Author Archives: shane

Buy McLaren Vale Wines – Backyard Shed Cru #9

See the videos below where I review the latest Backyard Shed Cru membership tasting pack.  If you like what you see then check out the Taste McLaren Vale Backyard Shed Cru Membership here.  Every 6 months we send out a wine six pack.  The wines come from little know wineries and are really a tasting pack you you to try new wines from the small artisan McLaren Vale wine producers.

2009 Ruffilli Estates Ambition Cabernet Merlot

2010 Rusty Mutt Shiraz

2009 Handcrafted by Geoff Hardy Shiraz

2010 GMH Founders Choice Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre

2011 Wistmosa Shiraz

2011 Oenotria Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon

McLaren Vale Wines – Unearthing Wine

Taste McLaren Vale is working with the Unearthing Wine group from Adelaide to unearth new wines and new wine lovers.  We are looking to produce small run wines under the Unearthing Label.  Let Charlie (from Unearthing) explain all about the concept below.

Unearthing Wine Lovers; Wine Label

The wine industry is highly competitive across South Australia, and in fact, the world. There have been long term issues around the general economy, wine gluts, export doom, and storage costs, and so the industry is doing it hard. We hear that. But let’s face it, wine lovers love fun, and they also love sharing and gathering socially, enjoying a good wine with friends.
So, it’s time to unearth for our wine lovers, some good wine.

Recent news suggests we currently drink less, but what we are drinking is of better value. This is good news; however, some would argue that at times like the tight economy we currently face, we drink more! Regardless, Charlie-Helen Robinson, Founder of Unearthing explains that there are very good ways to get your hands on a good wine, at a very good price.

She says, “I hear stories of people getting good wine deals, and yet no one was beating down my door. I don’t believe there should be compromise on what we are drinking in hard times, so it was time to take action and bring it to my own door myself, and to then share with all. I believe we have a great offering.”

Charlie’s wine group is generally described as “a relaxed group of wine lovers, talented experts and enthusiastic amateurs” and they’re betting that since wine is something you continually buy, you won’t mind them unearthing a general brand that maintains exceptional value and quality for you.

Previously available to only those in the know or as ‘mates rates’, Charlie has partnered with Shane Barker of Taste McLaren Vale (again) to launch a new label doing just that. The Unearthing Wine Series will roll out one bottle at a time, pairing wines from “limited-allocation, highly acclaimed vineyards in South Australia”, with long standing friendly characters well known in the wine group social circles.

Charlie says “It is rewarding to be able to share exceptional deals with our members and to know they are getting good value wines. With over 1000 members worldwide, we believe we have found a winning formula for unearthing wine experiences, yet we are never content to sit back and rest on our wine corks. This is just a journey that continues to unearth. This is just another crossing.

Charlie’s wine group has been unearthing wine and unique wine experiences since 2007. And she isn’t stopping!

The first wine to hit the market’s is named after Charlie herself.

Charlie’s Sav or more formally, a 2013 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc

Best served chilled relaxing under the summer sunshine, wearing a string bikini with a smile

Unearthing Sauvignon Blanc

McLaren Vale Wine – Fox Creek Wines

Fox Creek Wines Cellar Door

It has been a while since I have visited Fox Creek Wines Cellar door and I am not sure why it has been so long.  I used to work for Fox Creek Wines – I completed the 2009 vintage and then worked right up to the 2010 vintage as the laboratory technician.  Thus Fox Creek Wines holds a special place for me.  I enjoyed my time working there and I learnt so much about making the wine and those little elements of exposure that are hard to describe.  I enjoyed my time talking to Scott (the wine maker) about how I was looking at setting up my wine business and how to market wines.

I have always found the cellar door cheerful and inviting with well tended grounds from the flowers in the garden beds to the expanse of grass.  The outdoor areas have space for a family to have a picnic lunch and room for the kids to run around.  The grounds have a number of wood based sculptures right up to a version of the Red Baron airplane.  Fitting since one of the labels is called Red Baron.  They now serve platters with local cheeses and preserves.

The Red Baron

I did not taste all the wines available as there is a large range to try but here is a summary of what I did taste.

2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($17)

All the passionfruit and tropical notes that one expects from this variety from the warmer McLaren Vale climate.  there was a good level of acid on the finish but I got a slight bitterness right on the back of the palate.

