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  • The Winery Lane guide to building your perfect mix pack

    The Winery Lane Guide to Building

    Your Perfect Mix Pack

    While some wine lovers buy a couple of bottles here and there, the most devoted will get a case or two every month. And with the Winery Lane marketplace growing, so too are the options you have to choose from.

    As the options grow, choosing can become a little overwhelming. What’s worse, you might overlook a wine that is perfect for you. So, we put together this guide to help every wine lover build their own perfect case.

    Whether you’re after top-shelf wines for your cellar or a dozen quaffers for you and your friends to enjoy over the month, you’re going to need to make sure each wine you choose gives you exactly what you want.

    *Quaffers: “to drink a beverage, especially an intoxicating one, copiously and with hearty enjoyment.

    - www.dictionary.com

    With the exception of the Robert Stein Rum Cask Tawny (375ml) every bottle of wine at Winery Lane is 750ml of pure decadence. This means, that 6 pack you’re buying is four and a half litres and that dozen, well you can do the math.

    We all know a dozen bottles doesn't last long when you invite a few friends over, especially when you aren't using standard 150ml pours.

    (Have you seen the size of a Plumm Shiraz glass? You can fit half a bottle in there, so we’ve heard)

    Because of our partnerships with wineries from across the country and the various wine regions dotted across it, we’re blessed with a range with greater scope and levels of quality than most. From Shiraz, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc to Fiano, Montepulciano and Nebbiolo it’s all here at Winery Lane.

    Red, White, Sparkling, Rosé? You're going to need all of the above for a party.

    There are three questions you need to consider when creating your ultimate case. What do you like? What do you need? And how adventurous are you?

    • “I’ve got a barbeque at my house where everyone from work will be there. I just need a bunch of red and a bunch of white"
    • "I need a case that has essentially one of everything. I always have people over and they all have different tastes”
    • "My friends and I are starting a wine tasting club, I need to bring something interesting"
    • “I have a date and they are the one, I’m sure of it, I need to bring my A-game”
    • “I have a collection and I want wines that are more than just a drink”

    One final and defining question. How much do you want to spend?

    We've put together five levels of wine cases for each level of wine lover. All are calculated as a dozen bottles in each.

    *Don’t forget, the added benefit of 20% off applies when you buy twelve or more of anything across the site.

     

    The "Begining Of Your Journey" case: $150 -$200

    This one is simple. You need six reds, four whites and two bottles of sparkling to round out that barbeque with mates.

    We'd recommend having a look at the Amelia Park 2016 Trellis Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon, Castelli Estate 2016 The Sum Shiraz and Castelli Estate NV Checkmate Traditionelle Methode Sparkling.

    Everyone has a wine they'd love. No wine is too good for you.

    The “I Like To Play It Safe But Let’s Try Something New” case: $200 – $350

    This is a mix of wines with well-known Australian varietals you and your friends know and love. What makes these wines interesting is each has a unique quality to it that sets it above most bottles you’d find at the bottle shop. A wine like the Evoi Wines 2015 Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon had the Sémillon portion rested in oak barrels to instil a level of complexity and texture not often found in the style.

    Other interesting and nuanced wines include the Eden Road 2016 The Long Road Pinot Gris, an Australian favourite with a twist. Instead of the usually pale gold colour, many have come to expect, the winemakers at Eden Road leave this wine on skins for a period to instil a softer texture to the wine and give it a striking pink hue. Another wine from Eden Road we think you should consider is the 2015 The Long Road Syrah. It's a Shiraz crafted in the style of the French Syrah. Softer, subtler in weight and a focus on the bouquet of flavours.

    Other additions include Evoi Wines 2015 Margaret River Chardonnay, Amelia Park 2013 Trellis Cabernet Merlot and the Delatite 2017 High Ground Pinot Noir.

     

     

    The “I Want To Find The Wines That I Can’t Find At Bottle Shops”: $350 – $400

    This is where you raise the bar. This selection centres around wines of distinction. Whether they are the receiver of high praise from the countries leading wine critics or a limited edition wine in high demand, these are the wines you open for those friends who share your love of wine.

    Wines like the Greenstone Vineyards 2012 Methode Traditionelle Sparkling received Best Sparkling wine at the Victorian wine show in 2017.

    McHenry Hohnen 2015 Calgardup Brook Vineyard Chardonnay took the honours for Best Chardonnay in Margaret River at the 2016 James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge and scored an incredible 96 points.

    Other great wines to consider for this kind of mixed pack include the Hart & Hunter 2015 Black Series Chenin Blanc, Delatite 2015 Estate Malbec Merlot Dungeon Gully, Hungerford Hill 2017 Preservative Free Hunter Valley Shiraz & Robert Stein 2017 Dry Riesling.

    There's a wine which suits every occasion.

    The “I Know I’ll Be Happy So Challenge Me” case: $400 - $550

    This is the pack for you to start discovering what winemakers are making AND drinking.

    From the savoury wine crafters in Geelong’s Moorabool Valley, Lethbridge Wines 2014 Nebbiolo is a complex combination of subtle traits that make for a thought-provoking red.

