The 2007 South Australian Tour Diaries
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Chapter Five – Monday – The Barossa
The Barossa gets loads of tourists so one would think that obtaining a reasonable breakfast would not be a difficult task. Unfortunately that is not the case. Breakfast was entirely forgettable, so forgettable that my digital recording device refused to divulge the one minute and twenty three seconds worth of notes I had made, and then in a protest of disgust at having to listen to all the sordid details of poor breakfasts, it also refused to divulge the twenty two minutes and fifty three seconds worth of recording that I had made during our first appointment. It wasn't impressed, and neither am I.
For years, when I have been planning these trips I have looked at the name Haan Wines and I thought I must visit them but for some obscure reason never got around to it. The winery is generally not open, which means an appointment is mandatory, and that's probably why I have never got there. I am glad that I took the time to visit them on this trip.
Unfortunately the owners, Hans Haan and his wife Fransien, were interstate during our visit, so he had arranged for us to meet with Mark Jamieson their winemaker and Robert Seelander their vineyard manager. When we arrived, Maximilian the Weimararner-Kelpie cross gave us a very warm welcome and literally seconds after we got out of the car, rain started to bucket down. Given the lack of water over winter, and as the Pie King took credit for bringing the rain with us, Robert and Mark were delighted to see us. (Talk about deluded, McLaren Vale had been dry for months. On the other hand, no sooner had I left my four dogs with Lynne, it started to rain heavily and continuously in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. When I spoke to Lynne, she was not pleased with having six wet dogs in the house. I am going to have to buy her something special to get out of this much hot excrement.)
As soon as you drive into the property, the first impression is that it is immaculate and owned by a perfectionist; something out of a high class magazine. Throughout our visit that impression was reinforced. It goes from the vines at the start of the process to the sealed bottles at the end of the process. There is literally not a blade of grass out of place on the manicured lawns. No self-respecting blade of grass would dare to do something so un-sightly in this establishment.
Hans was born in Holland, moved to Australia when he was 15, worked for Ansett ANA as a flight engineer, married Fransien, and then moved to Hong Kong to work for Cathay Pacific Airways. They lived in Hong Kong for 26 years and when it was time for Hans to retire, the dream was to own a vineyard, but the big question was where. They toured the world looking for the idyllic place. They had a rigid set requirements and criteria.
A number of top locations, like the south of France and Portugal as well as some of Australia and New Zealand’s best wine growing regions were seriously considered. In a phone interview, when I asked Hans what made him want to become a winemaker, he just laughed and said, "I didn't. The dream was to live on a vineyard. During our holidays, we came to Australia to look for possible sites. We looked at Margaret River and although we liked the area, because we knew nothing about viticulture, we needed to move into an established area where the infrastructure was already in place. Twenty years ago, Margaret River was not setup like it is today.
We had a flat in Sydney so we looked at the possibility of the Hunter Valley, but after careful consideration decided that was not exactly what we wanted. We had a look at Tasmania, and were particularly enamoured with a vineyard that was for sale on the Tamar River, but it was a bit far from the mainland. We also had a look at Victoria, but South Australia was very attractive because our daughter Monique lived in Adelaide. We visited her a number of times and went to the Barossa and wound up thinking this is the place we should live.
We spent about nine months looking in the Barossa for a suitable property. Anyone who is married will know that when it comes to these things you have to listen to your wife. When we found the current property, Fransiens’s words were, “I think we can do something with this." And that’s a close to a yes as Hans was going to get, so he jumped in quickly.
We purchased the 40 acre property on 1 September 1993.”
Hans retired in December 1994 and they moved to the Barossa early in 1995. The house was built in 1908 and was very run down. The vineyard contained an “interesting” mix of vines including seven acres of Pedro, which may have been great 40 years ago, but not too many people drink Sherry today. There was also a fair quantity of Riesling, but the Barossa is too hot for that variety. The three acres of Semillon was far more than needed. Two thirds of the vineyard was replanted, with varieties they thought would be more appropriate. They concentrated on the five Bordeaux varieties and a little bit of Shiraz. They also planted Viognier, which was Fransiens’s idea. All that took place between 1995 and 1997.
The Haans decided to concentrate on the Bordeaux varieties because whilst they were living in Hong Kong they drank a lot of French wine, particularly Bordeaux, and thought it would be nice to be able to eventually make their own wine based on those varieties. Today, the most common grapes in the vineyard are Shiraz and Merlot, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon. The usual other suspects are also planted in varying quantities, with the smallest quantity being Viognier.
They were approached by Cellarmasters, who wanted to buy their Merlot and Semillon grapes, and make wine under the Haan label. A deal was struck and the process kicked off.
Whilst this was going on, they had met James Irvine socially, and he eventually suggested they make their own wine. And that was how the dream to own a vineyard became convoluted.
They made their first wines in 1996, a Merlot Prestige and a Sparkling Cabernet. According to Hans, "We were very excited about the Sparkling Cabernet, but we could not sell it. We were too early, had we left it for a while, we would have been okay. Finally we got rid of it, but at a reduced price. We didn't really make any money on it, but let's face it, it's still hard to make money in the wine business today.”
The property is large enough to yield enough fruit to make 10,000 to 12,000 cases in a normal year. They currently produce fewer than 4,000 cases a year, and have decided to cap their own label at a maximum of 5,000. The question is what to do with the excess fruit. The answer is very simple; Henschke takes the lot for their second tier wines.
