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The Recent, from the Prehistoric (Victoria Wines, Part 1)

The post The Recent, from the Prehistoric (Victoria Wines, Part 1) appeared first on 1 Wine Dude.

Victoria tasting, Part1

Over the last half of 2024, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to attend three tasting events (two of them virtual) for the media, exploring the wines of Victoria, Australia. Longtime friends of 1WD will recall that I spent a good amount of time in that diverse region several years ago, and it’s been a blast getting reacquainted with its wines. So much so, in fact, that I’m going to run a three-parter here, starting with today’s feature, on Victoria’s varied wine scene.

Victoria is in the far south-east of Australia, wedged between South Australia and New South Wales. It packs in more sub-regions (22) than any other wine-producing portion of the country, taking advantage of the area’s geographic and climatic diversity. The “At a Glance” numbers for Victoria are impressive:

Victoria wines at a glance
(image: Wine Victoria)

That’s a decent amount of growers and producers (and, a lot of industry worth), but not necessarily a lot of hectares, for a region of Victoria’s size (87,806 square miles).

Victoria is, if anything, chock full of pleasant little surprises when it comes to wine; and that’s exactly what you’ll find below…

Victoria tasting part 2
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2022 Chalmers Wines Vermentino, Heathcote, $30

Old (very!), rocky, red Cambrian soils are the calling cards of Chalmers’ Heathcote Vineyard. Kim Chalmers’ parents started out with a vine nursery (and a sort of specialization in Italian varieties), “that’s allowed us as a family to do lots and lots of trials” on these varieties, and they offered Australia’s very first Vermentino in 2004. “We’ve been able to ‘lead from the front, and Vermentino has been an absolute star performer,’” Kim noted during our tasting. Saline, mineral, herbal, and bursting with fresh Meyer lemon action, all topped off with a hint of pine, the nose is just spot-on for higher-end Vermentino. In the mouth, there’s a nice, seductive interplay of unctuous citrus fruit and savory herbal notes, finishing with toast, honey, jasmine, and lovely freshness.

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2021 Fowles “Ladies who Shoot their Lunch” Pinot Noir, Strathbogie Ranges, $35

From a more elevated site, the HA Block of Fowles’ Bills Vineyard lies about 100 km north of the Yarra Valley. “We’re absolutely entry level Alpine” in terms of height, according to Matt Fowles (they have “monstrous” granite boulders that can be several stories high), making for what he calls a “Prehistoric” site requiring a lot of care in managing how and where they plant their vineyard blocks. As for the remoteness of the site, for Fowles to get to the supermarket, he needs to take a 70km round-trip, most of it on dirt roads. Smoke, leather, black tea, wild strawberry, mushroom, and wood notes open up the nose. It’s a juicy, wild, rowdy Pinot fitting with its name. There’s a lot of energy and fresh acidity, but it’s also meaty, chewy, and able to stand up to fare that you’d normally reserve for heftier red varieties.

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2020 Yering Station Shiraz – Viognier, Yarra Valley, $40

Yering Station is home to Victoria’s first vineyard plantings in the 1800s (and the area is also home to one of my fave spots in the region Giant Steps). Yering Station’s Brenden Hawker sees their site as having a Continental climate, though one that’s moderated/mitigated by several factors. Their Shiraz is generally planted in the warmer sites. In this case, “it’s where our best Shiraz comes from.” This red is hand-picked and destemmed, and co-fermented with 3% Viognier in Northern Rhône style. Tons of white (and some black) pepper mark the nose, followed by black and red berry fruit notes, purple flowers, and a bit of dried herbs/allspice. That sort of N. Rhône-ish nose belies a much richer (though still quite fresh) mouthfeel, which leans to the blue- and black-berry fruit spectrum, ramps up the smoothness, and introduces Syrah’s textbook wild meatiness. Concentrated and deep, it can handle all the oomph, given all of that super-cool freshness.

Overachiever

2019 Fowles Wine ‘Farm to Table’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Victoria, $18

From a hot and dry vintage, which Fowles thinks helped their Cab hit excellent levels of concentration, about 7% Merlot makes it into this red. Nice and juicy, with enticing dried herbal notes, touches of eucalyptus, and a smooth mouthfeel, this one finishes long with really succulent, ripe red and black plum fruits and bits of toasty oak. It’s a modernly-styled, international Cab, but thanks to its line of acidity it pulls it all off without ever becoming tiring.

Victoria's famous
Overachiever

NV Chambers Rosewood Vineyards Muscadelle ‘Tokay’, Rutherglen, $20

I’m a longtime fan of this sub-region’s “stickies,” and this producer in particular. There’s a a LOT to dive into about Rutherglen and its Maderized delights, which you can read about here. As for this one in particular, it’s a stellar bargain. Caramel, dried orange peel, dried orange blossom petals, green tea, sultanas, honey, and a distinctly malty character, this is a great example of Chamber’s style and the Muscadelle style in general. The palate is luscious, powerful, and full of spiced/spiked fruitcake, jasmine notes, and candied orange. Delightful, and incredibly well-priced for the quality.

Cheers!

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