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Savour Australia’s History

Wine Australia – Where have all the critters gone?
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

It’s easy to forget Australia’s nearly two centuries of winemaking history given most wine writing barely spans two generations of work at a time, but many ‘new’ world producers are not all that new and in a fast changing, internet-fuelled world where change and technology is inevitable, there is something comforting about the history of people and place that can be reassuring and useful.

That’s not to say you will be seeing any rush to a new round of critter labels any time soon because that isn’t going to happen. This time around the reinvention of Australia is more about evolution and revolution but it is all under way with an eye to the past. The history of vineyards and producers in Oz are rich and deep and there is no need to discard that legacy in the rush to another revolution.

One need only look to the ancient soils of Australia to remember this place is steeped in history; decomposed wind-blown rock dates back in some spots to 500 million years ago. As old as as the soils are, the investigation of what is going on beneath the surface is as new as it gets in geological time. While it’s easy to say farmers/growers have a strong connection to their land, much of the new world is only beginning to look at its regions and sub regions with a microscope.

It took as late as 2008, and a couple of sub-regional tastings featuring single-vineyard shiraz, before Barossa got the bug. With so many wines tied to historical ‘parishes’ within the Barossa, I suspect in the years to come historic names like Gomersal, Williamstown, Lyndoch, Rowland Flat, Barossa Foothills, Vine Vale, Light Pass, Greenock, Moppa, Seppeltsfield and Marananga will slowly appear on labels.

There’s a rush to be new and different in Australia but make no mistake, the place is steeped in history. Barossa, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and Victoria and New South Wales are not unlike the Cote de Nuit or the Haut Medoc of France. In fact, it is only with more study that we can come to know all the nuances of Down Under in the same way we might discuss the styles of wine coming out St. Estephe or Pauillac or Santenay for that matter.

Today, local winemakers and viticulturists are currently collating soil, and climatic and historical data to try and figure out what is going on across the country. I’m sure what they will find are many similarities interrupted by differences in soil type, elevation, rainfall, meso-climates, temperature, soil fertility and much more.

Another big advantage of a long history is old vines. In fact, the Barossa Valley is home to some of the oldest continuously producing vineyards in the world. After a lot of thought and study at Yalumba, owner Robert Hill-Smith put forth an Old Vines Charter to protect Barossa’s and the rest of Australia’s most precious assets after an ill-considered vine pullout scheme triggered the end of so many magnificent vineyards in the 1980’s.

Barossa Ancestor Vine

Today under the Charter, vines 35 years of age or more can be named Barossa Old Vines. Those over 70 will be Survivor Vines; 100 years will be Centurion Vines; 125 years Ancestor Vines. Since 2009 the region has moved to establish an old vine register to protect all of these treasures.

Robert Hill-Smith may be onto something when he suggests, “In the perception of the serious wine-drinker, the old world owns the integrity to old vineyards. To take an Old Vine Charter to the world will cause a lot of people that take Australia for granted to think again. This charter is about integrity; about hoping that the wines we put in front of people express the place and the variety. It is a necessary evolution that signifies the growing up of Australia.”

It’s hard to argue that logic. As for the oldest Ancestor Vines, at least 125 years old and now growing under protection, my advice is to seek them out at all cost and enjoy the history they can bring to your glass.

In Canada there are a few bottles of wine that evoke the history of Australia while pointing to what is surely a bright future. Here are some historical names or vineyards in the market, making modern wine.

Wakefield St Andrews Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 This single vineyard Clare Valley cabernet sauvignon is sourced from the historic St. Andrews property, first planted in 1892. Classic terra rossa soils atop a limestone base yield a refined cabernet Sweet spices and warm ripeness (14.5 percent alcohol) gives this a generosity that is well suited to roast pork if drinking now. Otherwise, continue to cellar for another few years.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 It’s been thirteen years since we last saw this wine. In those days it was cork finished; not anymore. Classic Coonawarra on the nose with an aromatic mix of brambles and spice with a juicy cherry menthol entry.

Wakefield St Andrews Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz 2013Heartland Directors' Cut Shiraz 2012

The Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2013 is one of six shiraz in the Garden Series set bottled to expose the terroir of individual approved South Australia wine regions. The fruit is bought under long term contract. Bella’s is the largest production and but in 2013 is a picture of density and sweet fruit over pepper and brown spices with a long warm persistent finish. An old site for a new wine.

Heartland Directors’ Cut Shiraz 2012 is the most powerful expression of the winery’s Langhorne Creek shiraz. A soft and drinkable blockbuster with a big, warm finish. Drink or hold a decade. Best with a steak grilled medium rare.

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2014 Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Pewsey Vale Riesling 2014Fellow Wine Align critic Treve Ring was impressed with the Pewsey Vale Single Vineyard Estate Riesling 2014 Englishman Joseph Gilbert planted the Pewsey Vale vineyard in 1847 but it wasn’t until 1961 Geoff Angas-Parsons and Wyndham Hill Smith fully develop the historic vineyard site into the contoured Pewsey Vale Vineyard –  a single vineyard dedicated to the single variety – riesling. 

Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is the work of Australian winemaker Charlie Seppelt and American Chris Carpenter. The pair have combined their talents at Hickinbotham to produce what they term is the pinnacle of Clarendon cabernet. Elegance and intensity is the hallmark of this deliciously style red with perfectly crafted tannins to bring structure and frame but with no toughness or dryness. Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard was first planted by Alan Hickinbotham in 1971 in McLaren Vale, and over the years has been the source of fruit for some of Australia’s finest wines including Penfolds Grange and Hardy’s Eileen Hardy. it was purchased and refurbished by Jackson Family Farms beginning in 2000 but the history lives on.

Another Treve Ring pick is the classic from low yielding gnarly old vine grenache from the Barossa is the Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache Barossa 2012 shows its concentration and depth of fruit here through the mulberry, kirsch and menthol blackberry ripeness and fine, ample persistent peppery spice.

Anthony Gismondi

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The History, Evolution & Revolution of Australian Wine

This article is one of a three-part series taking a look at the history, evolution and revolution of Australian wine on the page and in the glass. Please link to the other two articles below:

A Lesson in Evolution, by John Szabo, MS

A Lesson in Evolution, by John Szabo, MS

The Fire of Revolution, by Bradley Royale

The Fire of Revolution, by Bradley Royale

 


 

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , , , , ,

Savour Australia’s Evolution

Wine Australia: A Lesson in Evolution
By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Change is a constant in the wine business, even if the opportunity for a major shift happens only once a year. Even the most established wine producing regions reinvent themselves from time to time – witness Chianti Classico, or Soave, or even most of Germany over the last half dozen years. So, although it can be said that all countries experience some degree of evolution and upheaval, I’d argue that Australia has had the deepest re-think of its entire industry, and the most impressive evolution, of any country worldwide in the last decade.

The reasons are several. For one, they had to. After spectacular success that surprised no one more than the Australians themselves in the 1990s, achieving the industry-established export goals decades before anyone thought it possible, came an almost equally spectacular commercial crash. The world had moved on, Australia had not. But the Aussie wine industry is also particularly resilient. They’ve experienced, and survived, crashes before – the collapse of the sweet/fortified market on which the original, mid-19th century industry was founded, for example.

And they’re also particularly well-organized and cohesive, operating on a national level with awe-inspiring efficiency, rather than, as most established wine producing countries do, on a divisive regional, or even sub-regional or individual basis. This makes wholesale change possible, and much more rapid than, say a country in which it’s every winemaker for himself. That’s not to say that Aussies don’t have individual character, as anyone who’s met more than a stereotyped Crocodile Dundee understands. But they also seem to get the sensible notion that the rising tide lifts all boats.

So when things started to go south in the early 2000s, the industry collectively rolled up its sleeves and set about fixing the problems. The national marketing message was quickly re-tooled to match the modern Zeitgeist of drinkers. It shifted away from celebrating reliable sunshine in a bottle, fun but not serious, to instead focusing on unique regional expressions, positing the potential of the myriad terroirs of a country into which, after all, all of Europe comfortably fits with plenty of acreage left to spare.

For this reality to be reflected in the bottle of course took more time; radical stylistic changes require at least a few vintages to get right. But don’t forget that the Aussie industry is one of the most technologically savvy and advanced, and the understanding of how to achieve a more authentic regional expression (or avoid homogenized ones) was hardly lacking. A little canopy management alteration, different (often fewer) interventions in the winery, and voilà, regional Australia was (re-)born.

