Dodgy Brothers Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2012

The last of Dodgy Brothers’ three new releases to grace my tasting bench and one that, in some ways, I’ve been slightly apprehensive about tasting. You see, I’m a fairly recent convert to McLaren Vale Cabernet. I used to feel the Vale’s warmer climate did strange things to Cabernet and its siblings, smoothing out some of the edges that I enjoy with this variety and substituting a certain Shiraz-like roundness. It’s true this region doesn’t produce the sort of spiky, angular wines one associates with “classical” Cabernet style. Working in the region last year, though, I saw quite a few parcels of Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Yes, these wines can be structurally quite cuddly, but at their best they are astonishingly fragranced, showing recognisably varietal aroma profiles with a rich, regional twist.

And that sums up this wine quite well. It is unquestionably expressive aromatically, and the dominant Cabernet Franc component contributes a lovely red capsicum note alongside a range of florals, spices and purple fruit. There’s a relaxation and composure to the way this wine smells that is very accessible and should be quite crowd-pleasing.

In the mouth, quite a rounded presence that seduces at first with its volume before ushering in the sort of tannin structure Cabernet lovers demand. Tannins are abundant and slightly rambunctious, giving the wine some texture and helping the wine’s darker flavour notes to persist through the after palate and finish. Flavours are full and ripe, with berries tending towards purple and black, and oak making a toasty, spiced contribution. This is very much the hedonist’s Cabernet blend, one that is unashamedly voluptuous without sacrificing the fragrance and tannin structure that makes these varieties so wonderful.

Dodgy Brothers Wines
Price: $A29
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Dodgy Brothers Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre 2012

Six parcels from four different vineyards make up this wine. Having seen winemaker Wes Pearson at work, I know the lots were probably quite small, perhaps just a few hundred kilos each. The work’s in the number of parcels rather than their size, so a wine with this many components takes a fair bit of effort despite being made in tiny quantities. Still, it’s an approach I find interesting and one, as I noted in my review of the 2012 Shiraz, with considerable heritage in Australia.

Unlike the Shiraz, this opens with a range of savoury, borderline difficult notes. To be sure, there’s fruit too; I smell raspberries and plums. But the wine’s crack of undergrowth, licorice and sea spray speak of some seriously characterful fruit and it’s only with some fairly vigorous swirling that the wine finds, to my palate, its balance. Once settled, the aroma is charged with complexity, and expresses wisps of vanilla oak in counterpoint to dense, not-overly-sweet fruit and further savoury nuances. If the Shiraz is exuberant, this is sexier, slinkier and edgier too.

In the mouth, a wine of real line and length. It slips onto the tongue with a lick of dark spice and darker fruit. The mid-palate is quite taut, held in check by both acid and tannin that betray this wine’s youth, but nothing can disguise the power and density of the fruit here. I like the tannin structure more than I did in the Shiraz. It’s finer, more textured and more even. The after palate is full of dense black berries which continue right through to the back of the mouth. Length is a highlight.

Restraint isn’t a word typically associated with McLaren Vale Grenache, but this wine demonstrates how Grenache-dominant blends from this region can show ripeness and flavour while remaining savoury and well-structured. Again, delicious, and a considerable step up from the interesting 2011 edition.

Dodgy Brothers Wines
Price: $A27
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Dodgy Brothers Shiraz 2012

Wes Pearson and the Dodgy Brothers; it could be the name of an 80s cover band. Wes, though, is the winemaker for one of the more intriguing new labels out of McLaren Vale. I tasted the 2011 Dodgy Brothers Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre and felt it in many respects transcended the well-documented difficulties of that vintage. It’s with some anticipation, then, that I taste the first of three Dodgy Brothers releases from the kinder 2012 vintage.

The Dodgy Brothers approach is to source numerous small parcels of fruit from vineyards across McLaren Vale. In many respects, this is the classic Australian way – blend-driven wines with material sourced from a range of vineyards. The twist here, though, is these vineyards are dragged into the foreground and given the respect they are due. This blend is from two vineyards, both located in the Sellick Foothills, both duly named on the informative back label.

