A walk through the best wines for this spring. By Leanne Altmann.
The best wines for spring 2019
Domaine des Huards ‘Romo’, 2017 Cour-Cheverny romorantin, Loire Valley, France ($44)
There are few grape varieties as obscure as romorantin. Vaguely related to the Burgundian pinot family, it now lives a reclusive life exclusively in the little-known appellation of Cour-Cheverny. Happily for us, biodynamic vignerons Jocelyne and Michel Gendrier are passionate about the variety and its ties to their place. With notes of white nectarine and green almond, a little beeswax and dried pear, there’s a vibrant line of acidity to balance the fleshy fruit and a wonderful affinity with new-season spring vegetables.
Castro Martin ‘Sobre Lías’, 2017 albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain ($38)
The version of this wine available in Australia is a little different from that sold to the rest of the world. Importer Scott Wasley tastes each of the bodega’s tanks of albariño and chooses his favourite, requesting it be bottled raw and unfiltered for optimum texture and character.
Brisk and salty, this is albariño in the leaner style typical of the windswept Salnés Valley subregion – just-ripe peach and orange blossom, green pear and wet stone.
Joh. Jos. Prüm ‘Wehlener Sonnenuhr’, 2017 riesling spätlese, Mosel, Germany ($100)
Neither the benchmark producer nor the iconic site should need much by way of introduction; this wine is merely an illustration of their greatness. Less varietal riesling and more regional stone. A wine of talc and mineral salt, bitter lemon and mandarin oil, fresh- squeezed apricot juice. This light and shade is the wonder of Mosel riesling: concentration and freshness, density and lightness. Simply sublime.
NON #1 salted raspberry and chamomile, Melbourne, Victoria ($30)
Gone are the days when the decision not to drink left you with a choice between a glass of water and a soft drink. NON #1 is a complex and savoury substitute for a lively light red or a glass of fizz, without the FOMO. Built around a base of chamomile and mineral water, with intense, pure raspberry flavour, the palate is pleasantly textured, with gentle astringency and salty-sweet finish. And it just happens not to contain alcohol.
Ochota Barrels ‘Surfer Rosa’, 2019 rosé, South Australia ($29)
Taras Ochota crafts wines of verve and personality, and this is particularly on show in his 2019 selection (I could easily have picked the open and fragrant Green Room grenache, or the juicy-fresh red Texture Like Sun). This iteration of the strikingly labelled Surfer Rosa is a blend of pinot noir and grenache. Fragrant with notes of white strawberry and tangerine, sorrel and soft herbs, it’s a refreshingly crisp rosé with the silkiness of fresh cream.
Vignerons Schmölzer & Brown ‘Thorley’, 2018 shiraz, Beechworth, Victoria ($39)
Tessa Brown and Jeremy Schmölzer have been names to watch for a while now, crafting thoughtful, savoury wines from north-eastern Victoria. Throughout their first vintages working with their neighbours’ fruit, they’ve also undergone the painstaking process of preparing, planting and nurturing their own small vineyard, Thorley. This is made from just the second harvest of Thorley grapes. Vibrant dark fruit and crushed violet, turned earth and seductively silky tannin, it’s an utterly delicious wine of youthful energy and intensity. Watch this space.
Valentine, 2018 greco, Heathcote, Victoria ($30)
I’d like to see more greco grown in Australia, if this is anything to go by. Hailing from the volcanic Campanian soils of southern Italy, greco is also grown on the red dirt of Heathcote’s Chalmers vineyard, naturally adapted to retain acidity under our hot summer sun. Dom Valentine’s example is a certainty for the table: slinky texture balanced by a little ruby grapefruit pith, a lick of salt and the crunch of juicy Pink Lady apple. A sunny day in a bottle, in the best kind of way.
The Melbourne Gin Company ‘Single Shot’ dry gin, Yarra Valley, Victoria ($100)
Andrew Marks was one of the pioneers of the craft spirit scene, but has only recently perfected the recipe for his second gin. Single Shot is made with just one run through the tiny perfume stills in the shed up at Gembrook Hill Vineyard. There’s no room for error – the botanicals, among them bergamot, lavender and leatherwood honey, must be in the perfect ratio to ensure a balanced spirit. More juniper-forward than the classic MGC offering, there’s an earthy, peppery spice and weighty texture that makes the perfect base for an ice-cold dry martini.
Mont-Redon ‘Réserve’, 2016 Côtes-du-Rhône grenache blend, Southern Rhône, France ($22)
There’s something immensely comfortable about good Côtes-du-Rhône. It’s a laid-back, undemanding kind of wine, without the sharp edges and outspokenness of more northerly appellations. Always the sum of many parts, Mont-Redon bases this wine on grenache, with a little carignan and syrah for subtle spice and structure. Generous of texture, with supple tannin and slurpy red fruit, it shows all the freshness and balance typical of 2016, and a little tickle of dried-herb complexity.
Fleet ‘Silverwaters’, 2018 cabernet sauvignon, Gippsland, Victoria ($45)
In 2018 Lisa and Justin Jenkins were able to source a small amount of fruit from the Silverwaters Vineyard in the western extreme of the vast but sparsely planted region of Gippsland. Half of the wine started fermentation as whole bunches, contributing a spicy lift of cardamom, green anise and fennel. Complex and fascinating, this is a staunchly medium-bodied, maritime cabernet sauvignon, full of wild blackberry, crushed stone and a lick of grainy tannin.
Foradori ‘Lezèr’, 2018 teroldego, Trentino, Italy ($45)
The wines of Elisabetta Foradori are the point of reference for Trentino’s teroldego grape. As the next generation takes the reins, her sons have developed an alternative interpretation of the spicy alpine variety. The juice spends just a short time in contact with the grape skins at the winery and, made without oak ageing, this is one of those only-just-red wines that straddles the seasons so well. Serve cool, rather than chilled, to best appreciate the bright watermelon and pomegranate notes, the silky slip of tannin, the gentle hillside herbs. Good drinking.
La Violetta ‘Yé Yé’ grisé, 2017 gewürztraminer blend, Great Southern, Western Australia ($33)
Every time I meet La Violetta’s A. J. Hoadley, I leave with the impression that despite (or perhaps because of) his wit and winemaking skill, he never loses track of the idea that wine is a drink, and it needs to be an enjoyable one. Grisé is built around the florals and spice of gewürztraminer but the cool growing conditions mean the fruit retains a liveliness that the variety sometimes lacks. A hefty splash of riesling and a few buckets of pinots gris and noir provide seasoning, complexity and freshness.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 21, 2019 as "The best of spring".
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