The Good Grump’s Gamay

If you want to read a gushing review of this post, don’t look to David Lloyd. I remember him telling me some time ago that he’d read a feature I’d written for the literally titled Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine. I’d agonised over the piece and was pleased with the result. I gave Lloyd about a minute to follow up with the inevitable compliment.
Not a word.
“And…?” I dumbly enquired. “Bit fluffy,” came the reply.
You can see where the Mr Grumpy moniker came from that adorns his favourite mug and t-shirt. But really that’s all show. It was his kindness that first brought me to Eldridge Estate, the beautiful, eight-acre vineyard he and wife Wendy have called home since 1995. He didn’t know me from Adam but still let me loose on the vineyard, indulging my curiosity with some “work” leading up to the 2013 vintage.
Perhaps a better measure of his goodness was the way he dealt with my wrapping his tractor around Row T of the Pinot Noir. He didn’t even take the piss. Maybe he forgot.
If you cut David Lloyd he would bleed Pinot, and the fact he refers to Wendy by the acronym QoC – Queen of Chardonnay – tells you almost all you need to know about their devotion to the Burgundy grapes so prevalent on the Mornington Peninsula.
Almost, but not quite. When they bought the Red Hill property, they glimpsed an extra opportunity. “We were standing, looking at the hills and imagining Beaujolais, where the vineyards face due south with rolling hills. And we thought, ‘Let’s put Gamay in because we love it’.”
That affection dates back to a trip to France in the 80s. Travelling around on “ill-gotten (gambling) gains” he had no qualms about spanking some francs on fine wine. The gay abandon with which he worked his way through a “cheat list” of top Burgundy left him somewhat blinkered. “It was only at the end of the trip that I’d look around and think, ‘What’s everyone else drinking?’,” he recalls. “You’d be amazed. There was Beaujolais everywhere. It was always Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent, and the odd Fleurie. So I tried it and it was more food friendly that just about any other wine I’ve come across.”
This attribute seems to have won Gamay a lot of fans among young sommeliers I know, who seem to come at it untouched by the Nouveau nausea that seems to have afflicted older generations. Likewise they seem not to subscribe to that most irrational of wine prejudices: that a drink-young drop, no matter how delicious, is somehow less valid than a venerable, ageworthy Pinot Noir.
Now Lloyd may be as pious about Pinot as the next Morningtonian, but this man of contradictions commits what many round here would hold to be a sacrilege. Since 2011, he’s released a Pinot/Gamay blend he calls PTG, modelled on Bourgogne Passetoutgrains. The exact make-up of the blend is not predetermined but every year it’s ended up a 50:50 split, while Lloyd tends to select the Gamay and Pinot batches that show up lightest from his hotchpotch of clones. It’s then aged in 30% new French oak to give it a bit of oomph. “The key factor is I want the PTG to be light and fresh,” says Lloyd. “I want it zingy, with a bit of acid kick. I also like it to have a slight hint of spritz.”
For my money, it’s a lovely, bright-fruited summer wine with slow-burning depth. But tell him I found it a bit fluffy.
2014-02-14 09.37.52
Eldridge Estate Gamay 2012 Mornington Peninsula

Clear crimson purple in colour, with a nose of cherry, plum, kirsch and geranium. It’s dry and medium-bodied, with nicely defined cherry and blueberry fruit plus a hint of cherry cheesecake. It has a pleasing plum-skin texture and grip, with cracked black pepper coming in to offset the juicy fruit. Firm acidity pushes it out to moderate length with lingering plum and sour cherry aromas. This vintage shows plenty of spice and brooding depth; drink with Chinese duck pancakes or chorizo and serrano ham.

Costs $38 at the cellar door – Alcohol 13.5% – Tasted 03/02/14

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