The aroma is so regional it brought a smile to my face. Full-fruited and fresh, this shows a range of notes, from plum to blackberries, spice to Kirsch. Although it’s very fruit forward, there’s immediate complexity and the dense aroma profile is quite difficult to tease apart, such is its coherence. This, more than anything, smells like McLaren Vale Shiraz.

The palate, though flavoursome, is surprisingly restrained, and there are quite prominent, slightly grainy tannins that run right down the wine’s line. This gives the wine shape and tension as well as emphasising a range of more subtle, savoury flavours. As the nose suggests, there’s plenty of fruit packed into this wine, and it flows freely on entry only to be held somewhat in check from mid-palate onwards. It’s clearly a young wine and one that should become more generous with short to medium term bottle age. I’d be reluctant to leave this for a long time, though. One needs to taste these attractive fruit flavours while fresh and vibrant.

A truly delicious wine.

Dodgy Brothers Wines
Price: $A29
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

S.C. Pannell Tempranillo Touriga 2012

I purchased this at Brisbane’s excellent Craft Wine Store on the recommendation of a learned friend, who said it would be delicious.

And indeed it is. It’s funny how that can sometimes get pushed to the background with wine. Not that I believe an instinctive, hedonistic response is the only way to appreciate wine, but it’s certainly one way, and wines that immediately communicate a sense of deliciousness don’t always do so by way of simplicity. Unpicking what makes such a wine so appealing is actually far from easy.

A case in point, this one. It’s not simple — the flavour profile is quite layered — but it’s unreservedly accessible, due mostly to a core of purple fruit that I find impossibly tasty. Certainly, the wine’s fruit-forwardness is a big part of the appeal here. But there are plenty of fruit driven wines that don’t approach the attractiveness of this blend, so I think its appeal is not so much a question of balance as of the particular qualities — vibrancy, freshness, expressiveness — of the fruit here, as well as its combination of sweet and savoury elements. One might be tempted to intellectualise the flavours if they didn’t communicate so directly and, in doing so, be so resistant to study.

Structurally, tannins are a particular point of interest. They’re plentiful as well as ripe and fine such that, rather than contribute astringency to the palate, they simply create volume and density, carrying fruit to all corners and contributing a velvety opulence to the wine’s mouthfeel. There’s simply no angularity that doesn’t also have an equal and opposing answer, not to cancel out difficulty but to accompany it, to make sense of it.

It’s easy to believe great wines have to be somehow challenging, or inaccessible, in need of age, unyieldingly savoury, overtly structural, fruit-backward, and so on. Great wines can indeed be some or all of those things. But they don’t have to be. This is none of them yet I’d argue that, in its deliciousness, it exemplifies the sort of wine many of us seek out more often than not, a wine for drinking with abandon, for generous pours over dinner, for exclamations of enjoyment, each less inhibited than the next.

S.C. Pannell
Price: $A27
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Leasingham Bin 7 Cellar Selection Riesling 2000

I’ve been steering clear of Riesling since my return from the Mosel. Not that I’m sick of it; indeed, quite the opposite. I enjoyed the Rieslings there so much I’ve been hesitant to dive back into different expressions of the grape. For my return foray, I opened this, an older wine and one that I’ve documented here on Full Pour in the past.

As with my tasting in 2008, this bottle had a Stelvin cap that was fairly welded onto the bottle. It shed a fair bit of crust once I finally wrangled the thing loose. You’d never know it from the condition of the wine, though, which was pristine and youthful.

Shockingly youthful, in fact. Clearly, wines do develop under screwcap (let us not even entertain the contrary notion), but if this wine is any indication they can age slowly, gracefully and cleanly. I don’t regard any of these attributes as bad; indeed the wine exploded from my glass with a mixture of fresh and tertiary aromas. Lime, toast, honey, spice; a range of notes that are both totally correct and very fine. I’ve tasted some Australian Rieslings that showed an unattractive broadness in middle age; this, though, is still tight and linear, even as its developed flavours express.