    Mchenry Hohnen 2013 Hazel’s Vineyard BDX Reserve, from the Margaret River, is a homage to Bordeaux that only comes around when there’s been a perfect vintage. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pertit Verdot and Malbec. It’s a wonder of a wine.

    We'd also suggest discovering other exciting wines such as the Hungerford Hill 2017 Classic Tumbarumba Pinot Meunier, Hart & Hunter 2017 Dr. B’s Fiano, Castelli Estate 2016 Il Liris Chardonnay & Eden Road 2014 Tumbarumba Pinot Noir.

     

    The “Créme De La Crème”: $800+

    Here's a dozen, must have wines from Australia's top shelf. These wines include limited releases, reserve collections and the best of wines from the ultimate vintages.

    To get the full story of these juggernauts, click on any of the links below to find out all about the wines and the brilliant stories behind them.

    Great reds from Australia's oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley, and surrounding sub-regions Hart & Hunter 2014 The Hill Shiraz, Hungerford Hill Epic McLaren Vale ShirazHungerford Hill 2015 Heavy Metal Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, Robert Stein 2014 The Kinnear,

    Victoria's coldest wine region, the Macedon Ranges: Hanging Rock 2015 Heathcote Shiraz,

    The legendary terroir of Heathcote: Greenstone Vineyards 2010 Copper Block Heathcote Shiraz,

    Savoury wines from Geelong's best-kept secret, the maritime climate of the Moorabool Valley: Lethbridge Wines 2012 Hugo George Sangiovese Merlot, Lethbridge Wines 2011 Allegra Chardonnay, Lethbridge Wines 2012 Mietta Pinot Noir,

    And of course the Margaret River, one of Australia's winemaking gems: McHenry Hohnen 2013 Rolling Stone Bordeaux Blend, Stella Bella Wines 2013 Serie Luminosa Chardonnay & Stella Bella Wines 2014 Serie Luminosa Cabernet Sauvignon.

     

    Whatever your taste, knowledge or budget there’s something here for everyone.

  • Vintage 2018 update: Lethbridge Wines, Moorabool Valley, Geelong

    Vintage 2018 Update:

    Ray Nadeson of Lethbridge Wines, Geelong

    With the 2018 Vintage in various stages of completion across the country, we took a moment to talk with Lethbridge Wines' very own Ray Nadeson to get an update on how the 2018 vintage is progressing in Geelongs, Moorabool Valley.

    What, so far, are you seeing with vintage 2018? What is looking promising?

    “Well, I know that every single vintage every single winemaker says it’s the ‘Vintage of the Century’. Well, it’s not the vintage of the century, but, it’s a very, very good one.

    Just to give you a bit of background we had, what I thought, was probably one of the best vintages I’ve ever made in 2017. It was pretty close to previous vintages which were awesome, ’05 and '15. I've always felt ’17, ’15 and ’05 were the best.

    So, I thought, we’ve had a good run and that’ll be that but it’s turned out that this year looks really awesome as well. I’ll wait and see if it’s as good as ’17.”

    What is standing out among all of your different varieties?

    “Well, that’s the thing. Great vintages sometimes, what makes them great - especially when you have such a great range as we have - sometimes everything looks really, really good and that’s why I say that with great caution because I don’t want to sound like ‘Everything’s fantastic’ and just say that again next year.

    Everything looks good across that board and I’ll tell you why, and this is the important part. We had really good rains in spring. So, we ended up with good soil moisture. That makes a big difference. The start of the vintage was fantastic. Also, having had good rains the year before, our dams were full so we were able to irrigate when things went dry over December, January and February – which were really dry but weren’t hot. Which has been amazing."

    Picking: Working hard in the Lethbridge Wines homeblock vineyards

    How were this year's yields?

    "That's the other thing that’s been amazing. Because we didn’t have any rain in November we ended up with really awesome fruit set across the vineyard. What ends up happening with really good fruit set is that you have a very even ripening because all of the flowers came out at the same time, they were pollinated at the same time, they set the fruit at the same time so instead of fruit set taking two weeks it was done within a week. So, all the berries were equally the same. That makes a very even flavour profile in the berries across the vineyard. That doesn’t happen very often.

    We’ve also had a disease-free year because we’ve had little rain.”

    The Moorabool Valley is one of the cooler sub-regions of Geelong. How has that affected the vintage?

    “Moorabool Valley is the coolest spot in Geelong. [As a result] We’re still picking the fruit. Everyone else is on holiday. We picked today, we’ll pick tomorrow, we’ll pick next week; we’ll be picking for another two weeks.

    While I know for a fact just about all the fruit from the rest of Geelong has been picked. We’re much cooler than the Yarra, which has been picked for a month. Much cooler than Mornington, which has also been picked for a month. My friends in the Hunter have been picked for three months. So, we’re by far the coolest.

    Thanks for your time Ray and good luck with the rest of vintage.

    "Thank you."

  • 5 Minutes with Bryan Currie of Hungerford Hill

    5 Minutes with Bryan Currie of

    Hungerford Hill

    How is the overall progress of vintage 2018 and what is looking promising?

