January 22, 2016

When friends are planning a trip to South Australia, very rarely am I asked for advice on wineries to visit in the Adelaide Hills.  It's little surprise that the Barossa Valley, closely followed by McLaren Vale, command most attention - and based on history and the new wave of winemakers and wines from each region, the traffic is justified.  

Perched on Adelaide's doorstep, the Adelaide Hills region is comprised of a number of charming little hamlets - haphazardly dotted on a fertile landscape.  It's been recognised as a wine region for well over 150 years, and ridden the ebbs and flows of grape production well documented in Australia's vinous history. 

"The Hills" are home to iconic producers such as Shaw+Smith, Petaluma and Ashton Hills, their reputations built on regional hero varieties of Sauvignon Blanc; Chardonnay; Pinot Noir (certainly Ashton Hills) and Shiraz.  The significant drop in temperature at night across most of the region has encouraged the planting of alternative, continental varieties with Gruner Veltliner and Pinot Gris/Grigio widely found in whites, and Tempranillo and Sangiovese adding to the diversity of reds.  Yes - the days can be extremely hot... though the elevation and subsequent diurnal shift give the grapes a rest from working through the night at the crucial time of ripening, allowing a broader picking window and the opportunity to capture elegance.  Ripeness with balance is the ultimate aim for winemakers, and the Adelaide Hills has the capacity to reward the endeavour.

In recent years, winemakers based outside The Hills have sourced fruit and enjoyed great success.  Steve Pannell, one of Australia's most important and best winemakers, is based in McLaren Vale, though it was his 2013 Adelaide Hills Syrah that won the prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophy in 2014.  Well and truly sold out, it was an elegant example that more than dipped its lid to the great wines of the Northern Rhone.   

Hahndorf Hill Wines has pioneered the planting of the Austrian champion, Gruner Veltliner, in the region and the efforts have paid off with a wine that captures the crunchy acidity and cracked pepper phenolics of European benchmarks.  The future is bright for the style in The Hills.

David Le Mire and Peter Leske have concentrated their efforts on several different expressions of the Tempranillo Grape with their La Linea label.  All available through The Vindependent, each of these wines shows the versatility of the variety.  Finely boned in each instance - the rose is a perennial favourite and a benchmark dry style.  http://thevindependent.com.au/collections/rose/products/2015-la-linea-tempranillo-rose


The Pawn Wine Co is the brain-child of Tom Keelan - a recent graduate of the industry Future Leaders Program and vocal advocate for alternative varieties.  Tom's "El Desperado" range of wines offers exceptional value and complexity rarely found at the price point.  The Red Blend under this label combines Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Shiraz - an imaginative, medium weight wine inherently suited to the Australian climate.  The estate grown Sangiovese is classy and apologetically priced - http://thevindependent.com.au/collections/reds/products/2013-the-pawn-gambit-sangiovese .

The Lane Vineyard, a phoenix that rose from the ashes of the Starvedog Lane site in Hahndorf, has emerged as one of the region's true heavy hitters.  Significant investment and a commitment to excellence has resulted in a brace of ultra-impressive releases.  There are a number of interpretations of Chardonnay and Shiraz from this producer, with single block wines vinified separately to capture site expression.  Ben Tolstoshev was kind enough to send samples in the past week (See my tasting notes below).

While the Adelaide Hills is considered a single region, the diversity of wine styles and influences of micro-climates across its many peaks and troughs makes it one of Australia's regions to watch.  As vines mature and producers evolve to be better connected to their sites, there'd little doubt that traffic will be diverted.

2015 The Lane "Block 2" Pinot Gris

Attractive in the glass with the faintest tinge of pink.  Aromatically shy - more citrus than fleshy pear; these vines are close-planted and competing for nutrients which instils a flinty note.  On the palate there's great freshness and more fruit than the nose suggested - still lean and driven by crunchy acidity.  This wine will increase in breath over time - definitely a Gris for lovers of Riesling - and one that achieves the winemaker's goal of reflecting its site.                                   $25 per bottle thevindependent.com.au

2013 The Lane "Beginning" Chardonnay                            Rich yellow in the glass - retaining its hue and screaming of Chardonnay when poured. The nose shows freshness with a lemon tart and almond nuttiness framed by high quality French oak. It's an ethereal wine that glides across and along the palate. Oozing class with a profound French sensibility - for those who doubt the ageworthiness of the variety, I'd urge them to buy a case and watch it evolve over the next decade. Aristocratic wine that is a steal at the asking price.             

$40 per bottle  thevindependent.com.au

2014 The Lane "Block 5" Shiraz.                                       Bright purple fading to red edges - looks vibrant and young. This wine leaps from the glass - mulberries; black cherries; pepper and spice. I'm intrigued. If there's oak, it's not disruptive or obvious - fruit is allowed to sing. There is plenty of sinew and spice wound within the lifted purple fruits. Winemaking genius - paying homage to the vineyard. "Modern" Shiraz - a wine that makes you thirsty for more.       

$30 per bottle   thevindependent.com.au

2013 The Lane "Block 14" Basket Press Shiraz                   This is the darker and denser of the 2 Shiraz wines from The Lane - little surprise when this fruit is sourced from the low-yielding section of the vineyard at the "top of the hill".
Brooding nose - concentrated black and blue fruits - cherry liqueur and a healthy lick of quality oak. The minerality in this wine cannot be manufactured - these hard-working vines draw it out of ancient soils. A hoi-sin character emerges as the glass is swirled, as do chalky tannins when the wine hits the back palate. A wine that shows deep understanding of the vineyard. Time in the cellar will amplify all of the goodness within.                                                                                   

$40 per bottle thevindependent.com.au


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