Tag Archives: South Australia

McLaren Vale Wines – 2013 Vintage Report

Well Vintage in McLaren Vale is all but over (I suspect that some grapes destined for fortified wine are still to be picked) and it is time to reflect on the Vintage.

The lead up to the Vintage period was looking so good it had us all salivating.  The winter rains had subsoil moisture levels higher than previously recorded.  This meant that the vines did not need watering until quite deep into Summer.  The beginning of Summer was quite mild with little rain that indicated a potential for a long ripening period for the grapes.  No storm activity was also appreciated by the vines.  Leading into January I was hearing that the coming vintage was shaping up to be even better than 2012 (2012 was considered by many as being the best vintage conditions for the last 15 to 20 years).

McLaren Vale Shiraz (Marius Vineyard)

Then came January and February with high temperatures and effectively no rain.  This combination brought on grape maturity very quickly.  An example of this was at the Marius Vineyard where picking was organised for early March but had to be brought forward by 2 weeks due to the high rates of sugars developing quickly.

The order of grapes being picked was also different than “normal”.  In most years white wine varieties are picked before red wine varieties.  Well this year we had Shiraz frequently picked before any white grapes from the same property.

Grape De-stemmer

With the hot weather and the quick development of the grapes the wineries were stretched with a compressed time frame to process a below average volume of grapes.  No sooner had fermenters emptied they were filled again.  It was tight and long hours were to be had but I believe most if not all grapes that were supposed to be picked were.

The result was a number of very tired people working long hours to make what looks to be a high quality wine.  The key to this vintage seemed to be keeping close eye on the vineyards and picking at the right time and having the capacity in the winery to cope with the compressed time frames.  There will be some excellent wines come from this vintage but at this stage the overall analysis would be not as good as 2012.

Pressing the Barbuckle Project Shiraz

One pivotal milestone for the 2013 was that I have made a small volume of wine – the Barbuckle Project Shiraz.  More on his one later.

Backpacker’s McLaren Vale Style

One area I would like to put my opinion out there is all about the back packers who descend on McLaren Vale.  For the first time I met some of these people and got to know a little about what they do.  Most of the above group come from Europe and are traveling around Australia.  These people want to pick the grapes so earn some money to survive on while backpacking.  There seems to be a limited number of Aussies who want to pick the grapes – it is hard work for people that have not done it before.  I picked grapes 2 days this year and I was totally stuffed by the end of the day.  There is a tide of distain for these backpackers, like they should not be here.  So here is the thing – who else is going to pick the grapes?  Who else is going to go home to speak about the interesting times they had in Australia and what wonderful wines they tried here?  Who else is going to look for the wines that were made from the grapes they picked?

I would like to put it out there that we should welcome these people here during vintage – maybe we should create some facility where they can stay with their old Combi Vans, where they can have a shower and not be hounded to move on when they find a place to stay over night.

This year a met a few of these people (see the picture above) and they are wonderful people wanting to experience this beautiful country of ours (who would blame them) and to do this earn some money doing something that most of us do not want to do.  I do not have all the answers and yes I understand these are general statements but lets see how we can do this better next year.  You never know the group above, and others like them, may spark the next generation of world wide Australian Wine drinkers!

Purchase McLaren Vale Wine – Backyard Shed Cru Red Wine Pack #8

Yes folks it is that time of year – the half yearly release of the Backyard Shed Cru tasting six pack.  This is where members get these 6 wines automatically sent to them twice every year (timing dependent on when individual join).  These packs are a selection of wines from the small producers – the ones who make their wine in the backyard shed.  If you are not already a member then you can join by checking out the membership page here.