Robert Seelander is their vineyard manager and has been involved in the property since the Haans’ purchase. He was the foreman at Turkey Flat Winery and also looked after the Haan’s property whilst they were still in Hong Kong. Robert loved being in the vineyard, and didn't particularly enjoy being a foreman, and as soon as Hans heard about it, he offered Robert a job.
When they are pruning, they cut to a level that will theoretically give them five tonnes to the acre. If this sounds high, it is, but that is not the whole story. Later on, they bunch thin down to a level that will yield two to three tons per acre. Doing it this way increases the cost and requires a lot more work, especially when you consider it is all done by hand. The decision to do it that way it was not made lightly. The objective was to get the best possible fruit, so why not do it in one pass? Robert says that if it was done in one pass, all the energy will go into the fruit that was left, and they don't want golf ball sized grapes.
The way they grow their Viognier is unusual. The vines have an inner and an outer canopy. The outer canopy obviously gets more sunshine and the inner canopy has more shade, yet despite this, by the time they are ready to be picked, they are both around 14.8 beaumé. When they harvest the grapes, they pick the best bunches from the inner canopy by hand, and this makes one wine, and the rest of the bunches are picked by machine and make a second wine. Two completely different wines from one vine, I haven’t heard of that before. The acidity on the inside canopy fruit is much higher.
James Irvine was originally their winemaker. At one point, James had some health issues as well as having too much on his plate, so when Mark Jamieson, who was working for James decided to go out on his own, it was a natural transition for him to be employed as the part-time winemaker at Haan. Mark also does all the cellar work and consults or makes wine for other producers as well.
They make a range of 10 wines; four of them are in the Haan Prestige range, and the other six are under the Hanenhof label. They also have a Sparkling Cabernet Rosé called Chanticleer, named after the rooster in Canterbury Tales.
In today's climatic conditions water is of prime importance to any agricultural pursuit. This property has a lined dam that holds five mega-litres as well as a bore. Even with this water, they don't take anything for granted. Robert has gone through the vineyard and built up a collar of soil around the vines to better retain moisture. The attention to fine detail is astounding, and nothing is left to chance.
The fanaticism towards detail was made abundantly clear whilst we were touring the barrel shed. The winery doesn't actually have a winery. The fruit is picked and then processed at the Murray St contract facility. Once it's been through primary fermentation, it is brought back to the property and goes into barrel. If I had the choice of having an operation in a staph-infected hospital, or being operated in this barrel shed, the barrel shed would be my choice as it’s probably far cleaner.
Speaking of the barrels, they used to use hogsheads, but Francine didn't like the name, and in a rare instance of magnanimous consideration, Hans decided to convert to barriques instead. (It could have been worse: they could have been using “firkin” barrels. Then Francine really would have had a fit, even if the derivation of the word is Dutch.)
The winery’s oak regime is extremely simple. They use one third new, one third first use, and one third second use. After six years the barrels are sold. They are primarily French. Halliday gave this winery his top rating but said, "These are wines that will polarise opinion; the issue is not the alcohol, but the amount of oak used, and the way it is used. I think the outcome is very successful, but have never, and would never, seek to make wines in the style.” When I read this commentary, I thought it was rather curious. Yes, the wine does show obvious signs of oak, but it is certainly not overdone and I have seen many more examples of wines that have greater oak characteristics. I don't know why Halliday inflicted his stylistic winemaking preferences on the reader in this manner.
Hanenhof 2005 Cabernet Franc will sell for around $15.95 when it is released towards the end of the year, and is sealed under screwcap. The wine spent 12 months in oak and 250 cases have been produced. The bouquet is earthy/leathery with leafy notes and milk chocolate. The pure, deeply-seated fruit is expressive and perfectly matched to the velvety tannins, which are unobtrusive, but provide a solid backing. An ample-weight, supple wine with a tight, almost seamless structure; this is a damn good wine for the price and worth buying for something different. Violets, liquorice, leafy notes, cassis, and dark chocolate finish with clean acid. Rated as Recommended with **** for value.
Haan 2005 Merlot Prestige sells for $35 to mail order customers and is sealed under cork. It contains 8% Cabernet Franc. The bouquet was very dull, but that was due to the wines cool temperature. As it warmed it seemed to have pleasant violets and perfumed aromatics. Pristine, pure fruit combines with silky, unobtrusive, tight tannins that provide a rock-solid foundation for this ample-weight wine. For a Merlot, it’s damn serious. Plum and musk flavours are off sweet on the uptake and finish to sweet, but very subtle musk stick, and the whole package is lifted by fresh acid. A sexy wine, it is the best Merlot I have had in a long time. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value; drink over the next seven years.
Haan 2005 Wilhelmus is a Bordeaux blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot and 8% Malbec. It sells for $39.50 to mail order customers and is sealed under cork. 500 cases have been produced. The wine is unfined. The bouquet shows leafy notes and cedar; it has good complexity but it is tight and unyielding. Black cherry, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, leafy characters, musk and all sorts of other good things including spicy oak, finish into the never never. An impressive balance has been achieved between the deep, pure, strong fruit, youthful acid, and fine, silky but dusty tannins. A muscular-weight wine that is ultra-tight; it has a supple consistency, and harmonious and intricate complexity. The wine is restrained and all class. Whilst it's enjoyable now, it will be much better in a few years. Rated as Excellent with **** for value, it should reach its peak drinking window in 2012 and beyond. Even after drinking water, I could still taste it.
