Matt Holmes’ winemaking career has come full circle. His first short experience as a chief winemaker was at Bannockburn Vineyards, stepping into a role that was vacated just before vintage, but in effect was a caretaker position until the new winemaker was appointed. Following that he gained experience all over the world, before recently returning to Bannockburn to become the permanent chief winemaker. We spoke on this episode about his amazing journey, and what excited him about the new opportunities that Bannockburn and Melbourne offer.
Weingut Gunderloch in the Rheinhessen region of Germany is one the greatest wineries in Europe if you are in the know. They are the only winery in the world to have received 100 points for the same wine in three separate vintages, for their incredibly rare trockenbeerenauslese (TBA). Johannes Hasselbach hadn’t intended on running his family’s estate, until in 2010 when his father became ill (since recovered), and his sister who had been involved with the winemaking relocating to Austria to work with her husband. An intrepid philosophy led Johannes to travel and explore, and he has slowly began to introduce this into the winery since then. He joined me in the Treasury Gardens of Melbourne on a sunny morning to talk about his journey.
Felsock Vineyard Riesling 2008
Concentrated bright fruit, bold fruit profile and good lines.
Tete de Cuvee Chardonnay 2008
Very bold bright peach and lime fruit, with a complex floral and pear nose. The palate is very rich and layered, yet quite light and clean. Citrus complexity and balance would be even better with food.
Locust Lane Pinot Noir 2008
Dark cherry and game notes combine to create a very savoury fruit nose. Subtle yet opulent and rich, silky and soft. Hits an amazing sweet spot between fruit and savoury elements rarely achieved in new world pinot noir, but very youthful.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a Wine Trade Fair virgin. Way down in Australia we don’t have anything like this as it is not a big enough market for such a trade fair, and most of the market is dominated by six wine companies. The closest thing we have is individual distributors inviting their producers to show new release wines either once a year or every other year. Having visited Prowein 2012 I can say that this is preferable, as there are far less producers to see and I am familiar with them all. There is also the fact that I know many other attendees and can chat about the wines with them. Attending Prowein is a little bit like the edible room scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, except in that scene they knew what everything was and what they wanted to taste. I spent most of my time wandering around not knowing many of the producers and not knowing which were good enough to visit. It is amazing to see all of these big bright shiny stands, and the layout is generally clear and makes sense. There are a lot of stands for negociants and importers, so you sometimes stumble on Australian wines in the German hall, or French wines in the Spanish hall.
I haven’t had the greatest luck in terms of timing for most of my visits in North America. This has been mostly due to vintage, but in some cases due to the big Wine Spectator tasting in NYC. The bad luck I experienced in the Niagara Peninsula on this particular Saturday was due to a promotion they have running every weekend in November, which is essentially a passport weekend. You buy a ticket and enjoy a bit of food and wine at as many wineries you can visit in one weekend. There were considerably more people in the region than normal, so I was contending with crowds. This was especially apparent in Niagara-on-the-Lake, closer to Niagara Falls with larger wineries closer together. Niagara-on-the-Lake is also very flat, which in my opinion doesn’t make for great wines, but is easier to drive around I guess. Below is a photo I took above the Niagara Whirlpool.
The Niagara Peninsula in Ontario has a lot going for it. Sure, it is one of the most marginal and challenging climates for growing wine grapes, but it was so many other assets at it’s disposal. For one, as a cool-climate region it is poised to capitalise on the increased interest in cool-climate food-friendly wines both domestically and overseas. They have also garnered serious attention for their ice wines, trumping some famous European regions in a number of competitions. The Niagara Peninsula is also conveniently located only an hour or so from Toronto (their biggest market), right next to one of the biggest tourist attractions in North America (Niagara Falls), and less than a days drive to over 50% of the US population. Their agritourism is some of the most sophisticated I have seen outside of California, and they are doing pretty well. If only they could have more consistent vintages…
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