Category Archives: Australia

WOTM: Paringa Estate ‘Peninsula’, Mornington Peninsula, Shiraz 2016

In the words of James Halliday in the Wine Companion on the 97 point winning Paringa Estate ‘Peninsula’, Mornington Peninsula, Shiraz 2016; “Absolutely classic Paringa, one of the best – if not the best – of the early starters, with full-on cool climate Shiraz thrust. Likewise, classic blackberry, blood plum and liquorice flavours are supported by fine tannins and subtle oak.”

In a nutshell:

A subtle hint of violets laces the warm mint chocolate
and pepper core. A wonderfully enticing and silky cool
climate Shiraz.

The producer:

Located in the heart of Victoria’s beautiful Mornington Peninsula, Paringa Estate was founded in 1984 by Lindsay McCall when he purchased a derelict orchard. Lindsay’s passion and fascination with wine began in the mid 1970s and by the mid 1980s he decided to follow his dream by establishing Paringa Estate. The first vintage was in 1988 with just three tonnes of fruit and over the years it has grown considerably, with production now at 16,000 cases. Paringa Estate is one of the most highly awarded boutique wineries in Australia, regularly winning trophies for its Shiraz, Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay. The collection includes a stunning and precise Pinot Gris, as Lindsay says anywhere capable of growing great Pinot Noir should be capable of growing great Pinot Gris. The wines pay homage to Burgundy in style and James Halliday says Paringa Estate is “one of the best, if not the best, wineries on the Peninsula”.

The wine:

The berries were destemmed and 5% Viognier was co fermented in two tonne open stainless steel fermenters. This was followed by 11 months ageing in French oak barriques, of which approximately 10% were new.

Serving suggestion:

This works well with a Morrocan influenced tagine or a traditional shepherd’s pie.

 

For further information on the Paringa Estate, ‘Peninsula’ Shiraz 2016 or any other Paringa Estate wines, please contact your account manager. 

50 years of The Armagh

Certain names resonate strongly within Australian wine history and Jim Barry is one of them. It was Jim Barry’s drive that helped shape South Australia’s Clare Valley as a benchmark producer of world class Riesling, iconic Shiraz and cemented it as one of Australia’s premier wine regions. Here we take a look at the story of the Armagh vineyard.

 

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the planting of the iconic Armagh vineyard, a wine that has achieved extraordinary success and is regarded as one of Australia’s highest quality wines (check out Robert Parker’s point scores below).

 

The vineyard was named after the adjoining hamlet of Armagh, established by Irish settlers in 1849 and named after the lush rolling hills of their homeland. Jim Barry planted the 3.3 hectare vineyard in 1968 with Shiraz grapes.

 

20 years later South Australia had a glut of red wine – mainly Shiraz – and a Vine Pull Scheme was taking hold, however the Barry family decided the Armagh block of Shiraz should remain and become the icon red for Jim Barry Wines akin to Grange and Hill of Grace.

 

The vineyard is planted on its own roots on grey sandy abrasive topsoil over clay subsoil and receives an average rainfall of 600 millimetres per year. Such is The Armagh vineyards suitability that minimal intervention is needed to maintain yields below 4 tonnes per hectare, which produce rich and concentrated fruit of the rare quality required to produce wines with ageing potential.

 

The vineyard lies on a northwest facing slope which acts as a natural sun trap, ensuring the fruit is always fully ripened at harvest time, resulting in low-yielding vines that produce less than 27 hectolitres per hectare.

 

Awards

2013: 96 Pts; Robert Parker, 2016

2012: 98 Pts; Robert Parker, 2018

2010: 99 Pts; Robert Parker, 2016

2009: 96 Pts; Robert Parker, 2013

2008: 94 Pts; Robert Parker, 2013

2007: 96 Pts; Robert Parker, 2011

2006: 97 Pts; Robert Parker, 2016

2005: 96 Pts; Robert Parker, 2013

 

Speak to your account manager for more details of any of The Armagh wines in stock.

 

I Scream, You Scream, What do you serve with ice cream?

The scorching hot UK summer has seen temperatures exceed 30C sending customers into bars and restaurants in search of ice cream, with some retailers reporting a sales increase of over 100 per cent compared to July 2017.

We’ve taken a closer look at a question hospitality venues are hearing more and more this summer – which wines you should pair with which flavours of ice cream?

Pistachio Ice Cream

Pair this Mediterranean classic ice cream with another classic – Cava. It’s made in the same style as a Champagne, without the slightly larger price tag. The Pinord, Cava ‘+ & + Seleccion’ Brut NV is ideally suited to this ice cream, named because the winemaker’s family that first tasted the wine always wanted a little bit more, and a little bit more, and a bit more… ‘More’ in Spanish is ‘plus’ – and so the name was born.

