From one Australian First Family of Wine, to another. After leaving Tahbilk yesterday afternoon, we made our way to Heathville in the Yarra Valley. Steve Webber from De Bortoli met us from our hotel, and as we travelled the short distance to his home, where we were to spend the evening, he gave us an overview of the Yarra. As it covers a large area it is impossible to generalise, it is diverse in terms of soils, climate and ultimately in terms if the wines that it produces. In the winery Steve’s passion for the industry began to shine through – especially so when he showed us the artisan sparkling wine he is currently experimenting with. There were a few hundred bottles in pupîtres, going through the riddling process – this is what he loves he told us. In terms of the vineyard, somewhere between organic and biodynamic is how he placed their viticultural practices. Allowing quality fruit to be able to speak for itself, with minimal intervention is a theme that is recurring time and time again so far in Victoria. In terms of the red wines that De Bortoli produce they choose not to ‘muck with the skins too much as you risk losing detail’. Equally, while the aim is to extract colour and flavour, this needs to be achieved without working the grapes too hard.
Once the formalities were out the way, it was time to open some wine on Steve’s deck which overlooked the stunning valley. Sat round a table, the sun going down, glass of wine in hand and the smell of pizzas being cooked in the outside oven, it was certainly a moment to savour. The detailed labels of De Bortoli’s La Boheme Act One and Act Two wines were visually beautiful – and they didn’t fail to impress on tasting them either! A gorgeous salmon pink rosé made from pinot noir, Act Two was a lot more European in style that one would expect. In my opinion, keeping it simple three words summed it up: dry delicate and delicious! You wouldn’t necessarily expect Riesling to be made in the Yarra Valley, however the Reserve Release 2010 Riesling was another hit for me. It had texture, balance and mouthfeel. The wine that followed, EZ 2010 was also wonderful. A Riesling, Gewurz, Pinot Gris blend, delightfully fragrant that would work fantastically well in Asian and Fusion restaurants.
More wines were consumed, er, I mean professionally tasted, and as the evening progressed Steve’s obvious passion to continue to innovate and push the boundaries was clear. It’s not about making wines by following other peoples footspteps, or because that is what has already been done, but more about doing what feels right. Going back to the Riesling that we had tried, Steve said at the time, whilst they may not make it every year, it will depend on the specific conditions of the vintage, they will make it if it feels right. The gem for me last night was Riorret 2008 Pinot Noir. Perfumed, aromatic, delicate, it was sublime – as was the evening overall, an experience that I won’t be forgetting.