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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.


McLaren Vale Wine – Ruffilli Estates

30 years ago the Patriarch of the Ruffilli family left his Italian home to travel to Australia with not much more than his viticulture background.  He came to Australia with the ambition o make wine and thus he made his way to McLaren Vale full of ambition.  This is why the estate label has the word Ambition.

Today they have about 58 acres under vine in the Willunga and Sellicks areas.  The grapes are made into wine under contract with a majority sold as bulk wine and the best grapes and wine selected for the estates Ambition label.  Grape varieties grown are:-

  • Shiraz
  • Cabernet
  • Grenache
  • Merlot
  • Chardonnay
  • Riesling

Currently there is a focus on red wine releases under a Reserve and Estates labels.

Up to now these wines have been sold to restaurants but there is a move to retail sales.  Check out their web site here.


I will be placing these wines on the Taste McLaren Vale red wine sales page as well.

2009 Ruffilli Estates Ambition Cabernet Merlot

More complex than I was expecting – herbs of mint, lavender, Rosemary and thyme combined with blackcurrent fruit wrapped with an envelope of unobtrusive oak tannin.  There is a slight hint of greenness and a small donut effect.  The donut effect of Cabernet is where the mid palate flavours diminish in the middle of the wine.  It is here but only just.  When left to breathe the secondary flavours and aromas of chocolate and licorice come through.  The chocolate here defines the mid palate and thus no donut!  Definitely a food wine maybe a rabbit and root vegetable casserole.  One to watch out for and to keep – if you can.

2010 Ruffilli Estates Ambition Shiraz

The aromas were dominated by blackberries and red liquorice mixed with a sense of dustiness on the nose.  I was please to taste minimal oak influence and straight after opening I got blackberries, chocolate and lingering cloves.  There is some smokiness and I felt there was an influence of residual sugar.  After opening I left the wine for a day with the air evacuated and the difference was just – WOW.  No longer a sense of residual sugar but now it was all about the milk chocolate – layers and layers of it.  This will wine needs time – time in the glass or bottle.  This patience will be worth it.

2009 Ruffilli Estates Ambition Reserve Cabernet

Upon first opening I got the sense this was more a dry red wine style more than a classical Cabernet.  McLaren Vale seems to make a number of these wines.  However after a few hours of breathing the wine took on a whole new character.  The fruit was all black – current, berry and cherry with a hint of the mint one expects from good Cabernet.  On the back palate there was a hit of drying tannin which was saying to me the wine would like some more time in the bottle.  What also impressed me was what was not there – greenness.  A number of Cabernet wines seem too green for me – herbaceous and capsicum flavours have little place in a glass I want to consume.  So this wine was alright by me.

2009 Ruffilli Estates Ambition Reserve Shiraz

Not tasted.

McLaren Vale Wine – 2011 McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Project Shiraz Part 3

The third installment in my review of the 2011 Scarce Earth Shiraz Project review (see part 1 by clicking here and part 2 clicking here).

My general comments about all the wines tasted from this release.  2011 was a difficult vintage and I was not sure what to expect.  These wines show that it is dangerous in making generalisations as these wines were in the whole very good – I was so relieved.  I also think that this year was the best representation of the intent of the project.  It has taken 3 years but I think the producers are starting to get it right.  Most of the wines showed character that would normally be covered by lashings of oak.  These wines are really showing off what good fruit can do with a minimal oak approach.  Maybe this will be the start of a minimal oak revolution?

I would like to acknowledge that the information regarding the different districts has come from the paper “VITICULTURAL VINEYARD AREAS-TERROIRS of MCLAREN VALE WINE REGION” by Jeffrey G. Olliver (Consultant Geologist) and James Hook (Viticulturist DJ’s Growers) for Mclaren Vale Grape, Wine & Tourism Association.  The wine map shown below was also supplied by the Mclaren Vale Grape, Wine & Tourism Association.