Haan 2005 Shiraz Prestige sells for $37.50 to mail order customers and was being bottled the next week. The bouquet boasts coffee oak over quality fruit and a hint of varnish. Very-smooth, dusty tannins are well matched to the fresh acid and pure, deep fruit. A well-built wine that is just ample in weight; it has a supple consistency, an elegant, tight, solid structure and diverse complexity. It needs time to mature and gain further complexity, but has all the hallmarks of an excellent wine. The tannins dominate the fruit at present but they will surface. Smoky oak and hints of herb and sour cherry flavours finish clean, dry, long and persistent. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, the rating should improve as the wine matures around 2013 and beyond.
Whilst I was doing the phone interview with Hans, we were chatting and comparing Australian Cabernet blends with those from France. He reminded me that we were not to use the term Bordeaux Blend when describing Australian wine. Hans is a very personable and expressive sort of guy, and when he starts rabbiting on about his wines, he gets fairly passionate. He then went on to tell me a little story. When describing their wines, the lovers of Bordeaux get enthusiastic and talk about the properties of the wines from the left bank, versus those that come from the right bank. There is a creek running through Hans’ vineyard, so when he is in "full flight" and describing his wines, he has been known to mention the differences in the grapes that come from his left bank and a right bank too.
The word “Haan” means rooster and Hans is not afraid to crow about his products, but based on what I tasted, he's got something to crow about. Admittedly we only tasted four wines, but I would be happy to have any of them in my cellar.
The next winery we visited, for my money, makes some of the very best wine in the Barossa. If you haven't heard of Kaesler wines, you must have been asleep for the last five years. We had an appointment with Reid Bosward, who is as forthright as he is generous with his hospitality, and metaphorically speaking, he is not afraid of calling a spade an effin shovel. He is a very smart operator, and that level of “smart” is reflected in his wines. Reid doesn't make bad wines just some that are better than others. The flag-fall on some of his wines is not exactly modest, but when you are making wines of this quality, in many cases from very low-yielding, ancient vines, you can't expect them to be inexpensive. They are also unashamedly big Barossa reds, and in many cases carry a noticeable quantity of oak, but it’s the highest quality oak, and there is always sufficient stuffing to absorb it.
Expanding the Kaesler brand would not be all that easy. At their current production level they have no problem selling out. If the brand was to be increased, that would mean an increase in the Australian retail distribution channel, something that Reid is keen to avoid. So if the dictates of the business necessitates expansion, this needs to be considered. The winery is also extremely proud of its team, and keeping them happy is of paramount importance. They are continually looking for new challenges, and this another factor that needs to be considered in the business planning and decision-making process.
Reid is fanatical about the quality of fruit that goes into his wine. Except for the entry-level wines, the majority of the rest of the fruit used comes from old vines, in some cases extremely old. There is only so much of this fruit that he can access in the Barossa, so when it came time to expand the options were limited. The Kaesler brand is, and always will be, for Barossa wines, but that does not stop them producing wines from grapes grown in other suitable regions. It just means a new brand. Launching a new brand, and not relying on the inherent advantages of the existing label can be a costly exercise, but Kaesler is in the business for the long haul and not frightened to invest in their future. That was why the decision was made to establish a new brand for their McLaren Vale offerings.
According to Reid, the most difficult part of the exercise was finding a suitable name. Nashwauk was the result. It is named after a shipwreck. The Nashwauk was built in Nova Scotia and weighing in at 762 tons when she left Liverpool for South Australia. She carried a general cargo and three hundred immigrants, including 130 single girls.
In a corner of the McLaren Vale vineyard, on the next property is an old ruin. Ships used it to navigate. According to Reid, “The dopey captain actually thought he was at Semaphore when he was actually at Moana; and of course he then got his bearings wrong, thinking he was looking at the light ten miles further up the coast. Consequently he hit the shoreline on 13 May 1855.”
Strange and kinky goings on at Kaesler! Look at the electric jug!!......................
And why is there a pump bottle of olive oil spray on the coffee tray? ...................
No lives were lost but according to legend the girls 'behaved in a most discreditable manner' after the ship was wrecked. No doubt, after drinking too much of the Nashwauk wine, the same thing would happen to the girls today.
The vineyard, which is located next door to Coriole, almost opposite the Seaview winery, and below Chapel Hill, provided Hardy’s with grapes for over thirty years. It is forty-six acres with two acres of Tempranillo, half an acre of Grenache, an acre of Cabernet and the rest is Shiraz. The vines are planted in contours to follow the lay of the land and there are about six different soil types on the property. For your average grower that is a nightmare. The fruit was sold to a large company and went into a couple of their prestige labels. The property changed hands without coming on to the general market, and it cost Kaesler close to $1.6 million.
(They have also acquired a hundred acres in Clare, and that will be the next project.)
The new Nashwauk wines had been bottled less than a week ago, so these are probably the first tasting notes you will see on them. The prices quoted are indicative, because they have not been finalised and when we tasted them, the wines have not been released. The pricing strategy on these wines will be different to those in the Kaesler range. The wines will be cheaper at cellar door than at retail. Whilst it may not be popular with the retailers, it will be popular with consumers, and as production will be relatively low, somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 cases. It will only be sold in a very limited number of fine wine shops.
Its early days for this brand; the plan over time is to reduce the overall cropping level by about 50%. That will lift the quality of the wine even further and turn it into a real fighting brand. Most of them are not built to age for as long as the Kaesler Barossa wines.
