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Wine

Meet Charles Smedley from Mandala Wines

We catch up with Charles Smedley – Yarra Valley winemaker, Pinot-fan and the owner and winemaker of Mandala Wines.  

Can you recall the first wine you tried?

I can’t recall the first wine I tasted (one of the side effects, I suppose), but I do remember the first significant wine I tasted where I had a ‘wow’ moment – it was a 1987 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz – an absolute game changer.

When did you fall in love with wine?

I really fell in love with wine when I was about 19 or 20 years old; I was working in Clochmerel Cellars in Albert Park and studying at William Angliss.

Do you remember that moment? What happened?

Well, it was around that time that I started to spend money on wine to see if there was a noticeable difference. My mate Richard and I spent some $25 (1991) as to the normal $5 on a bottle and went for an Indian dinner…it was that night that we said: ‘THIS is why you spend money on wine’, and really understood the potential a good quality wine can have on an occasion, experience or meal.

Do you have an all-time favourite wine? Why is it this wine?

I don’t have an all-time favourite, but what makes me tick is when a bottle of wine exceeds all expectations and sharing that experience with family or friends.

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

I’d have to say my first trip travelling through Burgundy and just soaking up the history and technique of the region’s winemaking (it’s still the same for every trip there since); the barrel tastings were just superb. I also have fond memories of blending time at the winery!

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

Timo Mayer Pinot Noir

What is your ultimate food and wine match.

Any type of game and Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is, and has always been my passion, it brought me to the Yarra Valley years ago. The versatility of the grape means it can work with pretty much any meal but game, namely duck cassoulet and Pinot Noir (Gevrey Chambertin), would be the winner in my eyes.

Can you cook? If so, what is your ‘signature dish’?

I come from a family of cooks and chefs, so I started working in restaurant kitchens from when I was about 12 years old. Suckling pig is my signature dish.

What do you think is special about your wine region?

The Yarra Valley region is a viticultural marvel in itself; it’s a haven for a huge range of different varietals thanks to its diverse topography (saying this I chose the Yarra Valley due to its complete harmony with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), soil profiles and micro-climates. In 1999 I planted a Pinot Noir vineyard in the Upper Yarra, Yarra Junction, and the higher rainfall and volcanic soils provide the best conditions for nourishing our vines. We opened the second (and main) site in Dixons Creek 10 years ago, down on the ‘floor’ of the valley, and now have a range of varietals which enjoy the warmer weather and soils there. Not to mention the sheer beauty of the region – I believe it’s in the top three most picturesque wine regions in the world.

What do you do to relax away from the winery?

I love to travel, whether it’s activity-based or just to the beach I’m happy – especially if the family is with me too. I also love to read, and of course, enjoy a great bottle of wine.

Do you have a favourite holiday destination/memory?

It would have to be in Italy along the Amalfi Coast – the views, the food, the weather…stunning. I’ve been three times now and have very happy memories. Each time I’ve been there it felt like a wave of relaxation swept over me.

What is your favourite…

Book – Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – thought-provoking, thrilling and an eye-opener all in one. 

Movie  Harold and Maude – it shows how love comes in all forms, it has the best movie soundtrack and it's very funny.

TV show Breaking Bad – it’s all about how events can change life’s decisions and I found it to be a really good watch! The main character is very funny and always manages to (comically) get himself out of trouble.

Restaurant France-Soir in Melbourne  – great atmosphere.

Breakfast –  A classic English breakfast.

Lunch –  Oysters and sashimi.

Dinner  – Chilli mud crab.

Time of day/night Night – everything moves slower and this is the time of I can relax and enjoy the peace of the countryside.

Sporting Team? Sydney Swans for AFL, Melbourne Storm NRL and Aussie cricket of course.

