Wine Talk

Snooth User: Terence Pang

South Pack - Pinot Noir and Shiraz/Syrah from Southern Victoria (Australia)

Posted by Terence Pang, Nov 22, 2012.

The following post is straight off my blog. I think it's worth making a mention of this group of winemakers because of the great wines they produced which have started getting the attention of the local Australian market and more recently, the UK wine circles. I'm not sure if they have USA distributorships, but do keep your eye out for them! Hope you guys/gals will enjoy the read. I'd quite recommend the 2010 vintage for Victorian wines, there have been some really nice drinkers out there and only for ~$20.


The South Pack is a group of independent winemakers who seek to convey the ideals of the Southern Victorian lands or the fruit which they admit to being fortunate enough be working with. I would almost hesitate to describe them individually as boutique wineries because they don’t offer a swish cottage-like cellar door to their fans. In fact, the term “garagiste” might be the closest associative adjective, had it not already been claimed by Barney Flanders and David Chapman for their Mornington Peninsula operation. Suffice to say, the group which banded together in 2006 has big plans for the humble Pinot Noir and Syrah of Victoria and intend to showcase wines of the highest quality to the world. So the relatively limited productions turn out to be somewhat of a small problem. On this afternoon at Comme (Melbourne CBD) with several participants still combating the after-effects of the Sommeliers Australia 2012 Masquerade Ball, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a tasting session organised by Sommeliers Australia with the winemakers of Timo Mayer, Jamsheed, Punch, Allies, Garagiste, Luke Lambert and Syrahmi. A shame that Bill Downie and Mac Forbes were not in attendance. We tasted through three brackets of Pinot Noir and two brackets of Syrah/Shiraz. It was really interesting to taste the subtle nuances differentiating wines made in similar styles, as well as compare wines made with different crafting approaches. For Pinot Noir, the 2008 vintage was clearly a strain for the Mornington Peninsula and this was encapsulated in the wines. In contrast, the 2010 vintage brought excellent conditions to both the Peninsula and the Yarra Valley and this climactic upswing was captured astutely by the winemakers. On a slightly conservative note, after tasting the first two Pinot Noirs from the 2006 vintage, I am not convinced wines from this region are made to aged past a decade in the bottle (still no mean feat!). But I would be glad to be proven wrong should I have a chance to re-taste these wines in future.


Pairing #1: 2006 Pinot Noir
Punch Close Planted Pinot Noir 2006
5% whole bunch, wild yeast ferment over 10 months in 50% new oak. Medium ruby colour with cranberry and sour cherry aromas. A medium-bodied wine with medium level of tannins, med+ acidity. The bright whole cherry and red currant flavours are clean and pristine. Overall, this is a silky easy-drinking wine with sufficient adolescent qualities to keep one’s interest sustained throughout the long finish. Drink now – 2015. 92/100.

Mayer Close Planted Pinot Noir 2006
These MV 5 and 6 clones sourced from De Bortoli’s Reserve block were planted in 1999 on a 1 acre plot. Each vines was cut back to 6 shoots then pruned back to 6-8 bunches of fruit. 40% whole bunch ferment in one third new lightly toasted oak then aged for 10 months. Half a shade darker than the Punch, this wine was more generous on the nose with notes of blackcurrants, red plums and a hint of dense cologne. This was more masculine, chiselled jaw-like with dry sappy tannins. An appropriate amount of acidity was present to foster a harmonious freshness to this wine. Med+ bodied, lovely plum and dark berry flavours, there is a hint of meatiness almost salami-like. Drink now – 2015+. 92/100.

Bracket #2: 2008 Pinot Noir
Allies Merricks Pinot Noir 2008

The first two wines were excellent side-by-side comparisons as the wines are made from MV6 clones. Fruit was destemmed, spent 3 weeks in contact with skins, then matured in 10% new oak. A medium-weighted nose that felt a little restrained with notes of rose petal, red currants and espresso grains. Dry and medium-bodied, the wine contained a moderate level of zippy acidity and a low-ish level of soft tannins. Overall, I feel this comes across as a simple, easy-drinking wine that should be consumed soon. Still, there is some depth on the finish. Drink now. 88/100.

Garagiste Merricks Pinot Noir 2008
The Allies and Garagiste wines are blends of fruit from North and South-facing blocks. The Garagiste version also uses destemmed fruit that stays on skins for 3 weeks, but sees 30% new oak. This comes across as more open aromatically, but there is a sense of hollowness in the core. Notes of red berries, plum florals and a sprinkling of talc. Med+ acidity that gives the wine freshness, the fine fleshy tannins are kept in check and aren’t the most obvious. Rather thin on the palate and finish. Drink now. 86/100.

Punch Close Planted Pinot Noir 2008
James Lance described the 2008 vintage in the Yarra Valley as a pretty, feminine year that was close to 2005 conditions. This I could get from the aromatics of rose petals, red berry fruit and one of those old-school scented talc blocks that your grandma might have used. Clean primary berry fruit flavours with a touch of bramble in this medium-bodied wine. Medium acidity imparts some freshness but powdery tannins make the palate structure a tad wobbly. Signs of a touch year to me. Drink now. 86-87/100.

Mayer Close Planted Pinot Noir 2008
The Mayer Close Planted Pinot Noir 2008 was already showing signs of a developed wine with notes of dark berry paste, red currants, gherkin and slightly smoky. Described in this session as an early-drinking wine that is primary but with lifted fragrance. This medium-bodied wine retains fresh acidity but the tight tannins are clearly present and do well to stay in the background to the fruit. There was a higher 20% use of stalks in this vintage, that figure is adjusted depending on the perceived power of the destemmed fruit. Drink now. 87/100.

