Alert

The maximum quantity permitted for this item is , if you wish to purchase more please call 1300 303 307
Life

Green with envy - Cool climes of Orange

I will lay my cards on the table right from the start. I love Sauvignon Blanc. It is a noble and great grape variety with interest and intrigue. It produces some of my favourite wines on the planet. Like so many wine drinkers, my first memorable Sauvignon Blanc experience was a wine from Marlborough. I still remember the wow factor, the new flavour sensation. It was revelation. It was exciting. Now, 25 years on from that moment, I am a winemaker in Orange NSW making my fair share of Sauvignon Blanc in what I think is one of Australia’s leading regions for the variety.

Despite being synonymous with New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc actually originates from the upper Loire Valley in north-west France, most famously from the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. These days, these are the wines that make me go weak at the knees. The top wines of producers such as Gérard Boulay, Didier Dagueneau, Alphonse Mellot, amongst others, rival some of the more famous wines of Burgundy.

Like all noble varieties, Sauvignon Blanc is very expressive of the region in which it is grown. So while the wines of Orange taste like Sauvignon Blanc should, they still taste different to Sancerre, Marlborough or any other region that grows the grape. It has its own regional personality. Furthermore, there is no singular style of Sauvignon Blanc – fresh and fruity, subtle yet complex, pure and mineral, barrel fermented and rich.

Sauvignon Blanc country

Orange is in the central west of NSW, 280km west of Sydney. When I travel out of the region, I will often ask people who have not been to Orange, what they imagine the landscape would be – hot? dry? flat? Their answer is almost universally, yes. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sitting at almost 900m above sea level, the vineyards climb as high as 1100m, the highest in Australia to the best of my knowledge. There is hardly a flat stretch of ground off the slopes of the iconic Mount Canobolas. In summer, 300C is a pretty warm day and the area is rarely touched by a true drought. What it lacks in latitude, it makes up for in altitude. As I often point out, Orange is a little bit of Tassie in the middle of New South Wales.

All this makes for great Sauvignon Blanc country and the local vignerons have taken the varietal to their hearts. Of the almost 40 wine producers in the region, nearly all make a Savvy of some description. This vested interest is crucial in treating Sauvignon Blanc with the love and respect it deserves. It enables the development of a regional style and continual improvement in wine quality. After declaring Sauvignon Blanc as the region’s hero variety in the mid-2000s, the region has evolved to identify some of the best vineyard sites and has become more adventurous with its winemaking techniques seeking to find the best expressions of this wonderful variety.

Its a style thing

The most common expression of Sauvignon Blanc in the Orange region is the fresh, intense fruit-driven style – and it rarely disappoints. Less herbal, it has a tropical punch with passionfruit being a key flavour. It tends to be a bit fuller with more palate weight, but is still lively. Logan, Printhie, Mayfield, Swinging Bridge and Angullong excel in this style, while a new producer, Colmar Estate, revealed a cracker from their debut 2014 vintage.

A subtler style, that is still fresh but somewhat more refined, is also being produced in Orange. This is what I refer to as the ‘less is more’ style. Less of the upfront, big impact aromatic intensity and more of the subtle aromas, flavours and layers than your regular Sav Blanc fruit bomb. Ross Hill Pinnacle is a prime example, as is the Cumulus Sauvignon Blanc and Philip Shaw No.19.

There is also a more complex style of Sauvignon Blanc being engineered in Orange. Made in much the same way as Chardonnay, with subtle oak treatment, wild yeast and some malolactic fermentation, these wines often show funky aromatics, smooth texture and savoury complexity. They still have the varietal characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc, but are a world away from the Marlborough version and more towards a Sancerre style.

De Salis Fumé, Printhie MCC and Patina are all pushing this envelope. However, these wines are made in such small quantities, sometimes less than 100 cases, and are rarely found outside the region’s restaurants and cellar doors – but they are well worth tracking down. Many times I have seen the pleasantly surprised reaction of committed non-Sauvignon Blanc drinkers seeing this variety in a different light. It is one they had never come across before and it usually inspires them enough to buy a bottle.

