Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Discovering Oliver’s Taranga

One of the unexpected developments during 2020 has been the wide-spread adoption of video conferencing across the world. This has given rise to all kinds of innovation and creativity within the wine trade. I have experienced this in the form of virtual wine tastings and wine seminars that have helped to fill some of the void of those events and wine travels that we would normally go to, but are unable to due to the “current climate” (no more needs to be said here!).  

I have been lucky to have been included in an awesome initiative that has been started by Aussie wine legend Brett Jones who is a big deal on social media under the handle @AustWineTasting and UK-based wine merchant Oliver (Ollie) Farquharson, who specialises in distributing Aussie wines from his business Helver Wines. Brett and Ollie hit on the genius idea of promoting the wine of people who they know and respect through hosting Zoom calls with these producers and a group of UK-based wine lovers, myself included. The aim of these sessions is to allow us to get to know the people behind these wines, to ask them questions and to chat generally about matters ranging from the impacts of COVID-19 on the wine trade to our collective hatred of the “clean wine” movement. We all buy at least a bottle of the producers’ wines, from a local indie wine merchant - also doing our bit to keep the wine trade going. Over the last few months we have had memorable sessions with Dowie Doole (who do an amazing sparkling Shiraz) and Santolin (whose Chardonnay is next level good!). However, for our last session with Corrina Wright from McLaren Vale’s Oliver’s Taranga, I hit on the idea to gather a few of us on the call together to hold a socially-distanced wine tasting session for the call. That way we could taste a greater selection of the wines. It was with great joy that I welcomed Lee, James, Peter and Carrie to my house and we got set up for the call (plus Serena who joined us from Cyprus as you do!).


Before, I talk about the wines - a bit of information about Oliver’s Taranga. The vineyard was planted in the nineteenth century and gets its name from “Oliver” which is Corrina Wright’s (the boss) family name (they were originally from Scotland but emigrated in the nineteenth century) and “Taranga” which is the aboriginal name for the site and means “crossing point”. Until the 1980s the vineyard grew grapes which it sold to neighbouring wineries - these weren’t just any wineries though, they included Penfold’s and D’Arenberg - so you can tell that they knew what they were doing. Corrina then persuaded her father to let her start selling wines under her own label and this is where Oliver’s Taranga wines came from. When you look at their selection, whilst there are familiar grapes on their range (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.), what is immediately notable is the inclusion of lesser known grape varietals for the Maclaren Vale region such as Fiano, Tempranillo and Sagrantino. Corrina explained that this was a mix of wanting to do something different and looking to future-proof the vineyard against climate change. In particular, she was looking to Italy and Spain to find grapes that flourish in drier/drought conditions, something that is an increasing issue in the region.

So, onto the wines - what did we try…?

We started with their 2020 Fiano (we of course remarked on how this vintage will be viewed in a few years’ time, consensus was that it will be infamous). On the nose it had nice green apple and slight stone fruit (peach / nectarine) notes. James noted that he thought it had the slightest hint of white pepper, reminiscent of a Grüner Veltliner. On the mouth this was delicious and fresh with a really vibrant acidity that gave it a zippiness. It was though, really nicely balanced, in that it doesn’t have an ascerbic / tart after taste that burns the mouth, instead the juiciness is what lingers. A really pleasing wine - good with food, but equally good to drink on its own on a summer’s afternoon. Available for £16/bottle.      


Next up we had the 2017 Tempranillo (better known as the grape that is used to make Rioja). This was a really pleasing wine, with lots of quite pretty flowery notes to it, to match. There are some fruity flavours in this wine, more on the dark side, but there is also quite a nice savoury element to this making it a decent wine to have with some food. Obviously given the Spanish connection, I’m thinking some nice tapas (chorizo and padron peppers - yum!!). Available for £18.99/bottle (2018 vintage now)


After this we had a couple of Shirazes, young and old which allowed us to do some comparisons. 


First was the 2017 Shiraz, which we all remarked was an immensely impressive wine. We hadn’t decanted it, but it already had a presence and a maturity that belied its relative youth. Its tannins had already softened and we were really bowled over by the depth of the wine. The dark fruits that you would expect were there: blueberries, plums and blackcurrants come to mind, but there was already an impressive breadth to the wine, we were getting those deeper notes of coffee and dark chocolate. A big hitter, indeed! Available for £17.50/bottle.


We compared this against a 2004 Shiraz (which was under cork), which we did decant. As expected with a wine of increased years on it, this had got some tertiary development on the wine with more smoky, savoury, meaty flavours coming through. That’s not to say that all the fruit was gone however, with those characteristic dark fruits (black cherries, blackberries) coming through. The 2004 is ridiculous value for a wine of this quality, but we were also really impressed with the 2017. I think I may be purchasing a few more of these in order to see how it develops over the next couple of years. Available for £23/bottle.


The last wine we tried was a new grape for me, their 2014 Sagrantino. Sagrantino, as you can probably tell, is an Italian grape that is known for being the most tannic grape varieties in the world. I hadn’t tried it before from Italy but was looking forward to trying this example. The wine had a tremendous power to it, with a lovely brooding nature. It had all the dark aromas that you would want - dark fruit and a chocolate / cocoa profile to the wine, but I also thought it had a nice floral note to it too. On tasting, yes the tannins were there, but they had already softened nicely to my taste. It left the wine with quite a rich and opulent mouth-feel. Definitely a good wine to have with some as expensive a cut of sirloin that you can get. Available for £24.99/bottle.


All wine prices are quoted from Wanderlust wines who stock Oliver’s Taranga wines in the UK. 


I’d like to say a huge thank you to Corrina for taking the time to talk to us, and to Brett and Ollie for putting all of this together and organising this rag-tag bunch. Wine folk really are the best people!

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Master of Malt launch new whisky subscription boxes: Pour & Sip


Being in and around the booze industry, we know sometimes it can be pretty inaccessible unless you’re ‘in the know’. 

Just the other day my friend was telling me how she nearly got barred from Scotland for daring to ask for a Rye whiskey in Edinburgh. She didn’t know it wasn’t from Scotland, or that it wasn’t the ‘right’ thing to ask for, and a gentle bit of education would have worked wonders.

Speaking of education, Pour & Sip has just launched. It’s a new whisky subscription service from Master of Malt, focused on community, accessibility and inclusion. 

So far so good. We like all those things.

Each month, customers get five different 30ml measures in the post, picked out by expert buyers and writers at Pour & Sip.

If you’re a new customer, you also get two tasting glasses, a ‘how to taste whisky’ card and detailed tasting notes, along with your whisky. 

The team will hold twice-monthly online tastings, giving people the chance to explore the whiskies, ask questions, and get involved. On top of that, customers will get bespoke blog content and access to exclusive discounts on full-price bottles on Master of Malt. 

The boxes are monthly, but you can pause and resume at any point. Each one will cost £29.95.