Fermented Grape

how wine is produced

Debunking the world of wine

Discovering the world of wine

Demystifying the world of wine

McLaren Vale

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

good doctor

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.


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.

La Curio The Nubile Grenache Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Drunk November 2013

The winery

Redheads Studio was established in 2003 is about an hour south of Adelaide, with the philosophy being Artisanship. The name was originally from a curry house restaurant which was the former occupier of the site. Redheads is a place where winemakers can go and experiment with their own ideas and make small batches of wine. The winemakers involved usually have a day job and go to Redheads to be free of their own winery's restrictions. A "Garagiste" approach which has produced some great wines. 

See earlier reviews on RedHeada wines:

Pieri Azzardo http://fermented-grape.squarespace.com/wines-i-am-drinking/2012/6/8/pieri-azzardo-2009-shiraz-mclaren-vale-australia.html

The Good Doctor's Tonic http://fermented-grape.squarespace.com/wines-i-am-drinking/2012/9/5/the-good-doctors-tonic-2010-mclaren-valeadelaide-hills-austr.html

La Curio was produced by Elena Golakova Adam Hooper, making their wines at Redheads. The two young producers are passionate about the wine they make, the region they live in and the lifestyle it provides. Golakova describes her passion as "winemaking is art". Adam has worked for such notable companies as Penfolds, Geoff Merrill Wines, Tatachilla Winery and Maxwell Wines. 

Wine is fermented in rain water tanks cut in half to allow open fermentation. Relationships are fostered with the regions' best growers and fruit is crushed and fermented in small batches. Experimentation seems the norm, wild yeasts are trialled. 'Taking risks can be scary but ultimately rewarding,' Hooper said.

One of his techniques involves freezing fermenting fruit with dry ice (a lot of it) to drop the temperature of the must. This smashes the cell walls in the skins and facilitates the extraction of colour and a subtle tannin profile. But Hooper says while this method is labour intensive, not to mention all the plunging involved with the open fermenters, the results are worth it.


The wine

The La Curio The Nubile is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Shiraz, the classic combination of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Deep crimson in the glass with strong aromas of cedar and vanilla. The palate is full of cherry and plums with a hint of spice. A long finish with balanced soft grainy tannins and acidity.  Another very nice and interesting wine from the RedHeads folk!

Cats, bats & dawn Durif 2009, Red Heads Studios, McLaren Vale, Australia

Drunk September 2013

An interesting wine from the Red Heads Studios folks at McLaren Vale in Australia. Unusual that it is made with Durif or also known as Petite Sirah.

Durif is a variety of red wine grape primarily grown in Australia, California, France, and Israel. Since the end of the 20th century, wineries located in Washington's Yakima River Valley, Maryland, Arizona, West Virginia, Chile, Mexico's Baja Peninsula, and Ontario's Niagara Peninsula have also produced wines from Durif grapes. It is the main grape known in the U.S. and Israel as Petite Sirah, with over 90% of the California plantings labeled "Petite Sirah" being Durif grapes; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recognizes "Durif" and "Petite Sirah" as interchangeable synonyms referring to the same grape.

It produces tannic wines with a spicy, plummy flavour. The grape originated as a cross of Syrah pollen germinating a Peloursin plant. On some occasions, Peloursin and Syrah vines may be called Petite Sirah, usually because the varieties are

The wine

This is the first time I have sampled a 100% Durif wine. Though I am a great fan of the work of the Red Heads team, notably Pieri Azzardo, this wine does not work for me.  http://fermented-grape.squarespace.com/wines-i-am-drinking/2012/6/8/pieri-azzardo-2009-shiraz-mclaren-vale-australia.html

I found myself hit by heavyweight tannins, lack of acidity to balance it and a very poor finish. The wine may be a deep purple as it pours into the glass, but I was loathed to pour another one. I can understand why Durif wines are often blended with Syrah and other grapes to take the edge off it. Not one for me unfortunately!

Mollydooker The Boxer 2010 Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Australia

Drunk August 2012

molly front.JPG

The winery

Sparky Marquis and Sarah Watts married in 1991 and started work as winemakers with Sarah’s parents at Fox Creek.  In 1999 they became Australian Winemakers of the Year. In 2002 they won the Bushing Award for a record breaking third time and in the USA Robert Parker commented ‘The greatest red wine values in existence’ and ‘Run, don't walk and secure as much as you can of these wines!’ and gave their Integrity 99 points.

In March 2006 they founded the Mollydooker  winery– Aussie for left hander - because they are both left handed.  A mere eighteen months after being down to their last $17, Sarah and Sparky were able to buy a winery, and 114 acres of vineyards on the Seaview Ridge in McLaren Vale, home of most of the iconic McLaren Vale wines due to their wine making prowess at Mollydooker.

They are both passionate about their motto ‘We make wines that make people go WOW, through attention to detail and commitment to excellence!’ and never take shortcuts or compromise on quality. They barrel ferment, using new or one year old barrels, and their used barrels fetch the highest prices in the industry.

They guarantee the quality of their wine by rating it on its Marquis Fruit Weight™ (the measure of how far back on your tongue the velvety sensation of fruit goes, before the prickly sensation of tannin is exposed). If they don’t have parcels which qualify at the required Fruit Weight, they don’t make those wines (in the 2008 vintage they only bottled Lefty wines).


This was an interesting wine indeed. The shiraz grapes were grown on the Longbottom vineyard in Padthaway, the Birchmore vineyard in Langhorne Creek and the Hunt Creek, Semmens and Mollydooker vineyards in McLaren Vale. It was Barrel fermented and matured in 60% new and 40% one year old American oak.  The Marquis Fruit Weight was 70%.

The MollyDooker Boxer had a whopping 16% alcohol. It was extraordinarily  deep red/purple  and big on jammy fruit. There were plenty of flavours there but I was somewhat overwhelmed by the fruit punch effect.  Maybe the Boxer improves with age but it tasted too unsubtle for my liking and certainly lived up to its name. This was despite being a fan of big reds generally especially those made with shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. At £25 I think there is better value out there, and when I compare it to fellow Australian red, Joseph Moda, at £30, there is a discernible difference in value. Enjoyable yes, but not a regular purchase for me.

Dandelion Vineyards Pride of the Fleurieu Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, McLaren Vale, Australia

Drunk June 2012


The winery 

Dandelion Vineyards is a  partnership between Peggy and Carl Lindner (40%), Elena and Zar Brooks (40%), and Fiona and Brad Rey (20%). It brings together vineyards spread across the Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley and Fleurieu Peninsula. 

Grapes for the `Pride of the Fleurieu` Cabernet Sauvignon are from a prime position overlooking the Finniss River wetland. Stranger‘s Reach vineyard is cooled by the maritime influence of the Great Southern Ocean and nearby Lake Alexandrina. Deep alluvial soils and low rainfall help the tough Cabernet vines produce rich flavours in the berries.

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 01.59.49.png
Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 01.55.22.png
Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 01.50.16.png

The wine

16 months in French and Bulgarian oak barrels give this Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon plenty of depth. The nose is conentrated blueberry and plums, the palate is not overpowered and mighty smooth with blackberry, vanilla and hints of spice. A long and delicious finish.

This one really goes well with red meat and the flavours just wash over you as you eat. Together with the Dandelion Riesling these guys really know what they're doing.