Monday, October 18, 2010

On the rolling hills of Gippsland

A great start to a weekend tasting wines during the Cabernet weekend in Coonawarra (of which I will write at a later stage), led off to my much anticipated 2 week James Busby tour. So, as soon as all the people were gathering in Penola for the Cabernet Celebrations and the canonisation of Mary MacKillop I was on my way out to start another 2 week wine adventure.

Meeting the group at the hotel in Melbourne brought together a simple definition of the profile of people living in UK; multi-cultural energy. It was slightly difficult to get my ears fine tuned to all the different accents and different name pronunciations. Yet as always in the wine industry brings together interesting people with different backgrounds and all on a different journey with the same purpose, discovering wine.

With a pretty full itinerary we hit the road early Monday morning to Gippsland. After a couple of hours drive we were all looking forward to taste some nice wines and enjoy our first Aussie bbq. As we stepped down from the bus we were greeted by the young winemaker William Downie and his wife Rachel. As soon as he started talking about his experience whilst working in Burgundy and the careful selection he goes through to buy his fruit I immediately knew that his Pinot Noirs will be remarkable. The first wine on tasting was Stool on a Stool (No Sulphur) Pinot Noir. Sulphur is quite a hot topic amongst winemakers and according to William added sulphur reduces the expression of the wine by 20%. So what to expect from a wine with no sulphur added and no filtration? Well, a very vibrant purple coloured wine filling the glass with lovely cherry and violet notes; sappy and lively on palate. A great way to start our lingering bbq lunch.

As starter we had a lovely seafood salad which matched perfectly the 2009 Petit Manseng from the King Valley. My experience with this grape variety is very limited. Floral notes with hints of pears and pineapples on the nose whilst the palate had a very broad texture with acidity giving it the right lift and a good long finish. With 50grms residual sugar you would expect a cloying heavy wine yet this had a refreshing acidity which gave it perfect balance and great definition.

The succulent bbq lamb was paired with 3 different Pinot Noirs (2008 vintage) showing the stylistic difference between the different areas of production William sourced his fruit from. The Yarra Valley brought forward the lively cherry aromas with slight developing earthy notes; medium light on palate. The Mornington Peninsula had the same red fruit profile yet with denser texture and more structure on palate. The Gippsland had a darker fruit aroma spectrum with a full palate and velvety tannins. All very interesting and all bringing forward different aspects of such an interesting grape variety. To wrap up the lunch we were delightfully served a selection of different cheeses and yes some more wine, 2004 and 2005 Pinot Noirs from Yarra Valley in magnum format. The 2004 had some garnet hues on the rim and developing aromas of mushrooms and earthiness yet with subtle cherry notes; all intermingling on the palate with its velvet tannins. The 2005 had a more structured palate with present tannins and lovely fruit on the mid-palate; interesting to taste within a couple of years.

I cannot but end up with a quote from the man of the day, William Downie “What I am trying to produce is an expression of Pinot Noir which can give a unique profile not a Burgundian one.” Whilst most producers are always on the constant search of replicating a French or an Italian style of wine this Aussie winemaker is producing a unique wine; many should follow.

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