Mark Davidson, Global Education Manager

Mark Davidson presenting a Masterclass in Singapore

“The last 10 years have seen a dramatic shift in attitude and approach”, confirms Mark Davidson, Global Education Manager for the trade association Wine Australia, which represents the industry worldwide. Davidson has been on the front line for years re-shaping Australia’s story, and has witnessed all of the changes up close and personal. “Chardonnay and pinot noir have never looked better and regional differentiation is more transparent than ever before. Shiraz is grown in virtually every region in Australia and recognition of that geographic diversity is being expressed more clearly. There is also an increased interest in new varieties and styles which is not being led by fad and fashion but by environmental suitability,” he continues, listing just some of the most obvious changes.

Whereas once you might have been able to get away with saying “Aussie Shiraz”, as though they were all made from the same vat, now the blanket moniker is all but meaningless. Instead you talk about Clare Valley, or Barossa, or Heathcoat or Hunter Valley shiraz, to call out but a few. And now you talk about the relative merits of fiano or vermentino or aglianico or nero d’Avola, and not just chardonnay and shiraz.

So what does this mean for the consumer? The landscape of Australian wine has never looked more diverse and exciting. The evolution has been nothing short of spectacular.

Here are a few currently available wines that neatly encapsulate the Australian revolution.

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2014, Margaret River, Western Australia

Chardonnay in Australia has undergone perhaps the biggest makeover in the last ten year. From reliably thick, soupy, tropical and wood infused, to fresh, flinty and balanced, the transformation has been remarkable. The first winery to plant in the Margaret River, in 1967, Vasse Felix has always been on the more elegant, cool-leaning side abetted by the maritime-influenced climate of Margaret River, but recent vintages have really tuned chardonnay to a fine quiver. Filius is the excellent “entry level”, open and refreshing. For the maximum expression try top-of-the-line Heytesbury Chardonnay, a strikingly flinty, tightly wound expression.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2014, Adelaide Hills

Yes, from the extremely successful man who is more than partly responsible for putting Australia on the world wine map since the early eighties, the radical turn-around for Wolf Blass’ chardonnay is perhaps the most emblematic, high profile evidence of change. Once fashionably oaky and jammed with tropical fruit, made from chardonnay sourced throughout Southeastern Australia, the Gold Label (and even more so the step-up White Label) has been transformed into a model of balance and refinement. It’s now sourced entirely from the relatively cool Adelaide Hills, the fruit is crunchier, wood dialed back, and pleasure ramped up. It doesn’t shy away from the sunshine of South Australia, it’s just painted in a more early morning/late afternoon portrait.

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2014 Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2014 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Coonawarra

Wynns is another classic producer that has always marched to a delicate beat, so no radical evolution was required to bring this into line with modern tastes. It’s just that much more appreciated now. The classic Black Label is a brilliant (and brilliant value) representation of Coonawarra and its special little patch of red terra rossa soil, and capable of ageing magnificently.

Josef Chromy Sparkling 2010, Tasmania

Tasmania has been a big part of the Evolution Australia story, charging onto the scene with terrific sparkling wines as well as stylishly lean chardonnay and pinot noir. Much fruit is now sourced from the cool island to blend into some of Australia’s most iconic chardonnays, for example, unheard of in the ‘90s. Czech immigrant Joseph Chromy’s tale is a heartwarming rags to riches sort of story, now as reliable a producer as they come. Winemaker Jeremy Dineen crafts one of the finer, more consistent Tassie bubblies.

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2013, Clare Valley

Jim Barry is one of the old guard who has managed to adapt to the times – not that radical change was needed here either, but this latest expression of shiraz is particularly fragrant and well-chiseled. It’s not the most edgy new wave style, finding a lovely balance between ripe dark fruit and, more frequently these days, a fine, lifted medicinal-spicy-peppery note. Wood is as comfortably part of the ensemble as a pro surfer is at one with his board.

Josef Chromy Sparkling 2010 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2013 Alpha Box & Dice Xola Aglianico 2011

Alpha Box & Dice 2011 Xola Aglianico, McLaren Vale

Although not currently available, I thought this delicious wine worth a mention in the context of evolution Australia. It demonstrates the outside-of-the-commercial marketing-box thinking that is redefining the country. Aglianico is hardly a household name, but its region of greatest expression, southern Italy, is not dissimilar in climate to South Australia. So why not give it a try? Brothers Justin and Dylan Fairweather did just that, though found that a cash flow-punishing 4 years in old wood were necessary to tame the ferocious tannic nature of this first effort. But the results are so very promising indeed, their version leaning towards the more elegant and savoury versions from Mount Vulture in Basilicata. How’s that for an obscure reference. Check it out, along with the rest of the fine range (montepulciano, barbera, grenache, etc.), from these passionate young vintners. (www.AlphaBoxDice.com)

John Szabo, MS

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The History, Evolution & Revolution of Australian Wine

This article is one of a three-part series taking a look at the history, evolution and revolution of Australian wine on the page and in the glass. Please link to the other two articles below:

Where have all the critters gone? by Anthony Gismondi

Where have all the critters gone? by Anthony Gismondi

The Fire of Revolution, by Bradley Royale

The Fire of Revolution, by Bradley Royale

 


 

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , , , , ,

Savour Australia’s Revolution

Wine Australia – The Fire of Revolution:
by Bradley Royale

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller

Bradley Royale

Bradley Royale

The Australian wine market needed to light a fire, a purposeful one, a big one. A fire that would reach wide and far and fertilize the future via its destruction. A fire that would destroy recent memory and bring fresh growth, consume the dead foliage, and make way for fresh saplings. In preparation for the fire, they needed to take only a few items with them before setting everything ablaze. Memories filed in framed pictures of Barossa shiraz, newspaper clippings of Hunter Valley semillon, a favourite McLaren Vale grenache ball cap, a Rutherglen Sticky t-shirt that was a go-to on the weekends and a few post cards reminiscing of Yarra Valley pinot noir and Margaret River chardonnay… plus a few other odds and ends packed neatly into a couple of suitcases is all that was needed. Empty the jerry can, light the match, step away and gawk as the flames scorch the moon and melt everything around you. This is the only way to clean the image and force the infestation of animals back into the woodlands, where they belong.

Fire brings with it fuel for the future, the ashes providing nutrients for the earth. This reawakening of the Australian soil is much needed. The coma-like conditions of the Australian wine market in the last decade are ripe for a coup d’état and that is exactly what’s happening. For the first time since Max Schubert destroyed the notion of Shiraz, we are seeing wines like no one has ever seen before. The wines that are emerging from the Australian landscape are not only new to Australia, but are new to the entire known universe.

Brad Hickey. He moved from New York to McLaren Vale for a single harvest and ended up not only falling in love with McLaren Vale, but also his future wife, Nicole Thorpe. Together Brad and Nicole started the Brash Higgins winery, a winery title taken from Brad’s Australian nickname. Hickey spent a spell in NYC as a sommelier at Bouley and Danube and always had a taste for wines that intrigued, but paired well with food. His passion for Italian grapes led him to zibibbo, sourced from Riverland, and grafting over shiraz vines to nero d’avola (a first for McLaren Vale). He ferments both in locally-made McLaren Vale clay amphora (if this doesn’t blow your mind, you should check your pulse) and leaves both wines for extended post fermentation maceration ― like 6 months long. The resulting wines are lithe, bouncy, crisp and precise. His zibibbo is perhaps the finest example of yellow grapefruit aromatics to date in the wine world, while the nero d’avola sings of camphor, purple licorice strings and crunchy blackberries straight from the fridge. Hickey’s chenin blanc, farmed in Blewitt Springs from the Willamba vineyard, is picked in January, capturing a shy 10.3% alcohol. While the area is best known for intensely structured grenache (Clarendon Hills grenache is capable of an easy couple of decades of cellaring), this chenin blanc maintains balance with inherent acidic structure acting as a skeleton and fruit draped like healthy nubile flesh.

Brash Higgins Nero D'avola Amphora Project 2015Brash Higgins Chenin Blanc 2015 

For Hickey the Australian wine market was a place where anything could happen and would happen as far as he was concerned. “I didn’t move to McLaren Vale to make friends” he notes. “I moved there to be with a woman I love and to make bold wines, stuff that reflected how radical it was to turn my whole life upside down.” Hickey found his true wine maker in a region that not only allowed him to do so, but celebrated him for his visionary outlook. Jim Morrison once stated, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are”. Try moving to Bordeaux to be free spirited and good luck with that. (BrashHiggins.com)

Mac Forbes. The best winemaker in Australia? Perhaps. Dr. Jamie Goode made that prediction half a decade ago and while it’s hard to gauge given the mind blowing talent that roams the continent, I do know for certain one thing; I want to be just like him when I grow up. Forbes’s talent for precision winemaking is evident with his single vineyard renderings of Coldstream and Woori Yallock, with the Coldstream showing a precocious open knit structure and charming fruit, characteristic of the lower Yarra. The Woori Yallock, from the cooler upper Yarra, is more obtuse and shy to come to the door; it’s not exactly agoraphobic in youth, but will certainly require the therapy of a cellar.  His precision when required for terroir’s sake is notable.