2012 Vermentino ($23)

I remember being involved in a tasting of the variety while work at Fox Creek and came away from trying a few Australian as well as Italian versions of this variety and thinking why would one drink this instead of a good chardonnay.  Well this seemed so different to what I tried back then.  The fruit character was based on nectarines and there was a mouth filling effect  but what I found most interesting was he feeling that the wine was almost salty was what intrigued me so much.  I have not really tried too many Vermentino’s but a few have had this saltiness.

2011 Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre ($17.50)

The last few vintages of this wine have been a highlight for me from this range and has shown such great value.  I was concerned about the 2011 vintage but I should not have been.  This wine is all about clean fruits (both red and black fruits) and the spice.  A red wine that is just so friendly to drink.

2011 Fox Creek Circle Mourvedre Grenache ($25)

Each year the winemaker and his team looks at a special parcel of fruit to make their Circle wine.  When I was working at the winery I was involved in tasting blends between Mourvedre and Grenache and was glad they decided to produce a 2009 Grenache Mourvedre Circle wine so I was happy to see a similar blend again.  I was not disappointed with good red fruits mixed with spices of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Oak influence was more than I expected but it gives good structure to the wine and it will probably live in the bottle longer than a number of Grenache based wines.

2010 Fox Creek Circle Cabernet ($25)

The aroma for this wine showed a first for me – a wine that smelt of red capsicums!  I enjoyed the flavours (none of them red capsicum) with blackcurrent with nutmeg.

2011 Reserve Cabernet ($48)

Just what you expect from this label – classical blackcurrent from the Cabernet fruit and a nuttiness of oak.  Keep this one for a few years and you will be rewarded.

2011 Short Row Shiraz ($28.50)

This label has been another favorite of mine.  The wine is based around American oak treatment.  A few years ago American oak was all the fashion producing those big fruit, high alcohol and lots of strong oak.  Today most companies are looking to use more restrained French oak with the different flavor profile.  We seem to have from one extreme to the other.  There is a place for the American oak style Shiraz and this is one that puts this case forward.  There is the vanilla almost creaminess edge to the wine – and I like it.

2011 Reserve Shiraz ($75)

This has all class written all over it.  Silky smooth with a long life ahead.  Classified as one of the most collectable wines in Australia but for me, don’t collect but drink it.

McLaren Vale Wine – Rusty Mutt

Good things can come from very different sources.  A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Scott who was contacting me about a wine label called Rust Mutt.  I had not heard about the label previously but when I found out that the wines were made at Adam Hooper’s small facility (Adam makes La Curio wines) it sparked my interest even more.  After a phone call outlining that at this time Rusty Mutt has a 2010 Shiraz and a Viognier was to be released soon – I organised a sample of the Shiraz.

So here is what I understand about Rusty Mutt.  Scott is the winemaker and they source Shiraz from 2 different McLaren Vale vineyards and are handpicked before entering the wine facility on Foggo Road.  Destemmed (not crushed) into 2 tonne open fermenters and the use of specially selected yeasts.  Hand plunging, basket pressing and no filtering means the wine is handled the least number of times in as gentle way as possible.  The next stage is interesting – only 4-5 year old oak is used for the 18 month maturation.  Why is this interesting?  Well most oak used for McLaren Vale Shiraz would be new to 3 years old and so oak here is definitely a supporting act.

Just after tasting the wine for the first time I found out that James Halliday had just given the 2010 Shiraz 94 points.  So here is my review:-

2010 Rusty Mutt Shiraz ($25)

Straight away the wonderful Shiraz fruit comes shining through.  The aromas of plums and cherries with hints of red licorice and an almost perfume character.  the drinking is where the fruit treatment hits you.  This wine is elegant and silky smooth –  one could almost call it a feminine wine.  There is nose of the in your face gutsy McLaren Vale Shiraz.  Instead there is a complex fruit compote with black and blue fruits with hints of red and black licorice and even a little chocolate action.  Little oak influence – particularly when the wine has been given time to breathe.  The complexity lends itself to food but more subtle styles like a roast duck curry – in itself different as I do not believe I have previously recommended a McLaren vale Shiraz to be consumed with duck.

McLaren Vale Wine – No Preservative Added Wines

Over the last few years there has been a movement towards a greater understanding about the conditions of how the grapes are grown and how the wines are made.  Today we have different “styles” of wines:-

  1. Organic
  2. Biodynamic
  3. Natural
  4. Preservative Free of No Preservative Added

Organic wines are made with grapes from vineyards that practice organic viticulture.  The aim is sustainable practices where pesticides and herbicides are not used.  Disease management is based around prevention first and then minimal copper based sprays with a maximum amount of copper per hectare required.

