One of the more interesting recent wine initiatives is McLaren Vale’s Scarce Earth project, a region-wide effort to systematically highlight the character of specific plots within the region. It’s also a clever marketing idea, rebranding the Vale in a somewhat Burgundian mould; very much on trend.
This wine, from producer Dowie Doole, is drawn from the 74 Block of the California Road vineyard. Dowie Doole already releases a single vineyard California Road bottling, so this wine reprensents an even more specific look at a certain patch of McLaren Vale dirt. What’s immediately striking about the aroma is its savouriness. This smells of dirt roads, red fruits, vanilla and brown spice. It’s sinewy and adult and, in its refusal to yield to comfort, strikes me as somewhat Italianate. There’s oak here, and it plays an important part in the wine’s aroma, but it never smoothes over the fruit’s natural rusticity, so enhances rather than subverts its savouriness.
The palate is medium bodied and expressive, lobbing acid texture onto the tongue from entry onwards. Fruit swells a little on the middle palate, though the wine’s acid remains firm. There’s a lot of flavours here, from plum skins to spice by way of some leaf and snapped twig. The wine keeps coming back to a light, juicy berry note, which anchors the flavour profile and allows it to explore its earthier inclinations. Dusty tannins dry the finish. There’s something anti-fashion about the way this tastes; it eschews anything remotely slick-tasting and revels in its angles, textures and moderate weight.
An idiosyncratic wine, perhaps inevitably so given its conceptual origins. I think it will benefit from a bit of time in bottle, as it remains edgy, structurally. I love its character, though, and it’s wonderful to find an expression of McLaren Vale Shiraz that is so joyously old-fashioned. This is a fantasy version of your grandfather’s McLaren Vale dry red and, to one of our most historic wine regions, I can’t pay a higher compliment.