Tscharke 2011 Girl Talk Savagnin

Once upon a time, Australia’s white wine vineyards were planted to Riesling. Then to Chardonnay. And then everyone started looking for the next great white.

People got excited because it looked like Albariño, a white grape from Galicia in northern Spain, was going to be it. Interesting wines were being made. It was a distinctive name that was easy to pronounce.

And then it turned out it wasn’t Albariño at all. A French ampelographer (that’s someone who knows a LOT about vine leaves) spotted the problem and, in this day and age, a bit of forensics (OK, just DNA testing) revealed that Australia’s next big thing was actually Savagnin. Cue massive relabelling efforts and more than one out of pocket producer.

Today, Savagnin is grown almost exclusively in the Jura, in France – and Australia. Even though I know the story above well, it’s not a variety with which I’d call myself familiar. Tscharke has a good reputation and, at just under $20 a bottle, I was keen to dip my toe in the water.

A very pale gold wine in the glass, it had a pronounced nose: loads of stone fruit (particularly, I think, apricot), backed up with floral, chalky and citrus notes. Very very appealing. On the palate there was a big lemon/lime hit along with a ton of stone fruit (peach, this time). There was some good acidity, the length was not bad – accompanied by some flavour development, and the wine wrapped up with a slightly nutty, oily finish.

Andy’s comment that the wine was refreshing and “pretty nice”. “Pretty nice” is usually as effusive as he gets – so take that as a recommendation.

At the $20 price point I’d be more than happy to drink this wine again. I have no idea how, in the long term, producers will go with marketing Savagnin. I suspect for most consumers that the name is too close to Sauvignon, and the wine too different from Sauvignon Blanc, for it to make a big impact commercially without some serious effort. I find it interesting that producers have gone for the name Savagnin, because the UC Davis National Grape Registry lists many synonyms that might have had more marketing clout (Aida, for instance, would have been quite cool).

A wine, and a variety, to look out for.

The wine was purchased from Dan Murphy’s for $18.99.
Closure:  screw cap.

Greenock Creek Seven Acre Shiraz 1995


Yep – you read that right – 1995. This wine has been loitering in the cellar – not being drunk because it was “too good” or “too special” (and, for a good chunk of that time because I was living on the other side of the world). Mostly, I drag a bottle out of the cellar and it’s turned to vinegar which is neither too good nor too special. There have been some notable exceptions but they are few and far between. Drink your wine people – the special occasion just needs to be a Friday or Saturday night.

Greenock Creek doesn’t appear to bother with a website but the wines are held in high regard and command scary prices. I’m vaguely depressed by the fact that, as a poor uni student, I was able to afford this wine which, if I could find it now, would probably set me back the best part of $100 (the current release seems to retail around $50-60). In June 1998 Robert Parker Jnr scored this wine 98 in Wine Advocate. While I care very little for scores, this is interesting because 1995 was not an awesome year in the Barossa. Of course, that was 14 years ago and most of the drinking windows I could find suggested that this wine would be past its best.

Well, it was past its best but it was by no means knackered.

The cork came out cleanly, easily and in one piece – something that always fills me with hope!

In the glass it is surprisingly youthful – less dense than you expect from a Barossa Shiraz but still pleasingly garnet in colour.

On the nose, blackberries, soft, old leather, and slightly meaty, with just a whiff of the fortified about it.

The palate still has masses of blackfruit – surprisingly so, there’s good acidity and chewy tannins but they are now drying, which is disappointing. There’s also anise and dark, bitter chocolate.

Almost a text book aged Shiraz, really. No doubt had this been drunk a few years ago it would have an amazing wine.

This wine was bought at the cellar door in October 1997. I didn’t record the price.
Closure: cork.

* I care very little for scores but note this here for interest.

Charles Melton 2009 Grains of Paradise Shiraz


I certainly don’t want readers of cellared to think that I spend my life knocking back expensive and exotic wines while I sit in front of the tv eating a cheese toastie. I most certainly don’t and as far as I’m concerned the best wines are those that retail at a price most people can afford but that punch well above their weight.

However, it’s also true that every now and then people want (or need) to buy celebration wines. You know – the wines for significant birthdays, engagements … I’m very privileged in that a few times a year I teach WSET courses where I get to try wines that I enjoy but generally don’t have the opportunity to  buy myself.

The Charles Melton 2009 Grains of Paradise Shiraz, from the Barossa Valley, is one such wine. The Charles Melton website lists it as $58.90 but sold out, my bottle was purchased from the Edinburgh Cellars where it retails for $68 but other internet prices look a little higher. If you’re not in Australia it may actually be cheaper than that to pick up (hint to any readers in the UK!).

In the glass the wine is super dense and ruby in colour. It smells of plums, black cherries, Black Forest cake, but there’s also something smoky and meaty there – think salami and cured meats.

On the palate, there is tons of black fruit, laced with vanilla and toasted coconut. There’s some acidity and plenty of tannins, but they’re beautifully soft. The really lovely juicy fruit is persistent and the wine has good length.

With so much fruit and tannin I would not be scared of cellaring this wine for a while but it is also drinking perfectly well now. It really depends on what you look for in a wine. Many people (particularly South Australians who are brought up on big, bold, fruit forward Shiraz) will quite possibly prefer it younger but if you are patient, and have good cellaring facilities, I imagine it will reward you well.

You can see how an older vintage is maturing with this review of the 2006 Grains of Paradise.

The wine was purchased from the Edinburgh Cellars, $68.
Closure: screw cap.