Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sign Of Life From Soave

This is one of a couple of Italian whites I wanted to write up before the sun set for good on the southern summer. At the end of a cold, blustery day on the Mornington Peninsula, just looking at my glass of Riesling is making me shiver, which suggests I’ve missed the boat. But it’s no big deal; it’s always summer somewhere and anyway this isn’t a mere thirst slaker. It’s a wine for food, and a delicious one at that.
It comes from Corte Sant’Alda, an organic producer from the Mezzane valley in northeast Italy’s Veneto region. The winery sits at an altitude of 350 metres in Valpolicella, where red varieties such as Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara rule. The appellation has a patchy quality record but is capable of turning out wonderful red blends in a range of styles, from light, fresh cherry- and herb-tinged wines through – thanks to the use of berries picked ripe and left to raisin in controlled conditions – to opulent, dry full-bodied Amarone and sweet Recioto.

Marinella Camerani (left) and family
Marinella Camerani (left) and family
In the mid-1980s Corte Sant’Alda’s Marinella Camerani moved to the country, rolled up her sleeves and began transforming the family estate into the dynamic producer it is today. Those reds that run the gamut of richness are her bread and butter. But she didn’t have to look far for a bit of white relief. In fact, she only had to go across the road to quench her thirst for a delicate dash of bianco. “Because I love fresh white wines, I decided to buy a little vineyard in the Soave DOC very close to Corte Sant’Alda, a vineyard still trained with the traditional pergola system for producing a simple, fresh Soave with Garganega, Trebbiano di Soave and a little part of Chardonnay,” she tells me. “I wanted to show that the terroir in this valley is suitable in certain parts also for producing wonderful white wine and that it’s possible to make a good, clean, mineral wine with native yeasts and without too much technology, in a biodynamic way.”
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Like Valpolicella, Soave hardly boasts a rock-solid reputation thanks to the glut of crisp, “inoffensive” whites that find their way onto UK supermarket shelves. I’m pleased to have been shown another side to Soave and I was on the hunt for a bottle when I chanced upon this. I’d been introduced to Camerani’s wines via the Corte Sant’Alda Ca’ Fiui Valpolicella 2008, which I had over Christmas and really enjoyed. So I pounced upon this when I saw it in the bottleshop fridge. It was drunk on the balcony with evening sunshine, good friends and homemade tapenade.
That was some weeks ago now but that summery mood is neatly encapsulated by a line I read on the Corte Sant’Alda website as I prepared this post. “It’s true, the grass in our vineyards is a bit too high, but for me this is a sign of life,” writes Camerani. “You can see colours, smell scents… of mint, arugula, chamomile. I can’t believe that all this would be dangerous for the vines. A tidy grassland is more an aesthetic need than a real necessity. I like to think that all these colours and scents are going to be characteristics of each of our wines.”

Corte Sant’Alda Vigne di Mezzane Soave 2010 Soave DOC

Clear pale lemon in colour with a moderately intense nose of white flowers, peach blossom, lemon pith and fresh mint. Pure lemon citrus, green plum and almond endure across the light- to medium-bodied palate, which has a touch of waxiness to it. The acidity is luscious and superfine, leaving floral notes to linger after the lemony finish. Delicate, lovely wine.

Costs $27 at Boccaccio Cellars* in Melbourne – Alcohol 12.5% – Tasted March 2014 – Cork