Beer – Ceske Budvar

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What's in a label?
Words by Mark Hughes on 19 Aug 2017
I recently had the privilege of watching the legendary Liverpool FC towel up Sydney FC in a soccer friendly in a private suite at ANZ Stadium courtesy of Claymore Wines . The Clare Valley winery is owned by Adelaide doctor Anura Nitchingham, who became a lifelong Liverpool fan while attending university in the northern England city back in the 80s. Since founding his own winery, he’s been able take his fandom to the next level with the Claymore Wines Liverpool FC range , hence the invite to the match. During the half-time break, with the Reds comfortably leading 3-0, I observed a young couple at the bar looking through the range of Claymore Wines on offer. “Can I try the Purple Rain Sauvignon Blanc …I just love Prince,” the young lass asked of the barmaid. “I’ll have the London Calling,” said he, seemingly unaware of the varietal. It’s a Cabernet Malbec blend, by the way, and a good one, having recently won Platinum  at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Besides football, Anura’s other great love is music. So instead of having wines like a ‘single vineyard Shiraz’, Claymore’s labels bear the name of some of Anura’s favourite songs and albums, such as the Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz, Joshua Tree Riesling and Voodoo Child Chardonnay. “I just wanted to have some fun,” Anura tells me when I ask him the reasoning behind the labels. “After all, wine is meant to be fun, right?” Marketing Wine to Millennials
While it does seem fun, Claymore’s labels seem to fly in the face of traditional wine marketing, where the producer’s logo is consistent across all their wines and information such as varietal, origin and vintage is first and foremost. “It was a struggle early on because the inconsistent branding was deemed anti-marketing,” admits Claymore’s general manager, Carissa Major. “But once we explained the story, we had a more personal conversation with the customer. Now, people come to our cellar door, pick up a Bittersweet Symphony (Cab Sav) and say, ‘this is from my generation, I get it’. The labels were never meant to be a gimmick, they are the sound track to Anura’s life. But marketing-wise today, they present exciting opportunities rather than barriers.” Recent studies from California State University help explain the marketing swing. Researchers looked at the fastest growing buyer market in wine – millennials – people born after 1980, so termed because they hit maturity at the turn of the millennium. This generation is cashed up, brand savvy and, most importantly, they are on the verge of overtaking baby boomers as the biggest buyers of wine. The university study found that millennials prefer wine labels that are brightly coloured, less traditional, more graphically focused and feature creative brand names. If you’re a wine producer listening to a baby boomer marketer, maybe it’s time to think outside the box. The story of Fowles Wine’s Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch is a great example. The label shows an art deco-style image of a lady in her finery out for a hunt. “My wife designs the labels and we actually took advice from a leading marketer about whether this was a good idea. Their response? No!,” explains Fowles Wines owner, Matt Fowles. “We ultimately disagreed and released the wines, but it was useful advice in the sense that it was liberating. We thought, if there is no place in the market for this, then we should just do the designs we really love, so we did. It was all a bit of fun and, surprise, surprise, they sell well.” Art for art’s sake
Riverland producer Delinquente Wine Co. has taken label art in an even more contemporary direction channelling a punk ethos on their wines such as The Bullet Dodger Montepulciano and the Screaming Betty Vermentino. “The starting point with the artwork for Delinquente was to do something very different to traditional wine labels, but also to represent things we have a passion for, like street art and alternative culture,’ says winemaker/owner Con-Greg Grigoriou. “The art represents our ideas and allows us to connect with people in an interesting way. We all know a ‘Screaming Betty’, or would at least like to party with her. So they have taken on a life of their own.” Not everyone is a fan. Seventy-nine-year-old wine critic James Halliday described Delinquente Wines as setting “the new low water-mark” for labels in Australia. But he likes their wines. And that’s the thing, the wine has to be good to get the buyer to keep coming back. These days, wine is fashion and bottle shop aisles are the catwalks. Marketing a label is just as important as the wine inside the bottle. Get both right and you could just make it. Traditionalists will most likely continue to stock their cellars with family crested bottles. The millennials crave new and exciting. As for me, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.
