Hope you’ve all been well. Me? I’ve been moving house, which I’m pretty sure someone wrote a song about once.
Enough about that, we’re here to tell some tales. Today I’m talking about a quite incredible tasting that was recently held in Melbourne, but I’m not going to focus on the wines as when reflecting I realised that it was about so much more.
The tasting was known as the 10×20 – representing 10 Victorian families that had been making wine from the same vineyard(s) for more than 20 years. Amongst the lineup were undoubtedly some of the state’s (and the country’s) greatest estates – Bindi, Bass Phillip, Bannockburn, Yeringberg – labels that are both justifiably rare, and often expensive. Each family was also bringing some back vintage wines to taste, which only furthered the attraction. This wasn’t lost on the punters, with the public session universally described as ‘intense’ by those behind the tables. I managed to secure a pass at the less crowded ‘industry’ session and arrived late in the day to immerse myself with what little time I had available
As I arrived at the Bannockburn counter and was met with a vertical of about 6 or so of their excellent chardonnays, a mate of mine arrived and remarked to winemaker Michael Glover “I’m sure you guys get a story from everyone, but mine is that I took a bottle of Bannockburn chardonnay to make a good impression when I met the lady that later became my mother in law”. I was in the midst of remembering that a Bannockburn Chardonnay vertical was one of the highlights from the first big industry tasting I attended, roughly 12 years earlier, an event that really lit the fire for what wine could be, so to speak.
It was then that the penny dropped, these wines mean so much more to people than just being ‘wines’; they all come with stories – events etched in time that were accompanied and enhanced by these bottles. This is made even stronger by the hands-on role that the families and winemakers all play, which injects their personalities directly into the wines. A story about the incredible wines of Craiglee in Sunbury is likely to include a cameo from the humble and affable Pat Carmody, responsible for turning out some of Australia’s best shiraz, year after year. I will always remember trying two vintages of Crawford River riesling at dinner at Dunkeld’s fantastic Royal Mail hotel, then driving 90 minutes out of the way to visit the cellar door a couple of years later when we were back in the area.
And this is the essence of what makes wine something more than just a drink; these labels have meaning to people – they stimulate an emotional connection.
Looking around the room I could draw a story for almost every wine in the place. My connection with Yerinberg is so strong that Mrs LTLT and I drove up to the Yarra Valley the day before the tasting to attend their annual open day – even though I knew I’d be able to taste the wines in Melbourne some 24 hours later. We stumbled across the cellar door one year on the way back from a wedding in Warburton and have returned every year since, such is the power of the experience with this winery, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. (and the wines are excellent too!).
I’m not going to reduce these wines to tasting notes, if you haven’t tried these wines and would like to then get in touch via LTLT. But if you have then maybe you have a story of your own about one of Australia’s classic and humble wineries and how it has etched itself into your life over time. If you do I’d love to hear them!