2012 Chalmers Heathcote Sagrantino

Some wines should have cautions labelled on them regarding their contents and Sagrantino is one such beast. If you happen to be averse to a hell broth of dark fruits and intense masculine tannins, the suggestion would be to stick to Cabernet-based wines. Apologies to those who enjoy these but for the uninitiated or unwary punter, the variety is a challenge but well worth the journey.  
Whether Sagrantino was originally brought to its present homeland in central Umbria by monks or if St Francis of Assisi was responsible for its plantings, either way the variety appears to have had a divinely-inspired beginning belying its reputation for the devilish brew its reputation has bestowed upon it today. 

The variety almost became extinct in the 1960's before visionary vintners saw its potential, resurrecting it to the point where in the Montefalco Region - Italy's largest area of its plantings - DOCG status was attained in 1991. 

This first vintage from Chalmers' Heathcote vineyards is a dark ruby red colour with a black core in the glass. Aromatically, cherries, plums, floral earthiness and liquorice proliferate but there is smokey meat note with hints of oregano and unusual tropical fruit component to tail off. The palate betrays the bouquet. The impression is it will be lighter bodied. The Lagrein for example was the opposite. Big aromatics but a smooth, medium-bodied wine.

Tongue-coating tannic dark fruit and bright acidity kicking in. Medium to full-bodied wine from those extraordinary Cambrian soils. Earthy, dark plum, blackberries and savoury bark notes. Grippy and brambly mouthfeel characteristics. Dry, rich palate of dates, stewed dark fruits, sour black cherry. Enough warming alcohol despite the volume. Brooding, earthy but approachable tannins. A big wine with plenty of grunt and intensity yet has a sense of refinement about it too. 

For me, the tannins and acidity are challenging but it is an impressive wine and a great ride to boot. Not a drop you would drink without food. Be warned !

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: Screwcap. Price: $45.00. Rating: 91 Points.

2011 Oak Works Lagrein

Oak Works Wines was established in 2001 and said to be the birthplace of alternative varietals in the Riverland Region. Although not possessing vineyards of its own, co-owner and winemaker Peter Rogers purchases premium fruit from local Riverland plots for its extensive portfolio of alternative varietals. My impression is that this is a labour of love where traditional handmade techniques with the use of oak barrels, can only benefit the final product.  

Lagrein is an ancient Italian red variety from the Trentino Alto-Adige region in north-east Italy, some manuscripts dating it back to the fourteenth century. Genetic research suggests the variety is a direct descendant of the Teroldego grape, a geographical neighbour and a grandchild of Pinot Noir. That evidence appears to have put paid to the original theory that Lagrein's origin was Greek.

Deep inky purple colour from the first splash, almost black in the glass. Visually, you might expect a big wine but this is not heavy by any means. Lifted licorice, violet floral notes and dark fruit aromatics going on. Savoury dark plums, sour cherry, lively acidity and intense grainy tannins greet the palate. There is a savoury chocolate mid-palate with gamey characters, which I liked. Mid-weight and silky textured wine. Persistent savoury finish with a touch of cherry pip bitterness on the aftertaste. Fourteen months in older American oak has mellowed the wine, ironing out the earthy chewiness typical of the variety and making it very approachable. 

Peter Rogers has it going on with the no wood no good, back to the future approach to winemaking and it shows. Great stuff. Thoroughly enjoyed this drop.

Source: Sample. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: Cork. Price: $20.00. Rating: 92 Points.