Australia

REVISITED - The Good Doctor's Tonic 2010, McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills, Australia Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Tannat

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Originally reviewed September 2012, drunk July 2015

Three years on a chance to sample The Good Doctor's Tonic from McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills.

The Winery

The Good Doctor's Tonic comes courtesy of RedHeads Studios in Australia. RedHeads Studio was set up in McLaren Vale in 2002 by Tony Laithwaite of Laithwaite's.  Back in 2010 at the time The Good Doctor was made, the studio was comprised of young winemakers like Adam Hooper (La Curio), Andrew Pieri (Azzardo), growers like Nat McMurtrie (Pikkara) and the local GP Matt Brown who is responsible for the Good Doctor. They work for mainstream growers during their day jobs then come to RedHeads to experiment in their desire to make wines that are different to anything else on the market.

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The wine

I love the quirky text on the back of the bottle, "Understand the heart of the Good Doctor. By day, the curer of ills. By night, wine-head. The creator of hedonistic liquid delight. This bold elixir is not for the faint hearted. Enticed by the most intense parcels of fruit. It is smooth yet robust, with longevity to reward the brave. It is sure to enliven the senses and invigorate the soul. Enjoy your measure of the Good Doctor's tonic."

I originally wrote in 2012, "The Good Doctor, Dr. Brown, has delivered indeed in producing a special red wine. its an unusual blend that it includes Tannat, best known for being grown in South West France and Uruguay. Tannat's thick skin produces very tannic wines and in warm climates produces good fruit flavours while still retaining lots of natural acid, a good counterbalance to cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. As the description on the bottle points out, is it long lived with layer after layer of fruity flavours. Black berry on top but with something unusual underneath, almost savoury/bitter. "

Now in July 2015, the tannins have softened further and the wine had extra layers of complexity with the fruit balanced by spicy and savoury notes with the length reassuringly long and pleasant.

Oakridge 864 Shiraz 2005, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

Fermented-grape Favourite

Drunk January 2014

 

The winery

Established near Seville in Victoria’s Yarra Valley in 1978, Oakridge Wines began as a family company. The turn of the century saw Oakridge move to its location in Coldstream, and become a part of one of Australia’s larger wine companies. In recent times, Oakridge once again returned to family ownership.

The Yarra Valley is cool in relation to the rest of Australia's viticultural regions. The region is cooler than Bordeaux but warmer than Burgundy. Elevation varies from 50m – 400m.

Rainfall is winter/spring dominant, with the summer relatively cool, dry and humid. There is limited maritime influence. The small diurnal temperature range reflects the proximity of the sea.

As the valley varies in altitude from 50-450m, it makes possible the potential to ripen dissimilar grape varieties. Every 100m increase in elevation corresponds to a drop in temperature of 1°C. This is why full bodied reds can be successfully ripened on the valley floor, while delicate and aromatic wines can be sourced from the higher reaches.

Harvest typically commences in early February with Pinot Noir and finishes with Cabernet Sauvignon in early April. These dates correspond to September and November respectively in the northern hemisphere. Frost is rarely a problem, but can affect the lower vineyards on the valley floor from time to time. With a seven month growing season, rainfall of between 750-950mm (often less rather than more) and restricted water holding capacity in some soils, irrigation is considered essential – although the extent of its use does vary significantly between producers.

The wine

The Oakridge 864 wines are the family owned vineyard's premier wines. 864 are single vineyard, produced in small quantities. This Shiraz was very enjoyable indeed and somewhat unusual. The Yarra valley's relatively cool climate means that the best wines have plenty of complexity and avoid being overpowered by alcohol. This 864 was almost Pinot noir like given the intensity and complexity of flavours. Cedarwood, plum, cherry, cranberry with a ultra long finish. There is a also a lovely herbiness and spice.

Bought hard to find wines £32

Haan Merlot prestige 2009, Barossa Valley, Australia

Drunk October 2013, Gymkhana, London

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The winery

The 45 acre (18 hectare) vineyard in the Barossa Valley which makes up the Hanenhof Estate, was initially purchased in 1853 by George Friedrich Schmidt for one pound an acre. It consists mainly of the sandy loam soils that dominate the Barossa Valley floor. These soils have proven excellent for producing some rich, luscious Shiraz and Cabernets.

The Barossa Valley is in South Australia, located 60 km northeast of Adelaide.

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Hanenhof Estate is owned by Hans and Fransien Haan, and was purchased in 1993, with the first wine produced in 1997. A few years later the property was expanded to 47 acres. Production is currently limited to approximately 4,000 cases, No grapes are purchased, and seasonal conditions sometimes dictate the quantities produced. 

