My expectations for cricket legend Ricky Ponting’s new Ponting Wines were very low.
That’s a hangover from years of experience with consistently shithouse celebrity ‘collaboration wine’ – like the middling Greg Norman range, Shane Warne’s forgettable ‘Shane Warne Collection’ or the genuinely bad AC/DC release.
It’s easier talking about the good celeb winery projects – headlined by Sam Neill’s excellent Two Paddocks Central Otago Pinot range, Maynard James Keenan’s Caduceus Cellars or Brangelina’s fashionable Chateau Miraval.
Generally, all the successful wine tie-ins involve one thing – an emotional investment. With Ponting Wines that comes as much from Ricky’s wife Rianna – who loves Burgundy and old school Chardonnay – rather than from the cricketing great himself. Indeed, Ricky calls himself a ‘greyhound owning beer drinker’ who only embraced wine in recent years.
Last night, the Pontings had a massive Zoom call with a bunch of wine media folk (including one social media knobhead who never shuts up. You’ll know him) to launch the new wines, and it became apparent that wine is a much more long-term project than one of those shitty ‘collabs’.
Ricky & Rianna are currently stuck at home in Melbourne, homeschooling 3 kids and at a bit of a loose end, with the past seven months Ricky has spent at home his longest stint in many years. Perfect timing to put energy into starting a wine label.
For context, there are now three vintages worth of Ponting releases in bottle and barrel, all produced by McLaren Vale’s everywhere winemaker Ben Riggs. Packaging-wise the range matches the expected audience, the colours and label designs very much ‘I know my MCG from my BCCI’, in a conservative, but not unattractive, mode.
The wines fit that same mould – classic, no alarms and no surprises styles, the reds better drinks, if a bit tart (especially the Cabernet). If you like Ben’s Mr Riggs wines then you know what you’re up for here.
Of note, most of these wines will be sold direct-to-consumer via the Ponting Wines website with cricket-friendly export markets clearly in the frame.
Given a mooted premium release arriving soon, I figure these wines are the step-off point. Something to win over cricket lovers who like a few glasses of rich Shiraz on a Friday night.
Ultimately, I expected these wines to be shit. But they’re not shit at all, and the Pontings seem to actually care about what’s in the bottle. They’re safe, and missing a defining character, but (thankfully) a very long way from the fucking Shane Warne Collection…
Ponting First Session Sauvignon Blanc 2020
Ricky notes that this Adelaide Hills white is named after the excitement that comes from the first session of a test match. The fruit is sourced from a vineyard at Woodside and includes a barrel-fermented component.
Reductive start and takes a while to open up. Lightly passionfruity and ripe rather than grassy, still estery and wound up tight. It’s ok, but you’d expect a bit more flavour depth given the riper fruit. Easy enough and decent length, though a bit indistinct. Ok, but the lowpoint of the range.
Best drinking: later this year to early next. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $23. Would I buy it? No.
Ponting Mowbray Boy Pinot Noir 2019
Of all the wines, this is the one that Ricky & Rianna had the most input into, touring the Tamar Valley and playing around with bench blends to find the right mix. Given that Ben hasn’t worked with Tassie Pinot before you’d call this a success.
This has a forward glossiness, lifted by red fruit, a whisper of vanilla oak, gentle raspberry fruit. Light tannins. Approachable and affable with approachable fruit, it’s just a little bit light on, but will win friends easily and has a pure vinosity to it. This is the wine to drink.
Best drinking: now to seven years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $33. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Ponting The Pinnacle Shiraz 2017
Ricky’s favourite wine in the range, and a McLaren Vale Shiraz in the classic big-hearted mode.
Generous plum fruit, very much a Vale red, with bold fruit, some supporting chocolate oak, the palate plump and chunky if firmly acidic and uneven to finish. Lots of mid palate heartiness, this will be the most popular wine in the range, even if it is a ‘by the numbers’ Shiraz.
Best drinking: now to ten years. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $25. Would I buy it? Not my bag, but I know lots of people who will love this.
Ponting Close of Play Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
‘I miss sitting around with my mates at the close of play with a beer’ says Ricky. He quickly adds ‘followed by a few red wines’. We all just want to drink beer after playing cricket Ricky, not minty Langhorne Creek Cabernet like this.
I’d forgotten that Ben made wine at Wolf Blass back in the day and is a big fan of Langhorne Cab – this even has some of that DNA in it. There was this weird tension around this wine as if it was Ben’s baby not the Pontings. It could just be me.
There’s plenty of Langhorne berry mint here, complete with a doughnut-shaped palate and slightly astringent, if long, tannic finish. Structure is the play, but balance is the sacrifice. It’s not bad, but not much joy to drink.
Best drinking: could well improve after five years in bottle. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14%, $25. Would I buy it? No.