    “Vintage 2018 finished early in the Hunter. Started early finished early. The quality is fantastic. Really low yields in the Hunter and really intense red wines and flavorsome, ripe white wines. So, it’s a really great vintage on par with the 2017 vintage which is two in a row.”

     

    Is there any particular Varietal that’s standing out to you?

    “I think Shiraz is a standout. Very low yield this year, probably a tonne an acre. So, really intense wine but still carrying the Hunter personality; Medium bodied personality. Their not monsters, their just fragrant and they have that feminine Hunter edge.”

    “Cabernet is looking really good, which is a bit unusual for the Hunter, it’s fantastic. Plenty of power.”

    “Sémillon’s very ripe, probably riper than usual. So, very expressive and full of flavour.”

     

    With your 2017 vintage what wine stood out that we wine lovers are about to experience?

    “It’s a really classic Hunter range. Hunter Sémillon and Shiraz. They’re really strong. Great acidity and freshness in the Sémillon with nice, low alcohol. Shiraz is riper so it’s a bit more intense. Just really fantastic fruit purity. Both are looking fantastic. And, you know we don’t always get a great Hunter vintage so we better enjoy them.”

     

    Word is that both the 2017 and 2014 vintages were exceptional years with 2014 being called once in a lifetime. What insights as a winemaker do you have on both of those vintages?

    “’14 was fantastic, better for red than white.

    ’17 white was probably better. Both extremely good. They still have that medium-bodied frame, they’re not monsters. There’s just a bit more ripeness due to the heat of both years which gives the wine more concentration. But, I think ’18 reds will be better than ’17 reds. This year’s been more of a Goldilocks year for reds; not too cold, not too hot, just right.”

    The Hungerford Hill unique barrel-shaped cellar door, known as the “Tasting Room”

    Now, hopefully, I’m not overstepping, but obviously, Hunter Valley Sémillon is the global standard.

    “Hunter Valley Sémillon is just Unique. It’s a unique wine. You can’t do it anywhere else in the world.”

     

    And why is that?

    “I think it’s just a perfect match in variety, climate, and site. A perfect spot in the world. It’s the beautiful white fruit characters, low alcohol, and level acidity, that allows it to age for a long time giving us a beautiful, tasty, white wine. It’s just that unique combination of variety, climate, and site. No one else can do it in the world.

     

    And whether it’s Sémillon or something else what is your favourite wine to drink?

    “Myself? My favourite wine is Tumbarumba Chardonnay. Which is why I work at Hungerford Hill. It was the number one condition on my checklist when I looked at taking the job – ‘Where’s their Chardonnay from is it Tumbarumba. It’s my favourite region. Yeah, I love it,  it’s just amazing. Complex, intense fruit, fantastic acidity that’s just a real class wine. And, it’s a huge opportunity to make them.

    Chardonnay’s my favourite wine full stop. You’ve got to have your favourites.

     

    Hungerford Hill has been making wines with fruit sourced from all over the Hunter Valley and greater New South Wales but, up until recently, your top shelf reds like the ‘Epic’ and the ‘Heavy Metal’ are a blend of varietals from South Australian regions. Why have you ceased using South Australian fruit for your wines?

    “The original Hungerford Hill back in the ‘60s had vineyards in the Coonawarra but they were all sold off. So there was a long association with South Australia. We’re not turning it off forever it’s more of a ‘Lets concentrate on what we’re known for.’ We’ve got a range of climates in New South Wales from the Hunter Valley that’s a very warm climate, Tumbarumba which is very cool-climate and Hilltops in between where we can make all of the varietals we use to make the Epic and Heavey Metal. So, we’re going to bring them up here.

    Our passion, my passion is New South Wales Wines. I’ve only ever made New South Wales wine my entire career.

     

    Thank you very much Bryan.

    “Cheers.”

  • Wine and Chocolate: A Match made in Heaven?

    Wine and Chocolate:

    A Match made in Heaven?

    Wine and Chocolate. For many, these two delicacies are the embodiment of decadence and self-indulgence. However, these two, seemingly harmonious, culinary sensations often clash, leading to disappointment.

    To avoid this happening to you, we’ve selected six wines we know intimately and paired them with a chocolate matching guide. The guide provides handy tips to help you decide which chocolate styles are right for you.

    Let’s look at the science to understand how wine and chocolate work together. Wine and Chocolate both contain compounds called flavanols (falvan-3-o). Flavanols are more commonly known as antioxidants. They’re also responsible for tannin, known to wine lovers as the level of astringency a wine contains. This is the science bit - when foods that contain high flavanols are eaten together, they clash and tend to make the other taste bitter or astringent.

    Like most things in life, it’s a case of balance. Drinking a high tannin Cabernet Sauvignon with a piece of dark chocolate is not balanced. The high level of flavanols will result in extreme bitterness and an unwelcome sensory overload.