Blood Orange Sorbet

Moscato d’Asti is your match. Almost any sorbet tastes great with this bubbly, semi-sweet dessert wine – you could even pour the Moscato over the sorbet for a refreshing sorbet float. The Michele Chiarlo ‘Nivole’, Moscato d’Asti 2017 is the wine for the job here, with its floral aromas, which are seamlessly complemented by peach and apricot notes on the fragrant bouquet. The gently sparkling palate is delicate, light and creamy.

Strawberry Ice Cream

When serving a dessert with strawberry ice cream, we would always suggest recommending a glass of off-dry rosé, such as the New Hall Vineyards, Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 from Essex. The wine has notes of ripe cassis and wild raspberry on the finish, which is perfect for cutting the richness of ice cream.

 

Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla ice cream is a simple classic, so often overlooked, but it is also a blank canvas for whatever toppings you’d like to serve. If you are topping with nuts or chocolate, you can’t go wrong with the Barros 10 Year Old Tawny Port, with its soft and silky texture, and subtle nuances of wood which are balanced by a fresh acidity and impetus tannin.

 

Plain Greek Frozen Yogurt

The sour notes of plain Greek frozen yogurt pair perfectly with the similar tart flavour profile of a Santorini Vin Santo. The extended barrel aging of the Gaia Wines, Vin Santo, Santorini 2006 provides richness, as well as acidity, resulting in a wine that is deep honey in colour, complex and full-flavoured, with notes of toffee and caramel. For the ultimate pairing experience, serve with baked spiced apples or pears.

 

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Here’s where Australian Shiraz comes into its element. The rich, red raspberry fruits, chocolate nuances, and subtle eucalyptus notes are cross-complementary with a scoop of mint and chocolate ice cream. A wine that is perfectly suited to this task is the ‘Eight Uncles’, Barossa Valley, Shiraz 2015 from family run winery, Fox Gordon, which specialises in contemporary and premium wines from the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills.

 

WOTM: Ocean Eight, Mornington Peninsula, Pinot Noir 2015

In his 2018-19 100 Best Australian Wines report, Matthew Jukes, describes how the Ocean Eight, Pinot Noir 2015 manages to; ‘capture the most evocative and aromatic vanguard of fruit and launch it at you with such accuracy that it takes your breath away.’

In a nutshell:

A modern style Pinot Noir full of summer pudding and cranberry flavours, vibrant and peppery on the finish.

The producer:Ocean Eight Pinot Noir

Owned by the Aylward family – founders of the renowned Kooyong winery- Ocean Eight was established in 2004 in the southern and cooler side of Mornington Peninsula. In their state-of-the-art, temperature controlled, gravity fed winery, winemaker Mike Aylward produces stunning cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot
Noir, taking influence from the great old world wine regions of Alsace, Burgundy and Champagne. All the grapes for the Ocean Eight wines are sourced from the family’s 17 hectares of vineyard and their total production each year is just 5,000 cases.

The wine:

The grapes were hand-picked, meticulously hand sorted and destemmed. A cold soak took place for three to four days, prior to fermentation which took place in an open vat, using natural yeasts. Fermentation lasted for a period of four to six weeks, to maximise the aromatics. The wine was pressed to old oak puncheons of three to four years and matured in oak for 12 months. This wine was not filtered or fined prior to being bottled.

Serving suggestion:

Crispy duck pancakes or coq au vin. Also accompanies tuna and is ideal for sharing platters.

Winemaker profile: Larry Cherubino

Larry Cherubino has been making wine around the world as a flying winemaker (no, that doesn’t mean he whizzes around the vineyards on a jet pack) for over 20 years.  

 

His passion for wine can be traced back to an early age, after being brought up by a family who pressed grapes on their farms and in a small family vineyard. He then went on to work as a cellar hand in Australia and Europe during his time as a student. In fact, Larry enjoyed being around winemaking so much he postponed his degree to experience even more vintages!

 

After graduating in Agribusiness and Horticulture, and with his passion for winemaking now fully ignited, he went on to study further, this time in the field of Oenology at the prestigious Roseworthy College, Adelaide.

 

Following many years travelling the world, designing wineries and vineyards New Zealand, USA, France, Italy and South Africa, and a stint as head winemaker at Houghton, finally, in 2004, Larry bought a vineyard of his own. Investing in the little known, but geographically large region of, Great Southern.

 

In the first year Larry released only one wine and the business was run on a tiny scale. A few years later he had the opportunity to buy the neighbouring vineyard and acres of prime river and vineyard country. The business then took off, growing quickly, with the estate now boasting over 120 hectares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larry’s eponymous winery produces a number of ranges, Cherubino, The Yard, Pedestal and Ad Hoc, all with one thing in common -the wines are made with minimal intervention to demonstrate the true quality of the grapes and grape growing.

