Part II: Let’s talk vintage with Mike, Melissa, Chris and Liam…
Mike & Melissa from Gemtree
Vintage at Gemtree officially wrapped up last Friday, April 30th. We held a lunch and a few drinks to celebrate with the entire winery team to thank them all for their hard work and dedication over a long, steady and superb vintage 2021.
2020 was a very challenging year for the entire globe, and for us 2020 began with a difficult vintage. Spring winds all but decimated our Tempranillo and the heat over summer made predicting optimum harvest time difficult. The downside of the vintage was lower yields, especially Tempranillo. 2020 was a vintage where patience was required, the normal technical signs of harvest were not as reliable. We needed instead to trust our judgement through constantly tasting the berries in the vineyard to determine optimal flavour ripeness before harvest. Josh and I enjoyed the process, harvesting on flavour and tannin ripeness by taste. This meant that what was picked was optimal, and so far in the bottle the wines look superb. We paid particular attention to the Small Batch and Biodynamic Icon fruit and these wines will be real highlights of 2020.
2021 was much more forgiving! Growing conditions were close to perfect, yields were above average and overall the quality is outstanding. We had excellent rainfall in the winter of 2020 and a mild spring and summer. It was an old school 12-week vintage. There was a little less angst in the cellar this year, the steady arrival of grapes meant there were less arguments over press and tank availability! Everything was much smoother and relaxed.
The crew were happy to work over Easter rather than deal with the chaos of a short vintage. The long, slow and even ripening of the grapes allowed for excellent flavour development, crunchy natural acidity and in the reds, perfectly balanced tannin.
At Gemtree we like to keep things interesting, especially during the festival of the grape. This year we have made our very first Fiano. The McLaren Vale climate is perfectly suited to this variety. The 2021 Luna Crescente Fiano is finished and due for bottling in the next week or so, ready to be released later in the month. We are very excited by this wine, great to have this fresh and flavourful white in the collection. We also had a few new open top fermenters to play with this year. They are a bit larger than our concrete fermenters and a bit tougher to hand dig. I’m always happy to put my hand up to have a dig, keeps me away from the emails!
After 2020, the 2021 vintage for us was a time of celebrating what we do and why we are in the business of growing grapes and making wines. The cellar was full of optimism, not only for the great fruit being brought in, but also for enjoying the normality of making wine. Despite everything that occurred around us, inside the wine cellar the old traditions remain, and the new innovations excite. While many other aspects of our business needed to recalibrate, the joy and curiosity of winemaking remains a constant.
If wine is a time capsule of a moment, then our 2021 wines could be described as joyous and spirited.
“If an alien landed and wanted to try wine I would dig out a Gemtree” – Great quote from one of our customers…
Gemtree Wines Phantom Red Blend Ten 2019
97-98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “A blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Mataro, which and despite its tender age is singing wonderfully from the decanter (we sampled after 6 hours). The bouquet is incredibly pure and defined by sweet blueberry, mulberry, dried spice, violet, pen ink and a flicker of mint. The palate is wonderfully structured with grippy tannins – a slight huskiness which will soften with some bottle age. Without stating the obvious, there’s a lovely natural feel to wine. There’s a succulence and coolness to the fruit which I find particularly attractive. Dark plums are in abundance – I detect a little cold metal too. Clearly, a super-classy wine filled with pedigree. Not only a triumphant Biodynamic wine, but a wine which exemplifies modern Aussie winemaking. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware. Drink now to 2035+”
97+ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Blackcurrants, mulberries and eucalyptus provide a strong hint of Cabernet Sauvignon which makes up the majority of the blend along with 39% Mataro. Although lush fruit dominates the nose, there is great depth and wonderful freshness which screams quality. The palate bursts with fruit, spices and herbs which show great foundations for a long, bright future ahead. Good grip from the tannins, yet they travel through the palate with a velvety touch. Great wine with lots of interest and in fact, I’m dying to see it unfold and flourish. Decant for at least 6 hours or hide it in the cellar, as this will develop beautifully over the next decade or more (in the right conditions). Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware."
