Nepenthe’s Apex

The Nepenthe vineyards in the Adelaide Hills. (Photo: Australian Vintage)

Nepenthe is a brand with a loyal following in its home state of South Australia.

I was reminded of this recently when dining with an Adelaide friend, who was extolling the virtues of Nepenthe. It is not a brand you hear much about in the centre of Sydney. However, with the release of the premium Apex chardonnay and shiraz, Nepenthe hopes this will change.

The Adelaide Hills is renowned for high-quality chardonnay, and spicy, medium-bodied shiraz. Nepenthe has a long history of working with chardonnay. The current 2016 Ithaca Chardonnay is bursting with stone fruit and bright acidity.

For the new 2016 Apex Chardonnay, winemaker James Evers identified a small vineyard, Rathmine, between Hahndorf and Echunga, planted with the Bernard 76 clone. It had the fruit profile he was looking for.

“I am a self-confessed acid-o-phile’, says Evers.

Fruit purity, acid line and supportive oak are what he is aiming for with the style.

The chardonnay indeed displays the characters Evers was chasing. That said, the wine is young and needs a little time bottle to evolve and integrate before drinking. As does the 2016 Apex Shiraz, an intensely concentrated red wine with deep cherry flavours. Tiny quantities of each were made.

The Apex wines are a solid first release, and I look forward to watching the evolution of the style in coming years.

In addition, the 2017 vintage shows good promise for the wines of Nepenthe. Their 2017 Grüner Veltliner, a variety which seems to have a natural affinity with the Adelaide Hills, is an engaging wine with passionfruit and starfruit flavours supported by delicious chalky acidity. They have also made a varietally expressive 2017 Gewürztraminer. These wines will be available exclusively through their cellar door, giving die-hard South Australian Nepenthe fans another reason to take a day trip to the Hills.

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