2009 Zonte's Footsteps Violet Beauregard Langhorne Creek Malbec

Malbec Grapes
One of the five grapes permitted in Bordeaux blends, Malbec was until 1956 a significant variety in south-west France. The great frost of that year put pay to the oldest vines there and now like Petit Verdot, takes a back seat to the Cabernet brothers Sauvignon and Franc and their mate Merlot. Most vignerons replaced the disease-prone Malbec with more resilient and economically viable alternatives. 

The predominant plantings in France are now found in the Cahors region where Appellation Controllee regulations require a 70% minimum content, Merlot and Tannat usually supplementing the remainder. In that southern region of Bordeaux it goes under the names Cot, Cot Noir or Auxerrois. 

Documented evidence suggests that Malbec has over 1000 synonyms, a legacy of widespread plantings at its peak in 30 different departments of France. It is interesting to note that the name Auxerrois in other regions such as Alsace is an entirely different grape variety. This synonym however may also suggest a hint as to its origins in a town of the same name in northern Burgundy and not as it is recorded, the Cahors region. 

Since the late 1980's Malbec has become Argentina's signature variety thriving in the hot, high altitude Mendoza Valley in the country's west where it avoids vineyard moulds and diseases that had pestered it in Bordeaux. Perhaps not as popular as the maestro Lionel Messi, it has however single-handedly put Argentina on the world's wine stage producing wines of different styles and price points. As its most widely planted variety Malbec or Fer as it is known there, has become the equivalent to the story of Australian shiraz.

If there was a spinoff in the Australian context, Malbec's resurgence, if that is what you call it, has been slow since its heyday a couple of decades ago when it was used primarily in Cabernet or Shiraz blends. With more knowledge nowadays about the health benefits of dark-skinned grapes such as Malbec and Tannat and with the efforts of entrepreneurial and enthusiastic vintners, the future appears positive for Malbec as a varietal wine in Australia.  

Malbec is found in vineyards throughout the mainland states and has thrived at Langhorne Creek for decades.  Zonte's Footstep's first 100% Malbec release packs a real wallop of blueberry. Glass staining opaque purple with an intense nose of smokey dark cherry, plum fruit, violets and the ubiquitous blueberries. Beside the stains, in the mouth you get big dark fruit and rich chocolate flavours playing centre stage. Full, well-rounded with a spicy edge to it that is softened by gentle, velvety tannins. Lingering, fruity finish. A touch flabby in texture and a little too much heat are my only concerns. Nonetheless, this is a wine that is certainly not backward in coming forward !  

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 88 Points.
Website: http://www.zontesfootstep.com.au/

2012 Sirromet 820 Above Vineyard Selection Verdelho

It's interesting to note people's reaction these days when you mention Queensland wine. Expressions of bemusement, incredulity to a sudden expertise in the state's climate, 'it's too hot and humid to grow grapes there', appear to be the norm. That may be the case in the tropical north where fruit wines predominate and are an acquired taste in themselves. But far further south on Queensland's border with New South Wales lies an elevated, cool climate region perched on the Great Dividing Range called the Granite Belt. With altitudes between 600 and 1200 metres the vineyards in the Granite Belt are amongst the highest in Australia. The climate and the ancient, rich mineral-laden soils make it the state's premier and largest region with over 500 hectares under vine.

Opened in 2000 and the winner of over 500 national and international awards, family owned Sirromet Winery is located at Mt. Cotton between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Assistant Winemaker Jessica Ferguson says that "fruit for this year’s Verdelho was primarily from our relatively young (8 years) Night Sky vineyard (planted to white varietals only), with 15% also coming from the older St Judes’s vineyard" both of which are located in the Granite Belt Region. 

Now I realise that Verdelho is not considered an alternative variety according to the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show classification but for me notwithstanding the fact that it is a grape grown on all mainland states, it does not appear to be front and centre in people's thinking when it comes to white wine, giving it that 'esoteric' factor. Even the trendoid variety Gruner Veltliner got a jersey ahead of it amongst sommeliers, winemakers and retailers in an alternative varieties survey last year, which helps prove my point.  

Verdelho is indigenous to Portugal where it is grown in the Douro Valley but its reputation has come from its vinification into fortified wine styles on the islands of Madeira, east of Morocco. Grown also in Spain's Galicia Region and France's Loire Valley, its successful adaptation in Australia as not only a dry table wine of some complexity but also as both a late picked version and a fortified wine, has made it a truly versatile variety. Verdelho's history in Australia dates back to the 1820's when cuttings were imported from England by wool industry pioneer and pastoralist John Macarthur
The Sirromet is a pale straw yellow in the glass. Attractive lifted aromas of guava, honeydew melon, orange blossom and spicy fruit salad give the wine a fresh, lively nose. The palate is refreshingly dry, the natural grape acid backbone keeps it vibrant and clean. Cut grass, tangerine and tropical fruit flavours add to form a juicy mouthfeel. A smooth, flavoursome finish. I like the twelve percent alcohol here as some Verdelhos can get too overpowering in that respect. Excellent matched up with a chicken salad. A good alternative to the current market-dominated Sauvignon Blanc glut.

Source: Winery Sample. Alcohol: 12.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 89 Points.

Website: http://www.sirromet.com/?referer=foodwinesleep