Whilst Oddities, our tasting lunches at Rochelle Canteen, have previously elicited a random selection of wines in terms of geography, we decided to focus this one on the Southern Hemisphere (hence the “SH”). The wines were as far from “shoddy” as you could get. Indeed, many attendees felt this was our best yet (they said that last time). It may have been helped by the decision to go with a sharing menu which, for a main course provided a very large shoulder of braised lamb of such exquisite quality it brought some of us close to tears…and bursting. Served with a potato gratin, it was preceded by a crab salad and broccoli starter and followed by an apple and blackberry crumble, also magnificent. The lamb truly highlighted the careful sourcing of meat at Rochelle Canteen. We loved it to bits.
Note the near religious expectation of the main course
The wines were too good not to mention them all, though I’ll keep the notes short for each. If some don’t seem as “odd” as usual, I think that’s a good thing. The quality was pretty high and the bar will be difficult to leap when we next meet in December. All wines served blind.
Damien Tscharke “Eva” Savagnin Frizzante 2014, Barossa and Girl Talk Savagnin 2012, Barossa
Two Barossan wines which could not have been less Barossan, to be honest. The low alcohol (7%) frizzante 2014 was fresh and grapey. We all assumed it was a Moscato, but it was indeed made from the same grape as the second Tscharke wine, once thought to be Albarinho. Neither tasted remotely like a Jura Savagnin. The dry still wine was fresh and light, if lacking in a surfeit of character, both wines being nevertheless clean and fresh and a fitting aperitif.
Farrago Chardonnay 2010, Kooyong, Mornington Peninsula
I did eventually get this, Kooyong being one of my favourite Mornington producers. It’s not especially Chardonnay-like at first, in a New World context. It has that great freshness which the marginal climate of Victoria’s Mornington benefits (or suffers?) from. Not an odd wine, indeed a very good wine, but one which deserves to come up when naming the top Aussie Chardonnays, for sure. 13.5%. For me, one of Australia’s purest Chardonnays.
Boekenhoutskloof “Experimental Production” 2004, Cape
Not sure exactly where Mark Kent got his grapes for this from. As the label says, 45% Grenache Blanc, 33% Sémillon, 22% Viognier with 200% new oak. This was left and aged slightly oxidatively and bottled in 2010. A really fine and complex wine, not at all overburdened by oxidative notes, nor by oak. Very nice, harmonious, and serious.
‘T Voetpad White Blend 2013, Eben Sadie, Swartland
A blend of Chenin, Palomino, Muscat and Sémillon, 14% alcohol so quite big and young, but another really classy wine which was nevertheless in balance. A really nice example of why Eben Sadie is a master, blending seemingly disparate varieties into something finer than its constituent parts. One of the Sadie Family’s Old Vine Series.
Ochota Barrels “5VOV” Basket Range Chardonnay 2014, Adelaide Hills
Fewer than 400 bottles of this were made (ours was numbered 240). Just 12.4% alcohol, a portion of this was aged under flor giving it a lovely slightly nutty complexity without a full-on Jura-like tang. A lovely wine, potentially slightly lost after the previous two whites initially, but coming back to it, I wanted to glug a bottle in isolation. A nice hint of salinity cleaned the palate for the half time break and the reds.
“Little One” Basket Range Petit Verdot 2014, Gentle Folk Wines, Adelaide Hills
The reds began with a real cracker, a wine I’d not heard of. My initial thought was “tannic Gamay”, but it turned out to be yet another wine from this exciting region of South Australia, one of my Wines of the Day, and a couple of people had this as their top wine. Truly delicious, and as my co-organiser said on Twitter, “would never have guessed Petit Verdot”. The man who brought it described it as “breezy”, very apt, Tony. Gentle Folk Wines are a bit of an enigma, see their web site here to see whether you can glean any more information than I did. One to seek out. Brought in by Les Caves de Pyrene, I’m told.
McWilliam’s Private Bin 35 Claret 1967, Riverina
I remember on my first, late 80s, visit to Australia tasting some lovely old wines at McWilliam’s Hunter Valley winery. It was a sheer treat to have the privilege of tasting this beauty from Hanwood, in the far north of NSW. Very much an old wine, brick red as the photo shows, but still haunting and by no means dead. 26 fluid ounces on the bottle, imported (but probably bottled at source) by Avery’s. Wow!