*Current vintage is Corte Sant’Alda Vigne di Mezzane Soave 2012

A Cracking Pair Of Bress

“Because it f*@king rocks!”
There’s a pause while Adam Marks wonders whether such language was appropriate and while I wonder what Bonnezeaux Gonzo’s f-word policy is. I’d posed a simple enough question: Why is Pinot Noir his favourite wine to drink and make? But I realise the empathic recklessness was the most telling aspect of the response. That’s why the expletive must stay – even if it needs silly symbols to sugarcoat the pill for my older readers (aka ‘dad’).
I haven’t met Marks in person; he wasn’t at the Bress winery when my wife and I popped in for an Easter Monday tasting. But you can feel the crackle of energy on the phone; he’s excitable, impulsive, impish. It’s not altogether a surprise. You poke around the premises of this biodynamic producer and its all laidback, hippyish rusticity, but the wines themselves have a certain exuberance about them. And a bit of bravado is a bloody good thing when there’s skill and soul in the mix.
A 2001 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir was the first wine Adam made when he and wife Lynne returned from their honeymoon and started Bress. For the first few years they ran it like a négociant business, choosing good fruit from good vineyards in good regions and juicing it up in mates’ wineries.
Then in 2004 they started looking for a permanent place. They thought about setting up shop in the Yarra Valley, where Marks had fond memories of working under Rob Dolan at Sticks, but they couldn’t quite stretch to the cost. Instead they settled on some granite-strewn hills just south of Bendigo in Victoria, a stone’s throw from Harcourt Valley Vineyards where Marks started making wine in the late 80s. “It was squalor. The property was just a rundown shithole,” he recalls.
Ten years later it’s a lovely home complete with cellar door, market garden, wood-fired pizza ovens and working winery, as well as a bunch of free-range chickens strutting about. The label is a homage to the tasty birds of Bourg-en-Bresse in France, a place where proud artisans nurture a delicacy valued for its provenance, integrity and deliciousness.
The property also came with what was then Australia’s largest cider apple and perry pear orchard, from which Bress now turns out excellent traditional-method fizz. Elsewhere, the négociant ethos lives on, with Marks putting together a relatively broad range of wines. Edited highlights include a silky, nectarine-and-nougat Macedon Chardonnay 2012 ($35) and floral, pure-fruited Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($25), in addition to those below.
But back to my initial question: Why Pinot Noir? “It’s the crown jewel,” says Marks. “It’s captivating, it gets you excited and it makes you want to go and make a better wine.” So far, so familiar. But then: “The first one that set me on the way was a Hungerford Hill Hunter Valley Pinot Noir from the late 80s or early 90s made by Ralph Fowler. People may pooh-pooh me for that, but it was just a revelation to me.”
That love of Pinot Noir went up a notch in 1996. Marks calls the Yarra Ridge Reserve Pinot Noir from that vintage “a smoker” and “the most pleasing wine I’d ever made”. That was also the year Rob “best boss in the world” Dolan sent him to Beaujolais and Burgundy.
Marks reserves great admiration for a range of great Aussie Pinot makers, reeling off the likes of Dan Pannell at Picardy, Michael Glover at Bannockburn, Steve Flamsteed at Giant Steps, Nat White at Main Ridge and Phil Moraghan at Curly Flat.
But nothing inspires him like France, a land that encapsulates the timeless qualities he’s after: savoury, textured, nuanced, complex wines. Marks looks to conjure a quiet strength in his own creations. “I want the wines to be a little understated, especially on the nose, then open up and compel you to think.”
As you might expect, there are no hard-and-fast winemaking rules here. It’s all instinct and freedom, which pretty much goes for the business arrangements too. There are no contracts with suppliers or growers; you give your word and that’s that. “You care for people and they care for you back,” says Marks. “We’re just one big, happy kumbayah here at Bress. We just want to keep things nice and simple because there’s just too much in this world that isn’t that way. I hope this is a place where people can come and learn more about the things they enjoy. Wine is a very good vehicle for sharing things.”

Bress Gold Chook Macedon Pinot Noir 2012

Bright medium garnet. The nose is a fairly dense fog of possibilities, thanks largely to the inclusion of about 80% whole bunches in the ferment: wild berries, plum sauce, gingerbread, mixed spice and some bloodiness too. It’s the fresh fruit that hits you on entry, though, and this floods through to a berry-rich medium-bodied palate, with truffle and spice along for the ride. Firm blood plums and red cherries zing through the longish finish. It’s a gorgeous Pinot with generous fruit, a good dose of enigma and structure to frame its boldness.

