Beach Road McLaren vale Vermentino 2011
($25; 10.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted September and December 2011; 92++ points).
This north-west Italy variety seems to thrive in the maritime climate of McLaren Vale, even when the water's up in the air, which it was in this infernally wet vintage, instead of in the glittering Gulf Sy Vincent. Tony Hoare, husband of winemaker Briony, grafted it onto other roots on the coast at Aldinga, which it obviously lurves. “This was our first crop,” Briony explained, “and maybe that had something to do with the bunches being so huge. It’s like one bunch, one bottle, but very few bunches per vine. This vineyard, down there near the beach, had no disease at all. I basket-pressed it – all straight in; no de-stemming - let it take its own yeast from the air, and left it on lees for a bit. It’s a tough grape, and it really seems to like that maritime location.” I had to be convinced that the wine was fairly low in acid. It smelled of crunchy pears and pear blossom, maybe even the grainy Passe-Crassane, which is the old Normandy cross of a pear and a quince, and it had a certain acridity which prickled my nostrils, and made me expect acid. It’s not quite the smell of the cordite component of explosives, but at least close to guano, from whence comes the basis of ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer much beloved by the builders of roadside bombs and the likes of the late Timothy McVeigh. But the wine was not very acidic; rather, it was all phenolics from the thick skins that gave it its tight edge. It has no slippery nonsense, but grabs the tongue and whacks it with that chalky, grainy lignin stuff. It reminds me of the firmly acidic German Rieslings Dr Ernie Loosen grows in Pfalz, but Briony assures me it’s not acid at all. It’s all phenolics. This scrumptious appetiser is made by Briony and Bacchus to schlück with fresh Coffin Bay oysters. Man, I’d be schlückin’ as I shucked.
King River Estate Vermentino 2010$25; 13.4% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 26JUL12; 92+ points
For a small producer, King River Estate always offers an astonishing range of bio-d and organic wines from many adventurous varieties, like their spell-binding Sagratino and Saperavi reds. This is on top of their hearty versions of the more common varieties. Vermentino’s mainly a Sicilian type, but it typically smells like the buttery pears of Anjou, with fresh cucumber and cheeky hints of fresh-sliced ginger root. This one also has a touch of the Radix family: maybe baby turnip, grilling in butter with shelled and peeled broad beans? Garlic? The palate is gently viscous, but has quite dry tannins that fur up the tongue, creating a cheeky see-saw between those pears and that dusty dryness. In fact, thinking of the difference in flavour between the broad bean kernel itself, and its Kermit green shell, the tannins here are a like the shell. This counterpoint works quickly to instill sharp hunger. Bubble-and-squeak; frittata; tempura; Wah Hing’s salt-n-pepper egg plant would all lead a merry dance with this new beaut.
Yalumba Langhorne Creek Vermentino 2009
$15; 12% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 11JAN10; 75 points
Okay. I pick this up in a store. I've read the back label, with all the stuff about carefree summer days and relaxing evenings and vibrant and refreshing wines, and I'm into a touch of the old carefree relaxing with vibrancy and refreshment and guess what? I get a bottle of wine that's technically clean. Other than that, I smell petiols and cape weed. I taste them, too: weedy, sedgy and nothing like what I've been led to expect. This is like really poor over-cropped Barossa semillon of the wrong clone, machine-harvested by someone with a headfull of hydro greenage and Akka Dakka in the cans. Nobody home. It might make some sense if it was about $6-$7. If you want interesting, nay, gorgeous alternatives from Larncrk, get into Briony Hoare's 09 Greco al Tufo and her Arneis of the same year on the Beach Road label.