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Wine

Meet Andrew Thomas of Thomas Wines

We catch up with Andrew Thomas – Hunter Valley winemaker, regional champion and diehard Swans supporter, whose Gold medal-winning Synergy Shiraz 2014 is our July Wine of the Month.

The Hunter Valley is especially renowned for producing exceptional Shiraz and Semillon – what makes it so special?

A very unique combination of old vines, ancient soils and our relatively warm climate. Generally speaking, the Semillons are best suited to our sandy/loam alluvial flats and the Shiraz to the heavier clay/loams on the slopes and hills.

Your focus at Thomas Wines is very much on Shiraz and Semillon – why?

When I started Thomas Wines, I made a very clear decision to specialise in the signature varieties of the region. It’s kind of a European approach, but it’s more about brand integrity – making a range of world-class wines rather than just producing everything for everyone.

Your Cellar Door recently won Cellar Door of the Year at the 2017 Hunter Valley Legends Awards – how was that?

It was a great honour, particularly since we opened the doors of our own dedicated cellar door destination literally only 18 months ago. The wines are obviously a no-brainer, but the award really goes to my amazing staff who deliver our message in a fun, yet educational way, every day of the week.

Can you recall the first wine you tried?

It’s hard to remember the very first wine I tried, but I do recall tasting an amazing textural Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre when I was about 17 years old. This wine inspired me to get into winemaking and the rest is history. Interesting memory, because these days I would rarely drink any Sauvignon Blanc!

What is your all-time favourite wine memory (other than a wine itself)?

It’d be a tie between the first time I saw one of my wines being ordered across the room in a restaurant, and the first time I was awarded Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year.

Other than your own wine, what is the wine that you like to drink at home?

We drink wine from all over the world, so it’s hard to be specific but at the moment we seem to be drinking a lot of Chablis, particularly from the 2014 vintage.

What’s your ultimate food + wine match?

Young Hunter Valley Semillon and sashimi.

What is your favourite…

 

Way to spend a weekend off?

Head to the big smoke and watch the mighty Sydney Swans in action.

Holiday destination?

Europe. Next trip is long overdue…

Time of the year/season?

Vintage. It’s basically 24/7 for six to eight weeks, but the adrenalin kicks in to keep you going for the most important time of the winemaking year.

Movie?

Pulp Fiction

Restaurant?

Lunch – Bistro Molines

Dinner – Muse Restaurant

Footy team?

Could only be the mighty Sydney Swans!