Below are the tasting videos for the 6 wines:-

Backyard Shed Cru Red Pack #8

2010 Fork in the Road Shiraz

2010 Marius Sympatico Shiraz

2008 Thorpe Wines Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Ducks in a Row “Straight Up” Mataro

2008 Zimmermann Shiraz

2010 Sabella “J Petrucci & Son” Shiraz

Buy McLaren Vale Wine – Backyard Shed Cru Tasting Pack #8

Red Pack #8

2010 Ducks in a Row Straight Up Mataro

From a vineyard near Willunga (in the McLaren Vale region) and was matured in 7 year old oak.  The wine making direction to show off the fruit and not just load it up with obvious oak tannins.  I get vanilla plums (maybe a plum stored in a jar with a vanilla bean) but there is also a hint of blue character that is most intriguing.  There are side dishes of Mulberry and maybe even some rhubarb.  The grape tannins work to provide a well structured wine that has length on it’s side.  I am going to keep a few bottles to see how this wine will age.

2008 Thorpe Wines Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Made from estate grown from the vineyard on the corner of Malpas and California roads (on the flat between McLaren vale and Willunga).  When I try this wine I have one word resonating – balanced.  All elements are balanced and not one thing over powers any other.  The aromas show the expected black current with ironstone, slate and black olives.  The flavours are smooth but show strength – black current, slate, black olives, and cedar notes.  The tannins are there but not over powering.  The one unusual element I get is the iodine character.  This characteristic seems to be a trait of this particular vineyard.  All in all a smart effort.

2010 Sabella J. Petrucci and Son Shiraz

I have tried the last 3 vintages of Shiraz that Michael Petrucci has made and I think each year has been better than the last.  This wine made the McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Project for 2010 wines.  I suppose one should make good or better wine from the 2010 vintage, but I get a sense of more.  I get the feeling that Michael is getting to understand his craft and his raw materials (grapes from his father’s vineyard) better. The wine shows the aromas expected from Shiraz and a mild dose of white pepper.  I really enjoyed the strength brought on by the fruit as much as any oak treatments.  There is plenty of acid here also so the wine should last for ages.

2008 Zimmermann Shiraz

Made with love from the foothills of the Willunga escarpment.  The grapes sitting proud on the valley slopes in this small part of the McLaren Vale district that are tendered by a couple that are looking to enjoy a life of grape growing, wine making, selling and a good wholesome environment for a Bed and Breakfast style accommodation.  With wines like this they are doing a number of things right.  The 2008 vintage was hot and challenging and they got their fruit picked and processed before the heatwave did it’s damage.  The wine has the aromas of lifted plum with side servings of pomegranate, cherry and rhubarb plus just a sprinkle of white pepper.  The flavours followed plum and cherry up front with some integrated oak tannins and just a hint of licorice on the finish.  This wine has plenty of time left in it but why wait.  I had a bottle recently with a juicy steak, creamed potatoes and steamed beans – lovely.

2010 Marius Sympatico Shiraz

The grapes for this wine come from a wonderfully complex vineyard – the soils have been transported from the Willunga Escarpment down to the foothills below.  The soil is rocky and sparse and the vines do their bit by struggling through each year.  In 2010 I helped pick some of the grapes that went into making this wine.  Mr Marius Wines himself – Roger, does not allow me to purchase wines often to have them available for sale but I talked him into releasing a small amount.  The wine is all about power and as soon as you open the wine it hits you – brambly and dark plum with some course black pepper.  After leaving the wine in the glass for a while the wine transforms with some finesse appearing with lavender and cardamon.  The flavours are similar to the aromas lots of plum and bramble fruits with lavender and licorice coming through.  The tannins here have strength but not disruptive to the fruit – an interesting balance.  This wine really needs a few more years in the bottle or at least give the wine significant time in contact with air before you drink it.  We tried it the other day with a Beef Burgoyne which was a wonderful match.

2010 Fork in the Road Shiraz

Another wine from the McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Project.  This wine from the Old Oval Estate is from a vineyard on Sand Road and has the same geology as the J. Petrucci & Sons wine also in this pack.  The wine aromas start off with cherry and blackberry fruits mixed with a dustiness of tannin.  The oak character is minimal here so I expect these tannins to be from the fruit (eg pips).  There is some vanilla coming through – an indication of American oak influence there.  This wine was so engaging that after smelling the wine my mouth was salivating.  Interestingly, after the first sip I was still hooked and wanted more – always a good sign.  The flavours were the same fruits on the front of the mouth and the oak and tannin on the back of the palate.  Not what a lot of people would call a classic wine but one I believe many people would just enjoy to drink.

