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Life

The d’Arenberg cube

The d’Arenberg motto of “the art of being different” certainly applies to their new cellar door design. “The cube” is a five-storey glass building that will house the cellar door as well as several bars, another restaurant, private tasting rooms and offices.

This ambitious project is the vision of d’Arenberg’s Chester Osborn, who says, “I’ve always considered winemaking to be a puzzle that needs to be put together, a complex combination of geographical elements. This building is yet another puzzle to solve, the external patterns join together for a seamless solution, and ideally, all elements of wine should do the same.”

So next time you’re in McLaren Vale, we highly recommend you check out the progress of the Cube, which is due to open in late 2016. Or if you can’t make it to the region, but you’re curious to check it out, you can view a new image of the construction every 10 minutes at www.darenberg.com.au/cube/

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Wine
Wine Traveler Riverland
Words by Dave Brookes on 28 Dec 2017
While South Australia’s riverland region has always been famous for bulk wine production, innovative local winemakers are changing the landscape by planting a range of grape varieties perfectly suited to the hot, dry climate. As I sit down to pen this brief piece on the Riverland , I’m reminded of the words of that great American philosopher LL Cool J who rhymed, “don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years; I’m rockin my peers; Puttin’ suckers in fear”. Mic drop from Queens. Perhaps I’m getting carried away. I’ve always been told I have a fertile imagination, but who would have thought a decade ago that boutique winemakers from Margaret River to Coonawarra would be sourcing fruit from the Riverland and proudly displaying that fact on their wine labels? The Riverland has always been, along with several other regions that lie along the life-giving artery of the Murray, the engine-room of the Australian wine industry. The Riverland accounts for over 50% of South Australia’s wine crush and around 30% of the national total, some 470,123 tonnes in 2017. It is a very important region for Australian wine. One winery alone, Berri Estates, is the largest grape processor in the southern hemisphere, crushing some 220,000 tonnes of grapes annually or around one-third of the total grape crush of South Australia. Several years ago, I recall driving with the Berri Estates winemaker to the crushers; a journey through a huge truck marshalling area complete with traffic wardens. He turned to me and said, “Can you feel the romance?” Funny, but the sheer scale of the operation was astounding. The Riverland is also a region well aware of the hardships of farming; of extended droughts and the plunging grape prices of boom & bust cycles. But the droughts, while devastating for growers already struggling with low grape prices, have forced some changes for the better. Included among them are sustainable irrigation, drought hardy rootstock and clonal research, and the planting of alternative varieties, or, as one local winemaker described them, “appropriate varieties.” King of grapes
One of the larger producers is Kingston Estate, established by Greek immigrants, Nina & Steve Moularadellis in the mid-1980s after they met picking grapes in the early 1960s. Today, you can still find them in the winery most days, but it is son Bill who steers the ship. Kingston Estate produce a range of wines that offer great value for money and drinking pleasure. Their portfolio centres around the European classic varieties, but for me, when I think of the estate, it is their Petit Verdot that springs to mind and it is certainly a variety they have hung their hat on. Deeply coloured and laden with rich fruit and spice, it possesses an ample structure with plenty of ripe tannin and is a variety that seems to thrive in the warmer climes of the Riverland. Salena Estate, another of the larger operators, has around 520 acres under vine, roughly half of which is certified organic. Their range includes classic varieties, across different price points that provide great drinking, and their ‘Ink’ series concentrates on the ‘appropriate’ varieties with some