If there is one unspoken challenge in wine, it is taking photos of dark bottles with dark labels.
Sure, black paper and brown glass can look good, it means that pro-photography is necessary. That’s why you can barely make out the detail in my perfunctory iphone photo below (especially compare to the pro shot at the bottom).
Still, the packaging on these new 2015 Zonzo Estate Yarra Valley Pinot Noir & Chardonnay wines certainly has the premium feel. Think heavy (proprietary) bottle, wax seals and cork, in a rather old-school style that Jancis Robinson would call ‘very naughty’ (due to its rubbish carbon footprint).
It’s curious packaging that would be more at home in the early noughties than 2016. But from the outset it makes this look like expensive wine, which is probably the intention.
So Zonzo Estate is the new name for the Train Trak winery, a Yarra estate better known for its weddings than its wine. I’ve had a few of the Train Trak Pinots over the years, and they’ve been typically solid, though not much else.
The name was changed last March when it was taken over by Rod Micallef, a Melbourne restaurateur who has been running the Zonzo restaurant at the estate since 2007.
From what I can gather, however, change has been on the cards for some time, with the 45 acre vineyard recently revitalised. In turn, the winemaking duties have passed to the experienced hands of Caroline Mooney and Kate Goodman (with Train Trak branded products from 2014 are still out there in retail land).
I was sent these two Zonzo Estate wines with no retail price of any kind on the bottle, which is both frustrating and liberating all at once. On the one hand, I can’t benchmark them with any other wines when tasting at home, but on the other I can just free taste and play the ‘guess the pricepoint’ game.
Only problem? I guessed these to be $25-$30 wines, and they’re currently selling for $55 direct from Zonzo Estate.
To be honest, that packaging does add plenty to the price expectation. It’s an expensive-looking, wax-sealed bottle (that no doubt costs the winery a fortune) and if you received one as a gift, you’d be impressed.
Still, the wines – and particularly the Pinot – look just a little light for that sort of aspirational price. The Chardonnay puts a good step forward, but $55 will buy you a bottle of one of the (superb) single vineyard Oakridge Chardies with almost enough left over for a bottle of the (bargain) Wickhams Road Yarra Chardonnay.
I know what I’d be buying.
Sure, you could argue that value is a subjective exercise, and these are hardly mainstream wines (available direct only at this stage). But when they’re selling everything at the same price on the restaurant wine list as they are direct from the winery, then serious questions about value have to be asked.
Caroline and Kate are both quality winemakers, so I don’t think it’s necessarily an issue of production. More just unrealistic price expectations, especially so for a new release from an unknown estate.
Zonzo Estate Pinot Noir 2015
30% whole berries in the blend, this spent 9 months in oak. Driven by raspberry coulis red fruit, this very juicy red is light and airy but I was digging deep to see much beyond mono-dimensional fruit. Pleasant, but not serious or showing much structure for higher points. Best drinking: 2016-2020. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $55. Would I buy it? Not quite.
Zonzo Estate Chardonnay 2015
Barrel fermented and matured for 9 months in a mix of old and new barrels. Tight and slightly oak coiffed, this shows honey, white peach and grilled nuts with some just-bottled banana ferment esters. Tight. Palate looks well constructed, acidity feels real and gentle, and the oak doesn’t perforate the finish. Class, if too young for drinking now. Much better than the mono dimensional Pinot. Best drinking: late 2016-2020. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 13%, $55. Would I buy it? I’d drink some but wouldn’t buy it.