In July 2016 Adelaide was promoted to the dizzying heights of being one of the world’s ‘Top Wine Capitals’. It is a rather exclusive club with only eight other members across the globe. Appropriately, given the geographical distribution of grapegrowing, two-thirds of the members are from the northern hemisphere – Verona, Bordeaux, Rioja, Porto, Mainz and Napa Valley, while the southern hemisphere members of the club consist of Adelaide, Mendoza and Valparaiso.
There is no better or easier way to see why Adelaide was inducted into this prestigious ‘cadre’ than to be there on the first weekend in March when the city is really jumping. Not only is the world-renowned Adelaide Fringe Festival on, so is the start of Adelaide Writers Week and the Clipsal 500.
But more importantly, the Adelaide Cellar Door Fest is on.
In its ninth year the festival keeps going from strength to strength, so much so that they now have a waiting list of cellar doors that want to participate. It has added beer and spirit cellar doors as we experience a boom in micro-breweries and new micro-distillers. This, along with the boutique produce purveyors, has broadened the event’s appeal far wider than to just straight wine enthusiasts.
As I have been writing about emerging (alternative) variety wines for WBM for six years (having written about 56 different varieties so far) my main focus was on those wineries that produce wines from emerging varieties. I unfortunately did not have enough time to get around to the many mainstream variety producers.
One of the wineries that constantly impresses me is Barossa’s Dell’uva Wines (www.delluvawines.com.au). At this year’s festival they had 23 out of the 32 varieties they produce on taste. Apart from a few mainstream wines like riesling, cabernet, shiraz (the 2013 Bremner is sensational) and merlot, all the other varieties they produce originate from around the Mediterranean. In the whites, the highlights were the arinto (Portuguese) and pinot blanc (French). While my favourite reds (a hard decision) were the 2014 mencia (Spain), 2014 lagrein (Italy) and the sensational 2014 touriga national (Portugal). Having said that, each one of the Dell’uva wines are a great Aussie interpretation of the original Mediterranean varieties.
The one region that really stood out was the Riverland, where every single representative had several sensational emerging variety wines, which included:
• 919 Wines 2014 Reserve Durif
• Bassham Wines 2013 Lagrein
• Byrne Vineyards 2016 Antiquarian Rare Field White
• Salena Estate 2016 Touriga National
• Spookhill Wines 2013 The Dark Durif
• Whistling Kite 2015 Montepulciano
Other emerging variety wines from the longer established wineries in other areas that impressed included:
• Alpha Box & Dice (McLaren Vale) 2017 Tarot Grenache
• Bremerton (Langhorne Creek) 2017 Molly & Merle Verdelho
• Chateau Yaldara (Barossa Valley) Retro Label 2016 Cabernet Franc
• Claymore Wines (Clare Valley) 2016 Tempranillo
• Islander Estate (Kangaroo Island) 2014 Majestic Plough Malbec
• Jacob’s Creek (Adelaide Hills) Our Limited Release 2017 Grüner Veltliner
• Jb Wines (Barossa Valley) 2017 Pinot Blanc
• Paracombe (Adelaide Hills) 2012 Cabernet Franc
• Rileys of Eden Valley 2016 Dry Style Gewürztraminer
• Rojomoma (Barossa Valley) 2015 Red Art Petit Verdot
One new feature this year was the showcasing of ‘Emerging Winemakers’ – displaying the wines of those who have been doing their own thing for three years or less. It was a real eye-opener, with 21 participants showing their wares, many for the first time. The wines I tried were exceptional. A real standout for me was The Cutting (www.the-cutting.com.au) from the Barossa, located on the way out to Marananga. They are a husband (viticulturist) and wife (winemaker) team, namely Daniel McDonald and Belinda Van Eyssen. They produce just one variety – shiraz – and it’s sensational. Tasting all three of their vintages so far demonstrated that their shiraz is somewhat akin to a steel fist in a velvet glove – very approachable but with an inner core of steel that will see their wine evolve over time into a divine shiraz.
Another new kid on the block that shone was Cragg Cru Wines (www.craggcruwines.com.au) from McLaren Vale, which tag themselves as “fun-fresh-funky” and produce “small batch, hand crafted emerging varieties”. Their four wines are: Langhorne Creek Fiano (which is a little funky), Single vineyard 2017 Grenache (which was just a tad fresh in a nice way), and finally the 2017 Grenache Shiraz Touriga (GST) (which was fun with its fragrant aromas and smooth flavours). It had a nice tight finish that makes it a great food wine at this point in time, but it will develop and round out if given a smidge of time.
The 2016 Mataro from Barossa Boy (www.barossaboywines.com.au) almost blew my socks off. It was a big wine, massively deep and dark in colour, a tad oaky on the bouquet and masses of tight, rich flavours on the palate. My notes said, “Almost a monster but too smooth to be one.”
Another one of the “emerging winemakers” present was zinfandel superstar and Baron of the Barossa, Joanne Irvine. She has only recently started her own brand, Levrier by Jo Irvine (www.levrier.com.au) and makes, as far as I know, the only sparkling meslier rosé in the world. It is sublime. The other five wines in her portfolio were all outstanding and despite the 2014 Argos Shiraz being big and brilliant, it was her 2014 Zinfandel that stole my heart (and palate).
This is a brilliant, world-class event that helps Adelaide maintain its status as one of the nine World’s Wine Capital Cities.
Visit http://cellardoorfestival.com for more information.
DAN TRAUCKI is a wine journalist and a wine industry consultant specialising in assisting with exports to Asian markets. Email Dan at [email protected]