Thursday, August 26, 2010

Touched by an Angel

It’s already my third week working at Koonara in Coonawarra South Australia and the learning experience has only just begun. I find myself not only learning about my job and the tasks which I need to handle yet mostly about the region’s wines and how Australians look at the wine industry which I find is totally different from us Europeans. What strikes me mostly is that Australians are on the quest to make the most perfect wine possible; most importantly free from any faults. In Europe faults can be seen as an interesting aspect in wine, Brettanomyces (more commonly known as Brett) is encouraged in wines from the Rhone Valley. Found mostly in contaminated oak barrels in the cellar Brett, is known to add complexity in Europe yet to condemn wines in Australia. Another feature which I find rather different is wines on release which usually need to be as young as possible in Australia; blistering fruit and mouth coating tannins is the norm whilst in Europe most wines are held in cellar for a few years for flavours to mellow and integrate better with the fruit characteristics. Which is better? I still need to taste more and more wines to make up my mind on the answer.

Yet last Friday I was given a perfect opportunity to taste some aged red wines. Dru, my boss, decided to hold a vertical tasting of his Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon wines, named after the angel of communication, Ambriel’s Gift. Breaks!! Breaks!! Before I need to write about the range of Pinot Gris we had on blind tasting just before the Cabernet. Being new to the smaller wine regions in Australia like Wrattonbully, Langhorne Creek, Perricoota and many others, I usually feel more lost in translation than lost for words to describe a wine. Two out of the 5 Pinot Gris we tasted really caught my attention and both came from unfamiliar wine regions; the Barwang Pinot Gris and the Bridgewater Mill Pinot Grigio both 2008 vintage. The former from the cool climate sub-region of Tumbarumba in New South Wales, had flinty, mineral, oaky notes on the first sniff, yet opened up with a nice melon and peach bouquet. The second from the Adelaide sub-regions of Piccadilly and Lenswood, had rounder notes of melon and pears with hints of floral aromas. Both wines had a clean refreshing palate very crisp with good mouth-watering acidity.

Back to our angel; on the evening we had the pleasure to taste 8 vintages of the Ambriel’s Gift Cabernet Sauvignon, dating back to 1998. And yes, my favourite was the 1998 which was formely named as The Celestial Promise. Maybe I am more used to the blend of aromas of black fruit intermingling with cedar and tobacco nose. I find the developing character of a Cabernet Sauvignon more intriguing than young ones which are full of dark fruit, chocolate and vanilla aromas, even if I must admit that the 1998 had still some chocolate notes hidden up its sleeve. The 2003 was also a lovely wine. As I can recall from one of Dru’s wine lectures (which happen as frequently as every quarter of an hour throughout my working day and I am very pleased with that), 2003 was a very good vintage in Australia, quite the opposite for Europe. In fact, this wine had a lovely balance on the palate; chocolate, prunes and plums with nicely integrated tannins and a touch of liquorice on the finish. Simply Yummy! The 2004, the current vintage on sale and the current wine I am sipping happily at the moment whilst warming up next to the fireplace, is also a stunner. More chocolate mint and luscious aromas; smooth firm tannins on the palate. One to enjoy now or to age for a couple of more years.

So far really enjoying my stay in Coonawarra working for Koonara and learning more about wine each day. Next week we are off to Adelaide and the Barossa; surely some more wines to taste and more Aussie people to meet. Just can’t wait! :)

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