Where did 2018 go?
Before I start talking about the excellent wines Dan Sharp has selected, I thought I would provide a quick re-cap of 2018.
Donald Trump continued to be Donald Trump, I guess everyone is becoming immune to his particular style of ranting and raving. We lost another Prime Minister to a collection of back room schemers. I don’t think many people really understood why, apart from a few people on the extreme right, but I don’t think Scott Morrison should get too comfortable at Kirribilli House. There was a Royal Commission into Banking, which showed an industry built around greed and bonuses rather than customer satisfaction. (Not much news there!) Australian Sporting teams seemed to stumble from worse to worst. First it was our Cricketers and their rather unusual use of sticky tape on balls, then it was the continued decline of the Wallabies. Will we ever beat the All Blacks? Also didn’t we used to be good at swimming? I doubt 2018 will go down as a great year, but at least I had wine, which seems to be getting better with age. (The older I get, the more I like it.)
So to Dan Sharp and his selections. Dan works at Fred’s in Sydney which has just been awarded Two Hats and is still one of my favourite restaurants. It has this amazing vibe, so relaxed yet so “fancy” at the same time. It’s like going to your best friend’s place for a dinner party, if your best friend happens to own a 2 “hatted” restaurant. Dan has gone for an Australian slant in this selection, and whilst I seem to say this each and every time, these are some of my favourite selections.
Australian wine is on a roll at the moment. Our Chardonnay is rightly regarded as world class. Regions like the Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Margaret River and Tasmania are found on the great wine lists of the world, straddling that fine line between flavour and texture, whilst still retaining elegance and acidity. Australian Shiraz is also in the midst of a makeover, moving away from the brashness and over the top nature of say a Donald Trump, think big alcohol, big oak and big tannins; moving towards a Barrack Obama style, impressive and imposing but with a lot more class, elegance and style. Then we have the Pinot Noirs from the cool climate regions of Australia. Regions like the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania are shining, as wine drinkers around the world move towards medium bodied and elegant wines. At the moment the wines from Tasmania are shining just a little brighter than most. Vineyards which were planted 20-30 years ago are now starting to hit their prime, with winemakers who have travelled the world and brought back the experience and knowledge to make world class Pinot Noir. Tasmania is also a very “cool and trendy” place, thanks in part to David Walsh and the MONA museum, which also has a pretty flash winery and brewery attached.
This leads us to Dan’s first wine, the 2017 Clarence House Estate Pinot Noir. Sourced from a vineyard in the Coal River of Tasmania. This vineyard is owned by David Kilpatrick, who in 1998 planted 12 hectares of vines on a North East sloping block just below the Coal River Valley. What was even more important for David, is they are close neighbours to a pretty sensational winery called Pooley Wines, who make their wines. This is important as they just happen to have one of the most talented winemakers, not only in Tasmania, but also in Australia – Anna Pooley. 2017 was a great vintage in the Coal River and this wine is a knockout. It is in a zone right now, plenty of weight and complexity, which is strangely what you want in a mid-weight wine.
The next Aussie wine Dan has chosen is from the Heathcote Region in Victoria. The 2015 Graillot Heathcote Shiraz. I feel a little sorry for Heathcote. I have always liked the wines from this region, but it kind of feels like the forgotten child of the wine industry. The wines are great but they just don’t get the attention they deserve. There are two possible reasons for this, at least in my opinion. They don’t have a large, marquee winery or brand providing a halo for the region, nor are they close to a large city, which has proven so critical to places like the Hunter Valley, Yarra or Mornington. Oh well, their loss is our gain, for the value and quality is pretty sensational. Heathcote is like the Coonawarra, where the region is dominated by their soil, in their case a soil type called Cambrian, which is a rusty red colour, found on well drained sites with gravelly loams on undulating hillsides. This obviously ticks a lot of boxes for high quality grape growing.
The Graillot brand is a joint venture between Robert Walters, the owner of Bibendum, one of the larger drinks wholesalers based in Melbourne and Alain Graillot, a leading producer in the Northern Rhone. Bibendum have been importing his wines for years and when the opportunity arose to partner on a venture they both jumped at the chance. Their collaboration began with a small 3.3 hectare sub plot within a Heathcote vineyard. They manage this site differently to the rest of the vineyard, with the goal of producing a powerful yet graceful Syrah and a merger between the Old and New Worlds. Alain has been described as the man who makes Shiraz taste like Pinot Noir and whilst I think this is getting a bit carried away, the wine certainly has an elegance to it, but it is a wine that still packs a punch. The minute I tasted this wine with Dan, we both knew it had to be included. It just screamed class and style. This is the type of wine you want to sit down with your partner and solve the world’s problems, or at least whether you should open another bottle, or buy another case.
Alsace has been a long-time favourite of our Sommeliers, so it was no great surprise when Dan choose a wine with a bit of age. He was offered a parcel of wine from the 2014 vintage which is just on song. It is hard to find good imported wine in Australia with a bit of age, as the good wines do not last long. However the importer got a bit excited a few years back when she purchased this wine and ended up buying a little too much stock. There really is only so much demand for Alsace Riesling, no matter how good it is. We were able to pick up this wine at a handy discount and if you are a lover of Alsace Riesling, get excited. Unlike German Riesling, most of the Riesling from Alsace will be dry and the 2014 Domaine Bruno Sorg Riesling is a great example. I was not familiar with this winery, but it turns out they are a small family concern, founded in 1965. (Young by Alsace standards). They focus on Organic grape growing practices and they tend to produce a slightly drier, crisper style of wine. 2014 is considered a top vintage in Alsace and with almost 4 years in the bottle, lovely toasty honeyed characters have developed, adding to the richness and enjoyment of the wine.
We seem to be on a roll with Italy at the moment, with another wine from this fascinating country chosen by Dan. This time from Tuscany and what I call a “Mini Super Tuscan”. Super Tuscan was a term given to a new style of wines released in the late 1960’s early 1970’s, when producers in Tuscany started to make wines outside the restrictive rules of Chianti. They began using varietals like Cabernet and Merlot and introduced newer, smaller oak in an attempt to make wines more suited to the US market. The result was a richer more forward style and fast forward 40 odd years, it has become a style and a brand all by itself. The official Italian rating is IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) which is a very generic term, but in Tuscany it has come to mean a lot more. The wines can vary in quality and price, however most tend to be on the more expensive side, with some wines priced over $300 a bottle. Most Tuscan wineries are experimenting with and releasing their own “Super Tuscans”, which are mostly Bordeaux blends with or without some Sangiovese.
Dan has chosen the 2015 Monte Bernardi Tzingarella (IGT) and the reason I call this a Mini Super Tuscan is purely based on price. I could not believe how good this wine was when I tasted it with Dan. This is a Cabernet blend that could be and should be a lot more expensive, but as it is from a relatively unknown winery, they had to be more realistic in their pricing. Monte Bernardi is an estate in the hilly, southern-most region of Panzano, an area acknowledged as one of the Grand Cru’s of Chianti Classico. It is planted to 24 acres of vineyards – 90% to Sangiovese, the rest to the Bordeaux grape Varieties. It was purchased by an American family in 2003 who have spent considerable time and money updating the vineyard and winery, moving to Bio-dynamic practices and all that this entails. The quality of this wine is pretty outstanding, and a stand out for the price. It is blend of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, with only 500 cases produced each year.
If you wanted to look at some other, more expensive, examples of Super Tuscans, here would be my wish list (Tignanello / Solaia / Ornellaia- Go nuts!)
So there are 4 pretty sensational wines I know you will love
Matt the Bullionaire