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Meet Steve Webber from DeBortoli

The Wine Selectors Wine of the Month for September is the De Bortoli Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2014. So we caught up with winemaker Steve Webber to find out a bit more about the man behind the wine.

Can you recall the first wine you tried?
Not really. My father enjoyed Pirramimma Shiraz so it was probably something like that.

When did you fall in love with wine?
I have enjoyed wine since I was 18 (38 years ago) and been fascinated by it, however, I feel I only fell in love with wine about 20 years ago after spending lots of time in France and Italy, breaking out of the wine bubble, enjoying delicious inexpensive wine with friends and secretly enjoying the odd delicious expensive bottle with Leanne (and maybe 1 or 2 friends).

Do you have a favourite wine?
Pinot Noir. Ridiculously alluring, charming, gracious and great with fatty cuts of pork and duck.

What is your favourite wine memory?
A bottle of 1996 Salon Champagne that Leanne and I vacuumed after her final cancer treatment. It must be why she is fighting fit today.

Other than your own, which wine do you like to drink at home?
Pale dry Rosé in carafes from lots of different Australian and French producers.

What is your favourite wine and food match?
Fine minerally Chardonnay with pan fried John Dory.

How do you relax away from winemaking?
Hanging out at our beach house on the Mornington Peninsula – good food and the odd bottle.

What is your favourite….

Book: McEnroe – talent to burn, had attitude.
Movie: The Rock – love the one liners
TV show: Rake – too funny
Restaurant: France Soir – unfortunately my kids favourite as well
Lunch: Dory, Chablis and friends
Dinner: Charcoal roasted chicken with the family
Time of day/night: Twilight in spring in the Yarra Valley – amazing colours
Sporting team: Geelong