I believe this complex style is the future of Sauvignon Blanc in Australia. Every wine drinker has evolving tastes and wine producers also need to evolve. It is a sure thing that the most popular wine of five years ago will be made in quite different ways in five years time. So expect to come across more Sauvignon Blancs that are made with cloudy juice rather than clear juice, that are fermented in barrels rather than stainless steel tanks, with naturally occurring yeast from the vineyard rather than commercial yeast cultures. It is an exciting time for Sauvignon Blanc drinkers and producers alike.

But wait, there’s more

Any conversation about wine in the Orange region inevitably comes around to Chardonnay. Alongside Sauvignon Blanc, I consider it to be the most exciting wine style in Australia. The quality, the style evolution, and the regional characteristics are fantastic. It excels in virtually every wine growing area across the country, so if a region is going to tout its Chardonnay credentials these days, it has to be pretty smart wine. With 30 medal-winning Chardonnays from 47 entries in the 2014 Orange Wine Show, it would seem that Orange Chardonnay is in the sweet spot. Not long after the Show I sat in on a tasting with a group of wine writers, and it was the Chardonnays they raved about. It was a landmark moment and testament to the quality and style of Orange Chardy. With across-the-board success, the good news that you can score a winner from a host of producers from Swinging Bridge Estate, Patina, Borrodell to Carillion, Centennial, De Salis, Philip Shaw and boutique producers such as Dindima and Heifer Station.

The reds of orange

Wherever Chardonnay does well, so too should Pinot Noir and this difficult and temperamental variety is right at home in the highest vineyards in Orange. It can be reliably ripened at elevations where other reds cannot. The best Pinots are perfumed, earthy and very inviting and that is exactly what you get in the cool climes of Orange. Seductive and charming in their youth, they are not wines that need lengthy cellaring. Standouts from the region include the Pinots of De Salis, Philip Shaw, Ross Hill, Bantry Grove, Stockman’s Ridge, Brangayne, Mayfield and Logan.

Much has been written recently about the style shift of big, bold Shiraz to the more refined, elegant cool climate Shiraz and it would seem that Orange is perfectly placed to take advantage of this trend. I have always considered Shiraz to be the most consistent red variety in Orange. It performs across different elevations, producer to producer and from vintage to vintage.

It is medium bodied, spicy and floral with freshness from natural acidity. The richer styles of Shiraz come from lower elevations and producers such as Cumulus, Angullong, Ross Hill and Printhie, while the likes of Logan, Philip Shaw, Centennial and newcomer Montoro highlight the spiciness of higher elevation vineyards.

Alternative hotbed

While the aforementioned traditional varietals do well in Orange, it seems there is a huge future for alternative varieties as well. Angullong has played with Italians Sangiovese and Barbera for some time and have recently added Vermentino and Sagrantino. Stockmans Ridge has planted Gruner Veltliner, Sassy Wines and Rowlee have Arneis, Cargo Road has Zinfandel. Centennial and Hedberg Hill have Tempranillo. It is perhaps the ultimate accolade for Orange that producers from other regions are sourcing fruit from our elevated climate to make their wine. Hunter Valley’s David Hook, a long-time alternative producer, now sources his Barbera and Riesling from Orange. Tulloch’s buy Tempranillo grapes, See Saw grow Sauvignon Blanc, while Pepper Tree Wines source their award-winning Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Orange.

Time for a visit

As Orange is just a couple of hours drive from Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle it is worth making the trip to visit. From the historic town of Orange, there are gorgeous villages such as Millthorpe and Canowindra not far away. It is here you will find Rosnay, a biodynamic farm producing whole range of treats from olive oil and paste, figs in various forms and wine – very much worth a visit.

This of course reminds me how spectacular the food of Orange is. See for yourself at the farmers’ markets held the second Saturday of every month. There’s also the massive FOOD week event in April, the Apple Festival in May and WINE week in Ocotober. Check out tasteorange.com.au for all the details and programs for all the events. But in the meantime, aim for the heights and sit down with a glass of Orange wine. I bet you’ll enjoy it.

