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
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.
SHIRVINGTON Cabernet Sauvignon
McLaren Vale, South Australia
Hmm…that name…Shirvington. Doesn’t it make you think of the Australian track athlete Matt Shirvington and the package that was so infamously publicized on television years ago?
Or was that just me getting a little excited? Anyway, the joke beckons, but I will save that until last.