This year, for the tenth time, the best of South Australia’s cellar doors came to town for the Adelaide Cellar Door Fest (CDF). This event brings together under the one roof more than 150 wineries, brewers, distillers and provedores to the Adelaide Convention Centre for an awesome weekend of trying (and buying) sensational South Australian wines, spirits, beers and artisan produce.
It is a small part of the reason that Adelaide has been designated one of only 10 Wine Capitals of the World. There are so many outstanding winegrowing areas within easy reach of this beautiful city and many excellent wine events happening in the city.
The biggest appeal of this event, apart from having so many wineries all under the one roof, is that the stands are divided into the growing regions. Thus one can either compare the same variety, say Shiraz, across the various producers from within the one region, or compare the taste of that variety across the various regions of South Australia. For example, you can compare the taste of Shiraz from the Adelaide Hills versus Clare Valley, versus McLaren Vale, all at the same venue. There is no other event which allows one to do this with such great ease.
As a result of the devastating bushfires and the unfortunate damage to some of the South Australian wineries the 2020 Cellar Door Fest added a new, prominent section right at the front called the ‘Bush Fire Relief Market’. Here 11 wineries along with two provedores, a brewer and a distiller who had been significantly impacted by the fires displayed their wares so that they could receive (hopefully) greater support from the visitors to the event. They certainly seemed to be getting plenty of support, as it took quite some time to get to the front of the queue.
It was here that I tasted what in my opinion is Australia’s best Malbec – the world-class Islander Estate Vineyards 2015 The Independence Malbec. This awesome wine is one of the three wines in their flagship range and reminded me of some the best Cahors (France) Malbec that I have tasted. It was deep, dark and brooding with masses of flavours and needing many years of cellaring to achieve its maximum potential. Other standouts were the always great wines from Artwine, with a scrumptious Albariño 2019 which has already won six medals in only their second vintage of this promising, emerging Spanish white variety.
From the devastated New Era Vineyards there was an outstanding Touriga Nacional 2018, a really great Aussie expression of this excellent Portuguese native red variety.
As in previous years, the Cellar Door Fest had separate a section for an impressive array of Emerging Producers, with 13 wineries, seven provedores and a gin distiller. Most of these newish start-ups were impressive, with the following wines being standouts for me:
• Hey Diddle Wines Sangiovese 2019: Bright, juicy and utterly delicious with the added bonus that for each bottle sold, the winery donated $5 towards the Movember Foundation charity.
• Rollick Wines Fiano 2019: Fresh, crisp with a hint of almond meal, pine nuts and Nashi pears. Superb.
• McLaren Vale’s Berg Herring Wines: Great wines right across the range. The Chenin Blanc 2018 is especially a rare find – a great Aussie Chenin. Also their unique blend of Saperavi/Barbera 2018 was truly divine.
• XO Wine Co McLaren Vale Shiraz Grenache 2018: Utterly superb with masses of flavours and brilliant balance.
Turning to the individual wine regions, the Adelaide Hills wines that stood out included:
• Artis Wines Grüner Veltliner 2018 which was excellent and a great example of this native Austrian white variety which is blossoming all over the Hills these days. But the brownie points go to the Artis Wines Chardonnay 2018. This 100 percent barrel-fermented Chardy is so creamy and rich and has such a brilliant mouthfeel – awesome.
• The other smashing Grüner was the Groovy Grüner from Mt Bera Vineyards, which always stands out in any Grüner tasting for its great characters and depth of flavour.
Eden Valley was ably represented by the exciting Gatt Wines, Poonawatta, Rileys of Eden Valley (with their outstanding Dry Style Gewürztraminer 2018), and the elegant wines from Thorn-Clarke Wines.
As always the Barossa was well represented with the highlights including:
• The divine St Hugo Eden Valley Chardonnay 2018: Oh, so classy and sublimely drinkable – my kind of Chardonnay.
• Jb Wines: Home of some outstanding wines such as Joseph’s Pinot Blanc and Joseph’s Clairette (both rare white varieties), Snowy and Ringo White Frontignac and of course their awesome Lola Zinfandel.
• First Drop Wines’ exciting Vivo Arneis along with the raft of different outstanding Shiraz they produce.
• There was a plethora of different Mediterranean varieties from Dell’uva Wines which produce wines from 34 grape varieties. The amazing thing is that each wine is a great Aussie expression of that variety. A typical example of this is Dell’uva Mourvèdre (Mataro) 2016 which is superbly slick and smooth and has lashings of great flavours.
• All the wines from Lévrier by Jo Irvine are excellent, however her Cabernet Franc is sensational and her Zinfandel is one of the very best in Australia.
• The wines from Dewey Station Wines (new to me), were excellent with their Graciano 2019 being particularly impressive.
There were 16 McLaren Vale wineries present at this event and the wines that stood out the most were:
• Rusty Mutt – with the excellent, uber drinkable Viognier.
• Dowie Doole – a great non-WA Chenin Blanc – exciting.
• Semprevino – the whole range, but especially their gold medal winning McLaren Vale Shiraz 2018.
• Willunga 100 – both their Grenaches and Shiraz were very classy wines.
• d’Arenberg – Plenty of great wines, especially their Mencia 2018 which is an exceptional Aussie expression of this great variety.
As always the Riverland was well represented by:
• 919 Wines – with their superb Sparkling Durif.
• Salena Estate – with an interesting and very drinkable blend called TLC (Touriga, Lagrein and Cabernet).
• Whistling Kite – great wines, especially their outstanding white, Petit Manseng.
• Spook Hill Wines – particularly their cracking, The Dark Durif.
• The truly awesome Bassham Wines (organic) – with their 16 different wines. Among the raft of Emerging varieties that Bassham produce, this year they debuted Australia’s first Fernão Pires, a tasty native Portuguese white variety, and a Spanish native red Prieto Picudo. I will be reviewing these wines in an upcoming WBM article on rare, new emerging varieties.
The South East corner of the state was ably represented by Farmers Leap, Landaire (their Padthaway Chardonnay is blissful) and Mt Benson Estate with a Syrah 2016 (four gold medals) which is a superb, elegant, cooler climate Shiraz (Syrah).
The biggest disappointment, in terms of regions, was the Coonawarra, with only Koonara Wines and Raidis Estate, with their excellent wines there. Two out of 35 wineries in the region. A region that once upon a time used to be considered Australia’s premier red wine region.
One of the very interesting and welcome surprises of this festival was the quality and consistency of the Zinfandel wines presented. Starting with the big, elegant and uber tasty Jb Wines Barossa Lola Zinfandel 2017. Then the sophisticated Lambert Estate Barossa Forgive Me Zinfandel 2018 and culminating in the brilliant Lévrier by Jo Irvine Barossa Zinfandel 2014, which recently won a gold medal in San Francisco, California (the home of Zinfandel). Given how few Zinfandel producers there are in Australia thus far, this high level of quality augurs well for the future of the variety here.
The provedores had an interesting line-up of offerings including some superb cheeses, a range of Alpaca produce including Alpaca mettwurst a range of garlic products and the sensational offerings of the Kimchi Club.
So that’s a quick snapshot of one of the best wine tasting events on the Australian calendar.
For those who missed it, the good news is that they are running a slightly scaled down version called the 2020 Cellar Door Winter Fest on the weekend of 24-25 July. Just what one needs in the middle of winter – a nice warm tasting! I will be there and hopefully will see you there too. In the meantime – enjoy great wines and please support the bushfire ravaged wineries.
DAN TRAUCKI is a freelance wine journalist and a wine industry consultant specialising in assisting with exports to Asian markets. Email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs: Simon Casson Photographer.