Vintage 2021 is here in Queensland’s heart of warm climate winemaking, Moffatdale, in the South Burnett Geographic Indication (GI). Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith shares his experience of witnessing the first harvest of the 2021 season in the South Burnett Wine Region at Lightning Tree, Moffatdale. Lightning Tree Wines vigneron Peter Stewart is the proud owner of the verdelho vineyard featured above, ready to harvest its vintage.
“We have very contrasting verdelho harvest dates; this year 4 January, last year 23 December (2019), several years ago it was late January — the vagaries of climate change are borne out”.
Peter Stewart owns Lighting Tree Wines on Tipperary Road, Moffatdale
The first pick of vintage 2021 is a small team effort — Clovely Estate’s contract mechanical harvester trundled down the verdelho vines yesterday morning at 5 am. Owner Peter Stewart, a local viticulture professional from Lightning Tree vineyard at 167 Tipperary Road, surveyed his beautifully clean berries.
Clovely Estate Pellenc harvests Lightning Tree Wines Verdelho Grapes. Image courtesy of Peter Stewart
Verdelho thriving in the South Burnett Geographic Indication (GI)
In this part of the wine world, the sub-region of Moffatdale in the South Burnett Geographic Indication (GI), verdelho is the go-to white variety. These vines make a great contrast in a sub-tropical estate of rolling green hills, Ironbark ridges and straw-brown fence lines.
Verdelho is a hero grape in the Moffatdale sub-region. Image courtesy of Peter Stewart
A variety with origins in the Portuguese island of Madeira, it likes the hot and dry, and in rare bouts of rain (currently in five years of drought), the vine canopy dries out and presents great fruit for harvest.
And for the winemakers around, Peter Scudamore-Smith reports,
“Baume 12.25, pH 3.15, titratable acidity, 7.8 grams per litre, dominant pine and lime flavours.”
“By the sound of this, we need to taste this very soon. I have booked my tasting sample and I see my colleague at qwinereviews has done likewise.
Beaune is the charming hub of Burgundy. I just love the place.
And it is small. As we would say in Australia, Beaune is like a country town.
But there is a big reputation; it’s all about some of the biggest ticket wine sale items in the world.
Bottles of red burgundy, from tiny but hallowed sandy clay plots on a low slung hillside village called Vosne-Romanee, are in great demand. Supply is tiny.
Vosne-Romanee grand cru vineyards June 2016
So there is a knock on effect that producers drip in the dollars from high priced sales. But not really.
Beaune producers in relative terms are understated, less showy, have dumbed down entrances, show quiet business practices but great history in this mean inland climate.
Burgundy wine is a small industry, 12-18 million bottles (dependent on frost and hail damaging the yield as in 2012, 2013, 2016), while Champagne is 314 and Bordeaux 780 million bottles.
Uncorked Wine and Food Tours walk into the fabric of Burgundy at all levels for just the pinot noir and the chardonnay experiences; cold climate wines, delicacy, high acidity, faint texture, subtle finish, great complements to hearty continental dishes.
Most notable here is the political history and its association with the placement of wine businesses inside old Beaune town.
Though Gallo-Roman in its early origin, the strong influence taken by the Benedictines and Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages towards wine growing, making and trading, became financial power.
Gallo-Roman sculpted cellar-Chanson Bastion
Visits to the negociant firms of Domaine Chanson (established 1750) and Bouchard Pere et Fils (established 1731) finds them positioned on two of the five battlements which constituted the fort of Beaune in the era when the Dukes of Burgundy were independent of the French throne. And defended themselves.
A must do tourist walk is along the ramparts beside the circle road, the last connected walkways between the fortified towers.
Bouchard Pere et Fils Chateau de Beaune
These towers were perfectly made for wine production; heavy in stone from 7-20 metres wide, on a range of levels for gravity feeding wine, and at the lower dungeon level, closed for bottle storage in perfect security, and low temperatures of 10-14 oC all year round.
So good for a Beaune wine tourist to witness this underground marvel of stores and treasures; Bouchard’s oldest bottle is white Meursault Charmes 1846, and there are still many bottles of it.