Wine
Top 50 Wines of 2016
Words by Mark Hughes on 4 Jan 2017
The Wine Selectors Tasting Panel tastes over 3000 wines from Australian producers per year. Here is the best of the best, the top wines that wowed them in 2016. Not many people know this, but I’ve always loved statistics. When I was younger, it was all sports related – D.K Lillee’s bowling average, Chicka Ferguson’s try scoring tally, that sort of stuff. These days I am using that love of maths to discover interesting info about wine. Throughout the year our  Tasting Panel  puts their collective expert palates to the test to determine what wines we send to our members. The wine tasting process is extremely rigorous. The wines are opened the morning of the tasting to allow them to breathe, placed into a bottle cover so no-one can see the label, and poured in brackets that group varietals or styles. The Panel tastes each and every wine and gives them a score out of 20, as per judging at an official wine show. This happens every Friday (and sometimes Wednesday) at Wine Selectors with our Panel tasting up to 100 wines a week. That equates to literally thousands of wines a year, from nearly every producer in every wine region across Australia. So collecting a year’s worth of scores from the Panel reveals some amazing statistics. And from that we can gather some pretty cool information. For instance, not only does it show which producers are leading the charge, what regions had a good vintage and what varietals are doing well – it also shows the changing face of wine. On Trend
That’s the exciting thing about wine – it is always changing. That’s a pretty simple sentence, but when you look at it from different angles, it really says a lot. Yes, it is changing in the bottle as it ages and develops, changes in weather from season to season determine the outcome of how the wine will taste, and there are changes in winemaking techniques and equipment that will improve the taste and the scope of a wine. Ultimately though, I think the biggest change in wine is driven by consumers. Fashion leads demand and if the demand is big enough, it will drive supply. This scenario is pretty evident when looking at our Top 50 wines of 2016. Even before you look at who made the Top 50, just the wines submitted tell a startling story – Aussie drinkers are demanding greater variety. How do we know? Well, in 2016 our Panel tasted more alternative wines than ever before and we are not just talking about a couple of Grigios . Try these on for size: Bianco d’Alessano, Garganega, Muller Thurgau, Verduzzo – and they’re just the whites, they also sipped Aglianico, Lagrein, Montepulciano, Saperavi and Saint Macaire – and that’s only a third of the list of alternative varietals they looked at. How many have you heard of, let alone tried? The exciting thing is, you probably will get to try some of these soon, because quite a few of them are performing exceptionally well – good enough to make it to our Top 50 wines of 2016. For instance, the Serafino Wines Bellissimo Lagrein (placing inside the Top 10, no less), The Pawn Wine Co En Passant Tempranillo and the Bird in Hand Montepulciano. There’s also Touriga, Fiano, Vermentino, Marsanne and more. Yep, it’s an exciting time to be a drinker of Australian wine. Traditional Stars Of course, our traditional varietals also excelled in 2016. Our two biggies, Shiraz (12) and Chardonnay (9) dominated the tallies, but it must be pointed out that their styles have changed to suit the drinking public. The top scoring wine, the Di Giorgio Family Chardonnay 2015, is lean and minerally, described as having “aromas of flint, struck match and oyster shell with a refined palate of intense fig, melon and nectarine,” while the top scoring Shiraz, the Ryan’s Reserve Vanessa’s Vineyard 2014 is a medium to full-bodied Hunter wine with “a ripe and lively core of red and black fruits with hints of Chinese spice.” Riesling was also a big surprise packet this year. Panellist Trent Mannell reckons Riesling is going to be one of the trending wines of 2017 and if the quality of current vintages is anything to go by, he may be right. The  Ferngrove Off Dry Limited Release Riesling 2016  from Western Australia’s Great Southern region was simply superb, taking out second spot overall and was described by the Panel as “impossible to put down”. In all, there were four Rieslings in the Top 50, all from different regions, which goes to show this varietal’s versatility. Read more about  the rise of Australian Riesling in this article Diversity and Consistency
