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

Chain of Ponds Novello Nero 2005

A blend of Sangiovese, Barbera and Grenache from South Australia. 

The nose is relatively dumb at first, with sour cherries and raw meat seeming to sit in the glass even when violently encouraged to take flight (my wrist is sore – from swirling). There’s a coarse vegetal edge to the aroma that seems whole bunch-like. A bit of powdery vanilla oak rounds things off. It’s quite sniffable and mercifully free from industrial confectionary. It’s also blunt and rather unrefined.
On entry, a refreshingly rustic mouthfeel that immediately recalls the sort of cheap Chianti that I secretly adore for its rough authenticity. Also like cheap Chianti, there’s never any danger of this scaling the heights of fruit intensity. Rather, this provides “just enough” of a great many things: flavour, length, complexity, interest. But wine is about how the whole hangs together and, in this case, there’s a reasonable impression of coherence. More sour cherry pips, almonds, oak and a moderately unattractive caramel note wash over the tongue, straining to escape the impression of being watered down. Bright acid keeps things fresh and clean, washing away the last stains of flavour and encouraging food.
I wasn’t feeling all that positive about this wine when I sat down to compose this note, and I remain equivocal in some respects. On the other hand, it’s fresh and light in a manner that evades many local red styles, and for that at least should be noted.

Chain of Ponds
Price: $A14.25
Closure: Stelvin

Prunotto Barbera D'Alba 2005

A New World style from the Old World.

A truly inviting nose of dark berry fruits, bramble/undergrowth, some sweet spices and noticeable vanillin oak. Smooth, quite seamless, not overly complex. The entry and middle palate are again smooth, showing the same mix of flavours within a body of medium weight. There’s no angularity here; no prominent acidity, no premature raspy tannins. Nothing, in fact, to dominate the round, pleasant fruit and oak flavours. Flavours are perhaps a little light on in the intensity stakes, which in a sense is appropriate for the wine’s easy going structure. Finish is soft and of reasonable length. Despite being a bit light on, the wine does have a nice sense of balance.

I had this with pasta and goat ragu and, whilst the wine was generally a good match (the fruit sweetness in particular enhanced the sweet sauce), I would have preferred something with more structure.

Price: $A25
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: November 2007