Welcome Back readers! I hope you’ve had a good one, things have been very very busy in LTLT land for a variety of reasons; but it’s always nice to get my creative on and get writing the blog…
You may remember some of my recent posts about Terroir, talking about what we do and don’t know about the land that we choose to grow grapes. If you have the time then you can read (or re-read) part one and part two, but to summarise, we have a long way to go in Australia (or any of the new world wine countries – NZ, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, America) before we have anything more than a macro understanding about which grape goes best where, let alone understanding the subtle differences between individual sites.
What we can do though, is look at how a particular vineyard expresses its individual terroir; and contrast to how the winemaker exerts their influence over the wine. One could do this by tasting different vintages of the same single-vineyard wine, but we don’t do things by halves at LTLT, we like to go a little bit DEEPER.
At this point I’ll introduce the Smith’s Vineyard in Beechworth. For those of you who’ve never been, Beechworth is a particularly awesome slice of Victoria; and somewhere that I spent a fair bit of time in while I was living in Albury many moons ago. It’s most famous winery is Giaconda, maker of Australia’s most highly regarded Chardonnay (and some outrageously good shiraz and nebbiolo too). On the whole, the average standard of the wine and winemaking from the area is particularly high and the Smith’s vineyard is the oldest vineyard in the region.
It’s a brilliant, expressive site for Chardonnay, which was tended for many years by the seriously friendly Will and Sarah Flamsteed under the ‘Smiths’ label, who provide wine #1 for the night – the 2008 Smiths Chardonnay. Sometime around 2009, the demands of the vineyard and an expanding family got too great and they decided to hand over control of the vineyard to one of their neighbours – Mark Walpole, who was the long term vineyard manager for Brown Brothers and is also behind the excellent Fighting Gully Rd. Mark is behind wine #2 for the night, the 2010 Fighting Gully Rd Aquila (a wine oft mentioned in these pages). Also around this time entered the young up-and-comper Adrian Rodda to buy fruit off Mark and whose skills provide wine #3, the 2010 A Rodda Chardonnay (With thanks to Sarah B for bringing it, and the Pavlova, to dinner!).
(Note – Since I published this post I found out that the Aquila didn’t have as much Smith’s Chardonnay as I’d originally believed. Whist the intention is for this wine to contain Smith’s chardonnay in future, up until now it hasn’t. Oops! Pride, swallowed)
3 wines, 3 winemakers, 2 vintages, 1 vineyard – exciting!
Sitting down to dinner with a big bowl of mussels, we all caught up on recent times while working our way through small tastes of each wine. I started with the Aquila, with its firm acidity and pear/nectarine fruit (which is in part provided by some viognier and petit manseng in the blend). I then moved onto the Rodda, which was showing bigger, funkier aromas with some lychee and hayl and finished with the Smiths and loved its honeysuckle nose but razor sharp focus. Some great development. We continued to cycle through the wines (pouring small tastes) over the rest of the night and watched them change. The Smiths and Aquila showed the most resemblance. The Rodda was a more powerful wine that was in a little bit of a funk – in time it will probably pull together but right now was a bit out of sorts (this happens with many wines as they ‘find their feet’ in bottle). As the night went on, the Smiths leapt out as the wine that was absolutely singing and felt like the most pure expression of the site. Just enough aged character to add complexity, some amazing hints of vanillin and spice, a bit of brine, it was all there and in fantastic shape. It was even better when I finished off the last taste the following night with Mrs LTLT!
Finishing the night with the Innocent Bystander cordon cut viognier – a fitting finale given that Steve Flamsteed, Will’s Brother, is the winemaker at this excellent Yarra Valley Estate – we called it quits having learnt just a tiny bit more about how where-we-grow influences what-we-taste.