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Category Archives: Vineyard
This story of oysters and wine links France’s Languedoc coast to Bateman’s Bay, half a world away, and to Cowra, on the warm floor of the west-flowing Lachlan River.
The man joining the dots is Steve Feletti, owner of Moonlight Flat Oysters, Bateman’s Bay. His website borrows the language of wine – “Just like premium wines and cheeses oysters reflect their context of finish and provenance with a unique flavour profile”, it says. On the website, Feletti recommends wines that “balance the saline strength of our structured rock oyster brands” and “smoky finish end palate of the angasi”.
Feletti’s eclectic list includes a chardonnay from Orange, NSW, and a chardonnay, a gewürztraminer and a cortese (an Italian variety) from Victoria’s Yarra Valley, Mansfield and Mount Tallarook, respectively. The limited list suggests Feletti finds few wines that really do the trick with oysters.
But during a 2008 French tour, Feletti tasted picpoul de pinet with oysters farmed nearby on the Languedoc coast. “No single wine rang my bells up until this experience”, he says.
For the locals, however, the bells rang centuries ago, says Feletti. And today wine producers within the picpoul de pinet appellation promote their inexpensive, acidic young white under the slogan son terroir, c’est la mer (it’s territory is the sea) – with images of wine, oysters and the sea.
The picpoul de pinet appellation stretches from Pezenas, in the hinterland, southeast to Sete on the Mediterranean. The region’s white grape variety, officially piquepoul blanc, produces acidic, lemony, dry whites – its high acidity the key to a successful pairing with oysters.
But piquepoul blanc remains a small-scale specialty, with French plantings totalling just 1,455 hectares in 2009.
Two years after discovering piquepoul, Feletti asked French grape grower, Guy Bascou, for vine cuttings to take back to Australia. Bascou obliged, and after three years in quarantine, the cuttings arrived in Cowra, where Feletti owns a farm.
Shortly after, the local state member, minister for primary industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, planted what Feletti believes to be Australia’s first piquepoul vine.
Feletti intends to follow this symbolic planting with a commercial venture in August, establishing 1,000 vines on the O’Dea family’s nearby Windowrie vineyard. He expects Jason O’Dea to oversee the first vintage as early as 2015. We should then taste the first Australian piquepoul some months later, under the Borrowed Cuttings label.
Feletti hopes in future to establish vines on the south coast and, over time, establish piquepoul as “part of the oyster experience”, much as French vignerons and oyster farmers have done for centuries. He agrees with one US description of the variety as “the default wine for oysters” as it forms a “backdrop, allowing the oyster to shine”, he says.
Feletti’s idea of oysters, though, may not be the same as those of us who belt down the coast for the weekend, picking up a hessian bag full from Batemans Bay, Tuross, Narooma or wherever.
He raises flat (angasi) and cupped (Sydney rock) oysters year round in the Clyde River, near Batemans Bay. He sells most, under his patented brands, including Claire de Lune, to restaurants– where they sell at around $7 each. Feletti says he finishes each brand differently in response to different markets.
They’re not in any Canberra restaurants. But where you do find them – for example at Sydney’s Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay – they’ll be shucked on demand by trained staff. And in the years ahead they’ll no doubt be served with Feletti’s piquepoul.
Feletti says he sells to 20–40 restaurants in long-term partnerships. He expects restaurants “to do something for my brand” and, in return, he provides staff training, as well as a year-round supply of succulent oysters. He also writes a regular newsletter and conducts master classes for consumers – all in the cause of better appreciation of live, shucked-on-demand oysters.
This is a far cry from popular consumption; or indeed of heroic efforts like those of Henry IV, who reputedly swallowed three hundred before dinner; or of a customer of Brillat-Savarin’s 32 dozen pre-dinner snack.
In my own experience, the strong seaside flavours of oysters overwhelm many wines. But I’ve found several up to the task over the years, each in it own way. At a little café in the dunes of Cap Ferret (near Bordeaux), a tart, fairly neutral young Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, from the Loire Valley, refreshed the mouth but allowed the briny, oyster flavours to sing.
Years later in Bordeaux, a local, partially oak-fermented semillon sauvignon blanc blend sat happily with plump, juicy, ice-cold oysters.
On many occasions, young Chablis (cold climate French chardonnay) proved itself perhaps the most reliable of all oyster wines. Its high acidity, desert dryness and subtle flavour easily balanced the saline, iodine-like twang of the oyster. To date, this is my favourite oyster match up. Costco, Dan Murphy’s and First choice all offer inexpensive imports from the region.
And one Australian riesling remains in the memory – a success of wine, oyster, location and occasion. On a cold, rainy dusk at the Steingarten vineyard, Eden Valley, huddled under umbrellas, we slurped down fresh-shucked Coffin Bay oysters with wine from from the vineyard we stood in. Steingarten Riesling 2007’s brisk lime-like flavour simply replaced the traditional squeeze of lime.
Amanda Yallop, chief sommelier at Sydney’s outstanding Quay restaurant, leans more towards high acid, savoury-to-neutral whites. She says in the days when Quay offered oysters, she recommended aromatic young whites, including riesling, and also Champagne, which she sees as a classic match for its tangy, zesty finish.
Proprietor of Canberra’s Mezzalira and Italian and Sons restaurants, Pasquale Trimboli, says his customers moved away from dry white to prosecco – a fresh but neutral sparkler that offers a refreshing backdrop to the briny oyster flavour. Trimboli says it’s been 10 years since he offered pre-shucked oysters and currently offers Sydney rock oysters from Pambula. He rates Steve Feletti’s oysters, “the best I’ve ever tasted in Australia”. He hopes to offer them in future and has been in discussions with Feletti for some time. He says Feletti “is very fussy about storage and service”.
But matching wine with oysters isn’t a science and oysters, like personal taste, vary widely. Piquepoul can only add to the choice. Tim Stock’s Vinous Imports offers picpoul de Pinet from Chateau Petite Roubie, though he’s sold out at present. And Randall Pollard’s Heart and Soil Imports, Melbourne, currently offers Domaine de la Majone 2011 for $2 (phone 0408 432 456.
Steve Feletti offers Moonlight Flat oysters live by courier to Canberra customers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 29 May 2013 in the Canberra Times and goodfood.com.au
Australia’s sparkling wine king, Ed Carr first put bubbles in wine in 1977. Charged with sorting out “some issues with secondary fermentation”, Carr, a microbiologist, joined senior winemaker Pam Dunsford at Seaview’s Glenloth winery, Reynella.
“We got through, though I was straight out of uni”, recalls Carr. At the time, Dunsford made the base wines for Seaview “Champagne”, as it was then called. The wines were finished off by Norm Walker at Seaview’s sparkling cellars in the Adelaide suburb of Magill.
Today that division of labour seems as foreign as the grapes our sparkling makers used just a generation ago. The classic sparkling varieties, pinot noir and chardonnay, were little planted in Australia at the time. And our sparkling makers used neutral grape varieties. They intentionally created a blank canvas on which they painted the aromas, flavours and textures arising from bottle fermentation and maturation on spent yeast cells.
Carr recalls using muscadelle, chenin blanc and even a touch of grenache. “Pinot noir and chardonnay didn’t come onto our agenda until the late eighties”, he says. “But Seaview 1990 was a big year for us, our first pinot noir chardonnay”. The fruit came from Wynns vineyards (also part of the Penfolds group) at Coonawarra and Padthaway.
By this time, Seaview had become part of the Penfolds Wine Group. In 1986 Carr relocated to the new sparkling wine cellars in the Barossa. The state-of-the-art facility had originally been planned as an underground cellar at Glenloth, but ultimately built above ground at Penfolds’ Nuriootpa site.
The fruit from Coonawarra and Padthaway, however, fell a long way short of ideal, largely because both regions were too warm. By this time, says Carr, fruit sourcing occupied his mind. And Seaview’s joining with the Penfolds group opened new opportunities.
A mid-1980s trip with fellow winemaker Rob Gibson opened Carr’s eyes to the potential of cooler growing areas. The pair swung through the Yarra Valley, where Chandon was just beginning, to high, cool sites in the Pyrenees and on to Tasmania.
In Tasmania they met with Julian Alcorso at Moorilla Estate, on the Derwent near Hobart, and Dr Andrew Pirie at Piper’s Brook, near Launceston. Though it would a decade before Carr sourced fruit from Tasmania, he decided on that trip, “this was the place to be”.
At about the same time, Seppelt became part of the Penfolds group, bringing Carr into contact with wines made by Warren Randall and Ian McKenzie from Tumbarumba, NSW, and Drumborg, southwestern Victoria.
The two regions made different styles, recalls Carr – those from young, highly cropped vines at Tumbarumba being less intense than those from mature vines in the very cold Drumborg region.
In 1994, Hardys recruited Carr as head of sparkling wine production. Carr says they lagged the other large wine companies in sparkling wine making at the time, despite runaway success with the Sir James brand.
The company wanted to make top sparkling wines and poured in the resources to achieve the goal. At about the same time as they hired Carr, they acquired a substantial Yarra Valley vineyard, near Gembrook.
The vineyard had been set up specifically for sparkling wine production by well-known viticulturist, David Paxton. It belonged to a syndicate of wine companies, including Hardys, and until 1994 sold fruit to the various shareholders.
However, from 1995, Hardys, now the sole owner, took all the fruit for its upmarket sparklers. In the same year they planted large areas of pinot noir along the Riverland to feed its big-volume, cheaper Omni brand.
And in 1995, Carr took his first small batches of Tasmanian fruit. He says, “I visited Tassie and let it be known we were after grapes and would see what turned up”. He spread the world largely through winemaker Steve Lubiana and viticultural consultant, Fred Peacock, owner of Bream Creek Vineyard.
Hardys paid good market prices, says Carr, and over the next few years the grape volumes and range of vineyards they sourced from grew rapidly. Table wines, particularly chardonnay and pinot came on the agenda, too.
In 2001 Hardys acquired the Bay of Fires winery and vineyard. Until then, Tasmanian contract wineries pressed, chilled and shipped juice to Carr in Adelaide. Following the acquisition, Bay of Fires made all of the group’s Tasmanian table wines on site and took over the pressing, chilling and shipping juice for sparkling wine production, which remains totally under Carr’s control at Tintara.
Carr says, “It took 10 to 15 years to get a picture” of what worked and where. Many sites can be managed for both table and sparkling wine production, he says. But for sparkling wine, sourcing moved south to include vineyards along the East Coast, near Swansea and Cranbrook, the Coal River Valley, and the Meadowbank vineyard, on the Derwent near New Norfolk, west of Hobart.
Winemaking follows traditional French techniques, including prolonged ageing on yeast lees in bottle following the secondary fermentation. This vital stage of sparkling production adds subtly to the aroma, flavour, structure and bubble size of sparkling wine.
Carr says when he began making top-shelf sparklers for Hardys, he aimed for four years’ maturation on yeast lees before release. But by holding museum stock for longer periods, he’s learned that the best wines, particularly those from Tasmania, develop beautifully with much longer maturation. This led to the release of a late disgorged product, matured on lees for 10 years.
Carr believes it’s difficult to separate the characters derived during yeast autolysis from aged varietal character and other winemaking inputs, such as maturation of base wines in oak barrels before the secondary fermentation. However, he says, “it’s the total mix that matters”.
As to the tiny bubbles in good sparkling wine, he says he doesn’t understand the cause chemically but it relates to surface tension and long maturation on yeast lees. He observes a clear pattern between bubble size and length of maturation.
Carr sees a clear distinction between the minerality of Tasmanian sparkling wine and the fruitier quality of mainland fruit – a quality making it well suited to great bottle ageing.
His style for both House of Arras, the flagship Tasmanian brand, and Bay of fires includes fermentation and maturation of components in oak barrels and full malolactic fermentation.
Future tweaking will include a little more reserve wine blended into the base wines and the influence of new plantings, yet to bear fruit.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013 First published 16 January 2013 in The Canberra Times
Wine regions build reputations by making outstanding wine. Mediocre wines don’t cut through in a crowded market; and poor wines kill reputations. The Southern Highlands region (around Mittagong, Bowral and Berrima) struggled with its reputation for many years, largely because so many of its early wines showed green, unripe flavours.
Indeed, wine quality in the region varied so much a decade ago, newcomer Julian Tertini, founder of Freedom Furniture and Fantastic Holdings, used “Berrima Valley” on some labels – to protect his own name should the region as a whole fail.
