2010 Hickinbotham of Dromana Taminga

Innovation, foresight, knowledge and quality are the hallmarks of the Hickinbotham Family whose association with wine production in Australia has stretched across a number of generations. Their winery and its vineyards on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula have been deigned to minimise the effects of production on the environment while at the same time ensuring positive and sustainable outcomes to it and the local community. Such is the care and commitment that their mission statement is available on the winery website, a fact not embraced by many others, at least in practical terms.

The Tamnga grape variety was originally developed in the halcyon 1960's decade by the Australian CSIRO to be grown in warmer climatic and higher yielding conditions such as the Riverland Region of South Australia. The term Taminga ('place of the white gum') was derived from pre-European settlement, a name given to Adelaide by the indigenous Kaurna people whose territory extended from the bottom of the Fleurieu Peninsula in the south to the eastern shores of Gulf St. Vincent in the north.      

A cross between Riesling and Gewurztraminer, the grape combines the floral aromas of Riesling with the spicy characteristics of Gewurztraminer to produce a wine of zesty, mouth-filling intensity. While Taminga was originally intended to produce a sweeter style of wine,  Hickinbotham of Dromana has used innovation and expertise to allow the grape at its cooler estate vineyards on the Peninsula to flourish and yield a distinctly interesting melange of powerful aromatics, spice and citrus fruits. What more could you expect from a variety with such a heritage!   

With changes in our culinary eating culture and the proliferation of Asian restaurants, Taminga is very well suited in standing toe to toe with the fiercest of dishes. Whether it is a nuclear Thai green curry or a lava hot Indian beef vindaloo, it impresses with how it quells the heat and spice while retaining its own integrity. While other whites buckle under the torrid assault and slink off to the background, Taminga does not in any way, shape or form. Often I am amused even bemused to see diners have the heavier reds accompany these types of cuisine but people once frowned if you had reds with fish. It's a personal choice isn't it ? My preference and recommendation to match these incendiary dishes has now changed to Taminga.

Once poured this bright straw yellow coloured wine opens up with some lovely lifted aromas of citrus and fresh flowers continuing on to a ripe mouth filling palate of spicy pear and lime with a hint of apricot and guava action in the background to add interest. Backed up by clean, balanced, crunchy citrus zest, the Taminga finishes crisp and dry. I liked this from the first sip. For wine aficionados and funsters alike, do yourselves a favour and experience this intriguing variety at your next Asian restaurant outing, you will not be disappointed. Drinking beautifully now.

Source: Winery Sample. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 92 Points. 

2010 Mt. Franklin Estate Pinot Grigio

There has to be some magical ingredient in the volcanic soils at Mt. Franklin Estate that helps owner and winemaker Lesley McGillivray make such delicious wines. One of three Italian grape varieties produced at this boutique family-owned winery north of Daylesford, the 2010 Pinot Grigio vintage is a superb example of old world finesse blended with big Australian fruit flavours and spice. Fifteen years experience of growing the Grigio grape in this extraordinary terroir has enabled McGillivray to bottle such a delicious wine.    

One could reasonably argue that Pinot Grigio and its French counterpart Pinot Gris, has these days become a mainstream variety in Australia, grown in all states and virtually all regions. Both the Grigio and Gris grapes are the same variety, the difference lies in the style in which the wine is made despite the early ambiguity surrounding what label to use on what wine style. Speaking of labels, if there ever was a grape variety that demands closer scrutiny of a wine bottle's back label, it is this one. 

A grape variety of the species vitis vinifera, Pinot Grigio is believed to be a mutant clone of the Pinot Noir grape and takes its name from the French translation for 'pinot' meaning 'pine cone', a reference to the pine cone shaped clusters of the grapes. The variety usually thrives in cool climate regions such as in its north-eastern Italian heartland of Alto-Adige, Veneto and Friuli and judging by this regional Victorian interpretation, certainly delivers the goods in environs not too dissimilar. 

Pale straw yellow to the eye with a slight bronze tinge throughout due to the greyish-purple colour of the grapes. Subtle lifted aromas of pear, peach and floral blossom with a little citrus and mineral action permeating the nose. The first thing you notice on the palate is the wine's crisp, off dry style followed by the underlying savoury, mineral notes typical of the variety.  Texturally, the wine is silky smooth, slightly oily but enough steely acidity and pear, lychee and nutmeg flavours throughout to make this a well made, approachable wine with lovely balance and length.

Source: Winery Sample. Alcohol: 13.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 89 Points.

2009 Elderton Wines Barossa Zinfandel

Similar to quite a number of grape varieties, Zinfandel has a controversial past. There appears to be conjecture as to its lineage. Its origins were believed to be a twin of the Primitivo variety of Italy's Puglia region and as having a relationship to the Plavic Mali grape from the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia. However, DNA profiling has now indicated that its genetic root goes back to the grape Crljenak Kasteljanski, which was grown in the Dalmatia province of Croatia. There is even research that suggests original plantings migrating there from Greece.

Zinfandel or 'Zin' as the Yanks prefer to call it, arrived in the United States in the early nineteenth century and despite a hiccup or two along the way, is now considered a signature American wine and the mainstay particularly of the California viticulture scene, popularity and proliferation wise. Our good buddies from across the pond would have us believe that it is their indigenous variety but the truth appears to be that in terms of vitis vinifera vines, it will be the closest they get to an all American variety. Be that as it may, the Yanks are responsible for Zinfandel's prominence on the world's wine stage creating not just the dry and sweet red wine styles but also the uber-popular rose/blush White Zinfandel that caters to the American white wine-drinking consumer market.     

In Australia, Zinfandel hasn't fared as well owing to its similarity to Shiraz and our tradition with this mainstream variety. Margaret River's Cape Mentelle was the first winery to take up the cudgels in the early 1990's and now seems to be the benchmark for Zinfandel in this country. The grape tends to do well in warmer climates where its susceptibility to bunch rot, mildew and uneven ripening - even within the same bunch - may not be an issue.  

This 2009 Elderton Zinfandel is part of the company's Estate Range with the grapes sourced from vineyards in the Greenock sub-region of the Barossa Valley and the Eden Valley. In the glass it exhibits rich dark purple colours. Lifted jammy berry fruit sweetness on the aromatics incorporates hints of spice and plum that flow into a lively textured wine. Pepper of the black variety and chocolate complete the full bodied, dense palate. A little coarse in places, not aided by the heavy heat, which subtracted from the enjoyment. In short, a wine of good balance between its savoury and varietal fruit components but to me, this version wasn't overly generous, there was something missing, a knock out punch perhaps that would have pushed it over the line. A variety to consider as an alternative to Shiraz and one I'll explore further in future posts. 

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 16.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 87 Points.  
Website: http://www.eldertonwines.com.au/