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Category: Wine

 

Scarce Earth Project Tasting

Well it is that time of the year again – around Easter each year the Scarce Earth wines are getting ready for their 1st May release.  So what I hear you say is the Scarce Earth Project all about?  Well it is all about Shiraz and Shiraz in it’s purest form.  McLaren Vale is know for producing excellent Shiraz but there is no such thing as a typical McLaren Vale Shiraz because of the varied geology/soil types as well as the different climates.  Previously there has been attempts to classify sub regions of McLaren Vale – with various levels of success.  Now with the release of the Geology Map of McLaren Vale vineyards can be classified by their various soil and rock types.  The Scarce Earth Project is all about showing single vineyard Shiraz and being able to link the vineyard back to the geology type.  Then the brief is for minimalistic winemaking practices (particularly minimal oak influences) this way the Shiraz fruit can shine through and then the differences should reflect the differences in the geology and climate.

Not everybody is convinced but I find it interesting to taste wines from various vineyards almost next to each other and marvel on how different they can be.  Also I can see this concept being a way to showcase McLaren Vale Shiraz and that has got to be a good thing.

Anyway here are some of the wines with  ore to follow next time.

Cradle of Hills Row 23 Shiraz ($45)

Aromas of cold tea and lavender make this an unusual offering from this group.  The lavender continues onto the palate with some really good fruit definition along with a hint of fruit sweetness and an envelope of tannins that brings all the flavours together.

Fork in the Road Shiraz ($39)

After missing out in 2011 it is good to see Joan’s vineyard back again.  I enjoyed the fruit definition with lots of dried sage with lingering effect.

d’Arenberg Tyche’s Mustard Single Vineyard Shiraz ($99)

Quite aromatic with lots of pepper.  I thought the fruit was a little short on the back palate and a green stalky flavour that I do not enjoy.

d’Arenberg The Eight Iron Single Vineyard Shiraz ($99)

This wine is all about the bold strong palate structure with the plum and chocolate one expects from McLaren Vale Shiraz with just a hint of green stalkyness.

d’Arenberg The Amaranthine Single Vineyard Shiraz ($99)

My favourite of the 3 dArry wines with a purple hue with a balance of tannins and ripe fruit and chocolate.

Shingleback Unedited Shiraz ($70)

A wine with strength and elegance with both red and black fruits showing through.  Each taste of this wine left me wanting more – certainly a good recommendation.

Maxwell Wines Eocene Ancient Earth Shiraz ($45)

Aromas of limestone or slate with loads of red fruits.  The flavours keep on with the red fruits – it is almost juicy on the front and balanced but drying tannins on the finish.  This wine screams out to be consumed with food – bring on some pork spare ribs.

Vintage is a magical time of year with the hopes and dreams of the 12 month cycle there for all to reap.  This growing year has been challenging to say the least.  During flowering the vines we buffeted with high winds – causing many flowers to break and thus not forming grapes.  So from early days the general view was for a low tonnage harvest.  Then mid summer, 2 heat waves with periods of 40+ degrees caused concerns with vines shutting down and if without water causing concerns for the vines survival.  Then when a disaster seemed unavoidable a period of mild weather rolled in.  This mild period has really been the saviour.  Many wineries were concerned about having to pick everything at once – in most cases winery capacity is dependent on the usual variation of picking times for the various grape varieties an example is Shiraz is normally picked, fermented and pressed before Grenache is ready to be picked.  Then to add to the issues this vintage seems to have been some sort of boom for birds.  Discussing the effect of bird strike generally has indicated there is more loss of production by birds than most people have seen for many years.  My theory is that the food normally available for the birds was diminished during the heat waves during the summer.

With all this who would grow grapes!

Anyway the general view is low volume of wine but very happy with the quality.

Last vintage I got heavily involved but this year I was less active.  Still I managed to assist with crushing some Shiraz at Genders McLaren Park Wines plus picking Shiraz at Marius.

Machine Harvested Genders Shiraz

 

Genders “Crushing” system

Then hand picking at that wonderful Marius Vineyard.

Marius Picking

Note the bird strike – the birds plunge their beaks into a grape and suck a significant amount of the sweet juice.

