Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The region makes the varietal

In several previous posts, I provide an overview of Australia wine regions and what grapes grow best in what regions.  If you have not read those posts or cannot remember them, I urge you to read them again!  The region makes the varietal (grape) far better or worse.  Here are the links for your reference and a quick overview:
I assume most wine makers try their best to get the most out of the grapes they are using to make wine.  But to give them a fighting chance, they need to use grapes from the regions most appropriate for growing that particular type of grape.  The different varieties of grapes have different characteristics which make them more (or less) suitable to be grown in particular regions.  Some grapes require a longer growing season than others and if in the wrong place, they will either end up not flavorful or ripe enough, or with too high an alcohol content for that grape.  Some grapes have thicker skins than others, and some reflect the influence of the type of soil and climate more (or less) than other grapes.

This mean that the certain grapes, year-in, year-out, will grow far better in certain regions than others.  You know I I love my Hunter Valley Semillon, Shiraz, and Chardonnay.  The region is perfect for growing these grapes, and there are some vineyards in the Hunter Valley (due to their specific location, if they are flat or on a hill, etc.) that yield still better results than other vineyards.  An example of this would be the Stevens vineyard for Shiraz and used by Tyrrells and De Iuliis.  Another is the Braemore vineyard for Semillon and from which Andrew Thomas makes his great Braemore Semillon.

But this also means that there are certain grapes not suited to the Hunter Valley and these include Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir!  If you want a good Cabernet Sauvignon, get one from the McLaren Vale or Margaret River.  If you want a good Pinot Noir, get one from Victoria, Tasmania or New Zealand.  Do not buy a Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir from the Hunter Valley!  Sure you say, but how about Lakes Folly Cabernet Sauvignon?  And I am sure some of their vintages are quite nice.  But why spend $70 bottle for this wine, when you can get an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon from McLaren Vale or Margaret River for $20.  And if you do not know what you are doing nor follow the results of individual vintages for each region, you statistically will be far happier with any given vintage from McLaren Vale or Margaret River for a Cabernet Sauvignon than you will from the Hunter Valley.

I recently have had two bottles of Hunter Valley Pinot Noir.  One I thought was reasonable, that one being the Blueberry Hill Pinot Noir.  It was certainly decent, but not as good as most other Pinot Noirs I have had from Victoria, Tasmania, New Zealand or certainly Burgundy.  The other one I opened last Saturday was the 2005/2009 blend Sandalyn Pinot Noir.  Frankly, I suffered through a couple of glasses of this on Saturday and what was left was down-right undrinkable today.  I bought nine bottles of this wine when taking a pasta cooking class at Sandalyn last year.  Frankly, drinking this wine now, I am not sure what possessed me to buy it.  I may have been enthused by the pasta making class and the fine meal we had afterwards, or caught up in the enthusiasm of the wine maker explaining to me how this was made in 'a real Burgundy' style.

Usually, I try to share and promote very positive wine-drinking and lifestyle experiences, but I also need to share my negative experiences to provide a balance and credibility to the wines and products I promote (which I do without any commercial ties BTW).  The 2005/2009 Sandalyn Pinot Noir was a good effort by the wine maker, but it is not a good wine and it is not going to last.  I have eight more bottles of this and will need to use it as cooking wine.  Or bring a few bottles to a BBQ where I know I can wait until a few hours into the BBQ and nobody will be able to discern the quality of this Pinot Noir after becoming well lubricated with beer and other mediocre wines!

Both the Blueberry Hill and the Sandalyn from the Hunter were mistakes to buy and I will make sure to follow my own advice and only buy grapes from the regions that are most suitable for growing them.  I was hoping to have the remaining Sandalyn with Bangers and Mash tonight, but will now maybe look at a Pinot Noir from Nuits - St George!

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