In the mouth, still taut with acid and lean of line. I don’t imagine this was one of those especially intense wines as a youngster, which translates to a fairly gentle experience now in terms of impact and density of flavour. Unlike the Elizabeth Semillon I had the other day, this wine’s lack of intensity sits better within its style. This is about lightness of countenance and delicacy above all else.

Welcome back.

Price: N/A
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Chapel Hill Sangiovese 2012

A strong regional imprint is often celebrated: we seek evidence of region and site with Pinot, we love that Shiraz is a chameleon, and Riesling’s transparency gives regions their raison d’être. Sangiovese produced in McLaren Vale isn’t so lucky. The variety’s been in this beautiful, historic region for a while, and the impact of certain early wines like Coriole’s have imprinted this particular region-variety relationship on my consciousness. Yet it’s often criticised for tasting nothing like Sangiovese, by which we presumably mean Chianti, and too much like McLaren Vale. I think I may have even contributed to that line of thinking.

This wine, a modest example of the genre, has me wondering whether tasting like McLaren Vale isn’t such a bad thing. It is, after all, a region that effortlessly produces full-flavoured red wines of considerable appeal, despite being in many ways the stylistic antithesis of Tuscany. The key here is that this wine, and many McLaren Vale Sangioveses, inherit enough of the region’s imprint to take the variety in a new direction. As I smell this, it is a curious mash-up of the red berried exuberance of McLaren Vale and the more angular savouriness of Sangiovese. Some might argue it falls into a stylistic no man’s land as a result; that’s simply a matter of taste. For mine, this is luscious enough to satisfy my cravings for a slutty red wine, and odd enough to mark it apart from more familiar Shiraz and Cabernet siblings. It also has a reductive edge I’m not so hot on, though this seems to be blowing off with some air.

The palate tells a similar story, with little of the structural aggressiveness Sangiovese can show. In its place, rather pillowy tannins and plump fruit that slips and slides all over the tongue as it leaves behind ripe, pleasingly savoury flavours. Acid is quite firm and brings to life some of the more varietal flavours present here — almonds mostly. It’s medium bodied at least and, in terms of shape and size in the mouth, very regional.

It’s a humble wine to hang so much on, but I think it does show some varietal interest while being true to its region. Just don’t expect an Italian.

Chapel Hill
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Dodgy Brothers Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre 2011

There was a curious chap at the Geddes winery during vintage. Canadian, intense, always tending his myriad ferments, some of which were as small as a few hundred kilos. We had some good chats about yeasts and aroma compounds, and he taught me some neat cellar skills. Turns out this fellow is Wes Pearson, sensory analyst at the AWRI and the winemaking third of Dodgy Brothers Wines.

Before I get to the wine, let us pause for a moment to reflect on its packaging. I’ve seen a few tricks over the years to try and make labels more appealing, but never have I seen one applied upside-down, a design quirk which is carried through to the Dodgy Brothers Web site too. The whole is remarkably effective, helped in part by what is, on closer inspection, stock and printing of very high quality.

“Liberators of Fine Fruit” declares the label, and I suppose that’s a neat way of describing the approach taken here. Those endless parcels of fruit, from some well-regarded vineyards across McLaren Vale, come together in bottlings like this, a GSM blend from the oft-vilified 2011 vintage. Theoretically, cherry picking vineyards is one way to deal with a difficult vintage, so I’m curious to see what the Dodgy Brothers have managed to do here.

It’s certainly a lighter style, 15.5% ABV notwithstanding, and very expressive aromatically. Grenache is at the fore with pretty red fruits and delicate florals. Richer, meatier notes back this up along with a decent whack of oak. I like the way this smells; it has good freshness and definition, and doesn’t show any green or weedy notes. Placed up against a wine of a warmer vintage, it would no doubt look less dense, but that’s neither here nor there.

The palate is of medium weight and shows good continuity from the nose. Squeaky clean red fruits, snapped twig, dark chocolate and savoury dark berries. It’s not massively complex at this stage, and structurally it’s pretty easygoing, but its flavours are delicious and balanced. Alcohol gives a gloss to mouthfeel and perhaps adds to an impression of sweetness at the cost of slight heat through the finish.

