OUR PRODUCERS IN AUSTRALIA
Clonakilla, Canberra District, Australia
Located 30 minutes drive north of Canberra, Clonakilla is a small, family winery dedicated to making distinctive, handcrafted wines from the Shiraz and Viogniergrapes.
Clonakilla, Irish for “meadow of the church” has risen to fame meteorically in Australia during the past five years. Tim Kirk and his father were pioneers in every sense, leaving Ireland for Australia in 1970, planting vines in the hitherto untested cool climate Canberra region in 1971, and being the first winery outside the famous Cote Rotie Appellation in the Northern Rhone not only to coferment red Shiraz and white Viognier grapes, but to highlight this blend for all to see on their labels. Now most of Australia has followed suit and Shiraz Viognier blends are the new trend.
Clonakilla is widely acknowledged as being “one of the leading small wineries in the country” (Huon Hooke). Langton’s Classification of Australian wines (2010) rates it “exceptional” and James Halliday MW rates its Shiraz Viognier “an icon wine, one of the best in Australia”.
D’Arenberg, McLaren Vale, South Australia
When it comes to giving maximum quality at every price point, nobody does it better than d’Arenberg, an almost 100 year old family-owned winery in the Mclaren, about 40km South of Adelaide.
From the colourful head winemaker Chester Osborne to their off-the-wall, creative wine names and labels, to the wonderful variety of flavours in every bottle, d’Arenberg equates to personality and character in everything it does.
The climate in McLaren is fairly hot, although tempered by a refreshing breeze from the nearby Indian Ocean; as a result D’Arenberg focus on the grape varieties of the Southern Rhone which are suited to warm, dry growing conditions – Shiraz, Mourvedre and Grenache its main reds and Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier its key whites.
Many of the vines are over 40 years old, gnarled and thick-trunked. This gives extra concentration of fruit flavour and a clearer expression of the individual terroir where the grapes are grown.
In the winery, D’Arenberg are well known for foot-treading their grapes in open top fermenters, and for their use of traditional old basket presses, both of which allow gentle extraction of fruit flavours from the skins without too stringent tannins.
Harewood Estate – West Australia – Great Southern
The Great Southern district lies about 7 hours’ drive South of Perth in Western Australia. As wine regions go, they don’t come much more isolated than this! Bordered to the South by the Antarctic Ocean and to the West by the Southern Indian Ocean, this is a cool, green and wet region, perfect for producing cool climate wine styles.
Harewood Estate is without doubt the up and coming star of this still-unknown part of Australia and their winemaker James Kellie is surely the master of his trade in this region. James Halliday, guru of the Australian wine scene, has rated this one of his few 5 star “outstanding” wineries in each of the past 7 years. Buy these wines now before the wine world discovers them properly and prices head skywards!
Kalleske, Barossa Valley, South Australia
At their family winery near the village of Greenock in the Barossa Valley, brothers Troy and Tony Kalleske produce a small but perfectly-formed range of wines from Shiraz and Grenache grapes. Grapes are all grown biodynamically, with no pesticides or herbicides, from very old vines with a minimum age of 30 years. This combination of natural grape-growing and old vines gives incredible flavour complexity and concentration in the wines; the real taste of the Barossa!
In the winery, grapes are fermented in open top fermenters which allows gentle extraction of fruit and colour, then basket-pressed and matured for 2 years in seasoned oak barrels, giving them excellent structure, complexity and staying power.
Kalleske’s wines were “one of the greatest revelations of my (Robert Parker’s) Australian tastings” and have won much positive acclaim. Pirathon Shiraz 2007 won the International Wine Challenge Shiraz Trophy in 2009 and Clarry’s Grenache 2009 was recently awarded 94 points by James Halliday MW.
Schild Estate – South Australia – Barossa
In April 2013 I was lucky enough to spend 2 weeks touring the wine regions of Australia.
