmonious, with a lovely orange and grapefruit tang amongst the sweeter, peachier fruit. That little herbal edge persists, adding interest and a streak of citrussy acidity elongates the finish. Lovely stuff, that was a Wine of the Month in a former vintage. Very good indeed. Around £8.99, Original Wine Company. See all stockists on wine-searcher.
Stella Bella (Australia) Chardonnay 2002
This balanced Chardonnay from the Margaret River (only 12.7% alcohol) is aged in mostly one-year-old French barrels, and it has a nose that is luscious, toasty and buttery, without too much oaky excess. There is an orangy note to the fruit, a touch of Burgundian vegetal quality and some leesy, creamy character. A big palate of juicy, savoury orange fruit defines warm nutty flavours and more of that toasty depth, but this has plenty of verve and complexity, with a tight finish that even hints at minerality. An excellent wine. Around £10.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.
Stella Bella (Australia) Pink Muscat 2003
With only 7% alcohol, this is a wine in the mould of Moscato d’Asti, with a vivid pink colour and gentle sparkle. It is a fruit sorbet of a wine, with delicate strawberry and old roses nose and a very lively, sweet and sumptuous palate of red fruits. The acidity is balanced and crisp, but the overall impression is of soft, gentle and silky fruit. Absolutely delightful and very good indeed. Around £7.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.
Stella Bella (Australia) Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
This is only the second vintage of this wine, which is around 60% Sangiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is quite rich and rounded, with a nose of glossy black fruit; cherry and chocolate emerge. The palate is very soft, luscious and sweet. There is slick of vanillin, and a silky body of black cherry with plenty of bittersweet plum and black chocolate. Very good indeed/excellent. Around £9.99, Oddbins. See all stockists on wine-searcher.
Suckfizzle (Australia) Semillon/Sauvignon 2001
Produced in limited quantities, this barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend has a hugely complex nose with piercing green fruit notes of fig, and apple, with green bean and nettles, layered with nuances of Brazil nut and toasty oak. On the palate it has a ripe, juicy greengage quality, with a big core of citrus, with searing lime acidity and a real sense of minerality. There is lushness here, but all tempered by those herbaceous hints and smoky oak. Long, with tantalising acidity, this is intriguing stuff, and excellent. Around £17.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.
Suckfizzle (Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
Strict quality control is practised, with not all grapes from the low-yielding vineyards making it into this top red, which is aged 24 months in oak, around 50% of which is new. It has sophicticated, sweet red fruits on the nose, with scents of rasberry and bramble adding an earthy depth to a cool cassis core. On the palate it is beautifully delineated, with a warming, ripe weight of fruit over well-developed, fine tannins and balanced, but background acidity. This is quite mellow and smoky, with a little firm edge adding structure. Very good indeed/excellent. Around £17.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.
The UK importer of Stella Bella/Suckfizzle is Alliance Wines