Tag Archives: australia

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.

 

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.

 

#TryJanuary

This year we are celebrating #TryJanuary – a time of the year when you when serve something new and exciting, which will entice customers in to try something new!

Here are a few suggestions from the Hallgarten portfolio that are guaranteed to get rid of the January blues.

Try something natural… Larry Cherubino, Laissez Faire Field Blend, Western Australia 2016

Laissez Faire means “let it be” and this is reflected in the hands-off approach of winemaking. As the name suggests, the grapes selected for this Field Blend were harvested at the same time and blended in the field. The fruit was gently destemmed, then the parcels were allowed to ferment naturally on their skins for a period of five days. No additives, sulphites, acids or enzymes were added during the vinification of this blend, with only minimal sulphur added at bottling. Resulting in a floral blend with an exotic yet fresh cacophony of passion fruit, rose petal and lychee. A gentle hint of oak adds texture and weight to the long finish. Try this wine at the Australian Day Tasting 2018.  

Try something exciting… Saint Clair, Pioneer Block 22 ‘Barn Block’, Marlborough, Pinot Noir 2016

Saint Clair founders, Neal and Judy Ibbotson were pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry, first planting vineyards in the valley in 1978 and then establishing Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994. They own 160 hectares of vineyard in 10 different Marlborough locations chosen specifically for the attributes of their individual “terroir” and ability to produce top quality grapes. This Pinot Noir has aromas of ripe dark forest fruits which are complemented by hints of cedar and dark roasted coffee oak. Rich, with a velvety structure and fine grained silky tannins; this is a delicious full-bodied Pinot Noir. Try this wine at the Flavours of New Zealand Tasting.  

Try something for Burns Night… Château De Tracy, Pouilly Fumé 2015

The first members of the noble Stutt family in France came from Scotland in the fifteenth century to help the future King Charles VII of France during the Hundred Years War. In 1586, by way of marriage, the family inherited Château de Tracy. The Chateau is still family owned and cultivated today under the leadership of the Comte Henry d’Estutt d’Assay. An organic approach to viticulture is followed but the Château is not certified as being organic. No pesticides are used, yields are kept very low and strict canopy management is used.  

Try something warming and spicy… Fratelli, Sette, Maharashtra 2012

Fratelli means ‘brothers’ in Italian and three sets of brothers from Italy and India have combined their passion and desire to produce wines made in India, following Italian traditions. Their passion, love and hard work have resulted in the creation of Fratelli Wines, a modern winery located in Akluj in the Solapur district. 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’. This blend of 70% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, displays supple ripe flavours of plum and blackberry, accented with notes of spice and vanilla, with hints of blackcurrant and cherry. Exquisitely balanced, this blend has a lush, round mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish. Perfect with a spicy curry on a cold January evening!

Try something indigenous and esoteric… Alpha Estate, Amyndeo, Reserve Vielles Vignes Single Block Barba Yannis, Xinomavro 2013

One of the top scoring entries in Decanter’s Top 75 wines of 2017, The Single Block Barba Yiannis is named in honour of Mr Yiannis, from whom the block was purchased in 1994. The vineyard is located in Amyndeo, in the region of Macedonia. Thevines are ungrafted, pre-phylloxera bush vines which are over 90 years old. The summers are hot, so in order to avoid extreme water deficit a “root zone drying irrigation” is used, to ensure the optimum conditions for the nourishment and maturation of the grapes. This wine shows a complex and typical Xinomavro, showing aromas of smoky black fruits, strawberries, dark cherries, liquorice, sundried tomatoes, and delicate spice. Full bodied and structured on the palate, with a rich depth of fruit, concentrated savoury notes and a touch of oak. The velvety tannins lead through to a persistent and aromatic finish.

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.

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!

 

Lake Breeze, Langhorne Creek: Undiscovered Country

And so back to Langhorne Creek to see Greg Follet of Lake Breeze.

The transition from Adelaide Hills’ steep and winding lanes to Langhorne Creek’s one long flat arterial road takes me by surprise for the second time in as many days. It is difficult to keep your eyes on the road as they wander to each side of it to marvel at the lush emerald canopies stretching out in regimental rows towards the majestic red gum trees. .