Of the many wines I tasted and producers visited, none shone out as brightly as Schild Estate in the Barossa Valley. Young winemaker Scott Hazeldene must be one of the most accomplished winemakers in Australia at the moment, and from the Estate’s ancient bush vines, some of them planted over 160 years ago, he produces some of the most concentrated, mouth-filling and sensuous Shiraz and Grenache I have ever had the good fortune to taste.
Majella, Coonawarra, South Australia
Majella is one of the top producers of Coonawarra, home to many of Australia’s finest Cabernet Sauvignons. With 60 hectares of prime vineyards all grown on Coonawarra’s famous terra rossa soils, their wines are rich in the mint and eucalyptus flavours typical to this small, high quality area of South Australia.
We list 3 red wines from this producer at different price levels:
- The Musician is their entry point blend of Cabernet and Shiraz which consistently over-delivers in quality;
- Majella Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the longest-lived and pure cassis-flavoured Cabernets grown in the New World;
- Malleea Cabernet Shiraz is their flagship wine and widely acknowledged as being “one of Australia’s great wines”.
Moss Wood – Margaret River – West Australia, New!
Margaret River is one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions close to the Indian Ocean about 3 hours drive south of Perth. Moss Wood was one of the very first vineyards in the region, its first vintage being in 1969. Keith and Clare Mugford, the current owners and winemakers, took over Moss Wood in 1985 and since then it has gone from strength to strength. It is now widely recognised as producing Australia’s finest Cabernet and one of its best Chardonnays.
Stanton and Killeen – Victoria – Rutherglen
Rutherglen is the sunniest of all Australia’s wine regions, particularly in the Autumn, as well as being reliably warm and dry. This climate is critical in the production of late harvested Muscat grapes, as it allows the grapes to gain maximum sugar and ripeness with minimum risk of disease.
Stanton and Killeen started producing liqueur Muscats way back in 1864, and are consistently the highest acclaimed producers of this uniquely Australian style of fortified wine. The fermented and fortified wines are aged for years in old oak casks in a solera system, very similar to one you would find in Jerez (sherry). Because of the heat in the barrel rooms, each barrel loses around 5% of its contents per year through evaporation, gradually turning these wines into the “world’s richest and most concentrated wines.
Ten Minutes By Tractor, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Rated one of James Halliday’s few 5 star wineries across the whole of Australia in 2008, 2009 and 2010, TMBT produces cool climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs to rival the best of the rest of the world. This is due to its wonderful position at the Southern tip of Victoria, surrounded on 3 sides by the Antarctic Ocean, as well as the total dedication and commitment of its owner, Martin Spedding, to producing wines which reflect the specific terroirs of this beautiful area of Australia.
Why the odd name? Because oddly it takes 10 minutes on a tractor to drive between the 3 separate vineyards which comprise this estate!
Chateau Tahbilk, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria, Australia
When brooding about the selection of Winery of the Year, I recalled that in 1994 the Maurice O’Shea Award had been given to Jacob’s Creek, and in 2002 to the Australian Wine Research Institute, both examples of lateral thinking that (in very different ways) made my choice of Tahbilk seem conventional. But prior awards for the Companion’s Winery of the Year had been selected by currently available wines as the main criteria.
The liquid history of Tahbilk’s wine portfolio is unique. Its 1860 Vines Shiraz is made from vines that were all planted in 1860, with no replacement vines to fill gaps created by vines dying through disease – or frost, as in 2007, when 40% of the vines were killed. The result is that in a good year, production will only be 150 dozen. After 18 months’ maturation in French oak, the wine is bottled and held in the Tahbilk cellars for four years before release. It is exquisitely rare liquid history, and of great quality.
Then there is the block of marsanne planted in 1927, now kept separate from the major annual release, and held in bottle for a prodigious seven years before release, the longest maturation for any Australian table wine; it is arguably as remarkable as the 100 years for each new vintage of Seppeltsfield’s Para.