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Wine

Vintage 2017 update

Hunter Valley, NSW

Tyrrell's Wines - Bruce Tyrrell, Managing Director

The outlook is great for our winemaking friends in the Hunter Valley, including Tyrrell's Wines whose Managing Director, Bruce Tyrrell wrote in his report when their Hunter vintage finished in February:

"As I write this our Hunter Vintage is over apart from 3 tonnes of Cabernet, which has got at least a week to go and hopefully it survives the rain this weekend. We finished picking this morning with Pokolbin Hills Shiraz, the end of Stevens Glen Oak and DeBeyers Sangiovese."

"It is only 35 days since we started picking Chardonnay for sparkling, and I think we will all remember this Vintage for the joy of picking clean fruit, and no mud. At the end of the day we have some very good wine in the cellar, our tonnages are about spot on budget, and we have a month to wait until we start in Heathcote."

You can read Bruce's full vintage experience here .

Yarra Valley, VIC

Rob Dolan Wines - Rob Dolan, Managing Director/Winemaker

It's a 9/10 at the half way mark of Vintage 2017 and it looks like the Yarra Valley has been fortunate on the weather front. After a cool early summer and a nervous January/Feb an amazing early Autumn spread through the Yarra. It looks like a vintage from the "naughty nineties" - cool/mild with evenly balanced crops, excellent acidity, ripe flavours and tannin structure.

Pinot Noir will be a standout with crops on most vineyards down 20% however some vineyards will achieve their expected average. Chardonnay/Pinot Gris have bountiful flavour and fresh, crisp acidity and balance. Picking of Shiraz/Cab Sauv and other red varietals is now underway after a few days of thundery weather and light rain.

A Yarra vintage to put in the "black book" as there will be some beautiful wines across all vineyards and wine companies.

McLaren Vale, SA

d'Arenberg Wines - Chester Osborn, Chief Winemaker

It's been a very late vintage compared to recent years. The last part of summer and the start of autumn were very dry. What normally is cool climate here in the McLaren Vale, leading to fragrant floral wines, has been aided by the very dry weather. The deep geology and water availability in the roots leads to greater concentration of fruit.

Whites are looking outstanding, the best for years and the reds - where do I start? Shiraz is looking beautiful, very aromatic and spicy, with strong fragrant length. Many are elegant, but strongly persistent. Bolder. Great fragrant fruit length. Cabernets and Grenache also looking outstanding, but it's still early days for those varieties. All reds have great potential this year.

Margaret River, WA

Flying Fish Cove - Brett House, CEO

Vintage 2017 has been a more traditional year than the past few, with whites throughout the region being harvested later in February and well into March, yields have been strong on most white varieties, after being lower than normal over the past few years. Whilst it is still too early to predict the quality of the year, all signs appear to suggest another strong one.

The reds are still some time off, again signifying a more traditional harvest. There has been a small amount of rain during March, which also slows down the ripening process, all grower reports have been positive to date.

Redgate Winery - Joel Page, Head Winemaker

It's been a relatively mild summer with good yields on all varieties. The fruit flavours have developed early considering the baumes, but late considering the date. All the whites have shown higher levels of malic acid considering the cooler year. The whites are brightly aromatic and look great.

On to the reds; we are expecting some lower baumes, but well developed flavour and tannin structure. Hopefully, some soft, elegant styles.

Geographe, WA

Willow Bridge Estate - Kim Horton, Senior Winemaker

A much cooler and wetter spring of 2016, and cooler conditions in 2017 have led to a delayed vintage in the Geographe region, almost 3 weeks later than historically. The result is a superb batch of white wines, with excellent flavour at lower sugar levels, however, some caution was required to ensure acid levels were palatable. Yields generally are higher than last season. Chardonnay looks outstanding.

A small amount of red has been harvested in the region, however, likely to be in full swing at the beginning of April.

#girlpower on the tractors! #vintage2017 is underway! 🍾#fergusonvalley #geographewineregion

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Great Southern, WA

Plantagenet Wines - Luke Eckersley, Senior Winemaker

The vintage thus far for Plantagenet and the Great Southern is what the locals are calling 'normal' - late in comparison to recent times, but normal if gauged over the last few decades! Along with that, we have had milder conditions bringing about longer, slower ripening, so the whites thus far are very fine with good acid length and elegance! We have received a few parcels of Pinot Noir that are showing intense colour (so could be a good one for Pinot) and the Cabernets are ahead on seed development, making it neck and neck with Shiraz and Cabernet as to who will cross the line first!