 

Larry has won numerous plaudits for his wines, in 2011 it was Halliday’s Winery of the Year and in 2017, Best Value Winery, recognising the quality and value of the whole portfolio – 25 out of 35 wines received a prestigious value rosette.

Wines from the whole range constantly win critical acclaim, with nearly every wine he makes getting 90+ Halliday points and several featuring in Matthew Jukes Top 100.

 

Veganuary

Over the past ten years, the number of vegans has increased by a staggering 360%, rising to 542,000 in the UK (according to the Vegan Society). For many, the inspiration to go vegan stems from completing the popular ‘Veganuary’ challenge. The Veganuary trend is growing more and more every year, with 2018 proving to be a record-breaking year with more than 120,000 people signing up to follow a fully plant-based diet for a month.

Seen as a few of the Hallgarten team have signed up and are well on their way to completing Veganuary, we thought we would help them out with a few vegan wine pairing suggestions (and help them also complete Tryanuary – see previous blog).

Each of these wines are suitable for vegans, having been made using alternative filtration methods.

Wild Mushroom Risotto x Santa Maria La Nave, Sicilia Bianco ‘Millesulmare’ 2014

A bright and fine example of Grecanico Dorato, with a distinctive minerality combined with wild mountain fruits, citrus characters and a hint of pineapple. Dry, with a balanced acidity, this elegant and harmonious wine has a lovely lingering finish.

This wine from a small, boutique winery on the north-western slopes of Mount Etna is a perfect pairing for all vegan food, including a wild mushroom risotto.

Thai Salad with Chickpea Carrot Peanut Crumble & Garlic Soy Dressing x Eden Road, Canberra Riesling 2016

A dry Riesling with hints of lime blossom and elderflower. Steely with an uplifting peppery finish. This New World style is from Murrumbateman in the Canberra Wine District, where they make refined wines that are produced from some of Australia’s highest vineyards. The unique combination of altitude and some of the world’s oldest soils, which were formed over 400 million years ago.

The dry style of this Riesling with good acidity makes it a perfect pairing to cut through the spice of a vegan Thai salad. The small amount of residual sugar (0.8g) in the wine is ideal for when you eat something spicy as the sugar goes to the background and the fruit comes forward.

Chana Masala, Indian curry x Fratelli, Maharashtra, Sangiovese 2016

What better pairing that a vegan Indian wine, with a vegan Indian curry? This light, but elegantly oaky wine provides the perfect fusion of acidity, with a natural impression of fruit sweetness and elegant tannins. Perfect to cut through a spicy dish.

The viticultural and winemaking expertise has been provided by Piero Masi, a master winemaker from Tuscany and creator of the famous ‘Chianti Classico Casa Sola’. The modern winery located in Akluj, in the Solapur district follows Italian traditions to showcase the team’s passion.

Quinoa Stuffed peppers x Johann Donabaum, Grüner Veltliner ‘Johann’ Federspiel 2015

A fabulous, restrained Grüner Veltliner with apple and lime characters combined with white pepper, cardamom and spicy minerality. This balanced and refreshing wine makes it a perfect combination with a simple vegan dish packed full of flavour.

Johann is carving out a formidable reputation for concentrated, mineral laden white wines. The production from his five hectares of hillside vineyard in the Spitzer Valley is miniscule, but despite this his prices remain really competitive.

 

For a full list of our vegan wines, contact your account manager.

 

WOTM: Larry Cherubino, Laissez Faire, Porongorup, Riesling 2015

 Laissez Faire Riesling 2015 is a James Halliday 95 point wine, from one of the most decorated winemakers in the world, Larry Cherubino, with a tight knit acidity lingering in the background, this is guaranteed to add zip to your January.

In a nutshell:

A beautiful lemon and lime sherbet style classic Riesling. Very fresh and crisp with layers of waxy stone fruit and floral notes finishing on a lovely almost toasty note.

The producer:

Named ‘Winery of the Year’ by James Halliday and Matt Skinner, Larry Cherubino wants his wines to be distinctive and to speak clearly of their variety and vineyard site. He believes in paying meticulous attention to the vineyard, canopy and water management, picking at the right time and minimal intervention in the winery. Larry also makes wine under the Laissez Faire label, an exquisite range of natural wines which are the ultimate expression of site, made in small batches from hand harvested grapes. From delicate whites to opulent reds, all his wines have pure class and finesse.

 

The wine:

The grapes are grown in a south facing vineyard in the Porongorup sub region, which was planted in 1998 to a density of 1800 vines per hectare. The vines’ clones are unknown, but they are on their own rootstocks. The vineyard is irrigated to achieve the optimal amount of moisture required.

