If you ever need a reminder of how devastatingly hard the life of a farmer/vigneron can be, look only at New England’s Topper’s Mountain 2019 ‘vintage gonski’.
On Feb 13th the Topper’s crew were gearing up for harvest. Bins were lined up, tractors at the ready. A ‘picking party’ was days away…
But within minutes #v19 would be cancelled, as the Tingha Plateau Fire – which the Topper’s team thought was moving away – changed direction and ripped through the Topper’s Mountain vineyards, burning 70-80% of the vines, including posts and drop lines, plus tainting the remaining fruit.
As Mark Kirby details in this story, it was pure heartbreak. A reminder of Mother Nature’s petulance and a pain in the hip pocket (with the potential for much more pain if some vines don’t recover in spring).
Thankfully, Topper’s picked some grapes early, and have a release schedule based on bottle age (so there’s going to be wine to come) but you can’t help feel the pain.
Today then, I’ve pulled out two typically interesting recent Topper’s Mountain releases to remind what those cooked berries could have become.
Topper’s Mountain Wild Ferment Petit Manseng 2016
There’s a whole fruit salad of varieties at Topper’s but the textural whites are the most successful (especially Gewurz). Here it’s a tangy and authentic Petit Manseng that was wild fermented and spends 6 months in old oak. It’s understated, but not light, the nose subtle with a dash of ginger in amongst lavender and lemongrass. Lots to take in, but it’s below the surface, then a palate that is hard to get a grip on – it’s almost saline in its puckering tang, with a wall of stony, acid peaked flavour. It’s not necessarily an easy wine, but it’s vital and has a real depth to it. Intrigue+. Best drinking: Good new and for the next year or two at least. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.8%, $35. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Topper’s Mountain Bricolage Rouge 2014
Speaking of varietal fruit salads, this is Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Tannat, Shiraz & Viognier. Bricolage is a mix of the best varietals from a given vintage and it’s always interesting, if just as variable as the blend. This has a wonderfully wild nose – redcurrants in red earth, plum, mushrooms, ham and rose water. The grippy palate is bloody drying, but with this red fruit plumpness through the middle. Not an easy wine either – a bit raw for that. But the layers of rough grain tannins combined with the plump fruit make for interest and charisma. Best drinking: Would be worth an extra year in bottle. Or a decant. Then will be alive in 10 years easy (if the tannins don’t overtake the fruit). 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Just a glass.