— Hallgarten (@HDNwines) March 24, 2017
The IEWA (The Independent English Wine Awards) announced its results on Saturday 18 March following rigorous judging from winemakers, Masters of Wine, sommeliers, buyers, merchants, journalists and educators.
The fourth vintage of Sugrue Pierre Brut, ‘The Trouble With Dreams’ comes from the 2013 harvest, sourcing fruit from Storrington Priory Vineyard, this is the first vintage where the majority of grapes came from the exceptional Mount Harry Vineyard, near Lewes in East Sussex.
The Independent English Wine Awards is a new world-class, independent wine competition created to reward, promote and celebrate the best of English wine. ‘The IEWA’ is aimed at the consumer, to raise awareness, inform, engage, promote and ultimately help increase sales of English wine and assist the continued development of the industry. Of course it is also an exercise in celebration: of excellence, achievement, growth and really great wines.
Following our Hallgarten Tasting at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Sales Director-Scotland, Jon Harris, has chosen his standout wines of the show…
Champagne Marc Hébrart, Cuvée Sélection Brut 1er Cru Vieilles Vignes NV
Incredible richness and complexity for a wine at this price – smashes all the Grand Marques at the same price
Schloss Johannisberger Riesling QbA Feinherb Yellow Seal, 2015
Not the cheapest wine in our portfolio but just benchmark Riesling, dry, mineral, wonderful concentration and perfectly balanced acidity. Verging on too expensive for many of us on an on trade list but the retailers loved it.
Colomba Bianca, Syrah Frappato ‘Vitese’ 2015
Another wine that over delivers at its price point, perfectly suited to both retail and on-trade.
Ventolera Syrah 2013
Probably my wine of the show – beautifully balanced and expressive, incredibly elegant for new world Syrah.
Get in touch and let us know if you agree with Jon’s choices!
In Jane Parkinson’s Liquid Assets feature of March’s Restaurant Magazine she takes a look at Winemaking as an art form…
Paringa Estate The Paringa Pinot Noir, 2O12
This is not cheap, but is one of the leading lights of Mornington Peninsula and this release is stunning. It is bold yet retains enough Pinot delicacy and has a fresh acidity with red cherry juiciness. It also has broad tannin shoulders after 10 months in French oak but it matches up perfectly to the generous fruit.
Lismore The Age of Grace Viognier, 2O16
A barrel fermented Viognier aged for a further 11 months in 2251 Burgundian barrels. It’s rich with peach schnapps.
Sugrue Pierre Brut, 2013
This excellent fizz is from Dermot Sugrue. With 8g/l dosage and some fermented in new oak, this is classy with lemon sherbet fruit and buttered toast richness.
Ancilla Lugana, 2015
Coming off the shores of Lake Garda, this has a plush side, thanks to the 10% fermented in oak. lt has melons with an almond nuttiness for texture.
Ellevin Chablis Brigitte Cerveau, 2015
A zippy, zesty chardonnay with taut lemon that isn’t sour thanks to the salty lick of chalk and biscuit that make this feel medium bodied in weight.
This one was different!
Instead of the usual meeting in a winery or a Cellar Door or even the middle of a vineyard, my meeting with Fox Gordon took place in their boutique office on King William Road just south of Adelaide’s CBD. But you can tell what they are about as soon as you walk in: the office/showroom is beautifully “decorated” with bottles of their various brands. It is an arresting and ravishing site – a whole wall covered in horizontally-laid spotless virgin bottles. I immediately get out the camera and start snapping.
Sam and Rachel Atkins (nee Fox) are an attractive, open couple. They ask me what I would like to do: visit their winery, have lunch… But I’m quite happy to have a chat in their offices and drink the excellent Flat White from a stylish-looking coffee shop next door. (Though given how stylishly they are dressed, I feel a little sordid in my trainers and jeans, having spent the morning tramping through vineyards; very kindly, they affect not to notice, and their charming and typically open Aussie hospitality rather bowls me over).
Their story started in 2001 when they, along with friends Jane Gordon and David Cumming, decided to pursue their dream of creating great wine brands from beautiful wines. The name and logo celebrates the founding women, using Rachel and Jane’s surname to create the brand, and their stylised images to produce the logo. All the individual wines and sub-brands now carry the name of family and friends.
Ra (short for Rachel and pronounced Rar) tells me about their network of nine growers in the Adelaide Hills, the wine being made at a 14,000-tonne winery at Project Wines, which is almost on the border with Langhorne Creek. Sam then takes over to tell me that they are going to pull out of the Barossa Valley. It doesn’t suit their style; the Barossa is viewed as being traditional and the birthplace of huge, big ink buster wines, in contrast to Fox Gordon’s image and the style of their wines. The Adelaide Hills, which is where they will concentrate, is viewed as producing cool climate and cool-looking wine.
