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Posts Tagged ‘Zar Brooks’

Here’s the column that should have made it into The Resident this week – sorry if you missed out on this little beauty…

Back to Morrisons this week folks, with quite an unbelievable bargain to be had.

I haven’t reviewed a Sicilian wine in the column before, but this one is a belter, given the price.

Inycon is probably one of the most famous brand names amongst the Sicilian wines available in the UK. And their President’s Selection 2010 Shiraz Viognier is reduced by a staggering six quid: from £9.99 to £3.99 until 13 November.

As it says on the label, these grapes are famously found in the Rhone Valley, France (read Syrah for Shiraz there), but there is also an old (nineteenth century) Australian tradition of blending Shiraz and Riesling grapes to give a similar effect – a very fragrant wine that smells much fruitier than it tastes.

When I attended the Dandelion Vineyards event at Ian Jarman’s Cooden Cellars hub on The Ridge earlier this year, winemaker Zar Brooks told the story of an English critic at a recent international wine competition saying about Zar’s Shiraz/Riesling that it smelt like a lady’s handbag and tasted like a gentleman’s wallet.

I think you get the same sort of effect with the Inycon Shiraz Viognier. A medium ruby colour, this has quite intense aromas. A heady mixture of red plums, pears and elderflower on the first nose, and then, after a swirl in the glass more spices – liquorice and black pepper.

No great impact in respect of acidity or tannins; and it felt quite balanced in the mouth; but it was far drier to drink than the aromas suggested.

This is a wine that will be quite flexible with different types of food, and will develop as it aerates, over the course of a meal.

On the palate there was a strawberry thing going on; vanilla too, and a leathery aftertaste.

Not a long aftertaste mind, but there was a very pleasant smokiness to savour.

What a bargain.

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So there’s a nice hello from Zar to start us off…

Needless to say I was very happy to have been able to pop up to Ian Jarman’s Hastings distribution hub on Friday evening to meet, along with about 20 other punters, Zar and Elena Brooks – an Australia and Bulgarian dynamic duo who, in the world of wine, seem to be going places.

We had an opportunity to taste four of the Dandelion wines – this is a brand, umbrella identity – ‘a fusion of vineyards and vignerons working with old vineyards and artisan winemaking’ as their literature has it.

‘Zar Brooks and his winemaker wife Elena have teamed up with vignerons Brad Rey and Carl Lindner to produce a range of wines from their favourite vineyards in key regions of South Australia.  Their aim is to nurture the character of the vineyards and express the terroir in the wines.’

We had a Riesling, an unusual blend of Shiraz and Riesling, a single varietal Shiraz and a Cabernet from the Dandelion stable, and then went on to taste a couple of the wines from their La Mancha venture – Cien y Pico.

The ‘Wonderland of the Eden Valley’ Riesling 2010 was apparently a knock-out in the Australian competitions, and wasn’t at all unpleasant.  Zar and Elena told us that these Eden Valley Rieslings are characterised, on the nose, by aromas of limes and spring flowers, and it definitely had these.  I got pencil shavings too.  And on the palate a good dollop of lemons.  At £11.50 this wasn’t a big enough wow for me to be salivating – although the acidity was good, and did the trick.

One of the most interesting learning points of the night however, was just how long Zar was giving the life of the best Aussie Rieslings.  Apparently the 1984 vintage is drinking well now – which gives you an idea about their longevity.  So as wines to put down, they are a better value buy.

Next up was the ‘Lion’s Tooth of Maclaren Vale’ Shiraz/Riesling 2008.  This had black cherry and cedar on the first nose; more blackcurranty after a swirl in the glass.  Zar, to give him his due, had a patter with patina, and was the kind of guy who you’d like to spend an evening with tasting the wines from his vineyard.  He had good stories, and there was a nice anecdote about the Shiraz/Riesling blend – apparently an English wine critic had come up to them in one of the important competitions and said that this wine ‘smelt like a lady’s handbag, and tasted like a gentleman’s wallet’.  At £11.50, this was more enticing.  Elena reckoned that it could be paired with almost any food, and I don’t doubt her – it’s a very flexible wine, and by all accounts changes a great deal in the glass over the course of a meal.

‘Lionheart of the Barossa’ Shiraz 2009 was the third offering – this was a more meaty wine.  In my view it was already developing in the bottle and had secondary aromas of oak alongside violets and lavender.  Zar says that Barossa is the dark chocolate to the Maclaren Vale milk.  I liked this wine (priced again at £11.50) but not as much as the Cabernet that they served next…

‘Pride of Fleurieu’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was my favourite of the Dandelion wines on offer.  This one – from his parents’ vineyard at Finniss – was also developing in the bottle: just shifting now from ruby to a garnet colour.  Elena described it with tomato leaves, tobacco and dark chocolate.  There was also a classical Left Bank Bordeaux blackcurrant thing going on.  It had the depth of a Pauillac or a St Julien.  Zar wouldn’t be drawn as to whether or not this wine would age with parity, but at £10.99 I reckon this was the best buy of the lot, and so I had one!

The Cien y Pico wines came next – these are from ‘Manchuela, a small region in southeastern Spain.  The name Cien y Pico means ‘Hundred and something’ and refers to the ancient Garnacha Tintorera wines from which these  wines are made.’  These were big, flavourful, dried fruit and porty tasting; had lots of dairy on the nose, and weren’t really my bag.  But I am a big fan of the philosophy of preserving the viticultural heritage of the region they are working in.

These two wine celebs had an energy about them which had a definite draw.  And the fact that they can do all that they do, and still take care of a 17 month old, wins my full respect.

Thanks to Zar and Elena for sprinkling a bit of stardust in Hastings.  And good job Ian Jarman for sorting it.

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