Brett - It is the buzz word of the wine industry. Every winemaker fears it, every show judge hunts it and everyone else talks about it. But one winemaker is embracing it.
Steve Webber is the man. De Bortoli Chief Winemaker, New Royal Melbourne Wine Show Chairman & 2007 Winemaker of the Year. A man on a mission. This year, Steve has taken over the chair of one of our most famous wine shows & he is already stirring the pot. In the famous 'Jimmy Watson' class this year, there will be no medals, just the trophy. Steve did that. Unfinished wines won't receive medals you see. Apparently the Watson family (owners of the trophy) want the trophy to be for 1 yr old wines, finished or not. Steve (and others) want it to be for 1 and up to 2 year old finished wines. Watch this space.
Back to Brett. This year, for the first time, Steve has released a wine that has had an intentional addition of Brett. A deliberate addition of a spoilage yeast. A deliberate fault. In Australia, home of squeaky clean wines. Did I mention that Steve Webber is a man on a mission?
So what about the wine:
De Bortoli Melba Lucia 2006 - A Bordeaux style Cabernet blend, with a little Sangiovese mixed in for good measure. Cedary, meaty nose with some volatility. Distinctively cool climate Cabernet aromas, with the cedary character of Sangiovese in there too. The palate is very dry, with length that is fleshed out through the middle. Red cherry & cassis fruit. Excellent tannins but the palate feels a little disjointed at present, the flavours jarring a little. Time may resolve this. No obvious faults. 17.2+
I can't say whether I agree with Brett seeding, nor if it made any difference to this wine. But again, its an interesting concept, much like the man himself. (He swears like a trooper by the way too).
At the time of trying this unusual wine, we tried a few more wines that where indicative of both the failings and the glories of the show system. (The tasting notes below in italics are basically as I wrote them at the time)
Phi Chardonnay 2006 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Produced from a cooperative of the De Bortoli and the Shelmerdine families, this label has already garnered plenty of attention at home and abroad. Steve Webber thinks this is simply to 'out there' for the show system and he is probably right.
Pale green colour. Nutty, yeasty, worked nose with some unusual fresh hay elements. Tight textured palate has rich nougat fruit & very pronounced acidity. Excellent palate complexity, rich mid palate. Very good. Too worked? 17
Tyrrells Belford Chardonnay 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
This will polarise. The oak is quite a dominant feature of the mid palate on this very young white. Personally, I loved it.
Very light, straw green colour. Subdued nose with just some obvious vanilla bean oak. The palate is rich on the front with a hit of oak to start, but after this the tight crisp palate garners attention. Grapefruit resonates on the finish. Lovely lean palate profile. Very good. 17.5+
Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2007 (Margaret River, WA)
A broader step down after the brilliant 06 but this is definitely a show stopping wine. Expect plenty more medals & attention for this.
Green colour. Very tight, closed, grapefruit & oak nose. Very rich, but cleansing acidity to the powerful palate. Big, almost chewy wine with a little heat on the finish. Needs time. 17.5
Vissoux Les Garants Fleurie 2006 (Beaujolais, France)
Steve liked its terroir stamp, I thought it was faulty rubbish.
Mid red. nose of cherry, smoke, raspberry, meat. Bretty nose. Intrusive acid. Thin raspberry palate. No! 12
Collector Reserve Shiraz 2006 (Canberra district, ACT)
This has already picked up quite a few gongs around the place and its not hard to see why - its certainly quite pretty & very cleanly drinkable. I wanted more, but in retrospect I think this just needs some time in the bottle.
Bright deep red colour. Perfumed, sweet, aromatic nose with star anise and violets. Very nice. Light to medium cherry fruit, elegant and very drinkable. Heat on the finish. Highly drinkable but very simple. 16.5
Yering Station Reserve Shiraz Viognier 2006 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Apparently this picked up a bronze only very recently and a Bronze is all it got from me.
Mid red colour. Volatile, choc oak nose. Big, hot, quite simple nose leads to a red fruited palate that is big on power but no delicacy. Raspy & extractive. No obvious Viognier. Needs time+ but still too hot. 15.5
Herve Souhaut Syrah Vin De Pays de L'Ardeche 2006 (France)
Its a winemakers fault field day! Almost more faults than wine, but also very interesting. Produced from an estate that falls just outside the Rhone region. Would be a great pizza wine.
Murky colour. Perfumed, bretty, meaty nose. Big, meaty, bretty palate. Savoury, hammy, noticeable acidity. Faults aplenty, but also characterful and quite drinkable. 15