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Great Cellar Doors of South Australia
Words by Louise Radman on 13 Sep 2016
South Australia is renowned for its fantastic wine country. If you are planning to explore the regions around Adelaide here are some top cellar doors that make worthwhile stops on the itinerary. Murray Street Vineyards – Barossa Valley Ranked as the number one locale in Barossa by Trip Advisor for the past two years running, Murray Street Vineyards has earned a reputation as a must-visit destination. Situated in the quiet village of Greenock, this cellar door offers a relaxed and personal experience on the Western ridge. With no tasting bar to separate you from the team, you can try a seated tasting of six wines that honour the rich winemaking tradition of the Barossa in elegant Riedel stemware. Experience the tasting room or the view from the shady pergola on the deck overlooking a typical Barossa setting of manicured vines. You might like to graze on regional cheese and charcuterie platters while enjoying Murray Street’s classic ‘The Barossa’ blend of Shiraz , Grenache and Mataro. 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The luxury reds flight dives deeper into the region to uncover single vineyard wines that showcase the personality of individual patches of earth. Just $20 buys you an exclusive look at the flagship Dead Arm and two Amazing Sites Shiraz, each valued over $200 per bottle. Think The Athazagoraphobic Cat Sagrantino Cinsault or The Old Bloke and Three Young Blondes, starring Shiraz from the oldest and best vines together with young whites; Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne. Adventure seekers can explore the region in a four-wheel drive or take to the skies for a scenic flight in a Waco plane before settling into epicurean heaven at the award winning d'Arry's Verandah Restaurant. Soon to be housed in a 13 million dollar Rubik’s Cube complex, this legendary cellar door has perfected the art of being different. We can’t wait to see what’s next. darenberg.com.au Skillogalee – Clare Valley Nestled in the contours of the Skilly Hills, Skillogalee has held the title of first and best winery restaurant in Clare Valley for over twenty-six years. Built in 1851, the heritage cellar door is housed in a charming miner’s cottage consisting of tasting and dining rooms with a long verandah overlooking three tiers of cottage garden. The famous vine pruner’s lunch can be enjoyed from prime position under the shade of a large olive tree, while early risers will love the breakfast of potted trout, baked eggs and taleggio. Spend an afternoon on the lawn amid the heirloom roses with a bottle of iconic Skillogalee Riesling and some chicken liver parfait, and duck rillettes. You can taste the full range of estate grown wines including the exceptional single contour Trevarrick series and delicious liqueur Muscat. 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Embracing isolation with Frankland Estate’s Hunter Smith
To celebrate the Frankland Estate Riesling 2015 being our October Wine of the Month, we caught up with winemaker Hunter Smith to talk isolation, organics and a special Guinea fowl. What was it like growing up in Frankland River – WA’s most isolated wine region? Looking back, amazing! The concept of isolation was not there, we had total freedom after school (a thriving 60-student primary school) to go horse riding, rabbit trapping and yabbie catching, help out on the farm, kayak down the Frankland River, camp, fish and explore on the spectacular south coast and have big farm picnics where friends would join us at the farm and the folks would drink magnums of red well into the evening around a big fire.   Your parents weren’t always in the grape-growing game – how did that come about? Farming and the land are a big part of both my father’s and mother’s family histories in Australia. My father Barrie grew up on a vineyard in South Australia’s Riverland and his family moved to a farm in the Frankland River region back in the 50s, so I guess it was always in his blood. Fast forward a little and Judi and Barrie met in Perth and purchased a farm in Frankland River down the road a bit from my grandparents and started farming sheep and wheat. Dad was always making a barrel of wine a year and in the early 1980s, Judi and he went on a trip through France with Bill Hardy and let’s just say they got the bug to plant some vines. The first vines were planted in 1988 and, over time, sheep numbers have gone from 15,000 to pretty much just a handful now as the wine business has become our main focus. Did you always imagine you’d end up working in the wine industry? Standing in 5ºC pruning vines in the middle of a Frankland River winter would make any teenager look for greener pastures. I was adamant I would do anything but winemaking and grape growing. I spent 10 years after school in university and travelling and this made me realise how much I loved the industry and the region in which we farm our vines. A vintage with Eric and Bertold Salomon in Kremstal, Austria was probably the point in time when it all changed for me. Given how pristine the Frankland River region is, and the fact that it’s virtually pollution free, is there a commitment among local growers to organic viticulture? I think generally, viticulturists are looking to be as sustainable as possible and this region is very much that way inclined, we have a very complementary climate to help with this. While we remain the only certified organic vineyard and winery in the Frankland River region, there is a big move in this direction.
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Wine Traveler Riverland
Words by Dave Brookes on 28 Dec 2017
