2013 Inkwell releases
I’m glad I tried these wines before I met their maker, Dudley Brown.
I say that purely because it’s harder to be completely objective once you meet a winemaker, especially when that winemaker turns out to be engaging and intelligent. It’s much easier, as a wine critic, to maintain an arms-length relationship and to judge each wine wine purely on its merits, leaving said winemakers personality out of it.
Whilst such an arms-length approach is good in theory, when the personality behind the wine is larger-than-life it can be hard to separate a winemakers nature and a wines nature and you end up rewarding a wine because you respect the winemaker, rather than the wine,
In the case of these Inkwell Wines that personality is Dudley Brown, one of McLaren Vale’s deepest thinkers and a man respected both for his high quality Inkwell vineyard and his role as CEO of renowned McLaren Vale based viticultural/agricultural consultancy business DJ’s Growers.
More than just a grower and viti guy (who makes a little wine on the side), Dudley is also amongst the region’s most important administrators, having been a past chairman of McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism (the regional wine body) and driver of initiatives like Scarce Earth, the McLaren Vale Water Plan, The Vale Cru and the McLaren Vale Geology Map.
Worse still, he’s a blogger too, with strong opinions and well thought out arguments, all of which means we have even more to talk/debate about (and he cheekily complains about my low scores to boot).
Given such a context, you can understand why I am glad to have tried the wines several weeks ago in the more clinical surrounds of the Australian Wine Review tasting bench. Hopefully this is reflected in the notes and scores too…
‘Own roots, hand pruned, sustainable practices, wild yeast, long ferments, barrel to barrel racking… one pump, two fanatics. The only additive is S02. Some call this natural winemaking, we prefer ‘human scale’ or ‘de-industrialised’ or ‘Winemaking with a human face’
That paragraph about sums up the Inkwell winemaking approach methinks, an approach that reflects both an understanding of the value of neo-modern ‘non-interventionist’ winemaking, as well as the importance of great grapes.
Speaking of grapes, the fruit for these wines are drawn from the Inkwell vineyard on California rd, a plot of vines on prime ‘Pirramimma Sandstone’ that grows grapes that often make their way into top level Vale reds like Chapel Hill’s Vicar (amongst others).
What’s most impressive about these wines is how ‘living’ they are. Even the Viognier, against all my prejudices, looks tasty, lean and sophisticated, a nicely balanced iteration of the grape that I was very impressed by.
Full notes are thus below, tasted from a bottle of each wine opened and examined over 24 hours. Notes are as written on the day with further winemaking notes in italics.
Blonde on Blonde Viognier 2012 (McLaren Vale, SA
Made by Bryn Richards at Chapel Hill. One cultured yeast, one wild yeast ferment. Sees six months in neutral French oak before blending. $20. 12.5% alc. TA 6.0. pH 3.25. 760 bottles produced.
Alive. No apricots to be seen. White peach, nectarine skins and finessed flavours. Clean, classy and vibrant, white nectarine palate. So classy and pure! Could be a Hills Viognier really. Dry and lean. Too lean? Very classy. I’d like to see more wildness in this – a little solids wouldn’t go astray, but the class is apparent from the get-go. 17.5/20 91/100
Road to Joy Shiraz Primitivo 2011 (McLaren Vale, SA)
86/14 Shiraz/Primitivo. 14.9% alc. TA 6.4g/L. $25
Glycerol and sugar cane sweet black fruit nose. Deep, dark colours too. Boot polish. A fraction volatile but part of the mix. Glycerol rich and heady palate. Warm and thick, like syrup in its unctuous, tarry flavours but has energy. More like warm 2009 vintage wine than wet 2011. Artfully crafted. Maybe even a little black bullet fruit sweet. Bitter tannins. Artful but slurpable. No heat. Heart and soul. 17.8/20 92/100
Inkwell The Infidel Primitivo 2011 (McLaren Vale, SA)
18 day ferment. 33% new American oak the rest neutral French for 19 months. 14.06% alc. TA 6.4g/L. pH 3.3. Includes 4% Shiraz
A real blood plum freshness to the nose. Very bright and ripe for the vintage. Even, just perfectly ripened black fruit flesh and quite sweet fruited. Very primary, but even in its flow and quite delicious in its McLaren Vale form too. Flesh but not too sweet. Fine tannins. Quite delicious really! 18/20 93/100