Australian wine – the theme of this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival – has for many years been rediscovering its massive regional and soil diversity with numerous producers focusing on balanced site-driven wines that have re-emphasized acids, texture, minerality and savoriness. However, this movement has been largely confined to Australia itself, with North America a shrinking market since the heyday 1990’s. Because of Australia’s success in North America with jammy soft red wines with plenty of residual sugar (a style which, by the way, remains popular – just see California’s Apothic red), many people who were never into that style of wine have bypassed the country. Given the current state of Australian wine, this is a shame. It is possible this will start to change in Canada given the drop of the Canadian dollar against the US but not Australian dollars. These wines will soon be more affordable.
Ochota Barrels represents the cutting edge of the new frontier of Australian wine making and this Grenache blend is emblematic of that. This was one of my picks of the festival tasting, as noted in the current feature article, but the wine is so bloody good it deserved to be singled out.
Australian ‘Naturalist’ Grenache
Why is ‘the green room’ important? Firstly, it presents a style of wine that almost no one associates with the McLaren Vale (one of the hotbeds for huge scoring Parker wines in the 90’s and early 2000’s). This wine is also not a style of wine anyone associates with Grenache, a grape that, even when good, is high in alcohol. The Green Room in contrast is a mere 12.8% Alcohol – an astonishing accomplishment given Grenache’s difficulty ripening physiologically at such low potential alcohol.
The best comparator for this wine is a cross of Loire Valley Cab Franc (acid and extreme aromatics), Cru Beaujolais (texture and stems) and the spice and red fruit of southern Rhone Grenache. Winemaker Taras Ochota formerly worked at Two Hands and Nepenthe and spent time working vintages at numerous California producers including the likes of Outpost, Arcadian and Schrader. However, the inspiration here is France rather than the new world and particular the natural wine producers of southern France.
From Ochota Barrels’ website:
We are strongly drawn to and influenced by the small biodynamic producers we came across in the south of France. Texture is a zealous focus, manipulating mouth-feel with extended time on skins and batonnage. Beautifully sculptured old bush vines with low yields and small berries, picked basically when you can’t stop eating them because they taste so delicious. There are no instruments in sight on those dawn vineyard sampling walks, and if the stalks are sweet, whole bunches are included in our half tonne ferments.
The 88% Grenache and 12% Syrah juice is fermented whole bunch with indigenous yeasts. The wine is aged in seasoned oak andbottling is done by hand after extensive tasting to decide when the wine is ready (as such there is no set bottling date year over year).
Wine for Drinking
This is the most purely drinkable red wine I’ve had from Australia. There is absolutely no pretence, no arrogance or pomp. This is not a wine for show-off cellars or for expensive dinners. This is wine you just want to drink when you want it because it is delicious. Its translucence is both physical and spiritual. Red berries, spice, soft but bright, perceptively sweet and fruit forward but with a dry finish. This is exactly what wine is meant to be. It’s emblematic of what is possible in Australia. If it doesn’t convince you to turn your eyes across the equator, you don’t like wine.
Excellent and Highly Recommended Value
$38 at BCLDB Festival Store