Tag Archives: australia

Tolpuddle of Tasmania

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If Adelaide Hills producer Shaw + Smith was going to make a good wine in Tasmania, it wasn’t going to be by accident. “It’s a shit-hot vineyard. This is off the shelf. This is not bespoke.”
Michael Hill Smith’s words at the lunch to launch the 2012 Tolpuddle wines betrayed all the excitement he and Martin Shaw felt at acquiring such a precious piece of land in mid-2011. The vineyard was planted in 1988 and its back story is a roll call of great cool-climate wines – fruit had been used for Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and by many of Australia’s finest exponents of sparkling wine: Chandon, Heemskerk, House of Arras.
Michael wasn’t so keen on the name but had decided to stick with it. Good move, I reckon. It sounds a little cutesy and the label’s pretty conservative, but Tolpuddle has a great history beyond wine. It’s named after the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of men from Dorset, England, sent as convicts to Australia for setting up a farmers’ union. The leader of the group was a chap with the evocative name of George Loveless, who worked on part of the property that is now Tolpuddle Vineyard.
The vineyard won the inaugural award for Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year in 2006, and used to be worked on by Ray Guerin in his capacity as viticulturist for Hardys. Ray is now viticulturist at Shaw + Smith – and Gourmet Traveller WINE’s Viticulturist of the Year 2013. So it would seem the stars are aligned for some pretty good wine.

Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 (RRP $65)

Nerdy stuff: Fruit was handpicked, whole bunch pressed and fermented mostly wild into French oak barriques (roughly a third new, a third one year old and a third two year old). About 20% went through malolactic fermentation. It spent about 10 months on lees, with occasional battonage.

What it was like: There’s nothing meek about this wine as you approach it. The colour is medium to deep lemon, and the nose fairly pronounced with lemon, white peach and a whiff of earth. It’s strong and forceful across the palate, getting on for full bodied and with great drive and fruit purity. A really fine, dry acid line keeps it taut, but there’s nothing hard about it. Bracing, yes, with a long finish of lime and white stone fruits. Impressive. Drink now to 2017+

Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 (RRP $75)

Nerdy stuff: Grapes were hand picked, fermented in open fermenters and hand plunged, with an average of 25% whole bunches. The wine was then aged in French oak barriques (roughly a third new) for 10 months.

What it was like: Amazing perfume. As with the Chardonnay, leaves you in no doubt that this is going to grab your attention. Exceptionally floral, especially violets, plus cherries and earth-encrusted mushrooms. It’s smooth-textured and vigorous in the mouth, mostly primary fruit (strawberry compote and cherries) that pulses through to the long finish. Very good acid and tannin structure. Drink now to 2020.

Overall, the Chardonnay edged it for me but both wines show real strength of identity and structure. Generous but measured, and very drinkable.

I attended this lunch on 14/10/13 as a guest of Shaw + Smith

Grenache-Led Trio

Grenache stars in some fantastic blends, with the Barossa and McLaren Vale leading the charge. It was great to see these celebrated earlier this year at Game of Rhônes, an epic, energised tasting event hosted by Dan Sims and the team at Bottle Shop Concepts.

Ruggabellus Timaeus 2012 Barossa Valley

I’m a total blow-in when it comes to Abel Gibson, the guy behind Ruggabellus. But now I’m in the know, I can’t get enough. He came to my attention by winning the Young Gun of Wine Award 2012 but his CV includes stints with Penfolds, Rockford, Chris Ringland, Charles Melton and Spinifex.
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Gibson made 2066 bottles of Timaeus, one of four Rhône-blend labels produced under the Ruggabellus name. It’s comprises 76% Grenache 14% Syrah and 10% Mataro. There’s red, blue and black fruit on the nose, which also has funky, savoury and smoky bacon tones. The medium-bodied palate is beautifully layered, with more of the same fruits, plus spice and a lilting leafiness on the finish. Gorgeously complex and alive, it’s a wine that unfurls gradually and gives great enjoyment. Timaeus is ancient Greek for honour, apparently, and that’s exactly what it is to drink this wine.

RRP $40 – Alcohol 13.6% – Tasted 26/07/13

Yangarra GSM 2011 McLaren Vale

This blend from excellent Grenache exponent Yangarra is led by old bush-vine fruit (41%) from 1946 plantings, with Shiraz (31%) and Mourvèdre (28%) in support. It’s a glossy, bright medium ruby in colour, with a perfumed nose of mixed berries and cherries with a touch of herb and spice. It’s pretty full bodied, with juicy red and black fruits backed by black pepper and aniseed, a perfect complement of sweet and savoury characters. Good to see Mourvèdre playing more than a minor role. The wine has good fresh acid and length.

RRP $28 – Alcohol 14% – Tasted 18/09/13

Wirra Wirra Original Blend Grenache Shiraz 2012 McLaren Vale

A great package all round, this, from the small, classic, old-school label and unassuming name. It’s clear, bright, crimson purple in colour, with lifted raspberry and floral notes on the nose. Milk chocolate raspberry bullets and aniseed sit in the background, with deeper notes of pippy bramble fruit and a bit of earth.
It’s just over medium bodied, lovely and smooth, with red fruits up front and that chocolatey note. The ripe, dusty tannins have a pleasant firmness and combine with good acid to really push out the finish of raspberries, blackberry and black cherry with a touch of spice.
It’s a lovely wine – easy to enjoy and a great example of the harmony of good Grenache with Shiraz. It has spice and richness and there’s a lovely, juicy, slinky feeling to it. Drink with lamb backstraps. Drinking beautifully now and will continue to do so over the next few years.

