Eldridge Estate Estate Pinot Noir 2009

It was on a recent visit to David Lloyd of Eldridge Estate that I was gifted a half bottle of this wine, to help warm one of the many lonely motel evenings ahead of me. I’m finally tackling it, somewhat later than I thought I would, though the delay accounts for no loss of pleasure, as this is drinking really well.

Heady, obvious pinosity leaps from the glass along with a good deal of sweet, red fruit. There are sappy edges to the aroma profile too, all underlined by well controlled oak. Although this isn’t a wild, heady style, varietal definition is crystal clear and it presents as very well balanced on opening. Savouriness does creep in with some air, and this tempers the fruit’s sweeter tendencies, which is to my taste.

Mouthfeel is voluptuous and slippery, with edges of acid and tannin texture giving way to a rather buxom impression on the tongue. Flavours are fresh in the mouth and not outsize or exaggerated. As with the nose, the palate strikes me as balanced and refined; it’s an engaging wine that also values quiet moments, those pauses that make sense of sound. The after palate is sappy and refreshingly sour, acid tightening but never quite swamping a core of red fruit.

Not a blockbuster, just a delicious Pinot.

Eldridge Estate
Price: $A35 (375mL)
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

In praise of vintage lunch

A great friend of mine recently wrote: “You have to work a vintage to understand what people mean when they say vintage. It takes over your life for a defined period of time. Damage control: eat, sleep, catch up with cleaning and that’s mostly life for a few weeks. Lots of relationships are made or broken. But I love it.”

She was right and I, along with countless others in wine regions across the world, am living it.

The people with whom one works in such an intense time become very important, and the rituals one shares with them provide a sort of glue that makes vintage a highly social, as well as busy, time. I’m spending most of my time at the winery run by Tim Geddes, where Dowie Doole (amongst other producers) makes most of its red wines. Tim’s engaging wife, Amanda, is a chef, and it is her task each day to feed the hungry, tired winery troops.

There’s something slightly surreal, and at the same time outrageously civilised, about sitting down each day to an extravagantly delicious lunchtime meal, book-ended by hours of messy, physical work. At twelve each day, the small vintage crew pauses to not only to satiate our appetites but also to, just for a moment, enjoy the sorts of sensual pleasures we are, in fact, in the process of producing for others.

It’s perhaps inevitable that we all love our food, and I hope we are a receptive audience for Amanda’s exceptional cooking. But it’s so much more than just a meal. Vintage lunch at the Geddes winery has become somewhat legendary in the region, and each day sees a visitor or two eagerly joining in the ritual. There’s even the occasional guest chef, today’s being Brad Hickey of the Brash Higgins label (quesadillas, corn – delicious). Great food, a beer or two, relaxed banter as our stomachs settle; vintage lunch makes sense of the morning’s hard work and makes bearable the prospect of another late night making wine.

I wonder what’s on the menu tomorrow?

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