The French Rhône: Fatherland to the Barossa Valley

Why the Rhône region in France is commonly compared to Australia’s Barossa Valley…

James Busby kick-started the Australian wine industry with a collection of 570 grape varieties shopped from France in 1831. His catalogue listed: No 1 Carignan No 2 Grenache No 3 Mataro No 9 Hermitage.

… the latter now known as Shiraz/Syrah, the original vines sourced from the hill of Hermitage in the northern Rhône Valley. (Mataro is a synonym for Mourvèdre with both names used here). These varieties remain the cornerstone of Australian red wine due to a simple climatic synergy. Australia is a warm-to-hot continent and the Rhône Valley the warmest of France’s major regions.

Syrah is the mandatory grape of the (somewhat cooler) northern Rhône appellations Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and St Joseph – all to the south of Lyon. Grenache takes the lead in the warmer southern Rhône regions with syrah in a supporting role.

The appellations of Côtes du Rhône and, the highly revered, Châteauneuf du Pape have inspired our GSM wine style. The juicy red fruit flavours of Grenache are given focus and drive by the black-fruited Shiraz and a bit of funk by Mourvèdre’s inherent earthiness. This trio occasionally forms a quartet with the more rustic grape, Carignan.

Our quick guide to wine temperature

What are the ideal storage and serving temperatures for my wine?

STORAGE TEMPERATURE

All wine should be stored at around 13 degrees, and avoid temperatures over 18 degrees.

FOR SERVING REDS

A little under room temperature, ideally 16-18 degrees. Served to cold it will be tight and the flavours will not develop, but served too warm you will be overpowered by the tannins and alcohol.

FOR SERVING WHITES (AND ROSE)

Ideally 11-12 degrees. Overly cold white wine will accentuate acidity an the delicate structure and flavour notes will ‘close up’.

Region Insight: Orange

WHAT DIFFERENTIATES ORANGE FROM OTHER WINE REGIONS?

Wines from Orange and the Central ranges region are known to be light to medium bodied, elegant, aromatic and very fine. This is due to the uniquely harsh terroir and also the result of the heat summation.

Orange Terroir: being nestled on the side of a mountain, means two things for the wine region. The mountain affects the climate, with summers being harsh and warm, and winters commonly having snowfalls and being significantly colder than most of NSW. This combined with the simple fact that higher elevation packs flavour into wine, makes grapes from the Orange region incredibly sought after. Regions like the Hunter Valley often borrow Orange grapes to incorporate into their wines, adding some impacting flavour and complexity.

Shiraz and Chardonnay grapes are particularly suited to the terroir of Orange. Try Swinging Bridge Reserve Shiraz – a classic Orange example of a heavy, full flavoured Shiraz with incredible complexity and just the right amount of ageing. Or for those who love a white, try the incredible Cooks Lot Iconique Chardonnay. This simply must not be missed. As full-bodied as a white wine gets, with complex oak aromatics and buttery roundedness. It is an absolute winner!

Of course dont forget to check out Angullong’s Gold Medal winning Rosato Ross Hills robust Grenache Shiraz or the Naked Grape Moscato. All are true examples of what Orange has to offer.

 

Tim Smith: Barossa Valley Winemaker of the Year!!

Tim Smith Wines is a 5 RED STAR Halliday winery. And now head winemaker Tim has been awarded the highly respected title of Barossa Winemaker of the Year by the Barons of Barossa.

So, who is Tim?

Tim started his career in wine by working as a cellar hand for Yalumba in 1987 – 15 years later, having completed a wine science degree and with his experience in winemaking, he wont the Winemaker Exchange Scholarship to the Rhone Valley in France. In September 2001, Tim made the decision to start Tim Smith Wines, with the first vintage being made in 2002. And the rest is history…

Two of his outstanding wines are featured in our March 2019 Barossa Valley subscriptions:

Bugalugs by Tim Smith Shiraz

 https://www.vendimia.com.au/products/22281-bugalugs-by-tim-smith-shiraz/

 96 Halliday Points
A juicy, not too serious wine, with impressive Barossa floor flavours and soft tannins from the use of older American and French oak. Included in the March 2019 Premium Reds & Premium Mixed subscriptions. A showcasing of Tim’s standout winemaking, the passion in the bottle is evident. Available now for purchase.

 

Tim Smith MGS (Mataro Grenache Shiraz)

https://www.vendimia.com.au/products/22280-tim-smith-mataro-grenache-shiraz/

Tim drew inspiration from the Southern Rhone style in making this wine. A blend from low yeilding vines across the Barossa, aged in older oak – this wine is plush & aromatic. Included in our March 2019 Premium Reds subscription. A wine with serious cellaring potential. Available now for purchase.