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Howard Park Dream Vertical
Words by Paul Diamond on 30 Sep 2015
Western Australian wine is a true phenomenon.It contributes less than 5% of Australia’s total production, but in a good year, can create some of the country’s best Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. And in such a short space of time, just over 40 years, the west has come a long way.  Margaret River has an identity of “bush, blue sky and surf” combined with “pioneering spirit meets entrepreneurial drive” to create something that is completely unique, stylish and undoubtedly Australian. One of the stories that completely embodies this special identity is the Burch family that owns and operates Howard Park Wines. Like many of the great Margaret River estates, Howard Park did not start as a Burch family concern, but as a side project. In 1986, John Wade, while working as a winemaker at Plantagenet Wines, made a Riesling and Cabernet at Denmark Agricultural College and labelled them in honour of his father Howard. During this time, John attended a single bottle club lunch in Perth as a guest and sat next to Jeff Burch. Over this lunch a kinship was formed and not long after that Jeff and his wife Amy became partners in Howard Park. Two years later, Jeff Burch purchased a picturesque 138 acres of pasture in Margaret River that has the Wilyabrup creek running through it. Named Leston after Jeff’s father, it was situated in the heart of prime vine growing territory. The partnership between John and Jeff grew and in the early 90s they added Chardonnay to the Howard Park stable and started to release wines under the MadFish label. Early on, MadFish gained attention due to the striking depiction of the Aboriginal water turtle that symbolises perseverance and tolerance. Produced from cool climate fruit as approachable, contemporary and solid value wines, MadFish is now 20 years old and one of Australia’s most recognisable wine brands. A family business Over the next decade, the MadFish-Howard Park growth story accelerated. They purchased a property in Denmark upon which the first winery and cellar door were built. Jeff’s brother David and sister Lesley came on board and foundations for a new winery and cellar door at Leston vineyard were poured as the flagship single vineyard range of Scottsdale Cabernet and Leston Shiraz was released. By this stage, John had left and Howard Park-MadFish became a Burch family operation. In the early 2000s, they acquired a 200 hectare, cool climate property in Mt Barrow (Great Southern). As the wine stable grew and the quality increased, the accolades started to roll in. Jeff and Amy’s daughter Natalie joined the business, and the Burch family combined forces with Burgundian winemaker and biodynamic ambassador Pascal Marchand on a project to produce wines from both WA and Burgundy under one label. The Marchand & Burch range includes French bubbles (Cremant), Pinot and Chardonnay and Australian Shiraz, Chardonnay and Pinot. Today, family is still at the fore with Jeff CEO, Amy GM and marketing director, David managing the vineyards, daughter Natalie managing operations and sons Richard and David managing east coast sales and marketing. Tasting history Wine is the Burch family’s religion and it binds them in a way that is both humbling and inspiring. To get closer to their story, along with Wine Selectors Panellist Dave Mavor, I headed to Margaret River for a tasting with the family. In their newly opened Wine Chapel, we absorbed the family narrative through the varieties they hold dear: Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet. Howard Park Riesling 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014 Howard Park Chardonnay 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2014 Marchand & Burch Parongurup Chardonnay 2011, 2013, 2012, 2013, 2014 Marchand & Burch Mount Barrow Pinot Noir 2012, 2013, 2014 Howard Park Leston Shiraz 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2012 Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012 First up was Howard Park Riesling from the cool climate of Great Southern, a wine that since 1986 has defined the identity of Howard Park and is one of Australia’s most collected. Stylistically, Great Southern Rieslings are quite different from those of Clare or Eden Valley in that they start out as tight and slender with positive minerality, and with age, blossom into generous and elegant wines that have wonderful complexity. The older examples of 2001 and 2004 proved that these Rieslings age wonderfully with both wines showing delicate, youthful flavours balanced by toasty development. Everyone had favourites for a range of reasons: winemaker Janice McDonald loved the 2012 for its concentration and effortless neutrality and Natalie favoured the 2014 for its refreshing zest and weight. The highly awarded Chardonnay was next, stretching back to 2003. These wines are constructed with a mixture of fruit from Mount Barker, Porongurup and Margaret River and represent the leaner, cooler side of the Chardonnay spectrum. Very pretty and elegant, they have fresh acidity and bright, clean flavours that help them age slowly and gracefully. Minerality and texture are noticeable with the standouts holding beautiful fruit flavours of melons, grapefruits and nuts with a creamy, savoury complexity. Dave enjoyed the 2007 with its fresh citrus core and Jeff loved the 2013 for its balance and length. French connection Next came the Marchand & Burch Porongurup Chardonnays. The standard was high with a lean and tight style that delivers citrus and melon flavours with complexity, minerality and finesse. Standouts were the 2013 for its crème brulée aromas and tropical fruit palate and Jeff loved the 2007 for its French leanings and flinty complexity. Pinot Noir followed with the Marchand & Burch Mount Barrow line-up. These wines showed a distinct development of style that highlighted how critical vine age is to creating wines that have weight and complexity. The 2012 was lovely, with pretty sour cherry fruit, savoury spices and soft tannins and the depth and structure built as we moved through to the 2014. Considering how demanding Pinot Noir can be, especially from young vines, the potential of the Marchand & Burch Mt Barrow Pinot is massive. Amy and Natalie were both wowed by the 2014 due to its luscious layers and fine complexity. Leston Shiraz was next, stretching back to 2000, and considering Margaret River is not known as a Shiraz region, the high quality and consistency came as a pleasant surprise and highlighted the diversity of Australian Shiraz. All the wines had a lovely soft, black fruit signature with delicate layers of spice and fine tannins. As Shiraz goes, these wines are definitely on the savoury side and the oldest wines were aging beautifully. Richard loved the 2003 for its complexity, Dave’s standout was the balanced 2005 and Janice loved the perfume and fruit integrity of the 2009. Flying the Cabernet flag Lastly came the flagship Abercrombie bracket crafted from a selection of the oldest vineyards in Margaret River, Mount Barker and Porongurup. These wines are serious; they have depth, structure, complexity and would easily rank as some of the best Cabernet Australia can produce. Named after Jeff’s great-grandfather Walter Abercrombie, the wines are earthy, savoury and full of black fruits, but have incredible finesse and harmony. Jeff was impressed with how well the 2000 had aged, Natalie loved the 2012 “just because.” The tasting was a special line-up of wines that highlighted that Howard Park, just like WA wine, has come a long way in a short space of time. The exercise was made extra special by the generosity of the Burch family in sharing their wines, their stories and proving that wine is made better with family.
Yalumba's Magic
In celebration of the Yalumba Galway Vintage Malbec 2012 being the Wine Selectors Wine of the Month for May, we chatted with Robert Hill-Smith, Yalumba’s Chairman of the Board and 5th generation owner. Malbec is really stepping out from its role as a blending partner and looks set to become a mainstream favourite – what makes your Galway Vintage Malbec 2012 so special? We know the vineyard and I see Malbec as a forgotten part of heritage. I loved many of the Mildara Cabernet Shiraz Malbec from Coonawarra and only Bleasdale seem to be having a serious dip. The time was right and given its juiciness and accommodating mid-palate we thought it was time to partner our Galway Vintage Shiraz with another Barossa beauty at an accessible price. Yalumba is in Angaston, a village at the entrance to the Eden Valley, and you also have vineyards in other parts of the Barossa Valley– why are these regions so great for making wine? We know both regions backwards, so that’s a start! Far from being a one trick pony the Barossa and Eden Valley have many sub-districts that favour various styles. Not many regions can make world-class fortifieds yet 15kms away grow classy dry Riesling and Viognier of greatness. Established over 160 years ago, Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery – it must be such an honour to be a part of its history and its future? It is if you don’t think about it too much! With it comes a variety of positives and issues, but we respect our vineyards, our people and our community whilst we seek to craft interesting quality, fine wines. As a 5th generation of the Hill-Smith family, did you ever consider a career in a field outside the wine industry? Of course! Every long-haired 18-year-old rebel in the 1970s wanted to do anything other than join the family. They were great years, and whilst I studied, sport was a huge part of my life as was the penchant for beer, wine and song. However, the smell of the ferment cellar reeled me in and I haven’t looked back. You have three daughters, are they planning to join the family business? There is no pressure and no rush. If they do then that is a bonus for me. They show some talent, they like wine and are keen to soak up a lot of information, so you never know. Yalumba is a member of Australia’s First Families of Wine – why is this association of families so important? We need to share our wine history with the world to put Australia and its styles and aspirations into context – we do it with our family stories and characters. What can you see as the future of Australia’s wine industry? Ultimately very positive, but not without much, much more hard work. We make great wines across many varietals and regions, however, Australia needs to work harder to get our fine wine story across and make the world take us even more seriously. Making a success in the wine industry takes a lot of hard work and dedication – what advice would you give someone looking to start a career in wine? As a winemaker, have a theme, be a specialist and be very good at it. It takes more money and more time to do than anyone wishes, but the end game justifies the patience. What’s your ‘go to wine’ when you’re a home relaxing with your family? We have many – Pewsey Vale Riesling, Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache, Dalrymple Pinot and many, many more! May is Aussie Wine Month – is Yalumba holding any special events to celebrate? We are be conducting a few events but May is also time for the London Wine Fair and Vinexpo in Hong Kong, plus we are planning the launch of some new vintages of special wines and mature releases. Every month is busy, busy, busy!
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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