Nashwauk 2006 Tempranillo sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. It's a single block wine. The attractive bouquet showed delightful perfumed aromatics with lovely complexity. Superbly constructed, it's a muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency and diverse complexity. Strong, deep fruit combines with fresh acid and tight, dusty tannins to deliver a huge amount of power and strength, with a persistence of blackberry and dark chocolate flavours that lingers for yonks. "Made in their own style," it is rated as Recommended with **** for value and should best be consumed after 2010.
Nashwauk 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under cork; 300 cases have been produced. It's a single block wine. The bouquet shows dusty, leafy notes with perfumed cassis. It's a muscular-weight, firm, tight and solid wine with a harmonious complexity. The pure fruit delivers loads of flavour and combines with fine, dusty tannins, and crisp acid to form a very-savoury wine with blackberry, leafy notes, and milk chocolate that intermingles with a second layer of sweetness, all finishing with excellent length. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine matures over the next few years.
Nashwauk 2006 Shiraz sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under cork; 3000 cases have been produced and naturally enough, it is a single vineyard wine. The bouquet shows very ripe plums, vanilla, coconut and violets. Pure, deep fruit combines with fresh acid and silky, dusty tannins, to form a muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency and solid structure. It's a big wine with loads of fruit, and on the palate exhibits multiple levels of chocolate flavour with plum, coffee and vanilla. The clean acid finish and drying tannins overcomes the ripeness. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value.
Nashwauk 2006 Wrecked Shiraz sells for $70 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The sample tasted was a completed wine but was yet to be bottled. The bouquet showed spicy oak nuances with loads of chocolate below. The quality fruit driving the wine is backed by silky, tight, dusty tannins and unobtrusive acid. The uptake has blackberry and chocolate, and there is loads of plum on the mid-palate, together with more chocolate; the mocha and spice flavours finish dry and long. It's a refined, muscular, quality wine that shows a little heat on the palate; it is rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value.
A picture of sartorial elegance!...............................................
His Pieship modelling the latest in haute courtier spring pruning outfits ...............
Nashwauk 2006 Beacon Shiraz will sell for $80 at cellar door when it is released next year and is sealed under cork; only hundred and thirty dozen have been produced. The wine had just been beaten up with the addition of sulphur, so we were seeing it at its worst. Ultra-fine, velvety tannins combine with pristine, deeply-seated fruit to form a wine that is just muscular in weight, with a layered, tight as a French letter structure that should become seamless in time. It's restrained, quality wine and all it needs is time, and a big slab of rare fillet steak. Coffee, mocha, plum, multiple chocolate flavours, black cherry and blackberry are intertwined in sweet and off-sweet layers that ripple down the palate. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, drink from 2013 and beyond.
Kaesler 2006 Avignon is a GSM blend that sells for $25 at cellar door; it’s sealed under cork. It has delightful aromatics showing sweet, juicy-fruit and chewing gum. The fruit is 100% pristine and well-backed by ultra-fine, silky tannins. The sweet red fruit on the uptake is contrasted by savoury undertones; dark chocolate, coffee, plum and mocha flavours fill the palate and finish clean, fresh and long. Medium-weight with a supple consistency, rounded structure and harmonious complexity, it’s a bloody enjoyable wine that demands you take another sip. Drink over the next five years, its rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, its one of the best value GSM’s around.
We were then lucky enough to taste two new wines under the Kaesler label, which are all a single vineyard wines that have been made in small quantities.
Kaesler 2006 Patel is a new label, only 75 dozen have been made; it will sell for $120 when it becomes available (only) at cellar door. It’s sealed under cork. The bouquet is loaded with coffee oak. It’s 17.5% alcohol and whilst a little bit of warmth shows through, it generally hides it well. (The best description I heard about this wine from the ‘peanut gallery’ was, “it makes my mouth all happy.” No need to guess who said it!) The structure is perfect! Pure, deep, strong fruit is solidly and tightly welded to ultra-fine, velvety, dusty tannins. A full-bodied wine with a supple complexity and seamless nature, the intricate complexity is harmonious. Plum, dark chocolate and coffee flavours have an immensely long, clean acid finish that keeps trucking all day. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2014 and 2022; a top-quality wine, its lovely.
Kaesler 2006 Alte Reben (German for Old Vine) is a new label and only 75 dozen have been made; it will sell for $120 when it becomes available (only) at cellar door. It’s sealed under cork. The fruit is sourced from vines that were planted in 1899 and for many years the fruit went into the Yalumba Octavius. The bouquet is delightfully perfumed but dominated by mocha and spicy oak. A full-bodied wine with a supple consistency, seamless structure, it is very tight and restrained; the complexity is excellent and the package harmonious. Plum, blackcurrant, and mulberry fruit intermingle with the mocha oak presenting an off-sweet profile with savoury nuances. It finishes dry and with notable length. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, drink from 2014 to 2022. He hides its 17% alcohol beautifully.
Kaesler 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is very sweet with highly perfumed aromatics. Pure fruit combines with silky tannins to form a seamlessly constructed wine of ample-weight, with a soft consistency, and a harmonious complexity that shows some elegance. Blackcurrant, herbs, and coffee flavours finish with good length and persistence. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, I found this wine to be eminently drinkable.