“I am a huge fan of the wines of Bandol, and I unashamedly draw inspiration from this Southern Rhone appellation. My Barossa Mataro Grenache Shiraz is made with Mataro being the dominant grape. This allows the Mataro fruit, which has a similar tannin structure as Shiraz, to be ready to drink upon release as well as having some serious cellaring potential.”  Tim Smith

Journals of a wine buyer: Day Four

Heading south from Bendigo through harsh country side towards brooding Mount Alexander, I can’t help but be amazed by how far removed the reality of the wine growing and making industry is from the perceived romance of wine – and the beautifully presented bottles of hard labour and heartache that grace the shelves of bottle shops with their classy designer labels. Twice today I will hear of a late frost that’s come through after the vines are past bud burst – and the total crop lost.

After visiting Balgownie Estate 5 star winery and Sutton Grange – and tasting some cracking Bendigo Shiraz and brokering deals for our subscribers, I’m on the road further south. Rising up into Daylesford and on to Ballarat the countryside becomes lush, green and productive. From here its north west to the Pyrenees wine region between Avoca and Stawell. Thankfully a navigation mistake places me right outside the door of 3 of Australia’s finest wineries – Dalwhinnie, Taltarni and Summerfield. These are all Halliday 5 red star wineries and Dalwhinnie and Summerfield are ‘double red’ – in the top 100. I visit each and am blown away. After a long meeting with Mark Summerfield, I fail to persuade him to sell us wine wholesale for the advantage of our clients. However, if you ever get the opportunity to buy one of his wines, don’t let it pass.

From here it’s over the Pyrenees ranges. I’m thankful that I am in a hire car! The road is rough, rutted and dusty – and I dodge Kangaroos, lizards and hares. Winding back down the southern side, the countryside opens up and before me is Glenlofty Estate. I meet with the Manager and Vineyard Manager and also a neighbouring grower from Quartz Hill. We sample a number of wines and do a tour of their massive 137 ha vineyard. This is a major vineyard, established by Southcorp, then taken over by Treasury Estate and then sold to current owner Canadian Roger Richmond – Smith. To stand on the top of the hill and view such a large magnificent and varied vineyard – and see 90% of it burnt out with frost and the 2018 vintage destroyed, the heartache is palpable.

As I leave to head back to Melbourne Airport, I reflect on how vast and varied this state is. What I’ve covered is extensive, but hardly touches it – it’s nothing more than a quick overview of what’s to be discovered and enjoyed. I look forward to covering all these areas one by one in depth. And that’s only the beginning. South of here are all the cool climate areas to be explored. What a journey!

Wine picks: Taltarni Sangiovese and Glenlofty Cabernet Sauvignon

Journals of a wine buyer: Day Three

Heathcote is Victoria’s premium Shiraz producing region. It is positioned in the heartland of central Victoria – mid way between Shepparton and Bendigo. The countryside is truly Australian – harsh, dry, dusty and has a low rainfall. The conditions here are difficult, with some years suffering from drought and others from too much rainfall or frost. The vines are low yielding, small and gnarled. The lack of moisture and harsh circumstances sends the root structure deep into a narrow belt of Cambrian high mineral soil that runs north from Heathcote township. This unique terroir produces intense, deeply coloured and flavoured fruit – and wine with unique savoury flavours.

First call is to the areas’ benchmark pioneer and producer, Ron Laughton from Jasper Hill Estate. Ron started the whole Heathcote journey some 40 years ago and is hailed as the pinnacle producer of the region. His wine is simply stunning – and so is his generosity. He takes me for a full tour, including tasting barrel samples of new vintages that will be blended to make up the next Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz. Next up is a visit to Bob Downing from Downing Estate, just over the road from Jasper Hill with vines planted in the same band of Cambrian soil. Some of Bob’s Shiraz’s are included in this month’s subscription. Sanguine Estate is next – this winery, along with Jasper Hill, Downing’s and Paul Osika are Halliday 5 Red Star rated – the highest awarded. Sanguine’s Shiraz’s are regularly rated amongst the 10 best in the world, along with the likes of Penfolds’ Grange. Heathcote is one of our finest Shiraz producing regions – producing wine of an acquired savoury taste profile. However, it’s not a tourist area with destination wineries. To see a broad selection from the region, visit The Wine Hub Cellar and Store in Heathcote Main Street – they stock products from almost all the area’s producers.

Journals of a wine buyer: Day Two

Driving up into Beechworth I realize that this is going to be a very different wine experience. At 530m it is approx. 360m higher than Albury and Wangaratta – both less than 40 minutes away.