You might also like

Wine
Showcasing Shiraz with Australia's First Families of Wine
Words by Paul Diamond on 14 Oct 2017
A fabulous Wine Selectors dinner with Australia’s first families of wine revealed the bright future of this incredible variety. A red wine dinner in the middle of a chilly Melbourne August seemed like a highly appropriate thing to do and what better variety than Shiraz to chase the cold away. And so a four-course menu by the team at Neale White’s Papa Goose restaurant was devised and 12 great Shiraz from Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) were sourced and the tables set. By the time the Wine Selectors faithful started arriving, it was clear that the dinner was going to be one to remember. Designed to celebrate Shiraz through the expressions of 12 wines from the 12 families that make up the AFFW , the diversity of flavours and expressions from one grape variety was quite remarkable. On paper, the line-up looked simply yummy, but as the wines were being opened and tested before the guests arrived, the reality of what we were pouring and tasting started dawning on us; we were privy to a multiplicity of smells, flavours and textures that were being represented from 10 different regions and 1300+ collective years of winemaking experience. A Family Affair
On hand to help host, pour and manage 1000-odd glasses of Shiraz were Katherine Brown, Brown Brothers winemaker and Chairperson of the AFFW Next Generation, Justine Henschke, PR for Henschke Wines , Justin Taylor, export manager for Taylors Wines, Sally Webber, DeBortoli family ambassador and Jeff McWilliam, CEO of McWilliam’s Wines . The food was awesome and the wine a perfect foil for the cold and wet. And as the family anecdotes from each of the AFFW members were told, the conversation eventually found itself reflecting on the future of Australian Shiraz. “Shiraz is the past and it’s also the future,” Justine Henschke noted emphatically. “It’s the past in that it has established a lot of wine communities and it’s the future in that we now know how Shiraz thrives according to climate.” “So now it’s all about educating people on what style comes from where, so they know where to go for something specific.

Look at tonight, we have tried 12 different wines of the same variety across many different regions, showing small nuances from where they have been sourced and that’s pretty incredible.

- Justine Henschke, Henschke Wines
Sally Webber agreed that diversity is a key and that blends are going to play a big part in strengthening its appeal for future generations. “I love that it’s such a diverse variety and can blend beautifully with so many other varieties.” “The future for Shiraz is in blends,” she added. “It’s such an intense variety, you have pepper and spice and there are some varieties you only need a little of and it brings out all these other great characters. “Rhône varieties like Grenache and Mourvedre, and even varieties like Gamay and Tempranillo really add different expressions to Shiraz and as the Australian consumer becomes less conservative and more experimental, we’ll get to see the variety’s real potential.” A hint of spice
For Katherine Brown and Brown Brothers, fine, spicy cool climate Shiraz is the future and Heathcote is their chosen region. As Katherine described, “We think customers understand that Shiraz doesn’t need to come from a warm climate and we are on the search to make a Shiraz that you can call refreshing.” “Something you can drink at lunch, something that is more about pepper and spice than big jammy fruits. That’s where I see the future of Shiraz, we are starting to see these cooler climates like Heathcote, Eden Valley and Margaret River delivering these flavours.” So what about hot areas, those that built the wines that put us on the map like Barossa , McLaren Vale and the Clare ? Justin Taylor thinks that Shiraz is a variety that can deal with the heat and with careful winemaking, the future for warmer styles is still bright.

“Australia’s getting hotter whether you like it or not, and Shiraz loves heat, so we can keep making more Shiraz for the global market, we can do it with rationality, and we can do it with diversity. Our quality has never been as good as it is right now, it’s a great story for this country.”