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Wine
Debortoli Dream Vertical – Taste of Yarra
Words by Paul Diamond on 4 Dec 2017
Leanne De Bortoli and Steve Webber put on a tasting that reflects 30 years of Yarra Valley history. It’s almost 30 years since newly wedded Leanne De Bortoli and Steve Webber headed to the Yarra Valley to take up the family dream of building a cool climate addition to De Bortoli’s wine portfolio . Much has happened in those decades and the De Bortoli offering is, like the family itself, getting better with age. To reflect this, Selector headed to the Yarra, where Steve and Leanne dug out some old bottles and dusted off the stories that came with them. Where it all began
Vittorio De Bortoli from Castelcucco in Italy’s alpine north, immigrated to Australia in 1924, leaving his young fiancé Giuseppina behind. He landed in Melbourne, but soon found himself in the newly irrigated Riverina , sleeping under a water tower and eating from his vegetable patch. After four years, he had saved enough to buy a farm and send for Giuseppina. In the first year of Vittorio and Giuseppina’s Bilbul farm, there was a glut of grapes, so Vittorio constructed a concrete tank and crushed 15 tonnes, officially kicking off De Bortoli Wines. Deen makes his mark With Giuseppina and Vittorio together, the farm thrived and they soon had three children: Florrie, Eola and Deen. Of the three, Deen was fascinated with the machines that operated the winery and as he got older became a permanent fixture. He was a passionate about progress and as the responsibility passed from Vittorio to Deen, he began expanding, experimenting and looking toward the future. Deen married Emeri Cunial, a Griffith girl with Castelcucco heritage and soon the third generation – Darren, Leanne, Kevin and Victor – arrived. The third generation
Deen’s passion for wine was passed down to all his children. Oldest son Darren, now managing director, studied winemaking at Roseworthy College and decided to experiment with botrytis affected Semillon grapes . That wine eventually became the highly awarded 1982 Noble One that propelled De Bortoli to become one of Australia’s great wine brands. Third born Kevin pursued viticulture and now manages the 300 ha of the family estate that produces some 60,000 tonnes of grapes per vintage, while Victor, the youngest, is export manager. Leanne followed her brother Darren to Roseworthy and completed a diploma in wine marketing and was advised by her big brother, “whatever you do, don’t marry a winemaker!” But she did exactly that and married Steve Webber, who was making wine for Leo Buring and Lindeman’s. In 1987, the family purchased the Dixon’s Creek property in the northern edge of the Yarra Valley , which Leanne and Steve moved to in 1989, beginning the Yarra chapter of the De Bortoli story. To help tell it, Steve and Leanne presented us with a range of wines that best reflect their Yarra journey.  The Tasting
​ Sauvignon Blanc is a polarising variety, so it makes sense that Steve and Leanne did not add the ‘blanc’ to their labels. Plus, their versions are textural and savoury, inspired by the Sancerres of the Loire rather than those from across the ditch. “They need to be delicious, and great with food,” said Steve. “When we went to France, we loved the delicate, savoury wines of Sancerre and we decided that was what we wanted to make here.” The 08 Estate Sauvignon was surprisingly fresh, fine boned and creamy, whilst the 2010 single Vineyard PHI, and the mouth-wateringly juicy 2017 Vinoque reinforced that Steve and Leanne make wines they are proud to share at their table. The evolution of Chardonnay Next came the 1990 Estate Chardonnay and as the first wine they made at Dixon’s Creek, it was a treat to taste and contemplate how far Steve’s winemaking and Australian Chardonnay have come . “When I think about some of the wine we made in the early days, we thought we were doing some pretty amazing things,” Steve recalled. “But really we were just babes in the woods.” “Now we have a greater understanding of climate, viticulture and how to approach winemaking, with less interference, letting the wines make themselves.” The 2000 was in great shape with secondary stonefruit, fig and nut aromas and a poised, fleshy, peach-lined palate, but the next three wines really illustrated Steve’s points. As we moved from the 2005 Estate to the 2015 Reserve and the 2015 A5 Section it was like the volume was turned up on complexity, minerality and concentration, while the background noise of weight, oakey textures and mouth-feel was quietly turned off. The A5 Section Chardonnay topped the bracket as it had the greatest complexity, but was delivered without weight, showing citrus blossom characters, with mouth-watering flinty minerals. Reflecting on Pinot
Pinot was next and the same evolution was occurring. Less new oak and a focus on producing perfume not structure became evident as we moved from the 2000 and 2005 Estate and 2005 PHI, through to the glorious 2010 and 2010 PHI from the recently acquired Lusatia Park vineyards. “Pinot has to taste like it is grown, not made,” Steve remarked as we finish discussing the merits of the 2010 and 2014 Phi Pinots . “When it comes to winemaking, it’s sometimes really hard to do nothing, to sit back and let the wines find their way. But that’s when you start to see texture and finesse come into play and reflect this place.” The conversation then turned to the future as we tried three styles that reflect a desire to show the potential of blends and lighter styles reds. The Vinoque Pinot Meunier/Pinot Noir blend was light, concentrated and dangerously delicious. The Vinoque Gamay Noir was in the same vein, but with appealing layers of dried strawberries, rose petals and savoury blackberries and the Gamay/Syrah blend from the La Bohéme range showed that Gamay, particularly as a blending partner with something with more concentration and tannin, has a bright future in Australia. This wine was silky and textural with the fruit hallmarks of Shiraz, but with a soft and juicy red fruit casing. You Say Shiraz, I Say Syrah
