Meet the maker… Mike Farmilo, McLaren Vale SA.
Mike Farmilo is the un-sung hero behind both Monterra Wines and Colab & Bloom, the funky McLaren Vale brand he and his business partner, Norm Doole established in 2015. Indeed, Mike Farmilo has flown under the vinous radar for four decades despite an extensive career that began at Angove after he graduated from Roseworthy College in 1977. A stint at Seaview saw Farmilo fall in love with McLaren Vale, an affair that’s remained ever since. Farmilo was recruited from Seaview into the challenging role of Group Red Winemaker with the industry giant, Southcorp — now part of Treasury Wine Estates.
It was at Southcorp that Mike’s talents came to full fruition with the responsibility for the benchmark red wines of Penfolds, Lindemans, Seppelt and Wynns. Farmilo was deeply involved with crafting Penfolds’ iconic Grange and instrumental in winning two Jimmy Watson trophies, the highly prized Melbourne Wine Show’s ‘Top Young Red’ trophy. To cap off his Southcorp career, Farmilo was crowned McLaren Vale Bushing King in 1994 as maker of the Championship Wine of the Show. Retiring from Southcorp in 1997 wasn’t for Farmilo, so he turned his focus to numerous projects that have kept him busy over the last 20 years including vintages in Germany, California, France and Chile. Mike has judged at dozens of Wine Shows across the country, including chairing the Australian Small Winemakers Show in Stanthorpe.
While the Monterra portfolio includes traditional French shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and pinot noir, it’s Italianate grapes that are catching Farmilo’s attention with pinot grigio and nero d’Avola adding spice to his winemaking endeavours. Under the Colab & Bloom banner Farmilo pushes well beyond the boundaries of corporate winemaking with tempranillo and garnacha (aka grenache) shining. Farmilo is back in the zone and loving it — enjoying the fruits of his labour.
Check out our Mark Farmilo wine picks:
Monterra Reserve Black Label Shiraz
Colab and Bloom Grenache
Willunga 100 Tempranillo
While many wine drinkers make their wine selection simply based upon a preferred variety (a nice pinot noir over a merlot for example) they can sometimes be quite surprised by the results in the bottle. And why should we find this unusual? While all wine labels must clearly state the variety, vineyard & vintage, they can never truly represent all the specific characteristics of a wine deeply shaped by their growing region and vintage. In this short review of three of our beautiful–yet–different featured shiraz offerings, Peter Bourne introduces us to the wonderful world of terroir…
The Hunter Valley is regarded as the birthplace of Australian wine and is undoubtedly a great example of terroir. Why? Because on the face of it the warm, humid climate of the Hunter Valley is not conductive to winegrowing, with sub-tropical storms in the peak January/February growing season diluting flavours and increasing disease pressure. However, in the dry years, such as 2014, the afternoon cloud cover and cool overnight temperatures slows the ripening process so the grapes build more flavour. Flavours of Hunter shiraz are variously described as savoury/umami, or in the ‘olden’ days — sweaty saddle and cow shed. The 2014 is in the former mould, with intense wild blackberry flavours, hints of clove and a taut tannin structure. Drink now with a rare steak or cellar for five or more years.
Although the Barossa and McLaren Vale are just hours apart, there’s a distinct difference between the two winegrowing regions, with shiraz being the perfect mirror to compare the two terroirs. McLaren Vale is unashamedly hot in summer but the breezes off St Vincent’s Gulf moderate the heat, with the mix of sandy soils near the coast and more complex red and brown loams in the Clarendon Hills bringing a juicy, red & black fruit flavours with a more compact tannin profile. Mike Farmilo makes his Monterra Shiraz in the traditional style with oodles of flavours that just cry out for a barbecue – chops, sausages or a good hamburger.
While the more inland Barossa valley region enjoys the same warm conditions as the McLaren Vale, the combination of a more continental climate (with cooler nights) and its richer soil adds depth and power to the Barossa shiraz style. The Schrapel family have farmed the Eastern Hills of the Barossa Ranges for 150 years with the 2016 East Grounds Shiraz a typically dense, intense shiraz with dark chocolate and black fruits bouquet, a rich compact core of equally dark fruits and a skein of compact tannins binding the wine together. Best with a leg of lamb and lots of roasted vegetables.