Gemtree Wines Small Batch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
97++ Points - Stuart McCloskey “This comes across more serious and restrained compared to the Grenache – I would recommend 4-6 hours in the decanter. This is powerful and grown-up with a brooding bouquet which does take time to develop. Deep, deep, deep aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, liquorice, Indian ink, bay leaf, clove and the sweetest of spices. Equally, the palate has a serious side and will certainly benefit from time in the cellar. For now, blackcurrant, blackberry and damson add an autumnal feel against a background of savoury black olive and a little rosemary and fresh sage. The tannins are broad and provide a lovely framework to the fruit. It’s a beautiful wine, calming and cooling. There’s generosity but it’s considered. Thoughtful and reflective winemaking with the power of mother earth on show. Deeply impressive and leaves me feeling reflective. Drink now to 2035. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”.
97+ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Sampled after three hours of decanting. The perfume is rich and brimming with blackcurrants, blackberries, liquorice and aniseed. Graphite and ink add extra layers of aromatic depth. The palate is tensile and you can easily sense the underlying power of this wine. Very controlled and dignified, all its dark fruit is wrapped in a blanket of textural bliss. I love the savoury edge and balanced freshness which prevails on the expansive palate and broadens as I taste. With 2-3 years in the cellar (at the very least), it should unveil further complexities which will be very exciting to watch. Serious Cabernet which should be treated as such. Sampled in Zalto Bordeaux Glassware."
Gemtree Wines Bloodstone Shiraz 2019
96 Points - Stuart McCloskey “How daft of me to sample the most junior wine after the magnificence that is Subterra. Another way of looking at it is – is there breadth and depth to Gemtree’s entire portfolio? In short, the answer is affirmative as this is a joyous beauty strutting with confidence, despite its respectable price tag. The nose offers some warmth from clove and sweet spices. Brooding and actually proving more adult than I expected. The palate is washed with sweet, ripe fruit. Interestingly, this wine lacks the ‘coolness’ of its big brothers, but it misses nothing for it. This is a really joyous slap and tickle of delicious quaffable Shiraz (I have omitted using our Aussie friends’ description, ‘smash-able’). It’s drenched with plums, blueberries, blackberries, mint, vanilla, coconut, kirsch and olive all wrapped in a gentle hug of tannin. The length is super-impressive. In fact (and a little secret) I have a few wines at 25 quid which are not as good! Decant for a few hours and serve using Zalto Bordeaux glassware (this will make all the difference). Drink now to 2025+.”
Gemtree Wines Cinnabar GSM 2019
96 Points - Stuart McCloskey “This is a beautiful wine to drink. Seamless, the fruit is ripe and plush, the tannins pillowy with some lift from a judicious line of acidy. I will say that the tannins and acidity provide wonderful shape and support. All-in-all, everything is perfect for a wine of this quality. It reminds me of putting on a cashmere jumper… The fruit leads with raspberry which provides yin & yang of sweetness and acidity. The texture is striking simply due to the silkiness. I detect a sprinkling of dried herbs and earth. Long and balanced to perfection. Drinking fabulously now and will continue to do so until 2025. Decant for an hour or two. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”
South Australia experienced moderate spring rain in 2020, an unseasonably cool summer and a dry ripening season - all contributing to fantastic conditions for fruit maturity leading into harvest. Resultant fruit boasted structure, density, colour and high levels of natural acidity within the berries, making them as near perfect for making wine as I have experienced.
Due to great conditions as mentioned above, the wines were a pleasure to make in vintage 2021. The Chardonnay always sings at the juice stage, however this year's fruit and juice both had a near electric quality about them, the Chard is now safely tucked away in barrel for a little winter sleep. All the reds had amazing colour that was apparent upon first crush. The flavour and colour intensity even two days after crush was very exciting and promised exactly what was delivered - lovely plush, deeply coloured red wines with layers of complexity that will undoubtedly be delicious once in bottle. One hallmark of this vintage and more relevant to the reds, was the very high Malic acid, up to 2g/L in some cases. Malic acid (think apples) is eventually converted to lactic acid (think milk), via malolactic fermentation thus adding a beautiful creaminess on the palate. What this means is these wines, while being initially high in natural acid are finishing secondary ferment with a beautiful plushness. This has been a true vineyard vintage! Perhaps the most exciting thing for me is the fact that I received some beautiful Barbera grapes after missing out in 2020 due to fire damage in the vineyard. The Barbera has literally just been pressed off its skins and looks truly magnificent and I cannot wait to get it in a bottle and over to the UK for you all to enjoy.
