Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Swirl Sniff Spit: McLaren Vale Shiraz

A couple of weeks ago I took my first trip to South Australia, to McLaren Vale, a small wine region just south of Adelaide. I keep meaning to blog about it, but don’t hold your breathe on that one.

I fell for the region and I loved the dozens of wines I sampled over 4 days. So when I spotted on twitter a McLarenVale Scarce Earth Shiraz tasting – a free one at that – I jumped at it. So this was my introduction to Swirl Sniff Spit.

Swirl Sniff Spit is the brain child of three Brisbane wine lovers. On the third Tuesday of every month, themed wine tastings are held at at Era Bar. Attendance is on a first-in-best-dressed basis and the limited spots fill up fast. Swirl Sniff Spit is free to participate in but there is an understanding that you’ll buy some bar food and put in a good word for the winemakers themselves.

The line up of 10 Scarce Earth Shiraz wines, picked out of the 130 being made in the region.

Tuesday was a special event. The theme for the evening was McLaren Vale Shiraz producers participating in the scare earth project.  The Scarce Earth Project is about making wine from a single vineyard with minimal additions or artificial influencers. This allows other more naturally occurring factors to take charge of the taste of the wine and so comparisons in vineyard and vintage can be made based on geological differences.

McLaren Vale is a tiny region but immensely varied in terms of geology. This variety is one of the key factors at play in the scarce earth project. Just how different does a single-vineyard 2010 Shiraz taste when it the vines grow on sandy soil, low-rain soil, cooler temperatures, closer to the sea. All of those naturally occurring factors that influence the quality of a wine take on extra significance in Scarce Earth wines.

District 1: the first round of wines. Waywood Wines Reserve '10, Battle of Bosworth Chanticlear '10.

The McLaren Vale representative and one of the ideas men behind Scarce Earth, Adrian Kenny, lead us through the tasting. A wine-maker if not a vineyard owner Adrian is very passionate about the project, which is only in its second year of release, and keen to get feedback from the room of industry types and wine lovers. Of the 132 2012 Scarce Earth Shirazes produced within McLaren Vale, only 10 were selected by a panel of tasting professionals to be brought up.

Late releasing McLaren reds, described by Adrian as 'Like sulky teenagers locked in their rooms. They don't want to come out but they will eventually'

It was a great night and I learnt a lot. Not least because I had the good fortune to sit at a table with Mark and Andy, two professional winemakers who were in Brisbane for the Queensland Wine Awards and Fleur, a wine adventurer.

I had hoped to have something intelligent to say, having heard a bit about the project on my recent trip. In the end though I just shut up and listened and enjoyed. I am not in the wine industry, I can’t pick out cherries from blackberries in the aroma, but I do love good wine and I love learning about vintages and processes and the hundreds of variants that go into making a wonderful drop. My incredibly insightful personal notes included gems of wisdom such as 'smells like veal', 'delightful on the palate', 'astringent' and 'smells the prettiest'.

I was kind of impressed I was taking notes.

Hugh Hamilton was my run away favourite vineyard from my recent visit. 
Loved every wine I tasted, could have bought them all!

This was the first event I’d been to when being on your phone was actively encouraged. The whole room was tweeting about the tastes and the wines, chatting with each other online as we chatted over the table.

The only disappointment of the night was the food. I haven’t been to e’cco in years but I used to go quite regularly with my family. The e’cco bar menu is a little smaller and as this was a private event, we had a limited list to choose from. All well and good. I ordered steak with frites, thinking it would go well with the rich plummy shirazes I was tasting. When it arrived, the chips were cold and the steak was warm. Not hot. Nothing was hot. If it had been, it would tasted delicious. Tasty frites with a dusting of salt, steak with a delicious zingy butter. Unfortunately, it was warm at best when it was put in front of me and I was very disappointed.

Swirl Sniff Spit was a great night and I recommend it to any Brisbane locals who are fond of their wine and keen to learn a little more. I’ll certainly be going again.

You can find out aboutSwirl Sniff Spit on their website, facebook or twitter.

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