While we certainly could have included the above wines in John Szabo’s article ‘A Lesson on Evolution’, for the general consumer these wines represent something completely new. To see wines with such fine lines, such poise and elegance is rare from anywhere on planet Earth. I pour Mac Forbes Yarra Chardonnay by the glass in our restaurants in Calgary. The initial response to Australian Chardonnay is, “No thanks, I don’t like oak.” We pour it for them anyway, forcing them to taste it. You can see the lines in their faces relax and smiles bloom as the lemon-scented river bed of flavor flows across their tongue.  “Well, that’s lovely…you can leave the bottle.”  Yes, of course.

Coldstream Hills The Esplanade Pinot Noir 2012 Coldstream Hills Deer Farm Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 Mac Forbes Woori Yallock Pinot Noir 2013 Mac Forbes Yarra Chardonnay 2014

Forbes’s mainstay line up for most is revolutionary, but it is his EB (Experimental Batch) range that takes things completely into the jungle. His 2013 whole cluster riesling shook my world. The wine spent 14 days in a sealed vessel, was then foot stomped, and sent to barrel for about a year. Who else does this to riesling? No one, ever. The resulting wine is a glorious array of burnt orange peel, water-rinsed clove, cumin, walnut shell and white pepper. It was drunk by the case at chez Royale with whole roasted trout all last summer. The 2014 Chardonnay ‘The Beast’ was left on skins for 9 months in older barrels. The wine is ferociously tannic for white or red standards and will need patience in the cellar. Forbes states on his label, “…this Chardonnay is still a beast at the time of bottling. We really have no idea if we will like this but we can only hope.” There are few wineries in the world who release wines they admittedly may not even like, but for revolution sake, this must be done. There are no shy warriors when it comes to storming the palace. (MacForbes.com)

Taras Ochota. I met this man in the hills of Adelaide. His house is perched in a valley on a soft hillside surrounded by forest. There are electrical lines nearby that house white Australian cockatoos, a part of the parrot family. There is a reason that flocks of parrots are called a Pandemonium because they wreak havoc from above (Death From Above 1979 comes to mind). The Pandemonium that lives above Taras and Amber Ochota’s house sounds exactly like a bus filled with screaming old men; the only difference is that these old men have wings and fly above your head. They are merciless.

Ochota Barrels vineyards Ochota Barrels I Am The Owl Syrah 2015Ochota Barrels The Green Room Grenache Syrah 2014

The surrounding noise gives entrance to Taras Ochota’s background. Originally a travelling winemaker, he spent time in Central and Southern Italy and various points in California, all the while touring with a punk band named Kranktus. Taras worked for a few massive wineries after oenology school, giving him a technical skill set, a skill set he has mostly tried to forget. I asked him about his view of winemaking. “If I hadn’t melted so many brain cells since studying oenology all those years ago, I would probably remember what I learnt at university and my wines would be more 101 conventional. Hence, my wife’s nickname for me, ‘Colonial Goldfish’. I just try to fit in with Mother Nature in the vineyard. She helps me shape our wines. And she knows if no one else will drink them then I will…with absolute pleasure, so I try to push the envelope to fill my personal cellar.” This practice shines in his 2015 Syrah ‘I am the Owl’ (the name taken from a Dead Kennedy’s song). The wine is made with 100% whole bunch from one ton of fruit sourced from the loamy vineyard site Mount Barker. I am amazed at the purity of this Syrah. Bouquets of violets float around your head like a hot air balloon while streams of bacon scented stratus saunter through your nostrils. It is perfect wine, and a style of Syrah that did not exist 10 years ago in Australia. Want to buy the wines? Of course you do. The Ochota Barrels website shopping area looks like an apocalyptical drug store. It’s been ravaged: everything is gone with nothing for sale. I can’t ever remember looking at that page and not seeing sold out beside everything. The Dead Kennedy’s sang, “Went to a party, I danced all night, I drank 16 beers, and I started a fight.” Taras started a fight with everything “normal” in the Australian wine industry…in the most gentle, prettiest way possible. (OchotaBarrels.com)

BK Wines Skin & Bones White 2015 BK Wines One Ball Chardonnay 2013Gil Scott-Heron famously wrote ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, and this Australian revolution will also not be televised (mostly due to current laws regarding TV advertising). But it will present itself to you in the form of wine on shelves and in restaurants. Look for these wines and names like BK Wines, Alpha Box and Dice, Lucy Margaux, Spinifex and Battle of Bosworth. When you show up to restaurants, demand to taste revolutionary wines, and show no mercy in your relentless pursuit of “newness”. Leap from the trees and take down the sommelier, ordering her to bring you deep jungle wine from Australia, then light everything on fire (just your evening, nothing physical of course). The hills and valleys and forests are all rich in amphorae bubbling over with skin fermented whites with ocean air purity (BK Wines Savagnin will make you eat raw fish even if you don’t want to) and stainless steel tanks mothering carbonic syrah, dolcetto and nero d’avola. The revolutionaries are attacking; they have climbed the gates and they will seize the palace. They’re so close you can taste it.

 

Bradley Royale

~

The History, Evolution & Revolution of Australian Wine

This article is one of a three-part series taking a look at the history, evolution and revolution of Australian wine on the page and in the glass. Please link to the other two articles below:

Where have all the critters gone? by Anthony Gismondi

Where have all the critters gone? by Anthony Gismondi

A Lesson in Evolution, by John Szabo, MS

A Lesson in Evolution, by John Szabo, MS

 


 

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , , , , ,

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Feb 20, 2016

Confessions of a Serial Taster, and Sorting out Australia’s Present from the Past
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

“We live in an era of fear of the strange and unfamiliar”, wrote the Irish poet Thomas Moore almost two centuries ago. But the words are equally applicable to our era, and in fact any era. Fear of the unfamiliar drives us to the comfort of known entities. In the case of wine consumption, that means familiar brands, regions, grapes. But unlike the real-life dangers of the unknown, trying an unfamiliar wine has no dire consequences; it’s rarely even genuinely unpleasant, perhaps mildly disappointing or annoying at most. The February 20th VINTAGES release offers a fine opportunity to dispense with the mantra of “safety first”, and explore lesser-travelled trails – I pick a half-dozen unusual wines to try. The main feature is Australia, a largely disappointing collection that fails to reflect the current dynamic reality of the Aussie wine scene. But I’ve sorted through the offerings to find the wines more representative of 2016 rather than 2006. Read on for details.

Safety First

As I pondered aloud the staggering popularity of the seemingly blandest, most predictable wines at the LCBO lab last Friday, veteran wine writer Billy Munnelly turned to me and said: “it’s all about safety and comfort. It’s part of the culture of western civilization”.

Now, comments made during wine tastings often trip into the philosophical, but Munnelly’s comments struck me as particularly poignant, enough to cause me to take a break and reflect. I’d wager that anyone who has spent any significant time in any field laments to some degree the homogenized requirements of popularity: pop music, pop art, pop food, pop films, pop fiction, pop wines, it doesn’t matter.

Safety First

The most widely consumed products are invariably made to a standard recipe in order to become popular, the same recycled plot line, or repetitive back beat. Attaching a familiar name (brand, celebrity) makes these products even more irresistible. But at the same time, they become less desirable to anyone immersed within the same sphere. It’s a curious phenomenon. Familiarity breeds both comfort and contempt depending on the observer.

“It’s all about a comfortable sofa, a safe house and car, Bud Light”, Munnelly continues. His thoughts dovetail from the Thomas Moore quote he later sends me: “We live in an era of fear of the strange and unfamiliar, and therefore a fear of life and vitality. It stems from a cultural fundamentalism that is uncomfortable with all forms of ‘otherness’ and therefore strives to make everything one”.

We understandably have a natural yearning for comfort, and unfamiliar is uncomfortable, and even potentially dangerous. I had certainly noticed the popular-familiar-homogenous connection before, but hadn’t quite linked it back to some fundamental, cultural, biological imperative.

Confessions of a Serial Taster

beermixThere’s no doubt that I value safety and familiarity in my life, but when it comes to taste, I draw the line. It’s not a question of chasing after the latest shiny object, but rather the insatiable curiosity that landed me in the wine business in the first place. Taste is the one area of my life where I actively court danger of the unknown. I rarely ever buy a full case of wine; once I’m familiar with it, I’m ready to move on. I rarely ever order the same dish at a restaurant, and prefer to try out new places whenever possible. Beer? I’ll mix a six every time. I switch coffee and tea suppliers as often as I fill my car with gas (always at the same comforting gas station). I am a beverage brand’s worst nightmare.