The estate was set up focusing on Merlot, but it also produces small amount of Malbec, Petit Verdot, Semillon and Viognier overseen by Haan's vineyard manager, Robert Seelander.

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Most of the vines are on a simple vertical trellis system with moving wires to lift the foliage and expose the fruit to the sun for full development of flavour and character. The Haan philosophy is based on 'best practice' which means that the vineyard is run on a 'minimal input' system, offering considerable environmental protection. Chemical use is kept to an absolute minimum, as is irrigation and ground disturbance. This commitment to diligent natural resource management ensure that the vineyard has a long term sustainable future. Already this philosophy of providing the best possible conditions in the vineyard has been rewarded with some excellent wines from the property.

The wine

The merlot grapes in this Haan Merlot Prestige 2009 come only from the Hanenhof Vineyard. The vines are 18 years old, grown on a sandy loam with a 2 metre clay base. The vines are trellised on a single wire with two foliage wires to keep the foliage upright and expose the fruit to the maximum amount of sunlight. The fruit was allowed to ripen to 15° baume before picking and cropped at a level of 3.5 tonnes per acre.

This wine was fermented using a selected yeast to enhance fruit definition and depth.  The skins were plunged and pumped over three times per day and the wine allowed to rest on skins for seven days to allow for maximum colour and flavour extraction.  After malolactic fermentation the wine was racked into selected French oak barriques and allowed to mature for 24 months before bottling.

Fermented Grape Review

Dark purple in the glass with a powerful aroma of black cherry and plum. The palate is complex with toasted oak, spicey and intense fruit and acidity. Silky smooth, with structured tannins and a super long finish. Perhaps a little excessive sweetness but nothing major. The merlot grape is much derided (Miles - Sideways), but this Haan Prestige proves what can be done with this grape in the right way and in the right place!

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Yering Station 2007 Yarra Valley Heathcote Shiraz Viognier, Victoria, Australia

Drunk October 2013

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The Winery

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Victoria’s first vineyard was planted at Yering Station in 1838. The Scottish-born Ryrie brothers ventured into the Yarra Valley as they moved their cattle south from Sydney. Taking up a grazing license of 43 000 acres, they named the property ‘Yering’, its Aboriginal name. The Ryrie’s planted two varieties, the Black Cluster of Hamburg and a white grape variety called Sweetwater. During the early 1850’s they returned to Sydney and Paul de Castella took ownership of Yering Station, developing the property from what remained primarily a cattle station into a landmark of winemaking in Victoria. 

Paul de Castella arrived in the Yarra Valley after traveling from his home town, the Neuchatel district in Switzerland. Many Swiss settled in the Yarra Valley around this time due to the sympathetic presence of the Victorian Governor’s wife, Sophie La Trobe, who also came from the region. Without them, the story of wine in the Yarra Valley would have been very different.

During the 1850’s Yering Station began to take shape. Paul de Castella extended the vineyards and cultivated the varieties with new cuttings imported from France. The winery was built to accommodate brand new equipment imported from the 1859 Bordeaux Exhibition in Paris. A new house and garden were constructed and an avenue of 330 elms was planted along the driveway to welcome De Castella’s bride.

In 1861 Yering Station won the Argus Gold Cup for the best Victorian vineyard. De Castella advocated for strong communication between vineyard and winery.

For years the Yering Station vineyard was one of the largest in the area and as visitors and holiday makers to the Yarra Valley began to increase, wines from this new region began to make their mark on the world. In 1889 Yering Station won a Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Only fourteen such awards were ever granted internationally. The winery received the sole award for a wine produced in the southern hemisphere.

By the early 20th century, the Yarra Valley wine industry was in decline. The phylloxera epidemic had destroyed many Victorian vineyards and although it never reached the Yarra Valley, economic and social factors (such as palate preference) impacted upon cool climate viticulture in Victoria. The Yarra Valley area returned to dairy farming. It was not until the early 1970’s that, in response to the changing cultural demands of the new generation, coupled with the growing success of other Australian regions, the Yarra Valley vineyards began to thrive once more.

After changing hands several times throughout the early-to-mid 1900’s, Yering Station was purchased by the Rathbone family in 1996. A further 100 acres of vines were planted and that same year a joint venture was signed with Champagne Devaux, a leading Champagne house in France, to make the now famed Yarrabank sparkling. The Rathbone family made plans for the development of a state-of-the-art winery to accommodate and complement the anticipated increase in winemaking standards. John Evans moved across from nearby Yarra Ridge to manage the expanding vineyards.

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Wine making at Yering

In 2008, the winery team welcomed into the fold new Chief Winemaker - Willy Lunn. 

