I always enjoy some #ARSE action and Andrew’s Really Secret Event take 4 (#ARSE4) didn’t disappoint. Again, Andrew’s secret wine tastings, meant that a group of unsuspecting food and drink bloggers were wandering round London, not really sure of where we were going and what we’d be tasting.
So one Sunday we met at Farringdon Station and were lead to Vinoteca for a sort of Speed Dating/Tasting with Australia’s First Families of Wine.
Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFWine) is a really great concept. Instead of competing against each other, 12 of Australia’s wine making families have joined forces to spread the word about the rich heritage and quality of Australian wines. There is something quite special about a family-owned wine company, where one generation has to continue and expand upon the legacy set by previous generation, and look after the brand and the land so it is secure for the next generation. It fosters a long-term view and a real respect for the land and vine.
It was a real privilege to be able to meet so many diverse winemakers who all share a mutual love and respect for Australian winemaking.
Australia’s First Families of Wines comprises; Brown Brothers, Campbells, d’Arenburg, De Bortoli, Henschke, Howard Park, Jim Barry, McWilliams,Tahbilk, Tyrrell’s, Wakefield, Yalumba – all multi-generational wine making families.
We had about 15 minutes to hear about their wineries, ask questions and taste wine before the bell chimed to signify it was time to move on. Here’s the highlights of what I managed to taste and discover in that time.
Wine dates on Table 1: Phil Ryan from McWilliams, Bruce Tyrrell from Tyrells and Natalie Burch from Howard Park.
Match from table 1:
Bruce Tyrrell. 4th generation family member and Managing Director of Tyrrells won me over on table 1 with his straight-talking stance on cork. ‘Would you accept the same failure rate in condoms as you do cork?’ Good point, the answer is clearly a resounding no which perhaps explains why since they switched to screwcap, sales have gone up – no dud bottles.
Tyrrells was first established in 1858 in the Hunter Valley. The company’s motto is ‘nothing is great unless it is first good’ summing up its commitment to quality and its land.
Tasting note from table 1:
Howard Park Riesling 2009; Aromas of citrus and wet slate, on the palate it is zesty with lashings of lime and delicate floral notes. This wines has a refreshing acidity and good length.
Howard Park is the youngest family in Australia’s First Families of Wine and Natalie Burch is a second generation family member.
Wine dates on Table two: Alister Purbrick, Tahbilk, Ross Brown of Brown Brothers, Leanne De Bortolli, of you guessed it DeBortolli and Chester Osborn from d’Arenburg
Table two match: It has to be Chester Osborn, the man with the loudest shirt in the room not only has some eyecatching bottles but his winemaking philosophy definitely caught my attention. Chester is fourth generation winemaker at d’Arenburg and tends the vineyards established by his great-grandfather using the original, traditional methods employed 99 years ago when the vineyard was first set up.
Irrigation is seen as the enemy, there is no cultivation, no fertilisation, no herbicides used here.
In the winery basket presses are employed, and only the free run juice used. There is no fining or filtering prior to bottling.
Minimal intervention and gentle winemaking techniques create wines with strong sense of place and expression which maintain their minerality.
The wines all have named as bonkers at Chester’s shirt, The Dead Arm, Money Spider and the Love Grass.
Table two tasting note:
Tahbilk Viognier 2009: A different style to many other Australian Viogniers, this has no oak and instead is fermented in stainless steel to allow the fruit to shine through, buckets of ripe peach and lychee and peach with a strong acid backbone. A youthful wine for enjoying now.
Tahbilk winery is the oldest winery in Australia’s First Families of Wine and its history spans 5 generations over 135 years. All wines are 100% estate grown and bottled.
Table three match:
Got to be the very charming Johann Henschke. I quite embarrassingly waxed lyrical about how his amazing parent were -this was one of the few Australian wine-making families I was familiar with before the lunch. Johann’s parents, Stephen and Prue are the very formidable -winemaking team and the current custodians of Henschke wines. They create some quite frankly divine wines, like the infamous Hill of Grace, a single vineard wine made using grapes from vines that are over 150 ears old. Johann is one of three siblings, his parents have made it very clear this is a family business not to be sold, so one or all of them will take over the reins at some point. The winery employs biodynamic principles- not as a marketing ploy but bourne out of a real respect and connection with the land and vine and perhaps a desire to protect it for future generations.
Table three tasting note:
Campbells Topaque (once known at Tokay) is one of those wines you can smell all day with a pungent aroma of toffee, tea, and Christmas cake. With bags of toffee, dried fruit, honey and chocolate on the palate. It has a wonderfully crisp finish, and was an inspired match to the dessert – Williams Pear and Almond Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream.
Actually have to say top marks to Vinoteca lunch was faultless!