Newcomers off to a flying start
ALLIES is one of the most impressive new wineries of the 1000-plus such ventures I have encountered over the past five years. Owners Barney Flanders and David Chapman describe it as a collaboration, partly reflecting that for the first three years (starting in 2003) it was a virtual winery, owning neither vineyards nor winery.
Both men started their working lives in restaurants, Flanders on the floor, Chapman migrating between floor and kitchen. Flanders was the first to move to wine, graduating from Charles Sturt University with a wine science degree in 1999, thereafter working as a flying winemaker in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley, Trentino in Italy, the Sonoma Coast in California, and finally Cote Rotie, France.
Chapman quit restaurants in 2004, working as a vineyard manager and has been a part-time student at Charles Sturt since then. Moorooduc Estate, on the Mornington Peninsula, became the cement to lock the pieces together: the pair worked there for several years and were given the run of the winery to make their (admittedly small) first three vintages.
Obviously, the partners had considerable collective experience by this time but I would guess Moorooduc winemaker-owner Rick McIntyre provided a great sounding board.
In 2006 they took over management of the Merricks Grove Vineyard, also in the Mornington, and leased space at the Dromana Estate winery, giving them control over all aspects of winemaking. By this time they had developed a clear winemaking philosophy.
‘‘ We like wines that show intensity without being overripe. Our preference is for subtle, complex wines rather than wines with strong mono-dimensional characters,’’ they say. ‘‘ We like the flavours and effect of oak, but it must be in sympathy with the fruit intensity.’’ Fine words, you might think, but what about the wine? Actually, the words precisely describe the wines’ elegance, harmony and finesse.
The entree is the 2006 Saone Viognier ($24, 94 points, 200 cases), named after the river that runs from Burgundy to the northern end of the Rhone Valley. It contains 11 per cent chardonnay and is barrel fermented with wild yeasts in old French oak barriques. It is not allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation but is barrel aged for nine months with occasional lees stirring to build mouthfeel. It has strong varietal expression, with apricot blossom aromas flowing through to give a predominant, though not aggressive, impact. The chardonnay is a seamless component (the blending session would have been fascinating), making for a viognier that, unusually, will match a wide range of food.
The 2006 Garagiste Chardonnay ($36, 94 points, 150 cases) differs from the viognier with the inclusion of 36 per cent new French oak and the use of several puncheons as well as barriques. The chardonnay (like that of the viognier) comes from the excellent French clones 76 and 95, grown at Yabby Lake under the direction of viticulturist Keith Harris.
It is very classy, pure and elegant, the citrus and nectarine fruit with immaculately balanced oak, the flavour lasting through to the finish. With the modest 13 per cent alcohol and the screwcap it will coast through to 2013.
Its sister, the 2006 Garagiste Pinot Noir ($35, 94 points, 200 cases), is brilliantly clear, setting the scene for the seductive dark cherry and plum aromas and flavours, great texture and structure, and all the length one could wish for. Like the chardonnay, it is only 13 per cent alcohol and sealed with a screwcap, and should live for an equally long time.