Irrewarra. Mark that name down under your watch list.
Irrewarra is the new winemaking project of Nick Farr (yes, son of Gary) focused on a vineyard near the town of Irrewarra in western Victoria. Planted in 2001 on own roots, this plot lies in not-quite wine country. It’s a part of Victoria that I’ve driven through and just remember the marshy water everywhere. As if its swamp land, but with cows no mangroves. There’s more vineyards further south near the Otways, east near Geelong and north near Ballarat. But otherwise Irrewarra stands somewhat alone (if my mental geography is correct).
In turn, the Irrewarra Vineyard was run down when Nick started first taking fruit from it. Owned by The Calvert family (of Irrewarra Sourdough Bakery), Nick has been taking grapes since 2012, but this is the first commercial release. Slowly slowly.
While it’s not strictly wine country, there’s nothing wrong with the dirt (clay loam) or the climate (cool but with warm summers and relatively wet). But it’s wine region is just Victoria – a situation which would be a dampener for most producers.
Nick, however, isn’t just any old winemaker. And these aren’t any old wines. Instead, these are carefully made, super-premium releases that hint at greatness. There’s definitely lots of Farr DNA in the style, packaging and winemaking, but these have a different shape to the Geelong wines, with the cooler, wetter conditions delivering a subtly different expression. This duo may be indicative of how this vineyard always tastes, but I’d like to see more vintages before deciding that.
What’s not up for discussion is how impressive this pair of wines are. If you like the classic Farr winemaking modus operandi, you’re going to like these wines. I can almost guarantee it…
An interesting note: The press release says ‘this is NOT a By Farr or Farr Rising wine and the Irrewarra brand stands alone – the winemaker shares a surname’.
This I don’t quite get. A demarcation? These are wines that share similar packaging, style and even price points to the aforementioned brands. Yet it stands apart. More to be discovered here…
Irrewarra Chardonnay 2016
30% new oak, full malo. I was complaining just the other week about how many modern Australian Chardonnay releases have become too lean. But this is classically richer, fuller, more convincing. The flavours here fall into the white nectarine spectrum, with some leesy mealy edges. At first I thought it was forward, but the sprightly back end brings this back to a tighter finish. Viscosity without heaviness. Importantly, this is long, fresh, and even with just enough slightly sour acidity to remind that this comes from a coolish spot. The end result definitely reminds me of the Geelong releases from the other Farr brands, but with a briney tang that brings you back for more. High high quality. Best drinking: Good now and will still look good in five years time. 13.5%, $62. 18.5/20, 94/100. Would I buy it? Yes.
Irrewarra Pinot Noir 2015
All MV6, 30% new oak. Hints of rhubarb and then red cherry on the nose – it’s a wine that hints at being riper with a little alcohol heat, but the spicy, faintly herbal mode is cool and subtle. There’s some Cherry Ripe fruit weight, a little vanilla bean oak and just a little stewed rhubarb. There’s a ripeness battle below the surface here, with more sweeter fruit along with the odd whiff of menthol. Again, however, the polish shines through on the finish, with classy tannins and a sensation of masterful winemaking. I prefer the more effortless Chardonnay, but this is again high quality. Best drinking: Better next year and will go for a decade if you let it. 14%, $62. 17.7/20, 92/100. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.