Tag: Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

Mar 03 2013

Whose Pinot Reigns Supreme? Australia versus New Zealand

Posted on March 03, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Acqua Panna Global Wine Experience, Saturday, 9 March 2013

When New Zealand winemakers’ Blair Walter (Felton Road) and Nick Mills (Rippon) opened their address with a very loud and captivating rendition of the Maori Haku, the stage was set for a very lively debate about whose pinot reigns supreme? (Wished I taped it, but my photo of Nick Mills give you a bit of an idea!)

The audience was collapsing with laughter while the two Australian winemakers on the panel, Michael Dhillon (Bindi) and Nick Farr (By Farr and Farr Rising), looked on with bemusement! No, unfortunately, they hadn’t prepared an Aussie comeback! (C’mon Aussie c’mon perhaps?)

The subsequent discussion, led by wine critic Nick Stock, was fascinating so I thought I’d share a few of the highlights:

Clonal Variety vs Vine Age – New Zealand vs Australia

Farr noted that due to stricter Australian quarantine rules, New Zealand has had the edge when it comes to choice of clones.

But according to the Australian winemakers vine age can compensate for the effects of less clonal variety. The vines of the MP6 clone used for the Macedon Ranges’ Bindi Block 5, for example, are now 18 years old. Dhillon believes he has seen increasing complexity, minerality and balance with each subsequent vintage of his wine.

Terroir is Key

Of all the varieties pinot noir is probably the greatest communicator of terroir.  Not surprisingly, the winemakers said their greatest challenge is finding the right location!

Nick StockMills noted that for New Zealand winemakers achieving wines with good fruitiness is practically a given, as New Zealand’s dramatic diurnal variation is very good for sealing in flavour and colour. The right terroir is what gives the wines their coveted subtle flavours, complexity and structure.

Winemaker’s Influence Read the rest

Mar 03 2012

Australian Tempranillo: Standing Tall Against top Spanish Expressions of the Variety

Posted on March 03, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

One of the delights of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s Wine Masterclass Fire in the Belly was the opportunity to compare some of the finest examples of Spanish tempranillo with their Australian counterparts.

Peter Leske of La Linea was on the panel, and I couldn’t help wondering how he felt to have his Norteño Tempranillo 2010 compared to Spanish greats like Vega Sicilia’s Pintia 2006 and the Telmo Rodriguez Matallana 2006, for example.

Vega Sicilia, of course, holds the mantle as Spain’s most prestigious producer. Its flagship cuvee, the Único, a Ribera del Duero tempranillo, is widely regarded as one of the world’s best wines. The Pintia is from a more recently established bodega in Toro. It had all the hallmarks of great tempranillo – earthy aromas, spicy, dark fruit and chocolate flavours with subtle touches of vanilla and cedar, velvety tannins and a deliciously long finish. The exquisitely aromatic Telmo Rodriguez Matallana from Ribero del Duero slowly revealed its deep layers of flavours, which were supported by ripe, firm tannins.

But what about the Australian examples? Even though the Australian wines on show were disadvantaged by being younger in vintage than their Spanish rivals, they displayed the confidence and finesse that Australia’s talented winemakers are bringing to this revered Spanish variety.

The Mayford Tempranillo 2010, from a small, family-run winery in Porepunkah Victoria that is high above the Ovens River, was one of the highlights. Like the Matallana, it is fermented with natural yeasts – a practice that many Australian winemakers are embracing as it helps to impart the sense or place or terroir in the wine. With perfumes of black cherry, earth and spice and velvety, fine grained tannins, it was a beautifully balanced wine displaying gorgeously pure fruit flavours. Incidentally, Campbell Mattinson of … Read the rest

Mar 03 2012

Spanish Wine Comes to Australia: Masterclass with Telmo Rodríguez

Posted on March 03, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Last year I heard Telmo Rodríguez speak at a panel discussion on biodynamic wines at the Return to Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne. He was passionate about  biodynamic winemaking, indigenous Spanish grapes and returning to the “18th century vineyard style” of bush training the vines to replace the use of 20th century wire trellising systems.

I was thrilled to hear him speak again at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s masterclass, “Fire in the Belly.” Bordeaux trained Rodríguez is one of Spain’s most innovative winemakers. Along with Alvaro Palacios and Domineo de Pingus’s Peter Sisseck, he has raised the reputation of Spanish wines to new heights by combining modern winemaking techniques with a renewed emphasis on native Spanish wine varieties and traditional vineyard practices.

Determined to make wines that truly reflect their sense of place, Rodríguez has spent the past 15 years scouring the country for the very best sites. Today he works with numerous small growers to make relatively small amounts of approximately twenty different wines across a broad price spectrum from almost every wine growing area in Spain, including Toro, Rueda, Valdeorras, Malaga, Alicante and Cigales.

In his quest to create truly Spanish wines, Rodríguez has revived abandoned vineyards and rediscovered native grapes such as godello, verdejo, moscatel and monastrell (mourvedre). He has also enhanced appreciation for the importance of terroir with regard to classic Spanish varietals like tempranillo, garnacha (grenache) and carignan. Rodríguez explained that he uses grapes to show places, and that grapes like tempranillo, for example, will create different styles of wine depending on where they are planted. Indeed, the slides he showed of his various vineyards revealed landscapes of extraordinary diversity, from the rolling hills of Rioja Alavesa at the edge of the Cantabria Mountain range to the flat high altitude plains of Rueda.… Read the rest

Feb 02 2012

What makes ‘single vineyard’ wine so special?

Posted on February 02, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a recent article on the Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz, the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown gives a great deal of thought to the definition of a ‘single vineyard’. She asks “Is there a limit on how big it can be? Is there an implied uniformity of terroir and vine in these words, and to what extent is that even possible?” She argues that “when taken to its ultimate extreme, the words ‘single vineyard’ should conjure images of miniscule parcels of near mono-geological turfs that have long been married to a single varietal soul-mate, perhaps Romanee-Conti (1.8 ha), Le Montrachet (8 ha) or Clos Sainte Hune (1.67 ha).” (Henschke Hill of Grace: Australia’s Greatest Single Vineyard Wine? by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, eRobertParker.com, 6 February 2012)

But whatever the size of the vineyard or the number of distinct blocks of varying soils, vine ages and varieties (the Hill of Grace Vineyard consists of 8 blocks between a half and one hectare in size), Perrotti-Brown argues that a wine should only be classified as a ‘single vineyard’ wine if it represents a “thoughtfully delineated example of elevated quality that stands apart from that which surrounding vineyards can achieve and expresses something, well, singular.”

The custodians of world’s greatest single vineyard wines certainly devote a great deal of time and attention to yielding the best results from their single vineyards no matter their size.  Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), for example, converted his vineyards to organic in 1986 and more recently biodynamic, because he believes that making wine as naturally as possible is the best way to express the nuances of his fabled terroir. (see Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: The Quintessential Expression of Terroir by Merrill Witt, Cellarit Wine Blog, 12 May 2011)

Perrotti-Brown notes that fifth … Read the rest