Grapevine Archive for South Australia

Tue 06 Mar 2012

South Australia Series, Part Six: Yalumba

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Our final visit was to Yalumba, in the town of Angaston, Barossa Valley. After a wet, stormy start to the morning, the cooler weather was a welcome relief after a few hot days and I was eagerly anticipating visiting the site of Australia?s oldest family owned winery. After soaking up the history of Yalumba from the storyboards in the cellar door, we met with Kirsty Gosse, brand administrator ? our host at Yalumba.

Founded by Samuel Smith in 1849, Yalumba is now headed by fifth generation Robert Hill Smith, who plays a pivotal role in marketing the premium brand profile Yalumba carries. Aboriginal for ?all the land around?, Yalumba took its name after the first vines were planted on a 30-acre parcel of land. Today they source fruit from the Eden Valley, Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills and are innovative in introducing new grape varieties to Australian drinkers, as well as predicting future trends and styles.

Winemaker Teresa was enthusiastic about the brand?s approach to up-and-coming wines like vermentino ? a great summer white with flavours of melon and grapefruit, zesty citrus and a refreshing, crisp acidity. This is just one of the varieties propagated in Yalumba?s own nursery, which provides consistency and reliability of vines as well as providing access to rare varieties and clones both for their own production and to growers throughout regions in Australia.

I was particularly taken by Yalumba?s interest in viognier, which even before my visit was a favourite white of mine. They have the largest commercial plantings in the Southern Hemisphere and have recently developed a viognier glass specifically for capturing the amazing nose of this wonderfully aromatic variety. Yalumba The Virgilius 2009 (The Society stocks the 2008 at £25 per bottle) is barrel-fermented in French oak barriques (more for texture than flavour) and has an intense nose of stone fruit (peaches and apricots), sweet spice and ginger. On the palate, it?s luscious and complex, floral and fruity ? a beautiful accompaniment to Moroccan food, blue cheese or even eggs benedict (wine for breakfast?? Wine not!). Of course, the wines were fantastic, but I was staggered by the amount of care and attention in the vineyards.

We drove out to the Heggies and Pewsey Vale vineyards to meet with Daryl, vineyard manager. His knowledge of the area, the land, climate, microclimates and specific areas of his vineyards was amazing. Of particular interest was that Yalumba have been using natural practices for nearly 30 years; this long without insecticides and 10 years without herbicides. The Pewsey Vale vineyard at 60ha ? almost entirely riesling ? has been organic for four years and is in its first year of biodynamic production and awaiting classification. The larger Heggies vineyard at 65ha ? riesling, chardonnay and merlot ? is irrigated from the onsite dam, which, when full, would hold enough water to irrigate the vineyard for three years!

The Society currently stocks Heggies Chardonnay (2010 at £12.75 a bottle); great intensity on the nose of stone fruit and oak. Due to the 500m altitude of the vineyard, this wine retains great acidity and on the palate a great minerality, as well as a complex texture from the wild yeasts used in the ferment.

As the biggest of the wineries, and a very well known brand, Yalumba by no means felt like a large scale production and retained as much care and attention as some of the smaller sites I visited. With incredible foresight and innovation of an enthusiastic team, I have no doubt that Yalumba will continue to stay at the forefront of South Aussie wine production.

Jo Mansell
Member Services

Categories : Australia
Comments (0)
Wed 29 Feb 2012

South Australia Series, Part Five: Peter Lehmann

Posted by: | Comments (0)

When we arrived at Peter Lehmann Wines in the town of Tanunda, Barossa Valley, the clouds had closed in, making the weather warm and humid. It was a welcome relief to see the beautiful vine-covered veranda stretching the length of the cellar door and the gorgeous gum trees on an expanse of lawn.

On recommendation (from Melanie at Henschke!) we arrived early to enjoy the Weighbridge Platter for lunch. A Barossa tradition, it is a collection of the region?s finest locally produced foods including Linke?s Mettwurst, Barossa Valley cheeses, Apex Bread, Maggie Beer Pâté and Barossa Bark. Enjoyed with a glass of crisp, refreshing 2010 Art Series Semillon Blanc ? zesty citrus with honeyed, floral notes, it was the perfect start to our visit.