Whilst vintage is a very exciting time, it can also be extremely stressful, filled with many sleepless nights thinking about your babies (the ferments!), therefore being proactive pays dividends regarding personal wellbeing. Continual monitoring and “experience bred” action is key. Knowing when and where the problems may arise helps me sleep at night. Despite all the highs and lows, it is the most rewarding time of year. My family are a great support and always ready to give out hugs after a 13hr day – it really puts things back into perspective for me.
The 2020 wines are looking amazing, they are currently in trade domestically and already getting some extremely positive feedback. The 2020 Chardonnay is single vineyard (Echunga sub region, Adelaide Hills) and is displaying a wonderful spine of crisp acidity with the fruit richness so typical of that vineyard. The Sangiovese is always very popular and the 2020 is no exception, showing supple tannin structure, balanced acidity and some lovely tertiary characters are emerging. Pinot Noir was another standout variety in 2020 and the C3 is no exception, sour red fruited, mid palate slipperiness supported by some lovely weight and balance. Other reds produced in 2020 include a single vineyard Adelaide Grenache and a Tempranillo for Loxton, again both looking amazing. I am extremely proud and happy with these wines.
Overall - things are going well, and I am grateful for the support the brand has been receiving, it inspires me to keep pursuing excellence in everything we do in the winery.
Cheers and many thanks,
“OH YES, this is a brilliant wine. I’m not hugely qualified in all things Chardonnay but have recently been drinking Hardys Eileen so have a decent benchmark. This has a classic Chardonnay backbone along with a welcome freshness; even a floral quality. Super enjoyable and a great example of jumping on any experienced wine makers personal project. Thinking they naturally put just a little more of their heart and soul into the winemaking....” A lovely quote from one of our customers, Mr Jones…
Coulter Wines C1 Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 2019
97+ – 98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “What an explosive and heavenly bouquet filled with candied peel, citrus oil, sea spray, fennel seed and confit lemons. The sweet and alluring scent of jasmine creeps in with more aeration. Take a sip, swallow, sit back and enjoy the complexity. The palate feel is simply glorious, expansive, richly textured, powerful (without being heavy), multi-layered and almost endless. Crystal-like definition kicks in and provides structural finesse along with mouth cleansing acidity (more confit lemon than searing grip). There’s pristine detail on show and the finish goes on for many minutes. Again, we finish with sea spray, confit lemon and mineralité. In summary, this is perfectly balanced, a joy to drink today but has the structure to evolve for another 6-8 years and delivers waves of textural finesse. Very, very, very good indeed. Do not overchill. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”.
97+ Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Immediately, the vibrant perfume oozes and fills the surroundings with an abundance of ripe citrus, sweet figs and yellow peaches. Rich notes of sea spray and salty minerals frame the plentiful fruit beautifully, while a whiff of white flowers, beeswax and vanilla add exuberance. I keep coming back to the glass admiring this rather flamboyant perfume. Honeyed pears emerge with aeration and those elegant floral elements prevail. So much energy without losing its composure. The palate is equally rich and layered, laced with grapefruit, confit lemon, minerals and a creamy chalkiness. Superb weight with nutty complexities and mouthcoating texture. This is lip-smackingly delicious! Drinking amazingly now, but it certainly has the structure to evolve over the next 6-8 years. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware after 30 minutes of decanting and again on the next day."