    The key to balancing wine and chocolate is relatively simple. The more bitter the chocolate, the fruitier or higher residual sugar the wine should have. Conversely, you can match sweeter, less tannic, wines like port and fortified wines with higher percentage cocoa chocolate. Port and 70% dark chocolate truffles are heavenly.

    Match fact: The higher the fat content in chocolate (cream, milk & Vegetable fats i.e. Copher) will help bring forward the fruit characteristics in the matched wine.

    Read below to see our own tailored six pack and the ideal chocolate matches.

    Delatite Estate Pinot Noir & White chocolate

    An obscure match for our first suggestion but, this pairing is fantastic. White Chocolate often falls outside of the chocolate category as it rarely contains cocoa. However, some high-quality producers will craft their white chocolate with cocoa butter. Because this match is so good, we’ve made the decision to call it a chocolate. Let’s not let technicalities get in the way of a great taste match.

    The fat in white chocolate will amplify the sweet fruit flavours prominent in Pinot Noir, usually red cherry, strawberry, and raspberry. Make this match even more luxurious with white chocolate covered strawberries, fresh or freeze-dried.

    Flametree Shiraz & Milk Chocolate

    Generally speaking, milk chocolates tend to work best with wine. This is thanks to the amount of cream and other fats present. The fats act like microscopic delivery vessels, carrying the fruitier flavours of the wine to your tongue.

    The Flametree 2015 Margaret River Shiraz is a bold and supple red. It’s fruit driven but balanced by soft, velvety tannins. This wine is powerful and it is a great match with a ganache chocolate truffle or soft centred milk chocolate ball.

    Stella Bella Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot & Milk Chocolate/ Dark Chocolate

    Normally, the suggestion of Cabernet Sauvignon with dark chocolate is an instant mistake. But here’s the exception that makes the rule; a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Merlot is a bold, fruit driven varietal that, when blended with Cabernet, can make for the perfect match with milk chocolate and 50% - 60% dark chocolate.

    Match this wine with milk or dark chocolate blocks blended with dried fruits and nuts.

    Amelia Park Frankland River Shiraz & Milk Chocolate

    A rich Shiraz from West Australia’s Frankland River, this Shiraz is ideal to match with milk chocolate. With a natural aroma of cherry and chocolate, the wine’s palate follows through with deep black and blue berry fruits and a silky tannin.

    Perfect for a pure milk chocolate block or even melted chocolate fondue and strawberries.

    Evoi Wines Cabernet Sauvignon & Milk Chocolate Mints

    A wine variety that often displays high tannins which makes it difficult to pair with chocolate – straight Cabernet Sauvignon rarely makes chocolate pairing lists.

    However, the Evoi Wines 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon has naturally attained an aroma of chocolate and a deep, berry-driven palate of blueberries and plum. This wine also displays a natural spiciness that would clash with most forms of chocolate. But, paired with chocolate covered mints, this wine enhances the flavour profile and makes for a delightful post-dinner nightcap.

    Hungerford Hill Pinot Meunier & White Chocolate

    While lesser well-known, Pinot Meunier is similar in flavour and body to the ever popular Pinot Noir. A light bodied wine, this red has a subtle flavour profile of Morello Cherry and a delicate spiciness.

    Pinot Meunier is an ideal match for white chocolate. The chocolate’s fat helps bring out the subtle fruit flavours of the wine without being overpowering. White chocolate-covered raspberries would be an ideal match for this beautiful wine.

    Whatever your taste there’s a wine for every kind of chocolate. The only way to truly discover for yourself is to start tasting for yourself. Have a happy and safe Easter.

  • Regions In Focus: The Hunter Valley

    Regions In Focus:

    The Hunter Valley

    Established during the 1860’s, the Hunter Valley is considered the birthplace of Australian wine.

    James Busby, the founder of Australian Wine, is estimated to have smuggled as many as 20,000 vines from some 350 varietals out of Spain and France in 1832 and spirited them back to Australia’s shores.

    Legend suggests Busby gifted these vines to fifty or so local vignerons with the intention of cultivating the Hunter Valley into Australia’s first established wine region. They quickly saw the success of certain varietals and it wasn’t long before cuttings from these vines and their clones started to be planted all over the country. This vine cultivation helped found regions like the Barossa, Margaret River and the Yarra Valley.

    Spreading north-west from the outskirts of Newcastle; the Hunter Valley is not only the country’s oldest wine region but also the country’s most visited.

    A wine region with a warm, humid climate and red clay loam soils, the Hunter is famous for many wine varietals however it is most notable for its age-worthy Shiraz and the globally lauded Hunter Valley Sémillon.

    Ripening Sémillon grapes on the vine

    Sémillon

    Wine Critic, Jancis Robinson, describes Hunter Valley Sémillon as “…Australia’s unique gift to the world”.

    Hunter Valley Sémillon is considered a benchmark. Many local winemakers insisting that nowhere else in the world can a winemaker replicate what they’re achieving in the Hunter Valley.

    Bryan Currie, of Hungerford Hill fame, says the reason is simple, like any form of prized real estate it’s all about location, location, location.

    “Hunter Valley wine is unique, you can’t make it anywhere else in the world. It’s a perfect match of variety, climate and site.”