great examples including Montepulciano , Graciano, Bianco d’Alessano and Vermentino . The Banrock Station cellar door is top-notch with the complete range of wines available for tasting, a great little restaurant if you are feeling peckish and the amazing wetlands ecosystem with walking trails if you need to stretch your legs. The Angove cellar door in Renmark is another must visit for the quality and diversity of their range of wines with fruit sourced from the Riverland and further afield across South Australia. In recent times, the interest in sourcing fruit from the Riverland by winemakers based outside the region has been pleasing to see. There are several factors at play here. Better farming practices and increased interest in some of the varieties that end in ‘O’ that seem well suited to the region are certainly in the mix. Another is the tireless efforts, boundless energy and great farming nous of Ashley Ratcliff of Ricca Terra Farms, who has done much to raise the profile of the Riverland as a source of well-farmed, alternative varieties. Part of this nous was knowing when to take a risk on doing something new. As he explains, “During the boom times in the Riverland, grape prices were up and getting people to change their practices was hard. Why would you decrease your yields and plant new varieties? When things turned, however, others panicked, but we were brave; buying up vineyards and planting alternative varieties that now fetch sustainable prices.” Ashley’s Ricca Terra Farms is just outside Bamera and is planted with many of the varieties that are now sought after in the region – Nero d’Avola , Fiano , Vermentino , Montepulciano , Zibbibo, Muscato Giallo and the curiously named, Slankamenca Bela. As well as supplying grapes for other winemakers, Ashley has his own ‘Ricca Terra’ label featuring inventive blends of these varieties. Another producer riding the wave of the alternative varieties that are well-suited to the Riverland is Alex Russell Wines. Viticulturist and winemaker Alex Russell crafts a range of delicious wines from Montepulciano, Vermentino, and Lagrein to Nero d’Avola, Saperavi and Graciano. Alex’s range of wines hold true to the tenet that a wines ‘raison d’etre’ is to be above all else, delicious to drink and they have picked up a swathe of awards at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show in Mildura . small names, big impression
Other small local producers who farm in a thoughtful, sustainable fashion to seek out include Whistling Kite, whose biodynamically farmed range includes a fantastic Petit Manseng and a Montepulciano that is a benchmark for the region. The organically farmed Bassham Wines is another, with delicious, racy whites including Vermentino and Fiano, along with lovely examples of Lagrein, Nero d’Avola and Graciano. Also check out 919 Wines, whose range of table wines provides beautiful drinking across both the classic and alternative varieties, including a killer Pale Dry Apera style. And last but not least, the Delinquent Wine Co has a fantastic range of funkily packaged wines for “drinkin, not thinkin”, featuring new wave varieties, including the very drinkable Bianco d’Alessano Pet Nat Sparkling. Of the producers from further afield who proudly source fruit from the Riverland, the list is growing. Sue Bell from Bellwether Wines in Coonawarra produces a fantastic, award-winning Nero d’Avola Rosé and crisp, textural Bianco d’Alessano; Margaret River based winemaker Brad Wehr of Amato Vino produces a dangerously drinkable Riverland range including a wonderful Slankamenca Bela. In the Adelaide Hills, Unico Zela features amazing Fiano, Nero d’Avola and an enchanting skin-contact white blend. And from McLaren Vale, ex-NYC sommelier Brad Hickey of Brash Higgins Wines crafts a heady, textural Zibbibo using grapes from Ricca Terra Farms vineyard. a bright future
Riverland is on the up and up and if you haven’t sampled its wines, now is the time. Perhaps its reputation has been unfairly tarnished as a source of lower-end, bulk wine offerings, but today the wines have never been better and there is an undercurrent of innovation, sustainable viticulture and experimentation that bodes very well for its future.
Wine
Australia's emerging wine regions: making their presence felt!