- Jeff McWilliam, McWilliams Wines
Jeff McWilliam agrees and is happy that the diversity we are seeing has extended to a place where the expressions of Shiraz that emulate the O’Shea Hunter River Burgundies that the Hunter Valley does so well are gaining popularity again. “We are going back to medium bodied wines, just like the great old wines that came from Mt Pleasant,” said Jeff. “I love McLaren Vale and Barossa Shiraz , but I know the wines we do best are in that style of the old O’Shea wines. “We are talking about vineyards and the special wines they produce, but the Hunter is like that, you can have a great vintage and you can have a really poor vintage and that’s the excitement of it, just like the diversity of Australian Shiraz.”
Wine
Margaret River’s 50th
Words by Danielle Costley on 12 Nov 2017
As WA’s Margaret River wine region celebrates its 50th anniversary, we celebrate the pioneers who brought it all to fruition. A hundred years ago, a couple of Italian immigrants arrived in the south west corner of Western Australia with some cuttings of a little-known grape variety called Fragola. These vines produced the first wines to be sold in Margaret River for the hefty price tag of two shillings a flagon. Fondly dubbed ‘red dynamite’ by the enthusiastic community, this wine was in high demand at the local dance halls where it was sold from the back of a truck. And it was said to pack quite a punch. Times have certainly changed since then and while other growers produced small batches of wines in the ensuing years, it wasn’t until the mid 1960s when agronomist Dr John Gladstones published a report identifying Margaret River’s vast potential for viticulture, that the region, as we know it today, was born.
The Gladstones report attracted the attention of budding vignerons and medical practitioners, Thomas Cullity and Kevin and Diana Cullen. In mid 1966, the Cullens organised a meeting in the Margaret River township of Busselton inviting Dr Gladstones to speak. It was the final push those attending needed. Soon after, the Cullens, in partnership with Tom Cullity, and Geoff and Sue Juniper, planted vines in Wilyabrup, which unfortunately didn’t survive. It was left to Cullity, who in 1967 purchased a mere eight acres of land, to plant Margaret River’s first commercial vines – Cabernet Sauvignon , Shiraz , Malbec and Riesling . He named his venture after French sailor, Thomas Vasse, who had drowned in Geographe Bay. Hoping for better fortunes than the Frenchman, he added the Latin word for happiness – Felix. His first crop, too, was all but a disaster, decimated by birds and succumbing to bunch rot. Undeterred, but determined, Cullity persevered. In 1972, Vasse Felix won a gold medal at the Perth Show for its Riesling. The following year, gold for its Cabernet. Happy days, indeed. The Cullens also persevered. In 1971 they planted vines on their own land where their current vineyard still thrives. At this stage, Moss Wood had been established for two years and within another two years, Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin Estate, and Woodlands had also been established. In what was a fledgling industry at the time, these founding wineries worked tirelessly to forge the region’s reputation as a premium wine producer. “I pay tribute to the winemakers and grape growers of Margaret River,” says Dr Gladstones, who is still a proud member of the Margaret River community today. “It’s one thing to have an idea and put it forward, it’s another this to be brought to fruition. The work and financial commitment that had to go into it has been a big factor in bringing Margaret River to its present world-class status.”
Left: Bob Hullock. Right: Cullen Wines co-founder Diana Cullen  An American influence While the pioneering wineries may have simply dreamed of making good wine, there was a certain Californian who knew of Margaret River’s enormous potential – Napa Valley wine baron, Robert Mondavi. As the story goes, Mondavi was searching the globe for the next great wine region. His search took him to Margaret River and a patch of land owned by Denis Horgan, a chartered accountant, and his wife Tricia. Today, it is Leeuwin Estate. “Mondavi arrived on our doorstep wanting to buy the place,’ says Denis. “We weren’t the selling type, so he became our mentor in setting up a winery. He and his son and winemaker, Tim, came out on numerous occasions to advise on what varieties we should plant, where to plant them, about oak treatment and so on.” Mondavi’s advice was also greatly accepted by Cullity and Kevin Cullen, who Denis befriended and met up with regularly to discuss all things wine. “You would have sworn you were in a dog fight,” Denis says of the trio’s rendezvous. “They used to swear and curse and talk about one another’s wines, and then we’d all sit down and have lunch like we were the greatest of friends.  “They were fabulous guys. It was the best education I could have had because they didn’t pull any punches. They set out to make wines that ranked with the best in the world, and they damn well did it.” A region evolved