    Hunter Valley Sémillon is usually picked early, before the sugar concentrations becomes so high the wine becomes too high in alcohol. The style has been defined by the aged vintages where the wines’ fruit characteristics give way to lemon curds, popcorn and a softened, toasty texture.

    Shiraz grapes on the vine turn almost blue when ripe and ready for harvest

    Shiraz

    The most outstanding red wine in the region, Hunter Shiraz is distinctive.

    Hunter Shiraz is noted for its medium body, subtle fruit flavours and an emphasis on earthy notes such as leather or forest herbs. Often considered the perfect Shiraz for ageing; the wine takes on rich complex characteristics and softer tannins over time.

    Jodie Belleville and Damien Stevens own and operate Hart & Hunter; a winery devoted to single vineyard wines from specific sites across the region. Their attitude to Shiraz is to find and highlight the unique characteristics the terroir of specific sites provides to their grapes.

    “…the fruit shows some unusual characteristics which are different from traditional Hunter Shiraz. Very strong natural acidity. Because of this we’re able to get riper fruit than most Hunter vineyards.”

    Unripe Chardonnay grapes maturing on the vine slowly turn from green to an almost golden yellow

    Chardonnay

    Chardonnay is one of Australia’s most common grapes. Every region has Chardonnay vines and the Hunter Valley is no exception.

    Much of Chardonnay’s popularity could be attributed to its initial success in the Hunter Valley, when James Busby’s vines first took root. The beauty of Australian Chardonnay is in its variety. From the full-bodied, ‘Butter bomb’ Chardonnays of the past, to its modern incarnation which favours leaner, fruit forward, citrus flavours, it remains one of the more popular, yet polarising wines in Australia.

    It’s not just wine lovers who revel in the complexity and variable nature of Chardonnay. Winemakers, like Damien Stevens of Hart & Hunter, consider it their go to wine. Damien said, “Chardonnay is one of the few [varietals] where you get to work a little bit more than the others. Every barrel has a different character and different potential… How that ends up is always a work in progress for a good eight months. There’s that ongoing process and journey with Chardonnay. It’s exciting.”

    The Huntery Valley is a wine region with much to offer. It is a land where age and history inform the modern-day wines that are grown and crafted there. It’s a place so unique, both critics and wine lovers from around the world treasure the National treasure that is The Hunter Valley.

     

    To see our range of wines from the Hunter Valley click on the link below or any of the products displayed.

    Hart & Hunter 2014 The Hill Shiraz
    Hart & Hunter 2014 The Hill Shiraz
    Hart & Hunter 2017 Black Series Rosé
    Hart & Hunter 2017 Black Series Rosé
    Hungerford Hill 2017 Classic Hunter Valley Sémillon
    Hungerford Hill 2017 Classic Hunter Valley Sémillon
    Hungerford Hill 2017 Classic Tumbarumba Pinot Noir
    Hungerford Hill 2017 Classic Tumbarumba Pinot Noir
    Hungerford Hill 2015 Heavy Metal Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon
    Hungerford Hill 2015 Heavy Metal Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 5 Minutes with Jodie Belleville and Damien Stevens of Hart & Hunter

    5 Minutes with Jodie Belleville

    and Damien Stevens of Hart & Hunter

    Hart and Hunter are a part of the Hunter Valley's new generation of winemakers. Founding their brand in the mid 2000's the Husband and wife team have garnered a cult following from consumers and critics alike. Recently they took five minutes of their time to answer a few questions about their approach to winemaking.

    Jodie, what was your overall impression of the 2017 Vintage? What challenges did you face?

    “2017 vintage, it was bloody hot. We’ve never seen as much heat [as we did] in 2017 but it has been outstanding quality across the board. Yields were certainly lower across the board but the concentration and the power of flavours has been absolutely outstanding.”

    Damien, which is your standout varietal for vintage 2017?

    “For 2017 I think Sémillon will be the standout. Even though 2014 was a great, once in a lifetime, vintage for the Hunter, Sémillon didn’t perform as well as other varieties. There was very odd ripening where the fruit was getting very sugar ripe without having the flavor to back it up.

    So I think in 2017 the quality and cleanliness of fruit this vintage will be very hard to surpass. There’ll be some lovely Sémillon’s coming out over the next few years from 2017”

    What was so special about 2014?

    “It doesn’t take much for a good Hunter vintage. It just means we can’t have to much rain. We always have a degree of disease pressure that happens in the Hunter so guaranteed we’ll get some rain events through January and February. Because it’s so hot here it really leaves the vineyards susceptible to disease. So looking at single sites the cleaner the fruit the better.

    In ’14 there was minimal rain, the heat wasn’t as bad as other years so it left the fruit in a very good position. It was just one of those years where it all fell into place.”

    Hart & Hunter Dr B's Fiano is just one of the experimental styles the winery is bringing back to consumers

    Jodie,What is it about the Hunter Valley that attracted your family to set up your winery in that region?