With a focus on natural winemaking, this is made in small batches from hand harvested grapes. The fruit was whole bunch pressed. The juice was then settled without the addition of enzymes, sulphur or acid. Once settled, it was allowed to ferment naturally at a low temperature for six weeks.

 

Serving suggestion:

Stunning with Proscuitto-wrapped tiger prawns with pickled vegetable slaw.

WOTM: Lake Breeze, Bullant, Langhorne Creek, Cabernet Merlot 2014

To help celebrate International Merlot Day 2017 on 07th November, our Wine of the Month is an Australian blend of 80% Cabernet and 20% Merlot, the two main varieties grown in Bordeaux.

Did you know, Merlot  is the offspring of Cabernet Franc (the father) and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes (the mother)?

In a nutshell:

Lake Breeze Bullant 2014 has an amazing lifted bouquet of blackberries with a touch of mocha. Rich and smooth on the palate, it offers a lovely soft finish with polished tannins.

The producerLake Breeze, Bullant, Langhorne Creek, Cabernet Merlot 2014

Lake Breeze winemaker Greg Follett is the fourth generation of the Follett’s to work on the family property, which has been in the grape growing business in Langhorne Creek for over 120 years. Only in the past 30 years have they been making wine; and have rapidly built an enviable reputation for consistently producing outstanding wines, becoming one of the most awarded boutique wineries in Australia. Greg uses exclusively old vine fruit -and the best 30 per cent of that- resulting in wines that are rich and concentrated.

The wine

Fruit selection was paramount for this wine. The grapes were fermented on their skins in small, open, static tanks; which lasted between seven to 12 days. The young wine was then pressed straight to oak barriques to complete the fermentation. The wine was then matured for 10 to 12 months in seasoned French and American oak, with five to 10% new oak used in the blending.

The vintage:

2014 was a season of contrasts and culminated in the latest vintage since 2004. The wet winter ensured the vineyard received a good flooding, resulting in healthy canopies and good subsoil moisture, essential in sustaining the vines through the very hot summer. The summer temperatures saw a record 13 days above 40°C (the average is just two). Many parts of the state received 100mm of rainfall just before the harvest, but the Lake Breeze vineyards just received 30mm. The cooler weather and rain revived the vines after the heat, resulting in average yields and impressive quality. The Cabernet Sauvignon is the standout.

Serving suggestion:

Great served with a gourmet cheeseburger, with all the toppings, or with a roast lamb dish.

An Australian Masterclass, With An Australian Master – Matthew Jukes

 

Well, it’s been another busy day here at Hallgarten Towers, with some, let’s say… challenging issues. But today I wear them lightly, then I toss them airily aside. And why? Simple: I have spent most of the day salivating at the memory of yesterday’s spine-tingling tasting of our Australian wines.

The venue was Langan’s, the host was Matthew Jukes, the audience was thirty or so hard-bitten members of our sales team, standing room only ladies n genlmun, all waiting to be impressed.

And, boy, were they impressed! It’s not often that our lot are reduced to simpering moans of appreciation, but…

We’d asked Matthew to guide us through a tasting of 18 wines from a selection of the mostly premium producers who make up our list following significant changes late last year. A bit of a challenge, you might think. Not to Matthew…

He begins by running through his early days in the Trade, at the Barnes Wine Shop, where most of the better wines he tasted were… Australian. Thus began his 30-year love affair with Aussie wines, a devotion borne of their brilliance and their diversity, but most of all of the slightly bonkers can-do mind-set of their creators, and their collective craving to make better and better-value wines than anywhere else in the world – and to do a bit of hell raisin’ at the same time.

But Matthew knows this is all about the wines – and we start with a cracker!

The 2016 clos Clare Riesling (with its great history as part of the legendary Florita vineyard) is looking stunning – an “ice pick” of a Riesling, he reckons.

We move on to the Ravenswood Lane Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Blanc from 2014, with nods of appreciation from the team as they taste the lemon and tangerine palate, deftly charged with a frisson of oak. Uncompromising quality, this.

The 2015 Pedestal (Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc) from Larry Cherubino – “a genius” according to Matthew – is next, and is a great example of “how Larry polishes wine.”

We go down to the McLaren Vale for Rose Kentish’s Ulithorne Dona Blanc 2016, a Marsanne and Viognier blend, its apricot and white peach nose complemented by a touch of lightness from a splash of Pinot Gris.

The next two wines offer a perfect contrast. Ocean Eight’s Verve Chardonnay (2014) and Paringa Estate’s Peninsula Chardonnay (2015) highlight the different philosophies of their winemakers, Mike Aylward and Lindsay McCall. Never was a wine more aptly named than the Verve, as racy a wine as you’ll come across, whereas from ten minutes down the road Lindsay’s love affair and lightness of touch with oak shows in a complex Burgundian mouthful.

