"...It’s a deep, dark, dense wine. It’s one for those who prefer not to be able to see through their wines; an inky night wine. It tastes of bitumen and blackberry, vanilla cream and bright, ripe plums. It mentions alcohol warmth, but I think it gets away with it. Indeed it pushes the ripeness envelope but just manages to keep itself tidy and intact. In all, it’s seamless, in its style"
Rusty Mutt Catnip Viogner 2014 Region: McLaren Vale, SA. Grape Variety: Viogner Screw top Price: $22 (members cheaper) Tasted: September 2014 Best quaffed: Now until 2018 93+ Points.
Winter’s gone and spring has well and truly settled in. You might have noticed Wine of the Week has been on a fleeting hiatus with the launch of Sydney Scoop.
You might have also noticed a fair few Aussie Viogniers (pronounced vee-ohn-yay) in restaurants and on the shelves in recent months; although as a grape, it’s been growing here in a couple of spots for almost thirty years. It is a Rhone variety that moved over to Australia after it almost disappeared completely for a period in France.
Scott and I had a chat (over Pinot and Cabernet!) about Viognier and what he’s doing with Rusty Mutt wines. Aside from Rusty Mutt, Scott’s ‘day job’ is head winemaker at Geoff Merrill wines. Scott’s Rusty Mutt Shiraz is worth checking out too. I’m maybe most excited about a GSM in the pipeline, which I’m told will be out next year.
The Catnip Viognier smells exotic: rich, ripe, fruity, with lychee and orange blossom, both of which carry through to the palate. There’s a little spice, freshly cut apricot, a squeeze of lime and a nice acidic backbone; the wine’s somewhat cleaner than I was expecting. If you’re after a slick, oily number, look past this one.
It’s one for the sunshine, a Saturday afternoon without a worry. I’m wanting a snapper over coals – rubbed with lime, chilli, ginger – or a smoked whole chook, some spice on the outside, with a couple of generous tongs worth of homemade ‘slaw. Just be liberal with those herbs.
Rusty Mutt is coming to Sydney from the 8th to the 12th of August. I know when, what, just not where! I would like to put together an evening of friends, food, fun and fine - er wine!
Please help! I'm thinking easy food (gourmet pizza? Tapas? - food in one hand, glass in the other!) in a central location with quirky atmosphere. I would like to host somewhere around 40-50 people in mid-winter comfort.
Let me know! Lets make it happen. Please contact me with any suggestions.
I wish i'd remembered to bring a jumper...it was a beautiful but cold day in McLaren Vale for the Rusty Mutt member day. Friends and strangers came from everywhere and nowhere with one purpose. forget the week and sip relaxing wine dreams at the very source.
GSM and Viognier were singing fresh songs of fruit vibrancy and lively ambition all the while the single French puncheon Shiraz sang a complex melody of brooding desire and forbidden fruit. The ever popular 2011 Rusty Mutt Shiraz began to revealed its sophisticated style once hidden by youthful defiance.
Thanks to those that came and supported me. Without you I don't exist, so stay in touch and tell your friends because bigger, bolder and better are words to describe the next Rusty Mutt member day, and i'll remember to bring a jumper, or we'll do it in summer!
Come for a drive to McLaren Vale this coming Sunday the 8th of June.
I'll have my current wines for tasting with great prices on the day and you can have a look at the 2014 vintage wines. Taste my new GSM blend, the Rusty Mutt Shiraz, the Catnip Viognier and the new high end, single barrel Shiraz.
The 'Gourmet Entertainer' will be coming along with some great cheeses, chutneys and relishes to try with platters available for purchase.
It's free to come along but you will need to register so I can keep track of numbers. Please click the image or any of the links to go to the Eventbrite page now.
Oak use is so varied and personal amongst winemakers.
It adds complexity, tannin, structure, aroma, flavour and mouth feel to the wine and helps to steer your style to where you would like it.
Oak is a condiment. Oak is the little bit of mustard on your steak or a sauce on your fish. It's a complimentary flavour that enhances the wine. As with food, it’s always about the main ingredient, not the sauce.
Oak (for wine maturation) comes in two main species. American oak (Quercus Alba) and French oak (Quercus Petraea). American oak is a faster growing species which typically has wider grain and imparts a stronger flavour, and in the past has tended to be quite vanilla and sweet due to high oak lactone. French oak is much more subtle and creamy with pronounced fine tannin. However, new barrel making techniques have brought the flavour and aroma profile gap between American & French oak a lot closer together.
You can now buy American oak barrels where the American wood has been shipped to France and seasoned in France. After location and species, the seasoning process is the next most important factor in the flavour profile of a barrel. The timber is cut into lengths and stacked up and just left outside in the weather for at least two years. This leeches out a lot of the harsh tannins and resins in the wood, and makes it suitable for storing and maturing wine in. The repeated hot/cold/wet/dry cycle of seasons (hence seasoning) adds virtually a climatic fingerprint style to the process. The temperature and humidity will affect the growth of micro-organisms and rainfall intensity and duration will affect the leeching process. So seasoning in France will be quite different to seasoning in the US or Australia.
The cooperage that produces the barrel have their own ideas about the design and the shape of the barrel, and especially how it's fired. Many are now using water (steam) bending and immersion techniques to leech more tannin and bend the barrel without damage or blistering. But essentially, to help soften the timber so it bends easily to make the shape of the barrel, you need to heat it up. Most likely it was found that by heating the barrels a bit longer, the oak began to toast, thus changing the flavours and aromas in the product stored within. Hot, short toasts are very different to long moderate toasts. They have quite an effect on the flavour and aroma compounds the oak produces. A cooper can make a barrel that will produce more vanilla, more mocha or more spice, purely with the heating techniques.
Barrels can be made virtually any size but some sizes have been widely adopted and commonly used. In Australia (some names may be different in other countries) the most common are; Barrique (225 Litres), Hogshead (300 Litres) & Puncheon (500 Litres). Obviously, the smaller the barrel the more oak surface area you have to volume of your wine.
Another important parameter to steer the wine style is the age of the barrel. A brand new barrel will have a lot of oak flavour and tannin compared to a barrel which has been used for a few years. The oak tannins and flavour comes out into the wine quite quickly so, even within a few months you can have a lot of oak flavour in your wine, and if you’re not careful it will hide the fruit. But new oak contains ‘ellagic’ tannin which can help stabilise the colour in a young wine providing the basis for longevity. So the right balance of oak is required.
The Rusty Mutt Shiraz is made using the quite gentle winemaking techniques of hand plunging ferments and basket pressing. I would classify my wine in the ‘elegant’ part of the wine style spectrum so bombarding it with new oak will cover up all my hard work. I have chosen to use 4-5 year old French oak hogsheads. There is still some tannin and flavour in the wood but it won’t overpower my wine. The wine matures in the barrels for a minimum of 18 months before bottling which adds the most perfect ‘sauce’ to my McLaren Vale ‘rare’ Shiraz!