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Meet Tom Carson of Yabby Lake

With the popularity of Australian Pinot G continuing to climb, we chat with Yabby Lake general manager and winemaker, Tom Carson, whose Red Claw Pinot Gris 2016 is so deliciously food-friendly.

Along with being an award-winning winemaker, you’re also heavily involved with the Australian wine show circuit – including holding the position of Chairman of the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. What’s exciting you most about Australian wine?

Australian wine is in a wonderful period at the moment, there are so many small producers producing stunning wine. As we have seen at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards, this year a Grenache won the most coveted Trophy in Australian wine, the Jimmy Watson Trophy. Grenache is a wonderful variety and produces stunning wines, particularly from the incredible old vine resources of South Australia – couple this with a modern, sensitive approach to winemaking and we are finally realising the potential of this variety.

You’ve worked in multiple wine regions across Australia and France, and this year celebrate ten years at Yabby Lake –  what drew you to Yabby Lake and the Mornington Peninsula?  

Yabby Lake is a stunning property and is an amazing vineyard site. It was the unrealised potential of this site that really drew me in – just imagining what was possible with this vineyard had me hooked, and 10 years on that hasn’t changed.

Fruit for the Red Claw Pinot Gris 2016 was harvested in early February 2016, which is quite early for the Mornington Peninsula! How’s vintage 2018 looking? 

Yes, 2016 was the earliest vintage we have ever experienced here, picking 10 days earlier than ever before. 2018 is shaping up nicely and we should be harvesting late February this year!

Both Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio have really found their place in the Australian wine market – what is it about Pinot G that makes it so popular?

It is a wine that is easy to connect with – it’s subtle, finely detailed, but also wonderfully drinkable and really suits that summer weather when you are craving something refreshing but also interesting.

What makes the Red Claw Pinot Gris stand out from the crowd?

Red Claw Mornington Peninsula Pinot Gris captures the variety and region in a way that just draws you in and makes you an instant fan.

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

I remember when l was very young, maybe 5 years-old, treading grapes in a garbage bin and thinking what great fun it was getting covered in wine and grapes. It’s funny how things work out!

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

I am massive fan of Yarra Valley Chardonnay, particularly from Oakridge, old vine McLaren Vale Grenache from S.C. Pannell, and Nebbiolo from Italy.

What is your ultimate food and wine match?
Chinese roast duck and Pinot Noir! Yes, it is a bit of a cliché, but have you tried it?

What do you do to relax when you’re away from the winery?
On a golf course! Well, l try to anyway, but that depends on how the game is going!

Your must-do for visitors to the Mornington Peninsula.
Peninsula hot springs in winter.

Beach in summer.

Golf in autumn and spring.

What is your favourite…

Book?

Girt by David Hunt – every Australian should read this book and True Girt.

Movie?

Alien.

TV show?

Game of Thrones.

Restaurant? 

Kisume.

Breakfast?

Coffee.

Lunch? 

Long.

Dinner?

In summer a barbeque eating outside and enjoying a few nice wines.

Time of day/night? 

Morning.

Sporting team? 

Essendon FC.

Beer? 

Proper Italian brewed and canned Peroni Nastro Azzurro – not that rubbish they brew and bottle here, it is a scandal and should be exposed.

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Claymore – 20 years of hits
Esteemed Clare Valley producer, Claymore Wines, is celebrating 20 years of premium winemaking this September with the release of their iconic Joshua Tree Riesling. Alongside his family, Claymore’s founder and owner Anura Nitchingham has three great loves in his life – wine, music and football – and he celebrates all of them with Claymore Wines . As a young medical student in Liverpool, UK, Anura became a fan of one of the sport’s greatest ever football teams, Liverpool FC. Sitting in the stands at Anfield, he couldn’t imagine that one day he would have an exclusive relationship with the world famous club. After a successful medical career, Anura had the great fortune to find his way to one of South Australia’s most renowned wine region, the Clare Valley , to start Claymore Wines over two decades ago. Today, his range of award-winning wines includes Liverpool FC-related drops, such as, the Robbie Fowler Signature Shiraz , the You’ll Never Walk Alone Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc and the This is Anfield Sparkling . Music in a bottle From the very start of Claymore, Anura has also entwined his love of music by naming his wines after his favourite songs and albums. Wines such as the Bittersweet Symphony Cabernet Sauvignon , the London Calling Cabernet Malbec , and the Purple Rain Sauvignon Blanc, resonate beyond their time and across generations – very much like the songs they are named after. And, along with bringing a fun vibe to wine, naming wines after songs has struck a chord with music lovers, who form an immediate understanding and sentimental attachment to their favourite varietals. “It allows us to have a more personal conversation with the customer,” says Claymore’s General Manager, Carissa Major. “People come to our cellar door, pick up a Bittersweet Symphony Cabernet and say, ‘this is from my generation, I get it’.” Time to celebrate In 2018, Claymore celebrates 20 years with two wines that have stood the test of time – the Joshua Tree Riesling and Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz (which will be released in the coming years). U2’s classic album The Joshua Tree contained a plethora of great hits including Where the Streets Have No Name , With or With You and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For . With the Joshua Tree Riesling, wine lovers will find stunningly beautiful expression of Riesling, that resonates almost as much as these amazing tunes. The Clare Valley is renowned as the home of Riesling in Australia and the Joshua Tree is one of the region’s best examples with vintage after vintage consistently producing a wine boasting lime and savoury spice aromas, a tight, fresh palate punctuated with delicious citrus flavours and all held in place with seamless, balanced acidity. The 2018 is no exception, a simply wonderful wine that is befitting of a 20 year celebration.
Evolution in the winery Coinciding with their 20-year anniversary, Claymore Wines are also pleased to announce that they have a new Chief Winemaker in Nathan Norman. An eighth-generation winemaker who grew up on in the region on his grandfather’s vineyard at Angle Vale, Nathan spent his formative years at Peter Lehman Wines before vintages in far flung corners such as Sicily, Spain and England. He returned to the  Barossa Valley to work with Tin Shed Wines and then at Claymore as assistant winemaker under the expert guidance of Marnie Roberts. With Marnie moving on to pursue her own venture, Nathan is excited to be able to imprint his personality to the Claymore Wine range as Chief Winemaker, particularly in this celebratory stage of the Claymore Wines story. “Winemaking is something that is in my blood,” says Nathan. “My dad, my brother, my sister, my grandad – it’s a family thing.” “To be here in the Clare Valley, the Riesling capital of the world; I wouldn’t have it any other way!”  The 2018 Joshua Tree Riesling is released in September. For more details on the Claymore range and special 20-year celebrations, visit claymorewines.com.au
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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. 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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. 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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. Breakfas t –  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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