Coulter Wines C5 Barbera Adelaide Hills 2019
95+ - 96 Points - Stuart McCloskey “Blue and black fruits in abundance, gift-wrapped in a velvety robe of sweet spice (black liquorice too). Like the Shiraz, this is another charmer and will please all those seeking textural richness, generosity and fun. On a serious vinous note, this maybe quaffable, but the wine has a serious edge. The lasting fruit flavours impress, there’s ample texture and acidity that is always an important component to a good Barbera (but not too much). Harmonious in a word… Decant for an hour. Served using Bordeaux Zalto glassware”
96 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "A vibrant medley of red and blue fruits dominates the perfume with a good dusting of sweet spices and vanilla. The palate is more plush than I was expecting and lacks the harsh acidity often associated with Barbera. The sweetness of its ripe fruit is quite delectable and the texture bright and super smooth. This is dangerously easy-drinking and perhaps the perfect wine to have alongside easy, fuss-free suppers like pizza or sausages and mash. Perfectly enjoyable in its youth. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware following one hour of decanting."
We love this customer review
for the C4 Experimental Syrah
“With the first sip I instinctively thought ‘where is the iPad’ to order some more. That to me says it all and now I have ordered another six I am selfishly ready to rate! I have recently tasted Utopos and Standish and still am completely blown away by the quality of this Syrah. I agree with Stu: who knows the drinking window - who cares! This is THE wine to drink whilst you wait for the big guns mentioned to mature. Get in quick so you don’t have FOMOOW.”
Coulter Wines C4 Experimental Syrah
Eden Valley 2019
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “The fruit was sourced from the Eden Valley and picked on a very hot day (42 degrees). No oak, only stainless steel which I like as it provides some freshness to the fruit component. The bouquet requires a little time to open (I suggest 1-2 hours in a decanter) – earthy, sweet beetroot juice followed by mocha / coffee, blackcurrant and blueberry. The wine is approachable now and will age for 6-10 years. In truth, I am in two minds as to how this wine will develop and when ‘best’ to enjoy it. Today, it provides joyous flows of blue / black fruits wrapped in crushed velvet, it’s incredibly charming and overly pleasing. Blueberry / blackberry compote dominate with a swish of liquorice. This is one of those voluptuous, seamless, velvety-textured charmers that creeps up on you without you knowing. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”.
97 Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "So aromatic! Lavish perfume filled with sea spray, blueberries, blackcurrants and awesome notes of seaweed and beetroot. Some lovely spices mould into a hoisin-like character. Incredibly radiant, it accomplishes a wonderful aromatic blend of minerals, fruit, earth and spice with admirable detail and harmony. This wine sees no oak maturation whatsoever, which also manifests on the palate. It retains superb freshness and purity and it is laced with delicate nuances. Savoury, mineral flavours flow seamlessly forming a velvet-like texture. It is very different to the rest of our range, super aromatic and joyous. One to enjoy in its youth. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware after one hour of decanting."
Liam from Wild Duck Creek
Overall, the 2021 vintage, in terms of quality in Heathcote, was excellent. A very mild summer, coupled with generally dry conditions has delivered a vintage full of wines of immense complexity, density and balance. Yields were also reasonable, even after a mild frost in early October in our southern Heathcote vineyards. Harvest began with Shiraz on February 28th which is about the long term average, and also concluded with Shiraz in our coolest southern most vineyard on April 10th. There is huge variation in ripening of Shiraz in Heathcote from North to South. The north of the region’s daytime temperatures are up to 2 deg C warmer than the south, and the south also has much cooler nights. The last pick on April 10th started at 8:30am at 4 deg C. These cool nights allow fabulous natural acid retention, a quality that will be a highlight of the 2021 vintage.
Our two most important varieties, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon were standouts. Early indications are that the Shiraz from the north is exceptional, with layered blue and red fruits and abundant tannin. Cabernet Sauvignon too is poised to create some exceptional batches, with loads of black fruits, earth and muscular tannin. These wines will spend the next 22 months in barrel awaiting their blending and bottling. Other standout varieties were Cabernet Franc (to be blended into our Ducks & Drakes), Grenache (single vineyard from Toolleen in the warmer central north), Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc (components of our White Duck blend), and Mataro (component of our Rosé). Our Rosé blend smells amazing right now, being matured in a 2250L French oak foudre and also French oak hogsheads. It will be bottled in October this year after 6 months on fermentation lees. I’m very excited about this wine. It will be a blend of 65% Grenache and 35% Mataro, and should have a delightful pale copper colour. Very Provence in style.
