Thursday, March 11, 2021

Day Three: Adelaide Hills, part 2

 When I (like others) review wine, I look at criteria such as clarity and depth of colour, purity and intensity of fruit, complexity, power, elegance, texture, drive, tannin structure, balance, finish. But when I look at  'alternative' winemakers, I realize this is not the way they think. They have strong ethical convictions which come first. The wines are a consequence of these convictions, and for them the classical criteria are less important - not irrelevant, but less important. I will still rate the wines along the classical criteria in order to use the same benchmarks, but I will point out the ethical convictions as the cornerstone. The two wineries I visited have two different approaches.

The first is Unico Zelo. I meet with Chief Thinker Brendan Carter. The title sounds overbearing, but during the discussion I started to find it appropriate. His two convictions are sustainability and sharing the spoils. Part of the business is a cooperative, where profits are shared with growers. He identified that in the Riverland, while traditional varieties need a lot of irrigation, Fiano does not. So this is one of his key varieties next to Nero d'Avola. Terroir plays an important role. My tasting consists of three Fianos from different regions, and three Nero d'Avolas.

The Fianos

The 2019 River Sand Fiano comes from sandy soil in the Riverland. It is a textural wine, fresh, with earthy flavours (91 points). The 2020 Slate Farm comes from the Polish River region in Clare Valley. The soils consists mainly of red clay and shale. This wine is quite light and fresh, with good energy. Tropical fruit on the palate starts us off, before minerality takes over. This was my favorite of this trio (92 points). I found the 2020 Alluvium from the Adelaide Hills a bit broad and earthy (88 points).  

No controls are applied to the fermentation process. Therefore it can be hot, which moves the dial from fruit to texture.

The Nero d'Avolas

The 2020 Halcyon Days is the Nero d'Avola from the Riverland. Raspberry flavours dominate in this high acid red. I found the wine a bit too juicy (88 points). The 2020 Mallee Gambit from Clare is similar, but more intense. The sour cherry makes this very typical for Nero. The fruit is very pure, again with high acidity (90 points). The 2020 Pipe Dream from Adelaide Hills has the biggest fruit weight, and also earthy notes to add complexity, but the balance did not quite work for me (88 points).

Overall, these are good wines, quite fresh, slurp-able, and expressing their respective terroirs.

The centre of the natural wine making movement in Australia is the area around Basket Range in the Adelaide Hills. I define 'natural' as not adding any sulfur, apart from no fining and no filtration. Not adding sulfur has two implications. There is a challenge of making these wines stable, and they are for early consumption, generally. The driver of this movement was Taras Ochota, whose untimely death last year rocked the community. I decided not to visit Ochota Barrels, because there was a run on the wines, and the winery is mostly sold out. Also, it did not feel right. In addition, on the one occasion I tasted the wines, I was not too impressed.

Instead, I headed to the Summertown Aristologist. This is a restaurant, natural wine bottle shop and tasting area. The main wines featured are those of Lucy Margaux. This slightly trippy lady showed me some wines.

The first wine was the 2020 Samone, made by Anton von Klopper and a kindred spirit from Portugal, Oriol Artigas. It is a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gamay, and Pinot Noir. The wine was slightly fizzy, as you can see in the picture, and did not have much flavour (84 points).

This was followed by the 2020 Lucy Margaux Gamay Sauvage from Hahndorf. This is a fresh and juicy wine with red cherry flavours. The wine is a little cloudy and has undergone carbonic maceration. It is refreshing, but lacking depth (88 points).

The last two wines were two Chardonnays from the Commune of Buttons. They come from different parts of the same vineyard at Basket Range, as I understand it. The yield was only 2t/acre. The 2019 Clover delivers pineapple fruit. It is quite smooth and nicely balanced with acidity (91 points). The 2019 ABC (I guess this is ironically named?) has a similar flavour, but more intensity. I found it slightly broader (91 points). I found these two wines quite agreeable.

What a whirlwind tour this has been. Old favorites have come through again, but I made some interesting discoveries as well. The wine world never ends to being fascinating.


No comments: