Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015 $75
Coriole McLaren Vale Sangiovese 2016 $27
Earlier this year I organised a masked tasting for a group at Burrawang Coastal Club on the NSW south coast. After a mood-lifting Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut we settled into dinner and a bracket of three contrasting dry rieslings – Dr Loosen Blue Slate Mosel 2016, Jacob’s Creek Barossa Steingarten 2010 and Gallagher Canberra District 2017.
Gallagher alone offered the familiar flavour (to the group) of young Aussie riesling. Ernie Loosen’s Mosel showed a decidedly unfamiliar power and structure to many of the tasters. And the beautiful maturing-but-fresh Steingarten appealed widely.
After this tasty and uncontroversial trio, the pairing of two unlikely red partners – New Zealand pinot noir and Australian sangiovese – unsettled the group. What could these be?
The wines shared few common traits and in a masked tasting where I offered no initial cues, tasters’ first impressions began with only their senses, strongly influenced by the assertive tannin structure of the pair. But with a few clues, the group soon differentiated between the wines and eventually discerned we had two varieties from two countries.
These were highly distinctive wines. Over time the Ata Rangi’s varietal flavour increasingly asserted itself. But the deep, layered, savoury tannins, albeit in a silky smooth style, separated it distinctly from the general run of softer Australian pinots. And it split the audience: some didn’t care for it; others, including an avowed pinot lover, savoured it to the last drop.
The Lloyd family’s Coriole Sangiovese also found lovers and haters. Its deep, sweet fruit came overlaid and cut through with sangiovese’s strong, savoury tannin that gave the wine an appealing earthy, rustic character. We later noted the wine had won a gold medal in the 2017 Australian Alternative Varieties Show in the ‘youthful, fresh, juicy’ category. The Lloyd family began their sangiovese journey in 1985, so it’s little wonder to see such a gem at a modest price.
Ravensworth Canberra District Estate Sangiovese 2016 $38
Another maker coaxing the earthy, rustic, savoury tannins out of sangiovese is Bryan Martin. Martin and his wife Jocelyn, own a small vineyard near Murrumbateman, a NSW village within the Canberra District wine region.
The couple’s Ravensworth wines, made by Bryan at Clonakilla Winery, include grapes from other growers in Canberra and surrounding districts. But with the first stage of their own winery recently established, the Martins now also release estate-grown wines, including this sangiovese.
Martin’s winemaking technique captures the unique flavour of the variety but also enhances those delicious, grippy, savoury tannins. The result is a distinctive and complex sangiovese with layers of flavour and texture. Martin says the wine spends 4–6 months on skins, one year in ferment vats another in 2800-litre oak barrels (foudre).
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2018