Matthew then takes us across Australia to the cold hilltops of Tumbarumba and Eden Road’s Long Road Chardonnay, lean, chiselled and elegant.

We finish the whites with Larry’s Laissez Faire Field Blend, a funky example of how to use a selection of grapes which happen to be in the vineyard – Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Gris.

That’s the whites finished, but Jukesy is in full flow now – “Order, order!” – and we crack on with the reds, beginning with another Mornington Peninsula masterclass from the Pinot Noirs of Ocean Eight and Paringa Estate’s Peninsula, allowing Matthew to opine that “there are definitely better Pinots in Australia than in New Zealand.”

We go back to the Adelaide Hills now, this time with Fox Gordon’s Nero d’Avola, which provokes murmurs of approval and an occasional raised eyebrow. God, it is so clean, pristine clean and with amazing sweet raspberry fruit. Sicily, eat your heart out.

Our first glimpse of the Barossa, now, and Teusner’s Joshua (Grenache/Mataro/Shiraz). The genius of Kym Teusner, says Matthew, lies in forging great partnerships with growers with access to really mature fruit. The Joshua looks great, overflowing, cascading, gushing with fruit.

And the hits just keep comin’ – Fox Gordon’s Eight Uncles Shiraz is next up, and the primary fruit flavours jump out of the glass – plums, damsons – and then, miraculously, just a hint of smoke.

The contrast between this and the next – the Eden Road Long Road Syrah – provokes some comment. This is so much more Syrah than Shiraz, with an earthy, textural feel to it.

We go now to Langhorne Creek, and the great story of Greg Follett, who persuaded his dad to let him become a winemaker rather than a grape grower – with spectacular success (the amount of awards he has won is legion). His Bullant Cabernet Merlot is an easy wine to understand, a lovely claret lookalike at a fraction of the price.

Back to Teusner, and the first 100% Cabernet Sauvignon in the tasting. We’re all smacking our lips now, and wondering if it can get any better. God, this is lovely Cabernet, with perfumed fruits of the forest to the fore.

On to an old favourite, Bob Berton, our longest-standing producer. “Captain Bob,” as Matthew calls him, can turn his hand to almost any style, and here we have an amazing Coonawarra Cabernet with masses of cedar fruit.

We end with a masterpiece – Larry Cherubino’s Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. This is in a class of its own and able to compete effortlessly with St Julien.

As we wind down, I reflect that, of course, no-one needs to champion Aussie wine at the price-fighting end. As Matthew reminds us, the work put in by Hazel Murphy in the early days has ensured that Off-trade sales of Australian brands will always be healthy. It is at the premium end where there is more of a challenge. But Verve Chardonnay v Chablis, Paringa Estate v Puligny, clos Clare v German Estate Riesling, Larry’s Cabernet v top-end Bordeaux, the list is endless and it’s all a bit of a no-brainer. As one of our more Francophile salespersons said: “These are proper wines!”

Two hours have raced by and we could have stayed forever. Matthew takes a bow to whoops and cheers, rock star status assured.

What a tasting this was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox Gordon: Style and Substance

This one was different!

Instead of the usual meeting in a winery or a Cellar Door or even the middle of a vineyard, my meeting with Fox Gordon took place in their boutique office on King William Road just south of Adelaide’s CBD. But you can tell what they are about as soon as you walk in: the office/showroom is beautifully “decorated” with bottles of their various brands. It is an arresting and ravishing site – a whole wall covered in horizontally-laid spotless virgin bottles. I immediately get out the camera and start snapping.

Sam and Rachel Atkins (nee Fox) are an attractive, open couple. They ask me what I would like to do: visit their winery, have lunch… But I’m quite happy to have a chat in their offices and drink the excellent Flat White from a stylish-looking coffee shop next door. (Though given how stylishly they are dressed, I feel a little sordid in my trainers and jeans, having spent the morning tramping through vineyards; very kindly, they affect not to notice, and their charming and typically open Aussie hospitality rather bowls me over).

Their story started in 2001 when they, along with friends Jane Gordon and David Cumming, decided to pursue their dream of creating great wine brands from beautiful wines. The name and logo celebrates the founding women, using Rachel and Jane’s surname to create the brand, and their stylised images to produce the logo. All the individual wines and sub-brands now carry the name of family and friends.

Ra (short for Rachel and pronounced Rar) tells me about their network of nine growers in the Adelaide Hills, the wine being made at a 14,000-tonne winery at Project Wines, which is almost on the border with Langhorne Creek. Sam then takes over to tell me that they are going to pull out of the Barossa Valley. It doesn’t suit their style; the Barossa is viewed as being traditional and the birthplace of huge, big ink buster wines, in contrast to Fox Gordon’s image and the style of their wines. The Adelaide Hills, which is where they will concentrate, is viewed as producing cool climate and cool-looking wine.