Shiraz was next, or I should say Syrah, as this is what Leanne and Steve call most of their Shiraz, as it’s closer to the European, savoury and mid weighted style. The 1992 Estate bottle showed how beautifully these wines can age with delicious leathery development and a soft core of plummy, black cherry fruits. The 1999 was similar, whilst the still very youthful 2004 Reserve was mirroring the stylistic, bright fruited, savoury and textural changes that had occurred with Chardonnay and Pinot at that time. The 2008s, one with Viognier, one without, were both excellent; broody and lifted with silky mocha lines. Lastly came the 2014 and possibly the most exciting Australian Shiraz tasted all year. Juicy and complex with fine layers of mace, five spice, white pepper and mountain herbs, it had soft tannins and layers of acid that make the mouth hum. Looking ahead The De Bortolis have certainly put their stamp on the world of wine and equally, Leanne and Steve on the Yarra. Their genuine love for the place that they call home shines through in the wines they produce and share. As for the next chapter, Steve and Leanne are keen to provide a sustainable future for their kids and enjoy their home. “The Yarra is a beautiful part of the world,” said Leanne. “There’s a wonderful food and wine culture with cool people doing cool things with gin, beer, cider, wine and food. What’s not to love?" Enjoy a De Bortoli dream tasting of your own De Bortoli Section A5 single Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Restrained, fine and seductive with elderflower, lime and peach blossom aromas and balanced layers of white peach, citrus and grapefruit flavours. De Bortoli PHI Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Captivating and ethereal with complex dark cherry, stalk and mineral aromatics. The palate is savoury, textural and fine with plums, spice and blackberries. De Bortoli Section A8 Syrah 2016 Concentrated and fine with perfumed, floral, black fruit and spice aromas. Generous, mid weighted and savoury, dominated by cherries and plums.
Wine
Meet Leconfield Winemaker Paul Gordon
Paul Gordon is the Senior Winemaker at Leconfield Wines, having joined this iconic Coonawarra winery in 2001, and is the man responsible for our June Wine of the Month, the Leconfield Cabernet Merlot 2014 . We catch up to talk to him about his love of wine and life beyond the vats. Can you recall the first wine you tried? Wine was very much a Christmas and Easter drink at our house. I have to admit to having had the odd illicit glass of 'Cold Duck' - which is showing my age - or perhaps a sparkling white. An Aunt indulged in bottles of Yalumba Galway 'Claret', which would have been my first taste of a dry red - I can't recall my reaction to it, but it could well have been the wine that sparked my interest in the industry in my teenage years. Of course, there were also the cooking 'sherries', which slowly evaporated between trifles! What is your all-time favourite wine memory (other than a wine itself)? There are many great memories - perhaps vintage Champagne with Chateaubriand steak in Epernay, the La Chapelle at Pic restaurant in the Rhône Valley or a Super Tuscan at one of those never-ending Italian lunches. Other than your own wine, what is the wine that you like to drink at home? I enjoy older Riesling or Semillon and am in search of the best Grenache from Spain or Southern France. Luckily, there is always a bottle handy of McLaren Vale Shiraz or Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon when the imported Grenache fails to live up to its promise. What's your ultimate food + wine match? The ultimate match for food and wine is good company! I don't have a particular 'go-to' wine, but I would say that I enjoy elegant and fine wines that invite a second or third glass, over something that is too rich. So perhaps a good start would be a fine Riesling with sashimi, Coonawarra Merlot with a steak tartare, then Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon with a rare backstrap of lamb. What is your favourite… Book? It tends to be the one I'm currently reading, which is Oystercatchers by Susan Fletcher. A few from this year: Antony Beevor's Stalingrad, Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel. Movie? If I was locked in a theatre for a week, I would insist on Krzysztof Kieslowski's ageless trilogy, Three Colours Red White and Blue, and The Double Life of Veronique. Restaurant? If I was to define a preferred type of restaurant, then shared plates or degustation is my style. But no steak - our local 'Meek's' butcher is so good that few restaurants can provide meat of the quality that can surpass one locally sourced and cooked at home. Locally, 'Pipers of Penola' has won so many awards for best regional restaurant in South Australia that it is a must place to dine. Time of day/night - why? I'm definitely a morning person. However, I do aspire one day to be able to sleep in. I'm notorious for falling asleep at dinner parties and at the theatre.
Wine
The Story of Yalumba
Words by Paul Diamond on 15 May 2017
Cabernet and Grenache are two essential chapters in the story of Yalumba. Join us as we uncover the characters and the plot behind their creations with a dream vertical tasting in the Barossa As Australia’s oldest family wine brand, Yalumba has a rich history packed with incredible stories. And, like any family, the tales offer more about the individuals and their character than the brand itself. As time passes, these stories meld and form an identity that ultimately shapes the family’s place in the world. Yalumba is bursting with such yarns and if you visit its home, just outside Angaston in the  Barossa Valley , you will see mementoes of these moments, memories and people everywhere. As for the brand, ‘Yalumba’ is an Indigenous word that translates to ‘all the land around’ and is now connected to its home, the winery and cellar door just outside Angaston. This impressive structure, complete with clock tower, is made from Angaston marble and it stands as a five-generational, 168-year statement in winemaking vision and commitment. Interestingly, Yalumba’s story began not with wine, but beer, when brewer Samuel Smith came to South Australia in 1849. With the help of his son Sidney, Samuel set up shop and started planting vines on 30 acres on their land. Today, the Yalumba empire is considered a multi-regional, multi-layered, modern, family wine business that has plenty of products across a wide brand portfolio.  