The Pfalz region lies between the Haardt Mountains and the Rhine River, directly north of Alsace. Long known for high volume production, Pfalz’s reputation is undergoing a change and producers such as A. Christmann are at the helm of this renaissance, producing high quality intensely flavoured wines.
Weingut A. Christmann began its journey in Pflaz in 1845 and today the seventh generation is at the helm, lead by Steffen Christmann. The fruit for this wine is sourced from three different parcels based on sandstone soils in Gimmeldingen, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg.
The estate is described by leading German wine critic, Gerhard Eichelmann as being “among the leading wineries in Pfalz” and this entry level wine is an excellent introduction to the wines of A. Christmann.
James and Annie Millton have been producing wine in Manutuke in the Gisborne region since 1984. The Millton Vineyard was the first biodynamic estate in New Zealand and in 2009 they were the first estate in the Southern Hemisphere to gain biodynamic certification from the internationally recognised Demeter Group.
The Opou Vineyard was established in 1969. Chardonnay and Riesling grapes are grown in the clay loam over river silt soils of the vineyard. For the Chardonnay, the dominant clone is the Mendoza clone (or Gingin clone as it is known in Western Australia). In the winery the juice is pressed directly into small French oak barrels, 15% of which are new, and fermentation begins using natural or indigenous yeasts. A portion of the barrels will undergo malolactic fermentation before the wine is aged in oak for 15 months. The wine is then assembled in stainless steels to rest and gel together before it is bottled onsite and released to the market.
This was definitely one of the many highlights at the Cullen cellar door during our recent visit. Inspired by the wines of Georgia where they use everything for the white wines – the juice, skins and pips – to produce an aromatic, textural and delicious white wine, this is Vanya Cullen’s pristine take on that traditional method.
The 2014 is the first Amber wine produced from Cullen, and sadly there will be no Amber produced in 2015 due early rains and bird damage to the fruit. The 2014 however is an absolute delight and not to be missed. The grape juice was left in contact with the skins for anywhere from two days to one month depending on the parcel and the grape variety.
The wine was fermented in a variety of different vessels including open fermenters, closed tanks and the traditional amphora. 2014 was an excellent vintage for Semillon and the Amber is the perfect vehicle to showcase the many layers and complexities of this wine.
The Leperchois family have been producing wine in the Rhône Valley since the 1920s. In 1997 they began converting their estate to biodynamics, becoming certified by the Demeter Group.
The rosés from the Tavel appellation in southern Rhône were known historically as the rosés of kings for their quality and international reputation – an honour these deeply coloured wines continue to enjoy today.
Basking in the sunshine of southern Rhône’s Mediterranean climate, the fruit for Tavel rosés is dominated by Grenache up to a maximum of 60% and this contributes to an easy drinking style. In the vineyard the vines are dry framed with all tasks managed by hand including pruning, debudding, thinning and harvesting. In the winery natural yeasts are used and fermentation takes place under temperature controlled conditions.
With an unusual blend of Petit Verdot and Malbec, the fruit for this wine sings of the sunshine under which it grew. Coming entirely from the Mangan Vineyard, both varieties, which can sometimes struggle to achieve full ripeness, have no problem here. Black fruits, spice, liquorice and mineral notes sit together within a restrained frame.
The 2014 vintage in Margaret River produced very good quality fruit in small quantities. The resultant wines are of excellent flavour intensity and Vanya Cullen and her team have crafted the East Block into a medium bodied expression with fine supple tannins and a palate weight that does not overwhelm.
The Côtes du Rhône appellation accounts for approximately two-thirds of the wine produced in the Rhône Valley and the style is one of easy drinking affordability – this wine is no exception. The second offering from Domaine des Carabiniers for the May Offer and a consistent higher scorer with critics such as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, this is an excellent example of the wines from the region.
The vines that produce fruit for this wine are at least 35-years old and the fruit is harvested during the night to preserve freshness and acidity. This translate to a medium-bodied wine of fruit, savoury and herbal notes with a restrained structure.
