How lucky am I that I live so close to Fassina Liquor in Somerton Park, Adelaide! They have one great wine-tasting event after another – see for example the mid-winter d’Arenberg tasting showcasing some of McLaren Vale’s best and from the Barossa the Langmeil range. The owners and winemakers seem to prioritise attendance at these events and entertain with stories and funny snippets around the wines and the wineries.
This latest tasting was no exception, with wineries represented from South Australia and New Zealand: Riverby, The Pawn, Murdoch Hill, de Giorgio, Dutschke, Whistler, Pirramimma and Penna Lane. This covered Marlborough (NZ), Barossa, Coonawarra, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Clare Valley.
The range of styles was a real treat in itself as well as the range of varietals on offer – some pictured below. Each winery representative – mostly the winemakers themselves as Fassina tends to encourage! – gave a short introduction on the microphone telling us about their winery and what they had brought to the tasting and why. Other than that it was informal and a friendly, inclusive, mingling kind of atmosphere.
There were some real standouts for me – I loved the general style of The Pawn wines from the Adelaide Hills, particularly the pinot grigio and sangiovese, served by Tom Keelan the winemaker. Both gave great varietal characters, with lifted and generous aromas, elegant mouthfeel, balance and palate length. The 2010 pinot grigio gave melon and pear on the nose and was fresh and crisp; the 2010 sangiovese was absolutely divine (it made me groan with pleasure), with raspberry and cherry flavours. The sauvignon blanc was an elegant fumé blanc style, easy to drink.
Murdoch Hill, also in the Adelaide Hills, surprised me with some incredibly good whites – the 2011 sauvignon blanc was crisp, fresh, with a lively nose bursting with flavour, the palate clean and zesty with gooseberry flavours and a touch of fruit sweeteness balanced perfectly with crisp acidity. The 2010 chardonnay surprised me even more – the wild ferment gave it a lovely gentle funkiness and the 30% malo, lees stirring and eight months in French oak (20% new) all contributed to its complexity, crisp fruit, luscious mouthfeel and great palate length. I nursed this wine for a while and went back for more at the end! Their reds too were a treat but the whites really blew me away.
Riverby Estate wines from New Zealand were served by winemaker Kevin Courtney who was very informative about the wines and the style they aim for, with low cropping and picking the fruit ripe. Of course the Marlborough sauvignon blanc was good – duh! – but I also enjoyed the elegantly oaked chardonnay – all French oak, 30% new for 12 months. This is served in Air New Zealand’s business class. The pinot noir was a typical savoury, earthy, red fruits Marlborough style, soft palate, very pleasing. The last wine I tried on the night was Riverby’s noble riesling – oh wow! This is something that NZ does so well, the intensity of flavour, the full soft mouthfeel, the intensity of flavour – well it went on and on! Another groaner!
Mention must also go to the Whistler mourvèdre rosé from the Barossa – it looked like fresh strawberry juice in the glass and was strawberries and butterscotch on the palate – soft and creamy with some gentle fruit sweetness giving way to a dry finish. Of course Penna Lane presented some great rieslings from Clare – the dry Skilly Valley and the excellent Watervale, both 2010 vintages, and some smart cabernet sauvignon.
A fantastic atmosphere, great characters and some truly excellent wines!