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The Wine Companion – Andrew Graham

[hr]Everywhere you look, people are talking about it. Winemakers, marketers, grape growers and drinkers – everyone is talking about … Tasmania.[hr]

What makes Tasmania so talked about it is its uniqueness. Few other places in Australia can match Tasmania’s combination of a unique climate (dry and cool in the key grape growing regions) and unspoilt image, making for wines that are not only cool and crisp drinks, but also enjoy a slightly more ‘green’ reputation than that of the mainland.

For a classic example of the very best in Tassie wines you only need to look at the superb 2013 Spring Vale Gewu?rztraminer – a stunning, deeply aromatic, vibrant fresh dry white grown sourced from a vineyard not far from the beautiful Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast.

Again, what makes this wine great is the purity and intensity – I can think of few other Australian white wines that can manage to pack in such intensity of flavour without sacrificing freshness. Better still, it is not just the Gewu?rztraminer from Spring Vale that impresses as the 2013 Pinot Gris is superb too.

Quite simply, if you’re looking for the next best thing in wine, then Tasmania should be your very first stop.


Top Aussie Red

Cirillo Estate Mataro 2012

Drink: 2014-2020
Would I Buy It?: Yes

A new release from renowned Grenache maker Marco Cirillo, and a wine that is so new that the price hasn’t even been finalised yet (circa $25-$35 apparently, though Marco mentioned that there’s but a hatful anyway).

The story here is simple – the Cirillo vineyard has a few random vines in the rows, with some seriously old vine Mataro as part of the mix. A few years back Marco replanted part of the vineyard to cuttings drawn from those old Mataro bush vines, with this 2012 effectively the first commercial release.

What a wine it is too – carrying a deep and unsweet, unadulterated spicy authenticity to it that feels more like savoury, old vine Bandol than Aussie Mataro. There is just a hint of eucalypt on the nose to bring you back to Australia, over a tarry palate of cloves and black fruit and an unwavering spiciness. It’s actually quite ripe, with nary a hint of Mataro reductiveness or abject alcohol heat. I’m guessing largely old wood too, for there is little oak flavour to speak of, finishing quite energetic and leathery. A brilliant, savoury ‘we should drink more Mataro’, red in a quite mid-weight mode, yet
with an unwavering flavour intensit. It’s more varietal than tannic, which suggests it’s probably not ‘icon wine’ priced, but also making for a probably more attractive drink.

(Nuriootpa, SA), 14.5%, Screwcap, Source: Sample

Excellent Stuff


The Hunter’ s Finest

Pepper Tree Alluvius Single Vineyard Semillon 2013

Top Aussie RedCirillo Estate Mataro 2012 (Nuriootpa, SA) 14.5%, Screwcap Source: Sample A new release from renowned Grenache maker Marco Cirillo, and a wine that is so new that the price hasn’t even been finalised yet (circa $25-$35 apparently, though Marco mentioned that there’s but a hatful anyway). The story here is simple - the Cirillo vineyard has a few random vines in the rows, with some seriously old vine Mataro as part of the mix. A few years back Marco replanted part of the vineyard to cuttings drawn from those old Mataro bush vines, with this 2012 effectively the first commercial release. What a wine it is too - carrying a deep and unsweet, unadulterated spicy authenticity to it that feels more like savoury, old vine Bandol than Aussie Mataro. There is just a hint of eucalypt on the nose to bring you back to Australia, over a tarry palate of cloves and black fruit and an unwavering spiciness. It’s actually quite ripe, with nary a hint of Mataro reductiveness or abject alcohol heat. I’m guessing largely old wood too, for there is little oak flavour to speak of, finishing quite energetic and leathery. A brilliant, savoury ‘we should drink more Mataro’, red in a quite mid-weight mode, yet with an unwavering flavour intensit. It’s more varietal than tannic, which suggests it’s probably not ‘icon wine’ priced, but also making for a probably more attractive drink. Excellent Stuff
Drink: 2014-2033
Would I Buy It?: Absolutely

This is sourced from Ken Bray’s ‘Braemore’ vineyard, which is also where the fruit for Andrew Thomas’ ‘Braemore’

Semillon and Meerea Park’s ‘Alexander Munro’ Semillon comes from. Important dirt, indeed. All three producers are quite protective of that fruit too, with (rumoured) marker posts within the vineyard designating who gets which rows – and the occasional jostling to get extras.