McLaren Vale Wines – Mitolo Wines

Mitolo Wines is part of the Mitolo Group.  This group includes one of the largest potato and onion producers in the Southern Hemisphere and is also one of the largest Olive Oil suppliers through ollo Oils.  Frank Mitolo, who manages the whole group had an interest in wine that took him to amateur wine making in the 1990’s and undertaking wine making course led to Mitolo Wines.  Ben Glaetzer can on board as a business partner and winemaker in 2001.  Ben is no longer the winemaker but his influence remains with the Reiver Shiraz which is Barossa sourced fruit.  The most of the fruit in Mitolo Wines comes from the Sellicks area of McLaren Vale.

In early 2013 a Mitolo Wines cellar door was opened in the “The Producers” facility on Branson Road, McLaren Vale.  Seeing it was so close I just had to drop in and try the wines………

Jester Range

2012 Vermentino ($22)

Another wine of this variety that is making it’s way into the market.  Still considered an emerging variety and I am seeing quite a variation in quality while the vineyards and winemakers are finding out how to best treat this variety.  This wine I find intriguing.  Not for the nectarine, citrus and dried herb character, but for the low alcohol crispness (showing not all wines need to be alcohol monsters) and the almost salty finish.  This salty finish makes me think of seafood – particularly sardines.  Not the sardines in a can but fresh sardines skewered and BBQ grilled.  If you have not tried this variety before then I suggest this wine is one to try.

2012 Sangiovese Rose ($22)

Firstly it is great to see a Rose being made in the vineyard and winery as Rose – not just some free run juice or a portion of juice separated from the skins leaving the rest to make the “serious” wine.  Here the grapes were hand picked, cold soaked overnight and then the juice removed from the skins quickly.  This is the style Australians should drink more of a dry light wine just made for lunch time consumption.  There are layers of creaminess, red fruits, cleansing acid and a savory finish.  Bring on the Ploughmans Lunch.

2010 Shiraz ($25)

This wine spends 14 months in the barrels used the previous vintage for the GAM Shiraz and helps to produce a good everyday drinking Shiraz that has the McLaren Vale traits of plums and dark blackberry.  The French oak use is obvious more with the aromas as the wine has a very soft tannin structure that tells me this wine is ready to be consumed now.  With the softer tannins I could see this wine being consumed at a Chinese Banquet with things like sizzling steak, Mongolian Lamb and Chicken with Black Bean.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)

20% of this wine is made in the traditional Amarone style where the grapes are picked and placed on drying racks.  The drying concentrates the flavours before the grapes are crushed and wine made.  In this case the grapes come from McLaren Vale and are transported to Virginia (North of Adelaide) and placed on Potato drying racks.

The wine is currant and pip centric.  The intense plum and currant character invades both the aromas and flavours.  The tannins give you the feel that you are crunching on some ripe grape pips.  The concentrated elements lead to a lingering after effect.  Well worth your 25 bucks.  I am thinking BBQ lamb chops with this one.

Mitolo Wines lineup

Single Vineyard Wines

2009 GAM Shiraz ($58)

When I first herd about this wine I was trying to work out what the blend was – Grenache and something and something with the Shiraz.  I could not have complicated this or been more off the mark.  The GAM is the first letter of each of the Mitolo children.

Made from single vineyard fruit from the Sellicks area of McLaren Vale this fruit gets to know new french oak barrels quite well.  Sweet oak notes mixed with the perfume of fresh plums and some dried herbs sees a silky smooth wine that is not over oaked as there is plenty of fruit character to soak up all the oak it has seen.  I suggest this wine needs to see a few more years in the bottle before it would go well with a beef wellington.

