With Australia Day upon us, I thought it was time to revisit one of the first wineries I visited after I moved to Melbourne. Back then, the Yarra Valley was nothing more than a tourist trap to me, and the Robert Parker wave was merely an offshore oscillation. Somehow, I was quite intrigued with the d’Arenberg Dead Arm, a most unusual name and I was driven by curiosity to visit this McLaren Vale winery. As one of Australian First Families of Wine, d’Arenberg very well represents what I regard as a true Australian winery. It’s Aussie-owned. It’s got history (four generations in fact). It makes one hell of a drink (Dead Arm, thought the Coppermine isn’t shabby either). It makes a deep rich shiraz (Dead Arm). But it’s range of wines, geez it’s got one heck of a collection of labels (50+ labels made from 20+ grape varieties).
I wasn’t going to pop any serious wines on a warm day (although it’s been pretty cool compared to past years), but here are four easy drinking wines you might want to consider for your Australia Day lambchops. You’ll easily get them from any corner for change off $20, but the Laughing Magpie is more pricey.
d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2015
This is a white wine blend with a weighty mouthfeel imparted by the 8 months of maturation in aged French and American oak for some of the Viognier. Extended fermentation ensured the wine retains the fresh fruity characteristics. Does 4% wild ferment really add anything? Or is it done just ‘coz? Nicely aromatic, white peach, lemon, raw nut notes. Almost like an infantile steel barrel non-ML Chardonnay. A generous tasty broad flavour profile, notes of peach and white grapefruit. Lingers quite nicely on the finish. I think this wine would work rather nicely with something carb loaded and salty, like a rich carbonara pasta with chorizo or grilled chicken breasts with smoked asparagus. Drink now. 88.
d’Arenberg Custodian Grenache 2013
A medium+ dark ruby colour, this Grenache has an earthy, brush-like nose, notes of spice rubbed pork fillets, wood stacks and raspberries/cranberries. Silky smooth texture, what rich refreshing acidity, wow lots of fruit spice. Stewed rhubarb crumble, pomegranate, cranberry sour. Fine tannins give good appropriate support to the wine. Very enjoyable wine, grilled pork chops or cajun chicken. Drink now – 7+ years. 90
d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz 2013
Deep purple ruby colour. Lifted notes of blueberries, blackberries, plum, Welsh oak smoked salt, pencil lead. Smooth texture, with grippy tannins and flowing acidity. Rich dense flavours of spices, plum and blackberries. This is certainly an angled, robust and manly drink. It feels like wild bush but yet it somehow manages to stay on the leash. The Footbolt has long been a wine of great value, and this 2013 release stays true to that fame. Drink now – 2020. 90
d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier 2011
One of the wettest vintages on record, and most of the 2011 wines are muddled at best. But in all frankness, it’s a pretty darn good wine given the vintage conditions. Good, not great. Co-fermented, basket pressed then matured for 10 months in old French and American oak barrels. This SV blend has a purple ruby colour, and the fragrances are still fresh. Blackberries, plum, anise, fine black pepper, and that typical exotic ripeness from Viognier. But that’s the problem, that latter ripeness does come across as disjointed for me. It’s not melded into the folds of the wine. It’s a tasty wine, rich intense dark berry fruit with black plums. Hint of coffee grains too. Good level of tannins, soft and mostly resolved given the young age. Drink now. 89.