Straying From the Norm
tra-vi-ar-ti, v. those led astray
Well on the way,
head in a (nebbiosa) cloud,
the King of 1000 vines
gets us talking perfectly loud.
Yes, back in the day Simon Grant might have been seen as the Fool of Red Hill, but today, from his kitchen window, he sees the sun going down over his 1000-odd vines of Nebbiolo clones, and we think he is well on his way to becoming the King of the Hill.
The goldrush town of Beechworth sits at the foothills of the Victorian Alps, and thanks to the great vigneron names such as Rick Kinzbrunner of Giaconda, Julian of Castagna and Adrian of A. Rodda to name a few, it is celebrated for both its elegant Chardonnay and Syrah. But after spending years in the wine trade and developing an obsession with the Nebbiolo of Piedmont in Northern Italy, Simon Grant decided the red decomposed shale and mudstone soil at his Red Hill vineyard overlooking the town of Beechworth from 600m was the perfect place to grow the varietal responsible for bringing the world the King of Wines, Barolo. Fortunately he wasn't the only one to be "led astray" from the greatness of producing the famed Beechworth Chardonnay and Shiraz; coincidentally, Giaconda's Rick Kinzbrunner was also growing Nebbiolo himself on Red Hill, just over the fence!
It was the structure in wine that had captured Simon's attention, along with his partner Helen Murray as they searched for a home to make wine, with their, now winemaking-daughter Phoebe in tote. Originally they had planned to grow and produce wines from the three most noble or nobile grapes of Italy, Spain and France: Nebbiolo, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon respectively. But now Simon and Helen's efforts are centered around Nebbiolo.
With the Traviarti flagship Nebbiolo carrying all of the tannins you would expect from the nobile grape, Simon offers half the power, yet all of the complexity with his Mezzo Nebbiolo. The Mezzo is beautiful with lifted herbs and bush spice on the nose, layers upon layers to enjoy.
And for those who want the velvet glove of Nebbiolo without its characteristic iron fist, Simon grows a little Barbera to flesh out his Nebbiolo for the Traviarti Rosso. Made for the drink-now style, notes of anise sit nestled in juicy black fruits. Delicious. And of course, there is his Chardonnay. He is in Beechworth after all. Terroir and winemaking deliver power, texture, balance, and of course, structure.
Traviarti. Let them lead you astray. Responsibly. Here.
Domaine de Ferrand
What makes the wines of the Rhône so special?
The answer, my friends, is blowin' in the wind.
Life in the Rhône Valley is at the mercy of the infamous mighty wind, Le Mistral, aptly named from the old Occitan word meaning "masterly". Known at times to reach speeds of up to 180km/h, but still give the vines a beating on even its less impressive days, winemakers have learnt to adapt to the strengths this prevailing force: the excellent clothes drying conditions don't just blow away any chance of rot or mildew developing on the vines and blow away the clouds for lovely sun to ripen the berries, but the winds can literally blow the flowers off the vines early in their development. This reduced yield is associated with more intensely flavoured fruit.
And what better homage than to name a wine after the masterly wind. Domaine de Ferrand's fruit-forward Côtes du Rhône "Mistral" certainly will blow you away for its price.
The domaine, which lies both across the Côtes du Rhône and the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellations, has been in the Bravay family since the 19th Century, and boasts some of the oldest Grenache in the area. The current custodian, Phillippe Bravay, who bottled his first vintage in 1997, practices organic farming, and assists the Mistral in keeping yields to a minimum. Vinification is traditional and intervention is minimal with open top fermenters, basket presses and cement tanks.
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape comes from the Chemin Saint Jean lieu-dit, keeping good company with neighbours Marcoux and Charvin. But for those really wanting to appease their CNDP taste on a CdR budget, the old vine Grenache in the Côtes du Rhône blend is grown literally across a small country road, placing it just outside the Châteauneuf limits, and whilst it might not come with the papal novacastrian status, it tastes just as de-vine. Get blown away here.
Gorrondona Txakoli 2020
And speaking of windy, weathered countryside...
You might have indulged in the Instagram sensation that is the Basque Cheesecake, but have you ever tried Txakoli?
Hailing from the Southern Basque Country on the Spanish side of the Pyranees, where the local language Euskara has more t's, k's and x's in a word than you can poke a Pintxo at. But don't let pronunciation throw you off this Txakoli made from the indigenous grapes Hondarrabu Zuri and Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia; it's what's inside that counts!
Inside the Basque Country the Basque have enjoyed the traditionally "house-made" style of wine to accompany their delicious bite-size delicacies in the Pintxos bars of Donostia-San Sebastián and Bilbao, ever since their government promoted the growing of white grapes along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean so as not to compete with the infamous inland vino tinto neighbour of Rioja. Poured from great heights by the acrobatic staff behind the bars to break the wine into bubbles directly into the glass, the rustic wines were famed with an incredibly short shelf-life. For this reason, it has been uncommon to see Txakoli travel far from the Basque Country. Fortunately though, a new generation of winemakers, just like those producing the Muscadets of the Loire Valley we so love, are playing around with extended lees aging and better, more careful winemaking, to bring Txakoli, with its bright citrus and mineral notes, to the world.
Gorrondona Txakoli offers you the acidity of a Riesling with grassy notes and aromas of white flowers, all balanced on a textural mid-palate with plenty of citrus. Grab some salty tapas from the sea and enjoy. Topa! Try it here.