Pinotage 2010, Kidnapper Cliffs, Hawkes Bay
Our first New Zealand wine, which surprised me a little. I once had a New Zealand Pinotage many years ago, possibly made by Nick Nobilo, though I may well be wrong about the maker. But there certainly is some planted, both in Hawkes Bay, and up around Auckland. These vines were previously bottled under the Te Awa label. I believe Te Awa own Kidnapper Cliffs. Another wine where it became pretty difficult to spot the grape variety, though spotting Pinotage would not be one of my strengths. Why difficult? Well, it was certainly very good, but it had something quite Syrah-like about it. Strange, given its location in prime Syrah territory.
Rutherglen Shiraz-Durif 2009, Stanton & Killeen
A big boy, for sure, but beginning to resolve nicely into a wine with a smooth palate of rounded fruit and a nice meaty texture, with a nose to go with it. This had been re-decanted into another bottle so I didn’t get the alcohol, but it was no shy and retiring type. I think the wine reflects the Australian chap who brought it very well (meant as a compliment, Max).
Meerlust Rubicon 2001, Stellenbosch
Not an “oddity” as such, but yet how often do we get to drink wines like this at maturity? I was concerned (my wine, this one) when I looked at some recent notes on Cellartracker ranging from mild disappointment to “drink up now”. I don’t think this bottle fitted those concerning descriptions, most attendees yesterday suggesting it had plenty of time to run. I’m pretty pleased I didn’t substitute another. The blend of the three main Bordeaux varieties probably made it one of the best matches for the lamb shoulder, but it really did have a sort of claret-like quality to it as well. Not quite wine of the day, but for me it performed well above internet-fuelled expectations.
Sparkling Shiraz 1994, Great Western, Seppelt
The key, again, to the oddness of this wine is its vintage. Age had mellowed it. It was served technically too cold, but in some ways that worked out well. It was surprisingly refreshing to begin with, but changed and became more complex (in a Sparkling Shiraz context, of course) as it warmed.
Joseph The Fronti III, Primo Estate, Soth Australia
Our first dessert wine hailed from the company famous for its Moda Amarone (sic), made from Cabernet and Merlot fruit grown in Clarendon and McLaren Vale. Primo Estate‘s “The Fronti” is a rare and unusual fortified (18.5%), blending Muscats of varying types from Rutherglen, Barossa, McLaren Vale and the estate’s own Virginia Vineyard. I understand that there have been six releases in the past 30 years, I-VI. This No. III reputedly contains wines up to 130 years old, though its base is Joe Grilli’s 1981 Frontignac. An exceptional wine which wears its alcohol level very well – you might almost think twice as to whether it is fortified, so seamless is its structure. Long on the palate as the legs on the glass, and lovely.
Mazuran’s Old Tawny Port NV, Auckland
This really stumped us. Brown as a Rutherglen Muscat, sweet and sticky as a sticky toffee pudding, it’s made from some unknown and non-vinifera vine varieties grown up in humid north of New Zealand, very probably the reason for such vine plantings. Fortified to 19%, wines aged for 40-years and made by a company, Mazuran‘s, which, to be honest, no-one today is listing among their most well known New Zealand wineries. Those who had heard of this Henderson producer asked whether they were still going (they were founded in 1938, by Croatian emigré George Mazuran). I’m glad they are. It just goes to show that sometimes you can indeed make a silk purse from a supposed sow’s ear of vines. One key to the quality of this wine may be that Mazaran claim to be the only NZ winery distilling their own spirit for fortification.
Several wines today were certainly “odd”, others less so, but I’m hard pushed to say that many stood head and shoulders over the rest in terms of both quality and enjoyment, all being pretty excellent. For myself, of the whites the Sadie and Mark Kent’s experiment thrilled me, the Petit Verdot was really nice as a stunningly good every day wine, and the McWilliam’s brought back very happy memories in a roundabout way. Another great Oddities. The stickies both had that warming quality all good stickies have, pure sensual pleasure, which with the food and company summed up the day.
Some of the odd people who attend these lunches
All but two of the empties
I am very much out of touch with the SH, almost embarrassingly so. I need to discover the new Aussie makers and shakers as well as the whole of South Africa though I have had a very god Sadie family wine and an excellent Testalonga Chenin a couple of weeks ago on a beach in the Languedoc.
You do have some great events