But I could also argue that it’s the purpose of a critic, in any field, to suggest, at least occasionally if not exclusively, a route to a different destination rather than the same, familiar one. Otherwise, I would need only look up sales statistics and recommended the most popular product in any category. I’d be perfectly safe, but utterly useless to you. I do see the value in a comforting, familiar wine, and even endeavor to suss out the ones that deliver the most comfort for your money. But alongside those wines, I also value discovery, and enjoy sharing the good ones.

So, if you value discovery as well, at the risk of my reputation and your dollars, here are half a dozen, likely unfamiliar wines, from grapes far from the mainstream. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s only a bunch of fermented grapes, not a walk down a dark alley in a foreign city, after all. New tastes can also make the old ones even more comforting, just as travel can make you love your home even more.

A Scary Half Dozen

Vylyan Belzebub 2012 Ilocki Podrumi Premium Grasevina 2013Topping the list of frighteningly foreign-sounding (unless you’re Croatian), but most shockingly delicious wines in the release is the Ilocki Podrumi 2013 Premium Grasevina, Hrvatsko Podunavlje, Croatia ($21.95). Admittedly it took a bit of research to discern the who from the what and where, but Ilocki Podrumi is the producer, boasting a cellar that dates back to the 15th century, one of the oldest still operating in Croatia. Grasevina is the white grape, perhaps marginally better know as welschriesling (one of the most prolific and highly variable grapes in Eastern Europe, unrelated to riesling), and Podunavlje the region in northeastern Croatia. In any case, this is an absolute gem of a wine, rendered in a style that is reminiscent of Vouvray demi-sec, or a slightly late harvest Alsatian pinot gris. The nose is wonderfully aromatic and floral, full of white flowers, honey, apple blossom, ripe orchard fruit, sweet herbs and ginger, jasmine, and, well, you get the point: highly complex. And the smooth texture will certainly appeal. Give it a go; roast chicken would be a nice, safe accompanying dish.

Just north of Podunavlje, the southernmost Hungarian wine region of Villány is the origin of the Vylyan 2012 Belzebub ($14.95), a fleshy and generous blend of local kadarka and kékfrankos (aka blaufränkisch) with zweigelt and a splash of merlot to mitigate the fear factor. Vylyan (the company name stems from the name of the region as written in a 15th century manuscript) has established itself as one of the region’s leading producers over more than a quarter century, crafting rich, modern style wines. Bezelbub (The Devil) is focused on dark and savoury fruit, without notable wood, while tannins are plush and ripe. In case you’re still afraid, according to the website, “This devil is loveable”, highlighting “the light and ‘lovely’ side of our fabulous devil, not the ‘demonic-heavy’ face”. This is a devilishly good value indeed, one of the best in the release.

Closer to home and much less foreign is the excellent Peller Estates 2013 Private Reserve Gamay Noir, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95). I’m sure you’ve heard of Niagara, and probably even gamay, but although the grape is eminently well suited to the region, it has yet to slip into the mainstream, remaining unfairly on the fringe. This ambitious, expression with a smoky backbeat will help nudge it closer to wide acceptance, bright acids, tart red fruit and all. This wine also garnered silver at the 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards, so risk is minimal.

The Iberian Peninsula is a rich source of unique local varieties, largely thanks to a presumed grapevine ‘refuge’ during the last ice age in the southwest corner – an area where indigenous vines were able to survive (see my article on the subject here). A low-risk, high-reward entry point is the Beyra Vinhos de Altitude 2012 Reserva, Beira Interior, Portugal ($15.95). I recommended an excellent white from this producer last year, and this is the red follow up, an easy-drinking but characterful blend of mencía and touriga nacional, full of freshness and life, an over-achiever in the price category. Drink lightly chilled.

Peller Estates Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2013 Beyra Vinhos de Altitude Reserva 2012 Pasolasmonjas 2011 Bodegas Ponce La Casilla Estrecha 2013

Bodegas Bhilar’s 2011 Pasolasmonjas, San Martín de Unx, Navarra, Spain ($20.95), made by the dynamic David Sampedro Gil (DSG Wines), is an excellent discovery of old vine grenache (70+ years in some cases), farmed biodynamically in the region of Navarra. Here garnacha is rendered in an intriguingly high-toned, orange-tinged expression, like candied orange blossoms, with full and dense palate, firmly structured, quite tannic for the grape but not unyielding. This will expand your definition of what garnacha can deliver. Best 2016-2021.

Also from Spain, and one of the most fascinating wines in the release is the Bodegas Ponce 2013 La Casilla Estrecha, Manchuela, Spain ($36.95). Manchuela is a southern region inland from Valencia, which specializes in the little-known bobal grape, of which this is a pure example. The under thirty-something Juan Antonio Ponce is part of Spain’s increasingly fashionable and large circle of natural wine producers, biodynamically farming his 80 year-old, bush-trained, tightly spaced vines (estrecha means narrow, referring to the spacing), and applying little else but a dash of sulphur in the winery. This is reductively crafted to respect the fruit, with ample structure, freshness and plenty of fruit tannins, while flavours span a wide spectrum from black pepper, liquorice and tarragon to crushed lavender and succulent grapefruit, and on into fresh black fruit – a genuinely complex expression without recourse to obvious wood. Best 2016-2023.

Oz c. 2016

Josef Chromy Sparkling 2010 Layers Shiraz Tempranillo Mourvèdre Grenache 2012The Australian feature for the February 20th release is largely disappointing. The majority of selections remind me of what Australian wines tasted like a dozen years ago: alcoholic, fat, sweet, obviously acid-adjusted. How things have changed down under, and how sad to see so few of those changes reflected on our shelves. Wine Australia, the marketing arm of the industry, has worked hard to change the old die-hard perceptions of the nation’s wines, backed by the help of hundreds of winemakers who are new to the scene, or who have found new gods to worship, those of balance and drinkability, and especially regionality. There are dozens of exciting new players. Where are they? Opportunity lost for Ontarians. You might say the LCBO is just providing what the market demands, and that it’s good business strategy. That may be true, but I’d say a balance between leading and following the market would be preferable.

But don’t let this release undo the progress made. Look instead to the established producers represented here who have been getting it right from the start. The late, venerable Peter Lehmann, for example, was a leader from start to finish in his long career, and almost single-handedly revived the fortunes of growers in the Barossa in the difficult early eighties. Lehmann Wine’s contemporary 2012 Layers Shiraz Tempranillo Mourvèdre Grenache, Barossa, South Australia ($17.95), is a wine with real life and energy, firm, ripe but not jammy fruit, and genuine complexity, delivering admirably on quality and complexity at the price. It’s the finest value in the Aussie feature in my view, and representative of the current state of Australian wine in which balance is preferred over sheer weight.

Tasmanian sparkling wine has grown to impressive heights in the 20 years, represented here by the Josef Chromy 2010 Sparkling, Tasmania ($29.95), a fine and complex traditional method vintage bubbly from a reliable name in Tassie wine. This is fully dry and firm, with a nice mix of tart green apple/citrus fruit and brioche-yeasty-autolysis character, and sits comfortably in the premium, cool climate sparkling wine category, not to say champagne.

No pure shiraz made my list, sadly, considering how many great ones are made today. But the Salomon 2012 Norwood Shiraz Cabernet, South Australia ($20.95) is certainly worth a look for its combination of balance and depth. From the Salomon family of Austrian descent, this is ripe without excess, firmly structured, with fine acid structure and depth, and impressive length – a generous, satisfying mouthful for the money, best 2016-2020.

Three pure cabernets, however, are nicely representative of their respective regions, all from well-established producers. Tahbilk is the elder statesman of the trio, one of the oldest wineries in Australia, established in 1860 in the Nagambie Lakes area 120 kilometers north of Melbourne. While evidently not part of the cutting edge, new wave of Aussie wines, the Tahbilk 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($22.95) has simply got it right from the start: balanced, firm and structured, dark fruit-flavoured, everything you’d want at the price, best now-2022 or so.

Salomon Norwood Shiraz Cabernet 2012 Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Katnook Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Katnook Estate’s cellar door in Coonawarra was built in 1896 by regional pioneer John Riddoch, and is still used today to age wines like the Katnook 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.95). The welcome coolness of Coonawarra comes through in this lively, complex and concentrated red, a textbook wine from the region that has required little stylistic change to meet modern tastes circa 2016. I’d give it another year or two in the cellar for full development, but there’s no need for long term cellaring.