In the late 1970?s when Peter Lehmann ? the Baron of the Barossa ? and a number of local growers faced the possibility of financial ruin, he enlisted the help of some financial investors and loyal colleagues, and created the Peter Lehmann label, now a household name. Particularly important to the brand is chief winemaker Andrew Wigan, who has been with Peter Lehmann since day one, and the first vintage in 1980; which makes 2012 his 33rd. With a trophy cabinet of awards and numerous Winemaker of the Year titles, he remains modest in his achievements, and to be honest is just a really nice bloke.

With Peter Lehmann's chief winemaker, Andrew Wigan.
We tasted fifteen wines with Andrew, covering all tiers of the Lehmann portfolio and I was particularly impressed with the whites, having had a lot of focus on reds at my previous visits. I couldn?t write this piece without mentioning the 2006 Wigan Riesling one of the ?Masters? wines named after our host for his invaluable contributions to Peter Lehmann. Bottled straight after vintage, it has spent the last five years in bottle and is now starting to show age with smoky, toasty complex layers whilst retaining great acidity and zesty citrus and mineral flavour. Tasting with Andrew, his passion for this award-winning (Best Riesling in the World six times since 1991!) wine was clear and something he is clearly proud of. I must admit, in his presence I did feel slightly amateurish as I wrote my tasting notes, however Andrew?s view that wine should be made to enjoy on a personal level and not to meet certain expectations was apparent, and the Lehmann tag ?Faithful to taste, not convention? certainly rang true in his anecdotes about each wine.

Needless to say, the reds did not disappoint. In true Barossa style, shiraz is the dominant variety in the range, and The Society currently stocks the Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz, 2005 (£30 a bottle). We tasted the 2007; a gorgeous dense ruby red colour, fruit-driven nose with a ton of black fruit and a sweet spice. On the palate, intense black fruit, firm tannins, sweet spice and a heady oak lingered. Produced from low-yielding vineyards which produce the softest and ripest fruit, this shiraz shows good cellaring potential and is a serious, fierce red.

Peter Lehmann sources the majority of its fruit for production from over 140 independent growers, and approximately 2-3% of production is from their own fruit. With the Art Series a palette of fruit from growers across the Barossa, the Portrait wines a portrait of the region with the top four varietals that have made it famous and the Masters wines the top tier of Lehmann?s classic Barossa varietals, they really have covered all bases of the market. May their patchwork and palette continue to grow!

Jo Mansell
Member Services

Categories : Australia
Comments (0)
Tue 21 Feb 2012

South Australia Series, Part Four: Henschke

Posted by: | Comments (1)

?Exceptional wines from outstanding vineyards??and if I?m honest, my expectations fell nothing short of this when we headed out to Henschke in the Barossa?s Eden Valley. The reputation this name has throughout South Australia is phenomenal and when mentioning in casual conversation to friends, ?I?m visiting Henschke?, their response was nothing short of ?Amazing!?, ?Lucky you?, etc. ? which surely suggested we were in for a treat.

A family owned and run winery, Henschke has been producing wine commercially since 1868, after the first vineyard was planted just outside a small town called Keyneton in 1862 by Johann Christian Henschke. Initially production was for the consumption of family and friends, as well as the altar wine for the Gnadenberg Church and its small Lutheran community. Named after the settlers? homeland, the church is a tribute to their German origins and the vineyard here also takes the same name, however in its English translation ? Hill of Grace, for which Henschke are perhaps most well known.

We met with Melanie Keynes on yet another scorching day (glorious, cloudless blue sky and nothing but sun!) and hopped in the 4WD (air-conditioned) to drive out to the Hill of Grace vineyard. The setting is beautiful, and the vines coming up to harvest were luscious, full and very well looked after. Straw bedding at the base of the vines ensures that any moisture is retained for nourishment of the roots, and the vines are trained to allow maximum exposure to the sun. Hill of Grace is just one of ten wines which are produced biodynamically by Henschke and will be picked just before the full moon of Easter this year.

