china daily wine column #28
Wednesday February 23rd 2011, 11:22 am
Filed under: wine
At the age of 18, Will Wolseley told an immigration agent at Australia House in London about his plans to run a boutique vineyard in Australia.
Jump forward almost 30 years, and Wolseley has achieved his goal and a lot more. One of Australia’s best restaurants buys the entire production of his dessert wines, and wine writers are beginning to recognize his achievements. One scribe described Wolseley’s cabernet sauvignon as “the best cool-climate cabernet in Australia”.
Born in the United Kingdom, Wolseley visited Australia every year as a child to see relatives. He emigrated at age 19 after convincing the immigration agent of his plans and in 1992 started planting vines at Paraparap, about 5 km from Australia’s Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
Wolseley chose the area because of what he described as the “gentle” climate.
“I looked at hundreds of sites and finally bought 16 hectares in Paraparap,” he says. “About 6 hectares are under vines. This place just felt right.”
Some experts have suggested the area is too hot to grow pinot noir, but early every afternoon, cool ocean breezes reduce temperatures.
Wolseley’s first vintage was in 1998. He focuses on red wine – shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, cabernet franc – with small portions of chardonnay and semillon. The semillon goes into his famous botrytis dessert wine, which is handpicked in the middle of winter.
I tried different barrel samples of the 2010. Aromas of apricot, honey and musk streamed from the glass, and the flavors kept lingering long after I drove away. The current vintage on sale, the 2005, retails for $35 for a 375-ml bottle.
The vineyard is well kept though the cellar door is best described as rustic.
“We focus on winemaking, not grandstanding,” Wolseley says.
An antique Wolseley truck is parked near the cellar door, a nod to Wolseley’s UK carmaker relatives. All grapes are handpicked and Wolseley is careful in his use of oak for his reds, believing the flavors of the fruit should dominate, not vanilla from new oak.
Vintage time is an international affair, with pickers arriving from most of the Western European nations, based on word of mouth. Every year, French and German winemakers take part in the vintage. Wolseley, in turn, spends time in Alsace to learn more about dessert wines.
The vineyard is entirely self-sufficient, with power coming from a range of solar panels.
“We are entirely off the electricity grid,” he says, proudly.
Wolseley refuses to submit his wines at wine shows, believing the process is too subjective. During my visit a steady stream of people drove in to buy wine.
“I don’t worry about awards. I get on with making great wine for my loyal customers, and they keep coming back,” he says.
* “These cool cabernets are really hot stuff” in China Daily, 18 February 2011, page 12. Find story here.
china daily wine column #27
Sunday February 13th 2011, 3:07 pm
Filed under: wine
Kleine Zalze wines from South Africa have won 30 gold medals and five trophies in the past two years.
The wines on this family-owned estate exhibit classic structure and complexity, plus deep and vibrant flavors.
The vineyard is 3 km from Stellenbosch, the capital of South Africa’s main winegrowing region, near Cape Town. Wine has been produced at Kleine Zalze since 1695.
Sales and marketing manager Ross Sleet says every block on the vineyard was independently vinified to give the winemaking team the building blocks to create wines that tasted of place, or terroir.
“Close attention is paid to cultivating grapes of exceptional quality, and each vineyard is assessed and managed individually during the growth period.”
Yields were kept low to produce fruit-driven wines with outstanding character and maturation potential, Sleet says.
Kleine Zalze produces five levels of wine. Top of the range are the family reserve, followed by the vineyard selection.
Next come the cellar selection, the Foot of Africa range and, finally, the Zalze group of wines for immediate drinking.
The 2007 family reserve shiraz is an elegant wine that spent 20 months in 100 percent new French oak. Despite the amount of oak, the tannins are soft and juicy. The flavors are long and complex: plum and spice filled my mouth.
The fruit is so well integrated with the oak that the wine could be easily consumed now, although it would be magnificent in a decade. The grapes came from a single block on the estate.
The best fruit went into this wine, which retails for 409 yuan ($62.14) in China.
The 2007 family reserve cabernet sauvignon retails for the same price in China. It is a superb wine. The color is almost black, with aromas of cassis and other dark berries.
The wine has a silky tannic backbone that speaks of elegance and majesty, meaning this wine will cellar for at least a decade.
In 2009 and 2010 this cabernet won three trophies, two gold and three silver medals.
Another wine to note, although it’s not as special as those aforementioned, is the 2009 pinotage in the cellar selection range.
Pinotage was created in South Africa in 1925 by crossing pinot noir and hermitage because the country’s climate is too hot for pinot noir.
This pinotage is dark cherry in color with aromas of cassis and raspberries. The tannins are more rustic, suggesting less expensive oak, but it would still improve with some time in the cellar.
This is a wine to be consumed in the next five years. It retails for 162 yuan.
Torres distributes Kleine Zalze wines in eight major Chinese cities and coastal resorts The wines are also available at some supermarkets.
* “The vines that bind a family affair” in China Daily, 12 February 2011, page 12. Find story here.