2010 Madfish Magaret River Carnelian

Another recognisable wine label from the Burch family-owned Howard Park winery, the Madfish brand represents 20 years of fine quality wines produced from grapes sourced from the Margaret River and Great Southern Regions of Western Australia.

The Carnelian variety however may not be as well known to the average punter but like all grape varieties has its own individual story to relate. It mercifully has nothing to do with that horrible Culture Club song Karma Chameleon (rhyming with the chameleon part). Rather, it is one of the so-named Olmo Grapes produced in 1972 by pioneering viticulturalist and geneticist Dr Harold P. Olmo from the University of California, Davis, a cross between Grenache and an earlier crossing of Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Designed to grow in warm climate states such as California, Texas and Hawaii believe it or not, it appeared the uptake was so slow that coverage worldwide today is minimal. It was thanks to the venerable Dr Olmo who visited Western Australia and worked at its Department of Agriculture that eventually allowed the Carnelian variety to secure its only small foothold in the west and indeed Australia, according to a winery spokesperson. But this is where the story gets somewhat interesting.

With only a handful of wineries now as its last bastion, Carnelian was originally planted in the belief it was Sangiovese, a case of mistaken identity made in a vine nursery. Howard Park went ahead planting cuttings only to release the 'real' identity in later vintages. The winery persisted when results were promising and has done so up until this vintage. Although not as controversial as the Carmenere/Merlot mix up in Chile or our own Albarino/Savignin fiasco of a few years ago, it still goes to show that accidents do occur in the wine identification process. Where was Dr Olmo when he was needed ? As an aside, Sangiovese has yet to make a real impression in WA as it has in eastern states.    

There is a great vivid purple colour with crimson hues to this Carnelian. Dark chocolate, violet flowers, herbs and fresh blackberry aromas lift from the glass. The palate reveals dark plum, pepper and aniseed liquorice tastes. Some mint nuances too. Firm powdery tannins, toasty oak spiciness and fresh acidity round out a well-balanced palate. Smooth texturally but intense and rustic. 
Walks the line 
between medium and full-bodied. Juicy, fleshy and plump - but in a good way !

More Grenache with the luscious dark fruit jamminess than Cabernet Sauvignon, whose flavour profile it was intended to emulate originally, this Carnelian is a powerful wine from the west. Priorat wine on the Margaret River you could say. Experience or lay down a few bottles before this rare varietal and sadly last vintage becomes confined to the annals of history. Available at the cellar door and online. Recommended.

Source: Winery Sample. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: Screwcap. Price: $20.00. Rating: 90+ Points.

Website: http://www.burchfamilywines.com.au/products/brands/madfish/default.aspx

2012 Chalk Hill Vermentino

Vermentino has been widely touted as the next big thing on the white wine circuit in Australia. This McLaren Vale example is Chalk Hill's second vintage and while the young vines do not deliver an existential experience in the glass, they do show up some good varietal qualities.

Pale quartz yellow with green hues in colour. 
Smells of the sea shore after a rain storm. Some notes of refreshing grapefruit and green olives aromas. Minerally talc aromas in the mix. Dry and medium bodied with a soft fennel and green apple palate. Soft texture with a nice splash of lemon acidity. Approachable, bright and cheerful with a mineral finish.     
A well balanced wine throughout and a good entry-level example if you haven't tried the variety already.

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 11.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Price: $15.00. Rating: 87 Points

Website: http://www.chalkhill.com.au/