Three wines that break the rules
Most grape varieties produce their best wines in a specific environment, a place where the climatic, geological and geographical attributes are just right for that vine. Some are very fussy about where they sink their roots, such as pinot noir and nebbiolo. Some, such as shiraz and chardonnay, are less choosy.
Occasionally I stumble across a wine that has been produced from a grape that I normally wouldn’t expect to find in that region. Here are three such improbable wines that have impressed me recently.
Anderson Chenin Blanc 2015, Rutherglen
Chenin blanc is one of the most puzzling grapes of all. In its home turf in the middle Loire Valley between the regions Vouvray, Montlouis, Anjou, Côteaux du Layon and Savennières, it makes some sensational wine that has arguably never been rivaled elsewhere on the globe. South Africa has built possibly the next best name for chenin, but the wines are different.
The Swan Valley is a highly improbable place for chenin but it makes some stunners against the odds. The hot, dry climate shouldn’t suit chenin blanc, but it’s an exception. So it seems is Rutherglen: another baking hot, dry climate that’s arguably better suited to fortified muscats.
This wine from 30-year industry veteran Howard Anderson and his daughter Christobelle has been cast in an early-harvested, low-alcohol style, and is refined, dry and delicate. It’s just 11% alcohol, possibly in order to preserve as much natural acidity as possible. It’s been given some age before release which has helped build character. It has a minerally, savoury, almost wet-wool character which is not unusual in some dry Loire chenins. (AUD $21, 90 points)
DogRock Grenache 2016, Pyrenees
Grenache is the stalwart grape of the hot, arid climates of southern France such as the Southern Rhône Valley and Provence. It’s one of the most drought-resistant vines around, and it loves heat. So what is it doing in central Victoria, in this vineyard owned by former Foster’s Great Western winemaker Allen Hart and his viticulturist wife Andrea?
Making bloody good wine, that’s what. DogRock sometimes produces two straight grenaches, the slightly dearer one under the DeGraves Road label. Both are in tiny volumes. The DogRock grenache is a substantially lighter-bodied, more elegant, more fragrant wine than you’d expect from the Barossa or McLaren Vale. The grapes ripen, but they just don’t result in the voluptuous, full-throttle wines of warmer climes.
This one is aromatically spicy and scented with raspberry and red cherry aromas. It’s almost pinot-like: medium-bodied, succulent, gorgeous. (AUD $30, 94 points)
Mount Majura Touriga 2016, Canberra
Touriga is one of the principal grapes in Portuguese port, both vintage and tawny, and has made its home in the Douro Valley, inland from Oporto on the way to Spain. In recent years, winemakers there have been increasingly making red table wines from the port varieties, and again touriga is excelling. The Douro is a hot, dry climate which provides the high levels of ripeness and richness needed for port. So you might think Canberra a bit too cool for such a grape.
However, although Canberra has freezing winters, it also has plenty of heat in summer, and dry growing conditions well-suited to viticulture.
The Mount Majura vineyard is one of the few in the Canberra District GI which is actually inside the Australian Capital Territory. Here, Frank van de Loo practices his craft with great skill and dedication. He also makes several excellent tempranillos and a graciano.
There is nothing green or underdone about this touriga. It’s not very big, but medium bodied, deliciously ripe and intense with a lick of eucalyptus/mint and fresh red-fruit flavours. (AUD $29, 93 points)