This has always been an important grape-growing region but until recently most growers sold all of their fruit. But now, a handful of producers such as Lake Breeze are showing just what good wines – and what good-value wines – can be made, helped by the recent growth of the vineyard area from around 400 hectares to around 6,000 hectares.

Greg’s family have been grape growers since the 1880s and winemaking since 1987, he tells me, as he and his brother Roger, as down-to-earth and as friendly a pair as I have come across in the trade, sit down in the lovely but simple Cellar Door for a chat. Their modesty is especially striking when you consider the extraordinary level of success they have had in Australian Wine Shows, including 40 trophies and over 140 gold medals since 1994. Undeniably, Lake Breeze is one of Australia’s most awarded boutique wineries, including being named Australia’s Champion Small Winery at the Australian Small Winemakers Show, and twice winning the Best Red Wine of the Adelaide Wine Show – the Max Schubert Trophy.

“This is definitely Cabernet country,” says Greg. “We select only the best 30% of fruit from the older vines on the property, and sell off the rest. I am really lucky to have inherited a great selection of old vines.”

I am then introduced to their sprightly father, Ken, who has the same friendly demeanour as his sons. I feel oddly privileged and humbled, and tell him he must be proud of his family. I also get to meet Greg’s wife, Robyn, and the following day, when I phone with a query, I get put through to Dionne Follett, who is so apologetic that she missed me on my visit that I very nearly turn around to drive back and present myself.

The winery, designed by Greg, was built in 1998. It houses small open top fermenters which enables him to focus on a traditional style of winemaking. He takes me on a quick tour, but keeps glancing anxiously at his mobile press, on its tramlines at the door, ready and waiting to receive the grapes which he will harvest at around nine-thirty that evening.

Back in the tasting room, we run through the wines.

The Reserve Chardonnay 2015
A lovely rich toasty full nose. This goes straight into barrel and it is very evident.

2014 Old Vines Grenache (from vines planted in 1932)
Funky damson flavours and loads of open fruit. I like this a lot, but then I tend to like all old vine Grenache.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
A gamey and meaty aroma, and masses of leafy fruit.

Arthur’s Reserve 2013
Excellent dark raspberry fruit, with a plushness on the palate and a lovely crisp finish. The 2012 vintage was named Australia’s Wine of the Year by Winestate.

The Bull Ant Shiraz 2014
10 to 12 months in seasoned oak, shows delicious soft sherberty fruits, is soft and supply, with luscious tannins. There was no wine made in 2015, but the 2016, about to be bottled in June, shows rasping good berry fruit with great mouthfeel.

The Bernoota Shiraz Cabernet 2014
Delicious black plums, stone fruits and smoke aromas – very very moreish

It has been a great tasting and these are salt of the earth people. As I drive back along that straight, straight, straight road, I think: Langhorne Creek – The Undiscovered Country.

Ravenswood Lane: Birth of the Cool

The Adelaide Hills as an area is every bit as wealthy (maybe wealthier) than the Hunter Valley, but the hills are less manicured. I’d say this is Hampshire to the Hunter Valley’s Surrey. But in terms of über-trendy, I have come to the right place. The Lane restaurant, near Hahndorf, sits on an imposing crest of the hill with spectacular views of Mount Lofty. Everyone who knew that I was coming to Adelaide said: “You have got to have lunch at the Lane.”

They were right – but more of that later. I am here to meet with Marty Edwards, son of the founder John Edwards, and his winemaker Michael Schreurs. Because not only is this an amazing restaurant, it is also a brilliant winery, making a couple of exceptional brands: The Lane and our little number, Ravenswood Lane. In a few short years (the property was bought in 1992, but they have concentrated on their own brands only since 2005) they have become the number one Adelaide Hills brand in South Australia and the number one Adelaide Hills on premise brand in the whole of Australia.

In the reception area of the beautifully cool restaurant, I taste through a whole raft of wines with Marty and Michael (though I have to duck and dive as the restaurant, inevitably, is fully booked for lunch – on a Monday. Impressive!)