Xanadu Wines was one of the pioneers in now-fashionable Margaret River region in Western Australia, established in 1977, a full three years before the film of the same name starring Olivia Newton-John was released. The Xanadu 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River, Western Australia ($29.95) puts the maritime climate on display with its fresh and fruity-herbal profile, proudly parading some cabernet leafiness. I like the genuine acids and the better-than-average length. Best 2016-2022.

Some Somm Fun & Fundraising

CAPS Team Canada FundrasierThe Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) Ontario chapter is hosting a fundraising event on Monday, February 29th to celebrate Canadian wine talent. Your support will help CAPS send a Team Canada delegation focused on promoting the participation of Canadian wine professionals in the World’s Best Sommelier Competition being held in Mendoza this April. Come out to see Terroni’s new event space on Adelaide, to taste and buy, bet on auction items and participate in activities with guest Sommeliers. Tickets are only $40 ($30 for CAPS members) – all to support your Canadian wine community. This event is open to the trade and the public. Hope to see you there. (You can find more info here: https://teamcanadacaps2016.eventbrite.ca)

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES February 20, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All February 20th Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

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An Exclusive Gourmet Dinner & Tutored Tasting Featuring Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon – Ottawa

‘Terra Rossa Trends’ –Discover the Latest Chapter in the Wynns Coonwarra Estate Cabernet Story

On Thursday, January 28th, WineAlign is pleased to present an exclusive gourmet dinner and tutored tasting featuring wines from Coonawarra’s pre-eminent wine producer, Wynns.

WYNNS woodcut

Join us for an intimate (only 16 tickets) tutored tasting and gourmet dinner at Ottawa’s Restaurant e18hteen with Wynns‘ senior winemaker, Sue Hodder. Sue will guide you through a tasting experience that explores expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon through the microclimates of Coonawarra, showcasing the variety of the region. Subtle changes in soil type within one region can provide quite different grapes, critical from a winemaker’s perspective.

Taste the different Cabernet wines from this revered terroir with creatively matched food selections.

Wynns is the Coonawarra region’s pre-eminent wine producer, with the largest holding of the region’s best and longest established vineyard sites. Today the wines are regarded as benchmarks for the district, lauded for their consistent quality and depth of flavour.

About the Winemaker:

2015-02-03_15-25-58

Sue Hodder

Sue Hodder is one of Australia’s best-known winemakers and this year celebrates her 21st vintage with Wynns – making wine from wonderful, expressive fruit grown in the heart of the terra rossa. Sue commenced her career as a viticulturist. Sue believes her early viticultural training – assessing vines, analysing mature fruit and tasting the finished wine – gave her an invaluable insight into the importance of the vineyard in quality winemaking. Sue brings valuable experience with vintages in other noted wine regions around the world and has judged extensively in regional, national and international wine shows.

Sue will be joined by WineAlign’s Janet Dorozynski.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Event Details:

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Location:  Restaurant e18hteen (18 York Street, Ottawa K1N 5T5)

Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm

Tickets:  $125 including taxes and fees

*Please note there are only 16 tickets available for this event, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Reception Wines:

2014 Wynns Coonawarra Chardonnay
2012 Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz

Wine List for Tutored Tasting:

2013 Wynns “The Gables” Cabernet
2012 Wynns V&A Lane Coonawarra Cabernet  Shiraz
2013 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 Wynns “The Siding” Cabernet
2012 Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Menu

Appetizers

Seasonal Soup

OR

Roasted Beet Salad
Sourdough cedar lavash, fromage blanc, lemon confit

Mains

Roasted Black Cod
Miso beurre blanc, rutabega, furitake

OR

Spiced Squash Fritter
Vegan walnut velouté, pickled and seasonal vegetables

OR

Grilled Bone in Pork Loin
Caraway, braised cabbage, pine nut cream

Desserts

Sourdough Babas
Vanilla and brandy, chantilly cream, fruit preserves

OR

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
Fruit preserves, spoon sweets

*There are no substitutions*

About Restaurant e18hteen

Restaurant e18hteen was named after its unique location in an 19th century heritage building in the ByWard Market Ottawa. Our adaptation of a Modern Steakhouse with a signature “Canadian Freestyle Cuisine” is a destination for local foodies, politicians, artists, celebrities and out of town visitors.

e18hteen

Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

 

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An Exclusive Australia Day Gourmet Dinner & Tutored Tasting Featuring Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon

‘Terra Rossa Trends’ –Discover the Latest Chapter in the Wynns Coonwarra Estate Cabernet Story

Celebrate Australia Day on Tuesday, January 26th with an exclusive gourmet dinner and tutored tasting featuring wines from Coonawarra’s pre-eminent wine producer, Wynns.

WYNNS woodcut

Join us for an exclusive tutored tasting and gourmet dinner at ONE Restaurant located in The Hazelton Hotel with Wynns‘ senior winemaker, Sue Hodder. Sue will guide you through a tasting experience that explores expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon through the microclimates of Coonawarra, showcasing the variety of the region. Subtle changes in soil type within one region can provide quite different grapes, critical from a winemaker’s perspective.

Taste the different Cabernet wines from this revered terroir with creatively matched food selections.

Wynns is the Coonawarra region’s pre-eminent wine producer, with the largest holding of the region’s best and longest established vineyard sites. Today the wines are regarded as benchmarks for the district, lauded for their consistent quality and depth of flavour.

About the Winemaker:

2015-02-03_15-25-58

Sue Hodder

Sue Hodder is one of Australia’s best-known winemakers and this year celebrates her 21st vintage with Wynns – making wine from wonderful, expressive fruit grown in the heart of the terra rossa. Sue commenced her career as a viticulturist. Sue believes her early viticultural training – assessing vines, analysing mature fruit and tasting the finished wine – gave her an invaluable insight into the importance of the vineyard in quality winemaking. Sue brings valuable experience with vintages in other noted wine regions around the world and has judged extensively in regional, national and international wine shows.

Sue will be joined by WineAlign’s David Lawrason.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Event Details:

Tuesday, January 26th, 2015

Location:  ONE Restaurant – in the Yorkville Room (The Hazelton Hotel, 116 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto)

Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm

Tickets:  $100 including taxes and fees

*Please note tickets are limited to 55, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Reception Wines:

2014 Wynns Coonawarra Chardonnay
2012 Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz

Wine List for Tutored Tasting:

2013 Wynns “The Gables” Cabernet
2012 Wynns V&A Lane Coonawarra Cabernet  Shiraz
2013 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 Wynns “The Siding” Cabernet
2012 Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Menu

Passed Appetizers during reception

Mains

Organic Chicken Breast
Chive spun potatoes, roasted seasonal vegetables and natural jus

OR

Grilled Atlantic Salmon
Cardamom labneh, heirloom carrots, red quinoa, avocado, fennel, orange, crisp lavash and cilantro dressing

OR

P.E.I. Natural grass fed 8oz tenderloin
Roasted seasonal vegetables, wild mushrooms and truffle risotto, and béarnaise sauce

 OR

Spaghetti Bolognaise
Reggiano, garlic ciabatta, basil and olive oil

Desserts

Dark Chocolate Mousse
Hazelnut praline cream, caramelized banana and honeycomb

OR

Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Dulcey cremeux, poached pear, raspberries and candied ginger

OR

Seasonal Fruit and Sorbet

*There are no substitutions*

About ONE Restaurant

ONE Restaurant is chef and restaurateur Mark McEwan’s North American contemporary Yorkville hotspot. With a variety of beautiful dining spaces to choose from, and dishes that will delight the palate, ONE is sure to impress.

The restaurant’s stunning décor was fashioned by award winning design group Yabu Pushelberg. Low light and textured walls create a sumptuous ambiance, perfect for entertaining. The tree-lined candle lit patio is the perfect place to sit back and savour ONE’s culinary creations and unique signature cocktails, all the while taking in Yorkville’s bustling and exciting street life.

ONE Restaurant is located in the boutique Hazelton Hotel.

One

Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

 

Filed under: Events, Wine, , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 16 – Part Two

Fresh and Fruity Whites and the Best of the Rest
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and John Szabo MS

Sara d’Amato

Sara d’Amato

Wines for spring cleaning, wines for sunshine or wines for being social on the porch again, this week’s VINTAGES release theme of “Fresh and Fruity Whites” is a sure sign that the warm weather is upon us. As John Szabo completes his tour of the world’s most spectacular volcanic peaks (somebody’s got to do it) I sit grounded in Toronto, for at least the time being, choosing from among our top picks of this most anticipated change of the season.