Kaesler 2005 The Bogan sells for $50 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bottle initially opened with some bottle stink (that should blow off) leaving a very ripe profile that doesn't do terribly much for me. A full-bodied wine with a supple consistency, round structure and harmonious complexity, it's a very-easy drinking wine and fruit hoers will drop their drawers for it. The palate shows a very-ripe flabby fruit with blackberry and coffee flavours. Even though it doesn't particularly appeal to me, it is still rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value. This one will probably do extremely well in the US market.
Kaesler 2005 Old Vine Shiraz sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. 1200 cases have been produced. Bright and tight floral aromatics lead to a palate of plum, chocolate, mocha, vanilla and coffee flavours that linger resplendently. The pure, deeply-seated fruit is perfectly offset with fresh, crisp acid and are perfectly backed by velvety, dusty tannins. A muscular-weight wine with a firm but silky consistency, the structure is solid and tight, and the complexity harmonious. A smashingly good, regal wine it’s rated as Excellent with *** for value. It’s approachable now but will benefit from five years in the cellar.
Kaesler 2005 Old Bastard Shiraz sells for $180 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The aromatics showed excellent complexity together with trademark coffee oak. A regal balance has been achieved between the purest fruit possible and the tight, ultra-fine, velvety tannins and the fresh, crisp acid. A proud, full-bodied, buxom wine with a silky-soft consistency, and a tight, seamless structure, the complexity is diverse and harmonious. The palate shows lots of oak flavours but oh, what quality oak, and there is more than enough fruit to absorb it. Coffee, black tarry liquorice, blackberry, vanilla, and mocha flavours finish clean and dry, and linger into next month. For my money, the best Old Bastard yet and worth every cent; rated as Outstanding with *** for value, drink over the next 10 years.
We went for a walk down into the underground, air-conditioned barrel room. The first thing we noticed was the quantity of new barrels that were still in their plastic wrappers. To put the 2007 vintage quantity in perspective, they had 140 new barrels that were not needed, because they didn't have the wine to fill them. About two thirds of the new barrels were not used. Reid described the wines from 2007 as more Hunteresque than Barossaesque, but he refuses to try and build them up for the sake of it. He believes in going with the seasons, knowing full well that you can't make the best wines every year.
The 2007 wines we tried were incredibly tannic and will probably be fined for the first time.
The 2006 samples were awesome! Again, the new releases will be worth waiting for as Reid’s wines just keep improving year on year.
Once the fruit is in, the number one aspect that Reid concentrates on is the wines structure and balance. Once that is right, everything else follows. To put the 05 and 06 wines in perspective, Reid often freshens them up with younger wines at the time of bottling. In both these two years, the acid was so fresh it was not required.
Reid is very frank with his comments. When we tried the 2007 Old Vine Shiraz and even more so the 2007 Old Bastard, they were both very stinky. All the winemakers that Reid had shown these two wines to suggested he throw copper at them up to clean them up. Reid explained why that would not work. In past vintages he had tried it. You can add enough copper till you get to the point where the wine tastes like a penny, but the problem still hasn't gone away. We were fascinated to learn that the problem was actually caused by improved viticulture in the vineyard; specifically reducing the amount of sprays used, and improving the organic content of the soil together with the worm load.
Reeds said, "It has been a very scary ride. In 05, 06 and 07, here we have a wine that has helped put us on the map and is a big contributor to our income etc etc, and we have to sit back and do nothing about the smell, because there is nothing we can do about it, and by Christmas it comes around of its own accord. It is making us really sweat, but the more of that smell you get in the early stages, the more mineral character you have in the finished wine.
When talking to Reid, one thing is always apparent. The guy really knows what he's doing, not just as a winemaker but as a businessman, and has an air of business confidence about himself that is rare amongst his winemaking brethren. One of the great things about talking to Reid is that you always get an unbiased opinion, and are interesting perspective of what's going on in the wine world, that you rarely hear from anybody else.
During this visit it was about finance. Reid is in partnership with some Swiss bankers so he is wired into the finance world. According to his banking contacts, who are thinking months and years out, not just days and weeks, whilst the banks are happy to lend money to businesses on an interest only basis at the moment, his mates predicts that will change. There are apparently things going on in the finance world which will see a tightening of lending conditions. Businesses with existing loans may find their financial institutions demanding to renegotiate loans, and may insist the principal is repaid as well as interest. If that happens, it'll put an unexpected financial strain on many businesses.
Reid has recognised the lack of availability of quality red wine in 375ml bottles and is doing something about it. The first wine released in half bottle was the 2006 Avignon. They produced 500 dozen and the wine is available from cellar door at $17 per bottle with freight free to capital cities (packed in 12's). They intend to expand the range of half bottles and depending on the enthusiasm, will take it up the tree to the Bogan and Old Vine. Now that's good news.
I know it sounds like a cliché, but the wines at Kaesler just keep getting better and better. The Old Vine Shiraz is a very posh drop and can hold its own against almost anything, and the Outstanding rating for the Old Bastard speaks for itself. But it's not only at the top end. Even the humble Avignon GSM is a conspicuously credible wine, and well above average value.
Pie o'clock and arrived, and I'm glad that it comes only when I'm with these two pie eating reprobates. Just for a change (sic) we wound up at the Tanunda bakery. I ordered what I thought was a beef roll with cheese and salad but it turned out to be a corned beef roll with cheese and salad. Cheese on corned beef sounds like an unusual combination, and it was, however the poppy seed streusel bun was up to its usual standard, and that makes going to the Tanunda bakery almost worthwhile.