But this is not to say that this is a boutique operation in terms of size. This year they will make 40,000 cases, are present in the heavyweight Australian retailers, and have had wines listed in Matthew Jukes’ 100 Great Australian Wines for many years. Sam cut his teeth when working for BRL Hardy and introduced container after container into the UK supermarket trade in the late 90s. In addition to that, Ra has twice been nominated for the Australian Women in Wine Award, run by the London branch of Wine Australia, and during the time I was there she let me know that she hoped to be nominated again for 2017; there is substance as well as style.

The one potential fly in the ointment is the recent departure of well-known winemaker Tash Mooney. According to Sam, it was a natural parting of the ways. “Tash very much her own person and wanted to do her own thing and we had been together for a long time. And there’s no getting away from the fact that was a little uncomfortable with our marketing approach and its emphasis on viewing what we do in a wider context – a lifestyle creation.”

They are confident that their new winemaker, Marty O’Flaherty, winemaker for 15 years, will produce the goods.

I was fascinated by their choice of grapes with which to work, such as pinot grigio, fiano, tempranillo and nero d’avola. Sam’s eyes light up and he tells me of their relationship with an Italian, Caj Amadio , now in his 80s but who acts as if he is still in his 30s and whose family owns a vineyard in the northern part of the Adelaide Hills. “We just spent  great weekend with Caj and Jenny on Kangaroo Island, tasting both our wines and his vineyard remains a benchmark in terms of quality and a bedrock in terms of a source of European varietals,” commented Sam. “He’s one of the most amazing men you’ll ever come across,” says Ra. Montepulciano and nebbiolo are on their way, as well as a Fume Blanc style.

Not unexpectedly, they see internet sales and social media marketing as becoming more and more vital, and their POS and other marketing support materials are state-of-the-art and owe something to the approach of fashion houses. But you cannot beat old style distribution: during our meeting Ra took a call to say that Benares, arguably London’s finest Indian restaurant, had started listing their wines. Deep joy all round.

You leave the meeting enthused by Sam and Ra’s vitality, creativity and joie-de-vivre.

PS: to give an idea of the quality of the wines, I am attaching below my tasting notes from a recent Aussie tasting we did at London’s Langan’s restaurant…

Charlotte’s Web Pinot Grigio 2016
Inviting rich and fruity nose, sherbert, excellent acidity, great cool climate wine;

Princess Fiano 2015
Caused quite a stir when we showed it – great spice, a ballsy textured number with nutmeg and grapefruit. Great alternative to Campania.

Abby Viognier 2015
Wow, no messing here. Big and rich and layered, masses of apricot flavour, but still manages to retain acidity. Excellent winemaking.

By George Cabernet Tempranillo 2013
A 60/40 blend, with mulberry and blackcurrant flavours. Very attractive, lovely forest fruits nose.

Eight Uncles Shiraz 2013
Juicy, splurgey fruit, incredible moreish, leaps out of the glass. Plums everywhere.

Dark Prince Nero d’Avola 2015
Unfiltered and chunky with it. Gutsy, rich sweet peppery fruit

Teusner: An Independent Man

The drive up to the Barossa always takes longer than I bargain for and I am running late. Luckily, Kym Teusner is as laid-back as they come. Which is just as well, because the winery that Teusner bought before the last vintage still has not been finished and there are builders everywhere putting the final touches to the new fermenters, ready for the new vintage in a couple of weeks. “We had to do it,” Kym explains laconically. “We needed to double our crush.” They will do 40,000 cases this year. It is an imposing sight: dozens of glinting tanks of all sizes, capable of holding anywhere between 1,000 litres to 150,000 litres. “All batches are fermented separately, that’s a bit of a creed for us.”

We are joined by Kym’s sales and marketing guy, Ben Shillito, who explains that in Australia they have three different labels: Round Two, an indie retailer wine, uses fruit from their own single vineyard in the Angaston foothills; Teusner is the main brand, all the fruit coming from generational grower vineyards, in some cases going on to 8 generations of the same family on the property; then Hutton Vale is a small parcel joint venture between the Teusners and the Angas family, premium vineyard owners.

Even their bought-in fruit comes from growers with whom they have long-term relationships. “Some of them sold to the big wineries, but after GFC, a lot of the big boys let them down. And then the same thing happened with the terrible 2011 vintage. We stuck with them. We still bought fruit from that vintage.”

I nod my head. But GFC? What is that? Some new vineyard disease, a technical term in the winery? “Global Financial Crisis,” explains Kym.

Since we started working with our new Australian wineries, I’ve thought that Teusner offers the greatest commercial possibilities; they are a reasonably sized Barossa operation whose labels do look off-trade driven. I am not disabused as we settle down to a large tasting overlooking what Kym calls the building site.

