A decade in barrel, first under flor yeast, then on ullage (an oxidative environment), it’s fair to say this is a unique wine for this country. Although inspiration has been taken from the great Vin Jaune wines of France’s Jura region, this is firmly its own beast. Made from marsanne, this bristles with briny Sherry notes, roasted nuts and linseed, an explosion of orange-skinned citrus and spice riding the uber-dry and saline palate.
With a slightly hazy burnt orange hue, this is highly individual, though it reflects the familiar, with intense briny sea spray Fino Sherry notes dipping into Amontillado, along with rancio tones reminiscent of Rutherglen Topaque. There are cracked walnuts with linseed oil, toasted sesame, furniture wax, cloves and a suggestion of cloth-bound cheddar. The palate reveals layers of bright fruit, flushed with orange blossom, fresh cumquat eaten whole and cracked mustard seeds, a pillowy richness, plumped with lifted alcohol – from natural evaporation of the wine over time – giving apt warmth, the lingering drying saline finish an umami-laden affair, escorted by those citrus notes through a long finish.
Themes of this wine
Sous voile/flor yeast
Literally translated as ‘under a veil’, sous voile is a method of maturing wine where the barrels are not topped, with a film of flor yeast developing on top of the wine. This ‘veil’ protects the wine from oxidation, while converting the acids to aldehydes, which give dry Sherry its characteristic nutty and briny notes. The same process is employed in France’s Jura region to make the famous Vin Jaune (literally, yellow wine).
A grape most commonly associated with the Northern Rhône, though it features in the south, marsanne has also carved a small be significant niche in Australian wine folklore. With vines planted in 1927, Victoria’s Tahbilk lays claim to some of the oldest, if not the oldest, marsanne vines in the world. And the wines have proved to age incredibly well, as they can in the Rhône. Flavours can range through pear, apple and citrus, with nutty and toasty development over time, as well as a varietally distinctive honeysuckle character.
The Yarra Valley, about 50 km north-east of Melbourne, is one of Australia’s premier wine regions, and one of the country’s coldest viticultural zones. The regional champions are chardonnay and pinot noir, with cabernet and shiraz in more than able support. Aside from the vinous pedigree, the Yarra is also one of the best serviced wine regions for visitors, with a wealth of cellar doors and restaurants, and ample accommodation across the price spectrum.