Most people will have a Yalumba taste or experience to call on if required, but what about the lesser known stories? Thankfully, a recent Yalumba tasting helped bring a couple of significant ones to light: its commitment to  Coonawarra  and its undertaking to  Grenache .    AN ODE TO SIR ROBERT Former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, who was well known for his love of Claret, once declared that a 1962 Yalumba Coonawarra was, “the greatest wine he had tasted.” Someone at Yalumba took note and in 1987 the first ‘The Menzies’ was born.  Today, The Menzies, under the custodial care of winemaker Natalie Cleghorn, is classic Coonawarra and represents the best of Yalumba’s Cabernet plantings on the magic terra rossa strip. The Menzies is a serious wine, built to last with elegant measures of everything – structure, complexity, balance and long term cellaring potential. From the current 2013 to the soon to be released 2014, all the way back to the original 1987 vintage, the bracket proved that this wine deserves its place in the Yalumba narrative.  Natalie, originally from the  Adelaide Hills , came to Yalumba to work in the lab and loves the frame that Cabernet offers to the winemaker’s palate. “To me, Coonawarra Cabernet is a building block; fruit and flavours are on top of the presence of its structure,” she explains. “When it comes to wine, it’s like looking at a beautiful building. It’s a hard thing to describe, but it’s about creating something that will live for a long time.” Structure is key when it comes to Coonawarra  Cabernet  and the impact of that factor in the life of a wine was not lost when we tasted the 1987 vintage of The Menzies. Fine and elegant with buckets of dusty violets, blackcurrants, cassis and chocolate flavours beguile the nose and palate, while the texture of this wine in the mouth is quite stunning.  HOLD THE OPULENCE Next up was  The Cigar , made from the same vineyards as The Menzies, but designed to be less opulent and therefore more of an approachable Coonawarra Cabernet statement.   The Cigar was first released in 2006, but has been steadily gaining popularity since. Now part of the ‘Distinguished Sites’ range, this wine shows controlled intensity and classic Cabernet flavours with satisfying, well-toned complexity and length. A standout was the 2013 for its dense blackcurrant and tobacco leaf aromatics balanced by a juicy palate of elegant black and red fruits. The not yet released 2014 shows plenty of elegant, feminine beauty and medium weighted potential, soon to become a new character in the Yalumba story.  A CHAPTER REBORN Grenache has been a blending partner with  Shiraz  and Mourvèdre for years, but only recently has the thick skinned, late ripening variety gained attention as a single expression.  Ironically, while it’s thought of as an alternative grape in Australia, Grenache was one of the first to be widely planted here and the Barossa has some of the country’s oldest vines. Yalumba has long recognised the important part this variety will play in its story and has entrusted it to senior red winemaker, Kevin Glastonbury.  Kevin has spent his working life in the Barossa and has been at Yalumba since 1999. Highly regarded and respected, he has a real soft spot for Grenache’s many vivid expressions and unique power to weight potential. Kevin has been on a Grenache crusade and all his wines are beautiful expressions of versatility, each with its own tale.  “One of my personal goals when I joined Yalumba was to bring focus onto Grenache, mainly because it’s my favourite single variety to work with,” Kevin describes. “Consumers are appreciating that Grenache isn’t just another big Barossa or  McLaren Vale  red wine. They are now wines of finesse and texture, with techniques like whole bunch fermentation playing a big role.  “At Yalumba, we have seen incredible growth with Grenache. When I started here 18 years ago, we had a couple of Grenache wines. Now we are making it in two Rosé styles, five single varietal wines, and one blended with Shiraz and Mataro. It is really fantastic to see how Grenache is being appreciated.” And with resources like the 820 gnarly, 128-year-old bush vines that Kevin has at his disposal for theTri-Centenary Grenache, it is easy to see why he is a happy Barossan. The Tri-Centenary line-up going back to 2005 was incredible. These wines are light, almost  Pinot Noir -like in weight, but all possess incredible depth and complexity. From the rustic, heady aromas and tart-ripe cherries of the 2005, to the exotic truffle and blackberry aromatics and rounded length of the 2011, these wines express a depth and intensity that is quite special.  WEIGHTY WONDERS Next bracket of wines were the Carriage Block Grenache planted in 1954 in the valley’s north towards Kalimna by local train driver at the time, Elmore Schulz. These wines showed a little more weight that the Tri-Centenary wines, but had wonderful layers of bright cherries, spices and raspberries. With all that ripe fruit you would expect some sweetness, but surprisingly, both wines had an attractive savoury finish. To finish up, we looked at the 2015 and 2016 Vine Vale wines, yet another expression of the Yalumba Grenache tale. These wines expressed a gamey, savoury complexity that was charming and again, exhibited bags of power and finesse, but in a light-weighted frame. As a variety that loves the warmth, Grenache can sometimes exude alcohol heat, but none of Kevin’s wines had fallen victim to this curse. Grenache is a wonderful old part of the Yalumba story that, through the support of the Hill-Smith family and the drive of Kevin, has become a new chapter. Similarly with Cabernet, Coonawarra and Natalie, we will start to see new stories emerge and find their as part of the bigger Yalumba picture.  If you haven’t formed your own Yalumba impression, you should take a closer look, the wines and the story are definitely worth it.  THE WINES OF THE TASTING Yalumba The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1987, 1995, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2014  Yalumba The Cigar Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 2010, 2013, 2014 Yalumba The Tri-Centenary Grenache 2005, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 Yalumba Carriage Block Grenache 2015, 2016 Yalumba Vine Vale Grenache 2015, 2016 RARE, FINE AND DISTINGUISHED YALUMBA WINES
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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