In addition to these ephemeral selections, we bring you what impressed us most from this release, wines with both staying power and those we think you shouldn’t overlook. Unlike the whites, the reds available have not yet caught up with trend of warmer weather and I both hope and expect to see lighter, fresher reds in the next release. We will certainly see more gamay, primitivo/zinfandel and sangiovese on the shelves that are ready-to-drink and do best with a slight chill.

Fresh and Fruity Whites

Stoneleigh 2014 Latitude Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, ($21.95)

David Lawrason – The 2014 vintage was considered excellent in Marlborough with a bumper crop that ripened in “near perfect’ conditions – until the tail end of a cyclone came through late in the harvest. It’s hard to say which wines were picked soon enough of course. I have found many of the 2014 sauvignons a bit leaner, cooler and more compact – of which this an example. And that’s not a bad thing.
Sara d’Amato – A classic, elegant sauvignon blanc that rivals the best of Marlborough at a fraction of the price. Bring on the seafood kabobs!

Tiefenbrunner 2014 Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – It wouldn’t be a “fresh and fruity” release without a solid pinot grigio. Tiefenbrunner is located in a picturesque spot fixed in the Italian Alps and is known for its meticulous winemaking and control from grape to bottle. Because of its reliable quality and its price point, it has frequently been a staple for me when creating wine lists.

Finca El Origin 2014 Reserva Torrontés, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina ($15.95)

Sara d’Amato – Although there are many obstacles to the further development of this remote wine-growing region, the wines, short in supply, are as uniquely arresting as the landscape. This is the home of the exotic torrontés, light, fresh and fragrant. The best examples, such as this, show some restraint and mystique.
David Lawrason – If you have not yet put Argentine torrontés in your summer patio repertoire don’t hesitate with this classic example from the Cafayate Valley in northern Argentina. A citrus explosion! Bring on the ceviche.

Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2014 Finca El Origin Reserva Torrontés 2014 Matetic Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Creekside Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Matetic 2014 Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio Valley, Chile ($13.95)

John Szabo – Tough to beat this crunchy, green apple and green pepper-flavoured sauvignon for sheer value, another welcome release from biodynamic producer Matetic in the cool, coastal San Antonio Valley. This tops many wines asking $5 more.
David Lawrason – A great buy here in a brilliant, juicy sauvignon that bristles with intense grapefruit/lime, nettles and passion fruit. It’s from an excellent, biodynamic producer that is the sole owner of the isolated Rosario Valley right on the edge of the San Antonio and Casablanca Valley appellations. It is a cool coastal site that has infused great energy.

Creekside 2013 Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula Canada ($17.95)

John Szabo – Creekside has made sauvignon a specialty, but there appears to have been a slight style shift in 2013 – this is less effusively aromatic and tropical than previous vintages, and I must say I like the more subtle and crisp profile. A mix of citrus and green apple, and gentle green herbs makes this a lively and pleasant wine, a little more “grown up” in my view.

Best of the Rest

Simonsig 2012 Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($19.95)

John Szabo – From the house that first made traditional method sparkling wine in South Africa, this pinot-chardonnay blend with a splash of pinot meunier offers considerable toasty richness in a broad and mouth-filling style, notably dry despite the richness.

Vinum 2012 Africa Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($15.95)

Sara d’Amato – Incorrectly slotted into the VINTAGES “fresh and fruity” feature, this rich and savory chenin blanc still deserves recognition. Body, texture, viscosity – all of these are impressively featured at such an unassuming price.
John Szabo – Fans of complex, wood aged whites will rejoice at the quality/price of this chenin. Made in a “natural” (nothing added or subtracted) and idiosyncratic style, it’s a wine of texture more than immediate fruitiness, balancing ripeness with both acids and salinity. There’s loads of character for $16 in any case.

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique 2012 Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2012 Hillebrand Showcase Series Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2011

Hillebrand 2011 Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($36.20)

John Szabo – As far as premium chardonnay goes, I’d say that winemaker Craig MacDonald has nailed this beautifully, and kept the price fair. As with most great chardonnay, this is a wine of mainly textural interest, offering a rich and complete mouth full of just-ripe orchard fruit, balanced with high quality wood. I like the succulent acids that prop up this flavour-heavy ensemble, and the excellent length. A very serious, accomplished cuvée all in all. Unfortunately the fruit source is not revealed – it’s labeled only as “Niagara Peninsula Vineyards” – but I’d be curious to know from where this hails exactly. Best 2015-2020.

Tawse 2011 Growers Blend Pinot Noir, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato  – A wine that has experienced impressive evolution – with a cohesive palate of wood, fruit and acids and much smoother tannins than its jerky beginning. A gem of a pinot that still has years to come.

Corvidae 2013 Lenore Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA ($19.95)

David Lawrason – Here’s a rarely seen (at the LCBO) great buy in Washington syrah – which in my mind is the premier red grape of eastern Washington and the southern Okanagan in BC. It’s a medium to full bodied, classic cool climate syrah with deep colour, considerable density and ripeness, yet just enough cool climate black pepper, licorice and smoked meat to please northern Rhone syrah fans.

Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2011 Corvidae Lenore Syrah 2013 Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Château Haut Peyraud 2010

Lapostolle 2012 Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon, Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($24.95).

David Lawrason –  Yet another biodynamically-grown Chilean wine shines on this release – from a great estate occupying one of the great vineyard sites in the country. The depth, harmony and complexity here are remarkable for a $25 wine.

Château Haut Peyraud 2010, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, France ($16.95)

David Lawrason – I love the sense of poise and subtlety in this ‘petit’ 2010. What a wonderful vintage. This is a Bordeaux bargain, a lightweight, fairly supple merlot that is moving into prime.

Château De Gourgazaud 2013 Cuvée Mathilde Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)

Sara d’Amato – A spicy, peppery, musky and sweaty blend from southern France – unpretentious, raw and rustic. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Château De Gourgazaud Cuvée Mathilde Minervois 2013 Meandro Do Vale Meão 2012 Coppi Peucetico Primitivo 2008

Meandro 2012 Do Vale Meão, Douro, Portugal ($24.95)

David Lawrason – This is a very high energy red, bristling with wild berry and woodsy aromas, and all kinds of zesty acid and tannin. So you may want to age it, but I really feel that this vibrancy is key to its enjoyment. Chill just a bit and pair it with savoury seasoned red meats.
John Szabo – Even more impressive than the excellent 2011, this is another top value, complex, concentrated and structured Douro red blend from Vale Meão. Although considered the “second label”, this is better than most from the valley, especially at the price. Best 2015-2022.

Coppi Peucetico 2008 Primitivo, Gioia Del Colle, Puglia, Italy ($13.95)

Sara d’Amato – Vibrant and peppery, this mid-weight primitivo exhibits lovely, lingering floral and cherry notes. Savory, fun and summery – a wine that can take a slight chill for added refreshment.

That’s all folks! David Lawrason will highlight the best of the May 30th release and features next week along with an Ontario Wine Report with news on new wineries and trends in Prince Edward County.

From VINTAGES May 16, 2015

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Buyers’ Guide Part One: Australia First Families
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Beringer Knights Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012


Australia's First Families of Wine

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 16 – Part One

Australia First Families & Sara in the Pink Once Again
By David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato, with notes from John Szabo MS

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Last month the LCBO’s VINTAGES hosted Europe’s first families of wine (Premium Familiae Vini); this month it’s Australia’s First Families, a relatively new organization that formed in 2009. Families are a good idea – we all belong to one – although they can be trying at times. But I am not sure we need every wine region in the world to put together roving bands of families. There is just something a bit clubby about the idea. And can you imagine how it must feel if you are an upstanding family that is left out of the group?

The real question is whether families make better wine, and my short answer would be yes – because they tend to be driven by some sort of code of honour, pride and legacy, not just pleasing the shareholders. Their wines may or may not have a particular family personality but they are usually quite high quality, which shone through in many of the reviews of the May 16th batch that VINTAGES has put forward. Just about every wine got a kudo from John, Sara or I.

My only disappointment was not seeing a much broader, and higher range of wines in this release – we the large Ontario family of wine enthusiasts are tending to get their lower tier offerings. To get into the upper tier you have to attend the Australia’s First Families of Wine Event on May 26, where dozens of others will be available. See the list at http://www.vintages.com/events/australia_event.shtml but watch for those pesky little asterisks that indicate which wines are for tasting only (not purchase). Only in Ontario do we get to pay to taste wines that we can’t buy.

One last comment before trotting out our favourites. As I tasted through the reds I kept saying to myself – these are actually a pretty, fresh and bright bunch. More lifted on the nose, with cranberry, crushed berries and florals and less overripe jamminess and oaky. And less alcohol heat. For months now our WineAlign critics who have visited Australia have been reporting back that Oz is in transition to less heavy, fresher wines. And it struck me as I tasted along that they are now arriving on our shelves, and that this new mood is now showing up at lower price points.