Ulithorne represents husband and wife team Rose Kentish and painter, Sam Harrison. Rose has not only been a finalist in the GT Wine Magazine Winemaker of the Year awards, she was also voted Winemaker of the Year at the Australian Women in Wine Awards in 2015.
The family divides their time between the south of France and McLaren Vale in South Australia. As a result, their portfolio includes wines produced in both countries and the wine on offer today is a sophisticated expression of an Aussie icon – sparkling Shiraz.
The Flamma NV comprises 11 different vintages of Shiraz fruit from their premium Shiraz vineyard. The different vintage wines are blended into the base wine and the sparkling wine is producing using the traditional method of Champagne.
This deeply coloured wine is described by the winemakers as showing mulberry, dark plum, coffee bean and nutmeg flavours. It is a deliberately drier style of sparkling Shiraz that would match well to Parmesan cheese, rabbit terrine, Xmas pudding or, as the renowned British wine critic Jancis Robinson says “Please bring on some salami!”
By day, Australian born winemaker Warren Gibson, makes wines for Trinity Hill in Hawkes Bay. By night so to speak, he makes wines under his own label Bilancia (be-larn-cha), which means equilibrium and balance in Italian.
The fruit for this Chardonnay is sourced from the la collina vineyard which is just behind the Trinity Hill Cellar Door and from the Bridge Pa Triangle region of Hawkes Bay.
After being harvested by hand the grapes are whole-bunch pressed and the juice is run straight into puncheons and barrels for fermentation in French oak. Each vessel had varying levels of solids remaining in the juice and indigenous yeasts were left to begin the fermentation. Upon completion of the fermentation, the wine spent 15 months in oak to mature before being bottled.
The style of this wine is food friendly with restrained weight on the palate, fresh citrus and white flower aromas and flavours overlaid with subtle toast notes making this one of my favourite Chardonnays to drink!
Like Rose Kentish of Ulithorne, Jane Eyre splits here time between France, in this case Burgundy, and her home of Melbourne where she makes wines using fruit from the Mornington Peninsula and from Gippsland.
Eyre studied winemaking at Charles Sturt University and went on to rack up impressive experience working at wineries including Cullen, Felton Road, Ata Rangi, Dr Loosen and then in Burgundy with Dominique Lafon and Frederic Mugnier before moving to Domaine Newman where she currently works.
When speaking of her approach to winemaking, Jane says “I’m interested in aromatics. If you want tannic wines there are plenty out there but I don’t like mean wines, my wines are made for drinking in the first decade.”
When in Melbourne, she produces her wines at Bill Downie’s winery in Gippsland. The fruit for the Mornington Peninsula Pinot is sourced from two vineyards located in Merricks. The vines are approximately 20-years-old and are dry farmed. The fruit is harvested by hand and completely destemmed. It is aged in old oak barriques for 10 months before bottling and released without fining or filtering.
Sagrantino is a grape variety from the Montefalco region of Umbria in centre of Italy. This expression of Sagrantino uses fruit sourced from the Chalmers Vineyard in Merbein and is made in a distinctly different style to the Italian version.
Where high tannins are the hallmark of an Italian Sagrantino, this Australian version from William Downie and Jason Searle, is all about easy drinking. After the fruit has arrived from Merbein to the Yarra Valley it is completely destemmed and left to ferment in open top fermenters. Maturation is in neutral oak for 6 months prior to bottling and release with no fining or flitering.
The style of this wine is easy drinking with spicy anise and juicy dark fruits of cherries and plums – perfect for cracking open mid-week or at a weekend barbeque!
Palacios Remondo is headed up by Alvario Palacios, Decanter Man of the Year in 2015 and one of the pioneers of wines produced from the Spanish region of Priorat. He is known for championing the indigenous grape varieties of the Spain and for reinvigorating interest in wines made from Garnarcha in the Rioja region.
Based in Alfaro in the south-eastern corner of Rioja, Palacios runs the family owned business and in addition to producing wines in the Rioja and Priorat regions he also produces wines in Bierzo.
