Sunday, March 16, 2014

McLaren Vale: d'Arenberg, Geoff Merrill

A little further up the road from Langhorne Creek, near the southern suburbs of Adelaide, lies the McLaren Vale wine region. The climate is warmer than in Langhorne Creek or Coonawarra but cooler than most areas of Barossa. Americans are familiar with McLaren Vale wines through the d'Arenberg wines, widely available in my marketing areas.

We tasted at d'Arenberg, now a big commercial operation that produces a mind boggling variety of wines, all with special proprietary names such as the Feral Fox Pinot Noir and the Lucky Lizard Chardonnay. D'Arry's Original has long been a favorite of mine, sort of an Australian Chateauneuf du Pape. It's a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre matured mostly in large barrels that no longer impart oaky smells or flavors. It's not a big, highly extracted wine but a small one with big flavors that just keep getting better with bottle age--even up to 30 years and longer according to the winery. It was better, in my opinion, than the higher priced GSM, The Ironstone Pressings. I have also purchased The Footbolt Shiraz, a $15 bottle that is a decent mid-term ager. In this case, I preferred the more pricey The Laughing Magpie, which has a small amount of Viognier in the blend. Among the whites, I liked The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne, which I can buy at my local supermarket for $18. Any Viognier wine is bound to be aromatic, but this one has good acid and intensity as well.

My favorite wines from McLaren Vale were those of Geoff Merrill, who established a reputation years ago with his basket-pressed wines at Chateau Reynella. The scales on the Geoff Merrill label represent "the perfect balance," and all of the wines I tasted at the Geoff Merrill winery had just that, leaving a trail of lovely flavors from the tip of the tongue all the way down the esophagus. I still have a few bottles of Merrill's basket pressed Reynella wines; wish I could have access to wines from his own label. They are distributed in the United States by Vindagra USA of Boca Raton, Florida, but I have never seen them in Michigan or Chicago.

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