A review of some cool-climate grown wines.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers July 19, 2006
Grapes grown in cooler climates have significantly different flavor profiles than those from warmer areas.
‘‘Cooler-climate wines are not fruit driven,” says importer Robert Whale. ‘‘They are more subtle. While still expressing the essence of the varietal, these wines have elegant flavors and are more food-friendly.”
Whale, a tireless advocate of cooler-climate wines, insists that ‘‘there is more to Australian wine than big fruit bomb Shiraz from the Barossa.”
Whale recently introduced me to two Australian winemakers who specialize in cool-climate wines. Besides appearing impossibly young for being so accomplished, both Richard Robson (winemaker for Plantagenet) and Will Adkins (from the Tamar Ridge Winery), are as enthusiastic about cool-climate wines as Whale.
Located in Western Australia, Plantagenet’s vineyards are greatly influenced by the nearby ocean that causes extreme daily temperature variations. Robson credits the very cool nights for the high levels of natural acidity in their white wines as well as the accentuated spiciness and pepper flavors in their Shiraz.
‘‘With cool-climate wines, you have to be careful to work within the character of the fruit. The techniques used in the Barossa will not work in cooler climates,” Robson says.
An excellent example of a cool-climate wine is his Hazard Hill Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($12), which is medium-bodied with lovely pineapple and sweet citrus flavors and a touch of grassiness. Created as an ‘‘entry-level” wine, the Hazard Hill Rose 2005 ($12) — with cherry aromas and flavors, good balance and a touch of sweetness in the finish — is also very good. The Omrah Shiraz 2003 ($16) is an excellent value, with well-integrated cherry, berry and black pepper flavors and a pleasant long finish.
The Tamar Ridge Winery is on the Island of Tasmania, south of the Australian mainland, and along the same latitude as the New Zealand wine-growing regions. Winemaker Adkins is justifiably proud of the floral and mineral scented Tamar Ridge Riesling 2003 ($20), which has apple and lemon/lime flavors with good acidity and a nice crisp finish. Interestingly, the Tamar Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($20) does not have the grassiness associated with the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Gooseberry aromas predominate, with orange and passion fruit flavors and citrus acidity that combine for a long pleasing finish. Also enjoyable is the Tamar Ridge Pinot Gris 2005 ($20), which is 30 percent aged in old oak barrels. It has floral aromas, a rich mouth feel, and orange and peach notes.
Located in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, Grove Mill has been producing cool-climate wines since 1988. At a recent dinner, winemaker Dave Pearce discussed the difference between ‘‘craft” and ‘‘art,” which he believes ‘‘is often just knowing when to stop.” An accomplished chef and art collector, Pearce is responsible for introducing several new varietals to the region, including his award winning Pinot Gris. And he is contemplating planting Gruner Veltliner, a varietal from Austria. His Grove Mill 17 Valley Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($22) is first-rate, with lime and peach flavors, a rich texture and lovely balance. The single-vineyard Grove Mill Wairau Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2004 ($30) is also a winner. Medium-bodied with candied-fruit aromas and cherry and red berry flavors, it has a rich satisfying finish. More Burgundian in style is the Grove Mill Pinot Noir 2004 ($18) that is 100 percent fermented in French oak barrels. It has an earthy mushroom aroma, deep currant and dark cherry flavors and noticeable tannins that allow it to be enjoyed now. It also can be saved for a few years before opening.