My wine of the month: Jean-Pauls Vineyard 2007 de Castella Shiraz Cabernet

August 29, 2011

I have written about the wines produced by Jean-Pauls Vineyard near Yea, Victoria earlier.

August is a special month anyway since it carries my birthday, and I needed to be spoilt somehow. That is why I opened one of “my treasure wines” the other day. Wine bottles are heavy and one cannot carry many on the plane. Moreover there are customs regulations which somehow limits further the number of bottles on can carry. Believe me it is not easy to decide which bottle to take on the plane.

But we brought this bottle of ‘2007 de Castella Shiraz Cabernet’ by Jean-Pauls Vineyard.

William de Castella is one of our neighbours so to say. His Jean-Pauls Vineyard is situated near the pcituresque country town of Yea, about a 30 minutes drive from our farm in Glenburn. Will is also a member of our association, the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association.

Will de Castella started his operation in 1994. From about 6 acres under vines he produces only 200 cases a year, a tiny amount in comparison to much larger family and industrial operations. His vineyard is organically certified and produces exquisite fruit. I just love boutique vineyards and wineries since the passion of the people behind the operation directly transpires into their wines.

The de Castella family carries a famous name, Will’s ancestors where the pioneers of the Yarra Valley and the Victorian wine industry in the 19th century. I love his fruity and delicate wines which are well balanced and just a delight. This blend of Shiraz and Cabernet combines the strength of both varietals.

So this wine made my day after a busy and stressful day in the office. We had it with food, of course, one of our customary family meals which are so enjoyable.

If you should visit Victoria, please take a day and drive up to Yea and check out some of the wineries along the way. You will not regret it.

Jean-Pauls Vineyard
RMB 6173, Yea, Vic 3717 (postal)
Upper Goulburn VIC
Tel.: +61-03-5797 2235

Getting ready for the 2010 vintage

February 22, 2010

Two Hills Pinot Noir shortly before the nets went on

The nets are on now, and we are expecting a good harvest at Two Hills Vineyard for 2010. After the total loss of last year the prospects are not too bad.

Estimates are:

– Sauvignon Blanc: about 8 tonnes of fruit, and already sold
– Pinot Noir: about 5 tonnes of fruit and still looking for a home

The Merlot grapes look good too, but we are not making any wine this year. This will make the bird in the vicinity very happy, what a feast. That’s the price we have to pay for the grape glut. It’s sad but cannot be helped at this point in time.

Our new tractor will come into action for the vintage. This will make things easier, I hope.
Let us hope no unexpected disaster occurs before the grapes are in safely.

The plan for 2011 is to mothball the vineyard for a couple of years and see if the market recovers.

The South Pack: Young Australian winemakers on a mission

August 15, 2009

The wine glut in Australia makes wine marketing a true challenge. Many vignerons and wineries have to knock on endless doors of wine outlets, restaurants and retail shops. You get sick of it. Among others, that’s one of the reaosns why eight young independent winemakers from Victoria have created “their own thing”. They call themselves “The South Pack”.


Three years ago they started their own roadshow to Melbourne and Sydney. Instead of going out and selling wine, they decided that people should come to them. They look for a suitable location, a restaurant, a hotel or any other suitable facility and invite the top trades and restaurant people to come for a tasting: meet the maker and his wines. Usually it’s accompanyied by food and music and great fun.


The eight young winemakers (actually they are nine people) knew each other through the wine business and are friends and mates. This year the roadshow will be conducted for the third time. Last year, also Brisbane was included. Attendence is by invitation only but numbers at the shows have multiplied every year. This year will be no different. There is a great interest to meet the originators, the magicans, the winemakers and have them talk about their products: hand carfted artisan fine wines of ourstanding qualities. These wines are not like the industrial liquids, technically well made wines but a bit ordinary, normal, faceless.


Meet the unusual. I only know one of the eight personally, Timo Mayer, a longtime friend. Timo is the winemaker of Gembrook Hills in the Yarra Valley and has his own vineyard and label. He made our award winning ‘2002 Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc’. He told me all about South Pack. I was exited to learn about this initiative and its immediate success.

Even if you have not been invited, just pick up some of their wines. Most of them you can buy online. Here is where to find and contact them:

Luke Lambert: mainly Syrah from St. Andrews, Yarra Valley and Nebbiolo from Heathcote.