In a nod to diversity, the Top 10 wines were made up of eight different varietals from eight different regions. That’s a real wow moment right there. Chardonnay , Riesling, Marsanne, Shiraz, Muscat, Semillon , Cabernet Merlot and Lagrein – Coonawarra , Great Southern, Nagambie Lakes, Hunter Valley, Rutherglen , Margaret River , Barossa , Adelaide Hills . What that tells us is that viticulturists are getting better at knowing what works in their region and how to get the best out of their grape. It also says that winemakers are becoming more skilled at taking that perfectly grown grape and making great wine. Out of the Top 50 there were only two producers who featured more than once – Howard Park ( Marchand & Burch Chardonnay  and Howard Park Flint Rock Pinot Noir) and Brown Brothers (Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir and Innocent Bystander Known Pleasures Shiraz). The same two producers both had two wines each in last year’s Top 50, so it speaks volumes of their ability to consistently produce top wines. And speaking of consistency, it must be noted that the Brown Brothers Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2015 replicated the success of the 2014 that featured in  last year’s Top 50 . This is a huge result, as anyone can have a great vintage, but to do it consistently is the mark of a great producer. Vintage and Age The stats show that The Hunter Valley (8), McLaren Vale (7) and Great Southern (7) had great vintages, with 2014 living up to the hype for reds and 2015 for white wines.It was also interesting to note the power of age. Nearly all the wine we buy is consumed soon after we’ve bought it (the same day in my case). However, some producers are lucky enough to be able to hold onto some of their wine to release it at a date when it has aged to perfection – the Tahbilk Marsanne 2010 and Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2011, for example. Of course, you can do the same thing, provided you have the ideal storing conditions and you can keep your hands off it. Or, if that seems too hard, you can just check out this list of amazing wines, tally up the ones you like, do the stats and get amongst them. The Best Australian Wines of 2016 Di Giorgio Family Chardonnay 2015 (Coonawarra) Ferngrove Off Dry Limited Release Riesling 2016 (Great Southern) Tahbilk Marsanne 2010 (Nagambie Lakes) Saddler’s Creek Ryan’s Reserve Vanessa Vineyard Shiraz 2014 (Hunter Valley) Stanton & Killen Classic Rutherglen Muscat NV (Rutherglen) Howard Park Wines Marchand & Burch Australian Collection 'Porongurup' Chardonnay 2015 Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 1 Semillon 2011 (Hunter Valley) Henschke & Co Tappa Pass Shiraz 2013 (Barossa) Hamelin Bay Wines Five Ashes Vineyard Cabernet Merlot 2014 (Margaret River) Serafino Wines Bellissimo Lagrein (Adelaide Hills) 2013 The Pawn Wine Co. En Passant Tempranillo 2013 (Adelaide Hills)  Briar Ridge Stockhausen Black Label Semillon 2016 (Hunter Valley) Tyrrell’s Wines 'Stevens' Single Vineyard Shiraz 2014 (Hunter Valley) Scotchmans Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Geelong) Innocent Bystander Known Pleasures Shiraz McLaren Vale 2014 (McLaren Vale) Byron & Harold The Partners Chardonnay 2015 (Great Southern) Brown Brothers Devil’s Corner Resolution Pinot Noir 2015 (Tasmania) De Iuliis Steven Vineyard Shiraz 2014 (Hunter Valley) Howard Park - 'Flint Rock' Pinot Noir 2015 (Great Southern) Rutherglen Estates Durif 2014 (Rutherglen) Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Vineyard (Organic) 2013 (Frankland River) Seville Estate Chardonnay 2015 (Yarra Valley) Woods Crampton Pedro Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2015 (Barossa) Dandelion Vineyards Sister’s Run Shiraz 2014 (Barossa) Forest Hill Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Mount Barker) try the  2011 vintage here Driftwood Artifacts Chardonnay 2014 (Margaret River) Lisa McGuigan Platinum Selection Chardonnay 2015 (Hunter Valley) Bleasdale Vineyards The Powder Monkey Single Vineyard Shiraz 2013 (Langhorne Creek) Hart & Hunter Single Vineyard Twenty Six Rows Chardonnay 2015 (Hunter Valley) Rockcliffe Quarram Rocks Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016 (Great Southern) Taylors Wines Riesling 2015 (Clare Valley) Bird in Hand Montepulciano 2014 (Adelaide Hills) Alkoomi Black Label Riesling 2009 (Frankland River) Pertaringa Wines Undercover Shiraz 2014 (McLaren Vale) Shaw Vineyard Estate Olleyville Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Canberra) Five Geese Shiraz 2014 (McLaren Vale) Leconfield Wines Richard Hamilton Centurion 122-Year-Old Vine Shiraz 2014 SC Pannell Wines Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2014 (McLaren Vale) Shadowfax Pinot Gris 2015 (Geelong) Dominique Portet Fontaine Rose 2015 (Yarra Valley) McWilliams Wines Mount Pleasant High Altitude Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Orange) Tulloch - 'Cellar Door Release' Vermentino 2016 (Orange) Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards Fiano 2015 (McLaren Vale) Try the  2016 vintage here Montara Winery Chalambar Road Shiraz 2009 (Grampians) Henry’s Drive Vignerons Henry’s Drive H Syrah 2012 (Padthaway) Margan Family Limited Release Chardonnay 2013 (Hunter Valley) Bremerton Walter’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Langhorne Creek) Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2015 (Margaret River) d’Arenberg The Dry Dam Riesling (off dry) 2015 (McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills) Kirrihill Wines Montepulciano 2014 (Mount Lofty)