Personally, the 2020/21 year has obviously been a challenge. Covid restrictions have meant that in the early months movement was extremely hard, although in country Victoria we fared a little better than our major city, Melbourne, which was in full lock down for 3 months. Home schooling during the 2020 vintage (which was also excellent) was a huge challenge, but also gave us time to connect with our family in ways we hadn’t before.
This was a blessing, and allowed time to foster stronger relationships with our four kids (two of our own, two step kids each). Through all this fog though, our customers reminded us just how blessed we are to do what we do. We also begun a new and exciting venture with the development of a block of land we have purchased to plant a new vineyard. We will be planting 12 acres this year, and a further 4 next year, with varieties including Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc.
We have just bottled our 2019 reds and I’m particularly excited, the development of our “house style” is coming along beautifully. For many, many years my Father David made wines to, in his words, “pack as much flavour into the bottle as possible.” These were the wines he loved to drink, and his manner towards these wines was infectious. Over the past 10 years I have been ever so slowly tweaking the foundations Dad has laid over many years, not wanting to change who we are, but to bring a greater sense of class, beauty and balance to our wines. The 2019s are all of that. The introduction of some larger format oak vats has given the wines a little more fruit forwardness, and the extra time in barrel has also allowed any new oak to integrate further into the fruit. Picking ever so slightly earlier too has given the wines a freshness that I really love too. I really can’t wait to get these wines into people’s glasses. They will also be coming in slightly updated packaging, including our very own proprietary bottle.
We are also hugely excited that as of July 1st 2021, all Wild Duck Creek Estate products and business functions will be 100% carbon neutral. The “climate active carbon neutral product” logo will be on all of our back labels, and we are immensely proud of this achievement. This is an internationally recognised logo, and part of our plans to not only look after our local environment, but to think more broadly as well. Our wines are for our customers, not critics. We make wines that we find immensely satisfying to consume, and that our customers love because they know who we are and what we stand for. Most of our wines now are sold entirely on allocation, and we are keeping small volumes of certain wines back so that we can spread the love to other parts of the world, like the UK through The Vinorium. We can’t wait to bring the new wines to you.
Wild Duck Creek Yellow Hammer Hill
Shiraz Malbec 2018
Winemakers notes - "Garnet red colour. The nose is so alluring. Sniff after sniff reveals earth, cut meats and blood sausage. Its intoxicating dark boysenberry aromas keep you coming back for more. The flavours are bold yet silky, supple, gritty and tightly wound. It’s opulent with a palate full of blue fruits. Blueberry, plums and tart red cherry are wonderfully primary. The back palate is long and sophisticated. Partly matured in concrete vats to further highlighting the pristine fruit in this wine. Enjoy over the next 7-15 years. 15.1% Alc. Shiraz 79%, Malbec 12% and Cabernet Sauvignon 9%."
Wild Duck Creek Ducks & Drakes Cabernet 2018
96 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Dark and deep colour as usual from Wild Duck Creek. The perfume is expressive and bursting with blackberry liqueur, blackcurrants, pen ink, cedar and a wonderful lift from fresh bay leaf and sage. The mirroring flavours (along with the addition of liquorice) coat the palate wonderfully. The tannins are silky smooth – almost suede like in their plushness. Stylistically, I would declare the wine to be generous in style, but the generosity comes from the exquisite, ripe fruit. It is far from an OTT wine. Ripe, balanced, and a real ripper of an Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon. Sampled using Zalto Burgundy glassware, which is unorthodox but spontaneous as I’m supposed to be tasting Pinot Noirs. I might stick with this instead as it evolves in my glass beautifully. Decant for 2+ hours or cellar and enjoy over the next 5-10 years."