Block 10 Sauvignon Blanc 2016
100% stainless steel fermented, 10% of Semillon added.
Ultimate cool climate fruit. Classic nose, old style sauvignon blanc. The semillon is very evident and provides the acid backbone and complexity and the sauvignon blanc provides the fruit.

Gathering Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014 (72/28 blend)
70% of each varietal barrel fermented
Marty says: “This is Sauvignon Blanc for grown-ups” He is right: this is grassy, wild, a bit funky, with a deal of structure. This is the wine which defines The Lane.

Block 1A Chardonnay 2016
Barrel fermented, 85% stainless steel fermented, 15% fermented in various age French barrels.
Absolutely gorgeous fruit, serious lemon nose, a touch of quince. Supremely balanced.

Beginning Chardonnay 2015
500 cases made. Hand-picked, whole bunch barrel pressed, 100% in French oak, 30% of which is new.
Delicate, hint of biscuit, great viscosity. “Tension is the key,” according to Marty. “This is a rubber band wine.”

As we move through the line-up, what strikes me is that these are really linear wines.

Reginald Germein RG Chardonnay 2013
100 cases for the year. These barrels are specially coopered for them, by a French cooper, following a visit that John Edwards made to France and saw the kind of barrels the top French vignerons were using.
This has got a delicate lanolin and citrus nose, a hint of biscuit. Serious, very serious.

Block 5 Shiraz 2015
1500 dozen made
Gorgeous mouthfeel, absolutely pristine, rich dark plums. I immediately think of Guigal.

Then Michael pours the one which wins all the awards…

Block 14 Basket Press Shiraz 2013
This comes from the highest block they own.
Basket pressed.
You immediately feel more concentration, richness Christmassy kind of feel. A tough dusty on the finish, probably due to newness. Marty explains: “This shiraz is all north facing, we undertake lots of green harvesting, we’re looking for extreme concentration.

Reunion Shiraz 2013
500 cases made
“This is double-breasted suit drinking” says Marty. I laugh and get an impression of star anise. Marty goes on: “I call this grandma’s handbag wine, because it reminds me of when I was a kid and I would put my nose in her handbag and get all kinds of leathery and perfumy smells.”

So within a short time, Marty has described for me a sauvignon blanc for grown-ups, a rubber band wine and grandma’s handbag wine. He should be on stage, this bloke!

We move on to the 19th Meeting Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
This is made from the Cabernet in front of the restaurant.
“You need to be comfortable with Cabernet,” Marty explains. Shiraz is the big noise round here, but Cabernet is the sleeper.” He explains that the harvest this year will be very late, as we taste the wine. It is a touch minty, bay leaves, herbaceous – but not green (it’s a fine line.)

Smacking my lips, we move on to The JC Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
An 80/20 blend
This has long maceration, which is evident in the heady and unctuous mouthfeel, but there is an elegance at work, too.

The tasting finished, Michael shows me round a pristine winery. “We’re doing odd jobs, waiting for the grapes,” he says. He tells me that they will be producing their first Pinot Noir this year, having searched for a suitably cool plot (you don’t realise how large an area the Adelaide Hills cover until you come here.)

Michael explains that everything is harvested into half-tonne baskets. He doesn’t crush anything to avoid getting phenolics from the skin (how many times have I heard this on my trip around Australia.) All the whites are tank pressed, all the reds are basket pressed and they use whole bunch pressing. The winery is extremely efficient – most of the work is done by just three people. Then Michael shows me his pride and joy: two fermenters, one, a Rieger, one-tonne, squat and four-square, and one elegant and with dainty legs, a Lejeune, a five tonner. One comes from Germany and one comes from France. “You can guess which is which,” he says.

From tank we taste a 2016 Pinot Gris, which tastes as if it has some residual sugar, but Michael tells me that is not the case, but that they will add a touch of acid before bottling. A 2016 Sauvignon Blanc has delicious, rich, open fruit, and is soft and just a touch sweet. Michael explains: “Sauvignon Blanc is a grape that will go with anything you like.” A 2016 Shiraz has a nutty nose, while a Cabernet has a faint aroma of bacon fat, which may be because of new barrels.

