Charming Character - Coriole Dream Vertical
Recently into its second half century, McLaren Vale’s Coriole is renowned for its pioneering approach to alternate varieties, which now float inthe mainstream. Yet, at a recent tasting, Selector discovered there is more goingon at Coriole than keen foresight.
History’s influence on identity is undeniable, especially with wine regions. When you think of South Australia and wine, images of blue slate and ironstone cottages drift to vine vistas and yellow/brown fields sprinkled with long retired agricultural remnants. Despite impressive interjections of modernity, the Barossa and Clare valleys embody the above image, celebrating their past and present identities as one in look, feel and taste.
But what about the state’s oldest wine region? Wedged between the encroach of urban sprawl, the Mount Lofty Ranges and the Mediterranean-esqe Gulf St Vincent, McLaren Vale has an identity that is quite different.
McLaren Vale has its share of colonial fingerprints sown throughout, but amongst that is a wide array of things that point in all sorts of directions. The result of it all is charming, and driving this personality is art, architecture and culture, each element contributing to its reputation as one of our most progressive and innovative wine regions.
Assistant winemaker Andy Zolotarev (left) and Coriole GM Peter Lloyd (right) taste the fruits of their labour.
The golden hue of Coriole's Fiano.
A Passion Project
One name that has helped shape the contemporary Vale is Coriole. Started in 1967 by Hugh and Mary Kathleen “Molly” Lloyd, with friends Doug and Mary Collett, Coriole began as a weekend agri-escape from their lives in Adelaide. Previously known as Clark’s Hill, the property had 6ha of Shiraz, Grenache and Doradillo, a white Spanish variety used for fortified wine and brandy.
The Lloyds took full ownership of the property before the release of its first wine in 1970, a “Claret” made from Shiraz; an accepted form of varietal appropriation at the time. This was corrected a couple of years later, and the Shiraz-labelled wines from Coriole gained quite a following.
Peter Lloyd, Andy Zolotarev and Paul Diamond tasting.
Cultured Foundations at Coriole
Hugh was a doctor with a sizable practice and Molly was a nurse and artist. Coriole soon became a social place, shaped by music, art and entertainment, despite Hugh’s father’s disapproval.
“My grandfather was first in a long generational line not to become a Methodist minister,” explained Peter Lloyd, GM and 3rd-generation Coriole-Lloyd. “They were all tee-totallers and I think it caused some tension between him and his father that he pursued winemaking as part of his interests,” Mark continued.
“It was frowned upon in those days, not because of the wine necessarily, but because he was from a medical background and there was a perception at the time that people drank for the sake of it. But in reality my grandfather, grandmother and my father really enjoyed the social aspect of getting together, enjoying music, eating and sharing wine.”
Inspiration and Evolution of Coriole
As the 70s moved into the 80s, Lloyd and Molly’s son Mark, a science teacher who had inherited his parents’ love for music, culture and the arts, returned home to McLaren Vale after travelling around Europe making wine and olive oil. The family then took over 100% ownership of Coriole and Mark began looking at diversifying the business.
Inspired by what he had seen overseas and various people along the way, Mark began to take Coriole beyond the varieties that were dominating the market at the time. He planted Touriga, Chenin Blanc, Sangiovese, Fiano and later Piquepoul and Montepulciano. At the time, wine was beginning to boom.
The business was reasonably small, but the culture and charm that now defines Coriole was being slowly defined by the approach the Lloyd family was taking to their property, wines and lifestyle.
Andy Zolotarev and Peter Lloyd sipping Sangiovese.
Planted in the 70s, Chenin Blanc is Coriole’s primary white. Hailing from France’s Loire Valley, Chenin has the ability to be many things; big and juicy, sweet and round, and can make decent Sparkling. But in Coriole’s case the wines are more akin to the styles of Vouvray: aromatic, concentrated and dry, characterised by citrus, apples and pears.
Coriole’s Chenins have an appealing, elegant intensity with a savoury minerality that underlines the fruit characters. And, like their great cousins from Vouvray, have the ability to age gracefully. Standouts were the 2005 with a youthful sour/sweet palate balance, and the 2021 with a delicious mix of citrus, pear and apple that is destined to age as well, if not better than the 2005.
A highlight was the single vineyard Optimist, characteristic of the estate Chenin, but with extra minerality, definition, power, and an engaging concentration of quinces, apples and stone fruits.
Coriole's Sangiovese line-up.
First Fiano at Coriole
Australia’s first Fiano was planted in 2001 and released by Coriole in 2005. A native of Campagna, this thick-skinned variety has found popularity in Australia for its wide stylistic potential and its ability to handle heat in the vineyard. Stylistically Coriole’s Fiano’s are juicy and generous and defined by pineapple, herbs, almonds and flower aromatics with luscious layers of crunchy stone fruits, nectarine and white peaches.
The 2013 stood out for its youthful balance and intensity, the 2019 for its fresh quince aromas and fleshy pear purity. The reserve “Rubato” Fiano was another highlight, celebrating Fiano’s textural potential with flinty, earth-driven aromatics, and a pronounced acid profile adding definition and balance to the finer fruit layers of pear, honey, ginger and hazelnuts.
Sangio Starters at Coriole
Since planting the first Australian Sangiovese in 1985, the Lloyds have maintained their focus for this variety. “Sangiovese has been tough but it’s in a sweet spot now,” explained Peter.
“Back then we had no direction or reference point for the variety here – it simply didn’t exist. We had our “wicker basket”, “cheap and cheerful” version of Chianti but that was it! Now, its our most important wine.”
Mid-weighted, savoury and elegant, the care shown for these wines is evident in the glass. All the way back to the 1995, character and detail shines through. The older wines had leathery aromatics of earth, cherries, and dried thyme with soft, creamy palates and the youthful versions had finely textured, savoury palates laden with cherries, chinotto, herbs and earth.
Standouts were the 1995 for its regal poise, the 2004 for its mouthfeel, the 2012 for its light finesse, and the 2018 for its sour, sweet and savoury tension.
Then, a taste of the 2020 Laneway Single Vineyard Sangiovese. A benchmark wine: fine, delicate and ethereal with smokey, Campari-tinged aromatics and a fine, creamy mouthfeel laced with beautifully soft, savoury fruit layers.
The Coriole estate's original old barn, built in 1860, now serves as Coriole's cellar door.
Andy Zolotarev and Peter Lloyd wandering through the Coriole winery.
Family Reserve of Coriole
The family flagship, the Lloyd Reserve Shiraz, comes from 100-plus-year-old vines and maintains the family fingerprint of savoury-driven elegance. Despite the obvious ability to age, these wines are intensely compact yet maintain an almost medium-bodied weight and mouthfeel, which is unique for McLaren Vale Shiraz. Standouts were the 1990 for its creamy grandeur, the 1991 for its savoury detail, and the 2016 for its elegance and finesse.
At Coriole, much has been achieved in a relatively short period. Over three generations, the family has pioneered varieties and contributed to their journey from obscurity to mainstream; have built a cellar door and restaurant that is a must-visit; and together have crafted a desirable folio of wines that reflects themselves and their approach to wine, hospitality and life. It’s a charming thing.