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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.

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Meet Chester Osborn from d’Arenberg
The Wine Selectors Wine of the Month for October is the d’Arenberg The Broken Fishplate Sauvignon Blanc 2014. So we caught up with its maker, the man of many shirts, Chester Osborn. You’re a finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year National Awards – how does that feel? I feel quite honoured, however, at the end of the day I’m just doing what I love. It’s not work. If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing well. Can you recall the first wine you tried? It was probably a flagon wine when I was about four years old. I also remember that at around seven I tasted the so-called good reds and I didn’t like them. The fortified white Muscat was nice though. When did you fall in love with wine? At the age of seven I decided I wanted to be a winemaker, so I guess I was in love with wine even if I didn’t like much of it. It’s a hard call but do you have a favourite wine or varietal? I suppose it would be Nebbiolo from Piedmont. However, Grenache from McLaren Vale or Priorat are right up there. How do you come up with your wine names? It used to be never before 2am. Now it’s sitting on the toilet first thing in the morning reading the dictionary. How has your dad d’Arry influenced you? From time to time dad talks about how he used to do things, which puts his wines in perspective. Most of todays’ wines and the winemaking are the same as then but with more control. Dad was also frugal with money, which has been good in making me justify every expense. It has been a great working relationship. Often he worries, but what was planned more or less always occurs. White, red or both? At d’Arenberg we produce 72 wines from 37 grape varieties – all colours are accounted for. What do you do when you’re not making wine? Lately the d’Arenberg Cube has been taking up an enormous amount of time, especially the art installations but also all of the intricate architecture and engineering. Lots of wine tasting and drinking also fill my days and nights, and I have a heap of other projects on the go.
How many shirts do you really have? We ran a competition recently asking exactly this question, it turned out to be 372. What is your favourite…. Pizza topping:  Salami with a bit of spice and other meats Shirt:  Robert Graham limited edition Book:  Science Illustrated or Cosmos Movie/TV show:  Science fiction Restaurant:  El Celler de Can Roca, Spain Dinner:  Fish amok Time of day/night:  all day, no preferences Sporting team:  Norwood football club. My great grandfather JR Osborn started d’Arenberg and the Norwood football club. Christmas present:  Art or sculpture Childhood memory:  Making things like planes and cars Holiday destination:  Spanish cities or French country villages Angle to view the d’Arenberg Cube:  Seaview Road
Food
The taste of the Adelaide Hills
Words by Mark Hughes on 18 Jul 2017
We traipsed around the Adelaide Hills to discover the most divine food offerings in this picturesque wine region. Just 20 minutes drive from the centre of Adelaide you find yourself in the Adelaide Hills. The ascent from the city is 700 metres, making this a cool climate wine region boasting a range of award-winning wines such as  Pinot Noir ,  Chardonnay  and  Sparkling , as well as elegant  Shiraz , while it is arguably the home of  Australian Sauvignon Blanc . Alongside impressive wines, the  Adelaide Hills  has an array of sumptuous dining offerings. Here are some of the highlights recommended to me by locals during a recent trip to the region. CRAFERS The first village you come to in the Hills along the M1 from Adelaide is Crafers, and it is where you'll find the recently renovated Crafers Hotel. Retaining the 1830s heritage of the original structure, it offers a pub feel with a contemporary dining experience with dishes like beouf bourguignon and duck confit sitting alongside gourmet burgers. There's a range of craft beers on tap, but it is the wine list, or more appropriately, the wine cellar, that is something to truly behold. With an extensive range of local wines and South Australian gems, there's also some hard-to-find wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. With boutique accommodation on site, you could be excused if you called in for lunch, but ended staying for the night. Crafers Hotel, 8 Main st, Crafers. Just up Mount Lofty Summit Road, is Mount Lofty House and the serious new addition to the Hills dining scene - Hardy's Verandah. A recent renovation has seen the long closed-in verandah opened up to become an exquisite dining space with breath-taking views across the Piccadilly Valley. The degustation menu from chef Wayne Brown is edgy and bold with a Japanese focus to local produce and a scintillating wine list curated by sommelier Patrick White. Hardy's Verandah 74 Mount Lofty Summit Rd, Crafers. SUMMERTOWN AND URAIDLA Follow Mount Lofty Summit Road and just a few enjoyable twists and turns up the hill you'll find yourself a culinary world away from Crafers at the Summertown Aristologist. This much-talked about venue is the collaboration of Aaron Fenwick, the former general manager at Restaurant Orana and winemakers Anton van Klopper (Lucy Margaux) and Jasper Button (Commone of Buttons). Housed in a former butcher shop, the vibe embodies a communal epicurean feel. Produce is sought from the kitchen garden or the community of farmers, while artisan bread is baked on premise. 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HAHNDORF The main strip of the historic village of Hahndorf is very touristy and you can find any number of German-inspired pubs where you can eat your weight in bratwurst, but there are two gems in Main Road as well. The Seasonal Garden Café celebrates local produce delivered as delicious wholesome meals such as salads, slow-roasted lamb as well as vegetarian options. Be sure to check out the delightful and relaxing kitchen garden out the back. Seasonal Garden Cafe, 79 Main Rd, Hahndorf Satisfy your sweet tooth at Chocolate @ Number 5. Famed for its waffles and exotic hot chocolates, there's also a range of decadent desserts, chocolate truffles and pralines and coffee sourced from a small batch roastery. Chocolate @ Number 5, 5 Main Rd, Hahndorf. Pay a visit to the iconic Beerenberg farm shop before taking the Balhannah Road north to the The Lane Vineyard and Restaurant, where you are greeted with sweeping views across the region. 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Housed in the old Verdun Post Office (locals still pop in to get their mail) chef/caterer Ali Seedsman and her partner Russell Marchant have opened a funky but unpretentious café. Ali's stellar pedigree (Bayswater Brasserie, Bathers Pavilion, Magill Estate) is evident on the menu - simple but sumptuous shared plates and housemade cakes and pastries. Walk the Talk Café, 25 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun . Still in Verdun, just before you get back on the M1 back to Adelaide, swing up the hill to Maximilian's, acknowledged as one of the best regional restaurants in the state. Casual shared plates, a la carte and chef's degustation journeys matched with wines from the on-site Sidewood Cellar Door. The venue also offers gorgeous views across the lake and vineyard. Maximilian's Restaurant 15 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun .
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Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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