Bouchard Pere et Fils pre-1900s dungeon cellar
Wine companies in this town run the story of how much they value their wine heritage; from many, many decades, and the regular practice on a rolling schedule is to replace corks every 25-30 years.
We know how disastrous cork is? So up to 10% of stocks would be deteriorating slowly.
Bins of wines (always without label and generally covered in black grime from the wet, humid conditions) are checked, tasted, re-corked, part-drunk or shared, or auctioned on a slow ongoing schedule by the chief winemaker.
What quantities in a bin? A few bottles up to several hundred, sometimes a thousand, in prevalent instances in magnums, and larger bottles up to 6-9 litre (they would be fun to re-cork!)
Joseph Drouhin (established 1880) owns more underground production area and storage below the town centre than buildings above. By judicious, purchasing after the French revolution (the country was broke) Drouhin assets include the original 17th century wine press operated across the street from the original Benedictine church.
Joseph Drouhin below Beaune-Gallo-Roman times
So a visit to Beaune gives the wine tourist opportunity to kick back on a diet of chardonnay and pinot noir, drink history and see sights as unique as a delving wine mind can imagine.
And don’t be put off if you are served pinot noir before the chardonnay! That is the habit.
There is an instant impulse to grab the big rocks as we drive into Chateau Mont-Redon or better still be photographed with these big gibbers. I did.
We are travelling into the southern Rhone to visit the land of mouth-embracing warm area reds in Chateauneuf du Pape (CNDP).
And our host is a jovial fellow, Pierre Fabre who travels the world to discuss the family business at Chateau Mont-Redon.
Now these gibbers; well this is the soil these guys are dealt. Walk up closer and I am relieved to say there is sand between the rocks where these old vines (no trellis) grow as bushes. There is no water supply save a deep root system to survive the blistering summer.
Big gibbers-old bush vines
Some vineyards have these big pebbles, others are chalky known as calcare here for limestone. The mother rock comes from ancient sea deposits going down up to 200 m in parts, it depended on the sea depth, adding more clay; the pebbles were the river bed; once wider and of European Alps origin; now only the big rocks are left.
Old sea bed vines- Rhone Alps backdrop
There are three large appellations in France: Saint Emilion with 5000 hectares, Chablis with 4000 ha, then Chateauneuf du Pape with 3200 ha. It tracks one side of the Rhone River for 200 km and at a maximum only 20 km wide. Thirteen grapes are grown.
Mont-Redon started life in 1923 with 2 ha, and now has grown to 150 ha, including a 1997 purchase in Lirac nearby. This is the home of grenache, a special yet thin skinned grape which needs hanging late to ripen, and any late summer rain is disastrous though rare.
Chateauneuf is known mainly for blended red production from grenache, syrah and mourvedre though white is 5% of the surface. Mont-Redon make 15% of their production white, from blends of grenache blanc (main variety), clairette, roussanne, picpoul and the latterbourboulenc for acidity.
Significant exporters like this company receives a greater demand for white wine styles as countries like Australia and USA are big white wine consumers. They are a fullsome drink.
I just loved the Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (AUD ); lots of lovely bits to enjoy, sniff the aroma, it smells of the earth of the region, little flowers, spicy-black pepper grenache notes, all yummy and not a sip taken! Has lots of depth, velvet tannins that slip around the mouth, a great spice warmth; 95% is the grenache-syrah-mourvedre mix with 5% of old school varieties left in the older vineyard which are inter-planted.
Pierre could not resist being a good host so he opened some older bottles of the famous wine; 2007 and 2005 CNDP, both nice and rounded harvests to really enjoy.
Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 looks classic; more reds than purples, wine in harmony with itself; this bottle has not left the property, nose sweetened from an improvement in the bottle; nice brioche, honey-raisin, then an expanding palate of puckering spice, jam notes and the pleasant experience. Served unlabelled but easily identified.
Uncorked’s travel guests visit Chateau Mont-Redon winery and vineyard in the Southern Rhone on the France Wine and Food Tour, and get to have their pic taken amongst the gibbers.