But just 11 years after establishing Tertini, Southern Highlands remains on the labels. And, extraordinarily for a small operation that made its first wine in 2005, Tertini claims 285 trophies and medals so far. The honours include a gold medal for the 2009 pinot noir in the National Wine Show 2011, gold medals for the Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 in the 2012 Boutique Wine Awards (open to Australian and New Zealand wines) and the NSW Wine Awards 2012.
In the latter event, the 2009 Reserve won the best pinot trophy in a taste-off against Tertini 2010 pinot noir.
Like other vignerons in the area, Tertini included cabernet sauvignon and merlot among his first plantings. Thankfully, he also planted pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay and arneis in the Yarraandoo vineyard – on the western side of the old Hume Highway, near the Wombeyan Caves road.
Others had included shiraz in the mix, all on expert viticultural advice that proved to be spectacularly off the mark. “It was a stupid mistake”, says Tertini’s Robert Kay. He says cabernet, shiraz and merlot don’t ripen, leaving pinot noir to date as the sole red variety ripening reliably across the district.
The failure of cabernet, merlot and shiraz, in particular, highlights the massive difference between growing conditions in the Southern Highlands and Canberra.
Despite being further north than Canberra (and potentially warmer), with vineyards at comparable altitudes, a strong maritime influence counters the effect of latitude. More cloud, more rain and more humidity mean a cooler and less hospitable environment for grapes.
Robert Kay says the area can be overcast for weeks, “and the cloud cuts down the heat”. He attributes the region’s growing strength to improved vineyard management – particularly an ability to counter moisture-related vine diseases – and a shift to suitable cool-climate varieties.
But even with the right varieties, vigilant spraying and non-stop vineyard work vineyard, nature takes a toll on local crops. Every year Southern Highlands vignerons face conditions comparable to those faced by Canberra’s in 2011 and 2012. And in those two difficult seasons, the highlands suffered even bigger crop losses than normal.
The financial losses to producers can be huge. They face increased vineyard management costs, but lower crops mean less wine and ultimately reduced sales in the years ahead. Every tonne not harvested equates to around 70 dozen bottles of wine not produced or sold.
Because of severe crop losses in the last three vintages, says Robert Kay, Tertini intends in future to make wine from the Hilltops region as well as the Southern Highlands.
In Tertini’s vineyard pinot noir and riesling perform best, and now comprise a majority of plantings. Smaller areas of chardonnay and arneis (a northern Italian white variety) also look good and there’s hope for experimental plantings of lagrein, a northern Italian red variety. And across the district, says Kay, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris generally work well.
Riesling showed great promise from the first (and gold medal winning) vintage in 2005. The wines begin life austere and acidic, though very delicate, and with bottle age develop a delicious lime-like varietal flavour. Tertini therefore release their rieslings several years after vintage.
On a recent tasting at the winery, a museum release, Tertini Cross Roads Berrima Valley Riesling ($33 – a trophy and two gold medals), looked sensational. At six and a half years, it’s youthful and fresh but with a seductive honeyed note of bottle age boosting the succulent, pure, bracingly dry limey flavour.
The cellar door also offers the 2008 vintage ($38 – almost sold and out and not available for tasting), winner of five trophies and 10 gold medals, and the trophy and gold-medal winning 2009 vintage ($30).
The latter offers a delicate floral and lime aroma and flavour. Though it lacks the sheer juicy intensity of the 2006, it’s youthful and fresh and certain to build with bottle age. However, a soon-to-be released Reserve Riesling 2009 ($35) offers similar flavours and delicacy but with greater concentration.
The Piedmontese white variety, arneis, succeeds in Tertini’s vineyard, too. But it lives up to its “little rascal” nickname with miserly grape yields (about half that of riesling) and very small juice extraction rate per tonne of fruit.
The current release Tertini Reserve Arneis 2010 ($35), partly barrel fermented, provides excellent, full-bodied, crisp and savoury drinking – with exotic sappy, racy, melon-rind flavours.
Like the rieslings, the pinots (2008 $28, 2009 $55 and 2009 Reserve $58) show a family style – delicate and restrained. I’ve tasted several vintages over the years and, indeed, these were the wines that broke my longstanding doubts about the region’s wine. They’re outstanding – and reviewed in next week’s column.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan First published 7 Novemer 2012 in The Canberra Times
From a little valley near Braidwood comes the outsider that blitzed this year’s Canberra regional wine show. Half Moon Riesling 2010 won the ‘best riesling’ trophy, beating some of our hottest local riesling makers, including Helm, Clonakilla, Four Winds, Ravensworth, Gallagher and Nick O’Leary.
Half Moon then secured the ‘best white’ trophy then won a taste off with the best red – Hungerford Hill Hh Tumbarumba Classic Shiraz 2010 – to seize a third trophy as champion wine of the show. It was the first riesling in the top spot since Helm Premium 2008 shared the honours with Eden Road The Long Road Hilltops Shiraz in 2009.
The tiny vineyard – located near Mongarlowe, about 16 kilometres from Braidwood – belongs to Sydneysiders Tony and Robyn Maxwell. Manager Malcolm Sharp says the wine bug bit Tony Maxwell in the nineties when he established a vineyard at Rylstone, near Mudgee.
With Rod James, he planted vines at Nullo Mountain, a challenging site within the Mudgee region – but, at 1100 metres, totally different viticulturally. While the pair pulled out many of the vines during the industry downturn early last decade, the wine bug remained with Maxwell.
He asked Sharp, a long-term friend, if he’d look after a vineyard if he planted one on his weekend block at Mongarlowe. What Maxwell had in mind, recalls Sharp, was a very small vineyard he could enjoy, with the aim of making good wine.
Sharp says he knew nothing about vineyards, but accepted the task and planted 200 vines each of riesling and chardonnay in 2000. While Maxwell and Sharp were aware that some people regarded the frost-prone site as an unlikely place to grow grapes, the first vines reached the cordon in the first year, suggesting they could be onto something.
But a subsequent planting of merlot failed and a run of heavy frosts in October 2006 destroyed 500 vines, including a block of pinot noir. Tempranillo took off well, but as the stock they planted carried a virus, Sharp dug them out and planted more riesling, by now a consistent performer.
The vineyard now includes shiraz, viognier, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and riesling.
Early on, Maxwell introduced Sharp to well-known viticulturist David Botting (he’d consulted on the Nullo Mountain vineyard). And Botting, impressed by the vineyard, came on board as consultant.