Entering the township is a trip into yesteryear. Obviously an extremely rich centre in the mid 1800’s gold years, the heritage architecture is nothing short of magnificent, and is maintained in pristine condition. The town is beautiful – clean and well preserved with English tree lined streets. Its heritage, Ned Kelly history, arts and crafts shops and wine industry draw large crowds of tourists.

Beechworth’s most recognised and revered wine label is Giaconda, who produce some of Australia’s premier chardonnay that is sought after by wine lovers and collectors the world over. They have been named as one of the world’s top 10 white wine makers. Many of their wines sell in excess of $100 a bottle. This is clearly my first call! To my surprise- and disappointment- there is no cellar door.

Next up is Golden Ball, just over the road from Giaconda. This place is seriously tiny and boutique. Founded, grown and made by James McLaurin, it is only about 3.5 hectares. A recent Chardonnay of his received 98 Halliday points and top Chardonnay in Australia! Amazing stuff. His wine graces the wine lists of 28 of Australia’s top hatted restaurants.

I spend time with James, explaining the Vendimia project. It was clear that he didn’t have wine that fitted anywhere near the prices we needed to include in our subscriptions. But, after much persuasion he agreed to sell us a pallet of his 2011 Egalitaire, a wine that would normally retail for around $60… what a coup!

Beechworth…a wonderful area, great countryside, amazing wines, a beautiful part of the world – but I could soon see that we wouldn’t be able to achieve many wine purchases here. This is an area of small producers, high retail prices, high cellar door and restaurant demand and not enough quantities produced to sell us the full pallets we need for our subscriptions.

Region Insight: Heathcote

Heathcote is Victoria’s premium Shiraz producing region. It is positioned in the heartland of central Victoria – mid way between Shepparton and Bendigo. The countryside is truly Australian – harsh, dry, dusty and has a low rainfall. The conditions here are difficult, with some years suffering from drought and others from too much rainfall or frost. The vines are low yielding, small and gnarled. The lack of moisture and harsh circumstances sends the root structure deep into a narrow belt of Cambrian high mineral soil that runs north from Heathcote township. This unique terroir produces intense, deeply coloured and flavoured fruit – and wine with unique savoury flavours.

If you ever visit the area, there are a few standouts that you shouldn’t miss. Ron Laughton is from Jasper Hill Estate – he started the whole Heathcote journey some 40 years ago and is hailed as the pinnacle producer of the region. His wine is simply stunning. Over the road from Ron is Bob Downing, from Downing Estate – his vines planted in the same Cambrian soil. You can’t go past his Shiraz. Sanguine Estate – this winery’s outstanding Shiraz’s are regularly rated amongst the 10 best in the world, along with the likes of Penfolds’ Grange. To see a broad selection from the region (without doing the ‘hard work’ of stopping at each winery) – visit The Wine Hub Cellar and Store in Heathcote Main Street.

Check out our Heathcote pick: Dirty Boulevard Wanted Man Shiraz

 

What is Amarone?

So what is Amarone? And what makes it so special?

Amarone is an Italian style of dry red wine, that is all about the winemaking technique. Originating in the Veneto region in North-Eastern Italy, it is traditionally known for its strong, rich, powerful flavour. This intensity comes from the drying process…

The grapes are harvested ripe, and left to dry all winter for roughly 120 days (into raisins), resulting in concentrated flavour and high sugar content. The time, resource and space required for a winery to conquer this process successfully makes this wine on the more expensive side. The wine is mostly aged in French barriques and shows flavour characteristics unlike wines made in any other style.

Greg Hobbs’ famous Australian answer to the traditional Amarone, is the Gregor Shiraz. The fruit is handpicked, semi-dried in the Amarone style – although Greg does not tend to do this for the full 120 days as this tends to take it too a sweeter, tawny flavour profile. Instead it is dried ‘to the perfect flavour’, then naturally fermented in open vats before being aged in new French Oak for 24 months. Bottled unfiltered. The wine is simply superb. The best Amarone in Australia with 93 Halliday points & a rating of 96 points from Robert Parker Wine Advocate. It would be safe to say its close to the best Amarone in the world.

Check our the Gregor – https://www.vendimia.com.au/products/21876-hobbs-gregor-amarone-shiraz/ 

Region Insight: Adelaide Hills

A cool climate region producing stunning, fruity fine wines.

Adelaide Hills’ cool climate produces vibrant whites with punchy Sauvignon Blanc and fine restrained Chardonnay being the two traditional varietals. However, with its unique topography creating several micro-climates, the region is also perfect for Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. Some Pinot Noir is also produced here. Shiraz and other red grape varieties are grown in the lower reaches of the Adelaide Hills, but due to the cooler conditions are lighter bodied than those produced in other parts of the state.