Any visit to Tahbilk is immersive. The glisten of the white mudbrick buildings. The yeasty scent of the underground cellars that echoes winemaking. The gentle hum of insects in the wetlands. And most symbolically, the plush mid-palate of old-vine shiraz that tastes ripe, plush and generous. On this visit, our conversations with Alister Purbrick shed light on his personal journey with Tahbilk.
Adelaide Hills in Five Drinks
We asked Adelaide Hills native Pablo Theodoros, publican of the Stanley Bridge Tavern, to walk us through his beloved region. As always, it’s a tale told through the medium of five favourite drinks…
Born and bred, the Adelaide Hills have always been a part of my life. In the early days of my professional wine career (that’s a thing, right?), I enjoyed many drinks from the Hills, but it wasn’t until three and a half years ago, with the decision to buy a pub in the heartland of the Hills, that my focus changed to local wines and took me deep into this amazing community. As most young Australian males, I always had a dream of owning a pub. And what better pub for me than the Stanley Bridge Tavern, in Verdun.
My goal from the outset was to combine aspects of two of my favourite South Australian hotels. The front bar needed to be like the Exeter Hotel, on Rundle Street. No bullshit, no TAB, no pokies. A classic front bar where you can have a chat with the locals, and most importantly with clean beer lines serving fresh Coopers Pale Ale and West End Draught. The other pub was the Victory Hotel in Sellicks Beach, a must visit for all wine lovers. Doug has the perfect blend of local and international drops, supporting the locals and giving the winemakers the international wines they love to drink. Slowly but surely, I feel we are on the right path here at the Stanley Bridge, and the support from the local wine community has been amazing.
My Hills in five…
Penfolds ‘Bin A’ Chardonnay (RRP $125)
Pick any vintage really… Every year it’s incredible. As a big fan of chardonnay, the resurgence of Australian chardy has been fantastic to witness, and this is one of the reasons why. I’m sure every winemaker in Australia would love the resources Penfolds have to make this wine. The vineyards, the barrel selection, their winemaking expertise are all the best you can get. Everything is thrown at this wine, and the result is nothing short of world class. As Nick Ryan once said to me, “It’s Jerry Seinfeld flying first class… more of everything.” Sure, you can argue artefact vs terroir, but who cares when the wine is this bloody good.
Ochota Barrels ‘Price of Silence’ Gamay (RRP $40)
I could have picked any wine from Ochota Barrels, but I went with gamay for the same reason I mentioned Nebbiolo – it has an exciting future in the Hills. Taras and Amber’s minimal intervention wines are a huge reason why the Adelaide Hills are on the world scene at the moment. Delicious, easy-drinking reds like this are why. It’s probably sold out everywhere, but drinking any of their wines at Lost in a Forest in Uraidla with one of their epic pizzas is a must when visiting the Hills.
2016 S.C. Pannell Nebbiolo (RRP $60)
One thing many people don’t realise is the size of the Hills and what a diverse landscape it is. There is always so much hype about pinot noir, but most of the great ones come from one tiny pocket around the Piccadilly Valley. And while chardonnay and shiraz grow beautifully almost everywhere, the Italian grapes sangiovese and nebbiolo are what I believe are really exciting for the future of the Hills. Nebbiolo can be found in a few different pockets across the Hills, and with time and the right work in the vineyard it is starting to shine. If you ever get the chance to visit Longview out in Macclesfield, you’ll see the incredible work in the vineyard to make this grape shine in a truly special and very under-rated area of the Hills…. Also, if you see any 2016 S.C. Pannell Nebbiolo around, don’t hesitate to buy what you can – you can thank me later.
Shaw + Smith Shiraz (RRP $49)
It’s over 30 years since Michael and Martin set up shop just out of Balhannah, and while for years it was sauvignon blanc and chardonnay that most thought of, for me the shiraz is the one. A perfect wine to enjoy in the pub with a meal. Medium bodied, nice spice, well-weighted fruit. There’s nothing over the top about this wine, yet its presence is definitely felt. It’s a wine we sell a lot of because there is zero hesitation that it will fail to satisfy anyone.
Murdoch Hill ‘Rocket’ Chardonnay (RRP $85)
Since this is about Young Guns… Former winner Michael ‘Doc’ ‘Cubby’ ‘Swanny’ Downer has gone far beyond the guy to watch here in the Hills. It’s probably fair to say, especially since his recent success at the Adelaide Hills Wine Show, he is the one to chase. His wines are expressive, energetic, fresh and most importantly bloody delicious. While minimal intervention wines that are focussed on their terroir are at the forefront of the Hills, and the Murdoch Hill wines definitely represent this movement, it’s Michael’s intelligent winemaking that makes their wines stand out from the crowd. And that’s no better expressed than by their ‘Rocket’ Chardonnay.
After over 10 years working in fine wine retail, Pablo Theodoros left for a venture in the Adelaide Hills, as the owner/publican at the Stanley Bridge Tavern. He is also a co-owner of Mothervine wine bar in Adelaide. More recently, he has also started a wine label with two friend called Hills & Back Wines, and with his Mothervine partners has opened Mum Cha, a dumpling restaurant and bar on Rundle Street in Adelaide. A scholar of the prestigious Len Evans tutorial, Pablo also judges at regional and capital wine shows around Australia.