Bird Strike

 

September 2oth 2013 – one of my favourite days of the year.  The International Grenache Day and McLaren Vale makes some excellent Grenache and Grenache based blends.  The concept behind International Grenache Day is to raise the profile of Grenache to the wine drinking punters.  Here in McLaren Vale, Grenache has a long history.  Grenache was found to be drought tolerant and could produce high cropping and flavoursome fortified wines.  As the transition from fortifies to table wines occurred Grenache still played it’s role, though not all would have known.  Many McLaren Vale wines were labelled as  Burgundy or Claret had significant amounts of the unknown blender called Grenache.  Even into the varietal phase Grenache was widely used – I hear stories that a Shiraz / Grenache blend would hit the bottlers and when the labels ran out for one wine (say a blend) they just changed the next label (say Shiraz).  Then the label integrity program was introduced and made such practices difficult.  However, even today one can label their wine Shiraz and have up to 15% of something else in it.  Over this time of change Grenache has changed into a difficult sell to the average wine punter and out of favour.

For me the best Grenache shows red fruit character and has minimal oak influence – thus producing a velvety smooth but complex red wine that is not as heavy as the standard Shiraz or Cabernet.  Interestingly today there is a group of the wine drinking public that do not know much about Grenache – mainly as the “G” in a SGM blend.  I have shown a number of friends a good McLaren Vale Grenache (without telling them what the wine was).  Invariably the comments are around such things as what is that – it is not so heavy, but so nice.

This year I was lucky enough to be invited to a vertical tasting from Kay Brothers.  A vertical tasting is tasting the same wine from the same winery over a number of vintages.  Kay Brothers have been a bit of a favourite of mine over a long time – and part of that is their commitment to, what has become, my favourite grape variety.

Kay Bothers Vertical Grenache Tasting

All the Kay Brothers wines at this tasting have been basket pressed and the grapes have come from the vineyard block (planted in 1998) so the wines show the variations of the vintage and winemaking practices.

2006 Basket Pressed Grenache

The aromas were showing some oxidised almost the same rancio expected of a good fortified style.  Interestingly as the wine spent time in the glass there was a faint whiff of strawberries and spice.  The flavours were dominated by spiced and slightly burnt caramel – not flabby at all as it had good acid.

This wine intrigued me and I kept coming back to it many times over the tasting.  This wine challenged me and I really liked it.  I would have loved to try this with food.

2009 Basket Pressed Grenache

The wine exudes deepness in colour and in character.  In the mouth the wine really sung a different tune.  I got red liquorice, black liquorice and lots of “All Spice” with a black finish.  What really stuck me was the buttery aroma that developed in the glass.  A good offering from a really hot vintage.

2010 Basket Pressed Grenache

Red and spice and all things nice that is what this little red wine is made of.  Low tannins, redness all over the place (even liquorice) subtle spice and a floral intrusion.  A good example of what I call “Good McLaren Vale Grenache”.

2012 Basket Pressed Grenache

The most complex aromas of the group so far – all spice, red liquorice, fresh herbs (coriander and parsley), florals all mixed with the fresh red fruit compote.  The palate showed finesse but with good fruit intensity (particularly on the mid palate) and a drying finish (showing good but soft tannins).

It was a toss up for me between this and the 2006 as my preferred wines of the tasting.  Unfortunately the wine is sold out at the winery.

2013 Basket Pressed Grenache

The winemaker tried a few different things with this fruit.  Cool ferments and extended skin contact (4 weeks) produced a wine that had fennel and cold tea characteristics.  The flavours were more cherry based than the previous wines and some slightly grainy tannins – possibly from the extended skin contact.

I look forward to seeing this wine settle down a little before release some time later this year……

Something old is new again.  I have been a big fan of Paul Petagna and his wine for a number of years. Both under his “old” label Petagna Wines and the Sellicks Hill Wines label that Paul was making for his in laws.  Now Paul has bought the rights to Sellicks Hill Wines and has opened a cellar door on the Main South Road property (the cellar door sign can be seen just north of the Victory Hotel).

Sellicks Hill Wines Sign

Paul’s wines are part of him – both are full of character and the wines are just so flavoursome.  Interestingly the wines are also kept in barrel and bottle until they meet the standard before sale.  As such the current releases are from between 2006 and 2009.  By opening just one bottle you can share Paul’s passion for his wines and we should be glad for this passion.

The Sellicks Hill vineyard was planted by Paul’s Father in Law and Paul himself – so he knows each and every vine.  During winter I have seen him pruning the vines and even though he expresses his wish that somebody else would conduct the pruning, one can sense that deep down he fusses over each and every vine.  The vineyard has Grenache and Shiraz with the Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre used in the wines come from neighbouring vineyards so the wines are truly from Sellicks Hill.

2006 Valletta (Grenache Shiraz) (on special for $25 normally $30)

When I first saw this wine I was concerned as the wine had 3 years in oak and Grenache and oak do not always do well together.  I should not have been concerned as this wine has turned out to be one of my favourite McLaren Vale red wines.  It is drinking so well as Paul has done the cellaring for you.  The wine shows black and red fruits with some fennel notes and minimal oak tannins.