The Whites

Tyrrell’s 2013 Brookdale Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales ($24.95)

John Szabo – It is all too easy to overlook a wine such as this: bone dry, tart, lean and seemingly short on flavour. But give this 5+ years and it undergoes a full metamorphosis. If you enjoy flint and smoke, and smoldering, discreet fruit flavours, tuck away a few bottles of this arch-typical semillon in the unique Hunter Valley Style, part of Tyrell’s “Hunter Heroes” range. Best 2020-2030.
Sara d’Amato – A Hunter Valley semillon on the shelves of the LCBO is cause for celebration as it has been so long! Semillon reaches the peak of its expression in the warmer grounds of Hunter Valley. Tyrell’s semillons are legendary so stock up now! If your haul takes awhile to get though – that’s okay. Wait another 5 years on this semillon for optimum drink-ability.
David Lawrason – My colleagues have covered a lot of ground already. Let me just add that I loved the linearity and focus of this wine. It’s not Tyrrell’s top Hunter semillon, but it is bang on style-wise and affordable to those who might want to take it for a first-time spin.

Tyrrell's Brookdale Semillon 2013 Yalumba Viognier 2013 Henschke Tilly's Vineyard 2013

Yalumba 2013 Viognier, Eden Valley, South Australia ($24.95)

David Lawrason – I like viognier but often find them either overblown and cloying, or among cheaper versions, under-blown and kind of boring. This comes right up the middle, with quite precise, complex aromatics and a fine sense of weight and even-handedness.
John Szabo – Yalumba is a specialist in viognier, and has the oldest vines in Australia planted in 1980, so the high quality of this wine comes as no surprise. A little more than half is barrel fermented and treated to a little lees stirring, yielding a beautifully perfumed, arch-typical viognier, with marvellous silky-soft textured. If this had Condrieu on the label, no one would blink an eye at the price, indeed folks would be gushing all over it.
Sara d’Amato – The cooler, higher elevations of Eden Valley are a haven for vibrant whites. This sustainably produced viognier can be considered Yalumba’s signature grape varietal – they do it well and devote a great deal of the energy on this Rhone varietal. Terrific body, length, weight and presence.

Henschke 2013 Tilly’s Vineyard, Adelaide Hills/Eden Valley, South Australia ($26.95)

David Lawrason – This multi-grape blend is a bit of an odd duck – with a classic candle wax smokiness that I often find in Aussie whites – particularly in semillon (which is one of the grapes here). Some like this note, others not, so test drive a bottle if you are unfamiliar. It is the most “aussie” white of the bunch, substantial, complex yet fresh at the same time.

The Reds

Yalumba 2012 The Strapper GSM, Barossa, South Australia ($19.95)

John Szabo – Another fine buy in this release from Yalumba, the oldest family-owned winery in Australia (since 1849). The Strapper is a nicely measured GSM blend, incorporating all of the best elements of the grapes: the strawberry pie flavors of grenache, the black pepper and violets of syrah, and the earthy-meaty architecture of mourvèdre. It’s the wine that “the winemakers drink, when they’re not having a riesling or an ale”. Best 2015-2020.
David Lawrason – I was struck by a certain unexpected freshness and even tenderness here. The GSM’s of Australia can be big, rich and gooey, but this wine is more refined. That certain elegance I find in the best Chateauneuf-du-Pape crossed my mind as this crossed my palate. Absolutely delish and ready to drink.

Jim Barry 2013 The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Australia, (26.95) (677476)

Sara d’Amato – Coonawara is a very special place for cabernet sauvignon in the world where the varietal expresses itself in a uniquely elegant way, rooted in the region’s iron rich, premium terra rossa soils. This distinctively polished example is rife with floral, mineral, herbal and peppery notes that are sure to woo.
David Lawrason – This is one of the reds that struck me as having a new sense of aromatic freshness and brightness, and a palate that is both spry and elegant at the same time. So well balanced that it is actually quite drinkable now, just a touch green on the finish. Fine Coonawarra cab.

Yalumba The Strapper Gsm 2012 Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Tyrrell's Rufus Stone Shiraz 2012 De Bortoli Villages Pinot Noir 2012

Tyrrell’s 2012 Rufus Stone Shiraz, Heathcote, Victoria, Australia, ($22.95) (91488)

David Lawrason – Here’s another bright, wonderfully lifted shiraz but it also shows a deeper side thanks to its origins in Heathcote, an increasingly important shiraz region in hills north of Melbourne in Victoria. Love the aromatics here – floral lift all kinds of blackcurrant/cherry fruit, menthol, pepper and slightly mineral/ferrous/iron-like notes that strike me as solid Heathcote.
Sara d’Amato – It wouldn’t be a proper Australian release without some serious shiraz and I was very pleased to find this reasonably priced example from the famed shiraz producing region of Heathcote in Victoria. Notes of cassis, licorice and cool herbs are seamlessly integrated and make for silky and approachable sips.

De Bortoli 2012 Villages Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia ($23.95)

John Szabo – A keenly priced and representative wine from the Yarra, which highlights Steve Webber’s minimalist style. This is a fine buy for fans of old school, not to say Burgundian, pinot noir, lean and savoury, in a distinctively cool climate idiom. Best 2015-2020.

d’Arenberg 2010 The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($49.95)

David Lawrason – This is about the only red of the bunch that I would describe as more traditional. It is a rich, full-on, maturing Aussie red with a complex, very ripe nose. Heavier for sure, but when you get up into this quality level that can work well. It was not wines like this that gave Australia problems. It was packing too much alcohol, jammy fruit and oak into cheaper wines that didn’t have the bones to carry the load.

Tahbilk Estate 2010 Shiraz, Nagambie Lakes, Central Victoria, Australia ($22.95)
John Szabo
– A shiraz that hits a comfortable juste milieu between ripeness and restraint, fruit and wood, plushness and firmness. Tahbilk has been at it since 1860, so there has been ample time to perfect and draw the maximum from the moderate Nagambie Lakes region. Best 2015-2020.

D'arenberg The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Tahbilk Shiraz 2010 Henschke Henry's Seven 2013 Howard Park Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Henschke 2013 Henry’s Seven, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($42.95)

David Lawrason – This is named for Henry Evans who planted the Keyneton area in 1853, and it’s very interesting that when visiting Henschke you get this amazing sense of historical depth, in a region that seems so remote that you can almost not imagine some farming there over 150 years ago. Anyway, this Rhone-inspired blend is yet another example of the wonderful freshness now appearing more routinely in Oz reds.

Howard Park 2012 Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Australia ($19.95)

David Lawrason – This gets the nod on value, a very fine, classic Margaret River cabernet for $20. This maritime region is known for making leaner, very aromatic cabs, and this one is spot-on with lifted blackcurrant fruit, fresh green eucalyptus, finely woven tobacco and earthy notes.

Real Men (and women) Drink Rosé
by Sara d’Amato

Sara d’Amato

Sara d’Amato

‘Tis the season for rosé and I admit, I can’t get enough. And although I may be a woman and one who doesn’t shy away from pink, that is certainly not the reason I love this style of wine in which red wine meets white in a refreshing package. Sure, I take big reds seriously but it is one of the last things I want to imbibe in a hot summer’s day unless I’m in an air-conditioned basement.

And, I’m not the only one. North American men are a growing segment in the market of rosé but most I know still need some encouragement. If my repeated Buyers’ Guide segments on rosé aren’t enough to make you give it a try, then maybe some of these reasons will make you take the plunge:

1. Oh So Dry – Rosés need not be sweet and in fact, most of the classic rosés, especially those of Southern France, are and always have been dry. The most refreshing ones, whether simple or complex, have no sweetness. On that note, there is no evidence to suggest that women like sweeter wine than men, we are just marketed to that way.

2. Brad Pitt– yes, iconic manly role model Brad and equally influential Angelina Jolie have become pushers of the pink stuff with the purchase of Chateau Miraval in Provence. Maybe some of their success will rub off on you? Their excellent rosé graced the shelves of the LCBO last summer and I hope it does again.

3. The Men’s Movement – “Real Men Drink Pink” – it’s a thing, really, I kid you not. There are t-shirts galore to be found online and an empowering yet humorous commercial by WineAwesomness.com. Be a part of the movement to change pre-conceived and bigoted notions!

4. Barbeque – There is very little that goes better with a smorgasbord of backyard bbq than a ballsy but refreshing glass of rosé. With the mild tannins and weight of a red plus the versatile freshness of a white, you can pair rosé with almost anything.