McLaren Vale Sub Region Map


District 10 or Bellevue

Undulating rises on sand and limestone. Sandy loam to loam over red clay, loamy sand over brown clay and black-brown cracking clay.  Some of the oldest vines planted in McLaren Vale are found in region #10, and these can ripen as early as sites closer to the Gulf of St Vincent. All grapes ripen earlier than in #12, and significantly earlier than those in # 14 located to the north east.

d’Arenburg The Vociferate Dipsomaniac ($99)

From the vineyard next to the stables near the cellar door and definitely all about the fruit quality – as per the specification for the Project.  I get a sense of leaves or greenness here – so maybe picked while the seeds were still a tad green?

d”Arenberg The Piceous Lodestar ($99)

A real mixture of perfume, cherries and earthiness and the tannins were slightly bitter at the end of the palate.

District 11 or Old Noarlunga – Seaford Heights – McLaren Gateway

McLaren Gateway vineyards grow on shallow loam, stony in places, over red clay on limey weathered bedrock.  Relatively level ridge tops south of the deeply incised Onkaparinga River.  Vineyards are concentrated at McLaren Gateway.

Meet Steve & Sadie from Wistmosa Wines

Wistmosa Wines ($35)

I had briefly seen this wine before so I was looking forward to having a proper taste of it again.  I was not disappointed.  Aromas of chocolate, deep fruits and almost a sense of mushrooms right at the end.  In the mouth this wine is all about what good McLaren Vale Shiraz should be – chocolate, licorice, plums, pepper and some dried herbs.  A wine that was just a joy to savor and never to guzzle!

District 12 or Blewitt Springs

Sand over sandy clay, deep sand and ironstone soil.  Rainfall increases in the Willunga Basin as the topography increases in elevation from west to east, therefore sites in #12 have a higher rainfall than those to the west in #7, #11 as examples.

d’Arenberg The Blind Tiger ($99)

Bring on the peat.  Blewitt Springs wines can show a peatiness that I have not really encountered elsewhere – and this wine has it in spades.  Deep but clean friut with minimum oak.  Definately my pick of the d’Arenberg offerings.

Hastwell & Lightfoot Scarce Earth Shiraz ($30)

Aromas of deepness – fruit and that peat again.  The flavours were a little lighter than expected from the deep aromas but this does not take anything away from the overall enjoyment of the wine.  The effect of the peat and licorice on the bright fruit causes the wine to linger in the mouth.  Enjoy.

Shottesbrooke Vineyards Single Vineyard Shiraz Blewitt Springs ($45)

Lots of fruit and that Blewitt Springs peat showing again in the aroma profile.  The extended lees maturation shows up in the lovely mouthfeel the wine extends to the consumer.  The fruit and oak tannin are well matched – another wine worth tracking down.

District 16 or McLaren Flat

Silty loam over brown clay and sandy loam over poorly-structured brown clay.

Sabella J Petrucci & Son Shiraz ($25)

Maybe a better wine than the 2010 offering and it is all about “deep”.  Deep fruit aromas and deep blackberry fruit flavours.  If you like the deep then give it a try.

District 18 or Kurrajong/Elliot/Hillside

Breccia of large angular blocks of quartzite and siltstone in the east becoming finer grained progressively to the west. Most distal alluvial fans consist of clayey sandstone.

Mr Riggs Shiraz ($50)

For me one of the few wines that did not really match the Scarce Earth Project brief.  The oak was as much or more prevalent that the fruit flavours.  This was also the greenest wine of the tasting – maybe indicating the grapes were picked while the pips were still green.  A wine that will be enjoyed by many punters but when compared to the others in the line up – not for me.

Gemtree Vineyards Uncut Shiraz ($30)

Pepper and vibrant fruit (including some blue fruits) with just a hint too much oak for a wine in this project.  Maybe a wine trying to be too many things – a normal release commercial wine and a Scarce Earth wine as well?

McLaren Vale Wine – 2011 McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Project Shiraz Part 2

This is the second of my review of the 2011 McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Shiraz Project wines.  A summary of the project and the tasting is outlined in Part 1.

2011 McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Shiraz Project Tasting

Below is the McLaren Vale Region Geology Map with the different districts shown.

McLaren Vale Sub Region Map

District 5 or Whites Valley

From the coast, undulating coastal land forms the main ridge with heavy black cracking clay soil but with scattered calcrete outcrop and float.  Vineyards are generally early ripening similar to #1 and #2.

Hugh Hamilton Black Blood 1 ($70)

Made from fruit off the block next to the cellar door – same as last year.  Clean fruit with violets and white pepper on the nose.  Flavours of blackberry, cloves and licorice that on the whole was better balanced between fruit and oak when compared to the same wine last year.  I say this as last year I thought the wine needed a touch more oak – not so this time.

Shingleback Unedited Shiraz ($80)

Shingleback Unedited 2011 Shiraz

The aromas were strong with dried herbs and less blackberry fruit.  On the palate there seemed to be some fruit sweetness but more on the mulberry side (compared to blackberry).  There was the dried herb hit of oregano and rosemary with the distinct finish of licorice.

District 5 & 6

District 6 or Gloucester.  Soil are undulating rises on sandy sediments. Heavy black cracking clay soil with lesser silty
loam over red clay and over brown clay.

Inkwell Shiraz ($40)

Inkwell 2011 Scarce Earth Shiraz

Cherry conserve edge to the aromas with some fresh herbs with the unusual finish of dustiness with red licorice notes.  Lots going on here – even before the wine enters ones mouth.  once the wines hit my mouth I got an interesting mix of red and blue fruits with, this time, dried herbs.  The wine lingered and interestingly I thought the tannins were not too strong, however they certainly were drying to the teeth.  I have been lucky to have seen this in barrels and the discrete individual parcels of wine – this is definitely a case of the blend being better than any of the individual components.

District 7 or Maslin Beach / Bayliss

Soils – coastal land with undulating rises to the east on sand, not heavy clay. Heavy black cracking clay soil with lesser silty loam over red clay and over brown clay.  Moderate to steep slopes along Pedler Creek with sandy loam over red clay, sandy loam over brown clay and black-brown cracking clay.

Kangarilla Road Scarce Earth Project Shiraz ($60)

Kangarillia Road 2011 Scarce Earth Project Shiraz

As per last year this wine from a Maslins Beach vineyard (same vineyard and same grower) produces something different.  On the nose I got blackberry conserve with dried herbs (oregano and lavender) with an inherent minerality.  The blackberry conserve component is even more fitting for the flavours with that same minerality and slightly chewy tannins.

District 9 or Onkaparinga Hills

Soil: Loam over red clay on limey rock and shallow calcareous loam along the frontal hills from Pedler Creek in south to Morphett Vale in north.  Generally thin patchy soil with gravel and extensive outcrop of Neoproterozoic rocks on the moderate to steep slopes flanking Onkaparinga River. Loam over red or brown clay on bedrock and shallow stony loam.

Chapel Hill Winery The Chosen Road Block Shiraz ($75)

A cherry orientated aroma hints at an early picking regime for this vineyard (next to the Chapel Hill facility).  This wine shows red fruits and its class is defined by the length this wine stays on the palate.  The tannins were a little course but as expected this wine is made for the long haul and really needs some time to even get close to it’s best.

Chapel Hill Winery The Chosen House Block Shiraz ($75)

As expected this wine is high class and so different that the Road Block that is so close but so far.  I got lots of peat on this one and I expected this wine may have had some Blewitt Springs action (before I found out it was definitely from the House Block).  Big red and black fruits, subtle spice and dried herbs with a drying tannin finish.  The tannins were more than I expected from a Scare Earth Project wine however the wine is structured for success and will be thriving for at least the next 10 years.

Coriole Galaxicidia Single Block ($50)

Made from grapes grown on the Coriole vineyards (15 years old) near the cellar door and winery complex.  This wine is all about the vibrant red fruits with the licorice finish that one gets often with McLaren Vale Shiraz.  More of a medium bodied wine and thus different than the others from this district.

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