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A recent trip to Australia

It transpires that you don’t need to take shorts to Australia when you visit the wine regions in August! I arrived in Adelaide to a severe weather warning of gales, torrential rain and the threat of hail. So having given myself the Sunday off to recover from the flight with a walk in the Onkaparinga National Park, there was no chance of any outdoor activity without full survival gear. Fortunately things improved once I started visiting the wineries.

McLaren Vale has benefitted from its proximity to Adelaide with significant development for tourism since I was last there.  There are now 123 wineries in the region with most of them offering something ‘extra’ for the visitor, be it art galleries, restaurants, gardens etc. Coriole, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is no exception. It now has an excellent restaurant – Gather – serving cutting edge, modern food.

It was very good to catch up with Mark Lloyd over a delicious coffee (you know you are in for a good morning when you are asked if you want 19g or 23g!) and meet his son Duncan, who is now the winemaker. Mark’s other son Peter is in charge of sales and marketing. The wines continue to evolve, showing modern poise, balance and freshness. Three particular highlights were Sangiovese Shiraz 2017, which will have a new ‘Molly’s Garden’ label. This was delicious, with fresh, clean, bright raspberry fruit. 2018 Sparta Shiraz was new to me with more floral fruit than the Estate Shiraz – again, delicious. And finally 2018 Montimaro (a co-fermented blend of Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Negroamaro and Barbera), which really shows off Coriole’s expertise with Italian varietals.

Mollydooker continues to enjoy success in its parallel universe! These extraordinary wines carry their high alcohol lightly and continue to be loved for their palate fruit weight. New wines include the recently launched ‘Fun Series by Sarah’ which include ‘Summer of 69’, an early-picked Verdelho, ‘Euphoria’, a sparkling Verdelho and ‘Serenity’, a Merlot Rosé. Sarah’s son, Luke (Blue Eyed Boy) and daughter, Holly (Gigglepot) are now both involved in the business.  Holly writing the monthly Gigglepot News and Luke is currently working their market in America but is also very involved in running the vineyards at home.

Are the Noons the nicest people on the planet? For some reason I usually see them at the end of the day and clearly turn up looking a bit ragged so the first thing they do is sit me down with a cup of tea and a biscuit! Sales have slowed in the UK but their wines are highly sought after in Australia, with a 2,000 strong mailing list and a further 800 customers on a waiting list for wine allocation. The rest is sold over three weekends each November when people queue down the road to get a chance to buy a couple of bottles. If ever a wine can take the crown for scarcity and authenticity, it has to be Noon. Drew and Rae run both the winery and their lives according to the highest ethical and sustainable standards, and as for the wines – I think the queues speak for themselves!

The run down to Langhorne Creek from McLaren Vale is beautiful, with green rolling hills punctuated by majestic eucalyptus trees. Langhorne Creek is one of the ‘lesser known’ regions and 70% of the fruit is sold elsewhere. There are only eight wineries currently in the region but it is also slowly developing tourism. Bremerton is owned and run by the Willson family – Craig and Mignonne have now retired but we catch up over coffee and pastéis de nata in the family kitchen; their daughter Rebecca is the winemaker. Stand out wines were the 2017 Tamblyn (Cabernet, Shiraz, Malbec, Merlot) and the new 2019 No Preservatives Added Shiraz. With deliciously bright fruit and a great colour, this is made without adding any sulphur. Becs is confident the wine will travel and keep (for a reasonable time) due to the high level of anthocyanins. We will definitely give this wine a go, so watch this space!

Going up into the Adelaide Hills at this time of year came with a distinct chill after Langhorne Creek. This was my first visit to the Bird in Hand winery where Kym Milne MW makes pitch perfect wines from the cooler Adelaide Hills region. All the Pinot Noir fruit goes into the incredibly popular Sparkling and still Rosé, while Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet are made in the modern Australian style with less reliance on oak and more on well-balanced fruit. They also have an art gallery, an excellent restaurant, and regularly host music events to attract visitors to the winery.

We also buy The Pawn Wines from Adelaide Hills made by Becs’ (Bremerton) husband, Tom Keelan. Going forward we are looking to bring in two more mainstream wines – Adelaide Hills El Desperado Shiraz and Pinot Noir to retail at £14.99 price bracket, both featuring the range’s stunning, thermogenic labels.

I have known Rolf Binder for over 30 years. We rarely hear from Rolf but when we do get together the time falls away and it is like being with an old friend. I am not necessarily saying this is a good thing and it would be lovely to hear from him more! We will soon be shipping two new wines from him – 2018 Chardonnay, made by his sister Christa (who also makes the Riesling), and a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon with delicious spicy fruit. Rolf has some amazing old vine vineyards that we don’t talk enough about. We are making a plan for 2020!

The final visit was on a cold, bright day in the Clare Valley. Changes are afoot at Pikes: Neil Pike left at the end of September and Andrew Pike and his sons are now running the family business, Alister looking after the brewery, and Jamie the wine side. They have also recently opened an already award-winning restaurant called Slate. After an excellent vineyard tour with Andrew, we tasted through a range of wines with Kenny, the assistant winemaker. The 2019 Riesling Traditional is outstanding as always – 11%, 3.8g/l residual sugar, ripe, lime-y and super fresh – from 100% free run juice of night-picked, machine-harvested grapes. The 2019 Hills & Valleys Riesling is sweeter (12.3g/l RS), richer and only 9.5%, while the new vintage reds are fresher with more red fruits dominating than in the past. Their ‘on message’ saying is that they are the ‘cleaner, crisper, sexier brother of the Barossa’!

Overall it was a good and interesting visit but market priorities have definitely shifted since my last visit, with Asia and the home market now the main focus. In general the wines from our producers are looking excellent and definitely progressing with the style of the times. No one is resting on their laurels!

Pippa Woods, Managing Director