Topper’s Mountain Red Earth Child 2009

Despite a seemingly never ending quest to communicate a “sense of place,” it’s remarkable how few vignerons in Australia put site ahead of variety. The privileging of varietal wines comes at the expense of the idea that site is best expressed through a mix of varieties. This is not a new idea, nor is it completely absent from Australian wine, but it remains rare.

This, then, stands out like the proverbial dog’s balls. Let me count the ways in which it differs from the mainstream: it’s a wine of New England, with nary a grape variety listed on the (front) label and, when one discovers what varieties are in it, there’s an unlikely mix of Petit Verdot, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Tannat. Sui generis.

This is as close to blind tasting as I’ve come without, you know, actually tasting blind. I had no idea what to expect, but the aroma’s absence of expressive fruit still came as something of a surprise. This is a dark, muscular, somewhat closed nose at present. There are hints of black berry fruit, spice, snapped twig and baked goods. I find it somewhat inscrutable, in fact, which is no bad thing. There’s certainly enough density, complexity and coherence to hint at significant potential.

The palate is similarly intriguing and fiercely structured. Both acid and tannin are prominent, which isn’t surprising given the presence of Barbera and Tannat in the mix. The same dark, savoury fruit flavour profile seen on the nose is very much present here, but it runs underneath the wine’s structural framework for now, like a bubbling underground stream. Again, density is a feature and, without any experience of this label, I suggest a bit of age will be kind to it. The after palate is the most generous moment in the wine’s line, where fruit is allowed to bulge slightly before tightening again in a highly structured finish.

A brave, and in many ways successful, wine.

Update: day 2 and the wine is opening up in the most interesting ways. It has become quite floral, with rose petal and Turkish Delight distinct notes on the nose. Fascinating.

Topper’s Mountain
Price: $A38
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

2 thoughts on “Topper’s Mountain Red Earth Child 2009

  1. Hello Julian, Thanks for your rather bohemian take on “sense of place” as it relates to our Red Earth Child. I think we think alike; we make this wine most vintages with three aims. Firstly to make the best single vineyard blend we can from whats available each vintage; secondly, to reflect the “sense of place” or terroir of our little piece of heaven and thirdly we try to maintain some sort of sytlistic integrity from vintage to vintage (a very tough ask when the components of the blend can vary so wildly). To illustrate this, we’ve just done the blending for the 2011 Red Earth Child (forgot to do a 2010 REC!) and, wait for it, its a blend of Nebbiolo, Shiraz, Tempranillo & Tannat. The blending of three or four varieties is very time comsuming & complex, but really exciting & great fun as the the whole is not necessarily the sum of the parts, particularly when we’re dealing with these varieties being grown in a quite cool climate resulting in high TAs & low pHs (except for Tempranillo). Next vintage we’ll have a little (white) sister to Red Earth Child, who is as yet unnamed but whose philosophy with be the same. We’re looking forward to putting her together as well!

    • Hi Mark,

      Many thanks for those insights into the wine. I think what you’re doing with this is fascinating and certainly is not something I’ve seen much locally. We’re so wedded to varieties, it seems, that the idea of a site-dominant wine feels somewhat revolutionary (even though it really oughtn’t be). I’m sure you have a lot of fun with this, and I’m keen to give the 2011 a whirl (and the white).

      Keep up the good work.


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