Wine
Behind The Vine At Helen's Hill
To celebrate the  Helen's Hill Ingram Road Pinot Noir 2015  being our April Wine of the Month, we caught up with Allan Nalder from  Helen's Hill . What makes the Ingram Road 2015 Pinot Noir so appealing? To answer that I need to take a step back. All of our wines are 100% single vineyard and are all made at my winery. Only fruit that we grow on our vineyard goes into the wines that we make. It's not that we don't trust anyone, it's just that we don't trust anyone. We think this is super important. Come visit and I can take you to the very vines that make the wine you are going to enjoy. Call us "control freaks". I'll take it as a compliment. The  Ingram Rd 2015 Pinot Noir  benefits greatly from this approach. Pristine  Yarra Valley  single vineyard fruit, French oak maturation, careful "hands-off" winemaking and a great vintage all combine to produce a wine that expresses hallmark  Pinot Noir  characteristics. And its price point is extremely compelling. You have over 50 acres of Pinot Noir, what makes you so enthusiastic about this often-difficult grape? You're right, Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow and can really only grow well in specific, little tucked away corners of the world. The Yarra Valley, and the little patch of dirt I call home, is one of those places. It also helps to be a bit of a Pinot Noir fanatic. To me, it is one of the most remarkable red wines in the world. I once saw a quote about Pinot Noir growers from a wine writer: "its makers are lunatic-fringe, questers after the holy grail…" - Marc de Villiers wine writer. We fit that mould. Who is the Helen of the hill? We bought the property from Mr. Fraser in the mid 90s. He had owned the pasture land from the early 1950s. The reason he bought the land was because he fell in love with a woman called Helen, who wouldn't marry him unless he owned a farm. True love prevailed and he bought the farm. Sadly, Helen passed away some 6-7 years after their marriage. Mr Fraser never re-married and throughout the property inspection, he recalled many stories of Helen and her time there. From his stories, it was obvious that she had a passion for the land. We share that passion and thought it appropriate to name the vineyard after her. What makes Scott McCarthy a standout winemaker? To be blunt, the fruit. We live by the very old, well used, but absolutely true saying: "great wine is made in the vineyard". The most important decision we make in the winery is deciding when to pick the fruit. The rest of the process is relatively simple. Pristine quality fruit allows us to rely on natural fermentation, minimal filtering and minimal winemaking intervention. Our ethos is not to describe "perfection" as when there is nothing left to add, but rather, when there is nothing left to take away. We feel this is the key to winemaking. Ensure that we do as little as possible so we can deliver mother nature in the bottle. You also  make a range of beers  - why did you decide to go into brewing and what do you think makes a top beer? It gets pretty hot and sweaty picking grapes. Added to that, I ain't getting any younger, so after a big day in the fields a nice, cold craft beer is a perfect tonic. As winemakers and vignerons go, we drink a lot of beer, so it wasn't that hard to come up with the idea of brewing our own. Getting the recipe right, the choice of hops and quality malt is critical and keeping the fermentation process under control. The rest depends on what you like. We serve our brews at Cellar Door and luckily our customers reckon they're pretty tasty. What are the top 3 attractions you'd recommend to a first-time Yarra Valley visitor? The great thing about the Yarra Valley is the diversity. You can visit the  YV Dairy  and sample a variety of cheese, the Chocolate Factory, world class art museum, on-farm produce stores for things such as apples, strawberries, etc, 6 top golf courses, mountain biking, bush trails, historic buildings, micro breweries, gin distillery and of course the odd cellar door and vineyard restaurant. The valley really has a huge range of things to do. Obviously, a great place to start is Helen's Hill. Full al-carte restaurant on top of the hill with sensational views or our Cellar Door and casual dining nestled down in the winery amongst the vines.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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