Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents 182 SCOOP AUTUMN 2010
According to conventional
winemaking wisdom, blends of
semillon and sauvignon blanc are
all about freshness. Get the fruit
in, press it, tank-ferment it then
get it on the market as quickly as possible to retain
those vibrant fruit flavours.
Climbing towers of wooden barriques stacked six-
high and tasting your way through parcels of oaked
semillon and sauvignon blanc aren t in the script.
Not that anyone showed the script to Fraser
Gallop Estate winemakers Clive Otto and Kate
Morgan. Having finished blending the regular
Fraser Gallop SSB for 2009 -- despite being pri-
marily a tank fermented wine, a fifth of it contains
oaked material -- the duo are now in "play" mode,
their minds buzzing at the excitement of putting
together the winery s first all-wooded SSB blend,
parterre (French for "of the earth", released June).
"People are starting to turn off the in-your-face
Tutti Frutti style of semillon sauvignon blanc.
They want better food wines with a bit more inter-
est, complexity and ageability," says Clive.
For inspiration, he turned to Bordeaux where
producers have forged international reputations for
long-lived semillon and sauvignon blanc blends.
Working vintage in Graves gave Clive the chance
to learn from Domaine de Chavelier proprietor
Olivier Bernard. In his mission to create an SSB
style with an interest span greater than two glasses,
Clive makes no apologies for his French bias.
"Those Graves wines are fascinating and every
bit as good as Burgundy chardonnay," he insists.
"Sem-sav here has a better chance of ageing than
chardonnay. When semillon ages, it has lovely
lime and toast complexity, but with chardonnay,
they tend to age flabby and oily. We want to make
wines that can be aged for at least a decade."
When it comes to age-worthy semillon and
sauvignon blanc, few in Margaret River, and
indeed Australia, can match the track record of
With the heavily-oaked butterscotch chardonnays of yore making way
for today's fresher, leaner styles, a growing number of Margaret River
winemakers are finding new applications for their abandoned barrels.
Wilyabrup pioneers, Lenton Brae. This year the
Tomlinson family will release its 24th consecutive
semillon sauvignon blanc, a wine whose longevity
was well proven by a bottle of the 1987 Lenton
Brae SSB opened in 2007 for Lenton Brae s 21st
anniversary celebrations. Those celebrations were
the catalyst for the birth of the Wilyabrup blend,
a tiny-volume production (fewer than 100 cases
each vintage) starring hand-picked estate fruit aged
entirely in new French oak. Fortuitously, 2007 was
an excellent year in Margs and the blend sold well
at cellar door. The fourth Wilyabrup blend will be
available by the end of 2010.
"I guess it was curiosity more than inspiration
that led me to make the wine," says winemaker, Ed
Tomlinson. "We monitor everything very closely.
Sometimes the wine will be in barrel for as little
as four months and as long as 10, depending on
how it s coping: it s a work in progress. We re more
interested in what the fruit and vineyard are doing
than trying to mimic something."
Taking a similar stand for vintage and vineyard is
Cape Mentelle s Walcliffe sauvignon blanc semillon,
named after the vineyard its fruit is sourced from.
First produced in 1999, Walcliffe is now being
made by Robert Mann who is doing his best to lift
the fruit profile in a wine that, in the past, has had
"the whole winemaking book thrown at it".
A major part of this overhaul is refining the oak
treatment, specifically, fewer new barrels and more
one and two-year-old ones. "My aim is to make it
a less funky, less extreme example of the style and
align it more with fruity purity," he says. "When
you taste through past vintages of the wine, there s
similar characters from year to year. That s the
strength of the terroir that we want to keep."
Mike Kerrigan is another non-believer when
it comes to new oak. The winemaker shows his
disdain for overt vanillin flavours by only using sec-
ond-hand wood for Hay Shed Hill s Block 1 SSB.
"New oak doesn t bring anything to the party. I m
not really after oak flavour, more texture. But to be
honest, I never set out to make an SSB. If you look
at semillon and sauvignon blanc, they re two of the
most unhip varieties on the planet," he says.
But even Mike Kerrigan can change his mind.
All it took was a 1975-planted block of non-
irrigated, small-vine semillon and sauvignon blanc
that produces berries that, by Mike s reckoning, are
without equal in the flavour and intensity stakes.
"I ve never seen fruit like this, I don t think anyone
has. I thought I should do something different and
not stick it in an aromatic blend like everyone else.
It was the fruit that told me to do something."
Mike consulted the white Bordeaux playbook
for advice. It implored him to trust tradition,
thus, fruit was picked together in the vineyard and
co-fermented before a brief spell in three-year-old
barrels previously used for ageing chardonnay. The
result is a pristine lemon and guava-driven wine
with fine-beaded, spindly acid that gently ushers
zesty citrus flavours through the long finish. sm
While not an exhaustive list, this selection of
wooded WA semillon and sauvignon blanc
wines should serve as a good starting point for
ARLEWOOD Sussex Loc 3991 SSB 2006 ($40)
CAPE MENTELLE Walcliffe SBS 2007 ($40)
CULLEN Cullen Vineyard SBS 2009 ($35)
CULLEN Mangan Vineyard SBS 2009 ($35)
FRASER GALLOP ESTATE Parterre 2009 ($40)
HAY SHED HILL Block 1 SSB 2009 ($28)
LAMONT'S Barrel Fermented Semillon 2007 ($30)
LENTON BRAE Wilyabrup SSB 2009 ($45)
REDGATE Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2008 ($20)
SUCKFIZZLE SBS 2007 ($45)
VOYAGER ESTATE Tom Price SBS 2005 ($45)
text max veenhuyzen
KNOCK ON WOOD
Links Archive Scoop 50 Summer 2009 Scoop 52 Winter 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page