As well as his usual two pies, his Pieship also had iced-coffee flavoured milk, only this time it was marked as "strong." I wonder if that means it actually tastes like something? The drink also states it is “reduced fat”; and the rumour that this is the Pie King's annual sacrifice towards healthy eating is true. Never let it be said the lad isn't health-conscious. Brian had a bacon and cheese pie (yes I know it sounds revolting) which looked to be very cheesy.
Next stop is a winery I never miss on my tours; Veritas/Rolf Binder Wines. (It's worth checking out their website; it's very informative and interesting.) Unfortunately once again Rolf was away. For the last three years every time he has heard I am coming to town, he heads overseas. I guess he can't hate me too much, he always leaves a large line-up of wines for me to taste, which is very much appreciated.
Rolf is a bundle of winery energy. Every single time I have visited, significant changes and improvements have always been made since my last visit. A new winery, then doubling the size of the winery with the addition of a huge barrel storage shed, a new entrance to the facility, and this time a brand new tasting room for the public, as well as a seriously decked out tasting room for their winemakers and journalists. No need to wonder what will be new next year; it's the most important piece of equipment that any winery could ever install, a wood-fired pizza oven. And there is no truth in the rumour that Rolf loves his pizzas. This important information came from his website, and that is another reason to check it out.
As usual, we were looked after by the very professional Julie.
J. J. Hahn at 2004 Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is dark and closed but showed very-ripe blackberry/blackcurrant. A medium-weight wine with a firm consistency, solid structure and harmonious complexity, on the palate the fruit is very ripe with mulberry, milk coffee oak, boysenberry, and mocha, and whilst the finish is crisp it’s short. Rated as Acceptable with ** for value.
J.J. Hahn 2004 1928 Shiraz sells for $50 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows very ripe, stewed plums. A medium-weight wine with a supple consistency and solid structure, the complexity is uncomplicated. The palate seems to have a combination of very-ripe, dead fruit and slightly under ripe fruit characteristics on the palate. The mulberry flavour is pleasant. Rated as Acceptable with * for value.
J. J. Hahn 2004 1914 Shiraz sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. Abundant coffee oak dominates the ripe, black spectrum fruit on the bouquet. Backed by distinct, deeply-seated fruit which delivers mulberry and loads of coffee flavour, there is a real green tinge to the acid/tannins on the sides of the palate and the finish. A muscular-weight wine with a solid consistency and uncomplicated complexity and whilst it is better than the previous two wines, it is not up to the expected standard. Rated as Acceptable with * for value.
Veritas 2005 Shiraz Viognier is only available at cellar door, selling for $20 and is sealed under screwcap. The nose shows cedar and coffee oak together with black notes and a very subtle hint of the Viognier influence. Loads of silky tannins combine with deeply-seated fruit to form an ample-weight, firm and solid wine that needs time for the fruit to surface from below the tannins. The fruit is not overly generous, but it delivers coffee, very dark berry spectrum fruit flavours and mocha on the finish. It's a leaner style of wine that will go well with food; especially pizza and barbecued meats. Rated as Recommended with **** for value, drink from 2010.
Veritas 2005 Shiraz Malbec is only available at cellar door for $18 a bottle or $205 by the case, and is sealed under screwcap. Aromas of spicy, juicy, jube-jube fruit leads to a similarly endowed palate that is sweet on the uptake with dark cherry and coffee. It has generous fruit intensity, silky tannins and finishes with fresh acid. Ample-weight with a soft consistency and an agreeable complexity, it's very drinkable; a great party wine with loads of appeal. Rated as Recommended with **** for value, drink now.
Veritas 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon is only available at cellar door for $20 a bottle or $228 by the case and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows very ripe fruit with hints of leaf and soy sauce. The deep fruit is backed by loads of fine, dusty tannins but the fresh acid pokes its nose up. An ample-weight, firm and solid wine that is very ripe on the uptake with a little green on the mid-palate, and a long and dry aftertaste. Rated as Acceptable with *** for value; best after 2010.
Veritas 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is available from cellar door only for $20 a bottle or $228 by the case and is sealed under screwcap. A big step up over the 2004. The bouquet shows spicy oak over ripe fruit which leads to a palate of ripe blackcurrant, mocha, mulberry, and minor leafy characters that are cleansed by a zingy acid finish. Pure fruit combines with crisp acid and dusty tannins to form an ample-weight, firm and solid wine, with an agreeable complexity; it would be great with oily food. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, it should enter its peak drinking window in 2010.
J. J. Hahn 2004 Shiraz Cabernet sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is an attractive, pure expression of ripe blackberry, blackcurrant, and musk. An ample-weight wine with a supple consistency and an agreeable complexity, it is driven by loads of obvious fruit. Intense blackberry, coffee, and aniseed are bright on the uptake; it is slightly dull on the mid-palate with acid cleaning up the finish. It lingers respectably. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, the US market will love it.
Rolf Binder 2005 Barossa Valley Shiraz sells for $18 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows pure roasted coffee bean over mulberry spectrum fruit. An ample-weight wine that is well backed by dusty, drying tannins that provide a solid backing and firm consistency. A very-drinkable, uncomplicated, easy fruit-driven wine, with mulberry, coffee, blackcurrant and milk chocolate flavours; it finishes with crisp acid. Rated as Recommended with **** for value, it can happily be drunk over the next five years.
