Thursday, September 24, 2009

South Pack tasting @ Transit Lounge Fed Sqaure, August 2009

With so many producers out there trying to sell you their product, these tastings were not only important for them, but also for the trade in knowing the product you were selling. But us sommeliers are a busy lot, so you sort of have to pick and choose the tastings that are not only going to interest you, but tastings of wines that have a realistic shot of getting on to your list.
But as I said, for four months now it has been nappies and walks and 3am feeds. So it was a quick yes that James and Claire Lance from ‘Punch’ wines got from an invite I received from them for a tasting at Transit Lounge in Federation Square put together by South Pack, a wine group repersenting new Victorian winemakers.

So on a rainy Monday afternoon I toddled off to Fed Square and to probably one of the best ‘independent’ tastings I have been to. ‘... a fiercely independent collection of likeminded souls.’, read the handout as I entered the room filled with sommeliers, restaurant managers, wine retailers and wine writers, and on show were some of the brightest and hippest producers from Victoria; Barney and David from Allies, Timo Mayer, Luke Lambert, Lincoln Riley and Adam Foster of Foster e Rocco and Syrahmi.

What made this group of winemakers ‘likeminded’, was that all of them were singing the praises of low alcohol wine. This is not to be mistaken with ‘low carb’ or ‘diet wine’, but wine that is driven by savoury tannins and piercing acid made for drinking with food, and wine not driven by massive oak, ripe fruit and seem splitting alcohol; I reckon the highest volume was about 13.5%v/v shared by a few of the bigger reds on show.

As I said, it had been a while since I have done something like this, so it was good to see my own likeminded people as well and swap the obligatory story of horror diners and more to the point, horror nappies. But back to the wine.
With glass in hand, I tried to start with whites first, but the first stop was Luke Lambert with some really sexy Nebbiolo, my favourite wine – a 2008 and 2007 release with the 2007 being the standout with great early characteristics of Nebbiolo coming through. On to Foster e Rocco and then to Punch for a catch up with Claire and James and a chat on how everything is going out at the property since the February 7 bushfires; and things are looking good with minimal damage to the vines, but not so lucky with the winery however.

On the other side of the room were Barney and David from Allies, two of the nicest blokes in the industry I reckon. On heading over there I was pleasantly greeted by David with a warm ‘Hello Tim’ – do I know this bloke from somewhere I thought, which was also very easy to read from my expression when he then politely said, ‘that’s what your name tag says’ – I told you it had been a while. So for the next 20 odd minutes I learnt a lot more about these two, and more particular their wines and vineyards, which were all dynamite and very affordable also.

From here I ventured over to ‘macforbes’ followed by Jamsheed and finally with the very affable German, Timo Mayer. Having made wine with Gembrook and now Tibooburra, Timo has firmly entrenched himself as one of the Valleys more astute, and busiest, winemakers. And his current selection under his very Chambertin label, together with Bloody Hill and Big Betty labels, puts Timo in almost every corner of the Yarra Valley.

After having a wee chat with Timo, it was time to go. A quick beer with Claire Lance and I was off to Rockpool where I was meeting some of the aforementioned likeminded heads for some ‘witty’ banter, burgers, wine and more beer as well as a debate that is still going on now – Is Twin Peaks a child of the 80’s or the 90’s? My money is in the 90’s.

Here are the highlights of a fantastic line up:

Foster e Rocco Sangiovese Rosé 2009 - a fantastic pink number for the upcoming Spring Carnival; soft in colour with fragrant palate that is both dry and refreshing.

Punch Berry’s Creek Vineyard 2008 Noble Riesling – low alcohol makes this wine not only a great drop with season tropical fruit, but also as an aperitif with heaps of zingy acid.

Luke Lambert Heathcote Reserve Nebbiolo 2007 – a super drop with gorgeous notes of Nebbiolo characteristics coming through and at Barolo alcohol levels – 13.5%v/v, not the Australian levels.

Luke Lambert Heathcote Reserve Syrah 2007 – layered with liquorice and super firm tannins, this wine will definitely demand time and a decanter when you open her up (12.5%v/v).

Syrahmi ‘Maelstrom’ Heathcote Shiraz 2008 – ripe red fruit alongside a whack of pepper and perfume; a great follow up to the 2007 ‘Don’.

Allies Tuerong Viognier Saone 2008 – a wine that is definitely a personal style rather than the big oily imitators of the Northern Rhone. There is still apricot, but with a more balanced palate with soft acid and lowish alcohol – 13.5%v/v.

Allies Heathcote Stone Axe Shiraz 2008 – an immense wine this, with deep garnet red and no over ripe fruit make this one of the standouts of the tasting. This spent 19 days on skin which ended up extracting a perfect amount of tannin to balance a very savoury palate.

Mayer Yarra Valley ‘The Doktor’ Pinot Noir 2008 – the standout wine for me; 100% whole bunch pressed wine displaying a very complex nose and palate with savoury spice and game already noticeable. And you know what Timo said about the wine, ‘ works!!’ Yes it does!


  1. Where can I find the Luke Lambeth wines from. You make them sound gorgeous.

  2. I had the 'Doktor' last night and agree with you exactly on the spice and game. Do you know if he has a cellar door at all.