Wines with manners
James Manners is one of several younger-generation winemakers strutting their stuff in Mudgee, breathing new life into this venerable region. His label is simply Manners, and the labels of his entry-level wines were inspired by the Paris metro, with a bold capital M inside a circle, and coloured lines that could be rail lines radiating out from it.“They are a bit ‘natural’, but we do add sulfur dioxide and we’ll add tartaric acid where necessary. But we don’t do brett, volatile or cloudy!” – James Manners
James doesn’t own vines or a winery, but rents a section of the large winery just outside Mudgee on the Sydney road, known as Gilbert’s. James also makes the First Ridge and Slow Fox wines. Others in the building are Simon Gilbert, Logan, and Stuart Olsen’s Eloquesta.
Manners wines are made in teensy volumes – as little as one barrel (25 dozen) – and he and his young family manage to make a living that way. Much of the wine is sold direct, but he has a Sydney wholesaler (Kiss The Dirt) and Annandale Cellars retails some of the wines.
The icing on the Manners cake is the Single Barrel Collection. These are a Hilltops tempranillo and shirazes from Hilltops and Mudgee. They are single-barrel selections, bottled straight from the barrel without fining or filtration.
Are these ‘natural’ wines, you might ask.
“They are a bit ‘natural’, but we do add sulfur dioxide and we’ll add tartaric acid where necessary. But we don’t do brett, volatile or cloudy!”
The 2016 Single Barrel Tempranillo (AUD $50) is a cracking wine. Off the Moppity vineyard, it has great colour, richness and weight, a highlight being its texture. Where Aussie tempranillo can sometimes be astringent, tart or grippy, this is as svelte as possum fur. It’s a cut above the regular 2016 Tempranillo (AUD $30) from the same vineyard, which is also very enjoyable – smooth and sarsaparilla-like.
I tasted an unbottled sample of 2017 Mudgee Single Barrel Shiraz, which promises to be a top wine in a concentrated, powerful style, fit for a steak-house dinner.
The 2015 Hilltops Shiraz (AUD $30) is a sweet-fruit, lush, opulent style. At 14.8% alcohol, it’s more about chocolate and coffee than pepper and spice, but also full-bodied and supple.
The ‘statement’ wine is undoubtedly the 2018 Übergew (AUD $40), a Mudgee gewürztraminer that was wild-fermented in a nine-year-old French oak hogshead. The barrel was old, as Manners didn’t want oak to be a big part of the wine. He did want the barrel to impart extra character and textural elements, which it certainly did. The wine is recognisable as gewürztraminer but is savoury, nutty and layered. The middle-palate has a semblance of sweetness but the wine is dry. It’s a fascinating wine – but there’s likely to be an unseemly squabble to obtain it, as there are only 300 bottles in existence. Please remember your manners.