Tag Archives: Adelaide

McLaren Vale Wine – October 2013 Vale Cru Tasting

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.

McLaren Vale Wines – Lonely Grape Series Part 2

Last time I wrote for you I discussed the preliminaries and blending of the first Lonely Grape wines – check it out here.

This time I will be discussing the bottling process.  I had heard about bottling but I had not previously seen what happens.  I will not bore you with the details of finding the correct bottling line but in this case it was crucial the bottling line could handle small runs – in my case I was looking to bottle 600 L of Shiraz and 300 L of Cabernet.  Even thought it seemed like a lot of wine for me, in the world of wine bottling these volumes are minuscule.  One of the issues I had was that when bottling there are wine losses – you nearly had to pick me up off the floor when I was told to expect at least 50 L of wine from each bottling.  With such small bottling runs this type of loss was unacceptable.  Anyway after finding the preferred bottling line (who were confident of less than 5 litres of wine losses) and organising the wine delivery the day finally arrived.  I will admit I was more than a little excited and nervous over how it would all go.

When I got there I saw machinery that was fascinating – well for me anyway.

First step (after placing the bottles on the line) was the bottles got cleaned.  I was expecting water cleaning but in this case it was compressed air.  I was told the idea for the use of compressed air was so there were no issues with water mixing with the wine and thus any resulting dilution.

Air Washing Bottles

Then the bottles get filled.

Bottle Filling

In this case a screw cap (Stelvin Closure) is added and fixed.

Securing the Screw Cap

Off to the packaging section.


The cartons are placed onto a palate and plastic wrapped to ensure the cases do not fall in transit.

Palate Packing

One very happy customer.  By the way the bottling line was at Wine Bottling Solutions in Lonsdale.

Happy Customer

McLaren Vale Wines – Lonely Grape Series Part 1

The first 2 wines of the Lonely Grape series have been a journey of exploration for me.  I have worked with a local winemaker (more on that later) to produce small volumes of wine that have been blended just for me.  The organisation to get the wine bottled was also done by me – I will talk about the bottling process next time.

The local McLaren Vale winery involved was Genders McLaren Park Wines with Diana Genders as the winemaker.  I have been a fan of Diana’s work for a number of years and always saw her little winery as an example of wineries at the cross roads.  Diana is insistent that her wines are not released until they are to her liking.  So to give you an example the current wine selections from Diana at the moment are a 2008 Chardonnay, a 2005 Cabernet and a 2006 Shiraz.  Not many wineries do all the work – including the cellaring for you.  Diana looks after the 26 acres of vines plus does the wine making on her own.  She does not prune the vines or pick the fruit but most everything else (apart from some maintenance).  As the wines are matured before release they are relatively expensive but in my opinion they are worth every cent ($20/bottle for the Chardonnay and $45 – $50 for the reds).  At these prices and with Diana being very busy in the vineyard and the winery then the marketing falls behind.

Diana Genders

A few months ago I was talking to Diana about various ways to assist both our efforts to keep costs down and sell more wine when I noticed there was some wines from 2008 and 2009 still in barrel.  One thing led to another and when I tried some of the various barrels I was hooked on the idea of working with Diana to produce an exclusive wine that I could market and at the same time assist Diana with selling some more wine (all be it as bulk wine).  After discussing the idea with Diana the concept of a Genders Vineyard Lonely Grape Shiraz was born.

Lonely Grape 2008 Shiraz

Firstly we tasted all of the 2008 Shiraz barrels and I stumbled upon a 2011 Cabernet barrel that I just had to sample.  From that moment on I was hooked on producing a Cabernet as well.  When I found there was some 2009 Cabernet the concept just went from strength to strength.  After tasting each of the possible barrels and looking at the various oak types and ages we went into deep discussion over what possibilities there were.

The thinking continued as this process was only going to work for me if the wines were not quite the same style as Diana’s current releases as I wanted to be able to sell the wines right away and thus the wines had to have a more drink now quality even though I knew wines from the Genders Vineyard were long lived.  Before I would agree with Diana on how much of the wine I would purchase I needed to understand 2 things.  Firstly, my ability to pay for the wines and bottling.  Secondly, how much did I think I could sell in a reasonable time frame.  The first question was sorted out quickly however the second option took more time.

I have been watching the happening in this industry for a while and my wine sales business is into it’s 4th year and I have seen a number of people grow grapes or want to make wine and then just go off and do that.  This concept is great but without a sales and marketing plan these ventures have been doomed to failure.  My work over the last 3 and a bit years has been based on doing things the other way around.  I have a plan to make wine and become a producer but I was determined to work out about sales before I ran off and starting doing the romantic wine making thing.  My science based brain would not let me go off and have fun – it needed to determine the fun was worthwhile first.

Anyway with a sales plan for the break even point, including price points ($19/bottle for the Shiraz and $25/bottle for the Cabernet) was all sorted.  Now for the commitment.


Once I committed financially to the project the real fun started.  There were time constraints as one potential customer wanted some wine before a certain date (which was not far away).  So we had to get a move on.  Working with Diana on this project was a joy.  As you would expect she knew her wines and had a basic direction on what needed to be blended.  Half of the barrels available were new french oak and it was obvious (even to me) that the oak in these wines needed to be toned down – this was done by adding wines from old oak barrels.  The wine also needed freshening up so small amounts of other wine was added to the blend.

Small additions of various wine from different barrels began.  For me the trick was knowing what elements were needed to be added and then just what a difference these different additions made with such a small addition.  As a scientist I understand the differences different elements can make but as a wine drinker I expected that a 1% addition was so small it would not change the wine.  Oh how wrong I was!  Through this process it was great to get the insight and direction from Diana (even a “trust me” occurred during the process).

My next post will outline the logistical and bottling processes plus the origins of the wine labels (shown above).





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.

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