    “It’s close to my home, where I grew up. And they just make greats wines here. I’m such a Sémillon drinker it’s my absolute favourite so I think I was always going to come back to the Hunter.”

    Damien, what is special about Hunter Valley Semillon that can’t be found elsewhere in Australia?

    “To be honest it’s probably the winemakers, they’re incredibly parochial and proud. It’s also the uniqueness of the Hunter. It’s a variety that’s been in the Hunter from the start and a real tradition that’s been built around Hunter Sémillon. It’s gone through various names and changes through the years but now it’s got to a good point as an approachable wine. Pre-2005 it was picked and produced with the idea in mind that in five to seven years’ time it’d be a cracking wine. I think that mindset has changed in line with consumers not cellaring wine as much these days. The way Sémillon’s made now is both a consumer-friendly wine early on but still, have the ability to have the longevity in the cellar. Jancis Robinson has always stood behind her comment that ‘Hunter Valley Sémillon is Australia’s unique wine gift to the world.’”

    The Hunter Valley is Australia's oldest wine region and the home to the coveted Australian Sémillon.

    What is your go-to wine varietal Damien?

    “At the moment, Chardonnay. It's one of the few [varietals] where you get to work a little bit more than the others. Every barrel has a different character and different potential. The ability to work with different yeasts whether that be wild ferment, different amounts of solids, smaller portions of oak treatment. How that ends up is always a work in progress for a good eight months. There’s that ongoing process and journey with Chardonnay. It’s exciting.”

    And Jodie, final question, you have an emphasis on single Vineyard wines in your range. What is it about single vineyard wines that you two find appealing?

    “Sense of place is an interesting concept the French have been doing it for such a long time. We’ve been lucky enough, over the years, to have had mentors who have shared their knowledge and their wine. A lot of those have been single site wines. It’s not always the easiest path to take when winemaking. But at the end of the day it’s about site selection and we choose the best sites. We choose sites that we’ve seen before that we know is going to give us a cracking chance at making something special. That’s what we’re trying to do at the end of the day; is make something special.”

  • The Len Evans Tutorial 2017

    The Len Evans Tutorial 2017

    One of the Australian wine industry’s most prestigious events, the Le Evans Tutorial, has culminated with the announcement of the 2017 DUX being awarded to McHenry Hohnen’s head winemaker, Julian Grounds.

    The Margaret River native was part of a cohort of twelve, distinguished scholars, selected to partake in the annual Hunter Valley tutorial.

    Australian Wine Critic and a tutor at the Len Evans Tutorial, James Halliday said: “It requires a set of skills beyond the ordinary and Julian went into the last session in front, never letting let us nor himself down.”

    Now in its 17th year, the tutorial is composed of a week-long event of tastings, masterclasses, and competitions.

    Each morning the group tasted 30 wines of a specific varietal before receiving daily master classes from industry giants such as critic James Halliday, only to finish each day with an exclusive dinner where they would drink five or more brackets of extraordinary wines; some up to 50 years old.

    The week concluded with a tasting of the range of wines from Domaine de la Romanée Conti – wines in such high demand, and low supply, where every bottle is pre-sold before leaving France.

    Each participant of this year’s tutorial will now have positions as wine judges at next year’s Sydney Royal Wine Show and other regional wine shows around Australia.

    As this year’s DUX, Grounds wins an added prize of a trip for two to France where he can further his wine education.

    McHenry Hohnen 2015 Calgardup Brook Vineyard Chardonnay
    McHenry Hohnen 2015 Calgardup Brook Vineyard Chardonnay
    McHenry Hohnen 2014 Hazel's Vineyard Zinfandel
    McHenry Hohnen 2014 Hazel's Vineyard Zinfandel
    McHenry Hohnen 2013 Rolling Stone Bordeaux Blend
    McHenry Hohnen 2013 Rolling Stone Bordeaux Blend
    McHenry Hohnen 2014 Tiger Country Tempranillo
    McHenry Hohnen 2014 Tiger Country Tempranillo
  • 5 Minutes with Cliff Royle of FlameTree Wines

    5 Minutes with Cliff Royle
    Flametree Wines

    How was vintage 2017 for Flametree Wines overall?

    “The truth is 2017 wasn’t without its issues. We had one of the more difficult vintages, in the context of Margaret River vintages, for quite some time. That said, strong varieties like Cabernet and Chardonnay have shone through. There’s a little bit of inconsistency with some vineyards that over-cropped with aromatic whites. We’re lucky we get really good Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc from some producers around that township area where they have really lovely flavours and we’re really happy with the aromatic whites we’ve got, but I have seen some very herby and light leaves so that’s something people will have to watch out for.”

    “There was a fair bit of over-cropping and a lot of rainfall which meant there was a lot of disease pressure late season but those people who hung their fruit out and got through the seasonal drop have done really well particularly the Cabernets I’ve seen in last few days have been spectacular.

    Vintage is always a stressful time. How is that compounded by the amount of travel you need to do?

    “My job during vintage is pretty much just to be in the vineyards. I don’t actually get involved too much in the winery. Generally when we’re getting Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in I’ll be in the winery but any other time I’ll be in the vineyard the whole time from tasting, walking through the vines making sure everything’s ok and getting things ready for harvest.”