At the time the grapes were being trucked to David Lowe’s winery at Mudgee, a legacy of the Nullo Mountain venture. But Botting suggested making the wines closer to the vineyard. The whites in particular, he recommended, needed quick processing. He arranged a meeting on site between Maxwell and Sharp and Murrumbateman winemaker, Alex McKay. As a result McKay took over the winemaking from 2008.
McKay describes the Half Moon site as a little bit cooler than Canberra with double the rainfall (on well-drained soil), with more humidity – a plus for retention of grape aroma and flavour.
He says, “management is first class with a level of attention and hand work you’d be more likely to see in Europe than around here”.
Malcolm Sharp confirms he and his wife Jenny do the majority of work by hand, with a little spraying from a quad bike on one flatter section. On the steep sections, for example, Jenny reels the spray hose out to him from a utility parked at the top as he descends and sprays on foot; then reels him in like a lifesaver as he struggles back up the slope.
To date, says McKay, riesling shows the most consistency and potential. It starts with “enormous levels of acid”, he says, so as a young wine it’s difficult to see the fruit quality lurking under the acidity. But it’s there he say, as the trophy winning 2010 demonstrates, having fleshed out notably in the two years since bottling.
That high acidity, reasons Sharp, comes from the very cool site. The vineyard, at around 630 metres, is flanked by higher ground, with the coastal escarpment immediately to the east. The days tend to be warm to hot, but cold air pools there in the evening, with overnight temperatures of just four and five degrees common during the growing season.
McKay rates the chardonnay as very good, too, and similar in style to wines from Tumbarumba. But production of just one barrel a year provides little scope to explore the style.
He’s optimistic about shiraz even though it’s difficult and harvested from the individually staked bush vines “at the dusk of vintage”. He adds, “We can’t say as emphatically it’s as suited as riesling”.
While the trophy-winning riesling sold out quickly, the 2011 (a very good wine needing time, says McKay) has been released. It and the other Half Moon wines are available at Plonk, Fyshwick Markets, and at Local Liquor and Boutique Wines on Wallace in Braidwood.
This is a producer to watch, though production will remain small. Tony Maxwell has no plans to expand the vineyard says Malcolm Sharp.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012 First published 24 October 2012 in The Canberra Times
Canberra’s Ravensworth Wines topped the honours list at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge 2012. Ravensworth Riesling 2012, made by Food and Wine columnist Bryan Martin, and owned by Martin and his wife Jocelyn, won a gold medal and three trophies.
The judges rated it best Canberra District riesling, best Australian riesling and, in a first for a Canberra riesling, best wine of the show – against 426 contenders from six countries.
Show organiser Ken Helm, a Canberra riesling legend himself, welcomed Ravensworth’s success, especially for winning best wine of show trophy. He said, “This is exciting as it shows beyond doubt that Canberra is up there with Australia’s best”.
Helm said the chair of judges, Ben Edwards, rated quality across the board as the highest in the time he’s judged there.
The impressive medal strike rate supports this view. The 426 wines judged won 278 medals (51 golds, 60 silvers and 167 bronzes), for an overall success rate of 65 per cent.
While Ravensworth brought home the bacon for Canberra, our district provided little support for the event, entering just 12 wines in total across five categories, and underperforming the overall field with a medal strike rate of 58 per cent. We won one gold, one silver and five bronze medals.
In the important class for 2012 vintage dry rieslings (less than eight grams per litre of sugar), Canberra fielded just six wines and won two bronze medals. Compare this performance to the September regional wine show, where 12 Canberra 2012 vintage dry rieslings won nine medals, including three golds.
Admittedly, the class definitions of the two shows vary slightly, so that Ravensworth at 11 grams per litre of sugar, moved from “dry” in the regional show to “semi-dry” at the challenge. But the change of classification doesn’t explain the startlingly different ratings – bronze at the regional, gold and ultimately trophies at the challenge.
As well, Gallagher 2012, Nick O’Leary 2012 and Mount Majura 2012 – all medal winners in the regional show – failed to rate in the challenge, a variance that’s hard to understand.
Perhaps the high acidity of the Canberra rieslings worked against them in this broader environment. Certainly our wines tend to blossom with age as the fruit comes through. And it’s worth considering the top gold medallist in the regional show, Clonakilla 2012, and the top Canberra wine of the challenge, Ravensworth 2012, have a sugar levels of 10 and 11 grams per litre respectively – sufficient to take the edge off the acid and not taste sweet.
If we look only at the classes for 2012 dry rieslings, several regions outperformed the overall medal strike rate of 65 per cent. This supports the growing view of 2012 as an exceptional riesling vintage.
Western Australia’s Great Southern region, for example, won 16 medals (two gold, five silver and nine bronze) from 19 entries, an 84 per cent strike rate.
Clare Valley, the traditional heartland of dry Australian riesling, entered 38 wines for a strike rate of 76 per cent – four golds, six silvers and 19 bronzes. I’ve tried many of these wines and they really are delicious and well priced. Most are already soft and ready to drink.
The Eden Valley, Clare’s southern neighbour on the Mount Lofty Ranges, fielded 25 wines to win five gold, four silver and nine bronze medals – a 72 per cent strike rate.
And tiny Tasmania entered 10 dry riesling from the 2012 vintage to win two golds, two silver and three bronze medals – a 70 per cent strike rate.
While riesling remains a perennially niche variety in Australia, its sales a fraction of those of sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, it offers wonderful drinking, great cellaring and quite often amazing value for money.
The trophy winning Ravensworth 2012, for example, sells at just $20 and its podium mate, Richmond Grove Watervale 2011, often specials at around $18. These are bargain prices for such beautiful wines – the latter with proven long-term cellaring potential; the Ravensworth untested, but likely to do the distance.
From a drinker’s perspective then it’s worth downloading and trolling through the full results. They’re available at rieslingchallenge.com
The honours list includes dry, half dry and sweet styles from many different regions and, indeed, from other countries, and from a spread of vintages. The successful older wines provide some guidance to the cellaring ability of younger wines. Indeed some of the most cellarable rieslings perform poorly at shows in youth, but blossom after a few years’ bottle age.
