BRASH HIGGINS ‘MRLO’ Merlot 2014
McLaren Vale, South Australia
I like that Brad Hickey, an American winemaker, made this Merlot. Why is that, do you ask? Back in 2004 there was an American film about wine called ‘Sideways’, that changed the opinion of many a wine drinker on Merlot when the protagonist angrily shouted, “If anybody orders Merlot I’m leaving! I am not drinking any [insert expletive] Merlot!” Such a statement was enough to dampen sales of Merlot around the United States. It was even felt here. Merlot became daggy to the industry and remained the humble comfort wine for those who chose not to care. So to have Mr Hickey make such a great example of the Merlot grape under his Brash Higgins label and subsequently tear down the daggy barrier sort of makes this come full circle. Merlot is back.
This example was not made just like any other wine. It was fermented in clay amphora vessels for six weeks, spent a little time in seasoned oak and had a wee 10% addition of Nero d’Avola to add acidity, tannin and some exoticness. The result is a wine with a hint of purple fruits but dominated by savoury characteristics such as black tea, marzipan and schist – a similar character that I have found in Brash Higgins’ other wines that were fermented in amphora. You will notice some smokiness to the finish and great balance with a restrained ripeness despite this being 14.5% alcohol.
Only 55 cases were made so keep an eye out for the Brash Higgins effect, which will turn old opinions on their heads.
Stockists: Harry & Frankie, Port Melbourne and The Town Mouse, Carlton
UNICO ZELO Dolcetto ‘Cherry Fields’ 2014
Clare Valley & Adelaide Hills, South Australia
I first came across winemaker Brendan Carter when he was still a student back in 2011. We crossed paths as Italian wine enthusiasts entered into a scholarship for that particular topic. Brendan went on to Dux the course and his prize meant he was able to travel to Italy and explore the exciting varieties the country has to offer. In the following years, Brendan has since put these experiences to their best use with the launch of his own wine label called Unico Zelo run alongside his wife Laura.
Dolcetto is recognized in Italy as a delicious medium-bodied red variety not to be taken too seriously and is suitable for everyday grazing. In fact the back of the label suggests you have this wine when you find yourself ‘eating with your hands’. The Unico Zelo example fits into a similar mould as the Italian verison with a wild ferment and maturation in old oak that optimizes the fruit profile. The nose opens with aromas of fresh black cherries, cola and a hint of vanilla. The palate is a little more liqueured cherries in flavour and shows a delicacy in its texture and balance with its refreshing acidity. My only hesitation with Unico Zelo is that it lacked the tannic presence to slow me down. That bottle disappeared all too quickly.
Stockist: Check Blackhearts & Sparrows stores (all) or be first when the new vintage comes out around October.
Here are a few wines to tempt your loved ones this upcoming Valentines Day.
I recently spent a week up in the sun-drenched town of Mildura as an associate judge for the Australian Alternative Varietal Wine Show. In the lead up I found myself embracing all things alternative, delicious and interesting.
QUARTIER by PORT PHILLIP ESTATE Arneis 2011
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
People tend to match wine with food and vice versa. It is an aspect of working with wine that I adore. Food AND wine? How could you not? However I also have an alternate matching battle going on in my head. Not only am I constantly thinking about food, but my mind has the habit of immediately wandering which song might suit the style, the flavours and the whole package of the wine before me. I’ll admit, it’s a bit strange.
Unashamedly, it turns out that my choice of Caribbean-style melody and dance seen in Kaoma’s 1989 version of ‘Lambada’ was the perfect accompaniment. This may seem non sequitur, considering that we are talking about the locally grown Italian white grape called Arneis, but allow me to explain as there is always a method to my madness.
Penfolds Grange is unquestionably Australia’s most famous red wine and has reached celestial heights in terms of adoration and expectation. From its experimental inception in 1951 by winemaker Max Schubert, Grange has been lovingly crafted to shine as a uniquely Australian wine of longevity, power and class.
“Grange’s aesthetic quality and remarkable aging potential is the stuff of legends.”
Andrew Caillard MW
In line with the 20-year celebration of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, an event was arranged that could commemorate the significance of this anniversary. Two bottles each of Penfolds Grange 1971 and 1976 (tested by the clinic in 2011) were obtained from a close friend of the owner of my workplace. The extensive museum Italian wine list was pulled out for perusal. It was like being a kid in a candy store as eight other wines were chosen that hail from Italy which would sit alongside Australia’s most iconic wine. The wines selected are classified in the upper echelon of quality and come from the most respected producers. These include rare wines such as Ceretto Bricco Rocche Barolo Brunate 1990, Produttori del Barbaresco Montefico 1985, Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino Schiena d’Asino 1990, Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella ‘Monte Olmi’ 1991, Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 1997 and even the famous Toscana IGT wine Antinori’s Tignanello 1985 and Bolgheri’s inimitable Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia DOC 1987.
In total, the combined age of these wines is over 200 years. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one that I feel privileged to have been able to pour at. Below is a visual diary of the evening with small commentary made as to the condition of the wines.
FIGHTING GULLY ROAD ‘Aquila’ 2010
King Valley & Alpine Valley, Victoria
CASTAGNA Allegro Rosé 2009
That may be a quote that I stole from the movie Anchorman – The Legend of Ron Burgundy , but such a highly intelligent saying could also be applied to the wine style rosé. We are in the midst of a Rosé revolution that hosts events through the month of November. However according to my standards of rosé appreciation and ridiculously good mathematical calculations, it is actually a beverage that has the capacity to be consumed during two thirds of the year, if not more. Melbourne weather permitting, I am referring to the period from the end of October to the start of May. “60% of the time…it works every time”.
On November 10th, I celebrated the beginning of the revolution with this rosé from Castagna called Allegro, which easily confirmed its position as one of Australia’s top rosé wines. What can I say? It is difficult to dislike such a pretty peach, salmon, blush hued wine. Well actually no. That was a blatant lie because if the wine did not perform and do wondrous things in my mouth then I would not speak of it so highly.
Fear not, Julian Castagna has created a wicked rosé mistress of layered complexity like no other.
She beckons you forth by opening with a perfume of sweet pink musk followed by a gentle puff of smoke. Soft and playful on the palate, she kisses you with sugared almond lips dusted with vanilla icing. Texturally, Madame rosé has got curves in all the right places and in the right proportions with that final flavoured flush of rose water pinning you down for another glass. She brings an impressive 14.00% alcohol to the table, but with such a vivacious personality, it is no wonder that you are more than tempted to have a bit of a play with the alluring rosé.
NARKOOJEE Pinot Noir 2009
I sat there gazing at the Pinot Noir before me, which at first glance had the appearance and hue of a deep, unfiltered Burgundy.
“Won’t you take me to funkytown!“, I sung to myself.
This steers away from the more ubiquitous style of primary fruit-driven Pinot Noir that you tend to find at this price range. In fact, I’d almost dare to say that it’s a little naughty to be offering such chompy, boastfully-flavoured, savoury goodness so cheaply.
How very Mrs Robinson!
SHADOWFAX Viognier 2010
Goulburn Valley, Victoria