Costs $40 from the winery website – Alcohol 13% – Tasted 21/04/14

Bress Gold Chook Heathcote Shiraz 2012

Marks used 50-70% whole bunches for this, the kind of Shiraz I could drink over and over. Clear dark ruby with a pronounced nose of black cherry, damson compote, ginger root, black olive, earth and vanilla bean. Ripe red cherry and plum mark the attack with cracked black pepper sprinkled around the sides. It’s supple and not much more than medium bodied, but there’s striking concentration to the juicy, fresh fruit. It’s also nicely layered, with bright red berries, firm plum, tapenade and almost a pleasant prickle to its spice. Firm, chalky tannins bolster its presence and it finishes fairly long.

Costs $40 from the winery website – Alcohol 14% – Tasted 21/04/14

Brash Quest Yummies

Brash Higgins isn’t a person. It’s a myth, a universal theme about leaving and searching, absorbing experiences, embracing friendships and creating things to inspire other dreamers. As a myth, it belongs to no one and is offered to all; an idea to inhabit, if you’re the dreaming type.
And clearly I am. I’d enjoyed some of the wines before but was blindsided at a
recent tasting. You go to these things and assess away, routine, business-like. You nod, raise and furrow eyebrows, jot down notes, move on. As journalist and student I guess I’m generally uptight and on guard but on this occasion the Brash Higgins range burst through my defences. I sighed in surrender and felt an urge to lay down arms – pen, notebook, phone – kick back and enjoy a drink. Perhaps the wines spoke to my inner Brash.
New York sommelier Brad Hickey first travelled to Australia in 2004 as a guest of US wine importer Dan Philips. On that trip he met then Rockford winemaker Chris Ringland. The two stayed in touch and when Ringland invited Hickey to work vintage in the Barossa in 2007, Hickey jumped at the chance. He ended up staying on in South Australia and pruning vineyards in McLaren Vale that winter, by which time the Aussies had rechristened him Brash. Brash Higgins, the fake name used to keep immigration officials off his tail, ultimately became the mythical hero of this adventure.
Hickey fell in love with, and in, McLaren Vale. It was here that he met partner Nicole Thorpe. Together they now own the Omensetter Vineyard, from which his Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Nero d’Avola wines are made. “It’s always something I’ve followed in my life, to try to work with good people who enjoy what they do and who I enjoy being with,” he tells me. “They say fortune favours the brave. I’ve done that kind of thing a few times and landed on my feet. That gave me the confidence to make the big leap from New York to McLaren Vale. I see this as an incredible land of opportunity and possibility. I moved from a high-population urban jungle to an area where there’s an immense amount of space and natural beauty.”
And it sent his imagination soaring. Co-fermented Grenache/Mataro and amphora-fermented Nero d’Avola were the two wines that inspired this blog, while I didn’t even get to try the Riverland-grown Zibibbo (the cool name for Muscat of Alexandria; the label’s even cooler, like a 70s juice brand on acid) because it’s so insanely popular.
“I’m really happy with the variety of tastes that we’ve created, from light and ethereal to more classic archetypes,” he says. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with Shiraz and Cabernet. Those are wines to express the vineyard.”
While respecting tradition – and achieving excellent results – with those two varieties, Hickey’s sommelier heart beats strong. That means there’s always a puzzle to solve and new gems to unearth. “I like to drink all kinds of styles from all over the place. I felt this way when I built wine lists. There’s no point having two things that are the same. Before we put a new wine into the Brash Higgins stable, I look closely at what I’m adding to the landscape here.
“Wine drinkers want to dream and imagine a little bit,” he concludes. “I’m constantly searching for wines that have interest and personality, and that’s an endless quest. To those who are dreaming and fossicking, I want to say: ‘Here’s something that might be a little bit different and hopefully a bit delicious’.”

Brash Higgins NDV Nero d’Avola Amphora Project 2013 McLaren Vale

Hickey’s first few vintages in Australia were “excruciatingly hot”, making it difficult to craft elegant wines from Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache. “I wanted to find something that was a more natural fit for the vineyard. I thought of Nero d’Avola because it’s a very Sicilian climate here: hot, dry and windy. When I heard it was available I was very eager to experiment with it.”
He grafted over some Nero vines in 2009 and made the first wine in 2011, fermented in 200-litre beeswax-lined amphorae made by fifth-generation Adelaide potter John Bennett. The wine spends six months on skins and is hand plunged twice a day for the first four weeks or so.