Without further ado, my top three pink picks from the May 16 release:

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2014 Somontes Rosado 2014 Megalomaniac Pink Slip Pinot Noir Rosé 2014

Delas Frères 2014 Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône, France ($14.95)

Sara d’Amato – This Côtes du Rhône blend made up largely of the sun-loving grenache which gives it a pale but vibrant pink hue, lightness of flavour and great approachability. Delas has been taken over by the Champagne house of Louis Roederer, makers of the famed Cristal but remains a consistent producer with a large offering of often well-priced and impactful wines from the northern Rhône to the southern tip.

Somontes 2104 Rosado, Serra Da Estrela, Dão, Portugal ($12.95)

Sara d’Amato – By far, the best deal in the rosé category. Dão is known for its sensual wines with spice and elegance and this example captures that character so beautifully.

Megalomaniac 2014 Pink Slip Pinot Noir Rosé, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($17.95)

Sara d’Amato – One of the more potent styles of rosé with just a hint of sweetness and a fresh new label. Punchy with crunchy acids and loaded with summer berry fruit. Chill well and pair with mid-day sunshine.

~

And that is all for this edition. John (the Crater Man) Szabo returns to lead off next week’s ramblings with a slew of interesting picks from the Cool Summer Whites selection just ahead of the Victoria Day (May 2-4) long weekend.

Cheers.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 16, 2015

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Taste of Maclean’s Dining Series – Vancouver – April 7, 2015

Enjoy a unique fine dining experience and benchmark Australian wines at Vancouver‘s Chambar restaurant as curated by Maclean’s and hosted by outstanding sommeliers and culinary talent.

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You’ll love the sumptuous four-course meal paired with premier Australian wines.  Joined by Sommelier Rhys Pender MW and Chambar’s chef, Nico Schuermans, guests are invited to learn the subtleties of the pairings from the experts.

WineAlign members enjoy an exclusive discount and can purchase tickets at the Maclean’s subscriber rate of just $99+HST (regular price $149).

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Rhys and Nico

Event Details:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Location:  Chambar (568 Beatty St, Vancouver, BC)

Cocktail Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm – 10pm

Tickets:  $99 plus HST

*Please note tickets are strictly limited, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Wines Being Served Include:

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Coldstream Hill Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2012
Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 

*A vegetarian option will be available.  To provide the highest quality food and wine experience, your chef and sommelier are carefully curating the menu in advance of the evening.  Unfortunately, this means that substitutions, food restrictions, and allergy considerations cannot be accommodated.*

About Chambar

Chef Nico Schuermans and his wife Karri have brought to life their dream of opening a restaurant where guests can experience fine dining in a warm and inviting atmosphere.  Their philosophy is based on a commitment to fresh, innovative, and incredible food this is presented without pretension.  The result is a restaurant with exquisite cuisine, exceptional service, and a room that glows.  They are strong advocates for environmental and social responsibility.  Chambar Restaurant became carbon neutral in 2011.

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Purchase Your Tickets Here

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Final Blend : Towing the Line / Align

by Anthony Gismondi

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Anthony Gismondi

If you’ve ever wondered what the ‘align’ in WineAlign means, think come together or line-up. Although in the case of us critics it is more likely a case of get them on the same page of the website. The process reminds me a bit of the chaos of Italy where 60 million people pulling in opposite directions results in Ferrari, Prada, Gucci, Benetton, Armani, Piedmont Barolo, Tuscan Chianti and much more. At WineAlign we boast an equal strength although I’m sure the people responsible for shepherding our content onto these pages think otherwise as in it’s like herding cats.

In short, we have the freedom to do whatever we want most days with the caveat from management that we let you know once in a while what we are up to. Sounds easy, but I can vouch for all of us it rarely is. All of which leads to this month’s column that begins with some important news about how we display our notes on the Critics’ Profile pages – just in case you haven’t already noticed.

Our old version was coded to display our highest scoring (and often highest priced) wines first, regardless of when the note was posted. We now display our notes by date reviewed. It is far more timely and interesting in my estimation. You can still search the entire site using the Google custom search in the upper right hand corner of any page, but the new design to these pages, including links to their recent articles and Twitter feed, allows you to see the diversity and strength of our critics and exactly what they are tasting at the moment.

Ridge Lytton Springs 2012 Nicosia Fondo Filara Etna Rosso 2010Now we know that John Szabo is writing a book on volcanic wine and appears to be completely consumed by the thought of tuff, a porous volcanic rock also called ‘tufa’, although one should be careful not to confuse calcareous tuffa with the porous volcanic rock whose parallel etymological origins can sometimes be called ‘tufa’. I’m sure John will get to the bottom of the volcano and we will all hear about it, endlessly, between flights at the upcoming WineAlign 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada in Niagara Falls. Sorry John – those are sedimentary rocks you can see from the tasting room in Niagara. Nicosia Fondo Filara 2010 Etna Rosso.

Meanwhile Bill Zacharkiw has been running around California escaping the snow and cold and his beloved Maple Leafs searching for the next, less-is-more wine from the Golden State. Bill’s mission is to convert every sugar-loving, new-barrel toting winemaker into an organic, terroir bleeding, soul-searching wine grower that is completely in touch with his land. Look for many new California selections to get Bill’s stamp of approval in the coming months. I for one love the way Bill has embraced the New World with an Old World eye and when the stars align, well, look out. Expect to see more of Bill’s impromptu videos on penguins, beaches and elephant seals and surfers in the days to come. Ridge 2012 Lytton Springs.

La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2011

Zuccardi Series A Bonarda 2012David Lawrason has been practically living in South America for the last three months when he’s not busy with the Canadian chefs and the Canadian Olympic team where he devotes a great deal of time raising money for Gold Medal Plates, and at the same time, the reputation of Canadian wine. We recently spent a few days together in Argentina searching for the minerality and electricity that excites us. We found it in spades and will report back soon on all our discoveries. Zuccardi 2012 Series A Bonarda.

Earlier this month Sara d’Amato judged alongside Jancis Robinson and a large group of respected woman wine tasters at the Argentina Wine Awards. This travel goes unrecognized by most Canadians but it’s an important part of bringing a Canadian perspective to the international wine scene. We are in the game now and that helps everyone making wine in Canada. La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard 2013 Malbec

The rise of our French-speaking Quebec team has brought an even wider perspective to WineAlign, or as we’re called in Quebec – Chacun son Vin. While it may seem like Two Solitudes sometimes as we discuss scoring systems, somehow on the tasting bench we seem to easily come together when we are talking wine. Nadia Fournier, Rémy Charest and Marc Chapleau have been invaluable additions to the WineAlign milieu. All have been instrumental in bringing a fresh perspective to the judging room at the National Wine Awards of Canada.

As you read this WineAlign Team West: Treve Ring, Rhys Pender and DJ Kearney will be working the 37th Vancouver International Wine Festival greeting a 55-strong Australian contingent hell-bent on getting Canadians to ‘Savour” the new Down Under. There won’t be any critter labels this time around and don’t expect to see any kangaroos in the room. There’s a new mantra Down Under and it has to do with regions, or to be even more specific: place.

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Some of the exciting labels at VIWF from Australia TODAY

Australia TodayOne need only pick up a bottle of modern-day Australian wine to see where the country is heading. Australia’s new generation of winemakers are doing what they do best, adapt, and in doing so they are headed back to their vineyards. Where once they would not think twice about blending wines from hundreds of kilometres apart the new reality is all about uniqueness and to take what the land will give you.

It’s a philosophy that may not be so new to the French or the Italians who love their appellations but Down Under it’s a radical and much needed departure for many in the wine business. Today the emphasis is on regionality and smaller vineyards and as mentioned taking what the land will give you. The difference between a Barossa shiraz and a Coonawarra shiraz are day and night and they should be celebrated, not blended away into one big tank. We will all be looking for it. For me the joy of the show is tasting so many different wines in one room. I leave you with a short list of tasty bottles to look for at the festival, should you have a ticket, or to pick up at your local government wine shop.

Gérard Bertrand Saint Chinian Syrah Mourvèdre 2011 Teusner Avatar 2013  Zuccardi Tito 2011Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Southern France superstar Gérard Bertrand will be pouring his St Chinian 2011 Syrah Mourvèdre while the new kids on the Barossa block at Teusner will be pouring their Teusner Avatar 2013 Grenache Mataro Shiraz. Sébastien Zuccardi honours his grandfather Tito with the Zuccardi Tito Zuccardi 2011 Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon – Ancellotta while winemaker Peter Gambetta has sent his amazing Yalumba The Menzies 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra.

It’s been a great week so far, and best of all we are free to step out of alignment to cover it for you from our point of view.

~ Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic. Click here to visit his WineAlign profile page.


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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008