By Rowena Collings, Client Development
There are some pairings in life that automatically go together and make things more interesting. It’s hard to imagine one without the other… Bacon and eggs, a meat pie and tomato sauce, Ben and Jerry’s, Laurel and Hardy, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The list is endless. It’s not to say that you wouldn’t try other combinations with your eggs for breakfast, but nothing quite beats that sizzle in the frypan on a Sunday morning.
In the world of wine there are also some pairings that once tried, become the classic go to for maximum flavour. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from the Margaret River, where the wines are at their most elegant, Shiraz and the Barossa where old vines give a powerful kick in the glass, Semillon and the Hunter, that can age and surprise, Pinot Noir and Victoria that can give those pesky Californians a run for their money, and Cabernet and Coonawarra where its full of plum and blackcurrant fruit.
In the 1960’s Dr John Gladstone, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Australia, identified the region of the Margaret River as having tremendous potential for grape growing. With high winter rainfall, a dry, warm summer and a low risk of frosts and hail, combined with soils grey loam on a subsoil of clay, it was a region destined for amateur vignerons in the 70’s to try their luck.
The five founding families, Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix, Cullen, Voyager and Cape Mentelle, of Margaret River became the beacons for fine Australian wine. The region gained a reputation for producing powerful, yet elegant wines, creating standout Cabernet blends and Chardonnay. Today the second generation of these wineries are pushing the boundaries with organic and biodynamic farming methods experimenting with fermentation in amphora to extended skin contact, capturing our attention once again. A recent tasting of the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon left me speechless. Sometimes it is easy forget how beautiful these classic wines from great regions can be. My to do list this week involves securing as much Leeuwin Estate as my credit card will take to add to our home cellar.
Another group of guardians protecting and influencing the Australian wine landscape is Australia’s First Families of Wine. Eleven of Australia’s oldest and most respected family owned wineries, some now on their 5th generation of winemaking in their region, collectively have over 1,310 years of winemaking experience from some of our most iconic vineyards (some dating back to 1849!).
Its members include Henschke, with their Hill of Grace, receiving standing ovations from wine lovers all over the globe, Yalumba, with its 3rd release of The Caley, a wine that became a rock star. In the Barossa, d’Arenberg of McLaren Vale, a touch on the crazy side with its $15 million cube and Dead Arm Shiraz, but in a good way, and Jim Barry of Clare Valley with his mind-boggling Armagh. And of course, Tyrrell’s from the Hunter Valley.
In fact, the Hunter Valley may be considered the birthplace of Australian wine. James Busby returned from Europe in 1832 with 20,000 vine cuttings and established the Hunter Valley. With vineyards dating back to the 1860’s and still in production, iconic vineyards are found throughout the region. Names like Graveyard, Old Hill, Old Patch and Old Paddock became legendary amongst the adventure seeking wine lover. Tyrells, not only famous for its iconic Vat 1 Semillon, has the Sacred Sites collection, only made from vines that are 100 years old and on their own roots.
What does all this mean to the average wine drinker? A world of quality, tradition and innovation is within our reach. The best vineyards have substantial age and add a layer of complexity and concentration with each vintage. The younger generations in these classic vineyards have the experience and respect for these special sites handed down from their parents, but they have the freedom to experiment as they exchange ideas amongst their peers in the winemaking families. Jim Barry’s sons Sam and Tom have taken an idea from Chris Tyrrell to basket press a 2020 Riesling and ferment in-barrel with exciting results, a project that is now underway. There is now a wealth of expertise and more wines creating excitement than ever before. Australia and wine, with premium and historic sites, generations of experience, freedom to be innovative and the classic grape varieties, is the match made in heaven.
All these treasures are found in the Brisbane Club Cellar. Some of the rarer wines are sleeping in the Long Term Storage, which Joao will wake up when the time is right and present them at our LTS Fridays Wine Club tastings on the last Friday of each month. Keep your eye on these, I know I will be.