It is these environmentally sustainable organic and biodynamic principles for which Stephen Henschke, fifth generation, and his wife Prue, are also highly regarded. They have an amazing range of wines produced from vineyards in the Barossa, Eden Valley and the Adelaide Hills, with particular focus on premium single-vineyard wines. Interestingly, research has also been underway at Henschke for a new closure, rivaling the humble cork and the screw cap: Vino-Lok is a glass closure which opens with a ?click? and, I?ll admit, looks very good in the bottle.

We began our tasting with four reasonably priced whites including a semillon, pinot gris, riesling and gewürztraminer ? the last which I particularly enjoyed and Melanie confirmed had the aroma and taste of Turkish delight (I had been searching for the right words!). Our introduction to the reds saw us start with Henry?s Seven, Henschke?s entry-level red, a blend of shiraz, grenache, mouvèdre and viognier.

I was impressed by the complexity of the reds, even at entry level and particularly enjoyed 2007 Cyril Henschke (2005 at The Society, £70 a bottle). A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, its gorgeous ruby red colour was a good intro to what followed; red fruit, red pepper, vegetal on the palate with smooth tannin, good acidity and subtle oak. The 2008 Mount Edelstone Shiraz (2006 at The Society, £59 a bottle) surpassed my expectations of a Barossa shiraz and proved to be complex, fruit driven with a sweet spice, peppery and bold. At 14.5%, it?s certainly packs a punch, and with the cold, snowy, dreary UK weather of late, would be a dream Sunday-night-in wine!

The piece de resistance at Henschke, was of course Hill of Grace (2006), which even at the Cellar Door has a three-bottle limit, and retails at The Society for £350 a bottle (2005). Decanted for three hours, it was vibrant ruby red in colour, with aromas of liquorice, chocolate, oak, sweet spice, and black fruit. The palate did not disappoint, juicy black fruit with chocolate and five-spice, smooth fine grain tannins, strong bold alcohol, but not overbearing. Melanie described it as a book; every time you turn a page there is something new. It?s just a shame, in this instance that it?s a book I can?t afford!

Jo Mansell
Member Services

Categories : Australia
Comments (1)
Wed 15 Feb 2012

South Australia Series, Part Three: d’Arenberg

Posted by: | Comments (0)

With d'Arenberg's Claire Scott
After a brilliant and informative staff tasting here at the Wine Society offices last year, I was eagerly anticipating my visit to d?Arenberg in McLaren Vale to meet up with Claire Scott who is now based back in Adelaide (after the usual Aussie jaunt in London!).

This year d?Arenberg celebrates their centenary and all that the family has achieved in the last 100 years. Wine production began in the family in 1912, with Frank Osborn embracing the vineyard after purchasing a property with his father Joseph. In 1957 Frank?s son d?Arry became the third generation winemaker and created his own label, d?Arenberg, named after his mother. The now famous label, with its familiar red stripe and coat of arms, continues to achieve national and international success. One of Australia?s First Families of Wine, the brand is now headed by fourth generation vigneron, viticulturalist, experimentalist and chief winemaker Chester Osborn or more affectionately, The Wild Pixie (the eponymous and delicious wine is a Society exclusive).

Our visit began with lunch at d?Arrys Verandah, adjoining the cellar door and overlooking a blanket of gloriously green vineyards ? a contrast to the usually brown Australian summer. The setting is beautiful and the food equally impressive. My slow roast pork belly and pork mignon with fresh peach pickle, kohlrabi and radish slaw was scrumptious, and was delightfully accompanied by The Money Spider ? a roussane with a floral nose, exotic fruit flavours of peach and paw paw; a little spicy, slightly nutty and great acidity for cutting through the succulent, juicy pork belly.

Tasting was informal and relaxed, much like the vibe of the whole place, and began with a glass of fizz ? the yet to be publicly released centenary celebration label (lucky me!). After tasting a few whites with lunch, we swiftly moved through to some gnarly reds including The Footbolt Shiraz (£11.50 per bottle): gorgeous ruby red in colour, black fruit, a hint of some red fruit, peppery and sweet spice, eucalypt and oak ? affordable for everyday drinking but delicious and with good potential to age.