With me licking my lips and aching to get stuck in, we repair to the restaurant, where I decide I would like to eat everything, but eventually plump for lamb’s brains and red snapper. Both are utterly delicious. During our meal Katie MacAulay comes over to say hello. She used to work for Steve Daniel at Oddbins ages ago and asks how he is. Life must be good here, I say, and she nods and smiles widely.

Driving back, I am struck by this region. The Hills have positioned themselves as the Beautiful Place, the Beverly Hills of South Australia – and there is a definite buzz. As there is with the whole of Adelaide, I think. The last time I was here it was still a beautiful old-fashioned rather sleepy town with lots of impressive Victorian buildings and with a sedate pace about it – famously, the city of churches. But like the Adelaide Hills, the city is now a testament to fashion, trends and forward thinking. Full of beautiful people, just like the Hills.

a Saturday night in Adelaide

Adelaide is absolutely rammed tonight. It’s the opening night of the Fringe Festival and a vast parade is winding its way through the city. Hindley Street is heaving, a seething mass of people, beautiful and vulgar and loud. Screaming police sirens compete with the pulsing throb of electro from the bars and the shouts of fifty thousand voices. It takes ten minutes to walk 100 yards. While it is not yet in the same league as Newcastle’s Bigg Market, it’s not far short.

Meanwhile, over the Torrens River, Guns N’ Roses are playing at the Adelaide Oval. I make my way slowly across the bridge. I don’t have a ticket, but then thousands of others don’t either, so I join them on the grass outside the stadium. We might not be able to see them, but we can hear them. I open my bottle of Florita Riesling which Sam Barry gave me earlier and I pour it into a paper cup. The luxury of being a wine buyer.

There is an astounding contrast between this hedonism and the bucolic vine-growing fields in the surrounding hills. Crikey, this place is steeped in wine history. Earlier today I popped in at the revitalised Seppeltsfield winery, now transformed under the guidance of Warren Randall. I tried the tawny from the year of my birth – 1961 (a good year in Bordeaux, too)! It is the first time I have drunk my own vintage. Brett Wadrup then poured me a 100 year old Para tawny – sticky toffee pudding time! Even though the winery is now a tourist attraction, you can see from the original gravity-fed layout and remaining buildings which were built from imported wood, such was the lack of local hardwood, what an amazing feat this was. God, pioneers such as Joseph Seppelt were tough! During my tour my mind wandered back a couple of days to my long trip up from Melbourne, when I drove past the other Seppelt winery in the Great Western area in the north of Victoria. As a working winery, this has largely been mothballed by its multinational owners – the juice from their vineyards is now trucked hundreds of miles to another facility. Sad. If I’d had more time during my drive up from Melbourne I would have stopped in for a visit to their historic underground cellars – and then popped over the road to pay a visit to Best’s.

I also went to see Bleasdale, down in Langhorne Creek, at the invitation of Martin Strachan, with whom I worked when he was Negociants’ man in the UK a decade ago. This is another famous old winery, with reminders of their past everywhere. Frank Potts was the pioneer here. I tried a 16 year old Verdelho, an 18 year old Grenache/Shiraz Tawny and 20 year old Grenache/Shiraz/Verdelho. Priceless stuff! And the table wines are very good, too, including a textbook GSM. Funny region, Langhorne Creek. You arrive down a winding hilly road and you find yourself on one long single straight road from which all the flat vineyards radiate. It actually is a flood plain, and the waters which cascade down from the Adelaide Hills via the Bremer River provide the much needed irrigation. Martin tells me that they had no floods in 2013, 2014 or 2015, but they had five in 2016. The cooling effect of the nearby Lake Alexandrina, Australia’s largest freshwater lake, provides a respite from the heat. A week ago, when it was 41 degrees in Adelaide, it was 26 degrees in Langhorne Creek. There are only a handful of independent wineries here – but the quality of wine is exceptional, as I will confirm when I return in a couple of days to meet with our man Greg Follet from Lake Breeze, currently making exquisite Cabernet and Shiraz wines.

I can’t wait to go back!