James Lance – Punch: The winery in the Yarra Valley was severely affected by the bushfires, produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon

Gary Mills – Jamsheed (named after a famous Persian king): Shiraz and Gewuerztraminer

Timo Mayer: Bloddy Hill he calls his vineyard on the top of a windy peak overlooking the Yarra Valley, most of his 2.5 ha are under Pinot Noir, some Chardonnay and some Shiraz

Mac Forbes: wines come from the Yarra Valley (lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) but also the Strathboogie Ranges (Riesling). The so called “alternative wines” are made from fruit from other wine regions in Victoria. Here you’ll find varieties such as Barbera, Gruener Veltliner, and Blaufraenkisch

Adam Foster -Syrahmi: another winery from Heathcote with beautiful Shiraz wines
I could only find references ot his wines but not a proper website.

William Downie: solely Pinot Noir wines are made by William, the fruit comes from the yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland

Barney Flanders and David Chapman – Allies: Allies is a collaboration between Barney and David. They produce a variety of wines (one label is called “Garagiste”, implying garage wines of made of excellent fruit; there must be a lot of French influence!?). Their Pinot and Chardonnay wines come from the Mornington Peninsula, the Shiraz comes from Heathcote (no surprise).

What is “rustic”?

September 6, 2008

In yesterdays International Herald Tribune, I stumbled across an article by Eric Asimov on a Côtes du Rhône wine tasting. In this context the author contemplated the use of the word “rustic” and its meaning in describing wine styles. Eric rightly pointed out that “rustic” means different things to different people which in the end leads to quite a degree of confusion.

Does “rustic” mean “rough” and “simple” as some users imply thereby giving the term a negative connotation? Or is it meant positively in admiration for wines that show true character of a regional nature, wines that cannot come from elsewhere but this one place, made under the specific conditions pertinent to the location. Whatever the intended meaning, one might better understand the complexity of the term if contrasting it with the opposite meaning.

For “rough” and “simple” one could think of “elegant” or “refined” and “complex”, “sophisticated” maybe “urbane”. And for “regional character” the opposite might be “national”, “placeless”, “cosmopolitan”, “pan-something”. Some of my vintner-winemaker friends use another term to describe the opposite of “regional character” wines. They call it “industrial” wines often faultless products, technically well made but lacking in “character”. In this case a “hand made” wine is contrasted with a “technical” product.

Another aspect of an “industrial” wine is the consistency of the taste. One knows what to expect, its predictable. In contrast we have the small single vineyard with the variability of season where you “drink” the terroir, the site and its climate of that particular year. Whereas the former wines are for the “layperson” and the “conservative” who does not want to make a “mistake” in the choice of the wine, the latter are for the “connoisseur” and the adventurer.

We as small and/or boutique vintners want of course to make “faultless” wines but at the same time our main selling point possibly lies in our “fault lines”, our uniqueness, our authenticity, our character, our variability, our unpredictability. The “roughness” and “simplicity” of our artisan efforts in producing great wines of character becomes the backbone of our art of wine-making and as long as there are enough adventurers out there, our life and work will be interesting and rewarding.

Whatever it is, the wine I had, was just delicious (July 2008 in Madrid)

Chain of Ponds, Adelaide Hills, Australia

April 26, 2008

I found another treasure in our local duty free shop a Chain of Ponds ‘1999 Grave’s Gate Shiraz’, from McLaren Vale in South Australia. The homepage of Chain of Ponds (, located in the Adelaide Hills, claims that they are “Australia’s “most highly awarded boutique vineyard”. After studying the page I have the feeling that for my taste, they are already much too big to qualify for such a label, but I am easy on that.

Of course their origins (in 1985) were small but they have grown over the years in a sizable business.
I just managed to get the bottle in the last year of the drinking time frame: best drinking 2003 to 2008, it says somewhere.

The wine background is given as follows:

Frost at the commencement of the 1999 growing season wiped out Chain of Ponds estate plantings of Shiraz, hence the sourcing of fruit from McLaren Vale for this wine.

In 2001 James Halliday gave a rating of 90 out of 100 point. The wine comes from the River Series, sold for A$ 18 per bottle. I payed US $ 18.20 for it, which seems to be quite reasonable. The wine could be described as follows:

<“Deep, bright red-purple; clean, fresh juicy/berry fruit on the bouquet is followed by luscious and sweet berry fruit on the palate. Neither the oak, nor the extract, nor the alcohol (13.5°) have been overdone”.

The winemaker is Neville Falkenberg. The 1999 wine must have been made by his predecessor since Neville has been with Chain of Ponds for only the last five years. The Adelaide Hills is a premier cool climate region of South Australia, only about a 20 minutes drive from the capital Adelaide. I love Adelaide not just because my wife originates from there, and recommend it for any visit to Australia. It’s a must, seriously.

Apart from this series, Chains of Ponds has a Premium Range segment. It also produces wines from Kangaroo Island grapes. Its Italian Varietals come from the Adelaide Hills (Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio). The low cost segment is called Novello Range (A$ 14/bottle). I have not been to the place but the homepage shows beautiful pictures. Another place to check out.