Inviting bright ruby in colour, with a pronounced nose at once deep/rooty and bright/floral – bass notes of rhubarb, beetroot and fresh liquorice with lavender, plum and cherries in a higher key. The entry is soft with vibrant red fruits, the sweetness in check. It’s fleshy and plummy through the mid-palate with a cherrystone tang that never leaves, yet accompanying that brightness is bitter-mocha depth to slump into, blanketed by mouth-hugging, fine-grained tannins. The tangy acid draws it out to a conclusion of moderate length. A juicy, caressing and very moreish wine.

Costs $42 from winery website – Alcohol 14% –Tasted 18/03/14

Brash Higgins GR/M Grenache Mataro 2012 McLaren Vale

This co-fermented blend is another happy experiment launched in the tough 2011 vintage. “I thought we’d make a more interesting wine if we could ferment them together. It’s almost like you create a new hybrid.”

Bright crimson/garnet in colour, the perfumed nose giving off violet floral notes backed by red berry and plum, leather and earth. The attack is heavenly – sweet raspberry, blood plum and cherry – before the mid-palate adds some wilder, darker notes – mulberry, blueberry and damp earth. It’s juicy and harmonious with chewy tannins and lively acidity guiding it along. There’s a fair amount of heft in there, but the sheer, unflagging allure of the texture and aromas leaves you with the impression of gentle and welcome seduction.

Costs $37 from winery website – Alcohol 14.5% – Tasted 18/03/14

Grenache? Get On Board!

I applaud promiscuity when it comes to wine. Any red-blooded drinker confronted with a world of beauty and diversity is duty bound to get out there and share the love. That’s why I was quick to doff my cap to the polygamist proclamations of a bloke who wears his heart on his sleeve – well, on his twitter handle. That’s right, @ILoveRiesling has a roving eye. I caught Tom Hogan, celebrated sommelier and co-owner of Melbourne wine bar Harry & Frankie, whispering sweet nothings about Grenache. I just thought you ought to know.
“In terms of something quintessentially Australian, old-vine Grenache is being made particularly well at the moment,” Hogan tells me. “People are reining in alcohol levels and getting more finesse, elegance and perfume. The wines are more at that floral end of the spectrum instead of high alcohol and largesse. What’s exciting is they’re not trying to copy anywhere else; they’re not trying to be French Grenache or Garnacha from Spain. They have their own take.”
Hogan, an associate judge at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards and Sydney Royal Wine Show, concedes that Grenache may have suffered from something of a cultural cringe, with the variety relegated in the eyes of some to “B” grade status, below A-listers like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In part this was down to over-the-top, boozy styles with sweet, confected fruit. He hopes that wine-judging attitudes may change now, with wines like Ochota Barrels’ Fugazi Vineyard Grenache 2012 ($38; sold out – 2014 released 1st December) and The Green Room Grenache Syrah 2013 (sold out – 2014 released 1st September) almost taking their cue from Pinot and mimicking its ethereal appeal.
“A lot of these new styles are being led by a new wave of producers who are looking for deliciousness and drinkability. Australia’s making some of the best Chardonnay in the world but a lot of it is made in cerebral fashion instead of just being delicious and moreish. The modern movement of Grenache has delicacy and vitality, brightness and freshness.” Take the Jauma Biggles 2013 ($25; sold out with new vintage due in spring) for example. “I absolutely adored that wine,” says Hogan. “It’s bright, vibrant and almost Beaujolais-like – so fresh and accessible.”

