Wine / Steve knows how to make a big Barossa red

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Barossa winemaker Steve Kurtz… a producer who knows how to make full-bodied wine.

A BEAR walks into a bar. The barman says, “What can I get you?” The bear says: “Hmmm………a glass of house red.”

The barman says: “Why the long pause?” 

The bear replies “Hey, I was born that way.” 

I RECENTLY had the pleasure of meeting a bear of a man who is both passionate and caring about the wine he makes and articulate in the defence of the big Barossa reds that are an Australian tradition. 

Richard Calver.

Kurtz Family Vineyards came to town, hosting an intimate wine dinner in the cellar room at Gryphons in Griffith. There were 14 of us who enjoyed a great selection of wines chosen by Steve Kurtz. 

Shortly after this outing, 2CC asked me to have a chat on radio about wine and I told the producer I would expatiate about  “warming reds”. It gave me an opportunity to do two things, talk on air about the Kurtz wines I had enjoyed and, after some research (seriously!), to bust the myth that wine, or any alcoholic beverage for that matter, actually warms you up. 

The Kurtz wines are from a producer who knows how to make full-bodied wine. My favourite was the 2016 Lunar Block shiraz. Steve tells us that this is his flagship wine, $65 for orders on the night that usually sells for $75 a bottle. Steve waxes lyrical about this wine and his family history.

In 1961, Steve’s mother and father purchased a 16-hectare property in the heart of the Barossa. Steve mentions that on July 20, 1969, mankind took its “one giant leap” and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. On the same day, Steve’s Mum and Dad bought an additional block. In honour of the moon landing, his father named it “Lunar Block”. The vines planted there are the oldest on the property.

Steve produced his first vintage of the Lunar Block Shiraz in 1999. The 2016, released in 2019 to celebrate 50 years since the moon landing, has rich, ripe flavours with high alcohol content (over 15 per cent) that doesn’t knock your socks off but gives it the body you expect from a big Barossa red. 

It will last a very long time but was drinking well on the night. It paired splendidly well with the osso bucco main course and gave you a warm feeling of contentment like being enveloped in a friendly bear hug. 

Which later led me to the thought: does red wine add to your body temperature, is it truly a “winter warmer” as I had promoted to my radio hosts? 

The answer is a resounding “no”.  In fact, alcohol lowers your core body temperature. The mentalfloss website tells me: “Alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, particularly the capillaries just under the surface of your skin. When you have a drink, the volume of blood brought to the skin’s surface increases, making you feel warm.”

While you feel warm that is merely because the blood has moved away from your core to your skin, even causing you to sweat.  

The alcohol plays with your mind, not just making you feel taller and younger but aglow. That is why it can be dangerous to drink in extremely cold temperatures and why some people who have been drinking die of hypothermia. 

But in the confines of the Gryphon cellar with the heat being generated by human warmth, Steve’s skills as a raconteur and the marvellous, flowing red wine that was served generously and humbly by a top winemaker, it would have been churlish to delve too far into the sobering science of the effects of alcohol on the body. 

“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” –Thomas Gray 

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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.

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