Nice wine, then, and makes me curious to see what Wes has up his sleeve with his 2012s and 2013s.

Dodgy Brothers Wines
Price: $A29
Closure: Cork
Source: Sample

Geddes Wines Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2008

Petit Verdot seems to come and go in Australia. If it has a home, it’s McLaren Vale, with some makers (notably Pirramimma) highlighting it momentarily as a varietal wine before it disappears again, declared or not, into blends. I’m not aware of it being consistently associated with another Australian wine region. Tim Geddes plays with Petit Verdot quite a bit, as did Wayne Thomas before him, and it appears as part of his eponymous label’s range with regularity.

Although he produces a varietal Petit Verdot, which I may review later, Tim has here combined it with its traditional partner, Cabernet Sauvignon. What’s really successful about this wine is its combination of intense flavour, generosity, detail and refinement. These aren’t traits that always go together, but the push-pull of this wine’s density and its fine structure makes for an ultimately elegant wine. The nose shows Cabernet notes, thicker and juicier as they sometimes can be in McLaren Vale, combined with an assortment of dried herbs and higher toned, floral notes. Berry flavours are dark and oak is assertive, positioning this wine firmly at the fuller end of the Bordeaux blend spectrum.

The palate is incredibly juicy, with masses of black fruits and herbs, underlined by black tea tannins. Weight and line are both impressive, as is a flavour profile that alternates between fresh fruit and more complex dried herb characters, with an edge of dried fruit adding further interest. Tannins develop firmly through the after palate, with good presence in the mouth and confident dryness. An extended finish.

This is an excellent wine with a complex, attractive flavour profile and a bold, well-formed structure. Although Cabernet is an evident component, I can only assume Petit Verdot accounts for its extra dimensions of floral aroma and juiciness. Certainly a wine worth some serious contemplation.

Geddes Wines
Price: $A35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Geddes Wines Seldom Inn Shiraz 2006

As unfashionable as it may be, I’m a true believer in the importance of people in wine. To be clear, I’m not advocating a brutish obliteration of place, but rather for the inclusion of humans, from viticulturist through winemaker to drinker, in our concept of what makes a wine compelling. Wine is natural only in the most basic, uninteresting sense, and it truly comes alive when its agricultural origins collide with a raft of cultural practices and, ultimately, with the aesthetics of the people who drink it.

The role, in all this, of the consulting winemaker, is problematic. Often charged with the task of bringing to life a client’s vision, the consultant risks losing his voice and becoming simply the guardian of best practice and sound outcomes. Which makes this particular wine interesting to me. Tim Geddes is the consulting winemaker behind some of the hottest young brands coming out of McLaren Vale. I’ve gotten to know Tim a little, as the winery I’m doing vintage with, Dowie Doole, makes its red wines in Tim’s winery. Though Tim is clearly in demand as a winemaker for others, I’ve been more and more curious to know what he might make under his own name. This wine is my first clue. The Seldom Inn range forms a second label for Geddes Wines.

The nose here is fragrant and spicy, with cedar oak and forest floor characters complementing fresh berry fruit. Brown spice and bottle aged notes back up higher toned aromas. As an aroma profile it’s all well and good, but what’s especially interesting is its finesse. This is no McLaren Vale fruit bomb. Rather, the aromas are subtle, intertwined, thoughtful, not light so much as well defined and nimble.

The palate creeps up on you, with fresh berry fruit the first flavour to register, followed by gentle brown spice, cigar box and elegant hints of bottle age. Acid structure is still very present, and the wine has fantastic length. Tannins are firm and drying, complementing attractive tobacco notes on the finish. As with the nose, flavours are well articulated and adult, with as many savoury as sweet characters. This is a wine of subtlety and, at this stage, notable complexity, and happily it does not overreach in terms of intensity.

In many ways this is a quiet wine, knitting together its flavours gently, never thrusting its qualities into the drinker’s face. If this is what Tim Geddes thinks good wine should taste like, I may just go along for the ride.

Geddes Wines
Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Dowie Doole Scarce Earth Shiraz 2010

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.

Dowie Doole
Price: $A45
Closure: Diam
Source: Sample