Posts Tagged ‘Coonawarra’

Berton Vineyard: grand scale New World Italian varietal wines

The appeal of Italian-origin varietal wines continues to create enormous volumes from Australian vineyards.

And my Italian travel experience of these makes the taste transition some much easier-drink it in Maremma then try the same vermentino varietal in Australia.

Vermentino Frenzy

Vermentino Frenzy

So I went investigating some production houses recently in an area where the country’s largest brands are domiciled – in the tiny town of Yenda fifteen kilometres east of Griffith.

Here is a call to action to think in millions of cases of Oz wine-think Casella (Yellowtail), De Bortoli, Beelgara and Berton, all on the one stretch of vine highway leading into this speck on the map.

And either side of the road are vineyards and citrus orchards, supported by water channels which cause the survival of this entire region. Once a desert in the 30s, now an oasis.

Berton majority owner, Bob Berton who is of northern Italian descent, calls his vineyard a farm, more a South African term than Aussie.

In Bob’s farm is an extensive plantings of pinot grigio, the grape with brown skins (few drinkers realise that) though many must wonder why their glass when poured in a local bistro is often a brassy colour.

You see our Italian cousins often do not employ the same level of technical control on the harvesting and juice expression-some wines will turn out orange from the old-fashioned wine school.  It is also the same outcome from natural wines made without sulphur addition.

Australian makers like Berton’s James Ceccato wish your pinot grigio to be pale, fresh and enlivening. Here is how he does it: “grapes are night harvested here in southern NSW to avoid the summer heat, no sulphur is used at harvest then the grapes are oxidatively handled to oxidise out any red colour collected during harvest and transport”.

Once a desert in the 30s, now an oasis 

Head over Heels Pinot Grigio 2013

Head over Heels Pinot Grigio 2013

Try Head over Heels Pinot Grigio 2013 (AUD 8) 12% to set the pace for value. Pale, yes, floral yes, nashi pear-yes, is the staple aroma, then mingling acidity and a nice crunchy mouthfeel to complete the wine. Just add a seafood salad.

I tried the same wine in the 2012 vintage-very little change there either, just a little steelier now. Pinot grigio is really the new riesling of the area.

The next Italian grape to grab on the visit is vermentino; has big bunches, grows well in Sardinia, in south western Tuscany (Grosseto) and now in  Yenda.

High end Berton Coonawarra & Eden Valley Cabernets

High end Berton Coonawarra & Eden Valley Cabernets

The Vermentino 2013 (AUD 12) 12% is enticing stuff, lots of obvious crunchy grape notes of an unwooded white ready to drink, lemon tastes, lots of creativity by Berton. Fuller wine than the pinot grigio, but that’s the genetics between the two. Add bbq snapper.

Berton has a vineyard in Eden Valley. The high end cabernet sauvignons featured  (AUD 17-25), 2008, 2009, 2010 are drawn from these vines and grapes purchased in Coonawarra.


On the prowl of Cabernet Sauvignon

Had the opportunity to train an eager palate this week, so the lineup was a batch of six Aussie cabernets.

The wines were masked so the taster was forced to go back to basics and use the principles of taste assessment-forget the guessing part.

And the tasting sequence was 2010 vintage (warm climate-McLaren Vale) followed by five cool region grown wines from the 2009 and 2008 years.

The McLaren Vale boomer was a richly-textured Kangarilla Road 2010 ***; 14%, AUD 20, probably as many wines of this region do, tasting a little like full flavoured shiraz with just a bit more dryness.

Warm area cabernet

Kangarilla Road Cabernet 2010

Cooler climate cabernets show more of the grippy tannin that cabernets must have and these five were really good drinks.

First was Leconfield Coonawarra 2009 ****1/2, 14%, AUD 29, colour a little aged, great florals and blackcurrant juiciness, drying, elegant, lots of flavour backbone and just drinkable powdery tannins.

Leconfield Cabernet 2009 Coonawarra

The next Coonawarra was Koonara Ambriel’s Gift 2008 ****1/2, 13.5%, AUD 30, a knockout nose of great ripe bits-licorice, jam, oak sweet nuance, then a sweet mint, spicy and big-flavoured memory.

Koonara Ambriels Gift Cabernet 2008 Coonawarra

Coonawarra number three was Di Giorgio Family 2008 ***1/2, 14%, AUD 26, a wine smelling of black fruits, chunky, angular, lots of grunt but not the elegance of wines prior.

Di Giorgio Family Cabernet 2008 Coonawarra

The last was Zema Estate Cluny, Cabernet Merlot 2008 ***1/2, 14%, AUD 26, a tad expensive, a spicy style, easy, lots of aroma and equally soft and supple in the mouth.

Zema Estate Cabernet Merlot (Cluny) 2008 Coonawarra

To complete the cabernet expose, an outstanding Margaret River cabernet sauvignon was exposed-Cape Mentelle 2009 *****, 13.5%, AUD 89, was just heavenly.

The beguiling features of this wine-spice and cedar oak, a very sexy smell, including the telltale bayleaf nuance,long and lush tannins, powderyness, and juiciness despite the fair barrage of tannin that cabernet gives.

Cape Mentelle Cabernet 2009 Margaret River

Just a total wine.

And what is the take home story?

1. Warm climate cabernet is fuller bodied that cool climate cabernet, the former may not even show much “cabernet” character!

2. cool climate wines are medium bodied with an associated whack of natural tannin which is drying yet a major part of the character of the wine.

Two renowned Australian areas where it grows well are Coonawarra (South Australia)  and Margaret River (Western Australia). Never ignore these two regions when looking to appreciate cabernet sauvignon.

Like the latest
wine & travel news?

Subscribe to our mailing list and get Peter's latest posts to your inbox.