Canberra International Riesling Challenge 2012 Trophy winners
Wine of the show Ravensworth Canberra District Riesling 2012
Best Australian riesling Ravensworth Canberra District Riesling 2012
Best Canberra District riesling Ravensworth Canberra District Riesling 2012
Best current vintage dry riesling Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2012
Best dry riesling Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling 2011
Best sweet riesling Heggies Eden Valley Botrytis Riesling 2011
Best Tasmanian riesling Bay of Fires Riesling 2011
Best European riesling Weingut Georg Muller Stiftung Hattenheimer Hassel Riesling Spaetlese Trocken 2011
Best museum riesling d’Arenberg The Dry Dam McLaren Vale Riesling 2008
The champ – born in adversity Ravensworth Canberra District Riesling 2012 Fruit source: Bryan and Jocelyn Martin’s Ravensworth vineyard, Murrumbateman Gold medal and three trophies: Best Canberra District wine; best Australian wine; best wine of show Canberra’s first grand champion of the riesling challenge almost didn’t exist. Winemaker Bryan Martin says hail stripped the vines almost bare, then 200mm of rain threatened the remaining crop with botrytis cinerea, a potentially destructive fungal disease.
But he sprayed the vines, spread anti-bird netting over the top and waited. The grapes ripened at comparatively low sugar levels and high acidity; and the missing leaves allowed the sun in and moisture out, defeating the botrytis spores.
Almost every bunch, however, included withered berries, the result of direct hail hits. So the picking crew cut the damaged fruit from every bunch before delivering it to nearby Clonakilla winery, where Martin works as a winemaker. The labour intensive work pushed Martin’s harvesting cost out to $1200 a tonne, he says.
In the winery he chilled the fruit to below 10 degrees Celsius in small, broad, flat bins. The shallow bins helped keep the berries intact, thereby avoiding release of phenolics, or tannins, into the juice. And chilling the whole bunches before crushing them in a gentle air-bag press, helped extract fine, phenolic-free juice.
Martin says he held back the last 100 litres – the product of the final, firmest pressing – as unfermented juice to blend back into the finished wine.
A cool fermentation captured the delicate riesling flavours in a bone dry and very acidic wine – a result of the unusually cool ripening period. Martin balanced the acidity by blending a small amount of unfermented juice into the wine.
The addition gave the wine a natural grape sugar content of 11 grams per litre. This subtly fleshed out the middle palate, without being discernibly sweet, reducing the impact of the potentially mouth-searing13 grams per litre of acid.
Until this year, says Martin, he sold his riesling grapes to Clonakilla. He made just 150 dozen bottles. Alas, the wine sold out at just $20 a bottle on withing days of the trophy presentation.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012 First published 17 October 2012 in The Canberra Times
Grosset Springvale Riesling 2012 $37 Grosset Springvale vineyard, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia The Clare Valley riesling excitement continues with the release of Jeffrey Grosset’s amazing 2012s. A normally reserved Grosset, can’t bottle his enthusiasm, writing, “The 2012 vintage has turned out to be one of the best experienced at Grosset. Weather conditions were ideal”. Springvale, from Clare’s Watervale sub-region, presents a delicate, pristine, utterly irresistible face of riesling. Spritely, lime-like acidity carries the fruit flavour across a nevertheless delicate, soft palate – the upfront fruit flavour and softness making delicious current drinking (though the wine should evolve for many years).
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2012 $50 Grosset Polish Hill vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia The excellent 2012 vintage emphasises the differences between rieslings from Clare’s Watervale and Polish Hill sub-regions. The sheer power of Grosset’s Polish Hill contrasts starkly with the delicacy of his Watervale (wine of the week based on its drinkability now). Though more austere and steely, Polish Hill shows the upfront fruit sweetness of the vintage. Over time, the power, structure and fruit of this exceptional wine will all become more pronounced.
Clonakilla Riesling 2012 $25–$30 Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW Shortly after vintage, winemaker Tim Kirk said he’d picked riesling early, ahead of the rain, describing it as “a very fine, bony style along the lines of 2011 – acid driven, fresh and appley, but delicious”. He retained unfermented juice for adding back after ferment should the wine need rounding out – which it did. Months later the wine shows a delicate floral aroma with a citrusy note, showing particularly on the palate. High natural acidity intensifies the floral and citrus fruit flavours, carrying the wine to a long, tart, dry finish, with a fresh, feijoa-like aftertaste. It’s delicious now in Canberra’s tart and tight style, but should be even better as time ameliorates the acidity and allows the fruit to emerge.
Grosset Alea Off-Dry Riesling 2012 $33 Grosset Alea vineyard, Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia Australia’s increasingly popular off-dry rieslings, taste best from cooler vintages where high natural acidity balances the sweetness of residual grape sugars in the wine. Grosset’s comes from a 300-metre by 22-metre section of vineyard at Watervale’s highest point. The 2012 combines Watervale fruit delicacy, with pristine, mineral acidity and a delicate sweetness that gently fills the palate. The balanced interplay of fruit, acid and sugar means a clean, fresh finish – avoiding both the cloying effect of too much sugar or the austerity of too much acid.
Pikes Riesling “Traditionale” 2012 $20.89–$23 Polish Hill, Watervale and Sevenhill, Clare Valley, South Australia Like other producers, Neil Pike rates the 2012 Clare rieslings “of a very high quality – up there with the excellent 2009, 2005 and 2002 vintages”. Pike’s holding his two reserve rieslings, Merle and J.T., for release in November, but the two reviewed today are available now. The widely distributed “Traditionale” shows the vintage thumbprint – oodles of delicious fruit flavour and balancing acidity, in a full-flavoured style for early drinking. Pike says it’s a blend of estate-grown fruit (70 per cent) and material from neighbouring growers.
Pikes Olga Emmie Off-Dry Riesling 2012 $20 cellar door Pike Thicket vineyard, Polish Hill, Clare Valley, South Australia Pike’s off-dry riesling comes from a family vineyard in Polish Hill. It’s rich in citrusy fruit flavour and more overtly sweet than the Grosset off-dry style reviewed today. Acidity keeps the fruit flavour fresh and zesty. But the sweetness outweighs the acid at this stage – though that’s a minor blemish in a thoroughly enjoyable wine. In fact, on a hot day on its own, the wine’s sweetness might add to the appeal. This is an excellent style with hot and spicy food as the fruitiness and sweetness rise above the chilli heat while the crisp acidity refreshes. (Available at www.pikeswines.com.au).
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012 First published 19 September 2012 in The Canberra Times
On August 17 Kirin Brewing Company’s Australian arm, Lion, completed the sale of Mitchelton Winery to Gerry and Andrew Ryan. The sale brings the winery back under private control after 18 years of corporate ownership – Petaluma Group from 1994, then Lion Nathan (now Lion) from 2001.
