|The best people know that black clothes don't suck up smoke aromas as much as white ones, so you pedants just hush up about me washing clothes for the line at the same time as smoking meat [I'll smoke anything: apples, pears, beetroot, rabbits, redfin from the dam] and tasting the brilliant wines of Dominic Torzi, who can't seem to find it in him to actually stop making them and sending them to me, Bacchus bless the man!|
Finally got the notes done
brilliant bargains from Torzi
four true blue blackish reds
by PHILIP WHITE
First, a hissy fit. The appellation boundaries of most of the state of South Australia are really stupid. To me the best way of working out the wine regions would have gone like this. First, all the old Murray Mallee seabed limestone country east of the Flinders and Mount Lofty Ranges would have been called the Murraylands. This would cover everything from the Bordergate pub near Broken Hill to Goolwa, where the river dribbles into the Great Southern Ocean between Victor Harbor and the Coorong. Berri and Renmark and everything up that way would be called Mallee Murraylands; all the cooler limestone seabeds south of that, like Bordertown to Robe, including Padthaway and Coonawarra would be the Southern Murraylands, or the Coorong Murraylands. Maybe the Langhorne Creek and Currency Creek vignobles could be called Estuarine Murraylands. Because that’s where they are.
Then, we have two mountain ranges, which are really one, but they plunge in and out of the flatlands like the proverbial Giant Serpent. The top end of this range runs from Moolawatana to Crystal Brook. These are the Flinders Ranges. North of Wilmington are the Northern Flinders. South of that, where there are some vineyards, are the Southern Flinders. I had the deep pleasure of officially opening the viticulture appellation called the Southern Flinders, at which I warned the brave and eager prospective viticulturers of the danger of salt, I dunno, twenty years ago? Now they got salt. As I warned, you get it when you irrigate arid land for industrial grapeyards.
I digress. South of Crystal Brook, there’s a bit of a gap in the ranges where farmers have broadacred everything to the point of death, and then you hit the Clare racecourse. Somewhere around here, or Bungaree, you find the northern beginnings of the Mount Lofty Ranges, which run straight down to Victor Harbor, just to the west of the Coorong Murraylands, which are flat and estuarine. The ranges are higher and lumpy.
If you were fussy, you’d cut the Mount Lofty Ranges, like you already did with the Flinders, into two: a north bit and a south bit. The snake goes up and down. The North Mount Lofty Ranges run from around Clare and Burra to Truro. South of that, the South Mount Lofty Ranges go where they obviously go, in the geomorphological, geographical and geological sense, which is straight down to Backstairs Passage and the Great Southern Ocean.
When the official internationally-recognised Geographic Indicator boundaries were being set, I argued constantly for this sort of logic, as all these names were already on the official maps. Instead we ended up with the illogical weirdness of some of the South Mount Lofty Ranges being called Barossa, Adelaide Hills, and Southern Fleurieu, which are either not on the map, or illogically so.
Which makes these two bargain beauties from Dominic Torzi even more pleasing than their estimable quality alone permits. They quite honestly and logically name their source as the Mount Lofty Ranges.
Longhop Mount Lofty Ranges Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($16; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 91+ points) is a moody, soulful red with an intensity and balance rarely found in wines below $50. It has the methoxypyrazine leafiness which marks the sauvignons red and white, but it’s never sharp, or anything like the gooseberry you’ll find in most Marlborough Savvys-B. Rather, it’s somewhere between the gloom of black tea and the distinctive dark green aromatic edge of the nightshades, and maybe chicory, and it melds beautifully into its fruit flavours of Oxheart and Black Russian heirloom tomatoes, which are of the nightshade family anyway. It’s gently tannic in a velvety way, and generally a real gentle comforting wine. Over the five days I’ve had it open, I’ve drunk it with an intensely smoky cassoulet (lots of tomato), with lamb shanks (tomato and kalamata) and straight pink lamb chops with spinach and mash (and yes, some home-made tomato sauce). There is no crême de cassis, blackcurrant or blueberry character in the wine, but if you’re searching for metaphors, and those tomatoes won’t do, go roast ripe capsicum (another nightshade), and then think along the lines of aged soy or maybe even Worcestershire sauce. As it’s the price of two pints of beer, it’s hardly a big ask to suggest you buy one and work it out for yourself. I promise you’ll forgive me.
Longhop Mount Lofty Ranges Shiraz 2012 ($16; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points) is along the same lines, made mainly from low-yielding pre-phylloxera clones on their own roots fermented as whole berries in open vats, basket-pressed and left to slumber in old barrels. So, well, let’s face it: you get the full Basket Press treatment (Rockford’s now around $150) for $16. This one’s more conventionally fruity than the Cabernet, with plumcake, dried figs and pecan simmering richly below a nose-prickling acridity that takes me to the High Barossa on a dusty summer day. Panforte. Like the Cabernet, I’ve had it open for five days, and I can’t find a hole in it – my score has inched upwards every day. It’s great wine for big mushrooms and juicy beefsteak with some beetroot on the side. Elegant and balanced with no overt jelly or jam, it’s straight down the line dead-honest old-fashioned Shiraz with no sophistry at all. Don’t ask how they do it at this price; ask Rockford how they justify theirs.
Torzi Matthews Moppa Hill Barossa Valley Single Vineyard Old 1903 Vines Shiraz of Domenico Martino 2012 ($35; 14.2% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points). So what makes this better? Start with its alarming purity of message. It’s a letter of love from one tiny patch of priceless heirloom Shiraz in the northern Barossa. It’s disgusting in its brazen determination to seduce. Take all the fruits and aspects of the Longhop above, and dilute them about 5:1 in a deep simmer of mulberry and baby beetroot. Smack your favourite schoolteacher’s blackboard duster against the side of the glass to add some country. Then think of black satin and silk, patent leather court shoes and Jean Deprez Bal à Versailles perfume. Take a schlück, and you get the sense of iron as much as sinuous acid and flesh. Sexy beast’s packin’ a heavy short, so you get those whiffs of gunblue and cordite just to warn you that you’re in the dark alone with this one. Good for duck or softer, creamy cheddar. And still inexpensive.
Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Eden Valley Shiraz 2012 ($35; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points) This old vineyard’s in a frost-prone upland hollow at Mount MacKenzie, south of Angaston in the South Mount Lofty Ranges. To dodge the frost, Domenic and Tracy pick the grapes a little early, then dry them, appassimento style, on racks, to finish their sugars and remove some water. So you get concentrate. Then you do the open fermenter, basket press regime, and finish the wine with a few new barrels amongst the older buggers. Add all the components of the three wines above, hammer all the waste juice out of them on your anvil, use max necromancy in your alchemist’s alembic, then send in the silk root underwear stitchers to put some polished glissando into the forged corset, and you’re close to this blithe, sublimely delicious gastronomic nonsense. It needs fifteen years in the dungeon. In this case, don’t blame me.