But this is not to say that this is a boutique operation in terms of size. This year they will make 40,000 cases, are present in the heavyweight Australian retailers, and have had wines listed in Matthew Jukes’ 100 Great Australian Wines for many years. Sam cut his teeth when working for BRL Hardy and introduced container after container into the UK supermarket trade in the late 90s. In addition to that, Ra has twice been nominated for the Australian Women in Wine Award, run by the London branch of Wine Australia, and during the time I was there she let me know that she hoped to be nominated again for 2017; there is substance as well as style.
The one potential fly in the ointment is the recent departure of well-known winemaker Tash Mooney. According to Sam, it was a natural parting of the ways. “Tash very much her own person and wanted to do her own thing and we had been together for a long time. And there’s no getting away from the fact that was a little uncomfortable with our marketing approach and its emphasis on viewing what we do in a wider context – a lifestyle creation.”
They are confident that their new winemaker, Marty O’Flaherty, winemaker for 15 years, will produce the goods.
I was fascinated by their choice of grapes with which to work, such as pinot grigio, fiano, tempranillo and nero d’avola. Sam’s eyes light up and he tells me of their relationship with an Italian, Caj Amadio , now in his 80s but who acts as if he is still in his 30s and whose family owns a vineyard in the northern part of the Adelaide Hills. “We just spent great weekend with Caj and Jenny on Kangaroo Island, tasting both our wines and his vineyard remains a benchmark in terms of quality and a bedrock in terms of a source of European varietals,” commented Sam. “He’s one of the most amazing men you’ll ever come across,” says Ra. Montepulciano and nebbiolo are on their way, as well as a Fume Blanc style.
Not unexpectedly, they see internet sales and social media marketing as becoming more and more vital, and their POS and other marketing support materials are state-of-the-art and owe something to the approach of fashion houses. But you cannot beat old style distribution: during our meeting Ra took a call to say that Benares, arguably London’s finest Indian restaurant, had started listing their wines. Deep joy all round.
You leave the meeting enthused by Sam and Ra’s vitality, creativity and joie-de-vivre.
PS: to give an idea of the quality of the wines, I am attaching below my tasting notes from a recent Aussie tasting we did at London’s Langan’s restaurant…
Charlotte’s Web Pinot Grigio 2016
Inviting rich and fruity nose, sherbert, excellent acidity, great cool climate wine;
Princess Fiano 2015
Caused quite a stir when we showed it – great spice, a ballsy textured number with nutmeg and grapefruit. Great alternative to Campania.
Abby Viognier 2015
Wow, no messing here. Big and rich and layered, masses of apricot flavour, but still manages to retain acidity. Excellent winemaking.
By George Cabernet Tempranillo 2013
A 60/40 blend, with mulberry and blackcurrant flavours. Very attractive, lovely forest fruits nose.
Eight Uncles Shiraz 2013
Juicy, splurgey fruit, incredible moreish, leaps out of the glass. Plums everywhere.
Dark Prince Nero d’Avola 2015
Unfiltered and chunky with it. Gutsy, rich sweet peppery fruit
The drive up to the Barossa always takes longer than I bargain for and I am running late. Luckily, Kym Teusner is as laid-back as they come. Which is just as well, because the winery that Teusner bought before the last vintage still has not been finished and there are builders everywhere putting the final touches to the new fermenters, ready for the new vintage in a couple of weeks. “We had to do it,” Kym explains laconically. “We needed to double our crush.” They will do 40,000 cases this year. It is an imposing sight: dozens of glinting tanks of all sizes, capable of holding anywhere between 1,000 litres to 150,000 litres. “All batches are fermented separately, that’s a bit of a creed for us.”
We are joined by Kym’s sales and marketing guy, Ben Shillito, who explains that in Australia they have three different labels: Round Two, an indie retailer wine, uses fruit from their own single vineyard in the Angaston foothills; Teusner is the main brand, all the fruit coming from generational grower vineyards, in some cases going on to 8 generations of the same family on the property; then Hutton Vale is a small parcel joint venture between the Teusners and the Angas family, premium vineyard owners.
Even their bought-in fruit comes from growers with whom they have long-term relationships. “Some of them sold to the big wineries, but after GFC, a lot of the big boys let them down. And then the same thing happened with the terrible 2011 vintage. We stuck with them. We still bought fruit from that vintage.”
I nod my head. But GFC? What is that? Some new vineyard disease, a technical term in the winery? “Global Financial Crisis,” explains Kym.
Since we started working with our new Australian wineries, I’ve thought that Teusner offers the greatest commercial possibilities; they are a reasonably sized Barossa operation whose labels do look off-trade driven. I am not disabused as we settle down to a large tasting overlooking what Kym calls the building site.