Mitchelton’s the winery that never quite fitted in – proving problematic to successive owners from its establishment in 1969. A common factor in the periodic ownership changes was the extravagant scale of its elaborate brick and concrete underground cellars and the cellar door, restaurant and 55-metre observation tower.
These landmark facilities present capital and business demands over and above those of maintaining a 115-hectare vineyard and its annual crush and wine production.
Managing director of Fine Wine Partners, Lion’s wine division, Chris Baddock, says Lion was interested in the brand, but not the site. Even owning vineyards, he added, fits poorly from a brewer’s accounting perspective.
But the brand and site being inseparable, Lion disposed of the Mitchelton brand, cellars, cellar door, restaurant observation tower and vineyards – but retained Mitchelton’s popular Preece brand.
Baddock says Fine Wine Partners (a blend of the former Petaluma Wine Group and distribution business, Tucker and Company) will continue Australia-wide distribution of Mitchelton.
When Melbourne’s Ross Shelmerdine planted the first vines at Mitchelton in 1969, riesling joined cuttings of marsanne, from neighbouring Tahbilk, as a key white variety.
Colin Preece, a distinguished table and sparkling wine maker of the fifties and sixties at Seppelt’s Great Western, selected the Mitchelton vineyard site in the late sixties after an extensive search through southeastern Australia on behalf of the Shelmerdine family.
Ross Shelmerdine’s son, Stephen Shelmerdine wrote to me: “Such was Colin’s vision and enthusiasm for riesling that extensive plantings were made in 1970 and 1971, well before the white wine boom. Colin believed that the specific micro climate of the vineyards – surrounded on three sides by the deep, very cold, constant-height Goulburn River, a site very conducive to autumn fogs, providing suitable conditions for botrytis cinerea – would put Mitchelton in a very strong position to demonstrate the quality of riesling in Victoria.”. Preece’s judgement proved spot on, although he did not live to see it vindicated.
Instead, Don Lewis, a young man selected and trained by Preece, made Mitchelton’s first riesling during the massive floods of 1974. In an interview some years back, Lewis couldn’t recall the quality of the wine. But he well remembered the multiple gold-medal-winning1975 Mitchelton riesling.
But in tough times for the wine industry producers battled for margin in a glutted market. The going proved particularly tough at Mitchelton as the owners struggled to fund an extravagant and still mind-boggling underground concrete and brick cellar and landmark observation tower.
During a period in receivership, Mitchelton sold most of its riesling as grapes or bulk wine. Most of the 1976, for example, went as grapes to Brown Brothers. However, Brian Croser, then lecturing in wine making at Riverina College of Advanced Education, Wagga, purchased a small portion of the crop.
Using a discarded Maralinga rocket fuel tank as a fermenter, he turned Mitchelton’s 1976 grapes into the first Petaluma riesling. By this time Croser was an accomplished riesling maker, having put Hardys Siegersdorf on wine shelves and restaurant lists all over Australia. Stephen Shelmerdine once told me Malcolm Fraser loved the inaugural Petaluma riesling and secured a quantity for the Lodge.
In1978 Mitchelton’s financial trauma ended, for the time being, when, for an undisclosed sum, believed to be just a fraction of the building cost, Melbourne’s Valmorbida family acquired the winery, tower and Mitchelton brand. The Shelmerdinesf retained the vineyards.
In the same year, the 1978 riesling won a trophy at the Adelaide wine show, contributing greatly to its commercial success and making Mitchelton’s flagship wine. And it went on to win gold medals for successive vintages for over twenty years. It now sells as Mitchelton Blackwood Park Riesling.
Mitchelton subsequently built a following for its other wines, notably shiraz and marsanne-roussanne-viognier white blend and its blended Preece range.
But even under Valmorbida family ownership, then Petaluma from 1994 and Lion from 2001, the cellar door, restaurant, observation tower complex were never fully exploited, and appear to have been a drag on the wine business.
The latest ownership change, however, promises to address this. The Ryan family (founders of Jayco caravans and GreenEDGE cycling team) are building a 60-room hotel on the site, renovating the cellar door and restaurant and adding conference and function facilities.
With its proximity to Melbourne and the Hume Highway, you’d have to give this side of the business – the part that’s troubled Mitchelton’s previous owners – every chance of success. But the hospitality business is largely separate from grape growing and winemaking. Ironically, therefore, the real challenge for the Ryans may prove to be the capital-hungry wine business – a peculiar beast that in Australia has been fed generously by external investors over the decades, only to turn and bite the hand of its feeder.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012 First published 19 September 2012 in The Canberra Times
A couple of times each decade a very special riesling vintage comes along. And for me that means, eye on the retailer discounts, grabbing a couple of bottles here, half a dozen there and even a few dozen when the best opportunities arise.
For riesling remains Australia’s great bargain cellaring wine. The best offer delicious fruity freshness on release and over time develop deeper, richer flavours while retaining great freshness. Stock up on the great vintages and even modestly priced wines provide wonderful drinking for a decade, while the very best might give pleasure for 20 years or more – especially with the protection of a screw cap.
Right now I’m literally sniffing excitement in the 2012 vintage Clare Valley rieslings, revelling in the beautiful, pure fruit flavours, fresh, dry palates and moderate alcohol levels, demonstrated in all the wines reviewed here today, and peaking with the sensational Wilson Polish Hill and perhaps even loftier Leo Buring Leonay.
I’ve included a few winemaker comments as the wines support their palpable excitement about a Clare vintage that provided ideal ripening conditions – in sharp contrast to the cold, disease-ravaged 2011 season.
The 2012s are just beginning to arrive in restaurants and retail shelves now; and from what I’ve seen present that rare buying opportunity. Chateau Shanahan stocked up liberally on the wonderful 2002s and we’ll do the same with the 2012s.
I’ll review more of the wines as they come to market, highlighting those that offer best value and cellarability.
Winemakers Federation of Australia vintage report “Most winemakers have described the vintage as one of the strongest on record. Yields were slightly lower than an average year, but this was offset by the higher levels of flavour intensity, fruit purity and natural acidity levels in the whites”.
Daniel Wilson, The Wilson Vineyard, Clare Valley “2012 was a fantastic vintage, nice warm ripening conditions with the occasional shower to keep things hydrated.
