McLaren ValeTweet Follow @MyAchingHead
A day in McLaren Vale. For the Shiraz fiend, that may sound like heaven. But quite frankly, I’m just not that in to it. I love a good Rhone style shiraz, but the general style of Australian shiraz just isn’t to my liking. But as I’ve learnt many times, a trip to a wine region is almost never about that region’s flagship wine. It’s about the gems you find on the edges of the wine lists. Things like Sangiovese, GSM and Nebbiolo that perhaps aren’t available widely, but given the chance you will fall in love with.
McLaren Vale was no different. The standout was Grenache followed closely by Sangiovese (which inexplicably isn’t very widely produced in McLaren Vale.) Grenache is one of the most widely grown grapes in McLaren Vale (rivalled only by Shiraz.) It was introduced in the 19th century and was generally used in fortifieds. Today however it is being used to produce still wines, either by itself or blended with Shiraz and the results are terrific. It has an almost delicate spiciness and a refined richness with a fine not overbearing structure. It is interesting in that it is a “big” wine, yet doesn’t tend to overpower your palate.
And the growers of McLaren Vale obviously know they are onto something with their Grenache as they have a scheme wherein producers can showcase their Grenache based wines through a special brand, Cadenzia. I’m not entirely sure of the specifics, but someone mentioned they have to be deemed to be of a certain quality and be majority Grenache based.
If Grenache was the winning wine of the day, Kangarilla Road was the winning winery. It’s a fresh, modern winery with a great lineup of wines. The custom built cellar door itself lacks the heritage of many of the other cellar doors in the region, but what it lacks in character it makes up with it’s spacious interior and tasteful appointments.
The catalogue of wines is slightly off center. While it produces the requisite Grenache and Shiraz it also has plantings of Primitivo and Zinfandel. These wines are really well suited to the region and both wines show a unique rich character.
My favourite Kangarilla Road wine however was the Sangiovese. In comparison to the usual style of Sangio in Australia this is a different take. A darker browner colour in the glass, a stronger structure and a darker flavour profile might take this away from a traditional style, but I believe it plays into the the hand of the region perfectly.
If Kangarilla Road is new, fresh and modern then Kay Brothers is slightly dated. With an aging cellar door and retro labels the winery isn’t going to win any design awards. Though that surely is the furthest thing from their minds. The cellar door features an amazing section, “100 years today” featuring the diaries of the owners of the properties 100 years ago. The page I read featured some amazing tidbits, things like: Shot birds (10). Painted door. Looking back 100 years, the mundane seems almost exciting.
Don’t get me wrong though, in this case, it’s far from a bad thing. Kay Brothers is one of the few producers of wine in McLaren Vale who have been making wine since before federation, so I suppose they are allowed a bit of leyway.
Not that they need it, the wines do all the talking. The Shiraz (I tasted 06, 07, 08) is tightly wound and ready to ooze out over a good 10 years in the cellar. The 2008 was the most open of the 3, fruit driven yet not a hint of over-ripeness.
It is also worth mentioning the Moscato. Classic grapiness, clean and refreshing. According to the cellar door staff, it’s best served with gin and lime.
Coriole bills itself as an italian varietal specialist, but confusingly only has 3 italian (and about 6 regular) varieties available for tasting at the cellar door. Luckily for us, there was a Barbera and a Nebbiolo open. For mine, the Sangiovese was a little thin, lacking enough structure to make it interesting. The Barbera on the other hand was well balanced, juggling structure and savoury notes beautifully.
Coriole also has a cafe attached to it and although it was closed for the day, the courtyard and decks are amazing, decked in dappled sunlight they invite you to lie down and enjoy the day.
Tucked away in a valley on what seems to be the edge of the Vale, Olivers Taranga is a family owned winery that does so many things right. The cellar door is in a heritage listed cottage with a small, tasteful family history section they serve pizzas on the weekend and the wine tasting experience is perfect. Professional and friendly, with a good range of wines and a very casual, no worries attitude.
While all of the wines were well made and considered, the 2 hightlights were the Tempranillo and “The Banished” Fortified Grenache. The Tempranillo is a beautiful wine, balanced and well structured without taking itself too seriously.