Fassina’s South Australian tasting – variety and character in spades

In their last tasting of 2011, Fassina have excelled themselves again, attracting a diverse range of wineries from across South Australia with different grape varieties (I counted 17!), climates, soils (dare I say terroir), histories and approaches. Some I knew well, some I had not tried before. I’ll give you some snippets about each winery and highlight the stars of the night – you’ll be surprised! Check out the slideshow below to sample the atmosphere and see some of the star wines and their fans!

I started with the Mayhem & Co. wines from the Adelaide Hills because I spotted the winemaker, Brendon Keys, the maker of one of my favourite chardonnays, the One Ball, made under his label BK Wines. His philosophy with the Mayhem wines is to produce single vineyard Adelaide Hills wines that are edgy and interesting and food friendly.

I loved the bone dry 2010 Old School Riesling, so fresh, citrus, dry and clean, alcohol 11.5%, with tight acid so that it will age spectacularly well. A great lipsmacking start! Then onto the Sancerre-style sauvignon blanc, also bone dry with a 10% barrel ferment to add texture. Lovely lemon sherbet nose, with a zesty lemon and lime palate and textured mouthfeel.

The 2009 Newcomer Pinot Noir was one of the night’s standouts for me, proof – I bought some! The fruit was from Balhannah, fermented with wild yeast, only 10% in French oak and 30 days on skins resulted in lots of primary brambly fruit and cherries jumping out of the glass, with rich, savoury flavours, and that wonderful earthy, mushroom character.

The 2009 Bells & Whistles Cabernet Sauvignon was the last in the line-up – and oh boy did it have that WOW factor! Airing in the decanter it was a deep dark intense colour (see the photo in the slideshow) – and the flavours were even more intense, complex and concentrated. Brendon described the style as between Napa and McLaren Vale, and definitely not a traditional Bordeaux style, but most definitely a food wine and would cellar for many years. (I didn’t need food with it – fine as it was for me!)

Onto The Islander wines from Kangaroo Island – winemaker Jacques Lurton (pictured). I found their wines elegant and flavoursome with some non-typical blends. Take for example the Bark Hut Road Cabernet/Shiraz/Viognier. This was a 65/30/5 blend, although the shiraz was co-fermented with the viognier so it could be called a 65/35. It had a generous and fresh nose of blackcurrant and a touch of vanilla with dark chocolate, the palate following through and very long.

Their flagship I found out was named after a ship! The 2005 Investigator Cabernet Franc/Sangiovese (just a small amount of sangio) was named after the HMS Investigator which in 1802 took Captain Matthew Flinders on a voyage that included the discovery of Kangaroo Island. Renowned French winemaker Jacques Lurton rediscovered KI as a great winemaking destination a couple of hundred years later! This wine is intense and savoury with dark berries and chocolate. Jacques’s philosophy? To make wines with texture and structure that go well with food. C’était magnifique!

Cape Jaffa wines from Mount Benson on the Limestone Coast, from husband and wife team Derek and Anna (pictured) were all biodynamic, all using French oak and all impressive. The 2010 semillon/sauvignon blanc (50/50 blend) was made with a French twist with some old oak, adding to the texture while retaining fresh, zingy citrus flavours. The pinot gris was a delight – a wine that can sometimes miss the mark. It had some new oak treatment in large (500 litre) barrels. The texture was wonderful – creamy and soft, with subtle flavours of honeysuckle and pear.

Their flagship was La Lune shiraz, fermented with wild yeast and a combination of new and older oak – their aim is for “oak integration not domination” says Derek. Hear hear! It had lovely soft tannins, rich flavour and great length. It was also a favourite with the other winemakers trying each other’s wines!

Cape Jaffa had the only sticky of the night – a botrytis semillon. Bursting with that typical marmalade and honey botrytis semillon character, it had amazing length and lovely long finish – and not too sweet, just perfect. My friends bought some of that and I intend to share it!

As well as a particularly enjoyable cabernet sauvignon, Kalleske from the Barossa Valley had a couple of less usual varietals – a 2011 chenin blanc and a 2010 durif. The chenin blanc had great texture and soft fruit. The durif I lingered on for a while. It is from a single vineyard, from hand-pruned, low-yielding vines and grown in “shallow, sandy loam soil over superb deep red clay, providing ideal conditions for durif”. (I copied their tasting notes!) It had 16 months in oak, mostly used American hogsheads.

The colour of the durif is the first thing you notice – solid ink black. The nose was deep and rich with licorice, with very very dark berries and plum. The palate was just as rich and intense with the dark fruit characters and dark chocolate and big velvety palate, rounded off with drying tannins. This is a wine that must be tried by any wine enthusiast!

Bremerton wines I am familiar with, having been to their cellar door in Langhorne Creek several times. They have a number of outstanding wines and at very competitive prices. They didn’t bring their reserve cabernet sauvignon which I love – and have some at home. They did bring the Old Adam Shiraz though, a flagship of theirs and never disappoints. Rich flavour, great texture, a classy wine. The Coulthard cabernet sauvignon is also excellent, a worthy little brother of the reserve. Their white standout for me was the verdelho, fresh and lively, a perfect summer wine.

The Wilson Vineyard from the Clare Valley had a fantastic – surprise surprise – Polish River riesling – proof – I bought some of that too. It was made with cold whole bunch pressing which helps to lock in flavour and aroma. The wine is wonderful, great varietal aromatics, with a zingy fruit-driven palate, nice and dry, with a soft mouthfeel, and fresh clean fruit. I loved it.

The Coonawarra was represented by the Flint family (pictured), presenting three reds – a shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot – the only merlot of the night. It was a little corker! They reeled off a number of medals it had won, including a gold in class at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show and a runner-up in the 2007 Jimmy Watson Trophy. The reds all had some nice age on them, the merlot and shiraz both being 2007s and the cab a 2008. Great ambassadors for Coonawarra reds.

Thank you to Fassina for yet another fabulous winetasting with interesting bite-sized presentations from each winery represented. Enjoy the slideshow and come along to the next event!

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About tigchandler

English-born, lived several years in Wellington, NZ, then in Adelaide, South Australia, and recently moved back to New Zealand. With an economics background, I have worked in researching wine consumption patterns, marketing, economics and social media at the University of Adelaide. I also worked a vintage and in wineries in McLaren Vale so have seen both the research/analytical side of the industry and the practical/hands-on side. I have retail experience and many ongoing industry links all around Australia and overseas. This blog reflects my ongoing passion for everything related to the wine industry.
This entry was posted in Barossa wine, Cabernet sauvignon, Chardonnay, Langhorne Creek wine, McLaren Vale wine, Pinot noir, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine events, Wine varietals and blends and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Fassina’s South Australian tasting – variety and character in spades

  1. Pingback: Encore! The second South Australian cellar door wine festival | Wine news from Tigchandler

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