Pairing #3: 2010 Pinot Noir
Allies Merricks Pinot Noir 2010

The 2010 vintage was the recipient of greater rainfall just as the drought in Victoria was starting to break. There was sufficient precipitation leading up the harvest so fruit size was kept consistent. This vintage was also the first year winemaking shifted to the use of oak foudres (large vats), a more traditional or rustic approach. This wine bears a lovely bouquet of strawberry, blackberries, and is slight smoky element. There is a medium level of tannins that are a touch powdery, but there is fresh acidity to dissipate the residual sensation somewhat. Medium-bodied, flavour of strawberry, red currants and rhubarb. The finish is when the tannins get highlighted again, it is firm structured, sustaining long enough for the fruit to fade out. Drink now – 2019. 91-92/100.

Garagiste Merricks Pinot Noir 2010
Again, the 2010 was an ‘easy’ vintage with rain falling at the right times. The slower but more consistent ripening conditions meant that fruit was picked later than in 2008 but turning out at the same level of ripeness. The Garagiste fruit was destemmed and spent 20 days in contact with skins, then saw 20% new oak. It has a more restrained nose compared to the Allies, one has to work a little to tease out the fragrance of strawberry essence, cherry and mint. The fruit flavours are of ripe cherry, sour cherry and raspberry leaf. There is a moderate level of tannins that offers a good structure to this easy-to-drink wine. Drink now. 89-90/100.


Reply by Terence Pang, Nov 22, 2012.

Cont'd from above (blog post link).

For Shiraz, the South Pack is really heading in the North direction to Heathcote (Syrahmi) and the Yarra Valley (Jamsheed and Luke Lambert). Quite marked differences in geography between both regions result in very distinctive styles of shiraz. A straight up comparison between the wines of Gary Mills and Luke Lambert is an eye-opener in itself. Whilst these wines are priced higher, I’d strongly recommend seeking out these collectible wines which for a good vintage (such as 2010) can be easily cellared for the next 10 years and might prove to be interesting drinking beyond that.

Bracket #4: 2008 Shiraz/Syrah
Jamsheed Silvan Shiraz 2008

These vines reside on a late ripening patch in the lower part of the Upper Yarra Valley. South-facing, the soil here is rich and comprised mainly of red clay so there is relatively low cropping. Typical for Gary Mills, this is 100% whole bunch of course, with an extended 65 days on skins. Aged for 7 months in old oak barrels, only 180 cases produced. The wine is of intense ruby purple colour. Notes of blackcurrants, anise, green peppercorns and greetn stalk cuttings. Medium+ bodied, there is a moderate level of sappy tannins, and at 14.5% alc, the high level of acidity is necessary for freshness. Dark savoury berry fruit dominate the palate, good fruit weight and overall balance. A lovely finish, with a trace of olive salinity. Drink now – 2017. 91/100.

Syrahmi Maelstrom Shiraz 2008
The year that Adam Foster stopped using Viognier, this marks a wine distinctly different from his previous attempts which I can’t admit to liking. The Maelstrom describes the 2008 working conditions for Adam, and the wine is of an intense ruby colour with a big youthful and perfumed nose of salt rock, fermented yellow beans, clove, violet florals, blackberries and cigarette tobacco. It was a silky texture, with young grainy tannins and fleshy acidity. Rich flavours of plum and black berry fruit which linger on the well-rounded finish. Lovely and balanced. Drink now 0219. 92/100.

Luke Lambert Syrah 2008
Sited at St Andrews in the North-Western end of the Yarra Valley. For Luke, before the 2012 vintage came into existence, this was his favourite baby. There is a hint of brett, which will put off some, but is consistent with Luke’s admiration of the rustic nature of Clape Cornas wines. If you manage to per past that curtain, you can make out some lifted black pepper fragrance and dark berry fruit. Palate-wise, it is medium+ bodied, has nicely weighted berry and red currant fruit, and appears balanced by sufficient acidity. Only 12.8% alc. I would personally pick some of Luke’s other efforts. Drink now – 2017. 89/100.

Bracket #5: 2010 Shiraz/Syrah
Jamsheed Silvan Shiraz 2010

A wonderful nose to this wine with blackcurrants, dried jasmine tea and a pinch of lemongrass. Smooth velvety texture with ripe acidity and powdery tannins. Rich fleshy fruit flavours of black plum, dark cocao, black peppercorns and anise. Plump long finish. Needs a couple more years to settle further before it really shines. Drink 2015 – 2022+. 92+/100.

Syrahmi Siren Shiraz 2010
This yet-to-be released wine (will be upon Adam’s whim) is from the Greenstone vineyard in Heathcote. Adam picked the name because he described the vineyard as singing to him across the vintage and that it was almost as if the wine made itself (after effects of the ball speaking through here perhaps?). A baby of a wine, youthful sweet aromas of strawberry and black raspberry candy, dense and still being swirled. Youthful tannins, still rather raw but diffusing out. Fleshy acidity with red berry and plum tart fruit. Long finish. An interesting wine which I look forward to trying when it gets released. Drink 2015 – 2022+. 92+/100.

Luke Lambert Syrah 2010
After the previous two, this wine appear somewhat suppressed. Intense ruby colour, an unusually primary nose of restrained petal aromatics, blackcurrants and red berries. A slight hint of talc, rather pretty. Medium+ bodied wine with med+ level of tannins. There is plenty of acidity, with lifts the pure fruit flavours of red berries and pomegranate. This wine is easy to enjoy. Drink now – 2019. 92/100.

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