Tag: McLaren Vale

Mar 03 2016

Huon Hooke Italian Masterclass: Italian Varieties flourish in Australia

Posted on March 03, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Over the past decade Australian wine producers have planted a wide range of Italian varieties, reaching well beyond well-known favourites like Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese to more esoteric grapes like Lagrein, Barbera and Dolcetto.

Huon Hooke’s recent Italian Masterclass at Prince Wine Store offered an excellent opportunity to compare Italian varieties made by Australian producers with imported Italian wines of the same varieties.

Dolcetto, a dark-skinned grape from the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy, was actually first planted in Australia in the 1860s by Best’s Great Western founder Henry Best. Even today the winery is unsure why Henry chose to devote about 25 per cent of his entire vineyard to this lesser known variety!

The refreshing, easy drinking Best’s Great Western Dolcetto, Grampians 2012  ($30) was made from grapes from both the original 1860s plantings and 1971 plantings of cuttings from Henry’s original wines. Its plum and berry fruit flavours were far more pronounced than the savoury Azelia Dolcetto d’Alba DOC “Bricco dell ‘Oriolo” 2013 ($34) – an impressive single vineyard wine from the Alba area of Piedmont.

Given Australia’s propensity to produce fruit-forward wines, Australia winemakers are experimenting with different winemaking techniques to bring out the more subtle, complex characters traditionally associated with Italian red varieties.

At the tasting  Joel Pizzini, winemaker at King Valley’s Pizzini Wines, was on hand to talk about the winery’s acclaimed single vineyard Sangiovese, the 2013 Pizzini Forza di Ferro Sangiovese. He explained that he exposes the grapes for this wine to a hotter than normal fermentation in order release more of their complex savoury aromas and flavours.

Forza di Ferro is Italian for ‘strength from iron,’ a reference to the iron rich soils of this special vineyard. Over the past 25 years, the winery has spent a considerable amount of time … Read the rest

Aug 08 2015

Biodynamic Winemaker named Winemaker of 2016 by James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion

Posted on August 08, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The uptake of organic and biodynamic winemaking practices is now a growing worldwide trend. Australian wine writer Max Allen recently reported that even in Marlborough, the epicentre for commercially grown sauvignon blanc, organic and biodynamic viticulture is being adopted on a large scale. (The Other Side of Marlborough by Max Allen, JancisRobinson, 3 August 2015).

The move away from chemically reliant farming strikes me as good news for both the consumer and the environment. Nigel Sowman, vineyard manager of Marlborough’s Dog Point, told Allen that organic conversion has been very important for improving quality and demand for his grapes.

Yangarra Estate wineryFor Yangarra, a 100 acre vineyard focussed exclusively on the varieties of the southern Rhone, a biodynamic approach has led to brighter fruit qualities in the wine, naturally lower alcohol levels and an overall impression of better ‘terroir’ or sense of place expression.

Fraser and Lane believe that improved vineyard health is another pleasing consequence of the rigours associated with acquiring and maintaining Biodynamic A certification. Because the use of industrially made chemicals is prohibited, promoting biologically rich soils and resilient vines are absolutely paramount for preventing and controlling disease.  More ethereal qualities, like positive energy and emotion emanating from the vineyard, are other fortunate by-products of a biodynamic approach according to the pair. (‘From the Earth’, Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale, SA by The Wine Idealist, 25 July 2014)

Happy vines make happy wine!

by Merrill Witt, Editor

Photo Credit: Yangarra Estate



Read the rest

Mar 03 2015

South Australia’s McLaren Vale – Focus on Terroir is Yielding Exciting Results

Posted on March 03, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you think South Australia’s McLaren Vale is all about super rich, high alcohol reds, now is a great time to challenge your preconceptions. According to wine critic Huon Hooke, McLaren Vale is “alive with a new surge of vitality and is making superb wine.” (Red Means Go in the Vale by Huon Hooke, Good Food, SMH, 6 August 2013)

The seeds for transformation were sown around 15 years ago when the region’s top wineries began shifting their plantings to better suited, mainly red wine varieties. But confidence really started to surge about five years ago, coinciding with the release of the area’s first detailed geological map!

First detailed geological wine map released in 2010

In 2010, after decades of research, geologists confirmed what top winemakers like Clarendon Hill’s Roman Bratasiuk had long intuited. McLaren Vale was an incredibly ancient land with an unusually diverse range of soils and underlying rock formations that are capable of imbuing the wines with very individualistic characters.


McLaren ValeThe map identified nineteen distinct soil and rock districts within six geological and mesa-climate subregions: Blewitt Springs, McLaren Flat, Seaview, McLaren Vale, Willunga and Sellicks. According to Wine Australia’s regional director Aaron Brasher, no other Geographical Indication (GI) in Australia has been so extensively mapped!

Scarce Earth Project promotes terroir-focused wines

To prove that these subtle and not-so-subtle differences in soil type, climate and elevation can find expression in the wines, a group of the region’s most prominent wineries formed the Scarce Earth project in 2010.

Participating wineries were asked to isolate single blocks of land planted to shiraz (the vines must be at least 10 years old) and produce wines representing a true reflection of their terroir or sense of place. Now in its fifth year, wines are submitted for blind-tasting to an … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Urban Encroachment Threatens McLaren Vale

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s most renowned wine regions. Clarendon Hills, d’Arenberg, Fox Creek, Noon Winery, Mitolo Wines, Hardys, Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards and Wirra Wirra are just few of the celebrated wineries to have cellar doors in McLaren Vale.

You may have seen in the press that influential wine critics James Halliday and Jancis Robinson have voiced their disapproval to a development proposal that would see the construction of  a shopping mall and large housing estate on prime vineyard land in the area. (Jancis Robinson joins fight against McLaren Vale development by Rebecca Gibb, Decanter.com 6 October 2010. Wine critic joins Seaford Heights fight by Sarah Garvis, Southern Times Messenger 28 September 2010)

Ironically, no vineyards are currently planted on the proposed 170 ha Seaford Heights development site even though a geological study has shown that the land has some of the most suitable soils for viticulture in the whole region – a combination of 650 million-year-old sandstone and silt.

The local government of the city of Onkaparinga has rejected the planning proposal, labelling the land as “rural” rather than “residential”, and handed it over to the South Australian Development and Planning Minister Paul Holloway, who will make a decision in mid-October as to whether or not the proposal is worth pursuing.

As McLaren Vale is only 45 minutes from the centre of Adelaide, it risks becoming a victim of urban sprawl. Like many other Australian capital cities, Adelaide is looking at ways to accommodate significant population growth. A report just released by the State’s Housing and Employment Land Supply Program advocates increasing Adelaide’s population by 560,000 people by 2040 and opening up new development areas to house them. (Major development timetable announced for Adelaide by Planning Minister Paul Holloway by Daniel Wills, Hannah Silverman, Adelaide … Read the rest