Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Day five of Andrew Catchpole's Regional Heroes blog from Australia

Published:  19 August, 2010

A mellow, cool climate experience in the Adelaide Hills kicked off early this morning with a rain-swept rendezvous with Penny Jones and Katie MacAulay of Petaluma on the summit of Mount Lofty. The idea had been to give us a sweeping overview of the varied topography of the Hills, including the rolling sub-regions of Lenswood and Piccadilly, but the positively British weather drove us to shelter at Bridgewater Mill where we had our first crack at unravelling the diversity of this boutique-scale if rambling region.


We looked at Croser fizz, including a creamy-fresh Late Disgorged '09, a flight of aromatic whites, including a piercingly fresh '10 tank sample Sauvignon (as with all 2010 samples tried from barrel, tank or bottle on the trip across the regions, the fruit quality suggested a very good vintage), a focused Petaluma Riesling, and then Viogniers, including a beautifully balanced 2010 under the same label. A clonal tasting of components for the Mount Barker Shiraz followed, with the savoury perfume and power of a Wendouree Vineyard Selection sample topping the bill.


Onward to the sleek lines of the Shaw & Smith cellar, where Michael Hill Smith gave us his personal view on Australian regionality over a tasting that including the most recent vintages of M3 Chardonnay, pure and expressive Pinot Noir and Shiraz that showed best from '07, aromatic and plush, with a savoury core.


"Adelaide Hills is like Australia writ large," he mused, referring both to the plethora of varieties and styles produced in this diverse region, and the 63 or so GI's, each with their own varietal and stylistic spread, that stretch across this vast continent. "In a way Australia is more complicated than Italy or France because a lot of different varieties are planted in each region, but I am a big believer in regionality and I think a good way of looking at it is focus on the 'stand out' wine style from each region."


Hill Smith argues that "Australia has now reached a point where it is tailoring its winemaking to suit the region, not the region to the wine", and it's a point picked up by Marty Edwards at The Lane where we manage a four hour lunch come tasting at the superb cellar door restaurant. Marty, and his irrepressible father John, make a fantastic, oyster and seafood-loving Sauvignon (The Gathering, with a splash of Semillon) very much in the style of an ebullient white Bordeaux. Sauvignon is the Wine Australia designated regional touchstone variety for Adelaide Hills.


But Marty is far more inspired by his Chardonnay - "my favourite grape as a vigneron" - and turns out an inspiring spread of wines including a vibrant, spicy Shiraz/Viognier and a cassis and chocolate-laden Cabernet under The Lane label, plus a flagship Shiraz, Reunion. Like Shaw & Smith, which is also known for producing a good Sauvignon, The Lane takes the pragmatic view that each winery, each patch of dirt (as the Aussies fondly refer to their soils), should be free to express itself through the varieties that best suit the terroir.


Which is why this trip is revealing that, far from being simplistic, Australian regionality is a very complex affair. The Regional Heroes initiative is really just an intelligent way to try and simplify Australian regionality for the wine drinker while hinting at the greater diversity on offer.