With an array of interesting labels ? Feral Fox, Derelict Vineyard, Galvo Garage? ? it was comforting to wrap my hands around a glass of the iconic Dead Arm Shiraz (£27 per bottle), knowing the meaning of its name! Named after a vineyard condition that affects the vine, giving it a ?dead arm?, it is produced from small bunches of concentrated, highly flavoured grapes on the healthy part of the vine. Much love and attention is given to this one, gently pressed and matured for nearly two years it is complex and elegant with deep black purple fruit and floral layers with gentle oak, sweet spice and liquorice.

Casually strolling through, chatting to staff and generally keeping in tune with day to day activities, d?Arry ? now in his 80?s ? stopped to chat to us and show us his boat, locked up in a shed on the winery grounds. At this point, I realised it is still very much a family place but with an ?artist? at its helm making the brand bigger and better. Chester?s direction for d?Arenberg appears to encompass two branches, retaining great classics and icons, sticking to what works, but also experimenting with new blends to give d?Arenberg an edge on their tough competition. ?Chin, chin?, d?Arenberg, you have won me over!

Jo Mansell
Member Services

For a list of d’Arenberg wines stocked currently by The Society – as well as a chance to buy tickets for our centenary tastings with Chester Osborn in May – click here.

Categories : Australia
Comments (0)
Thu 09 Feb 2012

South Australia Series, Part Two: Bleasdale

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Just over an hour’s drive south-east from Adelaide – albeit in a non air-conditioned car and 38 degree heat! – saw us arrive at the Bleasdale Winery in Langhorne Creek on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Bleasdale was established in 1850 by Frank Potts, who was the pioneer of viticulture and winemaking in the district.

Covering a greater area than the Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek is now home to seven family-based cellar doors, 6,000 hectares of vines, a pub that does a great chicken burger…. and a horseradish farm, which sadly, we didn’t have time to visit!

We met with Peter Perrin (managing director) and Paul Hotker (senior winemaker) for a tasting in the cellar door (air-conditioned!) and a tour of the winery. Paul talked us through eleven wines with infectious passion and knowledge, ranging from sauvignon blanc – which they source from vineyards in the cooler Adelaide Hills – to estate-grown shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. The number of awards and accolades that Bleasdale has achieved is staggering considering its size, and in 2011 they did not show a wine that didn’t win a medal in its entry category.

The beautiful heritage-listed building was built in around 1880 from local limestone and red gum, and has over the years expanded around this original building. Whilst retaining mountains of character and a lever press built around a red gum tree in 1892, the winery merges from 100-year-old waxed red gum vats and 46,000-litre underground tanks to newer, stainless steel fermentation tanks and a cellar of 3,000 barrels.

Clearly Peter and Paul are proud of their achievements, in particular their success with malbec and verdelho – two grape varieties not widely associated with South Australia. Due to its close proximity to Lake Alexandrina and the coast, Langhorne Creek has a high diurnal temperature which allows grapes to retain great acidity. The Potts Catch Verdelho (2011) is the only Langhorne Creek estate-grown white, that Bleasdale produce and shows refreshing layers of stone fruits and citrus (limes) with a little grassiness and tangy acidity; a great summer wine and good alternative to sauvignon blanc.

Aside from some varietal reds – shiraz and cab sav – Bleasdale produces a number of stunning blends, using malbec in many to inject structure, richness, colour and black fruit character. Frank Potts is their flagship red and the 2009 I tasted is the 17th release. A cabernet-based blend with malbec, petit verdot, cabernet franc and merlot, the 2009 is fruit driven with hints of violet and spice. On the palate, good body, medium but noticeable tannin, black fruit character, brambly sweet spice and a good finish. The Society currently stocks the 2006 and 2008 vintages of Frank Potts, both at £14.95.