2009 Dio (Mourvedre) ($35)

I saw this wine in barrel a number of times over the last couple of years and have been consistently impressed so it was not a surprise that Paul decided to bottle this as a straight Mourvedre (noting that the previous Dio was a GSM blend).  Earthy, spicy and mid weight make this wine not only approachable but appealing to a number of different personal preferences.

2008 Diovolo (Shiraz Cabernet) ($35)

The classical Aussie blend that seemed to loose it’s way about 10 year ago as Australia went through the varietal phase.  The blending of these 2 varieties allows the mid palate shortfall of Cabernet (this is a generalisation).  I am glad this blend has begun to win back favour and this example is a beauty.  There is the usual fair of plums and black current and I enjoy the mint character (which comes from a particular barrel of wine from a particular grower that is quite minty).

2006 Piombo (Shiraz) ($40)

Right up front I must say I do not like this label – I understand the significance of the playing card popular with the Italian community, but the label is terrible.  The good thing here is the wine is a cracker – just wonderful McLaren Vale Shiraz.  Plums, spice complexity, liquorice and some chocolate as well.  For me this is one of the better Shiraz wines around and it has been cellared for you.  At the $40 mark I also think this is a steel – many wines of this ilk are well over $50.

 

A collection of McLaren Vale small scale winemakers have bandied together to form a collective called the “Vale Cru”.  For the last 4 years this group has gathered for an afternoon tasting, during October, at the Victory Hotel.  I must admit I am biased towards this group, even to the point that resistance is useless.  A lot of my original contacts and wines sold from my Taste McLaren Vale venture have come from the Vale Cru’s first annual Victory Hotel tasting.

Mr Brash Higgins himself

In an industry where the small producer spends so much time and effort to make the best wines possible the marketing effort can be at best difficult.  Combining their efforts into this collective makes so much sense.  However making sense and making such a venture work is not always easy or effective.  Over the years there has been a number of winemakers come and go but there seems to be core and stable group.

The wineries at this tasting were:-

  • Brash Higgins
  • Five Geese
  • Inkwell
  • La Curio
  • Lazy Ballerina
  • Samuel’s Gorge
  • Ulithorne
  • Vigna Bottin
  • Waywood
  • Rudderless
  • Wistmosa
  • Rusty Mutt
  • Ministry of Clouds
  • Bekkers

It should be noted that Bekkers are not a part of the Vale Cru but attended under invitation.

There was also a speaker in attendance and in this case it was Nick Stock.  Nick was very approachable in discussions about the wines.  I discussed McLaren Vale Grenache with him before I realised who this guy was.  On a personal note it was also good for me to find out that not only is Nick an Adelaide boy but he also follows the same SANFL team I do (Norwood Football Club).

Nick Stock addressing the crowd

The afternoon is in itself a highlight but the wines of note (for me) were:-

2012 Brash Higgins Nero d’Avola ($42)

After spending 6 months on skins in clay pots (or amphora) this wine style is unlike anything else I have tasted.  With anise character wrapped around what I can only describe as cold tea.  Amazingly every time I taste this wine I think about the special tea blend my grandmother used to drink.  This wine is interestingly good all the way and I recommend this as a must try wine.

2012 Five Geese Grenache Shiraz ($26)

This was my bargain wine pick of the group.  So much depth and character for the price.  The redness and peat character of the Blewitt Springs Grenache mixed with the strength of McLaren Vale Shiraz.  I know Grenache is a hard sell but if you try this wine you will wonder the same.

2011 La Curio Reserve Grenache ($28)

Adam has access to old dry grown bush vine Grenache and makes this special fruit sing with all the love that he can muster.  This wine is consistently one of the best expressions of McLaren Vale Grenache and another must try.

2013 Vigna Bottin Vermentino

Just bottled and a sneak peak.  Straight away it stood out.  A white wine showing such character in McLaren Vale!!!!!  This wine won a number of trophies in the McLaren Vale show (held the week after this tasting).  The wine showed so much with floral rose water notes with minerality mixed with a lemon acid length.  Again I find this variety interesting with an almost salty flavour – just so different.  This was by far the best wine of this variety I have tasted.

2010 Rusty Mutt Shiraz ($25.50)

Rusty Mutt and the Vale Cru

I have previously reviewed this wine and it is again a highlight.  With many wines showing masculine depth this expression of the Shiraz is more feminine depth.  The wine has a softness but complexity that belies this softness.  James Halliday has rated this a 94/100 and I can see why.  Well done Scott.


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