We are driving on the flat out of Alba besides hazelnut plantations, the small Piedmontese town wedged between a series of two wine hills: Barolo and Barbaresco, viewing the Roero hills to the north as we speed west for just ten minutes.
The converted farmhouse is in sight at San Cassiano; the family Ceretto’s main property, Monsordo Bernardina cantina since 1989, originally built in the 1880s. The Cerettos own 160 hectares of vines.
We are here to understand what the Ceretto success is all about for there is a murmur about a dominant white wine and an international red Monsordo turning the minds of drinkers. Nothing better from this organic maker.
And indeed, an Australian assists in the making of wines here. Formerly McLaren Vale based David Fletcher is assistant winemaker to chief Alessandro Ceretto, keeping an eye on production at wineries in Castiglione Falletto (Barolo), here at Monsordo Bernardina (Langhe) and smaller needs at Bricco Asili in Barbaresco. This is estate production taken to completion! The fourth, the bubbly winery is further east in Santo Stefano Belbo.
Host Alessandro Ceretto
I am totally amazed looking west towards Grinzane Cavour, the towering castles overlooking vines, and learn of non traditional Piedmontese grapes planted here. In the craze to plant French grapes through the 80’s, Ceretto found their newly minted wine to be vividly popular.
Tried was Monsordo 2013 Langhe DOC, packed in a thoroughly hip bottle, an admixture of cabernet (50%), merlot and syrah, quite bizarre to encounter, very much cedary from careful oak application and fruits of spice, spearmint and licorice. Bravo, a winner in USA.
But we were present to taste the local hero grape, nebbiolo. And that was a hoot as the Cerettos served the young then a mature vintage from the same place; a sort of fast track tasting to see the wines develop glass by glass. Fab.
The Ceretto family are traditionalists so the New World style wine Monsordo ages in 300 litre French forest-origin containers called hogsheads while the nebbiolo is found in some 300/500 litre oak but mainly larger vessels, 2500 litres upwards made of the more neutral white oak from Croatian trees. Of interest though is the renewed interest to move to Austrian-sourced oak for coming maturings.
Nebbiolo must not smell of its oak habitat at making to be right on style. Unlike Napa Valley cabernet, too much oak detected in high end nebbiolo is deemed a fault. Dave Fletcher adds that the sweet spot is only 10-15% new wood so it is easily covered by blending later. But 3 years is a long time in barrel. So no faults here.
First wine is single vineyard 2008 Barbaresco Bricco Asili (1.2 ha, 39 year-old-vines) , fresh in its nebbiolo purity, licorice, sweet, it feels good in the mouth, classic tannin which remains as a long sensation; just starting to age, 10-15 years will hold it.
Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili 2008-from Barbaresco
Then single vineyard (1.2 ha in Castiglione Falletto) 2006 Barolo Bricco Roche (one of four, also Brunate-La Morra, Cannubi San Lorenzo-Barolo and Prapo-Serrulunga), has begun aging also, shows mushroom, bitumen, strength, then great sweetness impressions alongside its firming tannins. Great.
Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 2006 from Castiglione Falletto
Finally the last, aged Barolo, 1993 Bricco Roche, all tertiary so the fruits have been consumed by the aging aromas, truffle, fungi, tar, sweet aldehyde, tasting very dry as a 12 year-old, right in the middle of its aging end-point, and now a mature wine with little more to give than what it has. All was revealed: very dry red wine, silky, mushroomy and cheese loving. Mature.
Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 1993
Alessandro Ceretto noted that 50 years ago the annual rainfall was 1200-1300 mm with often soaking rain, now it has reduced to 800 mm with a deal of it delivered by storms. Heavy rain downpours cause vineyard erosion on the steep slopes causing a move to grass more vineyards. Climate swing.
And about Ceretto’s famous white wine, first made in 1985. It is varietal arneis, wildly popular now in Italy, all organic, fashionable in taste and easy to drink, all 600,000 bottles of it from 80 hectares of vines.
Aussie David Fletcher-custodian of Arneis
Uncorked and Cultivated Wine and Food Tours visit Ceretto at Monsordo Bernardina in San Cassiano, Alba.