Jauma's James Erskine
Jauma’s James Erskine
Hogan’s background as an Adelaide-bred member of the hospitality industry means he’s never been far away from Grenache. He’s also deliberately thrown himself in its path. He’s worked a couple of vintages in the Barossa, including in 2008 at Spinifex, producer of the Papillon Grenache Cinsault blend ($26) – an old favourite. He’s also paid a couple of visits over the years to the southern Rhone, home to Clos des Papes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, “probably my favourite producer year in, year out”. He’s currently got around 25+ Grenache wines on the 650-strong list at Harry & Frankie.
From Australia, it’s no surprise to hear Hogan laud McLaren Vale, particularly the Blewitt Springs sub-region. Less obvious is Victoria’s Pyrenees, where he’s captivated by DogRock’s Degraves Road Shiraz Grenache Tempranillo blend ($75). “That’s a top wine, more in the bay leaf/dried herb spectrum,” he adds.
He sees GSM as the Barossa Valley’s strongest suit, preferring his Shiraz from the higher, cooler climes of Eden Valley and Barossa Ranges. “In the Barossa, it’s the Grenache that comes in looking pristine. This is the variety that should be embraced there,” says Hogan. “To some extent, a lot of Barossa and McLaren Vale Shiraz can come across as dry reddy – a lot of dark fruit and tannin. But the Grenache and the GSM from those regions have a transparency about them and feel at ease with themselves. The great thing about these wines is that they have such a history about them and when you buy a bottle, you’re buying a bit of that history as well.”

More Go-To Grenache From Tom Hogan

Ruggabellus, Barossa Valley“Abel Gibson’s wines are a bit more resinous, a bit more structured and speak more of the earth. The 2012 Timaeus ($40; sold out) has a lot of lift and perfume. It’s alluring and sits in the red-fruit end of the spectrum without being simple.”

Izway, Barossa Valley –Three Brians Grenache 2012 ($75) “Old style meets new. This is one of those wines that manages to carry pretty high alcohol and show elegance and femininity. It’s super light on its feet.”

Bekkers, McLaren Vale – The 2012 Grenache ($80) has unfortunately sold out, but the 2013 is slated for release in November this year. “Those wines are pretty impressive. Definitely one to watch.”

SC Pannell, McLaren Vale“The straight Grenache from 2010 and 2011 ($55) were absolutely delicious. 2011 was a vintage to separate the men from the boys. That wine shows how you can produce a wine in a more restrained style and still come up with something brilliant and interesting.”

Samuels Gorge, McLaren Vale“Try the straight Grenache 2011 ($35).”

The Next Best’s Thing

Wayne: The Shitty Beatles? Are they any good?
Tiny: They suck!
Wayne: Then it’s not just a clever name.

Call me odd, but that exchange sprang to mind years ago when I first drank a bottle that crammed the word’s “Best” and “Great” side by side on the label. As with the not-so-Fab Four from Wayne’s World, Best’s Great Western isn’t just a clever name. In my experience the wines merit just about any superlative you can throw at them.
Founded in 1867 in the Grampians region of Victoria, some 200km west of Melbourne, the winery is especially noted for its Shiraz. The wine it crafts from the world’s oldest Pinot Meunier vines is a treasure, while its Riesling also has its fans (you’re reading one).
But we’re here today to talk about Cabernet Sauvignon – yup, boring old Cab. I was discussing the recent Bonnezeaux Gonzo post on this prickly old character with a prickly old character I work with, who related the agony and ecstasy of polishing off his last remaining bottle of 2010 Best’s Cabernet. The logical conclusion to that conversation was to try to track down any surviving family members. It wasn’t easy but we managed to salvage a dozen to split between us.
Sure enough, the wine’s a beauty. But its main appeal as a blog subject was the way it drew attention to an underappreciated variety/region pairing at a non-threatening price point. If you can’t get hold of the bloody stuff, it kind of defeats the object. What’s more, the bloke who made the 2010 has since fled to the (Adelaide) hills. So it was that, in the name of research and fair access, I had to go get me more wine.
Adam Wadewitz, author of the ’10, is now penning a new chapter of his impressive winemaking journal at Shaw + Smith, leaving Justin Purser to plot the 2012. Purser sees a tendency in Australia to treat Cabernet like Shiraz, or else earmark it for blending. “My philosophy is that you’ve got to treat it differently from other varieties,” he says. “Cabernet has its own charms and off-putting points as well.”
To start with the negatives, flowering and fruit set can be troublesome and it ripens late in the season, which can make it a touch-and-go proposition in a cool region rising to 440m above sea level. Cabernet wines can be short on mid-palate fruit weight and long on tannin, so if you’re not careful you get something with a hole in the middle and a pile of grit around it. In any case it needs a fair bit of time in bottle to get its act together. But then Purser reels off the pluses: perfume, elegance, distinctive varietal character, neat expression of site and the promise of beauty with age.
Best’s didn’t make this wine in 2011, a problematic vintage from which the winery still managed to crank out a Jimmy Watson-winning Shiraz. But thankfully the Cabernet grapes ripened well in both 2010 and 2012. Purser says his objective was an elegant, structured and generous medium- to full-bodied wine. This entailed a preference for hand-plunging whole berries in open-fermenters, then ageing the wine for 14 months in hogsheads (5% new oak).
“It has more tannin than Shiraz and that should be expressed in the wine. So it’s got real intensity to it without being too heavy,” he says. “As a style we’re looking for nicely balanced, lifted herbal and juicy berry characters with fine, silky, velvety, rolling flavours through the palate.”
Shiraz may be king round these parts. But watch out for this fair prince; it has a stronger claim to the throne than many realise.