This Aussie Wine Month we're exploring some of the emerging wine regions across Australia. While they're not as well-known as some of the big guns, Orange, Canberra, Geographe and the Granite Belt are all producing fantastic quality wines. Plus, discover Riverland's new look and new take on alternative varietals.   Orange Located in the central west of NSW, about 280kms west of Sydney, the cool climate region of Orange is producing exceptional Sauvignon Blanc , Chardonnay , Merlot and Pinot Noir , and has winemakers from across the state vying for its premium fruit. Sitting at almost 900m above sea level and with some vineyards climbing to 1100m, Orange is the highest wine region in Australia. It's this altitude coupled with the volcanic soils of Mount Canobolas that make its Sauvignon Blanc so amazing. Of the almost 40 wine producers in the region, nearly all make a Sauvignon Blanc and all have their own style - fresh and fruity, subtle yet complex, pure and minerally, barrel fermented and rich. The region's most common expression of Sauv Blanc is the fresh, intense fruit-driven style. 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. Chardonnay also thrives in Orange's cool climate as does Pinot Noir and Shiraz . The best Pinots are perfumed, earthy and very inviting and that's what you get in Orange - seductive and charming in their youth, they don't need lengthy cellaring. Shiraz performs well across the different elevations - the richer styles come from the lower elevations, while those from higher vineyards are medium-bodied and spicy. Alternative varieties also have a huge future in the region. Look for Sangiovese, Barbera, Vermentino , Grüner Veltliner, Arneis, Zinfandel, Tempranillo , and Barbera. Browse our range of Orange wines    Canberra Although grape growing and winemaking in the Canberra district dates back to the 1840s, production went into a dramatic decline, and it wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that the industry was rekindled in the region. Over the last 20 years, there has been growing interest in the region, and the three sub-regions of Bungendore/Lake George, Hall and Murrumbateman are now home to around 110 vineyards with approximately 450 hectares under vine. The Canberra region experiences a strongly continental climate with a high diurnal temperature range (cold nights and hot summer days) and generally a cool harvest season. Some vineyards are planted on near-alpine slopes with cool autumns contributing to elegant cool-climate Shiraz , Pinot Noir , Cabernet , and Riesling , while those on the lower slopes create full-flavoured Chardonnay and Shiraz. A number of alternative varietals are also on the increase with small plantings of Sangiovese , Tempranillo , Malbec, Marsanne, Roussanne, Graciano and Grüner Veltliner producing fantastic quality wines. Browse our range of Canberra wines   Granite Belt Three hours south-west of Brisbane on the southern Darling Downs, the Granite Belt is situated around Queensland's apple capital, Stanthorpe. Surprisingly, its first plantings of grapes date back to 1820 and precedes Victorian and South Australian regions by 15-plus years. While Queensland is usually thought of as having a hot or tropical climate, the Granite Belt has some of Australia's highest altitude vineyards and it's the associated cool climate that is the perfect setting for the region's fine boned, European-style wines. Think medium-bodied, savoury reds with fine tannins and pronounced acidity. In the whites, expect lighter, citrus driven styles with elegant layers and fine acid lines. Adding to the Granite Belt's wine identity is the fact it excels in alternative styles. While you'll certainly find mainstream varieties like Shiraz, Cabernet and Chardonnay, the real excitement comes from discoveries like Fiano, Vermentino, Chenin Blanc, Savagnin, Barbera, Graciano, Durif, Nebbiolo and Tannat. Browse our range of Granite Belt wines here   Geographe Located just two hours south of Perth, this historic region gets its name from French explorer Nicholas Baudin whose boat was called Le Geographe. He chanced upon the area in 1802 and was no doubt impressed by the stunning coastline and rolling hills surrounding. One of Australia's most geographically diverse regions, today Geographe is also one of WA's most exciting emerging regions and home to many diverse styles of wines and boutique wineries creating wines with regional distinction. There are four districts in the region: Harvey, Donnybrook, Capel and Ferguson all with their own unique terroir and topography, but it is the cooling afternoon sea breezes from Geographe Bay that ensure a long stable growing season and that help create the local style of wine. Look for stunning Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, plus alternatives Arneis, Chenin Blanc, Tempranillo and Nebbiolo. Browse our range of Geographe wines   Riverland A warm climate region, Riverland is located east of the South Australia's Barossa Valley and extends for 330 km along the Murray River from Paringa to Blanchetown. Producing up to 30% of Australia's annual crush, it's the largest wine producing region in Australia and home to 1,000 wine grape growers representing 20,600 hectares of vines. Once known for growing fruit for large scale production, Riverland is now being recognised for turning its talents to exciting and premium alternative varieties like Petit Verdot, Montepulciano, Nero d'Avola, Tempranillo, Fiano, Arneis and Vermentino. Fiano particularly, is giving local winemakers a chance to show they can make exciting, cutting-edge wines. Browse our range of Riverland wines  