The Woodside Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (with 4% of Barossa semillon) has a touch of sweetness about it and is well rounded for a sauvignon. Very commercial and appealing.
The Empress Riesling 2016 is sourced from the Eden valley and is a lovely open fruity wine. Kym explains that Eden Valley rieslings tend to have more floral notes than the flintier rieslings of Clare.
The Gabrielle 2011 Barossa Valley Semillon moves Kym to raptures. “I love and adore semillon. I think the Barossa does this better than anyone. I know the Hunter Valley boys like their own semillon, but this definitely gives them a run for their money.” This is their Coco Chanel wine. Kym explains: “Coco Chanel once said ‘Fashion changes – style endures’ which I think says it all about Barossa Valley Semillon. And as everyone knows, Coco’s real first name was Gabrielle.” I didn’t know that, but what I do know is that this wine does has fabulous style, with a great honeyed biscuit nose and a fleshiness in the mouth.
The Salsa Rose Rosé 2016 is made of Grenache and Mataro with a touch of Montepulciano (the previous vintage also had Carignan.) This is all barrel-fermented, picked sparingly in the vineyard and pressed straight into oak. It is a really funky wine. “This is the only wine which we don’t inoculate. Some goes through malo, some doesn’t. My aim here is to have you wanting another glass.” It has a hugely attractive gamey, meaty flavour to it – unlike any other rosé.
Kym and Ben then line up three shiraz wines and I get clicking with the camera. The Riebke family, led by Steve Riebke, based in and around Ebenezer, are still their most important growers. The eponymous wine shows great commercial, plummy, rich fruit. You can see why it is the best seller. The Teusner Billmore Shiraz 2015, sourced from the western Barossa around Gomersal, is softer and sweeter and more extreme than the Riebke. “This is more what the public expect of the Barossa,” says Kym. Finally, the Wark Family Shiraz 2015 is sourced from a Stonewell vineyard just at the back of the winery and shows really soft fruit and beautifully integrated tannins.
“This is how I’d classify them,” says Kym. “ The Riebke is a firm wine and comes from light soil; the Bilmore has chocolate flavours and comes from brick red soil; the Wark has a ferrous iron nose, with coal, tannins and structure.”
The Albert 2015 Old Vines Shiraz (from two vineyards in Ebenezer and Williamstown, some of the vines of which are 70 years old) shows intense menthol and eucalyptus, but Kym says there are no eucalyptus trees for miles, so thinks it must be a combination of clones and soil type. It is a massive wine and needs time.
The Gentleman Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced: 80% Eden Valley, 20% Barossa and has a lovely mint and herbaceous nose and a chocolate feel in the mouth. “The problem here is that some Barossa growers try to make the cabernet too much like shiraz, but cabernet is a completely different animal, and should at its best show good herbaceous fruit.”
The Righteous Mataro has masses of sweet fruit with a lovely soft oakiness to it and will be around forever. “I’m very keen on mataro. This wine is absolutely the best we can do with this grape in the whole of Barossa.” They get the grapes from Marananga.
The Righteous FG Shiraz has intense black fruits, plums, dark chocolate and warm spices. It more than lives up to its name!
The Hutton Vale wines are the result of a joint venture between Kym and the Angas family, who own some prime vineyard plots in the Eden Valley.
The Hutton Vale Grenache Mataro from 65 year-old vines smells of dried herbs, has the softest and silkiest mouthfeel and stays on the palate forever.
The Hutton Vale Shiraz 2013 (the previous vintage got a 98 from Halliday) has a massive and intense dark cherries and rich raspberries on the palate. A huge wine.
The Hutton Vale Cabernet 2013 has very soft fruit (which seems to be a characteristic of the Hutton Vale wines.) It has classic cedar box nuances – so obviously a very good wine.
Then we come to the two wines which started everything – the Joshua and Avatar – “the daddies of the place” states Kym.
The Joshua (2015) comes from 100 year old Grenache vines which make up 65% of the blend and sees no oak. I’m a huge fan of old Grenache and this is a beautiful wine, with that delicious damson nose. The Avatar 2014 is made up of 50% Grenache and spends 18 months in oak. As you’d expect, this is more dense and heavy, with a touch of tar.
We need to pack up the tasting rather sharpish, as Kym and Ben need to catch a plane for Brisbane. “But no worries, mate, make yerself at home, take a look around,” say Kym.
Later, as I am driving home, have Kym’s quotes ringing in my ears and I am reminded of the last wine we tasted: the Independent Shiraz Mataro 2015, which had strong tar and liquorice flavours and a touch of herbals. “We really work this wine, I like to try and layer the flavours, but there is always a core of fruit there. The thing about working with shiraz on its own is that it gives instant gratification.” The last phrase made me laugh. The wine was named – presumably – after Kym Teusner: a man independent of mind.