Bird In Hand feathers its nest

Bird In Hand winery

Bird In Hand winery (Photo: Bird In Hand Wines)

There are many ways to get yourself noticed if you’re flinging a new brand in the raging wine whirlwind. One is to release some very expensive top-end wines. Adelaide Hills winery Bird In Hand (tastings) is a case in point. Its first vintage was just 15 years ago, in 2001, but it’s already fielded numerous vintages of its $100 Nest Egg wines, and then trumped those with two vintages of MAC shiraz at $350 a pop. These are wines that make a statement.

It takes balls to release wines that expensive.

Winemaker Kym Milne MW concedes: “You’d get slaughtered if you didn’t have the quality.” But he says they’ve sold out of the 2010 and most of the 2012 MACs.

The Nest Egg reds, a shiraz, cabernet and merlot at $100 and chardonnay at $85, have been produced since 2003, the merlot sporadically, the cabernet more consistently, with only three vintages missed since it started. There are few cabernets in the Hills to touch it. The early vintages of the reds were priced at $60, jumping to $100 in the last few years.

Milne is a highly experienced winemaker, having headed Villa Maria’s (tastings) winemaking team for 10 years, then worked as a flying winemaker throughout Europe for another 10 years before heading back to Australia in 2004. He is a wine show judge and sets a lot of store in wine show results. Bird In Hand has always done well in shows, which has boosted the confidence of wine buyers as well as the owners, the Nugent family.

Milne instances the 2012 Nest Egg chardonnay, the winery’s most successful wine to date. It twice won the trophies for best wine, best white wine and best chardonnay at the International Cool Climate Wine Show, and the trophy at the Decanter Asia wine awards last year, on top of numerous gold medals. And there were 900 cases of it – not just the odd bottle. A very complex wine that blends power with finesse, it’s still tight, youthful and impressive. *

Then there’s the 2010 MAC Shiraz. This big minty powerhouse won the Winestate Shiraz Challenge two years ago, and – Milne is never likely to tire of pointing out – Penfolds Grange 2008 came fourth. It’s very good, but I prefer the 2012 vintage. It’s a more elegant, spicy wine of marvellous flavour, density and smooth texture.

The Bird In Hand savvy doesn’t end there with the big guns. Silvia Colloca (of ABC TV program Silvia’s Italian Table) has been retained as the brand ambassador for a suite of four Italian-style wines, montepulciano, nero d’avola, arneis and pinot grigio. They come in a stunning tall bottle with lateral stripes (white for the whites, red for the reds) designed by Dion Lee. They’re not expensive and the arneis is especially worth tasting.

To top it off, Bird In Hand this year released a $350 cabernet as a partner for the MAC shiraz, called Marie Elizabeth 2013. It’s a superb, concentrated and thoroughly delicious cabernet, and is the only vintage of this wine to date.

These are wines you simply cannot ignore.

*Postscript: it won another gold medal at last week’s Royal Hobart Wine Show.

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