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Archive for the ‘Alternative Varieties’ Category

As the weather begins to warm, a natural restlessness can tend to kick in.  So, what better time to shake up your wine selection with something a little new? With something fresh and perhaps a touch unusual? We think it’s a perfect time for us to showcase one of the newer white grapes being cultivated in Australia – Vermentino. A Mediterranean grape of medieval heritage, Vermentino is a wine of delicious, citrusy crispness with awe-inspiring food-matching capabilities.

Inspired voyage

wine-vermentinoIt’s interesting that we think of Vermentino as ‘new’ in terms of Australian winegrowing experience, yet it is certainly ‘old’ in the grand scheme of world winemaking. Like most wines, there is a bit of an historical tussle about the exact provenance of Vermentino grapes. In all likelihood, cuttings of the Vermentino vine first went from Spain to Italy in the 1300s. Medieval sailors took this precious botanical cargo to the Ligurian Coast, via the rocky island of Sardinia. With only 11km between Sardinia and the French isle of Corsica, it was inevitable that this promising white vine also made its way up into Corsica and through the greater French wine regions.

With all of this sea travel, it is perhaps not surprising that Vermentino goes by many names in Europe, such as Rolle and Favorita. But it was the Italians – led by the Liguria and Sardinia regions – who embraced and developed Vermentino to its magnificent best. Winemakers there became excited and encouraged by the striking golden wine that began to emerge from this hardy white varietal. Importantly, Vermentino handled heat like a champion, maintaining acidic balance and flavour integrity in the warmest of Mediterranean seasons. With a tang of citrus plus a fresh maritime minerality, Vermentino became a perfect companion for those long al fresco evenings of Italian seafood and antipasto under the stars.

Old and new

Now Australia, like many other nations, took a little longer than Italy to discover the promise of Vermentino. The first vines began to be planted here in the 1990s, as Australian vintners recognised the hardiness and heat-handling capabilities of this aromatic white. It is a testament to the character and quality of this grape that even in this short time, Vermentino has been moving from an obscure ‘alternative’ varietal to one that is becoming a go-to summer drop for discerning Australian consumers. With parts of our climate emulating the warm and breezy Mediterranean regions, Vermentino has once more travelled across the seas to find a new land in which to shine.  And at Taylors Wines, one of our greatest joys is sourcing fine Australian grape varietals – old and new – and working to create premium wines of quality and integrity.TWP_VER_bottle-CMYK(A4)

Lovely summer drop

Our winemakers have taken the ‘old’ aspects of Vermentino’s Mediterranean heritage and combined them with the very best of Australian growing conditions and oenology.

Within our TWP range, we’ve been drawn instinctively to the possibilities for Australian Vermentino grapes to deliver extraordinary white wines. Knowing that the SA Riverland region produces champion fruit, we source the best of the Vermentino crops from this region for our TWP maestros to work with.

Now the way that we work here is by respecting the past as well as embracing the best that the modern era of winemaking offers. Analysing the fruit in the field gives us the opportunity to apply classic techniques, such as early morning cool harvest and initial whole berry pressing.

Then, with an eye to the delicate flavours of the Vermentino, appropriate yeast strains are painstakingly selected for the cold fermentation. Throughout vinification, our wine makers utilise state-of-the-art techniques to preserve the fine balance and textural nuances of this fine white.

And sure – they sometimes develop a friendly rivalry as they work tirelessly towards revelation of Vermentino’s many virtues… but that’s okay! As we find across the TWP range, our keen winemakers are passionate in their pursuit of an excellent drop, hewn from an unbeatable combination of heritage, technology and beautiful fruit.

An Italian pairing

Vermentino creates a wondrous match with a wide selection of foods. Interestingly, a complex mid palate and that fine acidic tone both work together to facilitate perfect pairing – not only with light summer food, but also with some more full-flavoured morsels. So feel free to team your Vermentino with a spicy laksa, chorizo tapas or well-herbed barramundi. In fact, across the board of seafood cuisine, Vermentino is a loving partner to your entire summer catch of crustaceans, mackerel, calamari and oysters. And of course that hearty Italian platter of antipasto, replete with marinated artichoke hearts, semidried tomatoes, sardines, and chilli olives, absolutely begs for accompaniment with a crisp and lime-tinged Vermentino. Before you know it, you’ll think you’re sipping away on a pristine Sardinian headland, watching the aqua Mediterranean roll gently by… sigh…

 New seasons

It’s safe to say that we continue to be excited and delighted about the quality of our Australian Vermentino. This is a wine that brings to mind freshness, new beginnings and breezy summer enjoyment. With a clarity and structure that sees Vermentino’s fine acidity hold across even the most challenging season, this is a white to be enjoyed in the prime of its younger years. Buon Apetito!

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It’s true that our winemakers here at Taylors work hard each season to create memorable wines. And we do our best to provide them with the best fruit, resources and working environment to enable them to bring to life our award-winning range. But we also know that there’s another, more subtle input that’s tied into our winemaking success – creative flair.

To nourish the artisan hearts of our winemakers, we’ve developed the Taylors Winemaker’s Project (TWP). The project allows our people to work with some of the newest trends in wine craft, and produce wine that is exciting, but that might not necessarily fit our existing range. These offerings find a home in our niche TWP range.