Three generations of Credaros in their Woolston vineyard Fifty years on, Margaret River is indeed a world class wine region. While it only produces three percent of Australia’s wine, it contributes 20 per cent of our premium wine production. It is recognised internationally for exceptional Cabernets and Chardonnays, and also produces a stylish signature blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The handful of wineries have now boomed to over 200 with most of them producing the flagships, while also experimenting with other varietals and blends that suit the Mediterranean climate, cooling sea breezes and rich gravelly soils. In the northern districts lies the family-owned Credaro Wines, where some of the region’s first vines were planted by the pioneering Meleri and Credaro families to produce the ‘red dynamite’. These days, they have over 140 hectares of vines spread across five vineyards and alongside the legendary Fragola, and Chardonnay, Cabernet and SBS, they are doing well with Pinot Grigio, Shiraz and Merlot. Thompson Estate is renowned for its Chardonnays and Cabernets, but is also finding favour with its Cabernet Merlot, Malbec and famed Four Chambers Shiraz. The 20-year-old vines are organically grown and produce impressive wines under the watchful eye of Bob Cartwright of Leeuwin Estate acclaim.
Hay Shed Hill, Margaret River At Hay Shed Hill, whose vineyards were first planted in the 1970s, the Block 6 Chardonnay is the star. Dry grown and located on a steep south facing slope, it is lean, light and fresh, but also has “flavour, aroma, body and textural interest,” says winemaker and owner, Michael Kerrigan. In concert with the Block 6, he is also giving plenty of attention to a stunning Cabernet Franc, as well as an intoxicating Shiraz Tempranillo blend. In the cooler, southern parts of the Margaret River, Sauvignon Blanc really finds voice as a single varietal. In close proximity to the Indian Ocean, you will find Redgate Wines, a winery that takes its name from a nearby property that once had a prominent red gate and was known for the production of a rather powerful moonshine. This estate, established by the Ullinger family in 1977, produces a sublime Sauvignon Blanc that is layered with gooseberry and lime. Their Cabernet blends are also beguiling, and they have a Chenin Blanc that is also turning heads. Even further south lies Hamelin Bay Wines, a quaint winery with a simply breathtaking outlook. It produces one of the region’s finest Sauvignon Blancs – fresh, vibrant and tropical, while their Rampant Red, a blend of Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet, is winning fans. Something Totally New When Moss Wood winery was sub-divided in 1982, architect Bruce Tomlinson purchased the land and established Lenton Brae winery. Putting his talents to use, he built a striking rammed earth winery and cellar door with two towers that are home to quintet bells from Westminster and chime on the quarter-hour. A few years ago, the Tomlinsons introduced a new varietal to the region, Pinot Blanc. This unassuming grape is a mutation of Pinot Noir, yet genetically similar to Chardonnay. Winemaker, Edward Tomlinson, says he was drawn to the subtle charm of this early ripening variety. “Essentially, it is a Sauvignon Blanc for grown-ups,’ he says. “The decision to plant Pinot Blanc was a big call. Having seen my father wrestle with the implications of uprooting two hectares of Pinot Noir in the early days, I was amazed at how supportive he was for me to take a punt on Pinot Blanc.” And these are not the only newcomers to the region. There’s been an influx of plantings of Mediterranean varietals in recent years, with Fiano, Vermentino, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese finding favour amongst the growing band of winemakers. A Fitting Half Century
As the 50th celebrations kick off in earnest, it is heartwarming to see much love given to the traditions of the pioneers. Vasse Felix’ s ‘tractor bucket’ party recreated the spirit of founding producers who celebrated each of those crucial early vintages in style with tractor buckets turned into eskys, filled with ice and wine and enjoyed out amongst the vines, even serving as a bed on some occasions. “Anniversaries such as this are an opportunity to share with the world just how special Margaret River is. It is a wine paradise,” says current Vasse Felix owner, Paul Holmes a Court. The single remaining bottle of the 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec is on display in the Vasse Felix vault and to celebrate the winery’s 50th anniversary, they have released a Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec made from those original vines. I am sure the good doctor would approve. And while he would be astounded to see how big the region has grown, he always knew how good the wines were going to be. “I knew because Mondavi told me so,” says Denis Horgan. “He always said that Margaret River was going to make wines that ranked with the best in the world. It was his catch cry.” The best is still yet to come says Dr Gladstones, who fittingly gets to have the last word. “I strongly believe that we’ve only seen the beginning,” he says. “This region has tremendous natural advantages for grape growing to produce top quality wines. “With its environments, experience and now increasing vine age, Margaret River is undoubtedly ripe to walk with the greatest.”
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
1 case has been added to your cart.
Cart total: xxx
1 case, 12 bottles, 3 accessories