Given just how good quality this fruit is (and from a great Semillon vintage), the secret here is just about translating that into the bottle, which this wine does with aplomb. It’s quite a big wine this year, with ripe lemon citrus fruits. Bombastic fruit even, with a big green apple palate, it starts quite generous and then tends more linear through the finish. That finish goes on for minutes too; again generous and in a mode that had me thinking of 2005 for its power and penetration.

Ripe and powerful, but with spectacular length, I’d like a few more months for this to come together. On length alone this is a superstar; gold medal quality Semillon.

(Hunter Valley, NSW), 10.7%, Screwcap, $35, Source: Sample

Ripe and powerful.



Tasmanian Perfection

Drink: 2014-2018
Would I buy it? Absolutely

Spring Vale Gewurztraminer 2013

I think I can count on one hand how many bottles of straight Australian Gewurtz I’ve drunk over the years. Tasted heaps,

love the variety, but actually drinking more than a glass? Never happens. But not this Spring Vale.

As vigneron Dave Cush (who has just announced he has left the day-to-day running of the vineyard) explains, the secret to this complex and intense little wine is all about treating it carefully. Whole bunch pressing, plenty of solids, six weeks in old oaks, multiple parcel picks – the whole kitchen sink.

It smells pretty sexy too, with an intense of aromatics that is about as varietal as you can get, heavy with nectarine skin and white pepper rotundone spice intensity. It’s a nose that suggests low yields and seriously tasty grapes (Spring Vale is a pretty amazing vineyard for aromatics).

The key to the drinkability here is that the dry palate is not too phenolic, not sweet, not too oily … just  Goldilocksstyle perfect. It’s mid-weight, spicy, intense, rich, crisp wine that that wins on freshness without sacrificing  eight or intensity.

(East Coast, Tasmania), 13.6%, Screwcap, $28, Source: Sample,



BBQ Sensation

Drink: 2014-2018
Would I buy it?: Absolutely

Pizzini Rosetta 2013

There are few more versatile BBQ wines out there than a good savoury rosé – and the Pizzini Rosetta nails it.

I plonked this rosé in a small line of blind pink wines, and it absolutely romped it home, the combination of fruit, acidity and sweetness near perfect.

Derived from Sangiovese free-run juice, this has a wonderful electric pink colour that suggests a sweeter wine than what you get. There is a notion of sweetness on the nose too, an edge of strawberries and redcurrants that is very inviting. Yet it tastes dry. Or dry enough really, that berry fruit cleaned up nicely with what is a very vibrant, naturally fresh finish that seems balanced and full of life.

Ultimately I decided I could smash many bottles of this. More than that, it’s not lolly water, it’s a drinking rosé, with more than enough grip and acidity to keep things together after the first bottle is finished.

Two big thumbs up.

(King Valley, Vic) 11.5%, Screwcap, $17.50CD Source: Sample


Andrew Graham, About Our Reviewer:

reviewer featured2009/10 WCA Wine Journalism ‘Young Gun; Wine Judge; Gourmet Traveller WINE and Breathe Hunter Valley magazine contributor; LattéLife columnist; National Liquor News Tasting panellist and Chablis lover who fell into the liquor industry chiefly to buy cheap beer. Over a decade later and I’m still here, now studying towards a Masters of Wine Technology and Viticulture, and still spending all my money on beer and wine.

For more reviews visit my site the Australian Wine Review at which is dedicated to talking about my obsession – everything vinous…

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