The World Upside Down

Victorian Allsorts Tasting, Wine Australia at 2011 London International Wine Fair hosted by Steve Webber and Kate McIntyre MW, 17 May 2011

The Victorian wines shown today want to break free from the notion that Australian wines are pristine and wholesome, with exciting discordant and dirty notes that urged one not to delay tasting (the forbidden).

These wines had pulled a thread in the tightly-knit world of expectation of what is Australian wine and have created some interesting holes. Whether that single thread pulled was an experiment with either phenolics, colour, or carbonic maceration.

One thread is picked out and experimented with until it seems to break ties with the past completely prompting one senior citizen in the front row to ask, “Why do Pinot Noir like this if they don’t do it in Burgundy?” as well as a Wine magazine to question, “Are these even commercial wines?”

To respond, one thinks of the young Philip Glass who first started out in his father’s radio repair shop. When some records didn’t sell his father took them home to try and discover why the customers did not like them. Philip Glass then went on to create minimalist pieces in music emphasising one element of sound. He knew the answer, he did the opposite.

These wines are similar in style; and also, best seen as one piece of work in a group of ongoing reinvention.

Most great artists create more than one masterpiece, never satisfied. I think the same holds true here for these Victorian winemakers who are pushing the boundaries of winemaking.

2008 Quealy Wines Pobblebonk White Blend, Mornington Peninsula

A fresh, fruity white blend with peach and white flowers. Excellent texture, crisp, dry and savoury – short on the palate but from young vines yet. Kathleen Quealy left T’Gallant to create small runs of wines. Inspired by Friulian whites such as Vintage Tunina, this is a blend of 5 grapes including Friulano. Pobblebonk is the name of a frog, and fairly accurately conveys the sound of one on a moonlit night. About $20 a bottle. Name to watch.

William Downie King Valley Petit Manseng 2009 King Valley

My notes say, “Eccentric, exciting!” Sweet wine with pears, tinned peaches, strawberry fresh and meringue melt-in-the-mouth sugar. Jagged layers come together for this variety more known in Jurancon, it is a bumpy ride – but, wow, exhilirating winemaking.

Moorooduc Estate Pinot Gris 2010 Mornington Peninsula

Can we define a benchmark for Mornington Pinot Gris yet? This could be it. 20-25 year old vines produce wines shimmery pale gold, strong spine and very fresh as seaspray from Antartica.

Crittenden Estate Pinocchio Arneis 2009 Mornington Peninsula

Delicate, crunchy Granny Smith apple if not a bit young, seaside briny note on the nose. A great play with phenolics and texture on this delicate Arneis. Highest scoring white.

Chalmers Wines Vermentino 2009 Sunraysia

(Tasted again on 13/6/11 as bottle oxidised at original tasting).

Chalmers is joined by Sandro Mosele from Kooyong Estate as contract winemaker for this wine. Fantastic smoky, lemon waxy, thyme. Softly softly texture, lemon brite but engaging. After a while there is a leanness that is apparent in many Australian white wines which I think is the taste of the ancient soils in Australia. In late afternoon sunshine: perfetto. 11.5% alcohol.

There is a lot of debate in Australia about “Alternative Varieties” (as it is called in Australia). But, this HAS to be future of Australian wine? Textural, summery and very shareable. It was sent directly from Mildura, which makes me think what else we are not seeing due to the very high Australian dollar at the moment. Thank you to Kim Chalmers for sending this wine to London, I am very glad I had the opportunity to re-taste it in pristine condition.

Sutton Grange Fairbank Rouge 2009 Bendigo

Crunchy violets, extremely medicinal, cinders, Chinese 5-spice but light weight and fresh. Blend of Syrah, Merlot and Sangiovese by French expat winemaker Gilles Lapalus. None of the eucalypt oil associated with Bendigo. Biodynamic, carbonic maceration. 12% alcohol.

Bannockburn Serre Pinot Noir 2008, Geelong

A divisive wine! Pale tawny port colour – sure it is different but it would worry me more if it was dense, purple and overextracted. Michael Glover has 100% whole-bunch pressed the grapes, jumping in to the tank almost to the point it being dangerous. Great vinosity, rose petals and a sour cherry palate. Reminds me of Dujac, but too unique to make comparison.

Jamsheed Silvan Vineyard Syrah 2010 Yarra Valley

Sounds like a rockband name, then it uses word Syrah rather than Shiraz to differentiate it from the blockbusters in South Australia. This is lighter on the palate with a Northern Rhone soul.

Foxeys Hangout Shiraz 2009 Mornington Peninsula

Black olives, black pepper, herbal, cinders, very Northern Rhone with exceptional poise, pure tone, aromatics and delicacy. A new wave of Shiraz from cool climates. A profound wine.

De Bortoli Estate Bella Riva Merlot/Sanviovese 09 King Valley

Very good dry “Chianti tannins”, very clean with good freshness and acidity. Steve Webber wants to create good drinking wines for £10 that rival Italians. If he can achieve this, then this could be a Chianti blend outside of Italy that poses a real threat at this price point.


Image: Ink Calender by Oscar Diaz

More: Philip Glass Glassworks



Comments are closed.