I’m trying to remain objective as there’s probably a danger of overstating the quality of this vintage after the terrible year we had in 2011, but really, I couldn’t be more happy with the 2012 vintage.
To put it into perspective, I didn’t make our Polish Hill River Riesling in 2011, the first vintage missed since The Wilson Vineyard started making wine in 1980. I think that says it all”.
The Wilson Vineyard Watervale Riesling 2012 $18.95 Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia Watervale riesling lean towards a beautiful purity of fruit flavour, tending towards the lime-like end of riesling’s flavour spectrum – with the volume turned up a little in the 2012 vintage. The palate’s rich but delicate with a lingering, fresh, dry finish.
The Wilson Vineyard Polish Hill River Riesling 2012 $27.95 Polish Hill River, Clare Valley, South Australia In 2012 Wilson’s flagship white reveals the unique power and delicacy of great riesling. It comes from low yielding vines and the winemaking aims at maximising and protecting the fruit flavour: hand picking and gentle pressing to avoid extraction of phenolics from the skins, prolonged, cool fermentation flavour and aromatics, then bottling under screw caps as soon as possible after fermentation. The aroma features floral and citrus characters and even at this early stage the palate reveals great intensity and power of flavour, held in check by its tight acid structure. Should age very well.
The Wilson Vineyard DJW Riesling 2012 $23.95 DJW vineyard, Polish Hill River, Clare Valley, South Australia This comes from a 2.2-hectare vineyard planted by Daniel Wilson in 1997 on a fertile section of his father’s vineyard. The fertile site produced large vines, large bunches and bigger flavours than other parts of the vineyard, prompting the decision to bottle it separately. In 2012 the citrus and tropical fruit aroma gush from the glass and flood the palate deliciously. While big and juicy it retains a fine structure, zingy acidity and a modest alcohol content of 12.5 per cent.
Tim Adams, Tim Adams Wines, Clare Valley “Our yields were down a bit on average, but flavour intensity and condition of fruit were outstanding. Vintages of intense flavour sometimes produce huge, blockbuster-type wines but that wasn’t the case in 2012”.
Tim Adams Riesling 2012 $18–$22 Irelands, Rogers and Bayes vineyards, Clare Valley, South Australia Tim Adams generally makes low-alcohol, dry, austere rieslings requiring a few years to fill out and soften. But in 2012 the aroma and flavour’s already there, bursting like a genie from the bottle – while the alcohol level remains at a modest 11.5 per cent. The beautiful aroma and juicy, intense, lemony varietal flavour comes with a load of refreshing natural acidity and not a sign of the fatness that can accompany forward young rieslings. 2012 looks to be a great riesling vintage in the Clare Valley. This one is sensational at the price.
Peter Munro, Leo Buring Wines (owned by Treasury Wine Estates) “Much will be said about the ‘amazing’, ‘powerful’ and ‘classic’ 2012 vintage; it’s all true and well deserved”.
Leo Buring Dry Riesling 2012 $14–$20 Watervale (50:50 company and grower vineyards), Clare Valley, South Australia Buring’s bread and butter riesling generally does the discount rounds. But even though the price varies widely, it provides excellent value even at $20. The 2012 delivers Watervale’s purity and mouth-watering lime and lemon varietal flavours. It’s richer, fruitier and more deeply structured than we’d normally see in a riesling at this tender age, but not at the expense of delicacy or freshness. Watch for the bargains and grab a case or two for medium-term cellaring.
Leo Buring DW P18 Riesling 2012 $32–$40 Watervale, Clare Valley, South Australia It takes only a mouthful of Leonay to understand winemaker Peter Munro’s excitement. This is an amazing dry riesling – gentle, delicate and caressing on the palate, yet with an extraordinary intensity of pure, thrilling, lime-like flavour. It’s unusual for a young Leonay to reveal itself at this age (typically the show medals come some years after vintage). But like other rieslings of the vintage tasted to date, there’s liveliness and finesse accompanying the upfront fruitiness. This one should cellar for decades in the right conditions.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012 First published 15 August 2012 in The Canberra Times
Arras Methode Traditionelle Blanc de Blancs 2001 $80 Pipers River and Upper Derwent, Tasmania For Champagne buffs the name Salon-sur-Oger conjures images of delicate but powerful and complete sparkling wines made from chardonnay alone – unaided by pinot noir or pinot meunier, the majority varieties in most Champagnes. In good years chardonnay from the Salon sub-region stands alone, creating sublime wines personified in the rare and expensive Krug Clos du Mesnil and Salon le Mesnil. Australian sparkling maker Ed Carr says, “I have always been a fan of this style and to have a 2001 Tasmanian wine for the first release is as close to perfect as one could wish”. Carr has good reason to be excited. His subtle and powerful Arras Blanc de Blanc 2001 is stunning – and so fresh at 11 years.
Brown Brothers Sauvignon Blanc 2012 $17.90 Tamar Valley and East Coast, Tasmania In August 2010 Victorian-based Brown Brothers purchased the Tamar Ridge Winery, vineyards and several brands from Gunns. The brands included Tamar Ridge, Pirie, Devil’s Corner and Coombend. In 2012, winemaker Joel Tilbrook tapped into this tasty fruit source to make the first Tasmanian wine to appear under the Brown Brothers label. The wine shows pure passionfruit-like varietal aromas and flavours, with an herbaceous note. It’s deliciously fresh, though somewhat softer and plumper than I would’ve expected from the cool season.
Chablis (Simonnet-Febvre) 2010 $22.70–$25 Chablis, France At a chilly 47 degrees north, Chablis, the northernmost outlier of France’s Burgundy region, makes distinctive, lean and succulent, bone-dry chardonnays. The wines stand out in any tasting and make their own strong argument for the French concept of terroir – that a given location produces unique wine flavours. Simonnet-Febvre, imported by Woolworths-owned Dan Murphys, gives the succulent, rich-but-not-heavy, dust-dry Chablis experience at a modest price. It’s bright, fresh and clean – and presumably it’s the Australian influence that sees it sealed with a screw cap.
Larry Cherubino Ad Hoc Hen and Chicken Chardonnay 2011 $18.05–$21 Pemberton, Western Australia Winemaker Larry Cherubino sources fruit widely across southwestern Western Australia, in this instance using chardonnay from a Pemberton vineyard planted in 1999. At 13.5 per cent alcohol, it’s slightly fuller than the Chablis reviewed today, but not heavy by Australian standards. Fermentation with wild yeasts and maturation in new and two-year-old French oak barrels added textural richness and nutty, spicy oak flavours to the lemon-like and melon-rind varietal character. It’s a rich, soft, gentle style, very easy to like.