While South Australia’s riverland region has always been famous for bulk wine production, innovative local winemakers are changing the landscape by planting a range of grape varieties perfectly suited to the hot, dry climate. As I sit down to pen this brief piece on the Riverland , I’m reminded of the words of that great American philosopher LL Cool J who rhymed, “don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years; I’m rockin my peers; Puttin’ suckers in fear”. Mic drop from Queens. Perhaps I’m getting carried away. I’ve always been told I have a fertile imagination, but who would have thought a decade ago that boutique winemakers from Margaret River to Coonawarra would be sourcing fruit from the Riverland and proudly displaying that fact on their wine labels? The Riverland has always been, along with several other regions that lie along the life-giving artery of the Murray, the engine-room of the Australian wine industry. The Riverland accounts for over 50% of South Australia’s wine crush and around 30% of the national total, some 470,123 tonnes in 2017. It is a very important region for Australian wine. One winery alone, Berri Estates, is the largest grape processor in the southern hemisphere, crushing some 220,000 tonnes of grapes annually or around one-third of the total grape crush of South Australia. Several years ago, I recall driving with the Berri Estates winemaker to the crushers; a journey through a huge truck marshalling area complete with traffic wardens. He turned to me and said, “Can you feel the romance?” Funny, but the sheer scale of the operation was astounding. The Riverland is also a region well aware of the hardships of farming; of extended droughts and the plunging grape prices of boom & bust cycles. But the droughts, while devastating for growers already struggling with low grape prices, have forced some changes for the better. Included among them are sustainable irrigation, drought hardy rootstock and clonal research, and the planting of alternative varieties, or, as one local winemaker described them, “appropriate varieties.” King of grapes
One of the larger producers is Kingston Estate, established by Greek immigrants, Nina & Steve Moularadellis in the mid-1980s after they met picking grapes in the early 1960s. Today, you can still find them in the winery most days, but it is son Bill who steers the ship. Kingston Estate produce a range of wines that offer great value for money and drinking pleasure. Their portfolio centres around the European classic varieties, but for me, when I think of the estate, it is their Petit Verdot that springs to mind and it is certainly a variety they have hung their hat on. Deeply coloured and laden with rich fruit and spice, it possesses an ample structure with plenty of ripe tannin and is a variety that seems to thrive in the warmer climes of the Riverland. Salena Estate, another of the larger operators, has around 520 acres under vine, roughly half of which is certified organic. Their range includes classic varieties, across different price points that provide great drinking, and their ‘Ink’ series concentrates on the ‘appropriate’ varieties with some great examples including Montepulciano , Graciano, Bianco d’Alessano and Vermentino . The Banrock Station cellar door is top-notch with the complete range of wines available for tasting, a great little restaurant if you are feeling peckish and the amazing wetlands ecosystem with walking trails if you need to stretch your legs. The Angove cellar door in Renmark is another must visit for the quality and diversity of their range of wines with fruit sourced from the Riverland and further afield across South Australia. In recent times, the interest in sourcing fruit from the Riverland by winemakers based outside the region has been pleasing to see. There are several factors at play here. Better farming practices and increased interest in some of the varieties that end in ‘O’ that seem well suited to the region are certainly in the mix. Another is the tireless efforts, boundless energy and great farming nous of Ashley Ratcliff of Ricca Terra Farms, who has done much to raise the profile of the Riverland as a source of well-farmed, alternative varieties. Part of this nous was knowing when to take a risk on doing something new. As he explains, “During the boom times in the Riverland, grape prices were up and getting people to change their practices was hard. Why would you decrease your yields and plant new varieties? When things turned, however, others panicked, but we were brave; buying up vineyards and planting alternative varieties that now fetch sustainable prices.” Ashley’s Ricca Terra Farms is just outside Bamera and is planted with many of the varieties that are now sought after in the region – Nero d’Avola , Fiano , Vermentino , Montepulciano , Zibbibo, Muscato Giallo and the curiously named, Slankamenca Bela. As well as supplying grapes for other winemakers, Ashley has his own ‘Ricca Terra’ label featuring inventive blends of these varieties. Another producer riding the wave of the alternative varieties that are well-suited to the Riverland is Alex Russell Wines. Viticulturist and winemaker Alex Russell crafts a range of delicious wines from Montepulciano, Vermentino, and Lagrein to Nero d’Avola, Saperavi and Graciano. Alex’s range of wines hold true to the tenet that a wines ‘raison d’etre’ is to be above all else, delicious to drink and they have picked up a swathe of awards at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show in Mildura . small names, big impression
Other small local producers who farm in a thoughtful, sustainable fashion to seek out include Whistling Kite, whose biodynamically farmed range includes a fantastic Petit Manseng and a Montepulciano that is a benchmark for the region. The organically farmed Bassham Wines is another, with delicious, racy whites including Vermentino and Fiano, along with lovely examples of Lagrein, Nero d’Avola and Graciano. Also check out 919 Wines, whose range of table wines provides beautiful drinking across both the classic and alternative varieties, including a killer Pale Dry Apera style. And last but not least, the Delinquent Wine Co has a fantastic range of funkily packaged wines for “drinkin, not thinkin”, featuring new wave varieties, including the very drinkable Bianco d’Alessano Pet Nat Sparkling. Of the producers from further afield who proudly source fruit from the Riverland, the list is growing. Sue Bell from Bellwether Wines in Coonawarra produces a fantastic, award-winning Nero d’Avola Rosé and crisp, textural Bianco d’Alessano; Margaret River based winemaker Brad Wehr of Amato Vino produces a dangerously drinkable Riverland range including a wonderful Slankamenca Bela. In the Adelaide Hills, Unico Zela features amazing Fiano, Nero d’Avola and an enchanting skin-contact white blend. And from McLaren Vale, ex-NYC sommelier Brad Hickey of Brash Higgins Wines crafts a heady, textural Zibbibo using grapes from Ricca Terra Farms vineyard. a bright future
Riverland is on the up and up and if you haven’t sampled its wines, now is the time. Perhaps its reputation has been unfairly tarnished as a source of lower-end, bulk wine offerings, but today the wines have never been better and there is an undercurrent of innovation, sustainable viticulture and experimentation that bodes very well for its future.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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