We were lucky enough to taste a number of malbecs straight from barrel and I was amazed at the individual character which each showed – different growers, different vineyards, even different pockets from the same vineyard. With a cool 2011 vintage, Peter and Paul were worried that perhaps malbec wouldn’t show as well as they’d hoped, but even they seemed pleasantly surprised by the development they have seen so far and believe it will be a promising vintage.

Oh, and did I mention the 20-year-old fortified we tasted straight from barrel? Amazing! But sadly it will never be released as this one is just ‘a bit of a hobby’ at Bleasdale!

Jo Mansell
Member Services

Categories : Australia
Comments (0)
Tue 07 Feb 2012

South Australia Series, Part One: Wirra Wirra

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Whilst many of you were enjoying a cold Christmas and sipping warm, rich reds ? pinot noir, cabernet, shiraz ? I was enjoying crisp, refreshing whites ? sauvignon blancs, rieslings and viogniers ? in the Land Down Under for a delightfully warm festive season.

Having recently returned from a month long visit to my hometown of Adelaide, South Australia, I look back and cheer that I took the opportunity to mix business with pleasure and visit some amazing wineries. Fortunately, as a Wine Society employee, I was privileged to have representatives from six well-known producers throughout McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek and the Barossa Valley, meet with me for an experience not to be forgotten. Unfortunately, I feel I may have developed cenosilicaphobia ? fear of an empty glass (thank you d?Arenberg for teaching me this!)?

Approaching the cellar door at Wirra Wirra in McLaren Vale, there was no mistaking we were in the right place as an oversized monument of the famed Church Block, clad in hundreds of bottle corks, greeted us at the entrance. An overcast, windy Wednesday morning was perhaps not the best welcome to the McLaren Vale ? a stunning blanket of vines, patchworked across the land ? but our host Julian Forwood ensured a great start to the day.

Wirra Wirra, meaning ?amongst the gum trees? in the local native language, was pioneered by Robert Strangways Wigley in 1894, a ?black sheep? in his family who moved away and turned his hand to wine production. Sadly the winery went to ruin, but was saved by Greg Trott in the 1960?s and rebuilt as the beautiful stone building that appears today. Although Greg has now passed away, his presence in the winery is still very much apparent, from the trebuchet in the grounds which was built because he wanted one of his own, to the stories behind some of the labels which represent Greg?s character ? The Lost Watch (a birthday present he lost after one day), The Twelfth Man (his love of cricket) and Hiding Champion (Trott?s nickname).

After harvest ? happening in about a month?s time ? each variety, vineyard and section is fermented separately in stainless steel or oak (mostly French) and remain separate until they are ready to be blended, allowing the true character of each wine to shine through. Interestingly, the final three blends leading up to each end product are tasted with food and, with regular features on restaurant wine lists (and currently on Qantas flights), this is surely producing better wines for us to enjoy in a social capacity.

We were treated to a tasting of thirteen wines; four whites, a rosé, seven reds and a sweet sparkling ? yes, our overcast Wednesday did improve! Many a Society member will know Wirra Wirra Church Block (£12.50), which is the number one selling wine in Oz in its category and has a strong consumer following. The ruby red Cabernet-Shiraz-Merlot blend at 14.5% is abundant with blackcurrant, red fruit and sweet spice on both the nose and the palate. Shiraz is the performer in the 2009 vintage, but I am told cabernet will shine in the 2010. Grapes are estate grown with a blend of hand and machine picking and 100% barrel fermented with a third to a half in new oak. 1972 was the first vintage of Church Block and I can safely vouch that it is still going strong!

For perhaps a more special occasion (or an amazing steak) try Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz (£35) ? generously juicy, fruity, and a little bit spicy ? or Wirra Wirra Dead Ringer (also £35) ? a McLaren Vale Cabernet with grippy tannins, red fruit, aromas of tobacco and a hint of mint. Branded as The Angelus in Australia, it goes by the name Dead Ringer in the UK after a polite (?!) letter ? in French ? from Château Angelus in St Emilion advising that it would not be an appropriate name. Dead Ringer: an exact duplicate ? I think not in this case, but by far Wirra Wirra gets my vote for taking it so lightheartedly!

Jo Mansell
Member Services

Categories : Australia
Comments (0)