The Woodside Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (with 4% of Barossa semillon) has a touch of sweetness about it and is well rounded for a sauvignon. Very commercial and appealing.

The Empress Riesling 2016 is sourced from the Eden valley and is a lovely open fruity wine. Kym explains that Eden Valley rieslings tend to have more floral notes than the flintier rieslings of Clare.

The Gabrielle 2011 Barossa Valley Semillon moves Kym to raptures. “I love and adore semillon. I think the Barossa does this better than anyone. I know the Hunter Valley boys like their own semillon, but this definitely gives them a run for their money.” This is their Coco Chanel wine. Kym explains: “Coco Chanel once said ‘Fashion changes – style endures’ which I think says it all about Barossa Valley Semillon. And as everyone knows, Coco’s real first name was Gabrielle.” I didn’t know that, but what I do know is that this wine does has fabulous style, with a great honeyed biscuit nose and a fleshiness in the mouth.

The Salsa Rose Rosé 2016 is made of Grenache and Mataro with a touch of Montepulciano (the previous vintage also had Carignan.) This is all barrel-fermented, picked sparingly in the vineyard and pressed straight into oak. It is a really funky wine. “This is the only wine which we don’t inoculate. Some goes through malo, some doesn’t. My aim here is to have you wanting another glass.” It has a hugely attractive gamey, meaty flavour to it – unlike any other rosé.

Kym and Ben then line up three shiraz wines and I get clicking with the camera. The Riebke family, led by Steve Riebke, based in and around Ebenezer, are still their most important growers. The eponymous wine shows great commercial, plummy, rich fruit. You can see why it is the best seller. The Teusner Billmore Shiraz 2015, sourced from the western Barossa around Gomersal, is softer and sweeter and more extreme than the Riebke. “This is more what the public expect of the Barossa,” says Kym. Finally, the Wark Family Shiraz 2015 is sourced from a Stonewell vineyard just at the back of the winery and shows really soft fruit and beautifully integrated tannins.

“This is how I’d classify them,” says Kym. “ The Riebke is a firm wine and comes from light soil; the Bilmore has chocolate flavours and comes from brick red soil; the Wark has a ferrous iron nose, with coal, tannins and structure.”

The Albert 2015 Old Vines Shiraz (from two vineyards in Ebenezer and Williamstown, some of the vines of which are 70 years old) shows intense menthol and eucalyptus, but Kym says there are no eucalyptus trees for miles, so thinks it must be a combination of clones and soil type. It is a massive wine and needs time.

The Gentleman Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced: 80% Eden Valley, 20% Barossa and has a lovely mint and herbaceous nose and a chocolate feel in the mouth. “The problem here is that some Barossa growers try to make the cabernet too much like shiraz, but cabernet is a completely different animal, and should at its best show good herbaceous fruit.”

The Righteous Mataro has masses of sweet fruit with a lovely soft oakiness to it and will be around forever. “I’m very keen on mataro. This wine is absolutely the best we can do with this grape in the whole of Barossa.” They get the grapes from Marananga.

The Righteous FG Shiraz has intense black fruits, plums, dark chocolate and warm spices. It more than lives up to its name!

The Hutton Vale wines are the result of a joint venture between Kym and the Angas family, who own some prime vineyard plots in the Eden Valley.

The Hutton Vale Grenache Mataro from 65 year-old vines smells of dried herbs, has the softest and silkiest mouthfeel and stays on the palate forever.

The Hutton Vale Shiraz 2013 (the previous vintage got a 98 from Halliday) has a massive and intense dark cherries and rich raspberries on the palate. A huge wine.

The Hutton Vale Cabernet 2013 has very soft fruit (which seems to be a characteristic of the Hutton Vale wines.) It has classic cedar box nuances – so obviously a very good wine.

Then we come to the two wines which started everything – the Joshua and Avatar – “the daddies of the place” states Kym.

The Joshua (2015) comes from 100 year old Grenache vines which make up 65% of the blend and sees no oak. I’m a huge fan of old Grenache and this is a beautiful wine, with that delicious  damson nose. The Avatar 2014 is made up of 50% Grenache and spends 18 months in oak. As you’d expect, this is more dense and heavy, with a touch of tar.

We need to pack up the tasting rather sharpish, as Kym and Ben need to catch a plane for Brisbane. “But no worries, mate, make yerself at home, take a look around,” say Kym.

Later, as I am driving home, have Kym’s quotes ringing in my ears and I am reminded of the last wine we tasted: the Independent Shiraz Mataro 2015, which had strong tar and liquorice flavours and a touch of herbals. “We really work this wine, I like to try and layer the flavours, but there is always a core of fruit there. The thing about working with shiraz on its own is that it gives instant gratification.” The last phrase made me laugh. The wine was named – presumably – after Kym Teusner: a man independent of mind.