La Vendimia is a 60/40 blend of Tempranillo and Garnarcha. The fruit is harvested from several parcels of land some of which are located at 550 m above sea level, ensuring the fresh acidity of the fruit is preserved. Once in the winery, the grapes are completely destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Maturation is a brief period of 4-5 months in French oak barrique before bottling and release.
Casarena Bodega y Viñedos produce this particular wine from fruit grown in the Lujan de Cuyo sub-region of Mendoza. Located south-west of Mendoza city, Lujan de Cuyo is known for its high population of old ungrafted Malbec vines and in fact winemaking in the region is devoted exclusively to the production of premium quality Malbec.
Established in 2007 this American-owned concern looked to famed consultant Michel Rolland for guidance in building its reputation. The winemaker, Bernardo Bossi has significant experience with one of Argentina’s icons – Bodegas Catena – and his wines have been very well received by the international wine community.
The grapes for this particular Malbec undergo a rigorous sorting process before fermentation kicks off using natural yeasts and fermentation temperatures are kept low to ensure a gentle extraction of flavour, colour and tannins. Maturation is for 12 months in French oak barrels before bottling and release.
Klein Constantia counts some of the oldest vineyards in South Africa as part of their estate. The grapes for this Cap Classique are harvested in three separate batches from a single vineyard block in the Costal region of Constantia.
Methode Cap Classique is the term used in South Africa for sparkling wine made using the traditional method of the Champagne region. The base wine for this sparkling beauty is aged for 9 months in 500L oak cases before it is blended and bottled in preparation for the second fermentation, which is the one that produces those gorgeous bubbles. Before being released, the wine sits for 20 months on lees.
Godello is the signature white wine grape of the Valdeorras region in Spain’s Galicia province. The family can trace vineyard ownership back to the late 19th century and have recently completed a programme to buy back a number of parcels of land that were sold by past generations.
As a result of this buy-back programme, they now own numerous tiny parcels of vineyards across Valdeorras giving them access to some of the oldest vines in the region. It is from these vines that they produce their stunning wines, including this Montenovo Blanco Godello.
The Campania region is located in southern Italy and so named for the Latin campania felix meaning fertile fields. The grape Fiano is synonymous with white wine in this part of Italy and in centuries passed it was known as vitis apiana in reference to the honeybees attracted to the vine’s berries as the fruit ripened in the Italian sun.
Husband and wife team, Elizabeth and Pasquale, manage their vines using organic agriculture principles. The vines for this Fiano average 15 years old and cover nearly two hectares. They are located inside the Cilento National Park among citrus, olive and fig trees.
Fruit for this wine is sourced from 50-year-old vines found on the granite and schist slopes of Colline du Py in the Beaujolais region. The Piron family can trace their presence in Beaujolais back four centuries and it is the fourteenth generation who are currently running the business from the village of Morgon.
This wine is named ‘La Chanaise’ after the house Dominique lives in. This particular bottling has been prepared under screwcap specifically for the Australian market to ensure there are no barriers to cracking it open and enjoying flavours of red berries and spice!
DNA testing has confirmed that contrary to popular myth, Shiraz (also known as Syrah) does not originate from the Middle East town of Shiraz. Instead it is the offspring of two ancient grapes found in France – Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza.
Here we have Mondeuse Noir, also known as Grosse Syrah and a close relative of Mondeuse Blanche. DNA testing has yet to confirm the relationship, but it is thought Mondeuse Noir is either a grandparent or half-sibling of Syrah (Shiraz).
More importantly for those of us drinking this wine, we can see the deep colour and signature pepper characteristics of Mondeuse Noir have been passed to its more familiar relative, Syrah (Shiraz).
The winemaking team at this family owned estate includes Phil Reedman MW (Master of Wine) and Peter Gajewski, who previously worked alongside Max Schubert, creator of Penfold’s Grange.