St. Andrews ShirazOur winemakers are always taking care to research the latest techniques in vinification, plus the most current advances in varietal development and usage. So, through TWP they get to tap in to the possibilities for lesser known varieties, plus experiment with various innovative techniques that have captured their imaginations. It’s our way of giving them room to run with their exciting, cutting-edge ideas – while at the same time providing our loyal followers with the very best in creative wine experiences.

Our artisans at work

The project unfolds exclusively here at our Clare Valley winery where a small selection of the best fruit is identified for involvement in a TWP creation. Our winemakers will have keenly watched the season and kept tabs on the performance of both regular and unusual grape varieties. They’ll have been obsessively interested in growth conditions across both central Clare Valley and surrounding sub-regions. And long before harvest, they’re concocting theoretical combinations in their minds, eagerly anticipating the emerging possibilities. When the time is right, a small amount of the best grapes from low-cropping vines are earmarked for an exclusive journey through the creative TWP world.

And we’re pretty proud of our teamwork in terms of creative flow from this point. The TWP opportunity sure opens up diverse and sometimes competing views on what can best be created for the bottle. But here at Taylors we’re happy to (gently!) thrash out our wilder ideas together, until a plan is in place for a new and unique TWP offering.

Expect the unexpected

Part of the appeal of the project to our winemakers is that they get to use unusual varietals, plus mix and match more regular ones in surprising and unexpected ways.

A classic example is the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc (known as the CMMC).

Having sourced a little of the best of the estate low-yielding crops, the twist of Cabernet Franc was then added to this exclusive mix. Initially fermented at quite low temperatures, the CMMC was then carefully subjected to a second malo-lactic fermentation in our premium French oak barrels.

And just wait till you taste the results. The deep aromatics and fine, long tannins in the glass draw together CMMC’s quite extraordinary rich berry flavours and gentle herbal notes. You’ll be forgiven for drifting out of any conversation with this wine in your glass!

And that’s what TWP is really all about. Our winemakers are simply dying to take you on an exciting wine adventure, part of which they’ve already begun during the exacting vinification processes. They not only choose fantastic, diverse fruit, but they also experiment with extremely cool and unusual ways to bring each unique batch to bottling. You might think it’s a little coy of us not to deliver a package of neat, comprehensive information about TWP methods. But there is no one method, and that’s really the point. Each carefully selected batch of source material speaks to our gifted winemakers in different ways, on every separate TWP adventure.

While TWP is certaTWP winesinly a recognisable wine range, there’s an unusual beauty in knowing that each TWP offering is a bespoke and singularly charismatic creation. It might be around for one vintage only or sneak back into the range for a season or two like the CMMC, which is about to be released for a second time, or the Vermentino, which is also in its second vintage.

Like our winemakers, there’s a bit of mystery and a touch of the unknowable across our Taylors Winemaker’s Project creations. What is concrete is that each bottle carries within it the best fruit and the best wine-craft available – plus a little ‘something special’ that’s hard to put your finger on, and we’re fairly sure comes from the freedom to roam freely with fresh ideas.

Giving them wings

We mentioned at the beginning that at Taylors, we feel it’s so important to give our most creative brains the room that they need to mix up a little wine alchemy. That’s why we brought to the TWP to life. But it’s not just our winemakers who are given wings to fly. The TWP wines give our followers a chance to also cut loose and have a slightly edgier wine moment or two. To maybe consider a little Vermentino with the veal, or perhaps a dash of Mataro in the mix…or even try a saucy blend of four fabulous red varietals all in one cheeky quartet.

Having access to some unusual varietals gives enjoyers of wine the chance to live a little, and to break any old habits related to what goes into the glass. You really never know what you might discover. The TWP is all about taking risks and remembering the magic that really is at the heart of wine appreciation.

And we think you’ll fall in love with the special, one-off creations that our winemakers create through their limited edition TWP endeavours.

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Whilst monitoring the fruit development in the vineyard and all the preparation work for the coming vintage is the main focus of everyone at the winery, later in November a small contingent from our team will also be attending an Australian Wine Research Institute workshop held in the Clare Valley that covers the topic of ‘alternative varieties’. The workshop includes researched findings on 40 varieties that may have potential in the Australian environment and an in-depth analysis of 15 varieties selected for regional suitability.  A wine tasting will showcase local and  imported wines from the varieties that have potential to succeed in the local conditions.  This regionally-specific training will help hone the skills required in recognising the potential and requirements of ‘alternative varieties’.

At our winery, we have been experimenting with alternative varietals for some time.  It’s hard to believe now but Pinot Gris/Grigio was considered an alternative variety not so long ago – as was Viognier and still to a certain extent, Tempranillo!  Recently we released a Vermentino in the TWP (Taylors Winemaker Project) range; a variety still very much thought of as alternative.  So what are some alternative varieties and why should we consider them? Well, according to the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show definition, an alternative varietal is anything other than Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Grenache, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Shiraz, Riesling and Verdelho.  Many producers are now considering other varieties as they feel there is too much uniformity in wine styles at present and the alternative varieties offer a greater range of flavours and characters, and are often better suited to particular climate conditions – both now and in the future.  Our vineyard team and winemakers will continue to experiment with alternative varietals to ensure we keep step with what our loyal followers demand and you can rest assured that whatever alternative variety we craft that carries  the Taylors brand, it’s sure to be a winner!

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