2009 Reiver Shiraz ($58)

Sometimes one cannot get away from the Barossa and this is one of those times through the influence of Ben Glaetzer who is a partner in the business.  The Reiver Shiraz fruit is sourced from  Greenock and wars the Barossa all over it.  The wine is dark and brooding with the hints of plum, raspberry and licorice.  There is a deep earthiness here that has dried oregano mixed with just a vanilla hint (some American oak here I sense).  Needs time and food.

2009 Savitar Shiraz ($80)

Selected rows were kept aside from the vineyard.  This fruit was from the rows next to the Almond trees.  Why does this matter, I hear you ask.  Well the trees compete for the soil moisture and thus these vines are more water stressed thus producing lower yields.  With the lower yields the flavour from the vineyard is packed into less grapes and thus these berries have more flavour than the rest of the vineyard.  In 2 words the wine is intense and smooth.  I suspect there has been some American oak used here as a minor oak component as one can get the toasty sweetness of the oak of the American kind.  Plums and blackberries packed around some dried herbs with a somewhat mouth drying (tannin) finish.  Needs lots more time in the bottle before getting let loose.

2008 Serpico Cabernet Sauvignon ($80)

A fully Amarone style as discussed above.  The wine was fermented on skins for 2 weeks and then left on skins for another 3 weeks before pressing.  This delay in pressing helps soften the wine as the Amarone process can produce aggressive tannins.   I have only tried a few Amarone style Cabernets and I was really taken with this one.  There was intense fruit character with the same dried herbs I got with most of the other reds.  This tells me that the oak that these wines see is similar across the range.  I also get a hint of eucalyptus and menthol or mint.   The tannins are very much in balance here and all that is needed is a bit of time.  As an indicator – I do not drink much Cabernet but I took a bottle of this home with me.

McLaren Vale Wine – McLaren Vale III Associates

III Associates Cellar Door

One of the more recent cellar doors to open is from III Associates on Foggo Road (off Kangarilla Road).  They had a facility on the McLaren Vale main street that was open infrequently and when it was I never saw anybody in there.  The new facility neighbors one of their vineyards so you can get some more of the “wine experience”.  The wines are made by one of McLaren Vale’s most well known contract wine maker – Brian Light.  The wines are mainly made from their Foggo Road vineyard (planted to Grenache and Shiraz in 1928), Blewitt Springs, McMurtrie Road (on Bay of Bisque or Cracking Black clays) and even some Sellicks Hill fruit makes an appearance.

The cellar door has an interesting twist for the chocolate lovers out their.  They have a range of chocolates from Chocome.  The chocolate range has quite varied and interesting flavours that when I visited in Late December 2012 the cellar door staff were reviewing different flavours to match their wines.  I suspect there will be a chocolate and wine matched tasting coming soon.

The cellar door is housed in a normal house that has been splashed on the outside with their stark colour used on the Squid Ink Shiraz wine labels.  All the staff are welcoming and the wine is well worth the time to check it out – so next time you are traveling from McLaren Vale to McLaren Flat make a right turn on Foggo Road and check them out.

And now for the wines…….

2011 White Ensign Chardonnay, Semillon & Pinot Gris ($20)

Straight away one could sense there has been no oak used in the making of this wine.  I got very strong white pack aromas followed by citrus, pear and peach flavours.  A very easy to drink wine that should be drunk cold and soon (don’t keep this one in the cellar).

2012 Sabbatical Sauvignon Blanc ($18)

For those Sauvy drinkers out there this one is sold out.  Made from Blewitt Springs fruit this wine exhibits the passion fruit led tropical fruits right across the sense spectrum.  The warmer climate of Blewitt Springs (compared to say Adelaide Hills) produces a different style which gravitates toward the topical flavours and not the cut grass and cats pee character of the cool climate Sauvignon Blanc’s.  Again a very much drink now style that the Sauvy lovers would imbibe with on a frequent basis.

2008 Renaissance Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Petit Verdot ($25)

This wine is all about drink-ability.  There is soft cherry and subtle french oak char here that blends into a drink now style – don’t bother to cellar this one.  I can see this as a BBQ wine or an all rounder for a Chinese banquette.