Produced only in the best vintages, the Antiquarian Shiraz was matured in French oak barriques for 24 months and will age for 10+ years. 2013 was a dry vintage with harvest completed in record time and while quantity was low, the quality of this vintage is beginning to shine.
Late last year I tasted this wine at an event in Melbourne and was so impressed by it I wrote a short article about the wine and the region where it is produced – Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay. The excellent vintage conditions and the talent of winemaker Matt Stafford have together produced a wine of premium quality and significant ageing potential.
The wine is made using a classic Bordeaux blend, where the two main grapes are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon together with Cabernet Franc for freshness and fragrance and a dash of spice from Petit Verdot. After tasting the 2010, 2013 and 2014 it was the 2013 that really stood out with a lifted aromatic profile of fruit, spice, dried herbs and floral notes, a silky mouthfeel and a powerful structure. This would make a welcome addition to any cellar and will drink well in the years to come – if you can keep your hands off it!
Arfion, 2016 Smokestack Lightning, Yarra Valley
Grape: Pinot Grigio
Drink: Now or until 2019
I have written about Dave Mackintosh’s wines before and the Pinot Grigio continues to be an all time favourite of mine. I finished my last bottle of the 2015 last weekend and am so glad the 2016 has just been released.
Dave uses the Smokestack Lightning label for his small batch wines. For the Pinot Grigio he uses 100% whole bunch fermentation to extract colour and texture from these copper tinged berries. The whole bunch method of fermentation enhances the flavour and aroma characteristics of the wine with further complexity added by the texture derived from leaving the fermenting juice in contact with the skins.
The final result is aromas and flavours of summer red fruits, zingy tangerine citrus and hints of purple flowers wound around a structure of good palate weight and refreshing acidity – more importantly this is one easy wine to drink!
Produced using biodynamic principles this sparkling wine employs the traditional method of production most closely associated with the Champagne region. Originally from Austria, winemaker Rudi Bauer was one of the early advocates of biodynamic viticulture in New Zealand.
The term Brut is used to signify a dry sparkling wine and Methode Traditionelle indicates that the secondary fermentation that produced the bubbles occurred in bottle and that the sparkling wine was aged on its lees (dead yeast cells). This imparts toasty, brioche notes to the wine.
Rudi riddles and disgorges the wine by hand and for this batch it was done from Autumn 2016 onwards. For a quick run down on how sparkling wine is made take a look at the latter part of this article.
Located in the Moutere region of Nelson, the wines from Neudorf are known for their quality and the Pinot Gris is no exception. I tasted this wine at the cellar door in January with one of the owners, Judy Finn.
This wine would match well with a variety of food due to its aromatics, palate weight and refreshing acidity. The review below by highly respected Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas says it all …
“Fragrant, fresh and distinctive bouquet of ripe white fleshed fruits, lush, floral and with a layer of minerality and gentle white spice. On the palate – soft and lightly creamy then when the acidity kicks in the palate embraces and new mix of flavours including sweet citrus, pear and apple fruit, a hint of spice and sweetness; beautifully balanced with a lengthy finish. A lovely example.” Cameron Douglas MSom, 2015 Vintage
Fruit for this wine was harvested entirely by hand with the majority being destemmed prior to fermentation – a small amount (15%) of bunches retained their stalks for added aromatic intensity.
I tasted this wine in January at the cellar door and was immediately struck by the restrained structure of the wine. Medium in body with a fine and supple tannin structure this wine showed delicious classic Pinot notes of red fruits, dried herbs and pretty floral notes. It is drinking well now and has the potential to show nice development over the next 3 – 4 years.
Stonecroft Wines are certified organic and produce Syrah from the oldest vines in New Zealand. They were the first winery established in the Gimblett Gravels area and have a traditional approach to producing their wines.
Another red wine from the outstanding 2013 vintage, the Serine Syrah shows enticing restraint in style yet all the hallmarks of a quality expression – fine tannin structure, red and black fruits with savoury meat and black pepper notes. The fruit for the Serine was hand harvested and the wine matured for 18 months in French oak barrels, 25% of which were new. To read more about this wine click here.