Best’s Great Western Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Deep purple in colour. The nose is fairly pronounced, floral and fresh-fruited. Red, blue and blackberries, blackcurrants, roses, geranium, oak and a hint of fresh mint. Lovely, smooth entry with juicy mulberry, then generous, fresh, fleshy berries and some peppery spice follow on the mid-palate. It’s a touch more than medium bodied, with tannins that are firm, fruit-tinged and ripe. The back palate exhibits more cassis and leafy characters, as well as a graphite note, with good acidity carrying it fairly long.

Costs $25 from the winery website – Alcohol 14% – Tasted 06/04/14

Best’s Great Western Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Pretty ruby hue with a nose of rose petals, raspberries, blackcurrant, mint and a whiff of cedary oak. An attack of sweet red berries is followed by darker fruits that glide across the silky, supple, medium-bodied palate. A clear but soft acid line and fine sandy tannins guide it to a fairly long conclusion with typical notes of blackcurrant leafiness. There’s no shortage of flavour intensity in what is a lean, gentle, structured and very pretty Cabernet.

RRP $25 – Alcohol 13% – Tasted 30/03/14

Wonky Canberra Angle

Bryan Martin is a brainy sort. It speaks volumes that the high-IQ winery where he does his real job has this this to say about him: “He brings wisdom and intellect to the question we constantly ask ourselves at Clonakilla: ‘What can we do to make better wine?’” The cool thing is that the wines Martin makes under his Ravensworth label are first and foremost a sensual, rather than cerebral, affair.
His background as a chef, a profession he practised until 1997, helps explain his heightened sense of a wine’s tactile and savoury qualities, as does his authorship of a Canberra Times food column (so yes, both my prose and palate are under the microscope when he reads this). “When Tim (Kirk, Clonakilla chief) and I taste wine, Tim always talks about aromatics and I always talk about the flavour and shape of the palate,” he tells me. “For me what happens with texture is the most important thing. I’m always thinking about how we can modify texture and what we can do next year to influence the shape.”
And Martin’s using his head rather than inputs to answer those questions. He adds no yeast, bacteria, enzymes or nutrients to the wine, while the cool, high vineyards of the Canberra District chip in with essential acidity. Not everything is a riddle, though. He plays it straight and pristine with his Riesling, which in 2012 fended off more than 400 competitors from six countries to be crowned best wine of show at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge. The Shiraz Viognier is likewise made in the mould of the peerless Clonakilla – cofermented fruit, 20% to 30% whole bunches, three to four week maceration and a preference for puncheons (30% new oak) for maturation.
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Aside from those regional classics “anything else is fair game for experimentation” – and grape skins are a key part of the puzzle. “A lot of places don’t think of skins at all, but I love this idea of soaks and macerations with whites and reds,” he says. Take the Chardonnay for example: the 2013 was made in two separate parcels, the first with 24 hours’ skin contact and the second fermented with 50% whole bunches and on skins for about 14 days. When I tasted the wines I couldn’t bring myself to cut short the sensation of its delicate folds furling and unfurling across the palate, like sun-dappled lace billowing in the breeze. Yeah, I know he’s a writer and he’ll read this; I’ll bear the shame of that sentence because it’s true.
Martin, who lives with wife Jocelyn and their three children on a 650m-high vineyard in Murrumbateman, began working at Clonakilla in 2004 after six-odd years studying viticulture and wine science at Charles Sturt University. It all adds up to a solid platform from which to launch experiments, especially when you chuck in his employer’s well-appointed winery. Martin also seems to relish a bit of mental sparring, bouncing ideas off a visiting Kiwi and Israeli during vintage 2014 and finding himself “very much at home” among the wide-horizoned winefolk of Sydney’s Rootstock festival, where he hosted a session on hunter-gathering. “If you’re not careful you can get insular in your own winery,” he says. “Just by tweaking and playing around at the edges, you can find something that can fine-tune a wine. I’m just really happy to have the time and the interest to go ahead and try things out. I’m always playing around with food and I’m inclined to do the same with winemaking.”

