The depths of winter is the time to settle in front of the fire with a glass to contemplate life. This month we traverse the south-eastern corner of the nation to feature a cracking Gippsland chardonnay, a lovely Hunter Valley white and a juicy little number with Italian heritage from the Adelaide Hills.
Patrick Sullivan Wines
2018 Ada River Chardonnay
Gippsland is a fairly sizeable chunk of Victoria, some four to five hours’ drive across its length, depending on how heavy your foot is and how many coffees you’ve had. As you’d imagine, grapes grown here would have all manner of geological and climatic pockets to contend with, from coastal to mountain foothills and everything in between. It’s fair to say that it is a pretty diverse region.
Patrick Sullivan had long dreamt of making wine in Gippsland and purchased Tumblestone Farm in Ellinbank at the base of the Strzelecki ranges, just around the corner from the property of his old Yarra Valley workmate William Downie.
Since settling in Gippsland, the focus has increasingly been on Chardonnay from several vineyards in Baw Baw Shire. Sullivan works with long-time local growers and shares the farming with Downie, working the land towards biodynamic certification. There’s pinot noir planted on Tumblestone with plans to plant a small holding of chardonnay in the near future.
At the moment, Sullivan works with two chardonnay vineyards a couple of kilometres apart, Ada River and Millbank, both within Baw Baw Shire, both very different wines. The Ada River is fine and has a refined air, Millstream is wilder, tight and edgy. Both are crackers. Pure citrus and stone fruit characters abound with gentle soft spice and floral tone. Quite a textural wine with a beautiful, vivacious, sapid acid line and drive for days as it slowly fades from view in a wash of stone fruit and spice. It’s a beauty.
2017 Adelaide Hills Barbera
My mum and dad are over to housesit my hound as I head off to the USA in a couple of days’ time. Last night at dinner, Mum mentioned she really liked that “Barbarella woine” and I had to explain the intricacies of that ace, futuristic Jane Fonda movie.
I then explained that barbera was actually one of the minor grape varieties of the mighty Piemonte wine region in north-western Italy. Its fortunes have picked up in recent years as winemakers focus on the grape and find that it’s well-suited to certain regions in Australia, the Adelaide Hills being one of those regions. It’s medium-bodied but seems light and airy; it’s got just the right amount of richness but still seems sprightly. Plenty of colour but light on the tannin with great acid lines that get the old saliva gland twitching and jiving. It’s just delicious, juicy drinking, that’s all there is to it and we should all be celebrating that kind of drinking experience.
You can expect ripe, juicy black and dark cherry characters here with some perfumed mulberry lift and a bright, blue-fruited edge. Lovely spice notes with some apple danish hints, gentle melt-in-the-mouth slippery tannins and a lip-smacking finish.
I’d be pretty happy drinking this with any type of food but a meaty pasta dish and a glass of this wine and you would be sent off to a happy place. Great drinking.
2018 Ceres Hill Semillon
I’ve been dialled into Hunter Valley wines in recent years. There’s something about savoury, medium-bodied reds that floats my boat, but you cannot mention the region’s name without genuflecting and giving thanks for one of the great Australian wine styles that reaches its apex in ‘The Hunna’ … semillon.
In ‘classic’ years, a Hunter semillon is pretty hard to approach as a youngster. They are fairly neutral as babies with a scorching line of acidity that makes your teeth go all jangly like one of those Looney Tunes cartoons. But hot damn are they good with oysters, or any seafood that you can round up.
Give them a sleep in the cellar for a few years (or decades) and they transform into something quite beautiful. Layers of toast, hay, lanolin, soft spice and citrus, subtle yet complex with head-spinning purity and long finishes.
The Ceres Hill block is the first vineyard Lisa and Andrew Margan planted near their house in the Hunter’s Broke Fordwich sub-region. Over the years, the Ceres Hill block began to impart its own distinctive thumbprint and the fruit is now kept separate and released as a single-vineyard wine.
It’s a beautifully pure and perfumed wine, lemon and lime fruits with hints of lemon myrtle, almond blossom and a little tweak of marzipan. That scintillating acidity and laser-like focus is here but it is tempered by some nice textural components, and that long finish drives on. Drink or cellar, your choice; both would be the correct decision.