RRP $25 – Alcohol 14.5% – Tasted 17/10/13 – Sample supplied

Three Great-Value Grenaches

I went on a bit of a hunt preceding World Grenache Day on 20th September this year, for an article that never got written. All was not lost; Cirillo’s The Vincent was a particularly delicious discovery.

Cirillo The Vincent Grenache 2012 Barossa Valley

Made from 80-year-old vines, this is a cracking wine – especially for the price. Pale ruby in colour, it has a pretty classic young Grenache nose – white pepper, raspberries and red plums. It’s little more than medium bodied, plush, juicy and generous on the palate, bursting with plums and soft red fruit. The tannins are ripe and slightly powdery and the finish pretty, long and with a touch of spice. Deliciously drinkable.

RRP $20 – Alcohol 14.5% – Tasted 18/09/13

St Hallett Old Vine Grenache 2010 Barossa Valley

Medium ruby in colour, this wine was a subtle surprise. It was picked early, ending up at a relatively modest 13.5% alcohol. The label also draws attention to extended time on skins and a bit of ‘whole bunch action’, some stalks and stems in the fermentation to boost tannin and savouriness.
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The nose is floral, with red cherries, raspberries – quite Pinot Noir-like – and a hint of black pepper and liquorice. That ‘pinosity’ is also there on the palate, which is soft and juicy and kind of cool (as in climate). Not a term associated with the Barossa or Grenache. We’re still talking raspberries, red cherries and blackberries, with a little bit of oak smoothness. The chalky tannins and fresh acid see the fruit through to finish alongside black pepper, gentle spice and a bit of cherrystone tang.

RRP $25 – Alcohol 13.5% – Tasted 20/09/13

Maxwell Four Roads Grenache 2012 McLaren Vale

Maxwell of McLaren Vale makes some excellent wines that generally offer great value for money. This Grenache is no exception, a clear expression of the grape variety and region and totally drinkable to boot. These vines were planted 90 years ago, high up in the vineyard. The intense nose features violets, plums and red cherries and the palate is full bodied, concentrated and focused. Plenty of juicy, fresh raspberry fruit with a bit of spice and chocolate coming in.

RRP $22 – Alcohol 14.5% – Tasted 18/09/13

Classic Old-Vine Grenache

The Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale make a wonderful home for Grenache, with some seriously gnarled old vines producing pure, concentrated and smooth wines. Here are just a couple.

Wirra Wirra The Absconder 2012 McLaren Vale

This Grenache shares the top echelon at Wirra Wirra alongside the RSW Shiraz and Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon, each of them exceptional and presented with true class. This is a very attractive medium purple in colour, with raspberry, plum compote, pencil lead and liquorice on the nose.
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It has juicy red fruit, raspberry, strawberry and a touch of vanilla. Silky smooth, full bodied, with a good level of powdery tannins and fresh acid providing a long and delicious finish of raspberry, liquorice and chocolate. It’s a lovely wine with great concentration and purity. Savoury and balanced, you just want to go back for more. Drink with venison sausages. Drink now to 2018.

RRP $70 – Alcohol 14.5% – Tasted 04/11/13 – Sample supplied

Cirillo 1850 Ancestor Vine Grenache 2010 Barossa Valley

These Cirillo Grenache vines, planted in 1848, claim to be the world’s oldest. The wine, matured in a mixture of French and American oak, has the complexity and interest you’d expect. It’s medium ruby in colour, pink-orange at the rim and it smells of fresh raspberries, rhubarb crumble, custard and a lick of leather. The intense, full-bodied palate has plums and pretty strawberry and raspberry fruit, orange peel and a touch of milk chocolate and cream. It finishes long with fresh red fruits shining through.

RRP $50 – Alcohol 14.2% – Tasted 18/09/13

A Pair of Grenache Rosés

Rosé is on a bit of an upward trajectory at the moment, with drinkers a little more tempted and winemakers seemingly enjoying it, too. These two examples are no novelty – they’ve been around for a while and always hit the spot.

Turkey Flat 2013 Rosé Barossa Valley

I’m a big fan of Turkey Flat wines and this – now on its 20th release – has become a bit of a go-to rosé. From the tall, elegant bottle to the pink smudge-feathered Turkey on the label, it’s got a real feel-good factor about it.
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Clear, pale salmon pink in colour, with flowers and red fruits – strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants and red cherries – leaping from the glass. That mesh of summery red fruits spreads across the fresh, medium-bodied palate. It finishes with wild strawberry and a lick of plumskin. Drink now – and all summer long. Blend of Grenache 81%, Shiraz 10%, Cabernet Sauvignon 6%, Dolcetto 3%.

RRP $18 – Alcohol 13% – Tasted 18/09/13

Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley Grenache Rosé 2013 McLaren Vale

Clear medium purple in colour, this 100% Grenache from Wirra Wirra has striking concentration for a rosé. The nose displays roses, raspberries and blackberries, as well as the suggestion of rosy apples and bubblegum.
The palate is lively, juicy and fresh, with raspberries and blackberries and that not unpleasant bubblegumminess. Good acid carries the fruit to a reasonable length, finishing with lingering pippy berries and a touch of spice. What like is its unashamed generosity. It could take some medium-weight food, too – something Middle Eastern like mildly spiced lamb or a feta and pomegranate salad. Drink young.

RRP $18 – Alcohol 13.5% – Tasted 31/10/13 – Sample supplied