Rolf Binder 2006 Barossa Valley Shiraz will sell for $18 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet on this wine is earthy and more serious than the previous vintage. A well-balanced wine driven by pure, bright fruit, and backed by silky, unobtrusive tannins, it is sweet on the uptake with light mulberry like flavours, aniseed, and coffee on the tail. Ample-weight with a supple consistency, a solid, tight structure and agreeable complexity, it is the best of the line-up so far and great value. Rated as Recommended with **** for value.
Rolf Binder 2005 Cabernet Merlot sells for $20 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows intense, very-ripe mulberry with sweet musk characters. It's ample-weight, firm, solid and uncomplicated. The pure fruit delivers an intensely sweet uptake of mulberry flavours but when the lively acid kicks in, it finishes sour and slightly hard. Rated as Acceptable with *** for value.
Magpie Estate 2005 Wit and Shanker Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $30 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is attractive but restrained and with nothing sticking out, but the spicy oak is noticeable. It’s a muscular-weight wine that is firmly backed by fine, chalky tannins, and driven by pure, deep fruit. A very drinkable wine that certainly holds interest, the take-up is off-sweet; blackberry with leafy characters, aniseed and tar flavours finish with fresh and lively acid. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, although its drinkable now, give it a couple of years and the rating will improve.
Magpie Estate 2005 The Fakir Grenache sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows both sweet and off-sweet nuances with earthy notes. It's sweet on the uptake with off-sweet characters in a secondary layer that finishes crisp with milk chocolate and sour cherry. Tannins are smooth and unobtrusive, and whilst the acid sticks out a little, it will recede with food. A medium-weight, uncomplicated wine that shows some restraint, it's rated as Acceptable with *** for value.
The new public tasting area - pretty swish .......................................................
Magpie Estate 2005 The Schnell sells for $20 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is a combination of roast coffee and blackberry. A medium-weight wine with a supple consistency, it is sweet on the uptake with red berry fruit, milk chocolate, and a slightly reductive, almost burnt coffee finish. Rated as Acceptable with ** for value.
Magpie Estate 2005 The Sack Shiraz sells for $30 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is closed; the only thing that’s showing is cedary oak. Loads of tight tannins combine with crisp acid and distinct fruit, to form a muscular-weight, firm and solid wine. With sour cherry on the uptake, mocha and mulberry on the mid-palate, there is a hint of sappiness on the finish. It has a lot going for it, but as much as I tried to be objective about it, it just didn't do anything for me. Rated as Recommended with ** for value.
Magpie Estate 2005 The Call Bag Mourvedre/Grenache blend sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet has pleasant, coffee oak characters dominating the earthy, meaty notes below. A well-balanced wine backed by fine, dusty tannins, and driven by pure, deep fruit and fresh acid; it's muscular-weight with a pleasant mouth-feel. Blackberry, cold meats, coffee, and rich chocolate are in the savoury spectrum, and finish clean and with reasonable length. The wine certainly holds interest and is rated as Recommended with **** for value, but the rating may improve in the short term. John said, "It’s a good drinking mans wine, rather than a thinking mans wine." no wonder he liked it.
Magpie Estate 2005 The Black Sock Mourvedre sells for $30 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet was attractive showing expressive floral characters, meaty notes and dark chocolate. (John said, “It's inky and kinky -- strap on some leather and tell it to giddy up.") A dandy structure is provided by the silky tannins, unobtrusive acid and pure, deeply-seated fruit that is linear across the palate and exudes a good mouth-feel. Ample-weight with a supple consistency, the structure is tight, solid and shows some elegance, but it needs time to show its best. It has all the necessary components, and is possibly a real sleeper. Black chocolate and dark fruit flavours are primarily savoury, but there is some sweetness below; the package finishes long. Rated as Recommended with *** for value now, forget the rating, it has a mile of potential and you won't know how good it really is until about 2012, when it enters its peak drinking window.
Rolf Binder 2005 Christa Rolf Shiraz Grenache blend sells for $20 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is earthy, savoury and shows sweet, ripe mulberry. Driven by distinct, deep, strong fruit that is sweet on the uptake and shows mulberry, coffee and chocolate flavours; the finish is intense, and whilst there is the tiniest hint of reduction it may blow off. Muscular-weight with a supple consistency and agreeable complexity, the wine has loads of flavour for the dollars. Rated as Recommended with **** for value.
Rolf Binder 2005 The Heinrich is an SMG blend that sells for $35 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet was shy and reticent. The palate has a lovely balance between pure-fruit, fresh, crisp acid and dusty tannins. Ripe fruit on the uptake has multiple berry facets together with milk chocolate, all of which finish clean and fresh. It's a medium-weight wine with a supple consistency and a very agreeable complexity; it shows restraint and has plenty to give. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, it should enter it peak drinking window around 2010+.
Condoms..... sorry I mean caps on the Erection.....sorry I mean Election Shiraz.
Veritas 2005 Bulls Blood Shiraz Mataro Pressings sells for $45 at the cellar door (and is nationally distributed under the Veritas label). It is sealed under cork. There's lots going on here, the bouquet shows sweet, ripe fruit with a touch of cedar and charcuterie below. Add to that the perfumed characters, and you can sniff it all day. Unobtrusive tannins combine with crisp acid and distinct fruit to form a muscular-weight, supple wine that is tight and has a diverse complexity. It shows some restraint. The palate is yummy with mulberry, cedar, coffee, and roast meats that finish long. The bottle we tried was currently disjointed, but it should come together with time. Ignore the current rating of Recommended with *** for value, the wine has a mile of potential and should be a lot better when it enters its peak drinking window around 2012 and beyond.