    “This was truer this year than the last few years as it was really important to be on top of everything. We buy a lot of fruit from a lot of different vineyards so I would be in fifteen to twenty different vineyards and that would take two full days just walking up and down tasting and making sure the fruit was ready to go.

    “One of the greatest thing about not owning your own vineyards, and I know there are two trains of thought on this, is that if they’re not all in one place they can’t all get affected by the vintages whether that’s rainfall or disease. So being able to pick the teeth out of the best vineyards from the best sub-regions that are best suited to those varieties in Margaret River plays into your hands in a difficult vintage like the one we’ve just had. So that’s why we pick fruits from different sub-regions. Even if it is a tough year we’re still going to get the good fruit for those verities we make.

    FlameTree Wines' Winery in action

    Which is your standout varietal for this vintage? Something that’s really excelled. 

    “I think you’d have to say Cabernet, there’s a couple of batches of the Wilyabrup Cabernet that look outstanding, beautiful structure, lovely tannins and fantastic colours. We’ve been looking at them closely in the last few days and we think they’re beautifully set up for ageing.”

    The Margaret River is renowned for its Cabernet Merlot and Chardonnay but is there any new and upcoming varietals gaining popularity in the Margaret River that we might not have heard of yet?

    “I think people are playing around with lots of different things. There’s a lot of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris being planted. There’s a lot of Sangiovese and Tempanillo and I think those are really good we make a little bit of each of those wines for our members but we don’t ever see them as mainstream Margaret River wines. We always see them as something the compliment the great wines of Margaret River which are those grape varieties like Cabernet and Chardonnay.”

    “I might be wrong in twenty years time but I still believe in what the region does best and we should try to find better plant material of those grape varieties and trying to improve those wines even further rather than getting distracted by finding the best Fiano, Sangiovese or Dolcetto in Margaret River.

    Head Winemaker and General Manager Cliff Royle at home at the Flametree Cellar Door

    What is your go to wine varietal?

    “In Margaret River I would go to Chardonnay but outside of that I’ve been gravitating a lot to Tasmanian Pinot Noir. I’ve been really enjoying some of the wines coming out of there lately and the ’14, ’15 vintages were great. - the way the aromatic construction comes together. I think Australia’s made great strides in Pinot Noir. Once it wasn’t considered world class when compared to the Kiwi’s but now our Pinot’s are every bit as good.”

    How does the Wallcliffe region influence the wine that isn’t seen elsewhere in the Margaret River?

    “Having spent twelve years as winemaker at Voyager Estate we developed a style of Chardonnay. Halliday used to call the golden triangle of Chardonnay between us, Cape Mentelle and, depending on who you talk to, and Leeuwin Estate or Devils Lair. Now you’ve got Xanadu in there as well. That little area produces Chardonnay with this really lovely dried pear and pink & yellow grapefruit and we just really love that fruit flavour in Chardonnay and it works really well with the variety and makes wines that have more minerality and a lot more structure akin to the great European wines. Comparatively the further you go north the riper the fruit flavour you get and then you get a heavier weight in the wine. You go more into stone fruits and other tropical notes.”

    “The different sub-regions make quite different wines. And then there’s the producers stamps as well: malolactic fermentation, new oak vs old oak et. Chardonnay is a very adaptable variety and that’s why I enjoy making it so much.

    Thank you very much Cliff. 

    “Thank you.”

  • Pinot Gris Vs Pinot Grigio

    Pinot Gris Vs Pinot Grigio

    We’ve heard, through the grape vine, of course, there’s confusion surrounding the relationship between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. Simply, do both wines come from the same grape?

    Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio, like many things wine, are nuanced in both style and substance.

    Note: Because Pinot Gris was initially a French varietal, we will refer to the grape as Pinot Gris unless referring to the Italian style (known as Pinot Grigio).

    Pinot Gris:

    Pinot Gris is the name of the French style. It is a derivation of the original Pinot grape. The same grape is also responsible for Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. This is most probably the result of natural metamorphosis over a millennia or so.

    Pinot Gris is traditionally allowed to ripen on the vine for longer than its Italian counterpart. This results in higher sugar in the grapes which, once fermented, gives the wine a fruitier taste with a bigger, smoother, more viscous body. It also tends to produce wines with higher alcohols.

    While both Gris and Grigio tend to taste of Pear, the French Gris often tastes more toward the white nectarine and ripe pear end of the spectrum and it is often commented it has aromas of spiced cloves.

    In Australia, Pinot Gris wines are generally created with body in mind. For those who’ve enjoyed the longstanding popularity of Sauvignon Blanc and are looking for a subtle change in style, Pinot Gris is the perfect alternative. It offers the same citrus and fruit flavours but with added body and a smoother mouthfeel.

    Our partner winery Lethbridge Wines produces an evocative and intriguing Australian Pinot Gris.