Biodynamic wines practice a level of adherence to organic practices with a holistic approach with events tied into the lunar cycle and composted sprays one of them based on burying cow horns filled with ground quartz.  Sounds bizarre but vineyard that follow these practices report a higher soil carbon content and significantly increased level of living hings in the soil (such as worms, bugs etc).

Natural wines do need to be organic or biodynamic in nature but quite often they are.  These wine are made with no additives ie using natural yeast and no acid adjustments.  These wine will also be made with minimal filtration and no reverse osmosis.

Preservatives in wine are based around sulphur compounds.  Even though the term sulphur dioxide is often used it is actually Potassium Meta Bi-sulphide or Sodium Meta Bi-sulphide.  I heard about wines labelled as Preservative Fee, however this can be a dangerous practice.  This is because a small amount of measurable SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide) is produced during fermentation.  If one designated the wine to be preservative fee then there needs to be no measurable SO2.  Thus the term No Preservative Added on wine labels come from.

Why do we want a classification of No Preservative Added wines?  There is a growing number of people I talk to that have the mythology that “red wines give me a headache, so I do not drink reds.  Red wines have preservatives added so this must be the issue.”  Lets explore the reasons sulphur compounds are added to the wine.  Firstly, they are a preservative.  We all want wines that are consistently good and that will last for however long they sit in the bottle (or whatever vessel the wine is in).  The sulphur compounds provide a level of assurance the wine in the bottle is in good condition.  Secondly, sulpur compounds react with other compounds (particularly in red wines) that provide a more palatable wine ie it effects the final wine flavour.  Thus sulphur is measured as fee and total to ensure both forms of sulphur are measured.

The other issue we need to understand is that as a general rule white wines have more free sulphur than red wines as they have more delicate flavours and we all want crisp and clean white wines.  I cannot imagine an oxidised Sauvignon Blanc being well received.  This fact makes me wonder about the mythology regarding sulphur in red wines causing issues.  My interpretation is that sulphur additions in red wines are not the cause the reactions people have or, at worst, these compounds are only a contributing factor.

Thus for me I am not convinced that low preservative wines make a difference to reactions to red wines by some drinkers.  However, I am all for eating and drinking foods with minimal additives and thus no preservative added wines interest me from this angle.

In McLaren Vale I am aware of 3 No Preservative or Minimal Preservative Additions.

2012 Battle of Bosworth “The Puritan” Shiraz ($20)

The Puritan Shiraz

If memory serves me well this is the 3rd vintage of The Puritan from one of the few certified Organic Producers in McLaren Vale.  This wine is made from the Shiraz from the Bosworth Home Block right next to the Cellar Door.  There is only free run juice that sees no oak or sulphur chemicals.  The wine goes through a cross flow filtering step to ensure any potential nasties are removed.  This step is like an insurance to ensure the wine does well in the bottle.

The aromas like pure plum juice with subtle spices – particularly dried oregano.  The flavours show the continuation of the plums with some good grape seed tannin and lingering acid.  The tannin is not green so the grapes were picked at a good level of ripeness.  I enjoyed this wine more than expected.  I am told that even though it is expected to be a short lived wine (due to the lack of preservatives) the previous vintages of this wine are still drinking well.  I think Jock is onto a winner here.

2012 Gemtree “The Phantom” Preservative Free Petit Verdot ($30)

Now I knew this wine was going to be interesting.  Petit Verdot can make a good wine but it is seen as a blending variety.  Fermented in oak (open ferment) and even the malolactic fermentation occurring on skins.  So now I am thinking this wine is going to be a monster!   On the nose I got bright cherries and spices of cinnamon p;us cloves all wrapped up in chocolate notes.  Flavours were in line with the aromas – lots of fruit, spice and tannin – I was not disappointed with this wine being a massive wine that could do well to have a few years in the bottle.  The biggest wine of the 3 reviewed here and needs good robust food to be consumed at the same time.

2009 Grancari Estate Low Preservative Shiraz

I have had a few low preservative wines before and I have not always enjoyed them.  I was not sure what I was going to find with this one.  I was so surprised!  This wine has lots of character – more than I was expecting.  Lots of dark fresh fruit aromas and quite a dark mixture of flavors.  Depth of the Shiraz plum with some oak – that was the difference.  Normally low or no preservative wines have no oak maturation (as wine may have problems with spoilage without this preservative).  I also got some Mocha and a spice mixture.  If you have issues with the preservative in red wine, but you like a full bodied red then this is one wine you should check out.


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