Wine
Talking with Taylors
In celebration of the Taylors Merlot 2014 being the Wine Selectors Wine of the Month for April, we caught up with Chief Winemaker Adam Eggins to talk Taylors and winemaking. You’ve had huge success at Taylors with Merlot, what makes it such an appealing red variety and what’s the secret to getting it right? Merlot is challenging. The French say Merlot is very fickle, very demanding. The site must be perfect, the soil, the drainage, the amount of wind and sunshine. Ultimately, your belief in Merlot is what drives your winemaking approach. Everyone tells me we have the wrong clones in this country. I think not. We may have Merlot in the wrong viticultural sites and we may be approaching the variety with the wrong mind set, however, Merlot can be one of the world’s greatest wines so the question becomes what can we do or not do to release its worldly potential. Tannins are important, or more importantly, the carefully controlled lack of over extraction. Our Merlots are cuvee wines, predominantly free-run, which has greater levels of aromatic intensity and a natural beautiful delicacy for which the variety is renowned. What makes working for such a historic family-owned winery so special? Making wines for the Taylors family is very special. Wine is in their blood and every decision we make is in the best interest of their wines, as ultimately their wines are their brand. The family thinks generationally and makes decisions for a sustainable future. Working against drought conditions, your first vintage with Taylors was a challenge? Are the challenging vintages sometimes the most rewarding? South Australia is a beautiful winemaking climate, but we can have it all: drought, bushfire, heatwave and flood and a bit of frost and hail to boot. The tough years can produce spectacular wines and it feels like they are more deserving, as you may have had to look harder to find them. The great years are a pleasure too, however, and South Australia is generally blessed with how many great seasons. We can have somewhere around 6-7 out of 10 vintages rate incredibly highly. What’s your favourite wine style to make? Is it also your favourite to drink? To make, it’s probably Shiraz , the sheer colour and flavour spectrums available are fascinating to work with and I also love how the variety absorbs and harmonises with the right level of the right oak. To drink, it’s much harder. Great Chardonnay has incredible appeal, as can Riesling and Pinot Noir and our finest Cabernets can’t be beat in the middle of winter. Of late, I have a growing interest in Tempranillo and taste it as often as I can, especially the lovely wines of Rioja. What’s been your most memorable winemaking moment? To be honest, there is no one moment, but many. What we like doing is some small scale research to raise the quality bar, then the following vintage taking it to large scale process to have a quality impact on an affordable wine. We have been researching the early application of oak with St Andrews Shiraz for many years, which has worked well, but our greatest honour is when our ~$18 rrp Estate Shiraz won the Best Shiraz in Australia twice, against all competitors. Why is this more special? Well, the wine is affordable and widely available, so that people all around the country can enjoy it. This is largely Taylor’s philosophy, to make great wines in an affordable scale. What makes the Clare Valley such a special region to make wine in? I have asked myself that many times and I rate Clare equally with two other regions – Margaret River and the Yarra Valley . These regions have the potential to do many things well. World Class Riesling , Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and possibly in the future Tempranillo can be achieved in the Clare Valley. Not many regions have this depth of potential that the Clare Valley offers. It is an unusual combination of the heat of the region and its altitude and the proximity to the coastline that gives us beautiful ripening weather during the day, but very cool evenings, which helps retain natural elegance and restraint. Taylors certainly has an admirable approach to sustainability. Do you think enough Australian wineries are doing their bit for the environment? Taylors are very disciplined about making decisions based around sustainability. This can involve employees, growers, vineyards, winemaking approaches and/or our community. Yalumba is another company who excels in this area. I wish more companies would be more active in this space, however, I do understand that for many wine businesses the core focus is the retail sale and the state of the market. The benefits of family companies are often they can take a broader, much longer term, generational view of the industry, which will often lead to a better outcome for all.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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