Yabtree Shiraz 2008 $28 Yabtree Vineyard, Gundagai, NSW Former Olympian and President of the World Bank, Jim Wolfensohn, lives in New York but owns Yabtree, a grazing property near Gundagai, on the Murrumbidgee. Simon Robertson, formerly of Barwang, near Young, manages Wolfensohn’s small vineyard and Joel Pizzini makes the wine. Robertson believes reflected light from the Murrumbidgee helps ripen the vineyard’s fruit at lower sugar levels, accounting for the wine’s comparatively modest 13.5 per cent alcohol content. It’s a medium bodied, spicy, savoury style, featuring mouth-drying, soft tannins.
Cherubino Shiraz 2010 $65 Frankland River, Western Australia Larry Cherubino doesn’t take the second best fruit for his signature label as this is as good as Frankland River shiraz gets – and that’s pretty good. Deep down inside the wine there’s a core of sweet, ripe berry flavours, a bit like blueberry and mulberry. But there’s a lot wrapped around that fruit – a seasoning of pepper, a handful of spices (all consistent with top-end shiraz) and layers of soft, persistent tannins providing a luxurious, velvety texture. It’s a joy to drink now. But the flavour concentration and beautiful tannin structure should see it evolve deliciously for a decade or more.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012 First published 25 July 2012 in The Canberra Times and Fairfax digital media (The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, WA Today and Brisbane Times)
On June 29 in Moscow, Penfolds told the world the best seal for wine is glass. They didn’t say it in so many words. But that’s the message dramatically delivered in twelve $168,000 glass ampoules of Penfolds Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. Yes, just 12 for the whole world. And the problem for Penfolds will be allocating them, not selling them.
The price tag, quality of product, originality of the idea and launch at Moscow’s Pushkin Restaurant (with a run of legendary old Penfolds reds lavished on the guests) ignited huge global publicity.
Behind the cleverly executed campaign, lies years of thinking by winemaker Peter Gago about the best way to seal wine intended for decades or even centuries of cellaring.
By the 2004 vintage Penfolds had adopted screw caps for all its reds except Grange. And in a 2007 interview, Gago told me why not, “‘With Grange we’re talking about people cellaring it for thirty to fifty years. We’ve had trials for ten years, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that these wines will still be good in four or five decades. It’s the integrity of the seal, not ageing that’s of concern”.
He explained that while we knew screw cap seals kept white wines perfectly for thirty years, the chemistry of red wine is different and we simply don’t know for certain whether the seal will last.
He recalled working with well-known sparkling-wine maker, Ed Carr, at the company’s sparkling cellars. They observed how crown seals on sparkling red wines often deteriorated where those for sparkling whites didn’t.
Gago believed a glass-to-glass seal presented the best solution as there’d be nothing to corrode – no perishable material like cork, the tin or polymer coated material in screw caps or the silicon o-ring of the glass Vino-Lok.
Indeed, Penfolds had already engaged an engineer to develop a prototype – a glass disc held in place with a spring-loaded clamp.
Two years later Gago told me they’d developed a second prototype, “a pseudo screw cap” holding a glass disc in place, and had tested both on the 2006 vintage Grange. He said he’d like to take it to the next level, but that would require money – an unlikely outcome at the time as parent company Foster’s struggled with its wine division.
During both the 2007 and 2009 interviews, Gago discussed the concept of a “time capsule” – a wine sealed in a continuum of glass, capable of cellaring for centuries. That’s the dream that became a reality in the recently released ampoule.
Gago calls the ampoule project and the earlier glass-to-glass trials “parallel pursuits” – separate but interrelated. He hopes that success of the radical new ampoule might spark enthusiasm for glass seals within in the company. All it needs now is money, and imagination.
It presents a golden opportunity for Penfolds new managing director, Gary Burnand, to make his mark on the company and, indeed, on the entire wine world. The ampoule gave us the first ever perfectly-sealed wine. By supporting Gago’s glass-to-glass concept he could usher in the most radical technological change since the invention of the glass bottle.
Kalimna vineyard, Block 42
In the nineteenth century, this northern Barossa site provided firewood for D.J. Fowler and company. In the 1880s, precise date unknown, George Fowler planted and named the Kalimna vineyard. Penfolds bought it in 1945 and its fruit subsequently starred in many of the company’s greatest reds – including blended wines like Grange and several notable cabernets sourced only from Block 42. These include Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon 1948, Grange Cabernet Sauvignon 1953 and the first Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon (1964).
Winemaker Peter Gago rates Grange cabernet 1953 slightly ahead of Grange Hermitage 1953, in his view the best Grange ever made.
Gago says the low-yielding Block 42 produces extraordinary wine in some vintages. In the most recent outstanding vintages, 1996 and 2004, Penfolds released cabernet under the Kalimna Block 42 name. The wines tend to fetch $500–$600. The ampoules contain the 2004 vintage. Penfolds believes the venerable old vines on Block 42 to be the oldest continuously producing cabernet sauvignon in the world.
What you get for $168,000
750ml of Penfolds Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet 2004 in a glass ampoule, designed and hand-blown by glass artist Nick Mount. A grey and ruby coloured glass plumb-bob, designed and hand-blown by Nick Mount. The plumb-bob suspends the ampoule in its Jarrah cabinet. Jarrah cabinet designed and made by furniture craftsman, Hendrik Foster. Precious metal details designed and made by Hendrik Forster. A Penfolds winemaker will travel anywhere in the world to open the wine using one of two purpose made tungsten tipped devices to cut and snap the glass tip of the ampoule.
Penfolds produced 12 sets of ampoules for the world market. One remains in the company’s museum cellar at Magill, Adelaide. One is to appear at an event in Singapore next year, but exactly how isn’t clear. The remaining ten are up for grabs as I write. Penfolds also produced and is retaining in its Magill cellar an additional stand-alone ampoule of Kalimna Block 42 2004, without the plumb-bob, precious metal trappings or timber case.
Penfolds Managing Director, Gary Burnand, says retailers and private collectors around the world want the ampoules. Allocating them could take all the diplomacy in the world.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012 First published 18 July 2012 in The Canberra Times