Ravensworth The Grainery 2013 Murrumbateman

A field blend from Martin’s own vineyard comprising Marsanne, Roussanne, Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Traminer and Sauvignon Blanc. “The idea is a Rhone blend with some aromatics to give it lift and acid. I’ve tried to make a style based on varieties, not techniques.”
Clear pale lemon, fairly pronounced on the nose with grass and nettles prominent; beyond these are murmurs of citrus and orchard fruits, with no one voice rising above the rest. From a juicy, lemony attack it broadens as white stone fruits and citrus fan out on the mid-palate, the zesty acidity working to keep it trim. It’s a touch more than medium bodied, creamy and velvety in the mouth with orange and gingery spice in there too. It tapers to a lingering finish of white flowers, stone fruits and nettly zing.

Costs $27 from winery website* – Alcohol 12.5% – Tasted 18/03/14* (*applies to all)

Ravensworth Chardonnay 2013 Tumbarumba

Clear medium lemon in colour. The nose is a touch herbaceous, with white flowers, citrus notes, creamy lees and nutty oak. From there it’s an essay in mouthfeel and harmony. Citrus zest drives the palate and the oak feels really good – a firm guide but not the least intrusive. Savoury, soft and lacy on the palate. Grapefruit, white peach, nougat, cinnamon and vanilla skip over each other to a delicate but persistent finish.

Costs $30 – Alcohol 12.5%

Ravensworth ‘Le Querce’ Sangiovese 2013 Canberra District

Sangiovese was the first variety Martin planted, and this is the 10th vintage he’s made. The fruit comes from a few different sites, following Martin’s belief that the variety works best in the lower (circa 500m) vineyards.
Pale ruby and with a pinkish rim. Nose of cherry, dusty herb, fresh plum too. The juicy attack sets the tone for a sprightly, mid-weight wine with soft blood plum, blood orange, sour cherry and earth across the palate. It has the fresh acid and dusty tannins you’d expect and finishes with a lovely cherrystone tang. Immensely pleasurable.

Costs $24 – Alcohol 13%

Ravensworth Nebbiolo 2013 Hilltops

Martin decided “not too go too wild” with his four tonnes of Young-grown grapes in 2013, since this is the first Nebbiolo to appear under his label. The two batches were given three weeks and six weeks respectively on skins.
Pale to mid ruby and pink-orange at rim. Red and black cherry, smoked meat and a bit of earth and tar on the nose. It’s medium bodied and silky smooth, with sweet red cherry offset by orangey sharpness. Racy acidity and intense, scratchy tannin on the finish complete the picture. The varietal signs, feel and price are spot on but I felt the palate came up short on depth and complexity.

Costs $27 – Alcohol 14%

Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2013 Murrumbateman

Medium to deep ruby/garnet. Terrific nose: pronounced perfume of violets and roses swirling above a deep well of pepper, plum and cherry. Lithe and textured, with a mid-weight palate of great complexity and concentration – sappy red fruits, star anise and gingerbread. You sense a lot more tightly bound up within a core framed by firm, ripe tannins and tangy acidity. Great wine – time will be kind to it, and it will be a friend to food.

Costs $32 – Alcohol 14%