 

Ulithorne: A Legacy to Live Up To

The McLaren Vale, a mere 30-minute drive from Adelaide, is one of Australia’s premier wine tourism destinations. It is beautifully laid out in a natural amphitheatre, with some hilltops affording a ravishing view of the ocean and the Willunga Hills. The heavy money ensures that the vineyards look gorgeous and the cellar doors are spectacular and state-of-the-art, a fusion between chic restaurant happenings and hip tasting rooms.

Unfortunately, I haven’t got time to appreciate any of this, as I am late for my appointment with Ulithorne, so I have to make do with a quick drive around some of the vineyards with winemaker Matt Copping and general manager Ryan Kinghorn.

The original 30-acre Ulithorne vineyard, planted in 1971 by the Harrison family in Blewitt Springs, on the north side of the Onkaparinga River, produced and sold some of the best grapes in the region to Wirra Wirra and Rosemount. In 1997, Sam Harrison and his wife Rose Kentish leased and subsequently purchased the vineyard. In 1998, they planted a further 14 acres of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon on the north facing hills. In 2002, they purchased another 25 acres from their neighbour, planting 1/3 Merlot and 2/3 Shiraz. Using a number of wineries, they developed a European-influenced range of wines, winning multiple awards, culminating in Rose winning the highly coveted ‘Bushing Queen” – McLaren Vale Winemaker of the Year – in 2008.

Following the sale of Ulithorne by Rose in November of 2017, the new owners decided to concentrate their winemaking at one winery at McLaren Flat, and invest in further vineyards and infrastructure. “This is where we are building our Cellar Door operation,” says Ryan. Standing on the brow of Amery Hill in the central part of the vale, just off the Kays Road, I am almost blown over by the sea breeze whipping in off the Gulf St Vincent. No wonder they can produce cool climate fruit here.

He points to the d’Arenberg winery, about half a mile away, where Chester Osborn’s famous Rubik’s Cube – the cause of much debate in the valley – is very visible.

This is excellent land. We are surrounded by signs for Hardy’s, Pannell’s and Angove’s. “This is the prime land of the McLaren Vale,” says Matt. “It’s here in the hills where the best fruit is grown, you’ve got the breezes, the altitude and the light and sandy dune soil. This allows us to produce really well balanced red grapes with a floral feel to them.”

Of the 12,000 cases produced annually, half of which is exported, 50% is from owned grapes and 50% is bought in. In addition, Ryan and Matt are going through various vineyards looking for old forty to fifty year old vines to either buy or lease.

At Hallgarten we are bringing in five wines:

Dona Blanc
Fresh lemon curd and white peach blend of Marsanne, Viogner and Pinot Gris;

Dona GSM
60% Grenache dominated blend, heavily influenced by the southern Rhone – a rich cherry and plum extravaganza;

Dona Shiraz
Typically northern Rhone-influenced plum and pepper and chocolate wine;

Chi Grenache Shiraz
An oak-influenced (though not necessarily oak-evidence) blend which has serious dark fruit and herby nuances;

Prospera Shiraz
Showing what Amery is capable of – heady and perfumed and gamey, with subtle lavender and thyme notes; delicious

It’s an exciting time for Matt. He previously worked at Haselgrove when they won Dark Horse Winery of the Year in Halliday’s 2015 Wine Companion. Recently appointed winemaker to Ulithorne following Rose’s departure, he relishes the challenge.

It is from a vineyard just 100 metres away that they source some of the material for the Dona GSM blend. “The fruit here ripens each year in differing pockets, with unique and brilliant profiles,” says Matt. “Each variety is hand-picked throughout the vintage in super premium parcels that become small batch fermentations dedicated to our finest wines. So the wines come to represent the ‘heart and soul’ of each vine.”

Rose Kentish had developed Ulithorne in tandem with her winemaking projects in Europe, and Ryan explains that “the influence of the Rhone region will always be with us – Matt will be doing a vintage at Châteauneuf-du-Pape  this Autumn. We intend to continue with the minimalist winemaking philosophy. We look for purity of style that our wines are renowned for.”

Like everyone else, Matt is getting twitchy. The vintage is still two weeks away and he can’t wait to get started. As I drive away back to Adelaide to catch a plane, I think of Rose Kentish’s parting words:

“I am very proud of the Ulithorne legacy, created and nurtured over the last nineteen years. I have put every ounce of my passion and ability into the Ulithorne wines up to and including the 2016 Australian and 2014 French vintages. I wish the new caretakers of that legacy the best of luck.”

Let’s hope Matt and his team can live up to that legacy!