Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Rosemount/Mondavi Connection
I don’t really take much notice of what the Mondavi empire does. So I was a little surprised when I tasted a bottle of Kirralaa Bushvine Shiraz recently and found the name Mondavi on the label. Kirralaa, pronounced KEERA-lah which is Australian aboriginal for star, is a joint effort between Robert Oatley, founder of Rosemount Estate and Robert Mondavi, founder of Robert Mondavi.

The aim of the partnership is to make California wines using Australian winemaking philosophy and Australian wines employing a California approach. For the Kirralaa wines this means trying to express the terroir that influences Californian single-vineyard wines. A lofty aim one might think, but there is plenty of single vineyard Shiraz in Australia. What is so special about the Kirralaa Bushwine Shiraz? Maybe the description of the vineyard might help?

Our 2002 really speaks to its South Australia, (and largely Barossa), provenance. Despite their age and often weary appearance, our bushy old vines in the Barossa delivered in a very, very big way. Smaller parcels of carefully-farmed 50 year old Shiraz in McLaren Vale and Shiraz from the cooler districts of Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills balanced the power of our Barossa valley Shiraz with mid-palate structure, distinctive spiciness, acidity and considerable length.

Hang on! That does not sound like a single vineyard wine. Just what is in the mix? The 2002 Kirralaa Bushvine Shiraz is a single varietal blend of 38% Barossa Valley, 28% Eden Valley, 18% Adelaide Hills, and 16% McLaren Vale fruit. The 2001 wine is even more diverse being a blend of Coonawarra 53%, Barossa Valley 24%, McLaren Vale 13% and Margaret River 10%. About the only wines in the Kirralaa range that are single vineyard appear to be the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon (McLaren Vale). The premium wine is the Indelible Reserve Shiraz which is a blend of grapes from Victorian vineyards and so some might argue its “provenance” is as an expression of Victorian terroir. But overall these wines are not single vineyard expressions of terroir, nor they examples of regional terroir. They look more like mixing whatever fruit you can get so that you can put wine in bottles!

The other wines in this partnership are the Talomas (pronounced tah-LOW-muss) wines. Talomas is an indigenous Californian word meaning wildcats. And no prizes for guessing that these are wines made in California in an Australian style. And that simply means blending different varietals. Again the fruit for these wines comes from different vineyards. The 2000 Cabernet/Syrah blend is Cabernet Sauvignon 67% and Syrah 33% with the fruit mix being Santa Barbara 35%, Mendocino 26%, Paso Robles 19%, Napa Valley 15% and Monterey 5%. The Talomas wines also include a Basket Press Reserve Syrah.

The Talomas wines sound more like a true expression of the Aussie philosophy of blending to produce a better quality wine. They might be worth seeking out, if only to see whether the blending works.

Oh, one final thing. Its only a small thing I know, but what’s with using Syrah for wines made in the Aussie tradition of blending? We call it Shiraz!

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