    For an added level of diversity, Eden Road's 'The Long Road Pinot Gris' is made by leaving the grape juice and skins together during fermentation, creating a beautiful, desirable pale pink colour. Dancing the fine line between Pinot Gris and Rosé.

    Pinot Grigio:

    The Italian style of Pinot Gris winemaking is known as Pinot Grigio. Compared to the French version, Grigio tends to be picked earlier which often means the grapes have less time to fully ripen and produce sugar. These subtle differences effect the resultant wine in several ways.

    Firstly, the wine will be higher in acid and will not be as fruity as the French style. This regularly produces a drier wine, taking on a more savoury taste and mouthfeel. Pinot Grigio wines often have a lighter body and while still expressing pear on the palate will exude green pear as opposed to Pinot Gris’ ripe pear.

    Now grape growing and winemaking are a global industry the use of either Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio are dependant on the style the winemaker desires for their finished product. The next time you find yourself looking at the wine menu, remember the simple nuances between the two and you’re sure to make the right choice.

  • A Game of Clones: Australia's Vine Culture

    Game of Clones:

    Australia's Vine Culture

    Whether you follow each vintage with bated breath or simply enjoy a few glasses of Pinot Noir with friends, along the way you’ve probably heard someone talk of vine clones.

    But what exactly is a clone and why do winemakers use them?

    Vine cloning sounds more like science fiction than science fact, however cloning vines is not only an art and science but a preserved living family tree of the world’s favourite drink.

    In a recent conversation with owner and winemaker Robert Magdziarz, of Warramunda Estate, we asked about his estate and the vine clones populating the grounds. With his insights, we discover the history of Australia’s vines, the culture of casual vine theft and the reality of what it takes to be a successful winemaker.

    To put the concept of vine cloning into perspective for those of us who aren’t grape growers, Robert said: “There are maybe 5000 rose types, they all actually come from a single rose. They’ve subsequently been genetically modified, modified by cuttings or root-type changes, but ultimately they've created different clones.”

    Why clone? Wine makers from the beginning of the first vintage up to now continually experiment with certain varietals in their specific terroir. If they find a vine possesses a trait that makes the winemaking process easier they’ll begin to take cuttings of the vine and grow them until their vineyard is full.

    Worthy traits to clone could be a vines' resistance to disease or pests; perhaps they grow less fruit which ensures nutrients are focused on the remaining fruit; or a clone that produces grapes which, at the end of fermentation, give off a desire perfume smell or a taste on the tongue.

    “So, we're really using 'clonal' material to assist in making better wines", said Robert.

    The team at Warramunda Estate like to combine the fruit from multiple clones to create complex wines that take the character strengths from each clone. Depending on the vintage, the Warramunda Estate Pinot Noir could be a combination of two or three clones.

    Robert said, “You might use four different Pinot Noir clones and when you blend them you get a completely different wine compared to using just one clone.”

    While many current vine clones are the product of experimentation or a naturally occurring mutation, the early days of Australian winemaking were somewhat clandestine.

    Autumn vines at McHenry Hohnen in the Margret River

    Robert said, “You’ve gotta’ go back to old times. Back in the 18th century, quarantine laws didn’t exist like they do now. People would have gone overseas, taken cuttings, wrapped them up in boxes and just ship them home. Other growers would have seen how those cuttings performed and then thought ‘geez I want that’ and would just go in after dark and take their own cuttings. It’s actually very easy to graft a cutting, you just cut a piece of the vine with two or three buds on it, put it into the ground and it will grow.

    Dubbed his ‘vinuous ark’, James Busby, arguably the founder of the Australian wine industry, brought over 350 vines by boat from Europe to Sydney in 1831. He packed them in moss and sand and soil to preserve them during the long haul.

    More recently, there is the tale of Tyrrell's Wines ‘obtaining’ Chardonnay vines under the cover of darkness from the neighboring Penfolds’ Hunter Valley vineyard. After Penfolds winemakers refused to give Tyrrell's any cuttings, they simply slipped in one night and requisitioned some. This story is still told when wine lovers gather at Tyrrell's.

    Robert Magdziarz suspects even his Shiraz vines are the product of ‘liberated vines’ from France.

    “Our Shiraz clone is the Best’s Old Block Shiraz 1867. I believe that was a clone smuggled into the country out of the Rhone Valley to Best’s [Great Western] and found its way to Mount Langi which then became a clone to buy', said Robert.

    Robert saw great potential for the clone and his estate. But not everyone thought the same. “Initially people weren’t that interested in it because it’s the type of clone that requires a longer ripening period. As a consequence, in some sites the longer you hang it the more risk you have of the acids dropping which can make the wine quite flabby. In our case, we take the risk and we see this interesting flavour component that comes through. Some years it might be quite a unique colour, other years its spice, which for us drifts between white and black pepper… We looked at Mount Langi and Best’s, the Grampian style vineyards, saw the quality of the wines produced and we chose the Best’s Old Block Shiraz clone and consequently we produce a very good Shiraz. ”

    Around the world, there are thousands upon thousands of different vine clones, each offering their own unique characteristics. So it's hardly surprising that each wine stands unique from the next, even from the same vineyard.

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