Well before minimal intervention became a catch-cry, Andrew Wardlaw had dropped the additives and turned down the winemaking influence in his wines.
Wardlaw is a smart, determined winemaker with an edginess, reflected in what he makes. His father was a winemaker and he was raised in the Barossa Valley. His early forays under the EdenFlo label began in the late 1990s.
The shift to minimal intervention practices came naturally. “I was growing grapes organically – no chemicals, no additives – so it made sense to do the same as organic gardening, to throw everything [undesirable] in the winery away,” he says. “I’ve been doing it for ages. People just thought I was a bit crazy.”
Best White at the Barossa Valley Wine Show. “It was naturally fermented, had nothing in it but fermented grapes and a little sulphur. People were losing their minds.”
His winemaking practice is now slightly different, but the intent is the same. “I like showcasing the vineyards I work with, or making a statement about a potential style from the Barossa,” he says.
2018 EdenFlo Old Vine Riesling Gewürztraminer (A$26) sees gewürztraminer picked early and left on skins for a day with the riesling components providing structure. It spent time in old barrels and was then bottled with minimal sulphur. Scintillating and complex, it has floral notes, whiffs of faint nuttiness, strong brown lime and ripe citrus characters. The palate is quite savoury with some mineral character chiming in. The baseline has a citrusy tang and a cavalcade of florals.
Four or five blocks of shiraz from different subregions and soils contribute to the entry-level 2017 EdenFlo Eden Valley Syrah (A$26), a flavoursome, medium weight red of perfume and slurpy, soft texture. The bouquet offers dark and red berry fruits, lavender floral notes, faint pepper and sweet spice with just a touch of herbal-bramble character. The texture is plush and velvety with more of the dark berry fruit tempered with licks of mocha and malt. A lingering spicy sweetness with a smudge of dusty tannins shapes things nicely. It’s a bargain for such character and drinkability.
The top of the range syrah is 2017 EdenFlo Eden Valley Old Vine Syrah (A$45) with fruit sourced from a single vineyard. “It’s more or less in the centre of the Eden Valley and a pretty special site,” says Wardlaw. It's a “serious” shiraz – succulent, pure-feeling, soft but relatively tightly bound in clean ribbons of amaro-like acidity and firm yet feathery tannins. It's got a strong sense of elegance but it isn’t missing flavour with layers of spice, strong graphite mineral character, lavish blackcurrant fruit with rosehip tea notes faintly present. It’s an absolute charmer.
Like Wardlaw, the wines are unfiltered and honest, full of character and slightly left of centre. It’s wonderful to make acquaintance with these high-quality wines.
Justin and Lisa Jenkins were inspired to start a wine brand while working at Melbourne’s City Wine Shop. Justin went on to work at some of Australia’s best wineries, while Lisa, a wine show judge and a graduate of the Len Evans Tutorial, further honed her knowledge.
In 2016, their dream to make wine was realised with Fleet’s first release, a cabernet franc from Gippsland. The duo relocated there. “We wanted to begin a deeper relationship with the land,” Justin says. “We had made wine, but we wanted to take it further, to connect with growing and farming, hence the move was logical and inspiring.”
Now in its third vintage, Fleet is offering bright, flavoursome, finely wrought wines with a gentle winemaking overlay. Fruit purity and freshness is key. “We’re not interested in masking anything in these wines,” Justin says. “But we are layering in some winemaking technique to build texture, complexity and personality.”
From two sites, 2018 Fleet Amis White (A$30) is a textural white crafted from pinot gris with about 30 hours skin contact. The judicious maceration results in a pale pink colour in the glass, and delivers succulent texture with a faint chalkiness lending character. The wine is redolent of rose petals, pear and quince of the nose with similar flavours, but the tight, mouth-watering finish is the hook.
Syrah and cabernet combine for 2018 Fleet Amis Rosé (A$30), a wine of distinct garnet colour, vitality and textural detail. It shows scents of pomegranate, faint nougat, lavender and rosewater. The palate is set to a cranberry tang with light spice and talc-like mineral characters. It’s decidedly dry and savoury, and dangerously drinkable. Fleet wines belong on everyone’s must-try list.
This curiously named wine project is the workof notable Barossa Valley winemaker Jaysen Collins. His ‘day job’ is at the formidable Massena, a progressive producer quietly redefining some of the region’s typical styles. JC’s Own seems to be about giving Collins a little extra flex in his approach with whole-bunch inclusion notable, resulting in wines that are a little edgier, free-form and intriguing.
Alongside the Barossa staples of grenache and shiraz, there’s a rogue bottling of Californian pinot noir from the Sierra Nevada foothills. It is the result of time spent with the renegade vigneron Matt Rorick of Forlorn Hope (California) who becomes a Massena vintage-hand in his off season. Collins has returned the favour in California.
The Australian wines present with bold packaging, reminiscent of another Barossa producer, Sami-Odi. Collins' considered, minimal-intervention winemaking shares similar philosophies to that of Sami-Odi. In fact, Collins and Fraser McKinley of Sami-Odi have shared winery space for some time.
The 2016 JC’s Own Originale Grenache (A$50) originates from a 150-year-old vineyard. The result is a complex, quietly powerful expression. It shows strong aromas of plum, dark cherries, green herb and cola, with chewy tannin a feature on the palate.
2016 JC’s Own Barossa Shiraz (A$65) is the other wine to catch my eye in the Aussie line-up. It’s from old vines and is macerated for six weeks before pressing. The wine is quite luscious and rich in dark fruits with sweet spice and soft tannins. It’s powerfully scented, too, with more of the dark berries and spice emerging. It’s deep, brooding stuff.
The California wine is distinct not only for the variety, but for its style and profile. 2016 JC’s Own Sierra Nevada Foothills Pinot Noir (A$50) is a svelte, silky red of high-toned floral and cherry fruit characters on the nose. The palate is concentrated and medium-bodied with cherry juice, light truffle-mushroomy notes and a lick of bramble and herbs. Like the Barossan wines, it’s gorgeous drinking. The trio of wines is worth seeking out for their inimitable quality and personality.