“On went my hat of pretension as I cleaned my palate with water, alas no bread or crackers to ensure I started fresh with neutral flavours,” writes wine columnist RICHARD CALVER
SPRING has arrived. It is teasing us with tickles of warmth and blue sky. And then the clear skies leave Canberra bitter overnight. The season gives with one hand, takes with the other. The trees are carrying lovely blossoms and the sap is rising (when he’s not writing a wine column). In Canberra’s wineries, the level of activity is also rising.
I spoke with Fergus McGhie from Mount Majura Vineyard about the tasks they are undertaking. He said they are bottling the 2017 riesling and pinot gris, as these varieties don’t spend any time on oak. They are blending their chardonnay and “looking at barrels” for this variety. They are examining (tirage) the Silurian that is barrel fermented and also in stainless steel. This is the Mount Majura sparkling wine that takes its name from the geological period (430 million years ago) that provided the limestone and volcanic rock that has now produced the soils so suitable for growing grape vines.
Spring is the time for repairs and maintenance so there is an air of heightened activity. There is also grafting of riesling to pinot gris stock because there is such a high demand for their riesling. Out with the old, in with the new: especially if the old isn’t selling as well.
The vines are making buds, a process that starts as soon as the green shoots emerge in spring. The bare look of the vineyards changes in September and the new shoots bring the hope of a bountiful crop.
Spring brings the promise of new beginnings that signal renewal, not just in the vineyard but in all of us especially those who are sick of the cold weather. We are poised on the promise of a better time.
There is also a change in my drink of choice, a new beginning of appreciation. In my risotto, I pour sauvignon blanc. It is particularly efficacious in pork and fennel risotto where the acid cuts down the fatty pork flavour.
And this time the savvie is worthwhile drinking on its own. K1 by Geoff Hardy is a 2017 sauvignon blanc. Geoff is a man who knows his stuff. Part of the Hardy family, he went out on his own and produces cool-climate grapes in the Adelaide Hills. He planted the vineyard there in 1987 and named it K1 because the unique site was the first commercial planting of vines in the Kuitpo region in the southern Adelaide Hills. Since then, the K1 website says, Geoff has been involved in the planting of more than 3000 hectares of vines and has consulted to more than 200 different vineyards in Australia, France and Italy.
The K1 sauvignon blanc is extraordinary and intense. The flavours of lemon and passionfruit stand out and the wine has a very clean finish. It is the sort of wine I can see you would put in a bucket of ice and sit where the sun is shining, just absorbing the much-needed warmth we seem to have been denied endlessly. Trouble is with the way the weather is producing pockets of warmth in the sun and cold in the shade you would be chasing the sun to keep up the illusion. Perhaps spring has both inveigled and disappointed? Perhaps there is too much store in new beginnings?
Spring, of all seasons most gratuitous,
Is fold of untaught flower, is race of water
Is earth’s most multiple excited daughter;
And those she has least use for see her best
Their paths grown craven and circuitous,
Their visions mountain-clear, their needs immodest.
–“Spring”, by Philip Larkin