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Willy Lunn has more than 25 years’ extensive and intimate cool climate winemaking experience both in Australia and overseas. 

Willy grew up in a small farming community in rural South Australia. His introduction to wine making was straight out of high school, working at Petaluma under the watchful eye of Brian Croser.  Beginning as a cellar hand in 1984, he rapidly progressed to a senior wine making position. His attention to detail and focus on quality during his 15 years at Petaluma forged the “no compromise for quality” philosophy that continues to guide him today.

Following his period at Petaluma, Willy spent two years as winemaker at Shaw and Smith winery in the Adelaide Hills.

A love of travel then led him around Australia and beyond, and in 1988 he worked at the Argyle winery in the Willamette Valley (Oregon USA) where he joined friend and mentor, Rollin Soles.  Together, they started making cool climate sparkling wines that were later destined for the White House.  It was at Argyle in those early days that his love of cool climate viticulture and ultra premium winemaking came to fruition.

The Yarra Valley 

The landscape of the Yarra Valley has been formed by the erosion of vast mountain ranges over millions of years mainly through the action of water and gravity.  The Yarra River, with its gullies and streams, has moulded the distinct undulating landforms and deposited sediments over the past 500 thousand years, resulting in segregating and grading the variable and unique soils throughout the region.

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At Yering Station, the loose earthy soils derived from the low rounded hills are used by Chief Viticulturist, John Evans to match each grape variety to each distinct soil type. 

The principal characteristic of the Yarra Valley is its cool temperature in comparison to the rest of Australia.  It is probably Australia’s best-known cool climate region which is ideal for producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

The Yarra Valley has variable and long growing seasons, encouraging the expressive, distinctive varietal flavour and complex structure for which Yering Station is renowned.  The mild, dry and at times humid summers are followed by a long cool autumn.  Most of the annual rain falls during the winter and spring months.  Frost rarely is a problem but can affect the lower vineyards from time to time.

The wine

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I first discovered Yering Station wine several years ago, and was immediately impressed by its balanced expression of a classic Australian Shiraz. At the time I had tried several "big reds" and they had all seemed very over powered by fruit and alcohol. I quickly realised that excellent and sophisticated wine was to be found in Australia but it was a case of being selective particulalry with so many large scale producers churning out supermarket style wines. For me, Yering delivers that big red, but with that "cool climate" refinement. 

The 2007 Shiraz-Viognier from Yering is an example of having to adapt to mother nature. A frost and a bush fire in the Yarra meant that the blend had to be reinforced with grapes from the excellent Heathcote area of Victoria and the combination really works.

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The wine is deep purple/crimson out of the bottle and very aromatic with the added  5% viognier giving floral notes

On the palate it is rich, fruity (plums, black cherry) and spicy with the oak quietly in the background. Not overpowered by alcohol, fruit or tannins. A hint of smokiness.....from the bush fire or perhaps just the oak? Plus this is a bottle which is pretty good value at £11.99. James Halliday says other vintages even better as more elegant, one for the wish list then. Being Victoria's first vineyard, I'll make sure the winery is on the list if I'm ever back in Australia - let's hope it's soon!

Bought winedirect.co.uk 

Campbells Muscat 2011, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia

Drunk October 2013

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The winery

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Brothers Malcolm and Colin are the fourth generation to carry on the Campbell tradition started by their great grandfather John Campbell in Rutherglen in 1870. Together with their wives Jenny and Prue, they have forged a strong reputation for Campbells as a benchmark Rutherglen wine producer. Malcolm is the viticulturist and Colin is winemaker. They have 160 acres of vineyard all within the historic Rutherglen Wine Region.

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Colin says, “Our wines are like our children, we bring them into this world and take great pride and joy in holding their hands and watching them grow”. Malcolm's approach in the vineyard is quite simple, “Quality even at the expense of quantity is our aim. We assist nature, we don't seek to dominate her.”

It all began with the first planting of the original Bobbie Burns Vineyard by John Campbell in the 1870's. John's son David was the first vigneron in the area to replant with Phylloxera-resistant stock. Allen, David's son and father to Colin and Malcolm continued the plantings, using only the best clones to graft on to new rootlings.

The Rutherglen Muscats are are known locally as Rutherglen Brown Muscat though their correct title is "Muscat a Petit Grains Rouge". The wines are classified according to age and complexity from the youthful Rutherglen to the Classic, Grand then the pinnacle Rare – the richest and most complex of all.

The wine

For lovers of dessert wines, another exceptional choice, this time from Australia.  This basic Campbells Muscat delivers amazing butterscotch, toffee, fruit notes on the palate with the nose full of orange and spice. The top of the range Rare bottles must be something special indeed - must get my hands on one.