Looks like rain…

G’day. Thursday.

Had a very good dinner last night with the colourful Chester Osborn, the d’Arenberg winemaker. He bundled into the restaurant carrying a box of wines – one already decanted! – not his own wines but a Bordeaux and Barolo from his own cellar. Very good too.

I’ve met a few, let’s say ‘inspired’ winemakers in my time but the extrovert Chester, with his long curly locks, amazingly colourful taste in shirts and his let’s enjoy life attitude is a notch up from most. Another great family company, Chester now makes wine in the cellars built by his grandfather.

Mmmm, which one to try first?

The McLaren Vale, where the d’Arenberg wines hail from, has some of the oldest vines in the country, dating back to 1850. A short drive south from Adelaide the area has a Mediterranean climate, a huge diversity of soil types and cooling sea breezes which make it an ideal place for growing wine grapes. There’s also a great food culture here with abundant local produce.

View across McLaren Vale from the verandah at d'Arenberg

The d’Arenberg wines with such names as The Footbolt, Laughing Magpie and Dead Arm Shiraz all have a story to tell about the history or the region it’s from. We must have tasted over 20 wines at the cellar door, all of which were great, from Old Vine Grenache through to sticky dessert wines.

 Next call was to a fairly new winery, Mollydooker. Sparky and Sarah Marquis are making some of the most massive, dense reds I’ve ever tasted. You end up saying “Wow” a lot. These are not wines for the faint-hearted and if you like deep, dark fruit and huge concentration in your wine then look out for these in the future. And the labels are brilliant too.

 From South of Adelaide to the North and up to the world-famous Barossa Valley. Historically, the Barossa has been the spiritual home of the Australian wine industry. The first vines here were planted in the mid-19th century by German immigrants keen to recreate the wines of their homeland – hence Riesling was a popular choice. Today the  Barossa is best known for its Shiraz. Due to strict quarantine restrictions in the 1800s, the vineyards did not suffer from phylloxera or the many other diseases that have wiped out other wine regions during the last two hundred years. So Australia’s oldest Shiraz vines still live on in the Barossa from low yielding dry grown bush vines that produce highly concentrated, lush, complex, rich, intense, and full-bodied wines. Yum.

I met with the guys at the Peter Lehmann winery and cellar door, who were a little worried about the forecast for rain tomorrow. It’s been a fairly wet season by Barossa standards with quite a number of ‘rain events’ as they like to call them. Rain at this time of the season can be bad news for the grapes on the vine as the damp can lead to disease and spoilt, diluted fruit.

We tasted the recent releases, some new wines to their range and some nice older vintages of some of their classic wines, such as the Barossa Shiraz. I’ve decided to have 3 WsOTD today – greedy I know but some days one just won’t do. Firstly a tank sample of the 2010 Carnival of Love Shiraz from Mollydooker – just huge and full and wow! Then I couldn’t make my mind up between Clancys Red 2008 and the Stonewell Shiraz 2006 from Lehmann. The Clancy’s  – a red blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot – because it’s drinking so well now and is brilliant value for money and the Stonewell had such great length and richness. And some of those d’Arenberg wines were so good too – Maybe I’ll have four WOTD tomorrow!

My new Aussie word of the day is “Bogan” which I’m told is the Oz equivalent of a pikey or chav. Try it out on your Australian acquaintances and make their day.

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