Wild Duck Creek Cornella Shiraz 2018
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “A subregional blend, produced in tiny quantities and will bring a huge smile to those seeking a wine which delivers on flavour (which it does in bucket loads) and drinkability. The aromatics are explosive and take no coaxing. Warm earth, camphor, tobacco, cedar, ink and coal blend perfectly with a heady mix of dark berries and plums. The palate opens to a rush of sweet fruit which provides a wonderfully sensual gloss and mouthfeel. The tannins support but are supple. The sense of symmetry is deeply impressive which is a nod to a great winemaker. The wine builds and builds in the mouth… I would categorise the wine as sensual, structured and showing some masculinity. Black fruits, tobacco and smoke lead to a very long finish. Excellent and a real charmer with grip. Decant for 2-3 hours. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
96 Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "A brand new addition to our shelves, Cornella Heathcote Shiraz is a sub-regional blend made in tiny quantities (we’ve been asking Liam for an allocation for the past three years!). Deep in colour and rich in aromas with sweet berries, violets and Asian five spice. Mulberries, liquorice and smoked minerals emerge with aeration. The palate is incredibly supple with vibrant acidity balancing the abundance of fruit. A touch of graphite and earth add another layer of texture and lead towards a dry, savoury finish. Tannins give an excellent, well balanced grip. Enjoy on the day of opening if you’re after its abundant fruit or come back to it the next day if you want to unearth those savoury textures. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware."
Wild Duck The Dabbler Cabernet Carmenere 2018
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “A single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (67%) with Carménère taking up the remainder of the blend. The small addition of new oak aligned with the blend reminds me of a young Bordeaux. The wine opens with beautifully expressive notes of black cherries, blackberries, touches of redcurrants, a little menthol, dark, bitter chocolate and cloves. Despite its age, the mid palate provides richness and heaps of sweet black and red fruits, all tinged with dried herbs (sage). The palate is vivid with perfectly balanced fine, pillowy tannins. I detect a little graphite and tobacco infused black fruit on the long finish. This is really going to blossom over the next 5-10 years. This one comes highly recommended. Decant for 1-2 hours. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
96-97 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Cabernet Sauvignon with a third of Carmenere, partially co–fermented, then matured in French oak barriques and hogsheads. Sweet raspberry, plums and cinnamon fill the air as you decant the Dabbler. A touch of new oak is clear as is the whiff of vanillin which adds to the aromatic sweetness. Redcurrants, cranberries, pen ink and dried herbs emerge with aeration. Interestingly, the palate reveals more earthiness that you would expect, judging by the nose. Fresh acidity balances the fruit perfectly while dried herbs and clove add definition on a long finish. What a great addition to Wild Duck Creek’s immensely pleasing portfolio. The Dabbler offers fantastic value and will age gracefully for 10+ years. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux Glass without decanting (curiosity took the better of me)."
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A compilation of our favourite customer gift messages – Part Two
Thought of you turning 60 and thought of wrinkly grapes Happy birthday Lots of love X
HAPPY ENGAGEMENT F*** YEAH
Here's a little thing to remember the cow. Well done!
Breaking out man!
Celebrate our prison break
Enjoy our escape from prison!
To Hippo: Thank you for everything. We'll shout you a trip somewhere nice when we are allowed to travel. In the meantime, enjoy this.
Dear G, Because wine makes everything seem better!
Lots of love
Wine is life and I send this wine to you as a reminder you can always drink decent wine. It’s just a matter of how and when can’t wait to share these wines with you soon x
Happy Birthday! A classy guy marking a classy age should celebrate with a classy beverage Have a wonderful day xxx
What do you give the man who has everything Maybe these will fit the bill they say you never get a headache from drinking older wines so I hope these prove to be satisfactory Happy birthday and very much love
Part 1: Let’s talk vintage with Kym, Steve, Maryann and Rita…
We talk Roussanne, Beaucastel, Sine Qua Non and family with Pete Stolpman…
Pete Stolpman sees the low-yielding, late-ripening Roussanne as the most-likely grape to land his 30 year old vineyard on the pedestal of the most sought-after, collectible wines in the world.