Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Orange Wineries, Day 2

Bloodwood vineyards; different aspects add complexity

I was quite pleased with my experiences on day 1. Some very serious and interesting winemakers there. Today, it is back to the beginnings.

My first stop is at Bloodwood, where Stephen Doyle started over 30 years ago. He offers a broad range of wines, like many wineries in Orange. The 2011 Schubert Chardonnay was named such, as Stephen was working in the vineyard on the day Max Schubert died. This wine is whole-bunch pressed and matured in 100% new oak. Despite this, it is a Chablis style wine with good acidity and structure. This wine can be cellared for some time (92 points). The 2013 Chardonnay is more a tank-style wine. It tastes of apple and peach and is a little broad (89 points). The 2013 Malbec/Cabernet Franc is similarly fruity (89 points). The 2014 Cabernet Franc is a highlight. This wine has a beautiful ruby colour. The flavours include an interesting mix of floral and spice. This wine is balanced with good intensity, as the berries were very small. The wine finishes smooth and dry (93 points). What is it about Cabernet Franc in Orange? The 2005 Maurice is a blend of the best berries of the year. Grape varieties and blends change from year to year. Redcurrant flavours dominate, there is mocca as well and good acidity on the finish (92 points).

The second stop is at Canobolas-Smith. This is another of the original wineries, and it probably put the area on the map, initially. Murray Smith is the long standing winemaker. However, this visit was quite depressing. He now makes two wines only, and at very small volumes. I tried Chardonnays from 2004, 2008 and 2012. They were totally different from each other. Murray says he wants vintage variation to shine through, but he is also changing the wine treatment drastically from year to year. One is fruity, the other earthy and tart, one has malo, the other has not. Yes, the wines can age, but not very gracefully (87-89 points). The Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Shiraz is called Alchemy (doesn't this say all?). I tasted the 2008, 2012, and 2013 vintages. The 2008 was the best example, a ripe wine with blackberry flavours, but also some minty/herb underripe character. The tannins were a bit softer than in the other wines (88-89 points).

My final stop is at Printhie, which is some 35km outside of Orange. This is a six year old winery and a totally different scenario from the last one. Dave Swift is full of optimism. The first leg of its business is Sparkling. They have forged a relationship with a successful grower Champagne producer and it shows. Their Brut Sparkling has a beautiful yeast character. A number of premium Sparklings are under development. The second part are the white wines, which come from the same high altitude vineyard Ross Hill uses. The 2013 MCC Sauvignon Blanc is interesting, with a creamy flavour and more weight than normal, as a result of using wild yeast, old oak and malolactic fermentation (90 points). The really strong whites are the Chardonnays, which are picked early. The 2012 MCC Chardonnay uses wild ferment directly to barrel. It is complex, as a result of varied treatments: 30-40% malo, 30% new oak. The fruit is citrus and lime, with well integrated acidity. A very modern Chardonnay version (93 points). Then there is the 2012 Super Duper (not sure about the name). This wine has more power, but is still elegant. Fruit is more in the ripe stone fruit spectrum, but the wine still has good acidity (94 points). The red wines come from their home vineyards at lower altitude (620 meters). I was less impressed with the Merlot and Cabernet/Shiraz, but the straight Shiraz were good. The 2012 MCC Shiraz is elegant, with savoury and slightly herbal flavours, backed by fine grained tannins (92 points). The 2012 Super Duper Syrah is finer boned and more elegant, but I am not sure that there is enough mouthfeel in this wine in a couple of years (93 points). Also, these Super Duper wines are overpriced.

My conclusion from this trip is that Orange is a region of promise. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can be great from high altitude vineyards, whereas reds need to be grown at lower levels. Cabernet Franc impressed me, and Shiraz can do well, too.  

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