Sunday, March 7, 2021

Day Two: McLaren Vale, part 2

 What on earth is happening at SC Pannell? Apparently, Stephen Pannell is over Shiraz (I did not have a chance to talk to him). A Shiraz vineyard next to the tasting room has been ripped out, and is being replaced by Grenache. Ok. In front of the winery, alternative varieties have been planted, and the resulting wines come from very young vines. I was interested to try some of these. 

The 2019 Nero d'Avola is very broad and fruity, tasting of dark cherry (86 points). The 2018 Aglianico delivers plum fruit and earthy notes on the back of strong acidity(87 points). The 2019 Touriga from Langhorne has a more interesting profile, with violets on opening, moving to dark fruit and plum pudding. There are spices and licorice (88 points).

The two best wines from the 'new breed' were the 2019 Montepulciano, a fruit forward and juicy wine, boysenberry flavours sit on the front palate of this not very tannic wine. The balance is good (90 points). The 2018 Nebbiolo shows restrained cherry character and some leather. Again the structure is good (91 points).

On to the Grenaches. The 2018 Old McDonald Grenache includes whole bunch and is matured in large oak barrells. The wine has a rusty colour. There is fruit confectionary on the palate and earthy notes (89 points). The star of the tasting is the 2018 Smart Grenache from the highly regarded sandy Smart vineyard. The colour of this wine is much darker. The purity of the fruit stands out. Aromatic and lifted characters linger on (93 points).

The jewel in the crown of SC Pannell is the Koomilya vineyard. The labels of these wines are very different. These are more serious wines suitable for ageing.

Tempranillo(also Tinta Roriz)/Touriga is a common blend in Portugal, the 2017 version from Koomilya is attractive. Black cherry and plum flavours sit on firm tannins. The wine finishes dry (93 points). This blend may become a larger part of the vineyard output. The 2017 Shiraz is surprisingly red fruited, a bit confected, with firm dry tannins and a long finish (91 points). The 2015 Cabernet/Shiraz delivers the typical Cabernet capsicum. There are also eucalypt flavours on the palate, and yes, the vineyard is surrounded by eucalypt trees. There is a strange mix of freshness and development in the mouth (92 points). The most exclusive wine is the 2015 DC Block Shiraz. This wine is still fresh. Eucalypt flavours are here as well, the fruit core has sweetness, and the wine finishes dry. I found this pleasant to drink (93 points).

Overall, I am not sure what to make of this tasting. It felt like 'tired' winemaking, but maybe it is a new beginning. In any case, maybe not the winery to focus on in the next few years. Some of the new wines are attractively priced, but I would rather drink similarly priced wines from Yangarra any day.

The final stop was at super boutique winery Bekkers. It only makes three McLaren Vale wines in small volume. They were all superb. The 2018 Grenache is a bit riper and broader than the 2017. Still the fruit is elegant. The wine runs down the palate seamlessly (95 points). The 2018 Shiraz/Grenache, a 65/35 blend, has more backbone. Forest berries and blackberry deliver an elegant mouthfeel and good intensity (96 points). The 2018 Shiraz is the star. It is very pure, with layered flavours of dark fruit, forest berries, also raspberry and some leafy notes. This wine is so harmonious, while also complex (97 points).

The other exciting news is that Toby and Emmanuelle Bekkers bought the Clarendon vineyard. It was originally established in the 1840s, and became the most important vineyard in McLaren Vale

This vineyard is a large steep hill, consisting of rocky soil. It fell into disrepair. The Bekkers family, with a strong viticulture background, is now restoring it.

I will be very interested to follow this development. According to Toby Bekkers, wine from this hill will already be available in a couple of years.

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