2010 Backbone Grenache, Shiraz & Mourvedre ($35)

The Mourvedre was sourced from Willunga with the Grenache plus the Shiraz being sourced from the Foggo Road property and at time of tasting the wine had only been bottled for 2.5 months.  Even though the wine had been recently bottled and I was unsure if the wine would have settled down after this bottling shock, I was impressed.  The redness of the Grenache was prevalent across both the aromas and flavours.  Two other items stuck out for me.  Firstly there was a real earthyness to the wine (not dirty or gritty) that probably comes from the Mourvedre and the second was the tannin structure.  There were plenty of tannins there but they were relatively soft and did not over power the fruit.  Bring on the Bangers and mash with lots of onion gravy and if you were lucky I might share some of this with you.

2010 Four Score Grenache ($30)

Good McLaren Vale Grenache, like this wine brings a smile to my face.  The fruit was from the Foggo Road vineyard and shows all the redness (particularly cherry and some raspberry) with some interesting white pepper spice.  The tannins play a supporting role and are certainly not overpowering the red fruits.  I had this with a turkey breast stir fry.

Squid Ink Shiraz Range with some Chocome chocolate

2010 The Descendent of Squid Ink Shiraz ($35)

The fruit from the McMurtrie Road vineyard was matured in older American oak (2 and 3 year old) and it shows.  The plum of the Shiraz was obvious and there was some blackberry lingering about.  The American oak influence showed up as coconut and vanilla seeping through on both the nose and the palate.  The wine had a textural feel that almost had a viscous feel in the mouth.  I would not cellar this one for long as it is balanced now.

2008 Squid Ink Shiraz ($55)

All the Squid Ink range get 18 months in new American oak before bottling.  In this case the aromas were quite distinct by their absence – it took a lot of concentrating just to get some oaky character.  The flavours were dominated by very ripe satsuma plums with puckering tannin and loads of oak on the finish.  I considered this wine a little unbalanced and thus I am not sure it will improve with age.

2009 Squid Ink Shiraz ($55)

Certainly different to the 2008 version of the Squid Ink.  The aromas showed a concentrated intensity of plums and oak char with the finish showing elegant herbs of lavender and thyme – interesting contrast.  The flavours followed with the fresh plum and herb characters and there was a distinct mouth feel to this wine – almost viscous in it’s intensity.  Yes there is considerable oak here but the fruit pulls it through.  The cracking black soils showing the intensity that can come from grapes grown in the thick black mud.

2010 Squid Ink Shiraz ($55)

By far the best of the 3 Squid ink wines I tried here.  The aromas showed off the American oak maturation with a coconut sweetness that I do enjoy mixed with the fresh plum intensity.  There is definitely room for American oak use in big fruit wines – the wine has the considerable body to soak up the Americanism.  That fruit character is here.  This wine is a mixture of concentration and viscosity mixed of plum, fresh herbs, tannin and oak char.  I suspect this wine is balanced well enough that it will age gracefully.

NV Sparkling Squid Ink Shiraz ($55)

Good sparkling Shiraz is, for me, a joy.  This bottle fermented living beast is one of the good ones – a serious wine base that has the character and body of the Squid Ink wines above.  It will not be for everybody but for the believers this is one to check out – I can feel turkey breast with cranberry sauce being consumed with the bottle I bought.

2010 Giant Squid Ink Shiraz ($150)

Firstly it was interesting to see a cellar door having a $150 bottle of wine open for the general wine drinking visitor.  It is always a tough call on the benefit of opening such an expensive bottle as most of the cellar door visitors will not purchase this wine.  However I like this move as it shows they want to show their wines and to sell their brand.  The wine has spent time in both new American and then into french oak and the result is definitely one for the “Robert Parker” school of red wines.  Lots of oak character but the intense Shiraz fruit is certainly not shy here either.  Needs time to show it’s best and I will be interested to see how it develops.

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