8 Aug 2019 | Cherry Cai
If you're a wine lover, then you've mostly likely heard of the James Halliday Wine Companion. The Halliday Wine Companion has long been considered as the industry benchmark for Australian wine and this annual is a much-loved guide for those who truly appreciate a great wine. In the creation process of this books, more than 9048 wines were tasted, each of them ranked and points given by James Halliday and his tasting team. Of these 9048 wines, only one of them was awarded the title of Wine of The Year.
Yangarra Estate Vineyard High Sands McLaren Vale Grenache 2016
It’s hard to separate the impact of the place, the soil, the vines, the vintage, the viticulturist, the winemaker, the vinification and the certified biodynamic management of the 69-year-old dry-grown bush vines. All have contributed to the 260 dozen bottles of this magnificent wine.
The maker is Peter Fraser (Wine Companion 2016 Winemaker of the Year), the viticulturist Michael Lane. They have jointly guided the vineyard to its biodynamic status, and Peter’s approach in the winery is a corollary to that in the vineyard. The bridge between the two is hand-picking, with the berries mechanically sorted (far superior to hand-sorting at this level): 50% crushed, 50% whole berry (no whole-bunch inclusion).
The yield varies between 15 and 16t/ha: 1–1.2t/acre. There are no herbicides or fungicides, and tractors are used minimally to reduce soil compaction or degradation. Biodynamic compost and bio preparations help to maintain a living and self-sustaining soil.
The wine comes from Block 31 of the vineyard, at once the highest in terms of elevation, the lowest in terms of yield, and the deepest in terms of sand. It seems counterintuitive, but this is wine: quality is its raison d’être. The soil’s free-draining capacity is friend and foe. Vines of all shapes and sizes don’t like waterlogged soils, and the sands mean that problem is avoided. Like Hunter Valley semillon, the old vines develop a root system that penetrates deep and can find reserves of water. Benevolent neglect? Well, there’s more of it in the winery. The grapes endured a five-day cold soak at 10°C in open fermenters, SO2 the only protection. They were plunged during fermentation, but not otherwise, and the pressings were not returned to the wine. Ceramic eggs were not used; the wine was matured on its yeast lees for 11 months in used French oak.
Wines from each barrel were tasted prior to bottling, and only those that best portrayed the pedigree of this tiny but utterly exceptional place were bottled. Previous Wine of the Year recipients were Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 (2014), Xanadu Stevens Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (2015), Serrat Shiraz Viognier 2014 (2016), Best’s Thomson Family Shiraz 2014 (2017), Henschke Hill of Grace 2012 (2018) and Duke’s Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling 2017 (2019).
Text extracted from Halliday Wine Companion 2020
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