Magpie Estate 2004 Gomersal Grenache sells for $45 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet exudes coffee oak with earthy mushroom characters and some cow pat lurking below (which thankfully doesn't show on the palate). The structure is terrific with deep, intense, persistent fruit, fresh acid and tight, smooth tannins. Just ample in weight with a supple consistency, and tight structure, the complexity is intricate and the wine has a terrific power to weight ratio. A flaming serious Grenache, there is blackcurrant on the uptake with milk chocolate, five spice, and aniseed flavours that finish clean and long. It gets a big thumbs-up for being food friendly too! Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.
Magpie Estate 2004 The Election Shiraz sells for $50 and is sealed under cork. There is a lovely balance between the abundant, powdery tannins, unobtrusive acid and deep, pure, strong and persistent fruit. A full-bodied wine with a supple consistency and diverse complexity, this is a "kick ass" job. Ripe plum, mulberry, coffee, mocha and hints of tar combine with loads of dark chocolate to completely fill the palate. Rated as Excellent with **** for value; it should enter its peak drinking window around 2011.
Rolf Binder 2005 Heysen Shiraz sells for $60 (in the US) and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is very savoury and earthy with leather and mushroom characters. A very-fine wine, it’s driven by pure, deep, persistent fruit and solidly backed by fine, silky tannins. It's a muscular-weight with a supple consistency and sophisticated complexity. Earthy chocolate with plum, and aniseed flavours build slowly and finish incredibly long, clean and dry. It should become seamless in time. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value, the rating will improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window around 2011+.
Rolf Binder 2005 Hanisch Shiraz sells for $95 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet has sex appeal; it is stylish, hugely complex, and has tons of good stuff loitering about. A delightful, aristocratic wine driven by pure, deep fruit, and backed by fine, tightly-knit, smooth, dusty tannins; the acid is unobtrusive. It's a muscular-weight and delivers plum, cherry, chocolate, leather and subtle five spice characters. It needs time to build complexity and come together but should be very long-lived. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, the rating will probably improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window around 2015.
That was certainly a large line-up of wines and with any line up that size, there are always going to be positive standouts and some disappointments. I don't know what's going on with the J. J. Hahn wines, but frankly they were extremely disappointing and the value of two of them was virtually nonexistent. At the other extreme, the value of some of the other wines was great. Some of the wines are probably a lot better than they appear, but just need time to show their true character. Wines that are being bottled under screwcap are particularly prone to showing poorly when young, especially when first opened, often needing 24 hours of air time to blossom.
What a slack day, we only managed to do three wineries, and although it was only 4.30, we decided to call it a day. Everyone we spoke to was in a great frame of mind because it had been raining solidly all day. Well almost everybody; the Pie King was not a happy little chappie. He had just made a phone call to McLaren Vale and they had not had a drop. When he saw a big puddle on the ground, he said "It's been so long since I have seen one of those I feel like taking off my clothes and sitting in it." Threatened with a sight like that, I was prepared to bribe him not to do it, but his phone rang in a nick of time, he got distracted, Brian jumped into the car and without thinking, John hopped in too. Phew!
I tried to book a local taxi to take us to dinner, but the local cab company was fully committed so we got one from Gawler instead. The girl who picked us up was a real character and she proudly told us that today was her first day on the job. A real Australian country girl; more about her later.
We went to Vintners Bar and Grill, and in all the years we have been going there we have never been disappointed. For once, out of academic interest, I had a good perusal of the wine list. It was extensive and covered the local wineries, a good selection of other Australian wines, some aged wines and even a halfway respectable French wine list, going right up to Chateau Lafitte Rothschild.
When the waiter took our order, he asked us if we would like vegetables or salad, and John replied, "We had vegetables yesterday."
For a starter, I had a smoked salmon pizza. The boys had bug tails that came with cauliflower soup and truffle oil, as well as seafood sticks. My pizza had obviously been pre-made because it was not very hot, but it was very tasty. There was crunchy apple in the cream cheese which gave it a clean lift. The good news was I found the ultimate pizza wine. The Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz! It was amazing with the smoked salmon pizza; a blissful combination. The boys were certainly impressed with their starters too.
When John saw the size of the lamb shank, he said it was a Mandingo shank. He is still determined to have a name change from the Pie King to Mandingo.
Brian enjoyed the taste of his food, but unfortunately it was half cold. I don't mind my pasta being al dente, but there is a difference between al dente and being under-cooked, and my ravioli was under-cooked. Given there were only three tables occupied, the kitchen should have been better organised.
Reid was kind enough to give us a number of the open bottles we had tried earlier in the day, so we could see how they looked after a few hours of airtime, and with food. As expected, the Old Bastard was terrific but the humble Avignon GSM was no slouch and went particularly well with food. It's a very under-rated wine.
The boys were impressed when they saw the menu listed the individual cheeses on offer, so naturally they ordered it. There were three desserts that took my fancy, something that is unusual. I went for the passionfruit soufflé. It was awesome. The home-made ice cream that accompanied it was also delectable.
I would love to be able to tell you John 's comment when he saw Brian sticking his tongue out, but as this is a family show, I am precluded from doing so.
We had the same taxi driver on the way back, and as she was young and "full of figure,” just the sort of thing the Pie King loves; I was a bit concerned when we were dropped off at our motel and John had to continue on, without a chaperone, to the pub. I wonder what tales he will have to tell in the morning.
Stay tuned for the next chapter.
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