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Wine

Q & A with Luke Eckersley

You’ve had so many accolades for Plantagenet wines, but what are the most meaningful, personally?

For myself it is not so much industry accolades or awards, it is more being a part of the Plantagenet history, heritage and consistency and the feeling it gives you. Plantagenet is a Pioneer of the Great Southern and that in itself is an accolade for vision and belief.

How did your 2016 vintage treat you? Anything unique crop up?

It was a cooler than average vintage with a longer growing period so I found the Rieslings to have really shined!

The wines of Great Southern are unique and diverse, but how have they changed over your time working this region?

I feel over time there has been a better understanding of what varieties excel in the different sub-regions (along with the subsequent variations in style), and this knowledge has helped winemakers within the region craft wines that have better balance and are true expressions of what the regions can offer.

What excites and inspires you living in the beautiful Mt Barker?

It is purely the beauty, uniqueness and sparseness of the region, we have the Stirling Range as a back drop and the Southern Ocean hugging us to the south. This combined with the vineyards and the people makes it a truly amazing place to call home!

Can you recall the first wine you tried?

A mid-eighties Wynn’s Coonawarra Cabernet that my father had brought back (in volume) from a trip to South Australia, tried in the early nineties. A fantastic savoury wine with very good bones!

When did you fall in love with wine?

Having grown up in agriculture and being involved in a family vineyard wine was always of great interest to me. After completing my studies of both winemaking and viticulture I found myself more drawn to wine. It is the crafting of something that is continually evolving (living) and the enjoyment it can bring to people on lots of different levels.

Do you remember that moment? What happened?

I think agriculture (both growing and crafting of grapes) is simply in your blood!

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

I find myself more often than not drawn to Great Southern Chardonnay (from various producers!). The purity, power and fineness always amazes me, the wines lend themselves to so many different occasions from an intimate meal to a winding down ritual on a Friday evening!

Do you have a favourite wine to make?

Chardonnay obviously (barrel fermented), so many different layers that can be built on the raw wine to craft and evolve a wine with balance and complexity.

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Intellectual property
Words by Mark Hughes on 8 Apr 2016
There’s something remarkably special in the hills outside of Canberra. With a truly unique heritage, this ‘thinking person’s wine region’ has taken just four decades to emerge as one of Australia’s premium wine areas. What do you get when two etymologists meet with a biochemist to talk about wine? It almost sounds like the opening line to a joke, but it is in fact a crucial moment in the birth of the Canberra District wine region. In 1970 CSIRO etymologists Dr Edgar Riek and Ken Helm found they had a mutual interest in wine and started up a wine club. Biochemist Dr John Kirk came along to the first meeting. Within a couple of years the three of them had started their own vineyards, and in so doing, began what is recognised today as one of Australia’s most exciting wine regions. In 1971 John planted in Murrumbateman, founding Clonakilla, while Edgar planted on the shore of Lake George for Lake George Winery. Ken set vines not far from John in a tranquil setting now referred to as Helm’s Valley in 1973. Other wine interested folk followed suit, setting up vineyards, including more scientists, helping the Canberra wine region to blossom. These include Lark Hill Winery’s Sue and John Carpenter who have doctorates in statistics and applied mathematics respectively, Dr Roger Harris, who founded Brindabella Hills Winery, and Lerida Estate’s Jim Lumbers, both CSIRO alumni. With so much collective brain power, the Canberra District really is the thinking person’s wine region. It is a unique history and something that truly sets Canberra apart from any other wine region in Australia, perhaps the world. But as Ken, who still mans the cellar door located in a former 19th century schoolhouse at Helm Wines, says, it has been a both a blessing and a hindrance. “Many other wine regions are started by medicos and barristers with high disposal incomes. Canberra was started by academics, who didn’t have much money, so it was really a bootstrap operation,” he says. “It was one of the difficulties because the district had very good research minds, but not a lot of commercial knowledge. It wasn’t until 1980 that the first qualified winemaker came to the district. We were fascinated – having that academic background we learned to question and think and be innovative. If there was a seminar or short course we went to it, slowly developing techniques of how to get the best out of the area.” Initially, the district had to fight against critics who said it was too cold, or suffered from too many frosts, that the wines were green and that it would never be a premium wine region. The scientist put themselves through wine courses, where most probably knew more than their teachers. The winemaking improved and the wines started to confirm the enormous potential of the region. Ken started turning heads with numerous awards for his Riesling, Edgar earned rave reviews for his Pinot Noir, while John won awards for his Clonakilla Shiraz. His son, Tim, who took over as chief winemaker in 1996, made the wine world stand to attention when his Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier won Wine of the Year Award at the New South Wales Wine Awards.Canberra’s Eden Road Winery did likewise when they won the 2009 Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for best red in the country with their Shiraz. Nowadays, the Canberra District is regarded as one of the best in the country, confirmed by the fact that 75 per cent of the region’s 40 or so wineries have a four star or more rating by esteemed wine critic James Halliday. The lay of the land It is a curious feature of the Canberra wine region that only one winery, Mount Majura, is actually located within the Australian Capital Territory, the others are located north of the city in NSW. Frank van der Loo, winemaker at Mount Majura, champions Spanish varietals Tempranillo and Graciano alongside the region’s flagships of Riesling and Shiraz . He says their vineyard site was actually chosen by Edgar Riek. “Edgar chose the site from a geology map and was attracted to a patch of limestone on an east-facing slope. It is quite a unique little patch of dirt, and a great site for vines,” says Frank. The rest of the Canberra wine district falls into three sub-regions. The first is just 15 minutes out of Canberra along the Barton Highway at Hall. This area is situated at around 550 metres high and is blessed with gorgeous rolling hills that fall away to a twisting Murrumbidgee River. It is here that Roger and Faye Harris set up Brindabella Hills in 1986. “The main concern in this district is frost, so we looked for a spot with good cold air drainage,” Roger tells me over a glass of Riesling. “The vineyard is actually on a ridge that juts out over the Murrumbidgee Valley and there is a 100-metre drop to the valley floor, so that absorbs the cold area for most frost events.” As well as Shiraz, Cabernet and Riesling (ask Roger for some glorious aged Riesling he is hiding), Brindabella Hills is experimenting with the Italian Sangiovese varietal, which is ideal to sip at their picturesque Tuscan-inspired cellar door that has breath-taking views over the Murrumbidgee.
Wine
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
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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