Alpha Box & Dice 'Changing Lanes' Tempranillo Cabernet 2005 (Margaret River, WA & McLaren Vale, SA) 15.5%, Screwcap, $35 Source: Cellar Door
If you were to compile a list of all the interesting winemakers in McLaren Vale, then Justin Lane would rate within the very top few (up there with the other Justin - Mcnamee that is, Samuel's Gorge winemaker - along with another one of Mr Lane's friends, Drew Noon).
Justin is the fast talking, yet perplexingly laidback, creative genius behind the Alpha Box & Dice label, crafting some of the most beguiling, thought provoking and wildly stylish wines in the Vale.
And this Tempranillo Cabernet, this suitably unusual and challenging red wine, illustrates the point with absolute conviction.
It starts with the packaging - the Changing Lanes Tempranillo Cabernet is the third wine in the Alpha Box & Dice lineup, so it gets the 'C' nomenclature, as each wine in the range gets a progressing letter in the alphabet (Fog is the most recent wine - a Nebbiolo Tannat blend that celebrates tannin).
As you can see in the picture on this page, the Changing Lanes bottle is contained in a paper wrapper that cleverly nods to the discombobulated alphabet found on eye charts. Behind the eye catching wrapping lies a label that is as novel as the rest of the package, with an image that changes between Justin Lane and his brother, Mark Lane (the Changing Lanes, get it?).
Justin's brother, you see, comes into the equation with the Tempranillo. Mark is also a winemaker, currently making wine at Flying Fish Cove in Margaret River, whom managed to source some good quality Tempranillo in 2005. He essentially produced the Tempranillo component of the blend and then shipped the best barrels over to his brother in Mclaren Vale, who then combined it with his own McLaren Vale Cabernet to produce a multi-Lane (boom boom tish) red blend.
The wine itself then spent a total of 3 years in oak, which is again wonderous, for it doesn't actually taste oaky. Instead, it smells ferrous, dark and bloody, like blood and bone, cedar and slow cooked meat, all secondary, deep, hearty and very dry. More suprising, the palate is quite bright and even sweet-ish, with the oak giving chocolatey richness and generosity that serves to counter the almost metallic dryness.
From a style point of view then it's a wine then that doesn't so much as push the boundaries as to give them a fully fledged shove (performed with a wide grin of course) and as a result it is a hard wine to really love.
But I like it. I like the sentiment, I like the passion, I like the fact that behind the creative guff lies some interesting textures and no shortage of flavour, tannin or stuffing. And that alone deserves celebrating. 17.6/92
2009/10 WCA Wine Journalism 'Young Gun; Wine Judge; Gourmet Traveller WINE and Breathe Hunter Valley magazine contributor; LattéLife & The Retiree columnist; National Liquor News tasting panellist and Chablis lover who fell into the liquor industry chiefly to buy cheap beer.
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